From Dreams of Thee

by 

Helen H.

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

The wildflowers lining the access road to the Nelson Institute of Marine Research were barely bending in the soft breeze filtering up the canyon.  It was just another typical summer's day in California, setting sun creating a pink scrim on the clouds that peppered the sky.  That was the postcard view outside the limousine.  Inside was stormier weather. 

"Jamie, I do not need you clucking over me like a mother hen!  I am perfectly fine!"

NIMR's CMO shook his head with familiar resignation.  "Humor me on this one, Harry," he answered, preparing himself to defend his actions.  "You received a very serious head injury.  You shouldn't even be out of bed, much less apparently recovered."

"There's nothing apparent about it, damn it!  You saw--"

"I'm fully aware of the test results.  I just think we need to make sure we aren’t moving too fast."   

Admiral Nelson's snap-eyed glare was thunderous.  "You're the one that kept me in that hospital bed.  You're the one who approved my leaving said hospital bed.  Are you now questioning your own decision?"

Dr. William Jamieson's eyes could snap too; he had a will as strong as the admiral's own and wasn’t afraid to show it.  He would have enjoyed the sparring on a more appropriate occasion.  Having just passed through the Institute's gates, though, it was time for the coup de grâce.  "I'd be doing the same if it was Lee or Chip.  In fact, you'd be damn well making sure of it."

That stopped the admiral cold.  His junior officers had an annoying habit of rushing into danger whenever it suited them.  It seemed like he spent all of his time in sickbay keeping watch while they healed from one injury or another.  "Talk about hitting below the belt," Nelson muttered.  "Fine.  Lee can come in with me."

Jamie conceded defeat with a heavy, thoroughly insincere sigh.  "I'll expect a full report, Commander Crane.  Your -- goddess may have decided that everything was just fine, but I have no intention of taking her word for it."

"Not my goddess, Jamie, the admiral's," Lee interjected, honey hazel eyes twinkling.  He quickly sobered as Nelson turned a stony glare on him.           

Jamie harrumphed.  "Never mind whose goddess she is, she's no doctor!  A full report, Lee.  And if you get any guff for it, you let me know."

The car drew up to the curb and stopped.  Lee got out and waited for the driver to get the admiral's door open, then stepped around to the trunk.  The young sailor was fumbling nervously with the key.

"Don't worry, Crosby, they're really good friends.  You'll find that out when you've been here a while longer."

Startled, Dan Crosby almost dropped the first suitcase.  "SIR, YES, SIR!  I mean, yes, sir," he said more quietly.  "I'll bring the luggage up."

"Just leave it by the door, I'll take it in," Lee ordered, and hurried to catch up with his boss.  His mood had lifted now that they were on familiar territory, free of the hospital with its beeping equipment, medical smells and hovering nurses and doctors.  Sick bays or hospitals, Lee Crane hated them both.  It was worse when someone he cared about was lying in the bed.  While on a business trip to Washington, DC Admiral Nelson had been hit by a cab.  It had been a helpless feeling, watching the man he thought of as a surrogate father struck down on the street. 

Then she had appeared -- to save the admiral's life again.  A Grecian goddess, guardian of the Seaview and her men, as she styled herself.  Galené had used her skills to keep the admiral from dying and then disappeared -- but not without arguing about her involvement in the admiral's life. 

"Allow me, sir," Lee said, using his key to the hydraulic lift that opened the access door to the cliff top apartment. 

The admiral stepped in, the expression on his face reflecting his pleasure.  "Damn, it's good to be home.  It was certainly an eventful trip to Washington.  Not one that I'd want to repeat any time soon."

"No, sir."  Lee paused, knowing how much his boss hated coddling of any kind.  Nevertheless, Admiral Nelson was facing a walk up the spiral stairway to the living quarters.  "Sir, I'll stand by while you get settled.  I've got to report back to Jamie, you know," he added quickly, seeing the flush beginning on his boss's face.  

Harry's lips thinned, and he bit back a retort.  It was a given that Lee would want to help.  He couldn't have wished for more attention.  Unless it was coming from a certain female, one that had come to his rescue yet again and vanished without awaiting a heartfelt thank you; vanished to wherever sea goddesses went for respite or refuge.  He was just about to remind his young friend that he had already declined any assistance when a soft voice spoke from the dark recesses of the second floor. 

"He'll have all the help he requires, Commander Crane."

Galené was standing at the top of the stairs, one pale green hand on the polished banister of the staircase.  Her long hair was moving gently to an invisible force.  There was a soft smile on her face, growing larger as she stared downwards. 

Questions formed in Lee's eyes.  "Galené.  How interesting to see you again...and so soon."

She had assured him that her relationship with the admiral was sincere, that he wasn't a pawn in a game that only goddesses played.  That had only been four days ago.  Her decision to stay out-of-the-way hadn't been very resolute.   

"I thought I'd just drop by, Commander, and see how the admiral was faring."   

With an effort, Lee remained composed.  "Sir, if you need anything--"

The admiral turned to Lee, eyebrows high, a smile playing on his lips.  "I believe I'll be fine, lad.  Don’t let me keep you." 

Lee grinned in spite of himself.  Nelson was almost pushing him out the door.  "Aye, sir.  I'll just put the bags down here, Admiral," Lee said, fully aware that no one was listening to him. 

"What the -- he throw you out?"  Jamie asked, face darkening, as Lee slid into the limousine after only a few minutes.  "Damn it, he--"

"He wasn't paying any attention to me, Jamie.  Much as I hate to admit it, I don't think we'll need to worry about the admiral for awhile."

"And that would be because--?"

“I'll explain it all over a beer at your place, after we pick up Chip."

