Red Flag

Chapter 17

"Ugh, Rachel, focus," she chided herself, sighing heavily. She'd been down in the lab for three hours now, and had not gotten much done, as she was consumed by thoughts of her actions with the Captain hours earlier. The harder she tried to focus, the more she thought about his lips on her neck, his hands all over her body. She shivered again at the thought.

She needed to prep the mess hall for their celebration after breakfast was finished being served, and she was hoping that would help keep her mind off things. She really wanted to find him, shove him into a closet or storage room and have her way with him. That would not be productive for anyone though, except her insatiable hunger for the man.

The door to the lab opened suddenly, jarring her from her own world. She looked up to find the object of her thoughts shutting the door behind him, sealing it shut. She chose to pretend she was enthralled in the work on her computer and did not look up to greet him. A smile played at the corner of her lips, however.

"Dr. Scott," he bellowed in greeting. She raised an eyebrow but continued to click around on the computer. "How is your research going?" His voice was loud, and she finally looked up, annoyed and confused as to why he was yelling at her. When her eyes met his, she saw the smirk on his lips, and the mischievous gleam in his ocean blues.

"Why are you yelling?" she questioned, as he spun her chair around, leaning her back against the desk. He leaned over her, placing his hands on either side of her on the desk.

"Shh, I'm trying to throw them off our scent," he hovered over her lips, searching her eyes. She rolled her eyes, tried to keep a straight face.

"I don't think anyone is on our scent, Captain," she replied, trying desperately not to fall under his spell. "No one saw me leave your quarters this morning. I'm pretty sure we're still a secret," she whispered against his lips. He grinned.

"We need to keep it that way," he responded in whisper, finally planting his lips to hers. It was a soft kiss, but that didn't stop Rachel from wishing it wouldn't end. "I mean it," he broke from the kiss to catch her eyes, his portraying the seriousness his tone conveyed. Rachel locked eyes with him and nodded. She understood that he couldn't allow his sailors to think he was unfocused or unprofessional. And though they both knew their feelings, the crew and the children did not. And messing with anyone's thoughts and feelings but their own didn't seem appropriate or fair. If this didn't work out...Rachel knew she was getting ahead of herself. She took a deep breath.

"Of course," she replied, noting the way he reached up to caress her cheek and move a loose hair behind her ear. She smiled, shyly looking away. He did that a lot. He kissed her forehead.

"I have to get back to the bridge," he began, standing to his full height. She stood, reaching for his wounds.

"Hang on, let me take a look at your face," she gently touched the side of his eye, inspecting for any indication of serious injury. He entertained her concern, smirking while she poked and prodded his face. His jaw was sore, but he was sure he was fine. Nothing a little ibuprofen and ice couldn't help. "It seems all right," she finally spoke, her face still covered in worry. He chuckled.

"I'm fine, really. I'll come find you if I suddenly don't feel fine," he rubbed her arm gently, "Don't worry so much," he added with a wink.

She felt her cheeks warm and she laughed a little. He pulled her into his chest, and held her tightly. He knew he was walking a fine line here – everything they'd engaged in last night and now this. If they got caught...he kissed the top of her head and released her.

"I'll see you for lunch?" he confirmed. She nodded with a smile.

"We'll see you there," she shoved her hands in her pockets, trying desperately not to feel awkward. He tipped his head to her before turning for the door.

She watched him stride away, his footsteps purposeful and professional. She felt her heart swell. She was in deep, she could feel it in her soul. Hiding this was not going to be easy.

Tom read over the recent report from Lt. Chung. Mike watched him, debating on whether to bring up the conversation he needed to have with Tom. He shared a look with Alisha. They were a tight knit group, they spent many hours together on this bridge. He gathered she knew what he wanted to talk about, it wasn't as if it wasn't a secret.

Tom put the clipboard down and stood, and Mike checked the time. They were all due in the mess hall shortly.

"I'm going to grab some lunch," Tom announced to the small room. He looked at Alisha, "XO has the lead."

"Aye Aye, Captain," she replied, standing at attention. He nodded at her to be at ease, and Mike followed him toward the door.

"Captain, I think I'll join you," he spoke to his friend. Tom grinned and nodded.

"As long as you don't mind eating with the kids," he replied with a chuckle. Mike gave a small smile.

"It'll be nice. I've been missing my own lately," his voice sounded far away, and Tom suddenly faltered in his mood. Yes, he was so grateful to have his children with him. But what about his crew and their families? He hadn't yet found that answer.

They made their way down to the mess hall, Mike glancing at his watch. He hoped they were ready, as Tom was a few minutes ahead of schedule.

