A sequel to Mother’s Day
By Carol Foss aka catfish
"Harry, wake up. It’s after noon. You’ll be late for the meeting," Fiona Nelson nudged her husband of five weeks. It was hard for her not to pass him a soft melting glance. He looked so childlike asleep. Something no-one save she, would even consider.
It had been a difficult five weeks, three of them without him, as he had insisted on being with Seaview to track down a renegade fleet. Fiona was fast learning how to be a navy wife, or in this special case, a ‘near navy’ wife. Civilians they may be, but Seaview’s men were still Naval Reserve and even commercial grants were treated with military discipline. Her respect of the other wives and families had grown immensely while Harry was away. Seaview had finally docked late last night, but there was a meeting today that Harry had scheduled months ago for a new submersible contract with an undersea drilling company. Knowing Harriman, he would not reschedule just because he and his crew were exhausted.
Her musings were interrupted by the doorbell and she quickly answered it.
"Hi mom," Lee hugged her, " ‘Pop’ up?" he grinned in the tease.
"You want to call him that to his face, or should I just pass it on?"
"Uh, well, now that you mention it, better not. After all, he’s still just the ‘Admiral’ to me."
"Hardly. He may be your boss, but he’s still your closest friend…You’re up early."
"Early? It’s almost 1300! Uh, One o’clock."
"Lee. Really. I learned all that mumbo jumbo years ago when you started talking ‘Navy’ all the time. In your dreams, at school, ‘swabbing the deck’ with my mop while you ‘rescued me from notorious brigands’, and playing with your pals."
"Was I that bad?" he asked with a smile.
"Yes," she kissed him on the cheek, "our friends thought we were nut cases for allowing you to indulge in your over-active imagination."
"Ahh, but it’s not imagination now is it? Uh, do I smell cookies?"
"Yes, but they’re for Harry. So keep your paws out of…Lee, come back here. The kitchen is ‘off limits’ as you would say. He’s told me how you always manage to steal more than your fair share of the cookies Chip’s mother sends him!"
Lee just looked at her, eyes twinkling.
"Now stop that Lee. I made them special for…Lee, don’t look at me like a begging puppy."
"Me?" he asked softly, in mock surprise.
"You know you do!" she answered, hands on her hips, in a mixture of love and exasperation, " You’ve always managed to get what you want just by giving me those big sorrowful eyes…and, oh thank goodness. Harry, it’s about time you got up. Will you please tell him he can’t have your cookies!"
"I, uh, take it he’s made a ‘nasal’ reconnaissance? Good morning Lee. Mmmm. They do smell good don’t they. For breakfast dear?" he asked his wife. "Chip would kill for a home-made cookie for breakfast…join us Lee?" he asked absently as he kissed Fiona good morning.
"Well, you know, I may just take you up on that invitation, but…uh," Lee noticed how the two were looking into each other’s eyes, and thought better of it. " Well, now that I think of it, I promised Edith I’d take her to lunch when we got back. See you later."
There was only a nod of acknowledgement from Fiona as he departed, her attention concentrated on her now wide awake husband.
"Newlyweds!" Lee chuckled, as he closed the door.
It hadn’t been a very long honeymoon, Lee pondered, and Nelson had frequently bristled like a bear when their ‘brief’ mission away had lengthened. He was not always easy to live with aboard in the best of situations. Sometimes he paced about ‘spitting tacks’, as the crew said, upset with even the slightest inconveniences, and now his temper had increased as he had longed for his newfound delights of home. Though he didn’t tell anyone. At least, Lee thought, that was probably what had been bugging Nelson.
Well, Lee mused, perhaps he might as well just ask Edith out to lunch. She might even agree. She was always fun to be with.
"Well, you sure took your time," scolded Chip, two hours later, " Nelson’s anxious to get the senior staff debriefing over with, to release us for shore leave."
"I take it his meeting with the oil company didn’t go well?" Lee asked, surprised.
"Well, he’s already in a sour mood. And it’s not because he had to leave his bride almost as soon as we got back."
"Careful Chip. You’re speaking about my step-father," Lee chuckled. " You know," Lee said, suddenly sober, " it’s really strange, he’s always been a friend, but now, well, it’s a little disconcerting, I mean, after all, Chip, he’s married to my Mom! It takes a little getting used to."
"What’s going on out there?" Nelson’s voice bellowed through the office walls, " Is that you Lee? Chip? Hurry up, both of you!"
