The Payoff

(The Bet, Part 2)

By Michelle Pichette & Holly Cushing

Lee Crane was not a happy man. He couldn’t believe he’d lost a bet with the boat’s new head engineer and he couldn’t believe that what he had to pay her off with was something he knew little to nothing about. Now he had to go to someone he barely knew for help. No, he was not a happy man.

" 'You obviously don’t know what you are talking about, Captain?' She actually said that straight to your face? And the three three three, six six six thing. You’ve got to admit, Lee. That was classic," Doctor Dominica Babin said with a big, sunny smile. She was the Admiral’s new assistant and, it just so happened, the new head engineer, Rowena Simmons’, best friend.

Lee had told her about the whole depressing incident, stale donut, seaweed monster, smashed watch and all, hoping for some sympathy and some help. Normally, women couldn’t wait to do things for him, but Dominica seemed obliviously to his charms. What a day, he thought with a sigh. He’d just finished overseeing repairs to the damage the seaweed monster had done only to find out that they’d be heading out on a cruise in four days. He’d be busy the two days before they departed, so that meant his dinner had to be tomorrow or it would have to wait until they returned. He didn’t want Ro to call it off because of timing, so tomorrow it would be. At least he’d managed to get his watch repaired, or rather, it had just returned from the repair shop.

Lee tried to force a smile, but he was thoroughly unhappy and Dominica wasn’t looking at him anyway. She was looking at her computer screen, typing something from some notes at her desk in the Institute. It was almost six o’clock, though, so he assumed she was just trying to finish up something before going home. "So, I was thinking that if we worked together on this..." he started.

"What’s this ‘we,’ sailor boy? I didn’t lose any bets," Dominica said, flashing him another grin and going back to whatever it was that she was doing.

"Don’t you want to get in good with the new boss?" Lee asked as he sat on the edge of her desk.

"You read the office door, right?" Dominica asked in return, not looking up at him this time. He knew what she was referring to, that the door read ‘Doctor Dominica Babin, Research Staff.’ She was telling him, much as she’d be sailing on the Seaview, she worked for the Admiral, not for him.

"Okay, so you don’t work for me. Give me a break here. I know next to nothing about cooking, and German food... Yeesh!"

"I thought she said she’d settle for Italian. I’ve got a lasagna recipe that’s pretty easy and Ro loves it. I’ll write it out for you, and one for some cheesy garlic bread and... what, minestrone soup? No, we’ll stick with salad. That’s a good beginner dish," Dominica said, then reached for a pad of paper that was next to her computer and took the pen from behind her ear. "How about dessert? I’ve got this killer butterscotch pie I haven’t tried out on Ro yet. It’s not too complicated."

Lee grimaced, glad she wasn’t looking at him. She was writing out recipes from memory, he realized, so he had come to the right place for help, not that he was getting the help he wanted. "It sounds a little daunting, actually. Besides, Ro said that her favorite was German food. I’d really like to make her what she likes the best. I wouldn’t ask, but Cookie had some family business to take care of, so I can’t ask him for cooking lessons."

Dominica swivelled her chair to face him and leaned back, tapping her pen on her stomach. She did seem to be thinking about giving him some more one on one help, so he gave her the ‘please’ look that usually worked on his mother. He felt like slapping himself once he had. Dominica was several years younger than him and not at all matronly. In fact, several of the crew were already sighing after the petite, brunette Marine Biologist with undisguised longing. Why was he comparing her to his mother? He must have it really bad for Ro to be behaving this way, but he would be the first to admit to that. Beautiful, extremely intelligent, very capable in her work, charming, a good conversationalist, Lee could go on and on about the things that had attracted him to Ro and he didn’t want to settle just for a working relationship with her. If he could just get Dominica’s help with this dinner and get a little closer to Ro while paying off his little bet, he had high hopes that those feelings would become mutual.

