Copyright: These are all my characters. Copyright © 2005 All Rights Reserved. Send comments to JLNickymaster@aol.com

Violence: A bit...nothing over the top.

Sexual content: umm well...working it in...its getting there...does holding hands count?

Special thanks: to my younger sister for kind of prodding me onward. I got writers block a few times cause I didn't have any Oreo's.

Language: No, not yet.


Deepest Ocean Green Part 2

Maiden Voyage Itinerary for Queen Victoria Cruise Ship – From Orlando's nearby port of entry Cape Canaveral we will sail to Miami, Key West Island, and across the Atlantic to Cozumel. After a quick visit to the Bahamas, we will circle back to Fort Lauderdale then make our way to return home to Cape Canaveral.

Dean dumped her single bag on the small couch and looked at the living quarters of the stateroom. Very nice, she thought. She surveyed the contents of the full bar and checked out the stereo system briefly. Sticking her head into the bedroom door that was slightly ajar, she eyed the queen-sized bed. Two small mints rested on the pillows. There was a nightstand on either side of the bed, a bookshelf with desk unit and a full-length mirror hanging on the wall. She noted the closed closet door, turned and exited the room heading back into the main living area. The balcony showed a vista of the waterways lying in wait for their ship to traverse. Her quarters were similar to a luxury hotel suite with the exception of the constant soft droning of water hitting the hull four decks beneath it. The sun was beginning to descend casting long shadows over the water lying outside. Dean noticed her First Officer moving restlessly out of the corner of her eye.

Chris stood silently, waiting for any additional requests, or comments. She found herself shifting her weight around as she tried to ease the pain in her sore foot. Dean sat down heavily in a cushioned chair and propped her feet up on a nearby ottoman.

"It'll do!" She grinned crookedly, transitioning between being wide eyed and batting her eyes with feigned innocence. She noted the serious frown coming from the smaller woman and cocked an eyebrow teasingly.

"Aren't you supposed to laugh at the Captain's jokes? Isn't that a law?" Dean inquired, her voice full of teasing. She leaned her head back, raised her arms to clasp her hands behind her head, overtly exaggerating her movements and appeared to shift more comfortably into the cushions behind her. Chris looked over at the fully content, reclined position of the Captain. Dean feigned boredom in her queen-like pose as she regarding her loyal subject. Chris had to resist the urge to smile as she was given an exaggerated, loud yawn and a quick wink. Her green eyes danced with laughter into the depths of Dean's blue. Chris was shocked at her own feelings of ease. She felt so comfortable in this woman's presence. When was the last time that occurred with anyone? Chris thought. She pulled back mentally and physically, straightening her stance upright. She wasn't going to be caught with her guard down.

"Only if they're funny! It's in the rule book somewhere." She tried to banter carefully and heard a warm chuckle in return.

"Gotta rewrite that thing...it's getting old." Dean said huskily.

She gestured to the nearby chair and Chris sat down tentatively. Her nerves were on overload. Chris had a lot to do, no time to do it, and could think of at least six items awaiting her attention. Mentally trying to relax each body part she wondered what the new captain wanted to discuss.

Dean took a few moments to organize her thoughts and consequently, study the First officer she would be relying on heavily over the next few weeks. The obvious signs of exhaustion were visible in her features. Dean wondered if she would ever be able to figure out what was behind the woman's poker face as she looked at her from the adjacent seat.

"We have twenty-four hours and counting to get all green flags across the board before we sail. Where is my assistant Captain? Shouldn't he have stopped in by now?

Chris bit her lip and stayed silent as she looked around the carpet studiously. Dean raised her eyebrow in response and after waiting a minute she reclined back into her chair with a heavy sigh.

"I'll get to him later. I've seen his record and my Uncle has given me notes. You're in better shape to be pointing me in the direction I need to go anyway. Dean eyed the woman's shape and thought to herself, Yeppers! Trying to get a grip on her feelings, she shifted in her seat and moved the conversation into a professional mode.

"I will be relying on your input, implicitly. I'll require full support and hard work. Do you have any problems with this so far?" Her military voice was direct and confident. Chris nodded her head firmly. Dean nodded back and stood up to begin pacing, with her hands clasped behind her back as she moved back and forth across the full length of the room.

Chris discretely noted the tall form and commanding presence. She felt a slight flutter deep inside at the imagined image of Dean in her uniform. Chris quickly looked down at her hands, surprised at her thoughts. Her head rose sharply as she focused back to the questions being asked.

