Star of the Sea
By Chris B.
Lieutenant Lee Crane finished signing the rental papers for the 67’ sailboat he had reserved for seven of the 15 days the USS Nautilus would be in port at the US Navy base in Holy Loch, Scotland as the boat underwent a limited refit of the computer systems and crew change outs. He had hoped that Captain Nelson would be able to join him for a day or so on the water but the captain had hedged on accompanying him citing a vague need to be available should problems arise with the refit.
Ever since their return from their mission1 to extract Dr. Rikhart and his son from Slovestein the captain had become very cold and distant towards Lee while on the boat. It seemed as though he had become somewhat of a non-entity, with the captain only grudgingly acknowledging him and then only when duty dictated any interaction. Despite the skipper saying he was proud and impressed with Lee’s performance on the mission he had come to seriously doubt that declaration. Lee had become increasingly certain that the captain had been very disappointed that he had allowed two Slovestein agents to get the jump on him which resulted in him being beaten and interrogated under truth serum.
During the mission the captain had, while undercover made a wager with Lee where the loser of a dart game would have to do what the winner wanted to do for a certain number of days. Lee came out on top and won four days of the captain’s time. As Lee recovered from his injuries in sick bay, the captain had asked him what he wanted to do with his days and Lee indicated that he’d just like to hang out with the captain and do a little sailing for a day. On board the Nautilus Nelson sounded all for settling up on the bet and even offered to rent and provision a boat when they got to DC. That never materialized and he few times Lee suggested they go out for a day of sailing after that were met with Nelson’s reluctant agreement then somehow managing to back out at the last moment or an outright rejection of his invitation.
Lee sighed disappointedly as he exited the rental office and moved down the dock toward his vessel. He had already decided should the captain back out again it would be the last time he would try and collect on the bet. The more he mulled over the issue he decided that the captain was probably more upset with Lee allowing himself to be captured and potentially giving them all away than he had let on. The Skipper had been nothing but cool and reserved barely acknowledging he was even present on the boat. There was no more chatting over coffee in the wardroom when no one was around about the captain’s pet project a private research submarine he intended to build one day.
Reaching the appropriate slip number Lee was amazed at the boat he found. It was a beautifully appointed yacht and the last thing he expected for the money he paid for the rental. He was certain that the rental agent had made a mistake until he matched the hull number and the vessel name the Bonnie Bradana with his paperwork. He climbed aboard tried his key in the cabin door and was thrilled to find it fit.
He quickly entered the cabin and discovered a luxuriously appointed interior with a large galley, dining and sitting areas with plush seats, built in stereo system and entertainment system taking up one wall. As he made his way forward he found a nice sized head with a shower and a monstrous master suite with a king-sized bed. There definitely had been some sort of mistake and he headed out of the cabin and back to the rental office to confirm he had been given the correct boat.
“Aye lad, I gave you the right boat. We’re at the end of the season and the Bradana hasn’t been out much this year, she needs a good run before we put her up for the winter. Since you’re a seasoned sailor and a member of the US Navy I think she’ll be in good hands and you’re actually doing me a bit of a favor,” the agent said with a wink.
“If you’re sure sir,” Lee replied with a huge smile enjoying his good fortune. “Oh I forgot to ask what the boat’s name means.”
“In Gaelic it means beautiful salmon. She swims like a fish and can readily face any challenge she might come up against,” the agent replied.
“Thanks again for such a beautiful boat, I’ll take care of her as if she were my own,” Lee said as he turned to leave the office.
“I know you will, have a grand sail lad. I’ll see you in a week.”
Lee left the office headed back up the pier and over to the local grocer to get provisions for his trip. He purchased fresh meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, cookies, coffee and some Cokes. From there he stopped at a small liquor store and purchased a couple of bottles of Talisker scotch and a rack of beer for when he set the anchor each night.
His next stop was to the harbor master’s office to get an extended weather forecast and to file his float plan. He was thrilled to see the forecast called for clear skies and moderate winds for the next 10 days. That done he quickly called back to the Nautilus filed his float plan with the duty officer and then headed back down the dock with his provisions to begin his sailing adventure.
Lee made quick work of stowing all his gear and provisions. He uncased the sails, fired up the onboard engine, undid the lines and cast off from the pier. He motored slowly out of the small boat harbor and then once clear of the breakwater he unfurled the sails and raised them rapidly catching the insistent breeze out of the north and made his way towards the open sea. Since the Skipper had declined his invitation to sail with him Lee had changed where he was sailing and increased how far from Holy Loch he intended to go. If the tides and winds were with him he hoped to make it through the Firth of Clyde past the Isle of Arran and out to the North Atlantic to take a look at Ireland then back. It was an ambitious plan but he was anxious to work off some of his frustration over the situation with Nelson and try to regain some perspective.
The day was beautiful and he happily sailed until it was well after dark enjoying the late autumn sun on his skin and the fresh breeze ripping through his hair. It was nearly 2000 when he found a secluded cove that afforded some protection should the weather change during the night. He dropped his sails then his anchor and settled in for the evening. Lee was quite pleased he had made excellent progress towards his goal and was actually feeling relaxed and at ease for the first time since his return to the Nautilus following the debriefing at ONI headquarters.
Once satisfied everything was shipshape he went below to the galley and started whipping up something for dinner while he sipped on his cold beer. As his stew simmered on the stovetop Lee went back topside and sat down, his back against the mast as he lazily surveyed the stars. He could easily envision himself back a couple of centuries aboard a gallant man of war like the USS Independence patrolling the seas keeping the waters of the US safe.
As a boy he had often fantasized that the captain of the Independence, one William M. Crane, was a long past relation and that he was holding up the family name as he answered the call to service and the sea. He sighed wistfully after a moment doubting that reaching such lofty levels of command would ever happen given the current situation with Captain Nelson. Once again he wished he could just talk with the man and find out exactly what he had done wrong and try to atone for that mistake. After a few more minutes he pushed up from the deck and returned to the cabin to serve up his dinner and call it a night.
It was rare to see pleasure boats out this far this late in the season and that immediately captured her attention as she lay on the shoreline watching the stars. It looked as though there was only one aboard the sleek sailboat which also was unusual. As she peered through the darkness her eyes caught sight of the boat’s young master as the lights from the cabin briefly illuminated him as he came up on deck to spot the stars.
She blinked a number of times to clear her eyes making sure she was seeing the handsome young man correctly. He was tall and slender with dark curly hair and moved across the deck with a sure step that said he’d always been at home on the sea. It was too dark to really make out his face but what she had seen so far intrigued her and made her long to get a closer look.
She watched intently as he sat back against the mast his gaze fixed up towards the heavens. He sipped occasionally from a bottle he had brought with him, seemingly lost to deep thought. She wanted a closer look but that would have to wait until morning as she watched him push to his feet and return to the cabin below. She sighed in frustration then returned her gaze to the stars above; it would be a long night.
Lee awoke feeling truly refreshed and relaxed for the first time in months. He always slept better when he was at sea and the gentle caress of the waves along the hull of his boat lulled him into a deep and dreamless sleep. He rolled over picked up his watch and was stunned to find it nearly 0700; he never slept that late even when he was on leave. He stretched fully like a big jungle cat and damn near purred at the wave of serenity and peace that washed over him at that moment. He lay in bed a few minutes longer then hauled himself out, donned his sweats then headed into the galley to start a pot of coffee and to survey the day.
As the first cup of black gold drained into the pot he quickly snagged the carafe and poured it into his waiting cup before thrusting it back under the drain to collect the remainder of the brew. He opened the cabin door and stepped up on deck finding a gorgeous fall sunrise beckoning him to join the day. Lee stood in quiet contentment as he watched the sun climb slowly above the ocean surface illuminating the sky and sparse clouds in a myriad of colors. He sipped gingerly on his hot beverage and smiled as the brew began to work its wonders.
With the sun now clearly above the horizon and his cup empty Lee returned to the cabin to whip up a little breakfast, review his charts and plot out his course for the day. He hummed happily to himself as he scrambled his eggs and dropped a couple of strips of bacon in the hot frying pan. As the food cooked he poured another cup of coffee, dropped a couple of pieces of bread in the toaster and pulled out a plate and fork. He quickly transferred his meal to the plate then sat down at the table to eat and consider the charts before him.
Lee was surprised at his hunger and rapidly polished off breakfast, the plate looking as though it had been licked clean. He washed his dishes, tidied up the galley then headed back to the cabin to get dressed and ready to sail. He came topside hauled in the anchor, raised the sails and started on the next leg of his voyage.
She was usually off by first light gathering food for the day and tending to the various tasks she needed to complete, but not today. She had stayed on the beach since last night waiting for the young man to emerge from the boat so she could get a good look at him in the morning light. As he strode out onto the deck and the first rays of light kissed the surface of the sea she knew immediately her wait hadn’t been in vain.
As the sunlight washed over him she gasped in awe at the handsome man standing at the stern of the boat watching the sun climb above the horizon. He was the most gorgeous creature she had ever seen and felt a hunger and desire rise up inside her like never before. His eyes were of the morning sun kissed with a wee touch of the deep green sea and driftwood; his smile rivaled the sun for brilliance, his voice masculine and beckoning almost like a siren’s call urging her to join him. He spent a few moments greeting the sun then returned to the cabin leaving her wanting another glimpse.
She knew she would have to leave soon to join up with her family to fish for the day but she was loathe to leave her vantage point now that she had fully seen him. She held off her return in hopes that he would reemerge one more time before she had to go. After what seemed an eternity he came back outside this time dressed in a pair of faded blue jeans and a tight white t-shirt stretched across his broad chest and chiseled abdomen. His movements were fluid and sure as he moved around the boat and each action spoke to his strength and to his familiarity with this vessel and how to handle her.
She sat there transfixed totally overcome by the handsome stranger oblivious to her mother’s strident cries in the distance to come join the family. She finally came to her senses when her little sister sent to bring her errant sibling along shoved her over breaking her concentration. The spell broken she watched with some disappointment as the man hauled anchor raised his sails, and headed back to sea. As she watched the boat exit the cove she promised herself that once she had finished fishing she would set out to find her handsome man again.
As the last workman installing the new computer terminals exited the boat Captain Nelson let loose a sigh and scanned the control room spying his XO Commander David Martin examining the work that had just been completed. It had been a long day keeping watch over the workers and they would be at this for another week.
Harri was ready for a break and walked over to the XO to check on the status of things. “How’s it all looking David?”
“Well Skipper from what I can see so far we’re right on schedule and the new equipment is going to fit in well with our current configuration.” Martin said with a smile.
“That’s good to hear,” Nelson replied returning the smile. “I hope there aren’t any glitches when they power it up so we can get back out to sea as scheduled.”
“Can’t argue with you there sir.”
“Now that the work crew is off what say we head over to the officer’s club and I’ll buy you a drink. This watching and waiting is thirsty work.” Nelson offered with a chuckle.
“Now that sounds like a plan I can deal with,” David answered. “Just let me make sure the watches are all in place and things are squared away and I’ll be ready to go in a half hour.”
“Great, that gives me time to tie up my own loose ends as well. I’ll meet you back here in 30.”
Nelson and Martin moved off in different directions to see to things before leaving the boat. In exactly 30 minutes they met up in the control room then disembarked and headed to the officer’s club to get a drink and relax.
Arriving at the club they walked into the bar and located a table in a quiet corner of the room. The barkeep came to their table immediately gathered their drink orders and returned to the bar to fill them. Within minutes he was back with their drinks and a large basket of popcorn for them to nibble on while they relaxed.