"You seem like a nice, decent guy, and Ro doesn’t meet all that many nice, decent guys. Normally I’d help you out, Lee. I really would, but I suddenly have tons of stuff to get done. Did you have any idea much data the Admiral had accumulated on that ‘seaweed monster,’ as you called it? Do you know he still isn’t sure how it got mobile in the first place? I’m supposed to go through all this data and see if I can find anything the Admiral missed, as unlikely as that is. I think I’m going to be here all night tonight and all day tomorrow trying to work out this mess," Dominica said with an apologetic look as she sat up and gestured at the papers strewn across her desk.

Lee nodded to what she was saying. He certainly couldn’t expect her to shirk her responsibilities because he was in a bind. He was about to tell her thanks anyway, when the Admiral’s voice came from behind him, saying, "I’ll loan you the good Doctor on one condition, Lee."

Lee stood and turned, wondering just how long the Admiral had been listening to them and what else this silly bet was going to cost him. He knew he’d probably agree. He really wanted this dinner to go well. "What condition?" The Admiral smiled and Lee knew he was in for it.

"I want you to promise me that you will actually eat half of whatever you cook for this dinner of yours. Doctor Jamison is always telling me that you need to put on a few pounds and I know I can trust you to keep your word," Nelson told him.

Lee spread his hands and shrugged a little. "German food isn’t really..."

"Take it or leave it, Lee. Those are my conditions," Nelson said, crossing his arms over his chest.

Lee glanced at Dominica, after all it was her time he was going to be taking up, but she smiled at him and shrugged. "Yes, sir," Lee sighed, wondering what else could go wrong by the time he paid off this bet.

"And Riley told me that creature threw you up against the bulkhead pretty hard, Lee. Have you been down to Sick Bay?" the Admiral asked. He probably knew the answer.

"I’m fine, Admiral," Lee almost grumbled. He really hated Sick Bay, which was nothing against Doctor Jamieson. He didn’t like feeling weak, and that’s how being ordered off to Sick Bay made him feel.

Nelson didn’t look entirely convinced, but he uncrossed his arms and said, "If you’re sure. Doctor Babin, have you seen a folder marked, ‘Security Procedures?’ I thought perhaps I put it in with those other files I’ve sent in to you for the last few days."

"Sorry, Admiral. I didn’t get anything like that. What about..." She was gesturing to the notes and papers she’d been working on.

"That’s what I came to talk to you about. I think I know what got our ‘seaweed’ ambulatory. There are a few things I’m still checking on, but we’ll talk about it later. And I’m sorry, I’m encroaching on personal time without asking your permission. You don’t mind giving some cooking lessons tomorrow, do you?"

"Not a problem, Admiral."

Nelson smiled. "Good. Then I’ll see you the day after tomorrow. You’re absolutely sure about the file?"

"Absolutely, but feel free to check around in here if you want."

"No, that’s all right. I’m sure it’s somewhere else. I just don’t understand how things keep vanishing around here."

"Gremlins," Dominica said with a grin.

Nelson grimaced a little. "Don’t say things like that even in jest, Dominica. Good luck with the cooking lessons, Lee." With that, he vanished back out the door and Lee turned to face Dominica to find that she’d started to tidy her desk a little.

"So, where do we start?" he asked as rested his hands on the front of her desk.

"Well, I’d say with a menu. What did you want to make?" she asked him.

"Whatever you think Ro would like."

"Okay, so I’m making the menu. Not a problem. Ro kind of figured you’d quiz me anyway and she told me what she’d enjoy the most," Dominica said as she put the last of the loose papers in their files and laid them to one side. "Step two, food shopping. Now, since Chip told me that if it isn’t salad food or prepared stuff, you don’t buy it, I’m guessing that I shouldn’t send you on your own to do that either." Lee had tried to fix Chip and Dominica up, thinking if Ro’s best friend were dating his best friend, things would be a little easier for him. Unfortunately, things hadn’t worked out between Chip and Dominica on the dating front. In fact, as far as Lee knew they’d never clicked at all, which made Lee wonder when Chip had been talking to Dominica about him.

"Chip said that? And I thought he was my friend."

"He is. He’s just an honest friend. Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it and you can pay me back, okay?"

