A/N: Thank you so much for the kind reviews! Always appreciated!
Chapter 5: Truth Be Told
Steve called his team to the huddle. "Chin, you and Lori go long, cross and look for the ball. I'll fake to Kono. They're rushing, so one of you should be open." They broke from the huddle and lined up toe to toe with the district fire department team. Danny snapped the ball and tried to slow the rush. Steve faked the handoff to Kono who sprinted to the left taking two defenders with her. Lori and Chin crossed ten yards shy of the end zone. Chin was covered up, leaving Lori wide open. Steve launched a beautiful spiral and watched it sail toward his target. Lori turned and back peddled three short strides before snagging the missile and coasting into the end zone. Steve charged toward her, arms raised in victory. In one swoop he had her over his shoulder. He trotted to the side lines where his team and their friends and family were gathered. He slapped her on the bottom and dropped her to her feet. Caught in the moment, he probably would have kissed her but the team surrounded her immediately with hive fives and congratulations. They played a couple of more games versus various teams who gathered every Saturday for friendlies. Afterwards, they moved their party to Steve's house for burgers and beer. Lori especially enjoyed catching up with Kono. As beautiful and sweet as ever, Kono too made her feel as if she had never left.
"So, things are going well?" Danny asked nodding toward Lori.
Steve dropped a freshly grilled burger onto Danny's plate. "Hard to say."
"What do you mean? It looked liked you two were having fun today."
"We were. We are. It's just..."
"It's not that simple."
"Don't over think it. It is that simple. You like her. She likes you. You like the same things. You know, before, when she worked with us, we all thought there might be a little something going on there with you two."
"Yeah," he agreed sadly.
Danny eyed his friend suspiciously. "So spill."
Steve hesitated, not certain how much he was ready to share. "It was my fault," he mumbled, catching sight of Lori and Kono laughing together across the beach.
"What was your fault?"
"She left because of me."
"What? Why? I thought she had a job back East."
Danny waited patiently for Steve to elaborate, he took his time, removing his apron and then shutting down the grill. He grabbed a beer and Danny followed him to the deck steps. "The night Parker took Grace, I went to Lori's. We..." He looked at Danny pointedly before turning his attention back to his beer.
"You slept together?"
"Yeah, one thing led to another and..."
"That's why she left?"
"No, she left because of the way I treated her. I cared about her, but the timing sucked. Not to mention the fact that we worked together..."
"So you broke it off."
"Worse. I didn't do anything. Catherine came home and I..."
"You screwed up," Danny surmised. "We'll talk about this later," he said and pointed toward the crowd headed their way. It was game time and the party was moving inside to the big screen. Steve found Lori and took her hand pulling her through the crowd to the couch. He plopped down in front of her on the floor and hooked his elbow over her knee. Two college games later, the crowd thinned and Lori started the cleanup. Steve sent the last guest through the front door and headed for the kitchen. Silently, he watched Lori work. Lost in her thoughts at the kitchen sink, she didn't hear him sneak up behind her. When he snaked his arms around her waist, Steve took notice at the way she relaxed into him. Encouraged, he ghosted his lips over her neck sending shivers up and down her spine. Feigning control, she dried her hands, one finger at a time, and slowly twisted in his arms to face him. He pressed his body to hers, trapping her between him and the kitchen sink. Desire flared in his eyes darkening the greens and blues, painting a deep swirling ocean of undefinable color. She caught the corner of her bottom lip between her teeth and slid her hands up his chest feeling lean, taut muscle through his thin T-shirt. He kissed her softly teasing her lips, tasting her mouth, pulling her in tighter, each kiss igniting a flurry of passion that threatened to carry them both away. Lori could feel his heart racing beneath her fist, it's cadence matched beat for beat by the pounding of her own pulse. Slowly, methodically, he trailed his lips down her neck, nipping at sensitive skin, nearly sending Lori over the edge. She ran her hands through his hair and dipped her chin once again finding his lips. He smelled like the ocean, warm and inviting. He cupped her bottom and lifted her onto the edge of the counter. Instinctively, she wrapped her legs around his waist, pulling him in closer to her. Steve leaned in harder wanting to feel her completely against him. When he did, Lori slipped into the sink and somehow managed to flip the faucet on and knock the sprayer off of its anchor in one not so graceful motion. Water spewed like a geyser from the exposed sprayer port. Steve slapped at the aged faucet handle a little too hard sending it flying from the faucet base and into the side of his head. Half soaked, Lori grabbed a dish towel and tried to hold back the fountain of cold water. The momentary fix was quickly maligned as the redirected water exploded from around the faucet base further soaking the would be lovers. Lori squealed and Steve dove under the sink looking for the turn off valve. In his haste, he slammed his head against the old pipes. "Damn it!," he cursed, and reached for the rusted valve. It wouldn't budge. He tried again, raking his knuckles across the elbow joint. "Damn it!," he yelled, louder this time, when it wouldn't turn. He regained his footing and took off for the garage returning shortly with a pair of channel locks that looked older than the pipes. He again disappeared beneath the sink. Lori heard the squeak and grind of the valve and turned her face cautiously back toward the faucet. "Did I get it?" Steve called from below.
