What a Turkey!

By Cokie

I had hoped to have this short story completed by Thanksgiving but work conspired against me and it isn't finished. So… I decided to send it anyway and finalize it next week. I hope this may bring a smile or a laugh to your holiday. Happy Thanksgiving to those in the U.S. and a Happy Rest-of-the-Week to those of you in the rest of the world.

Thanks to Sym and Sockie for their wonderful beta work and their patience when I send something to them at the very last minute. Which I do. All the time. They both have to be saints!

Hope you enjoy!

~~~H50~~~

What a Turkey!

"Well, I did it."

"You didn't?" Freddie shot back. "Dog, you're such a wuss. Maybe we should have named you 'Weenie'."

"Shut up. I had to… I can't go through with it," Steve told his friend, the panic still evident in his voice.

"Whatever. It's just dinner with the parents."

"No, it isn't. Cath wants me there for almost the entire week of Thanksgiving. What if her dad hates me? I mean… he's a captain. I don't want him to hate me."

"How'd Catherine take this decision of yours?"

"Uh, well, OK, I guess. I mean, I told her the truth… that I am on the duty roster. She can't really be mad about it."

"If you say so, man. I hope you didn't just shoot yourself in the foot. I mean, come on McGarrett. You've got a gorgeous girl, she is really into you and asked you to meet her parents. I mean, that's something special. And you go and blow it."

"No, I didn't… she understands. Right? We'll be OK," Steve vowed.

Freddie shrugged and smirked at his friend. "If you say so, Dog. Just keep telling yourself that."

"McGarrett! My office, A.S.A.P." Lt. Commander White bellowed through the mess hall before disappearing once again.

"Somebody's not happy…" Freddie muttered under his breath. "Good luck, Pal. Nice knowing you."

"Shut up," Steve whispered back while jumping up from the table. He raced out of the room and knocked on the commander's door.

"Enter."

"Commander, Sir." Steve stood at attention in front of the desk while White glared at him. The commander leaned back in his chair, keeping Steve at attention.

"Just saw your name on the duty roster for Thanksgiving week. I commend you for signing up for the extra duty considering that was a week you had off. It shows initiative that we expect from a newly-appointed JG."

"Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir."

"I am a little confused though…" White trailed off, shaking his head. "As to why I just received a call from a Navy captain saying his little girl is heartbroken because her 'bad ass SEAL boyfriend' can't come to Thanksgiving dinner. Would you care to explain that to me, Boy?"

"I-uh- well, Sir…"

"Spit it out, McGarrett. And this better be good."

"I thought it would be good, Sir, to take on the extra duty. I wouldn't be going home for Thanksgiving and wanted to give some of the other guys a chance to go home to be with their families."

"That's very commendable, Lieutenant, but did you or did you not agree to go to Chicago and meet the Rollins family."

"Yes, Sir," was muttered very quietly.

"I didn't catch that, Lieutenant," White barked.

"Yes, Sir, I did, Sir, but I thought-"

"You thought? Did you think that I like getting calls from a Captain?

"No, Sir, I didn't know…"

"That's right. You didn't know." White sat forward, elbows on his desk. "Let me tell you something else you didn't know. You will be going to Chicago over Thanksgiving and you will make that little girl happy. Because, Lieutenant, a happy girl makes for a happy captain who happens to be her daddy. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Very well. You will call up that little girl and tell her that all of a sudden your week is clear and you just can't wait to attend Thanksgiving dinner with her family. And she doesn't need to know any of this conversation, is that understood?"

"Yes, Sir. Ah, thank you, Sir."

"You're dismissed. And you're lucky this was fixable. Because I can't tell you how ugly an unhappy captain can be."

"Thank you, Sir."

Steve did an about face and left the office as quickly as possible, not seeing White's smile as he picked up his phone.

"James, its Joe White. You were right… McGarrett's scared shitless to come to your house. Put himself on the duty roster." He waited a beat and then grinned again. "I do hope you will ensure his time in Chicago will be memorable." White laughed and added, "I can hardly wait to hear the details. Enjoy your holiday, Sir."