"...all the files. You can get them for me tonight? I will plan on having all-night and part of the morning to review and assess. OK?" Chris cleared her throat as a strong gaze pinned her in her chair.

"I'm sorry. What files?" Chris questioned hesitantly. Dean looked at her intensely, hiking a single eyebrow. Chris felt a slight warming of her cheeks. Damn blush. I feel like a schoolgirl on my first date. Focus. Focus! Chris demanded to her inner self.

"The employee files of all the officers. I like to know just who I'm working with. In detail." Dean continued pacing as she began to list off the other items she wanted to review; safety checklist, emergency procedures report, entertainment events calendar, current budget report, guest list, and several others. Chris mentally sorted, stacked and categorized each item as they were stated. Examining the list, she began putting mental check marks next to the completed items. Looking up at the sudden silence, she encountered the intensity of those darkened eyes staring down at her.

"Do you need a notepad?" An amused voice asked. Chris shook her head.

"Total recall. It's a gift." She murmured distractedly as she continued to place check marks. Dean nodded once, looked at her with an expression of admiration and continued without a hesitation or challenge.

For the next 20 minutes, Chris listened and Dean listed. Pausing to pull a bottled water out of the small bar area, Dean broke the seal and drank a few swallows. Chris watched the motion of the tall woman's throat muscles. She was caught staring for an instant as their gazes crossed once again. Chris looked away hurriedly. Dean's eyes narrowed and then twinkled with repressed laughter.

"I think that about raps it up for tonight. I need your brief assessment of what the hurdles are going to be. Then we will need to address those right away." Chris nodded and reviewed the check marks.

A knock sounded at the stateroom door. As she was already standing, Dean moved over to the door, continuing to listen as Chris gave her the skinny on the ship's condition.

"With the list of reports you've requested, the only two that I haven't had a chance to review would be the budget report and the guest list." She noted the two dark eyebrows rising at her statement and felt the urge to grin. "The bottom line is given to each department at each morning staff briefing and Michael Green, our purser, keeps a detailed report for review. I haven't heard of any overages yet. The guest list has been compiled, but it isn't currently accessible online. The lower berth tickets are still on sale until the ship pulls anchor to ship out." Dean nodded her acceptance of this news.

She turned to face Chris with a questioning gaze. "Got anything to report to me? Any problems I should know about?"

Chris heard the question, but stopped in response as the door was opened and Steve Temple stood there. She felt the blood leave her face and shivered in an instant reaction to his presence. Dean looked out at the man standing there and then briefly behind her toward Chris. Seeing the paling creature sitting rigidly in her chair caused Dean to draw in a sharp breath. She left the door and quickly crossed to her.

"Officer Parker?" Dean's voice broke through the sudden onslaught of emotions. Chris looked into the worried blue gaze before her, while clenching her hands into fists. Digging her nails into her palms, she used the pain to help gain control over her emotions.

"I'm fine." She managed to say in a choked voice. She cleared her throat to say it again more clearly. "I'm fine. Just a little tired." Dean looked her over carefully. The tense body and clenched hands shouted, 'Stay Away'. Dean held her breath for a moment and shook her head.

"You do not look fine!" She exclaimed. Dean's mind was spinning with questions. What the hell was going on? Is she going to faint? Dean rose from her kneeling position in front of Chris and stepped back only to feel another presence behind her.

A blonde man in uniform, sporting Captain's bars and a semi-cool expression stood at the door looking inward. Dean noted the crisp uniform and shined shoes, slicked back hair and a stiff posture. Taking a deep breath, she eyed the woman and forced herself to relax from the scare she'd felt.

"Is Captain Tanner here? I thought David was coming himself." Temple spoke, brazenly confident in his position and demeanor.

Dean disregarded the intrusion and spoke to Chris.

"I think you need to sleep. I can take care of the two items we need to review and will see you in the morning." Dean said in dismissive manner.

Chris looked up from her inner pain and looked at Dean questioningly.

"I can't do that." She stated forcibly. "I have too many things to take care of. The ship leaves tomorrow." Besides, she thought, the other officers would think what?" She broke off that train of thought and straightened her shoulders trying to get all ofher defenses regrouped. Relaxing her hands, she kept them palm side down. She felt the cuts from her nails and avoided touching anything.

