Fandom: seaQuest
Spoilers: Nope
Author: Pink Rabbit Productions
Author's Notes: What can I say, someone challenged me <wink> to do something that's never been done.
Disclaimer: It's for adults who can handle the thought of two women in intimate situations and won't go to jail for reading it. If you don't qualify, make all of our lives easier and don't read it. The characters are the property of other folks, I'm just playing with them for a little while.
Comments: Floggings, beatings, and bribes may be sent to


Katherine Hitchcock reread the message she'd just received from the seaQuest--the hi-tech submarine on which she normally served--one more time, then sighed heavily. She and Doctor Kristin  Westphalen, the chief of science research aboard the ship, had been deployed to a deepwater research station under the Arctic ice floes to track a series of odd warmwater currents that were threatening several species of fish. After dropping them, the seaQuest had gone ahead to Charleston for a refit of several key sections damaged in an rather unexpected firefight with a small ring of undersea pirates that had been hitting colonies along the Icelandic Rim. The refit had been expected to take no more than ten days, plenty of time for the doctor to get her research done, but not so long that the rather limited amenities offered by the tiny research base--which was unmanned most of the year--would become too stifling. Hitchcock had been sent along to offer any technical services, just in case anything wasn't working right. That had been fourteen days ago. They'd been informed of two expected delays already, and now another one, which meant that seaQuest wouldn't be picking them up within the next 24 hours as had last been promised. Apparently, the submarine's self-healing skin was proving more difficult to repair than expected. Hitchcock folded the printout of the news-- sent by broadband since they were so far under the ice-- and headed off to break the news to the doctor.

* * * * * *

Hitchcock dropped into the chair opposite Westphalen, her expression mildly morose.

Kristin peered over the edge of her reading glasses at the younger woman as she looked up from her report. "Something wrong?"

Hitchcock shrugged. "Nothing serious, but I just heard from Jonathan. The seaQuest has been delayed. We'll be here at least another week, maybe two."

Westphalen winced. "Please tell me you're joking," she begged. She'd read every book she'd brought along, plus what little she'd been able to download from the base' limited link with the outside world and boredom was very fast becoming a serious threat. And it was never a good idea to let Kristin Westphalen get too bored. Bad things happened when she got bored. She knew that about herself and had learned to avoid allowing it to happen.

Hitchcock shook her head, her expression no more thrilled than the doctor's. "If it were an emergency, they could arrange transport, but since it's not...."

Kristin massaged her temple. "This is getting bloody ridiculous," she complained.

Hitchcock didn't argue, just idly ran her fingers over the surface of the table. "I just thought I ought to let you know."

"Gee, thanks..."the doctor sighed.

Hitchcock shrugged. "The good news is I found a couple of old vids and a bottle of brandy in the supply room. They must have been left by the last team that was here. Care to join me for a movie later tonight?"

Kristin shrugged. "What the hell? It's not like I have anything better to do."

"It's a date," Hitchcock agreed. "I'll be finished with what I'm doing in about three hours."

"See you then."

* * * * * *

Sprawled on the couch in the crew lounge, Kristin stared at the brandy she'd been drinking for the past hour. She wasn't drunk, but she was definitely pleasantly buzzed. The movie was wretched, but Hitchcock's company had proved to be pleasantly enjoyable. Away from the stiff confines of the seaQuest, the young woman had a dry wit and a knack for a quick one-liner, something Westphalen was more than able to appreciate.

Katie abruptly batted her legs aside, and settled on the other end of the couch, responding, "I got tired of the floor," when Kristin turned a mildly testy look on her.

"Oh," Westphalen sighed, and shifted her feet so they were hooked over the back, putting herself half upside down.

Katie noted the position with a lopsided grin. "The rest of the crew wouldn't believe it if they saw you like this."

"That," Kristin explained, proud of the fact she managed to keep most of the slur out of her voice. "Is because I don't particularly want them to see me like this...have to maintain that...professional aura. Otherwise...Ford, would...walk all over me..."

"Jonathan?" Katie repeated disbelievingly. "Hah! You have him completely buffaloed."

"Yes, I know...and that's how I plan on keeping it," Kristin agreed merrily. She rather enjoyed the odd game of pushme-pullyou that had grown between herself and the seaQuest's oh-so-very-military first officer, but more than that, she enjoyed beating him.

Hitchcock snickered softly, then fell silent for a long time.

In the background, the film finished and clicked off.

Finally, Katie cleared her throat, and inserted into the quiet, "Can I ask you a question?"

Westphalen shrugged. "Probably," she allowed.

"Are you and the"

"Intimate?" Kristin offered when the younger woman trailed off and flushed in embarrassment, suddenly regretting even asking the question.


"No," Kristin sighed.

"But?" Hitchcock prompted, sensing there was more to the story, and more than a little curious for her own list of reasons.

Kristin pushed up on her elbow, peering at the younger woman blearily. "He's thinking about being interested...I'm thinking about being's one of those shall we consider a tango things...though, frankly, I'm inclined to think we'd be better off just staying friends. I seem to do better being friends with men than...well...other things." And God knew, she had the ex-husbands to prove it.

Katie absorbed the answer with a thoughtful sigh.

Westphalen continued staring at her for a long moment, before asking, "So, are you and Ben?"

"No!" Hitchcock denied instantly. "We're just...I mean....I don't know what we are..." she admitted at last.

