Summary: “If you can’t love him the way he should be loved, set him free”. Catherine sets Steve free because she thinks he’s happy. How are they coping? Does it work out for them?

 

Finally, some inspiration about Steve/Chin convo came to me. How I think of Steve/Chin, Steve/Danny and Steve/Lou might be OCC for some of you, but this is my interpretation about their relationships. I’ve always wanted to see more of Steve/Chin moments on the show, which they didn’t have many (at least until 4.21). I’m too greedy, so yeah, there will be a lot of Steve/Chin in this chapter – the longest chapter so far.

I am not a Danny’s fan, but if there is one reason that makes me love him, that must be he was always a McRoller on the show. Sometimes, the writers ruined him in my eyes, so I am trying to do his character justice – at least for me, personally. Danny Williams, thank you!


SET YOU FREE

– LuckyStar Pham –

Chap 3:

Meanwhile, on another plane back to Hawaii.

“You okay?”

Chin sat down next to Steve. He just came back from the bathroom. They all were in a civil plane back to Hawaii. He had silently observed Steve for a while and noticed how quiet and exhausted Steve has been since boarding. Given the circumstance, of course Chin understood, but it was really hard to watch Steve going through whatever he’s going through. He gave Steve the time for him to do some reflection, but didn’t want him to be alone. Whatever it was, Chin wanted to be there, to give Steve his total support.

Steve and Chin had developed a very special relationship over the years, which was very different from the relationship Steve had with Danny or Lou. Chin was very calmed and thoughtful, he never pushed Steve to either back down from his relationship with Catherine or jumping at any other women. Danny was a good friend, but his perception about love was never on the same page with how Steve thought of love, they couldn’t really talk about relationships without arguing. Plus, he was always judging when it came to Catherine, especially after she ecided to stay in Afghanistan. He didn’t expect Danny to understand, he didn’t need any negativity coming from Danny either, so Steve tended to avoid sharing things with Danny these days, especially whenever relationship was involved.

What are you doing, Steve?”

Be more specific, Danny”, Steve stopped what he was doing on his computer, looking at Danno who was clearly very angry for some reason he didn’t know yet.

You’re coping, I can see that. You and Lynn…”

What happens between me and Lynn is my own business, I don’t need you to act like my consultant. And what do you want me to do? When Catherine first left, what did you want? You wanted me to move on, which I couldn’t, I just wanted to take my time. You wanted me to open my heart to other women, but I couldn’t even try dating; and now, I am finally seeing someone, but you’re still not happy. What do you want, Danny?”

I want you to be happy. Yes. Like sincerely happy, not like this. But you’re coping, in a very unhealthy way. Yes, I am very mad at how Catherine handled things, but that doesn’t mean I hate her, which you seem to believe in. I know you both, I know how much you went through in the past, I know how deep your relationship with her was, I know how important the thing you two had was to you. I don’t believe for one second that you’ve moved on from her.”

Stop, Danny, I…”

No, listen to me, you idiot. Seeing Lynn or jumping into bed with a stranger on a plane doesn’t make you move on from Catherine. Jumping into another relationship when your heart is clearly someone else’s, when your head isn’t on the game, is just like cheating. I know that we have a lot of disagreements on relationship, but please, trust me on this one. I want you to move on. I want you to reach the point where you don’t have feelings for Cath anymore, and I want you to find the woman who can make you happy or happier than Cath did. That’s what I want for you.”

I enjoyed my time with Lynn, she is good in bed”, Steve couldn’t believe he actually said that. It was probably the alcohol speaking, not him.

See, see. Look at the mirror, look at yourself, Steve. Do you even recognise yourself? Because truthfully, I don’t”. With that, Danny stormed out of his office. Steve had never seen him that angry before. He wondered what triggered all of this.

After about 5 seconds, Danny came back, which made Steve feel the need to mock him.

I thought you were done.”

