Author's note: The character CJ is an original creation of Carolyn Brown and first appeared in "Curiosity Killed The Cat". She is a strong-willed business woman with a passion for action and a personality to match. Her company was one of many investors in some of the NIMR's projects bringing her and Nelson to each other's attention. The character Diane Brentwood is an original creation of Lil Quong and first appeared in "Fury of Fur and Feathers".

Total eclipse of the heart**Most computers compatible**

Total eclipse of the heart**Mac compatible**

- Written by Jim Steinman - Performed by Bonnie Tyler

 

*wav and mp3 files courtesty Stephanie*


'' BIRTHDAY ''' WISHES ''

by Carolyn Brown & Lil Quong

CJ took a walk through the corridors of the Seaview for what may possibly be the last time. She had made her decision. Something had to be done to make Admiral Harriman Nelson choose whether he wanted her in his life or not. As she headed to her quarters on board the submarine she thought of her recent visit to the Administration Building. Nelson was buried in his work as usual and Angie had told her he left instructions that he didn't want to be disturbed. Of course they both knew that it didn't apply to her but she didn't plan on speaking to him right at that moment anyway. She smiled giving Angie the note she had written and said to give it to him when he was done for the night. Bidding her a polite good-bye, CJ returned to the Seaview to gather her things.

With her belongings tucked into her backpack, she headed towards the forward hatch of the marvelous wonder of the NIMR. CJ was carefully storing the memories of her time there as she looked around the empty halls on her way out. Shore leave left the submarine hauntingly empty. It was much the same way she felt inside as well.

Fifteen minutes later and CJ was sitting in the pilot seat of her own "Flying Dolphin". Skilled hands ignited the engines and ran the pre-flight checks almost without thinking. There was no turning back for CJ now. She activated the remote for the hanger doors in the ceiling of the specially designed building and rose upward in her craft. Arching into the starry sky above she turned on the radar blocking device and disappeared from the Seaview, the Institute, and Harriman Nelson, for ... for ... Well, maybe forever.

She only glanced back with her heart. Somehow she felt like she was leaving part of it behind.

'''''''

Turn around,
Every now and then I get a little bit lonely and you're never coming round
Turn around,
Every now and then I get a little bit tired of listening to the sound of my tears
Turn around,
Every now and then I get a little bit nervous that the best of all the years have gone by
Turn around,
Every now and then I get a little bit terrified and then I see the look in your eyes
Turn around bright eyes,
Every now and then I fall apart
Turn around bright eyes,
Every now and then I fall apart

'''''''

The night was warm and a gentle breeze filtered in off the ocean. As he worked on his usual stacks of proposals and reports Nelson enjoyed the fresh air. It had a wonderful scent that he missed in the sterile atmosphere inside his precious submarine. But even that was going unnoticed as he worked.

Nelson was concentrating on a new research project being proposed by one of the large oil companies. They are rich enough the way they gouge us for fuel prices. Why do they need us? He hadn't pondered it long when a sound caught his attention and pulled him away from his speculations. It was so unexpected that at first he didn't recognize the familiar sound of CJ's personal "Flying Dolphin". He got out of his chair and looked out the window for himself to confirm that it was.

Seeing the craft rising into the sky he wondered where she was going. Surely she would have told him if she was going anywhere. Angie had orders not to let him be disturbed but that didn't apply to CJ and she knew that. He went to his door and looked out to where Angie was working late at his request.

Looking up at the Admiral and seeing the concerned expression he wore, she asked, "Is there something wrong Admiral?"

He was still puzzled thinking of CJ's departure. "Uh ... Has CJ been by here this evening Angie?"

"Yes sir. She left you a note. She said not to give it to you until you were ready to leave tonight."

"I'll take it now Angie," he said moving into the outer office with a hand outstretched to receive the message.

Angie stood up and passed the unmarked envelope to the Admiral. She wondered if there was anything wrong between the two of them. Both strong willed, business minded, and totally obsessed with their projects, she could see that those same qualities they had in common also drove them apart. It was possible that their personal relationship wouldn't survive something like that.

'''''''

Returning to his desk and forgetting about his own NIMR work for the moment, Nelson remembered feeling uneasy when CJ left earlier. He looked at the enveloped and wondered what she would write that she couldn't say in person to him herself.

He picked up the letter opener and slicing the top he pulled out the paper. It was a simple note only stating that the now Deputy Director of Accounts at the NIMR, Katie James, had been given the power of attorney in regards to all remaining J&Associates funds relating to current research projects.

Nelson checked the backside of the sheet of paper but that was all that was written on it. He expected some personal message from CJ at the least. It puzzled him more as he thought about the way she said good-bye when they parted company that afternoon. Running late for an appointment in Santa Barbara, he paid little attention to it at the time. Now it seemed to loom large in his mind again.

The stark business note left the Admiral with more questions than answers. He needed to know exactly what happened when she left it in Angie's care. Perhaps that would give him some clue as to where she was going and why.

'''''''

Angie was putting away the files in the outer office when Nelson joined her again. She could tell by the look on his face that the note did not contain good news. "Yes Admiral? Is there something else you need?"

Nelson was tapping the note nervously in his hand. He didn't like to involve employees in personal business but he wasn't sure if this was personal yet or not. "Angie, did CJ say anything when she dropped off this note before she left? Think hard please. I need to know exactly what she said."

The way Nelson's brow wrinkled and the way his mouth was drawn up on one side told her just how worried he was about something. She guessed that it was about CJ but didn't say anything out loud to him of course. "She did seem a little quiet, Sir. She just handed me the envelope saying to give it to you later when you left and said good-bye. That was it."

"Just good-bye? Nothing else?"

"Yes Admiral." She leaned on her arm over the top of the open drawer and returned a concerned look to match his expression. "Is something wrong? Do you want me to try calling her for you?"

Nelson was still trying to absorb CJ's sudden unannounced departure. "Huh? Uh ... No Angie. That okay." He tried to appear less concerned. "It's late. You can go if you want to."

"But Sir, I haven't finished compiling the files for ... "

"Don't worry about that tonight. You can finish up in the morning." He was still distracted with his note. "You go on ahead and go home now if you like. Have a good evening," he said glancing at the clock's late hour. "Or what's left of it."

Angie was wondering what was so important in Nelson's note to get him so disturbed. She watched him slowly turn and walk back into his inner office. Just before the door closed she sighed at the extra time she had put in tonight all for nothing now. "Yes Sir. Good-night Admiral."

'''''''

With the door shut behind him Nelson returned to his desk almost in a trance. Slumping into his high-backed leather chair he sat staring into space. Where would she go and why leave without telling me? This isn't like her at all.

His musings were just excuses to fool himself into thinking nothing had been wrong. She knew his position at the NIMR, and on board the Seaview, and with the United States Navy, and the U.S. Government, were all important and demanding on his time and energy. He made that clear from the start. There were priorities in life. She had hers and he had his.

Nelson didn't know how long he sat looking out at nothing. Finally coming up short on answers he sighed and reached for his left hand drawer. Pulling out a small velvet box he flipped up the top and looked at the topaz and emerald stones of the ring. They sparkled with an inner fire of their own in the florescent lights. This was the result of his appointment in Santa Barbara earlier. He had to be at the jewelers before they closed. For some reason sadness seemed to wash over him as he looked at the ring. It was an early birthday gift for CJ to show her just how much he thought of the two of them together.

'''''''

Flying in a southern direction, CJ sat alone with her thoughts in the dim interior of her own private wonder of engineering. Hers had been a fortunate life with a large supportive family and sincere caring friends. With unrivaled drive and intelligence she headed the family company, J&Associates. In every way she was a strong independent woman needing nothing in life from anyone.