Kristin chuckled. "I'm glad you don't know, because the rest of us have been completely mystified by the whole thing."

"You mean people have been talking about it?"

Kristin shrugged. "About like they've been talking about Nathan and I."

Hitchcock winced. "Bad as that, is it?"

Kristin shrugged. "Depends on your point of view."

"It's just that we're just friends now...not...well, not what everyone is speculating." Hitchcock ran a hand through her shoulder-length hair, brushing it back from her face.

"Just out of curiosity," the older woman drawled, her expression knowing. "Are you sure Ben is aware that you're just friends?" She'd seen the way the young man stared at his former wife, and he looked like a man still carrying a torch.

Hitchcock looked uncomfortable. "I'm not sure...sometimes...he doesn't always seem to accept why we got a divorce."

"Ah," Kristin exhaled without pressing for reasons. If the lieutenant wanted to share she was welcome to, but Westphalen understood the value of personal secrets well enough not to push. "Well, I can see where the two of you might not be the most ideally suited couple," she murmured diplomatically. More than a little unsuited as far as she could tell. Hitchcock was a by-the-book, ambitious officer, who was as ethical and honest as anyone could ask for, whereas her ex-husband, Ben Krieg, had so much larceny in his heart that he simply lived on report.

"In more ways than one," Hitchcock exhaled and leaned her head back against the couch, massaging her temple tiredly. Westphalen swung around enough that her legs were draped over the side of the small couch rather than the back, a position only slightly less undignified than her previous one, though somehow, she managed to do it with regal dignity. Probably the accent, Hitchcock decided. That luscious British drawl could make almost anything seem classy. She swung her head back so she was staring straight ahead once again. Boredom was not sitting well on her shoulders. Too much time to think. "Sometimes I can't wait until my tour is over and I muster out," she admitted and heard the doctor's startled gasp.

"I just assumed you'd sign on for another tour," Westphalen murmured when piercing blue eyes turned her way.

Katie shook her head. "No...I'm tired of the military," she admitted, then rolled her eyes. "Tired of the command structure, of having men with half my skills advanced ahead of me, tired of the jokes and being ogled--"

"So, you're planning on going somewhere where there are no men?" Westphalen enquired dryly.

Hitchcock's answering laugh was more of a snort. "Point," she murmured, holding up her glass in an ironic toast. "Sometimes I wish I could," she added a beat later. "I could do without most men."

Westphalen's brows lifted as she looked up at the younger woman. "Feeling a bit bitter?" she asked, then answered her own question. "I suppose marriage to Ben Krieg could do that to anyone--"

"No," Hitchcock inserted instantly. "I mean, it wasn't Ben's fault. He tried to make our marriage work." She shook her head, staring into her brandy as though it might have the answers to some eternal life question. "If it was anyone's fault, it was mine."

Westphalen rolled into a sitting position, folding one leg underneath herself as she peered at Hitchcock with a curious frown. "Now why do I find that very hard to believe?" she said softly.

"Believe it," Hitchcock whispered almost inaudibly without looking up from her drink. She jumped when a gentle finger hooked under chin, tugging her head up and around.

Westphalen's voice was soft, her rich brown eyes sympathetic as she whispered, "Care to talk about it?"

Hitchcock blinked away the threat of tears, thinking that she should never have touched the alcohol. It never did anything good for the thoughts in her head. "I should never have married Ben, that's all. It wasn't fair to him."

Sculpted brows drew into a confused frown. "Wasn't him?" Westphalen questioned. She was having a hard time imagining this lovely and oh-so-serious young woman doing anything unfair to anyone, but most especially Ben Krieg. She'd always just assumed their breakup had been Krieg's fault. In her experience, if Krieg was around, and someone was at fault for something, it was bound to be him.

"No," Hitchcock confirmed sadly, then glared at the drink in her hand. She really shouldn't touch the stuff, she decided right then and there. It just wasn't good for her mental processes. "Despite everything, he's a good man." She felt the need to defend her ex-husband, then fell silent for a long moment, while Westphalen just sat and waited, letting her decide what she wanted to say or not say. "I'm gay," the young woman whispered at last. She didn't look up, just continued staring morosely into her drink. Finally, when no answer was forthcoming, she risked a glance at the doctor, who was simply sitting and silently watching her.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Kristin apologized politely. "Was that my cue to let out a girlish squeal of horror?"

Katie blinked. Whatever response she'd been expecting, that wasn't it.

Kristin smiled gently. "Lieutenant, I'm not some military drone. Half the people I've worked with in my career were gay. It's not that big a deal."

Hitchcock heaved a sigh of relief as she realized the other woman wasn't going to react the way so many of her fellow crew members would have. "Maybe where you're from..." she exhaled. "But in the navy--"

"Yes, yes," Westphalen said impatiently. "I know all about the navy...quite schizophrenic on the whole subject...all things considered I'm surprised you chose it as a career."

Hitchcock shrugged. "I wanted to make my father proud."

"I can't envision he wouldn't be," Kristin said softly as she continued to study the beautiful young officer. They had never been friends, instead both adhering to the odd schism that had developed between the science crew and the military crew from the first moments of the ship's mission. But she had a daughter not so many years younger than Hitchcock, and couldn't help but feel a bit motherly toward the younger woman. Besides, in the time they'd been locked under water together, she'd found she quite liked Hitchcock.