 

* * * * *

 

"I can come down, if you'd like."

"No. I'll be right up." Harry grasped the teakwood and put his foot on the first step. His head felt find, never better. Reaching the top rung, he stopped for a moment, just looking at her.

She was dressed in a simple chiton, its silver color matching the striking silver-blue of her eyes.  The grey-green hair that he yearned to drag his fingers through was clipped back, escaping tendrils curling tantalizingly around her graceful chin line.  Her green skin glowed luminously in the shadows.  Pale skin, pale hair, fiery heart; the vision he saw in dreams that came unbidden. 

With a grunt of satisfaction, Harry took two quick steps and captured her in his arms.  She responded eagerly by wrapping sensuous limbs about him.  She was warm, so warm that he was momentarily taken aback then yielded to that warmth, pressing her to him as one hand moved along her spine in tiny caressing circles while the other encircled the back of her head and drew her ever nearer.  He pressed his lips to hers.  Time and breathing went into suspension.

There had been only a few such moments in their past, moments when his desire for her was startlingly real.  The rare intimacies had warred with the realization that both had been playing a part; she as his protector in a face that was ever changing, he, the gruff, world-weary sailor that wanted neither her protection nor her disturbing presence.  Until the night he had seen her in a little black dress.  No matter that it had been a disguise, another woman's body and face.  What was inside the shell was the fantasy he wanted to share.

The quiet in the room was deafening.  He broke the kiss, pulling away only slightly to drink in her beauty, then surrendered to her lips again, hands in her hair, to cradle her face to his.  A fragile thread of life grew between them, strengthening, taking hold.

 

* * * * *

It had been a bold move, even for a goddess. 

Any fear that he would reject her out of hand was tossed aside.  The look in his eyes was enough to reassure her of his excitement.  Now she was in his arms.  Galené closed her eyes, allowing his hot breath to sweep over her eyelids.  She tightened her grip on his back, melting herself to his shape, exploring his mouth with wild abandon.  The pleasure that gave her was bewitching, the soft sweetness of his lips a gift to be savored. 

She felt his desire in the brace he took at the nape of her neck, both possessive and supportive.  Passion leaped from his body to hers, igniting both.  He leaned into her, breathing her name.  Then his hands were raking over her throat, her shoulders, her waist, tracing the narrowness of her hips.  He brushed the hair away from the side of her throat and kissed her there.  A low moan of surprise and pleasure escaped her lips.  Then it was her hands exploring, her mouth possessing his.  No longer were they soft and encouraging but bruising and demanding, taking what she wanted and wanting more.

"Tell me this isn't a dream," he whispered.

"Only a dream of our own making," she replied, kissing the rough skin at his temple.  She leaned back to look at his smoldering eyes.  "Tell me what you're thinking."

"Better I should show you," he said quickly, and then almost as quickly reddened, the inherent shyness she knew was part of his nature surfacing from deep inside.  It was an automatic drawing back he exhibited in private that he never showed as the public man, the leader, the superior, the admiral.

"I can think of nothing more pleasurable.  Unless you feel the need to rest after your journey?"  she said, uttering a small laugh.  He was silent.  She saw the caution in his eyes, and empathy replaced amusement.  "Believe me when I say I want you as much as you want me.  Come to bed, my sweet."  There was challenge as well as entreaty in her voice.

He released her slowly, and she took his hand, caressing the back of it.  The webbing that extended between her long fingers caught on his skin. 

Come to bed, my sweet.  When he looked at her face he thought of wonder and illusion, of chimera and spirits.  Things that one didn't associate with everyday people, but she wasn't everyday.  She wasn't even human.  She was an elemental, a spectral being, something cosmic and enchanting.  Something that could never be constrained to his world.  He put that out of his mind immediately.  She was to be his now.  For now was all that mattered. 

He went willingly, eagerly to her passionate embrace.

 


CHAPTER TWO

 

Harry came to consciousness quickly, as he always did.  Forcing his eyes to stay closed took more effort.  He was afraid if he opened them she would be gone.  Then he heard a soft sigh.  He turned slightly to rest his gaze upon her.

She shifted a little, leaning towards him as he lay on his side watching.  The morning light streaming through the bedroom's windows held her in its sunny embrace.  Her beauty caught in his throat, and he hoped the clamor of his heart wouldn't wake her.  The thought of staying in this bed captivated him, emptied his mind of briefings, of stalled experiments, of cajoling political give and takes.  All he wanted now was to claim the hand that sprawled lazily at her side.  He had thought he had nothing left to give.  She had shown him he was wrong.  He had never felt as selfish as he did now, and he gloried in the exclusivity of it.  All he wanted to do was lock away the remembrance of her whispers and shuddering breaths in the darkness, her fingers streaking across his skin, drawing away his own ragged breath as he drank in all that she offered.   

Her hair spilled across the pillow, the color of ocean depths.  A few errant strands drifted across pink lips curled up in a secret smile.  He longed to lean over and cover them with his own, but resisted the temptation.  He preferred to think of how those lips had smiled wickedly up at him as she drew him to the bed.  In that instant the war-scarred inner demons he carried, ever watchful, ever taut against disappointment had dissolved away.  With one look she commanded him to open his heart just for her.

She had risen sometime in the night and replaced her gown.  As carefully as if he was reaching for a snowflake he fingered the trailing ribbons, soft as water in his hand.  He studied the color of it against her neckline, picturing again how it had pooled at her feet as he slipped the fabric off her shoulders.  There was no question of restraint for either of them then.  The taste of her kisses, the scent of her skin, alive with a lingering sea-spent fragrance endured in his memory.  He wanted to take the moments and make them only his, to know no other time or place.  Selfish in this, he wanted everything and more; more of her smile, more of the look in her eyes dusky with need, her body shivering under his, her soul, infinite in its awareness.  Her heart, for his alone. 

