Red Flag

Chapter 11

"Well look what the cat dragged in!" Tex exclaimed, causing many of the crew members surrounding him to look in her direction. Rachel's cheeks turned a bit pink, and she dropped her head with a half-smile. "Fancy seeing you down here for a meal," he gave her a smile in return, pushing Burk down. "Move, let's make room for the lady," the men around him just laughed.

"Really, Tex, I'm fine. I just came by to get something quick, I've got too much work to do to enjoy a meal," she replied, moving past the table full of sailors. "Thank you though," she finished gracefully. Truth be told, she hadn't strayed far from the lab and her stateroom since her exchange with the captain the week prior. And if she did, it was early morning or late at night. Avoiding him had become part of her daily routine, and she had gotten it down to a science.

Tonight however, she was starving, and ventured out to the crew mess hall for some dinner. She hadn't anticipated how packed it would be, had hoped to get in and out unnoticed. She was failing, as Tex continued to coerce her to stay for the meal.

"Come on, Rach, be one of the guys, stay a while," he tried to get her to stay, Danny, Burk, Miller and the like all cheering her on. She politely declined; she wasn't much company these days.

"You guys enjoy your meal, I'll see you later," she headed for the door, bumping into Slattery on her way out. She closed her eyes for a brief moment. So much for going anywhere unnoticed, she sighed. She was sure Tom would be around any moment, just to make things more awkward.

"Easy there, Doctor," he steadied her by her shoulders, as she looked up his six foot four frame. He was a large man, a handsome one; she admired his kind eyes. They hadn't always been on the same side, but he'd grown on her. She gave the same, small half smile to him as she had Tex.

"Good evening, Commander," she replied, trying to move past him.

"Haven't seen you around lately, almost forgot you were on board," he winked at her and she knew he was kidding, but she wasn't in the mood to laugh.

"Well, there's been a lot to do, especially with setting up the birthing suite for Kara," she rambled a little, not wanting to talk about the real reason she was hiding.

"Well, I hope you're in need of a distraction," he turned to the crew, who was standing at attention, waiting to be acknowledged. "Ladies and gentleman, get dressed for R&R as we'll be docking just off Damariscove Island in a few hours, an uninhabited island about 5 nautical miles off the coast of Boothbay Harbor, Maine. We have some engine repairs and maintenance work to be done, and you all deserve a break. We'll have watch assignments posted, but everyone will get some time on the island. As you were," he stepped out into the hallway, as Rachel took in the news. She doubted she counted as anyone who would get any time off the ship, not after last week. She began walking away, heard her name called out.

"Dr. Scott," Mike called after her. She reluctantly slowed, turning slightly to see him striding toward her. She dropped her head in defeat, she knew what was coming.

"Don't worry about Tom, I'll make sure you get to enjoy some R&R along with the rest of us," his words were quiet, a smirk on his face, and she looked up, surprised. "He's all hat and no cattle most of time; he won't actually make you stay aboard ship while everyone else is off having fun," he chuckled a little, and she couldn't help the smile that crossed her lips at his choice of words.

"Thank you Commander. I appreciate your words," she replied, and she meant them. It was nice having people in her corner.

"Plus, I'm sure there are some birds there you can just say you're studying," he spoke playfully, winking at her, referring to the lie she'd told to get on the ship, before all that had happened. She laughed a little to herself before turning and heading back the way she'd come, sandwich in hand. She felt a little better about everything-it was nice having people looking out for her. She wasn't used to that.

Tom stepped off the bridge, out onto the east wing of the bridge, taking in the fresh air and the sun on his face. It was early, the sun was just rising over the two mile long island they would be spending the next forty-eight hours docked beside. He was actually looking forward to getting off the ship with his family, trekking across the small island, taking in the sights and sounds of coastal Maine. The air was chilly, it was late October after all, but it felt good against his face. He didn't mind the cold weather, welcomed it. Growing up in Virginia, they had always gotten a decent winter, and with his birthday in early November, he'd spent much time enjoying birthday parties skiing with his friends. He knew winter in Maine was much colder, and they would head south before any weather could hinder them, but he wanted to enjoy the fall weather while he could. Bringing his hot coffee to his lips, he welcomed the warm liquid, enjoyed its smell against the rich, crisp air.