Lee frowned. Things were definitely not under his control and he didn’t like that situation. "How about I go with you right now? You can show me what I’m supposed to be looking for."

Dominica smiled and shook her head, then started to write something down. "Sorry. Got to go home and figure out what we need after I double check my cookbooks. I was guessing you would want to go home and get a good night’s sleep so you’ll be nice and fresh for tomorrow, right?"

"Right," Lee sighed. "How complicated is this going to be?"

Dominica came around her desk and patting him lightly on the upper arm. "It’s just cooking, Lee, not brain surgery. Nine o’clock tomorrow, my place?" She handed him the paper, on which was written her address and some directions.

Lee knew the general area, so he nodded, saying, "You’re sure I can’t bring anything?"

Dominica gave him another bright smile. "Want to bring something for breakfast? I like corn muffins."

"Corn muffins," Lee said. She was humoring him. He knew it by just looking at her. She didn’t need anything, including corn muffins, but she didn’t want him to feel useless. "Sure. Corn muffins and coffee?"

"Don’t drink coffee, but thanks. See you then," she said, then left him standing in her office.

"She doesn’t drink coffee," Lee thought, shaking his head, thinking about how perky the young Marine Biologist was. How could anyone be as wide awake and cheerful day and night when they didn’t drink coffee. "I’m doomed," he muttered as he headed home himself.


It was raining the next morning. Lee was still not feeling very happy and seeing that it was raining didn’t help. It was like a portent of doom. He’d thought about calling this whole thing off, but he wasn’t a coward, so that thought had been fleeting. He left his apartment early enough so that he would have enough time to get corn muffins and some coffee for himself, then he headed over to Dominica’s house. To his surprise, her garage door was opened and she was waiting for him, waving for him to pull in. That was somewhat of a relief, since it was pouring at the moment and he’d thought that even with an umbrella he’d get soaked. There was already a jeep in the garage and a motorcycle, which was up in front of the jeep, leaving him just enough room to pull in his car. It was a bit of a tight squeeze getting out, but well worth it to stay dry.

"Good morning," Dominica greeted him as he closed his car door, juggling muffins and coffee.

Lee glanced out at the rain through the closing garage door and said, "That would be a matter of opinion."

Dominica laughed lightly and said, "Come on into the house, gloomy Gus. Let’s see if we can make some roudalen and apple strudel to cheer you up." She lead the way up a short flight of stairs into a kitchen. Lee hadn’t really gotten a feel for the house from the outside because of the rain, but the kitchen was clean and homey. There was food out on one counter and open cook book on the table in the middle of the room. He set the coffee and muffins there, looking around.

"Nice place," he commented.

"And this is just the kitchen," Dominica replied. "When we finish cooking, I’ll give you a free tour of the rest of the house. Let’s have some breakfast, then..." Before she could finish what she was saying, her telephone rang. "Just a sec," she said, then picked up the phone on the wall by the door they’d just come in. "Hello... Oh, hi, Ro..." She smiled at Lee and he suddenly felt like a kid caught with his hands in a cookie jar. "Oh, nothing much... No, that’s tonight. You had plans, didn’t you?... Really? What’s he cooking?..." Lee knew he was being talked about and was pleased that Dominica wasn’t letting on about his cooking lessons. "So, when’s he showing up?... Well, you’ll have to tell me how it turns out... Oh. Now?... No, I was going to make something nice for dinner and... I suppose I could do that... No, I don’t mind... Really, I don’t mind. See you in a few." With that, Dom hung up her phone and Lee began to see storm clouds gathering in her kitchen. "That was Ro," she told him.

"So I gathered. What was that all about?" Lee asked.

Dominica was already beginning to look apologetic, which was not a good sign. "Ro’s car decided to die. She wants to take it to the garage, but she’ll be stuck there all day if she has to wait. She thought it’d be nice if I followed her and we could go kill time together until the repair was done," she explained. Lee felt like whacking his head against the wall. "Oh! Wait! Idea!" Dom said before he could finish getting upset about it. She picked up the phone again and gave him a sheepish look, saying, "I’m probably going to have to do a little groveling. Mind waiting in the living room for a minute?"