Somewhere there was a clock ticking, counting down the hours, the minutes to the next urgent meeting, some top-secret activity that the highest echelons of government were involved in, a place that Seaview was needed.  No matter.  For the first time in -- he couldn't recall, actually -- the overriding urge to be in action had left him.  It all seemed different now.  In this tidy nest, in a room of quiet calm save for the pounding of faraway surf and the soft breathing of the woman next to him, he could forget that there was a world beyond the walls.  He resisted the urge to wake her, to hear her voice greet him with shy acknowledgement.  Secretly, though, he didn't need words.  All he needed was her arms reaching out to him and her mouth eagerly seeking his, as she had done insatiably the evening before.  Harry closed his eyes, allowing his mind to wander and revel in the memories.

"It's not fair that you awoke before me."

Her voice contained a smile.  He looked down and found silver eyes studying him alive with laughter.  She took up the hand that lay across his chest and interlaced her fingers with his, a simple act that implied possession, triggering pleasure in his soul.

"It's an old habit, hard to break," Harry replied.  He moved a curl away from her cheek, folding the beautiful hair between his fingers.  "Navy hours, you know."

"Admirals aren't allowed to sleep in?" she asked, her smile broadening.

"With command comes responsibility," he said in mock seriousness. 

"You old fraud," she retorted, stripping her fingers from his and punching him.  "You just always thought you'd miss something!"

They laughed together.  He felt the strength of his arms as he drew her close against his shoulder, holding her secure as his heart leaped to acknowledge the gift he'd been given.  He took up her hand and pressed the palm to his cheek.  "I'll make an exception today."

Outside a gull squawked, searching for his breakfast.  Morning was here, and with it came the remembered dream of her soft mouth brushing the bare skin of his chest, her fingertips tracing the lines of his body, adventurous, knowing, desiring.  Her voice had called to him to ascend with her, every syllable echoed by his own.  He kissed the top of her head, then raised himself above her to kiss her lips.

"Seen enough yet?"

He traced a line down the side of her face, and his heart burst with longing as she shivered.  "Never, lass.  Never."

"You flatter me," she murmured, fascinated by the unmistakable desire in his eyes.  The man that she had dreamed of was hers to command.  His eyes danced with intensity, deep and blue as sapphires.  She touched his face with the tips of her fingers, following an invisible line that led from brow to the little cleft in his chin, the one that was aching to be kissed.  It was his turn to shiver. 

His eyes, bold and possessing, also contained a hint of vulnerability, a softness that had captured her attention as soon as they had met.  She wanted to hold him, shelter him always.  It went beyond the protectiveness she felt already, the shielding she felt duty-bound to provide.  She also knew that he felt the same about her, part and parcel of his personality.  They had fought that battle already.  She had won by circumventing his protests and remaining true to her own course.  She would do anything to save him from harm. 

The intimacy of the moment washed over her like a surrounding fog.  She lay still, breathless, full of need.  "Were you expecting to go into the office today?"

"No," he said, and she could tell he was lying.

"I see.  Well, then, you will be late to work," she whispered, pulling him to her. 


 

CHAPTER THREE

 

"What do you mean he isn't there?  Where the hell is he, Crane?"

Lee and Angie exchanged glances.  Patience, Lee chided himself, patience.  He glanced out the windows of the conference room and then back at the television monitor.  "Convalescing at home, Admiral Starke."  Galené's smiling face came to mind.  "I guess you could say he hasn't been cleared for a return to work, sir." 

"Jiggs" Starke blew the air out of his cheeks.  "He's supposed to brief me on the proposed design changes tomorrow.  I've got assistant secretaries of the Navy on my ass, Crane!"  Starke cried, and then remembered that Angie was in the room.  "Excuse my language, Miss Williams."  A bit more quietly, he added, "If he's not well enough to talk to me that's really going to affect the schedule!" 

Lee sighed.  "He's well enough, sir, but we thought it best--"

"We?" 

"Excuse me, I meant to say Dr. Jamieson thought it best that Admiral Nelson have a little more rest before getting back to the office."    

Admiral Starke's eyebrows knit together.  "Fine.  Pass him a message, break out the signal flags, whatever.  I just need to hear from him personally as to how he's doing."

Was there a note of concern in Starke's voice?  Lee softened and concluded there was.  He and Admiral Nelson had been friends for a very long time.  "I'll remind him, sir."

"See that you do.  Starke out."  The television screen faded.

Angie picked up her coffee cup and turned to Lee.  "I'm sorry you were here when Admiral Starke called.  He usually takes bad news from me a lot easier than from you," she said, smiling.  "I did kind of expect Admiral Nelson to come in today, though."  Angie's big eyes widened.  "He didn't have a relapse or anything, did he?"

"No, nothing like that," Lee said, taking her arm and heading for the door.  "I wouldn't expect him today, though."  He hid his smile.  "He'll remember about Starke, so he'll be in tomorrow.  If she lets him," he added under his breath.

"She?"  Angie grinned mischievously.  "What are you saying, Lee?"

Lee inwardly cursed the lapse of discretion.  "The admiral has...met someone."

"That's impossible!"  Angie blurted, and then her face blazed as Lee's grin grew bigger.  "I mean, I think I'd know.  He's been working too hard as usual, when would he have had the chance to meet anyone," she finished lamely.   

"You keeping track, Angie?"

"You know it’s part of my job to look after him, just the same as you, Lee Crane!  He's my boss.  And a big 'ol teddy bear.  If he's found a girlfriend, well -- she better be treating him nice or she'll have to answer to me." 

