A Marriage of Convenience

Todd Fletcher knew Dana Simpson from work and they hung out with the same group of shipmates at night. She was a storekeeper in the Supply Department and he was a Yeoman in the Administrative Office of the Reserve Support Detachment. They were both young Sailors on their first Navy tour, required to live in the base barracks which made for a somewhat boring and routine life after hours.

Fletcher and Simpson often found themselves at the club at night commiserating on their lives and woes, usually complaining about being junior Sailors in a command top heavy with more senior Petty Officers and Chiefs. Fletcher recently made Third Class Petty Officer and Simpson was still a Seaman although she hoped to make rate the next advancement cycle.

Most of their command shipmates were married and lived in base housing or were senior enough to merit 'single BAQ' and be paid to live off base. Unfortunately, Fletcher and Simpson were too junior to receive such privileges so they were stuck in the barracks because even if they got permission to live off base they couldn't afford to on their pay scale. That left them hanging around the club with other barracks Sailors most nights, drinking and moaning about the unfairness of the Navy pecking order.

Sometimes they ventured off base for dinner or a movie as a group but because most of them weren't twenty one yet they couldn't drink off base. They were allowed to drink at the club on base and the cost of booze was also much cheaper than in the civilian world.

Fletcher liked Simpson. She was a hard worker but also personable and fun to be around. At night, if she hadn't had too much to drink, she was funny and easy to banter back and forth with. Fletcher found himself spending a lot of time with Simpson when the other guys branched off with various female shipmates.

Simpson wore her blonde hair pulled up in a bun or a pony tail underneath her ball cap at work but at night it was always fluffy and worn straight down. It looked light and yellow, soft and silky. Simpson wasn't drop dead beautiful but she was attractive in a pretty girl next door kind of way even though Fletcher wasn't looking to date her anyway. One of his first mentors - Frenchie - told him never to date a shipmate he served with because it only led to eventual disaster if they broke up.

The club was only a couple of blocks from the barracks complex and the group often walked there together. The barracks were modern buildings built to resemble college dorms - but they were still military with cleanliness requirements and weekly inspections. Four bedroom cubicles with their own bathrooms (heads) shared a common living room area with each cubical set up for two people.

Fletcher bunked with Jonsie, a playboy party hound who was never in his rack and always with a new girl. Fletcher didn't know the other guys in the cubical very well because they were from different commands - there was McHugh, Rat-face, Gibby, Clem, Shocker, and Wolfman - but they got along okay.

Simpson's roommate was 'Preacher Lena', a religiously conservative girl who was constantly trying to convert Dana. The other girls in the complex were Hen - "never met a penis she didn't like" - Potatoes, Dolly, Rosebud, Squats, and Gaga, all nice girls and good shipmates but the dorm space felt too high schoolish for Simpson who grew tired of the drama, soap operas and catty bitchiness that often took place among the group.

Simpson was sitting with Fletcher at the club one evening. Both were in annoyed moods after Squats and Shocker got into a tiff over the football game on one of the many television screens throughout the club.

"Sometimes, everybody's an asshole," Simpson complained.

"Especially after a few brews," Fletcher agreed.

"It's why I wish I could live off base," she pouted. "Live like a normal person instead of being a drunken Sailor in the club every freakin' night just to escape the boredom of commune barracks life."

"To bad you not married," Fletcher remarked. "Then you'd be out of here."

"Damn right," Simpson quickly agreed. "Don't you wish you were married so you could get away from all this?" She grumbled.

"Sometimes," Fletcher admitted.

Simpson stared at him for a long moment. "Wow, wouldn't that be something?" She asked, deep in thought.

"What?" A clueless Fletcher asked.

"If you and me got married," Simpson smirked.

Fletcher looked at her with confusion, trying to figure out what she was saying. "You mean to each other?" He squinted.

"Yeah," Simpson laughed. "That would get us the hell out of here, wouldn't it?"

"I guess," Fletcher agreed.

Simpson chewed on her lower lip giving it some thought. "Would you consider it, Fletcher?" She finally asked.

"Consider what?" He still didn't get it.

"Consider marrying me, you idiot."

"Huh?"

"It would be a marriage of convenience, of course," she explained.

"What are you talking about?"

"A sham marriage, Fletcher," she groaned as she leaned across the table and looked into his eyes. "A fake one to get us the hell out of here."

"You're kidding, right?" Fletcher asked with surprise, sitting back in his chair.

"Actually, I'm very serious," Simpson replied. "We could get a license, find a justice of the peace, search for a place to live and get the hell out of the damn barracks."

"That wouldn't be ethical," Fletcher remarked.

She gave him a crazy look. "What are you, an altar boy?"

"I'm just saying it would be ripping off the system," he argued.

"It would be saving my sanity," Simpson countered. "Come on, Fletcher! Don't you want some normalcy in your life?"

"I'm not sure if a fake marriage would be normal," he said.

"I just need to get off this stupid base," she moaned. "Go home at night to a regular house. Be able to relax in peace and quiet without listening to cat fights and music I don't like. I'd like to have a home cooked meal instead of dining at the chow hall every night. I'd like to sleep in a bed instead of a bunk."

"We'd live together?" Fletcher asked,

"Well, it's the only way to fake a marriage, right? We'd have to have the same address or people would ask questions."

"You'd be willing to live with me?"

"Platonically, sure," she answered,

Fletcher glanced around. "Why me?" He wondered.

"You're the only normal guy I know, Fletch," she said with a shrug. "I've known you long enough to see that you're a nice guy. You don't drink that much, you don't hit on girls and you're very customer service orientated and helpful at work. You're fun You're sincere. I don't get any weird vibes from you."

"Well, thanks, I guess," he laughed.

She waited for him to say something about her but Fletcher wasn't talking.

"Could you live with me?" She wondered.

Fletcher tried not to blush. He didn't want to sound desperate or pathetic. He didn't want her to think he was some unlucky at love duff who was so lonely he wanted to cry himself to sleep at night.

"You seem nice too," he replied neutrally.

Simpson burst out in laughter. "Oh, I do, do I?" She asked sarcastically.

"You know what I mean," he said awkwardly.

"No, Fletch, I don't think I do," Simpson replied with a smirk on her face.

"I could definitely live with you," he let her know.

"So?" She said after a quiet moment. "Would you at least take some time and consider it?"

Fletcher sucked in his breath. "I will at least take some time and consider it," he told her.

"Thanks," she smiled. "It would mean a lot to me, Fletch."

He started to think about it as they sat at the club table nursing their beers.

"Say we did go through with it," Fletcher said after pondering the idea for a while. "What would happen when the end of our tour came?"

"You could quietly divorce me," Simpson suggested. "Or if we both decided to stay in we could use our marriage to try to get better orders," she said.

"I think they have to station married couples within 50 miles of each other," Fletcher said.

"Might get you an overseas billet instead of at sea," Simpson said.

"Are you thinking of reupping?" Fletcher asked.

"Too early to tell," she said. "You?"

"Same."