Harri picked up his drink and looked at David. “Here’s to a seamless upgrade,” he said as he inclined his glass towards the XO.
“I will most definitely drink to that sir.” Martin replied as he raised his glass acknowledging the skipper’s toast.
They both sipped on their drinks and felt the stress and tedium of the day ebb away. They sat there quietly for a while absently watching the soccer match on the television and munching their popcorn. After a few minutes Martin finally decided to broach an issue that had been causing him concern.
“Skipper do you mind if I ask you a question?”
“Not at all David, what’s on your mind?”
“I know you can’t go into specifics, but was there a problem between you and Lt. Crane when you were on that ONI mission?”
Nelson looked at his XO somewhat surprised at the question. “No, other than the fact some bastards attacked him. Everything went like clockwork; he was probably the best partner I’ve ever had on a mission. Why do you ask?”
“Well sir ever since your return from the ONI debriefing you’ve been treating Crane like persona non grata. Unless required by duty you never acknowledge him, when you make assignments he seems to draw every shit duty there is which doesn’t add up since he’s one of the best performers on the boat and in general you act as though he just doesn’t exist. If there was a performance problem on the mission that could impact operations on the boat I would like to know about it so I can keep an eye out for it.”
“I wasn’t aware that I was doing that,” Harri replied chagrinned at not being cognizant of his behavior towards Lee. “Are my actions that noticeable or is it just you David picking up on this?”
“Harri it’s the whole damn boat that’s noticed that in your eyes Crane isn’t much above pond scum now. Before you left on the mission it was rather obvious that you thought rather highly of him as do the rest of us. He’s bright, talented, professional and easy to work with; hell he’s the consummate junior officer. Everyone knew he was one of your favorites and didn’t begrudge him that because he never played on it and because he works harder than just about anyone else on board.”
Nelson looked at his XO consternation written across his face. He wondered silently where this discussion was going. “Go on,” he said neutrally.
“Your treatment of him has gotten so bad he’s actually requested a transfer because he’s afraid his presence onboard is detrimental to the operations on the boat. To paraphrase his request he feels that your issues with his poor performance while on your joint mission is distracting to you and in turn negatively impacting the other members of the crew. It would be better all-around if he were transferred off the Nautilus so everyone could concentrate on their tasks instead of wondering what the screw up will do at a critical moment. He indicated that ONI would take him if another sub billet isn’t available.”
Harri sat back in his chair stunned at David’s revelation. He had tried to distance himself from Lee a bit after the mission to try and rein in the burgeoning paternal feelings he had developed for the young man while they had played father and son. He didn’t want to come across exhibiting undue favoritism towards him following the mission but apparently he had so over compensated in the opposite direction that his poor treatment of the man had forced Crane to request a transfer.
As he thought back over the last couple of months he begrudgingly had to agree with David’s assessment. Add to that his not so subtle refusals of Crane’s invitations to go sailing or backing out at the last minute leaving him high and dry. He had enthusiastically agreed with Lee’s request they do a little sailing as Harri’s means of settling the bet he had made during their mission. Given his recent behavior towards him on the boat, he could only image what his lieutenant must be thinking.
“I asked him if he had tried to resolve this issue with you before he decided to request a transfer and he said he had attempted to speak with you but you never granted him an audience. Skipper, in my opinion he doesn’t deserve the treatment you’ve been dishing out to him and I’m inclined to recommend that you approve his request for transfer if there is an issue between you two. It’s a small community on the boat and your apparent disdain for Crane is having a negative impact on crew morale.”
Harri felt as though he had been slapped, so shocking was his XO’s revelation of the general perception of the situation between him and Lee. He locked eyes with his XO and could clearly see David’s condemnation of his treatment of Crane. “Thank you for bringing this to my attention David, I had no idea I was being so unfair to Lt. Crane. You’re quite right he doesn’t deserve to be treated that way, no member of my crew deserves that.”
He almost smiled as he saw the look of relief flood over his XO’s face at having survived bringing this situation to his attention. It spoke volumes as to the level of regard he had for Lee at his willingness to point out Harri’s abominable treatment of the young JO at the risk of being blasted by Nelson’s not inconsequential temper.
“So what is your recommendation to resolve this issue, XO?”
“That all depends on what you want Skipper. Do you want Lt. Crane to remain on the boat or would you be more comfortable with him gone?”
“God no I don’t want him off the boat, especially if the only choice is sending him to ONI to work full time. As you’ve already pointed out he’s a damn good officer and a real asset to the boat. He’s also proven to be too talented an ONI agent and that means he will be drawing the tough assignments with the highest probability of injury or death.”
“Well sir if that’s the way you feel sir, I would recommend that when Lt. Crane returns from leave you two find somewhere private and discuss whatever issues exist between you and let him know how you intend to resolve them. Harri from what I’ve observed he’s made no attempt to play on any familiarity you two established on your mission so I think the problem rests with you,” David offered cautiously.
Harri smiled and nodded. “Reprimand received XO. I’ll see to it before we head back out to sea. When is the lieutenant supposed to be back off leave?”
“He should be back in 6 days. According to his leave chit he rented a sailboat and was heading out for a few days. His float plan indicated he should be back in port on Thursday,” David replied as a very relieved smile spread across his face.
Now finished with fishing, she dashed off in the direction she had seen the boat go hoping to be able catch a glimpse of it and catch up to him by the time he dropped anchor for the night. The winds had been relatively light all day so he couldn’t have traveled too far. She just prayed that he chose to quit early so she stood a chance of finding him.
She knew these waters intimately and took full advantage moving to the areas with the fastest currents taking her rapidly out to sea. She periodically would stop and scan the horizon for his boat and then resume her search for the beautiful young man. “Beautiful,” she thought with some amusement that wasn’t a word normally applied to a man but that’s what he was to her.
As she continued south she let her mind wander and reflect on what her family would say if they knew she was chasing after a man she hadn’t even met. Her mother would be aghast, her father furious and her brothers and sisters along with the rest of the clan would think her daft. Mentally responding to their reactions she flashed back on the vision of her beautiful man and they all became unimportant and moot. She had to admit he had unknowingly enchanted her and she had to track him down and make him hers.
She had been moving at her best speed for nearly 5 hours now and as she slowed to take another sighting she spotted her goal ahead on the horizon. Thrilled with her luck she pushed harder adding a last burst of speed to close the distance between them. She gained ground quickly and realized he had most likely decided to stop for the day and anchor in the secluded cove ahead.
Her assessment was correct as she rapidly caught up with the boat. Drawing near she slowed down not wishing to draw attention to herself just yet. She really wasn’t ready to meet her dream man lest he not be interested and turn her away. She would haul out on the near shore just out of sight and wait until dark to move back out to the boat and gaze upon him. This gave her time to figure out what she would say once she worked up the nerve to approach him.
The light winds had prevented him from making the distance he wanted to cover for the day but surprisingly that didn’t upset him in the least. He instead enjoyed the relaxed pace and even decided to cut his sailing short so that he could anchor down and take in the sunset while sipping on a glass of scotch. He had spotted a protected cove that would make a safe haven for the night and directed his boat there. He quickly dropped sails then the anchor and made ready for a relaxed evening lounging under a cloudless autumn sky.
As soon as he had secured the Bradana for the night he made his way to the galley to collect his drink then returned on-deck to settle down and watch the sun sink slowly into the sea. Lee sat down next to the mast and leaned back. He sipped on his drink and smiled in satisfaction as he felt it relax the muscles challenged by his day of sailing. He let his mind wander and for the first time since Slovestein didn’t focus on his problems with the skipper. He had turned on the stereo and began singing along. Certain that no one could see him he even got up a couple of times to play some wicked air guitar on his favorite tunes.
With the sun slipping below the horizon the air took on a chill and he pushed up to his feet to go inside and put on a sweatshirt. He refilled his glass and returned to his spot by the mast and watched the stars emerge in the now black velvet sky as the nearly full moon began to slowly rise. His attention was caught by what sounded like a splash off the starboard side and Lee scanned the water around him for the source. As he looked across the surface he spotted what appeared to be a pair of large dark eyes looking back at him.
He stared intensely at the spot in the water and as the moon illuminated the surface he spied a seal watching him. “Well hello there,” Lee said greeting his visitor. “How are you this beautiful evening?”
The seal ducked down beneath the surface of the water almost as if embarrassed to be caught staring at the man on the boat. After a moment it resurfaced closer to the craft and snorted softly as it blew the water out of its nose. Lee laughed quietly. “Welcome back. Are you hungry?” The seal blinked at him and moved a little closer to the boat. “Stay there I’ll be right back, okay.”
Lee ducked into the cabin and came out with a couple of hardboiled eggs left over from his lunch. He quickly peeled the eggs and lobbed the first one to his guest. It landed just in front of it and the seal sniffed the egg for a moment then rapidly gobbled it down. “Ah you like that, huh?” Lee said laughing. “Okay then, here’s another one.” He tossed the second egg and the seal raised up out of the water to catch it on the fly.
Lee laughed out loud. “My, you are quite talented and apparently very hungry. I’d offer you more but don’t have anything at the moment.” The seal snorted in response then ducked back down under the water and swam off.
“Come to think of it, I’m getting rather hungry,” Lee said to himself then turned and headed back into the cabin to whip up some dinner for himself. After a leisurely meal of grilled cheese sandwiches and leftover stew, he moved back on deck for a nightcap before retiring for the night. He spotted a few of the constellations and polished off his drink. The November air had taken on a more biting chill and it looked as though there were clouds moving in so after a sudden shiver he decided to call it a night and headed inside.
Once the sun was down she eased herself back into the water and moved closer to the boat. She was thrilled when he came out on deck where she could watch him. He had turned on some music and she became enthralled when he began to sing along with the songs. His voice was smooth as honey and the sound of it inflamed her desire for him even more. She nearly laughed out loud as she watched him stand and flail around as though playing some invisible instrument with some of the songs yet it only accentuated how strong and masculine he was.
With each minute she watched him she longed to be encircled in his strong arms and held close to that incredible body. She ached to be near him, to touch him, to kiss him, to make love to him under the moon that bathed the silent night. As she became lost in her fantasy she moved suddenly causing a disturbance on the water. Much to her horror she realized he had heard that and had begun scanning the water around him for the source. She froze praying that he would not spot her and just go back to lounging in the starlight.
As luck would have it he quickly zeroed in on her location and he locked his eyes with hers then greeted her. It felt as though a jolt of electricity had surged through her body. She gaped stupidly at him momentarily stunned by the connection then coming back to her senses she ducked rapidly beneath the water in embarrassment. She scolded herself severely for being so careless and knew she needed to just swim off.
Unable to break the spell he had cast upon her she turned a deaf ear to reason and resurfaced closer to the boat. He happily welcomed her return. The sound of his voice caressed her being and drew her even closer. He offered her food then momentarily disappeared into the cabin only to return with what looked like eggs. He rapped one lightly on the mast then peeled off its shell. He tossed the white orb towards her and it landed a foot or so in front of her. She sniffed the thing then rapidly consumed it. It was absolutely delicious and she looked expectantly towards him for more.
He laughed at her reaction, the sound of his voice once again sending a delightful shiver through her body, then he tossed the second orb her way. Unconsciously she lunged out of the water to capture the treat in midair. As she gobbled it down it dawned on her what she had just done and was mortified that she was acting like a food-grubbing gull. He responded to her catch with another burst of delighted laughter and a warm smile for her.
