When I joined the Gary Seven list I kept hearing about this great movie Robert Lansing had done called Namu. My friends TAE and Paige both recommended it. When I saw it, I fell in love with it. The only problem was that it ended too soon. So, here is what happened after the movie ended.

Usual disclaimers. I do not own Namu or any of the characters connected with that movie. I make no profit save the letters of comment. <hint hint> Please don't sue me because all you would get are two twelve year old lap cats.

All Chinook Jargon words are translated at the bottom of the page in the order they appeared.

Home is the Sailor, home from the sea


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"Home is the sailor, home from the sea," he thought aloud as the boat smacking against the dock almost knocked him into the drink. More like coming in from the sea, Hank Donner mentally corrected the poem of A. E. Houseman. Hard to come home, when you don't have one, the man thought. Home for him, if he considered any place home, was an empty house in the city. He had almost felt like he had one the evening he had spent at Kate and Lisa's. For one moment there at the Rand's he had had a vision of what home should be, should have been. Theirs was what a home ought to be, warm and inviting with love.

A coughing jag hit him just as he was disembarking. He somehow managed to get himself out of the boat and onto the dock without getting hurt. The way he was hacking, he felt like his lungs were going to jump up and run out of his body.

Taking as deep a breath as his congested lungs would allow him, he went about his usual ritual after returning from the sea. The sea, the only place he supposed he would ever really feel at home. He had been born by it, grew up playing in it, had fought a war on it, and now made a living from it. Her salty, tempestuous temperament was the one constant in his life.

If the boat was not tied up exactly as tight as he might have liked it, well, it wasn't in danger of floating away in the night. Tomorrow he would come out and fix it properly, now he just wanted a hot shower, a quick meal and bed. Another spasmodic coughing fit brought the tall man to his knees on the wooden dock. Great, just what I need, Hank thought, pulling himself slowly up. There was no time in his life right now to be sick. Not when had finally gotten things pulled together.

He would sleep himself out tonight, and if he wasn't feeling better after getting caught up on his sleep, then it would be time to go into town and see the doctor. He'd probably be given some kind of foul tasting medicine that would make him tired but do nothing for the cold that seemed to have settled in and made itself at home in his body. The only thing you could do with something like that was to suffer though it. All the drugs created didn't seem to help much.

The distance from the dock to the trailer had somehow extended itself from fifteen yards to fifteen miles, he thought, leaning against the aluminum side to catch his breath, all but crawling the last few feet. He knew a cold really took it out of you, but this was not normal. Well, he had to go into town soon for groceries anyway, so may as well go and find the doctor while he was there. It would have to wait until tomorrow, though, because there was no way he was going back down to the boat, and he didn't trust himself to drive in without wrecking on the way, as tired as he was. Come to think of it, he wasn't even certain the small fishing town had a doctor in it. He just assumed it did because every town had to have a doctor of some type, didn`t it?

Opening the door, he noticed his mail was sitting on the desk. Deke must have come by while he was gone and dropped it off. He missed the friendly and easygoing man, but Deke was a fisherman and needed to be getting back to work. If the grants came through and allow him to stay here and study his whales he would talk to him about maybe coming back to work here. He didn't want to make the invitation, though, without knowing if he was staying. He chuckled at the thought of how Steve, his boss, would react to seeing a request from Hank to be left out here at the watching station permanently, much less that he had an actual proposal for a study. Considering how long it had been since Hank had taken an interest in much of anything; they would probably come out here to check on him, thinking he had been at the bottle again.

If Steve thought he was drinking again he would be out here right now, firing him. Steve had believed him, barely, when Hank was in college and swearing that the drinking at night didn't interfere during the day. And back then maybe it hadn't, he hadn't been drinking as much at that time as he did later. After college it was Steve who had helped him get a job, promising that Hank was better than anyone else when it came to whales. It had also been Steve who had called him on the carpet when he began drinking in the day as well. And it was Steve who had stayed with him and supported him through the DTs when he was given the choice to sober up or get fired. How exactly did you thank a friend and boss like that?

Curled up asleep next to the mail was Namu. Not the original one, a killer whale that had followed his dead mate into the cove resulting in Hank getting his chance of a lifetime to study the animal, but a small black and white kitten with markings that made it look like a feline version of the original. Lisa had seen the animal at a Labor Day festival she and her mother had taken him to last weekend. The little girl had wanted him to go with them, so he had, reluctantly. She had insisted that her friend have the creature so that he wouldn't get lonely with the whale having moved on to join his pod again with a new mate and perhaps a new family. If only it was that easy for humans, he thought. Mourn your mate and then move on and join a new one.

Hank scanned his mail, nothing urgent. He looked at his desk covered with his notes that had to be organized into a request for a Killer Whale study, as well as the list of Gray Whale sightings and which film matched which sighting. He sighed, both needed to get done, but he just didn't have the energy right now. All right then, shower first to get the salt off him and warm him up, then sleep and a meal. He glanced in his refrigerator as he passed it on his way back to the small bathroom and bedroom; okay so maybe there would be a trip to the store between sleep and a meal.

"Mommy, has Mr. Donner gone back to the city?" Lisa asked, looking up at her mother. Hank Donner had been a regular visitor in their store and once even to their home, ever since she and her mother had helped him save a whale. He had even let her name him! For some reason, though, he had stopped coming. He was super nice and answered all of her questions if he could. Once she had asked him something that he didn't know, but he had found out the answer for her from a friend of his at the place that he worked for. He told wonderful stories, like the one about Namu, and gave great big hugs. She had been really hoping he wouldn't go back to his other home. Now it looked like he had left without even telling her goodbye.

"I suppose he probably has, Lisa, no one has seen him for a couple of days," Kate Rand explained to her daughter. She had been missing Hank as well, and his dropping by whenever he came into town for supplies or his mail. She and the scientist had started to become friends, she thought. They had never dated or anything, true; but then, with a young daughter at home, dating was not the easiest thing in the world to do. He had more than once, however, spent his weekends accompanying them on a day trip here or there. He was always reluctant to, at first, but then would really enjoy it, or seemed to.

"Why can't he stay here and study whales all of the time?" The little girl asked sadly.

"It's part of his job, honey. He comes out here to watch the whales and then goes back to the institute and tells people about what he saw. He said he would come back here in the spring, though; so we'll see him again when the Gray whales return. Tell you what, why don't we write him some nice letters this winter while he's gone so that he'll know that we are thinking of him?" her mother suggested. She had known that a time would come when Hank would be going back to his home in the city and that Lisa would be crushed when he did. This was earlier than she thought he would be leaving, though. She had a hard time believing that he would leave without telling either of them goodbye.

"Okay, but I wish he had stopped by so that I could tell him goodbye," Lisa sighed as she went back into their home at the back of the store.

Kate had to agree that it did seem odd that Hank hadn't dropped by to tell them goodbye. He usually came in almost every day for some reason or another, even if it was only for a moment or two on his way to do other things. He never came into town without seeing her and Lisa. Perhaps something was wrong and he had not left but was still out in the trailer? That, somehow, as unlikely as it was, seemed more probable than that the scientist had packed up and left for the year, forgetting to come and tell his friends in the fishing town goodbye. She would ask Deke when he came in again. He had worked for Hank, so he would know when the man was leaving.

She looked up as the bells hanging over the store door rang, telling her that a customer had entered. She smiled at Julia, the postmistress. The thirty something blond would know if Hank were still in town or not. He would have had to tell her when he left so that his mail could get forwarded. Not to mention that Julia and Deke had an understanding and he would have told her if Hank were leaving. If the scientist had said nothing to Julia, then Kate would go out to the trailer and check on her friend.

"Hi Kate, could you do me a favor?" The woman asked.

"Certainly if I can,"

"Mr. Donner's mail hasn`t been picked up for the last two days and I was wondering if you knew if he was all right?" Julie asked.

"I'm going out to see him later, I could take it out for him," Kate volunteered.

"Thanks, Deke took the last batch out to him. I hope there's nothing wrong that he hasn't been able to get in himself," Julie said with concern. She had liked Deke's friend, with his quiet wit and ready smile. Deke hadn't wanted to lease his land out, but he had to, to repair his fishing boat. At least the institute hadn't done anything permanent to it so he could still build there later if he wanted. When the last renewal had come with an offer for at least temporary employment, Deke had felt a little better about it. The two men were fast friends now, even if the grant money was coming to an end, meaning that Deke had had to take this offer of a job on one of the boats that was short handed.

"Probably just busy closing the trailer up for the winter before he leaves," Kate suggested. If Hank had not left yet, and evidently he hadn't, then something must be wrong for him to have not been coming into town. Deke would certainly have helped if Hank had been in trouble, but he might not have seen him and wouldn't be back from the fishing trip until late tomorrow. She might look foolish running out there like a lovesick schoolgirl, but better that than Hank being in trouble and no one knowing.

Maggie Paterson was more than happy to mind Lisa while Kate stepped out on her errand. She, like Kate, was a young widow. The two women were both single mothers with young children, and they exchanged babysitting services. Closing the store a little early and dropping Lisa off with the other woman, Kate headed out to see about Hank. Somehow the idea of him hurt and alone, although she hated it, was less painful to her than that he would have simply left for the season without so much as a wave goodbye.

The station wagon was parked next to the trailer and the boat was tied to the dock, so Hank was not only still living here, he was evidently at home as well. Okay, either he was in trouble, or else he had simply not wanted to continue visiting her and Lisa; and something told Kate that it was the first and not the second. Well, she would drop off his mail and make certain he was all right. If he really just wasn't interested in her any more, or hadn't been in the first place, she was going to feel very foolish. He always seemed to like her and flirted with her in the store readily enough, once he had gotten past his shyness. He had always been so polite and gentlemanly, though, unlike too many of the other men in town. Maybe that was why she tended to tease him back instead of ignoring his attempts to get her attention. Had she been this nervous when she was dating Jack? Probably, but she had also been a lot younger then, and not a mother, either.

"Hank?" She called out loudly, hoping to see him healthy and whole coming out of his trailer or shouting out a return to her call from out on the dock. Silence was the only response to her calling, though. When her knock on the trailer door got no answer, she sent up a silent prayer that he was not in the shower or something and opened the door.

Calling out Hank's name again, she entered the large trailer. When there was no answer, the woman cautiously went farther in. There was mail on the desk, but the kitten was looking at her and crying piteously, it looked like he hadn't been fed in the last few days. She put some dry food in his bowl and refilled his water bowl then left him happily munching away at his meal. You can do this, she told herself, peeking into his bedroom in back. A conservative upbringing told her that a woman did not enter the bedroom of a man she was not married to, but Kate was really starting to think that Hank might need some assistance.

Hearing a moan as she entered the room, she found Hank sprawled out across the bed. The sheets had been kicked off and he was clad only in his briefs, and yet in spite of the cold evening, he was covered in sweat. He began a short rasping series of coughs that settled once more into a rasping, gasping breathing. It was as if the man had filled his lungs with water and was now trying to breath with the little space left. As she neared she heard the rattling when he breathed. This was not good.

Proper upbringing aside, she stepped into the role she had occupied often when her husband had still been alive. As the only doctor in the town, he had often been called on for one patient while he had another. While Kate had no training as a nurse, she often watched patients through nights, lowering fevers, checking for concussion every few hours, and basically tending them in sick bed.

Picking up the bedding where it had fallen and tucking it around him, she found his skin to be hot. He was obviously fighting a fever and looked to be dehydrated as well. How long he had been like this and how much fluid he had lost she wasn't certain. She did a quick check for his level of dehydration, using the simple signs her husband had taught her. Thankfully he appeared to be on the high end of mild dehydration. She would radio the county nurse to be certain, though. The small bathroom provided her a cool rag for mopping his forehead and chest.

Pulling a chair up beside the bed, she lowered the blankets enough to mop his chest.

"Am I dreaming, or are you real?" a soft voice rumbled.

"I'm real, you're sick though," she informed him, while bathing his chest and face.

"Just a bad cold," he hacked.

"Um, humm. I'll just send for a doctor anyway and see if I can't get this fever down," she answered quietly.

Well, if you have to," he mumbled incoherently as she pulled him up and placed several pillows behind him before settling him back against them, propped up to ease his breathing.

Seeing that he had fallen asleep again, she went through the trailer and collected every pillow and blanket available. She wasn't able to collect a lot, but what she found was used to prop up her patient and cover him.

After a final moping of his brow with the cool rag she went back to the main room and turned on his shortwave radio. It was amazing how many things she had not done since Jack's death that were coming back to her. There were two connections she had to make; the county hospital she knew would have theirs on, which of the neighbors would be listening might be another issue. Burt's wife Annie always had the set on if he was out and he was. The woman was not overly fond of Kate, but would probably be willing to relay a message to Maggie that Kate would gone until tomorrow.

"Annie? It's Kate Rand, listen, could you go across to Maggie's and tell her that things are not going as planned at Hank`s, and I won't be able to pick Lisa up until tomorrow," Kate asked, relieved that the older woman had picked up her message.

"Certainly, I can do that; you're out at Mr. Donner's, right?" The other woman barely concealed the innuendo. She had watched on with disapproval every time she had seen Hank come by and pick the Rands up for one of their days out. Nor had she approved when Kate had had the man in her home for dinner one night. The older woman would love sowing these seeds far and wide.

"Yes, he's sick and I'm staying with him through the night," Kate answered through clenched teeth, but politely since she needed a favor from the woman.

"All right, we'll see you tomorrow then, assuming Mr. Donner is feeling better," Annie stressed the man's proper title as though chastising the other woman for using his Christian name earlier. She cut off before Kate could respond in any way to the accusation that Hank was not sick at all.

"County hospital, how can I help you?" a polite voice asked from the radio speaker.

"This Is Kate Rand from North Cove, I've got someone here who's dehydrated and running a fever. He seems to be having some trouble breathing, as well," Kate explained.

By the time Kate had finished explaining everything to the nurse and giving her all the information to be had, it was agreed that Hank was dehydrated and had a bad cough and congestion of some type. There were no nurses free, and there was nothing that could be done that she did not know how to do and was not capable of doing. They would send a doctor as soon as possible to check on Mr. Donner and in the meantime if anything changed she was to radio them immediately. Hopefully the doctor would be able to make it out that night.

It was going to be a long night. Kate bathed him again in cool compresses to bring his fever down, while she kept him propped up so that his lungs wouldn't fill any more than they already were, and wrapped him in blankets to keep him warm. The nurse had said that it sounded like it might be bronchitis and that meant he had to be kept warm.

Knowing how important it was to get fluids in him again as soon as possible, Kate kept a glass of room temperature water on hand for when he woke next.

"Kate? Then I was awake," he sighed, as the cool cloth that had awakened him mopped the sweat form his face.

"Yes, you were. You're dehydrated, so drink this water," she instructed, using her hand to guide him up far enough to drink.

Evidently one cannot drink and cough at the same time. Hank tried, he promptly sent water back up, soaking his nurse.

"Kate. I'm so, sorry," he rasped out between coughs.

"It's all right, I should have remembered to stand clear. This is hardly the first time this has happened to me," she informed him, helping him drink the remaining water.

He fell back into slumber to her soft humming, while wiping up the spilt water.

Stretching, she arose from the bedside chair and quietly went into the front room, she would still be able to hear him, but could stretch her legs a bit by walking around. It was sad, really, other than his books and a few drawings, it didn't look as though he had brought anything personal out here. This was only a temporary home, true, but there was not a single photo, or knickknack, or anything to tell about the man who lived in this place. Surely someone as vibrant and alive as Hank was would have some memories he carried with him, but no, there was nothing of him in this place. The place was virtually empty save for the usual kitchen equipment, a shelf of books, and an office area where he evidently typed up his reports and findings and things.

Sighing, she went to make herself some coffee. She had a long night ahead of her and falling asleep would not be a good thing. She gave a shudder as a cold wind went through. Maybe she would treat herself to Irish coffee? She wasn't a big drinker, but she had had her coffee spiked before without any problems.

A quick exploration of the shelves got her the coffee, but nothing to put in it. Any of the other men in this area would have had more than enough in the house, and Hank had nothing. Jack had rarely partaken himself, but he always had something in the house. Perhaps he was a tea-totaler? No, he didn't strike her as the type for that. Maybe he just didn't like spirits? Possible, she might ask him someday.

"Sarah? Sarah, where did you go? Please, please, Sarah, stay! I'm so sorry, so sorry I was gone." Hank called out from the bedroom. The raw agony and panic in his voice brought her thoughts up sharply.

Who was Sarah? Kate wondered as she quickly returned to her patient. He had mentioned once being an old bachelor. She hadn't heard any tales about a woman of any kind in the months he had been here to study the migrating Gray Whales. There were no pictures of women, or of any kind as far as that went, so she was probably not a wife. If he had been single his whole life, as it appeared he had been, she couldn't be a daughter. His mother perhaps? No, he wouldn't have called her by her first name, then. He was still fevered, so maybe this woman he was asking for was a girlfriend out of his past. Or a sister, maybe? Perhaps that was it, a sister.

"So sorry little one, never got a chance to see you, or hold you, or tell you I loved you. Poor little thing never had a chance to live did you?" Hank was speaking softer now, almost in a hushed whisper.

Was this little one he was talking about now, Sarah? It sounded more like a child. Had he lost a child sometime in his past? He wasn't married, true, but it wouldn't have been the first time in the history of humankind that an unmarried man was a father. He had struck her as being too responsible and, well, honorable a man to find himself in that position, but perhaps, when he had been younger. Maybe Sarah was this little one's mother and she had left with the baby? It had hit him hard whatever had happened to the little one.

"Hank, it's all right, I'm right here. You're just a little sick at the moment, you'll be feeling fine again in no time," She assured him, as he went back to an uneasy sleep. Kate collected some more cool towels and bathed his face and chest again. His face glistened with dampness again, but this time Kate suspected it was not sweat and fever alone that were at it's heart.

Obviously the man was going to need some nursing. It seemed a shame that he was going to get stuck in the hospital merely because he didn't have a warm place to live while he recovered. He didn't really need a hospital so much as a warm bed and someone to give him a little care for a few weeks. You can provide that for him, and then he wouldn't need to be in a cold, sterile hospital, a small voice in the back of her mind voiced.

"Hello? Anyone home?" came a young voice from outside.

"In here," Kate called quietly standing in the doorway of the trailer.

"Hi, I`m Doctor Travis. I heard you have someone out here in need of medical assistance?"

"Kate Rand.. Your patient is right in here," she ushered him into the home and then to the bedroom where Hank was sleeping. the rasping every time Hank tried to breathe told at least part of the problem right off.

"Well, obviously Mr. Rand has congestion of some kind, and it looks like a fever and dehydration as well. I'll know more when I've had a chance to examine him," the young man tried to comfort Kate.

"He's not my husband. I'm just a friend of his who came out here to check on him," Kate corrected him.

"Well, considering how sick he is, it's a good thing you came to check. What is his name, by the way?" the young man asked, moving over to his patient's side.

"I'm sorry, I should have told you immediately. His name's Hank Donner."

"You were worried, a lot of people forget manners in times like that. Why don't you wait in the main room there while I examine him," the doctor suggested.

"Kate? Are you here? Kate!" Hank called from the bed, almost panicked.

"I'm right here Hank. Listen, this is Dr. Travis, he's going to help you feel better. I'll be right in the next room while he looks at you," she assured him, moving next to his bed and smoothing the hair on his forehead.

"Promise?" he pleaded.

I promise," she whispered, as the doctor came over to begin his examination.

A half-hour later the doctor reemerged. Smiling, he took a seat across from Kate.

"He should be fine. He has bronchial pneumonia. He can't sty here alone so I'm afraid unless he has somewhere to go we're going to have to hospitalize him," he said.

"He can stay with me. My husband was the doctor in North Cove before he died, so I've tended sick patients before. I'm not a professional or anything, but I do know how to give basic home care," she offered, looking at the closed bedroom door.

"That's very kind of you. Do you need help getting him to your home?" he asked, wondering at the generosity of this woman. She must be some friend.

"Actually, that would be a great help," Kate smiled, still not believing that she was doing this.

"All right, one minute while I get him dressed for travel. Uh, do you want him in your car or his?" the young man asked uncertainly.

"Mine, it's the smaller station wagon," Kate offered helpfully as she went and got the car started and ready for her passenger.

The doctor came out a few moment s later struggling to half carry, half drag Hank to her car.

"Ma'am, why don't I follow you and then I can help you get him settled there, and I can assure the regular doctor that he's in good hands?" he asked, panting as Hank was settled in the front seat.

"That would be a great help, thank you. You aren't a regular doctor?" she asked, curious.

"I am a doctor, but I'm doing residency. Another doctor will be by tomorrow morning to check on my diagnosis," he explained, timidly. "Is there any doctor you prefer over another?"

"Any of them except Dr. Brice," she answered, slowly. She had not even thought of that.

"Okay any except the old goat. Oops, please don't repeat that, ma'am, it's what those of use that work under him call him," the young man looked at her with a scared expression.

"He can be a bit of an old goat, so I won't tell," she assured him as they went around to their cars.

He followed her to the house on the back of the store. Between the two of them they got the patient in the house and upstairs into the master bedroom. Kate went downstairs while the young resident got Hank changed back into sleeping clothes and put to bed.

"Uh, if you don't mind my asking, how do you know Dr. Brice?" the youngster asked, accepting the coffee Kate offered him.

"He's my father," Kate admitted.

The young man turned pale.

"Relax, I said I won't tell and I won't," Kate reiterated her promise.

"I hope you weren't offended.," he blushed.

"No I wasn't offended," she assured him as he went on his way.

Kate had to get started on her day as well, but figured the first thing would be to make certain Hank was comfortable. The doctor had almost certainly done a sufficient job, but she wanted to check for herself.

Kate sighed with relief as she saw that the man had settled into her bed. It might not be totally proper, but it was the only bed in the house that would really work for him. She would sleep on the couch while he was here. It wasn't like she had never fallen asleep there before, and as long as you weren't tall it was a comfortable place to sleep. The very fact that she had been able to move him at all was a sign of how much weight he had lost. What he really needed now was rest, and someone to keep an eye on him. His living accommodations at the observation station weren't insulated, and between the nights being cool by the shore, and winter coming in a matter of about a month or so, that would make the place difficult to keep warm, so Kate had brought him home with her to recover. There was also more room, here, so it would not be as hard to have three people living under the roof. The three of them, him, her, and Lisa, in that small place of Hank's would have been difficult to say the least. Not to mention that enough rumors were going to be flying with him staying here temporarily and with them mostly in plain sight, if they had gone out to stay with him in a remote trailer, all kinds of stories would be invented. He would also have had to be alone all day while she was at the store, this way she could prop the door open and listen for him while she was working.

The sounds of the bell over the door brought Kate out to the store. She left the door to her home in the back of the store open so that she could hear him and would be able to check on Hank periodically and make certain that he was resting comfortably. He still had a fever, but since he had liquids in him, he could handle it. Mostly, he needed to sleep, and that was exactly what he was doing.

"Vennetta, what can I do for you?" The younger woman asked her customer sweetly.

"I was just getting some supplies. I came in yesterday but you had closed a little early, opening a bit late this morning as well, dear. I hope everything is all right," the older woman replied as she ran a critical eye through the merchandise and the proprietress.

"Everything's fine. I merely had some personal errands that couldn't wait and then overslept," the younger woman responded, determined not to rise to the bait. It was no business of this old busybody what she had been doing yesterday. And she had certainly done nothing wrong in helping a friend.

A low moan issued from the living quarters. The older woman raised her eyebrow imperiously.

"Hank Donner's sick and staying with me until he's able to take care of himself," Kate explained patiently, giving the other woman her change and receipt.

"I see, well, I hope he is feeling better soon," the older woman responded disdainfully as she left.

Kate sighed, let the rumor mills begin, she thought to herself as she went back to see what was distressing her patient. Blue eyes looked up and met her brown ones. Another coughing spasm began, and she reached back and rearranged his pillows so that he was once more propped up.

"Thanks, how did I wind up here? Last thing I remember I was going to sleep in my own bed, and I wake up in yours. This is just a little confusing," his normally deep and gravelly voice was little more than a whisper. He had been wheezing on every other word, but was determined to have his say.

"Lisa and I hadn't seen you for a few days and were getting worried. She thought that maybe you had gone home without telling us goodbye. That didn't sound like you, and when Julia mentioned that you hadn't picked up your mail for a few days, I thought I would go out and check. The doctor said you have Bronchial Pneumonia and it was either the hospital or here. I thought you would prefer here.," Kate explained while Hank leaned back, exhausted from having sat up.

"Bronchial Pneumonia? I thought I just had a bad cold. Listen, Kate, I appreciate this, really I do, but I'll be fine at home," he moved to get himself upright. He found that his spine was now rubber and his arms and legs were lead. His lungs had joined in the revolt and stuffed themselves full of cotton. He wasn't going anywhere, fast.

"Hank Donner! I did not haul you all of the way here just so that you can go and kill yourself by insisting on staying in that wind tunnel of a trailer,"

"I'll be fine, Kate. I'll take it easy for a couple of days, sitting at my desk and doing all of the paperwork and things that never seem to get done," Hank tried to assure his hostess, and got a look of disbelief for his troubles. She hadn't known him long, really, but she did know him better than that.

"I'll have someone bring your papers here when they go out to feed Namu."

"I don't need a babysitter."

"Good, because I'm not a babysitter, and you're not a baby. You're a very sick man who happens to be a friend of mine. I don't leave my friends when they're in need, so you'll be staying here," She informed him sternly, while helping him to get settled once more.

Her mother would have been appalled at her declaration of friendship to a man who had not said anything of feelings for her first, but she could hardly take that back now, and truth be told, she wouldn't want to even if she could.

Hank took her hand as she started to leave. "I'd have said goodbye before I left," he assured her, as he started to nod off once more.

"I know," she whispered, tucking the blankets around him a little more securely and quietly tiptoed out. This was the least she could do after the way Hank and Namu had helped Lisa deal with her fear of sea monsters.

"Hello, Julia," Kate greeted the postmistress as she came back up front after tending her patient, having heard the bell again.

"Hi, I brought Mr. Donner's mail over as well, since he's staying with you. I do hope he gets to feeling better." The mail carrier had only met her boyfriend's employer and friend a few times, but had liked him and was relieved to have heard he was staying in town and being taken care of. She had passed the news on to Deke, who had also been relived that Hank was being seen to; that cough had been hanging on too long.

