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

2. Violence: Some, reflected in memories, of a past rape.

3. Sexual content: umm well...working it in...its getting there...does the word kiss count?

4. Language: No.



Deepest Ocean Green - part 3

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.

After a quick four minute briefing, much to the chagrin of the Officers present, Dean Tanner spent an additional twenty-minutes approaching each of them and reintroducing herself. To Chris's amusement, they seemed to all fall under the spell that the Captain projected. Chris spent a few moments with Hazel, who seemed to have a wealth of information concerning the new Captain.

"I've heard rumor she's gay." Hazel commented quietly to her friend.

Chris nodded nonchalantly at the telling rumor. It had crossed her mind in the short time since they had met, Dean seemed completely different as compared to most women and her mannerisms were very chivalrous toward women. Chris felt a twinge of something odd inside. She, herself, had never had a problem with gay people. A few members of the crew were gay, unashamed and very open about it. Privately the ratio of gay to straight within her command was close to thirty percent. A few members had not been as 'out' as others. She knew this information first hand as many employees had come directly to her for career advice. She had also been approached by a few women over the course of her career, but had never been inclined to take them up on any of their offers. In fact, she had told more than one, that she was not 'gay'. The simple truth that Dean Tanner was gay seemed to click in her mind as being completely right for the tall Captain.

Chris, found herself feeling drawn toward the woman. She observed the Captain's courtesy and acts of simple chivalry toward people. The ease she had of firmly shaking a hand, or quickly assessing the person with a knowing look she could convey respect. There were so many more examples of her charming personality. The often-overlooked task of pulling out a chair, or providing a guiding arm to lean on, seemed to be offered with a natural elegance, never offending and often accepted by both women and men. In some influential people Chris had learned, that the driving force of their influence is to simply attain a wider influence. They would gain more respect no matter how ruthless and manipulate the facts to enable powerful controls over them. Her father had turned out to be this way. But, Dean seemed to show only a kind generosity and consideration for people around her. She was polite and charismatic too boot. These traits ultimately gained her a respectability of high honors and an even higher level of loyalty and trust from colleagues and friends. Even Hazel's gossip sounded strangely like praise. The differences between Dean and someone like Steve Temple were like comparing black and white. Chris felt drawn to her. Whether it was from curiosity, intrigue, or attraction, it really didn't strike Chris as important. The pull was strong and she was interested.

Hazel seemed to find the First Officers silence as a signal to continue her gossip.

"She is a highly decorated Naval Officer and considered a great captain in the Navy. Maybe even one of the best at her rank. Her uncle was always praising her accomplishments, when he held the shipboard parties." Hazel sipped at her own coffee as she watched the newly arrived captain banter with the crew.

Chris had usually attended the parties and left early. In the habit of rising early, she usually went to bed early in the evening. She did remember a few toasts, which were made in the past. Hadn't there been one about Dean receiving the Purple Heart? It was extremely interesting to have a person to associate the tales to now. She nodded.

"She is supposed to be taking over for her uncle. She's the only child between the four brothers. Two of the uncles have already passed on. Both of them were killed. One died in a boating accident and the other in Vietnam. David and Dennis Tanner had raised her together after both of their wives had passed."

Chris frowned at the mental picture of Dean being alone as a child. It didn't fit in with the image of the confident woman she had met. A single child, raised by only men? Dean didn't seem to have any 'single child' hang ups. She looked at her briefly from across the room.

Dean felt someone watching her and looked up to see Chris looking at her. Chris Parker looked back quizzically. Dean raised an eyebrow as if to question, did she need rescuing, but Chris shook her head. The smaller woman turned back toward the plump woman beside her.

Dean turned back to the young man talking in front of her. She smiled comfortably at his overly attentive state. He seemed to glow at her smile, taking it for approval.

Chris listened to the gossip without hesitation. She felt an urgent need to listen more attentively to learn all that she could about the Captain. Her mind had been in a fog for too long. She needed a focus. Hazel continued sharing her gossip.

"Her mother died in childbirth and her aunt died when she was around 7 years old. A car accident I think. Seems so unfair. She seems to have turned out all right though. Don't you think?" Hazel commented, not waiting for an answer. "She's a strange duck, that's for sure. She has such magnetism and appeal, and she handles it well. Hazel watched the Captain work the room.

