OVERBOARD- otherwise known as:

Merrell swept the little pile of dirt into the dustpan Jeffrey held. When he'd finished, they both straightened. Suddenly looking at something behind Merrell, Jeffrey pointed.

"Oh, look!" he exclaimed cheerfully.

Merrell turned, curious, and searched the horizon for whatever had so captured his friend's attention. Aside from a couple of seagulls hovering lazily behind the boat, he saw nothing of interest.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey was using the distraction to his advantage. He shuffled across the stern, bent and lifted up one of the loops of heavy rope coiled on the deck. There he quickly emptied the contents of the dustpan, grinning at his own clever resourcefulness. He tapped the edge of the dustpan against the deck a couple of times and then stealthily laid the rope back in place.

Behind him, Merrell had given up trying to locate whatever it was Jeffrey had been trying to show him. He turned, planning to ask the shorter man what he'd seen, and suddenly it all made sense. He smiled in exasperation as he watched his mischievous friend trying to hide the contents of the dustpan.

Jeffrey straightened and turned, thinking he'd put one over on Merrell, only to find himself toe to toe with the other man. Merrell was smiling knowingly, a look of reproach on his face as he impatiently tapped his foot. Realizing he'd been caught, Jeffrey smiled feebly and started fanning himself with the empty dustpan. He was trying to come off as innocent, but falling way short.

Merrell lifted his hand and shook a chastising finger at him. "Jeffrey...," he began to scold.

The smaller man shrugged, chuckling, and started to casually back away from his much taller friend. He offered the dustpan to Merrell, hoping to distract him long enough to make good his escape.

Ignoring the dustpan, Merrell took a step forward. Jeffrey took another step back, in retreat, and started to take another. The smile vanished from Merrell's face, replaced with a look of alarm. Before Jeffrey could wonder about this, he stepped back again and his foot came down... onto nothing. With a startled yelp, he lost his balance, pinwheeling his arms and teetering on the edge of the deck.

"Jeff!!" Merrell dropped the broom and bolted forward, reaching out for his friend's hand. Their fingertips just brushed before Jeffrey went overboard. Merrell dashed to edge of the boat just in time to see the smaller man disappear under the surface. He was about to follow, but fortunately remembered that he couldn't swim. Instead, he cupped both hands around his mouth and turned toward the bridge.


He heard echoing cries from all parts of the boat, and was relieved to see Robin, Joanne, Katie and Lynn hurrying towards him. Apparently they'd seen Jeffrey go over, and were already on the way to help.

On the upper deck, Gilmer heard Merrell's cry, and leaned over the rail to look toward the rear deck. Merrell was frantically waving to Jerry at the helm with one hand, and pointing behind the boat with the other. She followed his finger and spotted a person flailing in the water about fifteen yards off the stern... wearing a familiar black hat.

"Man overboard!" she shouted, grabbing up a life ring and running for the stairs. She was met en route by David, wide-eyed and carrying a coil of rope. He stepped back to let her go first on the stairs, and jumped down behind her. As they hit the deck, they both teetered as the boat suddenly lurched. David wrapped an arm around Gil's waist to steady her.

Jerry had put the tug in reverse, and now the small vessel began to move slowly back toward Jeffrey.

Meanwhile, the cause of all the commotion was fighting to keep his head above water. He wasn't a strong swimmer in the best of circumstances, and this was hardly that. The natural currents were strong, and the tugboat, although little, churned the water up with its powerful engines. In addition, his baggy clothes were weighing him down and making it harder to move in the water.

"Help!" Jeffrey spluttered as water washed over his face. He spit it out, and tried to wave to his friends on the boat. "Help me! He... ulp!" A flood of water sneaking into his open mouth cut off his call. He started to choke, inhaling and swallowing more and more water as he began to drown. He could see that the tug was coming back for him, now, but knew it would be too late.

Closing his eyes and giving one last silent goodbye to his friends, he slipped under the water.

"Jerry, HURRY!" Gilmer screamed as she watched her friend vanish. He didn't come back up this time. "He's gone under!"

Jerry cut the motor as the tug neared the place where they'd last seen their friend. The boat glided to a stop, and everyone hung over the railing, frantically searching the water for any sign of Jeffrey.

Gilmer and David skidded to a stop behind them, and Gil prepared to throw the life ring. Her eyes scanned the area beside the boat. "Where is he?!"

"Do you see him?!"
"Where is he?!"
"He can't swim!"
"He's been under so long!"
"Oh no!"
"Jeff, where are you?!"
"He's gone!"

Everyone was talking at once. Jerry appeared beside them, and began to scan the water as well. After a moment, he and David exchanged a look. David dropped his coil of rope, shed his heavy jacket, and both men pulled off their shoes. They started to climb over the railing, when suddenly a new sound rang out over the din of the distraught voices. It was the watery sound of coughing... from behind them.

The group turned as one. They all stared for a few seconds, and then breathed a communal sigh of relief.

Their Master stood smiling in the center of the deck, bone dry and cradling a very wet and bedraggled Jeffrey in his arms. The young man had both arms wrapped tightly around his teacher's neck, and was coughing up what seemed like gallons of water. His oversized clothes were plastered to his small frame, and the waterlogged brim of his hat drooped comically over his eyes, its decorative raccoon tail resembling a drowned rat.

