Another update, even though I've already posted today. Thankfully, this one in longer (more along the lines of what I'm used to writing). Spoilers are for The Right Stuff 4.03. Hope you enjoy it and please review.
Disclaimer: I do not own any characters, locations or storylines from Sea Patrol. Those rights belong to Hal and Di McElroy, and the Nine Network, and I do not intend to infringe copyright laws. I am not making any profit from this story and am writing it for my enjoyment and the enjoyment of others.
Love Long Distance
There was music playing as Kate approached the front door. She never understood Mike's need to play music as he cooked, but, if it helped, she wouldn't question it. He was not so the proficient chef as she was, although that probably stemmed from experience—she'd been cooking large meals since she was eight years old. It smelt nice, though; a scent that wafted through the cracks in the door and met her hungry senses with a dullish roar. Her watch had ended an hour ago, and she handed the ship over to the Charge. With no Bomber on board to prepare lunch and very little supplies to do it yourself, she'd had to settle with a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, while young Boatswains Mate, Seaman Justin Tolomeo, affectionately known onboard as 'Tiger' for his lightning fast reflexes, polished off the leftover ham, cheese and tomato.
She brought her hand up to knock almost as soon as she reached the front door. It took Mike three short knocks to reply. "It's open."
And so it was, Kate discovered, as soon as she opened the screen door. "What are you cooking? It smells great."
"Have you eaten all day?" Mike asked with a smile. She had to admit, he looked good in a tight-fitted tee, dirty blue jeans and a dark green apron. All it was missing was a 'Kiss the Chef' slogan.
"I had a sandwich." She left her bag on counter and rested against his fridge comfortably.
Kate shook her head. "Do you always need to answer a question with another question? What are you cooking?"
He chuckled and turned his back to her. The stove appeared to be a warmer partner.
"Seriously?" she pushed. Walking up behind him, she dipped arm around his waist and dropped the tip of a manicured finger into the sauce. He turned again to face her as she tasted his delicious-looking cooking. Now they were just a little too close.
He stepped away from the stove, feeling like the kitchen's heat was a bit much, and grinned suggestively at her. Her evocative behaviour, coupled with the steaming heat from stove top was probably creating the wrong kind of atmosphere between them. He couldn't think clearly and his jeans were already starting to feel tighter.
"Would you like a drink?" he asked, moving towards the space she'd previously occupied. He opened the fridge door and bent over to peer inside. And Kate could not avert her gaze. "White or red?"
"Whichever," she replied, trying hard to hide her breathlessness. Kate, suddenly, found herself in desperate need of food. She hoped that his indulgent dinner would be ready soon, or she would not be responsible for any further action taken. After all, it wasn't actually Mike's succulent chicken that Kate was desperate for. "What are you actually making anyway?"
He smiled again, retrieving a crispy bottle of bubbly from the rear of the fridge. "Chicken breast with smoked mozzarella."
"Is it almost ready?"
"Good. I'll put plates out." She bent low, next to his legs, to retrieve the china from the bottom cupboard. He stepped back, trying to avoid an awkward position when she stood up.
"This kitchen is not big enough," Mike muttered under his breath.
But Kate heard him. "For the both of us?"
It was a question that went unanswered. Kate set the table and poured them each a glass of sparkling wine while Mike finished off preparing dinner. His stereo was still playing in the background. Small talk ensued.
"I checked up on Dutchy after he left the ship's company this morning," Mike said as he cut away at his tender chicken meat.
"Okay," Kate replied nonchalantly, unintentionally mimicking his actions with the fork and knife.
"I sent him for a CT. It was mandatory, anyway."
"Well, I was only a little concerned when he announced 'Beer O'clock' at 0900."
Mike laughed pleasantly and continued with his meal. There were questions and conversations nagging on his brain, but he wasn't ready to explore them. It was frustrating—being so close and not being able to express his feelings. It was something that he'd always had trouble with, but navy regulations usually provided the perfect cover for his emotional inadequacies. He knew that. Kate knew that. But unless they had a chance to examine their relationship more closely, he doubted that what he felt and thought inside would ever surface if they never get that opportunity. She was definitely right about something—he had never vocally expressed his feelings, he'd never used 'those words,' and if things continued like this, he wouldn't.
