Another short update and this is not directly related to the MK relationship. But I promise, a big event is coming and I am building up to it. Your patience will be rewarded in the end. The next three stories (for Universal Donor, Dutch Courage, and Rawhide) especially will probably be the pinnacle of this series. In the meantime, enjoy this story 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.


Here With Me

Kate did not want to knock on his door and wake him just to deliver more bad news, but she didn't have a choice. Their ship's mission was not her right to decide upon; she needed the proper authority to make such judgment calls. She approached the door slowly, almost as if to wait for someone or something to jump out of the shadows and give her cause to run away. But none had come by the time she reached the door, so she knocked.

Once.

Twice.

He answered before there was a need for a third.

"Yes?" the tired, half-naked officer before her asked.

"We've reached the furthest parameter of our recently-calculated search field and found nothing," Kate told him in her best Executive Officer voice. "Shall we make another run?"

"I'm sensing a but, else you wouldn't have bothered me," Mike pointed out as he threw a grey t-shirt on.

"I don't want to give up, but I think at this point there are only two possibilities. He was picked up by another boat, and they haven't or can't radio in, or..."

"Or our frivolous attempts are in search of a body," Mike finished for her.

"We can't just stop looking for him," Kate pressed. "I don't see myself justifying that to the crew. Do you?"

"No, but Coast Watch haven't spotted anything and neither have the other patrol in our area. We could search the whole Arafura and never find a trace of him."

"They haven't found anything yet. We haven't found anything yet. It doesn't that we won't. I'm going to order another run through the area."

Mike just nodded, deciding not to make any mention of burning fuel or their other engagements. It was important to him, her and everyone on board. Important that they do everything they can to find him. Kate had been right before—everybody was blaming themselves. He could see it, and in Kate's eyes most of all. She was his divisional officer and had a responsibility to ensuring his professional and personal welfare when he was on this ship. And his own conscience was weighing heavily on him. They were helpless in their rescue efforts, and they were at a loss to describe his reasoning for going overboard. A question was driving Mike crazy, and just a little hazy, did RO jump of his own accord, or was he suffering from the side-effects of the sleeping pills? And if the first option was the case, was there something they could have done to prevent it?

"Sir?"

"Yes. Make another run through our search area. We're not going to give up, Kate. I want to know what happened and why as much as you do."

"I keep feeling like I shouldn't have let him on the boarding, but I understand Dutchy's reasoning, even if I did snap at him earlier..." Her voice trailed off a little bashfully. "Sailors," she muttered under her breath.

"You don't need to keep blaming yourself or Dutchy," he told her softly. They were standing close and their conversation was a whisper. "We all want to know what happened and whose fault it really is, even if it's nobody's. We just need to know that we didn't fail him."

"But we did. We failed him. We failed to pick up on the events that led to this. We failed to make the right calls. We failed."

"Not yet." His hand was on her shoulder, squeezing gently. "We'll find him."

Kate nodded slowly and turned to leave the doorway of his cabin. His hand grabbed hers, almost unintentionally romantically. He had only intended to stop her from leaving. A little embarrassed with himself, he let go of it immediately. "Do you want some company? I'm awake now anyway."

She shrugged. "I don't see why not."

The bridge was empty save for Tiger, that is, young Seaman Tolomeo, at the helm, and Able Seaman Scott, one of Charge's men, on the EOD. It was 0345h after all. Kate changed their heading, glanced at the radar and walked to the back table as Mike brought up two steaming mugs of coffee. And he knew exactly how she took it.

"Taste's good," she commented needlessly. The expression was written all over her face. It was a warm relief to the cold few days they'd been having. "Do you think we'll get lucky and pick up something we missed this time around?"

"Do you think luck's what we need?" Mike retorted, but not unkindly.

"It'd be pretty useless, sir," Scott piped up, "if the R.O. was sucked into the depths of Davy Jones' locker."

"Did you pick up anything on the EOD, Able Seaman Scott?" Mike asked, rather unkindly this time.

"Uh, nothing yet, sir."

"Keep your eyes peeled." Mike turned back to Kate. "Has his family been informed?"

"My guess is that there is not one person that RO would want us to inform. Not unlike most of us on this ship."

"I guess that's a fair call to make," Mike agreed solemnly. He quickly changed the subject before their conversation became deeper and more meaningful. "The mood on this ship won't change from impatient and austere until we find out what happened to him."

"I suppose not," Kate acknowledged.

"In 48 hours, it won't matter," Mike conceded. "We'll need to steam for home and NAVCOM will likely order the cessation of rescue and recovery efforts."

"Then we need to make the next 24 hours count, sir. Scott, anything more of the EOD?"