This is the story that leads into Serena and Harry’s relationship. I took a chance with this idea and got mixed results. I need to explain that I dreamed up the idea for Serena when I first found Voyage back in 1993. At the time I did not have the Internet, I had no idea fan fiction existed and I had no idea that David Hedison had a daughter named Serena. The name Serena is just one that I liked and goes back to my Star Wars days and has no connection to any of the actors.
Harriman Nelson spared a glance at his watch, wincing at the late hour. Well, the time of day never stopped Jiggs from dropping in whenever the mood suited him. Nelson considered this payback. Without further hesitation Harry thumbed the doorbell and waited as the chimes inside sounded. Within seconds the door was pulled open and Nelson found himself face to face with the housekeeper, Rose. She frowned up at the four-star. Over the top of her glasses, she aimed the patented Housekeeper Gaze of Disgust up at the retired admiral before she spoke. “Admiral Nelson, sir. Admiral Starke is not expecting visitors.”
“Really? I wasn’t expecting to be visiting, so that makes us even. Just announce that I’m here and give him a few minutes to break out a decent bottle of scotch. That last bottle wasn’t fit to drown in.” Nelson pushed his way past the housekeeper and waited just inside the door.
With a sigh, Rose closed the front door. She was used to this kind of behavior from Admiral Nelson. The housekeeper had learned long ago that the man was prone to simply dropping in. Admiral Starks had left explicit instructions that Nelson always be granted entry, no matter what time of the day or night. At 11:30 at night, this wasn’t the latest that imposing redhead had ever shown up. Considering the past history between the two admirals, it wasn’t likely to be the last.
“This way, sir, but I expect you already know the way.”
“Go on back to what ever you were doing, Rose. I can manage. I’ve had the fifty cent tour once already.”
Rose tipped her head politely. “As you wish, sir. The admiral is still awake and in his office. I would imagine it would be some time before he turns in.” With that declaration, Rose dismissed herself and left Harriman to walk the halls to Starke’s office. Without preamble or announcement, he threw the ornate double doors open and stalked in. The hawk-nosed admiral looked up from his desk and a huge smile spread over his face.
“Harriman, you old shark! What the blazes are you doing here, it’s going on midnight!” Starke’s voice boomed as Nelson crossed the distance from the door to the big desk that dominated the room. He took off his khaki coat and tossed it into an empty chair. He then dropped his sturdy frame into a second chair and settled himself in. There was a lot on his mind that he wasn’t ready to talk about with just anyone. Jiggs Starke wasn’t just anyone. Their shared past history was the reason Harry had come here tonight.
“Do I have to have a reason to stop by? Stop bellowing like a Humpback whale and break out something to drink.”
“Since when did you start giving me orders?” Starke grumbled good-naturedly but got up and went to a nearby cabinet. He retrieved a bottle with a faded label and two glasses then sat them all on the edge of the desk. He poured a generous amount into each glass and handed one to Nelson. Jiggs sat back down in his own chair, leaning back as he held the glass in one hand. He watched Nelson as the other man toyed with the glass, running his thumb over the rim of the crystal. Something was prying on Harriman’s mind and for the life of him Jiggs couldn’t begin to guess what it might be. He tried to think if Crane might be out on some ONI mission or if maybe Morton had been called out. But no such assignment came to mind.
The two sat in silence for a long time, Nelson not sure how to open with what he wanted to talk about. The auburn-haired man glanced around the well-furnished office, taking in details that he had never noticed before. The glass he held tightly in one hand, his fingers having grown still, the alcohol within the glass forgotten.
What surprised Nelson the most were the photographs. He had never really paid much attention to them before. Jiggs had been married for over thirty years, and had two fine sons, both a few years younger than Lee and Chip. Richard and James were both officers in the Navy. Pictures of them hung on the walls, little boys growing up, teenagers, young men in uniform. Obviously Jiggs was proud of his offspring. Pictures of Jiggs and his wife, Patricia at various functions. Nelson’s own office was a showcase of the only lady in his life at the moment, that lady being Seaview. There had been other ladies in his life in the past, but none had ever had the tolerance to deal with his drive and his passion for the sea. None had ever stayed. Would things have been different for him had even one chosen to stay by his side?
“What’s eating you, Harry? You pester me for a drink and you don’t touch it. You claim you just dropped by, but you haven’t said a dozen words since planting your six in my chair.”
“Do you ever wonder what things would be like if you hadn’t met Trish? If you hadn’t had Rich or Jim?” Nelson asked.
Jiggs cocked a bushy eyebrow. “What on earth brought that on?”
Nelson shrugged and set the untouched scotch on the edge of the desk. He rose to his feet and began to walk the floor, hands jammed into his pockets.
“Just wondering. Have you ever wondered what kind of person you would be if you hadn’t become a father?”
“Harry, now you’re just plain morbid. What’s gotten into you? Old age catching up to you or something?”
“Cleverness never was your strong suite, Jiggs. You do remember that Spanish wreck we found a few months ago?”
