Belonging

by

Michelle Pichette

 

Chapter 33

 

 

* * *

     “You aren’t going to Dom’s house,” Patterson told Kowalski as they walked out toward Kowalski’s car in the Institute parking lot.  Kowalski wasn’t inclined to listen at the moment.

     “What if she needs us?” Kowalski asked his friend, wondering how Patterson was so calm about this whole thing.  It was bad enough that Dom was dating some guy that wasn’t from the Seaview, someone that Kowalski didn’t personally know and trust, but now it turned out that the guy she was seeing might be dangerous.  Well, Kowalski knew how to deal with dangerous things.

     “She doesn’t.  She’s fine,” Patterson insisted.  “Why are you listening to anything Portman has to say anyway?  You hate the guy.”

     That was true.  Portman was a stuck up creep that treated the crew of the Seaview like they were low class losers.  He even treated some of the officers that way.  He just did it kind of on the sly, so that no one could actually prove anything or complain about it.  Kowalski supposed that might have been what was just going on in the cafeteria, but he didn’t know if he wanted to take that chance.

     “Look, we don’t know anything about this Harper guy,” Kowalski tried to reason with Patterson.

     “Except that he’s some kind of genius that’s scaring the pants off the other engineers at the Institute with his brain power.  Even Ro is impressed and she’s no slouch in the thinking department.  Also, we know that he’s a little guy and he got his ass handed to him a week ago, so he’s obviously not secretly a black belt or something.  We’ve been teaching Dom to take care of herself.  If he did anything, which I kind of doubt he would, she’d take him down,” Patterson told him with absolute certainty.

     “Yeah, well...” Kowalski said, wanting to argue the point, but his resolve was beginning to waver.

     “Portman is a jealous creep.  He’s been after Dom for ages and now she’s seeing Harper and so Portman is up to his old tricks,” Patterson said.  “Why are you buying into it?  You’d usually be the first one to see what’s going on.”

     “Because,” Kowalski said, then grumbled the rest of what he was thinking under his breath.

     “Because?  It’s not just Portman, is it?  What’s going on with you, Ski?” Patterson pressed as they reached Kowalski’s car.

     “It should have been you, okay?” Kowalski grumbled, this time loud enough for Patterson to hear him.

     Patterson’s mouth went flat with annoyance.  “I thought we settled this already.”

     “Well, it’s unsettled now!” Kowalski declared and then got into his car.  Patterson got in a little more slowly and sat in the passenger seat of Ski’s Camaro, looking a little angry.  “Look, I know we’ve talked about this, but it’s still bugging me,” Ski told him.  “You and Dom, you just get along so great.  It doesn’t make sense why you’re not together.”

     Patterson let out a long, deep sigh.  “Look, Rick, me and Dom are friends.  That works because that’s all it is and all it’s gonna be.  We have fun together and take care of each other and stuff, but that doesn’t mean that I do it for her.  Guys with brains, they get Dom all hot and bothered.  You should see the looks she gives the Admiral when he’s being all brilliant and saving the day with his mind, not his fists.  That’s what she deserves, a guy that she can look at like that, that can make her feel that for him.  I’m not that guy and it’s okay.  Maybe Harper’s that guy.  I don’t know.  I do know I’m not gonna be the person that keeps her from finding out if he is.  I want her to be happy, Rick.  If she’s happy, I’ll be happy.”

     Kowalski sat there for a minute not saying anything because he didn’t really know what to say.  “You’re not stupid,” he said after a few minutes, wanting to say something.

     “I know,” Pat replied with a sad little smile.

     “Harper better treat Dom right or I’m pounding the living daylights out of him,” Kowalski snarled, suddenly wanting to hit somebody and not having a target.

     “Yeah, well, wait til Harper does something worth getting socked for before you even start thinking about it, okay?  He seemed like a decent guy when we met him.  He adores Dom.  You’d have to be blind not to see that,” Pat replied.

     “All right, all right,” Ski grumbled.