"Thank you, I'll make certain to give it to him. I'm sure he appreciates this," Kate assured her, taking the two mail packets. It had taken half a day for it to become common knowledge that Hank was here. The rumor mill was slowing down.

Well, Kate thought as the mail woman left, at least Julia is sincere in her well wishes. The rest of the town would be giving lip service at best to that sentiment.

"I'm Doctor Nolan. I heard there's someone for me to see here?" a curt voice sounded from below him, as the fogginess of sleep drifted away. Whoever it was wasn't being rude, but wasn't going to waste time on small talk either.

"Yes, right this way please, Doctor," Kate politely ushered the man into the house and closed the door.

"Thank you," the doctor answer politely but in clipped tones while following her upstairs.

"I'm Dr. Nolan, you're Mr. Donner I presume?" The older man asked in greeting to his patient. He raised an eyebrow at Hank's place in what was obviously the woman`s bedroom, but didn't say a word.

"Yes, I'm Hank Donner," the scientist sighed. Either the good doctor had already heard all the rumors, or he simply had a very bad bedside manner. He really didn't want to try and guess at which it was.

Hank was poked, prodded, and asked a few questions. Finally, the doctor got up and scribbled something on a piece of paper.

"It's definitely bronchial pneumonia. Take these to the drug store and have them filled, follow the directions on the bottle and continue with the rest and fluids and there shouldn't be any problem. If it gets worse call the hospital and they'll send someone by," he instructed and then with a nod to both the others, left and saw himself out.

"Um, Kate, is he usually that, uh..."

"No, not usually. Normally he's quite a social man. I'll go call in the prescription," Kate squeezed his shoulder and moved towards the door to go and call the pharmacist.

Light blue eyes watched her leaving as Hank leaned back. Somehow, he had a funny feeling that by sundown it would be widely known that he was sleeping in Kate's bed, never mind that she wasn't sleeping there.

Hank drifted off, tired out from the examination, he had smiled his awareness though, when Kate tucked him back in before she went out to tend her store.

"Mommy! You're home! Is Mr. Donner all right?" Lisa dashed into the bedroom to greet her mother.

Kate made a hushing sound as Lisa came in. "Hank's sleeping, honey, so we'll need to be very quiet and not wake him."

"Is he sick?" Lisa asked in a hushed whisper. Mrs. Peterson and Mrs. Kregg had been whispering and shaking their heads when the older woman had delivered the message that Kate was detained. They had quieted down when they saw Lisa, though.

"Yes honey, he is, but he'll be fine. We just need to keep him warm and let him rest," Kate smiled, hugging her daughter tightly.

"I just knew he wouldn't leave and go back to the city without coming to say goodbye!" Lisa beamed. She knew the other kids were wrong. Hank hadn't left without a word, he had merely been sick.

"I'm glad you were right, sweetheart. Now, let's leave him to sleep, okay?" Kate suggested, ushering her daughter out of his room.

"Mommy, it's good to help friends, right?" Lisa asked, finding her mother in the kitchen after dropping her school bag in her room and changing clothes.

Kate looked up from the spaghetti she was making, to her daughter. "Yes, Lisa, helping your friends is a good thing."

"Then why are people saying it was wrong of you to help Mr. Donner? He's our friend," Lisa asked, obviously having given the question serious thought and not having gotten any answers.

"Well, honey, it's always right to help your friends, but sometimes there are more ways than one to help out a friend. I don't think anyone thinks it's wrong for us to help Mr. Donner, only that we should maybe have chosen another way to help. The way we're helping is fine, though, so don't worry about it, okay?" Kate assured her daughter. She knew there was going to be talk about her and Hank because she had brought him here; truth was, however, that a good many people were already talking about them. She was concerned that the talk had gotten to her daughter, though, before she had a chance to tell her the truth. Instead, she had heard the rumors first.

"Okay. I'm glad it's all right to have Mr. Donner stay here, I missed him when he stopped visiting."

"So did I," her mother readily agreed, serving dinner.

Silence dominated at the table for a moment.

"Lisa, people might say some bad things because they don't understand about Mr. Donner being here, okay?" Kate asked, deciding that the truth was going to be the best way to go. Lisa tended to pick up on evasion and that would only confuse the child.

"You mean like that we're bad or something?"

"Yes, like that. I'm going to tell you the truth so you understand and don't get confused by the things people are saying. Mr. Donner is staying with us because he's very sick and needs to be looked after. I put him upstairs because it's quiet up there, so he can sleep. I'm not sleeping there while he's here. Once he's better he's going to be back at his own home. Do you understand that?" Kate asked, wanting to get Lisa's questions answered now, instead of after someone had upset her.

"Yes. Mr. Donner is our friend; he was hurt and needed to be looked after so you brought him home. He's sleeping upstairs because it's quiet and when he's better he'll be going back home," Lisa repeated to show she understood.

"Yes, and remember that I'm sleeping on the couch while he's here," her mother reminded her of the last part.

"Okay, I'll remember that. Why is that important, though? You sleep with me sometimes if I'm scared or not feeling well, or I'll sleep with you, so why is it wrong if you do that for Mr. Donner?"

"I can't explain that right now Lisa, except that there is a difference between sleeping with a sick child and doing so with a sick adult okay?"

"All right. I'm just glad that he can stay here and he's going to get better," Lisa answered, more worried about her friend than why it was acceptable to sleep with a child but not another adult.

"Good, now if you have any questions, you can come and ask me and I'll answer them, okay?"

Lisa nodded and accepted another big hug from her mother.

A knocking on the door ended the simple meal. Kate got up and headed to the storefront, wondering who had forgotten what this time. Most of the fishermen were good about trying to respect her hours, but a few took advantage of her need for business, and with a number of boats coming in tonight, there might be legitimate emergency needs. Deke should be on one of them, so perhaps it was him, having gotten wind of his sick friend.

A coughing hacking sound raked the air as the woman headed through to her business and Lisa settled in to do her homework. Hank was awake again, or soon would be. No one could sleep while their lungs were trying to suffocate them.

"Are you all right, Mr. Donner?" Lisa asked, cautiously putting her head in the room. She didn't know what to do, but he was her friend, so she should do something.

"I'm fine, Lisa," he got out between rasping coughing fits.

The little blond girl went up and tried to arrange the pillows better, like she had seen her mother do for her when she was sick.

"Thanks," he smiled at his child companion. The pillow fluffing hadn't helped much, but she had tried.

"At school today, they told us this story about a strong man named Hercules and these twelve chores he was given to do," the little girl began telling her friend the story she had heard. It was almost as good as the one he had told her about the sea monster named Namu and the Indian princess. He told stories lots better than the lady in school did, though.

"Lisa?" her mother looked in from the doorway at the almost sleeping man and the little girl sitting next to him telling him a story. Funny, how a relative stranger fit so easily into their family.

"I was just telling Mr. Donner about the story they told us at school today," Lisa explained to her mother.

"It was a wonderful story, Lisa," Hank smiled weakly.

"Tell him good night, sweetheart," Kate encouraged, seeing how desperately the convalescent was needing to sleep. Lisa adored Hank and if left alone would stay here entertaining him and asking questions of him all night.

Hugs and kisses goodnight were exchanged with wishes for pleasant dreams. The child retreated to the main room, while Hank fell, exhausted, against the pillows.

"Sorry about that, I hope she wasn't too much of a problem," Kate apologized.

"I was enjoying the story. I really do appreciate what you're trying to do here, but I need to get back home. I've got paperwork to do with deadlines looming on all of them," Hank picked up his argument where he had left off before his nap.

"I've already arranged for your paperwork to be brought here. Now, try and get some sleep." Kate smiled at his surprise that she had thought to arrange for his things to be brought.

"You did?" Hank asked in surprise.

"Yes, I did. Deke is going to bring them by tomorrow, along with some clothes and other things. I admit I saw papers on your desk while I was in the trailer, and they looked important, so I made arrangements for them to be brought since the other things would have to be brought over anyway." Kate smiled an apology for her intrusiveness.

"Kate, as much as I'm enjoying your help and attention, I really don't think you've thought all of this through. I'll be fine at home, really. I'll even see about hiring someone to come out and stay with me. Deke should be back soon and I can probably hire him to stay with me until he can find another boat that needs an extra hand,"

"Deke's back now; that was who I was talking to while Lisa was up here. I thought you were asleep, and he was almost asleep, so he said he would be back tomorrow with your papers and Namu, and other necessities. As for my not having thought this out, what part of this situation don't you think I've thought out? You're supposed to be kept warm, and that trailer is a freezing wind tunnel. You also need someone to make certain you drink enough and get lots of sleep. Not to mention needing someone to cook for you, you're not exactly in shape to be standing in front of a stove or wielding sharp objects of any kind. I can tend you very easily here. Deke doesn't have room for you at his place, and as I said, the trailer is not fit for a healing man," Kate made her argument succinct and to the point.

"I just don't want people to start talking about you, or getting the wrong ideas," Hank's whisper had nothing to do with his inability to breathe. Nothing was worth the loss of Kate's respectability.

"I'm perfectly capable of watching over my own reputation, thank you. If anyone asks whose business it is I'll tell them the truth, that I'm helping a friend in need. Besides, you're not strong enough to be up and about yet, you're still fevered and a good wind would knock you over," she snorted indignantly.

"I'm perfectly fine," he insisted, only to be interrupted by his lungs attempting to leave his body. Grumbling, he lay quietly as she tucked him back in.

"Thanks for the assist," he called softy as she left.

"You're more than welcome," came the equally soft answer.

"Sarah! I'm so sorry Sarah. So sorry I left you alone like that. Never should have left you," the fevered man moaned in his sleep a few hours later, tossing about restlessly.

Kate stood in the doorway, listening, not certain if she should wake him or not. There the mystery woman was again. Whoever she was she certainly had a strong hold on him. Maybe she was someone he had left back in the city. He had certainly left her behind somewhere, sometime.

He had quieted down once more, so she checked to see that his pillows had him propped up, and that he was settled in for the night, before retiring back to her own impromptu bed on the couch.

It seemed she had hardly been to bed at all, when a power switch was hit on the house, and the day began. Lisa bounced out of her room dressed and ready for the day. Sighing, Kate got up, no sense trying to deny the inevitable. Shuffling sounds from above told her that her newly semi-mobile guest was awake as well.

"Hi, Mr. Deke," Lisa smiled brightly, answering the door to the fisherman friend of theirs, half an hour later.

"Here you go, Lisa, one temporarily orphaned kitten, as promised," Deke smiled, handing the box with the kitten over to the little girl.

"Thanks," she grinned, taking the box and lifting their other temporary guest out. The kitten raced off to explore, whiskers twitching, and with a giggling Lisa right behind.

"Hank just woke up a little bit ago, Deke, if you want to visit him," Kate offered.

Deke gave one of his shy smiles and headed upstairs with the box of papers and things, and a bag of personal items, at her nod of encouragement. It was always a little endearing to her how he was never certain exactly what to do or say in front of women. She was willing to bet this was the first time he had ever been in the home of an unmarried woman without a chaperon present.

"Hi there, smart buddy," Hank rasped out, trying to smile reassuringly and failing miserably.

"Smart enough to know when I have a cold and when I have pneumonia," Deke growled, shaking his head at Hank's error. The fisherman had been hearing about how it was only a cold and not to worry right up until he had left.

"Listen, Deke, I don't want people to start talking about Kate...." he began, halting when a cough rendered him incapable of anything but rasping, choking sounds.

"Too late, Hank, people are already talking, they have been ever since she helped you convince these people that Namu wasn't a killer. Word's gotten out that you're staying here. Leaving won't stop people talking, they'll just figure you two got into a fight or something." Deke explained. Leave it to Hank to be more concerned about his hostess's reputation than whether he was going to get well or not. But Deke knew that he would be that way as well, any decent kind of man would be.

"I just don't want Kate and Lisa hurt by this," Hank groaned, imagining the damage that could be done by the rumors that were evidently already flying about.

"Not much you can do about that now," Deke sympathized with his very honorable friend's desire to protect Kate and her daughter. He was a friend of the Rand's as well.

Hank raised an eyebrow as his companion's face broke into a smile.

"Just thinking about the situation, all the folks out there thinking you and Mrs. Rand are in here up to no good, and all of the time, your up to nothing at all. But if you leave to show you're up to nothing, then they'll talk even more about what you might have been doing. Just seems kind of ironic, is all," Deke, stood up, gave Hank's shoulder a squeeze, and left.

Hank lay back with a sigh, if he stayed, people would think he and Kate were on intimate terms with one another, if he left they would think they had had lover's quarrel. There was no way out of this that wouldn't leave the woman's reputation in shreds.

"Hi, how's Hank doing?" Kate looked over as she entered the store from settling her guest.

"You mean the rumor mill hasn't kept you updated on his status?" Kate grinned, taking the two packets of mail from the postmistress.

"I'm sure it could tell me some fine stories if I bothered to listen to it," Julia snorted.

"Well, Hank has Bronchitis, which has turned into Bronchial Pneumonia, but is on the long slow road to recovery. I'll tell him you were asking after him," Kate answered her friend's original question.

"Oh, that one on top is from the institute he works for so I thought it might be something important, thick as it is like that," The towheaded woman explained.

Seeing an item on top of Hank's pile of mail, Kate raised an eyebrow in inquiry.

"Oh that's something my father sent over," Julia explained, as Kate looked at her in confusion.

"A thousand and one card games?" Kate raised an eyebrow while reading the title of the book.

"Daddy said his biggest issue when he had bronchitis last year was being stuck in bed with nothing to do, in desperation mom got him this book so he could actually learn the rules to the card games they had been playing for years," Julia smiled.

"I'll make certain and pass it along. If Hank doesn't play cards, maybe this will give him an interest in it. Thank your father for me," Kate smiled. She was certain that in no time, Hank was going to be feeling well enough to not be sleeping all the time, but he wouldn't be strong enough to be out and about. Meaning he was probably going to be heartily bored.

A shuffling sound told her that the marine biologist was awake. Propping the door open so she could hear any customers, she grabbed the mail packets and, dumping hers on the table to be sorted later, took his up. He had mentioned that his projects were due and he had deadlines looming, so maybe this was in regards to one of those.

"Hank?" she asked, knocking softly on the door to make certain he was decent, or at least covered.

"Come in," Hank choked as a coughing fit hit him, thanks to the exhausting trip to and from the bathroom.

"I brought up your mail, there's something from the institute; I thought it might be important."

"I have a few things they need to get back to me on, so yeah, it could be important," Hank smiled tiredly, taking the packet and dropping the rest on the bed while opening the envelope from his employers.

Reading it, his face lit up. "My proposal to study killer whales has been tentatively accepted!"

"That's wonderful! Do you know where you're going to be studying them?" Kate asked, trying to sound excited for him (which she was) and nonchalant about if he was going to be staying (which she most definitely was not). Alaska, which was much farther up the coast, was better for the whales since they tended to like the colder waters.

"Well, there's a pod I know right here that has at least one member that can speak for me," Hank grinned. "That would be all right with you, wouldn't it?"

She blinked. He wasn't certain if she wanted him around? Gee, let's see, she and her daughter invited him to spend almost every weekend doing something with them, when he was missing she went to check on him, and finding out he was sick she brought him not only into her house but to her bed to tend him. Yes, you might say she didn't mind him being around at all.

"Uh, no, no problem. Oh, um, one of the men had this dropped off for you so you'll have something to do while you recover, "Kate said, handing him the book.

"The book of Hoyle? Card game rules? This could be fun; do you have a deck of cards?" Hank asked, raising an eyebrow. He wasn't up to cards right now by any means, but he certainly would be in a few days. He couldn't believe he had asked her if staying here in town was a problem. He was not going to get involved with anyone, and he was certainly not going to risk getting involved with an entire family! He was only looking to make friends, that was all. Besides, they really were better off without him.

"Yes, I have cards in the house, my husband and I played a lot of cards when he was alive," Kate replied, curious as the usual inscrutable expression once more slid onto Hank's face. Whatever had been there a moment ago was gone.

"My family used to play cards a fair amount as well," he replied, not wanting to think of that family that was no longer around. She would be about Lisa's age, a few years older, but best not to think of that. He would probably be teaching her how to play cards about now, but she would never be learning to play anything.

"You look kind of tired; go ahead and rest,"

Hank smiled his appreciation of her offer. He really did want and need to sleep; however, he had started thinking of his lost family and thinking of them hurt. If he went to sleep thinking about them he would see them dying alone and without him, like they had spent too much of the last years of their lives. In Kimmy's case her whole life, short as that was.

"Hi Mr. Donner," Lisa greeted him listlessly.

"Hi Lisa, something the matter?" usually the girl was bouncing in excitement from some new thing she had learned, or a question she was dying to ask. Moping was something he had never seen her do before. Certainly not in the four days he had been there, though he had to admit that he had slept through the last two days, having overdone himself the first two days.

"They're saying they might move me into a lower grade because I can't do the math," she sighed.

"What're you having trouble with?" Hank asked. Maybe, just maybe, he could help make up for some of the trouble that was being caused by his being here, if he could help Lisa.

"We're learning to add things up in our heads, but I just can't do it. I don't see the numbers," she tried to explain the problem. Obviously it was not new, and she had given it great thought.

"Why don't you get me a deck of cards and maybe I can teach you a game that'll help with that, okay?

"There's game that'll help me see the numbers?" the little girl asked in her usual excited, quizzical voice.

"I think it might help," Hank smiled as his visitor dashed off to get the requested cards.

"Here we go!" Lisa smiled brightly.

"Okay, this game is called 21, that's what you want the cards to add up to. We'll do the first few hands with the cards showing so I can show you how the game goes, okay?" He began dealing out the cards.

By the third hand, Lisa understood the rules and was, with help from Hank, adding up her own score in her head. They were still playing with the cards down but she was starting to figure out for herself when to ask for hits and when to stay where she was.

"So, how's math class coming?" Kate asked, smiling from the doorway and holding the soup she brought up for the convalescent. Watching as her daughter, who was struggling with math, accurately if not exactly quickly, totaled up the points in both her hand and Hank's.

"Look, Mommy! I added up all our scores in my head!" Lisa beamed at her mother.

"I can see that," her mother smiled. "Why don't you go and get the table set, okay?"

"Okay, thanks for helping me, Mr. Donner," Lisa gave him a hug and dashed off.

"I hope you don't mind, I thought she might catch on if she was having fun while she was learning." Hank explained.

"If it helps her learn, I'm all for it," Kate assured her friend with a smile. "Besides, it would hardly be fair if I was the only one you got to corrupt while you were here."

"I am sorry about all the fuss this has created," he could well imagine why people were thinking she was suddenly so corrupt.

"No more fuss than I thought there would be when I brought you here," Kate smiled.

"I still don't understand why you did. I mean I could just as easily be recovering in the county hospital, or Deke would stay in the trailer with me if I asked," Hank looked perplexed as he listed the options that would have been acceptable to everyone and left her with a faultless reputation.

"The trailer wouldn't have worked because it wasn't winterized and winter is coming. The county hospital has a limited number of beds and nurses, so why take up space there when you can recover here?" Kate suggested. "Besides, here you have a private room and plenty of space for your paperwork."

"You're absolutely certain you don't mind all of this?" Hank asked, still not totally believing it.

"Positive, now I better go and see about dinner," she reassured him before heading downstairs.

They were a lively trio that evening. Kate cleaned up after the meal, and Lisa did her homework; afterwards, they joined Hank, who taught them how to play fantan. Kate won and they all had a good time. A normal run of the mill evening at home for the average family.

"Hi, Mr. Donner," Lisa called out, entering his room after a brief knock.

"Hey, Lisa, listen, could you call me Hank?" He asked from the bed, where he was resting. He didn't need to sleep all of the time any more but still got tired fairly easily. Besides she had called him Mr. Donner ever since he got here and he was beginning to think his father must be in the house somewhere, as well. He understood that the Mr. was a courtsey she was taught to give any man, but living in close quarters like this, it was getting on his nerves a bit.

"Okay, but mommy always says I should call all of the men I meet Mister, that it's bad manners not to," Lisa responded, plopping down beside the bed to figure this out.

"Your mom's right, but it's okay to call me by my name since you're my friend and all of my friends call me Hank. I'll tell your mother so you don't get in trouble for it," he smiled at his young companion.

"This paper doesn't have any lines on it," Lisa observed, looking at the papers on the bedside table.

"That's drawing paper, I use it to draw on," Hank explained.

"What do you make drawings of?"

"Well, these are ones I did of Namu so when I see him again I can tell him from the other members of his pod," Hank said, showing her the sketches he had made of the whale.

"They look just like him! Who is this a picture of?" she asked, looking at a picture at the front of the thick tablet.

"That's Sarah," Hank sighed.

"Is she a friend of yours?" Lisa asked, curious now.

"Yes, she was my wife," Hank answered, electing for simple honest answers to her very direct questions.

"Is she gone now, like my daddy is?"

"Yes, she's gone now," Hank answered softly, after a moment's hesitation.

Hopping off her chair, the girl climbed up on the bed and gave the startled man a big hug.

"That's what mommy always does to help me feel better when I miss daddy," Lisa explained.

"Thanks, Lisa," Hank smiled.

He closed his eyes to stop the moisture from leaking out and giving him away. He basked in the warmth of the embrace and reflected on how very different this was from his father's reaction. His father had also wanted to ease his son's pain, but had done so in the way he himself handled pain, by giving him a bottle. It had helped numb the pain for a time, but it never made it go away. Then, the bottle itself had become a problem, and the pain had still been there. Lisa's solution worked much better, and becoming an addict wouldn't hurt him a bit.

"Lisa, Ruth's at the door, time for you to head for school." Kate was standing at the door. Her dark eyes were full of understanding and compassion. She had obviously heard. He had hated the pitying looks he got after his wife's death, but he wasn't seeing pity there. Only sympathy for a pain and loss that she could relate to. And oddly, he took comfort in that.

"I'm sorry, I didn't know," Kate apologized, "I'm afraid tact is still not one of her strong points."

"It rarely is at that age; don't worry about it, though. The hug made up for the question," Hank smiled, just before another hacking coughing fit hit him.

"I'm glad the hug made you feel better, I'll let you sleep some more since it would seem you've been talking a bit much,"

A nod was her only response as the coughing continued to shake the weakened man's body like a rag doll. Wincing at the sound, she maneuvered him into an upright position again and rearranged the settled pillows. Exhausted from the exertion, he laid back down as she guided him back on to the bed. He was asleep almost instantly. He had seemed to be resting a bit easier over the weekend, but evidently had overdone it and was paying for it now.

Burt's wife, Annie, was waiting when Kate opened the store.

"Sorry to be bothering you so early, dear, but there were some supplies that I needed right away,"

"I understand when something can't wait," she responded, understanding about chores on a boat that needed to get done quickly.

"Wasn't Pastor Dan supposed to be starting that series on revelations this last Sunday?" Annie asked.

"Yes I believe he was, why? Didn't he?" Kate asked, looking up from the shopping list the woman had given her.

"You weren't in church this last Sunday?" Annie asked, pretending shock.

"No, unfortunately, I didn't make it. I take it Dan sermonized on something else?" Kate asked, wanting to know what her friend had had to say.

"It was a sermon on loving your neighbor, and exactly who qualifies as a neighbor. I don't know why he would think such giving people as we have here would need to be told to help a neighbor."

"Well, he must have thought someone needed to be told, I'm certain next week he'll go ahead with the planned study on Revelations," Kate responded. Nice try Dan, and thank you. She sent mental thanks to her friend and pastor.

"He's not. He's going to be talking on gossiping! Can you imagine? No one in this town is a gossiper!" Annie snorted.

Kate had to turn her back to keep the woman from seeing her broad grin as she tried to get her face under control. Oh, Dan, you are too much! She laughed to herself. She would definitely have to make it to church next Sunday.

"Yes, well, I guess one can never be reminded too much about some lessons," Kate responded biting her lip.

"You're awfully chipper this morning, I guess you must have been sleeping well lately," the older woman hinted, changing the subject.

"Yes, luckily the couch is quite comfortable," Kate's dark eyes seethed, while her voice smiled.

The sale was made and the plump graying woman was on her way. The nice doctor had spread the word about Hank's sickbed. What a lovely way to start the day and a new week.

Propping the door to the living area open, Kate began on the inventory and supply ordering, in between taking care of other customers who had to have their things just so and right this minute. The boats coming in last night needed to be restocked, and the ones going out needed all their last second things. In other words: a perfectly normal day. She did hear Hank's hacking and rasping cough, but it always quieted down so she didn't check.

Charles Brice, a distinguished looking man with graying hair, drove past the general store. Three people were standing at the counter and a small mob was browsing. Katie was busy; he would just go and let himself in. At least she wasn't starving if she was busy like that. Still, he wished she had come home after Jack died, it wasn't right, a young woman like her living on her own with a young child. Girl ought to be thinking about remarrying, not hanging about in a town were most of the men were married and few were her own age. If she had just come home she would have met a lot of nice young men by now and been happily settled with one of them. He should have been insistent and demanded that she return home.

Turning off the car, he let himself into the house. Sounds emanating from the store told him she was still busy with customers. Quietly, he mounted the stairs and headed towards her room to drop off the bag from her mother. He was out on rounds anyway, so delivery had not been a problem. Speechless, he stared into her bedroom. There was a dark haired man somewhere in his mid thirties sprawled out asleep in his daughter's bed. Certainly she hadn't gone and married some fisherman! He looked at the long, slender fingers, no calluses or rough skin from hauling nets and tugging on lines all day. Tanned skin spoke of a life spent largely outdoors, but with those hands, he was no fisherman. Whoever he as he had no business in his little girl's bedroom!

"Who are you and what are you doing in here?" He demanded, shaking the shoulder nearest him.

The stranger blinked light blue eyes at him and stared, groaning, while a black and white fur ball slinked out from under the covers and hissed at the intruder who had interrupted his nap.

"I asked you a question, young man!" the stranger snarled, while watching the offended cat scurry under the bed.

"I know, I'm Hank Donner, a friend of Kate's," the scientist got out before a harsh coughing fit overtook him again.

"I just bet you're a friend of hers! I'll not stand for my daughter being ill used like this!" the older man seethed.

