* * *

     Dom was in her office as it neared noon, finishing up a last paper that she wanted to mail before the Seaview sailed.  That she was actually got to finish it was a bit confusing to her because she had expected to be interrupted, though not in a bad way, continually today.

     “Hey,” Seamus said brightly as he popped in the door.  Dom smiled at him.  She had expected him hours ago.

     “Hey yourself,” she replied as he came around her desk and gave her a long, warm kiss.  Seamus was wonderful at kissing, she mused contentedly as she played with his very touchable hair while he demonstrated his skills.  “Where have you been all morning?” she asked when he broke off the kiss.  “I half expected you to be camped out in my office all day today.”

     “I had something to give to the Admiral so he could look it over really good before leaving tomorrow,” Seamus said.

     “Weaponry,” Dom assumed aloud, shaking her head at him.

     “Self defense measures,” he countered her with a frown.  “I’d try giving you some, but after the lecture two days ago...”

     “I don’t need weapons to study fish,” she interrupted him.

     “So you impressed upon me,” he said with a long suffering sigh, but then shook off his unhappy expression and smiled.  “So I just put myself into debt with the Admiral and went out to get you something instead.”

     “You don’t need to buy me anything,” Dom told him.  “I have everything I need, including a very attentive fiancé.  I don’t need a thing.”

     “No, this I needed to get, trust me,” Seamus told her and fished a small box out of his pocket.  He took her left hand and then looked up into her eyes.  “You’re sure you still want to marry me?” he asked, sounding suddenly nervous.

     “Yes,” she replied with a laugh in her voice.  Seamus had asked her that question at least a dozen times since he’d first proposed, as if she would suddenly change her mind and not tell him.

     “Okay,” he said, sounding almost relieved.  “Then let’s make it official.”  He opened the little box and took out a Claddagh ring and put it on her hand.  “See, you have to wear it facing this way on this hand,” he told her, then kissed her fingers lovingly.  “It means you’re engaged.  We turn it around on the big day.”  Dom hadn’t noticed until that moment that Seamus was wearing an identical ring on his own hand.  He lifted her hand and traced over the face of the ring gently with one finger.  “See?  The ring stands for friendship, love and loyalty, hands for friendship, heart for love, crown for loyalty.  When you give someone this ring, you’re saying, ‘With my hands I give you my heart, and crown it with my love.’”

     “That’s so sweet,” Dom said, giving his a soft kiss.  “And I can’t buy one for you.  You beat me to it.”

     Seamus smiled a little sadly, twisting his own ring.  “I don’t usually wear jewelry.  I work with my hands and anything on them gets dirty and scraped and stuff.  I’ll probably go through dozens of these, so you can get me the next one if you want.  I got this so that I have something to touch, something to remind me you’ll be back soon when you go away.  I can close my eyes and run my fingers over the pattern and pretend I’m touching your hand when I’m lonely.”  He seemed to shake off his melancholy and gave her a smile and added, “Plus, it lets the other ladies out there know that I’ve given my heart away and am off the market, not to bother.”

     Dom smiled.  “You actually think that a ring will stop some of them?  Some women don’t care if a guy is married or a priest or whatever.  They just pounce.”

     “Wow!  Maybe I need self defense measures,” Seamus joked.  Dom kissed him and he really smiled.  “Do you think everyone had a good time last night?” he asked, settling her into his arms.  Dom happily cuddled there, smiling up at him.

     “I think so.  Chief Sharkey certainly seemed to like teasing you about being unable to follow simple instructions.”

     “Hey, he said to run.  He didn’t say where to or to do what.  Is it my fault that he wasn’t specific with his desires?  Besides, Rick was glad I came back bearing arms,” Seamus said defensively.

     “Of course he was.  He was about to get eaten when you saved the day.  My hero,” Dom replied, stroking his back.

     “Too bad I got pulverized right after or maybe I could have wormed my way into coming with you guys tomorrow,” he grumbled.

     Dom stretched up and kissed him on the cheek.  “You’re still recovering, so don’t even think about it.”

     “That’s what the Admiral said too,” Seamus sighed.  “A guy could feel unwanted.”

     “Really?  And I was going to let you sleep over tonight, since it’s our last night together for a bit,” Dom said, watching his face.  Seamus blinked in surprise, then squeezed her tightly and kissed her passionately.  “Just sleep,” she said with a little breathless laugh when he let her.

     “Same bed, though, right?  All cuddly and close when I’m not half dead or too drugged up to really appreciate it?” Seamus asked enthusiastically, sounding like that alone would be a dream come true.

     Dom nodded, stroking his face, saying, “I don’t want you to have bad dreams tonight.”

     Seamus smiled brightly at her and kissed her again.  “I won’t.  I’m having nice dreams right now and I’m not even asleep yet.”  Then his stomach rumbled rather noisily between them, making Dom laugh.  “Shut up, you.  You’ve been getting all kinds of attention lately.  Give the rest of me a chance!” Seamus said, giving himself a poke in the gut.

