The Best Laid Plans…
Jane Daffron and Linda Delaney
(with contributions by Barbara Paul)
am a sailor, you’re my first mate…’
Voyage, the song…
Early in November, Karen Davis Nelson received an email from her daughter, Caitlin, in San Diego…….
What about a Christmas wedding? I think that it could be so special... and Lee would have no problem, I’m sure... besides... then he wouldn't ever be able to say he forgot the date of our anniversary.
I know, it would complicate things... but if we plan it for the 26th or 27th of December, we could still have a Christmas, and then a wedding... well, Mom?
Karen’s response was a predictable one…
A Christmas wedding? Child, are you trying to kill me? Honestly, honey, there's too much to do already…I don't know if it's possible…
I wouldn't be asking you to do anything else... plans are underway... and we can just change the date... I think it would be wonderful.
Karen typed back…
A Christmas Wedding??????????????????
Are you trying to give me a heart attack here? Not to mention what it's going to do to Harriman.
Uhh, okay, we can do it, I suppose. I'll have to contact the caterer…and then there're the invitations. Caitlin, there's so much to do - you've got to find a dress. Damn! I've got to find an appropriate dress, too. The men are no problem. After all, they did make us promise dress blues only.
Okay, if this is what you want, I guess I can't complain really. However, I can hear Harriman now. <G>
Fifteen minutes later, Karen Nelson received the following email…
From: Harriman Nelson
The wedding is when? Does this young lady realize what all is involved with such a thing? It can't be thrown together overnight as you well know. Where's she planning to hold it? If you can handle her dress, I can get Angie to take care of the caterers and I'll take care of the facility. Damn… you know how I hate short deadlines like this.
To which she responded…
We were planning to have the wedding here at the house, on the deck, in the spring. However, my daughter and your Captain have decided to up the date on me because they now want a Christmas wedding. We can still have it on the deck. I think she already has a dress in mind. You hate short deadlines????? I'm the mother of the bride here. No, I swore I wouldn't panic at anything this child decides to do. Ok…Now that the shock here has worn off, I'm calling Angie for the advance list of guests. When you get home tonight, we can go over it and add/subtract any that are necessary. Her cousins have to be notified and will need accommodations if they come in. I've already got a caterer in mind....and the florist needs notification as well. Musicians will be needed. ARGGGGG! I'm going to kill this child.
No…belay that…Sean wouldn't like me doing anything to his big sister.
You know, at least we had 6 months to plan ours.
ABOUT SIX WEEKS LATER…
Reluctantly, Captain Lee Crane picked up the handset of his phone. "Jenny, get me Caitlin, as soon as possible, would you?" He waited for his secretary to reply and set the phone down. He picked up the fax, and studied it again, as well as the sheet of paper that lay next to it. The phone buzzed, and he picked it up…
"Miss Davis, Captain."
"Thank you, Jenny…" the phone clicked and Caitlin Davis came on the line.
"Hi, Lee…what’s up? Did you get all the shopping done for Christmas?"
A pained expression ran over his face, and he ran his had through his hair. He sighed heavily and finally said, "I have some bad news…" He had faced aliens, ghosts, monsters, and assorted terrorists and basically evil men. None of that, however was equal to facing the reaction he anticipated from his fiancée. Swallowing hard, he said, "I’ve had a message from the ‘Modern Major General’ I leave in two hours. I…I don’t know when I’ll be returning."
There was absolute silence on the other end of the line. He waited, and then said, "Caitlin?"
Very softly, "Two weeks…"
"The wedding is two weeks away. So is Christmas!! "
"I know. I have no choice."
Louder now, "Lee, the wedding is two weeks away! So is Christmas!!"
"I know, Caitlin! I wish that I …"
”You wish!!! You wish!!!??? Stop wishing and do somethng!!!"
"I can’t. I have to leave!"
‘You can’t leave!!"
"Caitlin, I’ve got two hours to prepare for the mission. I don’t have a choice!"
"You always have a choice, Lee Crane! You can say no!"
"That wouldn’t be the ‘right thing’ to do and you know it! I can’t say no to him."
"Did you do something to make him angry? Didn’t he get the invitation to the Wedding?"
"Yes, he got the invitation, and he said he’d be here. However, this mission came up, and I’m the only one that can go in there. After the fiasco with the Magnus Beam and General Gamal, the country was in turmoil. The underground has finally made some inroads, in part due to the mission that I was on a few years ago. The underground was able to update their computer information and now...Luanna and Abdul Azziz have requested that I return and give them some further help. The ‘Modern Major General’ has made promises to them and I have to go. I just hope that it won’t be for too long! "
"You had better not miss this wedding, Captain Crane!!! ...And what are you going to tell your son about Christmas?!"
Realizing her concern hiding in her anger, and feeling the same
frustration she was feeling, he answered her, "Caitlin, if I could pass on this,
you know I would. I want to marry you more than you realize. I want to be here
with you, and Robert, for Christmas. I love you. I want to spend the rest of my
life with you, and I plan to do exactly that. But I cannot say no
to the President. You know that. You have to understand…"
Quietly, once again, "I know, Lee. Believe me, I know. I saw Mom run on a moments’ notice more often than I like to think about. But why you…and why now?"
"Because he said so… because it has to be this way… we can’t control the politics of the world!"
"Lee, I’m frightened!"
"So am I! If I wasn’t… I’d be a fool!… Caitlin, I love you, and I promise you that I’ll be here for the wedding. Believe me, it’s a date that I’ve been planning on! More than anything else, I don’t intend to disappoint you!"
"I know," she said softly. "I’m just worried about you…"
"Well, hurry up and get here so that you can give your fiancé a proper good-bye. And then maybe you can see Karen and the Admiral and Morton and keep’em all calm! This certainly isn’t my choice!"
"I know, Lee. When and where do you leave from?"
"I’m taking the FS1 and Ski. He’s the highest ranked rating with top security clearance. Meet me at the boat at 1535. I’ve got to be on my way by no later than 1550."
"Not much time to say a proper goodbye, Captain!" she was attempting to be lighthearted.
"Then anything will have to do!…Hurry!"
"Yes, my love...yes!"
Caitlin had never driven so fast in her life. She was only an hour from the institute, having taken an apartment between San Diego and Santa Barbara because of the way she was splitting her time, working for two admirals, Stark and Nelson. She loved what she was doing, loved working for the two men, as different from each other as sea and sky, but both of them dedicated to what they were doing.
Two weeks to the wedding, and the Holidays, and Lee was being taken away on a mission… ‘Damn…why Lee, why now?’ She was going to get to HN and to Stark. There had to be a way to get him out of this! … Not that he wanted to get out of it…If the truth be told, Lee thrived on the last minute missions, the excitement, the living on the edge. It was a part of his nature, one that she didn’t claim to understand, but accepted nonetheless. It was what made him, even after all the years that she had known him, still something of a mystery to her.
"Damn…Damn…Damn…" She brushed aside a tear that had managed to escape from her eyes. ‘Caitlin Davis…don’t you go all female on him now! He’s just as angry and upset about this as you are!!!! He doesn’t need to have you be foolish about it! Stop it now!!"
The security gate of NIMR, wearing Holiday Wreaths, came into view, and she slowed down to pass through.
"Afternoon, Miss Davis….Happy Holidays… The Capt’n said for you to meet him down at the boat."
"Thanks, Dan." She waved brightly and drove the little black sports car onto the Institute grounds. The boat’s dock was less than five minutes from the gate, but Caitlin made it in record time! She screeched into a parking place, and before the car had completely stopped, was out of it and onto the gangway to the boat where she found Lee waiting for her. She skidded to a halt in front of him, and he smiled widely at her.
"Well, Little Girl, you made it!" He glanced at his watch and whistled, "And in record time, too!"
"And I probably broke every damn speed law on the books and then some!" She smiled up at him, and reached for him, standing on tip toes to wrap her arms around his neck. "Damn flats!" she murmured under her breath. He reached down and wrapped his arms around her waist, lifting her slightly. Bending his head to hers, he kissed her passionately. She didn’t want the kiss to end, and neither did he, but he broke the embrace first.
"Caitlin, I love you," he said huskily. "If there was any other way…"
She put a finger to his lips, "I know. I also know that you can’t and that you wouldn’t say no. And I love you for that!"
She ran her hand down the side of his face, and he caught it and kissed it gently. He then wrapped his arms around her and held her close. "I just don’t want you to leave. The Holidays and the Wedding are so close, and there’s still so much to do, and now… you have to leave!"
"Do me a favor… while I’m away… will you?"
"You know that you don’t have to ask…"
"Look after Robert, and my mother, will you? With the Holidays and the wedding all at one time, she’s nervous enough, and now, well, I’m afraid that this will make her more upset. Robert is staying with her at the apartment."
"Of course I’ll be there for her, and for R.C. In fact, I was going to start staying at my apartment this week, do some decorating, and be close to Mom and you… Well at least I’ll be close to Mom. And Helen and R.C. I can get R.C to help with the decorating. That will be better than nothing!"
He bent down and kissed her again. Reluctantly, "Caitlin, I have to leave. We have a rendezvous in a few hours… I… I’ll be back as soon as I can get to you, Little Girl! I promise you, I will be back!"
"I know, Lee…I know. Just be careful!! Please be careful!" she said anxiously.
"I will do my best, Little Girl!" he reassured her, "I love you!"
They kissed again, and broke away from each other, parting slowly. She touched her fingers to her lips and blew a final kiss to him as he entered the embarkation hatch, and disappeared from view. She moved up the gangway and stood, dockside, waiting. Several minutes later, out on the water a ripple appeared, growing larger until the small yellow craft broke out of the water, and flew into the sky…
Caitlin waved, hoping that Lee would see her, still… As if in answer, the little sub waggled once, and then flew off…
After going through the pre-flight check, Lee strapped himself into the seat of the FS1 and took the small sub from her berth in the boat. His mind was full of many things, but he was concentrating on getting the FS1 airborne. ‘Ski was in the co-pilot’s seat, monitoring the sub with his concentrated air. Quickly enough, the sub was broaching the surface, and was airborne, Lee had the aft camera on, and saw Caitlin standing on the dock, waving bravely. His response was to tilt the throttle, to port then to starboard in a ‘waggle’ so that she would know he had seen her. Then he took her up to 20,000 ft and proceeded to fill Kowalski in on the mission…
Caitlin's just called from San Diego.....she's en route up here 'cause Lee just called her to tell her that he has to leave ASAP on an ONI mission. PLEASE tell me this is not true. My God! We're 2 weeks from Christmas and a little over that from the wedding!
She's frantic, Harry! If this is true.......we're going to have one very
frantic and worried bride-to-be on our hands.
I'm afraid it's true. I can't discuss the details here. I'll discuss it
with you two tonight. I'm not exactly thrilled about this little stunt, either,
and believe me they'll hear about it. I promise you both this.
Dammit to Hell, Harriman.
How can HE do this right now? Not now!!!!
I just sent that man an invitation to this wedding and HE goes and sends the groom on an ONI mission?????????
Ok… just be prepared for a 5'2" blonde hurricane to hit your office in
just a short bit! She's pissed as hell.
No problem. In fact, she's about to get a reality check.
When they arrived at the tiny mideastern country, they berthed the FS1 at the bottom of the bay, and left her, primed and ready for takeoff at a moment’s notice. They swam out of the hatch and went to the beach, where they stripped and left their gear hidden. According to his contacts, they were to meet the informer on the northern side of the beachhead. Because of Crane’s familiarity with the country, there was a certain air of confidence about the mission that was a rare thing. Not that Lee was overconfident. The last time he was here… The last time he was here the mission had been a disaster for him, tho’ it had been successful. He had been wounded, badly, and had been taken in by a tribe of Bedouins, headed by the Princess Aliysha. They had cared for him, and hidden him until Nelson had come to rescue him. He didn’t remember much of that time…
Aliysha al Fayad, Bedouin Princess, looked at her daughter, Rose and smiled… she was a beautiful child. Her dark, curly hair fell in waves down her back, and her hazel eyes, were absolutely rebellious. At six years old, she had a determined air about her, and she frequently gave her mother a great deal of anxiety. Rose had no fear, and had a natural air of authority, that Aliysha believed came from her father. As the Princess had followed Lee Crane’s career, she saw more and more of his traits coming to the fore in their child. Someday, she would tell Rose who her father was… someday, maybe sooner than she could have imagined, Aliysha would tell him of their daughter….
"Yes, Rose?" Aliysha was exasperated. "Why do you insist on calling me Madame, my child?"
"Because you are a princess, mother, and I must respect your rank!"
Aliysha laughed, and held the child close to her. "You are a princess, too, my Desert Rose! You need to respect me first as your mother, then as a princess!!" Gathering her few belongings to her, she looked at the little girl, and saw her father in her. She knelt on one knee and took the child’s face in her hand. Reluctant as ever to leave her, she had to say her good-byes quickly.
"Rose, I must go… Omir, Yasamine and Selima will take care of you. The people will take heed of what you say. They will also care for you. You must listen to Omir and the women. You must behave yourself, and not try and frighten Omir and the women with your silly adventures. You must remember that you are a Bedouin Princess, and no one rules you. However, you must listen to the advice of others, and take heed when it is good advice. Be good, my child, and may Allah watch over you. I will return to you….as soon as I possibly can."
"I will be waiting for you, Mother. I shall miss you." Impulsively, she reached for her mother, and hugged her. "I love you, Madame…please, be careful!"
"I will, Rose. I will." She kissed her daughter and left the tent. Outside, Omir awaited his princess. "Take care of my child, Omir. I could not bear it if anything happened to her."
"Do not worry, my Lady. The child will be well cared for until you return…I promise you. I will see to it. Yasamine and Selima will be with her constantly. The Lady Rose will be safe. My word and my life on it!"
"I know, Old Friend… I know!! I will return soon."