Chris checked her watch and made a face.

"Maybe we should start making our rounds, Hazel. One hour to go before the boarding ramp is opened." Chris referred to the walkway connected to the dock and the area in which all passengers would board. She tugged at Hazel's arm.

Hazel paused before leaving to gather up the plethora of Officers and crew.

"Make sure Tiny and Pug stay near the Captain." Chris directed, choosing the two men from her available staff that seemed perfect for the bodyguard task. Although Dean seemed quite capable of protecting herself Chris wanted the added assurance. Reflectively, she somehow knew, that Dean would recognize the true sailor boy elements picked out as her companions. Dean would know instantly, that the men had grown up sailing the seas since childhood. Tiny, who was anything but tiny, had been everything from a scullery boy to a roughneck for the fishing industry before tiring from the competition between fishing zones. Pug, his best friend, had at one time been his enemy, the spoiled son of a fishing line owner. Pug had challenged Tiny, the man he now called his brother to a sailors duel. This very nasty, busted bottle cutting edge, drunken brawl, walk the plank, type of fight, took place for an offensive stray remark Pug had heard Tiny make at the pub. The two had shared their blood that night and became fast friends in the following aftermath. People tended to regard the pair as an eye catcher beyond anything else around them. Tiny, being 280 and 6'4 with his brother being 160 at 5'8 and both having a matching facial scar on opposite cheeks that made them bookends. They stuck together like glue in a tight spot. Chris smiled as she hopefully avoided any problems with her clever arrangement. She has a slight tendency to attract attention. Lets see how that takes care of the problem! Chris mentally checked the whole thing off as a done deal.

Hazel winked knowingly in acknowledgement.

"Consider it done. Wouldn't want the new boss to be swamped with good will, eh?" She chuckled lightly. Chris nodded and gave a slight grin.


Hazel was good as gold, keeping her word. The hour came and went. Passengers of every shape and size began to board. Tiny, a mountain of a man and Pug, his shorter, yet stocky shipmate, stood between the gallery of Officers greeting the passengers and the Captain. Dean stood back watching the procession with amusement. Her, now shaded eyes, surveyed everything from behind her dark sunglasses. She watched as single adults in large groups, smaller family groups and paired couples boarded the vessel slowly. The dock looked like a small disaster area as people gathered to wish the travelers a safe journey.

Dean watched the sober, the drunk and the disorderly, with fascination. A wedding couple drank a bubbling over bottle of champagne while being seen off by the entire wedding party. A group of college kids, cheered two football players on as they passed a football between them and mockingly tackled other members of their invisible team. Family groups gathered, loaded with tons of luggage to carry toward the ship, while trying to keep the children from straying too far from them. Once these people hit the long line of other passengers hiking up the ramp, they were forced to slow down to a crawl. The line was held to an even slower pace as a freelance photographer snapped pictures under the ship's logo for anyone that wanted souvenirs of their trip.

As the passengers crested the forty-foot ramp and entered the greeting area, they met the small group of Officers that would be running the ship. Once welcomed aboard, they were handed a welcome bag with goodies. Guide maps, event calendars and party streamers were among the inventory. A group of twenty, or so, were rounded up every fifteen minutes and led on a brief deck tour. They were instructed on the safety procedures and emergency shelters.

Dean lost focus of the activities of the crew until she noted a shining blonde head of hair moving throughout. She instinctively knew that it was First Officer Parker. Slight in stature, Dean could only see her crown of blonde hair shining with the sunlight's rays. Other officers and crew alike turned to her with pressing questions while seeking quick, efficient answers. Dean smiled at the impressive supervision and commanding resolution as the blonde tornado moved everything along, sweeping the deck with authority.

The process was efficient, but timely. The last leg of passengers was climbing up the walkway, when the upward surge caused an avalanche. Dean, who wasstanding back and slightly above the crowd, noticed sudden congestion as something on the walkway, hidden from her view, managed to occur. Jumping down from her perch, she grabbed Tiny and pushed him toward the bottleneck. Voices were beginning to raise in alarm when Tiny began pushing people aside.

