Summary: Tag to episode 4.08 – Akanahe (Reluctant Partner). Steve and Catherine discuss the events of the day.
Note: This ties into a previous story of mine, Crossroads, but can be read separately. Thanks as always to Sammy for the insights and encouragement (including inspiration for the title) and to all the reviewers for your kind words.
Disclaimer: You all know the characters aren't mine.
Slow Healing Wounds
Catherine looked over from her seat on the couch as Steve came through the front door. Setting her book down next to the bottle of beer on the coffee table, she turned to face him.
"Hey, how'd it go?" she asked.
"Huh?" Preoccupied with the incident at the ATM, Steve didn't immediately understand her question.
"With the governor?"
"Oh. Yeah." He shook off his previous thoughts, tossing his keys and wallet on the table. She shifted to make room for him on the couch. "Um, Grover got there first," he told her as he sat down.
"What do you mean?"
"He, uh, he took full responsibility for what happened."
"So . . . basically the same thing you went to do."
He gave a slight shrug at her words. "Yeah."
She nodded approvingly. "Well, I'd say that bodes well for the future."
"I mean, it's not like we're . . ." he scratched his face, searching for the right word. "It's not like we're friends or something now but, yeah, I can work with the guy."
She regarded him for a moment before replying. "You respect him."
He met her eyes and paused, thinking over all that had happened with the SWAT captain that day.
"Yeah. I do," he said finally. She gave him a small smile and watched as his attention was drawn to his wallet on the table.
"What is it?" she asked.
"That kid," he replied tightly.
"Ian Wright? What about him?"
"I stopped at an ATM on the way home. He sent me a message."
She straightened at his revelation. "What?" she asked, incredulous. He nodded.
"Through the ATM. As soon as I entered my PIN," he explained, motioning with one hand.
"What was the message?"
"That he should have paid the parking tickets."
Catherine fell silent, mulling over the implications.
"It's like a game to him," Steve continued, leaning forward on his knees in obvious frustration. She put a hand on his forearm, bringing his attention back to her.
"We'll get him," she said, her tone unequivocal. He straightened, but didn't offer a reply. "But you should take a minute to appreciate the fact that 315 people are alive today because of a decision you made, Steve."
He exhaled, lips pressed tight together, looking forward again. After a moment, he turned back to her.
"Hey," he said with a nod. "Good job today."
She shook her head. "If I could have been quicker, maybe we could have gotten control of Flight 408 back before you put Ian on that plane."
"Don't think making computer programs download faster is one of your superpowers, Cath."
"Still . . ."
"No, Catherine, this wasn't on you," he said, his voice serious. "Ian Wright is good. He's very good."
She paused before nodding. "So we'll have to be better to catch him," she said, conviction clear in her voice.
He returned her nod. "Yes, we will."
They fell silent and after a moment he sighed, moving to shrug off his button down. Her eyes went to the white bandage peeking out from the edge of his shirtsleeve. She nodded toward it.
"We should change that bandage."
Glancing down at his arm he nodded. "Yeah, you're right."
"Stay there," she said, standing. "I'll be right back."
As she disappeared upstairs Steve sighed and reached for the Longboard on the coffee table. Taking a drink he sat back, closing his eyes. He rested his head against the back of the couch, rubbing his forehead and resting the bottle on his thigh, only opening his eyes at the sound of Catherine's returning footsteps. She retook her seat, now armed with a first aid kit. Sitting up, he set the bottle back on the table and pushed his sleeve up as she sorted through the necessary supplies. Turning to him, she began to unwrap the gauze on his arm.
"I'll tell you one thing, I definitely prefer you doing this to Grover's method," he said with a humorless chuckle.
"What do you mean?" she asked, eyes focused on her task.
"That man slapped honey and cayenne pepper on my arm to stop the bleeding."
She winced in sympathy. "Ouch." He grunted in agreement, remembering the intense sting. She glanced up at him. "Did it help?"
He paused, making a face as he looked to the side. "Maybe."
She smiled at his reluctant admission before returning to her task. Her hands stilled as she removed the bandage completely and exposed his injury. Her face grew serious and her eyes took on a distant quality. Noticing her distraction, he looked down at her.
"This feels familiar," she observed quietly, her eyes on the wound.
"Yeah," he agreed, matching her tone.
"Looks like we'll have matching scars."
He nodded almost imperceptibly, watching her. She swallowed, closing her eyes momentarily and trying to shake herself back to the present. Inhaling, she turned back to the task at hand and placed a new bandage over the injury. But again she stopped, eyes closing as she leaned her forehead on his shoulder.
"It's just a flesh wound, Catherine," he said quietly and felt her nod against him.
"I know. I'm glad that's all it was."
He paused before bending his head down to rest on hers, reaching up to lightly brush his thumb over her scar.
"I know the feeling." His mind turned to the frantic time between getting the call about the shooting and learning she'd be all right. It caused a pit to form in his stomach even now and was an experience he never wanted to live through again. Feeling her breath against his skin calmed him. "You still think about that night?" he asked.
She straightened to look at him. "Yeah. But it's getting easier," she said, nodding. "It is," she repeated, her voice firmer.
"It won't ever go away. Not completely. But you're not alone, Catherine."
She regarded him for a moment. "No. I haven't been for a while now."
He gave her a half smile, which she returned before picking up the gauze and wrapping it several times around his arm. She secured it with tape, smoothing the ends down.
"There. You're all good," she said, looking up at him.
He held her gaze. "You will be, too."
She nodded. "Yeah, I will," she said, confidence and determination returning to her voice. She would always carry the scar, but the wound would heal.
Thank you for reading - hope you enjoyed!