Paul Anka's voice croons softly in the background, barely muffling the sound of ocean waves. It's a melody which always feels like it belongs to early mornings, when he's seated out on the lanai with a cup of coffee, watching the waves crashing on the shore as the orange and pink wisps of sunlight drown in the ocean, dispersing into a clear blue.
He's humming, sipping on the strong, sweetened coffee, hot smoothness warming his throat. Back in the days he used to drink only black coffee, but his newly found fondness of sugar and caramel sauce developed over the past few years.
The ringing of the phone makes him cringe and he reluctantly gets up, heading through the French doors to his study, to pick it up.
"McGarrett," he answers, hoping it's not Pat Jameson, who has recently been inviting him to fancy brunches just a tad too often. John doesn't mind the delicious food, but the frequency of these meetings makes him suspect that she's onto something and he should be more careful, as it feels to him like he's treading on thin ice.
But the voice on the other end of the line makes him soften immediately, "Dad."
"Steven," John's lips form in a smile as he heads back to the lanai with the phone pressed to his ear, "It's good to hear from you, son."
Their conversations are quite rare and limited, due to the deep wounds he caused many years ago, and also because of Steve's duty. It was hard keeping regular contact when he was still in the Academy, and now with Steve being a SEAL it's even worse. So each short phone call always lightens John's mood, usually for the entire day.
"Yeah, you too," though Steve's answer is sincere, he seems distracted and in a rush as he blurts out next words, before John gets the chance to ask him anything, "Listen, Dad. There's going to be a delivery. A package in my name will be shipped to our home address. Uh, quite a big package, actually. It should be there in about two weeks."
"A package?" he frowns with confusion, "You're coming to Hawaii?"
John wouldn't mind seeing his son on Oahu, but with Jameson getting nervous and the upcoming meeting with her dangerous liaison, who John suspects to be tied to the Yakuza, if not worse, he doesn't think the visit would be the best idea.
"No," Steve's voice sounds harsh as he has clearly picked up on his father's hesitation. He is fed up with all the reasoning, really, as to why they always have to meet at Annapolis or Aunt Deb's over the past few years, and he doesn't need to be reminded of it again. "No, I'm not coming to Oahu anytime soon," he sighs and after a long pause continues, "But I bought something and can't take it with me, especially now. It's a gift-"
"A gift?" the smile returns to John's face at the thought of such a gesture, which is a rarity when it comes to his son, "I assume it's a gift you want to present to someone personally? Or rather a big package that wouldn't fit in a small bunk on the carrier?"
"Daaad," the embarrassed whine he gets in response makes John grin fully and chuckle.
Oh, he has certainly heard about a certain Navy Lieutenant, whom Steve always refers to as a friend, but for most people around them it's more than that.
Whatever it is, the fact that Steve cares about someone so deeply, and possibly is cared for to the same extent in return, fills his heart with peaceful content and slightly minimizes the worry that accumulates in his chest when it comes to his son.
"You forget I'm a cop, Steve," John snickers in amusement, practically seeing his son's face in front of him - uneasy fidgeting, gaze scattering all around as he tries to avoid the topic. "And a father," he adds, "Well, a father, who often talks to Joe White."
"Can you focus, please?" Steve huffs, barely stopping himself from scoffing at how two grown up men are the biggest gossipers. He rolls his eyes at another of his father's outbursts of laughter, "Dad, seriously."
"Okay, okay," John nods, reaching for his cup of coffee and sipping on it, smile still lingering in the corners of his mouth, "A big package in your name. I take it it's not flowers, cause you know they should be delivered fresh, right?"
"Very funny," he snorts in response, "A package dad. It's all paid for, you just need to sign it and keep it safe. Take it to my room or somewhere. I-" Steve pauses and a small sad sigh can be heard, John picking up on it immediately, but not saying anything, just waiting for him to continue.
"I'm not sure when will I be able to get it," Steve admits with a perceptible tone of rue, "Not sure when there will be a chance to give it, you know."
With Catherine in the Persian Gulf and him having to report back for a new assignment, which according to rumour is to be Iraq, the perspective of seeing each other becomes blurry and uncertain. And it has been too long since that one week seven months ago.
"The chance may not come in the nearest future," John softly replies, not a hint of teasing in his tone anymore, "But whenever it happens, she will be very touched with your gesture and it'll be worth the wait."
Mentawai Islands, Indonesia
July, 2009 (two days earlier)
The laughter echoes through the tingling mix of music coming from the old radio and the general chaos of sounds from the beach, as a group of young surfers pass by the wide open door of a small surf shop.
"Thanks," Freddie nods to the man behind the counter, who has given him a grape wax as a bonus to the leased surfboard he has just picked up.