He salaamed to her and stepped aside as her Captain of the Horse came to her. Bowing deeply, he said, "All is ready, My Lady. The Americans have landed on the beach, and are waiting at the rendezvous. Our people will meet them, and take them to the safe house. They will be safe until we arrive."
"Thank you, Rashid. We will leave now!" Aliysha el Fayad, Bedouin Princess, gained her mount, and rode off with her escort, to whatever the fates, and Allah held in store.
Kowalski looked surprised as Crane came out of the little room in the safe house. He had changed clothes for the mission, and the rating was startled at the change in the Seaview’s Captain.
He was dressed as a Bedouin male, wearing the loose silken shirt, trousers, sash and soft beige kid boots. The clothes were white, and silken, and Kowalski looked surprised. The Skipper looked at home and comfortable in the costume.
"Skipper, I didn’t know that you kept those clothes!" he remarked, surprised.
Crane grinned at the sailor, "When in Rome…there are clothes in the other room for you too, Ski. If we’re going to be here for a while, we may as well dress the part… as for my things, well, it seems that the Admiral had these in stores since I returned from here the last time, and he brought them to the boat. There are a few other pieces I will need to put on, but not ‘til we leave."
"I have a get up like that too, sir?" He was wary of his commanding Officer’s response, not really wanting to get into ‘costume’!
Crane smiled at the rating. "Yes, you do! And I’d suggest that you get into it ASAP. I know that our contacts are on the way, but I don’t know just when they will arrive. We’ve met the leader before…"
"The Princess, Skipper?" He asked, grinning at Crane.
Crane laughed again. "Ski, I know that you never forget the ladies, but sometimes, your memory amazes even me! … Yes, Aliysha’s coming for us. We have to meet with her and her people, and we have to get the information that we retrieve from the capitol to Abdul Azziz and Luana."
Now it was Kowalski’s turn to grin widely. "That Luana, isn’t she the one that helped you with the Magnus Beam, Skipper?"
"Yes, Kowalski, it is!"
"Skipper," he laughed, "I thought I had a girl in every port, but two of them, sir?…What would Miss Davis say?"
Lee looked at him conspiratorially, "What she doesn’t know, Ski, won’t hurt her…and she doesn’t know! … Besides, Ski, they’re the best at what they do!."
Kowalski winked at his commanding officer, and moved into the inner room, eyeing the bedouin clothes warily, "Sure, Skipper, sure!"
Lee laughed aloud, and shook his head, as he sat in a comfortable chair. ‘If Caitlin knew, what would she say?…There had been a lot of women in his life, but there was only one woman for him. Luana had been lovely, strong and caring, with gentle hands after he had been so badly beaten by General Gamal’s men. Major Amadi, Gamal’s right hand man, had been amazed that she was indeed a true freedom fighter… he had thought she was a double agent as he was. Her voice was beautiful, but she was truly interested in only freedom for her people, and her time with him had been very businesslike. There had been nothing there to pursue…
Aliysha el Fayad was a different story. He didn’t remember much of the time he spent in her company. He had been wounded retrieving a computer chip for the resistance. The Bedouins had found him in the desert and saved his life. Then the government had searched for him, and the tribe had drugged him and hidden him. He had been wounded again, and had been cared for by Aliysha and her people. The physician of the tribe had used heavy opiates to keep him unconscious so that he could heal and he had had dreams… of a beautiful blonde woman in his arms, and in his bed, and they had made love… such love!!!! That part had to have been a dream… he had been kept drugged, for almost two weeks. She had been so professional when they had talked. And he had been unconscious when he left her…He did remember that she was a beautiful woman. And a determined freedom fighter as well… there was a set to her body, and her spirit…She was something of an enigma … perhaps he would get to know her further… she could be a good friend…
Later that day, the Bedouins arrived at the safe house. Aliysha had brought Rashid, Murad and Suliman with her, into the city. She was dressed as Lee had last seen her.
She again wore the garb of a bedouin fighter, blouse, pants, sash and boots. Covering her blonde hair was a turban. The color that she wore was royal purple. She covered the entire costume with a loose flowing burnoose. She had a small knife, a dagger, and a pistol tucked into her waist. Her look was still one of a hardened fighter, though she smiled warmly, when she saw Lee Crane. He looked as one of her people, which would make the mission so much the easier. His man also had a look of one used to hard work, and in their dress, also looked a Bedouin.
"Captain Crane, you look much healthier than when we last met!"
Lee salaamed deeply. "My Lady Aliysha…Greetings, and thank you…You look as you did when I saw you last… the years can not have been that many, Lady."
"Captain Crane, you flatter me! I thank you for your most gracious compliments." Then in a quieter, and more familiar tone, she said. "Lee, It is very good to see you again! Years ago, when we met, Omir and the astrologer cast our charts, and said that we would not meet again. Here is one time that the stars were wrong!"
"Perhaps…then again these things are always open to interpretation… Whatever the cause, it is good to see you again. Especially when I am standing on my own two feet, and I am decidedly coherent!" They both laughed, and he took her hand in his and kissed it.
‘Electricity passed through Aliysha’s body at his touch! Oh this man!!! He is the one of my dreams, my heart… I must know… I must know if his heart is elsewhere!’
She took her hand slowly from his… "I would not know that almost seven years have passed, Captain. It seems to be but yesterday the we were together. Your son is older now, he is doing well?" Lee smiled broadly.
"Robert is twelve, and soon to be my Best Man. I’m supposed to be married in two weeks. I’d like to get this mission started, and over with as soon as possible."
A shadow of sadness passed over her face, and was gone so quickly that Lee did not see it. ‘Married!!! He has given his heart to someone… I wonder if it is true, or just a need to fill a void for his son?’ "It seems that you are always in a hurry to leave us, Captain. You no sooner arrive, and you make plans to leave. You must give us time to let you know our people and our country, in a better way!"
"Well, Princess, perhaps… perhaps in another time….when the matters that we seek to solve are resolved."
"Captain,… Lee, we are friends, perhaps it would be easier if you call me by my given name. We will be working closely, and titles do get in the way."
He nodded, smiling at her. "Yes, they do, under these circumstances."
"Well, then, Lee…" she smiled at him, a genuinely fond look covering her face. "I think that perhaps we had better begin making our plans…After all that is why you and your man are here…"
He nodded, serious once again…. "Yes, Aliysha… I have to see either Luana, or Abdul Azziz before we go too far. It is in their court, so to speak…"
Aliysha nodded, and Rashid presented her with a roll of maps that she spread on the table before them. She moved next to Lee, faltering slightly at the closeness of him, and then, hardening, began to go over the plans…
In Santa Barbara, Caitlin Davis was in the midst of an interview with Harriman Nelson. She was raging and Nelson was calmly listening to her, letting her go on and on about the Lee being taken off on a mission this close to Christmas and the Wedding. When she had finished her tirade, Nelson, smiling, quietly asked her, "Caitlin, are you finished?"
She turned to him, and burst into tears. She moved to the desk, and Nelson stood, and extended a hand to her. She went to him, and leaned onto his shoulder.
"Why, HN? Why Lee and why now? Why does it have to be now?"
"Politics is my only answer, Caitlin… the quirks of politics…and Lee is the one best suited for this job. He is, in fact, the only one for the job. ONI has informed me that there’s another computer chip involved, and since Lee has all the underground contacts, and they know and trust him, that he IS the only one that can do it…"
She looked at her step-father, her tear-stained face glistening in anger and fear. "HN… I don’t want to hear that! There was no reason for the President to take Lee away right now… Christmas is in two weeks and we’re supposed to be married in two days later. TWO WEEKS!!!! DAMN!! The bastard was invited to the Wedding!!!! What the hell else could I have done?? …. Can’t you do anything???" her voice became softer, the anger in it began to fade, and she said, quietly, "I don’t want to lose him, Admiral…I can’t !… I’ve waited too long, way too long, to be his wife!" She began to sob softly again.
"Caitlin, I can’t tell you not to worry, but you and I both know Lee Crane… he will do every thing in his power to get home on time…."
"But it’s not just getting home that I’m worried about…. It’s the condition that he’ll be in when he gets here… You and I also know that Lee could manage to get himself hurt on the street in front of the house, if the moment’s right!" her voice cracked, and she heaved a sigh, and lifted her head from his shoulder.
Nelson smiled at her, and reaching into his pocket, took out his handkerchief. He handed it to her, his blue eyes twinkling. As she took it, he said, "I feel a little like Rhett Butler… offering his handkerchief to Scarlett O’Hara….what was it that he said to her?, ‘…my dear, never in all of the time that I have known you, have you ever had a handkerchief when you needed one!’ Caitlin, I’ve never known you to even need one!" He put his arm around her shoulder in a fatherly fashion. "Go on and worry about Lee, if you need, but don’t doubt that he will come back to you, and he will move heaven and earth to get back here on time, Caitlin… that I firmly believe!"
"I hope so, HN…I do dearly hope so!!"
A few days later, Aliysha crouched down in the shadows of the small oasis. Lee was at her side, Ski and Rashid on either side of them. They were watching and listening to the small band of soldiers talk around the water hole. Aliysha was barely breathing, trying to hear everything that they were saying… and trying to ignore the closeness of the Seaview’s Captain. In a real sense, these last days had been a torture for her. Working closely with Lee, the man who was the father to her Rose, this man that she had taken to her heart and soul, in a way that only she knew, was pushing the limits of her control. She wanted to tell him that the night that they shared had indeed been a reality, not a drugged dream as he thought it was…She wanted to tell him of the child that he had fathered. Her daughter… ‘their daughter’ Her Desert Rose! But she couldn’t let him know, he was about to be married. There was a joy in his eyes when he talked to her that had not been there before. He called his bride-to-be, his "Little Girl’ because of her youth, compared, he said, to his significant age. One night, when they were alone, he had told her a little of his future wife. The warmth and joy in his face and eyes, the love in his voice when he spoke told Aliysha all that she needed to know about him. She would not tell him of their child, of their one night. She would keep her secret for many years, if she needed to, to protect Rose, and to protect him as well.
They watched the soldiers until the group of eight men bedded down for the night. They left a single lookout. That man, after the passage of a short bit of time, nodded his head in sleep as the rest of the men also slept deeply, certain that there was no one near to disturb their sleep. They were in possession of the newly created computer chip and program that was needed by the underground to supersede all of the governments prior computer programs…
I have everything under control. Yes, the house needs to be cleaned. The day after Christmas, the whole house will be gone thru. The tent for the lawn has already been contracted. The musicians are confirmed, and the list of guests has been handled and invitations are in hand as I type this. Each invitation will be hand delivered so there won't be any mix-up with the mail.
Father Bernard and Rev. Miller have confirmed and will be here. We'll need to make sure that Rev. Miller is flown here from Va.
I've been on the phone all morning with the hotel, booking a block of rooms. Have already talked to the President's secretary and he will be here.
Caitlin's dress is at the tailors. Mine is being made at this moment.
Terri and Angie have been invaluable to me.
Now, my dearest husband, there is something that you can do.
Our son is having a hard time with all of this - he doesn't understand all that's going on. Caitlin's tried to talk to him and explain. I think he's a little put out 'cause she's going to be leaving. Maybe you could have a little 'man to man' talk with him? I know it's even harder now that the wedding's been moved up a couple of days after Xmas. He was moping around saying that everybody's forgotten about him......and forgotten about Christmas. I've tried my best....but I think that this is the time when Dad needs to take the situation in hand.
Harry, really.....don't YOU worry about the arrangements re: the wedding. Leave THAT to your very capable wife here.
Now, if something else doesn't throw a wrench into the plans, we'll be just fine.
Oh, and by the way, we need to set up the tree in the great room.....I've got to get all the decorations from the attic.....and if we're going to have the dinner party on Christmas Eve....I've got to get to the market to place the order for the Crown Pork Roast I'm going to have.
I'll handle Sean for you. In fact I think I'll take him for a ride in the FS-1. I'll talk to him there. That way we can be alone and can discuss things openly between us. I feel like I should be doing something with regards to the wedding but you seem to have things well in hand, so ...carry on. See you in a little while.
I remember all too well the feelings he's going thru. He's about the same age Caitlin was when she lost her dad. That Christmas was hard for both of us.....Even tho this is not the same.....he feels like he's being left out and forgotten with all of us running around. Somehow, I just think a little extra attention would be good for him. It's hard for him to really understand all of this......I sometimes forget that he's only 8....he reminds me of Caitlin at that age...Grown up in 1 way, but still a very vulnerable 8 year old.
Maybe he just needs his dad a bit more than he needs his mom right about now. It's funny.....but as I'm working on these preparations.....I find myself very sad. She's my firstborn, Harry.....and this, in a way, is very hard for me....
Sean.......Sean is my precious gift. And to know that he needs you more than me right now........maybe hurts just a bit......
I'm sorry, Harry, I'm just in a bit of a downer right now. Christmas has always been bittersweet for me, you know that. But hopefully we can get this wedding done, my daughter married to your Captain, and then we can rest.
I feel the same way with Caitlin. Here we were married and all but she isn't mine. I felt awkward disciplining her. I knew she was closer to you than me for obvious reasons but in many ways I still felt isolated around her. Also it's a bit awkward discussing things with her being female.
There's going to be times Sean's going to need his mother but being a male he'll turn to me in other things for just the same reason. This is why I feel it's so important that the kids have both of us around. As for you feeling down this time of year, I know how you feel. You lost a husband. Although it is not quite the same, I lost Kathryn. We both know how hard that is.
As for Caitlin, Lee'll be back and on time. How about a little quality time tonight with all of us? We can have a night on the beach. A kind of campout. The kid's would love it and we can be together as a family. We aren't together like this too often and we need to be.
You know, it's times like these that make me realize how very much I love you. I know I'd love the campout and I'm sure that Sean and Caitlin would love it too.
Know this, you've filled a void in Caitlin's life that was so needed. When we first came here, for some reason, she gravitated toward you. You provided her with the father figure she so desperately needed, and wanted. I had no idea that she manipulated and schemed to get us together.