She reveled in his attention and locked eyes with him one more time. She quickly broke the connection knowing that if she remained here much longer she would most likely do something stupid that would break the spell forever. She needed to get away and collect herself before taking an action that could destroy everything she longed for from this man. After a moment she snorted at him and disappeared beneath the water swimming quickly back towards shore. She needed to think and decide what she truly wanted.
As she lay out on the beach playing through the various scenarios in her mind she became aware of a change in the world around her. The sea was becoming unsettled, the winds were rising and clouds were approaching from the north fast. Something was not right, this turn in the elements was too quick and unannounced. As she looked to the sky and the depths of the sea she spotted the reason, Nodens2 and Camulus3 were quite obviously at odds with each other and that could only mean a wicked storm was brewing as vent for their anger. By the feel of things this was not going to be some bothersome squall but a full blown storm of epic proportion.
Her concern immediately turned to her beautiful man on the small boat anchored offshore. Given the severity of the approaching storm and the direction of the wind this small cove would offer no protection; he needed to get out while conditions remained relatively calm and make haste to the nearest port on the Isle of Arran. She moved back into the sea and swam as quickly as she could to his boat to alert him to the deteriorating conditions.
When she reached the boat she slammed hard against the hull repeatedly up where the sleeping quarters were located hoping to rouse him from his sleep. The waves had already increased in size causing the boat to rock noticeably. She just prayed her warning would be heard and heeded by the man inside.
Ever attuned to the motions of the sea, Lee was suddenly aware of the change in sea state. Instead of the gentle swell he had fallen asleep to, breaking waves now slapped against the hull of his boat rocking it violently. As he crawled from bed he heard a loud repeated thud against the side of the boat making the craft shudder even more. Concerned his anchor may have come loose and he was in danger of running aground he quickly pulled on his clothes and bolted up on deck.
He was relieved to find his anchor holding firm but was quite dismayed by the deteriorating weather conditions. There had been nothing on the radio about this storm and the forecast he had picked up back in Holy Loch indicated at least 10 days of clear weather. Lee moved back inside and flipped on the radio tuning into the Scottish weather service. He listened intently to the warning to mariners the weather service was broadcasting. They anticipated near hurricane like conditions with sustained winds of 75 knots with gusts to 90 and seas of 25 to 30 feet for the next 24 to 36 hours.
Recording the information Lee quickly perused his charts and realized that he needed to get moving now to have any hope of making it to the closest port before the worst of the storm caught him in the open ocean where he didn’t want to be. He radioed in his position to the Coast Guard and indicated he was going to make a run for Lochranza to avoid the gathering storm. He also requested they forward his change in plan to the duty officer aboard the SSBN Nautilus tied up at the Navy base in Holy Loch.
Having taken care of the notifications he set to battening down all the hatches and securing everything on deck and in the cabin. He pulled out his rain gear and placed it next to the wheel ready for use once the rains and high waves hit. Next he hauled anchor and raised sails beginning his desperate run for safety.
Conditions deteriorated rapidly with the winds whipping the sea into a frenzied state while sheets of rain pelted down. The ocean itself rose up faster still easily exceeding the worst of the conditions predicted by the weather service. Lee found himself quickly fighting for his very life as he guided his now woefully small vessel through nature’s worst storm in a century. He was nearly 3 hours out of Lochranza and knew he stood little chance of making it there in one piece.
As the wind and waves battered his boat he heard the devastating sound of his main mast cracking over the howl of the storm. Looking on in horror he watched the top of his mast sheer off and come crashing down to the deck below taking with it any chance he had of navigating to safety. Cursing loudly Lee moved quickly into the cabin and flipped on the radio.
“Mayday, mayday, mayday! This is whiskey tango 452 on the Bonnie Bradana, repeat whiskey tango 452 on the Bonnie Bradana. I’m approximately 20 miles north northeast of Lochranza. I’ve lost my mast and I’m unable to control my vessel. If there are any vessels in the area please assist. If I start taking on water I will be taking to my life raft.” Lee repeated his message twice more before the waves broke through the starboard porthole and shorted out the electrical system.
Lights and power gone Lee moved back up on deck to try and rig something that would give him a modicum of control over his floundering vessel. Unable to come up with anything that would be of value he moved to the bow and pulled out the life raft. He secured the safety line to the bow cleat then activated the deployment system that freed the raft from the can and inflated it. As he prepared to climb aboard the raft a monster wave broadsided his boat nearly keeling it over. The wave slammed into him sweeping him overboard into the frigid water.
Shocked by his unexpected ducking and the force of the wave he gasped pulling in a lungful of water. He struggled in vain against the raging sea above him and soon found himself losing all fight and began sinking slowly into the murky depths. He raised his eyes and reached feebly for the surface before passing out.
She had been pleased that he heeded her warning and had quickly moved to set sail for port. She too needed to get out to sea to avoid the battering effects of the storm. Caught too near shore she could easily be caught up by the waves and flung into the unyielding rocks that studded the coastline. She kept pace with his boat and would do her best to see that he made it to safety.
As the conditions worsened she became truly worried for him as fought to keep his boat afloat and on course. At every turn the wind and waves seemed to taunt him and make a point of showing him just how insignificant his efforts to master his boat were. She watched in horror as his mast shattered and crashed to the deck taking away his only chance of making port.
She continued to watch the man as he tried to deal with the situation and was impressed that he never panicked as so many of his kind were prone to due during stressful situations. She was caught completely off guard when a rogue wave larger than anything else that churned on the sea suddenly rose up and slammed his boat. The next thing she knew his boat was nearly swamped and he had been flung into the sea like a wisp of foam.
She dove deep below the surface and spotted him struggling to make his way to the top but he was making no headway. She watched as he gazed upwards towards the surface then went limp and sank further into the depths. She moved immediately beneath him and pushed him up to the surface where after a brief moment he grabbed a desperate breath yet did not open his eyes.
She knew the sea was robbing him of his warmth and would soon claim him if she didn’t get him to shore and some place warm in a hurry. She scanned the area fixing her position. There was one chance if she could just keep him with her. A few miles east was a small island long used as a fish camp by fishermen trolling for fish in the north Atlantic. Unused for nearly a century there still stood a small cabin they had built. If she could get him to shore she could shelter him in the cabin and let him recover.
Setting her course of action she centered her beautiful man firmly across her back and struck out for the island fighting the fearsome waves, howling winds and rains. Forward progress was slow in coming but after an hour or so of struggling against the elements she was able to pull herself and her companion onto the small stretch of soft sand beach.
She was exhausted but had no time to rest as his feeble efforts to shiver and warm up began to fade. She had to get him someplace warm and dry in a hurry or he would succumb to the tantrums of the gods and she would not let that happen without a fight.
Regaining her breath she moved quickly to the cabin and changed then ran back to the beach and hauled the young man up into the building and nestled him in the dry hay that still remained. She stripped off his sodden clothes and briefly allowed herself the indulgence of marveling at his body as she longingly drew her hand down his length.
Next she gathered up the dry wood still stacked these many years in the corner by the fireplace and set to building a fire to help drive off the chill. She found the flint rocks the old fishermen used and soon had a fire roaring in the ancient fireplace.
She next scoured the cabin finding a couple of old woolen blankets left behind and placed them gently over him. She added a couple of more logs to the fire then climbed under the blankets and snuggled close to her beautiful man giving him her much needed bodily warmth. She brushed the dark locks off of his forehead and gently kissed his lips as she drifted off to sleep exhausted from her efforts to save his life.
“Mister Martin, I have a Commander MacDaniel from the Scottish Coast Guard on the line, sir,” Sparks called out across the control room.
“Did he say what he wanted Sparks?” Martin inquired as he looked up from the schematics that he and Captain Nelson had been reviewing.
“Something about Lt. Crane and a massive storm raging across the region, sir.”
Nelson and Martin looked up at each other in concern. “That can’t be good,” stated Nelson. “I’ll take it Sparks.”
“Aye sir, patching the commander through now.”
“This is Captain Nelson how can I help you Commander?”
“Ah Captain Nelson, Commander MacDaniel here with the HMS Gannet Search and Rescue unit. Captain we received a radio transmission from a Lt. Lee Crane about 5 hours ago alerting us to a change in his float plan indicating that weather conditions were deteriorating and he was making best speed towards the port at Lochranza. He also requested we pass this information on to you. About 3 hours ago we received a mayday transmission from him indicating that he had lost his mast and was now unable to control his boat. He said if his boat began to take on water he would be taking to his life raft. He repeated his message twice and then we lost all contact.”
Nelson paled suddenly as he heard the message and realized the implications. He mentally began kicking himself for backing out on Lee’s invitation to join him for a day of sailing. Perhaps between the two of them they could have handled the storm and made it safely to port before anything untoward had happened.
“Sir, conditions are still too bad for us to launch aircraft to search the area and there are no vessels in the general vicinity that could render assistance. This storm came out of nowhere and caught just about everyone flat footed and unprepared for its duration and severity. Once winds die down we will dispatch aircraft to search for your man along with a number of other mariners reported as missing. According to the weather service conditions are not expected to significantly improve for another 24 to 36 hours,” the Commander continued.
“Thank you Commander I appreciate you contacting us with this information,” Nelson replied evenly. “I will see about having US Navy assets made available for your SAR if you don’t already have arrangements for that support.”
“Thank you for your offer Captain but we have a number of agreements with your Navy to provide aircraft and vessels in events like this. I’ll see to it that you’re provided with updates once our search efforts begin.”
“I appreciate that Commander. If you require any assistance from us, please don’t hesitate to let me know.”
“Aye sir, you’re very welcome. I hope to be in touch with good news once we get things underway. I’ll be talking to you later, goodbye, sir.” Nelson hung up the phone slowly looking somewhat shaken.
“What’s up Skipper?” Martin inquired.
“Well apparently there is currently one hell of a storm raging to the south of us and Lt. Crane is right in the middle of it. He had contacted the Scottish Coast Guard amending his float plan intending to head to Lochranza to try and make port ahead of the worst of the storm. Conditions deteriorated much faster than anticipated and he issued a mayday about 3 hours ago indicating he’d lost his mast and was most likely going to have to take to his life raft. According to Commander MacDaniel conditions are so bad that they can’t get aircraft in the air and there were no reported vessels in the area that could render assistance. Once things die down they will dispatch SAR aircraft and vessels to try and find a number of people reported as missing.”
Despite Nelson’s unemotional report on the situation his XO could clearly see the concern and turmoil in the man’s eyes. There was no doubt in his mind now that the skipper’s earlier treatment of Crane actually was an effort on his part to avoid the appearance of favoritism and not because of problems that had occurred on their mission.
“Is there anything we can do sir?” he inquired.
“Not right now David. If conditions are so bad the Coast Guard isn’t going out there’s nothing we could do to help. I’m going to alert the base commander as to the situation and offer any assistance we can once conditions die down.”
“Yes, sir. Understood.”
“I’m heading to my cabin to speak with the CO, take care of things here,” Nelson said then exited the control room heading to his cabin.
“Aye sir,” Martin replied as his skipper disappeared out the aft hatch.
Harri closed his cabin door and dropped into his chair burying his head in his hands. This was the last thing he expected and he was having a tough time controlling his emotions and keep hidden just how concerned he really was. His XO was right, Lee hadn’t made any attempt to curry favor following their mission and he had repaid his excellent performance with indifference and disdain. Now the young man may be lost before he could correct the situation and he could only see it as his fault.