Stuffing the change into the pocket of his orange boardies, he turns around to prod his friend. "Come on, Smoo-" he stops abruptly, noticing he's talking to the air, his best friend is nowhere in sight. And he is sure they had been walking together to the register, towing chosen surfboards to rent for the day.
"Steve?" he checks the narrow isle where they had picked up their boards, but he's not there.
There's no response either, and no sound of a woman's laughter that might indicate some local girl zoned in on him, with McGarrett, being a polite dork always, engaged in an awkward conversation. Freddie has witnessed many of these, where the girls try to shamelessly flirt with Steve and though he's a slick charmer, he tends to become shy when a certain line is crossed.
Freddie has his own opinion on that, an opinion that is tightly connected to one brilliant Lieutenant.
But the option of being drawn into harmless flirt is crossed off when he notices the thatch of dark, unruly hair peeking out from above a set of smaller surfboards in the far corner.
Determined to exhort the lazy ass, Freddie heads down the narrow aisle and rounds the corner, only to stop in his track at the sight of a starstruck McGarrett.
He's staring at one surfboard, completely unaware of anything that is going on around him, probably not even noticing his friend's presence.
Crossing his arms, Freddie glances at the board. It's definitely too short for Steve to use and the pattern of colours doesn't seem to fit either - lime green softly blending into turquoise, the right upper side adorned with a white-pink flower.
"The blue does match your eyes, but I'm not sure if hibiscus is your flower," Freddie snorts, a wicked grin plastered on his face, broadening even more as Steve stirs and looks at him.
For a brief second he seems to be confused, but quickly recovers, smiling sourly at his friend. "Hilarious," he rolls his eyes, "Any more great words, shitweed?"
"I can come up with a few if you want," Freddie steps closer, now standing side by side with Steve and crossing his arms, "But I'm more interested in why you are mesmerized by that board. I do have my suspicions, but please, do say it out loud."
The words that so easily, though softly, fall from Steve's mouth, are no surprise.
"It'd be perfect for Cath."
Usually Steve avoids even the tiniest snippets about Lieutenant Rollins, whenever they try to bring it up in a casual, teasing manner. They even laugh at him, saying that he acts like an overpossessive maniac, not letting anyone say her name, like it's reserved only for him to say. But when there's just the two of them, Steve tends to open up about her.
He may not use all the flowery or big words, but the way he speaks of Catherine Rollins leaves no room for speculation as to how deep his feelings run.
"It is," Freddie nods, "But unfortunately, she's not here, so it's not like you can actually put a crowbar in your wallet and buy it for her."
The dig at Steve's seldom, but epic failures to pay goes without notice as the SEAL is still focused on the board, now with a sparkled gaze, indicating that there's some crazy idea hopping around in his mind. Freddie's eyes shift to the board and back to his friend, doing a double take.
He's already opening his mouth, when Steve blurts out, "I'm gonna buy it for her."
The boyish smile curving his lips doesn't falter even under Freddie's gaping. "You're gonna buy it for her," he repeats, eyeing Steve skeptically, "Which, overall, is a very sweet idea and I would call you a softie, Smooth Dog, if it wasn't for the fact that a surfboard is rather against regulations on the Mobile Chernobyl.* She'd have to sleep on it, to fit it in her bunk."
"I want to give it to her in person," Steve shrugs, a sheepish grimace joining the faint blush on his cheeks.
Freddie regards him for a moment, it's a rare sight to have Steve admitting out loud that he has a soft side, especially when the importance of Catherine in his life is so visible. Not many people notice it, focused instead on the veneer of a cocky Commander and a snarky Lieutenant, thinking they are in it only for the hot looks. But he sees more. He knows Steve and has started to understand Cath too, particularly after ten days of R&R they had spent together last year.
Scratching the back of his head, he clicks his tongue, pondering, "Okay, man. But we can't really take it with us either. So how do you want to store it until you see each other?"
Steve grimaces, rubbing the back of his neck nervously, "That's a detail I need to work on," he admits, "Don't want to send it to her parents' home. It's not like there's a lot of surfing places in Colorado."
"We could send it to my parents," Freddie suggests, tilting his head to the side and seizing the problem of the surfboard like a cargo mission, "But then again, that's not on your usual route. Plus, Kelly would waterboard me, if she learned that you bought something for Cath and I haven't sent her anything," he adds with a smirk, to which Steve chuckles.
Another few minutes pass, both of them staring at the board, like it holds the biggest secret, but doesn't want to share.
Finally Freddie speaks again, with a little hesitation, tasting his friend's reaction as he says, "Steve... Shit, just send it to Oahu. To your home."
Steve's head snaps towards him in a blink of an eye, but the look he gives him is not of anger, but one of complete surprise and a tiny bit of terror.
"Come on, man," Freddie sighs, putting his hand on friend's shoulder and squeezing it, "Steve, we both know that you willtake her to your home at some point. I know you. Know you're not necessarily excited for the family reunion, but you want to take Catherine there. You have wanted it for some time now, haven't you?"