Harriman, please know that simply because I have some ambivalent feelings this time of year, it has nothing to do with you. I guess it's just me. And with this wedding coming up…it kind of magnifies things sometimes.
I'm glad you're going to spend some extra time with Sean. He's getting to that age now where it's going to happen more and more. I guess it's just a bit hard for me to 'let go'.
But then, you were always good about getting me to forget my problems.
Caitlin looked out the doors to the back of the Nelson's house. She had been here almost every day since Lee had been called away... seeking the comforting and familiar feelings of home, and family during the Holidays and Wedding preparations.
She saw 8 year old Sean sitting morosely on his swing on the rise behind the deck, abstractedly swinging slowly back and forth.
She smiled to herself...Poor baby! Mom’s been so busy with me, he's been pushed aside. And he doesn’t understand what’s going on here! And with Christmas coming, and the wedding… the poor little guy!!! She opened the door, and walked to the edge of the deck.
Draping herself over the railing and she called over to her little brother, "Whatcha doin’, Sean?"
"Nothin’ Caitie...‘sides….nobody cares, ‘bout me anyway." His lower lip was quivering, and he looked about to cry. "Nobody cares… Not Momma, not Poppa, not even you … ‘Taitie!" He grinned at her when he used his baby name for her.
"I care, Sean......" She came down off the deck and went over and climbed in the other swing, just letting her legs dangle and twirling around a bit.
Sean Nelson looked up at his big sister...'Caitie’d been very short with him since Uncle Lee went away … In fact everyone had been, and no one would tell him what was really wrong… In his 8-year old mind, he reasoned that if weddings were supposed to be happy times why was everyone so angry and upset all the time?!!!
Christmas was coming, and Santa was coming, and…. and Caitie and Uncle Lee were getting married... everyone was upset… and Uncle Lee wasn’t here… and he didn't understand at all...
"Caitie...what does it mean, getting’ married?"
"It means that when two people love one other a lot, they want to be together....to live together."
"Live in the same house? Not the one that they lived in before?"
"Yes, it means that they want to live in the same house…but, in my case, I won't be very far away…just down the hill. I’m going to be livin’ in Uncle Lee’s house." Caitlin made a mental note to talk to Karen about Sean dropping the Uncle when it came to Lee… it just didn’t sound right anymore!
"Will you be playing like Momma and Poppa do when they lock the door? Can I come and visit? will you let me play too!" the little boy’s blue eyes glowed with excitement
She smiled to herself, knowing just what he meant... "Yes, Sean.... Lee and I will probably be like Momma and HN...And you can come and visit and stay with R.C. But no, you can’t play with us, just like you don’t play with Mom and HN!"
"R.C. will be living with you? Caitie!!!! Can I live with you too? You can ask Momma and Poppa and maybe they will let me!"
"No Sean...You have to live with Mom and HN....they’re your momma and poppa...I'm going to be R.C.'s new mommy…Besides, if you came to live with me, who'd keep Momma and Poppa ‘straight’, eh, Little Brother?"
He looked at his big sister puzzled... "Keep them straight, Caitie?"
"Yes, Sean....you know....." she added with a wink, "keep them from playing without you." and she laughed.
"Oh!" he said...nodding sagely, but not really knowing what she meant
"Seriously, little Brother, Mom and HN need you. Your time will come one of these days and then you'll understand what it's all about. I love Lee…and I want to be with him, just like Mom and HN are with one another."
Sean grew quietly thoughtful.
"You know, I lost my father when I was just a little older than you are now. Mom was real sad for a long time. But then HN came in to our lives and he and Mom fell in love. They got married and then you were born. You want me to be happy, don't you, Sean?"
He climbed off the swing, and into her lap... "I love you, Caitie!!!!" he said as he wrapped his arms around her neck and hugged her tightly.
"And I love you too, Seany. Now, what say you to the biggest Ice Cream cone in town....? My treat! And we can discuss your part in the wedding."
He looked thoughtful, and then said to her seriously ... "If you are going to be R.C.'s new mommy, does that make me his sorta brother?"
She looked at him as if she were thinking hard and then answered.... "Well......I guess it does....in a weird sort of way.... Maybe one of these days, we'll have to sit down and sort it all out."
Eyes sparkling with delight and merriment, Sean jumped out of Caitlin’s lap, and said, "Wait 'til I tell R.C. that we're gonna be like brothers!! That’s a cool Christmas present!!" He jumped down the stairs of the deck, and dashed to the doors of the house, "I’m gonna go and tell him now!!!!"
Caitlin watched him run off, a strange mix of feelings flooding her. Lee Crane, wherever you are, you had better get home for this Wedding!!! I miss you!!! I need you, my love!!!
The raid on the camp of the government soldiers had been more successful than the Resistance fighters could have hoped. Not only had they gotten the all important computer chip, but they had also gotten clean away with no blood shed on either part, and they had been able to strand the eight soldiers, without harming them… Now the four Freedom Fighters were on their way back to the safe house, to turn over the chip and successfully conclude their mission.
Lee was extremely pleased… It looked like the mission would be over and he would be able to return to Santa Barbara, ready for Christmas, and the Wedding with several days to spare!!! He would be able to make Caitlin smile that wonderful, loving smile of hers, and she would be happy… God knew he wanted her to be happy!!
Right now I wish I could just disappear somewhere and forget about everything. Get drunk, go crazy and pass out in a stooper. Problem there is the problems will be right there when I wake up. I feel so tired of it all. So very tired.
I know how you feel…
How about we run away to the yacht tonight? Matty has said she and Chip will keep Sean. And I've calmed down Caitlin. She's just stressed out about now.
So, dear Admiral, how about it? Join your wife and let's destress
Sounds wonderful…at least for the short term. I won't really relax till
Lee's back safe and sound. I think you know that.
I know that and neither will I, if truth be told.
So come on, I think no one will really miss us for one night. Besides, in a way, I'm looking forward
to the end of all this. A bit of normalcy back in our lives and you to myself.
I'll meet you at the yacht at 1830. Dress very casual.
And no talking about the wedding, Christmas, the ONI......nothing. Ok? I
just want to be with you....
The silver Jeep Grand Cherokee pulled into the reserved parking place next to the dark blue Mercedes and its lone occupant climbed out. After grabbing a small overnight bag from the back seat, Karen Nelson quickly strolled down the walkway to the pier. At the very end, the Dreamweaver idled slowly as its crew readied for castoff. As she walked up the gangplank, one of the crew took her bag and directed her aft. Another crewman approached her, and after a few words, she proceeded on back. Lines were cast off and the yacht edged away from the pier.
When Karen got to the stern, she found Harriman Nelson as he stood talking to his Captain.
"Mrs. Nelson, good to see you," Captain James Young remarked as he tipped his hat to her.
"Thank you, Captain," she acknowledged with a smile and slid next to her husband, her arm around his waist and planted a soft kiss on his cheek. "Well, Admiral…I’m ready, willing, and able to run away. Glad that you could take me up on my invite." Karen then directed her attention to Young. "Captain…take us out and anchor some miles off the point. Tonight, we’re not going to have anything to do with anybody. Clear?"
"Very much so, ma’am. If you’ll excuse me." Young left the two standing on the deck, watching the Santa Barbara Harbor disappear behind them.
Nelson’s arms encircled his wife’s waist, pulling her tight to him. "So now...what’s this about running away?" he slyly asked.
"Well, with all that’s going on right now ...frankly, I just needed to get away. We’ve both been under a lot of stress lately .... I just thought we needed some peace and quiet," she replied. His arms seemed to envelope her in safety and protection. She molded her body into his and breathed in a heady mixture of the fresh sea air and his after-shave.
"I know ...I just won’t rest ‘til Lee’s back and those two get married." Harriman Nelson’s tone of voice was still tinged with angst and worry.
Karen turned and faced him. Putting a finger to his lips, she quietly remarked, "Sshhhh. I told you ...I don’t want to discuss or even think about the wedding, the Institute, the boat ...the kids ...I simply wanted to be alone with you. Now ...do you think, Admiral Nelson, that you can leave it all behind for just tonight?"
His eyes showed a slight twinkle as he bent slightly to softly kiss her. "Well now ...Mrs. Nelson ... I can if you can. However ...I do think that it’s going to be hard for the subjects not to invade our conversation every now and then."
"Oh, I do believe if we try just a little ...we might just be able to pull it off. Besides, I have a bit of a game plan." She reveled in his embrace and pulled him close to her. The yacht was now making its way out into the channel and they were totally alone in the aft sitting area. It was getting close to 1900 hours and the moon had already started its ascent into the winter sky.
"A game plan, eh? And what may that be?"
"Hmmm, well, sir ...come below and I’ll show you." She took hold of his hand and led him below deck to their cabin. As she opened the door and walked in, she picked up the telephone and called down to the galley. When one of the crew answered, she informed him that their dinner was to be served within the hour. Turning to him, she remarked, "We’re gonna veg out, Harriman. Totally ...absolutely ....utterly ...veg out. We’re going to have dinner served in here. We’re going to watch some TV or a movie ...eat popcorn ...laugh ...cry ...talk ...sleep .... and even just maybe make love. But we’re going to rest. Both of us ...even if it’s just for one night."
"Hmm, I think I like that idea," he grinned as he sat down on the edge of the large Queen Anne bed in the stateroom. He kicked off his dock-sider shoes and laid down on the bed. Stretching out, he raised his arms and placed his hands behind his head. "Okay ...so let’s get this show on the road, shall we? How does one ‘veg out’?"
Karen looked at her husband, sprawled out on the bed, and started to laugh. "Harriman Nelson! God, I could .... No ...I actually think..." and she suddenly jumped on the bed and laid down beside him, " ...that I’ll join you here." Picking up the universal remote control, she clicked on the TV. Making her way through the various channels, she suddenly came upon a classic movie that generally played during the holiday season, A Christmas Story. "Hmmmmm ...I haven’t seen this in a long time."
The two settled back to watch the movie and Karen snuggled into his arms. Within minutes, Harriman Nelson was chuckling and then that soon erupted into outright laughter. Karen hadn’t seen him laugh this hard in a long time.
"Don’t tell me you’ve never seen this movie?" she looked up at him in amazement.
Smiling down at her, he shook his head. "To tell you the truth ...no. I guess I just never took the time."
There was a sudden knock at the door and then a crewman appeared with their dinner. After setting it out on the table at the far side of the cabin, he silently left.
"I think we’d better eat while it’s hot. We can have the popcorn sent up later on," she remarked as she climbed down off the bed. "Besides ...we can finish this while we eat."
She poured a cup of coffee for each of them and sat down. Nelson followed her lead, but turned the TV so that they could watch it as they ate. He was thoroughly enjoying the movie and refused to miss even a minute of it. Karen was both pleased and amazed at the sight of her husband, riveted to the television, laughing loudly at the movie being shown.
"You know, as many times as I’ve seen this thing, it still makes me laugh." She smiled at Harry ...unable to contain the amusement of watching the great Admiral Harriman Nelson as he roared in laughter.
"Well, I guess I’ve been deprived now ...haven’t I?"
And so, the two ate their dinner watching an old movie on television.
Later that evening, the two lay side by side on the huge bed, his arms around her shoulders as she placed her head on his chest.
"So ....this is what you call ‘vegging out’, eh?" he inquired as he lightly stroked her arm.
"Yep ...this is it."
"I think I kind of like this ...not as a every day thing, you know ...but every now and then ...it’s not half bad."
Karen’s fingers brushed the soft layer of hair on his chest while watching the movie that had just come on.
"Well, you do know ...there’s no sin in simply taking it easy once in a while. After all, with everything that’s been going one the last few months..." she replied.
Nelson chuckled and kissed her forehead. "And here I’d been good and hadn’t said a damn thing about the situation and you’re the one who goes and brings it up. What am I going to do with you if you disobey your own orders?"
She sat up and glared at him, then laughed. "Well, sir ...I guess you’ll just have to think of something. Hey, I’m going to have some hot buttered popcorn sent up here. You know the kind..." her eyes widened and her mouth formed a bit of a pout, " ...all hot and wet with liquid butter." Reaching over for the phone, she called back down to the galley and gave the cook the order. Turning back, she told him, "It’ll be here in about 10 minutes. Randall’s assured me that there’ll be enough for both of us and then some."
"Good ...good. So, now, Captain, what do we do in the mean time?" His voice was tinged with mischief as he turned over to face her. It still amazed him sometimes at his good fortune of having her in his life. She was sitting there facing him, Indian style dressed in one of his uniform shirts, the first two buttons from the top undone. Though she kept a stash of her own clothes in the closet, she preferred his khaki shirts to lounge around in or sleep in. It had been a habit she’d picked up early in their relationship after spending an unexpected night at his house. In fact, he’d kidded her about having to order extra shirts because he seemed to keep losing them to a certain someone.
"Well..." she mused as she lightly kissed him, "I really don’t like getting interrupted so ...I guess we wait ‘til the popcorn gets here." Kissing him again, this time a bit more searching. "However, we could get cozy here."
"Don’t start something you can’t finish, Captain," came the sly warning.
She drew back and looked into the steel blue eyes that were twinkling with mirth. They’d been married for 9 years ...known each other for nearly 13. Yet the feelings she had for him were as strong as they had been on the day they married. Damn! If it weren’t for the fact that the crewman’ll be here any minute...
"Admiral Harriman Nelson! I’m surprised at you, suh! Whatevah are you talkin’ about?"
"Come here, you tease!" and he reached for her, pulling her tightly into his arms, and kissing her passionately. His hands had just started a downward path when there was a knock at the door. Damn! Grumbling, he called out, "Come in!"
The crewman delivered two very large bowls of hot buttered popcorn and a pitcher of soft drinks. Getting out of the bed, she searched through the library of videotapes and pulled out one and placed it into the VCR. The opening scenes of A Christmas Vacation came on as Karen dove into her bowl of popcorn.
