Hello, again!

I can't say "Thank you" enough to Paula! Thanks for always proof-reading for me! You're the best thing in this fandom :) I make a mental note to myself that I will never take you for granted. Thank you, big sis!


SET YOU FREE

- LuckyStar Pham -

Chap 6:

Steve stayed in his office a lot later than normal, which didn't go unnoticed by his team. They all offered to help, without asking too many questions, assuming that he would give more details if he really wanted to share. Steve really appreciated that they were giving him some space.

After 2 weeks of trying, Steve didn't go any further in terms of trying to get in touch with Catherine, or Doris McGarrett, or even Joe White. Sometimes, he wished those two women in his life weren't so good at their job.

Only when the news of Chin being rescued from Mexico made its way to the Internet, Steve got a phone call from an unknown number in the middle of the night.

"Hello", looking at the unknown number, Steve couldn't help hoping it was Catherine calling.

"Steve, is Chin alright? I've just heard the news. I'm so sorry that Chin went through something like that", Catherine's voice came through from the other end of the phone, Steve could easily register her worry.

"Catherine, he's fine. He's taking several days off for now."

"That's good. That's good", Steve heard Catherine whispering. He was deeply touched that Catherine still cared about his friends. Steve closed his eyes briefly, rehearsing the moment when they said goodbye last time, when she told him "Just because I'm not in your life anymore, doesn't mean I don't still care about you". Catherine really meant what she said, she not only cared about him, but also his family – his mother, and his friends, his Ohana, like Chin.

"Hey Cath", Steve whispered her name, just like the good old days. The sound of her name rolled off so easily from his tongue. Steve couldn't think of any other word that gave him so much feels rather than her name.

"I'm so sorry. I didn't even realize it's midnight over there. You must be sleeping. Did I... interrupt anything?", Catherine hesitated, finally realizing the time difference and secretly told herself off for being so stupid to call at this hour. The possibility of Steve and Lynn being together at this hour broke her inside, it felt like someone was crushing her lungs. Knowing Steve being in an official relationship with someone else was a totally new territory for Catherine. Jealousy was creeping into her soul. Yes, she was jealous, her heart skipped a beat out of the pain and the nerve – the nerve of talking to Steve, which used to be one of her methods to cope during difficult times. Whatever they were having right now was totally on her, it was her who made a decision that led to this, so she had no one else to blame.

Catherine let out a soft sigh, wishing they could go back to the point when they were both happy and secure about whatever they had between them. It felt like a lifetime ago.

"She broke up with me", Steve broke the news to her, waiting for Catherine's reaction.

"Oh God, Steve, I am so sorry that didn't work out". Covering her mouth with her hands, Catherine gasped, genuinely felt bad for Steve, "If it was because of me...", She felt like the entire thing was her fault. If she hadn't shown up in front of his house that night, they would probably have still been together. This situation reminded her of the day when she left his house, how numb and heart-broken she felt that day, how difficult it was to just walk away and leave him behind. For a moment, Catherine felt like she came back to that dark moment of her life – when she basically couldn't feel any thing, couldn't hear any sound, as if her whole world was falling down and breaking apart. It hurt her even more to realize she was the one who messed everything up, considering Steve was about to propose on that day. Until now, Catherine still didn't dare try to imagine how deeply Steve was hurt. Regardless of how many times she reminded herself that whatever she was doing was to protect Steve from the CIA's threat, she just couldn't get rid of the guilt. Clutching her chest in agony, she couldn't bear thinking Steve was going through the same situation now. She wasn't entirely sure if Lynn was the right girl for Steve, but Catherine really wanted Lynn to be the one who could offer Steve what he wanted yet she couldn't do for him herself.

"Catherine. Listen to me. She's not my girlfriend. We hang out, we have sex, that's all. Lynn broke up with me because she realized I'm not over somebody. Because I'm still in love with someone else. You."

"Oh, Steve". Catherine was at a loss; she couldn't utter even a single word out of shock. This was the last thing she expected when she decided to call to check up on Chin. Truthfully, deep down inside, there were some parts of her that knew Steve still loved her, she clearly could feel it, and Doris said so; but logically, Catherine didn't expect Steve to reveal his feelings for her to her. He made it very clear that it was over between them. Steve never responded to her "I will always, always love you" the day she left, nor the part when she said she still cared about him the other day.

"She mentioned something. "You stop loving someone because you fall out of love with them, not because they hurt you badly". I damn well tried, Catherine, believe me, and it's fucking hard. I just can't fall out of love with you. You're like a drug to me, no matter how much you hurt me, I keep coming back for more."

"Steve, no, you deserve better", Catherine inhaled and exhaled shakily, her eyes started to redden.

"I'm not gonna lie to you, my heart is broken and I want to get it fixed. I want to fix us, whatever it takes. I will make the first move and ask you this only one time."

