Red Flag

Chapter 18


Tom settled the children into bed, wishing them goodnight after a long day of birthday celebration. After the scare with Kara, he had gone back up to the party, assuring everyone their friend was all right. Mike headed back to the bridge so Tom could spend much needed time with the children and his father. He'd eaten too much cake, and laughed so hard his face hurt from smiling, but it was good for his soul. As he slid the door to the small bed area shut, he turned to find his father watching him intently. He raised an eyebrow.

"Yes, Pop?" he reached for the cup of decaffeinated coffee he had set on the desk and took a sip, eying his father.

Jed shrugged, looking back down at his book, "Nothing, Tommy. Was just thinking."

"About?"

"It's not important," Jed changed the subject, "How's Kara and the baby?"

"My last update from Rios said she was stable. I'm going to head down there now and check on her myself. We need to change her schedule so she's taking better care of herself," he leaned his large shoulder against the wall across from where his father sat.

"You care about those two kids," Jed remarked on Tom's words.

"I care about my entire crew," Tom responded. The corner of Jed's lip rose a little in a half smile.

"I know you do. But these two, Danny and Kara, I can tell you have a particular soft spot for them," Jed knew his son was a compassionate man. He could tell by the way he spoke to both, he looked at them like his own children. Tom shrugged.

"They've got a lot going on, we're living in a completely different world. Who knows where their families are. We're the only family they've got," Tom meant it about the two sailors, but also about his entire crew. They were a tight knit family now, all 200 plus of them. They were almost all each other had left.

"I'm proud of you, son. You're a good captain," the words were heartfelt and Tom gave a smile in thanks, unable to say anything. "These people are lucky to have you," Jed was proud of how his son had handled everything that had happened. His heart swelled with pride. He'd raised three fine children—though his younger two were yet to be found during this catastrophe.

Tom cleared his throat after a moment, "I'm going to go see Lt. Foster," they exchanged their goodbyes, and Tom made his way down to medical.

He knocked softly before entering, finding the young woman alone. She attempted to sick up. Tom noticed how pale she still was, but her eyes were much clearer.

"Sir," she greeted respectfully. Tom nodded.

"At ease, lieutenant," he gave her a smile small, taking a seat on the round chair next to the bed. Kara leaned back, wishing she was more presentable for her captain, and feeling embarrassed after everything that had happened.

"Captain, permission to speak freely?" her voice shook as she asked the question. She'd called a lot of attention to herself since the almost blown mission with Danny months ago. She owed Captain Chandler a huge apology.

"Granted."

"I want to apologize for all the trouble I've caused as of late, sir. I assure you it won't happen again." Her words were quiet and contrite. Tom considered her thoughts before speaking.

"Kara, you're pregnant. These things can happen. My late wife was terribly sick with Ashley. It effected everything. Control your controllables. If you're not feeling well, take a break. If you need water, get it. Don't let anything come between your health and the baby's health, understood?" Kara nodded her head adamantly. Tom's tone was straightforward and fatherly, "I appreciate your apology, but fainting in the galley is not something you did wrong. Not taking care of yourself was. Just make sure you're taking the proper measures to stay well. Listen to Dr. Scott and Dr. Rios' every word going forward."

"Aye, sir," Kara nodded, looking down at her hands in her lap, feeling the lump in her throat beginning to form. Tom rested his hand on her shoulder.

"I know you're scared. This is new territory for all of us- having a pregnant woman onboard a DDG. We're not equipped for this yet. But we will be. We'll do what it takes to keep you and the baby safe. You do your part, and we'll do ours." He gave her shoulder a squeeze before standing. "Are they releasing you to your quarters soon?"

"Yes, sir. Dr. Rios went to get Lt. Granderson."

"Good. Get some rest. I don't expect to see you in CIC for at least two days, understood? Take care of yourself, lieutenant. That's an order." A small smile formed on his lips, and Kara nodded again.

"Aye. Thank you, sir." Tom squared his shoulders and exited medical, content with their talk. He realized his father was right. He did look at her as a daughter.