Somewhere midway through the movie, Karen suddenly felt something oily slip down the shirt. Hmmm, can’t hit my mouth. Damn! She absentmindedly placed her hand through the top and captured the offending object. Taking another couple of pieces and placing them in her mouth, she suddenly felt another kernel in the same basic place. Now I know that’s not me doing that! She glanced over at Harry as he sat beside her, happily munching on the popcorn.
"Harriman, what did you just do?" she suspiciously inquired with a hint of amusement.
"Huh? What are you talking about?" His left hand was totally immersed in the bowl, the residue of butter coating his fingers. Those steel blue eyes, though, twinkled with mirth.
"You know damn well what I’m talking about. You just threw popcorn at me. No ...strike that.... YOU just put popcorn down my shirt."
"Me? ...Me? And why do you think I had anything to do with the fact that some popcorn happened to go down the front of my shirt, Captain?" Harriman Nelson was trying to look very innocent but having a hard time convincing his wife.
She then picked up a kernel and threw it at him. "Cause I know you, that’s why." Grinning just a bit, she threw another one at him and then a whole handful.
Harriman Nelson slightly grinned ...in retaliation, he returned fire. What happened next ...neither one of then could exactly remember how it all started ...ended up with an enthusiastic embrace and popcorn all over the bed and floor.
"You know," he whispered as he softly kissed her shoulder, "this butter is very interesting."
Turning to face him and drawing him into a very impassioned embrace, she replied, "Hmmmmm, you got that right. Quite tasty, too." She took his hand and placed his fingers in her mouth, her tongue sensuously tasting the substance that coated them.
"Karen, you’re unbelievable," he softly remarked as his other free hand expertly started to unbutton the shirt she wore. As he undid the last one, he slid the shirt from her shoulders and let it fall onto the bed. She sat in front of him, nude, and took one of the buttery kernels and fed it to him. Then taking another, she drew it down her throat, between her breasts and down to her navel. Nelson sharply drew in a breath as he watched his wife and her erotic movements, their effect on him becoming more and more noticeable.
Finally, he reached for her as his own pent up needs could stand it no more. As he laid her softly against the pillow, he murmured, "And who said butter was bad for you?"
The next morning, Karen sat out on the deck, drinking a glass of orange juice, as she watched the sun rise higher in the December sky. Clad in Harry’s shirt and a terry cloth bathrobe, she had her feet propped up in a chair. It was 1000. They would be heading back to the pier soon. Back to reality ...back to the stress and strain of the details for Christmas and for the wedding.
Nelson stood watching her from the doorway, remembering last night. He hadn’t relaxed like that in a long time.
Karen was right. Maybe I do need to ‘veg out’, as she calls it, a bit more often. Damn! I needed last night. And God knows she did!
Looking up at the cloudless sky, he sighed, picked up the phone and called Captain Young. "Head back in, Jim. As much as I’d like to stay out here, we’ve got too much to do back home."
"Yes sir, Admiral. ETA should be two hours."
"Good." Nelson hung up the phone and slowly walked up to the deck. He lightly placed his hands on Karen’s shoulders, softly starting to massage them. "We’re heading back. About two hours."
Bending her head back and looking up into the face of the man behind her, she sighed. "Oh, well ...guess we have to go back sometime."
"Yeah, well, nobody said this was going to be easy." He bent down and softly kissed her. "However, I’ll have to remember to ‘veg out’ more often."
Her hand went up to him and touched his cheek. "Bet on it, Admiral, you can bet on it."
Christmas was a week away, the wedding nine days and Caitlin Davis was on her way to her mother’s home. Karen and Caitlin had some last minute shopping to take care of and the caterer had called for a meeting at the last minute, at the Nelson home. There were the final details of the reception to cover, one last time. In her car, Caitlin let the tears begin to fall. Nine days … nine days until she married the man she’d been in love with since she was 17… if he got home safely and in one piece. If…
Caitlin brushed at the tears, angry with herself for giving in to her emotions, again. Damn the caterer! Why she had to meet with her at this point, she had no idea. That was her mother’s mode, not hers… the reception was going to be at the Nelson’s along with the ceremony, and at this point, Caitlin didn’t want to decide, or change, one more thing! She should have let ‘cookie’ take care of it all! That had been Lee’s suggestion, months ago, but Karen had overruled him. With the President, three of the Joint Chiefs, the Secretaries of the Navy and of State, as well as 150 of their friends and family, and of course, the crew of the boat and their families, Karen didn’t want a Boat’s cook to cater. She had found someone she could work with and had gone from there. All Caitlin wanted to do was marry Lee Crane, nothing else!’
She pulled her car up to the Nelson’s home. She had been cleaning out the her apartment and working under the bathroom sink when Karen called, and she was dressed in grungy cutoffs, old deck shoes, and one of Lee’s overlarge NIMR T-shirts that had seen better days. Her light blonde hair was pulled back off her face, matted a bit from the work she’d been doing. She was feeling dirty, but she was only meeting the caterer and had no need to dress for that.
She rang the bell and waited. When Karen didn’t answer the door, she knocked. The Christmas wreath on the door, the white lights, and the look of the houses on Officer’s Row gave an air of happiness, and Holiday anticipation that Caitlin didn’t really feel at that moment.
When there was still no answer, she tried the front door, and finding it unlocked, turned it. Opening it, she entered the gaily decorated foyer. The silence in the house was at once alarming and surprising.
"Mom?" she called. "Mom?" There was no answer. More alarmed, she moved to the great room… It was dark. She heard shuffling noises, and then the room erupted into light, and a very loud "SURPRISE!!!!!!" was shouted at her!!
Startled, she stood stark still!! Approximately 40 women were crowded into her mother’s Great Room. The 15 foot tall Christmas tree shone brightly, the decorations, a combination of Christmas, and Bridal Shower. Karen Davis Nelson moved to her daughters’ side.
"Damn!!! Mom!!! Look at me!!! Why didn’t you tell me!!!!" Caitlin glared at her mother.
"Well," Karen said smiling at her daughter… "If I had told you then it wouldn’t have been a surprise, now would it?" She hugged her eldest child, "Relax, Sweets… there’s a change of clothes for you in ‘your’ bathroom. Don’t rush… we’re enjoying ourselves, aren’t we, ladies?"
A chorus of ‘yes’ and ‘of course’ came through, along with assorted giggles and laughs! Caitlin could hear Christmas music playing in the background of the laughter and talk. Casting her mother a dark look, Caitlin ran to the bedroom she sometimes occupied, and grabbed at her clothes…. If the truth be told, she was pleased and excited… she had hoped for a bridal shower… but when Lee was sent away on this mission, and it being do close to Christmas, she had cast her hopes aside. Her focus had become one that was simply on the return of her husband-to-be, and the idea of a shower had been forced from her mind. She quickly changed into the soft rose colored blouse, and khaki slacks that Karen had placed in the bathroom….. she slid into the flats and ran a brush through her hair, pulling it quickly up into a bun. After washing her face, and applying the basics of her makeup, she then joined her mother and the other women in the Great Room. More relaxed, she smiled at her mother and Matty Morton as they fussed about her, pinning on a corsage, and placing a glass of champagne in her hand.
"Better, Sweets?" Karen asked her as she smoothed off a stray piece of hair from her daughter’s face.
"Yes…Sorry I was so rude! I just didn’t expect…"
"Not another word!" Karen merrily silenced her oldest child. "I seem to remember a baby shower…."
"Mom! That was different!!" Caitlin looked chagrined.
"Enough, Caitlin. Just enjoy!! We all plan to have a lot of fun." Karen saw an expression cross Caitlin’s face…and she leaned into her…."Don’t worry about Lee, Sweets…. He’ll be ok!!!"
In the desert, the small troop moved quickly under the cover of darkness. Aliysha and Lee led the small force on its way back to the encampment of the Bedouins. They were traveling under over of darkness in order to prevent their being followed. Aliysha knew that it was unlikely because of the way that they had left the government soldiers, but they both also knew that it was better for all of them if they moved quickly in the darkness. This particular part of the desert gave way to some rocky cliffs and terrain, that in the daylight was not a danger, but in the dark, became dangerous. Aliysha knew the area well, and was sure of the path that they were taking. Rashid and the men that followed her also were sure. The only ones that were somewhat uneasy were Crane and Kowalski. Both men, however, had confidence in the woman that was leading them, and followed with out a question.
They were almost to the other side of the rocks, when the accident happened. It was a dark night, with no moon and only the stars to give any light. At some point, later no one was sure exactly when or how, Lee lost his footing and fell. It wasn’t a far drop, but far enough for all in the party to hear a thick thud, and a cry, and then silence. Kowalski had all he could do not to cry out Crane’s name and title… Instead under his breath, he said… "Skipper!!! Oh, no! Skipper!!!" He peered over the edge of the embankment, seeking some sight, some hope and all he saw was the dark form in the darkness. Aliysha was at his side in an instant.
"Ma’am!!! Captain Crane!!"
"We will get to him, Kowalski…. We Will!"
"Oh, Ma’am… Miss Davis… the Admiral…they’re gonna kill me if anything happens to the Skipper!!!! "
"Do not worry. I will not permit him to come to any harm. I promise you that!!!!!" Her own heart was being wrenched by the fact that she could not immediately get to the side of the man that she had given her heart and soul to seven years earlier, unbeknownst to him… "Lee Crane, you will not die, or be badly hurt!!!! You will not!!!! You now have much too much to live for!!!!"
"Rashid!! Ibrahaim!! Quickly!! The Captain has fallen!" She called in a harsh whisper.
The men scrabbled over to her side, and she continued to speak to them, "We must get to him!!"
"Yes, my lady…" The two men descended down the side of the cliff… they were used to the terrain, so they reached the fallen man quickly. Several moments later, Ibrahaim returned to the top of the cliff. Whispering to Aliysha, he said, "The Captain is hurt, my Lady. We are unable to rouse him… he has many bruises, and cuts, but his chest and back seem the most damaged…Rashid does not believe it would be a good thing to try and move him in the dark."
Kowalski moved to the cliff edge and was about to descend, until a hand held him back.
"Do you think that he would want you hurt in an attempt to get to him? Wait until I send Ibrahaim back and then you can follow him down." When Kowalski hesitated, Aliysha continued, "I promise, you will get to him quickly… I need a moment or two to plan…"
Ski held back and waited. He had a great deal of respect for the Bedouin Princess. She was a strong leader, and a fair one. She had a great deal of knowledge and she looked out for them as they had traveled into her land. He could also see that she cared a great deal about the Skipper, and went out of her way not to let him see it. She touched his arm. "Follow Ibrahaim to your Captain. When light comes, do what you can for him. Rashid, the others and I will return to my camp, and I will bring my physician back here, along with some horses to make the journey faster. We should return by tomorrow evening at the latest." Ski nodded, and began to follow the bedouin down the cliff. She held his arm a little longer… "Care for him well, Kowalski. He is a special man…"
Ski nodded and muttered "Yes, Ma’am…", then he turned and followed Ibrahaim slowly down the cliff. At the bottom of the cliff, he scuttled to Crane’s side, while the two Bedouins conferred, and the taller of the two left. The other man moved toward him. Together, they gently rolled Crane onto his back in an attempt to make him more comfortable. Ski carefully pillowed the Captain’s head in his lap. The bedouin crouched down in a ball and sat, black eyes flitting back and forth to carefully watch all around them.
As the orange colored dawn slowly broke, Ski began to take a careful look at where they were. The craggy rock face ran several hundred feet above them, the path that they had followed not too far above.
The dawn light lightened the small depression where the three men were. Crane hadn’t stirred through the night. Ski was becoming more concerned about the Captain. Crane was more than just his commanding officer… he had put his life on the line for Kowalski, personally, many times, and the rating never hesitated when Crane sought or needed his assistance. Now he was finally gonna marry Miss Davis, and be happy again… and then this damn mission… and now he’s hurt. Damn ONI anyway!!
Crane moaned, and Ski started. The Captain pulled an arm to hid head, and moaned again. His eyes slowly opened. Seeing a face looming over him, Lee asked softly, "Kowalski?"
"I took a fall?" He started to put his hands under himself and push off, but the rating kept his hands tightly on the Captain’s shoulders.
"Aye, sir, you did. Don’t try to move sir… You’ve been unconscious since… that’s about six hours, sir… the princess, she went for her people, sir… She said they’d be back by late in the day." He shifted position slightly to make Crane more comfortable. "How’d you feel, sir?"
Crane threw him a half smile. "Like anyone would who fell down a cliff, Ski!" he grunted as the movement caused him to feel pain across his chest.
His lips tightened in pain, Crane murmured, "Did something to my ribs… Hurts like Hell!!!"
"Try not to move around too much, sir… want some water… the man that the princess left has some supplies…"
"No… no… tired, Ski… just sleep, I think…" He drifted off…
Ibrahaim moved to the rating’s side, and nodded at Crane. "Your Captain, he spoke to you… does he know what happened to him? "
"Yeah, he knows that he fell… said that his chest hurts, he thinks he hurt his ribs."
The other man nodded. "My Princess will return soon… we will get out of here…and take care of your Captain… "
"Man, I sure as hell hope so!!! ‘Cause I’m sure that Miss Davis sure is gonna kill me!"
Christmas Eve Dinner at the Nelson’s home was a bittersweet event. Karen Davis had originated the dinner her first year at the Institute, and it had continued with the Senior Staff every year since. As the families had expanded, so had the dinner, and now included children and spouses. This year Karen had planned several special items, to celebrate the upcoming wedding of her daughter and Lee Crane. However, with the soon-to-be groom among the missing, she had quietly scrapped her plans, and simply went ahead with the usual dinner…
After dinner found Caitlin alone on the deck, watching the ocean. She remembered back to the Christmas that she had found Lee on the deck, alone, the year that Karen was pregnant with Sean. Lee had been very alone and broody that night, and the brooding had turned to anger when he had found out that Joel McKenna had threatened her mother and her. At some point, she had realized that there was more there than simple concern, and she had decided then and there to begin her campaign to win his attention. It had taken her, literally, years to get him to realize how she felt for him. And it had not been until he was so badly hurt by Dr. Gamma that she had the opportunity to confront him about it. It had been a long journey, and they were two days from being married, and she had no idea where he was or what was going on.
