A short filler again and missing scene from Soft Target, 4.13. 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.


Never Again

Kate sipped her coffee slowly as she watched Swain leave the officers' mess. He had been good company, but it wasn't quite his place to stay, not with the CO in the room. The air changed as he departed, leaving the door slightly ajar as he went by. There was an uneasy nervousness encapsulating their sphere again—the same thing that had been happening on and off for the past few weeks whenever they were left alone together. Conversation and light chit-chat hadn't been coming to them easily of late. Mike kept to himself mostly and Kate only ever constructed such discussions with Swain or Dutchy. The same thing arose whenever the two of them were left alone together without a professional angle to debate. Silence.

"I hope that you're not blaming yourself for any of this," Mike said after a few moments of complete quiet. He had busied himself with the kettle as Kate had downed her own brew.

"Any of what?"

"Well, firstly, what happened to Eliza Lang was not your fault," Mike pressed as he leant coolly against the counter. "I meant what I said. She made her own choices. Nothing you said or bore any weight on it."

She didn't respond. There wasn't a need to.

"And neither of us could have predicted that Fraser was selling secrets," he continued in a low voice to avoid unwelcome eavesdroppers. Even though most of the crew were above decks or on the bridge, the door was still slightly open.

"I know. He was crash posted on the Hammersley and there wasn't anything to suggest a problem," Kate added, but it did naught to dissuade her dampened soul.

"So what's up?"

Kate was a little surprised to see him so concerned. It was an emotion he'd avoided having for a few weeks now. Why was he being so damn intuitive all of a sudden?

"I'm not imagining it," he persisted. "I know that something's the matter. Is it just me?"

She shook her head with an incredulous look. "You know, not everything is about you."

"Okay. I'll give you that one. Is it? In this instance?"

"Not in the way you think..." she muttered, letting her voice trail off.

But he heard her and shot her a questioning look. "What do you mean?"

"Were you shocked at all to learn that I'd transposed the numbers yesterday? Because I was."

"You didn't-"

"Yes, but we didn't know that," she said, cutting him off midsentence.

He shrugged. "Everybody makes mistakes."

"No. They don't. And I don't. Not on my work at least."

It felt a little like a kick in the gut. He knew that last comment was directed at him. "Well, I thought that either you or Fraser made a mistake and the paper I was handed suggested..." There was no need to carry on. They both knew what happened.

"It's not the point. I don't like feeling like I've made a critical error in any part of my life. And it would seem that I've made more than a few lately." She stood up quickly, taking her empty mug with her, and made a move towards the door.

Mike reacted quicker, pushing it shut with a hand before she could leave. "Explain," he said simply. And if that wasn't a command, then Kate didn't know what was.

"You know what I mean."

"Mistakes?"

"A few too many. I'm normally not such a slow learner." She took her seat again, giving up on any hope of escape.

"I disagree," Mike put forward and she responded with a hearty laugh.

"Oh, I thought you might."

"We didn't make a mistake."

She looked at him shrewdly and tried to guess what was on his mind. "An error of judgment then, perhaps?"

"No." His voice was firm and position unchanging.

"Now it's my turn to disagree," Kate said in a soft voice, looking away from him nervously.

"So what do you propose?"

The ball was back in her court. "Well, you see, the good thing about making mistakes is the chance to grow after them... even if it takes a while."

"Lessons to be learned?"

"Exactly." She had a content smile on her face.

Mike chuckled as he shook his head and backed away from her. He was amused by her analogy and his expression showed it.

"2Dads has seemingly learned from his." Kate was on her feet again and just as unexpectedly as before. She wasn't going to take no for an answer this time. Her hand was on the doorhandle as she stared intently into Mike's eyes. "And if 2Dads can learn then there's clearly hope for all of us."