Tom looked down one side of the p-way and then down the other side, looking to see if anyone was around. It was late, and quiet, the lights darkened to that glowing red. He took a chance, knocked softly on the stateroom door, hoping she would swiftly answer.

Rachel placed her book down and stood from her small chair, heading to the door. She knew who her late visitor was, or at least she hoped it was him. She'd been thinking about seeing him tonight since he'd said he'd come by, and secretly, she wasn't prepared for his visit. Being alone with him again, in a cabin, seemed risky in light of their new enjoyment for one another. But on the other hand, she couldn't wait to get her hands on him.

She pulled open the door and smiled when she saw him on the other side. He offered her a small, almost shy smile, and she opened the door wider to accommodate his large frame. She shut it behind him, and noticed how much bigger he seemed, standing in the middle of her tiny stateroom. She moved around him to stand in front of him, leaning her shoulder against the top bunk.

"Hello," she offered in greeting, as he stood before her, rocking a little on his heels, hands clasped behind his back.

"Hello." he replied with a grin, searching her eyes.

"Kara seems to be settled back in her stateroom, resting comfortably. I'll check on her first thing tomorrow and make sure all is well," Rachel informed him of what he already knew—he'd been down to visit Kara before coming to see Rachel. She didn't need to know that though, didn't want to burst her bubble.

"Excellent. Thank you for caring for her," he squared his shoulders, attempting to keep whatever professional barrier between them for now, knowing he was having a hard time keeping his hands off of her.

"Absolutely. That's what I'm here for," she stopped, laughing a little, "Well, sort of. It's turned into that, hasn't it?" she giggled a little, peering up at him sideways, taking in his handsome features and small grin.

"It certainly has," he laughed a little in response. He took a step forward, closer to her, pulling her into his arms. He couldn't resist.

She snuggled into his chest, breathing a sigh that had been held in her chest all evening. She could hear the muffled sounds of his consistent heartbeat through his BDUs, and she closed her eyes, enjoying the sound and taking comfort in his strong arms.

Tom ran a hand over her back, before leaning back, surveying her face and her expression. She looked content, but questioning, her eyes showing him she wasn't sure of his next move. He leaned forward and gently, slowly pressed his lips to hers, this time taking the moment to appreciate and memorize the feel of her mouth on his.

She kissed him back easily, with just as much softness as he had started, neither rushing the kiss. She knew they were both unsure of how to proceed in these new uncharted waters, and both wanted to relish what secret alone time they had. He turned her gently, putting her back against the top bunk, his hands finding her face, his thumbs caressing her cheeks.

Her hands rested gently against his hips, her fingers looped through the belt loops on either side of his pants. She let him control their pace, followed behind comfortably. He was a born leader, at everything. And she wasn't complaining.

A series of knocks at the door made them both jump, and they both looked to the door and then back to each other. "Don't answer it," Tom whispered. She knew it was because they couldn't afford to get caught alone, in her room, with the door shut.

"They must know I'm in here if they're knocking," No one came knocking on her door, rarely was anyone looking for her. Whoever it was knew she was in here. Rachel looked around, looking for a place to hide the large captain. The knocking came again. Her heart raced a little. "Here," she whispered, "Get in the bed, I'll shut the curtain and turn off the light," he gave her a dubious look, not interested in the small space, but climbed in nonetheless. Rachel tousled her hair and rubbed her eyes, trying to appear as if she'd been sleeping. She shut off the light and pulled open the door a little, squinting, peering at the person outside. She was surprised to see Danny on the other side. She immediately lifted her head a little higher, worried for Kara.

"Dr. Scott, I'm sorry to bother you," Danny began quickly, "I just wanted to say thank you for today." Rachel felt relief wash through her veins. She offered him a warm smile.

"My pleasure Danny. Anything I can do to help. Just keep an eye on her," Rachel gave him a wink and he nodded, a small smile playing at his lips.