Katie sighed softly and leaned back against the couch cushions. "Then you don't know him," she whispered, then carefully set her glass aside. She was definitely going to give up the alcohol. It just wasn't helping. She was surprised by how soothing it felt when Westphalen began gently petting her hair. It was nice, comforting, reminding her how much she'd admired the other woman when they'd come into contact. It was reminding her of other things too, like the fact that she'd found Kristin Westphalen appealing from the first, enjoying the British woman's wicked sense of humor, not to mention her utter refusal to be pushed around by anyone. Hitchcock had found herself admiring Westphalen's passion for the sea, her rigid sense of right and wrong, and her absolute integrity.

"Then he's a fool," Kristin's soft voice broke into Hitchcock's thoughts. She reached out and rested a hand lightly on Katie's. "Any parent who wouldn't be proud of you has his head up his...well, placed in a very difficult to reach place." Dark eyes twinkled as Kristin avoided the obvious curse, leaving little doubt that she had no problem using curses where appropriate. She'd just decided making the comment humorous was a better approach. "And if you like, I'll tell him that when next we meet."

Despite herself, Hitchcock chuckled, trying to envision this woman, with her perfect upper crust British accent, and her perfect manners talking to her beer and curses father. The image simply did not compute. "I don't think that would work," she said after a moment.

"Oh, I don't know. I've been known to charm men now and then."

Hitchcock let out a bark of laughter. "I've heard that," she said through a cough when Westphalen glared.

"Brat," the doctor complained mock-seriously.

"Well, you have to admit," Katie defended her joke. "You"

"Yes?" Kristin drawled frostily.

Hitchcock was sweating now. Westphalen's temper was legendary on seaQuest and she had an awful feeling she'd just run afoul of it. "It's just that like men," she squeaked at last.

Westphalen's brows lifted, but her temper didn't blow, then suddenly, she chuckled. "Yes," she agreed dryly. "Unfortunately, I do. God knows, most of the time I'd be better off if I didn't." She shook her head. "Perhaps I should follow your lead."

Hitchcock felt her pulse pick up despite knowing it was nothing but a joke. Still, she couldn't hold back a flirtatious, "Anytime you want to give it a try." Katie suddenly remembered the hand resting over her own, soothingly brushing the knuckles, as it abruptly stilled.

Westphalen's mouth opened, then snapped shut again as a rather unsettling and very non-motherly group of images flashed in her head.

"I'm sorry," Hitchcock apologized instantly. "I shouldn't have--"

"Don't," Kristin cut her off. "Don't apologize." She paused, using the time to draw a breath and let it out slowly. "You haven't done anything wrong. If I were down here with any of the men, I'd expect at least a dozen passes and a hundred offhand mildly flirtatious remarks..." She didn't specify which category Hitchcock's remark fell into. "...and I've certainly never let that bother me."

"Even Ben?" Katie questioned.

"You mean did he make a pass, or did it bother me?" Kristin questioned politely, using the brief distraction to gain some equilibrium.

"I think that answers the question," Hitchcock muttered, not liking the idea at all.

"Yes," Westphalen agreed, surprised to hear a slight quaver in her normally steady voice. "He did...I wasn't."

Katie didn't have time to wonder what demon was pressing her as she heard another question leave her lips. "And did it tempt you?"

Kristin blinked, not quite knowing what to make of the look in Hitchcock's pale blue eyes. "No," she admitted breathlessly. She swallowed hard, surprised to find her normally unflappable self-control in dire danger of becoming very flappable indeed. Suddenly, she set her drink aside. "I should probably be going to bed now," she said abruptly and pushed to her feet, surprised to find that she was actually nervous about the subject of sex for the first time in a very long time. So much for her derisive dismissal of girlish squeals.

"Kristin," Hitchcock's voice caught her before she had gone more than two steps. "Would you be tempted if I made a pass?" It was an insane question to ask, Katie knew even as the words left her mouth, but it was like there was some kind of devil driving her. Maybe it was the fact that being with an attractive woman after months of nothing but macho men for company felt really good. Or maybe it was the fact that Westphalen's clothes always seemed to cling to nicely rounded curves in all the right places.

Westphalen pivoted back, russet brows drawing together in a frown. "Lieutenant," she said softly. She paused again to take a breath a let it out slowly. "You're a very attractive woman," she allowed. "And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't in the least bit tempted."

Hitchcock pushed to her feet, suddenly wanting the other woman more than she could remember wanting anyone in a very long time. She could feel the blood rushing through her veins and the familiar burn of desire making her pulse pound. "I guess that means I'm doing better than Ben did," she drawled, eyes gleaming. And where is the cool, collected, Katherine Hitchcock--a distant part of her brain mused--because you didn't have that much to drink.

Westphalen nodded, her expression wry. "Much better," she admitted, surprised to find that she really was far more tempted by Katie than she'd been by any of the men aboard the seaQuest, except perhaps Nathan, and she wasn't even sure about that comparison. She liked Nathan, respected him, and enjoyed a whole list of shared interests, but there wasn't this burning allure. It was tempting to chalk it up to the danger and excitement--God knew that had been her downfall on more than one occasion--but there was a niggling suspicion that there was something else there as well. "But," she said pointedly, and with more than a little regret, "I don't think it's a good idea."