Tom rounded the corner into the mess hall, and before his eyes could even adjust to the large group of sailors before him, the yelling of "Surprise!" caught him completely off guard. He stepped back slightly, his heart almost jumping out of his chest. He laughed at himself, shaking his head, trying to calm his racing heart. The kids were then practically tackling him, their joy and excitement hard to contain. Rachel watched the moment, taking in the love the children had for their father. She surveyed the room then, taking in most of his crew standing before him, smiles on their faces as they watched him interact with his children. They had all been happy to participate in the moment of surprise and then the party itself. Punch had been made, cakes were ready to be served along with food and other sweet goodies. It would surely be a wonderful afternoon.

She turned her attention back to the man of honor, who was now looking around the room himself, his eyes wide, a large smile on his face. He caught her eyes briefly, stepping forward toward her but keeping a safe distance. "Lunch, huh?" he said, raising an eyebrow skeptically. Rachel shrugged.

"I'm sure there's food around here somewhere," she responded with a cheeky smile. She could feel her cheeks grow hot under his gaze. "Happy birthday Captain."

"Thank you," he spoke sincerely, before he was being tugged by Ashley and Sam over to the cakes they had proudly made him. She watched them go, before moving to make herself useful.

"So what's going on with you and Dr. Scott?" Mike stepped up next to his close friend, sipping his punch, taking note of the way Tom watched her from across the room. In light of their close call yesterday, he seemed in particularly high spirits today. Mike knew it was more than just cake and celebration. He'd known Tom way too long.

"Nothing, why?" Tom replied, nonchalant, with a grin toward his friend. Mike cocked an eyebrow.

"Well I suggest you work on your smoke and mirrors then because from where I've been standing, she's been in your crosshairs all afternoon and if you don't stop staring, everyone will soon be talking about it," Mike muttered; no sense in hiding his knowledge from his friend, not to mention covering his six. Tom turned slightly, pulling his gaze away from Rachel, where she was cutting cake. He couldn't help it; he couldn't take his eyes off of her. Even in her trademark jeans and tee shirt with her knee-high boots, she was a vision. And their actions last night were only fueling that fire.

"Heard," Tom acknowledged, a permanent grin across his features. Mike eyed his friend suspiciously. Before he could say anything further, Sam was between the two tall men. His eyes carried panic.

"Daddy, Ashley just said we won't have a tree for Christmas this year because trees don't grow on ships," Sam's bottom lip was quivering and it broke Tom's heart. He ran a hand over the boy's head. Mike watched the motion and felt a tug on his own heart strings at the loss of his own son.

"Buddy, I promise we'll find a way to get you a tree. What's Christmas without a tree?" Tom gave his son a reassuring smile and that seemed to lift Sam's spirits.

"Can I tell Ashley?" He asked, needing to prove to his sister that she was wrong. Tom laughed, nodding.

"Of course, tell her," he gestured toward where Ashley was helping Rachel and Sam ran off to tell her the good news. Tom watched the scene from afar, the excitement on Ashley's face, the way Rachel clapped her hands at Sam's news, her own enjoyment of the news clear.

"Hey Tom, there's something I've been meaning to talk to you about," Mike began, almost tentatively. Tom turned back to his XO, questioning in his gaze.

"Everything okay, Mike?" He asked, concern evident in his voice.

"I'd like to take leave, look for my family," Mike began. It was not a decision he had taken to lightly, leaving his Captain and crew to head inland was not an easy thought. "If Christine is still in Deer Park, it's 14 hours inland from Norfolk," he paused, waiting to see if Tom would speak. His friend stared down at his drink, so Mike continued. " I'd like to bring them back and aboard the ship. I think the Nathan James is the safest place for all of us," Mike finished, waiting for his friend's response. Tom lifted his head to match Mike's gaze.

"I'm not going to say you can't go, but I'm going to caution you. Mike, that's far inland. We'll put a team together, see if we can get fuel in the helos," he understood Mike's desire to go, he had done the same thing. He just wished it wasn't so far.

"Thank you, Tom," Mike replied gratefully. Tom nodded, knowing that bringing home his friend's family was something important they had to do. Their conversation ceased as Lt. Foster moved to stand beside them. Both men shared a look of concern as they greeted the young sailor.

"Happy birthday, Captain," the brunette greeted her commanding officers. Her voice was low, and she was pale.

"Thank you, Lt Foster," Tom replied. "How are you?" he inquired, taking in her appearance.

"I'm all right, sir." she answered honestly, but both men could tell she was still struggling with her pregnancy. Both having had pregnant wives, they were familiar with morning sickness. Kara looked particularly sick at this moment though, Tom noted.

"Are you sure? Maybe you should sit down." Tom encouraged, gesturing toward the table not too far from then. She nodded.

"You're probably right, Captain," her voice faltered and as she stepped, she collapsed. Tom was quick to catch her, Mike reaching for his punch.

"Lt. Foster!" Tom eased her down to the floor, people making space for him to lay her down. "Kara, Kara! Stay with me. Dr Scott!" He called for Rachel immediately. Kara's eyes fluttered a little and he watched her try to focus on his face, though she seemed to be having a tough time. Rachel was by his side in a moment, concern written all over her face. She settled down beside him, their shoulders bumping as he kneeled by Kara's head.

