Wow... it has been a while since I have done this, but this episode was just begging for a better ending! Thanks to Sam for her review and beta. My stories are always better after she adds the finishing touches. Thank you, my friend.
A/N: I just wasn't ready for 8.20 to he finished so I gave Steve and Catherine my own ending. Friendship can have many different meanings...
We're Just Friends – 8.20 Tag
The sun was beginning its dip into the ocean when the group outside Kamekona's shrimp truck began saying their goodbyes. Grover had hugged Catherine and then had given the stink eye to Steve before grinning and turning toward his truck.
"Get outta here, Lou," Steve said with a wry grin before taking a drink of his Longboard.
Soon, only Junior and Tani remained. "Nice to meet you, Lieutenant," Junior said to Catherine after he stood and retrieved his crutches.
"It was good to meet you, Junior. I'm glad you're OK."
"Yeah, thanks to Eddie here," he said, dropping a hand to the top of the canine's head. Eddie looked up as if to say 'you're welcome'.
"Hey, now, Eddie wasn't the only one to find you," Tani grumbled. "He did have help."
"Yeah, yeah, if you say so," Junior said, smiling at her in acknowledgement.
Steve reached out his hand and the dog came to him. "Eddie's a good boy, isn't that right?" he exclaimed, rubbing behind both of Eddie's ears. "You're the best."
"Sir, should I take him home? Tani's going to give me a lift."
"Yeah, if you don't mind." He gave Eddie one final pat and said, "Go with Junior. I'll be home soon. Hey, give him an extra treat tonight. He deserves it."
"Sure will, Sir." Reigns smiled at his superior.
"Catherine, it was nice meeting you," Tani said.
"You, too, Tani. Thanks for your help today." She leaned down and scratched behind Eddie's ears. "And goodbye to you, too, pretty boy. You make these guys behave themselves."
Steve laughed. "That's not gonna happen." When the others walked to the car, he set aside his empty bottle and asked, "You want another beer?"
"No, I'm good," she replied, grinning at him.
"You have a dog," she said with a shake of her head.
Steve grinned and shrugged. "I do have a dog."
"Wanna tell me how that happened?" she asked.
He picked up the empty bottle and turned it around in his hands. "Eddie was DEA. His partner was killed and Eddie was injured pretty badly in a raid. He helped find the killer… who was also DEA."
"Wow. So you decided to keep him?"
"No. Well, at least not initially. I brought him home to recuperate and to find him a good home. The day after the funeral, he went missing. I-uh-I found him at the cemetery lying on his partner's grave."
Steve paused for a moment and then added, "We sort of bonded that day." With a shake of his head, he ended, "So, I have a dog. And I've got to tell you, he's pretty amazing."
"I can tell," Cath said quietly, touched by the story. "And he's happy," she said. "I could tell when he was watching you."
"Well, I don't know about that," he said, a bit embarrassed.
Catherine glanced toward the water, not wanting to call attention to his embarrassment. "Wow!" she exclaimed. "I can never get enough of this." She motioned toward the sun that was slowly slipping below the horizon.
"I know," he said in a low voice. "And while it happens every day, every sunset is different. No two are ever alike."
"You're right, they aren't," she agreed. "But equally beautiful." She swung her legs around to get off the bench.
"Where are you staying?" Steve asked. "Can I give you a lift?"
"That's not necessary," Cath assured him. "I'm at the Hilton. I'll just Uber it."
"Well, that's kind of silly," Steve exclaimed. "I mean, you need a ride, my truck is right over there, and there's no reason I shouldn't drop you off. I mean… we are friends and all, right?"
She hesitated for just a moment. "Yeah, you're right," she said with a smile. "Friends. I would actually love a ride. Thanks."
After saying goodbye to Kamekona, they walked in companionable silence back to the truck. "Do you miss your blue truck?" Cath asked.
"Every single day," he admitted. "I mean, this one is great, but the other one… well, it just 'fit' for lack of a better word."
She nodded. "I understand. It was like a good friend." She dimpled as he unlocked and opened the door for her. "And we did have some fun times in it."
"Oh yeah?" he asked, moving to the driver's door. "I seem to recall you didn't appreciate eating breakfast in the truck."
"Eating breakfast out of a styrofoam box while sitting in the truck wasn't my idea of a fun morning. And then we got car jacked."
"But we gave some people a good Christmas, didn't we?" he asked.
"Yeah, that we did. And… we did finally dine in style," she added with a smile.
After a quiet ride, Steve pulled up to the curb by the massive hotel and turned to Catherine. "When do you have to leave?" he asked.
"I have the red-eye tomorrow night," she replied. "And before that time, my goal is to bask in the sun." She opened her door while he jumped out his and came to her side.
"Which building are you in?" he asked.
"Rainbow Tower," she told him. "It isn't far."
"How about a drink at Tropics?" he asked. "I'm buying this time."