Nothing is right. Huh. Nothing until Harriman Nelson came into my life.

CJ remembered the auspicious day Stu Riley stopped to offer assistance to her, even though it was to the Admiral's inconvenience. She had no idea at the time how fate would bring them together.

I should've known then Harry. I should've let first impressions guide me.

Concern and kindness brought them together again when the Seaview sank in the Submarine's Graveyard. CJ knew she could help in ways no one else could and offered her services to Lee Crane. Using her own Flying Dolphin, she helped find and rescue the crew. Among them, the enigmatic Admiral Nelson.

Why did we ever think it would work Harry? We were too much alike. You had your world just like I had mine. Maybe there isn't room enough left over to be together.

Discovering mutual projects and ideals, J&A invested in the NIMR's research. CJ spent more and more time there and in the company of Admiral Nelson. As the companies interacted so did the Admiral and her. Their relationship would grow and recede like the tide.

I can't go on this way anymore Harry. CJ's eyes misted with upwelling tears she tried to hold back. I need something more than this casual thing we've had going on for months. And if this is all there is I have to leave. Leave before I can't.

CJ wiped her eyes and sniffled. Regrets now were of no use. Her decision had been made. She was putting as many miles between herself and Nelson as she could. Banking the craft to steer around a storm she took one more look back the way she came and thought of the things she was leaving behind. No CJ. Don't stop. She bit her lower lip in stern denial of the thought. You have to think of the future now. Love is a thing of the past.

'''''''

A week had passed only to find Admiral Harriman Nelson still distracted. He tried reading the same page of his report for the third time and it was hopeless. He just couldn't keep track of the details. Knowing it was because of CJ's strange disappearance he gave up and let the papers fall to the desk. Leaving the growing piles of work behind he went to the window to stare out into the sky and wonder where she was.

He gave her three or four days to show up on her own. After that he started making phone calls but no one had information on her whereabouts. He tried J&Associates first but all they would say was that she wasn't available to return his calls. They wouldn't tell him where she was at all. He tried calling everywhere in the United States that he could think of but got no results. He even tried several parties out of the country but that was much the same.

Nelson closed his eyes and remembered the last time he saw her. She seemed a little reserved and withdrawn. When she kissed him it felt sad. But Nelson was busy. He had to rush off somewhere else important. God. Would that be my last memory of her? Too busy to savor the way it felt to hold her. The way she smelled of softly scented flowers. Now he missed her so much he ached inside. Confound it! I'll find her if I have to spend every dollar I have and call in every favor owed me from around the entire planet!

Suddenly an idea struck Nelson. CJ's company often did work for the government. He returned to his desk and paged Angie for the numbers of Vice-Admiral Johnson and Ames Howard to check and see if she was working on something new. It was a practice of the government to use private firms for some things to keep themselves out of the picture from the citizens of both this country and others. They may not tell him what it was but surely they could put him in contact with her if she was there somewhere.

'''''''

Nelson spent his days doing what he always did. He worked and then he worked and then he worked some more. He put out feelers to locate CJ without any luck. Over time his own obligations had to take priority once more. She was never far from his thoughts though.

Without intruding on his personal business the crew did what they could too. Captain Crane, on his own, went to the "J Estate" to visit her family trying to see if they would divulge her whereabouts. Stu Riley contacted Judith Bates and her friends at the University looking for clues to pass on. Those without the ability to help in some way kept themselves busy and out of Nelson's way as the Admiral's temper often flared without reason. They didn't complain because in the short time CJ had become a familiar and valued member of the crew on frequent occasions. A friend to many of them.

'''''''

CJ was alone on her company's island in the South Seas with only her three dolphins for companionship. For the first week it had been easy to stick to her convictions to remain out of contact with everyone. The hurt she carried inside made that necessary as she thought things about her life and goals over in her mind. The only human voices she heard were the daily communications from J&A going out between various projects and the home offices. As long as things were running smoothly without her she could relax in her solitude and think. She knew if she was really needed that a special coded message would be broadcast to let her know.

As time passed it became harder and harder to stay away. CJ found herself missing the Institute even more than she missed her own company. She missed the times she traveled aboard the submarine and the people she had come to know so dear. Lee Crane. The strong young stallion at the Seaview's command. Chip Morton. Such the quiet polite gentleman. The Chief. His irascible manner but a heart of gold. Stu Riley. Ah yes. She smiled to herself as she thought of him. Stu Riley, who became a special friend after giving her the ride to Barnswell Cliff when she had to get to her dolphin in labor.

And of course as each day passed the enigmatic Admiral occupied more of her mind. Finally, after about four weeks, CJ knew that it was hopeless. I have to know if there is a future for us and running away here to think isn't solving this problem. If he loves me we'll make it work. If not? Well, I have other things to do besides sitting here staring at the sunset.

'''''''

Turn around,
Every now and then I get a little bit restless and I dream of something wild
Turn around,
Every now and then I get a little bit helpless and I'm lying like a child in your arms
Turn around,
Every now and then I get a little bit angry and I know I've got to get out and cry
Turn around,
Every now and then I get a little bit terrified but then I see the look in your eyes
Turn around bright eyes,
Every now and then I fall apart
Turn around bright eyes,
Every now and then I fall apart

And I need you now tonight
And I need you more than ever
And if you only hold me tight
We'll be holding on forever
And we'll only be making it right
Cause we'll never be wrong together
We can take it to the end of the line
Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time
I don't know what to do and I'm always in the dark
We're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks
I really need you tonight
Forever's gonna start tonight
Forever's gonna start tonight

Once upon a time I was falling in love
But now I'm only falling apart
There's nothing I can do
A total eclipse of the heart
Once upon a time there was light in my life
But now there's only love in the dark
Nothing I can say
A total eclipse of the heart

'''''''

Four weeks of contemplation brought CJ to a conclusion. She could not simply leave and forget Harriman Nelson. All the natural beauty of the island and seclusion to find herself only proved to her that she belonged somewhere else now. As she came to that realization she also knew she may not be welcome there anymore. She may have lost him forever and she couldn't simply show up again without knowing how he stood on things. CJ was every bit as proud and strong-willed as Harriman Nelson and she always did her research.

The first thing CJ did was call a close friend.

'''''''

In California, Judith Bates, or Judes as CJ called her, was at the Department of Antiquities at the University, busy logging in the latest shipment of artifacts discovered in one of their salvage sites. When the phone rang it startled her. She was handling some delicate pieces and couldn't afford a mistake. Catching her breath she momentarily froze until after the second ring. Judith's Uncle Alexander would be rabid if she dropped any part of this collection. She took a long swallow and gently set down the item taking the chance to relax before she answered.

"Hello?"

"Judes?" the familiar voice asked.

"CJ?" Judith wasn't sure she was hearing her long gone friend. "Is that really you? Where have you been? Do you know Nelson has been calling all over the place looking for you? When are you coming back? I thought ... "

"Judes, Judes, hang on a minute. Yes, it's me." CJ said, surprised at the way her friend was rabbiting on. "Let's do this one question at a time dear."

"Oh CJ. It's so good to hear from you. Where have you been?" Judith had finally slowed down enough to listen and was just so happy to finally hear from her.

CJ smiled to herself. "J&A's island. I had to get away and think for a while. So Harry misses me," she said casually and then continued on with other things. "How are you? You sounded so frantic."

Judith sat down at the small worn desk and leaned on its surface with her elbows. "No. The phone just scared me. That's all. Things on the business end has us all hopping as usual. Listen CJ. Did you know that Admiral Nelson has been looking for you? Riley has been asking me and everyone around here if we'd heard from you." She wasn't sure how far she should stress the point but her greater sense of romance took over. "You have no idea how much Nelson misses you."