"Uh, your ‘Dad’s calling us, Lee," Chip winked as he opened the doors. " What’s the matter," Chip whispered jokingly, " caught you out late on a Friday night, did he?"
Lee managed a rebuking glare at his tormentor before both men stood before Nelson and the mission debriefing was finalized.
"Man oh man," Kowalski heaved his duffel bag on his bunk, " that was some shore leave! Riley, remind me never to taunt you about your hobbies."
"You didn’t even glance at the surfing champs. All you could do was drool over the dames for eight days!"
"And how!" Ski glanced up Heavenward gratefully.
"Hey Ski, did the skipper look a little preoccupied when we boarded?"
"What? Well, oh, I guess now that you mention it, yeah, kind of like he was really thinking about something hard."
"Probably how to raid Mr. Morton’s cabin and steal that homemade fudge Mrs. Morton sent today."
"Nah. His own Mom lives here now. She’s probably made him something herself. Something else is up, he really did look kind of broody, didn’t he."
"Well, I’m sure going to stay out of his hair!"
"You and me both!"
" Log it , Chip," placed the clipboard on the plotting table in Seaview’s control room, "you have the conn. Goodnight."
"Lee," Chip grabbed Crane’s arm, " Are you sure you’re all-right? There is a bug going around. Maybe you have a touch."
"Chip. I ‘m perfectly well," Lee said, irritated. First the admiral was after him, now Chip. Just because he looked a little drawn around the eyes. Okay, so he hadn’t been getting much sleep, but he wasn’t going to drop down dead.
As the days passed, the mission to inspect the artificial reef was going well, and ahead of schedule, as well, but there was an uneasiness aboard, unnoticed by either Nelson or Crane.
"Well, it has to be, hasn’t it?" Patterson asked the Chief.
"You knotheads are making mountains out of molehills! And it’s not like its anybody’s business, now is it?"
"Yeah, well, how come the skipper and the admiral hardly even talk to each other anymore?" Riley asked.
"Maybe they got lots on their minds. And you can stop that snickering Ski." Sharkey said forcefully. Ever since the mission began, there had been ribald comments about the ‘bridegroom’. And Francis Sharkey didn’t like it at all. So the boss was a newlywed, but just because he spent a lot of time in his cabin patched through to the institute didn’t mean he was spouting off love poetry to his wife via the videophone. As for the skipper, nobody knew his problem, but he sure wasn’t himself. His normal camaraderie and good humor was absent, he was all business, and secreted himself away by himself when the routine chores of command had been seen to. Something was wrong.
"I assure you Captain," Doc confided to Crane, " it’s not all that uncommon. But I’m sure as you already know, there is no cure. I’m sorry."
"Thanks, Jaimie, at least I know where I stand," Lee emerged from Doc’s alcove, and exited sickbay, visibly depressed
Visible, that is, to Riley, who just happened to be mopping the corridor, and had just heard these words from the open door. As soon as the Captain had vanished from sight, Riley hiked up his mop and bucket and hitailed it to the Crew’s Quarters. The Chief would know what to do.
"What are you talking about Chief?" Morton asked, seated in his cabin.
"I’m tellin’ you sir, something’s wrong with the skipper! Riley saw him and said he looked like a ghost, and he..uh..heard what the doctor said. There’s no cure," Sharkey gulped, "the skipper’s gonna die."
Taking a deep breath, Morton stood and put a hand on Sharkey’s shoulder, " I’m sure it’s not as bad as all that, Chief, let’s get to the bottom of this. Come along with me."
It’s a known fact that aside from emergencies, there is no need for an intercom aboard ship for the communication network to function as well, perhaps even better without it. Word of the Captain’s impending death was spoken in hushed tones as the vessel prepared to return home.
It was with some amazement to Crane, that his coffee was always kept hot, without his asking, his favorite foods were dished out in double helpings, and while his orders were always followed with aplomb, he hadn’t heard so may ‘sir’s since he was a midshipman dishing them out himself. At least the boat would get home soon, and he could make preparations for the ordeal to come.
"Ah, come on Chief, I know you told us Doc wouldn’t say anything, but can’t you bust in there and take a look at the medical records?" ‘Cookie’ pleaded, "or ask Mr. Morton to?"
"Yeah, like I want to be keelhauled…look, guys, this is all eating me up too. But if the skipper wanted us to know, he would have told us. And Mr. Morton ain’t the kind of guy to bust his principles. A Doc is sort of like a preacher or something…he won’t tell nobody, except maybe the Admiral, and he’s been acting weird too, so he probably already knows."