"Well, I should-"
"Come on, for old time's sake."
She looked at his face and could not say no, so she nodded and smiled. "OK, for old time's sake."
Steve gave his keys to the valet, who promised to park the car in easy reach. They walked to the bar along a path lit by tiki torches, hearing the music long before they turned the corner. "Want to sit out here?" Steve asked, placing his hand at the small of her back before recoiling his fingers as if they had been burned. Just a simple touch had brought back a myriad of feelings that nearly took his breath away.
"Sure," she said, quickly moving to an empty table with a gorgeous water view. Cath felt the heat rush to her face and she focused on keeping her breathing even. It wasn't like they hadn't touched on this trip.
They had even helped each other out of a dang pit. But at the time, there were no tingly feelings or blushing like she had just felt at his touch. Well, maybe a few tingly feelings, she admitted to herself. But they had a job to do and had completed it without distractions. And now, all he did was touch her back and she felt like melting into a puddle. Get a grip, Rollins.
"Uh, how about this one?"
"This one's fine," he replied. "Do you know what you would like?"
"What I would like?" Cath repeated.
"Yeah, you know, to drink?" Steve replied, looking at her with a smile.
"Oh, yeah, how about a red wine? Please?"
"Be right back," Steve promised.
She turned to watch him walk to the outside bar. And not for the first time, she admired what she was viewing. Calm down, she told herself. Friends, remember? Nothing more. You are an adult… you've got this. Darn, who are you kidding? Catherine shook her head, knowing she was getting into dangerous territory.
Steve ordered Burgundy for Cath and a Longboard for himself. One drink limit and you say goodnight, he warned himself. She wants to be friends and you don't need to mess that up. He picked up both drinks and turned to head to the table. She was watching the water lap the shore and her profile was breathtaking. McGarrett, you're so screwed…
"Here you go," he said, setting the wine in front of her.
"Thanks," she replied with a smile, watching as he angled his chair to face both her and the ocean.
"So…," he began. "Job going well?"
She grinned at him. "I could give you the proverbial, 'If I tell you, I'd have to kill you,' line."
Steve nodded. "You could." He paused, then added, "But you won't."
Cath smiled in agreement. "The job is good. But..." she turned to look at the water, not him.
"But what?" Steve prodded.
Catherine took a deep breath and added, "But it's lonely. I have to admit I miss the interaction with people."
"I can understand that. Sometimes, even traveling with a team, you can feel alone. Going it by yourself all the time could be rough. Especially for a wild lady like you," he added with a grin.
"Wild?" Catherine slapped at his arm. "I am not wild." She paused, then amended, "Well, maybe I kinda am… but it was the company I kept," she said with a side glance in his direction.
Steve took a drink of his beer. "You're not blaming me for that one, Rollins," he replied. "Remember the time in Bangkok?"
"I can't believe you are bringing that up… again," she said, laughing at him. "You need to just let it go."
"Can't," he told her. "It's one of my favorite memories," he admitted.
Cath got quiet, then looked at him. "Yeah, mine, too. We did have some great adventures, didn't we?"
Steve looked at her and nodded. "The best. Hey, remember..."
They sat and reminisced until long past dark, their laughter mingling with the music from the bar. After declining another round of drinks from the waitress, Cath sat up straight and looked around. "You know what sounds good?" she asked.
"Nope. But you're probably gonna tell me."
"Wailana pancakes. Want some?"
The thought of pancakes on top of the beer in his stomach sounded decidedly not good, but who was he to end the night. "Sure, it's a short walk," he said, standing up. "Let's go."
They walked through the Hilton property in companionable silence. Steve grabbed her hand to make a mad dash across the street before the light at Ala Moana turned red. "Here we are."
Catherine glanced down at their hands and agreed. "Yeah, here we are." Suddenly they both were self-conscious about the hand holding and stepped apart while heading toward the door.
Idiot, why'd you have to grab her hand?, Steve berated himself before answering the voice in his head, Because it felt natural. Damn it.
Dang, that felt good, Cath thought to herself. But you can't touch him again, got it, Rollins?
Steve opened the door and stood back for good measure. Just to make sure there was no more skin to skin contact.
Could you possibly act any more like a love-sick teenager? he yelled at himself. Then it hit him. He was a 40-something love-sick red-blooded male. And no amount of "let's be friends" would ever change that.
No matter how hard he tried.
"Commander, it's good to see you again," the hostess called to him, pulling him out of his dark thoughts.
"You, too, Akela," he told her. "Still breaking hearts, aren't you?"
"You hush, silly boy. How about a table by the window? Nona will wait on you."
"That's good, thank you," Cath said, leading the way.
No sooner than they were seated, a waitress came bearing a cup of coffee for Steve. "Welcome back, Commander. It's good to see you."
"You, too, Nona. It's been a while."
She turned to Cath and grinned. "She's a lot prettier than your partner."