"Look, we'd still be able to see other people if we met somebody we liked," Simpson offered.

"Don't you think being married might cramp our dating chances?" Fletcher asked sarcastically.

Simpson laughed. "I'm just saying that our fake marriage shouldn't preclude us from having fun if the opportunity arose," she explained. "We'd just have to be discreet about it."

"Give me a few days to think about this, okay?" He requested.

"Oh, sure, of course," she smiled. "No pressure."

Fletcher walked Simpson back to the barracks with a couple of their shipmates and he went to sleep that night thinking about Simpson's proposal - trying to figure out if her idea was totally crazy or an opportunity for him to expand his social life. Living with Simpson sure would be a lot more fun and interesting than rooming with Jonsie and sharing space with the rest of the guys.

Fletcher only had one real serious romance in high school but that fizzled before graduation and there was no point getting serious with anybody else before he shipped out and life here on the base seemed to be more about sex than romance with conquests and one night stands seeming to be the game plan more than establishing a serious relationship. Some Sailors he knew had significant others waiting for them back home which may or may not have been a reason for them not to get involved in the dating scene here.

Fletcher and Simpson kept their same routine in the coming days. She didn't bring up her proposal or try to influence him on making a decision. They saw each other around the large detachment building in the performance of their duties. They went to the chow hall for lunch together sometimes. They'd see each other at night, walking to the club or to the base movie theater. Simpson seemed to be in a good mood whenever they were together and Fletcher knew she was going out of her way to be nice in his presence.

Fletcher needed to let Simpson know if he was in or not. Although ethically he knew it was ripping off the military to take money that he wasn't authorized to have and he knew it was morally questionable to involve himself in cohabitation under such circumstances, a part of him was flattered, intrigued, and excited by the prospect of living with a woman (even if it was going to be platonic in nature).

Fletcher didn't want to tell Simpson of his decision in the noisy club or with their shipmates around so he took her off base to dinner at Cracker Barrel. She dressed up and looked really nice which pretty much sealed the deal for Fletcher although he was embarrassed to be driving her in his beat up fifteen year old crate.

"I'm saving up for a really nice car," he explained.

"Sure," Simpson replied politely.

There wasn't any reason to string her along so Fletcher announced his decision as soon as the waitress left having brought them their food.

"I'm willing to give it a try," he let her know.

"I really appreciate this, Fletch," Simpson smiled. "I know it's going to be a little weird but I think we can make it work as far as faking it goes."

"Sure," Fletcher replied although he wasn't quite sure if he was actually going to fake it.

He let Simpson take control of the situation. She's the one who researched how to get the marriage license. She got Fletcher to submit a request chit along with hers requesting permission to get married. She arranged the blood test at the base medical clinic. She made the appointment with the Justice of the Peace. Fletcher got Jonsie to be a witness for him while Simpson went with Hen (Patty Henshaw) who was a sucker for romantic moments.

"We really have to sell this," Simpson told Fletcher. "Nobody can know we're faking it. Everybody needs to think we're seriously in love and want to be married."

"Okay," Fletcher smiled. "I'll try to look more attentive and gooley-eyed when I'm around you."

Simpson smirked. "Do you think you can pull it off?"

"Do you?" He challenged in return.

"Of course," she bragged. "I've led guys on for years!"

Simpson searched for apartment and house rentals they could afford with their new combined married pay and she really loved a mother-in-law's apartment she found which was really a small house built off an existing house in a wonderful neighborhood.

"It comes furnished so that would save us the money and hassle of buying stuff," she said. "I already have a flat screen in my room so that would work too. The only problem is that it only has one bedroom."

"Yeah, that sounds like a real problem," Fletcher frowned.

"But there's a pull out sleeper sofa in the living room."

"Gee, who's going to get stuck on that?" Fletcher asked sarcastically.

"Of course, if we had family or friends visiting overnight or something we'd have to share the bedroom," she said.

"Of course," he agreed.

It all came together. They received permission to marry from the command (required to speak to a financial counselor and talk to the base chaplain as a stipulation). The blood work was fine. The marriage license was in hand. They set up an appointment with the justice of the peace and married on a Saturday afternoon. They decided to marry in their dress uniforms and Jonsie and Hen did the same as witnesses.

Fletcher kissed Simpson for the first time when the Justice of the Peace said "I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride."

Fletcher was surprised at how nervous he felt when he leaned in and pressed his lips against hers. They were soft and warm and nice. Simpson smiled happily when he pulled back from her face and he grinned as well, feeling strangely at peace with what had just happened between them.

The four Sailors went out to Outback for a celebration dinner and they returned to the barracks as their move in date wasn't for another few weeks.

"Why don't you guys go check into a motel tonight?" Hen urged. "You really need to consummate your wedding."

"We've already fucked, Hen," Simpson said bluntly and Fletcher was embarrassed by her rude lie.

"You don't fuck when you're married, Dana," Hen retorted. "You make love."

Simpson looked taken aback and she had to pull herself together. "We'd rather make love for the first time in the warmth of our new place," she explained sheepishly.

"I can hardly wait," Fletcher replied.

"It must be strange to be a married couple sleeping in different beds in different barrack buildings," Jonsie remarked. "I can stay somewhere else tonight if you guys want to be together."

"It would be too awkward," Simpson said. "Everybody in the other rooms would know what we were doing."

"We could do it quietly," Fletcher grinned, deciding that he was going to make it as awkward for Simpson as possible since she insisted on being fake.

"I'd rather wait, honey," Simpson purred. "You love me enough to wait, right?"

"Sure, sweetie, I can wait," Fletcher replied, leaning in and giving her a kiss as they stood in front of the barrack complex.

Simpson kissed him back but he sensed she was annoyed so he didn't push it.

"Good night, my love," he said instead, trying to sound as dramatic and forlorn as possible.

"Good night, Husband," Simpson replied before disappearing with Hen for their barracks building.

"Tough break," Jonsie sighed as he walked with Fletcher to their room.

Strangely, Fletcher didn't see his bride on Sunday and the guys razzed him about that.

"She left you already?" Wolfman joked.

On Monday, Fletcher and Simpson went to the Personnel Support Detachment with their marriage certificate from the justice of the peace and their pay records were changed to reflect their married status.

"You should see the change reflected in your pay status with your next checks," the friendly disbursing clerk informed them.

Their co-workers gave them a surprise luncheon party that afternoon and Fletcher and Simpson had to play the role of giddy newlyweds for those gathered, making loving speeches and showing public affection for one another.

Simpson spoke about finding her 'soul mate' in Fletcher while Fletcher remarked how wonderful it was to "be with such a sweet, honest, giving and warm person".

The two tried to maintain an appearance of being a married couple. Simpson kept her maiden name "to avoid confusion" so nothing had really changed except that the two were legally married. Whenever they were apart, co workers and shipmates insisted that they spend time together so they had to find things to do, hanging out at the club being the main distraction although a couple of married co-workers invited them to their houses for dinner during the next few days.