Lee liked this pretty girl, with her soft skin, chocolate-colored hair and a trace of magnolias in her speech.  That voice could turn to bands of steel if anything threatened to upset her beloved admiral. 

"I'll keep that under advisement, if I ever do anything to incur your wrath."

"You have already, but I get over it pretty quick in your case.  No woman can resist it when you use those puppy dog eyes.”     

They grinned at each other.  There had been a time in the past when something had sparked between them.  But Lee had been on too many nerve-wracking ONI missions for Angie to ever be comfortable with the unpredictable danger, and they had settled into a deep friendship that satisfied them both. 

"I'm going down to the boat, Ang.  If the Old Man does manage to wander in, call me."

"Okay, Lee."

 

 


CHAPTER FOUR

 

The morning lazed itself away as they spent it in each other's arms.  It had been a long time since she had absconded from her myriad responsibilities, a long time since she had tasted such freedom.  She surmised that Harry was feeling the same; his face reflected an ease mirrored in her own.  She loved him; there was no doubt about that.  And she thought, was almost sure, that he had fallen in love with her.  The uncertainty was how much he would allow someone else to control his personal happiness.  She did not want him to change for her -- but how much was he willing to give up?  One thing was certain, she thought to herself, as she watched him stare into space -- she could almost see the same ideas flickering behind his eyes. 

"Much as I'd love to spend the day right here, your absence has been noted.  C'mon, get up and get dressed.  We're going to work."

His eyes twinkled up at her.  "You've read my mind.  I've been laying here for a while thinking about how I was going to address that."

That, and some other things.  "I thought as much.  To the office we go.  Go take a shower.  I'll be ready when you get out."

"You're sure you wouldn't like to join me?"

Galené made pushing motions with her hands.  "We need to go in today, not a week from today.  Move it."

"Taskmaster."  It was a unique feeling, a welcome feeling, being ordered about.  He did not mind it at all.

Rising slowly from the bed, Harry cupped his hand under her chin and kissed her thoroughly again, his tongue caressing the outline of her upper lip.  She uttered a tiny moan.  Chuckling, he went into the bathroom.

Dragging his hands through his hair, letting the hot water cascade over his head and shoulders, he remembered with chagrin that the plan -- his plan, one that Jamie wouldn't have approved -- had been to drop off the luggage and go right to the office to dispose of the paperwork piling up on his desk.  In a flash, he thought shamefacedly, he had completely discarded any notice of his regular routine.  Responsibilities, he reminded himself.  He had responsibilities.  A couple of hours ought to take care of most everything.  Turning the water off, he grabbed a towel and turned towards the sink and his shaving gear. 

She was fiddling with her gloves as he started down the stairs.  "It is so very true about a man in uniform.  You're absolutely the most handsome man of my acquaintance.  How do I look?"  she asked, turning in a small circle.  She was dressed in a simple twin set of soft peach wool, the slimming skirt skimming over her hips.  A single strand of pearls adorned the sweater's boat neck.  Missing was the soft green pigment of her skin and her distinctive gray hair.  It was now blonde, the color of marigolds.

"I think I prefer you without clothes, but this will certainly do."  His face came alive with laughter as she gasped.  "You look beautiful."

"And my fingers aren't webbed, either.  I think I told you once that little green girls are hard to explain away."

"You did."    

She put a hand to her head.  "Do you like my hair?  I'm not sure about the color."

"It's beautiful as always," he said noncommittally.

"You don't like it."

"Not at all!  I meant--"

"Remember -- the truth, Harry."

She was here, in his house, and relying on him for honesty between them.  "My eye has always been caught by women with dark hair."

"Thank you!"  The blond hair piled on top of her head instantly turned glossy black.  "I just wasn't sure if the blonde hair was important to you, if you wanted me to remind you of someone...."

He could suddenly think of nothing more physically satisfying than just pulling her into his arms and nestling his chin against the top of her head.  "That wasn't someone else, that was you.  The face doesn't mean a thing.  I like you the way you are meant to be.  I would take you green if it didn't require a hell of a lot of explaining."

"A good answer, my darling.”  She handed him his cover, then grabbed up her purse from the Oakley sideboard.  "Ready?"

"You sure you want to come along?  It's definitely just a paperwork day."

She squared her shoulders.  "Yes.  I need to meet Angie.  I need to let your secretary know I'm not a threat."

"Angie would never--"

"Of course she would, silly man.  Secretaries get very close to their bosses.  I know I'd want to meet my boss's newest fling."

"You're not a fling," he declared fiercely.

She searched his face.  "No, I can tell that I am not."  She leaned forward and kissed him lovingly. 

She was silent through the short drive to the office, mind racing.  She had met Angie, just not as herself.  Why did this feel so different?  There was nothing to be frightened about.  Goddesses don't get frightened, she reminded herself.  She swallowed and breathed deeply as Harry pulled into his personal spot, then put a big smile on her face as he opened the car door.  Obeying the conventions, she did not take his arm as they walked towards the building, and was thus surprised when he shifted his briefcase and tucked her forearm through his, pulling her close for the short walk to his private entrance.

Angie stared in surprise as the pair walked in, then quickly regained her composure.  She stood up.

"Angie, this is Galené.  Galené, this is my secretary, Angela Williams."

Angie thought to herself, Lordy, she looks like a movie star.  "Very nice to meet you, Galené.  Just call me Angie."

Galené stuck out her hand.  "It's a pleasure to meet you, Angie."

"Have the two of you known each other long?"

