Reflections of the Heart
Barbara Paul & Jane Daffron
Admiral Harriman Nelson, USN (ret.) sat in his cabin aboard the SSRN Seaview staring at a report in front of him but his mind was a million miles away. The boat had just completed a run with a group of scientists from MIT who were gathering seismic data on the underwater fault lines off the West Coast and had returned that morning to the Nelson Institute of Marine Research. There had been a series of minor quakes recently and MIT had contacted the Nelson Institute of Marine Research regarding the use of the Seaview in gathering their information for use in the newest study on the predictability of the underwater earthquakes in the area. There had been several problems with personality conflicts among the group. Two of the researchers had proven to have a bit of a prima donna attitude, one had been very laid back and was a bit anti-establishment, and the remaining one could only be described as extremely mild mannered. Nelson had had to play diplomat and referee between the two egotists and it had taxed his patience, and that of the crew’s, to the enth degree. Yet, somehow, the team finally managed to get the job done without killing each other before docking back in Santa Barbara.
Nelson now sat trying to finish up the report but he found himself thinking of the two week vacation he would be starting in a few days time. He was planning to take his fiancée, Captain Karen Davis, up to his hunting cabin in the mountains for a much needed rest and some quality time. This would be the longest the two had ever been away alone together. There was so much he had to do before they went. He had to get things in order quickly since snow was predicted in the higher elevations by the middle of next week. There was wood to be cut and he’d have to get at least a deer and possibly some rabbits for dinner. He’d need to check out the generator and get it fired up and operative. Some obligatory cleaning up would have to be done, but he also figured that Karen would want to help get the cabin in order. He had made preliminary plans to pick up provisions before they left, but they would take some things with them. In fact, Karen had already dug some things of hers out of storage that she intended to leave at the cabin.
‘So much to do. Damn! I haven’t been in that cabin for nearly two years. It’s probably grown over and the dust and dirt’ll have to be cleaned out before I ever take her in there. I just hope that this trip is the right thing to do.’ He put the report down and rubbed his eyes. ‘I’ve got to get out of here…if only for a while. We need to talk. I need to tell her what she’s getting into.’
He began to think about what they’d do after they got things done. He figured it’d take about four days to get everything organized and operational. The cabin was rarely used, especially in the last few years, so it’d need a lot of cleaning - something, he figured, they would do together.
He found himself unable to concentrate on the report so he set it aside and just eased back in his chair and closed his eyes. I’m so damn tired. I didn’t realize that things had gotten to me as much this time. Everybody’s wanting everything…I swear, if I ever see that bunch again, they’ll have to restrain me. So tired… he thought to himself as he closed his eyes to rest them.
The next thing he knew, he felt the barest touch of warm and passionate lips on his. Even in his half sleep, he responded with enthusiasm. As he slowly woke, he opened his eyes to find Karen standing beside him. He looked up at her curiously and then sat up in his chair.
She searched his eyes and quizzically asked, "Hmmm, now…just who were you thinking about right then?"
There was a flicker of mischievousness in his tired steel blue eyes. "Oh…I don’t know. Could have been anyone. Then again…maybe it was you," he replied as he looked at hers.
"When you didn’t show up at the house for dinner, I got to wondering. You okay?" she quietly asked as she gazed at him. Moving behind him, she began to massage his shoulders and neck. He eased back in his chair to allow her easier access to him and she could feel the tension in his muscles as her fingers began working the stiffness out of them.
Though she hadn’t been out with the boat on this trip, she’d kept in constant communication with him and she’d known how taxing the situation with the MIT people had been. Karen herself had been involved in another project at the Institute and left the on-board operations of the DWD team to Chip Morton this time out.
He looked a little rough with a day’s growth on his face and a wrinkled uniform. His eyes were a bit bloodshot. The fact that she found him in a sound sleep at that early hour of the evening worried her a little. She’d been waiting for him at his house since 1600 and she’d never known him to be late for any sort of a date with her.
"You’re tight as a drum…you sure you’re okay?" Karen asked as her fingers continued to gently massage the nape of his neck and then worked her way down to the tops of his shoulders.
"Yeah, I’m…fine. What time is it?" he responded as he took hold of the top of her hand and softly kissed it. She looked down at him as he stood and stretched a bit before heading to his bathroom to clean up.
"1930. You still hungry?" Karen moved around to the front of his desk, watching him as he came out drying his face with a towel. His uniform was rumpled and he looked like he’d been in it for more than a day. Not the usual vision of him that she was used to seeing; at least not when he wasn’t working exhaustively on some project in the lab.
"Actually, yeah, I am. How about we eat out? You didn’t make dinner, did you?" he inquired, secretly hoping she hadn’t gone to the trouble. His mind was still a bit foggy from sleep and when he suddenly remembered that he was supposed to meet her at his house, he reddened just a bit. "I’m sorry I forgot. It’s just that…"
"I know, and yes, I did…but we can reheat it if you’d rather eat in," she replied, studying him closely. He seemed a little scattered, like his mind really wasn’t on the present situation. "Harry…really, is there something bothering you?"
"No…just tired, I think, more than anything…and thinking about our ‘vacation’. I’ve been making a mental note of what I need to do before we go and then get done once we get there. It hasn’t been used in quite a while… actually close to two years. It’s probably going to need some major cleaning up some." He walked back into the bathroom and turned on his electric razor. Sticking his head out the door as he shaved, he told her, "I just want you to understand this a very rustic cabin. There are very few niceties."
"If you’re trying to scare me, Harry…it’s not going to work. As for cleaning up, no problem. I’ve survived these past few years with a teenage daughter, remember? Believe me…nothing in the world can top that. Besides, it’ll give me something to do while you’re getting the wood and our dinner…the hunting and foraging I believe is something you men are supposed to do," she replied as he came out wiping his face with a towel. He had finished shaving and combed his hair. His uniform was another story. "A bit of the rustic life has a certain appeal here…at least on a temporary basis."
"Hunting and foraging? You men? Hmmmm…Looks like we need to get some things straight here, Captain." He grinned just a bit as he stopped by his desk to retrieve some folders, "I’ll need to get the generator checked and fueled, and then we’ll need to stock up on some supplies. I can get the deer, rabbits and the fish. The rest of the stuff we’ll need to pack in. You sure you want to take the Jeep? We could fly up in the FS-1 a lot quicker. There’s a lake not far from the cabin, and if we get snowed in, at least we will have a way out. That road can become impassable real fast and they are calling for a couple feet." He packed up the papers in his briefcase sitting on his desk and .grabbed his jacket and hat.
"And why not take the Jeep? There’s no need to fly when we can drive. Besides…I was raised in the mountains, remember? Even if I do prefer the city life. There’s just something about being able to see the scenery from the car as opposed to the air…and if we leave a few days early, we can get the majority of things done before the storm hits. Then we can just settle in and get cozy," she said with a smile as she got up from his desk. Walking up to him, her arms encircled his waist and she lightly kissed him.
"Cozy, eh? Two weeks alone with me and you’ll be hauling tail back to Virginia so fast it’ll surprise you," he replied, grinning a bit, and returned her kiss.
"Uh oh…a challenge, Admiral?" she queried as her eyes seemed to sparkle at the very mention of it. "I love a challenge. Especially where it concerns you."
Raising an eyebrow just a bit, he replied, "You may be rephrasing that statement before you’re through." He was still just a bit reserved in his conduct with her. Even though they were now engaged to be married, he still tried not to come on too direct and forceful. He found it was taking every ounce of self-control and discipline to contain his emotions and desires for her sometimes and lately, it was getting harder and harder to do.
"Hmmmm, we’ll see. However, I seriously doubt it. The minute you proposed to me, Admiral Nelson, you got me for life. April 19th can’t come fast enough…although come to think of it…we’ve got a lot to do on that subject, too. Maybe this quality time will be just the thing we need." She tenderly put her hands on each side of his face and kissed him with all the ardor and desire she had. His response was natural…he reciprocated with an equal passion. Moments later, the embrace was broken and both were breathless.
His resolve was beginning to crumble as he held her. "You know something…if you keep this up…I’m not going to be responsible…"
"Responsible for what, suh?" she replied, cutting him off. He looked at her with a silent grin. "Well, Admiral, we can certainly finish this discussion at your house. Dinner can be served before…or after." And she quickly kissed him again.
"Then why don’t we eat first? That way we won’t be hungry afterwards…food wise, that is." Was there just a hit of a seductive smile on his face?
"Then, Admiral…lead on." Karen opened the door and waited for him to pass. Once in the corridor, he closed the door and left the boat, heading for his home. Karen reheated the dinner she’d fixed and the two of them ate as they discussed plans for the trip. They then ‘retired’ for the night to finish their earlier ‘discussion’.
As he woke the next morning, he decided to take her advice. After breakfast, he enlisted the aid of Kowalski and Patterson, who had been assigned ashore while the boat was being resupplied for its next assignment. The three of them flew up to the cabin in the FS-1. While there, he took care of the generator and they all cut and stacked wood, and did some general cleaning. They then cleaned out the fireplace and placed logs in it in preparation for the coming visit. Once finished, they flew back to the Institute and he strolled over to her office for a chat.
Terri Styles, her secretary, sat at her desk, working diligently at her computer when he walked in.
"Is she in there?" he inquired, motioning toward Karen’s inner office.
"Yes, sir, Admiral. In fact, she really hasn’t come out all day. I think she’s been trying to get everything done before she leaves."
"Good. Well, looks like you’re going to have to hold the ‘fort’ down here, Ms. Styles. I can promise you…she won’t be calling in for messages."
Terri smiled slightly, acknowledging her boss’s habit of staying in constant touch. "Just keep her away from here. She really needs the time away. Oh, and you might want to take that cell phone away from her, too."
"She’s not driving you crazy, is she? Angie’s indicated that I have a tendency to do that to her occasionally."
"Just make sure she gets some rest. I think the wedding details are starting to get to her. She’s been going crazy trying to get the gown made. Oh, and sir, I have a message for you from Caitlin." She handed him a pink message slip. "She called in earlier and asked that I give it to you if you showed up here."
"Thanks." He glanced down at the slip and read the message. HN, Get her out of there and make her rest. Caitlin. Smiling slightly to himself, he then looked over at Terri and shook his head. "Looks like I’ve been issued my orders. Sometimes that girl…"
Terri laughed slightly and said, "Yes, sir…I know exactly what you mean."
He turned and knocked on her office door and opened it slightly, poking his head in. "You busy?" he asked as he opened the door more, then walked in and closed it behind him.
Karen looked up and smiled. "Hi! No, actually…what’s on your mind?" She eased back in her chair and looked at him. He stood before her in a pair of old dirty blue jeans, a red and black plaid flannel skirt, and a pair of hiking boots. It was more than obvious he’d been working…his hair was mussed and he seemed a little winded.
"I enlisted Kowalski and Patterson’s help and we flew up to the cabin. I’ve got the wood stacked, cleaned out the fireplace and stocked it with some wood. The generator’s checked and we have enough fuel for 2 months. I thought about what you said about getting an early start. You still game?" he reported as he sank into a chair opposite her desk. His eyes searched hers in hopes that they hadn’t betrayed his underlying intentions.
"Sure. Let me finish up with things here and then I’ll head home and get my things packed. When do you want to leave?" she inquired.
"The sooner the better. I need to get out of here before I end up killing something or someone. I don’t know what’s wrong with me but it seems like everything’s closing in around me. Everyone wants me to give their work priority and everyone’s screaming to use the sub. You know…I miss those days when all I had to worry about was that day’s experiment going right. I really miss those days….Boy, do I miss those days." he softly replied as if reminiscing about his past. Getting up, he walked over to the door and reached for the doorknob. However, he was stopped by a hand being placed on top of his. Turning slightly, he came face to face with Karen, who took him in her arms and kissed him energetically. He reluctantly broke the kiss and then the embrace, backing away just a bit.
"Captain Davis, you keep this up and we’ll never get out of here. Pick me up at 1800. Go ahead and take the rest of the afternoon off. I’m heading to my place to get my things ready," he said in a tone that sounded more like an order, yet his face held a bit of a smile.
She smiled slightly, knowing that this gruffness was just his way of dealing with things at times. She’d come to accept it after the few years of knowing him. "1800…yes, sir. I’ll be ready, sir," she capitulated, teasing him just a bit.
"Start what?" she innocently asked. "If truth be known…I haven’t even begun to ‘start’. Now…get outta here. If we’re going to leave at 1800…I’ve got quite a bit to do. I’m not going without some semblance of civilization, rustic or not."
"Just remember, not too much ‘civilization’, ok?" And after quickly kissing her on the cheek, he left.
Looking around her office, she sighed. The stack of papers in her ‘in box’ at least was shrinking. Damn! Ok, Davis…if you intend to get out of here and meet him on time…you’d better get your ass in gear and hunker down to it. So without further ado, she sat back down at her desk and started in. A couple of hours later, she finished up her paperwork, placing all files in the out box. Getting up from her desk, Karen looked around and made a mental note of things to go over with Terri on her way out. Then, grabbing her pocketbook and a couple of computer disks, she closed her briefcase, and headed out.
As she entered the outer office, Terri looked up at her boss.
"Yeah…I’ve had it. I’ve left the finished files in the ‘out box’…all correspondence and reports are on these disks." Karen handed her the disks along with some other things. "If you need anything…call me on the cell phone. You’ve got the number."
Her secretary stood and leaned over her desk. Terri Styles was slightly older than Karen…and the epitome of a professional secretary. She, along with Angie Pierce who was the Admiral’s secretary, Chip Morton’s secretary, Dorothy, and Jennifer, who was the secretary to Lee Crane, formed the elite corps of ‘administrative assistants-secretaries’ to the senior staff of the Nelson Institute of Marine Research. She had been assigned to Karen shortly after she had first come to N.I.M.R. several years before. The two women had gotten along well, and Terri had adapted to her boss’s vastly different style of work and habits.
Looking over her glasses, the petite older woman told her, "Will you please get out of here? You’re driving me nuts. Everything will be done before you get back. Oh, and I’ve confirmed the Mission for you on April 19th at 1400. The director said that you two need to contact Father Bernard’s secretary regarding the scheduling of the counseling session. The manager at the Country Club called back and also confirmed that they’re available as well. They’re going to fax over a set of menus for you to go over and they also want to go over any plans you have for decorations. Considering that the Admiral's a member, there's no rental fee involved."
"Good," Karen said. "I’ll contact the good Father's office when we get back. However, I really doubt that we’ll have to go though the whole nine yards like Robert and I did. As for the country club, I’ll take the menus over to him as soon as we get them in, then we can make our decisions. I'd kinda like to actually go over there and sample some of the things, just to make sure. Caitlin and I will handle the arrangements regarding the decorations." She stopped just a moment and chuckled. "You know…planning my wedding the first time around wasn’t this hard. This thing is taking on the look of a military operation."
"Well, I hate to tell you…but in some ways…it is. Considering the amount of brass that’s probably going to be coming…it is a military operation. That's why I told you that you needed a wedding director, remember? You can't do it all. Not something this big and complicated. And I think you’re probably right about the counseling, especially since you’re both older…However, you and I both know it’s a requirement that has to be met. Oh…and I just remembered. The President’s secretary called earlier and informed me that it’s been put on his calendar. The quote was ‘he’s not going to miss this for love nor money’…end quote."
Karen burst out laughing. "Ya know…somehow I really believe most of these people are only coming to make sure he does get married. God!"
"Well, he has been a life long bachelor…and a very eligible one at that. Personally, I think they want to take a peek at the woman who finally netted him. Now…will you please go? If I know him…he’s probably chomping at the bit wanting to get started."
"Ok, Terri…I’ll see you in two weeks. Don’t get too used to being alone here."
"Honey…you just rest up there, okay? You’ve earned it…and so has he. Besides, you're not going to have time to rest once you all get back. There'll be too much to do..."
Karen laughed quietly. "Well…we’ll see. I don’t think he knows how to rest sometimes. The man had absolutely no earthly idea of what I meant when I told him he needed to veg out."
An eyebrow shot up and Terri glanced at Karen. With a mischievous lilt to her voice and a faintly detectable sparkle in her green eyes, she responded, "Well…maybe it’s time he found out. I’m sure you can teach him, can’t you?"
Feigning shock, Karen exclaimed, "Why, Ms. Styles…ah’m surprised at you."
"Yeah…I bet you are. Now…get out!"
Karen giggled lightly as she picked up her briefcase and walked out the door.
Karen’s Jeep pulled into his driveway at about 1755. Parking in front of his house, she got out and raised the rear door, then strolled in to find him. His things were already packed and piled in the hallway next to the door. Surprisingly, there was actually very little more that his rifle, his fishing gear, and a rather large duffel bag. She had expected him to bring a lot more with him. From the look of things, he really was serious about wanting to get away.
"Harry?" she called upstairs, debating with herself about whether to go up after him.
"Down in a moment," was the reply. A few moments later, he came down the stairs with a backpack in his hand and his winter parka. "Well, Captain…are you ready to brave two weeks alone with your future husband?"
Karen looked at him standing before her, dressed in a pair of jeans and a flannel shirt. It clearly wasn’t a sight she was used to seeing. Picking up some of his gear, she raised an eyebrow and remarked, "Well, if my future husband can stand two weeks with me, I can certainly stand two weeks with him…considering that I fully intend to be married to him for a very long time!"
Together, they loaded his gear into the trunk of the Jeep. After closing the door, he headed to the driver’s door and started to get in behind the wheel. Suddenly, he realized that this was her car and, so instead, took his place in the passenger’s side. She started to get in behind the wheel and then looked pensively over at him. This was the first time she had driven him anywhere.
"You want to drive?" she asked him, suddenly noticing how awkward and uncomfortable he seemed beside her.
"That’s ok. You drive. It’ll give me a chance to unwind some."
"Well…considering you know where we’re going and I don’t…you’d better drive," she said as she tossed him the keys and walked around to the passenger side.
Harry got out and looked at her as she climbed in, adjusted the seat, and then closed the door on him. With a brief sigh, he walked around and got behind the wheel. The moment they passed through the security gates, she noticed a subtle change in him - he seemed to relax. A couple of hours later, they stopped at a local grocery store and got enough food for 2 weeks, then headed up into the mountains.
Karen always had a stash of CDs on hand in the SUV and once they’d settled on the music, both began to truly relax. "This is going to be fun…don’t you think? Two weeks alone, away from everything and everyone…just the two of us." Almost as an afterthought, she added, "Did you bring your meds? Doc mentioned to me that he had you on some antibiotics for a viral infection."
Nelson suddenly looked slightly annoyed. "A cold, for crying out loud. I have a slight cold. That’s all, and yes, I have my meds. You start down this course and I’m reversing direction and heading back."
Almost apologetically, she said softly, "He just said to make sure you kept warm and dry. He doesn’t want this to develop into something worse… like pneumonia."
A quick glance at her told him she was dead serious. "Warm and dry…I know. He told me…or rather ordered me…with regards to the meds. Now…can we change the subject?" came the testy reply.
Picking up on the tone of his voice, she turned and looked out the window. "I just worry about you, that’s all." It was beginning to flurry outside. Deciding to change the subject, she added, "I thought you said the weather folks said this stuff wasn’t going to hit for another couple of days?"
"That was the report I got from them right before we left. That’s ok," he replied, then looked down at his watch. "We’ll make the cabin within the hour. We have everything we need in case we get stranded there."
As he had said, they reached the cabin within the hour just as the snow was beginning to come down extremely hard. The winds had picked up and it cut visibility down to just a few yards. They were both thankful when they saw the turnoff from the main road. A half mile later, Harry pulled the Jeep into the shed near the cabin and they both quickly transferred things inside. Once indoors, Karen began putting their provisions up while Harry got the fire going, then went out to fire up the generator. Within moments, the lights came on, much to Karen’s relief. Harry tramped in and shook off the snow from his jacket and head, then closed the door and locked it behind him.
"It’s a damn blizzard out there. I’d better check in and let them know we made it in ok. They should be out on that mapping assignment about right now," he said as he went over to the radio he kept there for just these purposes and turned it on. "Nelson to Seaview, Nelson to Seaview, do you read me, Seaview. Over."
There was the sound of static and finally the familiar voice of Sparks, the radio officer. "This is Seaview. We read you loud and clear, Admiral. Standby for the Captain." There was another period of static.
"Admiral, this is Crane. Over."
"Lee, we’ve arrived ok, but we’ve got a blizzard up here. Check with Meteorology and find out what the story is. Over."
"Will do. I’ll contact you as soon as I have something. Over."
"Acknowledged. Everything’s fine here otherwise. We’ve got plenty of food and, as you can see, the generator’s working fine. Over."
"Understood. Have a good time up there. Will be in touch about the weather report. Over."
"Thanks. Nelson, over and out."
Harriman cut the line but left it on, turning the volume down so he could hear the return call when it came in. He went into the kitchen and helped Karen get the remainder of their supplies put away. All of a sudden, something hit the side of the house with a loud thud that startled them both. Harry looked at Karen, then immediately headed for the door, grabbing his hat and coat in the process. "I’ll check it out and while I’m out, I’ll secure the shutters on the windows. That’ll protect them and help keep the heat in more. I’ll be right back." He gave her a quick kiss and headed out.
Karen got the last of their supplies put away as she waited for him to return. She could hear the shutters being closed over the windows and locked in place. A short time later, he came in and stomped off the snow from his boots and clothes.
"A tree limb fell on the side roof. Good thing there’s a good cushion of snow up there or we’d be seeing a fair size hole right about now. It slid off and fell to the ground, so at least it can’t do any other damage."
