Red Flag

Chapter 7

He'd been ignoring the wound since he'd received it, but now, with his ship back under his command, and his crew back on board, the pain was suddenly slicing through his gut like a knife. Slattery noticed the way his face was suddenly a few shades paler than moments ago, and he moved to his friend.

"Tom, sit. You don't look so good," he gave the captain a wry smile, though the concern lines are evident across his XO's face. Tom shook him off, though his eyes don't reach Mike's.

"Not until Burk and Green are back on the ship with my kids," his voice was firm as he grabbed his binoculars, looking out into the harbor. They'd sent a boat with the two very capable sailors to bring his family on board from their hiding place. Every moment that passed was agony waiting to make sure they were all right. They'd left the radio, and he'd communicated with them recently, but he wouldn't rest, or seek medical attention, until he had his babies in his arms.

Rachel was securing her things down in the helo bay, making sure nothing was missing that she desperately needed. She could make due with some of her things getting lost in the fire fight between the Nathan James crew and the Maryland state police, and what she'd lost in the lab on land, but there were certain things she couldn't get by without. Not now that they needed to mass produce this vaccine and cure on the ship.

She heard yelling outside the main door, and stepped through the hatch to find an older gentleman, very pale, being helped onto the ship. She made her way closer to help, Rios also finding his way on to the flight deck. They walked quickly shoulder to shoulder most of the way, neither speaking. For a moment, Rachel wasn't sure who the man was, but then a young girl was helped on and she knew. This was Tom's family. When Tex had rescued her and Alicia, along with the supposed warlords who were actually anything but, he'd told her Tom had found his family. She'd expected him to be her rescue, wanted and prayed for him even, but when Tex had told her that, she'd known her place. A little boy was followed by Danny up on to the deck, followed by Burk. They pulled the ladder up as she reached the group, and she looked around, confused. Where was his wife?

"Daddy!" The little girl shouted, tears evident in her terrified voice, as Tom came rushing across the deck behind them. Both children ran for their father, who embraced them half way, dropping to his knees.

The world was forgotten as he held his children in his arms, both crying, their long ordeal finally over, exhausted and relieved. He could feel his throat tighten, the prickle of unshed tears against his eyes. She should be here, she should be in his arms too. The last time he'd hugged his children on this deck, she'd been here. And now she wasn't. The pain was more than he could bare.

But his babies were safe. And he was overjoyed at that.

Ashley stepped back suddenly, tears still pouring down her cheeks, her eyes wide with terror. "Daddy, you're bleeding," her voice was full of fear, and Tom looked from her eyes, to his shoulder, and finally took full note of the full sleeve of blood he wore. Sam immediately began to cry harder, as Tom tried to sooth both kids. The pain was somewhat unreal, but he wasn't sure if it was the emotional pain or the pain from the wound. It became harder to tell the difference. "Dad, you need help," as the words came from her, he was overwhelmed. She was so much her mother's daughter.

"I'm okay, baby, it's just a cut," He pulled them tighter to him, but could feel the pain more than ever. He stood as Mike reached his side, and when he looked at his friend, Mike knew just what to do. "Go with Mike for now, okay guys? I'll be right in to meet you. He's going to get you in some clean clothes," He turned to Mike, leaning toward his ear, "Take them to my cabin and let's get the hell out of here," his words were shaky, but Mike nodded immediately.

"Yes, sir, already done. They're pulling up the anchor now," he assured his captain, his friend. He reached for the kids, "Come on, guys, let's get you settled," Sam took Mike's hand, but Ashley balked. She held on to her father's unwounded arm tightly.

"Daddy, I'm not leaving you," she wore the fear of losing her father; she'd just lost her mother. Jed stepped up to her, putting his hands on her shoulders.

"Come with us, Ash, your father will be just fine," he reassured her. Tom touched her face with his other hand, dried blood along his fingers.

"Go with Grandpa, Ashley, I'll be right along. Don't worry, I'm okay," He gave her the best smile he could muster and she reluctantly released his arm.

"You promise?" Tears streamed down her cheeks, and the words shattered his heart. He nodded, pulling her close one more time. She wrapped her arms around his waist tightly.

"I promise," his voice was choked up as he squeezed her with his good arm. He kissed the top of her head and released her to his father, who caught his eyes. "Thanks, Dad," he whispered as he moved past him. Jed nodded solemnly, following Mike and Sam up the deck. Tom squared his shoulders and waited until the children were out of sight, before he grabbed his arm, in excruciating pain, his shoulders dropping, turning to look at Dr. Rios and Rachel. Both were at his side in an instant.