‘Oh, Lee… my love. Where are you tonight, this night of nights? Are you safe? Are you and Ski, ok? I wish you were here, Lee Crane…I wish you were here!!"
A hand on her shoulder brought her back to the deck of the house. She turned her head to look into the blue eyes of Chip Morton. "Penny for your thoughts, Caitlin."
She lifted her hand to cover his, "Just remembering, Chip. Some Christmas’ ago. When Lee and I had a long talk on the deck here." She pointed to the tent, set up near the beach. "Two days, Chip, and we’re supposed to have a wedding party there…I can’t help but wonder if we really will."
He turned her to face him. "Caitlin, Lee and I have been friends for a good many years now, far too many to count, if you want the truth of the matter. He and I’ve been to Hell and back a good many times, because of the jobs we do, and the commitments we made, to the Navy, the Admiral, and well, that list could go on and on…."
"Chip, I know all that, and I understand…"
He smiled at her. "Let me finish, Caitlin. One thing that I do know about Lee is that once he makes a promise and gives his word, he won’t break it and he’ll do all he can, and then some to keep it." Chip lowered the pitch of his voice a bit, "I also know how much he loves you… he’s only loved like this once before. Cathy was everything to him and more. And once he realized that he felt the same about you…well, you know how he is when he commits to something, or in this case, to someone. You mean all to him and more, and the last thing he would want to do is to disappoint you or hurt you in any way. He will be back… I’d stake my maple leaves on it."
She smiled half-heartedly at Chip. "You’re right, of course. I know how much he loves me. He tells me that all the time. I just can’t help this, Chip. I’ve got to get through Christmas without him, and help Helen and Robert. Mom and HN are frantic, and they don’t want me to know they are. And I know how the men are feeling, and you and Matty… The wedding’s two days away, and the groom is nowhere to be found, and hasn’t been heard from… and the bride is whining to his best friend and best man."
Chip hugged her. "Try not to worry too much, Caitlin. Lee’ll be here for the Wedding. He won’t disappoint you!"
Linking her arm in his, she said, "We’d better get inside. All Mom has to do is think I’m brooding, and she’ll come after me, and work herself into a dither trying to cheer me up. She’s working too hard as it is…"
Lee called out in his delirium. "Caitlin!"
Kowalski bathed his forehead with a cool cloth. When they had brought Crane up the cliff and then carefully transported him to the bedouin camp, Kowalski stayed close to his side, resting only when Crane rested. He allowed the doctor to examine and treat the Captain, but he claimed responsibility for his Skipper’s care, only allowing others at Crane’s side if he slept.
Aliysha watched all of this and continued to be impressed and more by the father of her child. As difficult as it had been for her, she had sent Rose along with her two servants to another camp, as a precaution against Lee discovering his daughter. Hopefully, he would be well enough to send him home to his bride in a few days… and then she could bring Rose home… someday, … she vowed, Rose would meet her father… someday.
"Princess…?" Aliysha’s thoughts were brought back to the here and now. She looked at her friend and physician…
"Yes, Old Friend?"
"The Captain is making some progress… he has badly cracked ribs, and numerous cuts and bruises. He has had a bad concussion… and there is the fever… but I believe that has broken, and we should soon be able to return him to his submarine."
She patted his hand, "Thank you, Omir. We will see that he and his sailor get back to their Flying Submarine. In another day…?"
"That would be good, My Lady… He is to be married in another day’s time, is he not?"
She smiled wistfully, "Yes…if only…"
"Your Rose will return, my lady, after he leaves…."
"As much as I love her, my friend, it is not the same… "
The physician placed a hand on her shoulder…. "I know, my lady…but you knew from the start it could never be….that your worlds could never combine."
Sadly she agreed…"And he has given his heart to someone else… "
"Yes, Lady. It is better this way."
She looked at the physician with pain in her golden eyes, "For who, Omir? For who?"
Caitlin Davis looked at the clock for the umpteenth time. Time was passing slowly, this Christmas Eve night… Or was it this morning? Christmas…she should be waking up with Lee this morning…that was what they had planned…. To be together this morning in her apartment, and then he was going to his house, to be there for Robert and his mother, and she would be with them. And then they were all coming here to the Nelson’s for more presents…and then finally to the Mortons…for more and then the Family Dinner at the Institute for all the crew. And Lee wasn’t here, and she was in the Nelson’s house…0543… too early for Sean to be up. She would lie here, a while longer, and then go downstairs, to make coffee, before anyone awoke… She sighed… She missed Lee…was so worried about him.
"Oh, Lee!!! Lord, take care of him, and please, on this day that we celebrate the birth of your son, Bring him home!!"
Words to a song from Les Miserables, a play that Lee had taken her to see in San Diego came to her mind. Like a prayer in and of itself…she had loved the song, and the significance of the words struck close to home right now. Lord on high, hear my prayer… in my needs, you have always been there… Bring him home!!!!
She shook her head, and put the song out of her mind, if she spent too much time concentrating on it, then she would not be able to get through the day. She looked at her clock again. 0552…reluctant to get out of bed, yet not wanting to be there any longer, she sat up.
There was a soft knock on her door and Harriman Nelson’s voice called quietly, "Caitlin, are you awake?"
She padded to the door, and opened it. Her step-father stood in the doorway, wearing his khaki uniform, and looking rumpled, as if he had slept in it.
"Sure, HN. Why are you up so early, or is it you just haven’t gone to bed yet?"
"Perhaps a bit of both" he laughed. "May I come in?"
"Of course. What’s up?" She gestured him to the chair, and she sat, Indian style on the bed. Then she noticed that he was carrying a package, wrapped in Christmas paper…
"Wait a minute. We’re supposed to give all gifts together… family style."
Slightly awkward, "This isn’t from me… it’s from Lee."
"Lee? But he left…he didn’t have time… I …"
"There you go again. Now, be quiet and let me explain," he told her gently. "After Lee left, I found this in my office, with this note attached…. Angie told me Lee dropped it off at her desk before you came to say good-bye. I’ve known about it since September…he told me when he ordered it." He offered her a note, and she recognized Lee’s hand writing immediately. "Go on, read it.”
She looked at the note, turning it over in her hand and slowly opening it….
I picked up Caitlin’s Christmas gift last week, and have been keeping in my office so as not to spoil her surprise. You know how snoopy my future wife can be… anyway, if I could prevail upon you, sir, to see that she gets this on Christmas, just in case I’m not there. It’s something I want her to have, before the Wedding.
And I hope you have a Merry Christmas!
He handed the gaily wrapped box to his stepdaughter. “This is it, Caitlin. I thought you might want to open it in private, rather than in front of your mother, Sean and me."
He rose to leave, and very softly, Caitlin said "No, please…stay, HN."
Gingerly she took the box, and slowly unwrapped it. She lifted the lid of the box, and found several layers of paper, and digging carefully within, she found a large oblong object. Pushing the box aside, she put the oblong object in her lap and began to remove the layers of paper. A crystal form emerged from the tissue cocoon. The Seaview, in blown crystal, with all the exterior details carefully etched on it. It was about 20 inches long and in perfect proportions to the real boat. On the side, etched in script,
Caitlin Davis & Lee
Crane, Dec. 27
a Voyage together…forever…
Tears came, and she looked at her stepfather, and saw his tears as well. He then handed her another note. "Lee wanted you to have this too.."
The outside of the card said "Caitlin" and inside read…
Christmas, Little Girl,
I’m sorry I can’t be there right now… I love you.
I make one promise to you this Christmas Day…
I WILL BE HOME IN TIME FOR THE WEDDING!
All my love…always and forever…
She looked at Harriman Nelson, and saw the sadness in his eyes, and softly asked, "Have you heard anything, anything at all?"
He mutely shook his head to the negative, then, clearing his voice, he said "I have one more phone call to take. There may be word, if I can get to the source…"
Caitlin stared at him, "Michael Briggs?"
Nelson nodded. "While I don’t like the man, or his organization, he does have an inside track on information. I have a call in to him. I’m waiting for his call back." He leaned forward and took Caitlin’s hand in his. "I will find out, if it’s humanly possible. I promise you, Caitlin, and you know I don’t break promises."
She laid the Seaview on the bed, and slid forward, embracing her stepfather. "I know that, HN. And I love you for it! Merry Christmas!" She continued to hug him until he pulled away from her.
Standing, he went to the door. "Coffee’s on in the kitchen. Your mother and I have been up since 0400. I’m going to go shower, and I expect that your little brother will be up and ready for his presents by the time I’m finished." He smiled, " He didn’t fall asleep ‘til 2400…he wanted to see if Santa was real."
Caitlin laughed. "Hey, at eight, I was trying to pull the same stunt. Mom and Dad had the hardest time getting me to bed that last Christmas we were a family. But Mom and I are part of a great family, now, HN. Thanks!"
He nodded and left. Caitlin picked up the glass Seaview. Running her fingers over the etching, she whispered, "Merry Christmas, my love… Merry Christmas, wherever you are."
Lee opened his eyes to Aliysha al Fayad’s face bending over his. He started, and groaned when the sudden movement caused lightening sharp daggers to shoot through his chest., causing him to fall back into the pillows. "Princess?"
She smiled softly, "Yes, Lee…and yes, you are in my camp, and your man, Kowalski is resting in another tent… he had not left your side since we brought you here. Omir ‘persuaded’ him that a few hours of sleep would benefit him, and his care of you."
"I can imagine your healer’s form of persuasion, if it’s anything like that of our sawbones … How long?" Lee kept his tone light referring to the ways that Will Jamison used to make his recalcitrant patients behave themselves.
"You have been here for three days… it is Christmas Day on your calendar."
He sighed heavily. "Christmas… Oh, Lord…I have to get home, Aliysha. Caitlin…"
"…will be waiting for you, Lee. Your wedding is in a day and a half…or so your seaman tells me. Omir assures me that we will be able to send you on your way tomorrow."
"I know I fell down the cliff, what did I… "
She smiled at him. "Omir says that you have three cracked ribs, and a concussion. He also says that your doctor will not be very happy with you." She lowered her voice, "And I do not think that your bride will be very happy either."
"I have to get home… The wedding." He started to rise again, and fell back as the pain in his chest hit him hard. "DAMN! That hurt!"
The princess laid a hand on his shoulder… "As I remember, you are a man with very little patience at being injured. I am afraid that if you do not lie back and rest, then Omir will have to resort to his methods of keeping you still until he deems you ready to leave."
As the pain receded, his mood improved slightly and he laughed ironically. "It seems to me, Princess, that the last time we were together, I was flat on my back in your tent, needing the services of your physician. I’m afraid to imagine where I’ll be if I come to your country again."
She smiled back at him. "If you come again, I will pray to Allah that you will be safe."
"So will I," he added "And so will my wife, I’m sure!"
"You are very much in love with your bride-to-be?"
"Yes. Very much. It took me a long time to realize how I felt about her… as she is wont to remind me… years. Caitlin tells me I’m slow on the uptake. She says she’s been in love with me since she was 17."
"If I may ask, since you have told me that you are much older than she is, how old is she now?" Aliysha was curious about the woman this man, that she loved, that had, unbeknownst to him, fathered her daughter, was about to marry.
"My Little Girl is 30… and I am 46. A huge age difference…"
"Not in my country, Lee. I was 14 when I was married to my husband. He was 45. It is our way here. I was fortunate. My Beloved treasured me, cherished me… loved me as a man loves a woman forever. Then he was killed by the police guard. I have been alone since. Love is a treasure, Captain… hold it forever." She stopped. Lee was looking at her, and seeing in her eyes a pain that he had long been familiar with.
Painfully, he reached for her hand. In a voice at once tender and giving, he said to her. "Aliysha, I know how you feel. For years, I didn't even want to allow any one to get close. I pushed them off…most of all, I kept pushing Caitlin off. One of my biggest regrets is having lost a number of years with a loving, giving caring woman, who has made me laugh again, and brought such joy into my life. I fully intend to try to make that up to her. I have to get back in time for her… and you, Lady, need to think of yourself. You are, from what I can see, and what I know, a very warm, and giving person who deserves to have some happiness. I can only hope that you find someone to fill your life."
She shook her head, moved by his words, and not wanting to betray her secret. Her response was careful, and measured. "Lee, I am happy for you. That you have found someone. The sadness that I saw the last time you were here, is gone from you… I will see that you make it home for your wedding, my friend." She held his hand for a fleeting moment, and then released it.
Omir entered the tent. Seeing Aliysha leaning toward the father of her child, he cleared his throat loudly… Aliysha looked toward him.
"Yes, old friend?"
"My Lady, It is time for me to check the Captain. Rashid says that the contacts have been made, and we can arrange transport for tomorrow evening…Captain Crane, you are feeling better?"
Lee looked chagrinned, "Omir, I think better is a relative term, here. Better than I remember, yes… as well as when I arrived here…? Not really. But, I am anxious to get home…"
The physician nodded. "Your fever has broken, and the rest of your injuries only require rest and time to heal. You will feel a weak, and the pain in your chest will remain for a while…if you try to do too much, you will know. But the servants are bringing in some refreshment for you and the Princess, and it is good for you to eat now, and then I will check on you and you will rest. Your man, Kowalski is still asleep, and I intend to see he stays asleep at least until morning. You will have to suffer the attentions of my Princess as a nurse, should you require anything."