Hitchcock was more than a little surprised by the disappointment that welled in her chest. Where in the hell had this sudden lust come from? Had it grown during their enforced captivity together? Or had it always been there, just hidden below the surface? In any event, it hardly mattered, since it clearly wasn't returned. She straightened her shoulders, her expression deliberately bland. "You're right, of course," she said at last, so involved in her own thoughts that she missed the brief expression of regret that crossed the doctor's fine features. "We should both probably be getting to bed."

"Katie, I--"

"You go on. I'll check the systems and make sure everything's battened down," Hitchcock said coolly, suddenly back to being the all-business lieutenant everyone aboard seaQuest was used to. She grabbed their dirty glasses, automatically planning to secure them before going to bed. Like any sailor, she always made certain that anything that could break or be dangerous was locked up tight when not in use. The silver flask, however, couldn't do any damage, so she left it alone. "Don't worry, I'll take care of these," she added before Westphalen could say anything. A moment later, the lieutenant turned on one heel and fled, leaving the doctor staring after her in bemused silence.

"Damn," Westphalen whispered at last as she ran a shaking hand through her hair. "Well, that went bloody well. Tell me, Kristin, could you have handled it any worse?" And normally she was so good at neatly fending off unwanted passes. "Which, of course, begs the question about how unwanted this one was," she murmured, then suddenly realized she'd spoken aloud and glanced nervously around herself to see if the lieutenant was anywhere in sight. Finally, she shook her head and turned in the direction of her quarters. Hopefully, time and sobriety would smooth the whole mess over.

* * * * * *

Kristin Westphalen came awake to the pulse pounding, ear shattering terror of an emergency klaxon rending the air. Cursing as she rolled out of the narrow bunk that had been her rather uncomfortable nighttime home since being dropped off at the tiny research base, her voice trailed off into a pained yelp as her feet splashed into at least two inch layer of ice cold water. "Shit," the doctor gasped in shock. That was not good. Not good at all. Undersea bases were not supposed to have ice cold water running across the floor. That sort of thing was never good news. She didn't even bother to grab for a robe or try to yank her discarded blankets out of the swirling water as she ran for the control center, scrambling to maintain her balance as her feet threatened to skid on the water slicked floor with every step. She grabbed the doorframe to regain her equilibrium as she finally found the base's control station and stumbled inside. Hitchcock was already there, her fingers dancing over the keyboard that controlled the base's primary computer. "Lieutenant?" the doctor gasped, fear thickening her voice. If the base's seals were giving way, they were in serious trouble. SeaQuest was too far away to stage a rescue and there were only the most primitive of survival pods installed on the base. The likelihood that they would survive both the ascent and the subzero temperatures outside was limited at best.

Katie didn't glance back, just kept working. Suddenly, the klaxon died away. "It's okay," she said after a moment, then heaved a relieved sigh. "We lost one of the water storage tanks." And then she did look back. "We haven't blown any external seals."

Kristin leaned heavily against the doorjamb as she felt relief shudder through her muscles. "So we're still watertight?"

"Yeah." Hitchcock leaned down and dipped a finger into the thin layer of water swirling around her feet, then lifted it to her tongue, tasting it. "It's purified water, not seawater."

"Oh thank God," the doctor exhaled and dragged sleep tousled hair back from her face with a trembling hand. "I thought we were in trouble there for a moment."

Hitchcock shrugged. "Well, we're not going to drown, but I'm afraid things are going to be pretty uncomfortable for awhile. I've shut down the purification system that was hooked up to that tank, so it's not trying to refill it with seawater, but I don't dare vent the tank into the ocean, so it's got to finish draining into the base. I've got the bilge pumps on full, but by my calculations, it's going to take at least another six hours before the tank is fully drained and the bilge's have a chance to pump out all of the water."

"Charming," the doctor sighed, shivering as she suddenly became aware of the cold. The base tended to be chilly at the best of times, with several hundred gallons of purified seawater leaking into the place, the temperature was downright icy.

Hitchcock noted the other woman's discomfort with a worried frown. "You can go ahead and go back to bed. I'm almost done here and there's nothing I can do to fix the tank until it's empty."

Kristin paused. "Small problem. I think all of my blankets are rather soaked at the moment. They kind of hit the floor when I scrambled out of bed."

Hitchcock allowed herself a small smile as she went back to manipulating the system. "Well, you can tell you're not a long term submariner." She glanced up and grinned. "We never let anything fall on the floor during an emergency muster. Too much chance of tripping in tight quarters."

Westphalen shrugged. "What can I say, I'm not used to emergency drills."

Hitchcock glanced back just as Westphalen shuddered again. She turned back, punching up the base's specs, noting the flow patterns shown on the base's water sensors. The doctor's quarters were right off the science labs and directly in the path of the worst part of the flood. "Go ahead and take my quarters," she said at last. "I can bunk in the rec-room."

"I can't ask you to do that," Westphalen disagreed instantly. "I'll take the rec-room." Another hard shiver shook the doctor's frame.

"And promptly get hypothermia. No way I'm reporting that to the captain. He'd have my hide." The lieutenant's hands continued skimming over the keyboard, locking things down and making sure they were safe for the remainder of the night. "No, you take my cabin. It's not exactly warm and sunny, but it's comparatively dry. You won't freeze to death." She punched a key with considerable authority, then slowly pivoted the chair around to face Kristin, ignoring her own frozen toes as she eyed the other woman. "Consider it an order," she added when she saw the doctor draw breath to argue. "And when it comes to emergencies, I have rank."