Dean stood back watching a poker face fall over the blondestanding before her. She walked to the bar and picked up a handful of napkins. Wetting them with some water, she brought them over to her First Officer and held them out to her. Dean stood between Chris and the door blocking the view of the inpatient captain. Chris looked up at the taller figure and then at the napkins. With a slightly trembling hand, she reached out and took the damp wipes. A single drop of blood rolled off her palm as their hands met.

Dean hissed and quickly grabbed the smaller wrist holding the palm upward. Her expression became angry for a moment and then stoic.

"What the devil do you two think you're doing here? Where is Captain Tanner? Didn't he arrive yet? Can't you do anything right, Officer Parker?" The cutting voice sliced through the air.

Dean daubed at the small cuts and placed the cool napkin across the palm, closing the hand gently. Chris felt an overwhelming urge to cry at the tenderness displayed. The cathartic touch seemed to blanket her soul for the moment. The two larger hands held hers gently. For a moment, Chris was content to be held, forgetting for a short time, the need to stay distant.

"You don't have a choice Officer Parker. You are on release until tomorrow at eight am. You need to rest. The ship will be ready. This is not a request." Dean told her firmly, yet quietly.

Chris looked up into the electric blue eyes and stared into the silent anger shining back. She nodded defeat and pulled her hand back. Clutching the napkin between her palms, she swallowed and lowered her gaze.

Dean stepped back to the bar and grabbed another bottled water from the fridge.

"Come in Captain Temple. Please take a seat. So sorry my Uncle couldn't be here. I guess I'll have to do!" Dean abruptly turned toward the man standing at the door and sharply twisted the bottle cap easily snapping the tie and spinning it off the bottle. She gracefully flung it over to the corner garbage chute and scored two points.

His eyes widened slightly then squinted as he tried to figure out just who she was.

In the mean time, Chris gathered up the flight cap, she had taken off at one point and stood to be dismissed. Dean looked over and met the shining emerald gaze. The anguish in those eyes was clearly projected. The petite woman looked completely drained. Dark shadows below and inside her expressive eyes were a testament to her exhaustion.

Steve moved into the room past Officer Parker. Chris tried to step backward from his presence, but was trapped by the couch. Ignoring her, he walked over to Dean. He stood before Dean, trying to tower over her leaning figure in an intimidating fashion. With a highly scoffing gaze he questioned Dean.

"Who are you?"

Dean looked at the aggressive posture of her assistant and with a feline grace stepped away from the wall into her assistant's space. Her height topped his by two inches. She grinned wickedly as she stood toe to toe with him and saw him flinch. Her broad shoulders and tapered waist were clear winners in the challenge department to his thin body and out of proportion gawky body build. His uniform hid the obvious flaws of bony hips and long arms.

"I am Dean Tanner. Watch yourself, Captain. I'll give you the benefit of a doubt since we have never met, but I already don't like your attempt at intimidation. Are we clear on this subject?" Dean's eyes were chips of ice as she scolded in a soft firm voice into captain Temple's suddenly dawning face.

Temple stepped back from the woman and tried to recover the ground he had lost.

"So sorry, Captain. I thought David was coming. The telegram was from D. Tanner. Innocent mistake." His reserved voice held no remorse as he reached up and adjusted his tie.

Dean eyed the man quietly as she decided what to do with him. She had numerous reports on his conduct and demands. She held her emotions at bay for the moment and nodded curtly. Noticing a slight movement behind him she looked around him and watched Chris Parker fidget.

"I believe you owe Officer Parker an apology for you're uncalled for remarks, Captain?"

Steve Temple turned to look at the first officer, his expression turning much cooler. With a slight curl to his lips, he mockingly nodded to Chris.

"My mistake, Officer Parker." He murmured as she looked anywhere, but back at him.

Dean watched the pair and immediately, her senses went on alert. Something had occurred between them and she wondered what.

In the mean time Chris made motions to leave.

"Wait Officer Parker. I have one more question. Please?" Dean asked walking over to the door. She opened it and looked over at Temple.

Captain Temple, I'll see you in the war room at six am. We will go over the state of the ship's engines and scheduled maintenance. We will need a full review tomorrow, don't be late." She motioned with a jerk of her head for him to leave. He tentatively nodded and with a fleeting glimpse at Chris, strode out of the room.

Dean shut the door and retrieved her bottled water from the counter. She eyed the beautiful creature standing across the room and sighed.