"Quite a few months, actually," Galené replied smoothly as the admiral hesitated.  "We met formally when the admiral was in San Francisco for the trial."  It was not the time to explain to Angie that she had been in the body of the doomed Victoria Wynn at the time.

"Did you know Vicky?  It was so awful, what happened to her."  Angie's face reflected a fleeting sadness, replaced by quiet interest.

Quickly Harry spoke up.  "Who's been checking up on me, Angie?"

"Well, sir, Admiral Starke's been calling.  Lee's been holding him off."

"I haven't forgotten about the briefing tomorrow.  I'll study my notes toni--uh, in the morning.  Speaking of Lee, his car's not in his spot."

"He's down at the boat, sir.  He and Chip are going over evals.  Let me call him--"

"I don't think I'll disturb him right now," Harry said hastily.  "Anyone else?"

"Who hasn't called, sir?" she replied, grinning.  "The phone's been ringing off the hook."

Harry growled, would have said something, then Galené cleared her throat.  "Oh, alright, have Michael make up some silly press release.  Let everyone know that the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

Angie held up her calendar.  "I pushed all your appointments to next week, sir, including your lecture at the university, the reception for the scientists from Cal Poly, and the visit to Washington Elementary.  Dr. Hannity's retirement party is also next week and I've taken care of the gift, as well as arranging for hamburgers for the kids' lunch at the school."

Harry turned to Galené.  "She's a treasure, wouldn't you agree?"  Turning back he smiled warmly at his secretary.  "Thank you for handling everything, Angie.  I'm in the office, if anyone calls."  He looked at the woman who had brought a new awareness to his life.  "Coming?"

She shook her head.  "No, I think I'll leave you to it.  You'll get a lot more done without any interruptions.  I'll stay outside and visit with Angie for a few minutes, then go for a walk."  She took him by the elbow and kissed his cheek, letting her lips linger for a few moments.  "Do what you need to do.  I'll know when you're ready to leave," she said softly.

He nodded decisively.  "Alright.  It shouldn't take more than a couple of hours."  Focusing on Angie, he said, "Get Michael busy on drafting that press release.  I'll call you for dictation when I'm ready."

"Yes, sir."

As soon as the door closed the two women sized each other up.  Angie's initial impression hadn't changed.  The more she looked at Galené, the more the word "glamorous" came to mind but, she thought, there was a bit of mystery behind the woman's eyes, mystery and sadness, she concluded.  Is she going to break his heart?  Maybe.  But some wayward feeling told her it wouldn't be because she wanted to.  The thought saddened Angie suddenly, and she stared past Galené's shoulder as she considered her reactions to the other woman. 

"You've worked for Admiral Nelson a long time?"

Angie started, embarrassed that she had been caught in a moment of inattentiveness.  "Yes, since he took over here.  He's the best boss anyone could ever have," she said, throwing her chin up defiantly. 

The dark eyes studied her appraisingly.  "You won't get any arguments from me, Angie.  I agree with you.  He's a wonderful man."  She had seen him at his most charming and elegant, and when he was being headstrong and stubborn, blue eyes throwing fire.  She imagined that Angie had, too. 

The other woman adopted a chagrined tone.  "I'm sorry.  I get defensive when it comes to Admiral Nelson." 

"I'd think less of you if you didn't.  I know he thinks the world of you.  The daughter he never had," Galené she said impulsively. 

Angie's skin reddened.  She put her hands to her cheeks.  "Honestly, that's the nicest thing you could have ever said to me.  I just love him as a fa...."  She stopped, flustered, not believing that she had revealed such intimate thoughts to a woman she had only met a few minutes before.

"Don't be embarrassed, my dear.  He's someone that deserves to be loved.  He's going to call you for dictation in a moment or two.  Tell him I've gone out for that walk, would you?"

"Yes -- of course.”

Impulsively Galené stepped around the desk and gathered Angie into her arms.  "Thank you for taking such good care of him."  She turned, picked up her gloves and headed for the door.  "I'll be back when he's ready to leave."

Angie stared at the door long after it had closed.  Who was this woman?  How did she know so much?  What was it about her that had opened Angie’s private thoughts to her scrutiny?  It was eerie.  Did Lee know anything else about her?  Did he consider her suitable for the admiral’s affections?  She would have to find a way to discover the answers.

The buzzer on her desk went off, forcing her back to reality. 

"Angie?  I've got some letters here that need to go out."

"I'll be right in, sir."  Shaking herself up and down, Angie gathered up her steno pad and walked toward the inner office. 

As he had predicated, they worked for two hours.  The afternoon was coming to a close when Harry threw down his pen, stretched his shoulders and rubbed the tiredness from his eyes.

"Angie, that is definitely enough for today."

She closed her steno pad and arranged the backup materials onto his desk into neat little piles.  "I agree, sir.  We got to about ninety percent of it, I think.  I'll go see if Galené has come back.  If not, I'll start look--"

The office door opened and Galené stepped in.  "Did I hear my name?"

Through a heavy wooden door?  I don't see how-- The thoughts disappeared as Angie caught the expression on the admiral's face.  He was grinning up at Galené as if the world had suddenly become a better place.  It stopped Angie cold.  He's in love.  He's really in love.  Boy, this changes everything.

"Ready to head for home?"

Harry slapped his briefcase closed and stood up.  "Absolutely.  Angie, get all this ready for me tomorrow.  I'll sign everything before Jiggs and I talk." 

"Excuse me, Admiral?"

Everyone looked across the room to the couple with a baby carriage in the doorway.  The man's face was drawn and weary, as if some great trouble was bearing down upon him.  "Just wanted to come by and say goodbye.  I've finished cleaning out my office.  We're leaving tomorrow, as you know."

