blue flamingos

Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Fandom: Hawaii Five-O

Category/Rated: Gen, PG-13

Year/Length: 2011/3205 words

Pairing: Catherine, Steve

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: The first time Catherine meets Steve, he's a voice on the other end of the radio, asking for her help

Author's Notes: written for girlsavesboyfic

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.

hr

Deep into a night shift that feels like it's never going to end, Catherine's not expecting her radio to come to life with a voice asking, "This is Blue Dog, does anybody copy?"

It's neither an op nor an operative name that she knows as currently active in their patch. "Blue Dog, we copy."

There's a pause, a burst of static, then the voice – a man, American – asks, "Who is this?"

Catherine gives the check code, gets back yesterday's password that makes her frown, suspicions on red alert. "What's today?"

Another pause. "The eighth. Maybe the ninth."

"Ninth."

"Ninth, right. Firefly."

Firefly is tomorrow's password, which doesn't allay Catherine's suspicions any. She hesitates; she's ranking officer on the shift, it's her call whether to wake someone more senior.

"Look, you're, what? Intelligence, right, or you wouldn't have the codes. You don't trust who I am without being able to verify it, and I can't trust you enough to give you the information you need to do that." He sounds coherent and in control, though Catherine suspects something to be wrong, given the weird nature of the call. Either that, or it's some kind of setup.

She pulls her keyboard closer, burrowing down into databases as she listens. "I need help. So far, you're the only help I've found."

Catherine hits a red flag, circumvents it with a secure code, gets two steps further and hits a second flag, one that she can't lift. Combined with what the files have already told her, it's almost enough to make her believe Blue Dog is for real. "Ask me a question I'd only know the answer to if I was legit."

He does, and his silence when she purposely gives the wrong answer is wary. "I know I'm wrong," she tells him. There's another pause, then he gives the correct answer, wrapped in an old code. "That's right."

"I know," he says. Catherine's not surprised, when she switches to a secure channel, to hear his voice saying, "-waiting."

The cockiness is gone from his voice a moment later. "I'm not due for pick up for another couple of days, but I need a ride out of here. I might have pissed off some people, escaping, and I'm pretty sure they're looking for me."

"We can get a chopper within the hour," Catherine promises, already checking the map pinned behind her. "Give me your coordinates."

"I don't know where I am."

Given what Catherine suspects of him from the files and the flags – navy, highly trained, probably a SEAL – the answer's a surprise. "Okay. Tell me what landmarks you see."

"That's kind of why I need the help," he says. "I can't see anything."

hr

"Okay, here we go." Catherine's eyes hurt from squinting at satellite footage, trying to piece something together from that and Blue Dog's uncertain descriptions. On the other side of the room, Ensign Watts is in contact with the base over the border, spinning up a team to go in and get the guy.

Assuming Catherine can get him the four mile walk to the pick-up point, without getting him shot or recaptured, that is.

"The wind's from the north," she says.

It's hard to pick up ambient noise through their radios, but she's pretty sure she hears him turn. "Got it."

"You're walking into the wind the whole way." She grins, knowing it will come through in her voice. "Don't worry, Puppy, I'll get you out of there." All she gets in response to that is a snort. "You're in the trees, you're going to walk through them for five hundred yards until you hit a stream."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Probably not. It's Lieutenant."

"Not so much." There's a faint strain to his voice; this can't be worse than some of the crap they put baby SEALs through, but Catherine sure as hell wouldn't want to be doing it literally blind with nothing to hold onto but a strange voice. "Same here."

"Then I'm keeping Puppy," she tells him, holding onto her smile. "Specially since you'd just be chasing your tail in circles without me."

"This mean I'm going to be chasing sticks?"

Catherine looks at the live feed on her monitor again. Puppy'd described roughly where he'd been picked up, the journey, and then his escape, while she was trying to pinpoint a location. The only part Catherine's sure is wrong in his account is how far he's gotten from the people who took him, information which she isn't inclined to share with the man, not when there's very little he can do about it.