"Water's off," Lori called back.
Steve sat back on his heels in the kitchen floor and surveyed the damage. One very wet and laughing Lori stared back.
"You need a towel," Steve chuckled and hopped up.
"I'm sorry about your faucet," she said shyly.
Steve took her hand and pulled her into a hug. "It was worth it," he whispered in her ear. He stepped back pulling her with him and led her upstairs. They stopped in front of a small bedroom. "My sister's room. There's clothes in there," he said pointing toward the closet, "and there in the drawers." Lori stepped into the room and looked around. "Bathroom is next door. Towels are in there. Have a shower. Whatever you want. Just... make yourself at home... stay the night if you like." He gave her half a second to ponder that one and continued. "I'm gonna' grab a shower and I'll meet you downstairs."
Lori nodded and watched him disappear. She tiptoed to the door and peered down the hall. The light was on in the bedroom at the far end. She heard the shower start and saw a shirt then a pair of pants fly across the room through the open door. That sent her scurrying back into MaryAnne's room, cheeks flushed.
Downstairs, Lori found an empty house and a dry kitchen. The scent of ocean wafted in on a cool breeze through the open door. Steve was waiting for her on the back deck. She closed her eyes and drew in a deep steadying breath. The mishap at the kitchen sink had saved her from herself. She knew she had to tell him the truth, and she knew it had to be tonight.
"Hey," he answered and held his hand out to her. She took it and sat down next to his outstretched legs. Facing him, head down, she played with his fingers, gathering the courage she would need to tell him the truth. Her hair hung loose around her face, still wet. Steve tucked one side behind her ear and lifted her chin. "What is it?"
Sadness bathed her delicate features. She searched his eyes, for what he wasn't sure, but he gave her the time she needed hoping she would find whatever it was she was looking for.
"There's something I need to tell you..." She blinked rapidly willing the tears not to fall. Steve covered their intertwined fingers with his hand and sat very still. "It's funny, I've had this conversation with you a thousand times in my head. I've played every scenario over and over again. But sitting here in front of you, I don't... I don't even know where to start."
He could feel her tremble next to him. "You can tell me anything. You know that."
She nodded silently, but doubt filled her eyes. "When I left Five-0... It was clear that you had no place in your life for me. I knew you regretted... being with me..."
"No," he retorted. "I never regretted being with you."
She shook her head, trying to organize her thoughts. "I doesn't matter. I forgave you a long time ago." The strength in her voice surprised even her for strong was quite the opposite of what she was feeling. "There was a lot happening back then," she continued. "You were caught up with Jo and Shelbourne. Kono was in trouble. The governor was all over you... Catherine came back and I...". She drew in a quick series of ragged breaths. Steve scowled, worry covering his face. He scooted closer and squeezed her hands.
Lori closed her eyes and searched for the right words. Finding no better way to say what had to be said, she let the truth fly. "I was pregnant, Steve... I was pregnant, and I was alone... So I left. I didn't know what else to do."
Shocked, he sat up straight, jaw slack, and loosened his grip on her hands.
"I should have told you. I intended to, but..." Steve stood needing room to think, to pace, to breath. Lori stood too, but kept her distance. "I saw you once, at lunch," she said to his back. "I'd been back in town for about three months or so. I was sitting in a booth thinking about you, trying to figure out how to tell you. I though it was fate when you walked in..."
"Why didn't you?" he growled.
"Why didn't I what?"
He spun around to face her, feet spread wide, arms crossed over his chest. "Why didn't you tell me, Lori?"
Lori tried to stay calm, but her voice betrayed her. "I didn't know how," she said begging him to try and understand.
"What do you mean you didn't know how? You should have just said it. You should have told me, 'I'm pregnant'. You should have told me before you ever left the isand."
Anger flared in her eyes. "And just what would you have said? What would you have done, Steve?"
"I don't know," he said and shook his head. He jammed his hands in his pockets and willed himself to calm down. "I don't know," he repeated with more control. "Why didn't you tell me that day, at lunch?"
Lori crossed her arms defensively. "Because Catherine walked in right behind you."
His expression softened and he stepped toward her. "Lori, I'm..."
"Don't," she snapped and held her hand up to stop him. "Don't apologize," she said and backed away from him before turning toward the ocean. She walked quickly down the shore line swiping frantically at tears as they tumbled down her cheeks. Stopping just short of the water, she dug her toes in the sand and hugged her belly as if she still carried their baby girl inside of her.