Kristin's mouth snapped shut and a frown creased her brow. She hated getting orders and hated having to take them even more. And judging by the determined look on the other woman's face, she was going to have to take this one. She folded her arms across her chest and tried valiantly not to shiver, but did anyway. "Very well," she grumbled at last.

Hitchock's lips lifted in a small, triumphant smile as she pushed to her feet. "I knew you'd eventually see things my way," she drawled. "My bed it is."

Westphalen's brows lifted as she tried to decide whether the double entendre was intentional or not.

It took a beat for Katie to realize how her comment could be taken and when she did, she felt her cheeks flame scarlet. "I...that is...that didn't come out quite right."

Kristin decided to take pity on the younger woman. "Don't worry about it," she assured Hitchcock. "We're both a little...on edge."

They were facing each other, standing only a short distance apart, both intensely aware of one another.

"More than a little," Katie exhaled.

Kristin swallowed hard, surprised by the violent pounding of her heart as she felt the lieutenant's pale gaze slide over her body. She was wearing a nothing more than a damp, thigh-length nightshirt, standing in ice cold water nearly to her ankles, her breath fogging the air as she shivered with the sharp cold and somehow she was suddenly warmer than should have been possible. "More than a little," she confirmed. She tensed ever so slightly as the younger woman lifted her hand, thinking for a moment that she intended to make contact. Then Hitchcock yanked her hand back, letting it fall to her side. "Go on to bed," she instructed at last.

Kristin blinked in surprise. Whatever she'd been expecting at that point, that wasn't it. She seemed about to say something, but no words came.

"Go on," Hitchcock repeated as she turned away. "I want to check on some things anyway."

* * * * * *

She was dreaming, shivering somewhere in the arctic, when the sweet smell of strong coffee touched her nostrils. Which made no sense. Perhaps the polar bears had decided to take pity on her. It took a moment for Kristin to wake enough to realize that the coffee part at least wasn't a dream. She blinked sleepily and pushed the blankets aside, careful not to let anything fall to the floor as she swung her legs over the side of Hitchcock's bunk. The floor was cold and clammy, but there was no standing water, which was a vast improvement any way she looked at it. She was about to go in search of the heavenly smell when Hitchcock appeared at the hatchway to her cabin, bearing a mug of something steaming in each hand.

"Here," the young lieutenant said as she held out a cup to Westphalen. "I thought something hot might taste good."

"Thank you," Kristin murmured with heartfelt gratitude as she wrapped her fingers around the warm mug. Hitchcock's bed had been far dryer than her own, but the leaking water had left the whole place damp and she'd spent most of the night uncomfortably cold. "It tastes wonderful."

Hitchcock took a sip from her own mug, warming her hands on the heated porcelain. "Mmm...I checked on all the systems. We're still doing fine. I'll need to dig in and repair the bad joint on the tank...shouldn't take too long with the arc-welder. I also contacted seaQuest. Unfortunately, since our situation's not dire--"

"They're not going to send anyone," Kristin filled in for her.

Katie nodded. "That would right." She took another sip of steaming coffee, giving herself a moment before she spoke again. "Look, Doctor, about last night...."

Kristin's chin lifted. "Don't worry about it," she said softly.

"I just wanted to apologize. I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable. I just...well..." she shook her head, uncertain how to describe the temptation she'd given way to without making things worse.

"You've done nothing to apologize for, Lieutenant," the doctor inserted into the uncomfortable silence. "I'm sorry if I made you feel as though you were in the wrong somehow. The situation just startled me a bit, that's all."

"Look, you don't have to--"

"Yes, I do," Kristin disagreed. "I like you, Katie...and I respect you. I don't want you thinking otherwise."

Hitchcock froze, uncertain what to say in response. "Thank you," she husked at last. It was tempting to blame it all on the alcohol, but Hitchcock knew that wouldn't have been fair. The alcohol might have made it easier to make the offer, but it hadn't been the cause. She considered several responses, then finally just straightened, her tone becoming all business as she informed the other woman. "I really should get on the repairs for that tank. We have enough water for now, but I'm not comfortable having one of the tanks down."

Kristin drained the last of the coffee. "I don't suppose you could use some help?" she said by way of an offer.

Hitchcock looked momentarily surprised, then nodded. "Actually, it would go faster with a second set of hands."

* * * * * *

"Eyes," Hitchcock snapped, checking to make certain Westphalen had dropped the heavy protective eye shield over her face. Like Hitchcock, she'd stripped off the sweater she'd been wearing when the temperature had started to rise, and was just wearing a light t-shirt.

Westphalen was braced in position, holding the containment pipe straight, so Katie did a quick tack weld to make sure things stayed put, then went back and ran a stronger bead. Pale blue eyes narrowed behind the mask as she tried to keep track of the joint line through the dark green glass and the haze of the arc-welder's bright flare. Finally, she triggered off and flipped her mask up, leaning in to check the weld. "I think that does it," the engineer pronounced at last and glanced back at her companion.

Kristin flipped the welding mask up. "We're done then?" she questioned, sounding enormously relieved by the idea. She was sore, exhausted, filthy beyond belief, and rapidly acquiring a dusky redness on any exposed skin that Hitchcock had merrily referred to as "welder's suntan." On the plus side, she was no longer cold. She slid out of the thick leather gloves hiding her hands and dropped them on the welder.