Still, it's worrying her enough that she's keeping a close eye out for any signs of movement from the building. So far, there've been none, and that worries her even more.

She wishes she could see Puppy on the feed, but he's under the trees.

"I was thinking roll over and beg," she says lightly, startling a laugh from him, followed by a curse. "You okay?"

"Yeah. Just – low hanging branch or something."

"Then learn to duck."

"Now she tells me."

hr

Grumbling about his wet feet ("I can jump a stream." "It's six feet wide and you can't even see it. You'll wade and like it.") gets them most of the way through the last easy bit Puppy's going to have for a while.

"Any improvement on the vision?" Catherine asks when he's quiet for too long.

"Uh, maybe. I think, maybe things are getting a bit lighter. Or maybe it's just wishful thinking."

Catherine jots that down – she's got half a dozen pieces of paper keeping her company at her station, along with the satellite feed on her monitor, tracking information for herself, for the recovery team, for the med team standing by at base. "Sun won't be up for a couple of hours yet, so there's nothing to see anyway."

In answer, she gets the now familiar sound of Puppy stumbling over something he can't see, and is glad that he doesn't give a verbal response.

He still only lets the silent trudging last for a handful of heartbeats. "So tell me something about you."

"Seriously?" Catherine doesn't yank her earpiece out to glare at it, but it's a near thing. Across from her, Watts frowns in response until she waves him away. "Now seems like a good time to be hitting on me?"

"I wasn't – Okay, I was a bit."

"I'll say," Catherine agrees. She kind of hates herself when she says, before the silence can go on too long, "I prefer beer to wine."

"Of course you do, you're Navy." The certainty in his voice makes Catherine smile. "You catch the Army-Navy game last weekend?"

"Want the score?"

"You tell me."

"We lost, big time. Pretty humiliating."

Puppy makes a disgruntled noise. "So much for brightening my day."

"Yeah, well, prepare for it to get worse," Catherine says, instead of the obvious remark about it getting darker. For all he doesn't seem to have realized exactly what he said, she doesn't want to remind him. "Stop walking. A hundred or so steps in front of you, there's a cliff. You're going to have to climb up, it's too steep to walk and you don't have time to go around."

There's a pause that probably means Puppy digesting this news. "How far up?"

She tells him, unable to perfectly keep the note of apology from her voice, even though she didn't put a cliff in his way, or blind him in a way that she's hoping is only temporary.

"Great," he says brightly. "I haven't free climbed in months."

"Just try not to walk off the edge when you get to the top," Catherine advises.

There's another pause, then he says, "You'll be there when I get to the top?"

There's something vulnerable to the words, to the way he's trying not to let her hear it. It makes her say, reassuring, "I'll be there the whole way."

She doesn't dare speak while he's climbing, afraid of startling him into putting a foot wrong, into a fall that he won't be able to rescue himself from. Instead, she listens to him breathing as he climbs, spares her other ear to listen in on the preparations to go get him, bring him home.

She's not entirely surprised to hear someone confirm he's with a SEAL team. Free climbing a cliff while blind, instead of asking for an alternative, is exactly the kind of stupid shit they do.

Still, it does make her voice, when he finally says, "Okay, now what?" come out certain and sure as she says, "I knew you'd make it."

hr

"Where are you from?" Puppy asks.

Catherine's giving him maybe a quarter of her attention, between calculating how long he's going to take to get to the pick-up point, and watching a truck that's rolling down the dirt track to the place he was being held. She still manages a smile as she says, "That's classified, Sailor."

"That's not fair." There's a sharp thwack followed by a gasp – probably a tree branch to his face – but he doesn't mention it, so she doesn't either. "I don't even know your name, it's not like I'm going to be able to track you down."

"Tell me where you're from, and I'll think about telling you in return."

"Hawai'i," he says, which surprises her for a reason that she can't put her finger on. "Grew up there."

