Sorry about taking a long time to write and publish this, but I was busy and it's a nice long, and reasonably exciting, one. Spoilers for Season 4, Episode 10, Rawhide. The song title is Don't Let Go (Love) by En Vogue, my favourite RnB song. 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.
Don't Let Go
'I know what I want. Do you know what you want?'
Yes. He did. And they both knew what his problem with that was.
His mother would have had a fit if she heard him answer with such apathy. If there was anything that Margaret Flynn had prided herself on, it was teaching her three sons the subtleties of effective communication with women. He wasn't playing dumb—he wasn't stupid enough to—and he knew that she understood his intention. It wasn't a conversation he wanted to have, at least not in front of the docked Navy ship they were both assigned to with the extreme likelihood of some unfriendly eavesdroppers.
'It's a weird time to spring this on me.'
Now, let's end this conversation and go have coffee, the other part of his mind had screeched. Professionalism silenced it. Most days his love affair with the sea was enough to keep that voice quiet, hushed to barely a whisper. Kate's words had changed that from a whisper to a scream. They spoke in volumes over and over again inside mental caucus. And it had yet to reach a consensus.
'It's amazing what people would give up to be on this ship.'
It was one of those times where he wished, most desperately and ardently, that he'd remained at NAVCOM. No matter how much he pressed to himself and to Kate that it wasn't his fault, his choice, his will, but to no avail. Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving.
'RO thinks he's indispensable. Not unlike you.'
An interesting remark, he wondered. But wouldn't it be easier to find a replacement radio operator over a replacement commanding officer? One would certainly think so. If he was a gambling man, he'd be willing to bet that she enjoyed the torture of his conscience. Surely she knew how he felt. If he'd been torturing her for the past three years, the tides would apparently turn soon. Maybe they already had. Who was the more afflicted of the two? Who felt this situation more deeply than the other? Him? Her? Did the answer alternate day-by-day? It seemed to be dependent on outside influences—the stresses of their jobs, the actions of their colleagues, the sinister spectacles that they were accustom to examining and handling each and every day.
He stared at the watch on his left wrist. Thirty-eight minutes left until his shore leave began. It was getting late... and dark. Just hours ago, when most of the crew had embarked on their first day of a five-day vacation time, the sky was as blue as the ocean below, albeit a much lighter shade. Clouds of charcoal grey had now enveloped the atmosphere. The moist scent of precipitating rainfall was as much an indicator of the forecast for the night ahead as the scene. Wave activity was picking up, discernibly swaying the boat, and he could hear the distinct thrash of thunder in the distance. They were in for a wet night.
He remembered his parting with Kate earlier that day. Wasn't she leaving with Dutchy? He hoped that she'd make it home before the storm hit, although that was hours ago. Sceptically, he wondered what the two of them would actually discuss over a drink or two... or more. Just a few months earlier, his XO had been championing for a new buffer, citing something along the lines of irreconcilable differences. So what were they up to?
'It does take two, you know.'
Uh, no... That couldn't be it. But that did bring up an interesting and entirely feasible possibility. Kate was ready to commit to formal and lasting relationship, and she wanted that with him. If she didn't get it, how long would she wait for him to be ready also? Or would she move on to someone who was ready? Was he losing his Kate?
'What do we do?'
What do you want me to do, was the question he was really asking. Panic was starting to set in. He didn't want to lose her—again—but he wasn't ready to find out just how to balance his career wants and needs with her. Kate seemed to be the one with all the answers, the quid pro quo sort of attitude towards the happenings in their relationship since he came back on to the Hammersley. Maybe she was keeping score? If that was the case, he was probably on negative points. Perhaps he really was losing her. Perhaps it was his turn to take charge and alter the course of their union, before his lack of determination landed him in hot water.
'Be professional. As always.'
Was it too late for a grand gesture? Had she already made up her mind? When he thought about it, her last two statements were almost final. They had a definite and conclusive air to them; he just couldn't see it at the time. Perhaps if he had, he'd have done more to stop her from leaving with Dutchy. He had the first watch, unfortunately; else he may have gone after her anyway. Any which way he sliced it, then and now, there was something off about the way their conversation ended.
He looked at his watch again. Seventeen minutes. The wind outside had really picked up. The palms along the shore of Trinity Inlet were bending twenty or thirty odd degrees. Thick droplets of water were battering the windscreen in front of him. He wondered if calling a cab now to be ready for him when he finished was a good idea. But it was a Friday night during the school holiday season. Tourists would be flocking to the metropolitan centre and, with the change in weather conditions, none of them would be too keen to walk from their resorts and five-star hotels. He'd probably need to wait a while.
Twelve minutes. Hard to believe that only five had passed since he last looked. He could change early. Nobody would know, except perhaps one or two of the sailors still working on board, but would they question their CO? And would they know when his watch finished?
Six minutes. He was changed and ready to go. If there was a time for grand gestures, tonight would be it. He was going to convince Kate to stick with him no matter what it took. He wasn't even sure what he was going to say. Nine hours of the same words going through his head over and over again, and he hadn't thought of anything new to say. Maybe the words would come at the opportune moment.
Two minutes. The next officer of the watch had arrived and was making himself a brew in the galley. The Hammersley was docked securely and tied down. What could happen? He could leave... but he wouldn't. He could wait two minutes.
Thirty seconds. His watch was almost over. Normally he didn't stick to a specific time schedule for his watch—normally he went over time, not caring or willing himself to bother with an explicit finish time.
But today was different.
Today, he had something to do.
And then, as if he'd made it to the finish line of a marathon, his watch was over. He speedily made his way to the stern of the ship, saluted, and was off the wharf in moments. And drenched to the bone in moments. Now, to call a cab or not to?