Danny shrugged, “I have one more thing to say. If you are happy, if you are enjoying yourself like you said, show me that stupid smile on your face like the one you always wore whenever Cath was in town. Show me that stupid spring in your step that you got whenever you called her during the case to what, “ask for a favour” – you said and I quote. I really care about you, Steven, you’re not only my friend, you are my brother. I know you’re hurt, babe, I know you’re suffering, I know you want to feel loved and cherished, but honestly, what you’re doing… it isn’t right.”

Are you done, Danno?”

Yes, I am done.”

Are you tired?”

Yes. That was quite a speech. Let me breathe first.”

Danno… Thanks. I really appreciate it.”

One more thing. Whether you believe it or not, I DO NOT hate Catherine. I might not understand what she did, I might be mad at her, no, furious at her”, especially when Danny thought about the private conversation he had with Catherine on his favourite spot of the island – on the same day she left, “but it doesn’t mean I hate her. I might sound judgemental, but that’s because I care about you both. You two are equally honourable, and stubborn. If she hadn’t been your girl, I would have definitely chased after her. That’s how much I love her, okay? But I probably wasn’t her type, so let’s pretend I didn’t just say that, okay?”

Steve was indeed quite taken aback by the last thing Danny revealed to him.

On the other hand, Lou was completely different from Danny. He didn’t know much about the history between Steve and Catherine, he always thought of Catherine as the reason he and Steve almost came to blows the first day they met. Lou was now his go-to guy whenever Steve wanted to talk about PSTD, because Lou seemed to understand, as it he had suffered from it at some point in his life. He was the one who constantly pushed Steve to get back in the “game”, even though deep down inside, Steve knew he wasn’t ready. But he didn’t stop Lou who kept pushing, pushing and pushing. Steve had to admit, his ego was bruised pretty badly. He didn’t want to turn down dating opportunities now. He was hurt, and he just wanted to convince everyone that he could live without Catherine.

Most importantly, out of all people, he wanted to convince himself, that he could live without her.

“Catherine” Catherine. The only woman he ever loved. The only woman he has ever been in love with.

The first time he and Lynn hung out, Lou was very supportive, to the point that Steve secretly resented him for that, but the need to be loved inside of Steve was much bigger. He wasn’t good enough for Catherine, maybe he could be good enough for this girl. She seemed sexy, funny and cute. And she was absolutely nothing like Catherine.

Steve tried to play along with Lou over the “locker room talk”. Sometimes, Steve was quite surprised – he had thought Lou had better respect for women – better than that. At the end of the day, Lou was happily married, and he loved his wife. Steve couldn’t believe Lou actually called Lynn “weekend booty”. It was so tempting to ask what would happen if a teenager boy used that on his daughter, but Steve knew better than to ever ask Lou that out loud, so he just kept silent.

He was just glad Lou didn’t use that term for Catherine. At least not in front of him, or his team.

For these reasons, even though Lou was on the plane, Steve tried to avoid talking to him by picking the seat next to Chin. No sharing with Lou today. Not now, not about this. He knew Lou would ask about Lynn, about the dinner with her. Kono had told him that they actually called Lynn. He felt a bit uncomfortable knowing the team talked to her. He had always known that Lynn would not be in his future, that was the whole reason why he never introduced her to the team in the first place.

She just wasn’t Catherine. She was just… “weekend booties”. The one at the present. There are more to come.

“Who is this guy?”, Steve asked himself, he had to admit he didn’t feel like himself anymore. He used to be so serious about his relationship – Not like this. That was one of those things his father taught him when he was younger. Just before Doris was killed. No, faked her own death.

Steve lost himself after Catherine left, for the second time. She was the only one he had truly let in, but he couldn’t hang on to her. He wasn’t good enough, after all.

Steve was lost in his train of thoughts; he didn’t notice Chin came back to his seat several minutes ago.

“You okay?”, Chin repeated the question, concern was written clearly in his eyes. He had asked the younger man twice, but he seemed to be lost in his own world.

Steve enjoyed Chin’s company a lot, he might be the only one who understood this kind of pain. Whenever they spent time together, they understood each other without too much of talking. Chin was like an older brother to Steve, he acted like his father sometimes. Chin was there when Catherine first left, never judging either Steve or Catherine, just making sure that Steve didn’t have to drink alone, telling him some stories about John, about how John dealt with Doris’s “death”. Every so often, Steve was jealous of Chin because Chin got to spend more adult time with his father than he did.