"It's not like that," Hank tried to explain only to be cut short again by a disabling cough. Of all the times for him not to be able to get three words out of his mouth!

"Dad, Hank's a friend of mine and is here under protest. He's tried to get me to send him home but I refuse to allow him to go out to his un-winterized trailer and freeze to death while he's sick," Kate stood in the doorway.

Hank tried to burrow himself under the covers. As he slid down, he lost the support of the pillows and started another coughing fit.

"All right. Dad, you and I can talk downstairs; I'll meet you down there as soon as I settle Hank, again," Kate instructed, half leading and half shoving her father out the door.

"I'm really sorry, I don't want to cause trouble between the two of you," Hank gasped out as he tried to get his breath back, while Kate was re-situating him up on the pillows. It seemed he was spending a lot of time these days apologizing.

"You're not, it's an old fight, not a new one. Dad forgets that I'm not a child any more and occasionally I have to remind him. If he hadn't met you here, then it would have been something else," she informed him before softly closing the door.

"I can't believe that you would treat a guest in my house that way!" she snapped as she joined the older man downstairs.

"Katie, he was in your bed, what was I supposed to think?"

"Well, since I'm not known for having strange men in my bed, maybe that there was a very good reason he was there?" she suggested.

"What good reason? That he's sick? That's what the county hospital is for!"

"He doesn't need to be hospitalized! All he needs is a little nursing and I'm perfectly capable of doing that,"

"If he needs home nursing, then let him hire a nurse to take care of him in his own home. What are people going to say if they hear about this?"

"The same things they're already saying, and that they were hinting at before he came to stay here," Kate sighed.

"And they wouldn't be saying them if you didn't have that man in your bed!"

"Dad, I'm twenty-seven years old, I can have any man in my bed that I want to have there!" Kate shouted in frustration. Instantly she was really hoping Hank hadn't heard that.

The dapper graying man stared at her.

"I didn't mean it like that. He's sleeping in my bed, but I'm sleeping on the couch. It's not like we're both sleeping in my bed. All I meant was that if we choose to do that, I have every right to do it."

"But, you and he, I mean, without..." he stammered.

"Yes, we're not married and you and mother always taught me that it was wrong to sleep with a man I'm not married to, and I agree with that belief," she assured him.

"Then what is that man doing up there?" he interrupted.

"Sleeping, I hope,"

"Don't get pert with me, girl child!"

"Damn it, dad, I'm not a child! I haven't been in nearly ten years!" she yelled.

"Then quit acting like one. If you're ready for a new man in your life, fine; but be sensible about it. Come home and you can meet all kinds of nice, eligible men from good families. Men who can take decent care of you and Lisa," he implored.

"Dad, we are not getting into that again," she hissed, as the doorbell rang.

Glaring at him, she opened the door.

"Hi, I'm Steven Dyhr. I was looking for Doctor Hank Donner, someone said he was staying with you?" A blond man looking to be in his early forties asked, smiling at them.

Charles went pale. "Doctor Hank Donner?"

"Yes, Hank has a doctorate in Marine Biology, so he would be correctly addressed as Doctor Donner, though heaven knows he rarely actually goes by it." The younger man smiled.

Kate smirked. She had no idea Hank held a doctoral degree; he had certainly never been addressed as Doctor by anyone in this town. Maybe now her father would relax.

"He's right upstairs, first door on the right," Kate smiled.

"Thank you kindly," the man nodded to the older man and saw himself upstairs.

"Hank?" the blond stuck his head in the door.

"Steve? What are you doing here, professor? Life at the institute get so boring that you decided to come out here and do some real work?" Hank asked, through coughs.

"You really look like you're working hard at the moment, how you doing, by the way?"

"Do I have a hundred-pound weight taped to my chest?" Hank asked sarcastically.

"Um, no, not that I can see," Steve replied slowly.

"Then I feel terrible," Hank smiled.

"Fits the way you look at the moment," Steve agreed, pulling up a chair.

"You still haven't told me what you're doing here."

"Can I assume the lovely young lady downstairs is one reason that you are suddenly so eager to stay?" the visitor asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Kate's a good friend who's offered me a place to stay while I get over this bronchial pneumonia thing," growled the convalescent.

"She seems like a good friend, she's the one that helped you with Namu isn't she?"

"She and her daughter Lisa," Hank explained.

"Speaking of Namu, if you can get a more elaborate report done on your findings, Marineland might be interested in funding your study," he smiled at his best friend, who happened to work under him as well.


"I told someone there the whole story about Namu, and they're very interested. Rehabilitation is one of their things and your work with a whale that no one has had a chance to study fascinated them."

"How soon would they need this report?" Hank wheezed.

"As soon as you can. I'm used to your I came, I saw, I observed reports, but for some unfathomable reason they want to know more about it before they spend money on this whale study of yours," Steve explained, making himself comfortable on the chair next to the bed. Namu, evidently deciding this visitor was safe, attacked his shoelaces and untied them.

"I'm really not up to much," Hank responded hacking once more.

"Well, I got you a year of funding from the institute, anything past that, you had better have a sales pitch ready for them. They're already interested, so try and see if you can't pull something together to present to them, or at least that I can, in your place,"

"Give me two weeks and I'll see what I can pull together," Hank sighed, laying back.

"I'll drop by tomorrow and see you again, okay?" Steve offered.

"Sounds good. Are you staying at the trailer?"

"Not when nights are getting this cold. Deke's out on a boat for a few days so he let me stay at his place."

"You're staying at Deke's? I didn't know you two knew one another?" Hank coughed.

"I recommended him to you remember?"

Hank raised an eyebrow.

"Okay, he's my cousin and he needed work, and you needed someone to give you a hand. It seemed like the perfect fit," Steve blushed in confession.

Hank smiled and started to chuckle, which turned into a choking type sound. It would seem laughing when you can't breathe is not really biologically possible.

"I thought you said you grew up in the mid-west?" Hank asked, hoarse from the coughing fit.

"I did. Nebraska to be exact," the visitor admitted.

"How on earth did a Nebraska farm boy wind up in the navy?" Hank goggled. He knew his friend was from farm country in the mid-west, but Nebraska was about as mid as you could get.

"The air force flies, and flying was something I had done. Only crop dusting, mind you, but it was a part of my life. The army walks; I had done enough walking on that farm to last me forever. The one thing I had no experience with was water. I couldn't imagine what oceans must be like. So I decided to join the navy and see one. It was also as far as I could imagine getting from the boring, humdrum existence of the farm," Steve explained, chuckling slightly. The sea had proven herself to be every bit as hard work as the land, only in a different way. Like Hank, though, Steve Dyer couldn't imagine not living by the water, now.

"I can't imagine Deke coming from Nebraska," Hank chuckled, at the image of the fisherman, plowing a field.

"He's lived here in North Cove forever. Did a tour in Korea himself, though oddly enough he went Army, hated every minute of it. Anyway, he's my mother's sister's kid. Aunt Bess met some guy passing through telling her about this beautiful ocean he was going to go and make a living fishing on. Guess he was a good talker, since she left with him and they moved here."

The sounds of a slamming door silenced them both. Hank groaned as he resituated himself in the mountain of pillows.

"I think that's my cue to be going. I'll see you later," the visitor headed for the door.

Hank lifted a hand in farewell, as the codeine in the cough medicine kicked in and sent him to sleep.

"Hank? Hank, can you get up for a moment?"

Kate. Kate was asking him something. What was she doing out at the trailer though? Oh yeah, sick. Staying with her until he felt better.

"Sure, just give me a minute to get myself together, here," he croaked out. His voice was rough and raspy from coughing and disuse.

Swinging his legs over, he managed to get himself precariously balanced on wobbly legs. A supportive arm gently guided him to a nearby chair. Namu made plaintive sounds, but hopped off the bed.

Hank was momentarily settled in the chair, the bed was swiftly changed and the pillows re-piled. The arm returned and gently pulled him to his feet and back into the freshly made bed.

"Here, I brought up some stew for you," Kate offered.

"Thanks, for everything," Hank tried to smile.

"You've been an easy patient. I'm really sorry for dad's bad manners, he shouldn't have talked to you like that,"

"I'm just sorry that you two ended up fighting over it. I would hate to cause disruption in your family," Hank hacked as he talked and coughed simultaneously, or at least tried to.

"We weren't fighting about this, really, It was more about his and mom's trying to control my life," Kate explained, gritting her teeth.

Hank lay back into the pile of pillows, thinking about his own father. Far from controlling his life, Hank had usually been the responsible one in their house of two. He got his father up for work, he saw that his dad had clean clothes, and that there was food in the house; and if cleaning got done, Hank was the one who had done it. He had also been the one to stay awake worrying until he heard a key in the door at night.

"Well, I hope you two managed to at least resolve it," Hank offered. Although considering the slammed door he doubted it had been cleared up.

"No, we didn't. I'll probably get a call from my mother later tonight about my undignified and unladylike behavior," Kate snorted.

"Where's Lisa?" Hank asked, suddenly realizing it was late enough for dinner but the child wasn't home yet.

"She's at a friend's house. They've got a school project they're doing so it was easiest for her to sleep there tonight."

"Ah, care for a game of cards?" He asked.

"Sure, let me get some stew and we can eat while we play,"

The powerful cough medicine Hank was on, mixed with Kate's 12 hour workdays, made for an early night, but an enjoyable one. The stew was good and thick, the canasta game challenging, and the conversation light and friendly. By silent, mutual agreement the subjects of his late wife and her parents were not brought up.

"Hey," a dark haired head poked in the doorway to the house.

Hank looked up and smiled. He was finally off bed rest. He was, however, extremely weak still, so was parked on the couch. Namu had made himself at home on the couch as well, and was sound asleep in a black and white ball. Papers were neatly piled everywhere the invalid could reach.

"I made myself a sandwich and thought you might like one," Kate offered, searching for a flat surface in Hank's reach that wasn't covered with a pile of papers.

Looking sheepish and apologetic for the mess, he moved a pile from the coffee table to almost out of his reach. "I was trying to get my notes in some kind of order so I can get the proposal done for Steve."

"I don't know if it would be much help, but if you can get the notes in order and write it, I'll type it up for you and do the notations," she offered, seeing that Hank was trying to get work done in spite of the drugs he was on.

"You can do that?" Hank looked up. Typing was not one of his better skills, in fact, truth be told, he was a horrid typist. Half the problem was that his handwriting was so bad he could barely read it himself. At the institute he had had an assistant who tended to do the typing for him. Coming out here, he was on his own and remembered exactly why it was that he hated typewriters.

"I typed all of my husband's papers while he was in medical school, and he had a typical doctor's handwriting," the youngish woman smiled at him.

"I didn't know your husband had been a doctor. How did a doctor wind up out here?" Hank knew, when he thought about it, that most of the small fishing towns like this one relied on the county hospitals. It simply didn't pay for doctors to set up practices in secluded areas.

"We liked to dive, and this town had good diving and just enough people to support a doctor if he wasn't too interested in getting wealthy, that mixed with his grandparent`s owning the store, it seemed like a good idea," she responded, smiling. She and Jack had been so innocent back then. All they had needed was enough money to live on and each other.

"I hear you're a doctor yourself," she teased.

Hank blushed. "Steve must have been talking again."

"He was, he came by while you were sleeping. He had to head back early, but said he would be back in a week or so. He'll call to let us know when to expect him. I have to get back to the store, so eat the sandwich and try and get some more rest. Maybe I can help you with organizing your notes later tonight?" Kate offered once more.

"I'd appreciate the assist," blue eyes smiled up at her.

After she departed, he managed to get half the lunch down. She was a good cook; he simply didn't have a large enough appetite to do it justice at the moment. He had barely gotten the papers back on the side table in a neat, somewhat organized, pile when the drugs kicked in and sent him into oblivious slumber.

A strangled hiccupping, snuffling sound woke him. Someone was crying.

"Lisa?" he called out, somehow doubting it was Kate, crying. The dark haired woman struck him as far more the kind to quietly seethe, or maybe not so quietly at times.

"Yes?" a blond head with puffy red eyes appeared in the doorway, snuffling.

"What's wrong, Lisa?" he asked in a soft tone that he hoped was gentle and reassuring. He really had no experience with children, so wasn't always certain how to relate to them. His height and kind of gaunt features he knew could be intimidating, so he tried to go out of his way to sound friendly and inviting, at least.

"Nothing," she answered, looking at the floor.

"Did something happen at school?"

A sniff and a silent nod was all the answer he needed or got. Probably someone was talking about him and Kate. Hank held out his arms in invitation, and Lisa leapt onto the couch, climbing into the embrace. Pressing her face into his shoulder, she once more began sobbing. Totally at a loss as to what to do, Hank hesitantly began rubbing her back and making soft soothing sounds. That had always calmed his late wife down when she would start crying; maybe it worked on little girls, too.

The weeping subsided eventually to choking gasps as the child tried to catch her breath.

"Lisa? Can you tell me what's wrong?" Hank asked softly.

"I was at recess and two of the teachers were talking," Lisa began slowly.

"Did something they said upset you?" Hank encouraged her to continue.

"They said it was wrong for you to be here and called mommy a harlot," Lisa answered softly, embarrassed.

Hank took a deep breath to regain control of himself; it wouldn't do for Lisa to think he was angry with her. Talking among adults was to be expected, but it was inexcusable of the teachers to say something like that, even to one another, anywhere a child could overhear.

"Do you know what a harlot is?" Hank asked, rarely hearing the word himself, outside of the churches he had attended when growing up and after he had married.

"Kind of, it's in the Bible. All of the bad women are called harlots," Lisa explained, tearing up again.

"Hand me that deck of cards would you Lisa?" he asked, hoping he could distract the girl.

"I really don't want to play cards tonight, Hank,"

"I know, I thought you might be interested in seeing some card tricks I can do, though," Hank smiled, taking the requested items from Lisa.

Wiping tears, Lisa sat next to the man on the couch, watching intently while Hank did a card trick.

"Hank, could you mind Lisa while I go talk to a few people? I won't be long," Kate asked from the door between the home and the store.

He had no idea how long she had been standing there, but from the scowl on her face and her tone, she had heard what had happened. Hank had a good guess as to who those people were apt to be, and he didn't envy them.

"Glad to," Hank agreed.

"Okay, honey, there's a casserole in the kitchen when you and Hank are ready to eat, okay?" Kate instructed, hugging her daughter as she departed.

"The teachers are in trouble with mommy, aren't they?" the blond girl asked.

"I would imagine your mother is going to go and talk to them, yes," Hank answered honestly, since it seemed the best thing to do. "Here, let me show you a few other tricks."

Lisa watched, enraptured, as Hank went trough every card trick he knew. By the time he was done, the girl was smiling again. A helping of her mom's excellent casserole and life was good. After homework and a story Hank remembered from his grandfather, Lisa was ready for bed. Luckily, her mother was back by then, since he was not up to tucking in.

The scientist lay back as far as he could on the couch. Talk about him and Kate was one thing when it was only affecting the two of them, but now it was hurting Lisa, an innocent and very vulnerable child. There was absolutely no way he was staying if it was going to hurt her.

"Thanks for watching Lisa at the last minute like that, even sick like you are," Kate said, entering the room after tucking her sleepy daughter into bed.

"Kate, my being here is causing trouble for Lisa, I need to go," Hank began, only to be silenced by a coughing fit that left him incapable of anything for several minutes.

"You can't leave in that condition, Hank, and there won't be any more trouble for Lisa. You've already been here a week and a half, give it that much longer and you should be able to stay on your own, provided that it's not in an un-winterized trailer."

"I take it the teachers won't be talking around Lisa again?" Hank asked, sighing, he really didn't want the child hurt, but he had to admit he wasn't able to take care of himself, either.

Kate, who suddenly looked to be on the verge of a ranting session, took a deep breath.

"Certainly not. I had a talk with Mr. Albright, the principal, who's a good friend of mine, and he talked to the teachers. They won't be gossiping around Lisa any more. They still see the whole thing as my fault for being `loose' but they hadn't intended to hurt Lisa, and did apologize for her overhearing. That's as much as I can hope for, and as long as it prevents another incident like this, then it's good enough," Kate snorted, sitting down.

"Besides," she continued, "In Miss Jansen's case I think it was more out of jealousy than anything, that the remarks were made."

Hank raised an eyebrow.

"She was really rather hoping to catch you herself, I think," dark eyes danced while she giggled.

If there was such a thing as a blushing bass, Hank looked like a freshly landed one.

"Thanks for distracting Lisa with those card tricks, by the way," she smiled, changing the subject before it could go beyond her comfort level.

"Just some slight of hand I learned from an old Navy buddy in Korea," Hank shrugged.

"You served in Korea?"

"Yes. I needed money for graduate school and had just gotten married, so I thought I'd serve my country. That way I had the GI bill to finish my education on, and while I was in, my paychecks went home to Sarah," he sighed, closing his eyes.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bring back bad memories," Kate apologized.

"You didn't, just been thinking about her a lot, lately,"

"Good memories I hope?" Kate inquired, not pushing, but offering an ear if he needed one.

He looked up at her, curious. "Actually, most of my memories of her are good ones, I forget that, sometimes. Those times seem to get covered up so easily by the last memories of her."

"You didn't part on good terms?"

"We didn't really part at all. I went to Korea and she stayed behind with her folks while I was overseas. Actually, we were living with them while we were both in college. We went away for a weekend and then I left for training. Neither one of us knew it was the last time I was going to see her alive. A year, later I got a notice saying that she had died and I was being granted bereavement leave immediately."

"How did she die?" Kate asked the question gently.

"Car accident. She and her family were returning from a visit with a family friend and hit an icy patch on the road and slid," Hank answered very matter-of-factly.

"When Jack died, it was totally out of the blue like that, as well. He had the afternoon free and wanted to go and check a diving site he had found. Lisa wasn't in school yet, so I opted to stay home that trip. Two hours later, I had two of the fisherman at my door telling me that Jack had died, and they weren't able to recover his body," Kate shared.

"I'm sorry," Hank whispered, seeing her sorrow, and extended an arm in invitation; hoping that she would accept the offer of comfort.

Kate moved quietly to sit beside him, understand what was being offered and accepting it. Seeing, as well, that he needed to console as much as he needed to be consoled. What over the years, thanks to the support of her friends and family, had become a dull ache on special days, was for this gentle, sensitive, loving man, a raw and open wound. She was beginning to suspect that Hank had never really had a chance to grieve, or perhaps, had never found a safe time and place to do so.

Perhaps in the future they would have more to offer one another, but right now what they had was comfort and understanding. It was enough, and many relationships had been built with far weaker foundations.

She settled herself on the couch, snuggled against his side, with one of his arms around her. No words were exchanged, as none were required. Each of them was soaking in the peace and reassurance found in the touch and presence of the other.

"Hank?" Kate broke the silence some time later.

"Humm?" came a half drowsy response from just above her head, where Hank's was resting.

"Tell me about Sarah."

"What do you want to know about her?" He asked, his voice somewhat gruff from lack of use and the abuse of his coughing.

"What did she look like?"

"Well, she was about your height, slender, with orange hair and green eyes."

"Orange hair?" Kate looked up at him in disbelief.

Smiling down at her Hank gave a rumbling chuckle. "She preferred to think of it as red, but it looked very orange to me."

"How did the two of you meet?" Kate went on in her attempt to draw him out.

"We were both at the same college. I was a junior and she was a freshman. She was in the nursing program and having trouble with some of the biology courses, so asked for a tutor. I was working my way through school doing whatever jobs I could find, so I sighed up as a tutor and was assigned to her."

"And biology lessons led to you two discovering chemistry?" Kate teased.

"Actually, she was much better at chemistry than I am," Hank teased back.

"What kind of personality did she have?" Kate asked, curious about this lady in her friend's mysterious past.

"Generous, humorous, compassionate. A lot like you, actually."

"Sounds like I would have liked her," Kate murmured curling up closer against Hank, who was slowly rubbing her back with one hand.

"Yes, I think you would have liked her, and I'm certain she would have liked you as well." Hank replied in surprise after a long pause, as though just now realizing that the women would have liked one another.

"As good as you are with Lisa, it's a shame you and Sarah never had children," Kate stopping suddenly, remembering his fevered babblings, and how some of them had been to a `little one."

"Hank, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to say that. I mean you are good with Lisa, it's just in some of your talking it sounded like maybe you had a child, and I totally forgot about that. I did not mean to hurt you, please, believe me." Kate looked up at him with big sorrow filled eyes.

Hank sighed, he rarely, if ever, had thought of himself as a father. He could not, however, help himself whenever he was around kids about the age his little girl would have been from thinking about the child he had never seen and wondering if she would be doing what those other children were doing.

"We had a daughter, Kimberly; she would be a few years older than Lisa. She died in the same accident as my wife did. We didn't know she was pregnant until after I was already shipped out. I saw a couple of pictures of her, but that was it," Hank explained, his voice a hoarse choking, as tears silently ran paths across his rugged-going-to-gaunt features.

Kate handed him a Kleenex. Like him, she had lost a spouse, but she thankfully still had her child. Hank hadn't even had that. What she would have done those first few months, years, if she had not had Lisa and the shop, she had no idea. Between taking care of Lisa and helping her work through everything, and minding the store, she hadn't really had time to brood or think too much about her loss.

"I don't know how you did it. I would have gone crazy after Jack died if I hadn't had Lisa to take care of." She shook her head in disbelief.

Hank sighed. She would probably find out at some point, may as well start having her hate him now. He was really going to miss her and Lisa; they were good friends.

"I, ah, um," he hesitated, "I got through it by burying myself in things. First the war, then school, after that work. And in the hours that I wasn't busy enough with those things I would lose myself in a bottle."

"A bottle?" Kate asked, uncertain. Quite a few of the men in town were hard drinkers, but Hank had always seemed so different from them. She tried imaging him out with the other men drinking and carrying on, but found that it was simply not possible. No, he would be a drinker like old man Nelsen had been. People were shocked when he died buried in a bottle, because no one ever remembered seeing him drink.

Hank with a drinking problem was a picture the dark haired woman could not for the life of her see, but if he did drink, she knew he would be a man who drank quietly, alone, in the privacy of his own home.

He had said he would, not that he did, though: past tense. She was beginning to see maybe why there was nothing to drink out at the trailer, but she wanted to be certain. Either he had nothing out there because he had drunk it all and not had a chance to refill before getting sick, or he no longer drank and kept himself from drinking by having nothing on hand to drink. She wasn't certain which it was, though she suspected the later.

"A bottle. I found that I could get through the days all right by concentrating on whatever it was I was doing; but the nights, that was when it was bad," he wet his dry mouth. Kate had gotten very quiet, probably trying to think of a way to get rid of him.

"I know about the nights, when there`s nothing else to occupy your mind and so you dream and remember," Kate answered softly after a few moments. "I take it you got to liking the bottle a bit too much?" she didn't ask the question judgmentally, but rather with concern and caring.

"You might say that. At first I was just drinking to get through the nights, then I began needing it to get through the days as well. At that point it wasn't about avoiding memories. Steve sent me out to the watch station here to dry out."

That had not been a good moment for either man. Steve had known Hank had a drinking problem and had talked to him about it, but didn't want to do anything until he had to, preferring to give Hank a chance to get himself out of it. After one too many deadlines had been missed, and Hank had actually missed days at work due to his drinking, the blond man had, as a supervisor, had no choice but to take action. In place of firing one of his best people, Steve offered a one-year probation in the isolated whale watching station, complete with babysitter, doing work that would usually be given to one of the graduate students. In exchange, Hank was to get dry and stay that way. Hank hated the idea. He was embarrassed that he couldn't seem to get a hold of himself and just stop drinking. When Steve made it abundantly clear that the other option was being dismissed, Hank decided to spend the year at the whale observation station.

"Since there was nothing out there when I was hunting for something to put in my coffee, either you don't drink at all any more, or else you do and simply hadn't had a chance to refill." Kate went on, bracing herself for the answer and hoping beyond hope that the dry trailer was a result of the first. Somehow in the midst of Whales, cards, and nursing, she had really begun to care about Hank; perhaps as more than the friend she always said he was.

"After all of the fun Steve I had while I was going through DTs, I make a habit of not drinking. I just wish I was certain it would last when I'm back where a drink is a block down the road instead of a mile and a half trip into town," Hank confessed. So far so good, she knew and wasn't throwing him out or chastising him for being a bad person. Not that he had expected either reaction from her, but she also wasn't showing any coldness, or uncertainty about him, which he was afraid he would get.

"You've stopped drinking and found other ways of dealing with the pain. I think it'll last. I`ve known a lot of alcoholics out here, and most are either hurting, or enjoy their booze too much to give it up. The ones that are drinking to ease the pain, seem to stay sober once they get off the liquor, the other ones never do," Kate reassured him, taking his hand.

"I know what you mean, my father's the second kind. I don't think he's ever been sober three nights in a row, doubt if he ever will be," Hank growled.

"But you're not him,"

"No, I'm not," Hank smiled at her, the real one that she hadn't seen since he had gotten sick. It wasn't a flashy or oily smile, like the kind people used to manipulate or con someone. The first time she had really seen it was when she agreed to sell him the net in spite of the displeasure of the fishermen. It was a nice, real smile, she had liked it then and liked it even more now.

Morning found Hank camped out on the couch once more. He had never been so happy for a change of scenery in his life as when he had finally been able to leave the upstairs bedroom! Settled on the couch with an afghan around him, pillows under him, and surrounded by his now neatly typed up observations and notes, he was a happy man. He hadn't even known Kate had typed them until that morning. When he asked when she had found time last night, she merely smiled, shrugged, and explained that she had not been able to sleep so had typed instead.

Papers were being shuffled in to a semblance of order that would hopefully, in a few days, be a grant proposal worthy of one of the largest marine research facilities. Namu was helping out by re-shifting papers to try and make a better nest for sleeping. All in all, not a totally un-productive morning.

Since Kate was working, Hank hauled himself to his feet and answered when there was a knocking on the door. Standing on the door stoop was a short, round man with receding gray hair and wrinkly skin. He looked like what a person always imagines a grandfather looking like. He also looked a lot like Santa Claus

"Can I help you with something?" Hank asked, uncertainly. He was not exactly Mr. popular in this town.

"I'm Daniel Martinson, the pastor at Kate and Lisa's church. Can I guess that you are the famous Hank Donner?" the man grinned broadly, with twinkling eyes.