CJ steeled herself and said,  "Missing is one thing, Judes, but not trying to find me is another."

Judith couldn't help but laugh. "Oh boy my friend, are you mistaken. That man has combed every corner of the country looking for you and even called everyone outside the USA that he could think of. Riley said he spends every spare minute trying to track you down. He's been driving them all to wits end over there since you left. No one dares sneeze when he's around."

The words brought tears to CJ's eyes. Suddenly she felt the relief and hope that she wanted all along. He did care about her. As much as she cared for him. And the thought brought regret at her rash act of leaving. It took a moment to gain control of herself, trying not to let on to Judith how strongly she felt about it all.

Careful to hide her sniffle, CJ asked about the others. "How are Lee and Riley and everyone doing?"

Judith was just happy to hear CJ's voice. "The Captain and everyone are fine. Mostly staying out of the Admiral's line of fire lately. Funny you mention Riley though. We have a date to take in some surfing in a couple days."

Judith's statement brought an idea to CJ's mind. She suddenly sat up straighter in her seat and asked, "Judes, you have a date with Riley, you say?"

"Yes. We're going to do some surfing down the coast at ... "

"Judes. I have a favor to ask you, if you don't mind."

A small grin broke out on Judith's face as she wondered what her friend was thinking. "You're up to something, aren't you?" She laughed knowing that CJ was working on a plan of some kind.

CJ laughed too. "I want to send Nelson a message that I'm ready to come back but I want to do it subtly, so he won't have to be angry. You might get a terse phone call from him. Do you think you can handle it?"

"You know you can ask me anything my friend. Whatever I can do to help, just fill me in." Judith smiled at the guiles of a woman's deceptions for her man.

"Good. I'll fill you in later. I'm going to head back to Santa Barbara. I'll call you in flight before I get there." CJ disconnected the call and suddenly felt rejuvenated. She had a long trip ahead of her and a ways to go even after she got home but now she knew where home was. It wasn't where ever she was in the world at the time as it always used to be. Now it was where ever her and Nelson were together.

'''''''

By the time CJ was back in Santa Barbara and rested from her trip, she and Judith had worked out her ideas. Riley's date would be the key. CJ was substituting herself for Judith and over the next couple of days she could subtly find out just how Admiral Harriman Nelson felt about her and their situation. Essentially, whether it was wise to come back and make a real go of things. She knew what she wanted now. It was important to find out if Harry really wanted the same thing.

'''''''

Stu Riley, young energetic sailor from the NIMR, sat at a table at the outdoor campus cafe. Leaning back with his eyes closed to the bright summer sunshine, he thought of the forecast for high surf over the next few days. His luck was running high this short shore leave. Big waves and a date to share them with. Judith Bates. Waiting for her to finish her classes he sat there a happy man.

Riley was aware of a shadow crossing in front of him and a feminine voice said, "Hi sailor. Heard any good jokes lately?"

Squinting to focus on the silhouette, Riley sat up and wondered who it was that knew he was a sailor when he wasn't in uniform. Even if he were in uniform it wasn't the type that was standard navy so that wouldn't make a difference. He tried shading his eyes with a hand which helped, and then he realized who it was.

Riley looked up in disbelief at the woman standing by his table. Her blue-green eyes twinkled with mischief as she looked down at him. Not sure what to say he said nothing, but simply stared.

"What's the matter, Riley? I've never seen you at a loss for words before." CJ smiled.

Finally finding his tongue, Riley cleared his throat and asked, "CJ, is that really you?"

She raised her arms, palms up at shoulder height. "TA-DA. In the flesh!"

Riley leaped out of his seat grabbing her by the shoulders like she would disappear in a puff of smoke if he didn't actually have his hands on her. "Man, where have you been? The Admiralís been searching everywhere for you." He was excited as he spoke. "He's even contacted Washington trying to find you. Wait till he hears you're back."

CJ pulled the young man's hands down and took a deep breath. "Don't do that just yet. I want some time yet to finish thinking before I go see Harry." She saw the puzzled look on his face. "I don't want to discuss anything right now, Stu. Let's go spend the afternoon on the beach catching some waves and catching up too. Okay?"

"Uh ... I can't, CJ." He apologized. "I was suppose to meet Judith here after her last class and go surfing with her."

"I'm afraid Judes can't make it because a new shipment of ancient artifacts has her busy at the moment. Will I serve as her substitute?"

Riley grinned from ear-to-ear and replied quite happily, "You bet!"

CJ smiled, as she pushed her long, light brown hair back from her face before linking her arm through his, and said, "Lead on, sailor. You and I are going to have one wild afternoon."

'''''''

It was three days later when Riley, back on the Seaview, threw his duffle bag into his locker and rushed to the Control Room. He knew it wasn't like him to be over half an hour late reporting for duty, but CJ insisted on spending the night on the beach, camping out under the stars. They had such a great time in the exhilarating surf and the warm summer days that neither one wanted to leave. Riley couldn't have had more fun even if Judith had been able to keep their date. When Riley woke up finding CJ gone and realized the time he had to get back to the base. He tossed his few things into his little Chevy Tracker and drove off quickly, even forgetting the swimming trunks still tied to the end of the surfboard left to dry from the night before. He hoped it wouldn't be Sharkey waiting for him when he got to his station.

Luck was with him for the moment. Morton was the one waiting for Riley at his station and even though there was a look that told him it was double duty for the next couple days, he preferred that to the Chief's lectures. It was a small price to pay for the fun he had on his shore leave though.

Sitting at the hydrophone for most of the day, Riley could not wipe the smile off his face. Hanging out with CJ, surfing, baking in the afternoon sun, bonfire on the beach at night. It was one of the best times he had in a long while. CJ was so relaxed and carefree, and surprisingly didn't mention the Admiral the whole time. Thinking back over it now, Riley did think it was strange. She never said a thing about Nelson or where she spent the last month. There were times when he would run off at the mouth about it but she never made any comment one way or the other. Now back at work again he only smiled at the memory, not ever realizing the deceptive interrogation he been subjected to.

'''''''

Patterson and Kowalski watched a yawning Riley enter the Crew's Mess looking for a cup of coffee. They waved him over to get a bit of ribbing in while they had the chance. They heard about his rushed arrival from Clark who was coming across the base when Stu got there. Word was that he parked his little 4 by 4 and ran around the back to take out the surfboard ripping the bathing trunks off the fin and looked around like he was embarrassed they were there. He must have been running late and stowed the board in his locker on the base.

As young Riley sat down across from the two old hands, Kowalski grinned at him. "Hey Stu. I heard you got Morton steamed showing up late this morning. I hope she was worth it."

By now Riley was getting tired and wanted to catch up on some sleep he deprived himself of over his leave. "Huh? Uh ... What do you mean?"

Patterson broke out into a wide grin he tried to hide behind his coffee mug as Kowalski continued to pry. "Come on Stu. Fill us in. Clark said your swim trunks were flapping in the breeze on the end of your board. Was she a knockout?

Riley closed his eyes and shook his head feeling like a fool. Man, I can't believe I did that. Gritting his teeth he answered them. "I spent the last three days surfing down the coast a ways. There's nothing to tell. Just some great waves and I camped on the beach. I woke up late this morning and had to rush back to my pad and grab my bag."

Encouraged by Kowalski's teasing, Patterson couldn't help himself. "I know you like surfing, but come on now. I can't believe you spent three days alone doing nothing but that." His eyes insinuated more.