"I just wanted to say...whatever it is that has you..." Dean chose her words carefully, her voice warm and kind. "...on edge, will be dealt with when we are both in a better frame of mind. Goodnight and go rest." Chris took a quick look at the taller woman and noticed for the first time the presence of some fatigue. Her broad shoulders were rigid; her bright blue eyes seemed to have dimmed. Chris's perusal of her stopped when Dean turned her back to the smaller officer. For a moment, she felt a helplessness that was indescribable. An acute loss of the charismatic vitality the taller woman possessed drained away with thevisible signs of fatigue. Chris released a harsh breath and headed for the door.

"Officer Parker?" Dean Tanner's voice cut through the quiet. Chris hesitated at the door. Looking back, she was caught in the powerful gaze. Dean held the moment, taking time to get her thoughts together. She was subconsciously aware of a connection with the other woman, but ignored it as she drew strength from their continued interaction.

"Sleep well." Dean mentioned warmly, hoping her tone would help Chris be more at ease. Chris Parker drew a deep breath and nodded. She turned and left the Captain's quarters silently. Dean watched the door close and rolled the cold bottle of water between her palms. Her eyes turned as dark as the deepest depths of the ocean with her inner thoughts.


Avoiding the crew, Chris quickly made it to her cabin. Her thoughts ran rampant over her meeting with the Captain. She watched the sunlight fading on the horizon wondered what she was going to do to endure the long hours before resuming her duties. The day was almost over and the lights were beginning to flicker along the port city. She was almost too tired to be mad about the order she had been given. She crossed to the bathroom and stripped off her uniform, hanging it up to wear tomorrow. Looking into the bathroom mirror, she took note of the recurring shadows and her pale features. She washed her face with warm water and toweled it dry.

She is so tall. Her eyes are gorgeous. Her hands are so soft...and gentle. Chris splashed more water onto her face, her palms stinging with the warm water on their surface. She closed her eyes briefly as she suffered the sting. What is happening to me? Am I having another breakdown? Why did I feel so comfortable with her near? She asked herself questions as she made her way to the bed. She felt warm inside as she pictured those baby blues looking her way. She lay down on the cool, clean sheets of her bed and turned off the bedside lamp. She realized she felt much better due to the Captain's arrival. Chris didn't notice the smile that curved her lips at her thoughts. Shortly, she drifted into sleep, resting fully for the first time in a while.


Dean shook the hand of the older gentleman as she listened easily to his English vernacular.

"Knew your Unc' from ways back when the fleet wasn't a fleet a'gn. He's a great chap to work with. He loved to et those squirmy little o'sters a lot tho. Not so smart so'times." Jim Trenkal stated with an amused twinkle in his dark brown eyes.

Her uncle's infamous story of food poisoning was a tale told quite often at family gatherings. During a two week cruise to Mexico all he saw was the inside of his cabin and the porcelain goddess. It was comforting to hear a new outlook from one of the crew who remembered him as young and reckless.

Dean picked up the crew files she had acquired from Jim. She liked his friendly manner and healthy outlook. He seemed to be able to help with whatever needed doing. His official title of Statesman allowed for a multitude of uses. Dean had recognized his easy nature and quiet efficiency upon running into him in the maze of hallways she had been traveling while looking for the personnel office. He was checking the life jacket cabinets and counting the quantity.

"Nothing like a'vn the key's to the ship." He chuckled after she had introduced herself. "Feel like sitt'n in the Captain's chair?"

They had both laughed and felt at ease. Dean took his advice and wrote a note to the office clerk. She headed back to her cabin to look over the material. After ordering a light meal from room service, she spread the bios sheets out and read up on the crew, one by one.

Twenty-two officers later, she held the final folder. It was a much slimmer folder than the others were. Inside she looked at the eight by ten glossy of First Officer, Chris A. Parker. The green eyes glowed with health and vitality. It was a slightly old picture revealing a younger Parker. The blonde curls were windswept and the rosy cheeks were shining from the glare of the sunlight. Dean found pleasure looking at the picture up close. Her fingers holding the photo ran a path down one of the rosy cheeks. Flipping to the pertinent information, she noted the years of employment and the steady promotions throughout. The high-test scores for academic achievements and promotional ability seemed very similar to Dean's own swift climb through the U.S. Navy. The personal information was scarce. No listed living relatives, no home address, just a PO Box address of the post office in Fort Lauderdale and an emergency contact number of a Ms. Virginia Stevens. Dean frowned, closing the folder slowly and let it fall onto the top of the pile.