"I'm Hank, though I'm probably more infamous than famous," he held the door open to allow the older man in.

"Well, you certainly managed to make an impression on Lisa, and she's not an easy girl to impress," he remarked, setting a pot he was carrying down in the kitchen. He knew where the kitchen was, so obviously this was not his first time in the Rand's home.

"Just told her a few stories and did some card tricks for her," Hank answered, shyly.

"Dan, it's good to see you," their hostess beamed, coming in. "Smells like some of Ivy's homemade chicken soup."

"Yep, we heard Hank had been feeling a bit under the weather, so she whipped up a batch of her wonder cure for anything that ails you. Since I was coming by to see if there was anything I could do to help, I told her I would deliver it," the balding man chuckled like Santa too.

"Well, with this in him, Hank'll be up and about again in no time," Kate agreed as a bell sounded in the store.

"It's very nice of you to come by like this," Hank smiled, uncertainly.

"Relax, I'm only here to visit and see if there's anything you need. I try to save my preaching for Sundays, besides you and Kate are hardly in need of a sermon," the older man reassured him.

"I'm glad someone around town doesn't think we are," Hank groused.

"I know Kate well enough not to worry. Besides it's not like you're a pair of twenty-year-old kids. If you do find that you get to being more than friends, then other living arrangements might be a good idea. Until that happens, I certainly don't see a problem with your being here."

Hank smiled in relief; Kate liked and respected the pastor, and Hank could see why. Instead of jumping to conclusions, or listening to rumors, he was trusting Kate's judgment.

"Did you really go diving with Namu? I think that was what people were calling the whale?" the churchman asked, astonished.

"Yes, I really did. He was a very gentle animal. The only time he came close to endangering me was when I was rowing through his area and he started playing with the boat," Hank explained.

"Playing with the boat? With you in it?"

"Um hum, he thought it was very amusing to watch me rowing like mad to stay straight while he kept making the boat spin in place," Hank chuckled, remembering that, at the time, it had not been fun for him at all.

"I never thought of whales as playing, I have to admit," the visitor shook his head in wonder. "For all the time I've spent living in fishing towns, I don't know anything about whales. Are most killer whales that tame? I had always heard stories about how vicious they were?"

That was all the invitation Hank needed for one of his favorite topics, marine mammals, specifically whales. The pastor proved to be an interested listener, who asked intelligent questions.

The two men found they actually had a fair amount in common. They had both fought wars in the Navy, the pastor in the Second World War and Hank in Korea. They had been sickened by the violence, and had developed aversions to senseless death and killing. The men both liked and respected Martin Luther King Junior and agreed with the civil rights movement, they had hopped it would not turn violent, though it had with the Watts riot the year before.

Both men had spent their lives on the ocean and had developed a love and respect for the awesome beauty and power it possessed. While the pastor was not a diver, he was an avid fisherman and sailor. Like the younger man, the minister had a respect for all the many and varied forms of life the ocean supported.

They had both lost mothers at an early age, and so been raised in single parent homes. While Hank had not had younger siblings, he had often almost felt like a parent to his father. Dan had had five younger siblings that he cared for and helped raise while his dad was working in the factory. The results were an early maturity on the parts of both men.

They had the soup for lunch, with Kate joining them only briefly since the store was hopping with business that day. Kate had been right, the soup was delicious. The two men were shocked at how fast the time had gone by.

"Much as I've enjoyed this chat, I really do have to be going. Are you certain there isn't anything you need?" the pastor asked as he arose from his seat.

"Well, I've been thinking I would like to get Kate a little something to thank her for letting me stay here, and for taking care of me," Hank blushed a bit.

"That's very thoughtful of you. Have you decided what you would like to get?" the minister smiled. He remembered being as young as this and blushing at the thought of getting a lady something, as well. In his mind it spoke well of Hank that he was a bit nervous about this. Obviously he didn't often get gifts for women.

"I was thinking, maybe, some flowers?" he asked, looking up at the older man, bewildered and lost.

"Flowers are always a very nice way of saying thank you and I don't know a woman in the world that doesn't like them," the pastor reassured him.

"Roses maybe? I mean, I know that those are for romantic friends, but I haven't a clue what else is out there. I don't even know if there's a florist in town," Hank sighed. He hadn't been good at this before he was married and wasn't any better at now that he was widowed and single again.

"At least you didn't suggest orchids," the man chuckled. "Carnations are usually a very nice flower for saying thank you. There isn't a florist in North Cove, but I'll pick some flowers up for you and bring them by tomorrow."

"That would really be great. Carnations sound fine, thanks for suggesting them," Hank grinned in relief.

"Glad to have been of help, I was pretty clueless as well, until my wife took me in hand and got me well trained," the older man chuckled.

Hank laughed too, while reaching for his wallet, remembering how his wife had taken him in hand once as well, though she had not really had time to even begin domesticating him when he had gone to war.

The clergyman was on his way then, both men having made a new friend.

"Hi, Hank!" a high-pitched voice sang out as a herd of antelopes ran into the room. The almost middle-aged man wearily pulled himself to his feet. If the past two weeks had taught him one thing, it was that napping with Lisa in the house was generally not an option. She was a nice, polite little girl, and tried desperately to be quiet if she knew he was sleeping. She would simply get so excited about her newest discovery, or was so desperate to know the answer to her latest question, that she had to find out. Not that she ever intentionally woke him, but when she was that excited about something she just couldn't be quiet.

"Hi, Lisa, how was school?" he asked in what had become a ritual exchange. They would greet one another and then he would ask about her day and she would tell him all about her lessons and ask six million questions that the teachers hadn't fully explained, or that she simply wanted to know more about.

"Good. Mrs. Smith got out this huge map with all the states on it and we each get to pick one and tell the other kids about it. We have two weeks to learn about our state. We can't do Washington though since we live here," the blond girl bounced, obviously very excited to do this.

"That sounds like a lot of fun Lisa," he smiled down at the girl. "Have you picked a state yet?"

"I don't know yet, but I have first choice so I can pick from any of them! Are you from Washington?" she asked as Hank, a little unsteadily, walked to the kitchen. The store had been bustling all day and he had suddenly thought of something he might be able to do for Kate to help her now.


"Oh, sorry Lisa, what was the question again?" he apologized.

"I asked what state you're from?" Lisa repeated, not in the least miffed. With the heavy medication he was on Hank sometimes had to have things repeated when they didn't enter his head.

"What state did I come from originally, or where do I live right now?" Hank asked, clarifying the question. Scouting around in the icebox he found exactly what he was looking for.

"Both," Lisa smiled impishly.

"I have a house in Olympia, now, but I was born and raised in Oregon. About four hours down the coast, a place called Tillamook," He grinned.

"What's Oregon like?" she asked, looking askance at the vegetables and meat Hank had pulled out.

"A lot like here, actually. Tell you what, you help me chop up these vegetables and I'll tell you about it?"

"What are we doing with the vegetables?" blue eyes met blue eyes.

"We're going to make son of a gun stew. That way, when your mommy closes the store and comes back here, dinner will be all ready for her," Hank explained.

"She would like that," Lisa smiled.

As the meat was browning and they chopped vegetables, the scientist told his young friend all about the small fishing town near Tillamook, Oregon that had been his home. Lisa listened with rapt attention; fascinated by the stories about a town very similar to the one she lived in. Hank carefully avoided tales of his own home after his mother's death. No need for her to know about that. He thought about how easily this could have been him and Kimmy, with him sharing stories of her family with her. Except this wasn't his daughter, and the stories he was telling her weren't her family. Somehow, though, it felt right.

"Something certainly smells good," Kate commented, grinning as she entered to find Lisa and Hank cleaning up the kitchen.

"It's Son of a gun Stew. Hank made it and I helped!" Lisa announced, beaming with pride.

"You cooked dinner? And set the table?" Kate looked at Hank in shock.

"I set the table mommy," Lisa offered, obviously very proud of the part she had played.

"It looks wonderful, sweetheart," her mother smiled, pleased that Lisa had been so helpful.

"You've had a busy flow of customers all day, I figured cooking dinner was the least I could do. And you were up all night typing up those notes for me," Hank explained while rinsing his hands.

"I'm just surprised. I don't think my father or husband even knew where the kitchen was," Kate chuckled.

"Price of living alone, I learned to cook. At least basic things," Hank amended. A culinary wizard he was not, but he could make a filling meal.

"Well, thank you, it's very nice not to have to cook tonight," she gave Hank one of her smiles that melted his heart. The quick hug that accompanied it surprised both of them. Although after their talking last night, it felt, fitting, somehow.

"I got all my homework done, too! Hank helped me with it. We did fractions and he told me all about Oregon. I'm picking that state for my report" Lisa happily burbled away, oblivious to the adults.

"Was the town named after those Indians with the story about Namu?"

"Yes it was. They use to live there, a lot of them still do, in fact," Hank responded, smiling like a Cheshire Cat.

"Did you learn the stories they tell from one of them?" the child looked at her hero in awe.

"A man who's one of their elders now, told me the stories when I was young,"

"Really? Was he a friend of yours?" Lisa was getting more curious about this new side of Hank by the moment

"He's my grandfather," the man smiled at the mother and daughter's looks of surprise. Not many people would guess that Hank Donner was a quarter Indian.

"Is he still alive?" Lisa asked quietly.

"As far as I know, yes. I visit him about once a year, or at least try to,"

"Could I meet him someday?" Lisa pleaded.

Hank and Kate looked at one another.

"Honey, he's in his seventies, he doesn't travel very easily any more," Hank told her carefully. He would love for her to meet his grandfather but he doubted that Kate would ever let him just take her daughter off to his hometown for the weekend. Of course, if he took them both, that might work. And his grandpa would love Kate.

Hank grabbed his wildly galloping imagination. The two were his friends; they were not his family. He couldn't simply pile them into his car and take them on a family weekend jaunt. But maybe, someday, they could be your family, a little voice told him in the back of his head. That little voice was getting more and more persistent every day.

"Okay, can you at least tell me about him?" Lisa asked wistfully. She had really wanted to go and meet a real live Indian.

Hank was happy to do that, and spent the evening regaling the Rands with tales of him and his cousins playing at his grandfather's during the summers. Those had been good times. His mother hadn't died yet, and he wasn't working with his father on the boat every summer.

Hank leaned forward, taking as deep a breath as possible, just like the nice doctor was instructing. He couldn't tell anything from the doctor's grunts and odd kind of clicking noises. He really hoped this physical was going well, he was certainly feeling well, just very tired.

"Well, you certainly are doing better, young man," the doctor commented, putting his stethoscope away.

"I'm definitely feeling better," Hank agreed. He never argued with a doctor who was proclaiming him to be on the mend.

"You don't need much nursing any more, though I would recommend staying warm and not overdoing it. You`re still fairly weak and still have a nasty cough, which will linger for some time, yet; we don't want you having a relapse, now do we?"

"So, medications as need and no nursing?" Hank asked.

"Exactly. You can perhaps go out briefly, and as I said, can stay on your own provided that you remain warm and take sensible precautions," the doctor reiterated, packing up his bag.

"Thank you, doctor," Hank stood up, relieved that he was not going be back on drugs and could go out, now.

The older man gave Hank a nod of acknowledgement and was on his way. Obviously, Hank's reputation as well as Kate's, was not mending.

Hank descended a few minutes later, having gotten dressed.

He smiled slightly, it sounded like there was what his mother would have referred to as an old hen's party in the store. Hopefully, it meant that Kate was no longer being looked down on by all of the women.

"I can't believe he got flowers for me," Kate's voice could be heard above the general oohs and ahs. Half the town's women must be here, considering the noise that was being made.

"Your young man obviously thinks a great deal of you, dear," came a motherly type of voice he hadn't heard before.

"Hank's hardly my young man, Ivy," Kate voice could just barely be heard.

"Oh, I think maybe he could be," Julia, the postmistress, answered.

Hank blushed, he hadn't meant to create a scene like this. All he had wanted to do was thank Kate for being so kind to him. She had been so nice about his staying here, as well as backing him up against the entire town in proving Namu was not a killer but was an intelligent animal. She could so easily have not sold him the net that day, and then he would never have been stuck here at her house, and people wouldn't be talking about her. He really did owe her a lot.

Weary from his trip upstairs and the poking and prodding by the nice doctor, Hank sank into his chair. If only he could get a decent amount of air into his lungs. Leaning back, he picked up the first paper on the pile. Procrastinating was not going to get his proposal proofread any faster. Holding it at arms length it seemed, in order to bring it into focus, he once more decided he was probably going to be needing reading glasses before too much longer.

The talking died down as the women went back to their various and assorted tasks. The flowers had been seen and inspected, as well as approved by all. Hank and Kate would, undoubtedly, once more be the hot topic of the day.

When she had a break in business he would head out and see them for himself. From the responses of the women, Dan had picked out some nice ones. Settling in to wait, Hank put together the last of the notes. Tomorrow he would be ready to send his proposal off to Steve, sufficiently detailed and on time.

Finally getting a moment of quiet, the dark haired woman looked at the carnations sitting on the counter beside her. To say they were beautiful would be something like saying the Pacific Ocean was vast.

The card had merely said thank you for everything. Had he known what today was? No, he couldn't have, they had only really been talking in the evenings for about a week now, since the night she asked him about Sarah. They had been talking before then, of course, when they would play cards after Lisa was in bed. But that was when they began really talking.

That first night talking on the couch had definitely been a turning point of sorts. Until then, they had talked about a lot of things but never really themselves. Since then, most nights they had snuggled on the couch with most of the conversations being about their lives up to that point.

She had told him about Jack and what he was like, and how they had met at her house when her father brought him home for dinner one night. They had discussed their marriages and how they had been more content and safe in their marriages than passionately in love. How they both had difficult families while growing up. Funny, in a lot of ways she knew Hank better now than she had her husband when they had gotten married.

She had jokingly asked the women what exactly did one do with a man who cooks for you, picks up the house after himself, and sends you flowers. The unanimous consensus was that you married him before any other woman could.

Finally getting a break in the flow of customers, Kate headed into the house to thank her gracious guest.

"Sorry about the fuss, I only wanted to say thank you," Hank blushed.

Eyes watering, and having no words to express herself. She threw her arms about his neck and kissed him.

He stood there, uncertain what had brought this on, then relaxed into the embrace and returned it. He would find out in a minute what this was about, for right now he just meant to enjoy it.

"Is everything all right, honey?" he asked quietly, rubbing her back as she leaned into his arms, having released her lip lock on him.

She sniffed a bit and nodded her head. How long it had been since anyone had called her honey. Until that moment it hadn't hit her how much she missed that endearment.

"Why the tears?" he asked softly.

"The flowers," she answered, her voice muffled by his now damp shirt.

"You didn't like them?" he inquired, panic in his voice. He hadn't thought that she might not like flowers. His wife had loved them, and as far as he could remember his mother had as well. He really didn't have any other base to go from.

"I loved them, it's just that I haven't had flowers since my husband died, and this would have been our anniversary. He always got me flowers on this day," she sniffed.

Understanding, Hank held her and let her cry. The flowers would definitely go down as a good with the bad.

When she couldn't seem to stop crying, Hank began getting concerned. What would he have done if his wife had done this? Actually his wife had done this on a few occasions.

A little uncertainly, Hank tilted her head up and kissed her. A kiss that Kate returned with enthusiasm. The chaste kiss quickly tuning passionate.

"Um, Kate, maybe I had best go and stay with Deke?" Hank suggested hoarsely, when the two were forced to part.

"I, I'm sorry Hank, I shouldn't have..." Kate's sentence dropped off as she turned away.

"Sweetheart, I only meant that I had maybe best go and stay with Deke so we can do some more of this, and not get ourselves into trouble," Hank assured her, pulling her against him once more.

"That does sound like a good idea, when you put it that way." She smiled up at him, glowing like a woman in love, which, as it just so happened, she was.

"Deke's place is awfully small, what if he can't put you up?" Kate asked, thoughtfully.

"Is there a boarding house in town?" Hank asked, after a moment's thought.

"There`s one about half an hour down the road." Kate answered.

There was silence as they both stood holding one another, trying to think of something other than his leaving town.

"I suppose I could do that for a month, which's about what I'm looking at for the trailer," Hank sighed, next town over was not what he would like to be doing.

"I know," she giggled. "We could get married and then you can stay here and it won't matter if we carry on like love struck teenagers."

"Sure, have a nice early November wedding, say the first weekend?" he grinned.

"Might be hard to have it outside by then, but we could have a nice ceremony inside," she offered.

"Yeah, we could," Hank nodded seriously.

Hank looked at her aghast, and then smiled so wide his face threatened to split in half

"Did we just get engaged, or am I suffering from medications still?"

"I think we got engaged," Kate laughed, after thinking a moment.

"You really mean that? You would marry me?" he gasped.

Kate caught her breath and then laughed, "Yes, I would."

Hank grabbed her up in bone crushing hug and kissed her thoroughly. She returned it whole-heartedly.

"Anybody home?" came a familiar voice in the store.

"Back here Deke," Kate called out.

The fisherman came through the connecting door into the house.

"You look like you're doing better," Deke responded seeing that his friend looked a lot healthier than he had the last time he had seen him, noticing Hank's arm around Kate, Deke blushed..

"The nice doctor gave me a clean bill of health today. I no longer need nursing; so as long as I stay somewhere dry and warm, I'm free to go," Hank smiled.

"Just as long as you aren't going back out to that trailer of yours, you mean. It's getting far too cold for that place," Deke snorted.

"No, I can't go back out to the trailer. I do need a place to stay for a few weeks though until the trailer is ready," Hank smiled down at his newly affianced.

"If you don't mind cramped quarters, you can stay with me. I'm out on the boats a fair amount at the moment so even space shouldn't be a problem," he offered the taller man.

"It's only until the first weekend in November," Hank assured him, "I'll be set after that."

"You can stay as long as you need."

Hank looked to his beloved for permission, and she nodded.

"Actually, I'm getting married the first weekend in November, so I shouldn`t need to beg shelter past then." Hank grinned like a Cheshire cat in a creamery.

"You're what?" Deke looked at the couple in disbelief.

"We're getting married," Kate laughed.

"When did this happen?" the fisherman asked, totally lost.

"Just before you arrived," Hank chuckled.

Deke looked from one to the other. He couldn't ever remember seeing his friends happier. They were positively beaming at one another.

"Well it's about time!" the smaller man smiled.

"Did I hear you two are getting married?" came a voice from behind Deke.

"Um hum," Kate nodded, leaning into Hank.

Julia squealed in delight and, stepping around the other guest, she hugged the dark haired woman.

"This is so exciting!" Julia bounced, letting go of Kate to hug Hank next. "So, have you picked a date yet?"

"We were thinking the first weekend in November," Kate answered, once more finding Hank's arms loosely around her.

"That soon?" Deke gasped.

"When you know, why wait?" the mailwoman asked, looking at Deke meaningfully.

Deke was suddenly fascinated by the kitten untying his shoes.

Incoming customers, resulting in Kate's returning to work and Julia's having to get back to delivering the mail, saved him from further embarrassment, however.

The two men were left standing in the house, alone.

"You're sure about this, Hank?" Deke asked, hesitantly.

"As sure as I was that Namu was not a killer," Hank answered.

Deke chuckled and shook his head, his friend was certain.

As Hank had very little there, it took no time for the two men to have his belongings moved to the small cottage. It was decided that the kitten would really be happier with Lisa and Kate, and since the beaming bride-to-be agreed, the feline remained at her home.

Deke had to get back to the trawler he was crewing on, so gave his guest a key and, mumbling something about not wanting to have to wait up for love birds to come home after cooing, left for the boat. Hank, having accepted the key, grinned at the truth of that and headed back to Kate's. He still had the proofreading to get done and his papers were at her house, since she was typing for him.

"Hank! I thought you had left!" Lisa wailed, sailing into his arms the minute he walked in the door. Her eyes were red and puffy, so evidently there had been more than a few tears.

"Of course I didn't leave, Lisa. I promise I won't ever leave without telling you goodbye," he assured the girl, holding her tight while she got her breath back from extended crying.

"Where did you go? The other kids said you and mommy had a fight and you left," she hiccupped.

"I just moved over to Deke's for a few weeks."

"Can I still visit you?" Lisa asked, looking up at him.

"Yes, Lisa, we can still visit, in fact, why don't you tell me about your day while we get dinner going for your mother?" Hank smiled down at the grinning girl.

Lisa happily chattered away while Hank got a roast ready and they worked on fractions again while cutting up the vegetables.

While the roast cooked, Lisa did homework and Hank proofread the final draft on his proposal. He couldn't help but smile at the very domestic scene he was a part of here, and that it would soon be a permanent part of his life.

Coming in from the closing the store, Kate once more found dinner was ready and the table set. She knew this was not how it would always be, once Hank was again able to be out on the water studying the whales and other sea creatures, but for now she was going to enjoy it!

Lisa chattered away happily through the meal, the adults listening and smiling rapturously at one another.

Kate typed up the last changes Hank had on the proposal, while her daughter and future husband washed and cleaned up the kitchen. He was telling her another of the Indian stories he knew, this one about a beaver getting it's tail. He seemed to have an endless supply of them to entertain her with.

Finishing the last changes, she sat back and smiled at the sight of her two favorite people laughing together in the kitchen. She tried to remember laughing with her father, but somehow she couldn't remember ever having done that. His personality had not lent itself to humor very well, or laughter. Well, her daughter, thankfully, would not experience that, she had laughed with her father when he had been alive, and would continue laughing with her new dad.

The girl pouted a bit when sent to take her bath, but cheered up again when she was reassured that Hank would still be there when she got out, and he would be happy to tuck her in.

"She's going to hate not having you here every minute, while you're at Deke's," Kate informed him.

"Well, I'll miss not being here every minute."

"You could make up for it by spending the free time you do have, here," Kate suggested, smiling invitingly, and almost batting her eyes at him.

"I suppose, I could suffer through that, for her," Hank said in mock tones of long-suffering.

"Not to mention that you have space here to spread out your work," she offered, having seen what he was like when working.

Hank was quiet for several minutes. While Hank being quiet was not unusual, he seemed to have the gift that Kate and once heard described as hearing the silence, there was something uneasy about it this time.

"Is something wrong, Hank?" Kate asked squirming uneasily. She really hoped he had not changed his mind, from the almost sudden seeming choice they had made this afternoon.

"Could you two maybe do a weekend trip?" Hank looked at her hopefully.

"Where were you thinking of taking us?"

"Into the city, I thought we could maybe get you a ring and a nice dress," Hank mumbled, a little embarrassed.

"A ring would be nice, maybe we can talk about the dress?" She smiled. She certainly had no objections to going into the city with him, but didn't really want to have a big production for a wedding. She had done the big wedding once, and that was enough for her.

"Absolutely, I was just thinking that you might like having a new dress to get married in. We could look at gowns if you want a church wedding," Hank responded, totally affable to whatever she wanted to do.

"No, I don't want a big wedding. A simple civil ceremony would do fine. Unless you would like a larger wedding?" She asked, equally willing to do anything that would please him.

"I did the wedding thing when Sarah and I got married, I don't need one this time. Maybe a small ceremony with a few of our friends?" he raised an eyebrow asking her opinion.

"That would be nice," she smiled. "Um, if we go into the city, where will we stay?" she asked, remembering the original question.

"Well, I have a three bedroom house, so we could stay there, if you like, or if you aren't comfortable with that ..." Hank began.

"That would be fine. I had forgotten that you have a home there," Kate blushed.

"Okay, the city this weekend for a ring and a dress if you want one," Hank smiled, a broad beaming smile.

The couple grinned and giggled like a pair of high school lovebirds as they hugged tightly.

"Mommy? Can you and Hank come and tuck me in now?" a small, quiet voice interrupted their embrace a few moments later.

Smiling at one another, they separated. Neither one had thought of how to tell Lisa about their plans, yet. The little girl adored Hank and would certainly approve, it was merely a matter of telling her.

"Nika Tikegh Mika," Hank purred softly in his beloved's ear as she passed him on the way to her daughter's room. Returning her smile, he followed her. He had promised to tuck Lisa in as well.

Her mother having given her a hug and kiss, it was now Hank's turn.

"What did you say to mommy when you guys were coming in here?" she beamed up at him, eyes bright with curiosity.

"It was something in Chinook," Hank answered, having guessed what it was Lisa really wanted to know.

"I thought you said your grandpa was a Tillamook Indian, not a Chinook?" she looked at him in confusion.

"His father was a Tillamook, but his mother was a Chinook. My grandfather speaks both languages," Hank grinned at his future stepdaughter's look of astonishment.

"Do you speak both languages?" she asked in awe.

"No, I wasn't around him enough to learn both. What I speak is a type of Chinook called Chinook Jargon. It was used as a trading language."

"Can you say something for me in Chinook? the girl begged.

"Kloshe Polakie," he whispered, kissing her forehead.

"What does that mean?" she asked, grinning like a Cheshire cat.

"Good night," Hank smiled, giving her one more hug and heading out the door.

Sad blue eyes looked at him, and then brightened as she realized that he had told her what it meant.

"Care to give me a translation on what you whispered so lovingly in my ear?" Kate was smiling from the couch, while motioning him to join her.

Hank situated himself beside her, Kate snuggled up against him. "I love you," he whispered in the opposite ear of the one he had first whispered in.

"I love you, too," she sighed, leaning in to him for a kiss.

"Hank?" she asked, snuggled against him contentedly on the couch where they had been cuddling for the last half hour since Lisa was put to bed.

"Humm?" he asked, stroking her hair.

"If we do want to be married in a month, we need to start thinking about the ceremony."

"Yeah, we do at that," he concurred, sighing.

"We agreed that a civil ceremony was acceptable, right?" she asked, sitting up a little straighter, but still tucked under his arm.

"Yeah, we did. How large were you thinking we should go?" he asked, sitting a bit straighter himself, but not moving his arm.

"Well, I would like to invite Deke and Julia and Julia`s family, but really they're about the only ones in town that I'm close to. Oh, and I would like Dan and Ivy," Kate answered with thought, before adding the Albrights from Lisa's school onto her list.

The scientist thought about the pastor he had met and smiled his approval. "Of course we would invite Deke and Julia, and the pastor and his wife are a good idea as well. I`ve never meet Julia`s parents or the Albrights, but any friends of yours we'll be certain to invite."