Dean heard a loud slapping noise, then gasps of surprise from some of the people. She entered the center of trouble as people backed away from the source of the problem. A tall woman held a man pinned precariously along the side of the walkway, tilting him over the rail. Dean looked at the nearest passengers and noted a strawberry blonde woman near the grappling man and woman. She was looking through her purse rapidly. Grasping onto her leg was a small girl who looked to be approximately, five, or six years of age. Glancing at the persons involved in the disturbance, Dean noted that the child looked exactly like a young replica of the woman holding the man over the rail. Luggage lay jumbled along the walkway.

Dean interpreted the scenario immediately. She was looking at a case of pick pocketing. Clearing her throat, she motioned Tiny to gather up the luggage. He began to direct other passengers around the tangled mess. The line began to move again.

"Would you like some help here, ladies?" Her presence was a calming influence over the dramatically tense scene. The frantically searching woman took a moment to look up and then snapped her purse closed in anger.

Seeing a ship official in uniform she pointed to the man pinned by the other woman, making her livid accusation. "He stole my money!"

The obviously scared little girl took one look at Dean and without hesitation, ran from the side of the pointing blonde figure directly to the tall commanding officer with dark hair.

Dean instinctively reached down and scooped up the little girl. The little bundle buried her face in Dean's neck and burst into sobs. Dean's eyes grew round with surprise and wonder as she began to rub the young child's back in a soothing motion. Both the 'purse woman' and the woman holding the 'supposed thief' looked over at Dean in confused astonishment at the ease in which the little girl had accepted this stranger.

Not thinking to deeply about the reaction of the child Dean walked closer to the brunette holding the prisoner and looked at the tightly held man.

"Did you steal their money?" She asked calmly, she continued rubbing the little girls back as she met his frightened gaze. The man started to shake his head, but felt an answering vicious shake from the hands holding him captive and in contact with the rail.

"Sixty feet will kill you." Dean muttered softly. "Don't want to see anything happen, that might be messy." Her low voice took on the sharp edge of steel as her tone turned ice cold. The woman holding him grunted inagreement. He looked into those unforgiving eyes and began nodding his head, affirming his guilt.

"Tiny?" Dean stepped back quickly with her precious cargo. She nudged her head toward the small thief as she spoke to the nearby sailor. His mountainous form easily grabbed the smaller man and lifted him back onto the walkway. The woman who'd been holding him pinned reluctantly let him go.

"Search his pockets and take him down to the ground." Dean noticed a cop car with lights flashing pulling up to the bottom of the ramp. She looked upward for a moment and caught a slight grin from Parker waiting above. The warm bundle clinging to her chest like a second skin began to whimper.

"Shhhhh, princess! It's OK!" Dean murmured softly.

Tiny began to strip the man of his jacket and emptied out his pant pockets. When he was done, he snatched up the suspected thiefand herded him down the ramp. Dean motioned to the quieter officer, Pug, to grab the women's luggage. Tiny returned and held various items within his huge hands.

The two women examined the contents and glancing between Dean and Tiny, reached out and retrieved their items. One of the women retrieved a clip of money, a ring and a crumpled set of tickets. Tiny handed the remaining items to Dean and moved away to help Pug. Dean pocketed the remainder and returned to rubbing the little girls back.

"Sorry for any trouble you may have had. I'll be glad to refund your tickets if you wish to remain behind to file charges. If you want to continue, a written statement from you both will be sent to the station and the arresting officer can witness for you. The thief will be charged with robbery." Dean informed the two women watching her. Their gazes locked and they both nodded their head in an affirmative manner.

"It's been eighteen months since we've been planning this vacation and waiting to board.We are not about to be left behind." The brown-haired woman remarked as she stared at her companion beside her. Their features eased and softened as they looked at one another.

"We just want to get on board." The blonde replied with some residual anger in her voice.

Dean nodded and looked upward to the last of the passengers being greeted at the topof the ramp.

"Welcome aboard. Let's get you settled and we can fill out the paperwork afterward." Dean replied as she turned to walk back up the ramp.

Dean lightly tapped the tiny shoulder blades of the small child who was clinging to her. A cherubic face peered up at her; the tear filled pair of innocent, trusting, dark eyes lifted into view.

"Would you like to see the ship?" Dean inquired, smiling at the tear-streaked face. She was sure the munchkin was feeling better as she noted a small smile form on the bow shaped mouth. The little girl nodded shyly.