She yawned unexpectedly. Looking at her watch, she realized it was past midnight. Straightening the folders, she stood and stretched. As she stretched, she could her vertebrae popping back into place. She moved into the bedroom and stripped off her clothes. A quick brush of her teeth and a last minute check on her alarm, she slid naked between the cool sheets. While she drifted off to sleep, she envisioned ocean waves forming and reforming in the deep open waters. The translucent blues and greens of the waves merged, only to crash together into the fall of gravity. They spiraled down only to begin climbing again.


Dean, who was naturally an early riser, reached over andturned off the still silent alarm. She kicked off covers and let her six-foot frame stretch. Grimacing, with a slight pain, she realigned her spine. She realized she would be sore today. Her body, impacted by the long hours of driving, was doubly sore from relentlessly hunching over the desk to review personnel records. The final straw was ending up in a strange bed. She stretched her neck to the left and right as she leaned against the sink edge brushing her teeth. Stepping into the hot shower spray, she moaned with pleasure at the hard-hitting spray against her abused muscles. Twenty minutes under the powerful heat and she began to feel normal again.

"It's good to be the king," she mimicked Monty Python, grinning as she grabbed the overly large bathing towel, dried her tall form and stepped out.

She crossed to the cabin door, reached out into the hall and pulled in her Navy uniform. She was quite pleased that the cleaners had returned it early. Pressed and ready, she uncovered the suit from its plastic wrapping and hung it on the closet door hook to replace the ribbons and rank insignia. Looking it over she once again felt a surge of pride deep within her. She reached out and attached the ribbon rack on her jacket breast pocket. She ran her hand lightly over the ribbons as she reflected on the memories each brought to mind. There were many good memories of her long career. She was lucky. Although retired from the Navy, she was still the Captain of a ship. She felt a spark of excitement building within her.

Shaking off 'the kids first ice cream of the summer' attitude, she returned to the bathroom and dumped out a small travel shaving kit gathering the few items she needed. She brushed out her dark mane and blow-dried it. A quick 15 minutes later, she was ready to get attired. Dressed and looking slightly intimidating, she glanced at her watch noting it was 0530 hours. It was time for breakfast and time to stir some nests. Grabbing the folders off the table, she headed out the door.


Chris woke from a deep sleep to feel the six huge diesel engines turn over on the ship. She bolted upright and barely recognized her own room. Looking over at the alarm clock, she realized it was just past seven thirty am. The sun was shining and she felt rejuvenated. Rising to her full five-foot, four inches, she stretched with her hands over her head. Rolling her shoulders and her head from side to side, she puffed out some air, blowing the curl obscuring her vision out of her way. Heading for the bathroom, she took a quick glance at her naked form and noticed the relaxed posture and clear eyes. She quirked a slight smile at herself and turned on the shower.

"Amazing what a little sleep will do for you." She said to herself as she walked past the mirror. After showering and drying off she attempted to tame her hair. The curling was unstoppable, yet she tried using the heat of the blow dryer to make it behave. With the additional use of a can of hair spray, she finally put on her uniform. While applying a touch of makeup, she regarded the bright green eyes looking back at her.

What's going on in there? What is that sparkle you're showing? What's got you feeling so at ease this morning? Her hand stopped mid-stream in applying her lipstick. As she daydreamed, an image of a tall, dark haired beauty, standing in a crisp, white uniform filled her eyes. The clarity of her vision had her feeling the magnetic pull of Dean's gaze and drew her closer. She blinked back to reality as her own eyes refocused into her own image staring back. Feeling a sudden blush rise, she wondered once again, why she felt such a connection to the Captain?

She left her cabin at eight a.m. and made her way toward the top most tower of the ship. In the history of cruise and fighting vessels, this small, central office had appropriately been labeled, the war room. It had eventually become the area from which all steering and visual controls were utilized while moving the ship.

The thought of Steve Temple being on board the same ship made her frown. The thought of him being so near in such a confined space made her feel ill. The only benefit of going there was that Captain Tanner would be present. Her frown disappeared at that thought.