~~~H50~~~

Danny nearly cackled with glee upon hearing the tale which was leading up to Steve's first meeting with Catherine's parents. He turned to her and asked, "Did you know any of that? Steve, your friend was right… you are a wuss."

Steve showed them a sly grin while shaking his head.

"I didn't know it then," Cath filled him in. "But I found out when we got to my house."

"Wait a minute, you did not!" Steve argued.

"Oh, yes, I did, too!" she exclaimed. "Remember when Daddy took you upstairs to show you your room? Mom and I were in the kitchen and she told me all about your little plan to weasel out of a visit."

"You never told me that."

"Well, we decided to let you squirm a little bit."

"Thanks for that. Your dad scared the piss outta me."

"Come on… give me more story," Danny ordered while reaching for his beer. "This is good. I love laughing at your expense."

"I just bet you do," Steve shot back. But after another drink, he set his Longboard back onto the table and continued…

~~~H50~~~

Catherine and Steve got out of the cab and he stared at the two-story, white colonial house with three window turrets on the upper floor. He swallowed nervously while retrieving their luggage and paying the tab. They had flown into Chicago listed as standby on military transport and hadn't had an exact time to let Cath's parents know when to meet them.

Standing in front of the impressive house, Steve wished fervently that this was over. And he had already met them. And that Thanksgiving was over. He licked his lips just as Catherine turned to grin at him.

"Cold feet?" she asked in a teasing manner.

"Who me? Course not," he lied through his teeth, hoisting both of their duffels onto his shoulder and following her up the three steps to the massive front porch. Catherine reached for the door knob when the door flew open with a shriek.

Steve was startled, but soon realized the shriek didn't come from the door, but rather the diminutive woman standing before them.

"Momma!" Catherine grabbed the older version of herself while Mrs. Rollins wrapped both arms around her only daughter's neck and hugged her back. Steve stood back and watched the two of them, seeing tears in Cath's mother's face. He felt a pang of longing as the thought raced through his head that no one other than Catherine had ever greeted him like that.

Catherine released her mom and turned toward Steve, reaching for his hand. "Momma, this is Steve. Steve, my mom."

"Mrs. Rollins," he politely said, dropping the duffels and holding out his hand to shake her smaller one. But that action was for naught. He was surprisingly pulled into a hug and not knowing what to do with his hands, he hugged her back.

Catherine grinned. "Mom's a hugger."

Steve pulled back and smiled at Catherine's mom. "I can see that."

She smiled as well and looked him up and down. "Welcome, Steven. It is an honor to have you in our home." She motioned them inside. "Come on in," she said, then called in a louder voice. "James, get out here. Your daughter's home."

"Mom," Catherine said in embarrassment, but quickly moved to the office door when her father opened it. "Hi, Daddy!"

"Hello, Sweetie," the tall, distinguished Navy captain said, his love for his daughter evident in his smile. And his hug. Steve thought with a rush of panic: 'please don't hug me'.

Not to worry.

Catherine dragged her father with her and made introductions. "Daddy, this is Lieutenant Steve McGarrett. Steve, my dad, James Rollins."

Steve extended his hand. "Captain, Sir. It's a pleasure to meet you."

Rollins sized him up, making him feel he was a tadpole in his first roll call before finally, seemingly begrudgingly, extending his own hand. The man had a firm grip, bordering on painful as he looked into Steve's eyes.

