Red Flag

Chapter 3

Mike entered the officer's lounge and found Tom alone, nursing a cup of coffee in silence. He stood for a moment, until Tom nodded his head and Mike was free to enter. He grabbed a mug for himself, along with the pot and poured himself a steaming cup. He settled down a few seats away from Tom, watching him watch his still coffee.

Mike knew Tom wasn't thrilled that he had gone into rescue mission mode despite Tom's request to be left out in the ocean. If there was one thing Mike believed, and he knew Tom believed it too, it was 'no man left behind'. Especially their captain, Mike had decided. He wasn't going to carry that with him the rest of his days, the fact he didn't go back for Tom, his captain, and very close friend.

Mike cleared his throat, deciding that a little humor never did any harm, "Hey, a rumor's going around the ship," he began, eying Tom with a mischievous look. Tom snorted a little, his mouth forming a small semi smile.

"Oh yeah? What rumor is that?" He looked up from the brown liquid in faux anticipation-he knew what rumor Mike was referring to.

"It's pretty entertaining really," he chuckled, "Word on the deck is Dr. Scott kissed you to pass on the message we needed you to get," Chandler's eyes flickered at Slattery, an eyebrow raised. Mike wasn't sure if he found amusement or annoyance on the captain's face.

"Rumor, huh? How can something be a rumor when it's true?" This time he caught Slattery's eyes. Mike knew what something like that carried for Tom. He was a happily married man, with a beautiful wife and two sweet children. Kissing someone, even for life-saving purposes, was not something an honorable man such as Commander Thomas Chandler took lightly.

"She really kissed you? And managed not to cut you in the process?" Mike was impressed with Rachel's ability to think on her feet.

"Yeah. She came right at me from across the room. Honestly, I myself was quite shocked to see her. I didn't think for a minute you'd actually give her right to Ruskov."

"She insisted. She felt she was the best move we had. I couldn't really argue with her," Mike was dedicated in his decision. He did what he had to do to save his captain.

"I told you to leave us, how much more clear could I have made it? I especially wouldn't want you to endanger Dr. Scott."

Mike dropped his head, nodding. "Understood, sir." He replied; there was no arguing with Chandler. Resigned, he sipped the drink in silence. After a few beats, he spoke, again trying to lighten to mood.

"She really kissed you? Like straight kissed you?"

Tom nodded ruefully, "Yeah," he replied with a chuckle, "Tex nearly had a meltdown over it." This made Mike laugh.

"Why, is he interested in her, too?" Tom looked straight at Mike, eying him carefully.

"Too?" he echoed. Mike laughed, shaking his head.

"Several men onboard find her attractive, it's not a secret," he took a sip of his coffee as Tom laughed, shaking his head.

"I guess it's just information I choose to overlook," He finished the drink and stood, making his way to the sink. "Who do you think let the cat out of the bag?" Tom inquired, glancing back at Slattery, who shrugged.

"I'm not sure. My guess is Tex, or possibly Lt. Green. Either way, it does make for a good story," he chuckled again, taking another sip. Tom dried his mug, turning to face Slattery.

"I'm not sure how funny my wife would find it," he tried to grin, but found it heavy and knew it didn't meet his eyes. He'd be lying to himself if he tried to say he didn't think about the kiss, didn't think about the repercussions, didn't think about her. But he loved Darien, would never do anything to hurt her. The feeling of her lips on his though...maybe it had just been too long, and he was in need of human interaction in only a way a woman can provide. He was an loyal man, to a fault, had never strayed on his wife. But sometimes he felt something for Rachel, maybe more than he'd like to admit to himself, let alone out loud.

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