Riley sighed. He knew better than to keep secrets from them when they knew him as well as they did. "Okay. So I wasn't alone." He got the - I knew it looks - but kept talking, "Hey, I was with a friend I haven't seen in a long time. We just surfed and caught up on old times, that's all."

"Uh huh," Kowalski nodded looking at Pat. He knew there must be more to it when that's all Riley said ignoring the wipeout tales he was usually full of. "Must be some good looking dame to keep your mind off the surfing stories."

Patterson teased in a low voice to Kowalski. "Maybe it was really body surfing and they never made it to the water's edge."

Both men laughed but Riley suddenly grew angry. "I don't play the field like you, Ski, and CJ is no dame!"

At the sudden mention of CJ's name, Kowalski and Patterson both went blank faced. Chief Sharkey was just coming in, passing behind Riley when Pat asked, "CJ? You ... you were with CJ?"

Before Riley could fumble out an answer, Chief Sharkey, at hearing CJ's name, grabbed the Seaman by the arm and spun him around to face him. "CJ? Hey kid, you saying you saw CJ?" Sharkey knew that this was the first word they had on her in over a month. "You ain't just playing a joke on these numbskulls here, are you?"

Riley stared at the ceiling for a moment, looking for help that wasn't coming. CJ's going to kill me. He was trapped now. He had to tell the truth. "No Chief. I saw CJ. We spent three days together down the coast surfing."

Sharkey couldn't believe the sailor hadn't spoken up before. "What's the matter with you? You know the Admiral's been looking for her all over the place. Why didn't you say something?"

Opening his mouth to answer, Riley didn't get the chance to say anything in his own defense. Sharkey, still holding him by the arm shoved him towards the door. "We're going to see the Admiral right now and you're gonna tell him everything."

Pat and Ski turned to look at each other as they heard Riley protesting while the Chief physically urged him down the corridor.

'''''''

"Awe, come on Chief," Riley pleaded. "CJ didn't want me to say anything."

Chief Sharkey stopped in the hallway and dragged the young sailor closer. Poking him in the center of the chest with a couple of fingers to emphasize his point, he said, "You are going to get in the Admiral's office and tell him everything. You got that! Or do I have to take you in there myself and make you? Cause you won't like it if I have to do that. I'll have you scrubbing the heads for the next six months and then I'll find you something that you really won't like."

Riley raised his hands and surrendered. "Okay, okay. I got it Chief. I'll tell the Admiral."

"And you better be honest with him, kid." The Chief wore an expression that said he wasn't kidding about the latrine duty either.

"I will. Why wouldn't I?" He knew the man was serious and the double duty from Morton for being late was enough to handle for one cruise.

"Yeah, well I got the definite impression that you weren't going to mention that you saw CJ."

Riley fell silent and let the Chief finish escorting him to the Admiral's cabin. Sharkey gave him a stern look as he left him at the door and waited for the sailor to knock. Resigned to his fate, Riley raised a hand and rapped.

Satisfied, Sharkey backed off as the voice from inside said, "Come in."

'''''''

Nelson looked up from his notes on the plans for the new deep-sea lab to see a nervous Riley entering his office. In a slightly distracted tone, as he returned to examine his papers, he asked, "Yes Riley. What can I do for you?"

Riley wasn't sure what kind of reaction he'd receive and stammered a bit as he started to speak. "Well Admiral. It's like this, you see. Uh ... The Chief. Uh ... He told me I had to come and talk to you, sir."

The strange way the sailor was speaking made Nelson sit up and look at him directly. He wondered why the man was so edgy. "What's your problem Riley?"

"My problem? No sir. I don't have a problem." Riley fretted trying to come up with the right words to use. "It's just that ... well ..."

Not in the mood for a game of twenty questions, the Admiral, like he so often did lately, raised his voice in irritation. "Spit it out Riley! Don't beat around the bush."

Riley flinched at the sound and decided there was no easy way to get the subject out so he just said it straight like it was. "Sir, I just spent three days surfing with CJ."

Nelson froze momentarily, then dropped his notes and pencil on the desk. Standing up to bring his full presence and attention to bear, he repeated what Riley had just told him. "You just spent three days surfing with CJ."

While Nelson circled the man, he felt like he wanted to run but remained rooted to the spot with eyes front. "Uh ... Yes sir."

"You just spent three days surfing with CJ when you knew I'd been looking for her all over the country for over a month and you didn't think to stop and tell me?"

"No sir." Riley answered. "I did think of it. When I saw her that first day that was the first thing I thought of but she said she just wanted to go surfing and not talk about anything for a while. I told her how you were looking for her but she kept avoiding the subject."

Nelson raised his eyebrows. Avoiding the subject. Maybe she wants to break it off between us. But she would have told me right out if that was the case. "How did she look when you saw her?"

"Great," he said enthusiastically. "She had this really fantastic tan. I'll bet she's been spending a lot of time in the sun somewhere. She seemed so relaxed and carefree. She wasn't as uptight as the last time we saw her. Maybe she just needed some down time sir."

"And she never said anything about me ... I mean us?" Riley looked at him a little perplexed. Nelson repeated the meaning. "Us? The Seaview? The Institute?"

Riley knew the Admiral meant something else but he never let on. "I tried to tell her how much we missed her sir, but she just never said anything back."

"Did she say if she was coming back or not?"

"She never talked about anything like that at all."

Riley waited for the inevitable explosion and was surprised when it didn't come. Instead, Nelson calmly sat at his desk again and sat quietly thinking. In the silence, the sailor wondered if he should ask if he should leave but Nelson obviously had other ideas. He watched as the Admiral pushed the intercom and contacted the Control Room.

"Mr. Morton. Have the Flying Sub made ready for launch. Riley and I are heading back to Santa Barbara right away."

"Sir? Did you say you wanted the Flying Sub made ready for launch?" Morton was undoubtedly surprised by the request.

"Yes Mr. Morton. Let me know when it's ready."

"Aye, Aye, Admiral. Right away."

Riley said nothing. It was obvious that he was going with the Admiral.

'''''''

At the Nelson Institute for Marine Research, in the offices of the Accounting Department, Katie James sat waiting for the representative from J&Associates for a meeting. Since Pam, her secretary was out sick, Katie left the office door open to listen for the expected visitor. Busy with her own affairs, she didn't hear the approaching footsteps until a familiar voice surprised her from the doorway.

"Hi Katie."

Looking up, Katie sat amazed to see a smiling CJ leaning against the doorframe. She was as trim and casually dressed as always, but now sporting a deep rich tropical tan. Rising from her desk, she reached out to give the woman a hug.

"Oh my God. CJ. How are you?" she asked, unable to wipe the grin off her face. "Where have you been?" Katie admired the golden hue of CJ's skin.

CJ returned the warm embrace. "That's not important right now. It's good to see you again. I wondered what kind of reception I'd get after dumping the J&A accounts on you."

"Forget about all that." Katie backed up and gave CJ room to come in. "Come on in and have a seat. Let's catch up now that you're here." Once they were sitting down Katie continued. "Do you know how much and how long the Admiral has been looking for you?"

CJ sighed. "I think I have an idea. I saw Riley a little while ago and he mentioned it." She paused a moment thinking. "Katie, what I really need to know is the reason he was looking for me."

It puzzled the woman when CJ turned so serious. "What do you mean?"

"Well, I need to know if it was because he was worried about me or something else was motivating him."

Katie searched her friend's face for the real question. "You know how private the Admiral is. I've known him a long time and all I can tell you is that he has never been so determined or obsessed with looking for someone like he has about you.

CJ seemed to quietly mull that one over in her mind. Maybe Harry cares more than I thought. I've hurt him taking off the way I did. I hope he forgives me and understands why.