 "Yes, John, I know," Harry said heavily.  "Galené, this is the Carter family, Dr. Lisa and Dr. John Carter.  Lisa works -- worked -- with Jamie at Medical, John in the oceanography lab."

"Nice to meet you," John Carter said as he looked at the beautiful stranger.

"All the arrangements taken care of?"  Harry enquired.

"Yes, sir," Lisa Carter answered.  She too, looked as if some tragedy was playing on her mind.  She bent down and adjusted the pink blanket that filled the interior of the baby carriage.  "Thank you so much for taking care of everything.  We really, really appreciate the private plane.  The baby...it'll be easier for us."  She took notice of the woman standing beside Harry for the first time.  ""Did I hear your name right?  Galené?"

"Yes."

"Our daughter is named for Grecian mythology, too.  Her name is Anthea.  It means flower.  You probably know that.  God, I sound like a five-year-old."  Lisa Carter found herself speaking only to the other woman.  Everyone else had faded away, so caught was she in the stare of Galené's eyes.  "We found out about the cancer on her first birthday," Lisa said, her voice breaking slightly on the last word.  Her husband placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.  "We're actually on our way back east to consult a specialist...another specialist...to another appointment, to find out if there's anything else...that can be done...."  Her voice faded away.

"May I hold her?"  Galené asked.

"She's not very good with strangers, strangers mean needles and--"

"But I'm not a stranger, am I, precious?"  Galené reached in and picked the baby up.  Anthea was dressed in a little pink outfit, the color startlingly brighter than the child's white, sickly skin.  The baby's eyes were unfocused, and she seemed disinterested in her surroundings, limp in the arms of this dark-haired woman.  Galené saw the pain reflected in the mother's eyes, the distress as Lisa chewed on her bottom lip.  "Look, she likes my pearls." 

As if awakening from sleep, the baby focused on the necklace just within reach.  A tiny hand closed on the shiny orbs.  Squirming around, she turned towards her mother and held out the pearls for inspection.

"Harry, unclasp these, would you?  Thank you."  As he made to let the necklace loose, Galené whispered a few words and pressed her lips against the child's forehead.  "A gift for a beautiful baby -- and her beautiful mother," Galené said, gathering up the pearls and handing them to John.  She gave Anthea back to her mother, planting a kiss on Lisa's check.

Through the tears she could no longer hold back, Lisa mumbled, "Oh, no, I couldn't, you can't, they're beautiful...yours...."

"I can and I have," Galené said gently.  "It was a pleasure to meet you all.  I hope that any news you receive about her condition will be positive.”  She shook John's hand, then turned to Angie.  "Thanks for the conversation.  We'll see each other again soon.  Time to go, Admiral."  

Harry held the outer door open and they emerged into the sunlight.  "How old are those pearls?"  he asked.

"Oh, a few hundred years or so," she answered, the frown between her brows fading away.  "The woman I took them from won't miss them.  I'll just get another set."

 "Jamie's told me that Lisa has been beating herself up, blaming herself for the baby's condition, even though she knew better as a doctor.  John's been distracted as well.  A healthy baby will mean everything to them."

Her head swiveled towards him, the frown returning.  "I have done nothing.  Perhaps the doctors will have good news, perhaps not.  I do not know."

Harry stopped as if he'd run into a wall.  She followed suit a step or two later.  "I don't understand, you've saved my life, you've hinted that you've saved many lives.  Why can't you save the life of this one child?"

"She is not my charge.  My bond in this life is with the Seaview and her men.  The Moraie will let me do nothing else."

"Oh, damn the Moraie!  A life -- any life is precious!"  Harry said, and saw the alarm flare in her eyes.

"I have offered up a prayer to Iaso for her help.  All I can do is hope that it is heard and measured.  Please, Harry!  Don't ask me for anything more."

"You can't mean to leave this as it is!"

They had reached the car and Harry, being the gentleman that he was, opened her door and she slid inside quickly.

By the time he got around to the driver's side and got in, she was gone.

 

 


CHAPTER FIVE

 

The ocean rumbled in the background, breakers slapping the shoreline as they finished their long journey.  The smell of seawater was heavy in the air, the water itself hidden in fog.  As much as he was used to it, having sailed across both above and beneath, Harry was always humbled by the immensity of the Pacific, endless waves rolling in from the wavering horizon to an eternal rhythm.  The coast stretched away on both sides, golden sand interspersed with clumps of the hardy vegetation that managed to survive salt and air.  Ghostly wisps of vapor wrapped around his legs and rolled up towards the rocks that formed the high tide line.  An occasional forlorn piece of kelp floated in, to throw itself onto the sand, spent.

This is where he came when he needed to think a problem through.  The private beach was accessible to Institute staff only.  He had come here once before when her presence had angered and frustrated him.  Anger that he had been feeling something he shouldn't, frustration that she kept herself so tantalizingly close yet emotionally distanced.  It had all boiled over to the desire that captured them both, only to see it threatened when he'd made a demand too far of her.

The sand shifted under his feet.  Removing his jacket, Harry threw it over a nearby group of boulders forming a granite necklace as they marched to the waterline.  He took off his cover and laid it carefully down, then stared back out to sea again.  His hands knotted into fists.  She'd come eventually, he was sure of it.  Unless the stubbornness that matched his own won out.  He'd wait a few more minutes.

Stubbornness.  Once he got hold of a problem or idea there was no stopping him, if he believed what he was saying and feeling was true.  Meeting the Carters, seeing Galené interact with the child, knowing what the goddess was capable of... he had certainly made assumptions and spoken out of the heat of the moment. 

What she was capable of....

To his credit, he did not flinch when the fingers curled around his wrist.  