As it turned out, Kate was thinking along the same lines as he. "Any news from NAVCOM?"
"Are you going to ask me that every day until I give you the answer you want to hear?" Mike said reflectively.
Kate dropped her cutlery in protest. "Again with the questions! Can't you just answer me for once?"
"I can't tell you what I don't know, Kate," Mike argued, but to no avail. Kate had already risen from her chair and walked into the kitchen, returning with to tumblers and a stronger bottle of alcohol—vodka. "What are you doing?"
"So that I'll have to get you a taxi or so you'll loosen my tongue?" Mike hadn't moved from his seat, but he'd left his delicious dinner alone.
"I know that we have a job to do. I know that we have responsibilities to the navy, to our crew, but that aside, don't you think that I deserve some answers, Mike? Don't you think that there are some things I need to hear?"
"I've given you all the answers I can," Mike protested. He grabbed the snowy white bottle from the centre of the table and filled his glass to capacity, an action he might regret in the morning.
Furious with his deflection, she slammed her glass on table and walked metres away from his, her arms crossed and expression contorted with a mix of anger and some other undescriptive emotion.
"What?" Mike pressed, gesturing his arms wide. "I don't understand why you're yelling."
"Enough with the emotional short-hand. I'm yelling because I'm done with the appearance of polite disappointment. This isn't the Hammersley and we're not on duty. We're in the privacy of your own home."
Mike cracked a smile and Kate shot a look so dangerous that the bravest Ultimate Fighter would have run away like a scared little girl.
"Is something funny?"
"I'm only thinking that it won't be so private when my neighbours put in the noise complaint to the police."
"Humorous," Kate dejected, her expression showing absolutely no humour at all.
"Can we finish dinner?"
"I'm not very much hungry anymore." And she turned and walked into the living room.
Sighing, Mike rose from the table and followed. His heart dropped when he saw Kate, alone in the middle of his couch. He wasn't able to see her face, but if he had to guess, she was fighting back tears. Making a spilt-second decision, he roamed back into the dining room and grabbed the two glasses and bottle of vodka from the table before proceeding to join his girl. He sat close to, but didn't outstretch an arm, electing to, instead, refill Kate's glass and top up his own.
"You're taking your frustrations out on me, Kate. You know that."
She lifted her glass to her lips but didn't take a drink. "Who do want me to take them out on?" She replaced it on the coffee table and turned her body to face Mike. "The junior sailors? Some unsuspecting foreign fisherman?"
"I know, I know, you've kept this bottled up for ten days. It was bound to come out at an opportune moment."
"You don't seem angry or frustrated by this situation," Kate said in a mellow voice.
"I am. Believe me, I am."
"I know that you're not ready to answer my questions, but can you at least tell me this? Where would we be if these regulations weren't place on us? If you weren't reposted on to the Hammersley?"
Mike didn't answer right away and Kate didn't want him to.
"It's something to think about," she added as an afterthought and then stood up. "I think I might call that taxi."
"Kate," Mike called after her, although it took him a few minutes. She was already halfway into the kitchen, phone in hand, but she stopped and turned.
He was in front of her in moments. Close. Decisively, he raised a hand to her cheek. A small voice—very small—told her to step away, but the stronger voice wouldn't allow it. Her eyes closed as he dragged a thumb softly across the surface of her cheek, alighting every nerve and neuron, every part of her body.
"Mike," she said finally, but her voice sounded like a plea, not a warning.
His hand dipped back and met the other, rustling through her hair. Her hands sat on his waist, gripping tightly, almost to cause pain. The distance between them closed, but his lips did not meet hers. They stood like that, still, for moments, minutes. Kate was breathing shallowly, her hot breath tickling his collarbone, and he remained stationary with his lips pressed to her forehead.
A horn interrupted them. Kate stepped away from Mike and back into reality.
"That's my taxi." She raced into the kitchen, retrieving her handbag and to the front door, which Mike was holding open for her.
"I'll see you on Thursday then?" Mike prompted.
"Yes. Goodnight." And she walked, briskly and awkwardly, down the stairs and towards the waiting vehicle.
Mike closed the door as soon as it had driven away. He could still feel her touch on his waist—an imprint of tiny hands and a whole lot of love. Biting the inside of his lip bitterly, he walked into his messy kitchen and dining room and started the almighty clean-up.