She had started their dinner and had decided on a beef stew and corn muffins, figuring it’d be a good hearty meal on such a cold, wintry night. Harry went into the living room and added a few more logs to keep the fire going strong. Within the hour, the cabin had warmed considerably. Though he had advised her that the cabin was simple, it was far from ‘uncivilized’. The massive stone fireplace radiated enough heat that it managed to warm the entire main room of the cabin. Specially designed heating ducts carried enough warmth to the two bedrooms so that they too were kept comfortable. While she was getting their dinner, he took their things into the bedroom where he made up the bed and put their things away. He could smell their dinner and came out to find the table set and ready. He sat down and they ate in silence as they listened to the sounds of the storm outside. The wind whistled and howled, causing the wooden cabin to creak just a bit. The blazing fire crackled and popped in the fireplace and the smell of the wood scented the air. Finally, he broke the silence.
"You know, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. We should’ve waited till this storm passed before I brought you up here. I’m afraid there’s not much to do in here. It’s designed to be a hunting cabin. Jiggs and I come up here on the weekends to hunt when our schedules allow it. I’m afraid it’s pretty spartan."
"It’s small, warm, and kind of cozy. I’ve got my needlework and some books. Besides… you’re here with me. That’s all I need," she replied as she leisurely ate her meal.
Hesitating just a moment, Harry looked over at her and raised an eyebrow. "I hope there’s more to our relationship than the physical side, Karen. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and we hardly just talk with each other. Whenever we get together we…ah… well...you know…" he said as he took a bite of the stew.
She was silent as she contemplated his sudden statement. In a way, he was right. They didn’t spend a lot of time just talking. A lot of times, they would end up making love. He’d never complained before; in fact, there were many times where he’d initiated their trysts. The trip to the Prescott Inn, as well as the night on the beach and the morning after when he’d proposed, was most definitely his idea. Not that she hadn’t also instigated a few liaisons of her own, so for him to suddenly come up with this, in the particular tone of voice he used, was somewhat disturbing.
Cautiously, she ventured, "Harriman, that’s true to a certain extent. We just haven’t had the time…"
"There’s a lot to me, Karen…much more than I’ve told you. I’m not an easy person to live with. If you don’t believe me…ask my housekeeper…or even Edith. There’s been times when both of them have been ready to shoot me. Also…I’m not used to having anyone around me. Ever since Kath…" He stared down at his bowl of stew, suddenly at a loss for words.
Karen looked at him suddenly realizing how difficult this whole situation was for him. She had heard some of the details of the incident from others and Jamison had briefly told her he never really had come to grips with what happened. He’d never really let it out, keeping it bottled up inside since her death and either had been unable, or unwilling, to talk about it. She wondered if she should dare to venture into that forbidden area or let it lie and change the subject.
The decision was made for her as the radio crackled with the familiar voice of the Seaview’s radio officer. "Seaview to Admiral Nelson. Seaview calling Admiral Nelson. Do you read us? Please respond. Over."
Harry put his fork on his plate and went over to the radio, picking up the mic. "Nelson here. Go ahead, Seaview. Over."
"Meteorology reports a strong storm is coming in from the west, sir. It’s bringing with it a lot of Pacific moisture and they’re calling for four to six feet in the higher elevations. You should be getting somewhere between three to 5 feet, sir. The Captain said we can send in a chopper when the weather clears to fly you out if you want. Over."
"Acknowledged, Seaview. Thanks…but we’ll ride it out for a few days. I’ll call you if we need a lift. Over."
"Understood, sir. Anything else you need sir? Over."
"Just let us know if they expect it to get worse. Otherwise, we’ll see you in a couple weeks. Over."
"Acknowledged, sir. Seaview over and out."
"Nelson out." He then secured the mic and returned it to its holder. Turning to look at Karen, he decided that their prior conversation had taken an uncomfortable turn. So, he asked, "You ever use snowshoes?"
Karen immediately noticed both the change in subject and tone of voice, but refrained from commenting on it. Instead, she replied, "No, can’t say that I ever have. Why? What do you have planned?"
Crossing over to the fireplace, he grabbed a couple of logs and threw them on the fire. "Well, I thought maybe we’d take a stroll in the next day or so and see the area. It’s really beautiful up here after a good snow." He then sat down on the rug and leaned back against the couch, simply gazing into the building flames.
A few moments later, she sat down beside him near the fire. Within minutes, she stretched out on the bearskin rug that covered the floor and laid her head on his lap. Silence reigned between them as they both stared into the fire, soaking in its’ warm and serenity. As he gazed deeply into the dancing flames, his fingers gently played with her hair as if absentmindedly fingering through some papers. Almost as if his mind was somewhere far away, he drew in a slow deep breath and let it out with a soft sigh.
Karen broke the silence between them as she whispered, "Harry, are you happy with the way things are between us?"
A look of confusion appeared on his face for a moment, and he looked down into her eyes as she gazed up at him. "What brought this up?"
"I just don’t want you to feel trapped into anything," she slowly remarked as her eyes drifted back to the fire.
His arms slowly enveloped her. Bending down a bit, he kissed her softly on her forehead. With a bit of a smile, he told her, "Too late. You’ve netted me, hook, line, and sinker."
"Seriously, Harriman. There are times I feel like I’ve somehow snared you and now you’re caught and can’t get out of it." The tone of her voice was one of seriousness, yet also one of regret.
His face suddenly went straight. His blue eyes hardened as he removed his arms slowly from around her and stood. Without a word to her, he walked into the kitchen.
A horrible thought occurred to her. Had she just ruined the whole trip? She knew he was an old fashioned man with old-fashioned beliefs and, somehow, she felt like she had maybe taken advantage of him without meaning to. She sat there, drawing her knees up to her chest and stared into the fire, hoping she hadn’t blown it. Closing her eyes, she felt a knot in her stomach. Please God…I love him so very much. I hope I didn’t screw this up.
Moments later, he returned carrying a bottle of Champagne and two glasses. He sat down beside her on the rug and handed her a glass. He then sat his glass down and opened the bottle, not once saying anything to her. He poured them both a glass of the bubbling liquid, then sat the bottle on the end table to his right. Turning back to her, he looked her straight in her eyes with a look she’d never seen before. It was serious and yet soft in a way.
He placed his glass to hers and replied in a low and passionate voice, "I’m an adult, Karen Davis...Many years older than twenty-one. I’m in complete and total control of all my faculties and I am going to tell you that when I proposed to you, and you accepted, I knew exactly what I was doing and what I wanted in this life. That was a woman to love and care for. Nothing more, nothing less. I’m not marrying your rank, position, or money. I’m marrying a woman who’s shown me that I can still feel love, as well as all the passion and emotions that go with it. Yes, you ‘trapped’ me... but I let you do it."
He took a deep breath and locked his eyes with hers. "I need your love and companionship more than I can ever express in words. I never knew how really alone I was till I met you there at Miramar. I guess, in a way, I’d just existed for my work. Have been, really, for a long time. Now…I have other reasons as well. I have someone I can share my successes and failures with. My hopes…and my fears. I have someone I feel I can trust and talk to when I need to get something off my chest. I don’t have to tip toe or pretend when I’m around you. I don’t have to be on my guard. I can be me. And that’s something I haven’t been able to be for a very long time. I love you, Karen Davis. I know I don’t seem to say those words to you enough. I have to be careful of what I do and say when I’m at work, lest folks get the wrong impressions. You know very well how the ‘grapevine’ is. In some ways...you’re like Katherine was, but it’s not those similarities that caused me to ask you to marry me. I know you’re not her and never will be. I really don’t expect you to be, either. I guess all I expect...is... for you to trust me and keep my confidence. That’s all. I asked you up here so we could get to know each other better."
He fingered his glass for a few moments in contemplation, then continued, "We really haven’t had much time alone without other people around. The last time we truly went away somewhere was when we went up to the Prescott Inn...and even that didn’t turn out very well. We could go to the yacht, but there’s people there, too. Isn’t there an old saying that you don’t really know someone until you’ve lived with them? So…maybe I’m a bit euphemistic here, but I’m hoping that after these two weeks, we’ll know if we can stand living with each other for the rest of our lives..." His eyes wandered downward and then he hesitated just a bit. "The rest of our lives. That’s a long time, Karen. You’re much younger and I’m…well, I’m no spring chicken. I’ll try and make your time with me a memorable one though...if you’ll let me. So...I propose a toast" Gazing back into her eyes once again, "...to the future. Whatever it may bring. May our love be as strong then.as it is now."
He then gently touched his glass to hers and took a swallow of the pale golden liquid. Karen was clearly stunned. Gingerly holding her glass, she kept staring at him, unable to speak as tears began to well up in her eyes. She had never known him to be so open with her. He was usually somewhat reserved in verbally expressing how he felt.
Without any further discussion, Harry sat his glass down on the floor, then reached into his shirt pocket, taking out a small black velvet box. He handed it to her as he took the glass from her hand. Looking up at him with moist eyes, she slowly opened the box. Inside she found a beautiful silver broach in the design of a rose, set with diamonds in the center. The rose petals were made of red rubies and the leaves of green jade. Next to it lay a pair of matching earnings.
He watched her expression change from puzzlement to wide-eyed wonder. "I thought you could use something to wear when we go out to those socials I’m expected to attend every now and again. It’s not too gaudy, is it? Caitlin told me not long ago about how much you love roses."
She was at a loss for words. All she could do was put her arms around his neck and kiss him as the tears flowed unchecked down her cheeks. As she broke the embrace, she whispered, "Harriman, they’re beautiful."
He sat her glass on the floor beside his and wrapped his arms around her. They just sat there on the floor in silence, simply holding each other and gazing into the fire. She kept looking at the jewelry, then suddenly said, "I’d love to try these on, although…I don’t know how this broach is going to look on this shirt."
"Well, the broach isn’t just a broach. There’s a silver chain attached to it so that you can wear it as a necklace. Here…allow me." He removed the necklace and broach from the case and unhooked it. She moved in front of him and unbuttoned the top of the jean shirt she wore as the firelight flickered around them, causing the diamonds to shimmer in the light. Gently reaching around her neck, he closed the clasp, allowing it to fall gently downward between the valley of her breasts. As he withdrew, he softly kissed her cheek. Sitting back a bit, he looked at her and the necklace.
"Beautiful…but somehow…I think it can’t be fully appreciated unless…" and he calmly but slowly unbuttoned the rest of her shirt. The stones in the broach sparkled in the glow of the firelight. "Now…let’s see about the earrings."
"Harry…I can put those in…" she giggled a bit, raising her hands to put in the earrings. However, he gently pushed her hands down.
"No…this is something I want to do. Besides…I’ve got to learn to do this if I’m going to be married to you for the rest of my life."
Karen shivered a bit from the coolness of the metal against her bare skin as well as the anticipation of what would be the inevitable. She watched as he removed the back from the earring and placed the diamond and ruby stud in her earlobe. He bent over and kissed her ear, then planted two or three kisses down her neck to her shoulder, his hands slowly sliding her shirt down onto her arms. Sitting back up, he retrieved the other earring from the box and placed it in her other ear. Then he slowly trailed soft kisses along her jaw to her lips, drawing her into a long, enthusiastic kiss.
Moments later, he broke the embrace, pulling slowly away and leaving her breathless. Sitting back, he surveyed the jewels as they blazed in the firelight on her now bare skin. Cocking his head just a bit, he faintly smiled as he searched her eyes.
"Hmmmm, magnificent. And I don’t just mean the jewelry, either. It looks beautiful on you," he whispered.
Soon, the warmth of the fire equaled the warmth they felt for each other as he lifted her mouth to his and searched her out. Very shortly afterward, they were making love on the soft fur rug beside the fire.
As the night wore on, so did the acts of their lovemaking. Then, before they knew it, they both fell asleep, wrapped in the comfort of the fur and each other’s arms.
The next morning found Harry still sound asleep as Karen carefully slipped out from under his arm. She quietly walked into the bedroom and retrieved an old football jersey she’d brought to sleep in. As she slipped it over her head, she pulled out the necklace and let it fall loosely around her neck. She’d packed the jersey because she somehow knew that a silk nightgown was not needed here. Karen had decided that she wanted something extremely comfortable, and if this was a time for them to really get to know each other...he had to learn about it now. After she got dressed, she put some more logs on the fire to get it up to a good blaze, and then quietly went into the kitchen to start their breakfast.
She looked in on him as he lay sleeping still bundled under the fur. Smiling to herself and absentmindedly fingering the necklace, she sighed in contentment that the knowledge of his love for her was very genuine and deeply real. Inwardly, too, she was also now secure in knowing that she hadn’t trapped him into any commitment. Stopping for a moment and looking out the window of the back door, Karen noticed that the snow had finally stopped. The first rays of a bright morning sun were starting to break out from the clouds and it was beginning to look like it was going to be a beautiful day. Making a mental note to make sure he kept his word about the tour, she then turned her attention back to making breakfast.
Harry began to stir as the smell of fresh bacon and fresh brewed coffee invaded his nostrils. Sleepily, he rolled onto his back and suddenly realized Karen wasn’t there beside him. Stretching his arms about his head, he looked up at her through half opened eyes. Smiling somewhat, he tossed the fur off himself and stood up, naked, before the fire.
Karen walked toward him carrying a plate with his breakfast. Noticing his condition, she smiled and slyly remarked, "Hummmm. Rising a little early, aren’t we, Admiral?"
He raised an eyebrow and then moved closer to her. "Yes…and I have a solution to it, too, Captain. That is...if you’re so inclined," he coyly remarked.
"Oooh, I don’t doubt that for a bit, Admiral, sir. However...if we pursue that solution at this time, your breakfast will get cold. I propose that we eat first and then…resolve the, ah, problem later?" She handed him his plate with a quick but searching kiss.
"You know something? You’re a bit of a tease," was his chuckling response as he accepted the plate, then grabbed for his clothes. After sitting the hot plate down, he started to put his sweat pants on. Looking up at her, he finally noticed what she was wearing. "Now that’s something I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you in. Something new?"
Karen looked down at herself. She was standing, barefoot, clad only in the football jersey that came to mid-thigh. Grinning, she shot up an eyebrow and replied, "This ole thing? Why...no. Actually, I’m rather attached to this. You may just see me in it a lot more in the future."
"Well...it looks rather...intriguing. I hope you're not going to tell me that it holds a special place in your heart because it belonged to an old boyfriend," was the retort.
"No...but one of these days, I'll tell you exactly why it's special. And it has absolutely nothing to do with an old boyfriend."
"Well, I happen to like it...somehow it suits you," he replied in approval. She looked, well, very casual and very comfortable in it.
"I thank you, kind sir. Now...breakfast is going to get cold if it's not eaten soon. And considering there's no microwave here, scrambled eggs would be very hard to reheat."
Nelson grinned. "I told you this place was rustic."
"Yeah, well...I'm going to have to improve on that situation just a bit. When you told me that...and knowing that this was a cabin that had been inhabited by men...I packed a couple of things that I figured would come in handy. Looks like I was right." Karen turned back toward the kitchen and came back with a cup of hot coffee for him. "My mother always told me that there are just certain things in this world that you just don't leave home without. A crockpot’s one of'em. You get the game...I'll fix stew and casseroles in the crock pot."
"Oh, really? I guess we ‘men' never thought about those types of conveniences. And just what else did you bring, if I may ask?" he laughed quietly as he tried to envision Jiggs Starke cooking something in a crockpot.
"Well," she continued, "it's a good thing that I brought a small stash of herbs and spices. I can leave them here, as well as leaving the crockpot. That way...they'll be here when we come back here again."
He cocked his head slightly, an eyebrow slight raised. "Oh? And you want to come back here, do you? We've just spent one night here...we've got the rest of the two weeks to go."
Karen got up to refresh her cup with steaming hot coffee. "Look...I know what you're trying to do...or say, for that matter. And it's not going to work, Harriman Nelson." She sat back down at the table and leaned back in the ladder back chair, sipping the hot beverage. "If you're trying to scare me away, forget it. Ain't going to work." Leaning back into the table, she put the cup down, then folded her hands in front of her face and looked at him dead on. Her tone took on a bit of seriousness. "I know what it takes in a marriage. The give and take...the compromise...the fears, the anxieties. I know, Harriman...I know. I've been there. And I've had it all taken away in a split second."
"Karen, I just meant..."
"I know what you meant. And I also know what you said to me last night. You know..." her voice suddenly caught a bit as she continued, "I've always read that there's supposed to be a ‘soul mate' for everyone in this world. I was very blessed to have had one." Her eyes suddenly glistened with tears. "And for some reason, the good Lord saw fit to give me another." She stopped for a moment and then turned away from him. "I'm sorry if I'm starting to cry here. But..."
Nelson reached out and took her hand in his. "I'm sorry. I guess it's my own insecurities coming into play here. It's just...I'm not used to having someone other than my housekeeper around. I've kept things inside...private...for so long...that it's going to be a real adjustment for me."
Entwining her fingers in his, she gazed at him through tear filled eyes. "I know that...and as I said...I've been there. Do you think it's any easier for me after all these years of being alone? Learning to trust someone implicitly...leaning on someone else. Harry, I've had to be everything...breadwinner, mother, father, counselor, best friend, disciplinarian...I've been on my own for the past twelve years after being part of a ‘team' for eight. But there's not a day...or night...that goes by that I wish to God that I didn't have to do it all."
Harriman became very quiet. Here he’d been thinking about all of his own fears and insecurities and it had never occurred to him that just maybe Karen was feeling somewhat of the same things. She had always appeared as self-confident, self-reliant, and in total control of herself. The only time he had ever known her to lose control was when she instigated his rescue from the First American Militia. They'd only discussed that incident once...when he regained consciousness in SickBay afterwards. However, he’d never really given any thought that Karen could possibly be as insecure as he was in some aspects.
They ate the remainder of their breakfast in silence, each contemplating the others’ remarks. In a little while, he pushed away slightly from the table and slowly asked, "You like venison?"
Karen looked over at the man sitting across the table from her. She knew he was changing the subject because it was making him uncomfortable. Sighing just a bit, she decided not to pursue the previous avenue of discussion any further. "I love it, but you know my position here regarding game."
"I know. You don't ‘do’ game. Not a problem. Like I told you before, I'm used to cleaning it," he said with a somewhat amused grin.
"Were you serious about Starke?" referring to an incident he had related to her.
"Yep. He really lost it. Never saw him so green around the gills," he chuckled as he drank the rest of his coffee and sat back in his chair.
"You’re kidding me? He actually lost it?" she replied with a laugh. The mere thought of the big burly man becoming ill in this situation was amusing to her. He was always so gruff and thunderous.
"All over the back deck. I made him clean it up, which made him even greener," he replied as she broke into a hearty laugh. He pushed away from the table, stood up, and looked at her. "Now that I'm finished here, I'll see what I can scare up for dinner. We'll put that crock pot of yours to good use."
"We’re being just a little optimistic here, aren’t we? You think you’re that good?" she teased, egging him on a little.
Harriman Nelson took note of her teasing and returned fire. "Good? I’m better than good, dear lady. You just have that pot ready. I’ll show you good."
Karen Davis chuckled a bit, then got up and lightly touched his lips with her own. "Fine, fine. Seems to me that you’re good at a few other things as well, dear Admiral. However, this should give me some time to get things cleaned up in here a little. You weren't kidding when you said it needed attention."
"Well, it's been almost two years since we last used it. What do you expect? It's a hunting cabin, for crying out loud," he laughed slightly and headed to the bedroom. Once he’d returned, he started getting his things together.
Karen sat at the table with her cup of coffee and simply smiled as she watched him put on his hat and coat, check his rifle, and head to the door. Hesitating a moment, he turned around and gave her a lingering kiss as he reached for the doorknob.
"See you in a few hours unless I get real lucky," he informed her then left. She watched him from the open doorway as he put on the pair of snowshoes that hung outside on the wall and began walking off into the woods. The sight of him dressed in his winter parka and snowshoes with a rifle slung over his shoulder was a sight she’d never seen. A fleeting thought and feeling washed over her. It was as if they’d been transported back in time a hundred years. Her staying in the cabin and him setting out to forage for their food. Though they both preferred to live in the modern world, she liked seeing this side of him - the ‘slightly old fashioned’ kind of man that she had no intention of changing.
Karen spent the rest of the morning cleaning up the cabin. There was at least two years of dust that had built up and the cobwebs in places were atrocious. She swept and dusted; straightening up as much as she possibly could. As she placed the very last of the canned provisions up into the cupboard, she placed a kettle of water onto the cook stove to boil. Taking out a tin container, she pulled a tea bag out and placed it in a cup she'd brought along.
The last of the cleaning finished, she settled down before the fire with her tea and curled up with one of the books she'd brought. Gazing into the fire, she found herself drifting back to years gone by. To a time when Robert was still alive…
They'd been to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for a children's play. Caitlin had wanted to play outside near the water fountain, so they walked out onto the terrace. While the energetic child played and her mother kept a watchful eye, Robert Davis had strolled into the café and retrieved them all some drinks. As the two parents watched their daughter playing with another child, they discussed an upcoming situation.
"Are you sure you want to do this, Karen? I mean...do you really know what this entails?"
"Yes, I want to do it. Look, I know we've moved from Norfolk to here. But you knew when I went in, that I'd be subject to transfer. Robert, there's been few things I've ever really asked of you...You've been wonderful to put up with all of this. But…I've got to give this a shot."
Robert looked over at Caitlin, happily playing near the fountain's edge. "How are you going to tell her? We'll have to transfer her out of school and find another one. She's not going to take too kindly to change, you know that."
"I know...but she's old enough to know that I'm in the service and that moving is part of it. You can talk to your boss...I'm sure your company can find something for you at the same level."
He sighed. "I know...and I'm sure you're right. I just hate to leave here knowing Mom's...."
Karen touched his arm. His mother had been ill for a couple of years now. In fact, it had been the main reason for her transfer to Richmond - to be near his mother should she need them. There were other siblings, but none in closer proximity, so it was left for Robert and Karen to assume the role of caregivers to his mother.