"Kara, can you hear me?" Rachel lifted up her limp hand, "Squeeze my hand, Kara," the squeeze was small, but it was there.

"Burk!" Tom called out, the young man at the scene quickly. "Please relieve Lt. Green from his watch and tell him to meet me outside sick bay," Tom ordered and the lieutenant was off like a shot. He and Rachel exchanged glances and she nodded. Tom moved, sliding his arms under Kara's knees and back, picking her up easily. Rachel led the way through the crowd, making room for Tom, who was followed by Mike.

Russell stood with the children, surrounded by a silent room of sailors. He said a silent prayer that Kara and the baby were all right.

Tom paced outside the infirmary, waiting on Danny's arrival while Rachel worked on Kara. He noticed the way these two were becoming like family to him. He was genuinely worried for Kara's health, and he knew first hand what Danny was feeling. When Sam had been born premature, he'd been so overwhelmed with worry for his child and his wife. It had consumed him. He empathized with Danny.

The Navy Seal jogged down the p-way toward him. He came to a halt in front Tom, his eyes wide with terror. Tom rested his hands on Danny's shoulders.

"What happened? Is she all right? Is the baby..." his voice was shaky, his mind racing.

"Dr. Scott and Dr. Rios are working on her now. She collapsed in the mess hall. I caught her before she fell. She was semi-conscious when we got her down here. That's all I know as of yet." Danny stepped back, running his hands through his short hair, pacing. "Danny," Tom spoke softly, catching the attention of the stressed man, "I've been in your shoes. Don't think about the what ifs. Just wait for news." Tom settled down on the small bench across from the door, and patted the seat next to him. "I'll wait with you." Danny shuffled to the bench and took a seat, putting his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. Tom leaned his head back against the wall and hoped for the best.

Rachel emerged an hour later, looking tired but positive. Both men stood immediately. She wrapped her sweater tighter around herself.

"Kara and the baby are all right," she began, easing their worries. "She is very dehydrated, I'm guessing due to her morning sickness. We've got her on fluids and she's resting comfortably. Everything else seems to be fine, the baby's heartbeat is consistent and strong. I think with some rest, they will be good as new." She turned to Danny specifically. "You can see her. But please try to keep her spirits up, and don't upset her. I need her blood pressure to stay stable."

"Yes ma'am," Danny responded, relief evident in his voice. "Thank you." he meant both words strongly. He moved past her to the door, allowing himself inside, shutting it behind him. As the door clicked shut, Rachel sighed heavily.

"She had me worried for a moment," she confessed, collapsing on to the bench. Tom sat down next to her, rubbing her back as she ran her hands over her face.

"She's really okay though?"

Rachel nodded. "She is. And the baby is too. We've just got to get her to take better care of herself." She pushed her hair out of her face and leaned back, turning her head to catch his eyes. "I'm sorry about your party," she apologized, her eyes sad. Tom shrugged.

"These things happen," he began, "It was great though, thank you," he hesitantly reached over and grabbed one of her hands. "Thank you for spending so much time with the children, and for helping them with today. They've done nothing but rave about you for weeks now. I can't tell you how happy that makes me, that they're moving on and coping," he searched her eyes, hoping she understood the weight of his words. "We wouldn't be doing so well without you." He offered her a small smile, which she returned.

"You don't know that. You might be getting on just fine without me," she laughed a little, awkwardly, surprised by his words.

"No," he shook his head, but never broke his eye contact, "I don't think so. You're incredible, Rachel. Everything you do is. And last night..." his voice trailed off, but their gaze continued on. Her cheeks grew pink under his eyes, and he grinned. He enjoyed making her blush.

"Should we talk about it?" She wondered out loud.

"Do you want to?" He answered her question with a question, putting the ball in her court. She shrugged.

"I don't know, if you think we need to," she stated tentatively. He shook his head, reaching for her other hand and holding it as well.

"Only if you want to," he spoke, squeezing her hands. She squeezed his in return. The warmth built her confidence.

"I need to monitor Kara for a while," she began, unsure of when she'd be finished.

"I'll come find you later, once you're settled back in your stateroom. We can talk then," His smile was sweet, and he leaned forward and kissed her forehead.

"Will you check on the kids?" the words were out of her mouth before she could stop them, and he grinned happily at her motherly concern for them, as she added sheepishly, "It was a lot of excitement for one afternoon, and it was probably scary for them."

"I will. I'll let them know Kara and the baby are just fine," he released her hands and stood up. She leaned her head back against the cool steel of the ship wall, peering up at him. "I'll see you later tonight," he gave her one last smile before walking away. She watched him for a moment, marveled again at the man he was, the feelings she had for him, before standing and heading back inside medical. She put her thoughts of him away for the moment, knowing they'd return when she had another free moment. She definitely didn't mind those thoughts though.

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