Dean stooped low and let the girl's feet find the walkway. A small hand grabbed her own as she stood back up. The two of them shared a smile before turning back to head up the ramp.

The two women stared in amazement at the forming relationship between the child and the officer, making Dean slightly uncomfortable as she fidgeted with her coat jacket. The attention was nerve wracking, since she didn't understand what the big deal was? Glancing down at the little girl, Dean began to instantly relax once again. Those dark innocent eyes looking up at her were unguarded and full of trust. How could that be bad? Dean just smiled down and patted the little hand in hers.

Dean swept her free arm out in front of her, giving leeway for the women to move up the ramp in front of her. At the top of the ramp, Chris stood watching. She smiled at the two women and grinned teasingly at the Captain, who was escorting a smallchild at her side.

"Is everyone all right?" Chris inquired, sending a silent message through eye contact, trying to see if Dean needed additional assistance. Dean raised an eyebrow and shook her head slightly.

"Seems to be all right now. We will need to fill out a report for the police. Pug can take it down to the station. Right now, these good women need to be settled into their cabin. Do we have their new accommodations?"

Chris nodded at the implied request. She took the set of tickets and replaced them with a new set. The women looked at Chris questioningly.

"On behalf of Captain Tanner and the crew we would like to welcome you aboard our ship. For any unpleasant experiences thus far, we are upgrading your accommodations to the First Class cabins. It's the least we can do." She stated warmly to the two women. They looked at each other then back at Chris. A huge grin covered the face of the brown-haired woman. The blonde looked stunned.

"Thanks so very much!" The brunette shook Chris's hand strongly. Chris smiled in amusement as Dean started to move the small child toward the two women. The child resisted.

The blonde looked over at Dean and back to Chris.

"Is there somewhere we can fill out a compliment card? I want to commend the efforts of this Officer to the Captain. Chris chuckled. Dean smiled slightly.

"That won't be necessary, ladies. All of our crew is highly trained for emergencies. The Captain is fully aware of what occurred today." Chris remarked. Dean continued smiling and nodded.

"Where is the Captain? I want to tell him personally." The blonde insisted. Chris reached over and turned the blonde woman slightly to face Dean. Dean laughed. The blonde woman looked confused for a moment and then caught sight of the rank insignia on Dean's shoulders.

"Crap! I'm gonna get kicked off before I even get to see my cabin." The blonde muttered to the brunette. The brunette, having understood the moment the blonde was turned, began to laugh.

"Well at least we won't get lost on the water. The Captain can and will use her right to stop and ask for directions," the brunette commented which made Dean laughharder. The blonde jabbed the brunette in the side with her elbow and then leaned down to the little girl's height.

"Honey would you stop hanging on the Captain and let me give you a big hug?" The little girl looked up at Dean and grinned. She slipped from Dean's hand to run to the blonde. She was scooped up in a tight squeeze and began giggling from the kisses she received.

Dean moved closer to Chris, watching with fascination how the adult-child interaction happened. The brunette stuck out her hand toward Dean.

"Captain Tanner, nice to meet you. My name is Brooke Adams and this is Georgia Stile and our daughter Brandy." Dean shook her hand.

"This is my First Officer Chris Parker, who will be responsible for giving me directions, if and when, I need any." She motioned to Chris. Chris rolled her eyes at Dean and shook Brooke's hand.

Brooke rubbed her hand down Brandy's back once more, and then pulled the two girls a little closer.

"I'll fill out that statement for you as soon as we get settled in." Her voice rose again on the beginnings of an angry note. Georgia reached out and wrapped her arm around Brooke's waist, trying to soothe her by her touch alone. Brooke visibly calmed at the touch and went back to rubbing across Brandy's back.

"Brandy, honey. Tell the Captain thank you. Would you?" Brooke prompted the small girl. From the crook of Georgia's neckline, Brandy looked over at Dean and smiled.

"Tt...th...thanks, Ca...Ca...Captain!" She stuttered. Dean's face broke into a huge smile.

"You're welcome sailor. Call me if you need any help with anything. Got it?" Dean reached out and tucked a curling hair behind Brandy's ear. Brandy nodded, and then hid her face into Georgia's neck again.