"No argument from me," Steve told her. His look made Catherine blush down to the tip of her toes.
"What may I get you to drink?" Nona asked.
"How about a pineapple juice," Cath said, shaking off her embarrassment and smiling back at the woman.
"Coming right up."
"Well," Cath said, leaning across the table. "I didn't know I was coming here with a celebrity. They all seem to love you."
Steve shrugged. "This is a good place for late night stops. I just haven't been here for a while. Do you know what you want?"
"Absolutely. Coconut pancakes with haupia syrup."
Nona returned with the juice and heard her request. "Coming right up. And you, Commander?"
"Grilled pineapple and bananas, please."
"Good choices. I'll be back in a few."
"You asked about my work," Catherine said. "How is yours?"
"Well, we talked about the new guys. I'm glad you got to meet them. Things are good. Danny's still a curmudgeonly old man. And Lou's… well, you know how he is."
"Do you ever hear from either Chin or Kono?" she asked, sipping her juice.
"Yeah, Chin and I text some. Mostly over case questions. He's doing good. He really likes being a dad to Sara."
"That's good. I'm happy for him," she replied.
"Yeah, so am I. Kono, on the other hand, keeps on the move. We don't hear much from her."
"That must be hard on Adam."
"Yeah," Steve replied. "I suppose it is." He paused for a bit, then looked at her. "You know… it would be OK if you wanted to keep in touch more often. I mean, just checking in, letting us know you're all right. When you have phone or computer access, that is."
Cath nodded. "I'll do that. But only if it's a two-way street. You can contact me, too. I may not answer right away, but it would be nice to get a friendly email."
He nodded. "I can do that." There's that 'friend' word again…
Their food arrived and Cath's eyes lit up. "Ooh, that looks good."
Steve ate his fruit, watching her enjoy the pancakes. He couldn't help the smile that graced his face.
"What?" she asked, catching him watching her.
"Nothing," he replied, shaking his head and grinning. "I just haven't seen anyone enjoy pancakes quite that much."
"Don't make fun of me," she retorted. "I'm making up for missed meals."
He sobered quickly, remembering her job and the dangers that went with it. "Yeah, sorry, I get it."
She put down her fork and reached for the juice. "Don't be sorry, Steve. Just don't laugh at my enthusiasm."
"Never," he replied with a shake of his head.
Catherine smiled at him. "This has been fun. All this catching up. I-um-I've really missed it."
He nodded. "Yeah, me, too. I can always talk to you. I've missed that a lot."
"Let's make a pact to do better at communication," she said. "That is, if Lynn won't mind. I don't want to-"
"Lynn won't mind," Steve assured her quickly. "We're not joined at the hip."
"Then let's keep in touch." Hmmm, not joined at the hip, huh? Wonder what that means? If Lynn knew what was good for her, she would latch on and stick close. Yeah, Rollins, that's good advice coming from you. Let's be friends, you said. Who are you kidding?
"I guess I should probably head back to the hotel," she finally said.
Steve grabbed the ticket and nodded. "I'll walk you back."
"You don't have to."
"Come on, my truck's over there anyway. I'll take you to the Tower." He paid for the bill and gave Akela another wink.
The hostess came around the cash register. "Come here and give me a hug! You stay safe out there, Commander. Thank you for what you do."
He wrapped his arms around the older lady. "Thank you, Akela. That means a lot."
Catherine watched the interaction with pride. It felt good knowing how others felt about Steve. Because he was so deserving of their praise even though he didn't know it. She turned and headed for the door, opening it and waiting for him.
"That was sweet," she said when he joined her.
"Yeah, she remembers my dad," Steve said. "And Duke. He's the one who got me coming in here."
They walked slowly back to the hotel, stopping at the glass doors. Steve held out his arms. "Is it OK if I get a friendly hug?"
"That is definitely a requirement," Cath replied, stepping into his embrace.
Right where she belonged. In his arms.
She inhaled the essence of him, hoping to remember it for the days and nights ahead. The lonely days and lonelier nights.
Steve turned his head in order to get a whiff of her hair. Coconut, just as he remembered. With a hint of citrus. Damn, he missed that. He slowly pulled back.
"Well, you-uh, take care of yourself."
Catherine looked him in the eye. "I will. You, too. But, actually, there's ah… could I show you something?"
"Sure. Of course."
"You need to come upstairs with me. Do you mind?"
"Uh, no, of course not." He opened the door and followed her inside toward the elevators. More dangerous territory, McGarrett. Play it cool...
Cath pulled the cardkey from her pocket. You could be making the biggest mistake ever, Rollins.
When they reached the door to her room, Steve asked, "You-uh, maybe I should stay out here."
"No, come on in," she said, opening the door.
He hesitated, then saw the hopeful look on her face. "Is this still friendly territory, Lieutenant?"
Catherine smiled. "Commander, why don't we discuss that after we close the door?"
…The End… for now.