     “Come on.  Let’s take care of your stomach.  I’m hungry too,” Dom said, taking his hand and starting to pull him out of her office.

     “But there was kissing going on!” Seamus protested.

     “And I just finished the last thing I needed to do for the day, so I was thinking that we would have a nice lunch, I would make sure there was plenty of food in my house for you to have while I’m gone, then I would have nothing to do the rest of the day but spend time with my fiancé in the privacy of my home,” Dom hummed.

     Suddenly, Seamus’ arm was around her waist and he was all but propelling her out her office door.  “You’re walking too slow.  Let’s get this eating stuff out of the way!” he said, making her giggle.  She was going to miss him so much while the Seaview was away and she didn’t like to think about him being sad and lonely when she was gone.  Dom snuggled back against his side as she walked quickly along with him, smiling up at him.  She would never have thought that someone could come to mean so much to her so quickly.  She had never been unhappy with her life, but now she felt like something that she’d never known was missing had suddenly appeared and completed her.  Gently rubbing her thumb over her new ring, she suddenly found herself looking forward to the day when she could turn it around and thinking that six months before being able to make Seamus a permanent part of her life was too long a time to wait.

* * *

     Nelson watched silently as Doctor Babin and Harper left the Institute talking and laughing together, pretty much wrapped around each other.  It made him smile, glad to see two people he cared so much about so happy.  He was about to turn back to his office when he sensed someone was near.  With almost a sense of dread, he glanced over his shoulder, thinking he would see Barris there.  He was not at all disappointed when it turned out to be Lee that had silently arrived to stand just to the side and behind him.

     “Dom’s off for the rest of the day?” he asked.

     “Yes, she and Mister Harper are,” Nelson replied, rather pleased that Lee and Harper seemed to be getting along at least a bit better since the little engineer had recovered from his lung infection.  Nelson knew that Lee was aware of at least part of the truth of about Harper, but the subject had not been broached between the two of them.  He decided that he would take care of that now.  “He’s a nice young man, despite everything that’s happened to him.  I’m glad she’s the one that found him after he was torn from his home and thrown here, into our time.  He needed someone to handle him with a little kindness for a change.  And he’ll be good for her and to her.  They’ll be good for each other.”

     Lee’s mouth went hard for a moment, then he said, “I think they’re rushing things, but they seem happy, so I guess that’s all that’s important.”  He looked from the direction that Harper and Doctor Babin had just disappeared off into and met Nelson’s eyes.  “When you said that he was a lost soul looking to find his place, I didn’t quite realize how lost you meant.”

     Nelson smiled a little, saying, “Does it really matter, when he is from?”

     Lee shrugged.  “I suppose not.  Dom was a little vague when she... inadvertently told me he was from the future.  Do we know exactly when he is from?”

     Nelson shook his head, fighting down a smile over how he imagined Doctor Babin had told Lee about things.  “No.  Even Seamus isn’t entirely sure about how many years he was thrown back in time.  Apparently Earth adopted a more galactic calendar some time in the future.”

     A suspicious look crossed Lee’s face.  “You believe him?”

     “I don’t think that Seamus has ever purposely lied to me about anything,” Nelson said, firmly believing his words.  “Omitted a lot, yes, but I think there is a lot about what is to come that I’d simply rather not know.”

     Lee nodded.  “I can understand that.  Should we have a security team keep an eye on him when he’s away from the Institute?  I’d hate to think about one of our enemies kidnapping him and forcing him to make things to suit their purposes.”

     Nelson shook his head.  “As far as our enemies, the INS and the world in general are concerned, Seamus Harper is a homeless man who was born in nineteen seventy one in Salem, Massachusetts.  They have absolutely no reason to suspect he’s anything more than that and I intend to keep things that way.  Aside for the sound weapon he made, I’m going to see to it that he never has anything to do with anything destructive as long as he works here, thus giving our enemies no reason to desire taking him.”

     “So his secret project that Mister Fletcher is now helping him with...” Lee started, but purposefully left the comment unfinished.

     “Is the Institute’s new space program.  Lee, we are going to have a Flying Sub capable of achieving Earth orbit by the end of the year,” Nelson told him, still incredibly pleased about that.

     Lee looked impressed.  “So we only need to worry about NASA kidnapping him, then,” he stated rather than asked.

     “Pretty much, yes,” Nelson said with a smile.

     Lee nodded, still looking serious about the matter.  “I suppose we can handle anyone they send our way.  I have some final reports to go over with you before we launch tomorrow.  Have you got a few minutes right now, sir?”  So Lee intended to treat Harper as another of the Institute’s secrets, something to be guarded against outside forces.  Nelson could live with that.

     “Of course, Lee,” Nelson said, nodding Lee in the direction of his office as he turned that way himself.

     “Admiral, this improved Flying Sub,” Lee started hesitantly.

     “Yes?” Nelson prompted him to continue.

     “Let me or Chip take the first few test flights,” Lee said.  “After all, Harper’s sound cannon didn’t down that creature on the first shot.”  Nelson chuckled, giving Lee a good natured slap on the back.  This sort of distrust he could cope with.

* * *



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