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?

SET YOU FREE

LuckyStar Pham –

“How are you holding up?”

“What? I’m fine.”

“You know, you suck at being an actress. Thank God that you didn’t choose to be an actress. Totally not good at it.”

Silently, Doris passed a tissue package Catherine’s way. Taking the box from Doris, Catherine tried to fake a smile, she sat down in the vacant seat next to Doris. She didn’t even know how terrible she looked, and honestly, she didn’t care. The past two days were nothing but an emotional roller coaster. Seeing Steve for the first time after a tough year, hearing his voice over the phone, hearing him asking her “You alright?” immediately, getting introduced to his “gir…”. She didn’t know if that nice girl was his girlfriend, but clearly, that’s the way she introduced herself to her. During their very, very awkward conversation.

Catherine had never claimed Steve as her boyfriend. Both of them had never used the term. There was so much of history between them. Boyfriend-girlfriend never seemed to do their relationship justice.

Maybe that was the difference. This girl was special enough for Steve to call her his girlfriend. Maybe eventually, he found the right woman – someone who could offer him stability.

“Stability”, Catherine didn’t realize she whispered the word, that was something she could never offer him. Since the first day they met in the Academy. Back then, they didn’t make any promise, but for some reason, God always brought them back to each other.

Except for this time.

Because finally, after all those years, he found what he needed. He worked a dangerous job, his life was complicated enough. He didn’t need any shit from her. Maybe that’s what this Lynn could offer him.

He really moved on. She genuinely was happy for him.

But why does it have to be this painful? She wished she could just breathe a little bit easier. She wished this pain could just stop for a little while. She wished the tears could just go away.

But none of her wishes became true.

“Catherine, if you want to talk, I’m here. If you want some privacy, I can leave”, Doris offered. Seeing Catherine suffer reminded her of herself years ago.

“No, stay. I could use some company. It’s nice. I don’t want to be alone”, Catherine offered a weak smile, even she was surprised a little bit to hear her trembling voice.

“Does it ever get easier for you?”

“What?”

“Leaving him. Because it sucks for me. Even breathing hurts.”

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“It doesn’t get easier for me. It kills me every single time. I understand how you’re feeling, Catherine. Been there, done that.”

“I heard you joined the service. I didn’t expect that. Why, Catherine, what happened?”

“Don’t you think you’re getting a bit personal? Not sure I’m comfortable talking about that right now”, Catherine wiped the tears from her face. She joined the service, she respected Doris a great deal. Doris is a legend in the CIA, every new officer learnt about her through various stories. But Catherine had heard from Steve, 16 years worth of stories. She still held a grudge against the woman sitting right next to her even though she actually understood why Doris did what Doris did back then. Still, she just couldn’t help but hold a grudge, with some attitude.

“Come on. I know that you love my son. I was 95% sure the first time I met you, I’m 10000% sure now. And I’m never wrong, you should know that…”

“Okay… maybe a rain check? I don’t want to talk about it right now. Whatever happened, it’s over. He found someone. I hope that works out for him. No, I know it works. I hope they will get there. One day,” Catherine unconsciously looked at Doris’s wedding ring, wondering how it felt to wear a wedding ring and how it felt to be introduced as Mrs. McGarrett. The proposal information started to sink in. She didn’t have time to think about it during the mission.

She had a chance to build a life with him, but she had to go away before that happened.

Gosh, she couldn’t believe how much pain she caused him… How come he still cared about her that much? He saved her life last year.

“This ring got me through every day, even the darkest time of my life, when I left John, when I heard he sent Steve and Mary away, when I heard he got hurt at work, when I heard he went to a date but decided to apologise to the girl instead and came home, when I heard he passed away… I kept tabs on him, I admit. No shame”, Doris laughed and turned to look at Catherine.

original_low-94551Catherine was taken aback a bit, for the first time seeing this side of Doris. So vulnerable, so genuine. Just a woman in love. And in pain.

“Why did you leave him in the first place then? Were you forced?”

“No, I left of my own will.”

“Why? They needed you. Steve was too young. He deserved to have a mother. He told me you were a really sweet mother when he was young, he kept bragging to his friends at elementary school that he had the coolest mom in the world. You took that away from him.”

“Yes. And I will never forgive myself for that. But in my defence, I thought I was doing the right thing. I could’ve stayed with them, knowing one day, people who were looking for me would hurt my kids. John could defend himself, but what about Steve and Mary? Or I could leave, watching them from a distance, protecting them from a distance.”

“John spent the rest of his life looking for you. Steve didn’t have a normal family after you “died”. Why didn’t you at least try to contact them when Steve graduated from the Academy? He could take care of himself and Mary at that point.”

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“You’re looking out for him, aren’t you? I’m thankful that Steve has someone like you in his life, Catherine. When he grew up, things got more complicated than it used to be, I couldn’t just come back… I know it sounds more like I’m making excuses. But at this point, I don’t care what people think about me and my actions. The people I love are still alive and kicking, that’s all I need.”

“I just wish Steve didn’t have to suffer so much… I couldn’t stand seeing him suffer…”. The first time Steve opened up to her about his mother, she had cried for him, in front of him, and with him. That was the first time Steve told her: “Thank you for your service, my therapy. I thank God every day to get to know you. I owe you”. The first time he said he owed her. Ever since, it became their thing. Kind of “dirty joke” even. No one knew how meaningful that first time was.

So much memories came flooding back, Catherine felt her heart breaking as she sobbed softly. When they were together, and… so much… in love.

“If I had stayed, they could have died the next day, the next week, the next year… You would never know. I couldn’t risk even the smallest possibility of that happening. I left, and John could live for another 17 years, Steve and Mary could have a future. Nothing is perfect. There wasn’t any perfect choice for me. What I did was for them. I get that Steve and Mary hate me, but I know John didn’t. I know him. Holding on to that single thing gave me strength to do whatever I was doing. For their safety.”

“I wish you could tell Steve all of this.”

“For what? He will never see from my point of view. He doesn’t trust me.”

“Trust needs to be earned, Doris. You can’t expect him to just accept. He needs time. But don’t give up on him! No matter how old he is, he still needs a mother. It’s better late than never.”

“And don’t give up on my son, Catherine!”, Doris, all of a sudden, held Catherine’s hands, squeezing them tightly, eyes tearing up. “He can’t lose you. He deserves to be happy. I know that there’s no one who cares about my son more than you. I want him, and you, to be happy. You were right, he’s already suffered so much. Why do you leave again, Catherine? Or why did you leave him in the first place, for that matter?”


What do you think the reason can be?

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