The adults chuckled at the shy move. Moving back to a more professional level, Chris broke the warm moment, stating she would have one of the midshipmen guide them to their cabin. She motioned a nearby sailor over and gave him the room number. He nodded and gestured for them to follow him. Dean followed their progress until she could no longer see them. She turned toward Chris, excusing herself, with a bright smile. She had a ship to guide through the channels if they were to ever leave port. True to form, they were underway within the half hour.


Captain Tanner cleared the channels, through the port officials on the radio. Once the ship slid into the waters of Cape Canaveral, it sat in traffic for an hour before heading out to deeper water. They would be cruising in Atlantic waters for the day and making the southern trip down to Miami during that time. By car, this would have been accomplished within hours. By cruise ship it would take twenty-four hours, although the ship was by no means slow. The idea was to standardize the crew into working together efficiently and let the passengers become accustomed to the deeper oceanic swells the ship would be going through. The winding path southward would actually be more of a triangle, heading farther east, then back to land at a southwestern port. Additionally, they would avoid the heavy tourist traffic along Florida's coastline with this maneuver. Boats of various sizes for tourism, fishing, sailing, and water sports ran the entire length of the beaches as they headed out.

Captain Tanner began bypassing the water jungle to head into the Atlantic region,where smaller ships would be unable to safely go. The passengers were settling into the cruise festivities and becoming accustomed to the slight vibration of the engines along with the heavier beat of the water's musical tempo as the ship cut a slice through the endless blanket of darkness. The signal of separation from the channels to the open ocean became the deep low howl of the cruise ship's lonely sounding alarm system, which had to be tested prior to deep waters. The hundreds of boats and ships surrounding the lumbering mastodon replied to the deep horn with varied 'toots' of their own as it passed. The air was filled with an orchestra of horns. Add in the hundreds of birds, harbor bells, and the noise of the water itself, an abundance of life could be heard for many miles.

Traveling two more hours and then clearing through the port inspection, they were finally underway. They passed the deep-water markers and headed out to sea. Dean excused herself to the officer on duty in the tower to make her way back to the Captain's quarters with a warped sense of Star Trek running through her mind. Warp speed Scotty. She had one hour before the dinner banquet was to begin. She needed to be able to give a brief speech that would be followed by planned entertainment.


The banquet hall encompassed enough tables for all the passengers. It was cavernous. A ridiculously long buffet table stretched the entire length of one wall to allow passengers to eat all night. Free food was a selling tool. The ship line had begun its tourism with gusto. Hundreds of people flooded the tables and buffet-seeking repast.

Dean met up with Parker prior to entering the hall. They walked to the Captain's table, both tired from the day's events. A few select guests were already at the table invited to dine with the Officer's crew. It varied every night. Dean smiled when she noted the figures of Brooke Adams and Georgia Stile. The tiny child sitting between them looked cute in her pink dress. Brandy was dressed for enchantment.

Dean took a moment to hold out the chair for her First Officer without thought. Chris smiled slightly and took the chair. Standing at the head of the table, Dean smiled encouragingly to the other Officers and civilians seated at the table. The lights overhead flickered, causing everyone to quiet down. Dean picked up the handheld microphone and turned it on.

"Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome to the Queen Victoria's maiden voyage. Your crew, and I, Captain Dean Tanner, hope you will enjoy the next ten days as a unique experience; one that will last you through a lifetime of memories. Our schedule is posted on all the bulletin boards around the ship. The welcome guides you were given have listed the stops and shore times. Please feel welcome to ask a crewmember any questions you may have. Your ship's First Officer, Chris Parker, will spend a few moments introducing herself and talking to you about the available resources on board. I want to wish you all a pleasant voyage. Welcome aboard!"

Dean clicked off the hand mike and handed it to Chris. She took a moment to smile around the room before taking her seat. Chris stood on cue and introduced herself. Dean listened to Chris discuss the ship's carefully designed activities from deck to deck. She followed this with appropriate safety information concerning the medical facilities. The ship to shore schedule was pointed out to the crowd followed by the entertainment schedule for each night. The crowd clapped excitedly with the information. She found herself listening to the silky smooth, warm voice of her First Officer and found Chris' speaking captivated her. She took a small sip of the ice water available and let a cube of ice dampen her suddenly dry mouth.

