*This story takes place after A Burden of Trust.  Thank you Kate for taking the time to read through and fix my oversights.

Tactical Retreat

By Sea Spinner

Admiral Harriman Nelson relaxed beneath the warm Scottish sun with two fingers of Dalwhinnie scotch cupped in a glass between his hands.  The summer had brought with it a desire to return to the Isle of Rumballiach and Isla Murray.  Since he’d been there he’d swum several times with the new breed of dolphin he and the resident naturalist had discovered a few months earlier after finding Lee on the island.*

This trip he’d come on his own and had thoroughly enjoyed Isla’s wonderful company.  She had stunned him when she’d pulled out her own set of scuba diving gear and taken to the water with him like she was born in it.  Harry watched her with growing interest as she continued to amaze him with her passion and small character quirks.

It didn’t bother him in the least that she was a few years older than him.  In fact, he found her maturity settling in comparison to some of the younger women he’d dated over the last few years.  He almost wished he’d asked Lee to come along, but a small part of him jealously guarded these rare trips to see Isla.  Since that mission, Harry had tried to bring the young Captain out of his shell but he stubbornly refused to be drawn into what he called a ‘therapy session’

“Harriman!” called Isla from the kitchen window.  “Will ye come and help me shuck some oysters for our dinner?”

He smiled and stood up.  “Of course.”

Even after six months Isla still refused to call him ‘Harry’ and persisted with ‘Harriman’ after his best attempts to charm her into the shortened version.  She was a stubborn woman to the point where he had started to let her have her own way on most things.  Not that he wasn’t well and truly up to the challenge, he just didn’t want to upset the woman who was coming to mean a whole lot more to him than just another grant beneficiary. 

Isla’s cloud-gray eyes twinkled warmly as Harry stepped into the kitchen and walked towards the workbench where she was preparing a seafood feast.

“Mm, that looks good.  Is it all from the island?”

“Yes, the sea provides me with everything I need, as does my greenhouse.”  She handed him a shucking knife and watched for a moment while he started the oysters.  “How’s that young man of yers, Lee?”

Harry took a deep breath and sighed.  “Honestly, he’s having trouble coping after that mission.  I don’t know what to do.  I’ve tried everything, but he won’t open up.”  He saw the worried look on Isla’s face.  “Oh, it’s nothing major, but something’s changed in him, like the light’s gone out of his eyes.”

“Ye need to bring him back here for a few days.  The sea air and some time alone with ye would do the trick.”

He pursed his lips.  “I’m not so sure.  I think he needs time away, but I don’t know if being here with me is a good thing.”

“I’ll be here as well,” she said, pushing some more oysters his way.

“No, Isla, I don’t think so,” he said in his best command voice.

“Harriman Nelson, yer a wonderful man,” she said, blushing slightly.  “But ye forget what it’s like to be a young man.  He needs some time here to sort out how he feels.  It was a terrible thing that happened to him.”

Harry kept shucking oysters, pretending he hadn’t heard Isla.  Lee didn’t need mollycoddling, he was a grown man.  If his Captain wanted to sit down and talk with him, then he would.  It was as simple as that.  He’d been onboard Seaview for almost twelve months now, long enough to figure out what was going on and to know that Harry was approachable.

“Ye know, he’s just a boy, still vulnerable after his ordeal,” she said half-absently as she peeled a prawn.  “I’m sure ye think yer approachable, Harriman, but ye are prone to ungentlemanly fits of temper at times.”

“For God’s sake, woman, belay your nagging.  He knows where my office is, and he’s old enough to look after himself – I’m not going to bite him!” he growled, realizing as he did, he’d played right into her hands.

Harry put the oysters down, took his gloves off and turned to face her, not surprised when he saw a smile on her lips.  “Isla, I’m sorry.  Yes, you are quite right.  I can be…daunting at times.”  He placed his hands gently on her shoulders.  “It irks me that you’re always right.  How did you get to be so insightful?”

She graced him with a soft kiss on his lips and picked another prawn up.  “I take it then yer Captain will be visiting in the FS1 in the next day or two?”

He raised his hands in defeat and gave her a grin.  “I suppose so,” he said quietly, returning to the oysters, wise enough to know that sometimes it was better to make a tactical retreat, even in the heat of battle.


The End

*A Burden Shared

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