"Yeah? Well, if the Admiral knows, how come he still spends all his spare time in his cabin or the lab and acts as if the skipper ain’t even alive? It’s almost as if…hey, wait a minute, maybe Riley got it all goofed up? Maybe it’s the Admiral who’s gonna die?"
On the final two days of travel, Nelson was treated to triple helpings of his favorite Chocolate Pudding with whipped cream, snappy salutes not normally rendered while underwater, and glances of compassion normally reserved for family members , cats, canines, and other endeared souls.
"Uh, Chip, would you come to the observation nose," Nelson asked.
"Oh, not you as well….mind telling me what all this non-stop sympathy is about? I checked with Lee but he doesn’t seem to have noticed."
Chip took a breath and sat down. "Well, uh, that is, I, uh…"
"Spit it out man. What’s the matter with you?"
"It’s the other way around sir, how long do you have?"
"What are you talking about?"
"I know you’ve tried to keep it hush hush sir, even Lee’s been a clam, but…"
"Chip, I have no idea what you’re talking about…pour yourself a drink and tell me, hmm?"
"Sir, I …I don’t need a drink to face the fact that you’re dying," Chip said sadly, in a hurry, hardly trusting himself to speak the words.
"Uh, you’re not?"
"No! What on earth gave you the idea I was dying? Wait, never mind…Lee! Get over here!" Nelson blared on the PA.
The accordion doors were still open, and the men at their posts in the control put their ears on ‘super deluxe listen mode’ as Crane descended the spiral stairs into the nose.
"Our executive officer seems to think I’m dying. Care to fill me in on the details?"
"What are you talking about?" Lee asked, concerned.
"You don’t know anything about this, then. No, I can see you don’t. Well, at least it explains all those extra helpings and snappy salutes."
"Uh, now that you mention it, Chip…the men have been acting a bit strange, even to me."
Crimson now with embarrassment, Chip did the only thing he could do. He told them he knew it must be Crane who was dying.
"Well, Lee? Just what did you and Doc talk about?" Nelson asked.
"I’d really rather not talk about it."
"Riley said Jaimie said there was no cure…" Nelson took Lee’s arm, " please, Lee, I’ll do whatever I can to help you fight this, whatever it is."
"It’s not a disease!…really sir…its just…well…"
"Chip, why don’t you take the conn from O’brian and shut the screens."
"Aye sir…" Chip answered, seeing how uncomfortable Lee looked. Whatever secret Lee was hiding , it was a beaut.
"Well?" Nelson asked softly.
Lee looked up then lowered his eyes. "It’s Edith."
"Edith?" Nelson asked, surprised, then determined, "go on."
"Well, you know I’ve always liked her, I even…well…I hoped we might even get…serious…but when I kissed her.."
Uncomfortable with Nelson’s unwarranted concern, and ashen face, Lee hesitated, then decided to plunge right in.
" When I kissed her, I had to stop. It…just didn’t feel right…like I was doing something wrong. She was kind of upset with me. I tried to explain, but she got all emotional and huffy and stomped off….I …I’ve thought about it a lot…I love her, but I don’t love her…it’s …weird. I told myself it was me, but Doc can’t explain it, he says sometimes emotions are unexplainable, and if I couldn’t get that strange ‘wrong’ feeling to go away, there was nothing he or I could do about it…and…why are you grinning? I have to tell her we can’t even work it out…and what are you laughing at?"
Nelson let his sheer relief bubble up, then put his hand through his hair, and faced Lee head on.
"Lee, it’s not you. There’s nothing wrong with you…I…Lee, you feel awkward about Edith because she’s your aunt."
"In name, yes, but not by blood, and…"
"Lee, Edward Crane was not your father," Nelson paused, hesitating at the revelation that had been so long in coming. "I am."
It took a while for the news to sink into Lee’s mind. He wavered, not quite believing what Nelson was telling him.
"I met Fiona while I was a midshipman. She was the most wonderful, beautiful creature I’d ever met. One thing led to another, and that one night, well, you know the rest of the story…do you hate us very much Lee?"
"I, I have to think about this…sir, I …"
"Lee, do you hate us for this? She never told me about you until the Mother’s Day Picnic. Believe me."
"Perhaps she’s mistaken."
"She’s not mistaken, Lee. Edward Crane married her knowing she was pregnant…I know he’ll always be the father of your heart, but I am the father of your body."