"How did he..."
"Oh, Jeffrey!"
"... not even wet!"
"Thank heavens!"

The happy exclamations blended into each other as the group rushed forward to surround their teacher and his dripping burden.

Jeffrey raised his head as hands patted him on the back and shoulders. He removed one arm from its hold around the Master's neck to try and push the soaked hat up off his eyes, then finally tugged it off and dropped it. He glanced around at his friends, silent and sheepish, brown eyes blinking with disorientation.

As if on cue, the girls mobbed him, cooing and fussing over him. He blushed as his wet face was covered with kisses and his wet hair tousled and run through by many feminine fingers, leaving it sticking out in places. He endured the doting for a minute before turning his face away and hugging his rescuer's neck again.

The Master chuckled gently as Jeffrey snuggled against him, wet chin coming to rest on his shoulder. He cuddled his diminutive disciple for a few moments more, and then gently set him on his feet. Or rather, set him on his tiptoes, as the shorter man refused to let go of his neck. The tall man sighed lovingly and wrapped his long arms around Jeffrey in a tight hug.

After a minute, Jeffrey released his hold on his Teacher's neck and just leaned into him, snuggling his head up under the taller man's chin in a wordless gesture of gratitude. He slid one hand around the Master's back to grip the strap of his suspenders like a security blanket, and brought the other up to rest against his chest, picking idly at a loose red thread on the "S" emblazoned there.

The Master brought an arm up to encircle Jeffrey, holding him close, long fingers gently squeezing his shoulder, garnering a contented little sigh. He pressed a kiss on the top of his disciple's wet head, then rested his cheek there, closing his eyes and smiling gently.

Finally, Jeffrey seemed ready to stand alone. He let go and stepped back, pulling self-consciously at his cold, wet clothes where they clung uncomfortably to his skin. He started to shiver, teeth chattering as the cold water ran off him to pool on the deck.

David noticed and moved forward, still holding his discarded coat. He tapped Jeffrey on the shoulder, and then held up the garment. Jeffrey complied, letting his arms be guided into the sleeves, which ended far past his fingertips. He hugged the warm, dry fabric around himself and grinned as David ruffled his damp hair.

"Always have to be the center of attention, don't you?" the sandy-haired man teased, smiling.

Everyone laughed, and the Master draped an arm around Jeffrey's shoulders, guiding him toward the door of the ship's tiny cabin.


A few minutes later, Jeffrey's hat and clothes were drying in front of the little heater in the corner of the cabin. He was seated on one of the two chairs in the room, wrapped up in a robe Katie had found in the cupboard. The garment was easily four sizes too big, the too-long sleeves making him look childlike and adorable.

Most everyone had cleared out of the cabin when Katie suggested he get out of the wet clothes. Jerry had gone back up to drive the boat, and most of the others had taken up mops. Someone had to clean up all the water Jeffrey had dripped onto the deck, after all, Lynn had pointed out with a laugh. Now only Katie, David and the Master remained, all watching over their accident-prone friend as he tried to get warmed up.

At the back of the cabin, David turned from the little stove, stirring a cup of soup. He crossed the room, sat down on the edge of the cot across from Jeffrey and held the cup out to him. Jeffrey hesitated, but after a nod from the Master seated in the other chair, he reached out and took the offering with a grateful little smile.

"Thanks," he murmured, and then sneezed. "Sorry," he added, as the Master wiped a hand across his face, chuckling.

"Uh oh," Katie said, coming closer and laying her hand on his forehead. "I hope you haven't caught a cold." She leaned down to look more closely at his face. Enormous brown eyes blinked up at her over the rim of the cup as Jeffrey sipped the hot soup. After he swallowed, he shook his head.

"Nope, David uses too much pepper." He grinned as his three companions smiled. They laughed as he sneezed again, holding a hand over the top of the cup to keep from spilling. When he was sure he was done sneezing, he started drinking the soup again.

Katie went back to the cupboard and took out a blanket and pillow. Then she shooed David off the edge of the cot, laid the pillow down and unfolded the blanket. Jeffrey drained the last few drops of soup from the cup and handed it up as David reached out for it. Then, at Katie's guiding, he stood up and moved to lie down on the cot.

The Master stood as well, and helped Katie drape the blanket over Jeffrey. The young man curled up on his side, hugging the blanket tightly around him as he settled down. Now that he was warm and dry, with a tummy full of hot soup, he was sleepy. It was only a few moments before his eyes fluttered shut and he drifted off to sleep.

Katie tucked the blanket in under the edge of the cot, smiling as the Master laid his big hand on the side of his sleeping disciple's head. When he stepped back, she leaned down and softly kissed Jeffrey's cheek, brushing her fingers across his brow in a sweet, motherly way.

David made sure the stove was off, and checked the progress of Jeffrey's drying clothes. Once everything was in order, he followed Katie and the Master as they filed out of the cabin, leaving their sleeping friend in peace.

David and the Master headed up to the bridge, and Katie went to join Robin where she stood at the railing. The blond girl turned, smiling as her friend approached.

"How is he?" she asked.

Katie chuckled. "He's fine. Sound asleep." She stretched and looked out over the sparkling surface of the water.

Robin nodded. "We need to keep a closer eye on him, from now on," She said with a grin. "Don't you think?"

"Agreed," Katie replied with a smile, wrapping an arm around her shorter friend.