"Thanks Katie. I think I've found out what I needed to know." CJ stood up. "If you'll excuse me I have somewhere I have to go now."

The other woman suddenly looked worried again. "You're not going to disappear again, are you?"

"That depends," CJ said giving her a wistful smile. "We'll have to see what Harry's reaction is now."

"So, you're going to see him and let him know you're back?"

CJ took a deep breath."Yup. That was my plan."

Katie hated to be the bearer of bad news. "CJ. The Seaview sailed this morning. He's not here."

CJ responded. "I know." A wicked grin spread over her face. "But I spent the last few days surfing with Riley. I think I can expect him back anytime now."

Laughing out loud, Katie could appreciate the woman's tactics. "You're either the bravest or craziest person I know." She stood up and walked around the desk to give CJ another hug. "By the way. Your birthday is almost here." She gave her another squeeze. "Happy Birthday, CJ. It's good to have you back."

"Thanks Katie. I think I'd better get going. I wouldn't want to be late for the next phase of my plan."

"Take care, my friend. I hope you get your birthday wish."

"So do I. Bye, and thanks for the news."

CJ left the office with a new sense of hope. Harry must feel strongly about me after all. I hope we can make this work between us. I know what I want now. I hope he wants the same thing.

'''''''

Angie was sorting through the mail delivered to Nelson's office. The business correspondence she opened and attached the envelope to the contents with a paper clip before putting in one pile. General items she read herself and decided on an individual basis where it should go. File cabinet, inbox, outbox, or trash. Those marked personal she simply slit with a letter opener and left intact in another pile. She sighed as she realized none were from the one person Nelson wanted to hear from the most.

It saddened Angie thinking of the Admiral's chance at happiness suddenly vanishing. He had been a bachelor all his life, totally obsessed with his own interests and goals. There were a few women who touched his life through the years but none seemed to last long enough for him to get serious about. More often than not they simply ended up as friends and nothing more. Angie didn't think Nelson would ever find someone he could care about until CJ came along. The two of them were so good together and yet the personalities were so much alike in ways that it also kept them at odds. In spite of that she knew he couldn't get CJ off his mind. Angie was beginning to loose hope of ever seeing the two of them happy together again.

As she carried on with her duties, the door from the hallway opened and Angie was shocked to see CJ walk in wearing a smile like she had never been gone. After a moment staring in shock, she got up and gave her a huge hug. "CJ. My God. CJ. It's really you. How are you? I never expected to see you again for some reason."

"Well, I thought things over and I decided I was being a bit rash. I figured I still had things to do here."

Angie glanced at the empty office. "Sorry CJ. The Admiral is gone right now. They left this morning."

There was a look of assuredness on CJ's face. "I think there might be a change in that pretty soon."

As if on cue, the distinctive sound of the Flying Sub's engines whined over the base as it circled in to land. Angie looked at CJ as if she had arranged things personally. "How did you know?" she asked the woman skeptically.

"Oh Angie," she grinned wickedly. "You're a woman. You should know."

Angie laughed out loud. She knew the Admiral was in for a pleasant surprise.

CJ raised her eyebrows and asked, "Mind if I wait in his office?"

"Go right ahead. I'll make myself scarce when he gets here."

"Thanks Angie. I owe you one."

Before CJ closed the door of Nelson's office Angie gave her one last smile. "Oh. By the way, CJ. Happy Birthday tomorrow. In case I don't see you before then."

CJ gave her a wink and a nod. Now all she had to do was wait for the Admiral.

'''''''

It was only minutes later when Nelson, obviously in a hurry entered the office with Riley trotting behind to keep up. Angie couldn't even get out a greeting before the Admiral started issuing orders on his way through to his inner office.

"Angie. I know it's time for you to go home but I want you to get Judith Bates on the phone. She has to know where CJ is. And I don't care if you have to send the police in to pull her out of the shower. Just do it." He turned to the man following him. "Riley. You stay here and help Angie. Track her down, and that's an order." With that said he entered his office and closed the door behind him.

Stopping in his tracks, Riley turned to Angie and was surprised to see her not on the phone, but taking her purse out of the desk drawer and draping her sweater over her arm. "Angie. What are you doing? The Adm ... "

Smiling and putting a single finger to her lips, she glanced at the inner office door.

It only took a moment for the sailor to realize what she meant. "Ohhhh. So CJ's in ..."

Angie nodded. "Come on Riley. My car's in the garage and I need someone to give me a ride home."

Riley developed a big grin of his own. "Sure thing Angie." He stripped off his flight jacket and leaving it on the couch in her office, offered an arm to escort her out.

'''''''

CJ had seen the Admiral crossing the road in front of the Administration Building on his way in. Suddenly the butterflies had struck her once more. She wondered if he would be happy to see her again. Maybe angry because she left the way she did. Perhaps after all this time he might just want to confront her and tell her to get out of his life altogether. When she'd listened to Riley on the beach, she got the impression Nelson missed her terribly. During her own self induced solitude she'd found out what that longing for someone was like. The more she'd deliberately tried to put the Admiral out of her mind the more of it he seemed to consume. Now after learning that much for herself she hoped Nelson would accept her back.

As much as nerves gnawed at her insides, so happiness bubbled at being back. Her sense of fun and unpredictability took over and instead of waiting out in the open for Nelson to see her, she hid in the closet to surprise him. Her decision had come just in time as the office door opened just as she closed the closet's behind her. She heard him giving his gruff orders and smiled to herself. That's my grumbly teddy bear.

Harriman Nelson practically slammed the door behind him and prepared what he was going to say to Judith Bates once the woman was on the telephone. As he thought he stripped off the standard flight jacket used on journeys aboard the Flying Sub and undid the buttons on his rumpled shirt to change into a fresh one. As he pulled the shirttails out of the waistband of his trousers he reached out to open the closet where spare uniforms hung. It surprised him to meet with an unexpected resistance.

"What the ... Now what?" he muttered.

Nelson used more force and suddenly the door gave way nearly sending him to the floor.

"Wow," CJ praised in a cheery voice. Admiring the bared chest covered in the curly red hair, she reached out to caress it. "Doing a striptease in honor of my birthday, Harry?" She offered him a shirt on the tip of one finger along with an impish smile.

At first the Admiral could only stare in shock seeing the woman he had been searching for over the last five weeks. Then knocking the shirt to the ground at his feet, he grabbed her arm pulling her close to capture her in an embrace. As CJ wrapped her arms around him with the same joy, they kissed with a passion and fire reminiscent of their first time.

As the need to breathe finally forced their separation, Nelson pushed CJ out to arms length from him and looked directly at her. He suddenly remembered the hurt and anger he felt when she suddenly left without word. All the weeks of anxiety spent looking for her and the humiliation of finding out she was back from Riley of all people. "CJ! Where the devil have you been?" His words were harsh and accusatory in tone. "What was going through your head woman? Do you know how long and hard I've been searching for you?"

The woman famous for her cool temper in stressful situations got the first hint of how much she hurt the Admiral. She succeeded in finding out how much she meant to him only to come back and see that she may have gone too far doing that. Inwardly she yelled at herself for being such a fool but it was her pride that responded first.

The way Nelson was speaking to her stung. CJ's temper exploded just as his had done. "That's a fine way to say welcome back." She pulled out of his grip and turned her back to stare out the window. Anything to avoid looking at his cross expression.

Nelson seemed disgusted. He bent down to retrieve the shirt and headed for the bathroom to change. "Yeah, well, when I get back I expect a lot of good answers."

She spun back to face him. "Answers to what?"