Steve didn't waiver but would have liked nothing more than to grab his duffel and rush headlong down the driveway. This was going to be a long week.

And he wished more than anything that he was once again on the duty roster back on base.

"Oh, James, let the boy go," Mrs. Rollins exclaimed. "Let's get you two settled. It is so good to have you here," she said. "Catherine, why don't you show Steve to his room and if you want, you all can change out of those uniforms. I'll get things going for dinner. I wasn't sure what time you would be here, so things are still in the planning stages. Are you hungry, Steve?" she asked, her smile reaching her eyes as she watched him.

"Yes, ma'am. Always," he grinned back.

Catherine reached for her bag when her father brushed her off. "I'll take your bag and I'll show your friend to his room," he told her. "You go on and start catching up with your mother."

"OK, Daddy. Steve, come back to the kitchen after you change clothes, all right?"

He smiled at her. Or it could have been a grimace. He wasn't sure. But he grabbed his bag and dutifully followed her father up the broad staircase in the center of the foyer.

Rooms on the upper floor were around the perimeter of the house with the open railing along the hallway. At the top of the stairs, Captain Rollins turned left and stopped at the first door along the left-hand wall. Opening the door, he motioned Steve inside. "Here's the guest room so you can drop your gear. Then I'll give you a quick tour."

Steve dropped his duffel at the end of the bed and glanced around the room. Nice. Warm. Homey, but not feminine. Attached bath which was nice. He turned and nodded to the captain. "Thank you, Sir."

Catherine's father stood back so that Steve could join him in the hallway. He pointed down the hall beyond Steve's door. "Our two sons' rooms. They will be home later in the week." He did an about face and ordered, "Follow me."

He pointed to the opened doorway on the north side of the house. "My wife's and my room," he said, continuing to walk. "Sorry about the squeaky floor," he commented as they moved past. Next was a closed door which was at the head of the stairs. "This is my wife's sewing room or craft room, or whatever-the-hell she does in there. I don't ask." Steve saw that the captain almost cracked a smile, but managed to stifle it at the last second. No chinks in the armor.

Steve started to make a comment but the man didn't stop moving. "Another guest room," he pointed to the right side before turning once again to the west side of the house. He opened the next closed door and set down Catherine's duffel bag then stood aside for Steve to see. "This is Catherine's room."

Steve saw pink. He never associated pink with Catherine, but everything in there was pink. Walls, carpet, bedspread. Everything. It took him by surprise.

But the captain's next question really sent him for a loop.

"What's your shoe size?"

"Sir?"

"You heard me. What size."

"Ten-and-a-half. May I ask why?"

Rollins pointed to the plush pink rug. "Because I better not see any ten-and-a-half shoe imprints on my daughter's carpet. You understand me?"

Steve swallowed. "Uh, yes, Sir."

The captain pointed to the opposite corner of the house. "Your room is in that corner. And remember what I said about the squeaky floor? Let me add that I'm a very light sleeper. Do I make myself perfectly clear?"

"Crystal, Sir."

"Good. Now get out of those utilities and come on down stairs." He closed Catherine's bedroom door before doing another about face and moving toward the steps. Steve followed at a slower pace, heading toward his designated bedroom.

The squeaky floorboard mocked him as he walked by.

