Steve loved the water. It was the one place he could go where he could truly relax and be alone. He could also let everything go, if just for a little while. Of course, he’d never admit that to anyone.
The first time, he was sixteen. Mary had been crying for the better part of the week. Their father tried to stay stoic for the kids, but even he had broken down. Steve, on the other hand, had held it all in. It wasn’t until after the funeral, and they had arrived back home, that he couldn’t take it anymore. He had gone into his room, changed into his swimsuit, and had run down the stairs and out his backdoor. He swam out as far as he could, made sure he was far enough from anyone and anything, and then let the tears flow.
He had no idea how long he had been out in the water. The sun had started to go down, so he made his way back to the house. He was grateful that the salty water had erased all evidence. Neither his sister nor father had questioned his absence.
It became more difficult to let go after his father sent Steve and Mary to live on the mainland. He went to Annapolis and became a Navy SEAL. He was trained to compartmentalize. He didn’t make friends, and he didn’t get close to anyone. Well, there was Catherine, but that was different. Another way of letting go. Someone who needed the same thing he did. A convenience.
The one thing that his training never prepared him for was the loss of a loved one. Maybe if he had been prepared; if his father had been sick; if it was expected. Unfortunately, his father was ripped from him, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. It was too much like the death of his mother. She too had been ripped away. In this case, though, he had someone he could blame. Yes, there was Victor Hesse, the man who had pulled the trigger, but more than anything, he blamed himself.
Danny had been a godsend. He was a great partner, and had become a good friend. He was loud and complained constantly. Steve didn’t mind it though. Danny kept his mind off things, kept him grounded.
Steve felt as if a lead weight had been lifted off his shoulders when he put those two bullets into Victor Hesse. He still blamed himself for everything that happened though. He bottled it up, and put it away in that deep dark place where all the horrible things went. It was getting full.
After he moved back into his father’s house, Steve made it a daily routine to go for a swim before heading into work. Every day, like clockwork, he’d be up before the sun. It felt good. It was also the only time, most days, he got to be alone.
The second time, Steve found out that his mother had been murdered. All those years of believing she had died in an accident, and it was all a lie. At first, he couldn’t understand why his father hadn’t said anything. The realization that his father had been protecting them hit him like a ton of bricks. After his talk with Chin, he went home.
Victor Hesse wasn’t dead. Steve almost lost it right there when he saw Victor on that camera footage. He quickly schooled his features and called the governor. Then Chin was taken, and strapped with a bomb. Still he held it together, stuffing more into that deep dark place. Beating Hesse to a pulp had felt good. Knowing he was in prison, helped. Once Steve was sure that everyone was safe, he raced home, and went for a swim.
The third time, Mary was kidnapped. Once Mary had been found, and Hiro Noshimuri had been arrested, Steve took Mary to the airport and then sped home. After changing he ran out his backdoor, and out into the water. Later, when he told Danny that he lost track of time, he had been telling the truth.
Months passed and then CIA Analyst Jenna Kaye showed up. A can of worms that Steve had thought was long closed was thrown open again with one name, Wo Fat. Everything bad that had happened in his personal life, since his mother’s death, was because of this man. Then the man himself appeared. Something snapped in Steve at that moment. That compartmentalization that he had learned in the SEALs, kicked in. He shoved everything into that deep dark place. It was only a matter of time before the levee broke.
The climbing accident made things tough. With the cast on his arm, he couldn’t go on his daily swims. It was okay though. He had a mission. Nothing else mattered. He did his best not to show what he was going through, but he was sure that Danny could tell the difference in him. The rest of the team as well.
The first swim he took, the afternoon the cast came off, was exhausting, but it felt good. It felt like it had been years, but he needed it. The next morning, he slept till seven. He couldn’t remember the last time he had slept that late.
Steve hadn’t realized his façade was starting to slip until Danny began to question his behavior. Steve decided that shutting Danny, Chin, and Kono out would be for the best. If he didn’t have anyone else to worry about, he could be better equipped to complete his mission. They had just picked up Wo Fat’s trail and Steve had taken off, in Danny’s car, without the rest of the team. He was gone for four days.
Steve walked into Five-0 HQ on the morning of the fifth day. He didn’t say a word, just walked past his team members and into his office. He sat down at his desk, leaned back in his chair, and closed his eyes. To say he wasn’t dealing with the events of the last several days was an understatement.
He heard the door open, but didn’t open his eyes. He knew it was Danny; he just couldn’t deal with him. He couldn’t deal with much of anything at that moment.
“What the hell, Steve? Do you realize you were gone for four days? Where were you?”
Steve opened his eyes, and Danny immediately shut up. There were unshed tears in his eyes. He refused to let them flow, especially with someone else around.
“Don’t… just… I can’t…”
“Come on, I’m taking you home.”
Steve complied and Danny led him out the door. Chin and Kono were waiting by the computer table. Danny turned to them. “I’m taking him home. I’ll call ya later.”
Steve knew his team would be at the office. That was the only reason he had gone there instead of his house. As Danny drove though, Steve realized that maybe it hadn’t been such a good idea after all. Danny would want to stay and talk and he wasn’t sure he could do that. At least not yet. He needed the water. At the rate he was going though, he didn’t think he would make it that far.
Danny pulled up to the house, and before the car was even parked, Steve was out the door and running through the front door. He ran up the stairs and into his bedroom. That’s as far as he got before the levee finally broke. His legs gave out and before he hit the floor the tears were falling.
He felt hands on his shoulders a short time later. He tried to move away, but they grabbed on and wouldn’t let go. He gave into the hold, leaning back against Danny’s chest as he held him. Danny was saying something, but Steve didn’t hear any of it. He had finally hit his breaking point and nothing was going to stop the tears. He was finally grieving his parents’ deaths.
After what seemed like hours, the sobs began to abate, and Steve finally spoke.
“Okay, that’s all you have to say?”
“Well, I can always go back to ‘What the hell?’”
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have shut you out and taken off like I did.”
“You’re right, you shouldn’t have. Do you know the kind of hell we’ve been through the last four days?”
Steve was quiet, and Danny was worried that he’d said something wrong. It was a few awkward moments of silence before Steve spoke again.
“It’s over. I took care of him.”
“You wanna talk about it.”
“No, not right now. I just need some time.”
“Okay. I won’t push, but you are going to need to talk about it. I mean, people are going to notice…”
“I know, and I will. Just not right now.”
“Well, I need to call Chin and Kono.”
“Yeah, okay. I need a shower.”
Danny helped him up off the floor, and then left the room to make his phone call. Steve walked into the bathroom, striped and climbed into the shower. He ran through the events of the last few days in his head, but stopped, realizing that at that moment, all that mattered was Wo Fat was dead, and he’d never hurt another person again.
Steve was relieved, and he felt better than he had in a long time. He then realized that he hadn’t taken his morning swim, but he didn’t care. The ocean would still be there in the morning.