Simpson brought Fletcher to their new rented mother-in-law's house the week before they were scheduled to move in so he could see the place and meet the landlords, a married couple named Patty and Matt Jarrett. It was Matt's mom who had died a few months earlier and he was having a hard time letting somebody else move into his mom's place but he was friendly during the walk through.

The apartment had its own entrance off the end of the house into a kitchen area that featured modern appliances and a small round table with three chairs. To the right was a living room with the couch, a coffee table, a couple of lazy boy chairs and a television entertainment center. Down the small hall were the master bedroom with a queen sized bed, two large dressers, a make up table and an easy chair. The bathroom was attached to the bedroom and at the end of the hall was a door to Patty and Matt's part of the house.

"We'll always knock before we come in," Patty assured them.

She was and attractive woman in her early fifties with light brown hair and a somewhat puffy body. Matt was a few years older, muscular and thin with a curly head of black hair and a three day growth of beard of his face.

The four reviewed the ground rules for living in the apartment. The newlywed couple could park in the side lot independent of Patty and Matt's driveway. They were free to redecorate the place as long as they didn't throw away any of the stuff in the apartment. No loud parties or other distractions. Patty asked for the first month's rent and the last month's rent for security and that pretty much wiped out Fletcher's new car fund.

"It looks like an old lady's place," Fletcher told Simpson when they were in the car.

"We'll change it up," Simpson promised. "Get some more hip stuff on the walls."

"That will cost money," Fletcher protested, still smarting from the money he just forked over to Mrs. Jarrett. "You have to go through the bedroom to use the bathroom."

"Just knock first if the bedroom door is closed," Simpson shrugged. "Don't worry, Fletch, everything's going to be fine."

"This has to be 50-50, Dana," Fletcher told her. "I don't want to feel used or taken advantage of."

"I'll use my money to fix the place up," she said. "And we'll open a separate account and put all the money we get for being married in there, okay?"

"Okay," Fletcher agreed. "And we'll discuss everything we spend and do as a couple, right?"

"Sure," Simpson agreed. She stared at the house as they sat in the car in the side lot of the property. "It's going to be way better than the barracks, Fletch. Just you wait and see."

Fletcher liked being (fake) married. People treated him differently around the office and Simpson was forced to spend more time with him pretending that he was her husband when they were around people they knew. Simpson had to act more affectionate and demonstrative in his presence too and he enjoyed her fake sincerity, her gentle touches and the occasional smooch as they played the role of married couple. Actually, they were a married couple even if she was just acting the part. For Fletcher, he was milking every moment because he enjoyed the attention and the special treatment he was getting from Simpson. It made him feel unique and wanted – perhaps for the first time in his life.

The newlyweds finally moved into their rented home on the first Saturday of the month. Plenty of the barracks gang helped load their shipmates' belongs and transport them to their new digs. Once everything was unloaded and dragged into the house/ apartment, Fletcher and Simpson treated their help to delivered Pizza Hut pizza (and some illegally obtained beer). The shipmates eventually left and Simpson made Fletcher drive her to Walmart for new sheets, towels, toiletries, groceries and odds and ends.

Once back at their new home, Fletcher set up Simpson's flat screen in 'her' bedroom since the Jarretts' furnished a television in the living room entertainment center. Before either of them knew it, it was after ten in the evening. Most of the boxes were unpacked and the home arranged to their liking (more like Simpson's liking) and the couple finally felt like they were home.

"Seems kind of small now that everything's in here," Fletcher observed. "We almost had more room in the barracks."

"Forget about the damn barracks!" Simpson cried. "This is where we want to be, remember!?"

"Sorry," an embarrassed Fletcher replied. "It just takes me a while to get used to a new place."

"It's okay," Simpson smiled, calmer now. "We're both tired. It's been a long day."

They split the closet - Fletcher needed a place to hang his uniforms, but Simpson bought him a plastic chest to keep most of his stuff in the living room - his bedroom. Fletcher pulled out the sleeper sofa and Simpson helped him make the mattress. She gave him two new pillows she bought at Walmart along with a blanket.

"At least it's bigger than the rack back at the barracks," he remarked.

"Please don't hate me," Simpson replied. "Am I being sexist to take the bedroom?"

"I was hoping I was being a gentleman," Fletcher smirked.

"Oh, you are!" Simpson smiled. "That's why I asked you to do this in the first place!"

Fletcher wondered if she really thought he was a gentleman or a sap.

"Well, good night, Fletch," she said. "Enjoy your first night in our new home."

"You too," Fletcher told his wife as he watched her head for the bedroom. He sighed and climbed into his 'bed' for his first night as a married man sharing a home with his wife (but not a bed).

Fletcher awoke to the smell of frying eggs and bacon in the morning. He opened his eyes and saw Simpson standing at the stove in the kitchen humming to herself. She was wearing blue shorts with "NAVY" written in gold across her backside and a gray Navy tee shirt.
"Dana?" He asked in confusion.
She turned her head and smiled at him over her shoulder. "Hungry?" She asked. "Our first real meal in our new home," she beamed. "I've been waiting so long to be able to do this. Isn't it great!?"

Fletcher nodded as he climbed out of the sleeper sofa bed couch. "You really know how to cook?"

"Of course," she laughed. "I cooked a lot back home."

"For your mom?"

"I didn't have a mom," she revealed turning back to focus on the eggs.

"Oh?" Fletcher asked with surprise as he stepped into the kitchen wearing an old pair of boxer shorts and a tattered tee shirt.

"She died when I was eight," she sighed. "I sort of had to learn how to be a junior mother for my kid brother and sister," she explained.

"Wow," Fletcher remarked.
"Yeah," she shrugged. "I hope you don't mind bacon and eggs. They're not as good as the chow hall but..."

"I'm sure they'll be fine," he said. "How 'bout some OJ?" He suggested.

"Sure, that's fine," she replied.

Fletcher found two glasses and got the orange juice carton out of the refrigerator. He filled the two glasses and put them on the table.

"Have a seat," Simpson told him. "It's almost ready."

She put the food on two plates and placed them on the table before taking a seat.

"Oh, ketchup," Fletcher realized, getting up and getting the condiment out of the refrigerator.

"On fried eggs?" Simpson asked with surprise.

"You don't?"

She shook her head no. Fletcher shrugged and dumped a wad of the red stuff on his plate.

"I guess we'll be learning a lot about each other now that we're living together," Simpson remarked.

"Probably," Fletcher agreed.

"Do you go to chapel services on the base on Sundays?" She asked as they ate their breakfast.

"No," Fletcher admitted.

"Is it okay if I borrow your car and go?" She asked hopefully.

"I guess it's our car now," Fletcher said. "Sure, take it."

"Did you go to church growing up?" Simpson asked.

"My parents weren't really into organized religion," Fletcher answered. "My mother was more of a 'go hug a tree' person and my father said he just talked to God one on one."

"My father told us to go to Church and pray for our mother's soul," Simpson explained. "That's why I still go."

Fletcher wasn't about to argue with that. Simpson cleared the plates and washed the dishes before excusing herself to shower before church. She emerged from the bedroom later wearing a modest yet attractive white dress that ended below her knees.