~~~H50~~~

"One question," Danny said, raising his hand. "Did you survive the week without bloodshed?"

Steve grinned and looked at Catherine. "We aren't far enough into the story to tell you that."

She laughed, nudging him with her bare foot. "Danny, by the end of the weekend, we all looked like we'd been in a combat zone."

"This is getting better and better," Danny replied. "But I think we need more beer."

"Let's start the grill and I'll finish the story while we eat." Steve said.

"Deal. I've got more beer in the car."

Catherine stood up and stretched. "I'll get the meat and clean the vegetables while you start the grill." She stopped by Steve's chair and leaned down to give him a kiss. Before she knew it, she was in his lap and the kiss deepened.

Danny glanced back at them as he went around the side of the house. "Hey, you two, knock it off. Light the grill, Steven and leave the girl alone."

Steve grinned at her before giving her another kiss. "He's just no fun at all," he complained.

Soon they were enjoying their steaks, salad, grilled vegetables and beer. It had been a long week but they had knocked off a bit early on this Friday night before Thanksgiving week. Chin had been anxious to bolt out the door and, although he would neither confirm nor deny, they suspected a hot date with Leilani. All the answer they got from him was a sly grin as he waved goodbye.

Danny wasn't seeing Grace until the following morning so he had invited Steve and Catherine to go out with him, but they had altered the plans to kick back and wind down at home. Which was a treat after their non-stop week.

"OK, let's go back to Chicago, for Thanksgiving 2000," Danny requested. "I want to hear more of this story."

"It was fun," Catherine quickly replied, looking to Steve for confirmation.

"Might have been fun for you," Steve complained. "They were your parents…"

Dinner that night wasn't what Steve would term as horrible although he felt like he was in the spotlight. A place he had never enjoyed being.

Most of the conversation was between Catherine and her mother, although her mom would fire off questions to Steve wanting to get to know him. One question had been "What did your family do for Thanksgiving in Hawaii?"

Steve hesitated a moment and then said he hadn't lived in Hawaii since he was 16 but when he was younger, they would get up on Thanksgiving morning and go surfing and spend some time watching football during the day. That was a bit different from the cold Chicago winter.

Captain Rollins snorted. "Around here, we might catch a good ball game on TV, but we are outside playing football, not watching it all day. Think you can keep up with the Rollins clan in a game?"

The gauntlet had been thrown.

Steve seemed to give the question some thought. "I think I can hold my own. Who plays?"

Mrs. Rollins replied, "Our boys will be home on Wednesday. Bryan is flying in from school in Atlanta and Michael, his wife, Karen and their baby girl Betsy are coming from Nashville. And we can't wait to get our hands on her again!"

"Me, too," Catherine agreed. "I've only seen her once and she will soon be a year old."

"But in answer to your question," the captain added, "The boys, Catherine and I play. Sometimes Karen gets out there, but with the baby that may be difficult. If my brother and his family show up, we'll have another couple of players. But I need to warn you, we play for real."

"And bragging rights," Cath added. "But it's fun." She looked at Steve and smiled. "You'll fit right in." She knew Steve could play football but she had no intention of letting her family in on that little fact!

"So, what do you two have planned for tomorrow?" her mom asked. "Your father and I are going to the grocery for last minute Thanksgiving items." She smiled at her husband. "I love it when you get time off for Thanksgiving. It is my favorite holiday."

"And shopping is my favorite pastime," he muttered, just loud enough for them to hear. "Maybe this year Catherine and Steve could shop for you."

"Nonsense. You know I have to pick out my own vegetables. Besides, they are here on leave and need to have some fun. Any plans, Cath?"

Catherine looked at Steve. "Well, we haven't talked about it, but I thought maybe we could go into the city and wander around. The ice rink is open and we could skate."

"Skate?" Steve clarified, a frown on his face.

"Yeah, ice skating. I thought it would be fun to be outdoors. We'll just have to dress appropriately. Why? Doesn't that sound like fun?"

Steve shrugged. "Sure, we can skate."

Catherine stood up. "Come on, help me with the dishes and then we can take a walk. I want to show you the park where I used to climb trees."

Steve stood up as well. "Mrs. Rollins, dinner was wonderful. Thank you so much."

"You are most welcome, Steven. I'm so glad you came home with Catherine."