"Captain, we need to get you down to medical, immediately." The captain pulled off his fatigues jacket, and sucked in his breathe as the doctor inspected the gunshot wound. Blood gushed from the wound when provoked, and the captain said some choice words under his breathe. Rachel stood on his opposite side, holding him steady by his other shoulder. He blinked rapidly, the blood loss finally taking hold of his brain. He faltered, but Danny moved in before he fell on Rachel, sliding under his arm and holding his captain upright. Rios began toward the door to the inside of the ship, Danny helping Tom make it to the door, Rachel scurrying behind them. Her concern was on the man in front of her, her heart in her throat. He was very pale and had lost a lot of blood.

"Rachel," he called out for her, stopping, and she was a bit surprised by his use of her first name once more. It seemed like millenniums ago since they'd had that moment in his cabin. How had all this happened? She moved up next to him immediately. He grabbed her upper arm, bringing her to face him. His eyes were desperate, and his face was riddled with pain. She sucked in a breath. It was difficult to see this strong, powerful man hurting so much. "Please go tend to my children. I gave them the cure, but please make sure my family is going to be okay," his words were pleading, his eyes bearing into hers. She nodded emphatically.

"Of course," He squeezed her arm.

"Thank you," he took a deep breath, as if relieved, their eyes locking for a moment, that strength and electricity still between them somehow, before letting Danny pull him off toward the sick bay. She watched him go for a moment, before rushing off to the helo bay for her things and heading up to the captain's cabin.

Rachel knocked softly, waiting for someone to answer the door to his cabin. When it was pulled open, Tom's father stood on the other side, looking pale, tired, and sick. Rachel offered him a warm smile, extending her hand.

"Mr. Chandler, I'm Dr. Rachel Scott. I'm here to check on you and the children," he took her hand, shook her hand, offering a small smile in return.

"Nice to meet you, Dr. Scott. He stepped out toward her for a moment, shutting the door just slightly behind him. "How's my son?" his voice was full of concern, and Rachel pursed her lips.

"I'm not yet sure, they were just getting him to sick bay, but I will check on him as soon as I'm finished with you and the children," She gave him a confident smile, and he nodded his thank you before letting her into the cabin. Sam was laying on his father's bed, as Ashley sat on the couch, wringing her hands nervously. The children were clearly dressed in their father's clothing, the sweatshirts and sweatpants very large on their small frames. Jed wore a pair of Navy issued sweatpants and sweatshirt, she could tell they had come from the ship's supply room. She set down her bag, turning to Ashley and Sam, who now sat beside his big sister. She stepped forward, extending her hand with a smile.

"I'm Dr. Scott. I'm going to make sure you are healing just fine, okay?" Both children shook her hand, and then she grabbed her stethoscope and moved to sit beside Sam. Both children sat quietly as she listened to their hearts and breathing, feeling their pulse rates. Her blood pressure cuff wasn't pediatric size unfortunately, but she made due with her skills. Both children were in relatively good shape, their color was returning, and their blisters were receding. Jed was healing just as well. From what Jed had said about when they received the shots, it had been a little over twenty-four hours, so they should be right on track to getting back to 100%. They didn't talk much, the children looked exhausted and Jed was resigned to sit in Tom's desk chair, pensive and lost in thought. She couldn't imagine what they'd all been through. And if that fact his wife wasn't here meant she had passed, Rachel mourned for their loss. She knew their loss; her mother had died when she'd been a young child. It was an indescribable loss. Her heart went out to them.

"Dr. Scott," Sam finally squeaked out, the first time he'd spoken to her. She stopped packing up her things, turning to him immediately.

"Yes, Sam?" She realized now how he had his father's eyes.

"Can we see Dad?" his voice was so small, so hopeful. Ashley watched her, waiting for her answer. They were both desperate for their father. Rachel wasn't sure how to answer.

"Let me go see how he is and if he can see you, I'll come back and bring you down," Her offer wasn't what she wanted to say, but she didn't know if he was in any shape for them to see.

"What's wrong with him?" Sam asked innocently, tears welling up in his little eyes. Rachel felt her chest tighten, her heart hurt for the little boy.

"He was hurt trying to save the ship, but he'll be all right. Let me go check in with the doctor and I'll come back with an update," Both children nodded, dropping their heads again, Ashley wrapping her arm around her brother's shoulders. Jed nodded at her in thanks, and she turned for the door, leaving behind her bag to assure the children she would in fact be back.

She made her way down the long corridors, biting her lip, praying for what she would find. She reached the door, which was closed. She took a deep breath, opening the heavy door and stepping in. She could see the captain from the mid thigh down, Rios blocking her view. Burk sat outside the small bed area, standing when he saw her. She nodded in greeting. Neither spoke as she waited for Rios to allow her entry. When he finally stepped back, she could see the captain's pale face, the IV that flowed into his strong arm. He was shirtless, his broad chest blood spattered on the left side, close to the wound that was now wrapped. He seemed to be resting.