"Yes ma'am," he replied. "Have a good evening," he nodded his head in goodbye and headed back down the p-way. Rachel watched him go a good ways before shutting the door and locking it. She smoothed her hair back down and went back to the bed, dropping down to climb in beside the Captain. The small twin bed put them very close together, and with him on his back, she barely fit. He stretched his left arm, allowing her to move closer to him, and she relished in the warmth he let off.

Tom could smell her vanilla scent surrounding him, and it was intoxicating. As he stared at the bottom of the top bunk, he felt like a young officer again, though he hadn't ever snuggled with a woman on one of these bunks. He chuckled a little—there was a first time for everything.

Rachel looked up at him curiously as he laughed a little. "What is so funny?" she inquired, studying his relaxed features.

"I haven't laid in one of these in five years probably, and definitely not ever with a woman," at the admission he felt a twinge of guilt, he wasn't sure why. Rachel chuckled a little as well.

"Well, there's a code forbidding this type of thing," she rationalized.

"True. Didn't prevent Green and Foster from getting pregnant, though," he scowled, thinking of all the complications this would present. It already had presented its fair share. This was a destroyer, not a cruise ship. They weren't set up for families.

"They will be all right. We'll find a way to accommodate them." He peered over at her, taking in her pretty eyes as she looked up at him from his chest.

"You know they're not going to be the last," Tom sighed, voicing his concern. So many men and women on a floating island, with no real mission at hand other than staying alive. There were bound to be more situations that would arise.

"Inevitably, I suppose. We can only take it as it comes." As she laid against him, she couldn't help but realize they were no better than Kara and Danny. They'd taken that forbidden next step. They were no example of good behavior.

Tom rolled over onto his side, resting his hand on her hip, rubbing the small amount of exposed skin there. "Do you think there's any safe place on land for us?" his question was honest, and quiet. He needed reassurance, she realized. Unfortunately, she didn't have any. She sighed.

"I'm not sure. There was so much devastation, and the CDC was very clear on how wide-spread the pandemic was. I really don't know that there would be anywhere for us to make port and safely exist in this new world," she wasn't above being honest with him. If she couldn't be honest with him at this point, who could she be honest with?

He looked thoughtful and nodded, looking down at the sheets. "It's just hard to imagine living on this ship forever. I love it, but I have never thought of it as a permanent living place. There are so many different sides to that coin."

"I think it's something we really need to consider. In six months, Kara is going to have a baby. And we need to be ready for this one, and possibly more. Not to mention your children need a place to live and grow amongst this cold steel."

Tom chewed the inside of his cheek, unsure of his next move. The thought of the kids growing up onboard the Nathan James made him immensely nervous. This was no place for children. They didn't really have a choice however. He sighed.

Rachel ran a hand over his cheek, searching his eyes. She knew he was feeling conflicted, the weight of the world was on his shoulders. She knew the feeling.

"Tom, we can't solve all the problems tonight. Maybe we should get some rest, think through what our options are over the next few days. We have time." She tried to be encouraging, wasn't sure if she believed her words herself. How much time did they have?

"Mike wants to go to Illinois to find his family," he blurted it out, it had been weighing on him since Mike had told him. He couldn't bare the thought of his XO going inland alone, but understood the importance of it to Mike.

Rachel digested the information. "When?"

"I assume as soon as possible. If we can get fuel in the helo we can get him in and out pretty quickly. If not, we'll have to find another way. I'd go with him but.." his voice drifted off, and she knew why. The kids.

And she worried for his safety. "You can't go. Send Burk and Miller. We can't spare you." I can't spare you she finished to herself. She couldn't bare the thought of him going ashore for an extended period of time with no ability to communicate so far in land. What if something happened?

Tom found her hand, laced his fingers through. "We can't really spare anyone, I don't want any more funerals."

Rachel had no response, instead just moved closer on the small mattress, settling against him. He draped his arm around her waist, kissed the side of her head, resting his against hers.

Tom wasn't sure if she would be receptive, but he chanced and leaned down, finding her lips. She rolled herself onto back to allow him to access her lips easier, and he pushed himself up onto his elbow, leaning over her, never breaking their contact. Kissing her was comforting, warm, a breath of fresh air. The twinge of guilt returned for a brief moment, but it disappeared as she reached up and ran her fingers through the hair at the base of skull. He kissed her a little deeper, pressing his fingers into her hip, gripping the hipbone he could easily feel through her thin side.