"I told someone once that I didn't know what I saw in you.  You're impatient and stubborn and ill-tempered." 

The voice came from behind him.  He closed his eyes for just an instant, and then turned.  "My emotions get the best of me sometimes.  At least they do where you're concerned."

She came forward and put her hands on his chest.  Another flicker of electricity flowed through him. 

"I am sorry that I cannot be everything you think I should be, Harry.  You've just seen an example of how I can fall short of expectations."  The fog rose up around them until there was only a cone-shaped opening facing the sea.  As soon as they were closed in, she changed out of her human form to that of the goddess.  "You are a white knight, charging into battle, fighting the dragons that threaten everything -- and everyone -- you care about.  But you cannot save everyone, Harry.  And neither can I.  Come, sit with me."

"Sit?"  Harry looked over his shoulder, to see a fantastic array of pillows, and low tables filled with serving dishes.  "Dinner is served," he added wryly.  Settling, he surveyed the various cold cuts, vegetables and fruit that had magically appeared.  "I feel like a sultan at his table."

Galené picked up a large beaker of wine and poured for both of them.  "Let us steal a few short hours more together, Harry.  Then, it will be back to our lives, the one that destiny has chosen for me, and the one you are comfortable with -- and love more than you care to admit."

He took the glass and stared towards the fog.  "It's been a satisfying life.  I never wanted to do anything except join the Navy.  I made big plans from a young age; the Academy, duty stations, special commands.  I was going to be Chief of Naval Operations someday," he said, chuckling.  "Along the way science became more fascinating to me.  I just wanted to know more about what I couldn't see, or feel, or taste.  I got lucky; I met the right people, people who helped me put Seaview together.  It became all-important, to see this dream of mine come true.  Since then I've been on a mission to explore realms that are at the limit of human understanding." 

She knew how to read a face.  "In the company of men.  I can't begrudge you that, nor would I want to change that for you."  She poured him another glass of wine, smiling at him with affection.  Going to her knees she settled against him, leaning into his chest. 

Change.  Harry focused on that word.  What would a continuing relationship be like with this woman?  There would be nothing normal about it.  Here one minute and gone the next -- the old trite phrase fit.  The word impossible threatened, but he refused to allow it into his consciousness.  

"It hasn't left room for much else  -- until now."  He turned to look intently at her.  "I could change, adjust to a new situation...we could be together...."  His voice trailed off, as if he was musing, thinking, contemplating a million ways of doing something.

"Did you think I have been asking for something in particular, Harry?" 

"I don't think it was you asking.  I think it was me."

"There's no need for either of us to ask.  I think we both know the answer.  Which makes it all the more delightful.  We can make the discoveries together."  She looked up and they stared into each other's eyes, with no thought of deception or untruth.  "When you love someone there's always the possibility that hurt will come, that your heart will be broken.  It's almost like a weight on your back, one that you feel deep inside.  But along the way, if you're very lucky, that weight turns to wings.  And then you fly."

His finger traced a line along her cheekbone.  "Are we close to flying yet?"

"Very close, my love."  Galené smiled as she kissed the tips of his trailing fingers and settled into him again, gazing into the future.

The fog thinned a little and Harry looked out to the water.  A pod of dolphins was making its way swiftly south.  Harry felt the woman next to him quiver.

"You want to join them, don't you?" he asked softly.

"I don't conceal my feelings well, do I?"

"Not from me.”  He pulled her to him again and kissed the side of her mouth, then as she arched into him teased the rest of it with his tongue and his own lips.  Drawing her closer he nibbled her ear, then moved to her jaw line as she curved herself like a cat to receive every delicious sensation.  Moving upwards, he kissed her eyelashes, reveling in the sensations he was inspiring.  Her lips found his, lustfully giving, taking, needing the sensuous contact.  They took their fill of each other, aware of nothing outside the moment.  Her skin glowed warm under his touch.  She was real.  Not a façade, not an illusion.  Real.  And they were together. 

"Go.  I'll be here when you get back."

Flushed with passion she pulled away slowly, trailing a hand along the side of his face, smiling with gratitude for his understanding before turning toward the watery depths.  She took some long-limbed steps and threw herself into the cool water.  He caught a flash of bare green skin before she disappeared into the waves, reappearing a half minute later with dolphins on either side.

Harry got comfortable again on the pillows, sipping his wine.  The ocean purred and lapped a few yards away.  He watched her swim, lithe strokes that cut the water.  One of the dolphins broke the surface with a great slap, and she followed suit, imitating the creature's jumps.  They dived below, disappearing in the foam.  Long minutes went by.  Finally, a good fifty yards out, she surfaced and waved to him, then swam closer, the dolphins cutting in and out in front of her.

One last great leap brought her fully out of the water, spinning like a top, her hair whipping around her like flames on a witch's cauldron, her face beaming with incandescent joy.  This was her natural habitat, her shelter.  Could he take a sea nymph from her familiar surroundings and make her happy?  Time was what they needed now, time to understand and explore.   

 


CHAPTER SIX

 

Something pulled him from his dreams, dreams of Galené in his arms, her silken hair draped across the pillows as he stared into her eyes.  Her fingers dug into his arms as he demanded her kisses, kisses at first soft and then strongly urgent as she responded.  But this wasn't a dream.  He was replaying the events of the past evening, when they had made love into the early hours of the morning, their mutual desire flash-born, like striking sparks.  There had been urgency to it; she had drawn him to the bedroom as soon as they'd driven back from the beach, practically tearing his clothes from his body as they tumbled into bed.  She had been grasping, pleading, wantonly taking and generous in her giving.  Harry had fallen asleep, spent and fulfilled. 