"Dad!" Sam bounded through the bridge and outside to his father, who turned at his son's voice. Sam's nose was pink, his cheeks rose-colored. Tom felt his heart swell; he loved these kids so much.

"Hey buddy, what have you been up to? You're out of breath," he laughed at Sam's excitement. Admiral Halsey came around the corner and barked, as Danny came through behind him.

"Look, Dad! He can find me anywhere!" the little boy exclaimed, amazed by the German Shepherd's skills. Danny asked the dog to sit, and as Sam got closer to pet him, the dog licked his cheek, causing Sam to shriek with joy. Tom missed having the easy joy of a nine year old. He looked up and offered Danny a grin.

"Looks like you made a friend," he replied to the younger Navy Seal. "Good practice for you," he added, watching Sam adamantly pet the wooly dog. Danny grinned.

"Yes, sir. Hopefully my son or daughter is as well behaved as yours," he complimented, before turning back to Sam, "Attention, Seaman Chandler," he spoke to Sam, who stood at attention, saluting Danny, who saluted him back, his expression one of seriousness. Chandler felt his heart practically burst with love for the child before him, his salute practiced and true. Then off he went to hide so the precisely trained dog could find him once more. It was good practice for the dog, and it kept Sam busy, which Tom appreciated.

He couldn't contain the smile that had stretched across his face, as he looked back out to the ocean before them, calm and still, the sun drawing pink and orange lines across the wavy surface. The ship was still quiet, the day just beginning. Dressed in his jeans, sneakers, and long sleeve US Navy tee shirt under a blue and gray flannel button down, he felt out of place on his bridge. But this was their life now, this was their home. They had to find balance.

He felt arms wrap around his waist, and removed his hand from his pocket to wrap it around his sleepy daughter. He rubbed her back, squeezing her against him as she yawned. The children had become commonplace on the ship, they had access anywhere safe for them to be, including the bridge. They were the Captain's children after all.

"Good morning, sleep-head," he welcomed her, her arms tight around him.

"Morning, Daddy," she spoke, her words muffled by his shirt. He chuckled a little.

"Did you get breakfast?"

"Not yet," she replied, releasing him to stretch. He watched her jump up and down, waking herself up.

"Want to head down to the ward room for some oatmeal or eggs?" He needed another cup of coffee as well. And some bacon sounded pretty good.

"Can I have hot chocolate?" she shivered for effect, wrapping her sweatshirt -covered arms around herself. He raised an eyebrow.

"After you eat some eggs," he compromised. She grinned happily, suddenly awake and bounding through the bridge. "I'll meet you down there," he called after her, but she was already gone. Alisha laughed, sipping her own coffee.

"You have the cutest kids, sir," she spoke with a soft smile. He knew it had been hard on her, everything they'd been through with her mother back in Baltimore. He offered a warm smile.

"Thank you, Lieutenant," he headed in the direction of Ashley, "I'll bring you some bacon when I come back," he called over his shoulder. She smiled, and this time, it was a full smile.

"Thank you, Captain!"

People had been disembarking all day, taking the ribs back and forth between the island and the ship. Rachel had waited, finishing up some tests, waiting for the Captain's orders for her NOT to go ashore. They never came. So she decided as soon as she was finished with Kara's first ultrasound, she would attempt to head for the island.

She had set up an exam area down in sick bay, her second computer now doubling as an ultrasound machine, tucked into its new home, along with the other equipment Rachel had been able to gather to assist with the delivery.

Kara and Danny walked through the door to medical, hand and hand, and Rachel admired the couple. They were a sweet pair, and despite their indiscretions on board a ship where such a thing was not permitted, it was very obvious they were very much in love. And their excitement about the baby was contagious.

They were dressed casually, both ready for their trip to the island. Rachel motioned to the bed.