Not to, he decided. Kate's house was a little over two and a half kilometres from the base. He calculated about half an hour to walk the distance, less if he ran. The rain was really coming down. He couldn't see more than a few inches in front of his face, so it was probably a good thing that he knew exactly where he was going.
Draper Street was especially crowded for a night of such bad weather. He weaved in and out of umbrella-wielding tourists until he finally hit residential area. He was outside her house within fifteen minutes, but he didn't dare enter or knock. He hadn't entirely decided upon what he wanted to say. Five minutes later, he was still standing there, wet, cold and altogether in a miserable physical state, but his determination to salvage his relationship had not waned.
His jeans and dark blue shirt were clinging uncomfortably to his skin, threatening the top layer with an itchy and irritating rash. Water was trailing along the lines of his handsome face, his hair was matted and dripping, and his shoes were almost too heavy to lift. In some act of final redemption, he removed his phone from his right pocket and called the second number on his speed dial.
It was ringing.
It still worked.
At least that was something in his favour. He could hear the phone inside the house. And he heard it stop ringing.
"Will you let me in?"
"What?" He could picture the confused furrowing of her brows.
"I'm outside your house."
"So why didn't you just ring the doorbell?" she retorted rather testily, and hung up without giving him a chance to answer.
The door opened just moments later. Her hair was wet, though not dripping like his, and she was dressed only in her bath robe. At least, that was all that was visible.
She said nothing when she saw him, but her shocked expression told him enough. Surprise was the first part of a grand gesture; that is, if she was surprised for the right reasons. Horror was definitely not one of them.
"I didn't want to drag mud through your house," he said, answering her earlier question.
"Did you walk here?" she asked with an incredulous look.
Mike shook his head. "No. Ran."
"Why on earth..."
"I didn't fancy my chances of getting a taxi quickly and I didn't want to wait," he said, cutting her remark short.
Kate was now virtually oblivious to the hammering down of the rains from the heavens above. Mike had long since forgotten about it. "And what's got you in such a rush?"
Mike just looked at her, seriously and passionately, softly blowing rainwater from his lips as he did so. "You."
Kate didn't verbally respond, letting her slightly lifted brows, agape mouth and facial creases do the talking. His breathing was long and deep, and, after a dramatic pause, he explained himself.
"I love you."
Kate hadn't expected this scene to transpire when she answered her phone just minutes earlier. She was just beginning to accept the way things were going to be between them, and then he arrives at her doorstep, like a shining knight from a cliché romance film, saying the three words she'd waited so long to hear. Oh so long.
It took her a few moments to regain enough composure to think. She remembered where they were, and noticed, again, that he was drenched and shivering. "Come inside." It wasn't a question or request. It was an order which he obeyed, stripping his feet of footwear at the door and dragging his thick, wet socks on to the timber floorboards.
She reached for a damp white towel on her kitchen bench and threw it to him. He dried his hair quickly and dabbed the material against his wet clothing, bringing out most of the loose water. At least he wasn't dripping anymore, but he was still cold. Kate, however, wasn't mildly interested in that. Her palms were pressed to the counter and she wasn't facing him. Words were useless now. Both had said everything they wanted to.
Mike was cautiously walking towards her. If she wanted to talk, then that's what she'd get. Her satisfaction was his primary goal, but he had another view of the type of satisfaction he wanted to achieve. He didn't stop until he was standing behind her. Feather-light touches embraced her hips. His slow, warm breath tickled the back of her neck.
And then she turned, so unexpectedly that it knocked the wind out of him. He recovered in moments and inspected her expression closely. What was she thinking? What was she waiting for?
You, duh. There was that voice again. His hands, acting on their own accord, had already trailed up her side, passed her arms and behind her neck to cup the sides of her head. His thumbs were making circular movements through her blonde hair. He stepped closer, chaining them together in such congested proximity. Neither had room to move. Neither could escape. And neither party wanted to.
Mike took his time, but, eventually, after the dipping of his head and the rising of hers, their lips met in a passionate embrace. The battering of rain, or hail, possibly, faded into the nonexistent background along with the murmuring of the television and the incessant end-beeps of the microwave. It lasted just seconds, but when Kate stepped forward, collecting his saturated shirt in her fist, their lips met a second time, and a third, with a ferocious intensity. The belting thunder outside wasn't half as strong as the sparks that were flying between them - emanating from them.
Kate's fingers were making quick work of the shirt as his lips dipped past her neckline to seam of the robe, muscling it from her shoulder and exposing the warm, light skin beneath. As his kisses ventured deeper, their evocative response was becoming more apparent, as was the notion that she wasn't wearing a bra beneath that loose, exuberantly fluffy robe. His hands reached up from her waist and pushed it back to flaunt the virgin skin of below her collarbone.
His wet shirt was on the floor now and her hands had moved to busy themselves with his belt buckle. Adversely, Mike's wandering hands had constrained themselves to the thin strands of her damp, blonde hair. He could smell the fruity scent of her shampoo as his lips made their way back to hers from the base of her neck. She was pressed tightly against her fridge with nowhere to turn or go. Mike had her firmly in his possession. At least one of his goals for the evening had been achieved.
He lost his jeans and socks frantically somewhere between the kitchen and the bedroom. Her robe had been removed not far from the bed in a similar fashion. They fell back on to the gossamer quilt design together when Kate's calves made contact with the mattress. As the last of their clothing was shed, Mike, triumphant and altogether satisfied with himself, voiced his intention to show her just how much he loved her, tonight, tomorrow, and in the weeks to come.
But he was gone when she woke the next morning, a folded note in his place.