"You look nice," Fletcher told her.

"Thanks," she smiled. "Do you need anything while I'm out?"

He shook his head no and gestured to the car keys hanging on a hook by the door. "I thought that was a good place to keep them so they don't get lost," he explained.

"Good idea," she smiled as she took them into her hands. "Well, I'll see you later."

"I'll be here," Fletcher smiled.

She nodded and left the house. Fletcher dried the dishes Simpson left in the drainer and put them away. He stepped into the bedroom and saw how personal and pretty Simpson had made it. He took a shower and he was amused at how relaxed and laid back he felt once he dressed and settled into one of the chairs in the living room. This was home. And as anti-social as he had been in the past, he had to admit that he was feeling pretty satisfied with the present arrangement he found himself in.
Simpson appeared to be equally as happy when she returned from Church later. Church always made her feel better but she knew there was something more to it now and she assumed it was the new home she found herself in. It felt nice and it felt comfortable. She saw Fletcher sitting in the chair reading yesterday's newspaper and suddenly all felt right in the world.
"Hello," Simpson smiled. "Did you miss me?" She wasn't even sure why she said it - she wasn't gone that long for god sakes.

"I'm glad you're back," Fletcher smiled.

The fake married couple fell into a comfortable and familiar routine just like all married couples. Fletcher drove them to work in the morning after a light breakfast. Sometimes they did physical training together at lunch or dined together at the chow hall. Fletcher drove them home at night (if one of them didn't have the duty) and Simpson usually prepared dinner. Occasionally, they'd get take out, eat at the chow hall on the way home, or go out for dinner. Evenings were leisurely relaxing moments watching television or taking an evening jog together (especially if they didn't PT at lunch). They turned in fairly early, Fletcher in his sleeper sofa couch bed in the living room, Simpson in her comfortable bed in the bedroom.

One day, Simpson called Fletcher from her office and told him she had plans for after work so she wouldn't need a ride and she wouldn't be able to cook dinner. Fletcher didn't question her plans and after work he had dinner at the chow hall with a couple of the barracks guys and then went to the base movie (much cheaper than off base although the movie being shown was several months old).

When Fletcher got home well after nine o'clock, he saw an unfamiliar car in their parking area and he was caught off guard when he entered the house to find Simpson entertaining a guest at the kitchen table.

"Oh, Hi Fletch," Simpson said, glancing up as he entered the kitchen.
"Who's this?" Fletcher asked, staring at the guy seated across from Simpson.
"Jimmy Hannon," the guy replied. "Who are you?"

"Jim, this is my…..roommate, Todd Fletcher," Simpson said quickly.

Roommate!?

Fletcher threw her a disgusted look and left the room without saying anything further, claiming the bedroom as his territory at least for the moment just to spite her. He used the bathroom and then slumped in the easy chair waiting for Hannon to leave. He overheard muffled voices even through the closed door and then the sound of Hannon's car leaving the lot. A moment later, Simpson barged into the bedroom.

"Is there a problem?" She demanded.

Fletcher laughed with disbelief. "A problem?" He asked sarcastically.

"Why were you so rude to him?" Simpson protested.

"What the hell was he doing here in the first place?" Fletcher wanted to know.

"What?" Simpson asked naively. "We agreed we could see other people."

Fletcher had conveniently forgotten that part of the pact but that was beside the point. "You can't bring guys back here, Dana," he said curtly.

"Why not?" She frowned.

"What in the hell do you think the Jarretts will think?" He groaned.

"Oh," She said, realizing her error.

"You said be discreet," he reminded her. "Go to his place. Get a motel. You just can't come here."

"I didn't sleep with him, Fletch," she said with annoyance. "Yet," she added just to get his goat.

"Who is this guy anyway?"

"I met him at church," she shrugged. "He's some Captain's son."

"Oh great," Fletcher said, rolling his eyes.

"What do you care?" She asked angrily.

He gave her a look of disgust as he pulled himself out of the chair. He stared at her with a mixture of anger, jealousy, hurt, and resignation. "I don't," he said bitterly, even though it was a lie.

"Get out of my room," she barked.

"With pleasure," he snapped snidely as he stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him. Their first fight!

Fletcher could hear Simpson's television blaring from the other side of the closed door. He went into the living room and unfolded the sleeper sofa, turning on his television but having a hard time hearing it because of the noise coming from Simpson's room. A few minutes later, the phone rang and a sulking Fletcher answered it.

"What?" He snapped.

"Todd? It's Mrs. Jarrett. Television is awfully loud. Everything okay over there?"

"Oh….uh….sure, sorry, Mrs. Jarrett," Fletcher replied. "We'll turn it down right away. Have a nice evening."

He ended the call, muted his television and went to the bedroom door, knocking loud enough for it to be heard over the loud television.

"Fuck off," Simpson yelled.

"Turn the television down!" Fletcher hollered.

"You can't tell me what to do!" She screamed.

He opened the door and found her standing in her bra and panties.

"Get out!" She bellowed.

"Sorry," he blushed. "But the Jarretts called complaining about the television."

"Damn," she mumbled, finding the remote and turning the sound down.

'Thank you," Fletcher replied, closing the door and trying not to grin at the look on her face when he barged in on her in her skivvies.

But he was still pissed off and he went to bed mad.

They gave each other the cold shoulder in the morning and Simpson didn't bother preparing anything for breakfast. They drove to the base in cold silence and Simpson got out of the car without saying a word, sashaying off in her green fatigues with an attitude and Fletcher laughed at the sight as he watched her go. She sure was sexy when she wanted to be.

Simpson didn't bother calling Fletcher to tell him she was going to go jogging with some female shipmates at lunch and Fletcher wasn't exactly sure what to expect at the end of the day. She didn't call to tell him she wanted a ride home so he swung by the Supply Office at the end of his shift only to be told that Simpson had already left for the day. He was slightly embarrassed to be told by somebody else that his "wife" left without him and he was greatly annoyed (and a little concerned) when he got home to an empty house. He made himself a sandwich for supper and then took a long jog to burn off some of his stress and frustration.

Simpson still wasn't home when Fletcher got back from his run. He took a long shower and watched some television but he wouldn't wait up for her all night so he went to sleep and he never heard her come in.

Fletcher awoke to the smell of fried eggs and bacon and he was relieved to see Simpson standing at the stove tending to the eggs while humming to herself. She was wearing pajama bottoms and a Navy tee shirt. Fletcher left the sleeper sofa couch bed and stepped into the kitchen wearing a pair of jogging shorts and a white tee shirt.

"Good morning?" He said tentatively.

"Oh, hi," She said neutrally. "Do you want some breakfast?"

Fletcher figured whatever was going on between them was over. "Sure," he said. "Thanks."
He once again poured the orange juice for them and he got the ketchup bottle from the frig. Simpson dished the food onto two plates and put them on the table. She took a seat and started eating from her plate and Fletcher did the same.