Steve swore he heard another grunt coming from the captain.

~~~H50~~~

They came back in the back door around 8:30 that evening, shaking the snow from their hair while stomping their feet on the utility rug. "It's cold out there!" Steve exclaimed.

"Yeah, I can't wait to get in a hot shower," Cath replied. "But I love the cold."

"Yeah, it is nice," Steve agreed. "Never been around snow all that much, but I like it."

Catherine's father came into the kitchen. "Looks like the snow is picking up."

"Yeah, don't know if it will stick or not," Cath agreed.

"I overheard that you're taking a shower," he glanced at Catherine before looking at Steve. "How about you and I have a talk in my study?"

Steve gave Cath a quick 'deer in the headlights' look before gulping and saying, "Sure, Sir. Sounds great."

He could still lie with the best of them.

Catherine took his hand as they walked toward the front of the house. "Stop worrying," she mouthed to him behind her father's back. When they reached the stairs, she gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "See you later, Sailor," she told him with a grin and raised eyebrows.

Steve quickly shook his head and followed her father into the study… or to the slaughter, whichever the case may be.

The captain closed the door behind Steve and moved to the sideboard in the room. "Do you know what bourbon is?" he asked, then turned around and pointed toward one of the two chairs near the fireplace. "Have a seat."

"Uh, thank you, Sir," Steve said and slowly sat. "Bourbon? It's whiskey, right?"

"You're correct. All bourbon is whiskey, but all whiskey isn't bourbon." He held up a bottle nearly full of amber liquid and poured two shots. He handed one glass to Steve and said, "Tell me what you think."

Steve looked into the glass before tipping it for a drink. He was careful not to make a face as the fire went down. "Pretty potent, isn't it?" he asked with a slight grin.

"Some of the best ever made," the captain said, downing his glass. "Good bourbon is from Kentucky, and in my opinion, this is the best of the best. Makers Mark. Enjoy it," he said, nodding to Steve's glass.

Steve looked around the room, seeing photos on the wall, both family and Navy pictures. Many of them showed a younger Catherine dressed in a pink tutu wearing ice skates. Most of them showed her holding either ribbons or trophies. His gaze caught the captain's attention and he motioned for Steve to join him on the far side of the room.

"These are most of her awards. She began skating when she was three. As you can see, Catherine was a champion ice skater."

Steve nodded. "And she wants to take me skating tomorrow. I see where this is headed."

"What is that?" her father asked.

Steve smiled. "It will be a competition. She will want to see if she can best me at skating."

"You think my daughter is that competitive?"

Steve took another sip of his bourbon, watching her father over the top of the glass. "Sir, your daughter would fight over something to the bitter end. In any competition."

The captain refilled his glass and they sat in the chairs in front of the lit fireplace, her father finally smiling. "She got that from her mother," he replied. "The boys were both into hockey and Catherine wanted to follow in their footsteps. Liz put her foot down and the closest Cath got to a hockey game was to figure skate. But she was good at it."

"Catherine is good at everything she does," Steve told her father.

"Captain Rollins nodded. "Yes, she is.

Steve wondered where this conversation was headed. While he felt a little less threatened, he wasn't sure if he could relax in this man's presence. Ever.

"I understand your family and Joe White go way back," the captain began.

Steve nodded. "Yes, Sir. My father and the Commander served together and they have remained good friends through the years. From the time I was at Annapolis, the Commander has kept tabs on me."

"Joe's a good man."

"Yes, Sir, he is." Steve had no clue what he was expected to say.

"He thinks very highly of you."

He was not expecting to hear those words. Especially coming from a Navy Captain whom he had just met.

"Ah, thank you. That's good to know, Sir."

"OK, let me be honest, McGarrett. I've done some checking up on you. And, admittedly, I like what I see. You're a fine Navy man and are well on your way to becoming a good SEAL. I commend you for that."

Steve looked down at his near empty glass. "Thank you," he mumbled, expecting the other shoe to fall.

And it did.

"But…" the captain added, pointing his finger in Steve's direction, "As a father, I have the right to find fault with any man my daughter brings home for review."

"Review, Sir?"

"She couldn't wait for her mother to meet you. Me… not so much. I have been fussed at by those two for weeks, warning me that I have to 'play nice'. I don't like to'play nice' where my daughter is concerned. There isn't a man on this planet who is good enough for her."

"Point taken, Sir."

"So, do you want to pack your bags and leave?"

Steve finished his drink and met the captain's gaze. Slowly he shook his head. "No, Sir. I have a skating competition tomorrow. Besides, your wife is an excellent cook. I'd hate to miss out on Thanksgiving Dinner."

Rollins nodded and offered his first real smile of the evening. "Well played, Lieutenant. Well played." He raised his glass as a toast before finishing his drink. "Now, you probably want to get your own shower, so I'll dismiss you."

Steve stood and placed the glass on the sidebar. "Thank you for the drink, Sir."

"You're welcome. Just one more thing. You do remember the way to your bedroom, don't you?"

Steve grinned, but stood his ground. "I think I can find it. Good night, Sir. See you tomorrow."

"Good luck with skating."

"Yeah, thanks… I think. Good luck with shopping. Want to trade places?"

"Not on your life, Lieutenant. You're on your own."

