Steve doesn’t expect there to be anyone there when he arrives at Honolulu International, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t hoping; when he catches sight of Kono in the crowd, there’s a little shiver of relief that goes through him. He walks over cautiously, feeling every single one of the egg shells he’s walking on. As soon as he gets close enough to her she pulls him in tightly, clutches at him with a suspiciously wet-sounding sigh into his shoulder. Steve is no better; he has to shut his suddenly misty eyes and try to breathe evenly against his profound sense of relief.
He’d made sure they all had known he was coming back, coming home. No surprises; he owed the team that much. Steve hadn’t gotten any responses except from Grover, but that was… well, not alright, but expected. His going hadn’t been easy and he hadn’t exactly been able to keep regular contact on the go—the fact that at first he hadn’t been especially motivated to talk to any of them had meant he had lost the easy chances to get in touch with them; a fact that had hurt keenly later in the mission when an unfamiliar homesickness had made a mess of his nights and started to haunt his long hours alone on the search. He’d spent a lot of dream hours stuck in not-really-memories of the team, of his family.
Kono pulls away too soon, and she smiles ruefully. “Welcome home,” she says, and Steve blows out a gusty breath.
“It’s good to be back,” he responds easily, and doesn’t take issue with her sudden pinched expression.
Kono takes his duffel, ignoring his token protests; Steve hikes his backpack higher on his shoulders and lets her lead the way outside. The sunshine is just the same as he remembers, always so different from any other sun he’s ever been under, sending something thrumming through him he used to be so wary of; something good and pure and comfortable that had secretly scared him a little with how familiar it could be. Kono’s car is waiting at the curb under the supervision of security agent whose grin is enough like Kono’s to mark him as some kind of relative. The man doesn’t say anything, just tips his hat to the two of them and goes to hassle a young couple kissing in front of a running car that’s blocking the lane. The car is still the same practical red Chevy, one of Kono’s boards strapped to the top and her gear packed neatly to the side of the trunk to make room for Steve’s baggage. He wonders if she talked about this with Chin and Danny, if they all made this decision together, but he bites back the question and just gets quietly into the passenger seat and lets her navigate the airport traffic in silence.
At length, he says, “Thank you,” very quietly. Kono clenches her hands on the steering wheel tightly, and then visibly makes them relax.
“…Anytime, Steve,” she says, and it’s nothing like warm; he just closes his eyes with quiet relief anyway.
Catherine had fallen off the grid sometime during her last assignment, and a slick-suited liaison had approached Steve about it sometime in early September. Due to his previous relationship with her and his experience in search and retrieval, the NSA had officially extending an offer to consult with a search team to find her, and what was there to say to that. What else was he supposed to do.
Two years to find her, five additional months to effectively negotiate her release from the prison she was being held in, and when he finally has Cath close enough to touch he can’t seem to make himself say what he had so desperately needed to, to do what he thought he wanted to. They lay side by side on the bed in the hotel room he had gotten for them, laying like they used to when they were both younger and sex-stupid and so happy. Cath is so small and warm beside him, her head tucked under his chin, but there’s an unfamiliar distance between them even now, a widening gap full of all the things they’ve been through since those first long, sun-lit mornings in the Hawaiian sun.
He wants to touch her like he used to, strip her down and touch her like she thinks he should, just to make sure she’s real and with him. He watches the sun come up through the curtains instead, listens to her breathing, and tries not to think of Hawaii.