Steve wasn’t sure if he’s ready to talk about this fresh wound to anyone, but all of a sudden, because Chin’s there, he felt like talking. He needed to talk, needed to get it all out of his system. Everything was boiling up from inside, he was going to explode.

“She’s working for the CIA.”

“Yeah, I figure. I hope that works out for her.”

“Are you mad at her?”

“Never say I was”, Chin shrugged.

“Chin, I mean… you never said anything about Catherine; but you didn’t even talk to her after you arrived.”

“I said “You are Ohana”, meaning both of you”, Chin defended himself, he meant exactly what he said, “and maybe, I was a bit mad at her, well, actually, I was mad at her, not only because she left, but also because she didn’t even take time to say Goodbye to me. I thought of her as my sister, so, yeah, I was mad. She actually texted Kono, but didn’t text me.”

“She texted Kono? What did she say?”

“She said “Take care of the boys for me”, the same thing Kono said when she left with Adam. By “the boys”, I assume she meant mostly “You”.”

“Kono never told me”, Steve sighed, feeling his heart clench.

“You were kind of avoiding using the “C” word since then, Kono figured it would be better not to talk about Catherine. We just played along as if she didn’t exist anymore. I know she hurt you, big time. But I don’t judge Catherine, I guess you would do the same if you were put in her shoes.”

“Yeah. I would.”

“When did they recruit her?”

“When she was in Afghanistan”, Steve recalled the conversation with Catherine the day before when they were in the plane.

Catherine was talking to the pilot, giving out her instruction before returning to him. He could sense her presence, just like the good old days, but he didn’t react, until he felt her hand touching his arm, squeezing slightly, asking him with concern, “You okay?”

He completely lost it. A single touch from Cath and all his nervousness just disappeared. She hurt him badly, but the way her presence comforted him didn’t change. Her effect on him was instant. He realized regardless of everything that happened, she was still his best friend. She calmed him, grounded him, comforted him like no one else did.

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Although, she also broke his heart like no other woman could ever do.

Yeah”, he whispered, was surprised to hear his own trembling voice. He couldn’t help but feeling lost when she withdrew her hand. He wished that touch could last a little bit longer – her warmth on his arm. He wasn’t sure how this would turn out. His head was full of thoughts, about his mom, about the woman sitting next to him. But at that very moment, he knew he would be okay, he felt safe, because Catherine was there.

Steve had a hard time looking at Catherine, though. Gosh, she looked even more beautiful than the last time he saw her. It was so difficult to look at her without thinking about kissing her lips or feeling the touch of her sweet embrace, which was totally ridiculous right now, considering everything had happened between them. It was just easier not to look at her at all.

I wanted to tell you. I did. You were the last person I ever wanted to lie to, Steve. And then when I found out what you did for me, and how… how you came through when my cover was almost blown, I… You saved my life”, Steve could see that Catherine didn’t cope with this any better than he did, but she was trying, and clearly struggling to find the words. Steve knew this conversation would break him once again, but he still wanted to hear the truth from her. He finally looked her in the eyes, his hands suddenly acting so awkwardly.

You would’ve done the same for me, Cath”, her name rolled off his tongue so easily, it hurt. He had completely blocked her name from his mind, well, he tried to, and he tried really hard, but that was easier said than done. Saying her name still gave him this odd feeling – just a sense of happiness and a feeling of being safe. There was a time when every sound of her name, Catherine or Cath, was all he needed to get through a tough day. No, he shouldn’t feel this way, after everything she had done to his heart. He didn’t deserve this. He must be an idiot for still having feelings for her.