"It’s just so …hard to believe…no, I don’t hate you, either of you…but…"
"Lee, you’ve been more than a friend to me, more than a brother. If a man could choose a son, Lee, if I had been given a choice of millions, it would have been you."
"I..I don’t know what to say…"
"Well, at least you know why you didn’t enjoy kissing your aunt."
"Ohhhhh. She’s gonna kill me."
"Maybe a dagger or two, but let me take the blame for the situation, okay, Lee?"
"If you insist," Lee sighed, " I feel like I’ve run a marathon."
"You do look a bit weary. Why don’t you put on the speed and get us home sooner?
"Is that why you kept yourself locked away this cruise? To keep from facing me?"
"Lee, I’ve faced enemies, aliens and death, but nothing scared me like telling you this.…I intended to speak to you before we set sail, but I just couldn’t find the words. And you Lee? Was brooding about Edith your excuse for being so uh,"
"Distant? Yes sir. I guess I acted like a complete idiot. I’m sorry. I should have told you."
"Now, now, Lee," Nelson relaxed back in his chair, " fathers and sons are allowed a few secrets from one another," he chuckled. "So, Captain, now that we’ve barred our souls, why don’t you take us home."
"Aye Aye, sir…’Pop."Lee winked.
"So you knothead," Sharkey chided Riley, " the next time you overhear something out of sickbay, stow it, you hear!"
"It was just a misunderstanding Chief, give the kid a break, will ya?" Ski swung his duffel bag over his shoulder.
"I wonder what it was though…" Riley swung his bag up onto the table.
"Well, whatever it was, the skipper’s in a good enough mood now. So’s the Admiral, come to think of it…weird cruise," Patterson added.
"Maybe they’re just happy to get back. After all, Mrs. Cra..uh, Nelson sure gave the Admiral a soppy grin!" Riley exclaimed.
"Who’s the skipper got waitin’ for him?" Kowalski asked, suddenly concerned, as he didn’t remember seeing any one of the Captain’s usual girlfriends waiting topside.
"Well, you ain’t gonna worry about it. Now you knotheads clear out of here or you may end up on the refit detail." Sharkey prodded the men away. Just his luck to pull the refit detail. Better see to it these bozos made it topside before the refit and maintenance crew came aboard. Then find the skipper to get his okay for the boat’s security clearance.
"Thank you chief, you may go now," Lee smiled at the chief, "oh, and well done."
"Thank you skipper…uh….me and some of the guys are going to that new pizza parlor in town…if you’re not busy with a date or somethin’, maybe you’d like to come along, sir?"
"Can I take a raincheck? I have plans tonight."
"Hey, I knew you would! Well, have a good time skipper!" Sharkey called as he departed the now empty vessel with the exclusion of the work crews.
It was a lie, Lee knew, but it was expected, and he really did have a date of sorts. He’d been so preoccupied with his own problems that he’d left Seaview under other’s care for far too long…he rubbed his hand along her hull plates lovingly as he began to walk about her decks, taking in the feel of her, checking with the work crews, seeing that she was all right. Then he remembered, and went to his cabin.
He retrieved the card, if it could be called one. It was home-made out of a simple sheet of white paper and folded in half. It was primitive. He signed his name with a flourish on the inside, and after checking with security, he departed the craft and proceeded to his destination.
The lights were on and there was the odor of steaks being grilled wafting in the breeze. He could hear her gentle laughter and grinned. He rang the doorbell, feeling like an intruding visitor.
"Lee!" Fiona embraced her son, as she answered the door. "Harry, you didn’t tell me Lee was coming over!"
"I didn’t know! But now that you’re here, you’re more than welcome Lee. I’ll put on another steak. And I won’t take no for an answer."
"Wait, please, wait a moment. Here, this is for you." Lee handed the Admiral the card. Lee didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or ashamed of his efforts.
"What is it dear?" Fiona nudged close to Harry, sensing his stifled emotions.
"A homecoming, dear, a homecoming."
Later that night, long after Lee had left for his own apartment, and the Nelsons had gone to bed, Fiona woke and crept to the kitchen, anxious not to wake Harry. As she turned on the light and retrieved a glass of milk, she saw the paper card on the coffee table and smiled with tears welling up in her eyes. The card had said it all. Her family was complete.
There on the coffee table the card lay, with only one line of words on the front. They simply said:
Happy Father’s Day.<