Karen Davis' eyes misted as she remembered her late husband's devotion to his ailing mother as well as his willingness to accommodate his wife in her job. Being the spouse of a service person wasn't an easy life. The moves, the changes. Yet Robert had always done what he could for her...because he loved her. Her mind shifted as she glanced over at the coat lying on the chair. Harriman Nelson. The new man in her life. Like Robert in some ways, but so different in others. Older...more worldly...more experienced, yet gentle and loving as Robert had been. He had a temper where Robert had had none. Amazing, since both of them had Irish heritage. However, both men were passionate about the things they loved.
She and Robert had been a team from the day they met at Virginia Tech. In fact, the meeting had been a blind date set up by a mutual friend of theirs. From the moment he had inadvertently put his arm around her to keep her from falling, she fell in love with him. They'd been married the end of their senior year, right before she went into in the Navy. Caitlin had been born a year later. In what would seem the blink of an eye, Robert had been killed in a horrific car accident some years later.
Harriman. Where are you? It's getting late.
Karen looked down at her watch and noted the time. A wave of panic quickly washed over her as she momentarily thought about that last day of Robert's life. Rushing out the door to get to work. Her hurried goodbye to him from the kitchen. She didn't see him leave...only heard his voice.
Tears formed on her cheek as she struggled to remember his voice.
I can't remember. Oh, dear God! I can't remember what he sounded like.
Staring into the fire, her eyes streamed tears as she remembered when she had realized the truth. He was gone forever. He'd never be back. Yet, looking over at the coat lying on the chair, her breathing calmed. Harriman.
The two men in her life. Alike, but very different. And she loved both of them dearly.
That same morning after he’d left her in the cabin, Harry trotted off towards the snow covered woods ahead of him. He adjusted the rifle on his shoulder as he headed for his favorite hunting spot. As he walked on looking for tracks to indicate his game was near, his thoughts drifted to Karen and then to Katherine. He began to compare the two women with each other.
Katherine Campbell had been much quieter than Karen. A very attractive brunette with twinkling blue-green eyes, she had caught his eye when he was speaking at a seminar in Brussels, Belgium. She’d been one of the attendees and had engaged him in conversation afterwards, questioning him heavily about his work in Marine Biology. A biologist herself, she proved that she could match him theory for theory in the subject matter. Within a short time, he found himself falling in love with the dark haired scientist. She had supported his quest for the Institute and for the building of the Seaview, even to the point of playing the part of hostess at dinners where he lobbied political types for the necessary funding. She was, without doubt, what Jiggs Starke had called Admiral’s wife material. Quiet, unassuming, yet classic and dignified. She had always depended on him to make the major decisions between them. It was, without doubt, the typical relationship of their time.
Stopping momentarily to adjust the rifle on his shoulder, he surveyed the terrain. Snow glistened in the early morning sunlight as he also adjusted the special sunglasses he wore just for this purpose. The bright glare from the sun off the crystals could be blinding if one were not careful. He spotted tracks - deer tracks - and the evidence of a recently foraged meal.
These tracks are fairly recent. Hmmmm. Looks like we might just get lucky soon. Trudging on, his mind wandered a bit more.
His thoughts drifted back to that fateful day when he and Katherine had had their last meal together. He had told her about getting the funding and approval to build the Seaview and she had been so happy for him. Then his thoughts drifted to the horrible moment when he found her dead in his home. He remembered how his whole world had come crashing down around him. How nothing seemed to matter to him. Without her in his life, he had no life. The only thing that kept him going was her words to him to build Seaview - so he did, for her, and to show the bastards who had killed her that they weren’t going to slow him down or stop him.
He had decided to bury himself in his work and as the years passed, his fame and recognition was unparalleled in his field. He won a Nobel Prize as well as many other awards for his work; yet none of it really seemed to matter to him. He existed only for the work, or so people thought.
There were long nights when he’d find himself hugging his pillow wishing he had someone with him but knowing he never would again.
Katherine…oh, God, Katherine…I wish you could see what it’s all become. He hadn’t been able to bear to think of going through it again. An innocent life had been lost because of him. I’m so sorry, Katherine…Lord, I hope you know I’m so sorry… So what few liaisons he’d had since then had all been at arm’s length. That is, until Captain Karen Davis and that fateful meeting at the airfield.
Stopping again, he leaned up against a tree trunk to rest just a bit.
Damn…I think I’m getting too old for this shit!
As his rapid breathing slowed, his thoughts turned to Karen. As truly different from Katherine Campbell as night was to day. Unlike Katherine, who deferred most times to his decisions, Karen had shown him she was more than capable of taking care of herself and making her own decisions. As she had pointed out to him earlier, she’d had to. She’d had no choice but to be self-sufficient after her husband’s death. Yet, on the other hand, there were times when he often wondered just how much of this was actually done for his benefit and how much was really her. She had no qualms in standing up to him, doing so on numerous occasions. No…Karen was definitely a product of her times.
Harry continued walking, his snowshoes leaving a trail behind him. He paused and looked back at the faint outline of the cabin in the distance. A small flume of smoke rising from the chimney and a woman waiting there for his return. A woman who was soon to be his wife. A shiver ran down his spine as he realized he’d opened himself up again. He’d let himself slip and now…he was caught once again in the grips of love. Smiling just a bit, the thought of last night crossed his memory.
Got to say one thing. Katherine would have never been that forward. To tell the truth…I don’t think I could have been with her like I am with Karen. Don’t know why. Maybe it’s just that Katherine was more…formal…about certain things. Damn! You know…I can’t even remember if we’d made love before we were to get married. It just wasn’t done then…But Karen…my God! Maybe it’s the fact that she has been married before…I don’t know…I just don’t know. Why does she affect me this way? I feel like a damn schoolboy around her at times.
He loved Karen Davis like none other, and he wasn’t sure why. She was so different from Katherine and yet, in some ways, so similar. She was confident, determined, quick on her feet, and had a mind sharp as a razor. Her wit and humor always seemed to amaze him. She’d always seem to catch him off guard on things. Then again… there was that understanding side of her that seemed to truly comprehend where he was coming from and what he was all about. She accepted his faults right along with his strengths.
Just like Katherine did…yet she questioned…oh God! does she question! She was a challenge to him…and in spite of that…there were times when she’d make him feel like he was the most important person in her life. She was always there to help boost his spirits and ignite his passion and fire in a way that he’d forgotten about. Suddenly, he chuckled… there were also times when he could just strangle her, too.
Yeah, like that time in her lab a couple of years ago. God…I wanted to fire her ass for that! I could’ve fired her for insubordination and she knew it. Even threatened me with her resignation…But she was right. That was the weird thing. And I knew it, too.
Sometimes he felt she was just a little too independent and often wished she was just a little more dependant on him for things…like Katherine had been. That’s the way he was raised…however, he also knew times were a lot different now. There were times when he felt so inadequate around her…almost like he was in the way or not really needed. But there were those times, and he had to admit it was more often than not, when she really did need him and she wasn’t afraid to admit it.
I guess I’ve just got to come to grips with the fact that Karen’s her own person. Times…women…are different now. I’ve got to deal with this if we’re going to spend the rest of our lives together. Well, Karen…looks like it’s going to be an interesting life. A very interesting life…together.
Now, here he was, going to be married to her in a few short months and a feeling of hesitancy, and doubt suddenly flooded him.
Am I doing the right thing here? What the hell does this wonderful woman want with an old man like me anyway? His eyes suddenly started to mist over as he left tracks in the snow. Why? Am I doing this ‘cause I love her or ‘cause I just don’t want to go on being alone?
Was it all just some desperate attempt to have something solid in his life to anchor his sanity to? He knew he was opening himself up again; but then as he stood in the snow, looking up at the azure blue sky, he suddenly realized it didn’t matter. He loved her and somehow, things would work out. They’d be different this time. He’d make damn sure of it.
Suddenly, something moved to his left and he turned to see an eight point buck standing not but a few yards from him. Slowly he raised his rifle and took aim, centering his sights. Taking a deep breath, he slowly exhaled and pulled the trigger. A shot rang out and the deer fell dead on the spot. Lowering the rifle, he then walked over and looked down at it, making sure it was a clean kill. Satisfied, he then sat his rifle and gear down and stood before the downed quarry.
"Well, looks like we’ll have fresh meat for a few days," he said out loud to himself. "Old boy…you’re going to provide a very sexy lady with some good eats."
Taking out his hunting knife, he proceeded to gut, clean, and field dress his prize there on the spot. As he started back to the cabin with his kill, he came across a couple rabbits that he added to his bounty. He gathered up his stash and began the trek back to the cabin, comfortable in the thought that he had managed to provide them with food.
He returned to the cabin just as the sun was beginning to set. Karen met him at the door and took the rabbits from him while he hung the deer outside on the porch. He’d skin it in the morning. He came in and sat his gun in a corner near the door, then removed his hat and gloves, setting them on a small table to the side of the door. He coughed a few times and snuffed as he took off his boots.
Karen looked over at him with a slightly worried expression. He left his boots near the door and went into the kitchen area and poured himself a cup of hot coffee. Sitting down at the table, he took a few sips of the steaming liquid as he tried to warm up. He sneezed a few times and finally removed his coat, letting it fall heavily over the back of his chair.
Karen went up to him and put a hand to his forehead. He backed up slightly and took her hand in his. "I’m fine, just a little cold is all. I’ll be fine as soon as I warm up."
"Jamie said to stay warm and dry. Harry… " she gently started to say but was abruptly cut off by a raised hand.
"Don’t…please," he testily remarked as he took his cup of coffee, stood and refilled it. "I’m not a child, Karen. I can certainly take care of myself." He then walked into the living room where he sat by the fire for warmth.
Momentarily stunned, she then followed him in and sat down beside him. "Harriman, I know you’re not a child. Excuse me for giving a flying rat’s ass about you. Jeez! You can be so damn stubborn and pigheaded sometimes. Ok…go ahead and come down with pneumonia. Then, my dear sir, you’ll be at Jamie’s mercy…and mine. Me, you can deal with…him you can’t," she remarked flatly, then headed back into the bedroom, leaving him to his thoughts. "What is it with you men when it comes to admitting…? Jeez Almighty!"
He sat and stared into the fire as he pondered over her words. She had a point. If he got sick, he’d never hear the end of it from either of them. A thought he didn’t exactly relish. He finally stood and sat his coffee cup down, then went into the bedroom. He found her sitting on the bed, sorting through some colored thread for her needlework.
"Karen…I’m sorry. I guess I just wanted to show you that I could provide for you, However, I guess you’re more than capable of taking care of yourself if needed. Let me know if and when you need my help, ok? Meanwhile, I’ll go skin those rabbits for you," he replied, a hint of sarcasm evident in his tone. He turned and left her sitting on the bed.
Realizing the stinging insinuations of his remarks, she stood and went into the kitchen to find the rabbits gone and he was nowhere in sight. Hearing a noise on the back porch, she looked out the door to see him skinning the rabbits. Turning away, she returned to the kitchen to wait. When he finished, he brought them in and put them in a pot in some water. He then went back out and brought in some more wood for the fire, making sure that it was strong and blazing before heading to the bathroom to get cleaned up. When he came out, Karen met him with a glass of Scotch.
"I guess I can be just as stubborn and pigheaded myself, can’t I? I’m sorry. Look, you just have to understand that part of it is my being a mother. I know you’re not a child and you’ve most definitely looked after yourself for all these years. Things like this…like worrying about if you’re ok or not…I guess you could lay it to maternal instinct and to the fact that I care, ok? Truce?" she remarked softly as she offered him the drink. "Please?"
He absentmindedly shoved his hands in his pockets and narrowed his eyes just a bit. "I can’t figure you sometimes. I start to think I have you figured out and then you throw me for a loop. I don’t know what to do or say around you." Then looking her straight in the eye, he pointedly remarked, "At least with Katherine, I knew where I stood…and she knew where I was coming from, too." He then brushed past her and walked on into the living room. Retrieving one of his books, he sat down heavily and opened it.
Karen was flabbergasted at his attitude. She stood there holding his glass and simply glared at him.
What the hell?! That damned male ego. Oh, give me a friggin’ break, Harry. I thought you were better than this.
Suddenly, she simply threw the glass and its’ contents into the fire, then turned and disappeared into the bedroom, slamming the door behind her. Karen slowly sat down on the bed and gazed out the window. Silently, first one tear…then another fell from her eyes.
Of all the pigheaded, stubborn, idiotic… What the hell is wrong with him? Doesn’t he understand? Didn’t he listen to a word I said yesterday or this morning? Why is he so damned chauvinistic all of a sudden?
Finally, after almost twenty minutes, Harry closed his book. He’d been reading but not really digesting anything he’d read. Looking toward the closed bedroom door, he shook his head in wonder. What was it with her? Why couldn’t she just understand that all he want to do was show her... Standing, he strolled into the hallway and stood in the open doorway to the bedroom, gazing over at her in the dim light.
"You okay?" he inquired quietly, his voice laced with concern.
She sat with her back to him, the tears and anger evident in her voice. "Just leave me the hell alone!"
Harry stood in the door in silence for a few moments, then finally turned and left, leaving her to her thoughts and feelings. Taking his coat off the rack, he walked out onto the porch and sat down, staring at the open expanse of the scenery. Her words had cut through him like a laser and he suddenly felt a deep ache in the pit of his stomach. Why, he wasn’t exactly sure, until he finally realized that this was the first real ‘fight’ they’d truly had. He huddled in his coat staring up at a full moon. The stars were out and the moon’s glow cast a soft silver light over the area. The air was cool and crisp; expect for an occasional howling of the wind, it was almost frighteningly silent. His head fell slightly, his eyes simply glared at some unseen object. Fighting back the churning feelings inside, he made up his mind.
This whole damn thing was a mistake. We’re going home. Everything has to be her way. Why won’t she let me…? This isn’t the same as when we went up to the Inn. Then…she had to confront her fears. She had to get over them. But this… This is different. This is us! What’s between us. Dammit, Karen, why won’t you see that?
Time passed slowly, and between the quietness and his exhaustion over the whole situation, he dozed off on the porch as he sat against one of the support beams. Inside, Karen finally emerged from the bedroom after she’d calmed down and realized how silent the cabin was, save for the crackling of the fire. Drying her eyes, she slowly walked into the living room expecting to find him reading in the chair. He wasn’t there and he wasn’t anywhere inside to be found. She walked into the kitchen to find his boots, hat, gloves and coat were gone.
Panic ran through her.
Oh God, surely he hasn’t gone out in this cold.
Heading to the door, she opened it and walked out on the porch. Looking over to the side, she spied him huddled in a corner of the porch, leaning against the cabin. Walking softly in the cold night air, she knelt beside him and cradled him in her arms. Slowly he opened his eyes to see her. It was then she noticed the pain and sadness in his eyes that mirrored her own. Remembering her words to him, she softly said, "I’m so sorry. Please…forgive me. It’s just…" A tear began to slowly roll down her face.
He put an arm around her and pulled her close to him and held her tight to himself. "You shouldn’t be out here without a coat on. You’ll be the one to catch pneumonia. No, Karen, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said what I did," he whispered through a slight wheeze. "You were simply being concerned. I had no right…"
"Let’s get you inside. God, where’s your head? You’re freezing," she gently admonished him.
Smiling just a bit, he replied, "Well, at least I’ve got a coat on. Come on, you’re going to be the one freezing. You know better than to come out in this kind of temperature without something on." He stood and put his arm around her, in an effort to warm her as they walked back inside the cabin.
While he undressed, she poured them both some coffee and they sat down at the table. She could tell her words had hurt him deeply but she didn’t understand why. All she wanted to do was help. Maybe they were too much alike, she reasoned. Unyielding, unbending; unable to let the other help.
As Nelson sipped his coffee, he replied in a low voice, "I’m going to call the Institute in the morning and have them fly in and take you home. I’ll close up the place and drive back with your Jeep. This was a bad idea from the start. I’m sorry I put you through all this."
She just looked at him, not believing what she’d heard. She’d never known him to ever throw in the towel this quick over anything. Remembering how he’d kept after her at the Inn, she immediately knew something was wrong. Straightening up, she drew in a deep breath and shook her head. "No."
He looked up at her, not believing what he’d heard. Was it possible? "What?"
"I said…no. I’m not going anywhere and neither are you. We’re going to make this work, Harriman. We have to make this work. We’ve gone too far in this relationship to chuck it all over something like this. We’re both two very stubborn and committed people…but I need you, Harriman. Maybe it isn’t exactly evident to you…but I do. Maybe I am independent…so what? I can’t be any other way. When I couldn’t find you a little while ago, I thought…you’d left…that I’d lost you. That’s something I couldn’t bear. Not now…not this way. I love you too much." Tears filled her eyes as she struggled for the words.
"Karen, you’re a strong, independent woman. I guess I’m from a time when a woman relied on the man for guidance and support. You don’t seem to need either one from me. You keep reminding me over and over how ‘you’ve been there’ and ‘done that’. How you’ve had to do it all. Well, I can’t seem to make you understand that you don’t have to do it all by yourself anymore, but you don’t seem to want to let go of that independence. You told me yourself that you wished you hadn’t had to do it all. Well…you don’t anymore. I just wish I could make you see that."
Harriman hesitated a bit, then continued, "I don’t know where I fit in ‘your’ world, Karen. We’re from two different times. Katherine was a strong, opinionated woman, too, but she knew when and where to be it. I felt useful and needed with her. I just don’t know where I stand with you, and before you say it…I know you’re not Katherine and never will be. Furthermore, I don’t expect you to be. You’re from a different time. Funny thing is…I have no problem with this on a professional basis. But this isn’t the same. I just don’t know what to do or say anymore. All I know is…I love you so much and want you in my life…but there’s a barrier between us. A barrier I can’t seem to breech. Tonight just re-enforced it. I figured that you don’t really need me. I’ve tried, but somehow…I just can’t get used to the modern relationship. I’ll see that you get home and then…well, we’ll see."
He stood and headed toward the living room but Karen took hold of his arm and stopped him. In a voice that he’d never heard before, she spoke with undeniable pain. "Then help me adjust. I don’t want to lose you. God, I don’t want to lose you. You’ve made me feel love again, Harry. You’ve opened up my heart and tore down the barrier I had up around me. When Robert was killed, I threw up a wall around myself and wouldn’t let anyone really in for fear of going through that pain all over again. Then you came along and shattered that barrier and made me love you. I told you this morning that I’ve had to do and be it all because there simply was no other way. If I was going to work and provide for myself and Caitlin, I had to learn to make the major decisions and do everything." She gazed into his blue eyes, searching for some sign of his understanding. "Robert and I were always a team, Harriman…we depended on each other. For guidance…for support…for most everything between us. I leaned on him a lot, just as he leaned on me…but at the same time, I didn’t run to him for every decision. There were a lot of times when he couldn’t or didn’t have the right to make decisions for me nor I for him. But when something concerned us, or the family as a whole…then it was a mutual decision. That’s what I expect with you. Don’t you understand?"
She took him in her arms and held onto him for dear life. Suddenly, it started to become clearer to him; he realized he felt the same way about her. His arms encircled her and held her very close, burying his face in her hair. He whispered into her ear, "I feel the same way. After I lost Katherine, I threw up a wall around me and I wouldn’t let anyone get close to me. Then I met you and I let my defenses drop and let you into my heart. I don’t want to lose you, either."
For what seemed an eternity, they simply stood there, in the middle of the floor, holding one another in silence. As the embrace was broken, he lightly kissed her. Smiling slightly, he quietly said, "I’m tired."
"So am I. Arguments tend to do that, you know." She took hold of his hand and entwined her fingers in his. "Make me a promise. Please?"
"That no matter what…we’ll never go to bed angry," Karen chuckled just a bit as a weak smile formed. "It takes too much energy out of you…and you don’t sleep worth crap that night either."
Harry slightly cocked this head and raised an eyebrow. "Hmmmm, I’ll have to remember that…particularly if you continue the practice of hogging the bed."
This time it was she who raised an eyebrow as she returned fire. "Excuse me….me hog the bed? I don’t think so."
He put his arm around her shoulder and led her toward the bedroom doorway. Stopping briefly, he tilted her face upward and barely kissed her. "Oh, but you do. I do believe I came up to bed one evening and found you lying diagonally across it. If I hadn’t moved you over, I’d have never been able to have gotten in."
Suddenly Karen broke into a loud laughter as her arms went around his neck, her body molding itself to his. "Hate to tell you this, Harry…but that seems to be a common complaint where I’m concerned. Robert used to say the same exact thing. He’d finally give up and sleep on the couch or in the extra bedroom."
"Well, that’s one definite difference between us. I have no qualms about waking you up to get you to move over."
"Hmmm, I’ll have to remember that, Admiral. Now…" she remarked as she pulled him tighter to her. "Right now all I want to do is go to sleep. In your arms."
"Consider it done."
He awoke the next morning to the sun shining brightly into the bedroom. Karen’s arm was draped across his chest and she was snuggled tightly against his bare back. He could hardly hear her slow, even breathing, evidence of her deep, peaceful sleep. As he had promised her, she had gone to sleep in his arms. Amazingly enough, they had simply gone to bed and talked…about work, about family…and about needing each other. At some point during the night, he had awakened, his arms still surrounding her as she slept. Watching her - listening to her quiet breathing - he remembered the night he’d held her after her nightmares. She was no longer haunted by them, of that he was certain; and seeing her now, so tranquil and so still -so secure that she felt comfortable enough to sleep blissfully next to him.
Careful not to disturb her, he quietly got up, pulled on a pair of sweat pants, then headed out into the living room to stir up the fire and get it going again. Looking around the great room of the cabin, his eyes fell upon her needlework lying on the sofa and a book that she’d obviously been reading. Out of curiosity, he picked it up and started to glance through it. He was astounded to find that it was poetry. Not the classical kind - but more on the contemporary. Leafing through the many passages, he came upon one that she’d book marked. It was the title that immediately grabbed his attention. Sitting down in the chair next to the fire, he started to read…
How Much You Mean to Me?