Chris ended her speech by introducing the night's entertainment. A famous jazz singer was the main act for the cruise. This evening, she was to accompany the earlier crowd for the buffet. Not a bad trade off for being a headliner on six nights out of ten. She would begin performing from Miami and would sing each night until the ship returned to shore.

The dinner went well. Chris answered a few of the Officer's concerns and the dinner began. The passengers introduced themselves to each other. Conversations began to flow. Dean listened and commented to some guests at her end of the table. Chris spoke in low tones to Dean at one point.

"I have no idea where Captain Temple has gone. I'll send someone to look for him if you'd like?"

Dean smirked as she informed her First Officer of the list of duties she had given Temple. He was traversing the intricacies of the kitchen unit. He had been assigned to learn the shift details and processes of the kitchen for furthering his career as a captain. Dean explained, that she had found it fascinating, when she had been under that assignment from her Uncle. She had peeled potatoes and chopped enough onions to satisfy even Lucifer, if she was ever sent to hell.

Chris stared in bemusement as she listened to the torture Temple had been given. She wondered at the boot camp training method, but raised her eyebrows, when she realized Dean wasn't going to give him any slack. He had surely taken enough liberty in that department prior to her arrival. Chris managed to nod, without too much gusto and privately held back a grin of satisfaction for the schmuck who was now getting a little payback. He had worked them all like dogs, without mercy. Maybe he might learn a little more effectively, how that would feel.

After a minute she leaned over and reported the next subject on her mind. "Ms. Adams and Ms. Stile filled out the report and Pug took it into town. The thief was charged."

Dean nodded in acknowledgment. "They wanted to thank you again." Chris hesitated, and then continued. "They asked to speak to you privately. Brandy, their daughter, wishes to see you."

Dean smiled warmly.

"She's a sweetheart, huh?" Dean remarked casually.

Chris smiled back. "She's gonna be a heartbreaker. That's for sure."

They grinned at each other. Dean absorbed the twinkling green eyes of her First Officer and felt a climbing attraction ignite deep within. Their innocent moment had suddenly blossomed, but into what, Dean wasn't sure. She looked at Chris directly with a lopsided grin.

Chris recognized the strength of the moment too. Her breathing grew shallow as heat began to course through her body. A thousand vague thoughts flew through her head as the sudden revelation swept through her. She was attracted to Dean Tanner. She, who had never had a serious lover and could count her dating on one hand, was attracted to the Captain she worked under. Not just any captain either, this one was a woman. Chris bit her lip at the shiver of curiosity and fever she felt filling up her body. She wanted to reach over and touch her. Just a simple touch of my fingers against her skin, she thought to herself. It was a magnetic pull.

Drawing back mentally and physically, Chris wavered between ignoring the attraction and plunging into it. Fear of the unknown was not an issue. Fear of the outcome, raised its ugly head instead. She had one object that was her lifeline and her strength, her career. Steve Temple already threatened that and Dean Tanner was her boss. A significant Tanner, who was the future owner of the company she worked for. How would it look and was Dean even aware of their shared attraction. She broke their locked gaze with a soul-deprived wrench of her head. Some mistakes take a lifetime to get over, she cautioned herself lamely. She didn't think she had any room inside for anyone more pain. At least, not until she had spoken with David Tanner and was able to say she could stand on her own.

Dean watched a myriad of expressions racing behind Chris' eyes. Their color changed from very light green to dark emerald, to forest green as Chris weighed the issues in her mind. Dean saw a withdrawal; the instant Chris stopped struggling with her thoughts. Her madly beating heart clenched briefly in disappointment as she watched Chris shy back.

Dean held her breath for a minute and tried to look at things optimistically. She didn't fully understand her own emotions right now, so how could Chris. Dean marveled at the strong attraction they shared and wondered if Chris felt the same. There was a deep connection between them that was exciting and puzzling at the same time. Or was Dean just imagining something that was not really there. Whatever Chris was holding back she was going to have to eventually explain to Dean cause Dean felt the strong barrier between them and shared the burden!