Lee smiled at the older man. "I don’t think anyone would suffer in Aliysha’s company, Omir. " He looked at the princess, "And I appreciate your time, Princess. I am not very good company at this time. It seems that my mind is very far away…"
‘As is mine, Lee Crane… In another time or place that you think of as a dream …and I will see that you get on your way to your bride, your love, … I have my Rose… our Rose… and someday, she will know… Lee Crane…some day, she will know…and I hope that your love will understand…
Christmas Day had ended. Tummies were stuffed, and children, old and young, were reflecting on their gifts, and the tone of the day itself. Caitlin Davis sat on the deck at the Nelson’s home. It had been a pleasant enough day, filled with laughter and happiness, but her day was bittersweet. HN giving her Lee’s gift early in the morning had helped ease the pain a little, but his absence was still too hurtful to think about… the not knowing was the worst of it all. Not knowing where he was, what he was doing, was he coming home soon. "Oh, my Love… where are you now? Do I have to really worry…or will you be home soon? Where are you, Lee? Are you okay?" She allowed the tears that she had been holding all day to fall into her lap. She sat there, and she cried, for herself, but also for R.C. and Helen, who missed the father and son, for the Nelson’s, the Morton’s…everyone who cared for Lee and missed him on this Holiday. God, how she missed him!!!"
She turned as a small hand touched her arm. Her little brother stood next to her, dressed in his pajamas. He slid his arms around her shoulder.. "I love you,. Caitie. Don’t be sad…it was a nice Christmas."
"Yes, Sean. It was. Santa was very good to you…"
His face brightened into a huge smile.. "Yep."
A hand on her other shoulder startled her. She looked up into familiar blue eyes. Harriman Nelson was concerned for his stepdaughter, and he had wanted to help her. In fact, he had gone out of his way to contact Michael Briggs, at the FIRM, to see if he could shed any light on where Lee Crane was. He had just gotten off the phone with the man that he so strongly disliked… but he would do anything for Caitlin Davis… she was as dear to him as Sean was.
"Caitlin, I just got off the phone with Briggs," he said gruffly.
"And …?" her voice was at once hopeful and full of dread.
Nelson looked sad, and Caitlin saw that her mother was standing next to her husband, holding tightly to his hand. "I wish we had better news, sweets." Karen said softly. "Harry and I want you to know that if this wedding doesn’t come off, well…"
"What are you talking about? Do you have news?"
Sadly, and slowly Nelson replied, "No, Caitlin. No news. Michael can’t tell us anything. I’m so sorry. I had hoped to give you a special gift."
Caitlin shuddered. Her head dropped to her chest, only to have a small hand grip her chin, and a young voice whisper in her ear.
"Caitie, don’t worry…Uncle Lee’ll be ok… I know!" and he hugged her as she cried more tears than she knew she had. Karen linked her arm in her husband’s, wondering at the moment as her ‘baby’ comforted her oldest child. She could say and do nothing save watch her children comfort one another, and add her own silent tears to the salty mix on the deck. No one was immune from the need to shed tears. Harriman Nelson also fought to hold back the tears as he held his wife. His own tears were those of sorrow and frustration… he had wanted so to help Caitlin. And he had compromised his feelings for Michael Briggs and went to him and asked for help. However, Briggs provided no new information.
Nelson was angry, sad, concerned. Lee had to come home for this wedding…he had to!
Michael Briggs had wanted to help, his care for the Davis ladies making him desire to forgo orders and tell them that at least, Crane was alive, and on his way home. But he couldn’t do that. He had to maintain the silence until Crane returned to Santa Barbara and the relative safety of the Institute. He hated to see Karen and Caitlin in pain, but he too had his own orders
Kowalski helped Crane to the pilot’s seat of the FS1. The Captain was clearly exhausted from the swim to the craft. His rib injuries gave him a great deal of difficulty with the swim to the sub, and he was finding it hard to catch his breath. The rating had helped Crane change, and sit in the seat. A thin line of perspiration beaded on Lee’s forehead. He smiled weakly at the enlisted man… "That took a lot out of me, Ski. More than I would like to admit. Maybe when we get airborne, I’ll hit the rack for a few hours. I can’t let any one know that I was hurt until after the wedding…" He looked at little chagrinned, "And when we get to the west coast, and can break radio silence, I’d better let Jamie know. See if he can meet us at the Med Facility. He can help me make it through the day, and I’ll tell Caitlin when we get to the yacht."
Grateful that the Captain was being sensible for a change, Kowalski simply nodded, answered "Aye, Skipper…" and prepared the craft to get underway. In ten minutes time, the sub was ready for takeoff, and began to slowly move into open waters. Less than a half hour later, she was winging her way toward Santa Barbara, and ‘Ski had the Captain safely ensconced in the bunk of the sub…
Hours later, Kowalski bent down into the deck hatch and extended a hand to Crane. They were home! With an hour to spare before the Wedding was scheduled to begin. All that they had to do was get to the Skipper’s and get him into uniform for the ceremony. After they saw the Doc.
As he slowly came up the ladder to the Nose, Lee Crane heaved a sigh of relief. He was home, on time, and not too much the worse for wear… ‘Good Lord, did his chest hurt! At least three cracked ribs, if Omir was right.’ Will could give him something to get him through the rest of the day, and then he’d have two weeks to get back to himself.
"Ski, would you do me a favor? Call the Nelson’s, tell the Admiral that we’ve arrived here, and tell them we’ll be there on time."
"Aye, sir. Should I radio Doc Jamison too? …Now that we’ve berthed?"
"Yeah, go ahead and do that. Tell him to send a car from the motor pool, too."
"Aye sir!" Ski made his way to the Radio Shack of the deserted boat, opened up the appropriate lines, and contacted the two men. Then he returned to the Captain, who was leaning heavily against the Plot Table. Ski looked at him and was immediately concerned. "Skipper?!"
He grinned at the rating, "I just need a minute, Ski…, and maybe a hand up the ladder to the hatch…Seems the last two weeks are catching up with me…"
"Aye sir…If you put your arm over my shoulder, you can lean on me, sir…"
When they reached the outside of the embarkation hatch, they saw a limousine waiting at the top of the gangway, and Francis Sharkey, in dress blues leaning against it, looking down at his watch. At the sound of movement on the deck , he looked down and saw Crane being helped by Kowalski. Alarmed, he ran down the gangway, automatically saluting the colors, and the Captain, and looking at his commanding officer with concern.
"Skipper?" he exclaimed, concerned for the younger man.
"Just a some cracked ribs, Sharkey. I’ll be fine after Jamie tapes them. We’re both just tired. It’s been a long two weeks!"
In total agreement with his Captain, he expressed a resounding "Yes, sir! A very long two weeks! Miss Davis wasn’t too happy that you missed Christmas, but at least you got here for today!"
Crane looked at the COB with a mixture of distress and humor. "Have the ladies been working you too hard, Chief? As I recall, you volunteered to help them out in my absence. I didn’t anticipate missing Christmas, but …well, we’ll have a wedding at least."
Sharkey rolled his eyes and said to Crane, "Well, sir, all I can say is that I thought that Mrs. Nelson’s baby shower was tough. That is, ‘til I helped with your wedding, sir!" Crane winced with the movement, and then Sharkey moved to the other side of the Captain, and offered, "Here, sir," he extended an arm around Crane, "Let me help as well!" They mounted the gangplank, turned to salute the colors, and made their way to the limo. As Sharkey held the door and as Lee started in, and looked at the COB.
"The limo, Chief? Which one is it, NIMR 1 or 2?"
"Yes, sir. It’s one, sir. Miss Davis has two. The Admiral said that he had the two available. Keeping them for this special occasion, he said. Miss Davis wanted to make sure that you got to the house, when you came back. She didn’t want anything to stop you from getting there, and she said that you’d been having trouble with the ignition system on your car. So she arranged for NIMR 1 for you, sir."
As Lee got into the back of the car, the window rolled down, and a smiling blonde head turned to greet him. "Good to have you back, Skipper!" Riley beamed. "The Med Bay was the message, sir. Are you ok, sir?"
"I will be shortly, Riley. Thank you."
"You’re welcome, sir. Doc has your uniform and Ski’s at the facility. The Admiral knows that you’re going there first. He didn’t tell the ladies…Didn’t want to upset them further."
Lee visibly relaxed at that last statement from the sailor. "That’s good Riley, now let’s get there quickly, huh? I don’t think that the groom is the one who is supposed to be late, and there’s no telling how long Jamie will keep me!" He shifted in his seat, and groaned slightly, the Chief and Kowalski exchanging looks.
"I’m all right! You’ll both see! I don’t intend to be late or miss the Wedding! Jamison will have to tie me down to keep me from it!"
Minutes later, in the Nelson Institute’s Med Facility, Doctor Will Jamison was clucking like about Lee Crane like a mother hen. "Really, Lee, you’ve lost more weight, you’re exhausted, tho’ that’s not a new condition, a concussion, a fever, and three cracked ribs. You need at least a week in my SickBay. There’s more to recovering from cracked ribs than just taping them. Not to mention the rest of the injuries…"
Crane glared at Jamison, "Look, Jamie, I’m getting married in 45 minutes. Getting married! I don’t have the time to sit here and argue with you. I have to get to my bride! I made it back here in time, and they all know that I’m on the grounds. I want you to tape the ribs, and let me shower, shave and put on my uniform. I won’t be doing anything that I shouldn’t. I will brook no interference from you. I want you to take care of the ribs, and do that now, let the rest go, and that Doctor, is an order!"
Jamison grinned widely at Crane. "Well, well, well, I guess there is a first time for everything, Captain. I’ll let medical protocol go, this one time! Let’s get those ribs taped, and get you to your wedding, Skipper!" Relieved, Crane sat back and let Jamison work on his ribs.
Half an hour later, a much more refreshed Lee Crane was trying to put on his shirt and having some difficulty doing so. Kowalski knocked at the door to the private room in the Med Bay.
"Skipper, Doc said to check and see if you need a hand, sir."
Crane pulled open the door, a chagrined look on his face. "I’m afraid I do, Ski. Jamie has me taped so tight, I can’t reach around to get the shirt on."
Kowalski came into the room, and quickly assisted the Captain into his shirt. Crane commented, "I’m glad that Caitlin and Karen agreed to the dress blues, rather than the whites. It would have been doubly uncomfortable!"
"Yes, sir!" Kowalski agreed, although he had no idea why all the officers he’d known hated the FDWs. He thought that they looked pretty good on a guy like the Skipper. He knew that the ladies sure liked them. His thoughts were interrupted by Crane’s voice.
"Ski, could you give me a hand here…" Crane held out the blue jacket.
"Yes, sir." Gingerly he helped the Captain into the jacket, and stood back as the Captain buttoned it and squared the collar, fussing with his tie. He turned from the mirror.
"Well, Ski, what do you think, does the Captain of the Seaview look ready to get married?"
Kowalski grinned broadly, "Yes, sir!" He glanced at his watch. "And if we leave now, sir, we’ll have 15 minutes to spare." Crane moved to ward the door, laid a hand on the ratings’ shoulder, and said "Then… let’s get going!"
Caitlin Davis stood in the center of the bedroom and fussed with her dress for the thousandth time. Everything was ready, she was ready. Hopefully Lee would be here! There was a soft tap on the door. She turned as it opened, and a figure in blue entered. She stood stock still…
"I made it on time, Little Girl!" Lee Crane said quietly... He stood there, somewhat stiffly. She wanted to fling herself into his arms, but something about the set of his body made her hesitate.
"Are you … ok?"
He smiled at her and held his arms open to her, "A few bumps and bruises, Caitlin. Aren’t you going to give your late and wayward sailor a proper welcome?"
She crossed the room him, and wrapped her arms around him. "I was scared. We didn’t hear from you…Christmas came and went, and…."
He held her close, taking pleasure in the feel of her pressed against him. "I’m sorry, Little Girl! I’m so sorry about Christmas… I couldn’t contact anyone. But you can forget that all now… I’m here, and we’re going to be married shortly." A hand on his shoulder took his attention.
"Glad that you’re back, Lee. I didn’t want to think about telling these two ladies that you weren’t going to make it." Harriman Nelson said warmly.
"I’m glad that you didn’t have to either, sir."
"Well, you had better take your place downstairs, Captain. I have a daughter to give away!"
Caitlin linked her arm in Nelson’s and smiled at Crane. "Go on, Captain, let’s do this and do it now!"
He leaned over and kissed her, lightly. "Yes, Little Girl…let’s do this now!" Caitlin watched Lee carefully as he walked out of the room and down the stairs to the back of the Nelsons’ home. Something wasn’t right, but, Lee was here, and they were about to be married!
The deck had been set as an entrance to the beach, and a large tent had been set up to one side of the deck, decorated with a blend of Wedding and Christmas flowers, and decorations, and with tables and chairs, for the reception. The tables were covered with pale pink and burgundy table cloths, gold and silver ribbons and accents, and centerpieces of blush pink and burgundy roses, ivory and pink dogwood blossoms, and ivy. Ivory, and gold crystal, and Royal Albert Old Roses china sat at each place.
On the beach a platform, and chairs were also set up, with an arch of the same flowers and greenery, against the setting sun, with the Ocean in the background. Lee went to the altar, set beneath the arch and was warmly greeted by both Chip Morton and his son, Robert, who were acting as his Best Men. All three wore boutonnières with a blush and burgundy rose.
Robert stood proud and tall at 12, looking like a younger version of his father. Wearing a dark blue suit, it was evident that it would be hard to tell the two of them apart, when the boy reached adulthood. He shook his father’s hand, "Glad you made it, Dad."
Chip Morton had dropped his usually reserved demeanor, and was grinning at his best friend. "Glad that the mission went well, Lee."
"Me too! And I’m even more pleased to be right here right now! Do you have the rings?"
"Sure do! Picked them up from the jeweler three days ago. They’re exactly as you wanted." Crane nodded as the attention of the group turned towards the deck, with a chord struck from the harpsichord. There was a hush and the music began, the harpsichord, being joined by three violinists, and a flautist, playing, not the traditional wedding march, but rather a piece of classical music by Hayden.