He was going to tell her not to bother with whatever she had in mind, but then he shrugged and went through the kitchen door into the next room. There was a dining room, then a living room. In the living room, there was a bookcase along one wall and Lee decided that should keep him mind off his troubles while Dominica made her call. He walked over and began to read the spines of the books there. There was a lot of classic fiction, including H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Rudyard Kipling, Shakespeare, even a thick volume titled ‘The Complete Sherlock Holmes.’ Then were was a shelf of scientific nonfiction books, including ones by the Admiral. To his surprise, there were also two books by Dominica. Just as he had found them, she came out of the kitchen. "The Admiral didn’t say you were an author as well as a scientist," Lee said.

"They’re text books. Only college students read them," Dominica said with a shrug, as if to say it was no big deal, but Lee suddenly felt extremely self-conscious. Dominica was such a easy-going person that he hadn’t entirely appreciated the fact that she was also incredibly intelligent until just now. He suddenly counted himself lucky that she hadn’t laughed in his face and tossed him out of her office when he’d first come to her for help. "Look, Lee, I’ve got to go. Ro’s going to wonder what happened to me in a few more minutes. But don’t worry, I managed to get a backup cooking teacher to come over. He should be here in just a little while, so watch some television or something until he gets here, okay? See you a little later. Have fun!"

"I’ll try," Lee said. Dominica smiled and vanished back into the kitchen. It wasn’t until he heard the garage door going up that he realized she hadn’t told him who was supposed to be this backup cooking instructor. Knowing what little he did of Dominica, it could be almost anyone. He dashed back into the kitchen and opened the door to the garage only to find she’d already backed out her jeep and the garage door closing. "Just wonderful," Lee sighed, going back into Dominica’s house. A ‘he’ was coming, but beyond that, Lee had no clue as to whose hands he was in now. He wandered back into Dominica’s living room and looked around for her television remote. It was pretty easy to find, and he plopped down on her sofa with his coffee and one of Dominica’s corn muffins to wait for his mystery instructor.

Lee flipped through the stations for about an hour, finding nothing to hold his interest. He really didn’t watch much tv, but he didn’t want to start reading a book he would most likely have to borrow to finish. Lee felt like he was an invader in Dominica’s house as it was, he didn’t want to be leaving with any of her belongings. Just he was about to watch the news on CNN, he heard a key in the back door. That came as somewhat of a relief, since Lee thought perhaps Dominica had somehow disentangled herself from Ro and had come home. "Hello?" he heard from the kitchen. It was a man’s voice, a familiar man’s voice, and Lee turned off the television and went into the kitchen to see Patterson just closing the back door. "Oh... uh... You are here, sir. I didn’t see a car in the drive and thought maybe you’d gone home," Pat said.

"No, I’m here. So, Doctor Babin called you to give me a cooking lesson?" Lee asked. That Dominica would call Patterson didn’t totally surprise him. Dominica had worked with Pat’s father some years ago and they had apparently gotten quite close. When the Admiral had first hired her, she had introduced herself to Pat and they’d been fast friends ever since. Maybe more than friends, Lee thought, if Patterson had a key to Dominica’s house.

"Yes, sir. She said she’d leave me a list of what to help you with on the table here," Pat said, then walked over to the table to pick up the piece of paper there.

Lee rubbed the back of his neck, wondering what Dominica had told Patterson when they’d spoken on the telephone. "Patterson, about this dinner..."

"Sir," Pat cut him off quickly, then gave him a sheepish look. "I told Dom... uh, Doctor Babin, that I was gonna look on this whole thing as a ‘need to know’ mission. I’m teaching you how to make cucumber salad and potato dumplings. That’s all I need to know."

Lee smiled, suddenly feeling a whole lot better. "So, you actually know how to cook, Pat?"

Pat nodded, saying, "I don’t like fast food much and I can’t afford to eat out all the time anyway, so when we’re in port, it’s pretty much cook or starve, sir. My aunt, the one I grew up with, she was a really great cook, and she taught me some of what she knew. I think we can handle this. So, do you want to peel potatoes or pound out the roudalen?"