~~~H50~~~

All was quiet upstairs as everyone had been in bed for nearly an hour. After his shower, Steve fell onto the queen-sized bed and was changing channels on the TV. He thought back over the day and realized it wasn't what he had expected, but in the end hadn't turned out nearly as bad as he had predicted. At least Catherine's father had mellowed a bit in the last couple of hours.

There was a soft knock at his door and he turned around, a look of horror on his face…

Captain Rollins heard the squeak of the floorboards outside their bedroom. The noise was loud, even with the sound of the Late, Late Show playing in their room. He slammed his book shut and threw back his covers.

"That boy played me," he muttered. "But I will show him a thing or two!"

Mrs. Rollins calmly reached over and grabbed the collar of his pajamas. "Get back in bed, James. You're not going anywhere."

"I most certainly—"

"Jimmy, didn't you notice the direction of the squeaks? Steve wasn't headed for your little girl's bedroom. She went to his."

"She wouldn't," he spluttered. "Not Catherine."

"James, you have to face it. You're little girl is grown up. And you need to use your eyes and watch how she looks at that fine, young man. I think there might be a future there."

The shell-shocked captain slowly climbed back into bed. "Doesn't anyone have any respect anymore? I don't want to know what's going on, do I?"

"No, dear, you don't."

A moment later, a door slammed and in addition to the squeak in the hall, they heard stomping before the footsteps stopped at their door.

"Thanks a lot, Daddy!"

A slow smile came over Captain Rollins' face. "Joe White was right. This kid will make something of himself."

~~~H50~~~

Catherine pulled her mother's SUV into the driveway and drove around to the back of the house where her father was busy brushing the dusting of snow off the deck. Steve slowly got out of the passenger side of the vehicle and leaned against the door for a moment before stepping away from the car.

The captain walked toward them. "How was skating?"

"I don't think Steve likes it much," Catherine commented, still not happy with her father after the night before when Steve had kissed her then promptly told her to leave. That was not the way she had foreseen the night.

"I was taken down by a three year old," Steve said as he limped toward the house.

"It was amazing," Cath continued. "We must not have been going fast enough for her because suddenly she flew right between Steve's legs.* He was doing really good until then, but he sort of landed right on his six. With me on top of him."

"My bruises have bruises, Sir," Steve muttered while walking up the steps.

"Sure hope that doesn't hinder your *A* Game of football on Thursday," her dad remarked.

"I'll recover before then. I'll be good to go after a hot shower."

"I'll change and help mom with dinner," Cath told him. "Want some help getting upstairs?" she asked with a grin.

Steve glared at her. "I think I can manage." But on the second step up, he wished the house had an elevator. And he had fourteen more steps to go.

~~~H50~~~

Thanksgiving Day dawned with a bright sun, albeit very cold temperatures. Captain Rollins headed to the airport after an early breakfast to pick up the rest of his family. Steve and Catherine had found themselves on the "duty roster" by the "boss", and Steve found himself peeling potatoes, wondering just how many potatoes this family could eat in one meal. That was before he learned of the "leftover rule" where you had to have enough food for at least three meals. Tomorrow the leftover potatoes would be turned into potato cakes to eat with their turkey sandwiches.

Their work was interrupted a couple hours later when the family made it home. Steve stood back, leaning on the kitchen cabinet and watching the boys greet Catherine and their mom. Mrs. Rollins had barely given both sons and her daughter-in-law pecks on the cheeks before she zeroed in on her granddaughter, Betsy who was carried in by her grandfather. Catherine dragged her brothers over to meet Steve.