“Of course I do. It’s not everyday a sunken treasure ship is found. ECU* is still on its ear after your little stunt.”
Nelson was studying the pictures and various awards hanging on the wall. He didn’t turn around as he replied, “and which little stunt would that be?”
“That pretty little archaeologist you snatched up. They were all excited that one of their people had found a lost treasure ship then all of a sudden she jumps ship and joins up with your outfit. Harrison, wasn’t it? This is getting to be a habit with you, Harry,” Jiggs shot back.
Nelson chuckled dryly. “Her name is Serena. Serena Harrison. Still haven’t gotten over me grabbing Crane when John was killed, have you?”
“Crane’s wasted on that sub of yours, Harry. Let the Navy have him back. We’ve got four boomers he can take his pick from. He’ll make his fourth stripe in no time.”
Nelson spun around and faced Jiggs. “I didn’t come here to chew the fat about Crane.”
Jiggs rose to his feet and walked toward Nelson. He drained his drink and sat the empty glass on the edge of the desk. He recognized his jab had cut a little too close to the bone. What ever was bothering his old friend ran deeper than Jiggs originally thought. “Then what did you come here to talk about, Harry?”
Nelson didn’t answer immediately. He shifted his gaze from picture to picture, focusing on the Starke’s two sons, sons that Jiggs could pass the family name on to. Sons he had watched grow up. Harriman swallowed down the unexpected knot of jealously as he reached out to touch the frame of one photo, a shot of the two boys in dress blues. The shot reminded him of Lee and Chip, two young men with an attraction for trouble. He drew back and took a deep breath.
“I never expected to have a family. I hope that one day Edith might marry, but even if she does, the name Nelson stops with me. Until now, the closest thing I have to a son is Lee. I feel closer to him than my own sister sometimes,” Nelson replied quietly.
Jiggs could only stare at his old friend. Harry expressing a desire for children? Had Hell suddenly froze over? Harry was a confirmed bachelor. Granted he had never been lacking for female companionship, but finding a woman who could tolerate the schedule and lifestyle of a career Navy man, especially one as brilliant as Harriman Nelson was no easy feat. Jiggs counted himself lucky that Patricia came along when she did. Trish understood him. Being a Navy brat herself, she had no problem with his duties. What on earth was Nelson getting at? Jiggs watched as Harry drew away from the frames and wandered the spacious office, hands back in his pockets. He began to talk, his voice low with a hint of what sounded to Jiggs like sadness or even regret.
“I knew Serena’s mother, you know. Elizabeth. She called herself Elizabeth Stanton in those days. I was a lieutenant, stationed in Norfolk at the time. You remember? Maybe not, you were in Hawaii. I had no idea she was married. She never bothered to share that little detail with me. I called things off when I found out. I felt more than a little used, as well you might imagine. She moved back to Maine. Augusta, I think it was. I haven’t heard from her in over thirty years.”
“Harry, are you alright?” Jiggs asked, but Nelson acted as if he hadn’t heard him. Instead he stopped and stared out the window, overlooking the well kept grounds outside, only just visible the light of the quarter moon. What Nelson said next caught Jiggs completely off-guard.
“Liz never told me she had a daughter.”
Jiggs stared at his oldest friend as if he had never seen him before, not quite understanding what Nelson was saying. Then Jiggs shifted his gaze to the walls, the pictures of his sons. His sons. I knew her mother, Harry had said. The word daughter continued to echo in Jiggs’ head as he watched Nelson. The light of understanding dawned slowly. “Harriman, are you saying that little archaeologist, that Harrison girl, she’s yours? As in, your daughter?”
Nelson paced, hands back in his pockets. “Thirty two years, Jiggs. For thirty-two years I’ve had a daughter and I’ve never known her. Now all of a sudden not only do I find her, but she turns out to be a highly intelligent women. I’m a father. Jiggs, I don’t know how to be a father.”
In all the years Jiggs had known Harriman, not once had he ever heard the man admit to not knowing something. He’d dance around the subject, bluff and bluster his way through it but never, ever in nearly forty years of friendship had Jiggs heard Harriman Nelson admit that he didn’t know how to so something.
Jiggs wasn’t sure what he was supposed to say. He walked back to his desk and refilled his glass. He picked up Nelson’s glass and carried both back to where his friend stood, still gazing at the pictures, as if by studying them Nelson could somehow find the answers.
“There’s no manual, Harry. There’s no scientific method to follow. What works with one child might not work with the other. Besides, Harrison’s a grown woman, Harry. She’s not fifteen. You don’t have to raise her.”
“I know that, Jiggs. It’s just that, I mean, thirty-odd years? That’s one hell of a gap to bridge. How do I approach her with this? What if she hates me after I tell her this?”
“You mean she doesn’t know? How long have you known about this?”
Nelson continued to pace, itching to light a cigarette. “Two days now. And no, for your information, I haven’t had the chance to break this to Serena. Liz has never told her who her father was. God, she practically begged me not to tell her now. How do I break this to her? Jiggs, I never knew about her, I swear to you. If I had known, I’d had been there for her.”