"I'm listening", for a second, Catherine thought she couldn't breathe. The flash of building a family with him one day sprang to her mind, which brought her an immense sense of happiness.

"Catherine, can you come home?", Rubbing his forehead, and his mouth, drawing all of his inner strength, Steve spoke softly.

Complete silence. Each of them following their own estimation of each other's response. After what felt like an eternity, Catherine finally broke the stunned silence.

"Sailor, I thought you would never ask."

Steve broke into a grin and finally exhaled. He didn't even realize he was holding his breath until his lungs started to burn. Catherine's soft, trembling voice truly felt like music to Steve's ears.

"I know you, and I respect you too much to ask you to do something like that. You never asked me to step back from any mission, regardless of how dangerous it was, and I was always, always grateful for that. I never thought I would ask you to stand down. Yes, I love my job, and so do you. We both serve our country and think for the greater good rather than our personal life, that's what we were trained to do. I accept it, I understand it, but it doesn't mean I have to like it, right? Let's make this the only exception. For once in my life, I want to take this big risk. I hope you won't hate me for asking. If I really ask you to come home, what will your answer be?"

At the end of the day, Catherine Rollins had always been the only exception in Steve McGarrett's life. Even from day one, when he decided to shut everything down to prevent himself from being hurt by this cruel world, Catherine stubbornly stepped into his life to teach him the feelings he had never had for anyone else. He let her in. Completely. One could say that letting her in was the first step of his record of mistakes in his life, but Steve could never deny Catherine Rollins was also the best thing that happened to him. She brought him life.

"You will forgive me, just like that?"

"We will start with a long-awaited talk, at least. But we will figure everything together. I promise. I will be honest with you, but I need you to get on board with me on this thing. Are you with me?"

Without any sign of hesitance, Catherine smiled back, even though she knew Steve wouldn't see her smiling: "Yes, Steve, there's no other place I'd rather be. But I've come so close on this case, you know how it is when you work black ops like this, right? Give me 2 days to wrap things up and I will come home when I finish this mission. I will come home to you! To fix whatever we have and move forward, together". Doris was right, at least Steve is an adult, a decorated ex-Navy SEAL, a high-profile cop, he deserved to have a say on whether he wanted to be protected or not. Catherine made a mental note to herself to come clean to Steve about everything that had happened since Afghanistan once she got back to Hawaiian – her HOME.

"Thank you!", Steve whispered, silently wiped the tears streaming down his face. "I will pick you up at the airport then."

"See you around, sailor". Catherine didn't know what the future held for them, but at least she could somehow see a light, a hope at the end of the tunnel. Maybe it was start of something new for them. A totally new relationship– no lies, no dark secret.

Neither of them wanted to end the phone call, until Catherine finally called his name: "Hey Steve..."

"Yes?"

"Just thought you should know. I've never wanted out of this thing", she was referring to Steve's question when she said she would go to Nepal where she could make some difference. She couldn't really give him an answer back then, that would totally blow up her cover. But she could now.

"Thank you, that's all I need. Be careful!"

"Of course."

All of a sudden, 2 days seemed to be 2 centuries to Steve. He closed his eyes, thinking of all the times in the past they had the same conversation "I will pick you up at the airport" – "See you around". He hoped the next time meant a happy reunion. Of course, he and Catherine would have to talk first, and learn to compromise, then find a way to work things out. They had a lot to deal with, but at least they would have each other to count on.

Steve couldn't seem to fall into sleep, after tossing and turning for almost an hour, he sat up and opened his drawer. The ring, no, her ring was still there. Steve opened the small box, silently watching the shining ring, recalling how happy he was that morning, visualising the perfect proposal scenario he had in mind. There were countless times he wanted to dump this ring, just like the way he erased her contact number from his phone, but he never had enough nerve to do such thing.

It just didn't feel right to get rid of something that was so important, something that he wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

Holding the ring next to him, Steve finally drifted into sleep. The night's dream was full of memories about Catherine. He hadn't had such a sound sleep like that in forever.

Until he saw someone dragging an unconscious Catherine in his dream and the last thing he could see was her beautiful face, but it was fading. He couldn't see anymore, couldn't reach out for her.

"Catherine!", Steve woke up with a start, yelling her name in pain, bolting upright in his bed, his face was drenched in sweat, his heartbeat was totally out of control. The ring box in his hand reminded him that he was only having a bad dream, but Steve couldn't help thinking something really bad was about to happen to Catherine.


P.S: I want to fix McRoll, but I don't want things to be easy. I'm having something really weird going on on my head, and I'm hoping I will be able to deliver it by transferring what I have in mind into words, but please be patient with me! English isn't my first language, ha! Let me know what you think. Much appreciated!