"Everything okay?" He asked when he realized she still wasn't speaking to him, apparently.

"Sure," she said simply.

"Where were you last night?" He wondered.

"Girls night out," she answered.

He waited a moment. "What about Hannon?"

"He doesn't want to see me anymore," she announced, sounding hurt.

"How come?" Fletcher asked innocently.

She gave him a deadpanned look over the brim of her coffee cup. "He didn't like me living with a guy," she said. "Obviously."

"You mean roommate?" Fletcher asked sarcastically.

"Give it a rest, Fletch," she requested. "I made my bed and now I have to sleep in it."

"I told you being married would cramp your dating style," he reminded her.

"I told him you were gay," Simpson let him know.

"Great," he groaned. "That's all I need."

"Don't worry, I don't think he believed me after meeting you the other night."

"He could tell I wasn't gay from just one look?"

"He said you looked jealous," Simpson replied, giving him a suspicious look. "Were you?"

'Well, no man likes to see his wife with another guy," he teased.

"You won't be acting so smug when you want to go out with some girl," she told him.

"Oh, I would never cheat on my wife," Fletcher grinned.

"This was supposed to be a marriage of convenience," she complained.

"This is convenient," he smiled, holding up a piece of bacon she had cooked.

"You can get that at the chow hall," Simpson pointed out.

"I like yours better," he grinned.

"You're not supposed to like me, Fletch," she warned

"Why not?"

"Because it will just complicate things," she said.

"As if they aren't complicated enough now!?" He laughed.

"Speaking of complicated, have you given any thought about Christmas leave yet?" Simpson asked.

"That's a while off," he said.

"Are you thinking of going home?" She wondered. "Greentown, or whatever it's called."

"Greenville," he replied. "Nice New England town. Especially in winter and at Christmas time."

"So, that's a yes?"

"I don't know yet," he admitted. "What about you? Ohio, right?"

"I don't like the woman my father married a couple of years ago," Simpson sighed. "It's one of the reasons I joined the Navy."

"Uh-oh."

"Yeah." She made an unhappy face.

"You could always come to Greenville with me," Fletcher offered.

"Have you told anybody back home you're married?" She asked.

He shook his head no. "You?"

"No," she admitted.

"You'd like Greenville and Blue County," Fletcher told her. "It's very special."

Simpson looked sad all of a sudden and Fletcher wondered if one of the reasons she wanted a happy little (fake) home here was because shed didn't have one back home.

There was a crack of thunder outside and it started to rain. "Great," Simpson moaned. "I was going to run this morning."

"We could go to the gym," Fletcher told her.

"I guess," she said.

They cleaned up the breakfast dishes and Simpson went into the bedroom to change. She emerged a few minutes later wearing sweat shorts and a gray sweatshirt with the sleeves cut off. Fletcher was wearing a new pair of Navy sweats, blue with yellow stripes on the pant sides. Fletcher drove them to the base in the rain and the jogged into the old giant Quonset hut gym with their satchel bags in their hands. They jogged around the edges of the basketball court for a mile and a half and then Simpson went to ride the stationary bike for a while. Fletcher played in a pick up basketball game with a bunch of guys and then caught up with Simpson who was doing yoga with another group.

He waved at her to let her know he was done and then Rogers said hi to him. Rogers was a second class corpsman he knew from the barracks and around the gym. Sometimes he felt as though she was flirting with him although he could never be sure. Had the whole marriage thing with Simpson not come about he may have tried to find out.

"How's it going?" Fletcher smiled politely.

"I've missed seeing you around," Rogers replied. She was taller than him, thin, with stick arms and legs, a small bust and no hips. But she was baby face pretty and she wore her long black hair in interesting styles whenever he saw her.

"Yeah, I don't come here as much as before," Fletcher replied.

"So I've noticed," she smiled. "I heard you got married."

Fletcher lifted up his left hand and jiggled his ring finger that feature a cheap ring Simpson had given him to serve as his wedding band. Fletcher had spent more money than he should have on a ring Simpson saw at the Navy Exchange that she liked.

"That was quick," Rogers said. "You sure you know what you're doing?"

Fletcher didn't want to tell her the truth- that it was a sham marriage and he was flying by the seat of his pants and he didn't think his new wife liked him all that much even though he was attracted to her. "You only live once," he shrugged.

"Well, I'll be around if anything changes," Rogers replied with a smile before heading off, a towel wrapped around her neck.

"What did Scarecrow want?" Fletcher turned to see Simpson standing there with a frown on her face.

"Just chatting," Fletcher replied.

"Does she know you're married?" Simpson asked.

"Yep," Fletcher replied. Then he gave Simpson an amused look. "Why? What do you care?"

"I don't," she answered, walking past him. "I'm going to shower here before we go."

"Me too," Fletcher called after her. "I'll meet you near the door."

Fletcher showered and changed into a pair of fresh gym shorts and one of the command tee shirts before walking to the front door to wait for Simpson. She appeared from the women's locker room wearing a flowered skirt and a yellow blouse. She joined Fletcher and they walked to the car. The rain had let up while they had been inside.

"I just saw The Scarecrow naked," Simpson reported as they got in the car. "She has a man's body."

"Gee, I didn't know you were a mean girl," Fletcher said with surprise.

Simpson was taken aback by his remark. "I'm not," she said defensively.

"Well, when a pretty girl makes a snide remark about a less attractive person it seems rather cruel," Fletcher replied.

"I'm not pretty," she sighed.

"You're beautiful," Fletcher told her. "Rogers, not so much."

"So why do you talk to her?" Simpson asked. "I've seen you two before."

"She's nice to me," Fletcher said. "She was nice to me when I went to the Clinic after I twisted my ankle last year and she was nice to me whenever we bumped into each other around base. Pretty girls like you don't have to be so nice if they don't want to be but girls like Rogers know personality is what's going to make them popular."

Simpson looked at him like he was nuts. "Why do you know so much about it?" She wanted to know.

"Because I'm the kind of guy pretty girls don't have to talk to," he replied.

Simpson was quiet for a few minutes as he drove them off the base.
"Are you hungry?" Fletcher asked.
"We had a big breakfast," she said.

"How 'bout just ice cream then?" He suggested.

"Okay," she agreed.

He pulled into the Baskin-Robbins was on the way to their house. They went inside and order a couple of sundaes and the two took seats at a corner table.

"I'm sorry for what I said about Scar…Rogers…Lisa," Simpson said. "She seems like a nice person."

"Tell her, not me," Fletcher shrugged.

"I had really bad acne in high school," Simpson blurted out. "I mean really bad."

"I'm sorry," Fletcher said. "It must have been tough."

"It was torture. It was out of control. I was ugly because of it. My father wouldn't do anything about it. Said it was a natural condition. It wasn't until I got to boot camp that the medical people gave me some medicine and it finally went away." He could hear the pain in her voice.

"Is that another reason why you joined the Navy?" Fletcher asked. "To get away from the ridicule?"