"I think I’ll try the roudalen, what ever that is," Lee told him. He could cope with this. He was used to working with Pat and this might not exactly be a life or death situation, but Lee knew he could count on the man none the less.

"It’s the main course. Don’t worry about it, sir. We’ll do all the preliminary preparations, then we’ll cook up a small test batch so that you can have a little practice, then we’ll pack up the rest for you to finish later," Pat said, then opened the refrigerator and started pull out the ingredients that weren’t already out on the counter. "My aunt Emily used to tell me there were three important things to ask yourself when cooking a meal, sir. How does it look, how does it smell, how does it taste? If you can say good to all three, you’ve got a success."

Lee smiled. Pat was certainly more chatty lately. If that’s the effect that Dominica was having on him, it wasn’t exactly a bad thing. Poor Patterson had always been pretty bashful, especially with women, but he seemed to be just fine with the Marine Biologist, whom he was supposed to look after on the Seaview. The Admiral had been a little concerned at first that Dominica might get caught up in all the looniness that seemed to happened aboard the boat lately. Sure enough, someone who wanted to make the point that women should not be anywhere near submarines managed to sneak past security and assault her. She hadn’t been badly hurt, but Pat had stuck to her like glue ever since. Now he had a key to Dominica’s house, Lee thought, still smiling. Good for Pat. She was a nice girl, apparently just what Patterson needed.

"So, are you and Dominica doing anything tonight?" Lee asked as Pat started taking out some cooking utensils.

Pat grimaced a little, saying, "She invited me and some of the guys over for dinner and poker. Uh... That’s okay, isn’t it, sir? I mean, I know that the Admiral said we shouldn’t bother her, but she really did invite us."

"Of course it’s all right, Patterson," Lee assured him. "I was more concerned I was interfering with a date."

"Oh, I’m not seeing anyone right now, sir," Pat replied with a shrug.

"So says the man with the keys to a young lady’s house," Lee said with another smile.

Pat blushed scarlet at what Lee was suggesting and he felt a bit bad for making the young sailor uncomfortable. "Uh, that’s because Dom thought she’d be working today and she wanted me to stop by and set up for tonight, sir. I... We... We’re just friends, sir."

"I see. My mistake," Lee said, but he suspected that even if Pat and Dominica were ‘just friends’ right now, that might not be the case in the near future. "So, where do we start? That sure looks like a lot of food for just two people," he continued, mostly to allay some of self-consciousness Pat seemed to be feeling at the moment.

"Oh, well... see, Dom... uh, Doctor Babin thought she’d make dinner for everybody for tonight since she’d be cooking with you anyway, sir," Pat said, seeming to shake off most of his discomfort. "That’s me and Ski and Riley and Johnson and maybe the Chief. And Riley can eat like nobody’s business, sir."

"Really? The Chief was coming to your poker game?"

"I told Dom not to count on him, sir. He said maybe he’d come, but right before a cruise he usually cancels at the last minute because something happens with the boat," Pat said.

That was the last bit of small talk for the next three hours, as they were hard at dinner preparations for all that time. Lee had no idea how complicated cooking could be. Pound out the meat to make it flat, but not too hard because it would break apart. Shred potatoes, squeeze every last drop of moisture out of them just to add back broth. Sweet and sour cabbage, who’d ever heard of such a thing? The thing that really amazed Lee was that Patterson didn’t measure things, he just seemed to know how much of what to add and went by taste. Lee had to try everything, taste every step right along with him, but after a while things began to blur, despite the advice that crackers would clear his palate. He was really glad Pat was giving everything a final okay.

Then there were all the cooking instructions. Baking, broiling, braising, basting, boiling, how did people do this for a living Lee thought with wonder. Certainly he had a new respect for Cookie, since he kept everyone on the Seaview fed every day and never seemed to make a bad meal. By the time they had a small portion of what Lee would be cooking on his own later finished and cooling, Lee was actually tired. Pat seemed pleased with the results, though, and had started on washing up.