"Was there anyone else you were thinking of?" She asked.

"Steve, my boss, and his family," Hank answered quickly.

"He was the blond man that came here to visit with you, right?"

"That's right. He came by to check on me and let me know about the funding. He's one of my oldest friends," Hank confirmed.

"Are there any family members you want to invite?" She asked. She knew he and his father were not on good terms, but there might be other family that he wanted to have there.

"Well, If his arthritis isn't acting up so he can't drive, I would like my grandpa to be here. Maybe one of my cousins could drive him, or I could try and get away long enough to go and get him," he thought aloud. Hank groaned, "Once my grandfather finds out, all of my cousins will want to come, and once Steve finds out half the institute will be wanting to come."

"Sounds like maybe a small church ceremony? The only places around here for a civil ceremony would not be able to hold as many as the church. If you want your cousins and co-workers there," she offered, leaving it with him.

"Small church ceremony it is. Since we're going with a church how about seeing if Dan can perform it?" Hank asked, certain she would agree.

"Sounds like a great idea. Would this create difficulties with your dad?" Kate asked, after a moment of silence, not wanting to see a family fight erupt.

"He doesn't really mix with that side of the family, so no, dad wouldn't find out that way. I suppose I should let him know, though," Hank sighed, realizing that his father would need to be informed.

"Would it help if you didn't tell him until after the fact?" she asked, cautiously.

"I'll have to think about that, I'm not sure which would bother him more, not being told until after the wedding or being told about it but not being invited," he frowned. "Either way, that one's my headache. I'll let you know which I decide to do, though."

"Okay. As long we're on the topic of headaches, there's my parents to deal with," she grimaced. They would not be happy about this at all.

"Is there any way I can help with that?" he asked, concern showing in his voice.

"Not really. Unfortunately they live close enough that not telling them is really not an option," she sighed.

"Do you want them there?" Hank asked, silently hoping she would say no, but ready to be supportive whichever way she went.

"I feel bad for saying this, but no, not really. I'll call them and invite them on the condition that they accept my decision and enjoy the day with me. If they can't do that then I'll have to tell them they can't come."

"Will they accept that?" Hank asked, dubiously. He had only met her father, but from what she had said, her mother was no better. And the phone call she had gotten after her father's visit certainly had hinted that her mother was of the same ilk as her other parent.

"They'll have to, and it's not like this is the first time I've had this out with them," Kate assured him.

"You'll let me know if there is anything I can do to help with that?" Hank looked imploringly at her.

She nodded her acceptance of that.

"How do you think we should tell Lisa?" he asked, uncertainly.

"We were planning on going to the beach Friday evening, how about we tell her then?" Kate suggested.

"All right," he agreed quickly, leaving the child to the wisdom of the mother.

With one last, long kiss, he headed to Deke's. Kate had to get up early as usual, and while he was not allowed out on the sea again, just yet, Hank still had plenty of paperwork to get caught up on. Neither was up to a late night, so by mutual consent it had been ended.

The week flew past with Hank working on getting his neglected record keeping done, and Kate busy minding the store, as always. Hank would wander over to her house about the time Lisa was getting home and the two would work on her schoolwork and make dinner. Over dinner, Lisa would tell them all about her day and the new things she had discovered in it. Kate would join them after the store closed, which was about when dinner was finishing cooking. Hank and Kate would do things with Lisa until she was sent to bed, and then they could snuggle and cuddle on the couch and plan the wedding. Luckily, since it was to be a small affair, not much was needed in the way of planning.

"Here's one, Hank!" Lisa called out excitedly.

She and her future stepfather were combing the beaches for clams. She would spot the hole, and he would proceed to dig it out. Kate was carrying the bag of clams. They had set up a dinner site with a fire pit on the beach so that once the clams were dug, they could have a beachside dinner on one of the last warm evenings of the year, according to the weathermen.

"Are we really going to go into Olympia with you for the weekend and stay at your house there?" Lisa asked, as Hank dug at the hole she had found.

"Um, hum, we are," her mother answered, since Hank was busy.

"Why are we going there?" the child asked. She didn't mind going at all, but she was still a little confused as to what could be gotten in the huge city that you could not order and have delivered here.

"Well, I need to talk to my boss about something, for one thing, and your mommy and I have some shopping to do that can't be done easily, here," Hank explained, dropping the clam into the waiting bag.

"What do you need to get?" she asked, her brows furrowed in deep thought.

"We're going to get me a new dress and a ring," her mother answered.

"You have pretty dresses and I know you have rings, why do you need more?"

"Hank and I decided to get married and when you get married you need a ring. Hank wants to get me a nice new dress to get married in as well," Kate explained, hoping she was handling this right.

"You and Hank are really getting married? And Hank can be my Daddy and stay with us always?" she beamed up at them.

They both smiled and nodded to her as she squealed with glee and threw her arms around them. Luckily they had enough clams for dinner, as she was no longer interested in looking for clam holes.

"Does this mean that we have to move to Olympia?" she asked suddenly, a little nervous about that aspect of this news.

"No, honey, the institute wants me to stay here and learn about killer whales," Hank assured her.

"Does that mean we can visit Namu sometime?" she asked, practically vibrating with excitement.

"It might be awhile, but yes, we can visit him as long as he stays in the area," Hank assured her.

Reassured that she would not have to move, and that Hank and her mother really were getting married, Lisa was in heaven and happily chattered all through dinner about how great this was.

The drive down the coast was a quiet one, however, as Lisa dropped off to sleep, leaving the adults quietly enjoying being together. Neither one wanted to break the peacefulness of the moment with words that were not needed.

Hank's house was a wooden white Victorian style house. It even had a white picket fence around the yard. All it was missing was a family, complete with dogs chasing kids around the yard. Kate was sorry that they couldn't pick it up and take it to North Cove with them, but that wouldn't be fair to Hank.

"Hank? Are you going to be all right coming back here?" she asked softly, touching his arm.

"I'll be okay. It doesn't hurt as much, now." He smiled at his soon to be bride.

He scooped the sleeping Lisa out of the car while Kate grabbed the bags and followed him. Taking the keys from him, she opened the door and let them in.

Hank had warned her that the place had been closed for a little over a year, so she had prepared herself for a musty, dusty place. The air was fresh, and the place newly cleaned, however, with fresh flowers gracing the table.

A note left by the flowers informed them that Steve and YoonHee had opened the place up and would see them tomorrow. They were to call them as soon as they woke in the morning.

Hank tucked Lisa in, in one of the spare rooms. This was the one Kimmy had slept in when she had been alive. It had been a bright and sunny nursery done in white and pink. He hadn't been able to bring himself to go in there when he had come home on leave to bury his family. He had opened the door once and proceeded to get very, very drunk that night. Rita, Steve's first wife, god bless her, had cleared the room out by the time he got his discharge and headed home. It had been turned into a nice white, neutral spare room and office. He couldn't remember if he had ever thanked her for that or not. Considering the state he was in when he had left and that she herself died not quit a year after Sarah, the odds were that she was never thanked.

Once Lisa was settled in and her mother was certain she would be all right, Kate was shown to another guestroom across from the one Lisa was in. It was a little larger and had a double bed in it. It was done in light blue and white. There was a painting of an old sea vessel in full sail on the wall, and a large picture of a breaching whale framed and hanging on the other wall. Something told her this had been Hank and Sarah's room. He had mentioned that they lived with her parents to save money while they were both in college. A picture on the dresser had a younger Hank with a woman who did indeed have orange hair. The older couple with them obviously adored him like a son. She could only hope that one day he would be as happy with her as he evidently had been with them.

Having seen his guests settled, Hank headed to his own bedroom, it was late and he was tired. This was the one safe room in the house, as it held no memories for him. It had been Sarah's parent's bedroom and he had never been in here except once when his mother-in-law had needed a light bulb changed. From the time he had buried them with their daughter and grandchild, this room had been his refuge. Every other room he had only to close his eyes and a thousand images were there. As grateful as he been to have been left a house, he would be very glad to sell it as well. He would tell Kate to let him know what she wanted from here and then he would sell everything else.

None of them awoke early the next morning. Kate was the first one up and about, and upon exploration of the house, found an electric percolator and an unopened can of coffee in the kitchen. Filling it , she turned it on, then she looked closer at the house. It was a nice house, but there was no life to it. It seemed sad that this was Hank's house, and yet there was as little of him here as there had been in his trailer.

"Java," Hank mumbled unintelligibly as he joined her in the kitchen with the just finished coffee. The scientist was evidently not a morning person until he had the black liquid in his system.

"We don't seem to have the makings for breakfast, here," Kate commented, having checked out the food supplies earlier.

"Let me call Steve and tell him we got in all right, then we can head out for breakfast," he suggested.

Kate smiled and moved off to check on her daughter, who sounded like she might be about to wake, while Hank picked up the phone to make his call.

"Mommy, I'm hungry," Lisa said, stretching as she woke.

"Hank's making a call and then we should be heading out to eat, so wash up and get dressed," she encouraged the child.

Lisa needed no other urging, she hugged her mom as she dashed out the door and into the bathroom.

"I talked to Steve and they have breakfast waiting. Just let me get cleaned up and we're ready to go," Hank informed her.

"Lisa's getting cleaned up, as well," Kate informed him as he gave her a kiss while heading towards the his bedroom where his late in-laws had evidently had a bathroom built on.

She could get used to that morning ritual.

"Uncle Hank! Uncle Hank!" a towheaded boy raced towards them as they got out of the car.

"Hey, Robbie!" Hank caught the boy who launched himself at his favorite honorary uncle.

Lisa almost plastered herself against her mother as another boy ran out of the house and began trying to wrestle Hank to the ground with the help of his evidently older brother. Hank was laughing and trying to not end up on the ground.

"Boys," a voice called out as a slender Asian woman joined the group out front. She smiled warmly at the visitors. "Go tell your father uncle Hank and his friends are here, please."

The boys ceased dogpiling on the almost knocked over Hank and ran off to do their mother's bidding.

"Hello, I'm YoonHee Dyhr, everyone calls me Yoni. You met my sons Robbie and Timmy," She introduced herself and the two boys that had dashed off.

Hank trotted up to them, and with mischief in his eyes, he put an affectionate arm around Kate. "YoonHee, this is my fiance Kate Rand and her daughter Lisa."

"Hank, I will get you for not warning me! It's so wonderful to meet you finally!" their hostess turned to Hank's ladies.

"It's nice to meet you as well," Kate smiled. She could see why Hank was so fond of his friend's wife.

"You must be the friend that helped Hank with his whale, Namu," YoonHee said, crouching down in front of the shy girl.

"I helped a little," she confessed quietly.

"I'm afraid we really don't have any whales here, but we have dolphins and porpoises. In the smaller tanks we have starfish and lots of other marine animals. Would you like to see them?" She asked her visitor.

"They're really cool! Come on and I'll show them to you!" The blond boy from earlier exclaimed excitedly as he bounded up to the group.

Kate looked at her mother for permission.

"Henry Robert Dyhr, you are not going off to play without eating breakfast. Since our guests haven't eaten either, we'll all eat and then you may show Lisa around if it's all right with her mother, " YoonHee instructed her son patiently.

"Cool, can we eat now? I'm hungry," Robbie pleaded.

"As soon as you go tell your dad that our guests are here, we can eat."

"I did tell him, he's inside waiting for us," the kid grinned.

"Robbie! Why didn't you say something?" his mother growled.

Shrugging his reply, the boy turned and dashed into the house with the others following more sedately behind him.

The meal was a lively affair with both of the boys eagerly bringing their uncle up-to-date on the latest happenings in their lives. Lisa was quickly and warmly welcomed by the two boys, who were eager to show her all of the various and assorted creatures that lived at the institute. Upon hearing of the impending nuptials, Kate was immediately snatched up in a bear hug from Steve and warmly welcomed into the family. Both of the newcomers were welcomed warmly by everyone, and there was hearty congratulations about the wedding.

The children, vibrating with repressed energy, were excused to go and look at the animals, with Lisa being reminded that she was to stay dry, since they would be leaving before too long.

"You're planning on staying on in North Cove, right?" the oriental woman asked.

"We're staying there, Yoni. We have institute funding for a year on the Orca study, and then hopefully Marineland will fund us," Hank explained.

"I can't see them not funding, short of something going massively wrong. They already tentatively agreed to one year of funding after the one the institute is giving you," the blond man assured his fellow scientist.

"Sounds like we're set up for a bit, then," Hank smiled.

"I'm not certain exactly how that works; would Hank be working for Marineland then, instead of the institute?" Kate asked uncertainly.

"A scientist, in this case Hank, gives us a proposal for a study, like the behaviors and habits of Killer Whales. The board then discusses the proposal, and if it sounds like a reasonable area of study and if the proposed way of conducting it is possible, we agree to do it. The next step then is to get funding for it. In cases of studies that might last a season or a year, we can generally fund it ourselves, like when Hank was observing the migrating patterns of Gray Whales. For a larger thing, such as the long term observing and documenting of a pod of Killer Whales, we would need to look for outside sources of money. There are places like Marineland and Sea World that have more funds available and give grants and other forms of funding out to smaller groups like ours if we have a project that fits in their area. Does that make it a little clearer what Hank and I are trying to do?" Steve asked, hoping he had helped her understand this side of Hank's world.

"I think so, Hank gives his ideas to you and the board here decides it's worth doing, they then attempt to get another, larger group with more money to help pay for the project, in exchange for sharing the information?"

"Exactly," Hank smiled at his future wife.

"I didn't understand it at first either," Yoni chuckled, assuring Kate that her needing to ask had not been stupid.

"Oh, I wanted to thank you for having the house ready like that, Yoni. I thought I was going to be coming in to a closed up musty house with nothing turned on," Hank thanked his hostess for her kindness.

"I was more than happy to do it. Have you decided what you are going to do with it, if you're staying in North Cove?" the slender woman asked.

"I was thinking we would take anything we wanted to keep and then look into selling the rest of the things and the house?" Hank looked at Kate to see her thoughts on that.

"Okay, if you're certain that you want to do that. Will we have time for you to look through everything and bring back what you want?"

"I don't want more then maybe some of the things on the walls, but there's some jewelry and such that you might want," Hank answered, letting her know that she was welcome to anything she wanted.

"It sounds like you guys are making enough decisions today, why not keep the house as a furnished rental, and you can talk about it later?" Yoni suggested, seeing that the other woman was looking a bit overwhelmed.

Looking over and seeing that his companion was looking a bit glassy in the eye, Hank gave her a reassuring hug. "The house has been sitting for almost a full year so there is no great rush on it. The rental idea is a good one though, we can do that, and then when we've decided what to do we can sell it or continue renting."

"I think that's a very good idea," Kate smiled, a little more relaxed, knowing she would not have to be thinking about what she might or might not want from a house she had never really spent time in.

The sounds of children laughing could be heard now, through the window.

"Lisa's not going to want to leave her playmates, I don't think," Yoni chuckled, glad that the child had gotten over her shyness.

"What are you shopping for?" Steve asked out of curiosity, having remembered Hank mentioning when he called a few days ago that they were coming in to do some shopping.

"A wedding ring, and a nice dress for Kate," Hank responded with a smile.

"Would Lisa rather stay here with us and play with the boys? She's more than welcome to," Yoni offered.

"We can certainly offer her the option," Kate replied, thinking that Lisa could go either way.

It was a credit to how welcoming the Dyhr's had made the guests that she even had to think about it, but, though it was a difficult choice, Lisa did in the end decide to join her mother and Hank. The strangers were nice, but were still strangers.

It was almost noon before they had found the dress Kate wanted. A nice peach one. Not fancy, but not an everyday dress, either. In the course of the trip, Lisa had ended up with a new sweater, as she was outgrowing the one she had, as well as a nice blouse. Hank had ended up getting a new cashmere sweater. Kate had gone to look at it, commenting that it was the color of his eyes and sighing. Taking the hint, he purchased one in his size.

Being a wise parent, Kate hinted that Lisa was ready for a break and would soon be hungry. She was a well-behaved child and rarely acted up in public. Her mother made a habit of knowing the signs and not pushing her to a point where she would be hungry and tired. Hank followed his lady's lead and suggested that maybe they should do Chinese for lunch. Lisa was ecstatic when not only was she getting to eat Chinese, a favorite of hers, but she was also allowed to have a soft drink with it.

The afternoon was not nearly as productive. They had been in store after store but the right ring was not to be found. None of the larger stores, or local ones, had it. The rings they were shown had all been large, glitzy, pretentious things. Kate was looking for something smaller and more practical.

"Mommy, look, isn't it pretty?" Lisa asked, peering at the window display.

The two adults came over to investigate.

It was a dolphin pendant on a necklace chain. Right next to it, was a wedding set that was elegant in its simple, traditional design. The stone in it was not tiny, but not large enough to be impractical. In short, it was exactly what the soon to be married couple were looking for.

They went in and while Lisa was sighing at the beautiful dolphin necklace she would never have, the adults were purchasing the ring. Hank smiled, as while Lisa was admiring her mother's new ring he quietly bought the necklace as well. Lisa had a birthday coming up in a few months and he wanted something special for it. Kate saw and smiled, obviously approving the idea.

Shopping done, they went across the street to browse in a bookstore. Kate saw a cookbook that seemed interesting, but was really more elaborate than she wanted to do for just their family. Hank found the newest Bond book, and as he was in line to buy it saw Lisa looking through a book on marine mammals. He motioned her over and she quickly returned the book and headed towards him, only to stop short when he signaled her to bring the book. Beaming, she scurried over to get the book with the beautiful pictures, and brought it over to Hank. He found that while it had a lot of nice pictures, it seemed far below her reading level, and it wasn`t very accurate. Seeing a conference was being called, Kate headed over. She agreed with them that the pictures were nice, but did think the reading level was very simple for Lisa and would not hold her interest for long. The girl sighed, she had want the book with the pictures. Hank guided Lisa back over to the books for children. From the look on her face, Lisa had never looked at the books for older children before. The books they were looking at were recommended for children a few years older than Lisa, but then Lisa was a very good reader and could read above the level of most young readers. Kate evidently agreed with his thinking, since she went with them. He found what he was looking for. A book that was written for an older child that had lots of words and was at his future daughter's reading level. And she loved the plates of pictures, though they were in fact photographs. Lisa still seemed a little uneasy as she had really liked the first book and its colorful illustrations. Hank told Lisa she could have either one, it was up to her. Looking once more at the book Hank had found, she opted for that. While they were discussing the two whale books, Kate had spotted some books by Scott O'Dell that she thought Lisa might like. One, called Island of the Blue Dolphin, she was certain would be a hit, and another called the King's Fifth looked interesting as well, and it seemed like Lisa might enjoy it. Collecting the two finds Kate went and made her purchases, followed quickly by her family.

The local market provided supplies for a few meals and they headed back to the house, the day a raging success for them all.

Kate made a quick meal, while Hank read to Lisa from her new book and elaborated on the pictures.

As it had been a long and full day, none of them stayed up late that night, either. They ate their dinner, played cards for a few hours while Hank regaled them with tales of his and Steve's exploits, and retired to bed. Though admittedly, the affianced couple had spent a little time on the couch after Lisa was put to bed, cuddling and kissing; it was the first chance they had had to be alone all day.

The next day was fairly quiet. They mostly spent it at the house. Lisa had discovered the library and spent a good share of the day looking at the new books and asking questions about parts she didn't understand. Hank was going through the house and finding any repairs that might be needed if he was going to rent the house out. Kate was seeing what was in the house and if there was anything she might want to take with her. In the end, the only things that they decided to take with them were the dishes and silverware, which were nicer than the old set Kate was currently working with, and the painting of the ship in full sail, as well as the picture of the breeching whale. The books and jewelry Steve was going to pack up and send to them.

Kate at the last minute also opted to take the photo of Hank with Sarah and her family. It was a good photo of him, and by his own admission he had been happy with them.

After a quick lunch, the small family decided to visit the cinema. As North Cove didn't have a theater, it was rare treat to be able to see a movie. Born Free and the Ugly Dachshund were showing and had been reported as great family movies.

When they had returned, the Dyhr's had dropped by with some boxes for packing up the dishes. Lisa played in the yard with the boys while Hank and Steve went over the presentation the blond man was going to make, since Hank still tended to get harsh coughing fits.

"Thanks for the help," Kate smiled as Yoni gave her a hand, wrapping the dishes and setting them carefully in the box.

"I'm glad to help, it's the least I can do after the way you've helped my friend," Yoni smiled hesitantly.

"We helped each other."

"I'm so glad he found you. He's always seemed so desperately lonely and sad. Steve assures me he wasn't like that when Sarah was still alive," Yoni continued as the two women washed the dishes prefatory to packing them.

"You didn't know Sarah yourself, then? Or know Hank before he lost her?" Kate asked, curious.

"No, I didn't meet Hank until after she had died. Steve was in Korea when Rita, his first wife died. Rita had been friends with Hank and Sarah before she died. In fact, it was Rita who took care of everything for Hank when he was burying Sarah and her family. Then she ended up dying herself about a year later. Steve had a few bad days, but generally took his loss much easier than Hank did.

"So Steve lost his first wife while he was trying to support Hank through losing his?" Kate asked, surprised. From what he had told her, Hank's only support had been his friend, and he would not have been in any shape to help Steve through his loss.

"I don't think Steve and Rita were really all that close. I got the impression that they had married young and by the time Robbie was born just didn't have that much in common any more," YoonHee explained.

"And you met Steve in Korea after his wife died and came home with him as a war bride?" Kate offered.

"I met him in Seoul after my husband and family were killed. I had heard you could get work there. Steve had lost his wife just a few months before. I was working as a server in one of the base restaurants. Steve and Hank ate there sometimes. Steve and I would talk to one another and became friends. Once the war was over, he was worried about leaving me there, so we got married and he brought me home with him."

"So this is a second marriage for both of you?" Kate asked, a little surprised.

"Yes, but we are both very happy," Yoni smiled.

The two women worked quickly and efficiently together as they chatted about all of the things they had in common. It turned out they had a great deal in common. Both of them had married young, and had lost their husbands early in their marriages. Kate was bringing a child with her into marriage, and Yoni had inherited a son in Robbie.

By the time the threesome had closed up the house and headed back to North Cove, the two women had become friends, as has Lisa and the boys. Steve had agreed to stand up for Hank again and the two families parted, eager for the next meeting.

As Mondays generally went, it had been good, as any day went it would have been good. It was still a bit chilly for him, but by wearing a warm jacket, Hank had been able to go out in the boat that day. He had found a Killer Whale pod and was watching them when he spotted Namu as part of the pod. The whale had greeted him as a long lost relative. The female he was with was a bit more reserved. It would seem that Hank was not the only one who had found a new love.

Lisa was going to a friend's house after school, so he didn't show up at Kate's until late afternoon. She was busy with customers, so they didn't have a chance to do more than quickly greet one another.

Hank settled himself on the steps to the door leading to the house and, grabbing his chum bucket, began cleaning the fish he had caught while watching the whales. Whistling softly and under his breath, he began the task of cleaning their dinner.

A prim, proper, and very fashionably dressed woman neared the step he was sitting on. She approached, wrinkling her nose and sniffling, as though she smelled something vile.

"Nothing like the smell of the sea is there, ma'am?" Hank smiled up at her.

She merely scowled at him.

"You must be a friend of Hank's." She stated condescendingly, as she looked him up and down.

He raised an eyebrow. "I certainly hope I am, I happen to be Hank, can I help you with something?"

"I was under the impression you were a doctor of some sort, I must have been misinformed," She intoned looking at his somewhat wrinkled and worn and slightly sweaty clothes and his dirty hands.

"You weren't misinformed. I don`t think I caught your name," Hank hinted, hoping this imperious creature was not who he had a sinking hunch she was.

"I'm Victoria Brice, Katherine's mother. You're a doctor?" she looked at him incredulously.

"Yes, not medical though," he clarified, putting the bucket up and reaching for the door. He would empty and clean the bucket later, when he left for Deke's.

"Of that, I am certain," she harrumphed as she passed him to enter the house.

He merely smiled and didn't reply. Thank goodness Kate did not take after her mother.

She promptly almost backed into him as a black and white furball hissed and arched its back and then ran into the house and hid.

"What was that?" she screeched.

"Our kitten, Namu; I think you scared him," Hank replied while washing his hands in the kitchen sink. `You're certainly scaring me,' he thought to himself.

"Since you live here, at least change out of those odorous clothes," she sniped.

Hank spun and glared at the harridan. "Madam, I do not live here. I can't change my clothes because my clothes are at home. Yes, I was staying here for a brief time when I was so sick it was either this or the hospital, and I hate hospitals and Kate was kind enough to take me in."

He shook his head in disgust that this woman would think such a thing of her own daughter. Kate would not be sleeping around; she simply didn't have the personality for that.

"You certainly seem to have made a quick recovery, considering how recently you were making yourself at home here and living off Kate," she insinuated acidly.

Hank stopped and turned around, eyes glaring liquid nitrogen at the older woman. "As for the notion I've been 'living off of Kate', believe me, I have no need to live off of anyone. My bank account is healthy enough to more than handle my needs."

The woman almost took a step back. No one ever spoke to her that way!

"I will not be spoken to in such a manner when I am only protecting the interests and reputation of my daughter. The whole town is talking about you two," she snarled.

"Kate and I have hardly been that exciting, I assure you we haven't been doing anything worth talking about," he answered through gritted teeth.

"Just the appearance of impropriety is enough to destroy a woman's reputation, which you have most certainly done to Katie's!"

Sighing as he began drying his hands after finally getting the last of the fish innards off of them, he rooted about in the refrigerator for vegetables. He knew it was rude to not be saying anything, but what could he say that she wouldn't take as an insult? She seemed to take the very fact of his existence as an affront. Not to mention that no matter what he said she seemed to completely discount it.

"What are you doing?" she sneered.

"Well, right at the moment I'm getting dinner ready, a salad to be exact," he smiled graciously. He was not going to make trouble with Kate's mother, no matter how difficult she was being. He would take his cue on how best to deal with her from her daughter, and right now that lovely woman was not available.

"You cook?" she asked in complete disbelief.

"Meals don't just happen, somebody has to make them, and since I finished work earlier than Kate did, it only makes sense that I should cook dinner. Besides, after twelve hours of serving everybody else, don't you think Kate deserves to have someone serving her?" Hank explained patiently.