Finally pulling himself together Nelson picked up the phone and notified the base commander of the situation. He’d done all he could do for now.
Lee gradually emerged from the depths of unconsciousness and began registering the world around him. The last thing he recalled was being slammed by a massive wave washing him overboard into the cold and churning waters. He remembered gasping for breath but sucking in only water then sinking slowly into the cold depths.
As he moved from his memories to the present he registered that he was no longer cold or wet. He could hear the storm raging outside and gave an unconscious shudder at its ferocity and power. He could hear the crackle of a fire and felt the warmth washing over him. He also became aware of a body pressed close to his no doubt trying to provide him the warmth he so badly needed. He slowly cracked open his eyes and found himself quite confused at his surroundings.
Looking above he could see what appeared to be a thatched roof in the glow from the fire. He surveyed the surrounding area and seemed to be in a small cabin or house of some sort with a single door and one small window next to it. As he scanned the fireplace he noticed his clothing laid out next to it no doubt to dry. A quick inventory of the drying clothes confirmed he was naked as a jaybird.
Turning his attention to himself he found he was nestled down in what appeared to be a bed of straw along with a young woman snuggled next to him. He cautiously lifted the old blanket covering them and could easily tell she had nothing on as well. He blushed momentarily embarrassed at having no memory of her or how they had come to be cuddled together next to the fire.
He shifted uncomfortably and that disturbed the woman next to him, waking her up. She pushed up on one arm and they looked at each other for a moment. She smiled warmly immediately relieving some of Lee’s anxiety.
“Well you’ve decided to join the world again, have you?” she said playfully. “I was truly concerned that I had not gotten to you in time.”
Lee looked incredulously at the slight woman next to him. “You pulled me from the sea? You rescued me?”
She smiled again and nodded. “Aye. It was quite a challenge with that storm raging overhead. It took some time for you to start breathing again once I pushed you to the surface.” Reading his disbelief she smiled even wider. “I’m an excellent swimmer and I’m much stronger than I look,” she said with a giggle.
“Thank you… thank you for saving my life. How did you find me? I hadn’t seen any other boats in the area when I lost my mast. I was certain I had no chance to survive.”
“Just lucky I guess,” she replied. “The waves were huge and a small vessel could easily be missed in their rise and fall.”
“I’m Lee, Lee Crane,” Lee said after an awkward moment of silence.
“I’m Moire, it means star of the sea,” she replied.
“That’s a beautiful name and I can quite honestly say it’s a pleasure to meet you Moire.”
Moire looked at him impishly and grinned shyly. “Nice to meet you Lee and believe me the pleasure is all mine,” she replied as her eyes traveled down his exposed chest.
Thankful for the darkened room Lee blushed and almost pulled the blanket up over him. He was no stranger to women but her unhidden appreciation and daresay lustful look surprised him, making him feel almost like a lamb before a lioness. “Ah, um... I suppose I should put on some clothes. I need to go out and relieve myself,” he stammered.
She laughed quietly as she pulled back the blankets and moved so he could get up. “You need not be embarrassed around me Lee. You’re a handsome man and presented only pleasant surprises when I undressed you. Also there’s no need to put on your clothes yet because they’re still wet and the last thing we need is for you to catch a chill again. There’s a bucket over in the corner you can use since I’m sure you really don’t relish the idea of going out in that storm to take care of your business. I’m not at all squeamish about such things if that’s what’s bothering you.”
Lee smiled sheepishly and felt damn near like a coy maiden in this woman’s presence. She quite obviously was used to taking care of herself and had no compunction about saying what was on her mind. He pushed up to his feet feeling somewhat uncomfortable standing naked before the fire. Once he was standing Moire reached her hand up to him and he helped her stand as well. She pointed to the far corner, “The bucket is over there. While you’re taking care of that I’ll add a few more logs to the fire.”
Now out from under the covers Lee got a good look at his rescuer. She was about 5’8”, long straight black hair, deep green eyes, lovely face, and a shapely well-muscled body; she was absolutely gorgeous. He smiled in appreciation then turned and headed over to the corner. Once finished he turned back around and found her lying in their bed a hand extended beckoning him back.
“Come back to bed Lee, there’s no point being up with that storm still ragin’ outside and you need to warm yourself more lest you start shivering again,” she said with a wry smile and a wink as she pulled back the blankets.
He returned her smile and laughed. “What kind of boy do you think I am?”
“Oh my beautiful man, I want to learn exactly what kind of boy you are. I want to know all about you,” she giggled.
“Well I would love to learn about you as well and how you came to find me in my hour of need,” he said as he walked back across the room lowered himself to the floor and slid beneath the blanket.
As Lee made himself comfortable Moire curled up next to him and laid her head on his shoulder. “So Lee tell me everything I need to know about you,” she said as she gently rubbed her hand across his chest moving subtly lower with each pass.
He sighed and gently placed his hand over hers stilling it. “You keep that and there’ll be no talking.”
Moire raised her head and smiled bouncing her eyebrows. “I’m sure we can handle any problems that might arise,” she said with a mischievous glint in her eye.
Lee laughed softly. “Well I’m sure we could but I’m still tired from my dip in the ocean earlier, I feel as weak as a day old kitten. Plus I need to get to know you much better before things get too hot to handle.”
“Too hot to handle? I think that highly unlikely,” she said lightly. “Since I asked first you tell me about you,” she answered as she lowered her head back down on his chest. She listened to the slow and steady beat of his heart.
Lee laughed and squeezed her hand. “Where should I begin? If you haven’t already guessed I’m an American and I’m an officer in the US Navy. Right now I’m serving on a submarine; not quite sure how much longer that will last but I love it. I don’t have a girlfriend, if you’re wondering. Quite honestly there’s not much to tell. How about you?”
Moire cocked an eyebrow and stared at him. “Not much to tell; you’ve told me next to nothing. What about your family? How about your parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins?”
“I don’t have a family, at least that I remember. I grew up an orphan,” Lee added quietly.
“Surely there’s someone who claims you as their own? And why do you wonder how long you’ll remain on your ship?” Moire asked.
“It’s a boat,” he corrected, “Subs are boats. I don’t think my commanding officer has much use for me anymore after I screwed up on mission we were both on. He doesn’t even act as if I exist any longer so I’ve requested a transfer. As far as family I do have a friend, my roommate from college who more or less adopted me as his kid brother, along with his family but that’s about it. I have friends but no one truly close other than Chip. Come on tell me about you,” Lee replied quickly trying to shift the subject.
She stared at him closely for a moment trying to divine what rested beneath that inscrutable façade. Guessing for now she would make no headway she shrugged and let the topic drop. “I’m born and bred here in Scotland and never been but a few miles from where I was born. I and my family live near where you dropped anchor night before last. Where you have a dearth of kin I am overrun by it. I live with my parents, grandparents, 5 brothers, 6 sisters, a multitude of aunts and uncles and even more cousins than you can count. I fish for a living with my family,” she replied.
“Wow that’s some family. I guess you never lack for company,” Lee replied. Moire rolled her eyes nodded emphatically and chuckled.
“So answer me this, how is it that you found me when my boat began to flounder? How did you get to me so quickly after I fell in?” he asked as he drew his finger softly down the side of her face.
“Truth be told Lee Crane I became enchanted the first minute I laid me eyes on you that first night. I was too shy to come talk to you for fear you’d turn me away. You so bewitched me I had to follow you when you left in hopes I’d come up with the courage to say hello,” Moire said blushing slightly.
Lee laughed softly. “Oh surely you’re kidding, I’ve never enchanted anyone in my life,” he replied with a soft snort which then turned into a harsh cough. He rolled away from her as he continued to cough trying to clear the water he’d sucked into his lungs earlier.
She looked on concerned as it took some time for the coughing fit to die down. “Are you okay, Lee?” she asked as she gently rubbed his back.
“Yeah, I probably just inhaled a little too much of the ocean when I fell in,” he said once he regained his breath. Moire climbed out from under the blankets and rooted quickly through an old chest pulling out a battered tin cup.
“You stay right there and I’ll get you some water to drink,” she said as she walked to the door and out into the raging storm. After a minute she came back in with a full cup. “Here drink this, can’t get water any fresher than this,” she said handing him the cup.
“Thank you. You should have let me get that now you’re wet and cold,” Lee said as he sipped gratefully on the cool water.
“Nae, that’s the last thing you need with that cough and you don’t need another chill,” she said as she brushed the water off her skin then picked up his white shirt and blotted herself dry before returning it to the hearth. “By the looks of it this storm is going to last at least another day. Nodens and Camulus must really be going at it.”
“Nodens, Celtic god of the sea and Camulus, god of war and the sky. They must have really ticked each other off to be ragin’ so horribly at each other.”
Lee looked at her somewhat incredulously. His disbelief in her explanation quite obvious on his face. “You know, just because your people don’t believe in these gods doesn’t mean they still can’t have a hand in what goes on in this world. There are more things and powers out there than you can ever guess at. Just because something once known to be real is now called folklore or a myth doesn’t mean it doesn’t still exist,” she replied somewhat testily.
“My apologies Moire, you’re quite right. I’m sorry if I offended you,” Lee replied contritely. His head slightly down, he looked up at her through his long lashes feeling duly chastised. Her heart melted immediately at that look of little boy shame and smiled warmly at him.
“Here give me the cup, do you need more water?” She asked.
“No, I’m fine now, thank you. Now you come back to bed and get warm,” Lee said folding back the blankets and extending his hand to her. “You need to tell me now how you followed me without me seeing you. I still can’t believe you rescued me. I find it even harder to believe you were too shy to come up and say hello,” he said with a chuckle.
“As I said I grew up in these parts and know all the ways to move around to avoid being seen,” she replied with a sly look in her eye. She crawled back under the blankets and snuggled close to him luxuriating in his warmth and embrace. As she relaxed she heard him bite back a yawn. “Enough talk for now my beautiful man, you need a wee bit more rest. In fact I think we could both use some. We’ll have plenty of time to get to know each other better as I said this storm’s going nowhere fast. Sleep well Lee.”
“You too Moire, good night,” Lee replied as he kissed her lightly on the forehead and quickly drifted off to sleep.
Lee was jolted awake early the next morning by a ragged tear of coughing that felt as though his lungs were trying to rip free of his body. Hoping not to wake Moire he quickly climbed out of bed and exited their small cabin. Still coughing as he hastily exited the door he was immediately slammed by the fierce wind and sheet after sheet of horizontal rain.
He momentarily gasped at the brutal onslaught of the elements but resumed coughing once the shock had passed, nearly doubling over in pain as the spasms rocked his chest. As he continued to cough he absently noted he should be more chilled than he actually was being outside in the chilling wind and rain. When the coughing fit passed he stood up and raised his face to the sky letting the rain soothe his tortured throat. His thirst quenched he returned inside to find Moire sitting up looking very concerned.
“Are you all right Lee?” she asked anxiously.
“Yes, I’ve just developed a bit of a cough. I had hoped to get outside before I woke you. Sorry,” Lee replied.
“Don’t be worrying about me, it’s you we need to be concerned about,” she responded as she got to her feet and grabbed his dry shirt from the hearth. She moved over to him and began drying him off in hopes of keeping him from getting chilled. She started at his head and gently worked her way down his back listening to his soft moans of appreciation.