"I bet Annapolis was a shock to the system."

"Kind of," he says, clearly hedging his answer.

"Do you surf?" she asks, instead of pushing. On her screen, the truck comes to a stop, three men climbing out. The resolution's not quite good enough, but she'd put money on the third carrying a sniper rifle. If they get into the trees, where she can't pick them out...

"Haven't in years, but yeah."

"I always wanted to learn," Catherine says lightly, gesturing for a status update on the evac chopper, doing calculations in her head that make her feel a little sick.

"Never had a chance?"

"Grew up landlocked," Catherine says, grinning despite herself at the thoughtful noise she gets in response.

"How landlocked are we talking? That why you joined up?"

"Partly." He's the better part of an hour at his speed from the pick up site, the chopper ready to go, the flight only fifteen minutes. Catherine checks the sat feed again, sees definite movement at the house. "I've got bad news."

"You just realized you've been walking me in circles the whole time?"

"It looks like the guys who captured you are getting ready to do it again. Once they're in the trees, I won't be able to track them, and one of them has a sniper rifle. If you've covered your tracks well and nothing goes wrong, you should make the pick up before they reach you."

"And if not?"

The chopper base has a ground-based squad stationed there, the kind that could go into the woods and find someone. "I might have something up my sleeve. You've got another twenty minutes or so going straight ahead, you just worry about direction."

"You coming to get me?"

"Something like that."

hr

Catherine's CO doesn't appreciate being woken up by her ensign, at least until she explains the situation. Given the opportunity to bother the air force, he's always been more than happy to wake up early. It takes him ten minutes to get authorisation for the helicopter to drop a team to find Puppy and drag him out before the guys at the house, who Catherine's already watched head out, find him first.

"How are your eyes?" she asks him, listening to the patched in comms of the chopper crew, the distant sound of the extraction team gearing up on board.

"Sore," he says honestly. "But I'm starting to see shadows."

"Good. You're gonna need that."

"Sorry?"

"There's a team coming for you. They've got to fly over the house, so they didn't want to risk it with a chopper extraction as well, but with these guys after you..."

She's pretty sure Puppy's got something worth rescuing alongside himself, probably whatever the original mission was for. Either that, or there's something more to him than her clearance gets her.

"That's good," he says, instead of the denial that he needs rescuing which she was expecting.

"Tell me again about your injuries."

"I might have, maybe –"

"What?" Catherine prompts. SEALs, honestly, it's like truth is a dirty word when it comes to injuries. "Been walking for an hour on a broken leg, climbed a cliff face with a dislocated shoulder, taken a bullet wound, what?"

"All of the above?" Maybe he's letting her hear it, or maybe she's paying more attention, but she can hear, now, the pain and exhaustion in his voice, how hard he's finding it to keep going.

She wishes she could tell him to stop and wait for a rescue, but she doesn't want to have to listen to him get taken again. Stopping's not an option. "Team's on their way," she says instead. "We'll get you out of there."

"I know," he says, and to his credit, he sounds sure. "What's next?"

hr

The extraction team are on the ground, their murmured radio chatter filling the comms room, and Puppy's just made it over a bridge she was sure he'd miss, when he says, "Crap."

"Did you fall in?"

"No, it's – the team's coming from the west?"

"Yeah."

"You need to warn them we're going to have company soon. Flock of birds just took off east of my position."

East is the house. East is the guys who want to capture him and take him back for more torture.

"Copy that," she says. There's nothing else she can say. "Keep going. The good guys will get to you before the bad guys."

He doesn't say anything else, but the faint sound of the branches through his radio picks up speed.

Less than five minutes later, he says, "You still there?"

"Not going anywhere," Catherine promises.

"I need – they're catching up, I'm going to end up leading them straight to the other team. I need somewhere to take cover."

Catherine's practically memorised the map, but she looks at it anyway. "If you can get down a gentle slope, there's a cave. As long as you can do it without leaving tracks – they find you down there, there's no easy way out."