"Hi guys. Kara, have a seat up here. I am sure you guys are ready to head to the island, so we'll make this quick," Kara settled on the exam bed, and tried to contain her excitement. "It's a bit early to hear the heartbeat, so don't be discouraged if we don't hear it. Go ahead and lie back," she turned the machine on and pulled up Kara's tee-shirt, and placed a sterile towel at the waist of her jeans to avoid getting jelly on it. She watched Kara grip Danny's hand until he winced in pain. Rachel giggled. "You may want to save crushing his fingers for the actual birth," she winked at Danny as the two laughed a little. She put jelly on Kara's abdomen and moved the wand around on her skin, searching for the small embryo.

To Rachel surprise, the little heart beat raced away. She watched Kara well up with tears, and saw Danny's happiness spread across his face. She also noticed the embryo measured at eight weeks. "You're eight weeks along, Kara, and your baby has a healthy heartbeat, as you can hear," she finished her words with a big smile, she situated the wand right above the small peanut-shaped embryo and pointed. "And there it is," she grinned at the proud parents, who couldn't contain their tears of joy. The door to sick bay opened just then, all three looking at the opening door, as Tom stepped through the threshold. He stopped mid-step however, not realizing he should have knocked. Danny straightened right away, and Kara moved to sit up.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize anyone was in here, I just needed a bandaid. As you were," he spoke quickly and quietly, turning away to give them privacy, rustling through a drawer close to the door. Rachel reached around the computer, and found a stack on the shelf. She turned to the Captain.

"Captain Chandler," she got his attention, her arm reaching in his direction with the bandaids. He turned toward her, and attempted to catch her eye, but she didn't look directly at him, only where his hand intercepted the little bandages. He turned to leave, catching sight of the computer screen. His breath caught in his throat.

"Is that the baby?" The soft grin that spread across his face was one brought on by nostalgia. He'd been in Danny's shoes, experienced the joy he must be feeling. More tears spilled from Kara's eyes, as Danny squeezed her hand. Rachel moved the wand over Kara's abdomen at just the right angle, and the heartbeat filled the room once more. Tom looked at the faces of his two crew members, and back to Rachel, who was gazing at the screen before her, transfixed on the little growing being. He couldn't see her face, wished she'd look at him, give him any indication she was no longer upset with him, and what she was feeling in this very moment.

She printed a small picture for the glowing parents, and stood, cleaning off Kara's belly. "I'll let you two have a moment," she spoke quietly, handing the couple the picture and then stepping away toward the door.

Tom followed her, and as she stepped out into the p-way, he reached to touch her elbow, but stopped himself short. Instead he stood up a little straighter and cleared his throat. "Dr. Scott," he greeted, now that they were somewhat alone. He kept his tone professional. "Due to the nature of our stop here, I'll allow you ashore," his words were short, and she didn't look at him. He was somewhat hurt by her cold shoulder. He wasn't surprised by her behavior though. It wasn't as if his choice of words were the best. He winced.

She crossed her arms and nodded, she had no words for him.

He stood for a moment, waiting for her to reply. When he decided she wasn't going to, he realized he had no reason to stand there-he didn't have anything to say either. "Very well, then," he moved off, heading toward the flight deck to take a boat to the island. He was battling his attraction to her, every day. Purposefully avoided her. He'd found himself staying on the bridge, or is CIC more often than he used to, as they were two places she didn't ever venture. He briefly wondered if they would be able to move past all that had happened between them recently.

She lifted her head as he walked away, staring at the casually dressed, broad-shouldered captain and then dropped her head with a sigh. She had so many feelings these days, some more overwhelming than others. As she had looked at the picture of the embryo on the screen, she wondered if that would ever be her, lying on the exam table, the baby on the screen belonging to her.

And the longing didn't stop with a baby. The man she could barely hold a conversation with, the man she couldn't get off her mind was avoiding her just as well as she avoided him. She missed their comradery, their friendship, and had a terrible feeling things would never be the same between them. It seemed they would rather ignore the issues between them instead of work through them.

She rubbed her face, felt the stress of the last few weeks taking its toll. Maybe some fresh air and some dry land would do her some good. She definitely needed something good in her life.

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