When she reached his ankles she moved to his front and began working her way up. Reaching his waist she immediately noticed she had piqued his interest. She smiled devilishly and continued upward making sure everything was pampered and dried. “My, what a big boy you are,” she said coyly.
Lee laughed lightly and pulled her into his arms and lowered his lips to hers giving them a gentle kiss. She returned the kiss and then spread her lips as he deepened the kiss. Her body felt on fire as though a jolt of electricity passed through her at his touch. She had no idea such a simple thing like a kiss could so inflame her. She dropped his shirt and placed her arms around his neck drawing even closer as he wrapped his arms tightly around her.
After a few moments he bent down and swept her up in his arms and carried her over to their bed then gently lowered her onto the blankets. He knelt down next to her then slowly lowered his body on top of hers. He resumed kissing her as his hands began to softly stroke and tweak her body making her squirm and groan in absolute pleasure.
He then pulled back and she sighed in disappointment at the loss of contact. He smiled wickedly at her then resumed kissing and sucking and licking his way slowly down her body as his hands continued their exploration. She gasped in startled pleasure at his expert ministrations and then was lost to a world of exquisite sensations and color.
They laid there in silence letting their bodies quiet after making love. Her head rested on his chest and she listened contentedly as his heartbeat slowed lulling her almost to sleep with its steady beat. She reached up lightly stroked his face and smiled. Never in her wildest dreams had she ever expected anything that earth shatteringly fantastic.
“Oh my god, my beautiful man that was incredible,” she whispered finally able to speak coherently. “I never dreamed it could be so …” she sighed unable to find a word to adequately define the sensations she had experienced.
Lee chuckled quietly. “I agree,” was all he said followed by a long satisfied sigh. He raised his head and kissed her on the top of the head then hugged her tight against him.
As their bodies stilled they listened to the still raging storm outside. He chuckled again as he thought over their fit of passion.
“What?” Moire asked.
“I think we probably out did the storm for sound and fury. Talk about call of the wild,” he replied laughing harder.
“Aye, I think you’re right. I didn’t know I had that pent up inside me,” she replied with a hint of embarrassment in her voice. “I think I’ll have to thank Nodens and Camulus personally for the storm locking you away with me here.”
Lee smiled and nodded his agreement as he gently stroked her hair. As he laid there watching the dying embers of the fire his stomach growled loudly and both of them broke out laughing.
Moire pushed up on one arm and looked at him in amusement. “Is that so? It seems as though you’ve worked up quite an appetite after that incredible performance,” she said as she bounced her eyebrows.
“I must admit I’m a wee bit hungry, it’s been a couple of days since I last ate,” Lee replied as he rubbed his belly.
“Well I think I need to remedy that situation. I can’t have you wasting away to nothing seeing how I have many more plans for encores,” she answered as she pushed to her feet and moved to the fireplace to add a couple more logs to the fire.
“And how do you propose to do that?” he asked looking around the room for any hint of a stash of goodies.
“I’m an expert at fishing, if you will recall me telling you that. You stay here, keep warm save up your strength and I’ll be back in a flash with something to fill that hole in your belly.”
Lee immediately rose to his feet alarmed at what she had said. “You can’t go out there in this storm; it’s not safe. Plus you don’t even have any clothes.”
She smiled warmed at the genuine concern he had for her safety. “Don’t worry my beautiful man, I told you I’m from these parts and know where to go to get what I want. I won’t be gone long and then we can have a lovely fish dinner. As far as clothing in this weather it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.”
“Moire please don’t go, I can go quite a while without food you don’t need to risk yourself on my account,” he said as he pulled her into his arms.
Moire raised up on her toes and kissed him lightly on the lips. “Lee I know what I’m doing and I’m more than a little peckish myself. If you can tend to the fire and get us some fresh water we’ll be ready to eat once I return,” she said as she pushed out of his arms and moved to the door.
“Well at least take my slicker to fight off some of the rain.”
“I’ll be fine, plus I have my own seal skins stashed down by the beach,” she replied with a wink and slipped out the door.
Moire dashed down towards the beach to a stand of rocks where she had hidden her skin. She quickly pulled it out shrugged it on then made her way to the water. As the surge of a huge wave began to recede from the shoreline she dove into it and was carried safely past the rocks. Knowing the fish would have moved to deeper waters to avoid the storm she quickly started swimming further offshore.
The visibility was next to nothing with all the wave action and rain stirring things up making it difficult to spot any game. Going mainly on instinct she followed the bottom and soon found herself in range of a large school of salmon. She struck quickly snapping up a couple of large fish then swam back out before they even seemed to realize there was a predator in their midst. Fish firmly secured in her mouth she turned and headed back to shore.
As she swam she spotted an odd bit of fishing net on the bottom moving lazily with the storm surge. She dived down to the bottom and placed her catch on top of the net then gathered the ends and carried her fish back in her impromptu basket. On her return she noted a number of large scallops splayed out on the bottom feeding frantically on all the matter stirred up by the storm. She placed her basket on the sea floor then began snapping up the scallop shells and deposited them on top of her fish. When she felt she had enough to satisfy her beautiful man she bundled up her haul and headed back to shore.
Lee watched in dismay as she darted down towards the beach. He didn’t like the idea of her going out in the storm, but she was her own woman and he had little if anything to say about it. He felt somewhat ridiculous being left behind like a fisherman’s wife to tend the home fires and keep house but he had to defer to her familiarity with the area and acknowledge that the last thing he needed to do was make his cough worse. When she was no longer in sight he turned around and surveyed their cabin looking for ways to pass the time until she returned.
Feeling somewhat exposed he pulled on his skivvies and black jeans. Next he slipped on his rain slicker picked up the honey bucket took it outside and emptied it a good distance from the cabin. Since she was bringing back fish for dinner he looked around the place for a means to cook it. He dug through the small chest she had pulled the cup out of but didn’t find anything that could be used as a skillet. He did however find an old metal pitcher he could collect rainwater in and an old flour sack that could serve as a towel or a tablecloth depending on their need.
He eyed the room once more and spotted a pile of sticks, picking up two of the longer and stouter ones he smiled knowing that they would do the trick. He moved over the hearth and found his wallet, wristwatch, ring and pocket knife inside one of his shoes. He put his ring and watch back on then grabbed the knife opened it up and began whittling one end of each stick to a sharp point creating a spit he could cook Moire’s fish on. Not one to sit idly by he then remade their bed and tidied things up a bit as he waited for her return.
All the while he completed his chores he experienced more frequent and harsher coughing spells. His rib cage and abdominal muscles were starting to hurt as they were being stressed and tortured with each bout. He was beginning to become concerned knowing that his cough could all too easily become pneumonia and without medical treatment he could die. He also noticed he felt warmer than he should given the cool temperature in the cabin and realized he was now running a fever. His only defense was you keep hydrated so he drank as much water as he could refilling the pitcher a number of times.
Once he had done everything he could inside the cabin, he glanced down at his watch and noted that nearly four hours had passed since Moire left to get them something to eat. He had no idea how long she would be gone and began to pace anxiously as he awaited her return.
Moire made good time back to the island as the wind and waves pushed her forward. As she neared the beached she held back momentarily timing the waves so she could work her way to shore without being pummeled by the pounding surf. She rode the tail end of a large wave in and rapidly scampered up the beach out of reach of the following waves with their dinner securely in tow.
She made her way back to the rocks set her basket down then quickly removed her skin. The brisk wind rushing over her exposed human skin made her shiver momentarily. She carefully rolled up her seal skin and placed it back in her hiding place. She picked up her basket and began trotting up the beach towards the hut and Lee. When she opened the door and stepped in, Lee turned quickly at the sound and smiled, his relief at her safe return readily apparent.
“Thank god you’re back,” Lee said. “I was beginning to get worried you were gone for so long. Are you okay?”
Moire smiled and laughed. “Yes I’m just fine,” she replied. “I also have our dinner,” she added as she held up her improvised basket filled with the salmon and scallops.
“How did you get all that? I would have thought with the storm pounding away the fish would have moved further out to sea.”
“I told you I’m an expert at this,” she said dodging his question. “I don’t know about you but I’m starving.”
Lee looked at her for a minute certain that there was something she was definitely holding back. He decided to raise that subject later and reached forward taking the load of fish and shellfish from her hand. “Well I can’t argue with your success. Those fish are beautiful and the scallops are huge. I’ll get them cleaned then we can roast the fish and have scallop sashimi. First thing though is to get you dried off before you catch a chill.”
He grabbed the flour sack he’d found and gently began drying her off. Once he’d dried her he picked up his shirt and helped her put it on. He reached forward and buttoned the bottom four buttons which left a provocative view of her beautiful breasts peeking out. He then led her to their bed and indicated she should get in. “Here you rest and warm up while I take care of the fish, it’s the least I can do since you took care of all the hard work.”
She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him passionately. He returned the kiss more than willingly. After a moment she unwrapped her arms and while still kissing him let her hands slowly trail down his chest and abdomen making a beeline for the button and zipper on his jeans. Lee smiled and laughed as they continued to kiss, the laughter sending a thrilling vibration across her lips and down to her toes.
He gently took her hands brought them up to his lips and kissed them lightly. “You keep going that way the fish will be spoiled before we get to them.”
She looked up at him and smiled impishly. “And that’s a problem?”
Lee laughed again. “After all you went through to get them, yes. Also, I don’t know about you but I need a little fuel in my system so I can fully satisfy all those wickedly seductive thoughts obviously swirling around in that beautiful head of yours.”
She sighed deeply. “I suppose you’re right. The last thing I’d want is for you to run out of steam before we reach the end.”
“Indeed not,” he said seriously. He smiled gave her a hug and a quick kiss on the forehead before gathering up the fish and heading outside to gut and clean them.
Lee returned to the cabin minutes later, he impaled the fish on the spits he’d fashioned earlier and positioned them over the fire. He next cut open the scallops and removed the large edible muscle from each shell and stacked them on an empty half shell. He picked up the tin cup and filled it with water then took the cup and his shell of appetizers and sat down next to Moire.
He picked up one of the large scallops and gently brought it up to her mouth and fed it to her. She accepted the morsel and sucked seductively on his fingers making sure she got every bit. He smiled and wiped a small drop that escaped her mouth with his fingers and offered it to her. She licked it off then reached down picked up a scallop and made the same offer to him.
Lee captured the scallop and her fingers with his teeth. He licked the sweet essence of the scallop off her digits then released them and swallowed the tender bite. His tongue snaked out and rimmed his lips as he stared intensely into her eyes. There was something in those deep green pools that pulled at his soul as though he were diving to the depths. Raptures of the deep called to mind and he laughed mentally. “What a way to go.”
They continued to trade tidbits until the smell of cooking fish drew them from their self-indulgent game. Lee was the first to break the connection as he moved to the fire to turn the fish. He picked up the cup of water and took a sip then offered it to Moire. She took a drink and handed it back. The intensity of the mood broken Lee concentrated on cooking the fish.
When the fish was done he pulled them off the fire and placed them on a couple of flat rocks he had cleaned off to use as plates earlier. He peeled back the skin on one of the fish and then they pulled the succulent flesh off the bones and started their erotic feeding frenzy once again. By the time they pulled the blankets up over them for the night they were completely sated and spent. They both absently noted the storm had passed and an eerie calm now claimed the night.
“Skipper, I have Commander MacDaniel on the phone for you sir,” Sparks called across the control room.