"Bryan, Michael, this is Steve." She looped her arm through Steve's. "Steve, these are my older brothers. Don't believe anything they say about me."

"And vice versa," Bryan said. "Don't believe what she says about us. We're the nice guys."

Steve held out his hand. "I'll remember that."

Michael said, "That's my wife Karen, and that's Betsy but I doubt you'll get a chance to even see her with mom and dad both catering to her every whim."

Steve grinned. "Not a problem. I'm not too good with kids."

"Dad said you want to try your hand at some Rollins' football after we eat this afternoon," Bryan said. "I have to tell you, we're good."

"Duly noted," Steve said.

"Hey, you don't play football for the Navy, do you?" Michael asked. "I mean, that sounds like something Cath would pull."

Steve held up his hand and gave an oath, "I swear I have never played football for the Navy."

"Good. Then we can take you. Tell you what, we'll be generous. The two of us against you, Cath and Dad. And twenty says we'll win."

"No gambling on football," they heard their mother's voice above the rest of the noise in the kitchen.

~~~H50~~~

The Thanksgiving meal was scheduled for 1 p.m. and it was ready right on the dot. After the bird was carved and the sides were passed, there was hardly any conversation other than "pass more potatoes, please." Steve understood why he had peeled a ten-pound bag. Even little Betsy was at the table, sharing her first Thanksgiving and learning that she also loved her Nana's mashed potatoes.

Thirty minutes later, everyone was stuffed and the bowls had taken quite a hit.

"Steve, would you like more yams?" Mrs. Rollins asked.

He shook his head. "I don't think I can eat another bite," he told her, holding up his hands in surrender. "I'm going to have to run extra when I get back."

"We can go out in the morning," Catherine told him. "We should have done that today."

"Not today," her mother said. "I would have lost my potato peeler!"

"You'll get exercise in an hour or so," Captain Rollins said. "We're still playing ball."

"If we can move by then," Michael remarked. "Anyone ready for a nap?"

"Don't be a wuss," Bryan told him. "Steve will think he can beat us."

"That's not going to happen," Michael assuredly told them. "He's got Cath and Dad on his team."

"And we're chopped liver?" Catherine asked, her fist on her hip.

"No, but you're a girl. And Dad's… well, Dad's… older."

"Another twenty says we win," the captain said. "Especially after that remark."

"I have a better bet," Mrs. Rollins said. "Losers clean the kitchen."

"You're on," Michael said with a laugh.

"And it won't be us doing the cleaning," Bryan added.

They wished.

The two boys soon learned that Steve was mighty quick on his feet and along with Catherine and their dad, ran excellent plays. The two of them had eaten more dirt than anticipated and they were also in trouble for tackling their own father, causing him to fumble the ball. Steve had quickly realized that this family certainly played for blood during the game. He had managed to intercept the brothers' last pass, costing them six points and the trash talk had escalated. The game was tied fourteen to fourteen and Steve's team had the ball.

"We faked them with the last pass," Steve whispered. "Think we can do it again?"

Catherine glanced at her brothers who were jumping around, confident they were going to bring this team down. "They are morons."

"Knowing them, they will expect you to pull off the same play," the captain muttered. "How about if Catherine runs along the side and you make motions like you're going to pop it to me, then at the last second send it her direction? Maybe I can keep them busy and she can get the touchdown."

Steve looked at the boys who were impatiently waiting for them to end the huddle, and the jeers and catcalls were getting worse. "That could work. That is if they let me throw the ball. I see fire in their eyes."

"They'll get over it while they're washing dishes," the captain said. "Let's do this." They bumped fists and separated with cheers.

Steve was in possession and watched Bryan and Michael ready to strike. He kept his attention on the captain and Michael moved closer to his dad while Bryan targeted Steve, allowing Catherine some room to maneuver.

Steve kept his eyes on Captain Rollins, then turned slightly, preparing to send the ball in Catherine's direction. Both boys rushed and he watched them coming at him head-long just as the ball left his fingers.

He went down in a heap, the air rushing from his lungs when both brothers jumped on top of him. He didn't breathe; couldn't see anything but stars and smelled two sweaty bodies on top of him. With a growl and the use of his muscle and elbows, both brothers went flying. Steve blinked as he tried to get his bearings and heave in a breath of fresh air. Two worried faces popped into his line of vision.

"Hey, man, you OK?" Bryan asked.

Steve nodded and shook his head, reaching his hand up to feel his temple, where a knot was already forming. "Ow."

"Sorry, I think my watch got you. You're bleeding."

"S'OK," he said and sat up to see Catherine and her dad coming their direction. "Did we complete the pass?"

"Piece of cake," she bragged. "Touchdown. These morons were too busy tackling you to see what was going on. Hey, you're bleeding."

"I'm fine."

"Does anyone care that he tried to clock me?" Michael asked, holding his hand over his eye.

"Not really," Cath admitted. "That was a stupid move."

"Sorry, did I get you with my elbow?" Steve asked.

"Don't you apologize to him! He deserved it."

Captain Rollins reached down his hand to pull Steve upright. "Good game, McGarrett. I declare the game called with the score of twenty to fourteen. We win."

"Aw, come on, one more play," Bryan argued.

"No, our quarterback is bleeding and I think your brother will have a beauty of a shiner tomorrow. Let's go inside. Besides, I believe the two of you have KP to tend to. And your CO inside will expect perfection, so it had better be done right the first time."

"OK, fess up, Steve. Where did you college play ball?" Michael asked.

"I didn't, but I was quarterback at Kukui High. And we took State."

"And you neglected to mention this?"

"Hey, you asked about playing for Navy," Steve argued, wrapping his arm around Catherine's shoulder as they walked toward the house. "No one ever asked about high school."

"Aw, look at that," Bryan started. "Our baby sister is dating the quarterback. Smoochy, smooch," he sing-songed.

"Ooohh… Dad he's touching her, you gonna allow that?" Michael asked.

"You two shut your pie holes and get inside. If you do a good job, maybe your mother will let you have dessert."

"Hey, there's dessert?" Steve asked.

"Of course, silly," Catherine replied. "Pumpkin pie, real whipped cream, carrot cake and pecan pie."

He grinned at her. "Then why are we out here?"