As the dinner hour came to a close, Dean found having to entertain became suffocating. She pushed her plate forward and leaned back to feel her back muscles scream. She smiled at the people and stood to excuse herself. Chris rose at the same time. Dean allowed the First Officer to precede her as they made their way around the table.

Coming to the place where Brandy sat eating her dessert, Dean reached out and touched Chris' arm.

"Wait a moment, Parker. I want to say goodnight." Chris nodded, feeling exhaustion hover nearby.

Dean neared the little girl's chair and tapped her shoulder. Brandy grinned upward. Kneeling to her height, Dean grinned back at the cherub.

"Having fun already I see." She commented toward the ice cream. Brandy nodded rapidly. "I will see you three ladies another time. Please enjoy your vacation." She encompassed the two adults with her conversation. The two women murmured goodnight as Dean cocked an ear toward the little one.

"G...G..Good...n..ni...night." Her stuttered message was clear. Dean nodded as she trickled a finger down the girl's cheek.

"Sleep tight!" Dean grinned back.

"D...don't l...l...let the b...be...bed buh...buh...bugs b...bi...bi...bite. The contorted features struggled to say the words but relaxed back into a grin as the little girl accomplished her statement.

"Exactly! No bug biting here!" Dean graced the trio with a grand smile and made her excuses.

Walking back to Chris's side they both made their way toward the Officer's wing. Walking side-by-side Dean thought of a million things to say to Chris, but remained silent. Chris remained just as quiet, her own thoughts twirling erratically.

As they neared Chris' cabin Dean stood back to allow Chris to slide the electronic card through the door lock. Chris looked nervously up into Dean's blue eyes. A tender smile and warmth radiated from the Captain as if to say, "It's OK."

"Tomorrow we dock in Miami. My uncle will be expecting us for an early evening meal. It will be casual, but elegant. Meanwhile, is everything still on track?" Dean asked, feeling comfortable with the answer of Yes.

Chris nodded and grimaced looking down at the beige carpet of the hallway. Meeting with David Tanner was not on her list of upcoming pleasantries. Tomorrow could bring revelations, she might not be able to handle.

She felt more than saw the hand rising to lift her chin. The light pressure, forced her view to climb to meet the Captain's. The ice cream white uniform seemed enormous for a moment. It towered over her smaller frame, blinding her reality into another. She shrank back in an instant of fear.

Dean, with a shocked expression, stepped back from the clearly frightened woman.

"Chris?" Dean uttered, wanting to erase the fearful gaze from the clouded eyes before her. "Are you OK?" Dean asked helplessly.

Chris's vision returned sharply to reality. Her confusion disappeared at the sound of Dean's voice saying her name. She looked up at the taller woman as tears began to leak from her eyes.

"I'm sorry. He was...he grabbed my arm...!" She said in a small voice. Dean took in the sparkling drop of wetness falling from those beautiful eyes and felt a moment of extreme anger. Her face grew glacial.

"Who?" She spoke with a deadly softness.

Chris was already regretting having spoken aloud in a moment of weakness. She felt embarrassed and shook her head to try to organize her thoughts. The coldness of Dean's response brought her into focus.

"Steve Temple. He...he threatened me." She wrapped her arms around herself to give her body comfort. Dean saw the gesture and again felt helpless. Her anger burned higher. She reached over and pushed the unlocked door open. Lightly guiding Chris inside, she followed and shut the door behind her.

Her gaze swept over the immaculate room and returned to the smaller woman. A brief shiver ran through Chris as she sucked in a breath of calming air. Taking Chris's hands in her own she captured the tortured gaze of her First Officer.

"I didn't know, Chris." She spoke softly. Chris's hands trembled in her own. "Tell me what happened? Tell me about it." Dean murmured as she guided the smaller woman to a nearby chair.

Chris panicked at the potential of disaster she was facing. "Your uncle wants to see me? I...could lose my job?" She murmured with a release of breath. Dean rubbed her thumbs over the small hands she held.

"He would have told me. You wouldn't be serving as First Officer. Think about it, Chris. He never asked me to relieve you. I have that authority." Dean tried desperately to convince the smaller woman to realize her mistaken thoughts.

Chris looked up and away. She let the comments slip into her consciousness and felt the strength of the words flow over her. She didn't want to be afraid. The warm hands holding hers tightened to encourage her to relax.