"Well, we need to put this stuff away, but after that...yeah," Hitchcock assured her as she reached over to toggle the power switch on the welder. She flicked off the heavy leather gloves protecting her hands, then closed the unit up, coiling cables and replacing them with automatic ease. "You made things go a lot faster," she told Kristin as she watched the doctor straighten. A brief flicker of discomfort crossed the older woman's features as she slowly stretched out abused muscles. "I appreciate the help."

Westphalen did a slow stretch, reaching for the low ceiling as she felt her back pop back into place after being in one uncomfortable position after another for the previous several hours. "It's the least I could do," she exhaled.

Hitchcock snorted softly. "Believe me, plenty of members of the science staff wouldn't have bothered."

"Oh, come on, we're not that bad," Kristin wheedled.

Hitchcock shrugged. "You're not that bad," she said pointedly. "And Levin's tolerable, but I could generally do without the rest."

Considering that most of the science team felt exactly the same way about the military members of the ship's crew, Kristin couldn't restrain a smile. "Well, Halliard and Benton are...well, rather useless actually, but most of the rest of them just don't quite know how to deal with your lot." She shrugged. "All spit and polish and following orders. It's a way of life that doesn't compute for them." She reached for the welding unit to help Hitchcock. "Here, let me give you a hand with that."

"Well, all I know is that you're about the only one of them I think I could stand being locked up for several weeks down here with," Katie growled as between them they hefted the heavy equipment and began packing it away in the storage locker.

Westphalen offered a cheeky grin. "Oh, that's just my scintillating personality."

"I knew it was something." Hitchcock grunted under the weight of the welder, pale eyes glittering with teasing lights as she tucked the last of the equipment away then closed the locker. She turned back too abruptly, realizing too late that Westphalen was still standing just behind her and nearly knocked the other woman over. Katie caught Kristin's hand, steadying her when she might have slipped backwards. Standing almost toe to toe, the two women both tensed.

"Thank you," Kristin exhaled as she stared up into Hitchcock crystal blue eyes, startled to realize just how pale they really were.

"It's the least I could do," Hitchcock knowingly repeated Kristin's earlier comment.

"Well, I do appreciate it," Westphalen said, surprised to find herself at a loss for words. "The last thing I need is to take a tumble and add more dirt and bruises to my already considerable collection."

"Happy to help...though you needn't have worried. You make the dirt look good." Katie was amazed to hear the smooth words sliding from her lips. God, a distant part of her mind chastised, soon you'll be stealing Ben's lines.

"Not half as good as you make it look," Kristin demurred, and reached out, trailing a single fingertip along a well-delineated bicep. She didn't know what demon was driving her--no, that wasn't true, she did know and she wasn't resisting its siren's call well at all. "The look rather flatters you."

Katie swallowed hard, her heart suddenly roaring in her chest. "Well, the look may, but the smell doesn't. I think a hot shower is in order," she said to cover the sudden influx of nervousness. And then suddenly she remembered that, while the officers quarters all had private bathroom facilities, the showers were strictly communal.

"Yes," Kristin agreed with heartfelt sincerity. "That does sound heavenly..." and then she trailed off as she too remembered their bathing circumstances.

They were both silent for a long moment and then Hitchcock spoke. "You go on. I should probably check on a couple of things first."

Kristin blinked. "But that's not fair. You did most of the heavy work. You shouldn't have to wait."

"It's okay," Katie said to dismiss the subject and started to pull away.

Kristin's hand on her bare arm brought her back around. "You know, we could share," the doctor pointed out and tried to ignore the frisson of awareness that slid down her spine at the thought.

"I really don't think--"

"There are separate stalls and we're both adults," Kristin added perfectly reasonably. "You wouldn't think it would be a problem."

Katie swallowed hard, wondering if she was the only one who's hormones were tending to carbonate at the thought. "Yeah...adults..." Hitchcock dragged a hand through sweat damp hair, scraping the loose tendrils back from her face. It was a problem. A big problem.

Kristin's dark eyes tracked the movement and she was painfully aware of the lean figure of the lieutenant standing so close--actually, not that close, if she was honest with herself, it just seemed that way. Unfortunately, a part of her brain was insistently complaining that it wasn't nearly close enough.

"The problem is," Hitchcock exhaled, "that's part of the problem." She lifted a hand to finger a stray lock of russet hair that fell across Kristin's brow, half expecting to have her arm knocked away. Instead, the doctor only continued to watch, her intense brown eyes focused and tracking Katie's hands. "If we weren't adults, I wouldn't want to do this," the lieutenant exhaled and slipped her fingers back into sweat damp hair, ducking her head slightly as she leaned forward to taste the doctor's warm mouth. She waited for a hard shove that never came. Instead Kristin's mouth opened on a soft gasp, unconsciously inviting a deeper exploration and Hitchcock couldn't resist taking advantage. She tasted, teased, learned the competing textures of silky lips and sharp teeth. She pressed the shorter woman back against the cabinets, hands sliding hungrily over graceful curves. They were both smelly, dirty, and exhausted beyond belief...and somehow--against all odds-- it felt better than anything had for either of them in a very long time.

Finally, breathless, her heart hammering as if to escape her chest, Katie tore her mouth away from Kristin's, gripping the cabinet pulls on either side of the other woman's head to steady herself as she pushed back just far enough to stare into eyes so dark they were nearly black.