Lee was about to offer to help when there was a quick knock at the back door, then Riley appeared, dressed only in jammers and dripping wet. "What smells good?" he asked, then noticed Lee and said, "Oh, hi sir! What’re you doing here?"

"Riley, get out here and get dry before you soak Dom’s whole kitchen," Kowalski’s voice came from somewhere out of view. Riley smiled and then went back out on the back porch.

Pat gave Lee a sheepish look. "Dom... I mean, Doctor Babin lets him surf out back, sir, but he doesn’t make a nuisance of himself." Dominica’s house sat right on the beach and considering Riley’s love of surfing, Lee could certainly see the young sailor taking advantage of her generous nature. Kowalski had been Dominica and Ro’s friend since Junior High School, so Lee was sure he’d keep Riley from being a bother.

"Well, it seems we have a ‘it smells good’ going for us, Pat. Maybe Riley and Kowalski would do a little unbiased tasting," Lee suggested. Pat nodded and went back to cleaning up. A few minutes later, Riley and Kowalski came in, now dry, and they were more than happy to eat the food that was waiting on the table. Obviously it was visually appealing enough that the two young men weren’t put off by it.

"Is this what we’re having tonight?" Ski asked, sounding as if he hoped that was the case. Pat was just wiping his hands as he finished the last of the dishes and he nodded to Kowalski as he joined them.

"Great! What is it? Doesn’t matter. You’re making a lot, right?" Riley asked, all but licking his plate. Pat smiled at Lee and he knew that he had at least Riley’s seal of approval. "Are you staying for dinner and cards, sir?" Riley asked.

"No. I was just going over a little something with Pat," Lee told him.

"Why don’t you guys go wash up? Dom ought to be home any time," Pat suggested. Ski and Riley went off through the living room door and Lee heard them heading upstairs, probably to the bathroom.

"Well, I think that we have a success," Lee said with a smile. "Thanks, Pat. I owe you."

Pat gave him a modest shake of his head and said, "It was my pleasure, sir. Really. We should get your food in your car while Ski and Riley are busy."

Lee patted him on the shoulder, feeling really up for his dinner now. They got all the wrapped food for his dinner safely into his Cobra, and Lee was about to get into his car when he thought he would say one last thing to Pat, something he’d been trying to think of a tactful way of telling the sailor all day. "You know, Patterson, if you and Dominica ever became... more than just friends, I really don’t think anyone would mind all that much," he said. Lee smiled as a blush crept up Pat’s ears and across his face and he looked down self-consciously. He might still be as bashful as ever, but Pat had obviously thought about what Lee had said before just now.

"I wouldn’t want to cause Doctor Babin any trouble aboard the Seaview, sir," he said. "I mean, the guys would think that if she’d date me, she’d date anybody."

"I think you’re being a little hard on yourself, Pat, but you do what you think is best. I just wanted you to know how I felt about it," Lee told him as he opened his car door. "Thanks again. Enjoy your poker game."

"Thank you, sir. Good luck with dinner," Pat replied, then stepped back and opened the garage door for him. Fortunately, no one was blocking Lee in, Patterson and Riley’s cars out on the street rather than in the driveway. The weather had cleared and Lee smiled again as he backed his car out into the late afternoon sun. He drove home and brought the food for his dinner up to his apartment so it wouldn’t go bad in his car. He had a shower, shaved, then dressed and actually had a little time to relax before he needed to head out to Ro’s house. As he headed back out again, he was cheerful, looking forward to a nice evening.

Lee reached Ro’s condominium complex right on time and she buzzed him through the gate without even asking who was there. She came out to his car as he parked in her drive, asking, "Need a hand with anything?"

"No. No, I’ve got it," Lee told her, smiling again as he looked at her. She was wearing a long, light cotton dress and sandals, her hair down and flowing. She looked as comfortable and relaxed as she looked beautiful and Lee’s high hopes for the evening rose another notch. Until now, she’d held him at arm’s length, keeping things pretty professional. It didn’t look like that would be the case tonight.

