You're coming here made it better not worse, Steve wanted to scream, but his military training forbid such an outburst and Joe wouldn't have appreciated it. After all, they were service men: used to clear, well-defined language and behavior patterns.
Joe was Shelburne.
His mind still struggled to process the information. His father protected Joe. So, Joe was the reason his mother was killed? Wo Fat's retaliation for a lost parent? Did he want to repay the debt of a killed parent by taking out the head of another family? Or just flush out the one Wo Fat thought responsible for his father's dead? But the plan went south when Steve's mother used the car and her death changed all their lives and Wo Fat's plans.
He did see Joe's logic and that he was right, but Steve didn't want him to go. It felt so good and familiar to have him around almost like catching up on the time he had lost with his dad. Joe understood him like nobody of his team ever could. Things were easy and clear with Joe. Black and white. Straight rules which they both lived by.
"I don't want you to go," Steve whispered under his breath at Joe's back. Too late for the older man to hear him.
"Joe wait!" Steve called out and jogged after him. "We'll find a way for you to stay. I know we'll come up with something. Make it work. Find Wo-Fat." Steve knew he was rambling and Joe's face showed him, too.
"I don't think so, Son," Joe smiled sadly. "We just endanger all – your team and YOU," Steve opened his mouth to protest, but Joe held up his hand. "I don't want that, not again…" Joe added quietly.
"It wasn't your fault, " Steve mumbled instinctively but then the meaning hit home. If Joe hadn't… his mother wouldn't… No! Don't go follow that line of thought. Steve locked eyes with Joe.
"Wo Fat was responsible. He killed my mother." And tore our lives apart, he added in his thoughts.
"I hear what you are saying, Son." Joe laid his hand on Steve's shoulder. "But I'd still endanger you." He squeezed Steve's shoulder. "I won't have your death or any of your team on my conscience, too."
Steve's head slumped in defiance. He knew it. He just didn't want to accept it. He wanted Joe to stay close. Close enough to be able to protect him but moreover he wanted him here to hang out with. The last couple of weeks with Joe being on the island felt like he had a father again. With him, Steve would do fun stuff like sniper competitions or even taking Joe out to treat him to one of his silly umbrella drinks. It was nice to have Joe over for steaks and beer – just hang loose on the beach by to his house.
They had reconnected and rekindled their friendship and it lifted the weight of lost opportunities with his own father. It eased the pain of the many years of non-communication. Partly out of anger for being sent away, but mostly out of hurt of having nobody to guide him through the grief of losing his mother and not only her, but his whole family, too.
Separated from Mary, ripped away from his home and friends. Fatherless, Steve was so full of anger when he arrived at the academy and Joe was the only connection to home. Slowly the old man got through his wall of fury and resentment, he covered Steve's back a couple of times when Steve pulled some stupid trick – in hopes to get sent home or attract his father's attention. Joe was always there to smooth things over.
Kind of, like he did when he returned to the island. Joe always came through for him – from being wrongly imprisoned for the governor's murder to rescuing him from North Korea. It felt good to have him around – to know he was just a phone call away. He didn't want Joe to leave the island.
Steve felt Joe's hand still on his shoulder. "I'm gone from the island, not your life, Son."
Steve glanced up fighting to keep his cool.
Joe grinned lopsidedly as he peered up into Steve's eyes. "It'll take more than Wo Fat to keep me out of messing it up for you."
Steve snorted and Joe squeezed his shoulder. "Good-bye, Son."
"See you soon," Steve mumbled and engulfed Joe in a quick embrace. Joe had made his decision and Steve knew there was no point arguing with him. He flashed a feeble smile when Joe turned around to wave one more Good-bye.
His phone rang. Danny's face squinted at him. He had his team, but why did he feel so alone, then? He tilted his head. They all had families on the island and his had just walked away – again.
Steve hit the speaker button. "What's up?"
"Where are you, man?" Danny chirped over the noise surrounding him.
"Why?" Steve turned to his car.
"We're having a barbecue," Danny paused for emphasis and Steve could hear voices urging him on, "at your house."
"Are you now?" Steve raised his eyebrows. "Must have missed the memo."
"Didn't Chin tell you?" Danny's voice fluted innocently as the muttered protest exploded in the background.
Steve grinned. "Like old times?"
"Yeah, man." Danny sounded actually pleased. "Just like before… All of us are here. What?" the noise turned out Danny's voice. "Oh, the Rookie reported you're out of beer, bossman."
Steve laughed. "Can't let that happen, but wait a minute. What happened to the stash in the fridge?"
"What the three lousy beer?" Danny took a deep breath to prepare for a lecture. "That is not a stash, that's a pity and they're long gone with the speed these ladies chuck down a beer—." Danny was interrupted by hooting.
"Better come soon, broh." Chin chimed in. "Before things get out of hand."
"On my way," Steve closed the door of his truck.
"So, you're picking up beer on the way?" Danny clarified, his smirk clearly audible.
Steve rolled his eyes. "Of course, in such an emergency." He hung up and started the engine, a big smile forming on his face.
Maybe not all his family had left the island.