Sometimes I wake up
in the middle of the night
shivering from fright
because I think about
how it would be
if you weren't here
And then I wonder
if you really know
how very much
you mean to me
I think you are
how you are
a part of all my emotions
how you are
the deepest meaning in my life
Please always know
that I love you
more than anything else
in the world
-Poem by Susan Polis Schutz
He put the book down on his lap and stared directly into the fire. He’d told her last night that he felt she didn’t need him, that she could do it all. Then they talked; and she told him that she didn’t want to have to do it all, but that he couldn’t make decisions for her, either. There were just some things he was going to have to accept about her. And the fact that she was undoubtedly her own person was the primary one. Secretly, he’d always known this. It was just that sometimes they clashed when he tried to invade that area of her ‘person’. He’d told Jiggs Starke that her independence was one of the things that had attracted him to her. Looking back down at the poem he’d just read, things she’d said to him started to take shape in his mind and finally make some sense. Just maybe the need she felt was more within her heart than her mind. She’d tried to tell him that their relationship had to be equal consideration and trust. Consideration to let each other be the type of person they were and trust in each other to be there no matter what happened.
He got up from the chair and walked to the doorway of the bedroom, looking in at her as she still slept. The words of the poem echoed deeply within his thoughts. It was applicable to her as much as it was to him. Clutching the book, he returned to the fireplace and, after placing another couple of logs on the flames, he sat back down to read. As he neared the end of the slender book, the next to the last one caught his eye. Slowly reading through it, it dawned on him that it summed up everything that the both of them had been trying to say to each other in a way that perhaps neither of them could ever express so elegantly.
You know…maybe an old dog can be taught new tricks. I guess I half expected her to be like Katherine. But she can’t be…not ever. Katherine’s gone and Karen’s… here. Slowly shaking his head, he now realized deep in his heart the course his life would take.
He decided to let her sleep, so he headed into the kitchen to fix breakfast for the two of them. It wasn’t the wonderful aroma of the sausage that woke her, but rather it was the clanging of the pots and pans that brought her into consciousness. As she sleepily propelled herself from under the thick covers, her senses immediately sprung awake when her bare feet hit the cold wooden floor. Heading into the bathroom, she turned on the water faucet and threw some cold water on her face. A few moments later, she emerged, grabbed on a pair of thick socks, and headed into the living room.
"What smells so good?" she asked through a stifled yawn.
"Breakfast. Glad you finally decided to join me. How do you want your eggs?"
"Scrambled, please," she said and accepted the cup of coffee that he handed her. "How long have you been up?"
"A little while…I had to throw some more logs on the fire to get the place warmed up. I’m going to go do some fishing this morning…so be prepared to have fish for dinner tonight."
"A bit optimistic, eh?"
"I haven’t failed us yet, now have I?" was the remark as he poured the egg mixture into the frying pan.
"No, I have to say…" she kissed him on the cheek and poured a little more coffee into her cup. "…that you haven’t. You do this ‘hunting and foraging’ bit really well, you know that? Remind me to place my order for a venison roast for our Christmas Eve dinner this year."
He grinned and replied, "The request is duly noted, m’lady."
Karen kept watching him as he fixed both of them breakfast. There was something decidedly different in his attitude this morning, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. It was almost as if the tension between them had totally disappeared into thin air. His movements, his body language…and he was even humming to himself as he worked.
Their meal went smoothly and she cleaned up as he unpacked his fishing gear. Then, after kissing her goodbye, he set out for the nearby lake. As the time drew on towards afternoon, she felt the cabin getting a little cool. She looked into the living area and noticed the fire was getting low and they were almost out of wood. Figuring it wasn’t far to the woodpile, she donned her coat and boots and headed out to gather up some more wood. She began removing the logs from the top when the pile shifted and they came rolling down on her.
Harry was in sight of the cabin and was packing a pretty good stringer of trout and bass in tow when he saw the scene unfold, almost as if in slow motion. He stopped cold when he heard her cry out, dropped his gear and catch on the spot, and ran as fast as he could to her.
Arriving on the scene, he found her half buried under the logs and cussing up a storm. Quickly he removed his snowshoes and was at her side in seconds. "All right, calm down. Take it easy. I’m right here. Don’t move. Let me get these logs off you. Don’t move. Just lay still. It’s going to be okay." He was trying to calm her down as he started removing the logs from off her. As he got down to the last few, he could tell she was in a lot of pain from the look on her face. He grabbed the last logs that lay on her left foot and ankle and lifted it. She sharply gasped in air as she tried to muffle the cry. Within moments, he had her out and then knelt down to look at her leg. From her reactions, he knew it was hurt very bad. Carefully, he managed to get her to stand up and then picked her up in his arms and carried her inside. Once there, he sat her down into the chair by the fire. Quickly, he turned around and closed the door, then returned to her side. Throwing off his hat and gloves, he knelt down and gently started to remove her boot.
"Ouch!" she yelled, her face contorted in a mask of agony. "Oh, God! What the hell did I do?"
"Looks like you broke either your ankle or your foot. Karen...I've got to get your boot off so I can see which one and how bad it is. Hang on while I ease it off," he told her as he helped her off with her coat and tried to get her a bit more comfortable. Knowing that what he had to do next would not be easy, he tried to make it as painless as possible for her. "I'm going to slowly ease your boot off. You’ve got to help me…can you bend your foot just a bit? It’s going to hurt but there’s no other way."
Karen nodded a little and then drew in a sharp breath as she slowly moved her foot down so he could get the boot off. Excruciating pain shot through her leg as he gently pulled the boot off. Her foot and ankle had started to swell, making it even harder. By the time he finally got it off, he looked up and saw she was in tears, yet she had never cried out. Reaching up, he put his hand to her cheek and tenderly said, "I'm sorry...but it had to come off."
"I know...it just...hurts like hell. DAMN! I can't believe I did this. God! I feel like such a klutz at times," she softly replied, the tears slowly flowing down her cheek.
"Shhhh, we'll see how bad it is," he tried to reassure her, yet fearing the worse.
He removed her sock and rolled her pants leg up. One look and he knew. Damn! Broken!
Looking up at her, he grimly delivered the news, "Your ankle’s definitely broken. I'm going to have to splint it someway and then you're going to have to stay off of it as much as possible. What in the hell were you trying to do anyway?" His tone was as much annoyance as it was worry.
She shifted her weight in the chair uneasily, trying to keep her leg immobile to ease the pain. Looking into his eyes, she saw the obvious concern...but there was also something else she couldn't put her finger on. "We were getting low on wood...and I wanted some fresh air. So I went out to get some. There must have been a loose log that I didn't see. Next thing I knew, I was on the ground. Ouch!!!"
"I could have brought it in, you didn't need to do that," he gently admonished her.
"Harry, you were out fishing. I wanted some fresh air, for crying out loud. I'm not helpless here," was her anguished reply.
Looking up into her pain filled eyes, he remarked, "Well, I hate to say this, but you are now."
His words slammed into her like a sledgehammer, though he may not have meant them the way they sounded. Karen became strangely quiet even with all the pain as Nelson looked for some boards and things to use as a splint on her foot. He returned first with a bottle of Scotch and a glass with some ice in it. He then set the boards on the floor with the strips of cloth he’d gotten by tearing up a pillowcase.
"Now I wish we’d brought the FS-1. We’ve got a med kit onboard with morphine in it. I’m afraid this is all we have here to deaden the pain and I don’t think it’s going to help much. Dammit, Karen! I wish you would’ve waited for me. Here, drink this," he told her as he poured the glass full of the golden liquid. Sitting the bottle down on the table, he then announced, "I can’t begin to do the split until you’ve downed enough to deaden the pain so I’m going to get the fish and my gear. Don’t even think about trying to move, Captain, and that is a direct order!" He turned and grabbed his coat. As he approached the door, he glanced back to make sure she was complying with his order, then left to retrieve the articles he’d left outside. By the time he returned, she had put away almost half the bottle. Sizing up the situation, he knew they needed more than just his First-Aid training, so he headed right for the radio and called the Seaview.
"Nelson to Seaview. Nelson to Seaview. We’ve got a medical emergency. Over."
Aboard Seaview, Sparks shot a hard stare into the Control Room that got Lee Crane’s full attention. He headed for the radio shack immediately. "Standby, Admiral. Here’s the Captain." He replied as he handed the mic to Crane, then added, "He’s claiming to have a medical emergency, sir."
Lee took the mic and looked at Sparks, "Then get Doc up here ASAP!"
"Aye sir," and called Sick Bay with the order.
Keying the mic Lee replied, "Admiral, this is Crane. What’s the emergency? Over. . ."
"He’s on his way, Skipper," Sparks reported in a low voice.
Back at the cabin, Harry keyed his mic and reported, "Karen’s broken her ankle. It looks pretty bad. I can splint it but she’s going to need further attention. Can you fly Jamison out here ASAP? Over?"
Jamison had been on his way up to the Control Room when the call came in for him He entered the Radio Shack and heard the report. He motioned to Lee he wanted the mic. Lee handed it to him. "Admiral, this is Doc. What happened? How bad is it? Over."
"She went out to get some wood for the fireplace and the pile fell on her. It looks bad. It’s discolored and swelling. All I have here is a bottle of Glen Livet and she’s gone through half of it already. Over."
"Half?!…Ok, I’m on my way. Go ahead and put a soft splint on it and elevate. A towel, blanket or pillow will do fine. Keep her warm, not overheated, but comfortable. I’ll bring a stretcher in case we have to fly her out. Over."
"Soft splint and elevate. Keep her warm, not overheated. Acknowledged. Over and out." He went back in and looked at her as she held the glass in her hand. "I called the sub. Jamison’s flying out in the FS-1. He’ll be here shortly. He told me to put a soft splint on it and elevate it. How you doing?"
"Fine, juz fine," she replied, feeling a little woozy. "Ya know...dis stuff’s not half bad. A good Bordeaux or some White Zinfandel woulda been better...but hey...wha da ah know?"
Harry eased her back on the couch and put a couple of pillows under her head, then began to splint her leg. When he had finished, he put some more pillows under it to elevate it and placed a cover over her to help keep her warm. His biggest concern was shock setting in from the pain and her wanting to move. She was already starting to show the first signs of it. However, the alcohol had begun to have its effect; she soon dozed off. After making sure she was as comfortable as he could possibly make her, he sat next to her and waited for the FS-1 to arrive.
He looked at her sleeping beside him and he gently brushed a lock of hair from her face. He bent down slightly and gently kissed her forehead. "God, I wish you would’ve waited for me. This is all my fault. I should’ve seen we needed more wood and took care of it before I left. I’m sorry, Karen," he whispered.
After about 15 or 20 minutes, he got up to put some wood into the fire. As he bent down to retrieve a log, Karen woke slightly and looked over at him with blurred eyes. Shifting her weight slightly, she suddenly smiled quite wickedly. The Scotch had had the desired effect on her. She was most definitely drunk, but she could be most appreciative of certain other things. Watching him as he bent over to grasp another log and then place it in the roaring fire, she found her voice.
"Ya know...Ah always thought ya had a nice ass, Admiral. Now...ah’m sure of it."
Startled, Nelson suddenly straightened up and slowly turned around to face her, warmth rising in his cheeks. He wasn’t quite sure he had correctly heard the comment that she’d just made.
"Excuse me? What...did you...just say?" he asked slowly, somewhat stunned.
"Ah said," she reiterated in a halting but slightly slurred speech, "...ah said...ah always thought...no, strike that...ah think you have a nice ass...sir." The grin on her face was one of a drunken leer. "And come ta think of it, Admiral Nelson...suh...the front ain’t too bad, either."
Harriman Nelson stared down at the inebriated woman.
Amazing. She’d never have said that if she’d been sober. Karen was a lot less inhibited than he was used to in sexual matters...but this most assuredly would have never come out of her mouth if she’d been sober. He started to feel a slight warmth rise in his cheeks.
"Why, Harriman...Ah never thought ah’d ever see someone get as red as their hair. Is it something ah said?" she exclaimed, her southern drawl making itself known.
Slowly crossing back over to the couch where she lay, he stood before her...closely watching her for signs of shock. The Scotch had done its duty in that she couldn’t feel the pain of her foot.... yet it had also just brought about some interesting comments from her.
"Karen.....try and rest. You need to rest. You’re…you’re a little drunk…"
"No shit! Ya got me drunk! Just what are yur intentions, suh?"
Calmly he knelt down beside her and felt her forehead for any sign of possible fever or clamminess. "I intend to see that you rest. Jamie’s on the way up here to..."
She reached out and took hold of his shirt, interrupting his sentence. "Hmmmm, Ah wonder...do ya blush all the way down, Admiral?" Karen was beginning to unbutton it and, in fact, had two undone when he stopped her. "I want to find out."
"Karen! Please, as much as I’d love to make love to you right here and now, I can’t. More so… you can’t. I don’t want to hurt you any more then I already have. So please, stop it. You’re drunk!"
"Dammit! Ah know ah’m drunk!!!! But that doesn’t mean ah can’t appreciate what’s in front of me. Ya know...ya’re a damn sexy man...dressed or undressed." She reached up and grabbed him by the collar, bringing him into a full blown, passionate kiss, searching his mouth with her own, her tongue capturing his as he tasted the smooth Scotch she’d drunk. Her fingers fumbled for the buttons on his shirt and was undoing them further when he abruptly pulled out of the embrace. Looking up into his blue eyes, she grinned slyly and said, "And ah much prefer the undressed version at this point."
"Captain Davis...stop this now! You could injure yourself further and you’re in enough pain as it is, thanks to me."
"Pain? Ah’m not in pain...Pain's giving birth, Admiral Nelson. Now childbirth...that’s pain. Ever experience that? No...Ah guess you wouldn’t. You’re a man after all!" She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him back into an embrace. "And what a man you are, Harriman Nelson. A damn sexy one at that!" Her speech was now softer, yet still slurred. "And you know what? You’re even sexier undressed! You don’t know how many times I wanted to make love to you in your cabin...."
Her movements were beginning to have an undesired effect on him. "Karen," he whispered, "I don’t...I won’t take advantage of a drunk woman."
"Who said anything about takin' advantage? Ah’m a perfectly willing subject here. Ah just happen to think ya’re very sexy, that’s all."
With that, Harry wrapped his arms around her. He claimed her mouth in a deep and passionate kiss as his hands began to explore her body slowly and gently. As he kissed her, he was hoping beyond hope that it would help calm her down. Apparently, it did just that. Her response was slower, but he felt her body relaxing itself as the moments went on. When he pulled away slightly, she looked up into his eyes.
"I’m sorry if I’ve made a mess of things here...I’m just so...so...sleepy..." Her arms loosened from around his neck as she slowly drifted off to sleep.
Covering her up with the blanket, he gazed down at the woman who would be his bride in a few months. He’d never seen her like this. Normally, she was reserved in a lot of aspects but the physical aspects of their relationship wasn’t one of them. In some ways, her openness had made him uncomfortable at times; he simply had always attributed it to the differences in ages and the fact that she’d been married before. Yet, here and now, her guard was down and her inhibitions were gone. And she was openly telling him that she had found him ‘sexy’ and wanted to make love to him in his cabin. Sitting back on the couch, he wrapped his arms around the sleeping woman.
Damn! I know she’s drunk but...why is it that she knows how to get to me...even in the state she’s in?
Stroking her hair, he leaned over and softly kissed her forehead. The act caused her to stir just a bit and her eyes slowly opened.
"Harry?" she softly whispered.
"I’m right here, Karen," he replied, still holding her in his arms.
"Ah love you." she muttered and then fell back asleep. Somehow, almost instinctively, she nestled herself into the crook of his arm and kissed it in her sleep.
Watching her made him realize that he’d been given a second chance...another chance for some happiness...regardless of the fears he held. "I love you, too, Karen," he whispered as he sat there holding her in his arms. His thoughts then began to wander over the events of this whole trip until he heard the ever familiar whine of the engines of the FS-1.
Lee Crane had immediately ordered the FS-1 readied for departure as soon as he’d gotten off the radio with Nelson. As he grabbed his leather flight jacket from one of crewmen, Jamison came through the hatchway with his medical bag and quickly accepted his own jacket from the same crewman. As the two men headed for the hatchway in the Observation Nose, Kowalski approached the Seaview’s captain.
"Skipper, if Captain Davis is as bad as the Admiral says, you’ll need someone to help carry her out of there. Permission to come with you."
Lee hesitated. He knew why the senior rating wanted to come along. He was one of the DWD team leaders and had formed a close working relationship with Karen. However, Crane also knew that between Jamison, Nelson, and himself, there were enough to handle the stretcher and anything else that needed to be done.
"Ski…I know she’d appreciate it, but there’s no need. If what the Admiral says is true, she’s going to be out of it anyway. Besides, I think that the three of us can handle her. By the time Seaview gets back to the Institute, we’ll have her in the MedBay. You can come visit her then. Now…we’ve got to get outta here and get to her." The tall, lanky captain started down the ladder into the FS-1. "Secure the hatch."
"Aye, sir." Kowalski replied, moving to make sure the hatch into the internal berth was watertight as soon as he knew that Crane was completely down the stairs. Sighing to himself, he made a mental note to make sure that he checked in with the Captain as soon as the boat docked.
Crane spotted the lake and the cabin as he nosed the yellow craft down for a water landing. Jamison sat beside him and as the craft pulled up alongside the pier he undid his harness and stood getting his things out of the locker where he’s stowed them for flight. After Lee opened the side hatch, he then secured the craft to the pier.
Will Jamison was in the process of undoing the tie-down straps on the portable stretcher. "We might as well take the stretcher. I don’t know what condition she’s in. But if she’s had as much to drink as what the Admiral’s said, she won’t be in any condition to walk out under her own power. Can you give me a hand with it, Skipper?"
"Sure, hold on." Lee replied. Between the two men, they carried the gurney and the medical kit up the path to the cabin. When they reached the front door, Lee knocked a couple of times to let Nelson know they were there. Within seconds, Harriman Nelson opened the door, obvious relief written across his face.
"Where is she, Admiral?" Jamison inquired as he started to sit his bag down on the table. However, before he could, Nelson motioned to the couch where Karen lay still asleep. He immediately started his evaluation of his patient, even as she slept. Glancing over at Nelson, he noted the look of concern. "You ok?"
Harry stiffened. "I’m fine. Just take care of her…ok?"
Jamison hesitated a moment then ran his preliminary check and moved to her foot. He lifted the blanket off and carefully removed the soft splint Harry had put on, noting the discoloration. "Good job on the splint, Admiral. Makes my job a bit easier. However, I’m still going to have to x-ray it to know exactly how bad it really is. But just looking at it, I’m figuring it’s definitely the ankle. Good thing she’s out…I’ve got to move it a bit to check for further damage." He looked back down at her foot, gently lifting it off the pillow. As soon as he tried to move it, the pain woke her. Karen groggily tried to sit up but Jamison was on her instantly, gently laying her back down.
"Easy, Karen…just take it easy, okay? It’s Jamison. I need to take a look at your foot. Can you understand me?" He was trying to make her comprehend what he was doing. "Captain Davis…I’m going to have to move your foot, okay? It’s going to hurt a bit."
She just nodded as he motioned for Harry and Lee to join him. "You two better be ready to hold her down. This is going to hurt," he replied.
The two men took hold of her, one on each side, and held her gently down as Jamison slightly moved her foot. Karen yelled in pain as she grasped Harry’s hand. After examining her ankle and foot, Jamie then looked at her and the two men. "Karen, I’m going to have to set it. I want you to bite down on this, okay?" he told her and handed her a towel to place in her mouth. "It’ll help. I don’t dare give you anything with all that alcohol in you, so this is going to hurt but it’ll feel a lot better afterwards." He then glanced up at the two men above her. "Ok. Hold her tight," he ordered as he took hold of her foot firmly and then quickly maneuvered it back into place.
Karen screamed slightly from the pain and then passed out. Harry just closed his eyes as he held her. When she lost consciousness, he took her in his arms and held her close and tight. Jamison looked at him, realizing this had hurt him probably more than it had her. He then took out an air-splint and applied it to her foot and ankle to immobilize it.
"Ok, let’s get her on this stretcher and aboard. I need to get some x-rays to see just how bad it really is. Admiral…you going to be all right?" Jamison asked Harry as he noticed his reaction to Karen’s pain.
"Let’s get her aboard before she comes to," Nelson gruffly ordered, ignoring the doctor’s question.
They placed her on the stretcher and got her aboard in short order. She was then secured in the bunk for the flight to the Institute. Harry stayed beside her the entire way back, holding her hand the whole time. "This is all my fault, Karen…all my fault." he replied softly. Jamison had heard him but didn’t say anything to him.
They landed at the Institute late that evening and Karen was placed in an ambulance and driven to the medical facility on the grounds. There, Jamison x-rayed her leg and had her placed in a private room.
He walked in to find his newest patient sound asleep, still knocked out from the excessive alcohol that was slowly working its way out of her system. Harry was sitting in a chair, next to the bed, holding her hand. Her foot and ankle were now set in a cast and slightly elevated.
Looking over her chart, he faced Nelson and said, "She’ll be alright, Admiral. Once the alcohol dissipates, I’ll be able to prescribe some pain medication. How much booze did she drink? Initial test results show a blood alcohol content of .35. A BAC that high means she much have downed quite a bit."
Harriman weakly smiled and replied, "Nearly half a fifth of scotch. I just wish I’d had that med kit from the FS-1…at least I could have given her some of the morphine."
Jamison frowned and then replied, "Damn good thing you didn’t, Admiral. She’s allergic to morphine. Good intentions or not…it could have had disastrous results."
