Author Notes: I have been thinking about this since the episode aired but just couldn't get my thoughts together when staring at the computer. So, late one night, I decided it was going to simply be a conversation, or sort of like a letter. I sat down with my notebook and a pencil and fleshed it out.
It set for several days until I decided to type it up and send it to Sam for review. She quickly sent it back with some really good changes and this has quickly finalized. I've said it before, but whenever I receive a story back from her, it ALWAYS comes back better. Thank you, Sam for that and also for the cool cover pics. I love them and I love knowing that Steve was wearing Joe's coat. Like Joe still had Steve's back.
Tag for 9.11
Steve watched Catherine back up her rental car and drive away down the tarmac before he slowly walked to his own rental. With a final glance back at the Coast Guard plane, he pulled away and headed toward the road that would lead him to Joe's ranch. Once away from the small Montana town near the ranch, the road was narrow, winding and bumpy through the foothills all the way to the ranch. While he concentrated on the stretch of highway he was on, he realized his thoughts were bouncing all over the place, much like he was bouncing in the truck.
His first and foremost thought was that Joe was dead. Really dead. Even after all that had gone down in the last month, that was still hard to fathom. He still hadn't come to terms with that harsh fact, and truth be told, it would be a while before it really, truly sank in.
Second, Steve's thoughts wandered to the team he had managed to pull together for this op. It was undoubtedly the A Team and he couldn't have asked for a better crew of people willing to put it all on the line to avenge Joe's death… and to get justice done.
And lastly, Steve smiled thinking of Cath. Even though she had had to leave, he knew the two of them were in a good place. He also knew that she knew that. This goodbye wasn't a real one. It was 'aloha, see you soon'. Of that, he was sure. And his smile was never far from the surface because of that fact.
He pulled into the dirt-packed drive and stopped in front of the barn. Before he could head back to Hawaii, there were things he needed to get done. First on the list was to clean up the barn, but only after a good night's sleep. Steve couldn't even remember when he last slept for more than a couple of hours at a time.
There was time enough tomorrow to get to work. But even as tired as he was, there was something else he needed to do.
The horses were waiting for him in the field next to Joe's cabin. Their owners were ending their stay in sunny Florida and would be home by the weekend. Steve had promised them that he would have the horses back in their own stable in the next couple of days. He moved to the barn and got the tack for Josie, who had adopted him for the duration of his stay. She nuzzled Steve's shoulder, expecting to be petted, and he complied before rewarding both her and Amos with apples he had retrieved from the barn.
The sun was spread in wide strips of colorful ribbons on the horizon when he reached his destination. He had to admit, it was spectacular. With a sigh, he dismounted and dropped the reins knowing Josie would wait with him.
Steve dropped to the ground next to the mound of dirt that he had dug over a month ago.
"I – well, we just got back from the OP. All the others have gone back to what they normally do. Gutch and Cath were the last to leave. I gotta tell you, Wade didn't miss a beat. He may be retired but he's still one fighting sonofabitch. One of the best there is. But I'm sure you know that." Steve smiled thinking about what good friends these two had been.
"We got them all, Joe. Hassan rolled on Greer without much trouble. He's in solitary at an undisclosed location and the CIA is relocating his wife and kid." He sighed. "I just hope that little boy has a better upbringing than his dad. Hopefully we got to him in time and maybe we can finally break this vicious cycle.
Greer is dead. She's not gonna hurt anyone else, Joe." Steve swallowed down the lump forming in his throat.
"She had no intention of being taken alive. She – ah, pulled a weapon and Cath took the shot. Did I say she was in China? Guess she thought she was far enough away and protected enough not to be found. She guessed wrong.
I know I told you that Cath showed up shortly after you were shot but she's gone on to her next assignment now… wherever that might be. To be honest, I don't know what I'd have done without her here. She was so great; Joe, you should have seen her. You would be proud of her." Steve smiled at the thought how well the two had gotten along.
"Really, Joe, there's no way I could've done this without her. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean I couldn't have done it without her contacts and resources. I couldn't have done it without her.
She's… damn, Joe, she's amazing. But you always knew that, didn't you? Thanks for pushing me to take the chance. I told her you were the one who made me promise to ask her out. Our first date was the Army-Navy Gala at West Point. Man, I was a nervous wreck. But when I saw her, I wasn't nervous anymore. Afterwards, we went to an all-night diner and just talked. I don't think I had ever talked to one person so much in my entire life. It was an amazing night." Steve paused and looked at the slowly setting sun.
"You know, before she left a few hours ago, she told me she was really glad that I had taken your advice and asked her out. And… Joe, she was crying. I didn't mean to make her cry, but, well, I did. I don't know what our future holds, but I know we aren't over. We've got a lot of stuff to work out, but we are at a good place for now."
Steve sighed and looked at Joe's grave, then at the end of the sunset. "It was another pretty one today, Joe. I can understand why you love this place so much. I'm gonna stick around and clean up everything as much as I can around here. The neighbors will be back later this week and I've already talked to him about watching the place. The Navy and CIA are sorting out all your paperwork and everything will be handled eventually. I mean, all your stuff. If there's anything I can do, Cath will contact me."
Steve stood and stretched sore muscles. "Damn, I'm tired, Joe. Getting old, I guess. I'm gonna get some shut eye and start working on this place tomorrow. You chose well, Joe. It's beautiful around here."
He climbed on the horse, looking back to Joe's resting place. "I'll be back before I leave, Joe. Rest easy." With a final nod, he tugged the reins. "Let's go home, Josie."
Day is done, Gone the sun,
From the hills, from the lake,
from the skies.
All is well. Safely rest,
God is nigh.