Kristin tipped her head back on her shoulders, exhaling heavily as she reached up and back to clutch the cabinet pulls with white-knuckled strength, looking like she might have collapsed without that tenuous support. It startled her to realize that she missed the feeling of the lieutenant's body against her own; the feel of both rounded curves and taut muscles molded impossibly close. It had never occurred to her outside of her most private fantasies that the sensation of a woman's body against her own could make her tremble and want to beg for more.

"Kristin?" Hitchcock's voice was a ragged whisper of its normal self.

"I'm still here," Westphalen exhaled, unsurprised to find that her voice was no steadier. Their fingers brushed where they both held the scant support of the door handle and both women shivered with awareness. Kristin tipped her head down, turning it to one side so she could feel the cool metal of the cabinet against her heated cheek, only to find herself face to face with a well-muscled bicep. As a doctor, she could name each muscle, explain how it interacted with the other muscles in the arm, give whole lectures on the veins and arteries that supplied the blood that allowed them to flex and move, write papers on the smooth skin that covered them, and probably put together a whole symposium on how it all worked together to allow the human body to function the way it does. In that moment, though, all she could think about was the simple wonder of another human being. She released a door pull to slowly reach out and trail a single finger along the curve of Katie's arm, marveling at the mix of softness and strength. Hitchcock shivered hard and Kristin turned her head, eyes lifting to meet the younger woman's crystalline gaze. It had been long enough since she'd been this close to anyone that it was tempting to just attribute the nuclear blast furnace of arousal burning through her veins to an overextended bout of celibacy--something Kristin Westphalen had never been especially good at--but the expression in Hitchcock's eyes challenged her to look deeper than that simple answer. Silently, Kristin reached up, running a tentative fingertip along a high cheekbone, then trailing her touch down to outline full lips, quivering with awareness when Katie's tongue slipped out to stroke her thumb as it passed by. "This is dangerous," she breathed at last.

Hitchcock nodded in understanding, knowing Westphalen was absolutely right and not particularly caring at that moment. "Haven't you ever wanted to live a little dangerously?" she groaned, leaning forward to taste the point of the doctor's chin, nibbling gently before running her tongue over the tiny pink spot left by sharp teeth.

Kristin could barely restrain an aroused groan as she lifted a hand to Hitchcock's shoulder, pressing just hard enough to break the sweet contact. "I've got a daughter nearly your age," she gasped in a last ditch attempt to put a damper on the hormones raging out of control. It was an effort doomed to failure.

"Let her find her own date," Katie groaned and then covered Kristin's mouth with her own. One of the doctor's hands was still upraised and blindly clutching the door pull, her fingers just touching Hitchcock's. With aching slowness, the lieutenant released her grip on the cool metal to trail her fingers down the length of Kristin's bare arm, then down the length of her torso. Finally, she tugged her grimy t-shirt free of her jeans and slid her hand under the soft fabric to lightly stroke the flat plane of Kristin's stomach, enjoying the feel of muscles as they clenched and rippled in response. "Admit it, it feels good," she pleaded when the raging kiss finally broke.

Westphalen nodded dazedly. "It feels good," she groaned, sliding her free hand under the bottom edge of Katie's t-shirt and mimicking the fingers gently stroking her own body. They shared another kiss, a tender, languid caress this time. The pressure was off suddenly. In that last confession, the decision had been made and they both knew it. There was no turning back, and as a result, no need to hurry beyond the demands of their excited bodies. As the latest kiss broke, Kristin tipped her head forward until her forehead was just touching Katie's shoulder. Her nose wrinkled as the thick smell of their mutual dirt and sweat reached her nostrils. "Feels good," she panted. "Smells bad."

Laughing softly, Katie reached up and gently tugged Kristin's remaining hand from the door pull. "You have a point," she allowed, then leaned in to kiss warm lips again, pressing Westphalen back against the cabinet in her eagerness. "Which is why," she groaned through the blending of their lips, "I think we should go with your idea of sharing the showers."

"This wasn't quite what I had in mind," Kristin admitted raggedly, but allowed the younger woman to lead her from the room. The short journey to the communal showers took place almost total silence, slowed only by their occasional pauses to share fresh kisses and curious caresses. As they stepped inside the steel lined room, Katie flipped on the hot water, then turned back to face the woman she intended to make love to, gasping softly when Kristin hooked a hand behind her neck and drew her head down to kiss her hungrily. Katie groaned through the blending of their mouths as she felt agile fingers slide down her torso, then hook into the bottom edge of her shirt, peeling it upward. The lieutenant pulled back just long enough to finish tearing the garment off over her head before tossing it aside. A moment later, Kristin's t-shirt followed suit and then the rest of their clothes joined the growing pile while the water heated and the air grew steamy. Together, they stepped under the spray, letting the hot droplets slide over their skin, while curious hands stroked and traced slick curves, enjoying the wicked slide of flesh against flesh.

Katie drew her hands up Kristin's sides, then stroked the rounded outer curve of her breasts. "You feel good," she praised, then ducked her chin to wash her tongue along the smooth arch of a slender shoulder. Reaching past the other woman, she retrieved the soap and began slowly trailing it in erotic circles and washing the inky grime away.

Kristin covered Katie's hand as it passed between her breasts, guiding the bubbly path of the bar. "Yes," she drawled knowingly. "I do." They kissed again, moving the soap between their bodies, then sliding against each other in slow frictionless thrusts. It felt so good the doctor could do little more than mindlessly whimper as she trailed her hands over Katie's sleek curves. "You are so beautiful," she gasped when their kiss broke.