~~~H50~~~

"So you did come away bloody?" Danny asked.

"A little bit," Steve admitted.

"And bruised," Catherine added. "Michael had a beauty of a shiner, compliments of Steve and my Dad had a scratch across his nose from when Bryan tackled him."

"And you came out without a scratch?" Danny asked.

Steve laughed. "Yeah, she came out of the football game just fine." He reached out his arm and pulled her toward him. "But you should have seen her the next day. There was a bit of an accident," he said. "Danny, you won't believe what these people do the day after Thanksgiving."

"Well, don't keep me in suspense," he said.

"OK, this may be something you do in New Jersey, too," Steve began, "but it was totally new to me. They drove an hour… each way… to a tree farm in Indiana to pick out their own Christmas tree. On the day after Thanksgiving. Which was still a month before Christmas!"

"Yeah, some people did that in Jersey," Danny said. "But we always went to the tree stand in town. It's easier that way."

"You miss all the 'fun' by doing it that way," Cath argued. "And that was our tradition from as far back as I could remember. After picking out the tree, we would go inside for hot chocolate and cookies while they tied it to the top of the car. Besides," she pushed at Steve, "you had fun and don't tell me you didn't."

"Was that before or after the 'accident'?" Danny asked.

Steve laughed. "During. You see, it was like this… the tree sort of fell on Cath…"

… to be continued…

~~~H50~~~

And now for a Thanksgiving blessing: (author unknown)

May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey be plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
have nary a lump.

May your yams be delicious
and your pies take the prize,
and may your Thanksgiving dinner
stay off your thighs!