"Tell me which way."

Listening to him get down the slope makes Catherine curl her hands into fists, digging her fingernails into her palms as he gasps in sharp, obvious pain. The only way she knows he's made it is the thud of a body dropping onto something hard, and the deep, shaking breaths he takes.

"I'm right here," she tells him. "The team's fifteen minutes out from your position, they'll get you out."

He makes a small noise that might be agreement, might just be pain.

"I joined the navy to see the world," she tells him, head down like that'll stop everyone else in the room from hearing her. "Turned out I was good at the parts I didn't expect, got recruited into Naval Intelligence. Support team. Now I get to see the world from inside windowless rooms."

"Sorry?"

"No," she says. "This is what I'm good at. And if I wasn't here, who'd have gotten your ass out of trouble?"

He laughs, breathless. "Thanks."

"I want more than a damn thanks. "

"Surfing lesson?"

"You've got a broken leg, you're not going to be surfing any time soon."

"It's just a sprain."

"Not an idiot."

"Okay, a bad sprain."

"And a bullet wound, a dislocated shoulder, probably a head wound, and God knows what else that you didn't bother to mention."

"You're worse than my CO," he grumbles, but his tone has lightened. "Tell me where you're from."

"Figure it out."

"I've got a head wound, you expect me to do detective work?"

"You got anything better to do while you're waiting to be rescued?"

"Twenty questions?"

"Get it in ten and I'll send you a get well soon card."

He's on question nine when he goes abruptly silent. Catherine automatically checks the position of the extraction team – maybe five minutes from Puppy's position. He's probably not hearing them.

"The cave doesn't go back very far," she says quietly, suddenly aware that she has no idea if he's got a radio earpiece. Hell, she doesn't even know if he's got a standard issue radio, or one he stole in his escape. "It's hidden though, and the sun isn't up yet."

"Can I tell you something?" he asks, so quiet she can barely make out the words. "My dad's still in Hawai'i, my sister's in LA. They don't know where I am. I don't want a casualty officer turning up at their doors."

"Tell me your name," Catherine says.

"Steve McGarrett. My sister's Mary and my dad's Jack. Would you tell them – I don't know, that you were here? Say I'm sorry."

"That's not going to happen," Catherine says, even as she's writing the information down. "Extraction team's coming."

"What's your name?" Steve's voice is odd, the words almost slurred. Catherine makes a mental check in the 'head injury' column.

"I'll tell you once you're rescued," Catherine promises. "Give you something to look forward to. Stay where you are, help's coming. Just stay quiet. Did I tell you I went to Hawai'i once? A friend of mine was competing in a surfing championship out there, I went out to support her. She didn't even make it through the first heats, picked up one of her competitors the first night and I didn't see her for the rest of the week. I went to Pearl Harbor instead, took a tour. That was pretty intense. I'd only been in a year, I guess I'd never really thought about being in something like that. What it would be like. We had a great tour guide, he'd been there when it was bombed. Acting as a runner, he said, and he saw the ship get hit."

Catherine takes a breath to say something more, she doesn't even know what, but she's cut off by the sharp crack of a gun firing, then another. The comms with the extraction team are silent, and when she says, "Steve?" there's no reply.

She feels like the silence goes on forever, though it can't be more than a few seconds.

"This is Green leader, we have the target. Repeat, we have the target, heading for extraction point."

Catherine gives a shaky sigh of relief. "Hey, McGarrett, you still there?"

"I'm here," he says, though his voice is strained. "They want to take me out of a stretcher."

"They just saved your life, do what they tell you."

"Had a lot of help," Steve says. He sounds like he's fading out. "You said you'd tell me your name."

"Catherine," she says. "Catherine Rollins. I'll find out what hospital you land in, give you a call."

"Buy you dinner," Steve says.

"Holding you to that."

"Catherine?"

"I'm still here."

"Thank you."


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