Standing at the large glass doors that led to the deck, was 10 year old Alex Morton. A gentle nudge from Karen Nelson, and the little girl moved down the aisle to the beach. She was wearing a burgundy linen dress, lightly fitted to the waist. The dress had a large collar of ecru lace and embroidery that looked like a shawl. On the bodice, the buttons were covered with a delicate lace, and the dress fell from the waist in three box pleats. It reached the little girl’s ankles, and at the bottom was edged in a self-embroidered finish. She wore tiny burgundy sandals. Alex’s long blonde hair had been pulled back into a cascade of ringlets that fell down her back, and on her head she wore a tiny circlet of baby’s breath and the palest of blush tea roses, mixed with tiny burgundy roses. She carried a basket, twined with ivy, and filled with the same blush tea roses, burgundy roses, and pink and white dogwood blossoms. As she came down the steps to the white carpet leading to the altar, she handed the roses to each person seated in the last seats on the aisle.
Following Alex were Drew Morton and Sean Nelson. The two boys were dressed in blue linen suits, with long pants, and white, linen long sleeved shirts, and Navy blue ties emblazoned with the Seaview emblem. They had boutonnieres a single rose, and a mix of dogwood blossoms. They wore dark socks and black shoes. Sean, at seven, almost eight, was taller than Drew. His red hair caught the rays of the setting sun, and seemed to glow in the soft light. His young face was serious, as he knew the importance of his place in the event. Drew Morton was six, very blonde, and also serious, much like his father. Both boys had clear blue eyes that looked like they could very easily change from serious to mischievousness in a shot. But they also had been repeatedly instructed by their parents as to how they had to behave! And they both intended to be good! They carried matching pillows, that bore the crest of the NIMR and the Seaview, on teal velvet, and tied to the center of each were rings, representing the wedding rings, that Chip safely held.
Following the two boys, was four year old Catherine Elizabeth Morton. She was dressed in a burgundy linen dress, sleeveless with a high waist. She wore a similar circlet of roses and baby’s breath, to her sister’s, in her short, curly blonde hair. She wore little burgundy Mary Jane shoes, and tiny anklets that were embroidered with roses. The collar matched her sisters, and she carried a basket of blush and burgundy rose petals that she sporadically tossed onto the white carpet.
Behind all of the children was the Matron of Honor, Matty Weaver Morton. Matty wore a simple, burgundy dress. It was a sleeveless tank style made of a light crepe and silk fabric that fell to her ankles. There were side slashes that went to the knee. There was a light tracing pattern of waves and swirls all over the dress, the patterns subtle and light. It had a deep scoop neck, that was edged, along with the neckline and sleeves, with a braid of white and pale pink satin. She wore burgundy sandals and carried a bouquet of blush pink and burgundy roses, white and pink dogwood, and ivy.
Around her neck, she wore the golden medallion that Chip had given her when Alex had been born. She wore simple golden stud earrings. Her light brown curly hair was brushed out gently framing her face, with two roses, one blush pink, the other burgundy and a spray of baby’s breath tucked on a small comb over her right ear. She saw her husband, standing in his dress blues, next to his best friend, and her turquoise eyes glowed brightly and she gave him, and Lee, a striking smile!!
There was a louder crescendo from the musicians, and then the group stood as at the door, Harriman and Karen Nelson stood with Caitlin. Nelson looked absolutely dignified and proud in his dress blue uniform. He kept patting Caitlin’s hand that rested on his arm.
Karen Davis Nelson stood at the other side of her daughter. Caitlin had been adamant that that both of her ‘parents’ should ‘give her away’. She wanted her mother and HN to do this together.
She smiled at Lee as she approached the altar. At the foot, the minister and the Priest stood ready to help join the couple in marriage. In unison, they asked, "Who gives this woman in marriage?"
"Her mother and I do," replied Harriman Nelson. Smiling at Lee and Caitlin, he gave her a kiss, and shook hands with Crane. "Love her well, Lad." His voice caught, and Karen placed her hand on his, and the two of them retired to their seats.
Karen was wearing a deep pink silk dress. It had a fitted bodice, and flowed to the middle of her calf, in a handkerchief hemline. The dress had a large collar of antique, off white lace, that fell almost to the waistline. At the point where the collar met, Karen wore and antique Cameo Brooch, a Nelson family heirloom, that Harriman had given her on their wedding day. The sleeves were long and sheer, and caught in a lace cuff with pink pearl buttons. There were also tiny pearl buttons of the same pale pink at back of the bodice. She wore pale pink sandals, and carried a small nosegay of white and blush pink and burgundy tea roses, ivory and pink dogwood blossoms, and ivy. Her hair was swept up on one side, and held in place by a comb of the roses and baby’s breath.
In the center of the two stood Caitlin Marie Davis. Lee locked his eyes to hers, and saw there all the love that she carried for him. To him she was a vision and more!
She was wearing an antique lace dress, of off-white lace. The dress itself was an overdress, of layers of Aleceon lace, with two large panels forming the sleeve, that came halfway down her arm. The front of the dress was one panel, with a jewel neckline, that fell to the hips, where a band of lace attached the full skirt. The hem of the dress fell to the top of her heels. Beneath the lace dress, she wore a simple blush pink tunic of silk that was sleeveless and had a deep scoop neck. Her hair was brushed up on one side, and holding it in place was the Nelson family antique whalebone comb, that was hand carved and studded with pearls, and around the comb were tiny, blush pink tea roses, tiny, burgundy tea roses and baby’s breath. She carried a large bouquet of the same blush pink tea roses, burgundy tea roses, ivory and pink dogwood blossoms, and ivy that fell to the tip of her shoes, simple strapped sandals. The only jewelry she wore was the pendant that Lee had given her the night of Robert’s Science fair, the Claddagh he had given her for Valentine’s Day and the engagement ring. She seemed to glow, to radiate joy and happiness as she began to walk down the aisle with her parents.
Crane bent his head to his bride’s "Ready, Little Girl?"
"Yes… Oh, yes, Lee!" Crane looked at the two men at the altar, and quietly said, "Then… let’s get this ship launched!" Caitlin smiled up at him, and she moved closer to him. Chip and Robert moved to his side, and Matty moved to hers.
Reverend Miller spoke first. "Father Bernard and I have been told that this is an unorthodox relationship, and that this wedding is an unorthodox one. Because of that, we have both been asked to share the officiating at this ceremony." Looking over in the direction of the parents, he nodded. "For some unknown reason, 'unorthodox' seems to run in this family." There was a bit of a chuckle from the mother of the bride and Miller continued, "The Bride has also reminded us that this wedding almost didn’t take place… so could we please skip all the preliminaries. She’s been waiting for this moment for 15 years, and she doesn’t want to wait any longer." The assembled group laughed, and Caitlin blushed a bright red. Lee held her hand on his arm a little tighter, and then released it.
"So, with that in mind…" Father Bernard interjected, "….Let’s damn the torpedoes, and full speed ahead!!" The assemblage laughed again, and the two clergymen beckoned Lee and Caitlin to them. Caitlin handed her bouquet to Matty, who laid it on a table next to the altar.
Reverend Miller proceed, "It is customary, before couples take their vows, to have some scripture readings, but we have today, instead, a reading from someone very close to the couple, and this is, in and of itself, a scripture." He then gestured to Robert Crane, who moved to the podium that had been set up for this.
The 12-year old stood straight and tall as he took his place. All gathered could not miss the unmistakable resemblance to his father, in looks and bearing. He cleared his voice, and began to speak in a voice that was at once young and old. "Dad and Caitlin, you don’t know how happy I am to see this day come…and at a time of year that everyone’s happy to begin with, your wedding only makes it better!! It’s been a long time. Dad…until you let Caitlin into our lives, you were always sad. She’s given you back your laughter, and I know that she’s given you much, much joy.
“Caitlin, you came into my life when I was a baby, and you’ve always been there for me as a friend. You’ve always given me love, and kindness, and an ear to talk to. Gran and I came to depend on you a great deal when Dad was away. You’re going to be my step-mother now, but you’re so much more. You’ve made my Dad happy. I want to tell the two of you how grateful I am that you are now, both, my parents, and that I love the two of you very much!" Robert hesitated just a moment then looked straight at his father. "And Dad….it’s about time!!" He grinned at his father, and stepped toward them. Lee hugged his son tightly, and Caitlin kissed him, and then he stepped back to Chip’s side.
The clergyman looked approvingly at the young man, and smiling, turned to the couple. "Lee…Caitlin… Are you ready?"
They nodded in affirmation and Rev. Miller began. "Once again, I have the privilege of presiding at Davis family event. And once again today, I can say that I’m overjoyed at the prospect. That said, Lee and Caitlin have chosen, in the unorthodox manner of this event, to share, as their vows, some of their feelings about this day and of one another." Directing his attention to the bride, "Caitlin, I believe that you’re going to begin…"
She smiled and nodded at the clergymen, and then reached for Lee’s hand. Holding it lightly in hers, she began.
"Lee Crane, I have loved you most of my life, and I can’t believe that this day is finally here. With all that we’ve been through, with all that we’ll have to go through, we’re together, we’ll always be together. I love you!" she leaned forward to him, and said quietly in his ear… "and like my mother said, if you are going to do it… do it right!"
Looking down at her, holding her hand more tightly in his, Lee smiled and said, "Caitlin…" he paused and said more softly, "Little Girl, I love you. I thank you for bringing back the laughter into my life. At a time that I’d given up on hope and dreams, you brought them back to me. You’ve given me joy and happiness, and shown me a zest for life that I’d forgotten existed. I look forward to spending the rest of my life with you. I love you." He took both her hands, and brought them to his lips, and kissed them…
Father Bernard then nodded to Chip, and he handed the rings to the cleric. "For all that rings are traditional, and this is an untraditional ceremony, Lee and Caitlin have chosen to use these rings, embellished with symbols of the things that are such a part of their lives. The ocean waves, the Seaview, the Institute, woven and entwined in each other, joining two hearts, also linked and joined. This marriage, is a union, not only of two people, two hearts and souls… but it is the joining of many things, all of which come together in the commitment that these two individuals that stand here in front of us make to one another… Now... Chip, the rings please."
Morton placed the rings in the cleric’s hands, and Rev. Miller murmured a short prayer over the rings, blessing them with the sign of the cross. He then took the rings and gave one to Lee and one to Caitlin. He held their hands in his, and murmured soft words to the two of them, and then stepped back, smiling... He looked at the congregation and said, "Caitlin… I believe that you want to begin…"
She nodded at the Reverend, and taking Lee’s left hand in hers, she looked into his warm amber-hazel eyes, and began… "Lee, with this ring, I promise my love, my honor, my faithfulness…I will be yours forever… the love I have for you is as unending as the circle of this ring."
She slid the ring on his finger, and he then took her hand in his. Smiling at her, he gazed deeply into her blue eyes that told him of her love and trust in him.
"Little Girl, this ring symbolizes all that’s important in my life. I place it on your finger, with all the love that I have in my heart and mind for you. Now you are one with all of it and I will be with you forever through it. Wear this with my love."
He slid the ring onto her finger, and the two of them held hands tightly. Both clerics offered their blessings, and then said in unison to the assemblage. "Friends and family, Captain and Mrs. Lee Crane…" Grinning at the couple, Miller bent over and said, "Captain, you may kiss your bride!"
Lee pulled Caitlin to him, and gave her a deep and passionate kiss, and the crowd erupted into a cheer. The two clerics congratulated them, and they turned and walked together down the aisle, and back into the house, for the picture taking by the photographer. The assembled guests, crew, and the others made their way to the tent for reception.
An hour later, there was a rustling of people, and the guests turned to the small area that was set up as a bandstand, with small group of musicians at it. Chip Morton stepped up to the raised dais and took the microphone from the bandleader.
"Family and friends, at the request of the Bride and Groom, I’ve been designated to act as the emcee of sorts, to introduce the couple. Very simply, it is my great pleasure to introduce to all of you, Captain and Mrs. Lee Crane."
Lee and Caitlin came onto the dance floor. Pausing a moment, Chip said, "…And as a special gift to Lee and Caitlin, an old friend of the family has arranged for something very special for their first dance…"
Caitlin felt her husband stiffen slightly. She knew Lee didn’t like surprises, but when she had told Karen of their choice for a song, Karen had smiled and told her not to worry, that it would be taken care of. Now she had a twinge of regret. She had no idea of what her mother had arranged. She held Lee’s hand a bit more tightly as Chip continued.
"Caitlin and Lee have chosen an Irish song, called ‘Voyage’ for their first dance, and here to sing it for them is Irish Tenor, John McDermott. Lee…Caitlin…. this is from an old family friend who sends his regards and says he hopes that you enjoy his gift!"
As McDermott stepped to the microphone, Lee took Caitlin in his arms, and began to swirl her across the dance floor. He held her as tightly as he could, and whispered the words of the song to her, as they were sung by the famous Irishman.
I am a sailor, you’re my first mate…
We’ve signed on together, we’ve coupled our fate,
Hauled up our anchor, determined not to fail,
For the hearts treasure, together we set sail.
With no maps to guide us, we steered our own course
Rode out the storms when the wind was gale force
Sat out the doldrums with patience and hope
Working together we learn how to cope
Love is an ocean, life is a boat,
In troubled waters it keeps us afloat
When we started the voyage there was just me and you,
Now gathered round us we have our whole crew.
Together we are in this relationship
We’ve built it with care to last the whole trip
Our True destination is not marked on any chart
For we’re navigating the shores of the heart…
Life is an ocean, love is a boat,
In troubled waters it keeps us afloat,
When we started the voyage there was just me and you,
Now gathered round us, we have our whole crew.
The Tenor’s voice carried well beyond the assemblage under the tent, and over the water that lay off the beach. Mixing with the sounds of the waves and the sea, it gave the song, and the music a haunting quality.
When the music and singer stopped there was a huge round of applause from the guests, and McDermott stepped off the small stage, and went to Lee and Caitlin, congratulating them and as he softly kissed the new bride on the cheek, he whispered, "Michael Briggs sends his best wishes." Caitlin looked at him, startled, as he simply nodded and smiled then he took his leave of the group.