But damn it, for God’s sake, he has loved this woman for most of his adult life. She was the only one who stuck around and put up with him for the last 16 years, through thick and thin, through ups and downs. She was the image that kept him safe, even until this day. He could never deny that. He just couldn’t turn off his feelings after 16 years. He tried so hard to hate her, but none of his methods worked. There were tons of times in this past year, he wished that he was just a killing machine, so he didn’t have to feel anything. No pain. No regret. No desire, no love for Catherine. But he was just a human being, a guy who had it bad for a girl, for 16 years. He couldn’t remember the last time he didn’t have any feelings for her, it sounded like his previous life. This moment, Steve still felt his heart beating so fast just sitting next to her, smelling her sweet scent, hearing her soft voice.

He really hated himself for being this helpless. Incurable.

When did they recruit you?”

When I was in Afghanistan.”

Right, so, last year, when you came to Hawaii…”

Yeah, yeah.”

Okay.”

It was just within seconds, but he felt like he died over and over again. He tried to recall the last time he was tortured at the hands of Wo Fat, trying to compare which one was more painful. The physical pain from Wo Fat was like nothing comparing to this. His heart was broken into thousand of pieces, he wondered if this wound would ever heal. He was about to propose to her, he still remembered how happy he was that week, and how much her decision destroyed him. His assumption was right, when she came back, she knew she would leave him again.

Who was this woman? She chose the exact same way Doris chose – keep lying and leaving. Where was his sweet Catherine Rollins who had vowed not to hurt him, under any circumstance, when they made love for the first time? That night, he started to trust her, opening up to her, welcoming her to this world – more than anyone else.

“Are you mad?”, Chin hesitated to ask, clearly seeing that Steve was absorbed in his thought.

“Yes, I am. I am furious with this whole situation. I was furious that she chose her job over me. But… you know what’s funny?”, he hesitated, “I can forgive her now.”

“That easy, huh?”

“Yeah. It’s weird, right? It’s like my brain tells me to hate her, but this”, Steve pointed to his heart, “tells me to forgive her. And I think I will listen to my heart. I guess her answer reminds me that we’re not meant to be. This is real life, shits happen. It’s not like we can get whatever we want. I didn’t want to lose my mom, my dad, Freddie, but I lost them all, for some reason. Now it’s Cath. Maybe I’m cursed or something, maybe it’s my destiny that I can’t find my happiness”.

“That is not true. No one deserves happiness more than you.”

“Maybe I won’t ever find another woman like her, ever, but I still gotta move on now, right? You went through the same thing with Malia, and look at where you are now. You met Leilani. You two seem serious, at least she isn’t just a weekend booty”, Steve let out a dry laugh, “I guess I will stick to that for now, you know, playing it safe.”

“You know what they say? “When there is no love, there is no pain”.

“Yeah, maybe. It’s a wise quote.”

“But I’m not sure if it’s fair though, to be honest. It’s not fair for you, it’s not fair for Catherine, it’s not fair for the new girl.”

“And Catherine… She is happy. That’s all that matters to me. That’s all I need to hear”, Steve tried to change to subject, he didn’t want to discuss Lynn now. He was annoyed that she spilled the beans to Catherine about the proposal.

Do me a favour. Tell me something”, Steve couldn’t even look at Catherine. He knew that he needed to ask this question, he needed to know, but deep down inside, he wasn’t sure he would like the answer.

What’s that?”

Are you happy? Doing what you’re doing?” If she was, he at least would feel happy for her, but it would also break his heart all over again; but if she wasn’t, then the pain they went through was for nothing. He didn’t know which answer he wanted to hear more.

Yeah, I am”.

All right. It’s good, it’s good”, Steve smiled at her, feeling bitter, yet genuinely happy to hear she’s happy. He just wished he could make her happy as much as the CIA does.

“You asked her?”

“Yeah. When she left, she said that she wanted more than what a relationship could give her. She wanted to feel needed, she wanted to help people in need. She wanted to make a difference. That was probably a cover, but that might be also what she really wanted. I’m glad to hear that she’s happy. She finally found her purpose, she probably lost it when she left the Navy. That’s all I want for her. She said just because she wasn’t on my life anymore, doesn’t mean she doesn’t still care about me. It worked both way, you know.”

“She said she’s happy? I don’t know about that”, Chin shrugged, recalling Catherine’s eyes when she looked at Steve talking to his mom from distance earlier. He knew that look.