Cooking dinner went off without a hitch and soon they were talking over creamed herring on pumpernickel toast and cucumber salad. By the time Lee served the Roudalen and potato dumplings with gravy and the sweet and sour cabbage, Ro was smiling and laughing at his jokes. The apple strudel, which topped out the meal, found them both very full, but very content.

"I need a walk," Ro said, finally rising from her chair. "Fancy a stroll down the beach, Captain?"

"Don’t start with that ‘Captain’ stuff again, Ro. If ‘Lee’ was good enough for the dinner table, it’s good enough for now," Lee told her, offering her his arm. They walked out the back door of her condo and down onto the beach just behind it. They talked about some of the stories that had been on the news or in the papers about the Seaview at the start, but soon, they were both fairly well talked out and just walked along in silence, enjoying the clear night and each other’s company.

"You know, I wasn’t expecting such a good meal. Chip told me you couldn’t cook to save your life," Ro laughed after a while.

"You know, for a friend, Chip sure likes to tell people about my short comings lately," Lee replied, thinking he’d have some choice words for Mister Morton when he next saw him.

"Oh, he was just warning me to have something in the fridge for backup, in case things went awry. I guess I’ll have to tell him that his cautions were totally unnecessary."

Lee grinned, stopping, bending down and picking up a rock, then skipping it over calm ocean. Ro stopped next to him, watching the water with him. "Well, I did have some help, actually."

"Hmm, yes, I was wondering if you’d admit to that."

"How do you mean?"

"Well, I recognized some of Dom’s dishes. I sort of doubted that you had similar taste in that regard. So, were the two of you up all night last night cooking?" Ro asked, giving him a grin as she looked at him.

"No, I just used her kitchen this afternoon while she was off with you. Patterson was the one who gave me the cooking lesson when Dominica had to cancel out on me at the last minute," Lee told her. No sense being dishonest about it, he decided.

"Oh, so that’s why she was dragging her heels about going shopping this morning," Ro said with a laugh. "Were you there when I called or..."

"No, I was there," Lee cut her off, smiling himself over the silliness of what had happened, glad Ro found it humorous too.

Ro laughed again, shaking her head. "Oh, well. I guess Pat gets brownie points for helping out the ‘old man’ last minute like that."

"Major brownie points," Lee agreed, especially considering how well dinner had gone, he thought. He offered Ro his arm and they started back up the beach toward her condo. "So, is my bet paid off sufficiently?"

"More than, I’d say," Ro said, then squeezed his arm. "You know, Lee, I would have happily settled for something far less elaborate. You didn’t have to go to all that trouble."

"Oh, sure, now you tell me," Lee chuckled. "I just hope I don’t have to lose another bet to have dinner with you again."

Ro gave him a coy look and said, "We’ll see." Lee was about to protest, but Ro let go of his arm only to draw it around her waist. Lee smiled as they walked on along the shore, wondering if Ro was ever going to give him an easy time on anything. It didn’t really matter. He liked a challenge.


Lee was going over supply inventories when Chip made an appearance in the nose of the Seaview the next morning. "So, how did the big dinner go?" he asked with a little smile. Lee didn’t know if the smile was because Chip thought that things had gone well or because Chip was ready to tease him about his lack of cooking expertise.

"I don’t know if I’m talking to you, Commander Morton. I don’t know how to buy anything but prepared foods? I can’t cook to save my life? What kind of friend are you?" Lee said, giving Chip his best friend look of barely restrained anger.

Chip drew back, cringing a little, suddenly looking like a very repentant gossip, when Dominica appeared from behind him. "Like I said yesterday, an honest one. So, spill, Crane. Anything juicy?" she said with a big smile.

"You haven’t talked to Ro yet, I take it," Lee replied, not about to let Chip off so easily.

"Nah. I came in early and I didn’t want to call in case she was up late," Dominica said, then got an eager look on her face. "So, was she?" Chip looked to Lee, almost mirroring Dominica’s expression, making Lee wonder yet again why they hadn’t hit it off romantically.

"Actually, I was wondering how your poker game went," Lee said, still not about to give any information out yet. If it had just been Dominica asking, he might have, but Chip needed to be tortured a little longer.