Walking across the room, Nelson ranted, "To why you took off like that? To why you didn't call? And to why I had to find out from Riley that you were back?" He stopped to glare at her. "Are you trying to make a laughing stock out of me? Because you're sure succeeding. When I come out you better be ready to talk."

CJ simply burned. "Is that some kind of order, sir?"

"And if it is?" Nelson finally stopped shouting but the damage was already done.

CJ's eyes narrowed. She seethed with anger. "No one orders me around. Not even you, Harry."

"You can either stay and answer my questions or," he nodded towards the office door, "You're free to leave if you think that our relationship meant that little to you. Think about it." And before she could say anything more he closed the door between them.

Tears welled in CJ's eyes. She'd thought things were going to work out when they'd kissed so passionately. He was so consuming of her presence and suddenly the pain she caused him took over. She hoped he would be glad to see her back but all he saw was the anguish they suffered. Instead of consoling him with reasonable answers, she only added to the anger between them. It was typical of all they had been through over the past year. And yet, as angry as she was, she didn't want to leave. She already knew that.

''''''

Nelson hung his fresh shirt on the hook on the back of the door before turning to lean heavily on the counter. He raised his head to stare at himself in the mirror. What the hell did I just do? I've been looking for her for weeks and the first thing I do is start yelling at her like she was some new recruit.

Shaking his head, the Admiral turned on the water to splash into his face. I should be happy to see her. All I've wanted to do is grab her and hold her in my arms again, smelling the soft scent of her skin and hair.

Nelson remembered his life before CJ. It had been full and rewarding, but still devoid of a real sense of happiness. His many brief affairs in the long run meant nothing to him. They never spawned the intense reactions that CJ did. As time would go by they just slipped into history without much fanfare on either side.

The Admiral stripped off his old rumpled shirt and slid the new one into place over his shoulders. He stood there wondering why CJ left him like she did. Was it his fault like all of them seemed to be? Did he take too much for granted? Was he going about life like he always expected her to be there whenever he decided it was time for affection?

Nelson never gave much thought to it before. His life revolved around his scientific research, the Seaview, the NIMR, and the government assignments. Maybe that's why I'm so angry. Maybe CJ is something my life needs now.

After he did up the buttons and tucked the tails of the shirt into his waistband, Nelson took a moment to pause and placed his hands on his hips. He was staring at the face of a changed man. If CJ was still out there there was something he had to tell her.

'''''''

CJ was standing by the windows in the office when Nelson opened the door again. Even though she wiped away any tears, he could tell that she'd been weeping. The two of them looked at each other without moving for a couple of moments. Both were wrestling with their own feelings of guilt and sadness.

As if practiced CJ and Nelson each started to speak the same words. "CJ - Harry, I'm sorry." It stunned each of them to hear that from the other and both broke out into conciliatory smiles. Nelson held his arms open for her, which she filled without hesitation. They melted into a single kiss like no other they had ever known.

Their lips parting left CJ almost breathless. If she still wondered what lay ahead after the past five weeks she just got her answer without words. It was at that very moment she knew the truth. She began, softly. "Harry ..."

"Shhhhhh," he warned her with a whisper. "Later. I know we need to have a serious talk CJ, but first, have you made plans for dinner yet?"

She allowed herself to get lost in his eyes and replied, "No." She lay her head on his shoulder taking comfort in his embrace.

Nelson kissed the forehead of the woman nestled in his arms. "Well then, would you do me the honor of joining me so we can celebrate your birthday?"

"Are you really sure you want me to, Harry?" Somehow she didn't feel like she deserved his affection anymore.

Gently rocking her in his arms, he said, "CJ. I have to admit I feel like ringing your neck at times. Especially after leaving the way you did, but I want to celebrate with you more." He looked down into her green eyes beginning to flood with emotion. "What do you say?"

"Yes Harry. I'd like that very much."

"Good. I'll call Maria and have her fix us up something and we can take the yacht out. The weather is going to be clear and the ocean calm tonight." Nelson held her close like he never wanted to let go again. "I just want it to be the two of us."

CJ whispered as she looked up. "So do I Harry." Then they kissed again savoring the moment.

'''''''

On the stern of the NIMR yacht "Neptune's Glory", Nelson stood next to CJ as they watched the last vestiges of the moon dive into the horizon taking it's reflected shaft of light with it. Darkness enveloped them with only the sound of music from the radio and the beating of their own hearts breaking the silence of the sea on a calm warm summer night. Far enough away from the glare of the city lights of Santa Barbara, the skies glistened with more stars than they could remember.

Nelson slipped an arm around her waist and pulled her closer to snuggle up against him. "CJ?"

"Mmmm, " she replied all the while thinking things couldn't be more perfect. "What Harry?"

In a gentle voice seldom ever heard by the crew of the Seaview, he said, "You took a big gamble running away from me."

She giggled. Teasing the Admiral, she scolded him. "Harry. Didn't you know? When I gamble, I always win."

Nelson let out a small laugh of his own and then spoke again. "CJ?'

"What?"

He held out his watch with the luminous dial for her to see. "Look. It's after midnight." He drew out a small velvet box from his pocket. "Happy Birthday."

She gazed down at it speechless. "Wha ... Har ..."

"Open it," he urged her.

CJ was stunned. She sat down at the deck table where they had their intimate little dinner and slowly pulled back the lid. Shimmering in the pale glow of the candles on the table was the most beautiful ring CJ could ever have imagined. A large Topaz was centered among several emeralds. "Harry .... When did ...."As she removed the exquisite ring from its case she went to slip it on the ring finger of her right hand.

The Admiral stopped her and deliberately moved it to the left hand. "I picked this up for you the day you left. I was going to give it to you then but now that it's your birthday, it makes this so much more special."

There were no words that CJ could speak that would tell him just how special she felt right then. He didn't propose but she knew how strongly he loved her. Throwing her arms around his neck tears of joy ran silently down her face. "Oh Harry," she sighed. "I'm only going to wear it on this hand when we're together. When we're in public I don't want anyone else to know."

He tipped his head and asked, "Why?"

"This is just so special, I want it just to be ours for now." A touch sadly she added. "And you know what our enemies could do with something like this."

Yes. It's sad but so true. The Admiral smiled at her. "Alright. It will be our secret."

Nelson was not an emotional man in his everyday activities. Here, tonight, alone with the woman he knew he loved, he let himself show her just how much he cared. He cupped her chin with one gentle finger and tipped her head back, all the while watching the flickering candle light dance in her eyes. "Chameleon Jewels, Happy Birthday." He drew her face up to meet his and steadied her trembling lips with a passionate kiss.

Oh my God Harry. If I ever had a birthday wish, it's just been granted.