Harriman suddenly looked horrified. "Allergic? I didn’t know…"
"No reason for you to. However, as her doctor, I did. That’s why I’ve never given it to her. Harry…look…does she know you’re allergic to cortisone? Maybe it’s about time that the two of you start exchanging some of this very relevant information. After all…you’re going to be married in a few months."
Nelson softly stroked her hair with the back of his hand. Looking up at his Chief Medical Officer, he inquired, "Is she going to be okay?"
"Her? Yeah…I seriously doubt that a cast on her foot and crutches are going to slow her down much. It’ll keep her from diving for about six to eight weeks…but she’ll be okay. She’s going to have one helluva hangover though when she wakes up and she’ll be extremely uncomfortable…but I can’t give her any kind of pain killers right now….At least, not until all that alcohol works out of her system."
"What can you give her…if she wakes up before…?"
"Best I can do right now would be some extra strength acetaminophen. That’s about it. Anything else is gonna react with the alcohol. I’ll give her something in the morning, if she needs or wants it."
"How long are you going to keep her here?"
"Well, let’s let her sleep it off… In the morning, we’ll fit her with a pair of crutches and then kick her outta here. Then, my friend…she’ll be your problem," Jamison remarked as he observed Nelson’s protective yet concerned demeanor toward the unconscious woman. "Have you called Caitlin yet?"
"Huh? Oh…no…not yet. Karen said something about her being involved in some big computer research project. They talked right before we left last week. Karen had wanted her to know where we’d be if anything…" Harry suddenly looked up at Jamie. "This is all my fault, Jamie. I should have seen that we needed wood…I should have been there…"
Jamison gazed at his old friend and recognized the signs of an unnecessary guilty conscience over an incident that happened years before. An incident that he couldn’t have prevented then any more than he could have prevented this one now. Pulling up a chair and sitting down beside him, he decided that his employer was feeling responsibility for something that was clearly not his fault.
"Admiral…there’s no reason to feel guilty about this, for God’s sake. Karen Davis is an independent, capable woman who’s quite able to take care of herself…and get hurt herself. She could have broken her ankle walking down a street if she tripped or turned it wrong," he told him. "Look…you can’t always be there. You’re only human…and sometimes…things just happen…for whatever reason. Besides, knowing Karen…she’s going to be more pissed off at herself than she ever will be at you."
Nelson simply nodded, gently holding Karen’s hand. He didn’t even acknowledge Jamison’s rising to leave. As he opened the door, he turned back and looked at the scene, gently shaking his head. He remembered when Nelson had sat beside this woman after her surgery. He had watched as his boss kept silent vigil during the period of her unconsciousness. Jamison knew how much Harry cared for this woman - the one person who had been able to penetrate that solitary armor.
"Why don’t you go shower and change, eat something and get some sleep? You’re not doing anybody any good staying here."
"No…I want to be here when she wakes up," Nelson quietly told him.
"Ok…have it your way…but I’m telling you…she’s going to be woozy, have dry mouth, and have one hellacious hangover," Jamie told him and then left.
Harry sat back in the chair and closed his eyes. His mind wandered back to nearly two years ago when he sat with her in Sickbay aboard the Seaview. He had finally come to realize how much he really cared for her when, suddenly, it was almost completely taken away from him. Granted, this wasn’t nearly as bad…but just the same…here he was sitting next to her again, hoping she’d be all right. Before long. he dozed off to sleep in the chair, his hand still clutching hers.
Several hours later, Karen moved slightly, trying to shift positions. There was a throbbing pain in her leg…
Damn! It hurts to move… Why is my mouth so dry? I need some water… Got to have some water!
Slowly opening her eyes, she tried to focus on the objects around her.
Oh, God! My head hurts! Oh, boy…Jeez…it feels like someone ran over it, then stomped on it.
Looking around her to see if she could figure out where she was, her eyes finally settled on a male form sleeping in a chair next to her. She felt his hand surrounding hers and gently tried to slip her hand out from under his, but the movement woke him.
"Karen? You need anything?" he asked. "Are you in pain?" His voice reflected his fatigue and worry.
Suddenly realizing she was in a bed with a cast on her leg, she grimaced a bit as she tried to move. "I’m…fine, but…where am I?"
"You’re in MedBay at the Institute. They’ve set your foot and you’ve got a cast on it. Jamison said he wants you off it for a while. Karen…" he began and then broke off as if in deep thought before he continued. "…this is all my fault. I should’ve seen we needed more wood and taken care of it before I left…I’m sorry." His eyes were bloodshot and tired; his voice, strained.
"Your fault? How is this…your fault?" Karen asked, puzzled at his attitude. Then, looking over at the table and spying the water pitcher, she told him, "I need some water. My mouth feels like it’s filled with cotton."
He turned around and poured her a glass of water, then handed it to her. Watching as she drank the entire cup, he gently admonished, "Don’t drink it too fast. You’re dried out from the alcohol."
She lay back against the pillows and then looked over at him. This show of guilt was totally unnecessary. Why was he doing this? Why was he trying to take the blame? "Harriman, this is not your fault. I didn’t see that loose log. I’ve carried in firewood from woodpiles before. Many, many times. Your fault? No, this was an accident. A stupid accident. I’m just sorry it had to happen now. By the way, what in God’s name did you give me to drink? I swear I think I’ve got a hangover."
Nelson chuckled weakly. "Scotch. You finished off nearly half of a bottle of my best Scotch."
"Jeez!! No wonder I feel like crap. I haven’t felt like this since college."
"Well, Jamie said he couldn’t give you any type of pain killers until you sobered up. Remind me not to let you over indulge at our wedding reception."
"You can bet on it. Just make sure you count the champagne glasses, ok?" She tried to rearrange her pillows to allow herself to sit up. "So, how long do I have to stay here?"
"Until morning. Jamie said they’ll fit you with a pair of crutches and then turn you loose. After that, it’s home and some rest. He wants you to stay off the ankle for a few days. Besides, I need to fly up to the cabin and bring the Jeep back. Not that you’ll be driving anytime soon…but I also need to close up the cabin, too."
Hesitating just a bit, she then smiled, "Why?"
"Well, I figured with you in a cast and on crutches, the vacation’s over…"
"Why?" she further asked. "Harriman, I’ve got a broken ankle. If we went skiing, would you have brought me home from that? I don’t think so. We would’ve spent time at a ski lodge, in front of a fireplace, listening to music…or doing whatever. So why should this be any different? No…OUCH!…No…you’re taking me back up there and I’m going to enjoy our time alone."
"Karen, you can’t…."
"And why not? Besides, I’ll have you there to look after me."
"Right, and we both know how long that’ll last, too, don’t we? I don’t know about this. Let’s talk to the doctor before making a final decision, ok? Besides, a cabin up in the mountains is no place for…"
She cut him off in mid sentence. "For whom, Harry?"
He hesitated before speaking further. What he meant to say was that he felt it wasn’t a place for her, but under the circumstances, he felt it wasn’t the right time. Karen could be stubborn as hell and she would insist that he take her right back up there if he didn’t watch. He couldn’t let her go. Not after what had happened…
"Uh…I’d better go get cleaned up and let you rest. I’ll be back in a little while. Don’t give the staff too much of a problem, Captain." he capitulated and then got up. Leaning over to kiss her, he softly touched his lips to hers. "I’ll bring you back something else to sleep in. You got any preferences?"
Karen sensed he was a little uneasy but let it lie. "Yeah…at the apartment…in my dresser drawer. There’s a couple of nightshirts in the right hand drawer. Pick one and bring it. Or…you could bring me one of your shirts." Suddenly she lowered her eyes and then looked over at him a little sheepishly. "I bet I…ah…said some…uh…pretty strange things."
"Yes…you did." He was trying to keep his voice from betraying the slight awkwardness he’d felt.
Venturing a bit more into the situation, "A little…embarrassing?"
"Hmmmm, a little." His face reddened in remembrance of some of her remarks.
"I’m sorry," was the quiet reply.
"No need to be…it was the booze talking anyway." He started for the door and then turned, "Right hand dresser drawer, right?"
"Correct. Just take your pick. Anything would be better than a hospital gown," she softly laughed.
"Ok…see you in a little while. I’ll let Jamie know you’re awake."
He opened up the door and was half way out when she softly replied in a voice full of appreciation, "Damn fine ass." Nelson stopped but didn’t turn back. He felt heat rising up into his face; his body stiffened. Then, secretly grinning to himself, he simply walked out the door and closed it behind him.
Harriman Nelson unlocked the door to Karen Davis’s apartment. Walking in, he was momentarily struck by the realization that this was the first time he’d been here alone. Proceeding on to her bedroom, he immediately went to the right dresser drawer and started his hunt for an appropriate article for her to sleep in. Rummaging through the drawer, he came upon a faded white and pink sleep shirt with a cracking picture of a dog on it. On the back were the equally faded letters that spelled out VA TECH.
"Interesting," he said aloud. "Looks like she’s had this one for years. She might be more comfortable in this." Digging a bit deeper, he came upon another article…this time, it was longer shirt, emblazoned with the Naval Academy emblem.
Interesting…She didn’t go there, I know that…Now why would she have this?
He looked around at her room and really saw it for the first time. Though he’d been there many times over the last year or so, he’d never really taken the time to look at what she had there. The bedroom suite was cherry colonial style with a queen size bed. Tastefully decorated, but homey. Lived in. There was an antique sofa at the foot of the bed as well as an antique cedar chest off to the side. The pictures on the wall were family pictures - both formal and candids. On her dresser stood a large cherry jewelry chest as well as numerous other smaller flat stone-like boxes with figurines carved into them. Karen had once told him that they were called incolay stone and that they had been her mother’s. Looking at the pictures, his eyes fell upon a candid picture of Karen, Caitlin and Robert. The three of them looked so happy. He remembered that she’d told him it’d been taken about a year before Robert’s death.
Looking deeper into that picture, he studied the faces. Karen’s face…so happy…so full of life and love for the man and child next to her. Robert - his arm around Karen’s shoulder and smiling. Not realizing that he’d never see the child on his lap grow up. And Caitlin. Angelic…happy… Sighing deeply, he realized that this picture, for her, was representation of her past life and her deep love.
Then he spied a picture on one of her night stands. An 8x10 of Karen, Caitlin, and himself that had been taken a few short weeks ago at the annual Institute Christmas Party. There was the same look, yet somewhat different, in Karen’s eyes. Then it finally dawned on him. One was her past life…this was her present and would be her future.
Then a thought crossed his mind. Walking over to the table on the other side of the bed, he picked up the phone and dialed his office.
On the second ring, she picked up. "Admiral Nelson’s office. Ms. Pierce speaking."
"Angie, I need you to do something for me…"
Later that evening, Harriman Nelson, now dressed in khaki Docker slacks, white shirt, and dark green pullover sweater, strolled into Karen’s room in MedBay carrying a box tied with ribbon. She was sleeping, slightly inclined, her leg held up in a sling support. A slight creak of the door caused her to stir. Opening her eyes, she gazed up into steel blue ones looking back down at her.
"Sorry to wake you. I’ll have to learn to be a bit more quiet the next time," he quietly told her, placing the box on the table beside the bed.
"That’s ok. Besides, you know I’d much rather wake up to seeing you beside me than anything else." Her eyes wandered over to the box. "What’s that?"
"This? Oh…I thought you might want something to sleep in. I went over to your apartment and started looking through your things. I must say…you’ve got a few interesting things there," he teased her gently. "Anyway…I decided that, given your penchant for these, uh, nightshirts, I got something for you." Handing her the box, he added, "And…you can keep them at my house, if you want."
"Harriman, what did you do?" she asked him suspiciously. Opening the box, she folded back the tissue to reveal a light gray T-shirt embossed with the N.I.M.R. logo. Karen’s face showed a puzzled look until she pulled it out of the box. It wasn’t just a T-shirt; it was a nightshirt. A wide smile erupted and her hand went up to his face. "Thank you."
"There’s something else in there as well," he told her after kissing her on the forehead.
"Oh?" and she laid the sleep shirt down beside her. Sure enough, deeper within, under another layer of tissue paper, lay a khaki uniform shirt with a row of 4 silver stars on each side of the collar. "Harriman, I was kidding when I said…"
"Well, I’m not. I actually happen to like seeing you in one of these. I figured if I gave you this…I could be assured that you wouldn’t hijack another one from my closet. Besides when you wear it you kind of remind me of ‘an Admiral’s wife’. Well, kind of…." was the grinning reply. "So…which will it be?"
"Hmmmm, well, now…" she coyly remarked. "…as much as I’d love the khaki, that’d cause too many remarks. So I guess it’ll have to be the T-shirt. However, I'll keep the shirt for future use..."
About that time, a nurse walked in with a medication tray. She, like the rest of the medical personnel, knew of the relationship between the two. In fact, she’d been on duty the day Nelson himself had been flown in after his extraction from the First American Militia. Walking over to the bed, she placed the tray on the stand and stood before the two.
"Captain, Dr. Jamison left instructions for you to be given a mild pain killer once your blood alcohol level went down to .0. I’ve got it here if you need it," she informed Karen. Noticing the nightshirt, "That’s very nice. Would you rather put it on than wear that hospital gown?"
Karen looked over at Nelson and grinned. "Yes…as a matter of fact, I would. And I’ll take that pill now, if you please. What is it?"
"Extra strength acetaminophen. And I’ll help you put on the nightshirt. Besides, I think Dr. Jamison intends to discharge you in the morning anyway. So…you’ll only be here one more night with us. And, unlike the Admiral here, I suspect you’ll be a very co-operative patient." The nurse then turned to Nelson and said, "Sir…you’ll have to go out for a moment. I need to help her on with the night shirt and get her situated a bit better."
Harriman bent over and lightly kissed Karen then turned to the nurse. "Make sure you handle the Captain with care. I’ll be back shortly." He then turned back to Karen and told her, "I’ll be back in a little while. I’m going to go call Caitlin and let her know, then get something to eat. Anything special you want me to bring back? I hear that hospital food is not the best in the world."
"I’ll take a nice filet mignon, baked potato, tossed salad, broccoli, and some iced tea, if you please, kind sir."
"Hmmm, I’ll see what I can do," came the answer as he started for the door.
"Well, I’m not going anywhere…at least not for tonight, that is," she told him. "So…bring me back something good to eat. I’ve got a really bad case of the munchies."
"You got it," he laughed and left, leaving her alone with the nurse.
Once he’d left, the nurse untied the blue hospital gown and then picked up the gray night shirt.
"Not bad…a gift?" asked the petite nurse as she helped Karen put it on over her head. Just moving her leg caused pain to shoot up into her body.
"Oooph! That hurt a bit…maybe I do need those pain meds." Once she was settled, she looked over at the nurse and softly replied, "Yeah…he remembered."
Later that day he returned with her steak dinner, still hot and wrapped in foil. He sat it down in front of her and watched her devour it. He sat back and for the first time really stopped to look at her. He looked at her hair, face, her eyes as they looked up at him. They had a slight glow to them. He thought back to the picture he’d seen of her with Robert and the look on her face in it. He wondered if he’d ever see that look on her face for him. Had he made a mistake in letting her into his heart? Was he opening himself up for yet another downfall? Would she ever really love him like she had with Robert? She’d told him about him being her second ‘soul mate’, but he couldn’t help but wonder. His eyes slowly fell to the floor as he sat in the chair at the foot of her bed.
She noticed how he was studying her, almost like he was intently studying a specimen in the laboratory. There was also a distant and somewhat lonely look in his eyes.
"Harry, is something wrong?" she asked him, setting her fork down and taking a sip of her drink.
"I was just thinking about us," he slowly said as he stood and walked over to the window, pulling up the blind on it. He then shoved his hands into his pockets as he quietly stared out at the Institute grounds.
Oh, God! What now? I thought all this had been resolved.
"Are you having second thoughts about the marriage?" She was almost afraid to hear the answer.
He was silent for a long time. Finally he spoke but didn’t turn to look at her. "Yes. In a way, I guess I am. I’m wondering…if we can really get along together. I was brought up to treat a woman as if she was something very special. To provide and protect her; to see she wants for nothing; to provide her with a nice home and a family. However, when I do these things for you…I sometimes get the feeling that I’m insulting your intelligence. Demeaning your talents and abilities. You’ve shown me on more than one occasion that you’re quite capable of taking care of yourself. But…I can’t help being who I am. I’m always going to treat you that way. I can’t help it, Karen. It’s very hard for me to not open doors for you or offer you an arm when we’re walking. You want to go back to the cabin so I went ahead and talked to Jamison about that." Drawing in a deep breath, "He said that if you’re up to it, it’s fine, but that the decision is up to us. You’re going to be limited in what you can and can’t do with that cast. It’s just not your nature to have someone wait on you, but you’re going to need this for a little while. Now…if we go back…it’ll be with the understanding that you aren’t to try and do too much, and if you need help, you’ll ask me for it. We need to reach a compromise here. Deal?"
He turned back to look at her. She looked deep into his eyes and saw that same look Robert always had in his for her. There was love and understanding, yet concern as well. Funny how the two men in her life had said very similar things to her. Without uttering a word, she held out her hand to him. In turn, he walked over and took it in his, kissing the palm gently.
Leaning over, he took her face in his hands. "I love you so much, Karen. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you." He then kissed her with such a tender passion that she was stunned. He then gently put his arms around her and simply held her close for a few moments before finally letting go.
Karen leaned back, searching his eyes for the understanding she sought to convey to him. Slowly, but softly, she began. "Harriman, that’s what a marriage is. It’s making compromises. It’s common consideration, it’s protecting…it’s understanding what each person needs….when and where they need it. The last time I remember…the vows say ‘to love, honor, and to cherish…in sickness and in health, in good times and bad…for as long as ye both shall live.’ That goes both ways, Harry. Both ways. I told you that first morning that I had to do and be all after Robert died. I had no choice. I had to…for my sake as well as for Caitlin’s. I couldn’t just ball up and die…I had her to think of." She lowered her voice to just above a whisper. "Grieving…for me…was a option that had to come later. I didn’t have the time. I had a daughter to raise and a job to do. And in order to do it…I had to learn to do everything, even bury my feelings a lot of times. There were always things that I depended on Robert to do. Things that I’d simply taken for granted, until…he wasn’t there anymore to do them. No, Harriman…I did my grieving alone…where and when she couldn’t see or hear."
Reaching out and placing her hand on his cheek, she continued, "I never asked you to stop opening doors for me or offering your arm…I’d never do that. But in the same vain, I’m not used to consulting with you or deferring to you on decisions that don’t concern anyone but me…or my daughter. It’s not a lack of respect or consideration, Harriman. It’s simply that…that…I’ve gotten use to not having to ‘answer’ to someone about certain things in my life."
"Well, then…I’m always here…you know that."
"Harriman, I’ll always let you know when I need anything. There’s going to be times when I’ll want your advice and I may very well take it. But the decision will be mine. This is going to be hard for me, too. We’ve both been alone for so long that it’s going to be hard to let the other help. I’m willing to give it my best shot but be advised… Robert always said that I never did too well on being helpless like this. He found that out right after I had Caitlin," she gently told him. "I thought I could simply start doing things for myself right way. I quickly found out that I was wrong."
He softly kissed the side of her cheek and sighed just a bit. "All right. Tell you what…if you think you can deal with this…I’ll pick you up in the morning then and we’ll head back up to the cabin. In the meantime, I want you to get some rest, ok? Do you need anything else?"
Her eyes suddenly sparkled with a bit of mischief. "If you give me an order, suh…ya just know ah’ll try to follow it. And since ya asked…ah sure could do with another one of those kisses…suh?"
"Hmmmm…well now…I think I could oblige you with that, ma’am." He bent down and took her in his arms for another long and passionate kiss. About that time, however, the door opened and the nurse entered with her pain medication.
Clearing her throat, the nurse tried to be unobtrusive. "Ah hum."
Harry quickly broke the embrace and straightened, trying to regain his composure. Karen simply looked up at him and shot him a sly grin.
"I’ll see you in the morning. Just make sure you do what the doctor, and this nurse, tells you to do," he directed as he headed for the door. "And that, Captain, is an order."
After he’d left, the nurse came over to her with her medication, then helped ready her for bed. As she finished she looked at her and replied, "Take good care of him, Captain. A man like him is a rare find."
"I know…believe me…I know."
The next morning Harry had her picked up in his private car. Much to her distaste, they wheeled her out in a wheel chair and then, with the aid of John Warner and another orderly, she was helped into the car. From there she was driven to the sub pen where she saw the FS-1 backed up to the loading ramp with the stern hatch opened. Sharkey and Kowalski were waiting patiently when the car pulled up to help her aboard.
"Captain, we just wanted to make sure you got on nice and safe…so don’t give us too much trouble, ok?" Sharkey jokingly told her. If there ever was a ‘mother hen’ to the Senior Staff…the Chief of the Boat was it. Sharkey made it a point to make sure every one of the upper staff was under his wing.
"Chief, I promise you, I won’t."
"Good, Captain. ‘Cause I sure wouldn’t want the Admiral to think that…"
Karen chuckled at the older man’s attentiveness. "Sharkey…really. Don’t worry. I promise. Now…help me get aboard before he gets impatient, ok?"
"Yes, ma’am," was the reply then he turned to Kowalski, "Well, don’t just stand there…grab her things and let’s get her aboard."
The senior rating grinned and laughed, then stowed her bag into the storage area as Sharkey helped her navigate through the hatchway. They then secured her crutches and got her into the front seat next to Nelson, who was in the process of running through the pre-flight checklist. She looked over at him as the other two took their seats behind them and made ready for flight.
"You sure you’re ok with this? We could stay here if it’d make you feel better," she said as an after-thought.
"As long as you agree not to overdo it and let me take care of things for you, we can go. The last thing you need is to re-injure your foot. That could cause you to be permanently disabled," he replied as he fastened the radio around his throat. Then looking back at the other two, he remarked, "You two set? Everything secured?"