As Chris walked into the war room, she saw Dean seated in one of the swivel chairs. Seeing the Captain sitting quietly reading a clipboard and dressed in full Naval attire was an impressive sight. Dean seemed to feel a shift in the air and lifted her head to look directly at the door. She met Chris's eyes with an uncanny precision. Her blue eyes were twinkling with good humor. Chris felt a tension leave her body that she hadn't even known was there. She smiled a half grin and walked closer.

"Everything looks great. I barely have to be here, if not for the legalities of having a Captain on aboard." Dean placed the clipboard on a flat mapping table. She picked up a cup of coffee and grinned at Chris while sipping.

Chris bit her inner cheek to keep from smiling, her lips quirked slightly.

"Hey? I thought smiling was in the rule book too?" Captain Tanner chided slightly with herFirst Officer'shesitation at smiling. Dean wanted to see Chris smile. Her sadness irritated her senses for some unknown reason. She instinctively knew, that the petite, blonde-haired woman had a natural smile that would be a beautiful sight and then she thought. Why was she suppressing it?

Dean decided she would make her First Officer smile before the day was over come Hell or high water. She suppressed her own smug grin as she glanced out the window at the broad channel surrounding the cruise ship.

The sparkle off the water's surface glittered for miles. In the distance, she could make out the far side of the channel, bordered by the multitude of docks, cargo ships and smaller tugboats. The skyscrapers and smaller buildings began to appear soon after and informed anyone passing by that the city was present and accounted for.

Her attention was brought back into focus as a midshipman blew the whistle, signaling to a green blinking light nearby. Dean nodded briefly.

"Excuse me, Parker." Dean said as the communicator buzzed in the room.

Chris stepped back a pace to allow room for the Captain to reach the phone. Dean grabbed a nearby phone communicator and listened into it.

"Yes sir!" She straightened slightly with her one sided response. Chris took the time to study the Captain openly. The uniform fit perfectly, hugging her body like a second skin. Ribbons adorned the upper left side of the jacket. The insignia pinned to each epaulet at her shoulder displayed the gold oak leaf of the Navy's, Major's rank. Chris noticed the taller woman's dark hair styled in a bun above the collar. She was half listening to the one sided conversation as her eyes swept over the pristine ice cream white uniformed enchantress.

"We are on schedule. The First Officer was on the ball."

"Yes, Parker was on the ball" Dean glanced over at the smaller woman and noticed the intense scrutiny she was under. She pursed her lips to keep from smiling. Chris didn't seem to notice, as her own gaze was much lower than the Captain's eyes.

"We take on passengers in..." Dean glanced at her watch. "Three hours."

"Yes sir! In Miami."

"I'll be sure and tell her, Sir."

Chris snapped out of her haze when Dean waved to get her attention. Finally catching Chris's eyes, Dean pointed to her clipboard. Chris blushed when their eyes met. Dean grinned. Chris grabbed the clipboard and shoved it Dean's way. After handing over the clipboard, Chris turned to look outside.

"Approximately, two-thousand, Sir." Dean paused as she listened intently. One of her dark eyebrows suddenly arched upward.

"Is that so?" She asked briskly.

"No, I don't believe I will get into much more trouble than is allowed, sir." Dean chuckled as she spoke into the receiver. She smiled toward Chris.

Chris moved toward the coffee urn. The silver forty-cup coffee pot was tucked into a nearby alcove and strapped to the wall. It rested closer to the Captain's seat at the table.

Dean murmured some responses quickly and replaced the receiver into its holder. Turning she took her own slow perusal of her First Officer's uniform. Dean mentally sighed. Some things should be against the law. The trim fit of the light blue pressed pants rested just perfectly over the rounded curves of her first officer's body. A soft crème-colored blazer and crème pumps helped the entire ensemble to show a sharply designed uniform. The flight cap was tucked neatly into the thin belt at the waist. She was very professional and damn beautiful! Dean cleared her throat at that thought, stifling an urge to brush her fingers through that silky blonde hair.

Chris returned to hand a hot cup of Joe to her boss.

"How are you feeling today?" Dean sipped her coffee slowly.

"Much, much better. Thank you." Chris said as she quicklymet Dean's blue eyes.

"My uncle asked if you would visit him in Miami. Seems he wants to talk to you about some unfinished business." Dean stated, quizzically. Her curiosity was roused. Her uncle would not elaborate. She watched Parker for a reaction to the request.