"Well, at least you give some thought to Katie," she snorted.

"Most of my thoughts these days are about her," Hank responded quietly and with a smile. Even this difficult creature could not stop his enjoyment in thinking about Kate.

"Too bad you didn't think of her and what it would mean for her when you moved in here for a time."

"My staying here was entirely her idea, and in fact I offered to leave repeatedly to avoid trouble for her," he glared at the overbearing woman.

"So you were aware of what people were saying, and yet you allowed her to destroy her reputation like that?" she accused.

"I couldn't stop her. She's a good friend and took me in when I was too ill to take care of myself. By the time I was well enough to even object, it was well known that I was here and my leaving would not have stopped the rumors. So actually there is very little that could have been done to stop people talking."

Silence reigned as he turned his back on his future mother-in-law and went about preparing the simple meal.

"And what exactly is it that you do?" she asked in a tone that made no doubt that if she could have looked down at the tall man she would have been.

"I'm a marine biologist," Hank explained, not turning to face her.

"Some kind of glorified fisherman?" she sneered.

"Hardly. Although, I admit that occasionally while I'm out observing pods like I was today, I'll do some fishing, but that is only because I happen to like fish. It also puts me on good terms with the whales if I feed them a little," Hank answered, not really wanting to try and explain to this woman what exactly it was that he did.

"I would think someone who was a doctor would be above such things," she snorted.

"Well, this doctor is happiest out in the field," Hank retorted, sharper than he had meant to.

"I see, no teaching positions available?" she asked sarcastically.

"Actually, I have taught and was very good at it, judging from the waiting list to get into my classes. I just happen to prefer field research to teaching, or writing."

"Do you, now; isn't the rule of academia publish or perish? I would think that would mean career advancement would be difficult for someone who doesn't write," she replied scornfully.

"I said I prefer research, I didn't say I wouldn't or couldn't write," Hank answered coolly.

Taking a deep breath, he turned to the pretentious woman. "We have plenty of fish if you would like to stay for dinner," he invited politely. Although he did not want to sit and eat with this woman at all, there was no way he wanted to alienate his future mother-in-law.

"You can only stay if you agree to behave yourself, however, mother," came an icy voice from the door connecting the store and the house.

Hank got out the fish and quietly began frying it; he did not want to get involved in this fight. He was, however, very glad that look in his lady's eyes was not aimed at him or caused by something he had done.

"When have you ever known me to possess bad manners?" her mother replied haughtily.

"I may have been in the store mother, but that door is hardly sound proof and you have not said one thing to Hank that was polite, or well mannered," Kate growled.

"I was merely looking out for your interests, dear, your reputation in this town has been destroyed by your relationship with this man," her mother scowled.

"As I told Hank, I will look out for my own reputation, thank you," Kate answered, not giving an inch.

"Well, considering that everyone is talking about you, obviously you have not been looking after it very well," her mother retorted hotly.

"The people whose opinion of me I care about has not altered in the least; so, as far as I'm concerned, my reputation is just fine, thank you," Kate snapped.

"Well, I shan't impose my bad manners on you much longer, then. I had merely heard some rumors that you were engaged and wanted to ask you about them. Obviously, they were mistaken," The older woman assured herself.

Hank bit his lip to stop from laughing as he floured the piece of fish he was currently handling before putting it in the pan.

"Actually, mom, I was going to call you and dad tonight to let you know that those rumors are true. Hank and I decided to get married," Kate smiled.

"What! You are not marrying a glorified fisherman who wastes his time fishing and whale watching," she screeched.

"I will thank you to lower your voice in my home. Hank is a marine biologist, mom. He watches whales and then writes papers about their behaviors and habits so that people can learn about them. That is hardly wasting his time," Kate replied in a cold, clipped voice.

"You were not raised to spend your life married to a dressed up fisherman while working like a common woman in a store in a two street town," the visitor snarled.

"Raised mother, past tense. You did your job, the choice on where I live and what I do is now mine. And I choose to spend it here and with Hank," Kate growled.

"As sudden as all of this is, I only hope that you and Hank don't have to get married," her mother insinuated.

Hank dropped the fish he was flouring and spun around. The very idea of anyone talking to Kate like that!

"I want you to leave, mother. That was insulting to Hank and me both. We do not have to get married, we are choosing to, because we love one another. Besides, if we did have to get married it would certainly not reflect well on you as a parent now, would it?" Kate responded to the accusation in a voice that would have frozen mercury.

Red with rage and indignation, the older woman turned on her heel and marched out, slamming the door.

A bang and a scream brought both Kate and Hank running to see what the problem was.

They tried, but they just couldn't help themselves, they burst out laughing. When Victoria had flung the door open it had caught the chum pail. As a result when she had slammed it shut behind her, the door had taken the bucket with it and thrown the entrails all over the fashionable woman. Some of the bolder town strays were ... `escorting' the woman to her car. Hank had moved to rescue her from the interested animals, but she had already gotten to her car, screaming the whole way about this filthy place and those vicious animals, and the uncouth people in this town.

"Are you still willing to marry me?" Kate asked, shaking with stress and anger, and now laughter.

"Absolutely," he assured her, walking over and taking her in his arms.

"I have never been so furious with them in my life," she muttered, still chuckling, leaning into his hug.

"Just for the record, are there any other family members I should be aware of?" he asked.

"One brother and one sister. Sam is a very successful doctor in California, and Beth lives on the East Coast married to a very prominent lawyer with political ambitions."

"Are they coming to the wedding?" he didn't remember her having mentioned them coming.

"I'll call and let them know about it, but I seriously doubt they will. Sam wouldn't leave his practice, and Beth doesn't say boo without her husband's permission, and I don't think he would consider my wedding a good enough reason to fly her back here,' Kate explained.

Both still chucking over the sight, Kate turned to enter the house. Seeing Hank's eyes on the mess the bucket had made, she nodded her agreement and he went to work cleaning it up before it attracted all of the strays in the area. She returned inside to finish dinner preparations.

Kate set the table, and thought about getting out a bottle of nice wine, but remembering that Hank didn't touch alcohol she decided against it.

Her mother may have been tactless about it, but she had voiced what a good many other people would be thinking when the wedding became known. It would be best if she and Hank talked about and at least prepared themselves to be the center of town scandal again. At the rate they were going, the town wouldn't need a movie house for entertainment.

They were both rather quiet as they sat down to the simple, but filling, meal. Neither one was exactly certain what to say or do.

"You know..." "Mother was rude, but..." both began at once.

They erupted into simultaneous laughter.

Hank smiled and motioned for her to speak first, as he took another bite of fish.

"Well, I was thinking that mother won't be the only one thinking we got married because we had to," Kate mumbled. She didn't even like to think about that but it was true.

"That's just what I was thinking. I'm not as concerned about us, but I am concerned about Lisa hearing rumors around town about us. Again." Hank sighed. It seemed like ever since he had become connected with this family they had been living in the spotlight. "I'm certain she'll hear things, but at least, being Lisa, she'll bring all of the questions home," Hank chuckled.

"Yes, she will," Kate laughed with him.

"What did you do last time?" He asked, a bit worried. He could remember all too well the time Lisa had come home in tears.

"I told her the truth and that some other people wouldn't understand and might tell her other things. As long as we tell her the truth ourselves, she should be all right," Kate reassured him, touched that he was concerned about Lisa.

"So we tell her we're getting married because we want to and we love one another," Hank replied thoughtfully. "Or maybe that I love her and I love you and I want to be part of this family if it's all right with her?"

"Yes, I think that either one would work," she smiled.

"Okay, I just don't want her being upset or anything," Hank explained.

"I know, and I really appreciate that you're so concerned about her," Kate giggled at Hank's blushing slightly at her praise.

With the unpleasant discussion out of the way, the rest of the evening was peaceful and enjoyable.

"I heard congratulations are in order, dear," The heavy, squat woman smiled at the store proprietress.

"Yes, I suppose they are, thank you," Kate beamed.

"He's a good man, dear, I always thought so."

"I happen to agree with you, Marty, and thanks again for agreeing to mind the store for me,"

"Wouldn't be right, missing a honeymoon because of a trifling little thing like work, of course I can handle the store, dear," the older woman chuckled. "Not a problem, besides, maybe you and your young man getting married will get a fire lit under Deke and he'll finally marry my Julia."

Kate chuckled and the older woman left the store.


"Yes, mom?" Lisa asked, coming into the store.

"You know Hank and I are going on a trip right?" she asked, crouching down in front of the child.

"Um, hum a special kind of trip called a honeymoon," "Lisa answered.

"Right, you're going to be staying with Julia, are you all right with that?" She asked, fairly certain Lisa wouldn't mind, but wanting to be certain.

"I don't have to stay with grandmother and grandfather?" Lisa asked, relieved.

"No, I didn't think you would want to."

"I would much rather stay with Julia!" Lisa smiled broadly.

"Okay, be good for her," Kate admonished, hugging the happy child.

Lisa returned to her homework, much relieved, while her mother went back to minding the store.

It was hard to believe that in a week she would be married. As Hank had suspected, once word was out among his cousins and co-workers, they were dying to come, so the small private civil ceremony had turned into a not too large church wedding.

The last three weeks had been full of tongue in cheek congratulations by people practically taking bets on when Kate would be announcing her pregnancy. Dan had done a wonderful sermon on judging others as well as one on doing unto others. Kate had teased him and Ivy that at this rate he would never get to those sermons on the book of revelations. The pastor had just laughed and said the Lord was giving him other seeds to sow, right now.

When he had heard that she had not gone on a honeymoon after her first marriage due to Jack's working schedule, Hank had decided that this time she would have one. Hank had made all of the arrangements, only asking if she had a passport, which she did, and telling her to pack for warm weather. Wherever he had in mind, it sounded delightful.

Now that he was back in his full health, Hank was spending long hours out on the sea, watching whales. He wanted to get as much observing done as possible before it got too cold for him to spend the day out on the boat. Deke's boat was finally seaworthy again, and Hank had been certain he was going to lose his assistant to the fishing trade. Instead, Deke rented himself and his closed boat out to the scientist, so that Hank would not have to worry about the elements while whale watching. Deke was with him now, so Hank could give the whales his full attention while the steady fisherman handled the boat. Steve heard about their long days out on the sea watching whales and began referring to Hank as the Orca's Jane Goodall in honor of a woman who was studying chimpanzees in Africa.

The ringing of the bell over the door brought Kate back to the moment. An older man with leathery tan skin had entered.

"Can I help you with something?" she asked, smiling at the stranger.

"I hope so, I was looking for Hank Donner," he answered, looking around as he smiled at her.

"He's out to sea at the moment. Is there something I can help you with?" she asked, curious.

"Well, would you be the young lady who stole his heart?" the dark eyes sparkled at her.

Kate blushed deep red.

"I`ll take that as a yes," the man beamed at her.

"Yes, I'm Kate Rand. You're Hank's grandfather?" She couldn't imagine who else this would be, but wanted to be certain.

"Charlie Hallicola, Hank's told me a lot about you," he answered.

"He's told me a lot about you as well, just never your name," Kate grinned.

"Chope! I wasn't expecting you for almost a week!" A familiar voice called as Hank entered the store.

"Tenas yaka tenas man! Did you really expect me not to warn this dear child what she was getting into?"

"Yahka wake tenas, yahka mitlite kopa nika klootchman yaka chez malieh," Hank mock growled.

"Hank?" came a lost voice from beside him.

"Deke, this is my grandfather Charlie Hallicola. Chope, this is my friend Deke," Hank burbled, introducing the two men.

"I didn't know you were part Indian," the fisherman said in surprise.

Still looking a little lost and bewildered, Deke offered his hand and Charlie, smiling, took it.

"Yep, I'm a quarter Indian," Hank replied, reassured by the handshake, not that he had ever though his friend would care about his pedigree.

"You're really a Chinook Indian?" a shy little voice asked.

"Half Chinook and half Tillamook, but all Indian," the weathered man smiled at the shy girl standing next to her mother.

"You talked like Hank when he talks funny," she continued staring at the old man in awe.

"I taught him to talk that like that a long time ago," he smiled.

"You did?" she stared at him wide eyed.

"Yep, it was the summer he broke his leg and had to stay inside for a time. Hank never did like being inside very much, so we had to do something to keep him busy. He wanted to learn Chinook since all of his cousins spoke it, so his grandma and I taught it to him," Charlie smiled, while Hank groaned.

"How did Hank break his leg?" Kate asked, grinning like a naughty child.

"Doing something I shouldn't have been probably," Hank replied before his grandfather could answer.

"Oh, Mrs. Winters was real understanding I think when you explained exactly why you had been up that tree in her apple orchard.

"It was her dog that chased me up that tree," Hank snorted.

"You got treed by a dog?" Deke chuckled, staring at his friend.

"Thank you so much for sharing that tale," Hank glared at the old man.

"Dinner's about ready, if anyone is hungry?" Kate offered.

"I would, but Julie and I are eating with her folks tonight," Deke said, declining the invitation and saying his goodbyes as he headed out.

Charlie followed his grandson and his future family through to the house in back of the store.

"Son of a gun stew! Hank must have been cooking," Charlie laughed.

Hank blushed.

"Lisa, why don't you set the table, honey? Hank could you get the door?" Kate called out as they entered her home and there was a knock on the door.

"Chope, this is Dan and Ivy Martinson. Dan and Ivy, this is my grandfather, Charlie Hallicola," Hank smiled, introduced the visitors.

"It's a pleasure to meet you," Dan smiled, as the three shook hands.

"Can you stay for dinner?" Kate asked.

"I suppose we can if you're certain it won't be an imposition," Ivy accepted for her and Dan.

"It's just stew, but there's plenty of it," Kate assured them.

Lisa happily set two more places; this was turning into a party!

The meal was a lively affair with Charlie having to hear all of the details about Namu and Hank and Kate meeting.

After the repast, the group moved to settle in the living room.

"I bet Hank was a lively child," Kate smiled impishly, sitting next to him.

Hank sighed, it would seem that the stew had only been an appetizer; he was to be the main course.

"You might say that. There was a time when Hank's grandmother, Elsa, had just told him about how baby birds get pushed over the edge of the nest and learn to fly by necessity. Hank, evidently, decided the same applied to him. Elsa came back from putting his cousin down for a nap and found that Hank was no longer in the house," Charlie snickered.

"Where was he?" Lisa interrupted, in awe that her hero had ever been a child.

"Well, she went out in the yard, figuring that he had merely gone off exploring as he was sometimes apt to do, he was nowhere to be seen. She happened to look up and there was Hank perched on top of the garage all ready to leap off and learn to fly. Luckily, he stayed put while Elsa went and got a ladder to get him down."

The whole group laughed while Hank groaned, but he was smiling as he did so.

"Thank you so much for telling them about that," Hank mock glared at his grandfather.

"Well, Koim, at least I didn't tell about your streaking the grocery store," the old man laughed.

"I was two!" Hank howled in protest.

Kate almost had tears in her eyes, she was laughing so hard.

"Okay, Chope, then how about the time that you had to be rescued from the tide," Hank grinned widely.

Everyone stared at Hank, while Charlie turned beet red.

"Evidently he and grandma had been sunbathing on the beach. Aunt Elaine and Uncle Tom were watching all of us kids. As granddad said, I was kind of apt to go off exploring on my own. Well, that day I was exploring and I ended up down by the shore. The tide had begun coming in while Chope and Nana were napping after their swim. Luckily they were on a rock that jutted out a bit, but the problem was that the rock was surrounded at this point by water. Since there was a family friend that didn't live far, I ran and got him and he took his boat out to collect them off the rock before water covered it.

"I bet you watched the tide a bit more carefully after that," Dan laughed.

"I certainly did," the Indian laughed.

"Is Charlie really your name? It doesn't sound like an Indian name?" Lisa asked, confused.

"Lisa, that wasn't a polite question to ask," Kate gently chided her daughter.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be rude," Lisa mumbled to their guest in a teary voice, embarrassed.

"It's all right, Lisa, I know you didn't mean to be, and you're right, Charlie isn't my name," he smiled at the girl who was looking at the floor.

"What is your real name, then?" she asked, looking up at the smiling man.

"That depends on what you call real. If by real you mean what my parents named me then my name's Chalalee. If by real you mean what my friends and family call me then it's Charlie," he explained, patiently.

"Why would someone not use the name their parents gave them?" Lisa asked, now very confused.

"Most people couldn't say Chalalee, so they would call me Charlie since it was easier for them to say," the old man replied.

"In my case Lisa, I was named for a relative I didn't get along with especially, so I choose a name that wasn't associated with him," Hank answered.

"Hank's not what your parents named you?" Lisa asked in surprise.

"No, they named me Henry after my other grandfather,"

"I like Hank better," Lisa answered without a moment's thought.

"So do I, Lisa," he agreed, laughing and scooping her up for a hug.

"Where are you staying while you're in town?" Hank asked, realizing that there weren't many places for a stranger in town.

"A hotel about half an hour farther down the coast," he answered.

"Listen, why don't you stay with us? We have plenty of room and it wouldn't be any trouble at all," Dan offered, seeing Ivy's hint to do so.

"If your certain it would be all right," Charlie responded, a little uncertain, but obviously liking the idea of being closer to Hank and his soon to be family.

"Certainly it will be," Ivy assured him.

Kate and Lisa exchanged goodnights with everyone while Hank walked his grandfather out. Peace and silence surrounded the two men as they walked out to the old man's battered and almost ancient pick up.

"Thanks for not telling the entire story," the older man smiled.

"Oh, you mean, about my walking along the beach to meet up with the boat and finding yours and grandma's clothes along the way?" Hank chuckled.

"Yes, that part," Charlie blushed slightly.

"Well, I just hope that when Kate and I are old enough to have grandchildren visiting us, we'll still be so much in love that we`ll be snaking off to a hidden cove somewhere," Hank chuckled. He gave his grandfather one more hug before the older man got into his truck to follow the pastor and his wife.

Out in front of the store, Kate could see Charlie sitting on the chair, sunning himself while telling Lisa, and any other children that cared to listen, old Indian stories. Yesterday he had been out for the day with Hank and Deke, but he was a bit sore today, so was staying happily here and enjoying the sun and visiting with anyone who cared to chat for a minute.

Somehow the old Indian had ended up with a piece of driftwood and was whittling on it with a pocketknife.

"So you see, that's how Otter got his tail," He smiled down at Lisa and the other children who had gathered around him to hear the story.

"What did you make with your knife?" Lisa asked.

He held the shaped piece of wood out for her to inspect. "Why don't you tell me what it is?"

"What's Chinook for otter?" she asked, eyes twinkling.

"Nawamuk," he smiled.

"That it's name then. It's an otter," Lisa beamed.

"You know, it's said where I come from that if you name something it's yours," Charlie smiled, handing the otter to the little girl.

After that, all of the children wanted animals of their own, and Charlie was busy telling stories about the animals and carving them out of driftwood for his new fans.

He was in the process of telling about otter and orca when there was a high-pitched yelping and screaming and a series of bangs like shots going off. It was followed by laughter, and more yelping and snarling.

Charlie got up form his seat, watching some older boys at the end of the dock. It looked like they had a little dog surrounded.

"What kind of parents let their kids torture poor defenseless animals like that?" the old man snarled, getting up and heading quickly and decisively to the end of the dock.

A little brown dog was sitting, shaking, surrounded by the big boys, the string the firecrackers had been on still attached to his tail. He was blindfolded, and had a bunch of cans tied to his neck so every time he moved they would rattle and clang.

"Are you boys so little that you must show how big you are by torturing a small and defenseless animal?" Charlie asked, glaring at the boys as he pushed through them to stand between them and the quivering dog.

"It`s an old stray. We were just playing with him," Nicky Wilson sneered.

"Mister, I'll tell you what kind of parent lets this go on," came a voice behind the Indian. "One whose boy thinks he's too old to listen to his father. It's been going on all summer, and it's stopping now!"

Burt Wilson, a big, dark haired, burly fisherman, grabbed his son's arm and turned him enough to whack his bottom several good sound smacks.

"Feeding the whale that hook, and now torturing and tormenting a homeless stray! Nicky Wilson, nobody likes bullies, and I'm not allowing this to continue." The dressing down was punctuated by more smacks to his rear end.

Seeing that the leader of the boys was being tended to, Charlie spoke softly to the whimpering little dog and, noting it had stopped shaking and perked it's ears, he reached down and picked up the waif.

"Burt? What's going on here?" Asked a short heavy woman with graying hair.

"Nicky's getting a lesson in not bullying small, weak, helpless, animals," Burt growled.

"What did you do, Nicky?" she glared at her son.

"I was just playing with one of the strays," he protested.

"This is the dog he was pestering," Charlie offered quietly.

Annie Wilson looked at the little dog with the cans and firecracker string, not to mention scorch spots on his hindquarters.

"Nicky Wilson! I didn't raise you to be a bully!" She grabbed the boy's ear and dragged him home holding on to it while continuing her tirade on the fate of bullies.

Burt and the others almost felt sorry for the boy, Annie having a reputation for her sharp tongue.

Lisa, being a compassionate child, tried not to smile as Nicky was marched past, but could not help herself, having been on the receiving end of his bullying all spring and summer, she just could not help it as she beamed with satisfaction.

"Chope, will the doggy be all right?" she asked, seeing him approach.

The man smiled at one more person honoring him with that name. If Lisa chose to call him grandfather, he would accept the title happily from such a child as she was.

"With a bath, some food, and a little ointment on the burns he should be good as ever," he assured her.

"Okay, let's bring him inside where it's warm," She suggested.

"Lisa, the dog has fleas. We'll bring him as soon as Chope and I have bathed him and gotten that hair of his under control. Now, go inside and tell your mother we need a bottle of flea shampoo and some scissors, as well as a comb and brush,

"Won't the bath hurt him, though?" she asked, nervously.

"We'll put Bactine on as soon as we're done," Hank assured her.

"Lisa? Have you done you're homework yet?" Kate asked pointedly.

"No, mom, but we just rescued this dog, and ..."

"Homework first, then we'll see about playing with the dog," Kate instructed her daughter

"Okay," Lisa capitulated and headed in, not happy about being sent away, but obedient to her mother.

Kate reappeared moments later with the requested items, and some Bactine and gentian violet as well.

"You think Lisa is going to want to keep this little guy?" Chope asked, eyes twinkling.

"Well, considering that we already have one cat because Lisa didn't want me to get lonely in the trailer, I would say she'll want to adopt this one as well," Hank grinned.

"You never had animals growing up, did you?" the older man asked as Hank held the dog while his grandfather clipped the matted hair away.

"No, dad never wanted any animals in the house, and then I was in college so I didn't have time or money, and by the time I had either of those my life was not a place any animal would have wanted in to," Hank replied softly.

"Nika Kumturs," his grandfather answered as softly.

The two men were silent.

"Hank, why didn't you come out and visit, when you got back and things were so bad for you?" the old man asked, finally.

"I was embarrassed Chope. I thought you would think I was caltus man," Hank mumbled, hanging his head.

"You listen to me, Hank," the seventy something man grabbed hold of Hank's arm with his free hand, "My oldest grandson is not a worthless man and never will be!"

"How often did you mumbled that about my father, though, and there I was, turning into him," Hank answered.

"Koim, I'm so sorry you ever heard me talk about your father that way. I didn't realize you had overheard," Chope apologized for a hurt he had never meant to inflict, and had been unaware that he had.

"How did you make it after grandma died?" Hank asked, after another long silence had passed.

"I went off alone and cried and got mad and cried some more, and then I came back home and surrounded myself with my family and friends. It wasn't like with you, though, Elsa had been sick along time. She knew she was dying... and had me read the Bible to her and she fell asleep and passed on while I was reading.

"Thanks, I never knew how Nana died," Hank choked a bit.

"You never asked, but I promise it was quiet and peaceful," he assured the younger man.

Both men having gotten answers to questions they were bothered by, they returned their attention to the task of cleaning up the dog.

Kate heard splashing, and yelps, and muttered curses while she made dinner and assisted Lisa with her schoolwork. Apparently, the idea of the bath had enlivened the dog and he decided that he wanted nothing to do with that tub of water.

"Mommy, are they hurting Brownie?" Lisa asked after hearing another yelp followed by a word she didn't understand.

"No, honey, he just doesn't want to take a bath," her mother explained.

Grabbing the camera off a shelf, Kate stepped outside and got a few shots of the two men bathing the slippery, squirming dog.

The bath finally done, the men covered him in old towels and began drying him. Finally they had a clean, fluffy fur ball of a dog. Chope held him while Hank applied the Bactine and gentian violet.

The little dog followed the two now soaked men into the house.

"I thought you were bathing the dog, not yourselves?" Kate stated, laughing.

"Well, the dog decided if he was gong to be bathed, so were we," Hank snorted.

"Dinner won't be ready for another about fifteen minutes, if you and Chope want to go and get changed at Deke's. I would offer you something from here to change into, but I don't think you would look quite right in Lisa or my clothes," Kate teased.

Thanking her, the two men went two change clothes, after they had recovered from snorting to smother laughter at the mental imagine of themselves in the Rand`s clothing.

"Can we keep Brownie?" Lisa asked while setting the table, once they were all back at the house.

Kate and Hank, looking briefly at one another found they were in agreement.

"After the wedding there's going to be three people and a cat living in this house, honey. There isn't space for a dog as well," Kate informed her daughter.

"He's going to go to a good home though," Chope told the child, putting a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

"Where's he going?"

"We'll I don't have any pets right now, so I'm going to take him home with me," the gray haired Indian responded.

"I could still see him sometimes then?" she asked looking at her mom and Hank.

"Every time we go down and visit Chope you can see Brownie as well," she was told.

"All right, but I want to visit Chope and Brownie a lot," Lisa responded as the family sat down to their stew.

"Deal," Hank gave his hearty approval.

While they ate, Hank learned the whole tale of Brownie's rescue and Nicky Wilson's humiliation. Lisa was informed that yes, Hank did know how to whittle, but no he wasn't certain if he could create animals, as it had been years since he had last tried.

Brownie saw Namu and lit after the feline. Namu, with an arch of his back, was off and running. Moments later they shot past the humans, Brownie in the lead. As both animals appeared to be having fun, neither was rescued.

He stood on the dock, taking a deep breath. In seventy-six years, he had never tired of the smell of the sea, or the sight of a sunrise over the mountain on the other side of him beginning a new day.