'''''''

Turn around bright eyes
Turn around bright eyes
Turn around,
Every now and then I know you'll never be the boy you always wanted to be
Turn around,
Every now then I know you'll always be the only boy who wanted me the way that I am
Turn around,
Every now and then I know there's no one in the universe as magical and wonderous as you
Turn around,
Every now and then I know there's nothing any better and there's nothing that I just wouldn't do
Turn around bright eyes,
Every now and then I fall apart
Turn around bright eyes,
Every now and then I fall apart

'''''''

Dear Diary,

I can hardly believe what happened on my birthday. You know, sometimes I get so mad at Harry. He is all business and research, and he is so busy. I don't know what I was thinking getting involved with him. The last year has been an emotional roller coaster of on again off again ups and downs. I've made a lot of dear friends among the crew through all this. Riley, the dear sweet boy. Sharkey. He'll do anything he can for you. Kowalski and Patterson. Eager to help and they can do just about anything. Chip is a dear but so quiet and he holds his real personality back. Lee Crane. The man is a real action guy. I think he lives on adrenaline. He is such a good friend. I thought that was enough but in time I found the one thing I wanted, I didn't have. I don't know why I didn't see it before. Harry and I worked so well together that I didn't know I was falling in love. I didn't think he loved me though. I got so confused I had to leave. I couldn't be there just when he had a spare few minutes. I needed more and I didn't think he had it to give. I just had to leave and make him realized what he had to do without. I thought I could get him out of my system too. Boy, was I wrong. I never imagined I could feel this way about anyone. I was so much like him and after a while I knew I had to be with him. I couldn't just walk in and say "here I am". He might have forgotten all about us. Maybe he never cared as much as I did. I had to know before I went back. I thought if I did some snooping first that would make it easier. Love makes you do stupid things. I not only hurt him by leaving without a word but I humiliated him the way I came back. I see that now but like I said, love makes you do stupid things. I thought it might be all over when I first saw him again. I thought this would be the worst birthday in my life. Love is stronger than a stupid mistake though. Harry loves me more than I ever hoped. Tonight he blessed me, us, with a beautiful ring. It was so romantic on the stern of the yacht in the fading moonlight. He placed the ring on my finger and held me so close and gentle. I know I make him angry sometimes just the same way he does me but I know we love each other more. He turned on the radio. It was one of those soft rock stations. I smiled because I know he doesn't like rock and roll but he knows I do. I think it was a compromise to please me. There was a lovely song playing. I can't remember all the words but as he held me, we danced under the stars. All I can remember is the look in his eyes and the lyrics burning into my heart. "And I need you now tonight. And I need you more than ever." Oh, Harry. I do.

CJ - July 31, a new year in my life.

'''''''

One year later:

Diane Brentwood opened the car door and got out before Chip could make it around to the passenger side. "Who lives here?" she asked of the upper scale apartment block.

Chip Morton had been keeping company with the young lady for the last several days since they returned from their last cruise. Their first date had been something of a disaster ending up with Chip, Lee Crane, and CJ soaked to the skin from a fall into the sub pen at the NIMR just before the Seaview left port. Something about Diane caught Morton's interest and he kept in touch through E-mails while they were gone and in the four days they had been back the two of them managed to see each other everyday.

"Just a friend. I told you it was a birthday party." He smiled reassuringly at her. "Don't worry. We won't stay long and there will be a couple people you know already anyway. You won't be out of place."

Judging by the building, Diane already felt out of place. She trotted after him catching up when he reached the door. "I don't know if I should trust you," she said warily.

He only smiled at her and offered her entrance as he held the door.

'''''''

Lee Crane opened the door at Chip's knock. Seeing the Exec and his new girlfriend, the Captain urged them in quickly. "You're late." he stated.

"I had to wait for Diane to get out of the museum. Is she here yet?" Chip had to pull Diane forward from where she seemed to be hiding behind him.

Lee smiled. "Hi Diane. Come on in. CJ should be almost home. You've made it just in time."

Diane's eyes grew large. CJ? Where ever CJ was Admiral Nelson wasn't far away. A mild panic started to rise. "Is this a party for CJ? Chip didn't say who it was for."

Laughing, Lee kidded her back. "I expect he didn't want you backing out on him because the Admiral would be here." The Captain grasped Diane's hand and escorted her and Chip to the kitchen where the counter was spread with lots of luscious delicacies. Several people Diane knew were there just as Chip told her. Riley was standing close to a woman she would later learn was Judith Bates. Lee joined Angie, the Admiral's secretary, whom Diane had seen on a couple of occasions at the NIMR when she met Chip there. And there were about a half dozen others that Diane had no clue who they might be. And of course there was Admiral Nelson himself. The man was dressed in casual clothes obviously leaving the office and navy behind for the evening. In spite of her awkward feelings, like she was somewhere she didn't belong, everyone gave her a warm friendly greeting.

Nelson smiled. "Can I get you something to drink Ms. Brentwood?"

"Uh ... D ... Diane, please. Uh ... Thank you. Is Club Soda okay?" Diane tried to relax. After ruining the Admiral's dinner with CJ not that long ago, she was surprised he treated her in such a friendly casual manner.

Passing her the glass of sparkling water, he was amused to see her clinging to Chip, almost afraid to take the drink from him. "Don't be nervous, Diane," he said, emphasizing her name in a warm welcoming tone. "This is just a little get together to surprise CJ for her birthday. I'm sure she'll be pleased to see you here."

Diane returned a weak smile before Chip dragged her over for more introductions. The names and faces went by quicker than her memory would take in and she knew she would feel like a fool later if she ran into anyone but she tried to be cheerful to please Chip. It wasn't long when someone whom she already forgot the name of, called out from the window, that CJ's car was just pulling into the underground parking garage.

Nelson asked. "Everyone with a full glass?" He scanned the room and found all the guest's ready with drink in hand. "Good. Let's get ready to present her with a toast."

The group moved into the living room into an arch around the entry door and waited. As they stood quiet they heard the small sound of a key clicking in the lock.

'''''''

CJ grumbled as she fiddled with the lock on the door to her apartment. The thing took to sticking lately and on top of Nelson not leaving her a message when he left the NIMR today, it made her more of a grouch. You would think he'd at least remember my birthday after the near disaster last year. She sighed as the key finally turned. Oh, well. I promised myself to be tolerant. He's no worse than I am when it comes to that.

Pushing the door inward, she was startled to find a crowd of people surrounding her. She almost lashed out before realizing they were all familiar.

"Surprise!" the multiple voices rang out as everyone raised their glasses. Lee Crane slipped a glass of sparkling apple cider into her hand and kissed her sweetly on the cheek. "Happy Birthday, CJ."

At first CJ was stunned and she couldn't speak. It was all she could do to keep up with the well wishers and take note of who was there. She finally managed to squeak out a thank you or two when she spied Nelson, eyes twinkling, wearing a mischievous smile in the background. "Harry, you crafty old sea dog. I thought you forgot my birthday."

Nelson feigned a hurt expression. "Now would I ever do something like that?"

Angie gently elbowed CJ in the side. "That's what he has me for."

That said, the first of many rounds of laughter spread out around the room.

'''''''

After everyone had helped themselves to the mini- buffet laid out on the kitchen counter, CJ opened the gifts they brought for her. They were simple things that didn't cost much because they all knew she kept her life simple and uncluttered. Each one brought a smile to her face. Then the cake was presented. A lovely thing with decorations of leaping dolphins around the edge and a light blue seascape on the top. Cookie, the Seaview's chef, had outdone himself when he heard it was to be CJ's birthday and insisted Nelson let him make the cake for her.

Admiral Nelson positioned himself to take a picture of CJ when she saw the cake as it was brought out. Judith Bates carried it to the table while they all sang the traditional birthday song. Then CJ's eyes danced around the room trying to think of a wish before blowing out the candles. Not usually an emotional woman, her eyes began to mist as she cut the first piece.

Softly clearing her throat, she passed the knife to Judith and asked her to cut the rest while she took a quick break. Only Diane noticed the tears on CJ's face as she left the room and was concerned that it was her presence as a stranger at the intimate little gathering that might be upsetting her. She followed the woman down the hall.

'''''''

CJ had a tissue dabbing at her eyes when a soft knock on the bathroom door interrupted her tears. "I'll only be a minute," she said to whoever it was.

"CJ? ... It's Diane. Diane Brentwood." She kept her voice low enough so the others down the hall wouldn't overhear. "I'm sorry if you're upset because I'm here but Chip didn't tell me where we were going. After ruining your date with the Admiral, I can't blame you." Diane was surprised when instead of an answer, the door opened and she was invited in.