"Dr. Rios, how is he?" She asked quietly as Rios closed the door to the small treatment room, providing the captain some privacy.

"I had to remove the bullet from where it was embedded deep in his deltoid, it narrowly missed the anterior humeral circumflex. He lost a lot of blood, but he doesn't appear to have any nerve damage and he's been conscious the entire time." He shook his head at the strength of their captain. Rachel rolled her eyes a bit, she wouldn't expect anything less of Tom.

"The children are anxious to see him, can I bring them down?" She knew how important it was for them, after all they'd been through, to see him, even if he had IVs and bandages. At the sound of the word, Tom called out from behind the door.

"Dr. Scott!" They heard rustling and she quickly pushed the door open to see Tom pushing himself up, visibly fighting the pain. She moved quickly to him, her hands pushing against his bare chest and his better shoulder. She could feel the muscles under her fingers, his soft skin, as she gently stopped him.

"Captain Chandler, what are you doing? You need to rest," Rios came up behind her, giving the captain a warning look. Burk stood behind them all, watching Chandler fight the two doctors' hands.

"I need to be with my family," his voice was firm, but was uncharacteristic coming from his pale face.

"You need to rest or you'll only upset them. They're very worried about you right now," Rachel knew the delicacy that was the children. She'd been there. They needed to see their father well or not at all. They couldn't take the worry, not right now. She pushed a little harder, but he overpowered her still, standing to his full height. "Captain," she warned, glaring up at him.

"I'm fine," he protested. He took a step toward the door before faltering and tripping, his body still weak from the blood loss, his head still woozy. Rachel caught him, her arms wrapping instinctively around his thick midsection. His good arm wrapped around her for support as Burk rushed forward to help her. He found the scent of vanilla she wore oddly comforting.

"Nope, I think you're not," They got him back seated, and he ran a hand over his cropped hair. He looked up at her and she could see the sadness in his blue eyes. Such a polar opposite of the eyes he'd looked at her with just a little over a day ago. She wanted to comfort him but didn't know how. "You need to rest, Captain. Remember all those times you've told me to rest? I'm returning the favor," a small grin dawned upon her lips. "I'll bring the children down, give your father a break," she replied, looking to Rios for confirmation. He nodded his allowance, and she looked back to Tom. He nodded his acceptance, resigned.

"Thank you," he replied quietly, leaning back against the wall. He brought up one knee, resting his arm across it and then his head on his arm. She waited a beat, before moving past Burk to get the children.

"Okay, remember, your father has lost quite a bit of blood, so he doesn't have a lot of energy. We need to be calm and quiet," her words were encouraging and comforting, she wanted them to know what to expect. She thought they were precious children, both showered, still clad in his very large clothing. Ashley had pulled her wet hair up with an elastic Kara had offered her, and Sam's hair was still freshly wet from his shower. They both nodded their understanding. She pushed open the door, leading Ashley in by hand, Sam holding Ashley's hand. Tom's head rolled to the side from where he lay on the bed, taking in the sight of his children and Rachel. She released Ashley's hand, and let them step in front of her. More tears came from the children immediately, and as Tom worked to sit up, Rachel moved to help him adjust, as he sat sideways on the bed, making room for the kids. The children climbed into the bed, both sobbing, the loss of their mother still so fresh.

Tom couldn't contain his own tears as he held them, kissing their heads, ignoring the pain in his shoulder. Rachel shut the door to the small room, but their sobs carried, and she held her heart, leaning against the wall outside.

"I'm so sorry about your mom," Tom choked out, his words too raw, so unfair. He blamed himself for this, if they'd gotten there just hours sooner, could they have saved her; the thoughts tore him apart.

"She tried so hard to live, she knew you'd come for us, she knew," Ashley sobbed into his chest. They were silent for a long while, taking comfort in being together again. When the tears turned to hiccups, and then turned to sniffles, Sam looked up at his father, his face blotchy from crying, his little blue eyes full of emotion.

"She told us to tell you she loved you a lot," the words coming from the little boy before him just tore him apart, and he felt so sad, so angry at himself for not being able to save her. He hugged them closer, taking comfort in their warmth.

Rachel listened outside the door, a tear streaming down her cheek for the man inside, the man she so cared for. He'd traipsed across the oceans for her, from the beginning, before he'd known any better. He'd fought for her, killed for her, laid men to rest for her, and now, he'd lost his wife for her. The guilt that came over her was immense and so very real. She sat down on the chair beside the door, running her hands over her face. How could this have happened?

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