He stopped and smelled again, furrowing his brow he headed down to the boats.

"Hank!" his bellow startled a number of people with its volume. When he wanted to be, the old man was heard.

"Granddad, ready to head out?" Hank asked, surprised.

"The sea smells wrong, Hank, it's best if the boats stay in," Charlie warned.

"Smells wrong?" Deke repeated, puzzled.

"What do you mean it smells wrong, Chope?" Hank asked uneasily.

"She's going to storm up bad, always does when it smells like this, one of those big sudden storms," Charlie told him, a pleading look on his face.

"Deke, if he says it's going to storm, then we stay in today," Hank insisted.

"Hank, I just got the boat repairs paid off, I'm also trying to get up enough to buy a ring for Julia. I can't not go out," Deke explained.

"Listen, smart buddy, since I'm asking you to stay in, I'll pay you just like we were going out," Hank offered.

"You really believe he can tell if a storm is coming by smell?" Deke asked in shocked disbelief.

"I know that in my entire life, he's never been caught out in a storm, and he's never missed in his weather predictions," Hank answered.

"Okay, I guess we're not going outside to play today," the fisherman grumbled, picking up the gear he had brought and following Hank off the boat.

"You can't tell a storm by smell! It's a clear sky with a slight breeze; you couldn't pick a better day for fishing!" Joe Clausen responded.

"I've spent seventy years living by the sea, and sixty making a living off of it, I know when storms are building," Charlie replied calmly.

"Smell, ha, if you want to be superstitious and lose a day of fishing, fine by me," Joe laughed, moving on to his own boat.

"I'm sorry you are losing a day of watching your whales," Charlie sympathized with his grandson.

"Well, better losing a day than Deke losing his boat again," Hank replied, clasping the old man on the shoulder.

Deke shuddered at the idea of his boat being wrecked again. He had been lucky that last storm hadn't done more damage to her.

"At least Hank can get caught up on paperwork," Deke chuckled, knowing how much Hank hated that aspect of his job.

The comment had no effect on its intended victim, though. Hank stood staring up at the store. Charlie followed the younger man's gaze.

Both men swore under their breath.

"What's he doing here?" Hank snarled, as he strode towards the store and Kate.

"And I thought the sea was going to have bad storms," Charlie sighed, shaking his head.

"What's going on?" Deke asked, thoroughly confused.

"That man that just entered the store is his father," the Indian explained.

"I take it Hank and his father don't get along very well?"

"Let's just say the storms out there are going to be nothing compared to the storms in here," Charlie commented as Hank entered the store, almost ripping the door off its hinges.

Looking up from the conversation she was having with the man buying a beverage on his way through town, Kate went white. She had never seen Hank look so angry before. Ice would have been warmer then her future husband's eyes.

"What are you doing here?" the scientist asked between clenched teeth.

"I'm, sorry, Hank, I was just going to..., never mind, I'll go," his father stammered, hands shaking a bit.

"Hank, he was just passing though on his way through town and stopped for a soda," Kate explained, totally confused.

"Dad..." Hank began, but lost the words.

"I'll go, I didn't mean to upset you or bother you, son. I heard from one of your cousins you were getting married again, and just wanted to see that you were happy, and maybe meet your new wife," a soft trembling voice answered him.

"Um, listen, you two can use the house if you need to talk," Kate suggested. She was no expert but this man did not seem like the monster Hank had described in talking about his father.

"What would we have to talk about?" Hank growled, neither man hearing the door open behind him.

"Nanitch kopa yaka," came a voice from behind the angry man.

"Why should I?" Hank snarled.

"Because he is your father, and he deserves that much from you," came the calm, reasoning voice that had always been able to calm Hank.

Hank gave his grandfather a withering glare.

"Koim, nanitsh kopa yaka," the old man instructed, not even fazed by the look his grandson was giving him.

Snorting, Hank turned to look at the man in front of him.

James Donner was old, or at least, he looked old. His eyes, however, were clearer than Hank had ever seen them. The clothes were old and faded, but clean and worn neatly on the man's lean frame. The salt and pepper hair was brushed, and had recently been trimmed. He was even clean-shaven.

"You're cold sober," he gasped, almost as if not believing it.

"Like I said, I didn't want to embarrass you. I was just going to slip in back and watch the ceremony and then go," the visitor answered in a sad and tired voice.

"If that offer is still open, Kate?" Hank asked uncertainly.

"Of course," she smiled. Hopefully, if Hank's dad had sobered up they could come to an understanding.

Hank took his father by the arm and led him in back. If his dad had stopped drinking long enough to be here cold sober, then the very least Hank could do would be to hear him out.

"Are you all right? You're not sick or something are you?" Hank asked, suddenly nervous.

"No, nothing like that, I just wanted to see you," the older man assured his son, smiling uncertainly.

There was a long pause.

"Why, dad? Why this sudden change?" Hank asked uneasily.

"Because Hank, believe it or not, I do love you," James answered quietly, but firmly. This was not something he needed to think about.

The blue-eyed man goggled at him. "That is first time in my life you have ever called me Hank."

"I believe you prefer Hank to Henry," his dad looked at him uneasily.

"I've always gone by Hank. You were the one person who insisted on calling me Henry."

"I like Henry, but Hank's a good name too, so if that's what you want, then that's what I'll call you," the graying man responded.

Silence sat between the two men.

"Why did you name me after a man who never did forgive you for marrying an Indian woman?" Hank asked, breaking the silence.

"Well, your mom and I were kind of hoping that if you were named after dad they might give you have a chance. Turned out we were wrong on that account of course; but I happened to have had a brother named Henry as well, as far as I was concerned that was where your name came from," James explained.

"I don't remember an Uncle Henry."

"He died in France," James replied softly.

"Oh, he must have been young if you two were anywhere near close in age," Hank answered, feeling his father's sorrow, even now.

"He was 19, three years older than I was. You never heard about him because mom became upset and hysterical at the mere mention of him, so father forbid his name to be spoken ever again and destroyed all the evidence of his existence in the house."

Silence came again as James waited and Hank processed this new information.

"Is that when you started drinking?" Hank broke the silence.

"No, I started drinking when you were about three. I doubt you remember David," his father sighed, walking over to look out the window.

"Who was David? Another uncle I never heard about?" the younger man asked, confused.

"Your older brother, actually. He was two years older than you. Your mother was trying to get you to go down for a nap and asked me to watch him for a bit. I said yes, so he was playing on the docks while I was working on some of the nets. It was nothing we hadn't done a thousand times," James's voice had been getting softer and softer.

"Since I don't recollect having any siblings, I assume something happened to him?" Hank asked quietly.

"I got distracted for a moment turned my head and when I looked back he had fallen off the dock. By the time we got him out of the water, he had drowned," James finished, choking back tears.

"Why didn't you ever tell me about this, dad? Why weren't there any pictures, or memorabilia or anything?" Hank was almost wailing

"Because a well meaning friend convinced your mother that it would be easier to deal with if we removed everything that would remind us of him," James sighed heavily, telling Hank exactly how effective that had been in dealing with the loss.

"So instead of dealing with it, you buried the pain a bottle, and when I suffered the same kind of loss you handed me one."

"You were hurting so badly; I wanted to help you but didn't know how, so I did the same thing my dad did for me," the guest responded, turning away, unable to meet his son's eyes.

"Did it ever occur to you to talk to me instead?" Hank almost screamed.

"We couldn't talk to each other at the best of times, and that was not the best of times, his father snapped back.

Silence sat smothering the air as both men calmed themselves.

"I think what we have here, is what the bible refers to as a family curse," the younger man commented, moving over to join his father.

His father looks at him confused.

"Dad, you saw I was hurting and wanted to stop my pain, thank you for that. Giving me a bottle was not the right way to do that, but was the only way you knew of, I understand that," Hank reassured the old man, squeezing his shoulder uncertainly. Something he had not done since he had lost his mother.

"How long have you been sober?" Hank continued.

James Donner looked at his son in astonishment. There was no condemnation in the question, no judging, or anger. The question was asked with concern, understanding, compassion, and love.

"Maybe two weeks," came the reply.

"Okay, dad, if you really want me to stop hurting, then quit drinking. We're finally able to talk to one another and I would like to see you stay alive and sober long enough for us to maybe get to being friends as well as family," Hank offered.

"Friends, you really think we could do that?" the senior Donner asked, not quite believing he was being offered another chance.

"I would like to try, but you have to understand, I opted to break that family history with the bottle. I don't drink at all, any more, and I don't keep the stuff in the house. If this is going to work for us, you need to stay sober, I`ll help however I can, but you need to do that," Hank explained.

"Leave it to you to sober yourself up. You always were a stubborn donkey," his dad chuckled, smiling up at his son.

"I didn't sober myself up dad, I was dragged out of the bottle kicking and screaming, but it was sober up or lose my job. I couldn't afford to lose the job, so I agreed to exile out here in the middle of nowhere. Steve held my hand through the DTs, and got me back on my feet, all I did was stay on my feet."

"I would like to thank that man, someday," James replied.

"He's best man at the wedding, so you can thank him at the reception," Hank informed his dad, hugging him this time, the fear of rejection gone.

"You really don't mind if I come?"

"You are more than welcome to come, provided that you sit up front with the rest of the family and join us at the reception afterwards," Hank informed him, grinning.

A loud bang reverberated through the house.

"What was that?" the gray haired man asked.

"Did a big blue car just leave with two very well dressed people in it?"

"Yes, they didn't look very happy though," James commented from by the window where he had seen the fancy people departing.

"Well then, I would say either Kate threw her parents out, or she shot them," Hank muttered

"Threw them out, but If I had had a gun there I would have shot them!" Kate snarled, entering the house.

"What happened?" the older man asked his future daughter-in-law.

Kate made several motions as though to speak, but nothing came out.

"I take it there was trouble of some kind with your parents?" Hank offered.

"No, no trouble, at least not until I decided to be polite and introduce those two racist bigots to Chope!" She bit out between gritted teeth

"I take it there was trouble because of my being part Indian?" Hank asked quietly, wincing.

"It's their problem if they accept can't your grandfather and that side of your family. And they had the unmitigated gall to call him a heathen!" she snorted, getting more and more worked up.

"Kate, as long as you don't care about it, it won't be a problem," Hank assured her.

"I don't have a problem with it at all, I love Chope, I'm just so mad that my parents would dare judge someone on their race! I know it's a big issue in the south, but we've never had trouble around here," she ranted.

"Um, Kate, how many people are there in town that aren`t white?" James asked. Knowing, or at least guessing, the answer. He had spent his whole life in a town very similar to this one.

"Well, there... there aren't any. I see your point, but still, the very nerve of my parents to say Charlie is beneath us and then to give that as a reason that Hank isn't good enough for me!" she growled.

"Can you imagine, James, those nice folks thinking our Hank isn't good enough for their Kate?" Charlie asked from the door with a bright twinkle in his eye. If his grandson could forgive the past, who was he not to?

"Hard to believe isn't it?" James answered tisking.

The young couple started laughing.

"I take it your parents are not going to be attending the wedding, then?" Hank asked regretfully, but only because of the pain he knew it was giving Kate.

"No, I'm afraid they aren't going to able to make it. All things considered, I'm just as glad," she confessed.

"Do I dare ask at what point you threw them out of the store?" Hank inquired, cautiously.

"Well, they asked if any other Indians besides Chope were going to be there, and I believe I mentioned that you had a lot of aunts an uncles and cousins who were all coming. They told me they had heard we were getting married in the church, so where was it going to be now? I told them we were still getting married in the church. Then mother got incensed about having that many heathen savages in the church; that was when I threw them out. Actually I threw mother out, and father chose to go along," Kate finished, the process of relating it having calmed her down. Now she was merely angry, not ranting and raving or speechless with indignation.

"Well, you were certainly right about storms, Charlie, I'm just not certain I wouldn't have been safer out on the boat," Deke replied from the store, peeking into the apartment.

"There'll be bad storms out there today as well, I hope your friend doesn't get out too far to come back in time," Charlie said, shaking his head.

"Joe Clausen doesn't listen to other folks, Charlie, so if he doesn't get back in, don't blame yourself," Deke admonished.

"Blood and thunder! Hank, look how dark that sky has gotten," Deke looked out at the sea, his jaw dropping in amazement.

The sky that a mere two hours ago had been clear and blue, was now dark and ominous. It had been a sudden and violent storm like this one that had wrecked his boat last year. Looking down the dock, he could see boats coming back in that had headed out that morning.

Joe's was not among them.

"I hope we don't lose any boats or lives in this storm," Kate commented, joining the men at the window. She remembered too well the times the small fishing town had lost both.

"I think almost everyone except Joe is back in," Hank tried to reassure her.

"Joe's an experienced sailor," Kate mumbled to herself.

"Yes, he is, if anyone in this town can get a boat through a bad storm, it would be Joe and Burt," Deke answered, trying to reassure himself. He was not a particular friend of the two men, but he had known them all his life, and they were decent men for the most part. Slow to accept new things and change old habits and ways of thinking, but good, solid, dependable men.

The sky was almost black, now, and the sea was rough and choppy. A jagged flash ripped from the sky as a loud boom echoed. Crews on the boats raced about lashing things down and tying the boats securely. Another boom and large drops of water began to fall. Everyone raced for cover as the drops turned into sheeting rain.

The only slip still empty was Joe's.

Nervously, Kate turned on the short wave. She hadn't used it since Jack had died.

As the wind and rain increased, everyone in the house got quiet. The worst part of a storm was the waiting.

The men sat at the table and tried playing cards, while Kate went about making sandwiches and trying to work on the store's books. But the books didn't get done, the game wasn't played well, and the food was barely tasted.

The radio suddenly crackled to life. Joe and all of his crew were safe. Their boat had broken up on the rocks going into Hank's cove, but they were safe and had gotten shelter at Hank's trailer.

They were cold and wet but safe. Hank expressed his relief and told them to make themselves at home, while apologizing for the propane valves not being open, but he hadn't been out there for quite a while. Smiling, he told them they should feel free to turn the valves on if they wanted. It would only take an hour to get hot water. His answer was what he expected, and not polite. An unflattering grumble was heard about being stuck in the home of the only man in North Cove that didn't drink. They signed off after Hank informed them where the towels were and that any clothes he had they should feel free to use since they would at least be dry and warm.

"Thank God!" Kate muttered as they signed off, and the others agreed. Everyone in town was safe and accounted for and the only property lost was Joe's boat. The demise of the boat would be costly and regrettable, but manageable.

Since the store had very little business when a storm was blowing, Kate spent most of the day on personal business, such as hearing more tales from Chope and dad, as she learned to call the two men, about Hank's youth. Hank got even by telling a few tales he knew about the two older men. Deke shook his head in disbelief at some of the things his solid, salt of the earth, and oh so serious friend had done. Hank, it would seem, for all his easy-going manner could be quite fiendish when provoked.

Saturday came with a sky as blue as the groom's eyes. It was the most perfect day mid-fall could give them. It was bright and sunny, with a slight breeze. Although a lot of people were not happy about all the Indians in their church on this day, most of them were willing to overlook it, since it was merely for one day. Dan had decided his flock was in need of another sermon on loving your neighbors, or maybe on what love was. He would decide that like he did all other issues, he would pray and consult his Bible. God would use them to let him know what it was that his willful flock was in need of hearing.

Reaching over, he answered the phone on his desk. The women were getting ready for the big event and he had retreated quietly to his office until called for. When it came to weddings, the women took over every other room in the building, it seemed. Luckily this was a simpler wedding than most, so it was mostly just waiting until everyone was here and ready.

"Hello?" he said into the receiver.

"Hi Dan, It's Steve. Listen, could you get Kate for me for a moment? Hank's going through withdrawals and it's either shoot him or let him talk to Kate for a few minutes," came the voice of the harried best man.

"The other lovebird isn't doing that much better. I'll get her for you and then hopefully they will both get to the altar sane," Dan chuckled. He had had many young, passionate lovers in this church getting married and struggling at not being allowed to see one another that day, but this pair was the worst; and that, in his mind, translated to the best.

Snickering as he walked down the hall, he knocked on one of the doors that had the `bride under construction' sign on it.

"Kate, Hank is on the phone for you, you have 5 minutes," he called out, and dove to the side as the bride ran out the door and for his office.

"Are you okay, Dan?" asked Julia from the door.

"I'm fine. Sorry about the interruption, but Steve was threatening to shoot Hank, who is going crazy from grief since he hasn't talked to or seen Kate all day," the pastor explained.

"Like I told you earlier, Kate wasn't doing much better, the call will settle them both down a bit," Julia chuckled.

Within a few moments, Kate was back, the phone call was done and preparations were returned to with a much calmer bride and groom.

Within an hour, the groom and best man had arrived with Chope, who, as the parents of the bride were not attending, would be escorting Kate down the aisle.

"Excuse me, Steve?" an elderly looking man with shaky hands stopped the blond haired best man for a moment.

"Yes, I'm Steve, can I help you?" he asked. He was busy with Hank, but something told him this man was important as well, and it would only take a moment.

"I'm James Donner, I wanted to thank you for helping my son like you did," the older man stammered, looking embarrassed.

"He's my friend and I was in a place where I could help him. I would hope that if I weren't able to help one of my sons and he needed help that one of his friends would step up," Steve answered, honestly.

"Well, I know you're busy today; I just wanted to say thank you, because I know not many men have friends that would help out like you did," the senior Donner reiterated shyly.

"Listen, you really want to thank me for helping him out?" Steve asked, suddenly thinking of something.

"Very much, but there isn't much I can do for someone like you," he said uncertainly..

"You can stay sober so that Hank can have his dad back," Steve replied, almost begging.

"I'll do that," the graying man promised the blond.

Shaking hands on the agreement, both men hurried to the places they were suppose to be.

Steve and Julia stood beside their friends, with James and Lisa next to Deke in the front row with Yoni and the boys. Dan was performing the ceremony, and between all of Hank's aunts, uncles, and cousins, as well as all of the people from the institute, there was a full house.

While very few of the townspeople were at the ceremony, a good many were at the open reception. No alcohol was served, but folks seemed to be getting by just fine without. There was a nice local band playing and a lot of dancing and laughing and socializing. Dan had a hunch that it was probably the wives who had caused so many of the townfolks to show up. Most of the women were fond of Kate, and there was a chance to dance and celebrate here, which didn't often happen in a small fishing town like this. When a chance did arise, the wives usually dragged their husbands to them.

The dancing hadn't really picked up until Chope had a dance with the bride. Everyone was amazed that he was actually a very good dancer. Not to be outdone by an Indian in his seventies, not to mention all of the young single male cousins Hank had, who were more than happy to dance with the waiting young ladies; the men of the town had stepped up to the challenge. Everyone, it seemed, was dancing now.

The party was in full swing a few hours later, when Dan saw Hank wink at him, while Kate gave Lisa a hug goodbye. A moment later, he and Kate slipped out a side door. Dan winked back and smiled, he could not remember ever having seen a couple better suited to one another.

"Dan, care to share the humor?" Ivy asked, coming up beside him.

"Hank and Kate just made their getaway," he answered, smiling down at his bride of more than half his life.

"Probably eager to get their honeymoon going, "she giggled.

"Definitely, not something you want to miss a minute of," he laughed with her.

"Well, for some lucky folks like us, the honeymoon is never over," she answered, batting her eyes at him.

Laughing, he kissed the top of her head "How very true, my dear."

Giggling quietly, the newlyweds almost tiptoed out to Hank's car. Hank fully expected that his dear cousins would have tied cans to his vehicle or something, and they had not disappointed him. Grumbling good naturedly, he cut the strings off the car and, grinning, retied them on the bumpers of his cousins' cars.

"Are we really married?" Kate asked while watching him, giddy with glee.

"We had better be Mrs. Donner, since I'm taking you to a honeymoon suite in Fiji with me."

"Fiji!" She gasped.

"One of the guys in the institute said they have the best diving in the world down there," Hank explained.

"Sounds like a fun place, assuming we ever want to leave our hotel room," she smiled, arching an eyebrow.

"It'll give us something to do while the room is cleaned," Hank leered playfully at her.

Kate settled in the front, bags in the back, and they were on their way.

The drive to Portland seemed to fly by, with both of them still giddy from the wedding. A flight from Portland took them to San Francisco, and from there they connected to Australia, and then took a small plane to Fiji.

"Are we finally here?" Kate asked wearily as they entered their beach hut.

"Yes, we're here," Hank answered, equally tired.

"Okay, I don't know about you, but bed is the only thing on my mind right now," She said, yawning mightily.

"You want to get settled first or get ready for bed first?" Hank asked, sighing. Kate evidently could not sleep on a plane, so was exhausted and needed to sleep. Well, he had waited this long for her; one more night would not kill him.

"Why don't you get ready first? I have to call Lisa and Julia and let them know we got here safely," Kate replied, sinking into a chair by the phone.

Hank opened his luggage to get out his toiletries and headed toward the bathroom

"Hi Lisa! Yes, I'm fine, sweetheart..." Kate began the conversation to her daughter.

Hank entered bathroom and quickly tended to his nightly ablutions.

By the time he was done, Kate was settled and Lisa wanted to tell him good night. He took her place in the chair while she slipped into the bathroom. He never saw the smile on her face.

"Okay, Lisa, goodnight, I'll see you when we get back. I love you too, honey," Hank finished his phone conversation.

He got up and turned to face the window, evidently he was going to be practicing a bit more patience here, since Kate was worn out and needed to get her sleep. Sighing to himself over the longer wait, he began turning down the bed.

"Hey there, Doctor Donner," came an inviting `come hither' voice if ever he had heard one, from behind him.

Turning around, he almost fell with a thud.

There was his Kate, in a shimmering, translucent white negligee that left just enough covered to spark the imagination.

"Come here," he growled.

Giggling, and evidently not at all tired, Kate shook her head and stayed where she was.

"You know, Kate, teasing is not a very nice thing to do," he purred, stalking around the bed to where she was.

She just laughed, and using a table, evaded his reach, retreating to the other side of the bed where Hank had been.

A low rumbling chuckle was her only warning as he made a dive for her again, this time getting between her and the table.

Grinning, she dove under his arm and was across the room before he was able to snag her.

A devious grin on his face, Hank simply climbed over the bed in two long strides, and caught her up in his arms, pulling her down on the bed with him. She wasn't struggling.

"Nika Tikegh Mika" she whispered as he pulled her against him and nibbled her ear.

"Nika tenas klootchman," he answered softly in her ear.

"I don't know that one, what does it mean?" she asked, turning in his arms to face him.

"Let me demonstrate it, then I'll translate if you need it, love," he responded, moving her so she was beside him on the bed, and kissing her deeply.


Hank groaned as he rolled over in bed. He was fairly certain that the phone was not needed for her mother to have heard that, all of the pacific islands had most definitely heard it.

"Something wrong, love?" he asked, sitting up.

"Mother is trying to make Julia give her custody of Lisa while we're gone," his wife seethed.

"What? What possible reason is there for making Lisa stay with her grandmother when she doesn't want to and is in the care of a perfectly good and responsible person that she likes?" Hank muttered, confused.

"Evidently, mother came by to see Lisa, and Deke was there having dinner with Julia and Lisa, and she now considers that an unfit place for a child," Kate growled through clenched teeth.

"Deke? Your mother thinks Julia and Deke have been carrying on in front of Lisa?" Hank choked, trying to keep from laughing. The short fisherman was incredibly shy around women, even ones he had known his entire life. The very idea that he was staying there with Julia and Lisa was absurd.

"Yes, and is claiming that as her grandmother she has the right to take Lisa while I`m gone," Kate snarled.

"Not if you asked someone else to watch Lisa," Hank agreed with his bride.

"Listen to me, mother, Lisa is in Julia's care and will remain there until I return," Kate insisted into the receiver.

Hank got up and went around to Kate for support. This was not going to be a good scene; the two women were already at odds with one another over the wedding and Victoria's treatment of Chope, who she referred to as uncivilized. Kate's response to that had been uncivil.

"Mom, I know Deke, I've known him ever since I moved to North Cove, he is not staying there, I asked Julia and she explained what happened. A pipe in the kitchen was leaking and he came over and fixed it; since it was dinnertime, she asked him if he would like to stay. All it was, was good manners on her part."

"Oh, for crying out loud mother, if Deke and Julia were going to ravage one another they would not have done it with her mother right there in the store! Now, I don't want to hear about this again. Lisa is my daughter and I decide what is best for her, she is to be left with Julia and that is final!" Kate stated emphatically and hung up the phone.

"Think she'll honor that?" Hank asked, concerned.

"She will. It's the one hold I have on her, for the moment I am the mother of her only grandchild," Kate explained.

"Your brother and sister don't have kids?" Hank asked, surprised.

"Not as of yet. My brother hasn't been married very long, and Beth`s husband doesn't like our parents so even if she did have kids mom and dad wouldn't get to see a lot of them," Kate elaborated.

Hank raised an eyebrow. "Wouldn't your sister have some say?"

Kate snorted.

"Your sister wouldn't have any say in whether her parents could visit her children or not?" Hank asked, surprised.

"I suppose maybe, if pushed, she might say something, but since Tony doesn't really care much what she thinks or says it wouldn't matter much if she did say something," Kate answered sadly.

"Doesn't sound like a very happy marriage," Hank responded.

"No, I don't think it is, I was luckier than Beth in that regard," Kate sighed.

"What do you mean?" he asked, sitting on the bed and motioning Kate to join him.

"Daddy brought home all kinds of wealthy young men from good families to meet Beth and me. Mom and dad more or less pushed us into marrying Jack and Tony. They were sons of friends of theirs. I was lucky, because Jack really did love me, I'm not certain Tony has ever really loved Beth," Kate explained, sitting down next to her new husband.

"I'm sorry," Hank said, hugging his bride. He didn't know what else to say.

Smiling, devilishly, Kate suddenly pushed him flat on the bed and rolled over so she was on top of him. " I can think of far better things to do on my honeymoon than discussing my sister and her unhappy marriage."

Hank couldn't have agreed more, in the thirty seconds his brain was still working.

"Morning Vannetta," Hank greeted from behind the store counter.

"Well, I see you and Kate are back from your trip. Are you going to be running the store from now on?" she asked in her too-sweet voice.

"Not hardly. Kate just isn't feeling very well, so I'm filling in for a day or so as storekeeper."

