Matters of the Hidden Heart

Lt. Catherine Rollins was half-asleep in her bed when she heard a roar of an engine in her driveway. Her body was still when she heard the engine being cut off. It sounds like a truck, Catherine thought as she slid her lithe form out of bed and crouched down to the floor and reached into her desk drawer to find her gun. Like Steve, Catherine always had her gun near her. The cool weapon was now in her hands, and she cautiously stepped out of her room as she heard the key turn in her lock. Steady, Rollins. The door opened, and Catherine's gun was centered at Steve's forehead. Hot with embarrassment, she lowered her gun. Her fingers loosened around the weapon.

"I didn't know you were coming," Catherine said breathlessly. She moved aside as Steve moved into the doorway. She saw him give her a small smile to reassure her that what happened was okay.

"I didn't either," he said. Strangely, Steve wouldn't look at her. His eyes remained on the various items in the room. Catherine could see that his body was tense. It wasn't from the gun incident – no, it was something else. Steve's arms were at his sides, and his eyes darted from wall to wall, as if afraid of what Catherine might see.

"Did something happen at work today?" Catherine asked quietly and calmly, knowing that it would prompt him to be more open with her. A deep and shaky breath escaped from him, and Catherine was reminded of how Steve had acted earlier today. His movements had been erratic, and he had answered her questions too quickly. And like now, he wouldn't meet her eyes. Then suddenly Steve started to speak. His voice was quiet as her had been moments before.

"There was a woman named Dr. Olivia Victor who I suspected murdered her patient. It turned out that her psychotherapy lessons were a cover-up for a prostitution ring. The patient who she killed was about to tell his wife about having an affair with that woman…when she killed him to keep her secret safe." Catherine listened closely to what Steve was saying to her. She wouldn't rush him with what he was telling her. The truth that he wanted to tell her would come out in its own time. That was what she knew about him. "Dr. Victor started questioning me on who I was," Steve continued. His voice was now a mere whisper. "She asked me what part of the military I was, if I had seen any combat, and what type of issues I had." He gave a shaky laugh. "She actually said that I wasn't married because I had mommy and daddy issues." Then he fell silent. "For twenty years I've kept the hurt inside me. The agony. The anger. The despair. My father sent me away from the only home I knew when I was fifteen when we thought that my mother had died. I've seen lots of combat and seen my friends die. I've brushed with death so many times now. Ever since I knew him, Danny has been convinced that I need to see a therapist. Now since Dr. Victor came along, I have been struggling with my mind. Do I really need help? The memories keep resurfacing in my mind, and I want to shut them down again, but somehow I don't want to."

Catherine didn't speak as Steve spoke the truth about what he was feeling. She watched him turn to her as he stopped. There was pain in his eyes, but most of all confusion. Catherine knew that his mother's return had reopened the scars that had long passed healed, and now the pain and memories were returning with a vengeance. She had remembered the times too when Steve lied awake, unable to sleep from the memories of his friends being blown up in front of his eyes and hearing his father's execution. She had calmed him then. Could she be able to calm him now?

Catherine reached her arms to his neck and hugged him. She put her arms around his shoulders, and Steve steadily calmed. His body relaxed, and she felt his arms encircling her own. She could feel his heartbeat echo in her ears. Catherine felt him put his head on her shoulder like a child. She saw the tears tearing out of his eyes, and stroked his hair…as his mother must have done years ago. "Do you remember," she whispered, "when I told you about my father?" Steve didn't answer. "No one on the Enterprise knew anything about me, and yet you were able to unlock my hidden heart." Captain Jason Rollins had died in the Persian Gulf War. Catherine remembered him speaking to her mother about the war that had been declared. "I don't believe in it, Laura. I don't. This war is another one of those wars which my country can't understand." Her father had been the first of the casualties of that war. Catherine had been twelve years old. Her mother had been devastated by her father's death, and five years later she died from a car accident. "I don't think it was a car accident," Catherine remembered telling Steve that day he had questioned her about her family. "It was suicide." Catherine had taken care of herself then at age seventeen and joined the Navy when she was eighteen. Perhaps she thought that she would understand what her father had died for if she became a third generation Navy. "That day you helped me cry, and when you told me about your family, I helped you cry. Steve, people deal with grief in multiple ways. Some talk about it, and some deal with it on their own." Catherine felt Steve's head move from her shoulder and he looked at her now. "People like us…they are their own therapist, their own counseling. Damn Danny and his opinions." Softly, Catherine connected her lips with his. They felt soft and warm. Steve didn't make a move.

"You are my therapist," he said quietly, "as I am yours."

Their noses touched, and as Steve's gentle fingers gathered Catherine's dark hair, they kissed deeply, unaware of the world around them.