Steve replayed her words in his head. "I was pregnant. I was thinking about you. Catherine walked in right behind you." He flashed back to the day she left Five-0 and thought about the way he felt after she was gone. The gravity of the situation hit him like a ton of bricks. He scrubbed his face and ran his hands roughly through his hair before bounding down the deck stairs after her.
"Lori," Steve called, startling her. She wiped her nose and tried to steady herself. "Lori," he said again when he reached her. "I know why you couldn't tell me. It was my fault. I messed everything up." She continued to stare at the ocean. Steve stood silently next to her doing the same. A few moments passed before Steve kicked at the sand and turned to face her. "Lori, I gotta' ask," he said gently. "Where's the baby?"
Lori kept her eyes on the ocean, arms limp at her sides while silent tears ran in tracks down her cheeks. Her voice was weak, but steady when she finally spoke. "I was eight months along... Everything was fine... She was big, but all the ultrasounds were normal. My doctor told me that a c-section was likely, but not to worry... She was always so active, never still. I used to tell her that her daddy had a hard time keeping still too." She paused, remembering, and a small anguished smile graced her delicate features. Without realizing what she was doing, her hands floated across her belly. She spoke slowly, deliberately. "I was working as a profiler with the bureau, strictly desk duty... Nothing was different about that day. I stood up to leave and the pain, a sharp searing pain drove me back down into my chair... I caught my breath and it passed," she said shrugging. "I didn't think much about it, but that night..." She shook her head and wrapped her arms across her chest as if she were physically holding herself together. "That night the pain woke me up. I felt like I was gonna' be sick so I got up and went to the bathroom... There was so much blood... I knew... I knew before they told me..." Her voice broke in anguish, and she started to shake. "She was gone. Just like that... gone. She never even took a breath." Lori bent at the waist, holding her stomach as if she might be sick. She tried to stand, but her knees buckled. Steve caught her before she hit the sand. He pulled her into his arms and held her even as she punched weakly at his chest, sobbing. Steve rested his cheek on the top of her head not bothering to wipe at the tears that flowed silently from his own eyes. He wasn't sure how long they stood holding onto each other before Lori quieted, but he was willing to hold her all night if need be.
"You said she," he whispered. "We had a baby girl?"
Lori nodded against his chest and squeezed her eyes shut. "She was perfect."
Steve kissed the top of her head. "I'm sorry that she's gone," he breathed, uncertain as to how the loss of someone he had previously not even know existed could hurt so badly. "I'm sorry that I didn't get to see her. I'm sorry for the way that I treated you, and I'm sorry that you had to go through that alone."
Lori pulled back and looked into his eyes, touched by the tears still welling there. "I carry her picture with me in my wallet," she said, her voice heavy and rough from crying. Would you like to see her?"
He nodded and took her hand. They walked silently back to the house. When Lori handed him the photograph, he stopped breathing. He sat before he fell into the oversized leather chair. Lori slid in next to him and leaned her head on his shoulder. He ran a shaky thumb lightly over the image of their daughter. She looked as if she could be sleeping. Her skin was pale like her mother's but she had his hair, thick and black. She was wearing a soft pink and green dress with pink ruffled bloomers and a pink and green bow in her hair. Overcome with grief and regret, Steve found it difficult to breath. He fell into Lori's lap, shaking with silent sobs.
When he woke, he found Lori draped across his shoulder and the picture of their baby girl still secure in his hand. He sat up carefully, trying not to wake her. His watch read 1AM. Lori shifted next to him and opened her swollen eyes. Steve was leaning forward, elbows on his knees, studying the picture. Lori rested her chin on his shoulder and rubbed his arms. "What did you name her," he whispered, his voice a bit unsteady.
"Piper Elizabeth McGarrett. She's buried in Oahu Gardens."
"Do you have any more of these," he asked nodding toward the photo.
"Yes. You can have that one."
He carried it to a shelf across the room and slipped it into a frame over an old photo. On his way back, he held his hand out to Lori. She took it and let him lead her up the steps. Just inside his room, he scooped her up into his arms and carried her to the bed. He placed her gently on top of the sheets and pulled the quilt over the top of them. Lori snuggled into him and rested her head over his heart. "Can you ever forgive me?" he asked, his voice thick with uncertainty.
Lori shifted so that she could see his face. "There's nothing to forgive. I love you, Steve. I always have. Tomorrow, why don't we go to the cemetary. You can say whatever it is you need to say to Piper and then we'll get better... together."
Steve nodded. "Thank you for telling me."
Lori smiled and kissed him lightly on the lips before settling back on his chest. Steve stroked her arm and wondered at all the possibilities that lay ahead of them. "I love you too," was the last thing she heard before sleep carried her away to pleasant dreams of the future, of family, and of promises yet to come.
A/N: Seemed like a good place to stop. Thank you so much for reading!