Chip Morton grinned at the couple, nodded and then announced, "While Lee and Caitlin are standing there, I believe that there’s a traditional dance for the groom and his mother, and the bride and her father. Helen, Admiral… if you would?"
Helen Crane moved to Caitlin to hug her and kiss her gently, and then took Lee’s hand. Harriman Nelson went to his step-daughter’s side, and smiled at her. "Happy?" he whispered.
She nodded, and replied, "More than I ever dreamed, HN. Thank you!"
The orchestra started up a slow waltz, and the two couples began to dance. Helen Crane looked deeply into her son’s eyes… "Lee, are you happy? You are laughing and smiling again, after you have been so sad for so long. I know that Caitlin is right for you, so right!!"
He smiled back at her, "I know, Mom. I haven’t been this happy since… well, since Cathy was alive. I promised myself that I wouldn’t think about her today, but there are some things that just bring her memories, even after all this time, and this is … this is Caitlin’s day."
"I’m sure that Caitlin understands, Lee. And I’m sure that Cathy is happy for the two of you. She loved you greatly, as Caitlin does. And I know that you love Caitlin, deeply. You are a lucky man! Be happy!" She kissed him on the cheek as the music ended.
Lee Crane reclaimed his bride from his employer/CO/new step-father-in –law. Nelson’s blue eyes were twinkling in delight. With a broad grin, he looked at Lee.
"You’d better take good care of my ‘daughter’, Captain. If you don’t, there are ways and means, we can start with a keelhauling… If you get my drift!!"
Crane laughed hard, "Oh, I do, sir, I do!!! And I certainly intend to take very good care of her!!" Lee bent over slightly and pulled Caitlin to him, kissing her warmly. Her very enthusiastic response gave Nelson a chuckle, and Lee took his bride off the dance floor to their table.
At the head table, Caitlin leaned over to Lee… "I hope that we can get the cake done with soon… I can’t wait to get to the Dreamweaver…" she took her hand and covered his…. "I’ve been too long without you, Lee Crane, and I’ve some things to make up for!"
"I’ve got some things to make up for too, Little Girl… the Admiral told me he gave you your Christmas gift."
"Oh, Lee, it’s exquisite… I haven’t had the time to tell you …."
Lee leaned over and kissed her. "You can show me your thanks later, Mrs. Crane!" He was smiling at her, his amber hazel eyes alight with love and so much more…. "I’m sorry that I missed Christmas… "
"Well, Captain, you’re just going to have to make up for it…" she smiled at her husband
The wedding cake was wheeled in amid the ‘ooohhs’ and ‘ahhs’ of the assemblage. As with the Morton’s wedding, Seaview’s ‘Cookie’ had outdone himself. The cake was a three-tier affair with layers of sugar lace, and white, pink and burgundy icing flowers. At the request of the bride and groom, strawberries were strewn all over the cake, dipped in white chocolate, in deference to the event. They were integrated into the design so well, that only those close to the couple were aware they were there. And there were many of them! The cake itself was a shortcake with layers of strawberries and whipped cream hidden under the icing. The top of the cake was a replica of the sail of the Seaview, with two figures, in wedding dress, representing the couple. All around the cake in outline were pictures of the boat, the FS1, and the Institute, as well as a cameo of Lee and Caitlin at the top center.
Chip Morton presented Crane with his sword, and Caitlin took Lee’s hand and the two of them cut a long, wide slice of the cake. ‘Cookie’ stepped in and deftly cut out a slice and handed the cake to Caitlin. There was much snickering and amusement among the guests, wondering how she and Lee would handle the feeding of the cake to one another, but to everyone’s surprise, Caitlin plunged right into the fun of the moment. Instead of taking a piece of cake on a fork, she speared a strawberry from the piece on the plate and with a wink to her parents, offered it to her new husband. Letting his usual reserve go to the wind, Lee went along with her effort to please the group as well. She held the strawberry to his lips, and he bit into it. Caitlin grinned at him and bit into the other side of it. Their lips met, and joined in a rather impassioned kiss that left the two of them breathless, and the gathering applauding loudly.
Then it was the Captain’s turn. Following his bride’s lead, he also passed on the cake and went for the strawberry, mimicking each of Caitlin’s actions. A second kiss, just as deep and passionate brought more response from the group accompanied by catcalls, and whistles. Nelson put his hand on Crane’s shoulder, and whispered, with a grin "Captain, the honeymoon comes later."
Crane looked at his now step-father-in-law, and said, "We have a lot to make up for, Dad!"
With the help of Sharkey, Robert and Chip Morton, the newly married couple was able to escape from the reception without anyone noticing. Chip told Karen that Lee and Caitlin had left and she smiled her gratitude at her Team ‘second,’ grateful for all of Chip’s help in the wedding plans in Lee’s absence.
"They should be at the Dreamweaver in twenty minutes, Karen. Captain Young will call when they weigh anchor. It was good of the Admiral to arrange for the yacht for the Honeymoon… they both need this time alone together."
"Yes, they do, my friend… and you and Matty have been invaluable to me these last two weeks. Thanks, Chip."
"’Nuff said, Karen… it’s what friends do for friends. Look, I think I’m gonna find my wife, collect the children, and go home…"
"Sounds like you have a plan in mind, Mr. Morton!" She hugged him warmly and softly whispered "Thanks" again.
When Lee opened the door of the cabin, Caitlin gasped, and turned to him smiling. They stepped inside and closed the door. The room was ablaze with dozens of candles. In the center of the room on a small round table was a magnum of champagne, icing in a silver wine cooler, two champagne flutes, and bowl of fresh strawberries. On the table was a note, the envelope reading, Lee and Caitlin
Caitlin took the envelope and handed it to Lee. He opened it and smiled as he read the contents. Caitlin tugged gently on his arm, and he handed it to her to read…
Lee and Caitlin,
Turnabout is fair play. This is our way of saying ‘thank you’ for the cabin, and our Wedding and Honeymoon. We are forever grateful!
Chip and Matty
P.S. Caitlin, the strawberries are from Matty.
Lee looked at her, and asked with a merry twinkle in his eyes, "And what do you intend to do with the strawberries, Little Girl?"
She smiled seductively back at him, and ran a finger across his lips. "Let me leave you guessing for a while, Captain." He gathered her into his arms, and held her tightly, drawing her into a kiss that was long, and loving. When they finished the kiss, she leaned into his chest, and sighed.
"I can’t believe that we’re here. On this yacht…and that we are, finally, married." She looked up at him, her blue eyes shining with unshed tears of joy. "I’ve waited for a good part of my life for this day, Lee. Thank you!"
He kissed her again, and added, "I can’t believe that it took me so long to know how wonderful you are, Little Girl. And how you have filled my life with your love."
"It just takes some people longer to answer the door, and to let love in, Lee. You just took longer than most, my love."
"You’ve told me I’m slow on the uptake on some things!"
"Slow wasn’t half the way to describe it! Deaf, dumb and blind might be better!" she added.
He laughed. "Well, I hope that it’s remedied now!"
"I think that my favorite Captain has set it all to rights! And he’s gone and made me respectable too!"
He smiled at her, and then as he turned to the table he let out a small groan. She looked sharply at him, her eyes narrowing in concern.
He looked at her, slightly embarrassed. "Cracked three ribs on the mission. Jamie says all I need is some down time. I didn’t tell you, because I didn’t want to spoil this day for you. I’m ok… really."
"That’s why you’ve been a little slow in moving around? I thought you were just tired."
"That too. And Jamie did give me these in case." He pulled a bottle of pills from his pocket.
"Oh fine, Champagne and pain pills. That could be real fun! It would make for a really interesting honeymoon!! "
"Haven’t taken any of the pills yet. The ribs are tolerable, and I’d rather have the champagne… and you!"
"Maybe we should open the bottle, now that you are thinking of the champagne…" She looked around at the cabin and the soft lighting and the inviting Queen Anne bed that dominated the cabin. A plan was forming in her mind. Sliding from his hold on her, she said, softly, "Tell you what… you open the champagne while I put on something more comfortable. " He kissed her lightly.
"Don’t be too long, Little Girl!"
"Don’t you worry, Captain, I won’t!" She took a small bag that lay by the door and stepped into the bathroom, blowing him a kiss.
He stood over the champagne bottle and popped the cork, congratulating himself.
‘Damn, you’re a lucky SOB, Lee Crane. To have found a love like this…not once, but twice! Never, never in my wildest dreams did I think I could be at this point, at my age, beginning a marriage all over again! God, who ever or what ever you are, Thank you!"
Caitlin was his wife! He was indeed a lucky man ! He poured the champagne into the two glasses, and mentally thanked Matty and Chip for their thoughtfulness. He settled into one of the two chairs in the cabin, and loosed his tie. He unbuttoned his jacket, but swore to himself when he realized that taking off the jacket would be a more difficult maneuver. Deciding to delay until he felt like standing, he closed his eyes for a moment to wait. The chair was comfortable, and he hadn’t been so relaxed and sitting in such a soft chair in the last two weeks…
When Caitlin opened the door to that led back into the cabin from the bath, she smiled and shook her head. In the middle of all of the luxury, the soft candlelight, and the soft music that had suddenly begun playing, ‘ CD’s on a timer! Bless Matty!’, there was her new husband, tie askew, jacket unbuttoned, sleeping, sitting up in the chair. Her heart caught for the moment. He looked so peaceful like that. She looked at him more carefully, now that he wasn’t aware of her close scrutiny. She saw the deep circles under his eyes, indicative of his tiredness, and she now noticed his cheekbones were more pronounced, and looking at his long frame in the chair, was suddenly aware of the fact that he had lost weight, again. This was the man that she loved with all of her being. He had weathered a great deal to come to her, to make this day, that they had planned so long, come to reality. She would take care of him, and more than that, love him for the rest of her days! How fortunate she was, for he did indeed love her as well! She moved quietly across the cabin to his side. She knelt in front of him, and ever so softly laid her hand on his face, her head on his shoulder, no being careful not to place too much pressure on his ribs.
"Lee…,"she called softly, kissing him gently on the side of the face. "Lee, my love…"
His amber-hazel eyes slowly opened and he started. Clearing his throat, he said, "Sorry… Chair was too comfortable." He wrapped his arm around her, and then looked down at her. "Either I’m overdressed, or you’re underdressed." He ran his hand down her side, lightly touching her through the burgundy silk and lace. He straightened up. Looking at her with growing fire, he asked, "do you think you could help me get, ah, more comfortable? It’s a little bit difficult to get in and out of this jacket with the ribs wrapped the way that Jamie did them."
Wordlessly, she stood. He took in her tiny, perfect form barely covered by the burgundy colored sheer silk and lace floor length gown. He rose from the chair, and her hands moved from his waist, slowly up to his shoulders. Catching the blue material in her hands, she eased it down off his shoulders, and let it slide to the floor. He wound his arms around her, drawing her close, bending his head to hers, and began to place light teasing kisses on her forehead, and down her face, on her cheeks, finally reaching her mouth. His lips were savoring the taste of her, the freshness of her. Her hands were like light feathers brushing against his chest, his back. He held her close, treasuring the feel of her. ‘His Wife!!! This Little Girl was his wife!’
"Mmm, Yes… "
"Yes, the shirt…" she took a step back and he let her unbutton the shirt. Her touch was light, and delicate as her fingers brushed his flesh. He stood watching her, his amber-hazel eyes alight in anticipation, and delight. Caitlin unfastened the last button, and trailing soft fingers to his shoulders, eased the shirt off his shoulders and let it slide down onto the deck of the cabin. There was an ace bandage tightly wrapped around his abdomen and lower chest. She ran her fingers gently along the edge of the bandages, and saw the bluish-purple bruises that were just along the edge. "Oh, Lee!" she said softly, and he saw that her eyes were very sad.
"Shhhh. Don’t worry. It’s ok…" A bit of humor crept into his voice, "You’ll just have to go gently with this old man that you’ve married, Little Girl! Be kind!"
She wrapped her arms carefully around his waist, her eyes and voice mischievous. "I think that can be arranged, my love!…after all," she said with more than a glint of mischievousness, "…this isn’t the first time that I’ve had to do that!"
She took his hand and led him over to the bed. Gently, she pushed him to a sitting position, on the bed, and placed one knee on the quilt next to his leg, sliding her other leg over his. She ran her fingers easily over his shoulders, and chest. She leaned her face towards his and he pulled her to him, and kissed her passionately. He ran his fingers down her back and over her buttocks, slowly and lingeringly pausing to stroke a sensitive spot, and feel her shudders of delight. He moved his mouth from her lips and began kissing, softly, her delicate neck, her shoulders, her chin. He was increasingly aroused by the faint vanilla scent of her hair, and body, the silky feel of her skin, that looked creamy white in the candle light. He pulled her to him and she continued to stroke his back, his neck, as she pressed herself against him. The silk of the nightgown rubbed against his bare chest, causing erotic sensations to flood his being. He eased himself back on the bed, and pulled her to him. She looked carefully at him, and he smiled, gathering her in his arms. He laid back on the bed, and she molded herself to him. She was content. She was the wife of this wonderful man, the man she had loved since she was 17 and she knew that she was loved as well…. They would have an interesting life…. Of that she was certain. They would fight, and make up and share many things….the future would hold secrets and adventures…. But right now at this moment…. All the future held was a long, wonderful life with her Captain…. Her beloved Captain.
‘Love is an anchor, life is a boat, in troubled waters it keeps us afloat…When we started the VOYAGE, it was just me and you… now gathered round us, we have our whole crew."
To all our readers, and friends;
We finally did it!! Jane and I finally got the good Captain and Caitlin married! It’s taken some time, but we hope that you all enjoyed the wedding and the reception, and, in a few weeks, we promise tales of the honeymoon and more… Merry Christmas, and let’s all have a wonderful New Year, Decade, Century and Millennium!
Linda and Jane
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