Rachel could feel the familiar tingle start in her belly, the butterflies swirling. Kissing this man was heady. She could feel herself getting lost in his kisses already. She let him control the pace, wasn't sure how far he planned to take it this evening.

As his lips moved to her ear, and down the side of her neck, she took a breathe, tried to speak. "Tom," she began, attempting to get his attention.

"Hmm?" he mumbled against her skin, causing her a shiver.

"Should we talk about last night?" She was a scientist, she rationalized things for a living, worked with facts and hypothesis. She wanted to make sense of this all.

Tom pulled back from her neck, smiling down at her. "What about it?" he inquired. She shrugged against the comforter.

"Well...I mean...you're not sorry, right?" Her voice conveyed her secret nerves, and he gave her a sweet smile.

"I'm not sorry." he replied, kissing her again. "If I was, I wouldn't be here right now," his voice was raspy and she could feel his want against her through his BDUs. This man made her weak. "Anything else you want to know?"

She licked her lips as his found her collar bone. Her eyes practically rolled back into her head. "Umm..no, I can't think of anything else right now," she pushed her head back into the pillow, giving him more access to her soft skin. His hand found its way up her ribcage, gripping her side, caressing her skin with his thumb. She reached for the buttons on the front of his jacket, quickly and easily undoing each one. She pushed it over his shoulders and he shrugged it off in the small quarters, careful not to bump his head. They each tried to watch their knees and elbows as they quickly rid themselves of their clothing, attempting to continue kissing as best they could.

He slid his hand down her stomach as soon as he could, feeling for her readiness. She moaned and bucked her hips up at him, causing a devilish smile to cross his features. He rolled on top of her gently, and wasted no time pushing into her. Rachel arched her back and moaned loudly, unable to contain it in the heat of the moment. Tom clasped his hand gently over her mouth, a playful warning look on his face.

"Shhh," he whispered against her ear. She closed her eyes, nodding, trying to control any noise from leaving her. It was so hard, he made her feel so many things. She wanted him to know how good it felt.

He pulled his hand away from her mouth when he was sure she would be quiet, and pushed harder this time, over and over, as her legs came up on either side of his hips. He sank deeper into her, and tried to stay quiet himself, a small moan escaping his lips. He was addicted to the small woman below him. That much he knew.

Wow! Thank you so much for the incredible reviews! As requested, below are is the 'Red Flag' soundtrack, if you will. These are the songs I use to write this fic. And if anyone wants to use one to make a video, well, I wouldn't be disappointed ;) haha! If there is a chapter in parenthesis, it means I used it to write part or all of that chapter in particular. Some of the chapters aren't finished yet ;) * evil laugh *

Happy Listening!

"Kiss Me Slowly" Parachute (chapter 16/18)

"Sweet and Low" Augustana

"Gravity" John Mayer

"Human" Christina Perri

"Distance" Christina Perri (feat. Jason Mraz)

"Be My Forever" Christina Perri & Ed Sheeran (chapter 12)

"Chances" Five for Fighting (chapter 18)

"The Mess I Made" Parachute (chapter 20) (so excited about this chapter)

"Safe and Sound" Taylor Swift feat. Civil Wars (chapter 22)

"Reason to Hope" Ron Pope

"Drop in the Ocean" Ron Pope (chapter 22/23)

"Somewhere in the Middle" Nine Sky Wonder

"She is Love" Parachute

"Never Stop" Safetysuit

"All about Us" He is We feat Owl City

"Diamond in the Making" Patrick Davis (chapter 6)

"Forever and Always" Parachute (chapter 7 & 23) (could be the saddest song ever written)

"World Spins Madly On" The Weepies (chapter 8)

"Here with Me" Dido (chapter 15/16)

"Run" Matt Nathanson (chapter 16)

"Wake Me Up" Madilyn Bailey (chapter 7/8/22)

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