The dream faded with the realization he was alone in the bed.  He opened his eyes then.

She was standing at the window, arms crossed, staring out to sea.  Her hair hung long down her back, the ends silent.  That was enough.  What he had thought about the day before cracked and disappeared.  There would be no time, at least for now.  He propped himself up on his elbows.  "You're leaving."

She spoke without turning around.  "Yes."

"Someone else whose life you need to save?"

Her head settled back on her neck, and she sighed deeply.  "Something like that."

"When will you come back?"

She took a deep breath, deliberately remaining away from him as she heard the confidence in his soft inquiry.  "As soon as I can.  But remember I am never more than a dream away, my love."  Her resolve to avoid contact failed.  She moved to slide in beside him, settling into his embrace. 

"How I wish that was true," he murmured, brushing his lips over her forehead, sending hot blood coursing through her veins.  She loved hearing him whisper, the low rumble that was his beautiful baritone modulating to a tone that was for her ears only.

"It is as true as I can make it."  

"Being in love with a sea goddess does present its challenges," he said with a small grin, and was gratified when he felt the sides of her face curl up in a smile.

"There are responsibilities I face every day.  You have the same.  Neither one of us can step back from what we feel is our commitment to make the world a better place." 

He searched for words, knowing the truth of what she was saying.  If they were to fly, both would have to make accommodations.  The knowledge that the future could be theirs blossomed.  He pulled her closer.  "I've come to believe that there are some things that don't require understanding.  I will always want you, when I can have you."  He drew her away so that he could bring her hands to his lips.   

The simple gesture quickened her heartbeat.  She replied in a voice filled with desire.  "I'll be back soon, my love.  I want to be with you as much as you want to be with me.  So I will do all that I can to keep this promise." 

Slowly, tentatively, she touched his lips with hers, then kissed him more urgently as need rose up on a wave of passion.  Her breath shortened as he crushed her to his chest and rolled over in the bed until she was above him, her hair a waterfall about them both.  Their eyes held each other as they floated together on a roller coaster of emotions.  Her lips played under his jaw.  He wove his fingers into her hair, pushing the curls behind her ears, then pulled her down and kissed the warm skin beneath her earlobes.  As her breath stuttered in tiny gasps his kisses continued, moving from her ears to the nape of her neck, then to the shadows between her breasts.  This was not to be an ending, not a goodbye.  She loved him.  And he had said he loved her, accepting all that she was. 

A slow, knowing smile transformed her face.  "We will lie together, and then you will sleep.  You will awake refreshed and ready to conquer the world again.  All that I ask is that you keep me in your heart – safe in your heart until I return.  You will, won't you?"

His crushing kiss was her answer.

 


CHAPTER SEVEN

They popped out of their respective cars together, Lee and Angie, and stared at the automobile in the admiral's spot.  Angie was the first to give voice to what they were both thinking.

"I can't believe he's here.  Do you think they had an argument?  I wanted this to happen for him, Lee.  She seemed so nice...and I could tell she really cared about him.  And he felt the same way, believe me."

Lee smiled grimly.  The nagging doubt pushed to the surface of his mind again.  I hope you're right, he thought.  "Let's go see, shall we?" 

Crossing the outer office quickly, Lee knocked and opened the door.  The admiral was sitting at his desk, his face untroubled, ruffling through paperwork, dictating into his machine. 

"Morning, you two.  Jiggs at 1000, I believe, Angie?"

"Yes, sir," Angie replied, casting a sideways glance at Lee.

"Put him through as soon as he signs on."

"Yes, sir."  She hesitated for a moment.  Was it her place to ask?  She looked at Lee, mentally sending the thought to him.  She'd find out more later.  "I'll bring in your coffee, sir.  Would you like something, Lee?

"Coffee will do just fine, Angie."  He waited until she had closed the door, and then said, "Got a minute, Admiral?"

Harry looked up abruptly, his emotions torn, then grinned as another thought struck him.  He could hear Galené talking to him, even then.

Choices, Harry, choices.  It's all in how we end things, not how we start them.

"Of course, lad, sit down.  I think it's time to discuss the schedule for the week, don't you?  We're somewhat behind," Harry said, pulling the papers on his desk closer to himself.  "I see that Carter in Facilities is still dealing with that nagging electrical problem.  Got any ideas on that one, Lee?"

Lee had been prepared to discuss anything.  That the admiral seemed his old self was comforting.  Lee liked it when Nelson was happy.  Hell, everybody did.  Galené brought that out in him, at least. 

"Well, sir, that whole building needs its electrical grid replaced.  It hasn't had any real upgrades since the 50s.  Little repairs aren't going to cut it.  I suggest that as our next big project."

"I agree."  Harry's mouth formed a smile as he watched his captain and friend.  Lee was itching to ask but good manners and maybe a little reluctance to upset his CO tied his tongue.  "She'll be back, Lee.  Just thought you'd like to know."

If you're sure about it, then I'll believe it.  "I'm glad to hear it, sir."

"Okay.  Have Carter draw up the Procurement Request."  He pulled up a binder and flipped it open.  "Let me throw something at you in regards to that cockamamie idea that Jiggs has for these design specs."  Harry began shaking his head vigorously, staring down at the page.  "It boggles the mind what those boys in the Pentagon think is important."

Back to business as usual.  Lee smiled.  "Aye, sir!"

 

 

 

I arise from dreams of thee
In the first sweet sleep of night,
When the winds are breathing low,
And the stars are shining bright.

I arise from dreams of thee,

And a spirit in my feet

Hath led me -- who knows how?

To thy chamber window, Sweet!

 

Percy Bysshe Shelly, The Indian Serenade, st. 1 (1819)

 

 

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