It's possible that I'm the only woman in her early twenties that chose to stay in last night and write fanfiction. My friend even called and asked if I wanted to see Inception. But no, I was writing Sea Patrol fics... And that story I promised is up now. Set post-In Too Deep.

Additional author's note: the song for this story is Foreign Land by Eskimo Joe.

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.

Enjoy and please review.

Chapter One

Mike rolled on to his side angrily and tried to find the source of his irritation. His hands stumbled around in the crisp morning light for a few moments before he remembered whose house he was in... and that the alarm clock was on the other side of the bed. He reached across his sleeping beauty and nudged the snooze button with a forefinger. Her phone buzzed a few moments later.

Kate rose slowly from her slumber and grabbed the vibrating pink handset from her bedside table. "Kate McGregor. Hello." A long pause indicated to Mike that someone was speaking to her. "Of course. I'll be there in forty-five minutes." She tossed it back on to the table.

"NAVCOM?" Mike asked as he rolled over to face his lover.

"Commander White," Kate replied happily. "She's found me a new XO."

Mike leant in and kissed her lips softly. "Mm, she found someone, did she?" he said with a smile and kissed her again.

"Or you did?" Kate managed to say between the hungry nips at her tender lips.

"Well, the last two were a disaster," he clarified.

"In your humble opinion. I didn't think they did too bad a job. But-"

"They weren't suitable leaders for the Hammersley."

"Or to serve under me, I presume."

Mike threw his arms up to protest his innocence. "It takes a while to find a good working team, you know. The position of your Executive Officer is a vital one."

"Right. This reminds me of the same thing we went through when Pete Tomasczewski left. Thank God Dutchy arrived else we'd still be going through the interview process." She rolled out of bed and grabbed her underwear. Mike stayed a while longer, enjoying the view in front of him.

"Will you get up?" she shouted as she opened the bedroom door.

He sighed. Sometimes Kate could really be a nag. But at least she cared enough for him to wash and iron his uniform, leaving it freshly pressed and hung in her wardrobe next to her own whites. He wouldn't tell her, but he did like the look of the domestic situation they'd found themselves in. They were almost living together, and he used the almost heavily. It had only been four weeks since he posted off the Hammersley and Kate had been promoted. Four weeks since they officially started their passionate and explosive liaison. Four weeks of living in each other's houses, and they'd almost acquired the criteria for a "living-together" relationship—nearly half of his closet space was taken up by her clothes and vice versa.

"Breakfast?" he asked as he walked into the kitchen.


He made a face.

"Well, if you don't like it, then you can go to Coles and buy your own cereal," she said after a spoonful of the mushy food.

Shrugging, he made removed a piece of bread from the bag and tossed it into the toaster. At least she had crunchy peanut butter.

"So about my new XO..."

"He came highly recommended," Mike told her. "He's young, but from what I've seen, very intelligent, determined and a fast learner. He hasn't spent as much time as the others at sea, and never on a patrol boat, but I'm banking on the fact that he'll pick up his role like that." And he snapped his fingers for grand effect.

"Okay..." Kate said unsurely. She didn't know what to make of Mike's enthusiasm or his explanation of her new XO. He was young? How young? And how did he manage to survive in the navy as a Seaman Officer if he didn't spend much time at sea? Was Mike really sure that this was who he wanted to be the CO's right hand man?

"You're concerned," Mike noticed over his sticky toast.

"Your description doesn't exactly feel me with confidence."

"He's a ladder-jumper. And his recommendations came from some very important people. I'm surprised that a Lieutenant of his age has managed to meet, let alone get to know, them. Even I don't know most of these people."

"Who? Who's endorsing him?"

"Commodore Wilson at Fleet Headquarters for one. The HMAS Harman CO, Commander Atherton is another. And they have a lot to say about him. A quick thinker. Has good instincts." It looked to Kate like he was listing the qualities she wanted to hear on his hand.

"Alright, I am going to try him out," Kate told him. "Of course. It isn't like I have much of a choice in the matter."

"You always have a choice, Kate. I'll listen to you if nobody else does."

She mocked a smile in his direction. "We should get going, Mike. We'll be late."

"Okay... my cover..." He looked around the room wildly. "Cover... cover... where is my cover?"

"Right here, Mike," she shouted from the door, holding on to it. "Right where I left it."

He took it from her hands with a gracious smile. "Where was that?"

"Hanging behind the door. You left it on the couch and I picked it up last night."

"Right..." he answered awkwardly before perking up a little. "Ready to go? Lieutenant Commander McGregor?"

Her brows furrowed as she gave him a temperate stare.

"Wow... that was a mouthful," he continued as he led the way to his car. "Maybe you should change your name to something with just one syllable. It'd be much easier to pronounce."

He didn't get a verbal response, but she was clearly unimpressed. And he was mentally kicking himself. They'd been together for what... four weeks? Plus all the time they wasted, but that was really not the point. Was he subliminally suggesting marriage? And why was her reply so cold to that?

They drove to HMAS Cairns with the sound of breakfast radio. And there seemed to be an abnormal level of traffic on the main road. She was going to be late. He stopped in front of the building to allow her to disembark quickly and arrive at her meeting with Maxine on time while he parked the car.

"Door-to-door service," he said with a smile.

She braved a quick kiss before opening the door. Mike was expecting her to close it and run into the building, and he was entirely surprised when she poked her head back in and grinned at him. "Just so you know, Mike, I am not changing my name, regardless of what might happen in the future."

And even the collecting thunderstorm could not dampen his smile as he drove away.