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A Monstrous Valentine
by Sarah & Ruth Christian

Part of HMS Monstrous AU universe

Styles chuckled to himself as he watched over Squintyboots writing out the valentine
notes. She had copied Lieutenant Bush's handwriting exactly; his own mother wouldn't be
able to tell it was a fake.

"You have to understand, I'm giving the guy a helping hand," explained Styles.

"I understand," replied Squinty, with a sly look. "But you owe me one now."

"You have written what I told you haven't you?"

"We've got to make it sound like the Lieutenant has written it so a little artistic license is
needed. Oh, and you'll note my little amendment."

"Amendment?"

"Yes, the Officer's Dance is on Friday. I think an invitation to accompany him would be
appropriate."

"You're a genius. Oh, this is going to be great," Styles grinned. "I can't wait." He took both
the notes. "Ta very much, Sindy."

***

The Reluctant Valentine

Lieutenant William Bush cowardly ducked around the corner of the companionway and
breathed a temporary sigh of relief. The Marine sentry lowered his head to hide the smile
that was threatening to spread across his face. Mr. Bush shot the Marine a withering glare;
his predicament was quickly becoming the source of endless amusement and betting on
both ships.

It was the strain of evading the two that was exhausting him. They were both beautiful
women, and given the opportunity to court one, he would not have hesitated, but having
both pursue /him/ was overwhelming and embarrassing. How could he possibly choose
and not hurt one or the other? He fervently wished the refitting of the /Seawitch/ would
progress more rapidly.

"Mr. Bush?" came the lilting voice of Acting Lieutenant Nerrissa Morgan from somewhere
down the companionway.

He had to act fast, and in doing so might incur the wrath of his Captain. He strode up to
Captain Pellew's cabin and knocked.

"Enter." Captain Pellew responded.

Mr. Bush entered the great cabin and quickly closed the door behind him.

"My apologies Captain." He said as he dashed to the cabin windows.

"Lieutenant Bush, by God man, what do you think you're doing?" exclaimed Captain Pellew
in shock and?
disbelief as he watched his First Lieutenant climb out through his cabin windows. At that
moment, a frantic knocking sounded at the door. Mr. Bush looked at the Captain
pleadingly and whispered, "please, sir, don't tell them I came this way."

Styles lent over the back rail and to his surprise saw Lieutenant Bush dangling from the
stern, holding on by his fingernails. He had lifted his feet up so they wouldn't be seen
through the cabin windows.

"What are you doing down there, sir?" asked Styles, loudly.
?
"Shush," Hissed the Lieutenant. "Hold your tongue man or I'll have it cut out."

"Oh, Mr. Bush, there you are!" Mr. Bush glanced dance down to see Lieutenant Ruth
Christian positioning the jollyboat beneath him.

"Why don't you just climb down to the window again?" called Nerrissa, leaning out of the
window holding her hand out like a stirrup. "Just put your foot on my hand."?
?
Lieutenant Bush let out a large sigh.?
?
"Styles, help me," he said out the side of his mouth. "Between those two I'll be dead before
the day is out."
?
""Is that an order, sir?" asked Styles, raising an eyebrow.
?
"Just do it!"
?
"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, sir. You'd better choose one, none, or both soon
before it gets out of hand."?
?
"Out of hand?" Lt. Bush asked incredulously, huffing as he heaved himself over the taffrail.
"Styles, this situation has never been 'in hand.'"
?
"There ya go, sir, all safe `n sound." Styles said as he dusted the Lieutenant's coat off,
trying to hide his grin.
?
Mr. Bush straightened his uniform and prepared to make a dignified exit from the
quarterdeck. He heard Lieutenant Christian making her way up the side of the /Seawitch/
and quickly ducked behind the galley's smoke stack. He suddenly let out a yelp, jumping a
few inches in the air.
?
"Who pinched my bum?" he yelled, realising too late that everyone had heard him.
?
The crew had turned to look at him; he could see their barely contained smiles.
?
"Well it weren't me," quipped Mathews, to his colleague who had been nearby.

"This is not a matter to jest about," snapped the Lieutenant.
?
"Well there's nothing in the Articles of War about it," said Styles. "And don't look at me, I
don't swing that way, sir."
?
"I think it was one of your female admirers, sir"

The laughter that had been threatening to burst out of Styles finally broke free. "I think
things have just gotten well in hand, sir."

The entire crew exploded into laughter.

"Mr Bush," Lieutenant Christian and Acting Lieutenant Morgan said in unison.

Lieutenant Bush reluctantly turned to face them both.

"Aye," he nodded his head in greeting.

"Why do you run from us?"

"I wasn't running, I was-,"

Lt. Christian took out the note she had received that morning and held it out so he could
read it.

"Is this or is this not your signature?" she demanded.

"It is but-,"

Acting Lt. Morgan was next to show him her note.

"Is this or is this not your signature, sir?" she asked.

"It is but-,"

"Then who do you choose? Which one of us have you invited to the dance? It can't be both,
that would open you up to too much speculation, sir."

"I-I have never seen those notes before." He held his hands up in a gesture of surrender. "I
don't know how my signature came to be on them but I wrote no such note."

"Now he denies it," said Lt. Christian, turning to her crewmate. "May I speak with you a
moment, in private, Miss Morgan?"

"Of course Miss Christian," Nerrissa replied.

The both turned away and began to whisper amongst themselves for a minute or so before
turning back.

"We have decided-," began Lt. Christian

"Wholeheartedly after much discussion," added Nerrissa.

"That you must decide which of us you will take to the dance and provide a suitable
substitute partner for the other."

"So?"

"Well I-," stammered Lt. Bush.

***

The two officers stood leaning onto the shelf of the fireplace, a glass of sherry in hand,
watching the assembled guests at the dance.

"You owe me for this sacrifice," said Horatio, to his friend. "Why don't you sort your love
life out? Any other man would be flattered by the attentions of two accomplished women."

"I am flattered, and overwhelmed," replied Lt. Bush. "And my mother will be ecstatic. She's
wanted me married to a nice girl since I was born."

"It was good of them to be so understanding, when you explained your decision."

"A good officer-,"

"And a good wife?"

"And a good wifea good potential wife," he smiled, "must always understand protocol.
My choice was simple once I decided to go by-the-book."

"It was simple a matter of protocol then, not personal choice?"

"You know me Horatio. What do you think? And that is a rhetorical question."

"I for one hope you made the right decision."

"So do I."

They both laughed together.

The End.