Dean felt the smaller woman tense then try to relax. Word by word Chris stuttered out her own rendition of what had happened that night. It was cathartic to finally say aloud the incident that occurred.

Dean held the small hands listening to the event and supporting the woman in anyway she could with her soothing voice and soft touch. She truly wanted to hold Chris, but realized it was too early for that. Instead, she rubbed the skin she held and felt an answering squeeze as Chris responded. As silence descended, Dean looked up from her hands reverently.

They caught each other's stare and time stopped.

"You're beautiful." Chris spoke her thoughts aloud. Dean had been told this before, but the instant Chris said it, she felt it held a deeper meaning. Her soul shivered as a breeze of arousal blew through her body.

She hesitated to move hoping the moment would go on and not wanting to break the spell. She didn't have to. Chris stood and pulled Dean upward. Within a split second Chris took that tiny step into Dean's space. She lifted Dean's hands up higher with her own, pulling them to be cradled in her own.

"I have never felt...this way" Chris paused, searching to explain.

Dean took a chance as she lifted Chris's hands higher and gently kissed the small fingers.

Chris drew in a sharp breath in response. The magnetic pull was back in force. The jumbled thoughts in her head were swept away as she watched the sensuous lips touching her skin. The soft warmth of Dean's breath caressed her hands. She felt a tug of arousal rush through her.

"I'm..." Chris muttered, slightly dazed.

"Shhhh." Dean whispered as she lowered her mouth toward Chris's lips. "Me too!" She breathed as they kissed.

The touch of their lips melted any resistance either held. The heat of an electric shock radiated inward sharply through their bodies. It flew from the soft contact of their lips to pass rapidly through the women. They dropped their hands while seeking to wrap their arms closer around one another.

Chris grabbed blindly at the jacket lapels of the taller woman's uniform and held on for the ride. Dean slid her hands upward to lightly grasp Chris's upper arms. Her fingers clenched slightly as she heard a soft moan.

Lips parted. Dean felt her mind swim in a pleasured fantasy turned to reality as their tongues met. Eyes closed, sensations grew, movement slowed as they melted together.

Chris whimpered with need as she felt Dean's tongue lathe her own in an intimate dance. Their breath mingled exchanging oxygen and then evaporating into the wet heat as they tasted and explored. Dean felt a low growl escape her mouth at the overwhelming sensations she was feeling. The pleasure of capturing the prey was almost indescribable.

They needed to breathe. Dean broke the kiss with regret. Their unfulfilled desire showed on each other's flushed face as they stared at one another in hunger. Chris was the first to disengage from the embrace.

She stepped back. Dean released her and looked at the smaller woman with passion in her gaze Chris felt her nipples tighten in response. Neither moved, yet their eyes spoke volumes. Chris drew gulps of air into her mouth. Her chest heaved with the denied fuel. Dean's nostrils flared as she sucked in her own air. Her hands clenched and unclenched at her sides. Her rigid frame relayed all her unsatisfied wants and needs.

A moment of quiet found them both. They understood it was just a respite from the beginning of much more. Dean managed to relax and smile.

Chris looked at the beautiful creature before her and let the balm of the returned attraction wash away any fears and doubts she might have had. She wanted so much more, but wasn't ready tonight and didn't really know what to do. Too much unfinished business pressed down upon her, making it hard for her to think. She knew Dean understood some of what she was feeling when she watched the taller woman touch her own lips and blow a kiss at her from five feet away.

Dean turned to leave the cabin and heard the whispered words as she touched the door.

"See you tomorrow!" Chris used her words, soft and pleading.

Dean turned to take in the appearance of the petite blonde. Her hair was unruly and circled her head like a halo. Her green eyes darkened with emerald fire. Her dark lips were swollen, passion inflamed. She closed her eyes to burn the image into her mind forever.

"I will be here for you." Dean answered trying to convey in her tone the depth of her growing emotions. She met the fragile smile with her own dazzling grin. She closed the door behind her and standing in the hallway, pictured the deep ocean green of those soft eyes, staring lovingly back at her.

Her smile turned to grimness as she headed back out into the ships outer walkway. She went to go locate Tiny and Pug and then make a stop looking into one 'Captain Steve Temple'. His future was about to change.

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