     “Batting cages?” Patterson asked, probably knowing he had some aggression that needed venting.  Kowalski nodded and started his car.  At least he could hit something there and no one would get mad at him for it.  “Now, if you wanted to pound on Portman, I might just be willing to hold him down for you,” Patterson said in an offhanded manner as Ski started back out of his parking space.  Pat’s words made Kowalski laugh in spite of himself.

* * *

     Shopping with Seamus was an interesting experience.  It was sort of like taking a small child to the mall.  He didn’t know where to look first and got excited over just about everything except what he was supposed to be looking for.  Dom was sort of glad he didn’t have much money to his name, and what money he did have he already had plans for, because otherwise the kiosk owners in the middle of the mall walkways would have had a banner day, especially the ones that sold electronic gizmos or toys.  When she finally got him into a clothing store, he wanted to buy cargo pants and other casual attire.  Dom, however, had specific instructions from the Admiral.  While it was acceptable to buy Seamus some new casual things that fit him properly, the Admiral wanted him to have appropriate clothes for work at the Institute as well.  Unfortunately, the things that Dom thought Admiral Nelson would find acceptable for that category, Seamus sneered at in contempt.

     Knowing of only one thing was going to get Harper into a dressing room, trying on anything even remotely like what the Admiral had in mind, Dom stepped over to a dark blue shirt that she thought would go wonderfully with Seamus’ eyes and felt it as she glanced at him.  He was standing nearby, frowning, arms crossed over his chest, having declared everything in the general vicinity to be unwearable.  “You know,” she said as she ran a hand down the front of the shirt, making sure to do it slowly and sensually.  “I love the feel of this material.  Don’t you?”

     Seamus got a funny look on his face as he watched her and his arms started to loosen, then his face tightened again and he said a little angrily, “I know what you’re doing.  You think I haven’t had enough women do this very thing to me that I wouldn’t know?”

     Dom picked up the shirt and carried it over to him.  “Of course you know.  You are brilliant after all,” she cooed, laying the shirt over his chest and arms and looking him over with as much evident approval as she could squeeze into one look.  “This color really brings out your eyes,” she said, running a hand slowly over the shirt and Seamus’ chest.  She felt him shiver even through all the material between him and her hand.

     “Stop that,” he protested, but his words had absolutely no conviction in them and he was edging closer rather than backing away from her.

     “I think you would look so incredible in this shirt,” Dom told him, giving him a soft smile and looking into his eyes.

     Harper pursed his lips, seeming to weigh his options.  “What do I get if I try it on?” he asked.

     “If it fits, a really nice shirt once we pay for it,” Dom told him.  “And the knowledge that you will be the sexiest guy in Engineering when you wear it at work.”

     “Yeah, yeah.  What else?” Seamus asked, bouncing between bored and hopeful.

     “Well,” she said, running her hand over it again with a contemplative look, getting another nice shiver in response.  “It does feel awfully nice.  Heaven knows I wouldn’t be able to keep my hands off it.”

     Seamus took the shirt from her looking disgusted, probably with himself because he grumbled, “I am so damned easy.  Fine.  Dress me.  But I want that shirt we saw in the WB Store too.”

     Dom kissed him on the cheek for giving in.  “I liked that shirt.  It was so you.  We’ll go there after we’re done here.”  Now that Seamus was cooperating at least a little bit, Dom quickly found other things that might suit him and got him to try them on without giving him a chance to think about it too much.  In no time, they had amassed a fairly good wardrobe for him, even finding some soft sleep pants and loose, comfortable t-shirts for him to wear in the dorms at night.  Dom knew he currently slept either in his underwear or nothing at all, since she knew for a fact that he didn’t sleep in his clothes.  She didn’t like the idea that he might wander the dorm halls naked and wouldn’t put it past him.  Now she wouldn’t have to think about it anymore.  Seamus seemed to be perking up with the thought that they would soon be done while it was still relatively early.