“Thanks Sparks I’ll be right there,” Nelson replied as he fought down the urge to run across the room to get the phone. Sparks handed him the receiver once he arrived. “Nelson here, any news Commander?”
“Aye Captain Nelson. We’ve finally been able to get up in the air and we spotted your man’s boat adrift about 150 miles from his last reported position. The main mast has been sheared off and the life raft has been deployed but was still tethered to the boat. From the looks of things he was probably washed overboard. I’m sorry Captain.”
“There’s no sign of him?” Nelson asked dejectedly, knowing full well the implications of the Coast Guard’s discovery.
“No sir. We will be completing a thorough overflight of the entire area to make sure we can account for anyone that may have made it to shore alive or dead. I’ll let you know if we find anything sir.”
Nelson remained quiet for a moment as he digested the commander’s report. “Thank you, Commander. I appreciate all your efforts and as I said earlier if there’s anything we can do to assist please let me know.”
As Harri signed off he noted his XO had come over to join him in the radio shack. “Any news sir?”
“They’ve found his boat adrift and his life raft had been inflated and secured to the boat as if he was prepared to abandon ship, but there’s no sign of him anywhere. The commander said they think he was probably washed overboard before he could get in the raft. There’s no sign of him in the area but they will keep an eye out for him as they conduct their surveillance of the coast line.” Harri replied quietly.
David nodded knowingly. “I’m sorry to hear that. I’ll contact COMSUBLANT and have the chaplain notify the next of kin sir.”
“There’s no need XO, he had none listed. I’ll get in touch with his best friend and pass on the information,” Nelson answered numbly. It still amazed him that such a remarkable young man really had no one he called family. “I’ll be in my cabin.”
“Aye sir,” Martin acknowledged knowing exactly how hard this loss hit his CO and friend.
The first rays of dawn pushed through the tiny window of their rustic cabin illuminating the inside. Moire was the first to wake and laid there with her head resting comfortably on Lee’s chest. She listened to the beat of his heart and was now hearing a disturbing rattle in his lungs. The only thing that had interrupted their all-consuming lust was the coughing fits that increasingly pulled him away. If he continued to get worse he could quite possibly die. Even in the cool of the cabin a fine sheen of perspiration covered his face and chest meaning he was probably running a fever as well. Trying to distract herself from such depressing thoughts she lightly ran her hand over his sleeping form. He moaned in pleasure at her gentle and playful touch and pulled her tighter against him.
Along with the dawn came a calm and clear day, odds were that he would now start to think actively about returning to his world. He had waxed almost poetic about his life aboard his boat and the many adventures he had had and the things he wanted to achieve some day. In all he had said staying here in Scotland with her was never considered and that gnawed wickedly at her heart.
She also knew that she truly had been enchanted by her beautiful man and wanted nothing less than them growing old together. The only way she could even hope to keep him with her was to be totally honest with him and reveal her true nature. She didn’t relish the task of explaining herself and dreaded his possible response.
In no real hurry to rush into that mess, she closed her eyes and snuggled down deeper in their bed. She began running her hand over his body relishing the feeling for probably the last time. He moaned again and began stroking her in return.
He opened one eye and stared at her. “You are going to leave me as nothing more than a dried out husk, you know that,” he said with a chuckle then began kissing her gently as his hands once again began to coax her to new heights of ecstasy.
It was past noon by the time they finally made it out of bed. Famished from the night’s activities they breakfasted in bed on the fish leftover from dinner. Now full and in need of answering another of nature’s call Lee pulled on his pants and headed out the cabin door. He blinked hard against the bright autumn sun as his eyes adjusted then stretched enjoying the crisp air nipping at his bare chest. He quickly finished his business and returned to the cabin.
“It’s a beautiful day out there Moire, the storm has completely passed,” he said as he grabbed her hand as she crawled out of bed. “I think I would like to go out and explore the island. What do you say, care to join me?”
“Aye, I would. I’ve been feeling a wee bit cooped up with that storm ragin’ for the last couple of days. Let me go take care of things myself and we can go for a nice walk. Is it cold out there?”
“Not bad, a little crisp but the sun’s working on changing that. Here put on my shirt it should help,” he replied as he picked it up and held it out for her. She slid her arms into the sleeves then scampered out the door.
Returning a few minutes later she walked over to Lee wrapped her arms around him and gave him a gentle kiss. “You’re right it is a beautiful day. Come on my beautiful man let’s take that walk and there are a few things I think we should discuss.”
Lee returned her kiss and nodded in agreement. He needed to stretch his legs and he had many questions he needed answered about this beautiful woman who had saved his life. “Do you want to pull on my rain gear or is my shirt enough?”
“Actually I’d be fine with nothin’ at all,” she replied with wicked grin.
Lee laughed and kissed her again. “Come along you insatiable sex demon, before you corrupt me once again.”
“Me corrupt you?” she answered in mock indignation. “Twas I who was the innocent lamb before I was bewitched by you, my beautiful man.”
They both laughed then headed out the door to take a tour of the island. It was a short tour as the island was quite small, really just big enough to offer sanctuary from a storm which probably explained the presence of the small cabin. As they walked along holding hands and soaking up the sun, Lee noticed that there was no boat along the shoreline and Moire was apparently unconcerned by the absence of one.
After they had completed their circuit of the isle they settled on an outcrop of rock and watched the sea. Once they sat Lee again fought through a bout of harsh coughs and wiped the sweat from his brow. It was obvious to them both he was getting sicker with time.
They sat quietly not saying anything for the longest time. As the silence dragged on Lee finally took the first step. “Moire, how is it you were able to get those fish and scallops or even rescue me in that storm? I see no boat on the island and that doesn’t seem to upset you.”
She turned her head and regarded him for a moment. She reached up gently stroked his face wiping away the perspiration then pulled in a deep breath and began. “Lee remember when I told you about Nodens and Camulus and how you reacted?” Lee nodded not sure where she was going with this.
“I also told that just because a thing once known as real and now only thought of as folklore or myth, doesn’t necessarily mean that a thing doesn’t still exist.”
“Yes I remember,” Lee replied quietly.
“Do you know what a selkie is Lee?” Moire asked seriously.
Lee furrowed his brow and stared at her extremely confused. “Yes I think so. Isn’t a selkie a creature that can exist as either a seal or as a human?”
“Aye. Selkies are beings that can transform from seal to human by removing or donning their skin. They have existed on this planet for millennia and have for the most part lived in harmony with humans and the sea moving easily between each world. Lee I am such a being, I am a selkie.”
Lee stared at her dumbfounded by her revelation. “You can’t be serious,” he finally managed to get out.
“Aye, completely serious. You asked how I was able to get us dinner and how I managed to rescue you from the sea. I’m at home in the sea when I exist as a seal. You never saw me when I followed you because I was swimming behind your boat. I listened to you sing with your music and dance and play a make-believe guitar. I became even more bewitched by your playful ways. You first saw me when you shared your eggs with me. When you spoke to me I thought I had died and gone to heaven.”
“My god,” he whispered.
“Lee I’m being honest when I say you enchanted me the first time I saw you. I had to get to know you but hadn’t figured out a way to do that until you were washed off your boat by a huge wave. I swam up underneath you as you sank towards the depths and pushed you to the surface so you could breathe. I then towed you to this island so I could get you to safety. When I finally got you up to the cabin you were so cold the only way I could get you warm was to share my body heat with you along with the fire. I couldn’t let you die my beautiful man.”
Lee sat in silence next to her trying desperately to process all she had said and reconcile it with his experiences. No one could have known he’d sang and played air guitar on the deck of his boat or tossed the eggs to a seal or that he had been washed overboard unless they were there.
As the silence stretched out Moire began to fidget and become uncomfortable. She steeled herself for the impending explosion, the look of horror and revulsion along with the accusations of betrayal from Lee. Unable to take it any longer she spoke, “Do you hate me Lee? Do you want me to leave your sight?”
After a moment Lee turned his head to look at her. A small smile spread across his lips and he placed his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. “How could I hate you, you saved my life. You’ve warmed me, fed me and made love to me like no other,” he said with a wink and a lecherous smile. “I must admit this is the absolute last explanation I ever expected.”
She smiled in relief that at least he wasn’t forcing her from his side. She leaned over and tentatively kissed his lips. He returned the kiss then leaned back and looked up at the sky. “So what now my beautiful selkie woman?”
“Lee I want to be with you always. You’ve bewitched me and I can’t imagine ever wanting to leave your side. Stay here for a moment, okay,” she said as she pushed to her feet. He looked up at her and nodded. She turned and ran to an outcrop of rocks further ashore then dropped to her knees and began rooting around. After a moment she pulled something from behind the rocks picked it up and returned to Lee’s side.
“Here,” she said as she offered him the bundle.
“What’s this?” he asked as he tentatively accepted it.
“It’s me seal skin. It is a selkies most prized possession; it represents freedom and life to us,” she answered. “When a selkie becomes bound to human form it’s usually because their partner found their skin and hid it from them or destroyed it so they could never return to the sea. I’m giving mine to you freely to keep or burn whichever you want. I want to be bound to you Lee and this is the only way that can happen.”
Lee stared in disbelief at the thing in his hands. “I’m truly honored but I can’t accept this Moire. It’s not that I don’t care for you but I’m not ready to settle down and given what I do and who I work for that’s not even a possibility for a number of years to come. I still owe them a few more years of service and if I disappeared before I fulfilled my commitment and someone spotted me, they would put me in prison somewhere back in the United States.”
“Also your family is here and I doubt you would be willing to follow me wherever they sent me. There would be long periods when I would be gone and you would be alone in strange lands. You would be unable to return to your family and I think you would grow to resent me. I think if I were forced to stay here I would likewise come to resent you,” Lee added as he looked deep into her eyes.
He watched in dismay as tears began to well up in her eyes. He put down the skin and pulled her close. She resisted momentarily then gave in and sobbed into his shoulder. “Please don’t cry. If you think this through you know I’m right. The worlds we live in are too different plus it’s just not the right time for us to be together,” he said as he stroked her hair and hugged her close.
As her tears subsided and she quieted they returned to the cabin and talked well into the night. Moire went more into detail about herself and her people trying desperately to talk Lee into changing his mind. Lee likewise expounded on his life and his desires for the future which as he had pointed out were a world away from hers. By the time they crawled into bed for the night they both knew they were going their separate ways. They spent the next few hours making sweet and gentle love then held each other close savoring the last few moments they would be together.
By the next day Lee’s cough was worse and he was now having greater difficulty breathing. He was nearly exhausted from his frequent bouts of coughing and was running a serious fever. They both knew he needed help soon or odds were he would die.
As they lay quietly together in bed Lee thought he heard the drone of an airplane engine in the distance. He immediately scrambled out of bed pulled on his trousers, grabbed his slicker and bolted out of the cabin to survey the skies. As he scanned the horizon he spotted what looked like a C-130 flying along the coast line. Lee ran to the highest point on their tiny island and began waving his coat frantically trying to catch the pilot’s attention.
As the plane drew closer he could make out the Coast Guard markings and waved his jacket even harder. He watched in dismay as the plane flew overhead apparently not having seen him but as the aircraft passed it banked sharply to the right and began to circle back. He let loose a huge shout of joy and continued to wave his coat like a battlefield banner. He laughed out loud in delight when the pilot wagged his wings indicating he’d been seen then continued on with his flight.