Pressing his lips together and swallowing hard, Steve only nods. His eyes cloud slightly and he shifts his gaze to the side, before looking back at Freddie.
"Yeah," he whispers hoarsely, "I'll do that."
Golden flecks of bright light form speckles on the wooden floor, as two pairs of feet step down the hallway - one pair moves slowly, taking steady long strides, while the pair of smaller feet taps behind him in a bit impatient, hesitant way. Toes with turquoise toenails bump suddenly into the heels of the bigger feet as their owner stops abruptly.
His fingers that are entwined with Catherine's clench tightly, thumb brushing nervous circles on the back of her hand.
"Steve?" she mumbles, still half asleep. The bottle of wine they had emptied last evening on the beach seems to still softly buzz in her body, though maybe the all-night sex is responsible for that, too. Yet, when she barely opened her eyes half an hour ago and snuggled closer to a somehow already awake Steve, he had dragged her out of bed, muttering incoherently about giving her something.
If it turns out to be a poor attempt to have sex on a different surface, she feels like she will smack him hard.
Without saying a thing, he pushes the door to the spare bedroom open and leads her inside. It's neat, but the way things are placed around indicates Steve has barely set a foot inside, probably only to clean and ventilate. She knows he's still readjusting to being here, ghosts of the past peeking at him from every corner, reminding him of things lost. But she has no doubt that he will slowly sink back into this house, making it his own again.
He directs her toward the big wooden wardrobe, beside which stands a package, covered in brown paper. It's a bit taller than Cath and she looks at it with confusion.
"I forgot about it," Steve admits with embarrassment, "Three months ago I still remembered, but then September happened and-" he pauses, swallowing hard at the memory still shattering him.
At Catherine's soft touch, clasping his hand in both of hers, he relaxes slightly.
He turns his head towards her, smiling faintly, "I found it when I was cleaning before your visit. Wanted to give it to you yesterday, but the case interrupted, as you know. And later we had better things to do," he grins broadly now, to which she responds with a bright smile of her own, moving closer until her bare hip brushes against his.
"Open it, please," he motions to the package, releasing her hand from his grip.
In mild nervousness he watches as Cath's small hands tear the paper, revealing the turquoise twirls. The rustling wrapping falls to the floor and the juicy lime shade comes into view. A few rectangle-shaped wisps of light, sneaking through the half-closed blinders, dance across the board, just under the delicate pink-white flower.
"Steve," Catherine's voice is barely above a whisper. Reaching her fingers out slowly, she touches the smooth surface, "It's beautiful."
"You - " she glances at him over her shoulder, but her eyes quickly shift back to the surfboard, before she fully turns back towards him.
A small frown appears on her forehead, the one Steve easily recognizes as a sign of her processing and analysing, not anger.
"How did you-?" the tiny crease slightly deepens, "I saw the stamps, it's from Indonesia. I know you wouldn't ship something just because you saw it in a catalogue. And you always praise the local board makers," she shakes her head, more to herself than to him.
Steve waits patiently a few seconds, having no doubt she will realize it quickly, watching her face for the whole time. Since the moment her fingers touched the wrapping, he hasn't taken his eyes off her face. The glow and awe which appeared, when she revealed the whole surfboard, made his own heart flutter.
And the warmth pours like honey over it, as he observes her lips parting, irises widening and clouding with emotions, when the realization finally sinks in.
"You were in Indonesia last year. With Freddie," Cath says, fingertips involuntarily touching her lower lip in a gesture of emotion.
He nods, corners of his mouth slightly twitching in a half-sad smile. Brushing his fingers along her waist, he pulls her closer, leaving mere inches of space between them.
"That was a year ago," placing her trembling hands on his chest, she looks up at him in awe, "You bought it for me over a year ago and kept it here for the-"
Catherine stops abruptly, voice cracking and eyes sparkling with sudden thought, which in a split of a second brings a shimmering shade of tears, prickling at her eyes. Steve's fingers press harder against her skin, his own nervousness rising now as he waits for the final piece to fall into place.
"It was here for the whole time. On Oahu. In your home," Cath chokes out, barely keeping the tears from falling, "Because you knew I will be here someday."
For a moment he closes his eyes, as the sound of Freddie's words echo in his head. When he opens them again, looking directly into hers, the admission just slips from his lips, "I wanted to show you my home. To bring you here."
Gulping a bit, he takes a deeper breath, before muttering, "Wanted to share it with you."
The feeling of Catherine's lips on his, kissing him soundly, steals his breath, the slight dizziness blurring everything else besides her warmth and closeness. They pull apart, but Steve embraces her more tightly again, arms fully wrapped around her petite form as he leans to bury his head in the crook of her neck.