"Fine, thank you. Everyone seemed to have fun, even the Chief," Dominica replied.

"The Chief was at your house last night?" Chip asked, looking utterly astonished.

"He told me had came to make sure that Kowalski, Patterson, Riley, and Johnson behaved themselves," Dominica said with a grin and a wink. "I think he thinks they need chaperoning."

"Because they do," Sharkey said from behind her and Chip. He came around them and handed a clipboard to Lee. "Sir, those other supply inventories you needed."

"Thank, Chief. Oh, and thank you for looking out for Doctor Babin last night," Lee said. The Chief, who hadn’t been too fond of the idea of ‘some dames’ coming to work on the Seaview to start with, had decided he liked the particular young ladies who had, after getting to know them a little. Since then, he’d been very open about that fact, and woe be it to anyone who did anything unseemly to either Dominica or Rowena, especially if they were crew.

The Chief looked down, a flustered look barely visible on his face when he did. That was probably because Dominica was with them, Lee thought as he smiled. "I was going to start on some equipment checks, sir," Sharkey said, dodging the entire subject, but then Chief Sharkey was usually all business when he was on duty.

"All right, Chief. Carry on," Lee said and Sharkey nodded and headed back off into the boat.

"You didn’t invite me to your poker game," Chip said to Dominica once the Chief had left. He sounded a little disappointed.

"Oh, yeah. Like you would have come," Dominica told him, giving him a poke in the ribs.

"I might have."

"You didn’t come to the baseball game when we went."

"Well, that’s baseball. I told you, I’m not much of a baseball fan. Now poker, that’s another story. I have an excellent poker face."

"I bet. I don’t need you card sharking my friends, Charles Morton."

"As if I’d do such a thing!" Lee smiled. Chip and Dominica might not have hit it off romantically, but they seemed to be doing just fine as friends. At least now Lee didn’t have to wonder if there’d be any negative tension between the two of them on the Seaview. He’d finished smiling at the exchange between them when Chip looked back to him, an air of determination about him now. "And stop changing the subject, Lee. What happened?"

"Yes, Lee," the Admiral said as he now appeared. He looked amused by the entire situation. "How did the cooking lessons turn out?"

"They went fine, sir. Thank you for loaning me your assistant," Lee told him.

"Don’t let him fool you, Admiral," Dominica chuckled. "I didn’t teach him a thing. I got shanghaied by his dinner date before we even started. Patterson filled in for me."

Nelson raised an eyebrow. "Patterson did?"

"Yes. And he did an excellent job. If anything ever happens to Cookie, at least we won’t starve," Lee said, smiling.

"But how did dinner go?" Chip all but demanded, plainly getting frustrated.

Lee gave him a look that silenced him, then walked over to Dominica, took her gently by the arm and lead her into the Control Room. There, where he was positive Chip and the Admiral could see but not hear them, he told Dominica an abbreviated form of what happened and swore her to secrecy as far as Chip was concerned. Once he’d finished, Dominica walked back over to the Admiral and said, "Did you want to go over that ‘seaweed monster’ data now, sir?" with a totally straight face.

"Yes, why don’t we do that in my office, Dominica. Carry on with what you were doing, gentlemen," the Admiral said as he took the young Doctor gently by the arm and started to hurry her off. Lee knew the old, old man would pump her for information once they were alone, but he didn’t mind the Admiral knowing what had happened. Chip was the only one he felt like punishing at the moment.

"All right. I’m sorry I was telling tales out of school. So?" Chip asked once they had disappeared up the spiral stairs.

"So what?" Lee asked back as he went back to his reports.

"Lee, are you going to tell me what happened last night or not?" Chip questioned him, sounding utterly exasperated.

"Now, Chip, would it be at all gallant of me to discuss my personal dealings with you? I mean, after all, we both work with the young lady in question and you know how things travel through this boat at lightning speed," Lee said with an unaffected shrug. Chip let out a frustrated groan, which only made Lee laugh. Lee Crane was a happy man, a very happy man indeed.


The End