“What? What do you mean?”, Steve asked, curiosity took over him.

“I mean… she still loves you, right? We all can see that, otherwise she doesn’t need to risk her life for this mission, for your mother. And what else she can answer? Saying “No”? I think I know Catherine, she wouldn’t say that. She thought she interrupted your dinner with Lynn… Even if she wasn’t happy doing what she was doing, she would never admit it to you. She is setting you free. And you let her go, again, because you think by not asking her to stay, you respect her choice. You both care about each other too much. I wish you two kids could just communicate more, or maybe think for yourself a bit more.”

“She hoped thing worked out for me and Lynn.”

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Lynn, she seems like a nice girl. I hope that works out. You deserve to be happy.”

Over the past year, he had heard that line for thousands of times. He deserved to be happy. But he let his only happiness get away from him. Catherine was the last person on earth he wanted to hear that from. That was the last straw, he felt sick in his stomach, his heart felt so heavy in his chest. He immediately closed the door, couldn’t stand seeing her after she gave him her blessings. It hurt too much to look at her now, he could feel the tears pricking his eyelids. He knew Catherine, she wanted him to be happy, but it tore him inside to hear her telling him to spend his life with another woman.

But on reflection, he remembered him saying the exact same line: “Billy… he is a good guy. He is crazy about you. I hope that works out. You deserve to be happy”. Turns out what she went through back then was this painful.

Billy… he is a solid guy. He loves you. I hope that works out. You deserve to be happy”.

Catherine looked at him questioningly, couldn’t believe what she just heard. She didn’t bother shedding the silent tears rolling down her whole face. Steve had never seen Catherine cry like that before, it broke him to his core. He couldn’t stand it, so he turned around, fighting back his own battle of tears. Tears blurred his vision already, he hated it. He was so ready to walk away, and of all a sudden, he felt Catherine drawing him into a tight embrace from behind. The familiar warmth from her body was the last thing he needed at the moment, it comforted him on so many levels in the past, but right now, it made it more difficult for him to set her free. Her soft voice faltered, “Steve, you deserve to be happy, too. I just wish I could be your happiness.”

He didn’t respond.

Just promise me. You will be careful. And happy, whenever you are.”

They broke up that day, but her whisper stayed in his heart all those years, echoing inside his head all the time. He wished he could be her happiness, too. Whenever the time was right.

But maybe, they weren’t just meant to be. They tried, but they failed. In the past. And now.

He closed the door of the plane, closed the door to their future. It felt like putting an end to their relationship. Officially. He touched the plane, wasn’t ready to let her go in his heart. He caressed the plane, as if it was Catherine. He longed to feel the warmth on her face, longed to touch her, to pull her in a deep kiss, but given their circumstance, he couldn’t, and would probably never be able to do that. This would be the end. All memories of 16 years since the very first time he laid eyes on her flooded back in his mind, taking his breath away. Functioning at that moment suddenly became such a daunting task.

He tried to blink back the tears, finally letting it go. Letting her go. Letting the plane take away the two most important women in his life.

He walked away, walked to his team, and didn’t look back. But he knew his heart was empty, again. His heart was numb, he wondered if he would ever feel anything again.

“Steve, Steve…”

“I’m sorry. I was just…”, Steve came back to reality, turned to look at a worried Chin.

“It’s okay. Take a rest. Get some sleep.”

“What were you saying when you tried to call me?”, Steve wiped his face, he’s clearly worn out.

“I was just saying that I’m worried about Catherine.”

“What? Why?”

“I mean, she is going against CIA this time, Steve. I don’t know how this can ever work out. We not only discovered this black site, but also rescued a high-profile prisoner. I can imagine her boss won’t be happy about this. I’m just wondering what’s waiting for her after this. Will be there any consequences? And she just gets back to another assignment? That easy? Does CIA work that way?”

Steve was puzzled. He had his mind wrapped up, he didn’t even think about that. All he could think since she left was about the status of their relationship. Steve felt stupid now. His mind was frantic with worry. Hopefully, nothing bad would happen to Catherine.

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