     “I want to go grab a spare pair of cargo pants.  I think all the washing is starting to wear holes in mine,” Seamus told Dom as they laid his new things out on the checkout counter.

     “Go ahead.  You should probably get a couple, for weekends, and that red jersey you liked.  You would look so hot in that.  This will probably take a few minutes,” Dom said.  Seamus grinned at Dom telling him he’d look good in the shirt he liked and took off at a quick walk back toward casual clothes as the clerk began to sort and fold the mountain clothing that had been dumped before him.  Dom turned to help, and she started pulling off hangers and separating things.  She was just folding a shirt so the tag was accessible for ringing when a hand ran up over her shoulder.  Smiling, Dom spun around, thinking Seamus had gotten back awfully fast, only to find herself looking at Philip Kensington.  “Oh, Philip!” she managed to say, having to do a mental regroup.

     “Dominique, what a pleasure!” Kensington purred at her with a Hollywood smile as he lifted one of her hands to his lips.  “And who is the lucky man that has you shopping for him?”

     “Hands off my girlfriend, rich boy,” came Seamus’ annoyed voice from behind him.  Philip released her hand as he half turned.  Seamus moved past him, tossed the things he was holding onto the pile, then quickly put a possessive arm around Dom and pulled her close next to him.

     Dom glanced between Seamus’ glare and Kensington’s surprised face, wondering when they had met.  “I guess introductions aren’t necessary,” Dom said, thinking someone ought to say something.

     Philip seemed to have reorganized his thoughts and a smile came back to his face.  “I didn’t realize that you were seeing anyone, Dominique.  What a lucky man you are, Seamus,” he said, taking a step back.  Dom felt her eyes narrow of their own volition.  What was going on?  How did Seamus and Philip know each other?  Why did Philip suddenly have his game face on?

     “Yeah, aren’t I?” Seamus asked in return and Dom got pulled a little closer.  Dom looked up at him and Seamus looked like he was ready to get into a fight.  He felt threatened?  She had told him that she had absolutely no interest in dating Philip and that had been when Seamus was still staying at her place, before they were dating.  Why would he think things had changed?

     “And it seems we’re destined to keep meeting, Seamus,” Philip continued as if he didn’t notice Seamus’ expression or body language.  “You never did say what sort of engineering you specialize in the other day.”

     Dom felt dread build in her, suddenly realizing at least in part what was going on.  Oh, no!  This was a whole new level of bad!  “Philip, it was nice to see you, but Seamus and I have a lot to get done,” she said quickly, thinking that she needed Philip to go before things got ugly.  Seamus plainly did not like  Philip or his recruiting practices and he did not have Ro’s restraint!

     “Are the clothes for you, Seamus?  Please, allow me!” Philip said, starting to reach back for his wallet.  No, no, no was all Dom could think as she barely stopped herself from clapping a hand over her face.  If Philip did pay for the clothing, Seamus would never wear any of it on principle!

     “Keep your money,” Seamus growled, starting to pull his arm from around Dom.  She caught his wrist and pulled his arm back around her waist.  Seamus did not need his hands free at the moment despite the frustrated look he shot at her.

     “Thank you, Philip, but we’re fine.  See you around, okay?” Dom said, hoping that he would take the rather pointed hint.

     Philip looked disappointed, but Dom knew he’d get over it.  “If you’re sure I can’t...” he started.

     “You can’t,” Seamus snapped, tensing, but Dom squeezed the hand she still had a grip on, distracting him and keeping him from saying more.

     “Then we’ll have to have dinner together sometime.  How does flying to Paris for the weekend sound?” Philip asked.  Why didn’t he ever give up easily, Dom sighed to herself.

     “Like it’s not happening,” Seamus replied tugging against Dom’s grip.

     “Good bye, Philip,” Dom said, trying to sound pleasant despite the fact that she was tightening her grasp against Seamus’ insistent pulling.  She was sure the only reason she still had him in hand was that he didn’t want to hurt her by yanking himself free.  Seamus got major good boyfriend points for showing that consideration, especially since he was angry with Phillip at the moment.  Now she just had to get rid of Philip so she could reward Seamus, but Philip just wasn’t leaving.  “Maybe we’ll see you at the Institute,” Dom said, beginning to think he’d never go.