"I wasn't college material," Simpson sighed. "I barely made it through high school. I was pretty depressed and unmotivated. I could have stayed home and become a waitress or something but when my father married that bitch…..I'm sorry, I shouldn't be like that…..Donna, my father's second wife, I just figured it was time to go."
"You don't get along with her?"

"She's not my favorite person," Simpson admitted.

"How come? Because she married your father?"

"And took all his attention and time," Simpson explained. "And just isn't very nice. And she resents us kids. Plus she's boring, humorless, and has a stick up her ass."

"I think joining the Navy was the right decision for you," Fletcher decided.

"Oh yeah?" She asked cynically.

"You're a terrific Sailor," he said. "A great shipmate. A hard worker. A good person. You're an asset to the Navy."

"You should write my performance evaluation!" Simpson laughed.

"Are you enjoying your time in the Navy?" Fletcher asked.

"Sure, it's a positive and rewarding experience," Simpson replied. "Something different and it will be a unique part of my life no matter what I do in the future."

"So it was a good decision to join," Fletcher smiled.

"What about you?" Simpson wondered. "Are you happy here?"

"It's been a challenge," Fletcher admitted. "I was home sick for a long time. I had a hard time adjusting to the mentality and lifestyle. But I love meeting new people from all over the country."

"Why'd you join?"

"Because nobody else in my family had since the Korean War," Fletcher told her. 'The past few generations have been liberal academic agnostic pacifist do gooders. Scientists and professors and social workers and progressive politicians."

"You figured you'd break the mold?"

"And some of the stereotypes," Fletcher said. "I mean, I'm still a liberal agnostic pacifist do gooder - I just do it in uniform!"

She laughed. "You are well liked at the command," she said. "People are always saying 'See Fletcher when you go to Admin'. They liked your professional can do customer service attitude and personable sense of humor."

"Yeah, being a nice guy has worked wonders for me," he said sarcastically.

"What's that supposed to mean?" She frowned.

"Nothing," he said dismissively.

Fletcher wasn't about to tell her the only way for him to be around a woman was to marry her in a sham marriage because he was a nice guy.

"Were you like Scarecrow?" Simpson guessed. "Or me with the acne?"

"Sort of," Fletcher admitted.

"What was your curse?"

"I came from a well known popular family with money," Fletcher sighed.

"Gee, sounds tough." Simpson gave him a funny look.

"Only I wasn't all that well known or popular," he explained. "At least not like my brainy beauty queen sister or scholarly athletic brother. I was sort of the runt of the litter, a little out of step, slightly off script, certainly not overtly handsome or oozing with confidence. I was incredibly average."

"Well, you are a nice guy!" She told him. "Trust me, Fletch, that counts for something."

"Yeah, it got you your sham husband so you could get out of the barracks," He said, trying not to sound resentful.

"Nobody put a gun to your head, Fletch," Simpson told him.

He wanted to say she put her sexiness, beauty and baby blue eyes to his head (or at least into his head) but he chose not to reply at all. Their ice cream was finished and they headed home, chatting with the Jarretts upon their arrival who were clearly trying to ascertain that everything was okay with the young marrieds after the loud television the other night.

"They mean well," Simpson said once she and Fletcher were safely in the house.

"We'll have to fight in mime from now on," Fletcher joked.

"And I promise not to turn the television up no matter how pissed off I am," Simpson vowed.

Things got back on track again between them. Simpson didn't bring any guys back to the house and Fletcher knocked before opening the bedroom door so he wouldn't catch her in her skivvies again (or less).

One night, Fletcher had to use the bathroom after Simpson had gone to bed so he tip toed to the bedroom door. It was open a crack so he pushed it open and saw that Simpson had fallen asleep with the television still on. She was peacefully asleep, looking like an angel. He stood at the foot of her bed fighting the urge to climb in next to her, rubbing his hands across her cheeks and tasting her lips again like he did on their wedding day.

He smiled sadly before turning off the television, sending her image into darkness before quietly stepping into the bathroom to do what he needed to do before returning to the sleeper sofa couch bed for another night of lonely sleep.

"Fletcher." It was a quiet whisper and he felt a rubbing warmth on his arm. "Fletch..."

He opened his eyes to find Simpson standing over the couch peering at him. "Somebody dead?" He worried.

"No," she giggled. "I just wanted to tell you I'm heading to the base chapel for church services," she said. "Go back to sleep. I'll cook us up some French Toast when I get back."

"Okay," he said, staring at her beauty. She had her hair pulled up in a sort of French twirl bun and just enough makeup on to accent her natural attributes. The modest flowered dress shaped her body perfectly "Maybe I should start going with you," he realized.

She seemed surprised by his suggestion. "You're an agnostic, remember?"

"Maybe you're converting me," he grinned.

"Well, not enough time now, but if you're serious we can go together next week."

"It's a date" he said.

"I'll see you later," she smiled before standing and heading for the door, grabbing the keys to their car off the hook before leaving.

Fletcher lay on the couch for a long moment thinking about Simpson, knowing he was totally messed up in the head if he was willing to go to church just to spend extra time with her. But lately he was realizing that he wanted to hear her voice, see her smile, smell her perfume, and be with her as much as possible. He hadn't felt this way about a girl in a long time - perhaps even never.

He climbed out of bed, actually smiling at the very thought of her. She asked him if he was happy when they were at the ice cream place and he realized that he actually was happy. Really happy. He liked being married to Simpson (even if it was a sham). He liked sharing a house with her. He liked being with her. His confidence had grown ten-fold since they started hanging out and he enjoyed the reputation being a married man brought him. Co-workers (especially the married ones) treated him with more respect and he felt more mature.

Some of the barrack guys were still having the same conversations and making the same complaints about their boring nights, or endless drinking at the club, or their occasional one night stands with some college girl they met 'on the beach' (anything off base was 'on the beach'). Sometimes, they'd ask Fletcher what he did the night before. He'd tell the truth - home cooked meal, evening jog with his wife, pleasant conversations, peaceful night's sleep - and he'd lie a little bit - terrific sex every night with the same woman and cuddling naked together all night.

"Married life must be great," the barrack guys would say with envy.

Fletcher climbed out of bed finally, used the bathroom, took a shower and actually dressed up, putting on a pair of slacks and a polo shirt in honor of Sunday morning. Simpson returned from church with the Sunday paper and a bright smile. Fletcher noticed that she was always in a better mood when she returned from church.

"French Toast, coming right up!" She grinned and it didn't take long for her to have a stack on the table.

Fletcher once again poured the orange juice.

"What, no ketchup?" She asked sarcastically when Fletcher began to eat the French toast.

"Maple Syrup will do," he replied.

"You know," Simpson commented, "This is really nice. I just love being able to do stuff like this. Breakfast at home instead of the chow hall on a Sunday morning. It's wonderful."

"Yes it is," Fletcher agreed.

She stared at him for a long moment. "I've never spent as much time with one guy as I have with you, Fletch," she admitted. "Needless to say, I didn't date much in high school. And the truth is, I don't know to deal with guys all that much. Once my face cleared up in boot camp, my main goal was to catch up in the sex department and I did some things I'm not proud about when I was in A school. Now that I'm here, it's almost as if I'm learning how to have a boyfriend for the first time."