"All secured, sir. We’re ready for departure," Sharkey replied.
"Ok, let’s get underway then. FS-1 to Seaview, we’re ready to depart. See you in a couple of weeks."
"Acknowledged Admiral. Enjoy yourselves. Seaview out."
"Will do. Nelson out. Ok, here we go." He said as he eased the craft away from the ramp and into the channel, where they were soon airborne, winging their way back to the cabin.
Karen looked over at the man seated beside her. The nurse’s words about him being a very eligible bachelor came to mind. Of all the women in the world he must have known and had affairs with, he had asked her to spend the rest of his life with. Why her, she thought. Well, whatever the reasons were that made him pick her, she intended to make sure his life with her would be a memorable one. He was indeed a man of the world but yet, in spite of all the fame, recognition and accomplishments he had achieved and earned, he struck her as a very lonely and vulnerable man. He asked very little of her but seemed to expect a lot from himself. Maybe it wouldn’t be that bad to let him wait on me just a little. It might just be a way to learn a little more about him. She looked back out the nose window and her thoughts drifted again. This time she went back to when they first met at Miramar. She recalled her feelings at learning he was interested in having her join his Institute. Here was a world-renowned scientist, a Nobel winner, asking her to work for him. Only the best made it to the Nelson Institute and she sure didn’t feel she was good enough to be included into that circle of people, but apparently he had faith in her and her abilities. He had supported her and backed her up on many occasions. When she needed more money, he always seemed to find it from somewhere. Even before they became serious, she had noticed how he was with her, which was exactly the same for everyone else at his Institute. It was almost as if he existed for them alone. Now…his existence was not only for his work but she now took a priority in his life. She was going to be his wife in a few short months. Letting out a soft sigh, she settled into her seat, now content in what was to be.
They landed in the partially frozen lake and made their way to the pier. He had backed it up the pier and remained aboard until Kowalski and Sharkey had gotten Karen off. Then he did the final shutdown as Kowalski secured it, then rejoined Sharkey and assisted in getting Karen to the cabin. Harry followed carrying her bag and the crutches that Jamison had fitted her for.
Once she was situated on the couch, Nelson looked at the senior rating and ordered, "Kowalski, get the med kit from the Flying Sub. I don’t plan on getting caught here again without medical supplies."
"Aye, aye sir," Ski replied and left to retrieve the kit as ordered.
Turning to Karen and Sharkey, he announced, "I’m going to go out and fire up the generator. Chief, stay here with her. I’ll be right back" and then headed out the door.
Sharkey looked at her and at the cast, and in a somewhat awkward tone of voice, asked, "Captain, would you mind if I…if I, ahmm,… "
"If you what, Chief?" she asked curiously, seeing the COB shifting slightly on his feet.
"Well, uh…it’s kind of a tradition we have aboard. For luck…you know?" he explained, motioning to her cast.
"Oh…sure, Chief. By all means…carry on," she chuckled as she watched him kneel beside her leg, pull out a pen, and scribble something on her cast, finishing with a flourish.
"Thanks, Captain," he said standing just as Harry returned with Kowalski right on his heels.
"Here’s the Med Kit, sir," Ski stated as he handed the kit to him.
"Thanks. Just set it in the kitchen, would you? I’ll put it away later."
"Aye sir." Turning around, he sat it on the counter next to the refrigerator.
"Well, you guys had better get going before you get iced in here. Thanks for the help," Nelson replied as the younger man returned to the living room.
"Aye, sir. I’ll let the Skipper know you’re all nice and snug in here. Have a good vacation, both of you," Sharkey told him as he gave Ski a gentle tap on his arm. "Come on, Kowalski. Let’s get outta here and leave’em be."
"Thanks, Chief." Nelson told him as he walked the two men as far as the porch. "We’ll be fine. Now, get outta here while you can."
He paused on the porch long enough to watch the FS-1 become airborne, then turned back to her and smiled. "You hungry?"
"A little…but I…" she started to say as she glanced toward the kitchen. Karen was more than a little uncomfortable at not being able to do for herself. However, she’d resolved within herself that she was going to let him take care of her, regardless.
"I’d like to get you something to eat for a change. I can cook…honestly, I can." He replied as he disappeared into the bedroom to return with some pillows, a blanket and her needlepoint. He got her settled and got the fire going good, then went into the kitchen and began getting their meal of grilled venison kabobs. He wanted to convince Karen that he knew how to make their impending marriage more of a ‘partnership’…and that she needed to let him handle things once in a while.
"Oh, I know you can cook…" she replied, remembering the morning when he had fixed breakfast for her. She paused and just looked around herself at everything. Harry was a very rich and influential man and she had him waiting on her hand and foot. It just seemed so out of place. She felt so awkward, but she could see this was something he seemed to enjoy doing and he had so little in his life that could really truly enjoy. She nestled into the pillows and began reading.
He mixed up small salads from the fresh vegetables that she had bought at the grocery store on the way up, as well as cooked some fresh corn and broccoli. He and Jiggs had left a few bottles of a good Bordeaux, so…after setting the table and lighting some candles, he poured two glasses of the rich red wine for them.
In the meantime, Karen, having been ordered out of the kitchen, reclined on the couch in the living room area of the cabin with her foot propped on a cushion, trying to get into the murder mystery novel that she’d brought with her. Occasionally her eyes would wander to the kitchen area, where she kept a watchful eye on him. He had never really cooked for her. In fact, she hadn’t realized that he really knew how, other than the rudiments of fixing breakfast, figuring that his housekeeper had always done it for him. But watching him, it struck her that this gesture was more than what it actually seemed. It was, in reality, an attempt to adjust to her world, to her wants and needs, rather than expecting her to fit into an outdated mold of what he thought she should be.
He walked in holding the two glasses of wine and sat down by her on the couch. "Here you go…" he said, offering her one of the glasses. Quietly, the two sipped the fine wine. Karen fingered her glass, gazing into the fire. Watching her in the warm glow, he was struck by her subdued mood today. He understood she wasn’t exactly feeling the best in the world but being this passive simply wasn’t in her nature. "You’ve been awfully quiet today. Mind telling me what’s on your mind?"
Moments passed before she quietly answered. "Actually…not really much. I’ve just been enjoying the quiet solitude. I haven’t had time to even sit down and simply read. You know…I bought this book over a year ago…and I hadn’t even opened it. Maybe I’ve just been so damn busy with things that I’ve forgotten some of the simple things. And…I’m kinda getting to like being waited on." Gazing over at him as he sat staring into the fire, she continued, "Between all the recent things with the Team and the details of the wedding…I’ve been sorta snowed under."
"I told you that we should simplify this whole process and just have a small wedding… either at the house…or if you want…at the chapel at the Mission. We don’t have to have this whole production. Actually, I’d much rather prefer to just elope."
Karen sat up and readjusted her position on the couch. Taking another sip of the wine, she grinned. "Elope? I don’t think so. My daughter…your future step-daughter… would kill both of us. According to her…she worked too long and too hard to get us together for there to be anything less than a formal wedding. Besides, Harry…Jiggs Starke would be next in line for your head, and mine, and you know it."
"Hmmm, then Jiggs needs to go through all of this. You know I hate those damn formal dress whites."
"Something tells me that if Jiggs Starke’s wife had anything to do with it…he already did."
Nelson chuckled a bit…she was right. He’d forgotten about his old friend’s wedding many years ago, right after their graduation from the Academy. Evelyn Starke was the ultimate ‘Admiral’s wife material’. And for all the gruffness, bark and bite that Jiggs displayed, he couldn’t faze his wife…or his three daughters, for that matter. Actually, Evelyn was one of the very few people who wasn’t scared of Jiggs. Harriman Nelson was another one that Starke couldn’t fool.
"Actually…I think you’re right. Ok…I guess I’m ‘roped’ into the dress whites. But does it have to be so damn big?"
"What? The wedding?"
"Yes, the wedding. Does it have to be so damn big? God, Karen…are you sure we can’t just get married in front of the fireplace at the house and avoid all of this…this …" Nelson almost looked frustrated. Anyone who knew him knew he hated formal ceremonies of any type. He hated the limelight, even though he’d earned every accolade…ever honor bestowed on him.
Karen sat her wine glass down and cuddled up to him. "Harriman…I know you hate all the pomp and circumstance and everything." Her voice grew softer as she put her hand in his. "However…let me tell you something. In a way…this is expected of someone of your rank and stature. You’ve had associations with too many dignitaries and too many people in high political places. I never thought I’d ever be going through this again. When I got married the first time…it was much smaller in comparison to this." Taking a deep breath, she looked up at him and said, "If you want to be married in front of the fireplace at the house…then we’ll chuck everything and do that. I love you and I want this to be as memorable for you as it will be for me. Hopefully, neither of us will ever be doing this again. The only thing I ask is…you explain it to Jiggs…and to Caitlin…and to the President…and to…"
Sighing a bit and then downing the rest of his glass of wine, he replied, "I get the picture, Karen. I may not like the fact that I’ve got to wear those damn dress whites…but I’ll do it." Suddenly chuckling to himself, he grinned. "I just thought of something…Starke hates the damn things almost as much as I do. If I have to wear’em…the rest of the brass coming has to wear’em as well. And that means Starke, B.J. Crawford, Ames, Johnson…all of them. Hmmm, you know…what’s the old saying…misery loves company?"
Laughing just a bit, she reached up and kissed him. "Well, that’s at least one way of looking at it. But seriously…we’re too far into it now to just drop everything we’ve done. Besides, even the crew would have our hides if we just up and eloped."
Trying to look slightly peeved, he snorted just a bit, then remarked, "I guess I can’t get out of this, now can I? Not that I’d really want to, mind you….I just don’t relish putting on those whites." He tightened his arm around her and then kissed her on the cheek. "However, for you, dear lady…I will put up with anything if it’ll make you happy. Now…let’s eat before our dinner gets cold."
Helping Karen up and over to the table, he seated her then refilled her glass of wine. Going back into the kitchen, he then placed all the food on the table and served her. Sitting down in the chair opposite her at the table, he began to eat his meal in silence.
About half way through the meal, without warning, she quietly asked him, "What was Katherine like, Harriman?"
He stopped eating and just stared into the food on his plate as if in silent thought, then looked up at her a little surprised at her question. Softly, he asked, "Why do you want to know?"
"I’m just curious, that’s all. I heard she was a very special person. She must have been," she replied as she too continued to eat.
He was very quiet as he contemplated her question, trying to decide if he really wanted to delve into those murky waters. Finally he spoke. "She was a lot different than you."
"I’ve heard bits and pieces of what happened. I think I need to know about this woman who so captured your heart years ago." Her prodding tone was gentle, yet curious.
Stiffening his body just a bit, Harry quietly replied, "You don’t need to worry about her. There’s no competition there." Standing abruptly, he took his partially consumed plate into the kitchen and placed it in the sink.
Karen sensed this was still a very sensitive area of discussion. She was curious to know about Katherine Campbell, yet she also realized that he’d have to want to tell her. She also knew all too well how painful talking about a past love could be, although she also knew that by talking about her, maybe he could come to terms with the things that had happened. She watched his movements - his body language, trying to ascertain whether or not to venture further into the subject matter. A matter of moments later, he came out, refilled her cup with some more coffee without uttering a word to her. Then just as silently, he returned the coffee pot to the kitchen, came back out, and sat down in his chair near the fire. Pulling out a book and opening it, he began to try to read it. After a few moments, he realized he’d read the same sentence 10 times and not gotten anywhere. Fidgeting, he then stood, went over to the fireplace and added a few more logs to it, stoking it to increase the flames. Afterwards, he returned to his chair and his book in silence.
"Touchy subject, I see," she quietly but unobtrusively remarked as she made her way slowly from the kitchen into the living room. Sitting down on the couch and propping her foot up on a pillow that lay on a stool, she leaned back into the pillows on the couch and picked up her cross-stitch. Picking up the needle, she slowly began to work.
"Yes…it is." The reply had just a hint of annoyance, yet it was more to avoid the subject.
Several minutes passed quietly between them. Karen put her needlework down on her lap and very soberly stated, "I never had the chance to said good-bye to Robert. We were rushed that morning. Now…it’ll never be possible." She gazed into the fire…tears of regret filled her eyes.
That single, simple statement caused Harry to look up from his book at her and after a moment, quietly asked, "How was he killed? I know you told me before…"
"A drunk driver hit him broadside one evening. He was coming home from work. It all happened…so fast…and now he’s gone forever." She slowly lifted her eyes to look into his. "The man never even expressed one bit of remorse. Not even when he looked me straight in the eyes after the judge sentenced him on a vehicular manslaughter charge." Choking back the tears, she then barely whispered, "Do you realize…I can’t even remember his voice. How he sounded. I can’t remember."
Harry closed his book, set it on the end table beside him and stood. He went over to her, knelt down, and took her in his arms, holding her as she cried. In doing so, his own thoughts wandered back to Katherine and he realized he couldn’t remember her voice either. Was this some sort of sign that it was time to get on with his life as well?
"I can’t remember Katherine’s voice either, Karen. What does this mean?" he told her in a low whisper as he still held her close and tight.
Pulling back just a bit, Karen looked at him as she wiped the tears away with the back of her hand. Her eyes searched his and saw her own pain mirrored in his. As she softly kissed him on the cheek, she whispered in his ear, "Maybe it means it’s time we started to live again."
He looked up at her and his eyes explored hers for what seemed like an eternity until he finally pulled her back close and kissed her. Long….tenderly….lovingly. Finally, he broke the embrace and studied her eyes and face. "Your expression just reminded me of how she looked when I told her I’d received the funding and approval to build the Seaview. She always seemed to understand me. She never really questioned me when I made a decision. She would just go along with it. You, on the other hand… you have no qualms about letting me know what you think and feel on something. And if you don’t agree with me, I hear about it. Katherine…was…a quiet kind of person. You’re normally anything but quiet. She’d rely on me to make the decisions. You want to make your own in a lot of things. I’m not used to that kind of independence in a woman. I guess…so much has changed since then. Times…people…Sometimes I wonder…" he said as he stood and went to the fireplace and stirred the ashes, then added a couple more logs. "I can’t deny that you’ve made things a bit more interesting in my life. I guess I’m just trying to figure out where such old fashioned views fit in a relationship with such a modern woman."
She gazed back into his steel blue eyes and then, barely above a whisper, replied, "They fit in more than you’ll ever know, Harriman. You just have to know how to apply them, that’s all. You might even find that I have some ‘old fashioned’ views as well."
Raising an eyebrow just a bit, he feigned a bit of surprise. "You, Captain Davis? Old fashioned? I don’t think that’s possible, from what I’ve seen."
Her eyes cast downward and she spoke in a low, but loving tone. "More possible that you’d think. However, my ‘old fashioned’ values include being treated as an equal in a relationship. That’s the way I was raised, Harriman. That’s the way it was between Robert and me, and that’s the way it has to be with us. We have to lean on and depend on each other. And I can’t think of anyone else I want to do that with but you."
He didn’t respond, instead he kept gazing into the increasing flames of the fire. Karen simply watched him in silence. When he was through, he went back to his chair and sat down, then began reading again. She picked up her needlepoint and began working on it as well. As time passed, she looked over at him and noticed he had fallen asleep. Smiling to herself, she simply let him sleep until she herself was ready to retire for the night. As the evening wore on, she finally put down her book, rubbed her eyes and called out softly, "Harriman?"
"Hmmmm," came the groggy answer as his weary eyes slowly opened.
"Harry, it’s time for bed. I think I need some help," was her simple request.
"Huh? Oh...Karen…I’m sorry," he yawned. "I must have fallen asleep. What did you say?"
Gently, she touched his arm and replied, "I said it’s time to go to bed. I’m tired…and I think I may need some help."
Those last words caused his eyes to open. He looked over at her, not real sure he’d heard her right. As his eyes met hers, he realized that she had meant it, so he stood and went over to her extending his hand to her. "I guess I was more tired than I was willing to admit. Here…just take my hand and put your arm around my waist. I’ll get you settled in and then turn every thing off in here."
She did as he instructed. He slowly got her into the bedroom and let her sit down on the bed. Looking up at him with a half smile on her face, she then told him, "Ok…you got me here…now…what’cha gonna do with me?"
"Humph!" he replied with a smile. "I’m going to put you to bed, young lady…and then join you. This old tired body is just that…tired. Do you think you can behave yourself until I get back?"
"Hmmmm, probably. But you’re going to have to give me something to sleep in. I don’t think what I’ve got on is…ah… appropriate attire for bed."
Turning around, he handed her the N.I.M.R. nightshirt that he’d given her in MedBay. "Acceptable?"
With a warm and inviting tone, she replied, "Very. Now…go turn things off and come to bed. I’m cold and I need you to keep me warm."
He chuckled just a bit, kissed her on the forehead, and then left to make sure things were turned off and secured for the night.
The next day he got an idea about getting her out of the cabin for a while. After breakfast, he went out to the shed where he kept a snowmobile. He pulled it out and proceeded to clean it up, making sure it was in working order, added oil and gas, then firing it up. Once he was satisfied that it was running perfectly, he strolled inside and looked at Karen as she sat reading.
"You want some fresh air? How about we take a ride to that special spot I mentioned to you?" His tone was upbeat and light. It was almost as if he were a child wanting to show off.
"That sounds great! Help me get dressed?" she remarked gleefully.
He hesitated a moment, but then figured that she’d asked for his help, so he followed her in to the bedroom. Looking in the closet, he found a pair of boots that fit perfectly over her cast without hurting her. She slipped a thick Irish wool sweater over her shirt and then got her parka on. Accepting his arm, she had him help her out to the snowmobile.
"You are full of surprises, aren’t you? Where did you dig this up?" she asked as she sat down on the back of it.
"We use it to hunt with. Makes those hikes go a lot faster, especially when we’re packing a lot of game. You ready? Hold on tight," he remarked as she leaned forward, wrapped her arms around his waist and held on tightly.
They headed off at a slow and leisurely speed into the woods. Karen was enjoying the chance to get out into the fresh air. As they rode on, she spotted rabbit, deer, wolves and some bald eagles. After a time they arrived at a spot that took her breath away. There was a half frozen waterfall cascading down a rock cliff about two hundred or so feet high. The area around it was iced over and trees still had a covering of snow, as did the ground. He brought the vehicle to a stop and helped her off and over to a log where they both sat down and drank in the crisp cool fresh air, the beauty and peace of the scene.
"I own about four hundred acres around the cabin. I try to keep it all natural and untouched so I can have a place I can retreat to in order to get away from civilization. You like it? It’s my favorite spot…other than that stretch of beach down from the Institute," he explained as he slowly looked around at the scenery while gently wrapping an arm around Karen’s shoulder.
Karen never spoke, instead she just sat there, wrapped in his arms in silence, soaking up the peace and serenity of the moment. She could definitely see why this place had a magical hold on him. The sun shining down on the snow and ice crystals made them sparkle like diamonds. Harry looked up at the sun and then back at her. "We better start back. It’ll be dark soon and it’s getting a little cold."
For some reason, Karen twisted herself around and put her arms around his neck, pulling him into a fervent kiss. As he broke away, his eyes searched hers. He could have sworn there was a mischievous twinkle in them and he could see a slight designing smile on her lips.
"What are you thinking," he ventured. He’d seen that look before and knew that it only meant that she was conjuring up some sort of naughtiness.
"Oh…that’s for me to know….and you, sir, to find out," was the demure remark.
"Hmmm, maybe I ought to do just that…" and he pulled her back into an embrace, that when broken, left them both breathless and longing. "Come on…we’d better go. I don’t want you to get cold out here," he concluded as he turned and then fired up the snowmobile.
He helped her onto the snowmobile and they were soon on their way back to the cabin. Arriving just as the sun was touching the tops of the trees, they stood on the porch and watched it disappear behind the mountains. Slowly, hues of orange and yellow faded into the darkening sky. He helped her inside and out of her clothes and into something more comfortable and went out and put the vehicle up for the night and came in. Karen had started their dinner. He was going to say something about helping but didn’t. Instead, he simply went in to checked the fireplace, then went out and brought in more wood for the night. By the time he was through, she had dinner on the table.
"This is the last of the rabbits. We finished up the deer so I guess you’ll need to go foraging again tomorrow. Something you men do so very well apparently," she announced as she sat down across from him at the table. Picking up her wine glass, she slowly sipped the rich red wine that he’d brought back with them.
Nelson chuckled a bit at her remark. "Hmmm…no problem. Did you like the trip?" he asked as he took a bite of the rabbit stew she’d made and washed it down with a sip of the wine
A wide smile erupted as she softly replied, "It was beautiful, Harriman. Just like you said it would be. Beautiful…and serene."
"I’m glad you liked it. If you want to go again, let me know and I’ll take you back up there. Sometimes I like to go there just to think and unwind some. It was one of Katherine’s favorite stops. She’d sit and talk with me while I fished." Then he became rather quiet and reflective. Finally, he spoke. "Do you ever miss Robert?"
Karen’s facial expression changed to one tinged with sadness. "Yes…actually…some days more than others. But when I look at Caitlin…I see him. Her facial features are a lot like his…At least I have that left," she quietly told him. Then deciding to venture a little into his world, she asked, "Do you miss Katherine?"
"Yes." Then he looked up at her and continued with a slight grin, "Some days more than others."
"What did she do?" was her simple, but unassuming question.
"She was a Marine Biologist. We met at a seminar in Brussels…a long time ago. She worked down the road at La Jolla Marine Center," he replied as he took a deep swallow of his wine.
She could see he was clearly uncomfortable with the course of the conversation, so she decided to change it to another direction. After clearing the dishes, she hobbled into the living room and rifled through the collection of CDs that she’d brought. Selecting one, she placed it on the stereo and, within moments, soft mellow jazz soon filled the air. Moving back into the kitchen, she stood before him and picked up her glass of wine from the table. "So…Admiral…suh, just what do ya’ll do for entertainment around this place at night?"