Lee turned and trotted excitedly back to the cabin where his joy was short lived as he took in the sad look on Moire’s face. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she knew their time together had come to an end. He gathered her into his arm and hugged her tight as he fought back his own tears. He had become as enchanted by her as she by him and knew he would miss her dearly.
Knowing it would most likely be some time before the Coast Guard could get a boat or helicopter out to rescue him he reached down picked up her hand and led her back into the cabin and their bed. He kneeled before her and gently began kissing and stroking her body putting every ounce of tenderness and passion he had into loving her this one last time.
By the time they emerged from the cabin it was dark and the nearly full moon had already risen and was being kept company by the gathering clouds. The night was still, not even a hint of breeze swept across the island.
Lee was fully dressed for the first time in days and felt odd walking next to his naked lover as he escorted her back down to the beach. As they neared where Moire had hidden her skin she stopped and moved in front of Lee to give him one last passionate kiss.
“I still think you’re making one hell of a mistake me beautiful man,” she said as she stepped back then smiled ruefully.
“Probably,” Lee answered with a wry smile. “But it wouldn’t be the first one and definitely not the last.” He kissed her gently on the forehead then moved off to sit down on the rocks and wait for her to change. As he waited he stared up at the sky and the emerging stars wondering if he really was making the right choice.
His attention was drawn back to the beach as he spied a small seal working her way over to him. He gave her a slight smile as she moved up next to him on the rocks. “You’re an equally gorgeous seal, you know that my beautiful selkie woman.”
She barked at him which sounded much like a laugh then nudged him gently. Lee leaned over and gave her a kiss on the top of the head and stroked her face and neck. “You take care of yourself, who knows one day we may meet again and if you’re still available I may just take you up on your offer.”
She barked at him again and then disappeared into the sea. Lee scanned the water but couldn’t see her. It was probably best not to look back he thought then pushed to his feet and trudged back into the cabin and finally gave in to the exhaustion and sadness.
Lee slowly stirred awake but resisted opening his eyes, he really wasn’t ready to join the real world just yet. By the antiseptic smell he knew he was in a hospital and he could sense someone else in the room most likely a nurse or aide. He pulled in a deep breath which proved to be the wrong thing to do as it set off a vicious coughing fit. He drew up his legs and rolled over on his side, his eyes screwed tightly shut powerless to stem the flow of tears that streamed down his cheeks at the pain in his chest. He became vaguely aware of a man’s voice and then a pair of strong hands helping him to sit up.
“Just relax son, don’t fight it. It’s a little easier if you sit up. You have to get your lungs clear before you’ll get better,” the baritone voice said as the owner’s hands steadied him and kept him from toppling over.
The coughing spasm seemed to go on forever then began to taper off. Lee sat there cradling his sides trying desperately to regain his breath. As the pain faded and it became easier to breathe he opened his eyes and turned his head to thank whoever had helped him. He couldn’t hide the look of surprise and shock when he discovered Captain Nelson holding him upright.
“Th…thank you Captain Nelson,” he stammered hoarsely. “What…what are you doing here sir?”
Nelson smiled and patted him lightly on the back. “ Someone had to come claim you after the Scottish Coast Guard notified us you’d been found and were now in the hospital suffering from a bad case of pneumonia,” Nelson replied as he ease Lee back onto the bed. “It seems that this is becoming an all too common occurrence, me greeting you as you wake up in a hospital. I think we need to change that Mr. Crane.”
Upon seeing his CO, Lee involuntarily grew tense and averted his eyes from the captain’s gaze, he was nearly laying at attention. Nelson immediately picked up on Lee’s discomfort in his presence, something he hadn’t experienced since that Christmas break when he ‘rescued’ the young plebe from the frigid streets of Annapolis4. Everything his XO had said about his treatment of him was proven true in that one moment.
“What day is it sir? How long have I been here?” Lee inquired as he stared down at his hands.
“It’s Wednesday morning. They picked you up off that island late Monday evening and you’ve been pretty well out of it since then. The doctor said you’ve been running quite a fever and your lungs are dangerously congested.”
Lee processed the information Nelson had given him then sighed. “I’m sorry to have inconvenienced you sir. I suppose I’m AWOL as well,” Lee said quietly. “I’ll accept any punishment you assign sir.”
“It’s no inconvenience lad, I’m just glad you’re safe. As far as being AWOL, there were a number of extenuating circumstances that kept you from returning on time. You don’t need to worry about any disciplinary actions.”
“Thank you sir, I appreciate that.” After a moment of awkward silence Lee continued, “Did the doctor tell you when I can return to the boat, sir?”
“He said he’ll release you this afternoon as long as you are taken directly to the hospital on base and remain there until your lungs clear,” Nelson replied. “I’ve already contacted the hospital and they have a bed with your name on it standing by.”
Lee grimaced at that thought causing Harri to chuckle quietly. “It’s your choice Lieutenant you can spend your time here or in Holy Loch.”
“I guess I’ll take Holy Loch sir,” Lee answered.
Before Nelson could respond the door to Lee’s room opened and the attending physician entered. He looked at Lee and smiled. “Good to see you awake and with us this morning Mr. Crane; you’ve had us quite concerned. I’m Doctor Butler.”
“Nice to meet you sir,” Lee replied.
“Well what say I check you over and see how you’re progressing? Captain Nelson, would you please excuse us?” Butler said.
“Of course Doctor. I need to make arrangements for our return to Holy Loch anyway. I’ll see you in a bit Mr. Crane,” Nelson responded as he made his way to the door.
“Fine. I should be finished here in about half an hour barring any complications. If everything is good I’ll release Mr. Crane after lunch.” Nelson nodded and left.
The doctor efficiently checked Lee’s vital signs, listened to his lungs and assessed his general condition. “Well Lieutenant it looks as though you’re recovering nicely. Your temperature is down and it sounds as though your lungs are beginning to clear. How do you feel overall?”
“I’m fine sir,” Lee answered.
“That doesn’t answer my question. How do you feel?” Butler replied with laugh.
“I’m kind of tired and my chest and abs are sore. It is easier to breathe, which is a big relief.”
“Good, that’s exactly how you should feel. All that coughing along with the fever is exhausting and it will be a few days before you feel more like yourself. As far as the pain in your chest and abdomen that will fade as you cough less. You’re putting quite a strain on those muscles right now with each episode but as your lungs clear you should notice the pain disappear.”
“Thank you sir,” Lee replied.
“One bit of cautionary advice, don’t try to keep from coughing even with the pain. You need to expel that mucus from your lungs and the sooner you get it out the sooner you’ll be back in fighting form.”
Before Lee could ask the one question foremost on his mind there was a soft knock on the door and Captain Nelson stuck his head in to see if it was okay for him to return. Dr. Butler waved him in. “How’s he doing Doc?” Nelson inquired.
“He’s progressing nicely and should recover fully.” Butler answered
“So I’m okay to leave now?” Lee asked hopefully.
“Yes I’ll sign off on your release as long as you agree to check in with your own physician when you get back to your base. You’re not out of the woods by a long shot Mr. Crane and could relapse all too easily if you don’t keep up with the antibiotics and rest.”
“Yes sir, I understand.”
“Understanding and doing are two widely disparate concepts to you Mr. Crane,” Nelson chimed in with a smile. “I’ll see to it that he follows all your instructions, Doctor.”
Lee fought the urge to roll his eyes and glare at his CO, but the last thing he needed to do was antagonize the man further; he was in enough trouble as it was. “Can I get cleaned up and dressed now sir?”
“Sure, just take it slow. I’ll have your lunch sent up and when you’ve eaten that I’ll set you free.”
“I’m not really hungry sir, can I get something later?”
“No, it’s time for your next round of meds and they’re best taken with food. Eat everything on your plate and you’re free to go,” the doctor replied.
Lee grimaced at the notion but nodded his agreement. He then climbed carefully out of bed and made his way to the small bathroom to shower and shave.
The nurse pushed the wheelchair bearing Lee out the front doors of the hospital and waited for his ride to arrive. Captain Nelson pulled up in his rental car got out and opened the passenger door then provided what assistance he could helping the young man into the front seat. He thanked the nurse then returned to the driver’s side got in and headed out to the main road.
Lee sat quietly as his CO chauffeured him to what he presumed would be the airport. The silence felt oppressive and in Lee’s mind it meant the captain was gathering his forces to lambast him for his irresponsible behavior.
“You really surprised a lot of people Lee making it to shore and surviving the storm. The Coast Guard said they’d seen nothing like it before. We were already planning your memorial service lad,” Nelson said lightly trying to defuse the tension in the car. “The island you turned up on was nearly five miles from your last reported position and everyone is rather impressed you were able to make the swim.”
“I think I had some help sir,” Lee replied softly.
“Oh? Help from whom?”
“I think it was a seal sir. I had fed a seal some hard boiled eggs the night before the storm came up. When I was washed overboard I vaguely remember being pushed up towards the surface once I started sinking. I don’t recall anything after that other than waking up on the beach. I somehow managed to crawl to the small cabin and was able to get a fire started and warm up,” Lee offered wondering how the captain would take that.
“A seal? A seal pushed you back to the surface after you started to drown then towed you five miles in a raging storm to a nearby island complete with a deserted cabin and deposited you safely onshore?” Nelson repeated incredulously.
“Yes sir, I believe so sir. Tales of sailors being rescued by seals and dolphins are not unheard of sir, I’m just lucky to be one of them. I guess the lesson is to share your hardboiled eggs with any seal that happens to visit your boat,” Lee answered in all seriousness.
Nelson stared at his lieutenant in complete disbelief. Spying a park up ahead he quickly pulled off the road into the parking lot and stopped the car before he had an accident. “Are you seriously going to offer that as your explanation for how you survived?”
“Would you prefer I claim that either Noden or Camulus took pity on my plight after I was dumped in the sea by their storm and one magically transported me to the island? Or how about this one, a beautiful selkie woman took a shine to me and chased after me as I sailed along. When I discovered her one night watching me I shared my hard boiled eggs with her and to show her gratitude she rescued me from the sea when I was swept overboard. Once she got me to the island she hauled me to the cabin, warmed me, fed me and we engaged in wild passionate sex until the storm broke and we had to go back to our respective worlds,” Lee replied testily tired of trying to justify his survival. “Of the three, the first version is least likely to get my security clearance yanked and earn me a lovely jacket whose sleeves tie in the back and comes with a room with padded walls.”
Nelson stared at him astonished by his uncharacteristic outburst. “Who are Noden and Camulus?” was all that immediately came to Harri’s startled mind.
“No one sir,” Lee replied tiredly as it dawned on him how he had just snapped at his CO. “Sir I apologize for my outburst, please excuse me. I was way out of line, I’m tired and it has been a really trying time for me. It’s no excuse, I know.”
“Are you okay son?” Harri asked earnestly.
“Yes sir, I’m fine.”
Harri snorted then turned off the car. Deciding to let the whole rescue story drop for the moment he turned his mind to other more pressing matters. “Feel up to a walk Lieutenant?”
Lee looked at him warily much like a dog about to be beaten, then answered somewhat hesitantly, “Aye sir.”
“Okay then let’s go. There are a few things we need to discuss before we get back to base and the Nautilus.” Harri said as he opened his door and got out.
Lee swallowed hard then opened the car door and climbed out to follow his CO. He could feel the axe head rising over his neck and braced himself for the telling blow that would end his hopes of a career in the Navy.
“After you left on leave, I had a very interesting conversation with Mr. Martin regarding your continued presence on the Nautilus,” Nelson began. “He told me that you’ve requested a transfer because you think you’re a detriment to the boat.”