“Of course you would have, nobody’s debating that. Be honest with her. If she’s half as smart as her father, she’ll understand.”
Nelson stopped pacing, knocked back the rest of his drink and sat the glass on the desk. “I missed everything about her. I missed watching her take her first steps. I missed her first date. I missed watching her graduate. I’ve missed everything. She’s a grown woman now and I don’t know how to act around her. It was different when she was my employee, but now she’s my daughter, blood of my blood. There is simply so much for me to explain to her and I don’t know where to start.”
“You haven’t missed everything. She might be a grown woman, but you don’t have one foot in the grave yet. You have time. You’ve already made one major discovery together. I’m sure it won’t be the last. You have holiday’s together and just day-to-day interaction. Some of the best times I’ve had with Rich and Jim are when they show up unannounced. You and Serena will find common ground and everything will work out. Trust me on this, Harry. I don’t suppose this daughter of yours has a young man?”
Nelson smirked, thinking about a certain officer that Serena seemed quite taken with but was doing everything in her power to hide it. “No one official.”
“Weddings, Harry. She might get married someday. Granted he’ll have you for a father-in-law, but not every family’s perfect.”
“Humor was never your strongest suits, either,” Nelson replied dryly. “I have medals and awards, accommodations from three presidents, patents on any number of inventions. This is new territory for me. Am I father-material? Can I make this work?”
“Harry, you’re putting the cart before the horse. Take this one step at a time.”
“The fun part is going to be telling Lee. You’re the first person I’ve broken this to.”
“Oh, Crane’s gonna love this. That boy’s awfully protective of you, Harry. He’s not going to sit back and just accept some strange woman coming out of the blue and announcing to the world that she’s your daughter. He’s going to be suspicious of every breath she takes.”
“I am fully aware of Crane’s nature. If the two of them have issues with one another, they’re going to have to work them out on their own.” Nelson grew quiet as he pondered this sudden turn in his life. He had suspected Serena’s parentage when he first found out Liz was her mother. He had been shocked when the math dated back to that summer in Norfolk, not to mention the half dozen or so little clues that had him wondering from the day he first met her. Serena Harrison was his daughter. His flesh and blood. There wasn’t a challenge he couldn’t overcome given half a chance. Jiggs was right. He would take this one step at a time. First he would tell Serena and then he would tackle Lee. Somehow he was more concerned about Crane’s reaction than Serena’s. He’d cross that bridge when he came to it.
“Harry, is this girl aware of the risks associated with being related to you? Is she prepared to watch her back? You’re not exactly the world’s most well-liked individual, you know.”
Nelson scowled. Serena had an independent steak a mile wide. She was not going to like some of the changes she was going to have to make. She was used to doing things on her time frame and the last thing she was going to accept was a bodyguard.
“You don’t know her if you have to ask that question. Once word of this gets out, she’s likely to be a big a target as Lee. At least Lee can protect himself and understands the risks. I don’t know how to suggest she needs some kind of protection, if just only for a while.”
“Harry, that’s an easy fix. All you need is to find someone she already knows and trusts. Somebody who won’t have a problem playing friend and bodyguard. I know a couple of you can introduce her to. I know a few former CIA people and I know one young man who’s NCIS.” Jiggs replied.
Nelson jerked up at the mention of NCIS. His sapphire blue eyes had taken on a luminescent glow as the light of some idea flared bright in the back of his mind. “Thanks, but no thanks, Jiggs. I think I might have just the person in mind. I just have to convince her to pull up roots and switch coasts. With any luck, she’s like her brother and I can appeal to her protective nature.” Nelson got to his feet, grabbed his coat and was halfway out the door before Jiggs could stop him. “Thanks for the drink, Jiggs, but I have to be going. I promise to be in touch. Stop by the next time you’re in Santa Barbara.” With that invitation, Nelson was gone, leaving behind only a passing breeze and a swinging door.
Jiggs only shook his head. So Harriman had a daughter. A second generation of Nelsons. What was this world coming to? Jiggs grinned, thinking Nelson had his hands full if she was anything at all like him. She might be redeemable if Harry could keep her away from the influence of that pair he called a captain and executive officer. Given she only had half of Harry’s genetic make-up, this Harrison girl was probably a bookworm. More than not she did all her research in the library and seldom stepped outside a lab.
Thirty-two years. Jiggs vividly remembered some of the predicaments that he and Harry had gotten in at that age. He poured himself another glass and raised a silent toast to his now absent friend. There was just no way this girl could get into half the trouble he and Harry had stirred up back in the day. What possible trouble could a bookworm marine archaeologist find on her own?
Jiggs tossed back the glass with a smirk, thinking of the myriad of stunts he and Harry had pulled off. Really good trouble required a partner in crime. Just ask Crane and Morton. Those two had attracting trouble down to an exact science.
*Eastern Carolina University. Serena’s Alma mater.