Much to his relief, he noticed she’d changed the subject. Sitting back in his chair with a swallow of his drink, he looked at her. "Well, I’m sure we could find something to occupy ourselves with. You brought the stereo and music so we could read and listen to that. Like I said, we don’t usually spend this much time up here when we are here. It’s usually just for the weekend. Sometimes we end up playing poker…or just trading ‘war stories’."
"War stories, huh? I’d love to have been a fly on the wall for that one. Somehow I can just image the two of you sitting here doing one-upmanship. I can just feel the abundance of testosterone in the air. My question is…who won most of the time?" she chuckled.
Nelson laughed a bit and replied, "Uh…I think it was about even, actually."
She picked up the bottle of wine and filled her wineglass. Toying with the glass for just a moment as she stood watching him, she then sat it down and gently picked up his hand. "Reading and music? Hmmm…I was thinking of something a bit more…uh…participatory. Why don’t you think of something else and show me how we can occupy ourselves then, kind suh?"
As her fingers slipped between his, he sat his glass down and stood up, taking her into his arms. "What did you have in mind?"
Karen slowly unbuttoned first one button…"Oh, ah don’t know." Then another. Maybe…you…could…" Then another button of his shirt, gently pulling it from his pants at the same time "…show me…that…you…" And she drew him into a long, searching kiss. Her intentions were becoming more than crystal clear to him as her body molded itself to his.
His hands, now searching and exploring, gently slid under her sweater seeking to excite her. He slowly inched the sweater upward and then over her head. Her actions were having a very noticeable effect on him. Whispering in her ear, he told her, "Let’s go nice and slow and easy. I don’t want to hurt you."
Pulling back just a bit, her eyes twinkled with a mixture of sensuality and mirth. "Well then…I guess we’re both going to learn a few things…you know what they say, don’t you? Practice makes perfect..."
He raised an eyebrow at her off-handed suggestion and looked deep into her brown eyes; his rising passion becoming painfully clear to both of them. "Karen," his voice soft, yet husky with the lust that was building inside "…you’re driving me crazy." Slowly, he maneuvered her into the living room and onto the rug. "I don’t want to hurt you…"
Her eyes searched his with a longing that was old and primal. Kissing him lightly, she assured him. "You won’t. You could never hurt me…I know that. Besides…" she slyly remarked, "…a little variety never hurt any relationship." Her own passions were on the rise as she felt his hands wandering her body. Moaning slightly as he slid her sweater over her head and discarded it, she carefully laid down on the rug in front of the fire. "Maybe we need a copy of the Karma Sutra."
Easing down next to her, he then pulled her close and softly stroked her hair as he claimed her mouth in a savage kiss. "Hmmm, I…don’t think…we need that…yet." And before long, they were locked in the throes of passionate lovemaking. Hours later, after each had taken their respective pleasures with the other, they lay on the fur in silence, wrapped in each other’s arms. They listened to the music, softly playing in the background, and the fire crackling. The flames provided sensual warmth to their sweat covered naked bodies. After a while, Harry reached down and pulled the fur up over them. As he lay there holding her close to him, his thoughts drifted to Katherine; Karen gazed into the fire as her fingers lightly stroked his chest, but her thoughts had drifted to Robert. Soon, they both dozed off thinking of the past, the loves they had both known and lost, and the love they would now know again, with each other.
Morning came and Harry woke to find Karen still nestled in his arms. He leaned over and brushed a lock of hair from her face, then kissed her gently. She responded in her half sleep, finally waking to find him beside her. The fire had died to a low flame and his own night’s sleep had been troubled by reoccurring nightmares of Katherine’s death. However, when he woke to find Karen lying in his arms, he knew somehow that, this time, things would be different. This time he’d found love and happiness that would last a lifetime.
Karen looked into his eyes with her sleepy ones and smiled at him as she huddled deeper into his arms. He had been careful not to hit her cast or get her into an awkward position that would hurt her. Despite the handicap, they had hardly noticed the difference. In fact, at one point during their lovemaking, it became a game to see who could be the most ‘imaginative.’
"I need to get the fire going some more. Just lay right here. I won’t be long," he told her as he slid carefully out from under the warmth of the fur to the chilly cabin. The wooden floor was cold under his bare feet as he tossed more wood on the fire and soon had it blazing again. He quickly returned to the warmth of the fur and her arms.
She noticed his eyes looked puffy and bloodshot - a good indication he hadn’t had much sleep. She kissed him and put a hand to his face. "Rough night?"
"A little…I’m glad I didn’t disturb you. You slept soundly enough. How’s the foot feel? You in any pain?"
"It’s fine. I must say, Admiral…I’m surprised at you. You…ah…have a very inventive mind there. Did I hear you allude to something called a ‘pillow book’? Now where would you have gotten hold of a ‘pillow book’?" Her eyes sparkled with mischievousness. "I thought those were very secretive and highly prized among the Japanese."
"Hmmmm, they are." He leaned down and kissed her. "An old friend sent me one after he heard I was getting married. One of these days, maybe I’ll let you see it. It’s very interesting." There was a bit of casualness in his voice.
"So I’ve heard…so I’ve heard. Hmmm, help me get cleaned up?" she gently prodded him as she tenderly kissed him on his ear.
Lightly stroking her arm, he frowned just a bit. "We can’t get the cast wet."
"No problem. Jamie said he used a waterproof material so it doesn’t matter if it gets wet. However, just to be on the safe side, he gave me something to use." She moved to get up and so he stood to help her.
Then suddenly, something came over him. He quickly drew her into his arms and kissed her with such fierceness, it took her breath away. Then he picked her up and carried her into the bathroom. As he sat her on the edge of the toilet, he asked, "Did you bring everything you need?"
"Yep…it’s all in my bag over there. And that even includes the rubber ‘sleeve’ that Jamie gave me to put over the cast. If you can give it to me, I’ll put it on while you get the water hot."
Doing as she directed, he then watched with mild interest as she slipped the rubber tube over her foot and pulled it up over the cast. Once in place, it became a watertight covering for her ankle. After helping her into the shower stall, he ‘helped’ her bathe, although at one point, it became more than evident that his aid really wasn’t needed but was gladly and eagerly accepted. When he finally noted that the water was starting to cool rapidly, she giggled.
"Hmmmm, ya know…we’re probably going to come out of here looking like a couple of prunes and have no hot water for the rest of the day."
"Well, I can think of worse things, m’dear," he replied, pressing his body against hers, the cooling water cascading down over them. "However, I do believe you’re right. It is getting just a tad bit cool. Let me get a towel." A moment later, he reached around and turned off the water then grabbed a towel and started to dry her off. Once he was completed his task, he grabbed another towel and did himself, wrapping it around his waist after he finished. He then helped her out of the shower and back into the bedroom to get dressed. After making sure she was dry and warm, he dressed in some warm clothes and made his way to the kitchen to start breakfast.
Karen followed him in and started a large pot of coffee. Once things were done, they cleared the dishes away and she filled a thermos with the coffee, handing it and some sandwiches that she’d made to him. She knew he’d be out most of the day and wanted to make sure he had something to eat and drink. He gave her a lingering kiss, then grabbed his fishing gear as he headed out the door. Looking at the depth of the snow, he decided he wouldn’t need his snowshoes. He’d be able to make better time without them and it wasn’t all that far to the pier anyway. As he waved goodbye, she watched as he headed toward the lake. After he disappeared through the grove of pine trees at the top of the hill, she went back into the living room, settled onto the couch, and began working on her needlepoint.
The day wore on and soon moved into evening. Harry had been fishing from the same area for most of the day and hadn’t had too much luck. Though he’d managed to catch a few fish, the big ones seemed to elude him. Finally, he decided to change his spot to one he had found a little ways down the lakebed. Following the lake bank, he came to the spot and settled in for some serious fishing. He could see them biting in the distance so he readied his real and drew back for a long cast. The line sailed at least thirty feet as the hook hit the water. At approximately the same instant, he heard the echo of a gunshot.
Suddenly he felt a sharp pain tear through his chest as he was propelled backwards to the ground.
What the shit???
A few moments passed as his mind cleared somewhat.
Can’t breathe. I can’t…breathe.
He put a hand inside his coat and then withdrew it. Struggling to put his hand in front of his face, he tried to focus his eyes.
Blood? Why…is…there…blood? What the hell’s happened?
Nelson struggled to get up.
Got to get back. Got to get…back to…Karen. What happened?
Slowly he managed to get to his feet but he felt his legs buckling under him. He was also finding it very hard to keep his mind focused.
He turned and mind numbing pain shot through his body. The blood was now beginning to soak through his parka.
Cold…feel cold. Why?
Got to get back. His shoulder burned like wildfire, the dark splotch of blood deepening and now slowly dripped into the pristine snow as he started back to the cabin, leaving a trail of red behind him.
Not that far. It’s…not…that far…Got to get back. KAREN!!!!!!!
He got within sight of the cabin as a wave of dizziness rolled over him and he passed out in the snow.
There was a sound of snow crunching…almost like footsteps, approaching his original location. Then a voice. "Where’d it go down? Did ya see where it went down?"
Another voice, different from the first. "Ah, man…it was over here near the water. It was a clean hit…I know I saw it drop on the spot."
Suddenly two men, dressed in orange vests and caps and armed with high powered hunting rifles, came up on Harry’s previous location and froze. They saw the fishing gear and a trail of blood leaving the area.
"Oh, shit, Brian. You don’t think we’ve shot somebody, do you?!" said Greg Stanton. "Somebody was here...there’s fishing gear here."
"I know you hit a deer, Greg. Man, it’s got to be here somewhere. Whoever owns this stuff must be simply taking a leak." The tone of voice couldn’t disguise the uncertainty, though. "I know I saw a deer go down. Damn! Maybe it took off into the trees over there."
"Jeez, there’s a trail of blood here…and tracks. These aren’t deer, man. These are human. Come on." The hunter quickly started following the trail of blood until they came across the human figure face down in the snow.
"Oh, my god, Greg! We did! We shot someone!!!" Brian suddenly yelled as he spied Nelson’s body lying in the snow. He started to run toward the still form not 500 feet ahead of him.
"Is he…is he dead?" Greg asked, afraid to approach any closer.
Brian O’Lannery finally got to the fallen man and knelt over him, placing his fingers over his artery in his neck. Yelling back at the approaching Stanton, "I’ve got a pulse and he’s still breathing but he’s losing a lot of blood. We’ve got to get him help fast. Help me get him up. We’ve got to get him back to the Explorer and get him to a hospital."
The men carefully turned him over and gasped loudly at the sight of the bloodied parka. Carefully they lifted him up and each man put one of his arms across their shoulders to support him. As soon as they had him standing somewhat, Harry let out a moan and they lowered him back to the ground. The first man, the taller of the two, looked at him as he slowly opened his eyes and looked up at the two men above him.
"Hey, just take it easy, buddy. You’ve been shot. Do you live close by here?" he asked him. "Can you hear me? Do you live near here?"
Harry struggled to talk through the pain. "…Cabin…there." And he nodded toward the cabin.
Both men looked up and saw the cabin a short distance away, partially hidden in the woods and brush. Carefully, they picked him up and struggled to get him to the cabin.
Back at the cabin, Karen was beginning to worry. The sun had disappeared behind the trees and she knew he had always arrived back before sunset. She had prepared as much of their dinner as she could, minus the main course of the fish he was to bring back. Going to the front door, she walked out on the porch and looked out in the direction he had left in. She could barely see the pier from this far a distance, but there was no sign of him there.
"Maybe he’s on his way. It’s getting cold out here. Knowing him…he didn’t want to come home without making sure we had enough for a few days," she said aloud to herself. "Damn, Harry…where are you?"
Panic began to fill her as thoughts of him being hurt began to filter through her mind. She was about to go inside when she saw something emerge from the thick grove of trees off to the left side of the cabin. She had to look hard to make out two men carrying something. As they slowly got closer, she suddenly realized that it was Harry. Karen’s heart almost stopped beating and her voice died in her throat. As they approached the bottom of the cabin steps, she opened the door and let them enter with him.
They carried him into the kitchen and laid him on the dining table. The first one looked at her as the second began to open his coat. He was limp and unconscious and his face was ghostly white. When his coat was pulled back, she saw all the blood and got weak in the legs.
‘Oh dear God, no! Please Lord, let him please be alive.’
The first man brought a chair over for her to set down in, then asked her, "Do you know him?"
Karen’s eyes were glued on the figure of the man on the table. Without looking up, she whispered, "Yes…I do. He’s my…fiancé. What happened?"
The man knelt down next to her and looked up into her frightened eyes. "I accidentally shot him, ma’am. We were tracking an 8-point buck and all I saw was a mass in the bushes. Not expecting anybody to be out here, I mistook him for the deer. Our 4x4 is a short distance from here. I’ll go get it and we can load him in it and get him to a hospital once we’ve stabilized him."
Karen suddenly became suspicious and her eyes fixated on him momentarily. "Who are you?" The ever present echoes of Harriman’s voice about caution filled her mind.
"I’m Dr. Gregory Stanton and this is Dr. Brian O’Lannery. We do research down at La Jolla Marine Center. We come up here hunting and…well…we’ve never seen anyone else in this area. Look, uh…Brian’s had training in First Air and CPR. We’ll try to get him stable and then I’ll go after the Explorer."
They watched as O’Lannery cleaned the wound and grabbed some towels to act as temporary bandages. The bleeding had slowed but the three of them knew he needed help now!
"Ok, I’ve got the bleeding slowed but the bullet’s still in him. He’s lost a lot of blood. We’ve got to get him to a hospital ASAP," Brian reported as he straightened up from the table.
Karen was in momentary shock at the scene before her. Then…almost as if a switch had been flipped, she looked at the two of them and remarked bluntly, "You do know this is private property, don’t you? There’s signs posted. What are ya’ll doin’ huntin’ on private property?" She then turned, went to the radio, and turned it on. Though she was fighting to control her worsening fears, she knew she couldn’t give into panic. Picking up the mic, she calmly called the sub. "Davis to Seaview. Come in, Seaview. We’ve got a medical emergency here. The Admiral’s been shot. Come in!"
Stanton and O’Lannery glanced over at each other, and then at her, in shocked silence.
Sparks’ voice immediately came on. "Captain Davis…Captain Crane’s on his way now."
Then, within seconds, Lee Crane’s voice came on line. "Karen, where is he? What happened?"
"He’s here at the cabin, Lee. He was accidentally shot by a couple hunters up here. They just brought him in. One of ’em’s got training in First-Aid and CPR. He said he’s slowed the bleeding but the bullet’s still in him and he’s lost a lot of blood. Lee…he’s hurt real bad. We’ve got to get him outta here now." She was trying to keep her voice on an even keel, but was having to fight every inch of the way to do so.
"Ok, hang on…we’re on our way. We’ll be there within 30 minutes. Seaview out."
Laying down the mic, she fought back tears. Oh, God…please! Don’t let him die. God, please don’t take him…please! When she turned, Gregory was standing behind her, a concerned but bewildered look on his face.
"He’s Admiral Harriman Nelson, isn’t he?" was the question.
"Yes, he is. And I’m Karen Davis," she matter-of-factly replied, looking back into the room where Nelson lay motionless.
"Captain Karen Davis? Head of the DWD Team at NIMR?" he asked, somewhat surprised.
"Yes. We’ve got to keep him alive until the FS-1 gets here," she replied, as she hobbled back into the room where Brian was still working on him, trying to keep the bleeding down to a minimum and also to keep him from going into shock.
Stanton took O’Lannery aside as Karen went over and took Nelson’s hand in hers. Trying to keep his voice low, he told him, "Oh, man…Brian, you’ve got Harriman Nelson there and that’s Karen Davis. She just radioed the Seaview and they said something about some kind of aircraft called the FS-1 being on its way to pick him up. They’ll be here in under 30 minutes."
"I’ll be damned! Of all the people...We’ve got to keep him quiet and knocked out if possible. If he tries to move around, he’ll start bleeding bad and he’s already lost a lot of blood." Turning to Karen, he gently inquired, "Do you have a med-kit of some sort by any chance?" He paused and then looked back over at Gregory. "Good damn thing for him you’re such a lousy shot or he’d be dead right now."
Karen looked up at the sound of O’Lannery’s voice. Struggling to keep her voice even, she replied, "There’s one in the kitchen, over by the refrigerator. He had it taken off the FS-1 when we came back the other day."
Brian walked into the kitchen area and retrieved it. Coming back into the room, he opened the coat and shirt further, revealing the wound in all its’ glory. Karen almost fainted as she saw the torn, raw, bloodied flesh of her lover.
"Thanks…anything’ll help at this point." O’Lannery rummaged through the kit and found the rudiments of necessary medical supplies. Looking up at her, he inquired, "Is he allergic to anything?"
Quietly, she answered, "Cortisone…I think. I remember hearing something about him being allergic to cortisone. I can confirm it with Dr. Jamison, but he’s already enroute in the FS-1."
"Well, he’s out cold now…but if he wakes up, we need something to give him for pain." Suddenly, he found the small bottle of morphine. "Good…at least this should help. Captain Davis…you look like you need to sit down. Greg…take her in the other room, please." When he saw Karen start to resist, he told her, "Please…it’s for your own good, as much as it is for his. Besides, you need to get off that foot. Now go on. I’ll be with him…besides you said they’d be here in about 30 minutes. I just wish to God that I could get the bullet out…it’d be better for him when they transport him out of here if I could. Unfortunately, there’s nothing here I can use so the best thing is just to leave it there for the pros to handle."
Before she could leave him, Harry began to come to. Moaning a bit and trying to move, he opened his eyes weakly and hazily saw Karen. He tried to lift one of his hands but it fell weakly to the table. She rushed to grab his hand as he coughed and grimaced in pain. Blood started to ooze slowly from the bandaged wound. Shifting his eyes to the man standing over him, he whispered, "Who…are…you?" He struggled to focus on the face since he was having trouble breathing. "Brian? How…?"
Brian just looked at him, surprised that he even knew him, especially in the condition he was in. "Don’t try talking, Admiral. Please stay quiet. Help’s on the way. Should be here in a few minutes. Don’t try to move, ok, sir? Please…just stay quiet and don’t move. I’ve got the bleeding slowed down, but you’ve lost a lot of blood."
Harry looked back at Karen. He could feel her hand closing over his. "Karen??" he whispered as he struggled to breathe.
"I’m here, Harriman. I’m right here. Lee’s on his way with the FS-1 and Jamie’s on board with him. We’ll get you back." Every fiber of her being was struggling to remain calm. She had to remain composed, for him. Her free hand stroked his forehead and lifted a bit of hair off and back. Bending down, she kissed his cheek as tears formed in the corners of her eyes. "I love you, Harriman Nelson. Don’t you ever forget it. You’re going to be all right. Just stay with me, ok?"
He managed a very faint, weak smile that faded quickly when his eyes closed as he lost consciousness again. Karen felt his hand go limp in hers but she refused to let go. Stanton gently touched her arm.
"Captain…you need to sit down. Please? Brian can make sure he’s ok. He did a short stint in an ER before deciding to go into research, so…please? You said they’d be here within 30 minutes. It’s been about 10 now so they should be in the next 20 minutes," Stanton prodded her. Even he could see that Nelson was seriously injured and in respiratory distress. Mentally, he was telling himself that the bullet must have nicked the lung someway, possibly even collapsing it.
She blankly looked at him and then at Brian as he ministered to Harry, then finally relented. She allowed Stanton to help her into the bedroom. Sitting down on the bed, she calmly looked up at him and quietly said, "Thank you for finding him…and for helping him."
"No need for thanks, ma’am. If it hadn’t been for the fact that we mistook him for a deer, we wouldn’t be here right now. I guess we must have missed the posted signs. Didn’t realize we were on private property."
In the kitchen, Brian tried to do some exploratory surgery on his own with what tools he did have. Using a Swiss Army knife that he sterilized, he found the bullet but realized he didn’t have the necessary tools or knowledge to remove it. It was deeply imbedded in his shoulder blade. And from what he could observe and figure out, it had apparently pierced his right lung and collapsed it. All he could do was try and stop the bleeding and bandage the wound. Looking at the body of the man on the table, he knew he needed help, and as soon as possible. Quickly, he walked to the bedroom door and asked Karen, "Look, I need some medical help here. This is more then I’m trained to handle. Can you get a hold of someone who can talk me through this? We need to get the bleeding stopped as much as possible…at best, we need to slow it down."
Immediately getting up and heading in toward the radio, she replied, "Yes, let me get Jamison on the line." She called the FS-1 and had Jamison come on line to talk with O’Lannery.
Brian explained the situation and Jamison talked him through the necessary triage procedures. Finally the bleeding slowed and all but stopped. Brian stood, covered in blood and looked at Karen with a smile.
"Ok, I’ve got a handle on things now," he replied, placing the bandage over the wound as instructed. He then placed a pillow under his head and shoulders, letting his head fall back slightly which helped keep his airway open. Looking around, he found a blanket that he placed over him, then kept constant vigil on his vitals, just as Jamison had instructed.
Time passed quickly and they heard the whining sound of the FS-1. Within moments, the rescue team opened the door and entered. Jamison was on Harry immediately checking his vitals. When he saw the dressing placed over the wound, he looked up at Brian. "Nice job…Brian," he said as he started an IV of fluids and blood. "Get that stretcher over here. Chief, hold these up and out of the way." He handed Brian the IV bags. "Here, hold these."
"I couldn’t get the bullet out. It’s too imbedded in his shoulder blade," O’Lannery reported.
Jamison looked up and replied, "In a way, it’s better you didn’t. No telling how much damage was done going in. Better to leave it to us. You got the bleeding slowed…that’s a good start."