Lee nodded. “Yes sir, that’s true. It’s quite obvious that you’ve lost all confidence in my abilities following my screw up on our mission to Slovestein. I thought it best to remove myself as a distraction to you and the rest of the crew so everyone could concentrate on their jobs and not have to worry about me.”
“To be honest Mr. Crane that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Lee I owe you two things, an apology and an explanation.”
Lee looked over at his captain in surprise, this was not at all what he expected. “Sir you don’t owe me anything.”
“Yes lad I do. First off the apology. Mr. Martin gave me a rather pointed lecture on how deplorably I’ve been treating you since we returned from our mission. Believe me that was never my intention and I’m sorry if I’ve ever left you with the impression I am less than impressed with your abilities and performance both as a submariner and regretfully an ONI operative.”
“Thank you sir that means a great deal to me,” Lee said softly.
“As far as an explanation for my actions it does stem from our mission. I didn’t want to come across as showing you any undue favoritism. I admit I enjoyed the give and take and the degree of familiarity we developed while undercover and I didn’t think it would be wise to let it bleed over into our onboard interactions. I apparently overcompensated to the point of creating doubt in your mind as to my confidence in your abilities. My shabby treatment of you in turn created uncertainty and concern with the rest of the crew on the boat which was sending morale down the toilet. XO Martin basically read me the riot act telling me in no uncertain terms that he thought my treatment of you unfair and that he would support your request for transfer if I couldn’t resolve my issues. After we were told you were alive and relatively well, he shoved me off the boat with instructions to go collect you and to remedy the situation between us one way or the other before I could come back.”
“The XO said that, sir?” Lee asked surprised to have such a staunch supporter in Martin.
“Yes, he did. In responding to your request he went so far as to contact COMSUBLANT and COMSUBPAC to try and locate an open billet on another sub you could transfer into. At the moment nothing is open and because of that I’m going to deny your request; I refuse to send you back to ONI full time. You need to demonstrate to the Navy at large just how good a submarine officer you can be Lee and that the Silent Service is the place where you can best put your considerable talents to good use.”
Lee stared and Nelson for a moment stunned into silence. The captain sounded sincere in both his apology and his explanation but Lee had been misled too many times in the past to so readily accept things like this at face value.
Getting no response from Lee, Nelson pushed forward. “So if I agree to do my best to return things back to the way they were before our mission would you be willing to rescind your request for transfer?” Nelson finally asked.
“Aye sir, that’s all I really want, to be treated like everyone else. I enjoy being on the Nautilus and didn’t really want to leave,” Lee replied. He figured he could always resubmit his request if the captain’s words turned into just a hollow promise.
“Very well then, let’s consider the matter closed and again I apologize Lee. Now there is the issue of settling a bet.”
“Sir if it’s all the same to you, I would just like to consider that issue closed as well,” Lee replied quietly.
“Really Lee I don’t mind and now that I’ve been made aware of my actions and have dealt with my issues I would be more than happy to pay up. You name it anything you’d like us to do,” Harri offered sincerely.
“Thank you sir, but I’d rather not.”
Harri felt as though he’d been punched in the heart. He couldn’t really blame Lee knowing some of his background and how he grew up. In his world it usually didn’t pay to take a second chance on someone who had already let him down. He could tell by Lee’s tone and body language he had done some serious damage to their relationship, daresay friendship and he was anxious to try and repair it.
“Alright lad, as you wish. If you should change your mind just let me know and I’ll gladly pay up, okay?” Nelson offered.
“Yes sir. Thank you sir.”
“Well then let’s head back to the car, we have a flight to catch and you have an appointment with a bunk in sick bay. I bring you back any more beat up the XO will have my head.”
As they turned and started back to the car, Harri made a solemn promise to himself to make things right between them. He valued Lee’s friendship too much to let that slip away along with his growing fatherly feelings towards the young man and there was no way he was willing to let that go without a fight.
Fifteen Years Later…
SSRN Seaview moved slowly up the Firth of Clyde on her way to the commercial shipyard in Holy Loch. Representatives from the Scottish government had contracted with NIMR to provide assistance in evaluating fish stocks and the overall health of the marine eco-system in the area. To get a jump on their task Nelson had ordered them to come up through the channel with Seaview’s deck awash but the conning tower above water and manned to allow for observation of the environment both above and below the surface.
For Lee this was a bittersweet return to the area; he hadn’t been back to this neck of the woods on a boat since his near drowning experience all those years ago. As they made their way forward he had to marvel at how things in his life had changed since then. At the time he had seriously doubted his chances of staying in the Navy let alone one day commanding a sub. He’d been thoroughly convinced that his then CO one Captain Harriman Nelson had found him lacking and of little value and was most likely looking for some way to drum him out of the service.
Now, as Commander Lee Crane, captain of the Seaview, stood in the observation nose alongside his boss and ‘father’ Admiral Harriman Nelson watching a pod of seals feed on a school of salmon, he chuffed in soft laughter at his ruminations. It still amazed him at all that had come his way.
“What?” asked Nelson.
“Oh nothing sir. I was just thinking about the last time I was in these parts. I haven’t been back here on the water since my little sailing incident. I was just thinking about how much has changed since then. Back then I pretty much figured my stint in the Navy was most likely over and you were personally going to ensure that I would never get the chance to one day have my own command,” Lee replied chuckling.
Harri looked at him and laughed as well. “Well it was one hell of a challenge getting you to a point where you could,” he said jokingly as he patted his ‘son’ on the shoulder. Harri cringed mentally as the memories of that whole fiasco flooded back.
They returned their attention to activities outside the windows enjoying the water ballet of sorts. The seals were gorging themselves on the fish and would from time to time swim over to the huge submarine and observe the humans behind the Herculite. As the seals continued to feed one suddenly stopped her pursuit of a fish and did what could only be described as a double take as she spotted one of the men standing there. She moved closer to the windows and cocked her head from side to side staring at the tall dark haired man while keeping pace with the boat’s slow progress.
Unaware of the seal’s scrutiny Nelson and Crane continued to chat about the acrobatic display outside the windows. As they talked Chip Morton, XO of the Seaview, entered the nose with a current update on their ETA in Holy Loch. As he neared the skipper he noticed the seal almost frozen in place seemingly staring at the captain. Chip laughed out loud, causing the two men to turn and focus on him.
“What’s so funny Chip?” Nelson inquired.
“It looks like Lee has yet another admirer Admiral. That seal has been staring at him for the last few minutes; apparently it’s a she and she’s quite taken with our skipper.”
Lee glared at Chip then both he and the admiral turned and looked at the seal. As Lee regarded the seal their eyes met and a surge of recognition flashed through him. He moved closer to the window to get a better look. As his friends regarded his reflection in the window they made out a slight smile and a hint of a blush. “I’ll be,” Lee said quietly.
“What Lee?” Chip asked.
Without answering Lee moved to the intercom. “Cookie this is the captain.”
“Cookie here, what can I do for you Skipper?”
“Would you send someone up to the observation nose with a couple of hard boiled eggs, right away?”
“Uh, yeah…I mean yes sir, they’re on their way. Anything else you need with them?”
“No Cookie, just the eggs.”
Harri and Chip stared at Lee confused by his odd request. Lee returned to the window and continued watching the seal. She disappeared briefly to surface and grab a breath of air but returned to the window as well to continue her observation of the man, her beautiful man.
A couple of minutes later one of the crewmen from the galley entered the nose with a bowl containing two hard boiled eggs. “Here Skipper, Cookie said you wanted a couple of eggs.”
“Thanks Thompson,” Lee replied as he took the eggs out of the bowl. “That’s all,” he said dismissing the man. He placed the eggs in his pocket then turned back to the windows made eye contact with the seal and pointed up. He then turned and walked through the control room to the ladder leading to the conning tower and rapidly climbed up.
“What’s he doing?” Chip whispered to the admiral.
“Got me, I haven’t a clue,” he replied a look of concern clouding his face. “But I think we should find out.” He and Chip walked to the ladder and ascended as well.
Arriving topside Lee relieved O’Brien of the watch. “Head on down Bobby and warm up a bit, I’ve got things here. Also when you get down there bring the boat to all stop.”
“Aye sir,” O’Brien acknowledged as he waited for the admiral and the XO to finish climbing into the tower.
“Lee what’s going on? Why are you bringing the boat to full stop?” Nelson asked.
Lee just looked at him and smiled enigmatically. He pulled the eggs out of his pocket and proceeded to rap them on the tower and peeled off the shells. As he tossed the shell over the edge a seal suddenly popped up next to the sub eyeing the occupants of the tower closely.
Lee smiled broadly and tossed the first egg to the seal. She let it hit the water, sniffed it a couple of times then gobbled it down. “It is you isn’t it?” he asked. The seal barked loudly seemingly answering his question and Lee laughed out loud. He lobbed the second egg towards her and she jumped from the water catching it mid-air.
“Hello my beautiful star of the sea,” Lee called out and the seal snorted and barked back in reply. He laughed delighted by her response. “It’s so good to see you again and it looks as though you’re doing well.” The seal seemed to nod in answer to his observation and barked again at him.
Nelson and Chip looked at each other both becoming more than a little concerned at their friend’s odd behavior.
Completely oblivious to the other men in the tower, the seal and man locked eyes sinking into their welcoming depths just as they had all those years ago. They seemed to convey wordlessly all that had happened in their lives and how content and happy they were at the way things turned out. But there was also a tinge of sadness and longing for having moved on without the other. They recalled their sweet and lusty time on the island and both seemed to smile in embarrassment as the memories washed over them.
Nelson, finally reaching his limit stepped forward and placed a hand on his captain’s shoulder. “Lee are you all right? What’s going on son?”
Nelson’s words and touch broke the spell and Lee and Moire returned to the present. Lee smiled once more at the seal and she snorted and barked a farewell then disappeared beneath the surface.
Lee turned and smiled at his friends finally acknowledging their presence. “I’m fine Admiral, not to worry. I was just renewing an old friendship,” he replied cryptically.
“Huh?” Chip replied. “With a seal?”
“Yes Chip with a seal, a very special and cherished seal,” Lee answered.
“Care to elaborate on that Lee?” Nelson interjected his curiosity definitely piqued.
“I told you about her sir, she’s the same seal,” was all Lee added. “Well shall we get back to business?”
Harri stared at him for a moment trying to recall Lee ever telling him about a seal, then the memory dawned on him. “Is that the same seal you said rescued you after falling overboard during that storm?”
Lee smiled and nodded. “Yes.”
“That seems highly improbable that the same seal would be here and would recognize you after all this time, and vice versa.”
“As I told Chip, she is a very special seal,” Lee added with a sly smile.
Harri frowned at him and once again sifted through his memories and that car ride back to the airport. After a moment his eyes snapped back on his captain, the light bulb suddenly flashing on after all those years.
“You’re telling me the third version of your rescue was the truth?!” Harri exclaimed incredulously. Chip looked on at a loss, having never heard anything but the ‘official’ account of Lee’s adventure.
Lee graced Harri and Chip with a Cheshire-like grin then descended the ladder into the control room. “Resume course and speed to Holy Loch Mr. O’Brien.”
Note: All referenced stories are on Seaview Stories under Chris B.
1 A Surprising Shift
2 Nodens – Celtic god of the sea
3 Camulus – Celtic god of war and the sky
4 A Wild Heir