     “Count on it,” Philip said, then finally left smiling.

     Dom finally let go of Seamus and let out a deep sigh, saying, “Philip, Philip, Philip,” under her breath, then turned back to the checkout counter.  The clerk was giving her an odd look as he continued to ring and fold, but she couldn’t really blame him.  A glance at Seamus found him doing a slow burn as he glared at Philip’s departing back.  Dom sighed again, then decided that she was glad Seamus was easy to distract in this instance.  “You know, I think we ought to buy that tie you liked,” she commented as she fished out her expense account card.

     “Huh?” Seamus asked, sounding more baffled than angry, letting her know she had derailed his train of thought.

     “You know, the one at the kiosk earlier,” Dom reminded him, even though she knew the Admiral would hate the tie.  Served him right for playing his silly game with Philip with Seamus in the middle.  The clerk told her what was owed and Dom handed the card over to him.  “And we need to stop for at least one pair of shoes, as per orders.  It’s supposed to be warm tomorrow and Sunday.  Want to get some swimming trunks and we’ll hit the beach in back of my place tomorrow morning?  I usually don’t have someone to rub sunscreen on my back when I do that and I’d be more than happy to reciprocate.”

     Seamus started to look excited at the prospect of rubbing oil on her back, then got a miffed expression on his face.  “Cut that out!  You’re doing it again!  You’re just saying that so I’ll forget about Kensington pawing you,” Seamus accused, and rightfully so, because that was exactly what she was doing.  It had been a little too much to hope for that this tactic would work as well a second time in such a short length of time.  “You probably wouldn’t even let me rub oil on you anyway,” Seamus pouted sullenly, though his eyes wandered over her body and unfocused a little as he seemed to imagine it, then he stirred himself back to the moment.  “I bet ol’ Philip would just love getting you alone on a beach.  First he wanted to take you to Australia, now Paris,” he said, looking angry all over again.

     “He wanted to take you to Paris,” Dom reminded him.  A disgusted look formed on Seamus’ face and it dawned on Dom that he probably thought that Philip intended something other than dinner.  She was not addressing Philip Kensington’s sexual orientation in the middle of a department store.  “And you know I’m not interested in Philip at all,” she told him instead, as she signed the charge slip.  She turned back to Seamus with two of the bags sitting on the counter and handed them toward him, grateful that no one else was waiting to be checked out because he was giving her a tight lipped, obstinate look.  He was also sneering a little as he looked at the bags.  Dom was determined to get him back into a good mood so that all the clothes she’d just bought wouldn’t have bad thoughts attached to them.  She put a contemplative look on her own face and said, “You know, I could use a new bathing suit too.  I should probably try on a few, maybe some bikinis.  I never know which one to chose.  How about I show you when I try them on and you can help me pick one out?”  The miffed, doubting expression vanished at the word bikini.

     “Hell yeah!  Something I can finally get into shopping for!  Do I get to pick out ones for you to try?” Seamus asked enthusiastically as he took the bags she was handing toward him,  forgetting about being angry and Philip entirely.  When she nodded to his question, he grinned from ear to ear.  Dom smiled as he took the rest of the bags too, then kissed her on the cheek and told her she was the best girlfriend ever.  A little swimsuit modeling was a small price to pay for getting Seamus dressed nicely and to make up for Philip appearing out of nowhere as he had.  She was also very glad that Seamus seemed happy with bathing suits and hadn’t brought Victoria’s Secret back up.  He had certainly mentioned how much better the underwear in the window would look on her than the manikins often enough after seeing them.  She would have to talk to the Admiral about what had just happened with Philip on Monday.  This round of ‘who gets the engineer’ had better end immediately or Seamus wouldn’t be the only person angry about it.

* * *

 

 

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Belonging, Chapter One
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