Chris reached back and grabbed the nearby arm of the Captain's seat for some physical support. She remained calm. Her face may have paled slightly, but she could blame that on nerves. She hadn't fibbed about feeling ten times better this morning. Her body had sorely needed the rest. Her mind seemed to be on track as well. She had wondered when the blow would come. Temple hadn't wasted any time reporting the incident. Chris had decided she would deal with any outcome when, or if accusations arose. Her career was too important. She only hoped Mr. Tanner was gracious enough to let her remain employed. She trembled slightly before firming up her resolve to take what ever came her way

"I'll make it a point to visit." Chris stated, flatly.

Dean didn't like the lifeless remark and frowned.

"I'll be accompanying you if that makes a difference. He is hosting a dinner to celebrate the first voyage." Dean smiled lightly to break any tension Chris might be having. Chris nodded thoughtfully. She gave a slight smile in return.

"Enough about him. Tell me about the ship?" Dean turned to hook the clipboard onto a nearby peg. Chris straightened attentively as she brought her focus intobusiness mode.

"Did assistant Captain Temple give you the vitals on her? Is everything working as expected?" Chris asked a little tentatively. Dean smiled grimly in response.

"Officer Temple needed to review scheduled maintenance on the ships engine. He is currently working with Engine room specialist Dave Pillar who will explain the importance of pre-inspection duties with the good captain."

Dean looked over at the stunned blonde and smiled wryly.

"You, my dear, were holding out on us. Your capabilities are exemplary. This ship is ready to cast off." Dean said with obvious pleasure.

Chris nervously swallowed the lump in her throat and felt that a huge weight was lifted off her chest. She looked over at the Captain and realized how much better she felt with her aboard. She grinned at the Captain, acknowledging the compliment.

Dean felt her breath catch. She resolved to give her First Officer many more compliments, so she could see that smile more often. Chris Parker was one beautiful woman. Dean felt her heartbeat increase. Unknowingly her eyes darkened as they looked into the amused green eyes.

Chris felt the heat of Dean's gaze and blushed once again. She tucked her head down hoping to break Dean's stare.

"Try to make a habit of that, would you?" Dean spoke softly after clearing her throat.

Chris just gave a half grin and shrugged. She turned to put her cup back on the hook next to the pot to cover the shiver that skittered down her spine.

Dean looked down at her clipboard and then with the first hint of loss of command she questioned to Chris.

"We will start receiving passengers in a few hours so I will be...?" Dean raised her eyebrows in question. Chris smirked slightly at the implied loss of direction.

"Standing at the gangway greeting everyone." Chris stated firmly.

Dean grimaced slightly. "Not a good idea, but I'll give it a shot."

Chris pondered the strange remark and shook her head. "What's wrong with it?"

Dean looked at Chris very seriously while saying, "I have this little problem with...umm...crowds. People sometimes find me very appealing and will try anything to let me know."

Chris looked up at the woman before her wondered what might have happened to cause such a serious expression.

Dean was a charismatic, self assured, dynamic looking woman. The uniform only enhanced that. Her dark hair, tanned features and beauty were very arresting. Chris agreed with the verdict. Dean was very appealing.

"Too appealing." Chris muttered under her breath.

Dean lifted one eyebrow and gave a lopsided grin. Chris blushed and tried to act professional.

"There will be other officers to actually greet the passengers. You can stand back and be a," she paused for effect, "sort of a figurehead. I'll mention it to a few of the other officers." Chris commented.

Dean wiggled her eyebrows and grinned.

"You will have to make an opening statement for our banquet tonight though, so I'm sure your going to get some attention." Chris stated, looking closely at Dean for a reaction.

Dean felt a wicked streak race through her. She leaned down closer to the smaller woman and grinned. "Will you protect me?"

Chris blushed scarlet and backed up a step. Dean laughed aloud. Her deep vocals drew attention from the others working in the tower room. Chris felt the humor well up and laughed with her.

Dean's eyes sparkled as they looked at each other. The feeling of warm camaraderie was a balm to them both. The laughter slowed to chuckles and became a comfortable silence.

Chris took the moment in and tried to remember when she had felt so comfortable with another person. She couldn't remember.

Getting back to business, she reminded the Captain of their brief Officers meeting. Dean nodded and ushered Chris toward the exit door by reaching out and tucking Chris's hand into the crook of her arm. Chris felt giddy as she was gallantly steered lower into the bowels of the ship. She didn't try to retract her snared arm from the taller woman. It seemed so natural to be linked.


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