"But you don't have a boyfriend," Fletcher pointed out. "Not since Hannon anyway."

"No, but I have a husband, don't I?" she said.

Should he be encouraged by her observation?

"Well, in name and theory," Fletcher agreed. But obviously not in practice.

"Did you have a girlfriend back home?" Simpson asked as they ate.

"That was a matter of convenience too," Fletcher admitted.

"How so?" She asked with interest.

"Ah, she was just another rich pampered kid living on Green Hill," Fletcher explained. "Her father works with my father. I think she thought I was going to follow along in the family business and when I decided to join the Navy instead she was flabbergasted. I don't think she was ever very serious about me. She just liked the status it brought. She dated me by default."

"Are you still together?"

Fletcher laughed. "I think she'd deny she ever dated me in the first place now. Last I heard, she was living was some college preppie."

"Did you sleep with her?"

Fletcher was surprised she asked the question so forthrightly. "Yeah, rich kids think sex is part of the privilege," he admitted. "Nobody questioned it. She was on birth control from the start."

"Was she pretty?" Simpson wondered.

"What do you care?" He asked.

"I don't," she replied.

"She wasn't as pretty as you," Fletcher let Simpson know and he thought he saw a slight smile curl her lips.

Fletcher imagined this was what married life was really like. Shared meals together, shared times together, on going conversations. The only difference with them was that they didn't share a bed or have intimate relations but Fletcher hadn't spent so much time with one person before either and he valued his quality time with Simpson.

They cleaned up the dishes and decided to take a long jog on a nice late Sunday morning.

"I just wanted to let you know I'm glad we're friends, Fletch," Simpson said out of the blue as they ran.

"Me too," Fletcher replied.

The following Sunday, Fletcher was up before Simpson, content on coming through on his promise.

"You're really going to chapel with me?" An impressed Simpson said when she came out of the bedroom to find him dressed and waiting for her. She looked beautiful as always, today wearing a plaid skirt and white blouse.

"Yep!" He beamed.

It was a Protestant service and Fletcher found it spiritually grounding, relaxing and uplifting. He told Simpson he'd be happy to go with her every week and she smiled happily. They went to The Waffle House to celebrate.

Fletcher was getting ready for bed one night when Simpson stepped out of the bedroom with her cell phone in her hand.

"Woodbury just called," she reported. Woodbury was a second class storekeeper in Simpson's office. "She just had a huge fight with her husband and she wants to stay here tonight for a cooling down period."

"What'd you tell her?"

"Sure, of course," Simpson replied. "I told her we have a pull out sofa she could use."

"Where am I supposed to sleep?" Fletcher frowned.

"I guess you'll have to bunk with me, Fletch," Simpson shrugged. "We have to act married in front of Woodbury of all people. She's by the book."

"You okay with this?" Fletcher asked.

"I'm not about to leave Woodbury high and dry," Simpson replied. "Drag that plastic chest with all your clothes into the bedroom to hide the evidence."

Fletcher didn't argue with her. Woodbury arrived on their doorstep a while later, her face strewn with tears and running make up, looking haggard and defeated.

"It will blow over," Simpson assured her shipmate. "You'll be fine."

Simpson stayed up commiserating with Woodbury over a bottle of wine. Fletcher excused himself and went to bed in Simpson's room. He took the right side of the bed which was soft and smelled of her. He fell asleep feeling comfortable in a bed for the first time in a long time. When Fletcher woke in the early morning dawn he realized that he was spooning Simpson. The back of her head was resting against his chest and her backside was anchored in his groin. He liked the feeling of her nestled against him and he noticed that his arms were wrapped around her waist. It felt good and natural, like any married couple and he would have been happy to stay like this with her forever.

The door creaked open and Woodbury tiptoed in to use the bathroom. She was a thin woman with long black hair and she had a reputation at the command of being tough, strict and All Navy. "Sorry," she mouthed as she closed the door to the bathroom.

"Do you think she bought it?" Simpson whispered.

"I did," Fletcher replied.

"Let's just lay like this until she's done," Simpson suggested.

"Sounds good to me," Fletcher purred.

Fletcher listened to Simpson's breathing as they lay perfectly still in the bed. He worried that maybe he'd get stiff against her rump so he remained frozen trying not to think of erotic or sexual images or feelings as hard as that was with her buns pressed against him. Woodbury eventually finished in the bathroom and Fletcher was disappointed when Simpson finally stirred and left the bed. He lay listening to the shower running waiting until it was his turn when Fletcher stepped out wearing her fatigues.

She joined Woodbury in the kitchen while Fletcher took a quick shower. The bathroom still smelled of Simpson and Fletcher couldn't help but suck her scent in as he took his shower. Woodbury had already left the house by the time Fletcher was ready for work. He found Simpson sitting at the kitchen table finishing her coffee waiting for him.

"Woodbury says that sleeper sofa mattress isn't all that comfortable," Simpson said as Fletcher grabbed a cupcake that would serve as his breakfast. He shrugged in response. "Why don't you just sleep in the bedroom then?" She suggested.

Fletcher looked at her with surprise. "You sure?"

"Why keep folding up the couch every morning and unfolding it every night?" She said. "We can take turns changing in the bathroom or with one of us out here."

"Sure," Fletcher replied. "Sounds good."

Fletcher assumed that there were expected boundaries while in the bed together. No nudity. No sexual advances. Just sleeping. But this was a major change in their fake marriage sham and Fletcher wondered if Simpson was lightening up some and maybe even warming up to him after all this time.

Sharing a bed was their new normal and even though it was purely platonic with no hanky panky, Fletcher felt 'more' married now and less of being involved in a sham. He had heard of sexless marriages before – some life-long testaments to true love – so he didn't feel like he was a total freak in his marriage.

Simpson's sister Diane was making a Thanksgiving week trip to Disneyworld with a friend and her family from Ohio and the family agreed to do an overnight in Pensacola so Diane could see her sister. Fletcher and Simpson met the family at the Applebee's near the interstate and the Holiday Inn where the family was staying. Diane was a miniature version of Simpson although her hair was slightly darker and she was a bit more hefty then her older sister.

"Boy, you lost weight and look at your face!" Diane marveled when she and Simpson hugged in front of the Applebee's.

Simpson introduced Fletcher as 'my husband' and Diane nearly fainted learning the news.

"Why didn't you tell anybody!?" Diane exclaimed. "This is big news!"

Diane introduced her friend Patty Fuller, her parents Tom and Joan, and Patty's younger sister Marie. The Fullers seemed like nice people and the group settled in to a large booth inside the restaurant, Simpson going out of her way to act like a wife to Fletcher. The conversation was mostly about the Fuller's road trip so far and the anticipation of Disneyworld.
Fletcher hadn't seen Simpson looking this happy and relaxed before. She kept looking at her sister with affection, adoration and true love, clearly thrilled to be spending time with her. Simpson and Fletcher both entertained the table with Navy stories and the entire group was definitely enjoying the gathering. Patty and the Fullers were gracious enough to suggest that Diane spend the night with her sister and brother in law and Fletcher promised to have her back at the hotel but seven in the morning so the family could continue to Disneyworld on schedule.