"Oh? Eight month flu?" she asked, haughtily.

Hank pinned her with burning sapphire eyes.

"That doesn't even deserve an answer," Julia snarled from behind the woman, having just entered the store in time to hear the exchange.

The older, dark haired woman jumped at the voice behind her. "Well, you must admit it is a bit suspicious."

"Someone coming home from overseas with a case of traveler's malaise is not suspicious!" the younger woman snapped.

Hank glared and growled, being too angry for actual words.

"Here's the medicine you asked me to pick up," Julia responded, handing Hank the medication his wife had been prescribed that morning, since she had come home having been sick the entire last day on the island as well as the ride home.

"Thanks Julia, I really appreciate your picking this up for us," he totally ignored the gossiping old biddy as he took the bag with the drugs, as well as their mail, from the younger woman.

"Glad to help. I have to get going on my route, I hope Kate gets to feeling better soon," Julia said as she departed.

Vannetta left soon after her, once she realized Hank was not going to give her any information.

Looking up as the bell rang, Hank groaned inwardly. Two customers came in. One was Deke, which was fine, the other was one of the younger fisherman who had been after Kate. Well, at least she was medicated and in bed instead of having to face this guy.

"Got her barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen already have you?" the young man laughed raucously.

The cold smoldering fury that Vannetta had started erupted into raging fury.

Hank very quietly and very deliberately stepped around from behind the counter.

Deke, being closer, got to him first. One hand reached out and punched the young rowdy square in the face, causing a fountain of blood to erupt; the other grabbed him by the collar and hauled him back towards the door. Once there the older fisherman opened the door and launched the youngster out. Joe and Burt, about to enter the store, merely stepped over the prostrate form.

"She's my wife Deke," Hank growled.

"Yep, and if you had gotten to him first, that wife would have been visiting you in prison for murder after you killed him," Deke answered, calmly.

"What'd that young snot do now?" Joe asked, looking out the window to see that the kid had gotten up and was scurrying back to his boat.

"Talked trash about Kate," Hank answered in a tone that would have melted artic ice.

"Sounds like he was askin' for it, then, only a matter of time before someone gave it to him," Burt commented.

"It should have been me," Hank mumbled.

"Deke's right, you would have killed him, Hank," Joe snorted, remembering when Hank had slammed him against a bulkhead on his boat over the whale.

"In that case, smart buddy, thanks for stopping me," Hank groused, his humor having been restored a bit.

"Now, was there something you guys were wanting?" Hank inquired.

"Just some basic supplies for the new boat," Joe replied.

"I was just coming in to say hello and find out how Kate was doing," Deke blushed, a bit.

"Kate's doing fine now that we're home and she can get some sleep and the doctor has had a look at her," Hank assured his friend.

"Touch of Montezuma's revenge?" Burt asked, honestly concerned.

"Yep, she'll be back up on her feet in a few days," Hank answered.

"Well, give her our best then, do you think you could have the rope for us by end of the day?" Joe asked, back to business.

"It'll be waiting for you," Hank replied, jotting the order down.

Nodding their thanks, the older fisherman and his first mate left.

"You threw Leon out?" a hoarse voice asked from behind the two remaining men.

"He was rude and insulting, you don't need business that badly Kate," Hank responded, confirming his wife's guess at what had happened.

Deke didn't say a word. The woman in the doorway leading to the house was a ghost. He had known corpses that had more life to them and looked healthier.

"I won't ask how you're feeling, Kate, I just hope you look worse than you feel," Deke offered sympathetically.

"They're about the same, but thanks for the wishes," Kate tried to smile. "You're right, Hank, I'm not that hard up for business, I've just never been able to find a way to get rid of him."

"Well, I think maybe you're rid of him now," Hank smirked at the blushing Deke.

"I can only hope so. Was I having a nightmare or had Vannetta been in here right before him?"

"No nightmare, but Julia scared her off," Hank growled.

Kate let out a groan, "Why don't I just announce in the paper that I'm sick in bed?"

"Because the news will spread faster by telling those two," Hank and Deke replied in stereo.

"That's true," she chuckled.

"Honey, you look terrible, why don't you go and lie down for a bit again before Lisa gets home and you don't have a moment's peace?"

"Good idea," Kate responded before turning an interesting shade of green and dashing back into the house.

"Kind of makes you wish you were married, doesn't it Deke?" Hank chuckled.

Deke gave him a withering look. "Well, the fish are biting and I should be out. I'll catch you later, Hank."

"Later, smart buddy," Hank smiled.

It was good to be back, Hank decided, and within a few days, Kate would be up to handling the store again and he could go back out on the sea, then life would be perfect. His family, and the sea, those were his only real needs or desires.

Kate sighed as Annie left. After almost 5 months people were still thinking she had returned from her honeymoon pregnant. One good look at her would say otherwise. Or at least she really hopped it would.

Looking up as the bell rang, she saw Deke enter.

"Hey Deke, everything all right?" she asked, seeing that he had a thoughtful kind of look.

"Oh, yeah, everything's fine, I was just needing some things for the boat," Deke stammered, pulling out a list of items he needed.

"Okay, hang on a minute and I'll get these for you," she smiled. When he was ready, her friend would tell her what was on his mind.

"Uh, Kate, do you think a woman would want to be surprised by a ring, or be told she's getting one and then pick it out herself?" Deke asked, quietly.

"Well, I suppose that would depend on the woman. I think a woman would like to be surprised by it but I think if a man isn't certain what kind to get her, he might want to take her along. She's going to be wearing it her entire life, so it's best if it's something she likes."

"That's about what I thought," Deke sighed, still looking confused.

"Are you buying Julia a ring?" Kate asked gleefully.

"I figured she was a better investment than the land, so once I can find a buyer for the land, I'm going to use the money to get her a ring," the fisherman confessed.

"Really? You're selling your land?" Kate looked at him, suddenly very interested.

"Yeah, If you know anyone that might be interested..." he suggested.

"I'll send them your way," she assured him, while ringing up the sale.

Thanking her, Deke left.

"Mommy? Hank says to let you know dinner is ready," Lisa called, entering the store from the house.

"I'll be right there," she called back to her daughter.

Placing a hand on her stomach and patting it, she walked around the counter to the front door of the shop and locked it.

"Love? Are you all right?" Hank asked quietly from the door, concern in his voice. Kate was too pale, and sounded more tired than was good.

"I'm fine, just had kind of a long day, sweetheart," she reassured him, kissing him lightly as they shut off the lights and closed the store for the night.

"You look pale and sound tired," he commented, rubbing her shoulders as he followed behind her into the dinning room.

"I'll be fine, honey," she repeated.

The adults were quite through most of the meal as Lisa was excitedly telling them all about interesting things she was learning at school. They were learning about other countries and supposed to find out where their families came from. Kate was from England and Lisa's father had been German and some other things that Kate couldn't remember but if she wrote to Grandma Rand, she could find out what nationality they were. Hank revealed that he was a lot of things, Indian, Swedish, English, Irish, and Scottish were the main ones.

The evening was a quite one with Hank working on his reports for Steve, Lisa doing homework and Kate doing month end for the store. Other than the occasional turning of pages, scratching of a pencil, or requests from Lisa for help, silence predominated.

"Hank, is your shoulder still sore?" Kate asked, returning form her nightly duties in the bathroom to see him rubbing his shoulder while rotating his arm in a huge circle.

"It's fine, just stiff, like the rest of my back," Hank muttered.

"Here," she whispered pushing him down on the bed on his stomach while she rubbed his back and shoulders.

her husband groaned in pleasure and relief. In his brief marriage he had found Kate not only gave wonderful massages, but she didn't mind in the least doing it.

"Did you know Deke's planning on selling his land?" she asked, working at the stiff muscles before her.

"What land?" he asked, curiously. He had never heard that his friend owned any land.

"He owns the land the trailer is on. He was leasing it out to the institute in order to get money to get his boat fixed," Kate explained.

"And now he's selling it?" Hank asked, confused.

"He evidently decided that Julia was a better investment than the land was," she laughed.

"Good for him, it's about time he got that poor woman a ring," his rumbling laugh joined his wife's.

"Well, hopefully the institute has enough money to buy it," Hank sighed a few moments later. He liked the spot where his home had been and the cove with all its marine life.

"I was kind of thinking we might buy it," she suggested, pensively.

"Oh?" He turned on his back to look at her.

"Well, this house isn't very big, and we could sell the one in Olympia and buy the land and then build one for ourselves there."

"Do you really want to do that? I mean I thought we had decided that leaving the Olympia house as a rental was a good investment?" Hank was confused. Kate was a good businesswoman and he knew it. It wasn't like her to suddenly change plans on him.

"I know we had planned on doing that, but this house is going to get awfully small with four people living here," she hinted.

"Four?" Hank now turned all the way over to give her his complete and undivided attention.

"Um humm, she nodded, beaming.

Smiling broadly, the expectant father scooped his bride up and deposited her beside him on the bed.

"That's why you've been so pale and tired lately?" he asked, concerned.

"It should pass, but I have a doctor's appointment just to be certain."

Hank nodded his approval of that.

"Well, if we buy the land now, then we can get started building right away, that way it'll be done when the baby comes," Hank offered.

"If my guess is right, junior will be joining us around our anniversary sometime," Kate informed him between kisses.

"Might not be the best time to be moving a baby out there," Hank thought aloud, remembering how cold and drafty it could be.

"It'll be a house then, not an un-insulated travel trailer. Besides, if it doesn't seem like a good idea, we'll just stay here until it gets warmer and the baby can sleep in our room," Kate assured him, reaching out to pull him closer to her.

Hank didn't object.

"Kate? Honey?" Hank asked a few hours later, whispering to see if his wife was awake or not.

"Humm?" came a sleepy rely from the head resting on his chest.

"How is Lisa going to feel about the baby?" Hank asked, wide-awake.

"She loves babies and has always wanted a little brother or sister. I think as long as we balance out the attention, she'll be just fine," Kate mumbled, snuggling herself closer to him.

It was only April, but Hank and she both loved fresh air, so they had the bedroom window open and merely piled on blankets and snuggled up for the night. There were some very nice benefits to this arrangement.

"Okay, I just don't want her to be upset by this," Hank explained.

"She won't be, so relax and go to sleep."

"Hank, that is not relaxing or sleeping!" Kate mock scolded, a few moments later.

"I know, but as long we're both awake..." he grinned reaching for her.

Kate laughed, but didn't move away.

"Steve, could you do me a favor?" Hank asked into the phone next evening.

Kate looked up from helping Lisa with a word problem from her math book and smiled.

"Certainly, if I can," came the answer to the scientist's question.

"Kate and I decided to sell the house there, and I was wondering if you could line up a realtor for us?"

"Actually the couple who are renting it are looking to buy, so they might very possibly be interested in buying it if they can afford it," the blond man informed him.

"We'll come in this weekend and talk to them about it," Hank beamed, this was going very well, and it would be fantastic if the couple in the house could afford to buy it. They had loved it on sight and taken very good care of it.

"What brought on this sudden desire to sell, I thought you were going to keep it as a rental property for some time?" inquired the voice on the other end of the line.

"Well, this house is going to be getting a bit small, since Kate and I are going to be extending the family by two feet," Hank replied, grinning like Alice's Cheshire cat.

"You're having a baby?" Steve just about shouted.

"Kate's doing that part," Hank chuckled.

"And aren't you lucky for that?" Kate teased him, having guessed at the remark from Hank's answer.

Hank's expression was all the answer she needed.

"Okay, see you this weekend, and thanks for the help," Hank ended the phone call.

"You feel up to a trip to the city?" he asked, looking at his wife. She wasn't showing, but had been having a harder time in the mornings, recently.

"What's being done this trip?" she asked, uncertainly.

"Mostly just going to be finding out if the buying and selling is possible right now, and maybe some shopping."

"I think I might skip this trip then," Kate decided, she loved seeing and visiting Yonhee, but was just not up to a four hour trip in the car right now. "I'm sure Lisa would love to go with you, though."

"Why aren't you coming with us, mommy?" Lisa asked, looking from one parent to the other. They never went anywhere separately.

Hank glanced at Kate, slightly panicked. They hadn't planned on telling Lisa yet, or in this manner. Actually, he couldn't remember exactly how they had planned on telling her, except that Kate had assured him that the right moment would come.

"Well, honey, you know Hank and I really love each other," Kate began.

"That's why you two got married," Lisa responded, confused.

"And that same love is going to give us a baby later this year," Kate finished her interrupted sentence.

"You're going to have a baby?" Lisa asked, surprise on her face.

"Yes," Kate answered, easily.

"When's it going to be here?" the child asked.

"Last week of October," her mother replied.

"So why can't you come with us this weekend?" Lisa asked after a moment, still uncertain.

"Carrying the baby makes me sick in the morning sometimes right now, and I would have a hard time traveling," Kate explained.

"Tell you what, Lisa, while were there, why don't we see about getting you a diving suit and teaching you how to dive this summer, okay?" Hank offered.

"Really? I can learn to dive?" She almost visibly bounced.

"Yes, you can. Hank and I were talking about it the other night, and you're old enough to start if you would like," Kate reassured her daughter.

Lisa had been wanting to learn to dive ever since she had known what diving was, except for the few years she was afraid of sea monsters, due to her father's death. It had been decided a few days earlier that she could learn this summer. It would make it easier for her as the pregnancy and then the baby took more of Kate's time and energy.

Sighing, Kate picked up the phone. It was best to get this over and done with, and Hank and Lisa being in the city made this the ideal time. She had not really spoken to her parents since the wedding. She didn't like being on bad terms with them, but was still very hurt that they had not been at either the wedding or the reception. The way they had treated Hank's grandfather and cousins was inexcusable and had embarrassed her to no end.

"Hi dad, it's Kate," she said when the line was picked up.

"Hello Katie, how are you?" Charles Brice asked a bit indifferently.

"Well, aside from being pregnant I'm all right," she answered lightly.

"That's wonderful to hear, dear. How's Lisa taking it?"

"She's only known a few days, so is still processing the idea, but seems to like it," Kate answered him assuring him that his granddaughter was happy.

"Well, that's wonderful to hear, let me get your mother, she'll want to hear it as well," her father told her. It was in the same kind of voice with which you would thank someone, telling them how much you loved the new sweater they had given you, while you were actually already planning a spot in the back of the dresser for it

Kate mentally braced herself. If her father was indifferent and falsely cheerful, her mother would be downright difficult.

"Katherine?" her mother's imperious tone came over the line.

"Hello mother, I was just calling to give you and dad the good news,"

"Really, and what news is that, dear?" she asked, as though speaking to a young child.

"Hank and I are expecting," Kate informed her.

"I see, I hope you are taking proper care of yourself," her mother answered, in a tone that could almost be thought offensive.

"Yes I'm taking good care of myself. There's a young woman in the church that I'm talking to about maybe working here part time so that I when I'm too far along to be able to do the heavy work she'll be well trained for it. We're thinking if she likes we may keep her on after the baby comes so that I can start working some more normal hours."

"Surely Hank is not going to allow you to continue working in that store while you're pregnant and when you have an infant at home," her mother howled.

"Hank and I have been talking about various options. We would either have to get someone to watch the baby while I worked, or have someone working the store at least part time. By bringing someone in part time now, we have more time to find the choice that best suits us," Kate replied, trying to hold her temper in. She had called to let her parents know there was a second grandchild on the way, not to argue about whether she should be working or not.

"Well, if you had married more wisely you wouldn't need to be working at all and then you could focus on your family instead of how to work and raise your children both," her mother snorted derisively.

"MOTHER!" Kate lost her patience. "The issue is not that I have to work, it's that I like working. By no means do Hank and I have to have me working to support our family. I did not call to argue or debate with you about if I should stay working or not, I merely thought you and dad would want to know about the new baby."

"Of course we wanted to know, and thank you so much for calling us with the information," her mother replied with cold politeness.

"It was no trouble, I'm glad that you're so excited about it," Kate replied in atone that would have given Eskimos frostbite.

Almost shaking in fury, Kate hung up the phone. She didn't slam, she recalled happily later, but nor did she set it gently back in the cradle.

"Kate" came a hesitant knock and call at her door.

"Yes?" she called back and turning around, saw that it was Julia.

"From that scowl I'll guess it was your parents you were talking to?" the slightly younger woman asked hesitantly.

"Yes, it was. I called to let them know I was pregnant, thinking it was better they hear it from me than from someone else. Not to mention having the mistaken idea that they would be happy about another grandchild," Kate growled.

"And they weren't?" Julia guessed

"No, not really. I wasn't expecting them to be as wildly ecstatic as they were about Lisa, since she was the first grandchild and her father was a husband they had chosen and approved of for me. But I was hoping they would at least be something more than coldly indifferent," Kate said, almost in tears.

"Here, is it all right for you to have tea?" Julia asked, guiding her friend into the kitchen.

Kate nodded, still not up to words.

"Okay, I`ll put the kettle on and we'll have a cup of tea for you in a moment. Now, what is this about your being pregnant?" the mailwoman asked.

"I hadn't told you, had I? I'm sorry, Julia; this wasn't how I was planning to let you know." Kate apologized.

"That's perfectly fine. I take it this is not for general knowledge just yet?" Julia guessed.

"Dan and Ivy know, as do Hank and Lisa, but past that no one else does save my parents," Kate answered, taking the cup her friend set in front of her.

"I won't tell a soul, then, not even Deke, though I may have to rip my tongue out to not tell him," Julia said, solemnly crossing her heart.

"Thanks," Kate smiled faintly.

"If your parents aren't happy for you then I am! This is so exciting!" she squealed, hugging the expectant mother.

Kate hugged her back, finally getting to share her joy like she wanted, as they sat back to drink their tea and chat about babies. There would be time enough in the future to deal with her parents.

"You young chickadees all right?" came a voice from the door that they both knew; besides, only one person called every woman in town under forty `chickadee`.

"In here, Ivy," Kate called.

"You two ladies been crying?"

"Just called my parents with the news, they weren't exactly clicking their heels for joy," Kate muttered.

"You've done everything you can to make the peace there, dear, the rest is up to them," Ivy sympathized, giving the mother -to-be a hug.

"Now, here, I brought over a chicken casserole, because I know that cooking for a family isn't always easy when you're in the family way," Ivy went on, bustling into the kitchen with the casserole dish and refilling all of the teacups. There was a reason her nickname was mother Ivy, anyone needing to be adopted, even for just a few hours, found a mother in the woman.

"Hank, Hank, wake up, honey," Kate shook her husband's shoulder. She felt bad about waking him, because he hadn't been getting much sleep of late. But there were certain forces of nature that no one got in the way of or held back.

"Yeah, honey, I'm awake," he groaned, rolling over to face his mountain of a bride.

To him, she and never looked more beautiful than she did now. Kate had quit believing she held any visual appeal, however, after 4 months of pregnancy. Now, almost due, she was convinced she would never be beautiful again. Hank was certain that would pass after the baby was born and her body began to recover. If that recovering from the pregnancy didn't return her belief in her beauty, Hank would merely spend the rest of his life demonstrating to her how desirable she still was.

"It's time," she groaned.

Hank looked stricken as he raced for his clothes and her hospital bag, and then stood in the middle of the room totally confused about what to do next.

"Hank, relax, we're not that rushed. Help me up and I'll get dressed while you call Julia and tell her it's time," Kate instructed calmly.

Hank may have been a father, but he had missed this part and was evidently prone to panic.

Following orders like he was a young naval seaman again, Hank helped his wife up and then retreated down the stairs to phone Julia to come and stay with Lisa. Since Julia and Deke were finally married, there was no need for him to call his helper.

"Hank?" a quiet voice was calling him from upstairs.

"Kate? he called out softly so as to not wake Lisa as he dashed up the stairs.

She was standing in the middle of the floor, "Okay, can you tell me if my shoes match?"

They both laughed as he assured her that yes, her slip on shoes did indeed match. A few months earlier, she had dashed out the door on some errand or another and, not being able to see over her large belly, she had not realized her shoes didn't match. At the time, she had almost burst into tears over it, now they laughed about it.

Both helped by the laugh, he helped her downstairs. Julia arrived as they descended and, giving them both hugs, she sent them on their way.

Hank never could remember the next 14 hours, except that it was spent with her at the hospital, and that it ended with two exhausted parents and a fine healthy boy.

Seeing that his family was sleeping peacefully, he slipped out to make a few calls.

Best to make the call he didn't want to first and get it over with.

"Hello?" came a tired voice.

"Hello Dr. Brice, it's Hank. I was just calling to let you and Victoria know that the baby came. He was born half an hour ago at community general. Kate's going to be here the next few days if you want to come by and see her and the baby."

"Congratulations, I'll let Victoria know and we'll call Katherine to find out when it's convenient for us to visit," came a very polite and formal answer.

"Okay, just thought you would like to know," Hank answered before disconnecting very emphatically.

Duty done, the new father smiled as he placed the coins in for the next call.

"Julia, hi, It's Hank. We have a healthy boy, eight pounds, two ounces, twenty one inches. He and mother are both doing fine,"

"That's wonderful, does he have a name?"

"Steven James Donner," Hank answered proudly.

Lisa was put on the phone and Hank had to repeat the information. She thought the little brother was great, but most wanted to be assured her mother was all right, which she was.

Steve and Yoni were also grateful for the news and touched at the child's name.

"Chope?" Hank called when the phone was picked up next.

"How are Kate and the baby?" was the immediate response.

"Tenas man," Hank answered, "and they are both fine."

"And what is this blessing's name?" the old man asked.

"Steven James Donner," Hank answered still loving the sound of that.

"Tenas yaka tenas man, I'm glad you made peace with your father. You have a double blessing, a son and a father."

"I don't know if I would say we have peace, but we've found some common ground to meet each other on," Hank answered, tired.

"I'll let you go Koim, enjoy your family and kiss them all for me," Chope said.

"Right, night Chope, " Hank hung up.

One last call and he could sleep.

"Hello," came a hoarse voice.

"Hi dad, it's Hank, you'rr a grandfather again," Hank told him.

"Fantastic. Give me all the details.

Hank proceeded to do so.

"And does this youngster possess a name," was asked over the line.

"Steven James Donner," Hank answered.

"You named your son after me, Hank?" came a soft voice of disbelief over the phone.

"Yes, we did," Hank answered simply, hearing sniffed back tears.

"Listen, dad, Kate's going to be on her back for a few days, but why don't you come up in a few weeks when she's up to it and see him?" Hank offered.

"You, you're certain you wouldn't mind?" his father asked, surprised.

"You're always welcome as long as you're sober," Hank assured him.

"I'll call back in a few days then, when you know when it would work for me to come and visit, in the meantime, you go get some sleep."

"I will, good night dad," Hank smiled.

The farewell was reiterated, and Hank tiredly decided to head home, but needed to check on his wife and son once more.

"Home is the sailor home from the sea," he quoted softly to himself. Yes, I am home, I am finally home.

"Chope!" he called out as the small plane's passengers disembarked.

An old man with weathered skin and gray hair, but who still walked straight, headed towards the tall, lean man with light blue eyes and graying hair.

"Happy Birthday," Hank Donner, wished as he hugged his now ninety-year-old grandfather.

"There's a stop we have to make before we head to the rehab center," Hank informed Charlie as he helped him into the truck that said Donner Marine Rehabilitation Center on it's side.

"You still have time for the center?" Charlie teased, as Hank climbed in on the driver's side.

"Yes, in fact, that's mainly what I do. Blame the books on a screw up of Steve's. He accidentally sent a book I had done for Lisa with one of my papers that went to be published. The publisher loved the story and begged to publish it, and so Namu the Orca hit the children's book lists. My articles for National Geographic came because they thought people would be interested in my whales, and it turned out they were."

"Lot of writing for a man that doesn't like to write," the ninety-year-old laughed.

"Don't I know it," Hank chuckled, as he pulled into the hospital parking lot.

"Is someone sick?" Chope asked, concerned.

"No, no one's sick, just someone wanted to meet you," Hank reassured his grandfather, who had a dread of hospitals.

"Here we are," he said, showing his guest to a door.

Lisa Donner-Dyhr was lying back in the bed. Blond hair tied back and looking tired and pale, she had a small baby against her breast, sleeping. Rob Dyhr was close by his wife, beaming at the new baby. Kate was smiling at the family from a little farther out.

Hank smiled as he entered, fifteen years of marriage and five kids together, and Kate was still the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Seeing him, she smiled back.

"Chope!" Lisa grinned as the old man came closer.

"Who's this young fellow?" he asked, grinning down at the great granddaughter of his heart and her first child.

"Chalalee Hank Dyhr," the proud new mother told him.

"No one's going to be able to say his name," the old man grinned widely.

"Then they'll call him Charlie," the new father chuckled.

"I'm not going to be able to go to your party grandpa, but I wanted to make certain you saw Charlie before the others," Lisa whispered.

"Thank you, sweetheart," he beamed, kissing her on the forehead.

"Chope you're here!" A blond haired, blue-eyed girl bounced into the room.

"Yes Elsa, I'm here," he smiled fondly at the youngest Donner.

Steven, Daniel, Charlie, and Grace followed their youngest sister in to greet their oldest sister and new nephew.

Chope came back to stand with Hank and Kate, while their new grandchild was gushed over by their large brood.

"Congratulations, Chope, the old man whispered to his grandson.

"Thanks, Chope," Hank beamed at the new title.

"I just wish dad was here to see this," Hank sighed, wistfully.

The man had died a few years earlier from liver damage, due to the years of drinking. His last years, however, had been spent in the loving embrace of his son's home and family where he had been cared about and loved.

"I wish he could have too, Koim, but remember, he died having gotten his greatest wish, he saw his son happy and had the blessing of your love, that he thought he had lost forever," Charlie reminded him.

Hank smiled his appreciation at the reminder as the adults were beckoned in to join the others.

Translations of Chinook Jargon

Chope = Granddad

Tenas yaka tenas man = Grandson

Yahka wake tenas, yahka mitlite kopa nika klootchman yahka chez malieh = She is not a child, she is my bride.

Koim = grandchild

Nika Kumturs = I understand

Caltus man = Worthless man

Nanitch kopa yaka = Listen to him

Koim, nanitsh kopa yaka = Grandchild, look at him

Nika Tikegh Mika = I love you

Nika tenas klootchman = my sweetheart or my love.

Tenas man = boy

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