Lee Crane turned his attention to Karen Davis, who had been sitting off to the side as she watched the Seaview’s doctor work on Harriman Nelson. Walking over to her, he knelt down and took her hand in his. Her eyes were wide with fear.
"We’ll get him outta here and back to the MedBay. Jamie’ll take care of him…you know that," he whispered.
Her eyes slowly gravitated to his amber hazel ones. Lee Crane was as close to Harriman Nelson as two friends could get. Karen’s fingers tightened around his hand and a tear formed in the corner of one eye, slowly tracking down her cheek. "I know. I know. Oh, God, Lee…I can’t lose him now. Not when we’re so close to spending the rest of our lives together."
"Come on…I’ll help you out and on to the FS-1. Ski, Pat, and Jamie have their hands full with him. I want to get you settled. Ok?" Crane stood up and slowly got her to her feet. He found her crutches and started heading her toward the front door of the cabin. Looking back to silently nod to the doctor as to his intentions, he proceeded to separate her from the unsettling scene.
Back inside, Nelson was carefully placed on the stretcher and then slowly carried to the FS-1. He was then placed aboard and secured in the bunk for flight back to the Institute.
"Where you taking him?" Brian inquired as he watched the men quietly secure him and then make ready for the flight back.
"The Institute medical facility. Look, why don’t you two join us? I might need an extra hand en route," Jamison informed them as they all made sure that Nelson was safe and secured aboard the FS-1. "Kowalski and Sharkey will remain behind to close up the cabin. And I’m sure that it can be arranged for you to be brought back up to get your own stuff."
Both men looked at each other the hastily agreed. Arrangements were quickly made for their vehicle to also be brought back by the crew when they brought back Karen’s Jeep. They were then directed by Crane to take seats in the aft area of the FS-1 for the ride back to the Institute. Both watched as Jamison tended to the older man and further watched as Davis almost refused to leave his side. If Lee hadn’t insisted that she sit down and strap herself in, Karen would have stood by his side the entire way in. Once she finally sat down, Jamie got back up and went to Nelson’s bedside.
"If he wasn’t already shot, I’d shoot him myself," he remarked as he rechecked his pulse and blood pressure again. Jamison sat back in his chair after he had rechecked him, convinced he was stable enough for the trip.
Karen looked at him and then her eyes drifted back to Harry as he lay unconscious in the bunk.
"How did this happen?" Jamison asked. Then he looked at Karen and saw the tears in her eyes. "I’m sorry, Karen." Then looking at her foot, "How’s your foot? You need something?" he asked with a voice laced with concern.
Karen looked up at him and she saw his eyes. They revealed his fear and concern. "It’s a little sore, but I’m ok. It was apparently an accident. They thought he was a deer in the brush. Wasn’t wearing his blaze orange. Oh, God!!! Jamie…I don’t want to lose him. Not now…not now," she said as she took Harry’s hand in hers and kissed it.
His hand was cold, not warm like it usually was. This frightened her more because she knew what it meant. "Stay with me, Harriman . . .we’re going to beat this," she said to him as he lay there, his hand limp in hers. She looked at the bandage on his chest. Blood oozed from it and there was a kind of wheezing sound coming from it. The plastic bandage would balloon up and she noticed Jamie lifting one edge to let the air escape out. Within what seemed to be an eternity, the Nelson Institute of Marine Research came into view and the craft nosed in for a landing.
A trauma team was waiting when they landed and Harry was rushed into the Operating Room for what ultimately became a two hour operation. Lee Crane had settled Karen into the waiting room and was shortly joined by Chip and Matty Morton. Lee had taken it upon himself to call Caitlin in Virginia to let her know what was going on. He also convinced her that it was unnecessary at this particular time to fly out to be with her mother.
Karen paced nervously back and forth in the room until Lee finally made her sit down and he elevated her leg. "That thing starts swelling and you’re going to have problems. Pain being the least of it," he said. "Besides, you want to have to wear that thing in April?"
Karen was impatient, angry, and extremely afraid. "What’s taking so damn long? Why hasn’t someone come out and let us know something?" She took another sip of the coffee that Matty had gotten for her. Just then the door opened and Jamison came out still in his surgical garb. He looked over at Karen and sat down in the chair beside her.
"First off…he’s fine. He’s going to be laid up for awhile but he’s ok. Thank God it wasn’t an explosive round. The bullet perforated his right lung, collapsing it, then lodged in his right shoulder blade, fracturing it. He had some internal bleeding as well. We’ve repaired the damage to his lung and re-inflated it, as well as stopped the internal bleeding. He’s going to have to remain in bed and keep that arm and shoulder still and quiet and let things start healing. Then he’ll be released on limited duty, if all goes well. The one thing I am concerned about is the possibility of pneumonia. He had a slight cold before you all left, and the collapsed lung plus the fact that he’s going to have to stay immobile for a bit, increases the chance. We’ve got to keep a constant watch on him for that and just pray he doesn’t develop it," he replied, looking at Lee and Chip and then, looking back at Karen, he quietly continued… "He’s in recovery now, if you want to see him."
"You know I do," was her immediate reply as she started to stand.
"Figured as much. Ya know…I was right. You two are murder on each other."
Karen glared back at him. Ordinarily, she’d have laughed at Jamison’s attempt at humor, but not today. She stood with his help and walked with him down to the Recovery Room. Walking into the room, she saw he seemed to be sleeping peacefully, despite all the things that had happened. Harry had a large bandage on his shoulder with several IV’s being administered to him and a drainage tube in his side. He was also hooked up to a heart monitor, as well as oxygen being administered through a nasal tube hooked over his ears.
Jamison pulled up a chair for her and she sat down in it beside him, laying her head on his bed near his left arm, careful not to disturb him or the IV that went into his hand. After checking Nelson’s vitals, he quietly exited, leaving Karen alone with the unconscious man.
A couple of hours later, a couple of orderlies came in and moved him to a private room. She’d already informed them that she had no intention of leaving him, so another bed was brought in for her. After his transfer into the other room, Jamison was checking him over when Harry slowly opened his eyes. He looked around at his surroundings, then glanced over at Jamison and Karen. Nothing seemed to register in his grogginess; his eyes closed and he drifted back off into a deep sleep.
"He’ll be drifting in and out for awhile. The anesthesia’s beginning to wear off. As I said, we’ve got to keep a close eye on his lungs. I’m just glad he’s been cutting back on those damn cigarettes or it could be a whole helluva lot worse," Jamie explained as he absentmindedly picked up Nelson’s chart and checked it, then rechecked the drainage tube again. He looked at Karen and smiled slightly. "Seems you’ve done something I never could."
Puzzled, she looked over at the Institute’s Chief Medical Officer. "I don’t understand…"
Will raised an eyebrow and stated, "Quitting the cigarettes. His lungs are clearer now than I’ve seen them in a long time. I’ve been after him for years to stop. How on earth did you do it?"
She smiled slightly as she slipped her hand gently into Nelson’s, being careful not to disturb him. "I simply told him I was allergic to it. Besides…my dad smoked for a long time. I know all too well the consequences of it and of second hand smoke. I haven’t smelled one on him in a long time now."
"Well, whatever you’re doing, just keep on doing it. He’ll be the better for it in the long run. Now…call me if you need anything, ok?" Seeing the worried look line her face, he added, "Hey…he’s going to be just fine. He’ll be sore as hell for a while… but he’ll recover fine if he follows directions."
"Don’t worry about that. I’ll see he does," she said as he smiled at her and gave her a reassuring hug and quick kiss on her forehead. "Thanks, Jamie... for everything."
Just about that time, the door slowly opened and Lee Crane’s head poked out from around it. "Can we come in?"
"You might as well. I don’t think I could keep you out of here anyway. However, just be quiet, ok? He’s still groggy and the anesthesia is wearing off. He’s not really going to know you’re here," Jamison told Crane.
"No problem. We won’t stay long." The door opened to reveal not only the Seaview’s Captain, but Chip Morton and Chief Sharkey as well.
"Uh…Doc…is he gonna be okay? I mean…?" Sharkey ventured.
"Yes, Chief. He’ll survive. And I dare say…" with a nod to Karen Davis, "that he’ll be more than able to attend his own wedding."
Lee Crane looked over at Karen and slightly smiled. "Can’t let him miss that, now can we?"
Karen nodded as she took hold of Nelson’s hand. Raising an eyebrow, she softly replied, "Well, Captain, I expect you and Mr. Morton here to make sure he gets to the church on time. Particularly since both of you are in the wedding as well."
Jamison came around to the other side of the bed and checked the drainage tube from Harry’s chest. Looking up and over at Karen Davis, he pronounced, "You need to get off that leg, too, young lady, or you won’t be able to properly walk down that church aisle. And I think you gentlemen need to let her get some sleep so that she’ll be awake when he comes to."
"Yes, sir," was the soft reply as she displayed a weak smile and looked back at Harry lying in the bed. So, without further ado, she hobbled over to the bed beside him and laid down, then quickly dozed off to sleep shortly after the four men left the room.
Later that evening she was awakened by voices. She opened her eyes to see Jamison and a nurse in the room examining Harry, who was now fully awake. Sitting up, she swung her legs over the side of the bed and slowly got down.
"Why didn’t you wake me?" she asked Jamison as she walked over to the chair beside the bed.
"You were sleeping so soundly that I didn’t have the heart to disturb you. Besides, you needed the sleep," was the doctor’s smiling reply.
"How do you feel?" Her hand lightly touched Nelson’s arm, careful not to disturb the IV needle.
"Like I’ve been drop kicked by an elephant. What happened and where am I?" came the gruff but weak reply.
Jamison looked at him as he began to change his dressing. "You took a round from a high powered hunting rifle in the right shoulder. It punctured your right lung, collapsed it and then buried itself in your right shoulder blade, fracturing it. You’ll be pretty sore for a while. Now listen, I want you to keep quiet and still. You’ve got a drain tube in your side so no moving around. Let the repairs have a chance to heal." He took the old dressing off, revealing a very nasty gunshot wound. "You’re going to be in here awhile. Now, if you follow orders, I may release you within a week or two but only if you follow orders."
Karen took in a deep breath at the sight of it. "Don’t worry, I hardly feel a thing," Harry said to her as he reached for her hand with his left one. He tried to move it some but the stabbing pain stopped him cold. He closed his eyes and gasped a little.
Jamison looked at him as he gently placed a hand on his good shoulder to hold him down as he tried to regain his composure. "I told you not to move, didn’t I? You and I are going to need to work on our communications here. You may be in charge of this Institute, Admiral…but in here, I’m in command. Do we understand each other? When I say still and quiet, that means you don’t move an inch. Got it?"
"Whatever," Nelson managed to say as he remained still. Jamison then finished cleaning and redressing the wound, and afterward, he checked and cleaned the drain tube.
"All right, you have two choices here, Admiral. You keep it quiet or I can put it in a shoulder cast and have you restrained in the bed. Your call," he said. "However, I will say this…if you don’t listen to me and do as I say…I can guarantee you that you’ll be standing in front of that church on April 19th in a cast. Now…explain that to the lady sitting beside you."
Harry looked up into his Chief Medical Officer’s eyes and saw he was dead serious. Jamison reigned supreme in the MedBay and he knew it, too. He didn’t even look off to the side at Karen. Finally, letting out a sigh of defeat, he shook his head in acknowledgement.
"Good. Glad we agree on things here. Now, I’ll leave you two alone. Remember, still and quiet," Jamison pointedly remarked, and then headed for the door. "Captain, I’ll rely on you to make sure he behaves. Goodnight."
Silence reigned for what seemed an eternity. Karen looked at him with serious eyes and gently took his hand in hers and looked him directly in the eye. Then, in a tone she had always reserved for Caitlin, "Don’t you ever scare me like that again. Do you hear me? I need you too much to lose you like this."
He searched her eyes and recognized the fear he saw there. He coughed just a bit and grimaced. "Damn!" A few moments later, he looked back up at her. "I wasn’t expecting anyone to be in the area," he replied weakly.
"I know." She looked at him with glistening eyes. "Do you know how hard it was for me seeing you like that? Knowing there wasn’t a thing I could do for you. Don’t you ever…and I repeat…ever…do this to me again. Do you hear me?"
Arching an eyebrow just a bit, he shot back weakly, "Just remember, Captain…I don’t especially enjoy sitting where you are, either."
Her fingers tightened around his hand. "I know," she whispered. Reaching up and kissing him lightly, she then moved a small strand of his hair back off his forehead. "I told Jamie I wasn’t going to leave until you woke. They moved a bed in here so I could stay." Chuckling a bit, she sat back down in the chair. "I’ve already been ordered to stay off the foot or I might not be able to walk down the aisle without the cast. And considering that this thing definitely clashes with my dress, I guess I’m stuck. And so are you."
He closed his eyes and smiled. Just hearing her voice was a comfort to him in a way he hadn’t realized before. Then a thought crossed his mind and he remarked with a raised eyebrow and grin, "You know though, that would be one way of getting out of wearing those damn dress whites."
She looked at him and tapped the tip of his nose ever so lightly as she quickly smiled. "Don’t you even think about it…"
Just then, there was a knock at the door and it opened as Brian O’Lannery popped his head in. "Can you have visitors, Admiral?" he asked as he waited.
"Sure. Come on in," he replied as Brian opened the door wide and entered with Gregory Stanton in tow.
"We wanted to see how you were doing." Gregory asked.
"Thanks to you, Brian, I’m here and doing as well as can be expected. I understand I owe you my life?" Harry remarked.
"We’re sorry about all this. We didn’t see any signs, sir and we’ve been hunting in that same area for several years now." Brian remarked.
"I guess the next time I go fishing, I’d better wear my vest and hat, huh?" he said with a smile.
"You’re not going to press charges, are you?" Gregory asked with obvious concern in his voice.
"Greg!" Brian replied, hitting him slightly in his arm.
Harry looked at the two of them and knew how they must be feeling. He remembered Brian from years ago. He had met him in the Marine Biology building when Katherine had taken him on a tour of the place after they first met. Brian apparently had forgotten it.
"No, I’m not going to press charges, Greg. Tell me, Brian, how did that study go on that parasite you were researching when I was down there last? You had a killer whale in a tank that was sick. Katherine told me you had found a parasite that you thought was the cause of it."
Suddenly Brian remembered the visit and he smiled slightly. "We were right and were able to cure it. We released it a month and a half later after she…" Looking a bit apologetic, he softly added, "I’m sorry, Admiral."
"It’s okay, Brian," he quietly said as his face went serious again. Karen sat watching him and could see it was a very painful memory for him.
"Well, we just wanted to stop in and see how you came through things and see if you needed anything. However, I can see you’re in good hands here with Captain Davis and the MedBay, so we’ll be on our way. The two crewmen were nice enough to bring our Explorer back down so at least we’ve got a ride outta here. You’re going to have to stop by again and see the place. A lot’s changed down there," O’Lannery remarked as they both bid their farewells and left.
Nelson’s mind drifted from Katherine to the poem in the book Karen had been reading. He now realized it had said it all. He turned his head slightly and looked at her as she sat quietly in the chair, her eyes intently watching him. "Karen?"
"That book…of poetry…you were reading…" he said between labored breaths, his voice still a bit raspy from the ventilator tube used during the surgery.
"One of them…you’d read a lot. I read it…I understand now…"
At first she didn’t know which one he was talking about and then the realization came. Carefully, she sat down on the edge of the bed and intertwined her fingers with his. "I’ve had that book for a long time. In fact, I bought it before Robert died because a lot of things written there held a lot of meaning for me at that time. I had forgotten about it until recently when I was going through things that I’m going to move to your house. I guess there’s a lot of relevant things in there for us, too."
"Very…relevant." He lowered his eyes a bit then looked back up into hers. "If you’ve got the patience, I’m willing to try. There’s a lot I’ve got to learn and I think I need a very good teacher."
Karen’s fingers lovingly touched his face and traced the outline of his lips. Softly, she said, "Well, Admiral, we can teach each other… and we have the rest of our lives to get it right."
He weakly squeezed her hand as she lightly kissed him. Her other hand covered his as sleep overtook him and he dozed off.
Twelve days later, Harriman Nelson sat in his study in his home going through the enormous amount of paperwork that had bombarded him since the vacation and accident. Jamison had released him from MedBay only yesterday and ordered him to light duty, but this work could not wait. As soon as he’d gotten settled back in his house, he called Angie and had her bring over the high priority work. Harry knew that Jamie would have had his hide if he’d shown up at the office this morning, so, to avoid any type of confrontation with his Medical Officer, he decided to work at home.
Trying to pace himself, he didn’t want to get too tired. The time in the MedBay had given him time to think about his life, his work, and about the future. He’d been lucky…very lucky, and he knew it, too. The fact that Karen had stayed with him each night had helped a bit. Oddly enough, it had given them time to really talk about an array of subjects and what each expected from the other. And the more they talked, the more each accepted the other’s views of things. He realized that he couldn’t remake her into Katherine. She had been right on that subject. She’d never be like Katherine and to ask her to be was wrong.
At one point during one of the evenings, Karen had even laughed that this was the first time, and hopefully the last, that they’d sleep in separate beds while in the same room. Harry had started to laugh and ended up in a massive coughing fit. The nurse and the on-duty doctor had promptly chastised them both and threatened to call Jamison back to the MedBay if they didn’t behave.
Around 1130 p.m., he sat back in his overstuffed chair and closed his eyes. More tired than he was willing to admit, he soon dozed off to sleep. In what seemed to be only moments, he felt warm lips on his. Opening his eyes, he stared straight into the sparkling brown eyes of Karen Davis.
"Jamie said you weren’t supposed to over do it," she gently admonished him and kissed him again, then straightened up.
"Yeah, well…Jamie’s not running this place, I am," was his gruff reply. "I swear, you’d think that we had all the money in the world to fund every project that’s requested. And I suppose you’re here to check up on me, right?"
"Yep. Right on that one. Plus…Angie asked me to bring you this." She handed him a large manila envelope and watched as he put it off to the side and atop the dwindling pile of paperwork. "I’m also here to make sure you behave the rest of the night, too."
A slight smile graced his face as he realized that she meant to spend the night. He watched her move slowly around to the front of his desk and sit down. "How’s the foot?" he asked, as she pulled up a second chair and propped her leg up in it.
"Doing better…If I behave myself, I’ve got about another six weeks in it. So…I should be able to fit into my shoes for the wedding. Oh, and that reminds me. The Country Club faxed over menus and wants some sort of confirmation on them by the end of next week. I’ve talked to Rev. Miller and he’s agreed to fly out and help do the wedding. And Father Bernard’s office says that we’ve got an appointment with him week after next for our required pre-marital counseling session."
"Is that really necessary?" he asked as he carefully got up from behind his massive mahogany desk. Coming around to the front of it, he leaned back against the edge and crossed his left arm over the right one that was still in a sling.
"Well…we don’t have to go through the whole thing…but I do think it’d be good, Harry. And it is a requirement... Robert and I went through six weeks of it. Consider yourself lucky that we’re doing it one on one and hopefully it’ll only be one or two meetings," she replied, looking up at him. Actually, considering what they’d just gone through and the discussions they’d had among themselves, she hoped that there’d only be one. A second, she reasoned, just wasn’t necessary anymore.
"True…" he thoughtfully said. "I guess I’d forgotten about all the formalities one has to go through with all of this." His eyes fell on an object sitting on a table at the other end of the study. Slowly walking over, he picked it up and came back to her. As he handed it to her, he said, "I wanted you to have this. Sort of…an early wedding present."
"What in the world…?" was the astonished reply.
"Open it and find out." He went back behind the desk and sat down, watching her as she started to open the package.
The package was rather large and wrapped in very plain silver paper with white ribbon. On the top was a card addressed to her. As she opened it, she silently read what he’d written inside…
An old dog can be taught new tricks…and this one is more than willing to learn.
Even if it takes
the rest of my life.
Glancing up at him, she saw the faint outline of a smile as she carefully unwrapped the box and moved aside the layers of tissue paper. Inside, was a very large picture frame surrounding an exquisitely matted copy of a poem from her book with a small card attached to the top.
All I ask is that this hang in our bedroom to remind us of what love really is.
And as she read it from beginning to end, she realized how right he really was…
Love Can Be Forever If You Want It To Be
Love is the strongest and
most fulfilling emotion possible
It lets you share
your goals, your desires, your experiences
It lets you share
your life with someone
It lets you be yourself
with someone who will always support you
It lets you speak
your innermost feelings to someone who understands you
It lets you feel tenderness and warmth -
a wholeness that avoids loneliness
Love lets you feel complete
But in order to have
a successful love relationship
you must make a strong commitment to each other and love
and you must do and feel everything within your mind and body
to make this commitment work
You must be happy with yourself
and you must understand yourself
before you can expect someone else
to be happy with you or to understand you
You must be honest about yourself and each other at all times
and not hold any feelings back
You must accept each other the way you are
and not try to change each other
You must be free to grow as individuals yet share your life as one
but not live your life through each other
You must follow your own principles and morals
and not follow what societal roles tell you to do
You must follow the philosophy that men and women are equal
and not treat either person with inferiority in any way
In order to have
a lasting love relationship
You must be together always in your heart
but not necessarily always in your activities
You must be proud of each other and love
and not be ashamed to show your sensitive feelings
You must treat every day spent with each other as special
and not take each other or your love for granted
You must spend time talking with each other every day
and not be too busy with outside events that you
are too tired for each other
You must understand each other's moods and feelings
and not hurt each other intentionally
but if your frustrations are taken out on each other
you must both realize that it is not a personal attack
You must be passionate with each other often
and not get into boring patterns
You must continue to have fun and excitement with each other
and not be afraid to try new things
You must always work at love and your love relationship
and not forget how important this relationship is or what
you would feel like without it
Love is the strongest
and most fulfilling emotion possible
If you live
your commitment to love
you will live your dreams
-Poem by Susan Polis Schutz
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