CJ gently blew her nose and nodded for Diane to come in. "No Diane. It's not you and you didn't ruin anything that night. Believe me." A small smile played over her face as she recalled the romantic evening after she and Nelson got to her place. CJ closed the door so they could chat privately.

There was still a look of concern on the young woman's face. "Then what is it CJ? What's got you so upset? I thought I was the one that's suppose to run off to the bathroom to cry."

CJ had to laugh at that one. "I guess it's my turn now." CJ sat down on the towel hamper while Diane seated herself on the edge of the tub. "You don't have to worry about me Diane. I'm not upset. I'm just happy and I didn't want to look silly in front of everyone."

"CJ. You are far from silly," Diane scolded. "From what Chip has told me, everyone likes and respects. They think you are such a strong and independent person and they all care about you very much."

"Thanks. You're really sweet you know." CJ dabbed at another stray tear. "It's not them so much as Harry. I came home tonight ready to spit nails. I was mad because I thought he forgot my birthday and I couldn't get ahold of him at all. Then here you all were and I was so shocked. That's just the way it is with us Diane. You see it's never been really easy between us. Last year not to long before my birthday I had had enough of our ups and downs and I ...."

Diane listened as CJ told the story of her previous birthday while the party went on in the other rooms

'''''''

"No Admiral. I think I've had enough."

Nelson was practically forcing another salmon puff on to his Captain. "Come on Lee. They're delicious." He was fended off by a raised hand. "Oh, you don't know what you're missing."

"I think I do sir. Indigestion if I have any more of this rich food." He placed a hand over his midsection indicating his state of fullness. He changed the subject for his own self-preservation. "By the way. I think your surprise for CJ was a big success."

"Yes, I think so." Grinning, Nelson scanned the room for his lady and furled his brow at not finding her in view. "I wonder where she got to?"

Chip, finished talking to Judith and Angie, was returning for another stuffed egg canapé. The look on the Admiral's face concerned him. "Something wrong sir?"

"Did you see where CJ went, Chip?"

He opened his mouth to answer but stopped as he realized he had no idea. Thinking about it he couldn't recall seeing her since the cake came out. And then the thought struck him that he hadn't seen Diane lately either. "I don't think I've seen her or Diane in about the last fifteen minutes.

Judith was heading to the far side of the kitchen for another refill of her wine when she overheard the conversation on the missing guest of honor. "I saw CJ and Diane heading for the bathroom a while ago."

Lee was puzzled when Chip rolled his eyes to the ceiling and Nelson shook his head. As they all exchanged glances, Nelson complained. "What the Devil is it with women and washrooms?"

'''''''

"Oh CJ. That is such a touching story." Diane was almost in tears herself. "You two were lucky it turned out that way."

"You know Diane. I think you're right. It hasn't been easy but," she sighed. "I wouldn't have changed it for the world."

Diane swallowed the lump in her throat. "They are probably missing us by now." Then she added with a wicked grin, "or they are lined up at the door with their legs and eyes crossed."

The emotional moment was broken by the joke and CJ laughed out loud. "I guess you're right. We better get back." She stood up and rinsed her face with cold water.

Still in the goofy mood, Diane kept up the humor as they left the bathroom. "Did you notice the look the Captain gave me when they brought out your cake. I'll bet he thought I was going to send the couch up in flames with it and set off the sprinkler system."

CJ only roared harder causing everyone to turn in their direction. "And then they'd all bang heads diving under the table for cover."

'''''''

Nelson and CJ bid the last of the guests goodnight at the door. The party, small and pleasant, ended early being a weeknight with everyone needing to get up the next morning for work. When Nelson finally closed the door and they were alone, he turned to her snuggled up against his right side, his arm holding her close. "Well my Dear. It's just us now."

Stretching out her hands she deftly switched the ring she prized from her right hand to her left. "Tonight was so sweet of you Harry. You really surprised me."

He gazed fondly at her. "Can you take one more surprise? He pulled out another small box. It was wrapped in a soft pink colored tissue paper with a bow that was larger than the box.

"Oh Harry," she said, her voice almost breathless. "You didn't have to do anything like this."

He only smiled at her. "Open it," he urged her, knowing his reward would be in her eyes when she saw the gift.

Carefully CJ opened the tiny box. Inside she found two little twin earrings matching the beautiful ring he presented to her the year before. All she could do was inhale with a gasp.

Nelson kissed her gently. "Do you like them?"

"Harry. I love them. I ... I .... I can't believe how wonderful you are and how lucky I am to have you."

The Admiral released his lady and picked up the CD that Judith had given as a birthday present. Placing it in the player he turned to CJ with his arms inviting. "I wish we were on the yacht under the moonlight but this will have to do. Will you join me for a dance?"

"I don't know if I should. You know what they say about sailors?" she teased.

As the music started he gave her a knowing smile. "Maybe we'll see if it's true later."

Embracing to the rhythm, they entered another world in each others eyes and began to dance.

'''''''

The foursome walked out into the guest parking lot. Lee allowed Angie to unlock her car door, then he opened and held it for her while she settled herself into place.

"That was a nice little party, wasn't it?" she said to the three of them. Diane was snuggled in close under the protective arm of Chip Morton. Angie thought they made a cute couple. She looked up at Lee who seemed lost in thought. "You got anything planned for the rest of the evening Lee?"

Lee let out a long slow breath. "I think I'll just go make it an early night. I'm kind of tired." He closed the door and gave the car a pat on the roof. "You have a nice night Angie. We'll see you tomorrow." He gave her a half-hearted smile and then backed away as she started the engine.

If Angie was disappointed she didn't show it. The handsome Captain was a hard one to hang on to. Many of the females at the NIMR have tried. She turned to face Chip and Diane as she pulled away. "Have a nice night all."

The three remaining people waved good-bye and carried on with their conversation. Chip turned to Lee. "You really heading home or do you want to come out with us?"

"Nah Chip," Lee sighed. "I'm just not feeling like staying out late tonight. I'll see you tomorrow." He smiled at Diane. "It was nice to see you again. Looks like the jinx wasn't on tonight, huh?"

Laughing back at the remark, she replied, "I guess not. Maybe we'll work on something special for next time though."

Chip guided Diane towards the car. "We'll see you tomorrow Lee. Have a good night's sleep."

Lee gave a parting glance to his friend as they drove off for the rest of their night's adventures. He sighed standing there alone and wondered why he felt so miserable. He put on a good face at the party but lately it was all for show. He had things on his mind that he couldn't share with anyone.

Walking towards his own car he wondered if he would ever get past the missed opportunity that hung over him like a cloud. Slipping his long lean frame into the bucket seat, he gave a last look upward to the window of CJ's apartment. Harriman Nelson is a lucky man. I should have made the move when I had the chance.

Lee stepped onto the accelerator. Leaving CJ's apartment wasn't bad, but for some reason his heart couldn't leave her behind that easy. Wise up Lee. Get over her for God's sake.

'''''''

And I need you now tonight
And I need you more than ever
And if you'll only hold me tight
We'll be holding on forever
And we'll only be making it right
Cause we'll never be wrong together
We can take it to the end of the line
Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time
I don't know what to do and I'm always in the dark
We're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks
I really need you tonight
Forever's gonna start tonight
Forever's gonna start tonight

Once upon a time I was falling in love
But now I'm only falling apart
Nothing I can do
A total eclipse of the heart
Once upon a time there was light in my life
But now there's only love in the dark
Nothing I can say
A total eclipse of the heart

Turn around bright eyes
Turn around bright eyes
Turn around

'' The ''' End ''

September 26 / 2001

Feedback to Carolyn Brown and Lil Quong