Bodies pressed close, limbs wound together, they touched and explored as they washed away the sweat and grime of the day's activities, pushing themselves almost to the limit, but never past it.

"God," Katie whimpered and buried her face in Kristin's shoulder, shivering as she skated the edges of orgasm.

Kristin petted the younger woman's dark hair tenderly, combing the wet strands back from her face as she kissed her cheek softly. She tucked her fingers under her chin, drawing her head up to kiss her lightly on the lips. "I want you," she exhaled, startled by the fierceness of the emotion burning in her chest. She stroked Hitchcock's cheek. "So much."

Pale blue eyes slid closed for a long moment. "Thank you," she breathed when she opened her eyes again.

Kristin outlined Katie's soft lips with a delicate touch, shivering as it occurred to her that those lips would be touching her everywhere, kissing, caressing, tasting, ranging over her body with total freedom. "No," she whispered, her rich British drawl washing over Hitchcock like a warm wave. "Thank you." Her dark gaze locked with the lieutenant's paler one, and the doctor reached back and shut off the water, then snagged a towel and began gently buffing her new lover's skin dry. Her lips tipped up in a wicked smile as she saw the way Hitchcock's pupils expanded and her breathing grew even rougher. Unable to resist temptation, Kristin leaned forward to taste the coral tip of one taut breast, washing her tongue around the puckered flesh.

Katie whimpered low in her chest and slid her fingers into thick russet hair to drag Kristin's head up, kissing her wildly as she snatched the towel out of her hand and pulled her close. She wrapped the towel around the doctor's narrow back, rubbing the rough terrycloth against her silky skin to blot away the streamers of water running over lush curves. "My cabin," she rasped through the heady kisses.

"Yes," Kristin breathed, not even remotely doubting her choice. She'd always been one to leap head first when it came to lovers, never holding herself back once she'd made the decision.

Short minutes later, they tumbled into the mussed sheets, instinctively fitting their bodies together, legs twining, rounded curves dovetailing neatly.

"I've never done this," Kristin panted between kisses.

"Yes, you have," Katie disagreed and rolled the doctor beneath her, muscles flexing with controlled strength. "Just not with a woman." She threaded her fingers together with Kristin's, drawing her arms up over her head. "And certainly not with me." She ducked her head, leaning down to taste the upper curve of full breasts.

Kristin arched her back, whimpering softly as she tried to press even closer to the sweet caresses that floated over her chest. "But I'm finding that makes all the difference," she gasped.

Hitchcock laughed low in her throat, the soft sound vibrating against Kristin's skin as her lips danced lower, weaving wet trails in erotic patterns. As the sensual caresses continued, Kristin's breathing grew harsh, sweat beading on her fine skin while she writhed and pleaded for more. Finally, Katie braced her hands on the mattress on either side of the doctor's hips and pushed up to stare down at the other woman, taking in every nuance of her arousal. Her own body was throbbing with erotic intensity, the sensations pulsing heat through her veins and leaving her breathless. She reached down, twining her fingers with Kristin's once again, letting the doctor pull her down until they lay breast to breast.

"Together," the doctor breathed and began sliding her hands over Katie's lanky frame, her touch infinitely sensitive, finding responsive rises and hollows, then slipping through slick heat.

The lieutenant gasped, her body arching this time. "Yes." She scissored her legs together with Kristin's, slowly moving to increase the sweet friction heating the space between their bodies as her own fingers sought and found silky erogenous zones. And when the hot rush of pleasure flared through them, they tasted each other's cries, and shared the harsh shudders of raw pleasure that wracked their bodies.

In the hours that followed, the air was thick with the scents and sounds of their lovemaking--soft entreaties, tiny cries, the sound of flesh sliding on flesh, the heated musk of sweat and arousal--as their passion ebbed and flowed, the rush of orgasm followed by the languid aftermath and the slow rebirth of passion.

* * * * * *

Kristin awoke coiled safely in her new lover's arms, very aware of the press of smooth skin against her own, the slow steady rise and fall of Katie's breathing, the pleasant ache throbbing through her muscles. She sighed softly as she peered at Hitchcock's striking features, the sometimes harsh angles of her face softened in sleep. She reached out, brushing silky dark hair back from the younger woman's brow.

Katie blinked sleepily in response to the gentle caress, momentarily uncertain until she remembered their lovemaking of the night before. They shared a knowing smile and then a soft kiss.

Kristin stroked Katie's cheek tenderly, then let her fingers slide down her throat and shoulder. "No regrets?" she exhaled, soothing the flicker of worry she saw in Hitchcock's eyes. Strong hands curved to Kristin's narrow back as Katie drew her closer.

"None at all," the lieutenant agreed, not pressing for anything past what they had already shared.

Kristin continued gently stroking Katie's hair, then closed her eyes and turned into the hand that lifted to pet her cheek. "I don't want this to be all there is," she whispered huskily.

Katie's eyes slid closed, relief softening her expression. "Then it won't be...we'll just take it slowly." She kissed her lover softly. "And see where it take us." And then she rolled Kristin beneath her, eyes glinting with wicked lights as she grinned lustily. "But right now," she continued as she pressed Kristin's hands over her head, stretching their bodies together as desire heated anew. "I know where it's heading for the next little while." She trailed her lips down Kristin's throat, tasting and teasing.

It was only the beginning.


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