Diane climbed into the back of Fletcher's car with an overnight bag and they returned to the house, Simpson getting updates on the family during the ride. Fletcher picked up right away that Diane had the same resentments about her father and his second wife as his sister previously expressed.

"So, what do you think?" Simpson asked Diane when they led her into their married palace.

"Oh, it's very quaint," Diane smiled.

"Trust me, it's a hundred times better than the barracks," Simpson told her.

The two sisters spent the evening telling Fletcher family stories from the beginning all the way up to the latest drama, some of which Simpson was hearing for the first time.

"I tend to sleep over Patty's a lot," Diane said.

"What about Danny?" Simpson asked, referring to their brother.

"Oh, he moved out last summer," Diane said. "He's got a girlfriend and he's going to trade school."

"Sorry you're on your own," Simpson sighed.

"The Fullers are sort of my foster family," Diane said. "I'm doing okay."

Diane had been stifling yawns all evening so Simpson finally told her to get some sleep. She had an exciting few days ahead of her at Disneyworld.

"But I don't want our visit to be over already," Diane pouted.

"We should have made arrangements to go to Disneyworld too," Fletcher said. "Then you could have spent more time together."

"Ah, that wouldn't be fair to Patty and her family," Simpson said. "Diane's here to spend time with Patty, not us."

"I'm glad we stopped to see you though," Diane said.

"Me too, kid," Simpson smiled.

They pulled out the sleeper sofa couch bed and made it up for Diane who used the bathroom before climbing under the covers. Diane gave her a hug good night.

"I hope me being here doesn't wreck things for you guys tonight," Diane smirked.

"Married couples don't have sex every night, Diane," Simpson said, almost with a blush.

"Gee, that's too bad," Diane smirked.

"You jerk!" Simpson laughed before following Fletcher into the bedroom.

"Sometimes I feel guilty for leaving," Simpson sighed as she began to undress.

She was so preoccupied thinking about Diane and the family that she either forgot – or didn't care – that she was disrobing in front of Fletcher. It wasn't until she was down to her skivvies that she realized the situation.

"Oh," she said. "Oops!" She giggled and put on a light robe before climbing under the covers.

Fletcher stripped down to his boxers and tee shirt before joining her. "You have to live your life, Dana," he told her. "You couldn't stay there just to take care of Danny and Diane."

"I know," she sighed. "But that doesn't mean I can't feel bad about it."

They were lying in the bed facing each other. The lights were off but there was enough moonlight coming through the window to illuminate their faces. Simpson brought her hand to Fletcher's face. "Fletch," she sighed, brushing her lips against his. "Thanks for everything you do."

He felt the warmth of her mouth against his. He wrapped his arms around her waist and tugged her closer and he was surprised when she opened her mouth for him and her tongue darted out to unlock his lips as her hands ran through his short hair.

"You're welcome," he whispered through their smooch, wondering if this was finally going to be the moment.

"Good night," she whispered before breaking the kiss and the embrace, cuddling against him instead and going to sleep.

Not this time. Just as well with her kid sister sleeping in the next room.

They were up early in the morning to get Diane back to the hotel as promised. All three were quiet and subdued knowing parting was sweet swallow. Fletcher tried to use humor to get the two sisters to smile but both were in tears when they hugged goodbye in the parking lot by the Fuller's packed car, the engine idling and ready to go.

"Am I supposed to tell Dad you're married?" Diane asked her sister.

"You can do whatever you want," Simpson shrugged.

Fletcher was surprised when Diane gave him a spontaneous hug. "I'm really glad my sister found a nice guy like you," she smiled. "Welcome to the family. It's great having another brother."

Fletcher awkwardly hugged her back and he told her to have a good time at Disneyworld.

Simpson cried all the way to the base.

Fletcher and Simpson were invited to a group Thanksgiving bash thrown by the Command Master Chief for those who didn't have family or didn't go home on leave for the holiday. There was plenty of food, football on the television, drink, and good cheer and Fletcher and Simpson played the role of married couple to the hilt although Fletcher was beginning to think that they weren't really playing (pretending) all that much anymore.

On Friday night, Simpson went out for another girl's night out and Fletcher was awaken out of a sound sleep by the sounds of laughter, talking and chairs being knocked over. He stumbled into the kitchen to find a drunken Simpson being dragged into the house by Hen, Potatoes, Squats and Rosebud. Rosebud apparently was the designated driver because she was the only one who wasn't three sheets to the wind.

"Good luck," Rosebud said as they handed off the drunken Simpson to Fletcher and then Hen, Potatoes, and Squats stumbled out of the house in drunken messes while Rosebud could only shake her head in disgusted pity as she followed.

"I think I'm going to puke," Simpson announced.

Fletcher half carried-half dragged her into the bathroom. She dropped to her knees and stuck her face into the toilet bowl. Her body lurched and she exploded with hurls into the toilet until there was nothing left to puke up but she was still heaving. Her head was throbbing, her body ached, and she had a disgusting taste in her mouth.

Fletcher rubbed Simpson's back through it all and he held her hair out of her face so she wouldn't get puke in it. When she was finally done with the drive heaves, she sat back and groaned. Fletcher grabbed a washcloth, soaked it in cold water, and put it on the back of her neck.

"Shit," Simpson sobbed.

"Don't worry about it," Fletcher replied. "I think you're done but you got puke on yourself. You'll need to get out of those clothes."

He helped her to her feet and she collapsed on the now closed toilet seat with a moan. Fletcher flushed the puke away underneath her and then he peeled off her puke covered shirt. She was sweating but she felt chills at the same time as she sat in her bra, her breasts pushed up and out underneath the tight material. Fletcher handed her a bottle of Listerine and told her to take a swig.

"I can't stand the stuff when I'm sober," she mumbled.

"Your breath smells like three week old dead squid," Fletcher told her as he tugged her puked streaked pants off her legs.

"You do it," she groaned, holding her head back and opening her mouth.

Fletcher took the cap off and dumped some into her mouth like he was pouring oil into an engine block. He took his hand and closed her mouth. "Swish," he told her.

She tried for a moment but then gagged and spit the stuff out, most of it landing on Fletcher's shirt.
Her pants were crumbled on the floor and she sat swaying on the toilet in her skivvies.

"Are you sorry you married me?" She sobbed, her eyes full of tears.

"Of course not," Fletcher said.

"I'm so sorry I took advantage of you like that," Simpson blubbered. "I can't believe how selfish I was. You must hate me."

"Not at all," he smiled.

"Who in their right mind would marry somebody who won't have sex with them?" Simpson cried.

"Shh," Fletcher told her. "It's all right."

"It's not that I don't want to, Todd," she revealed. "It's just that I'm afraid."

"It's okay."

"No, it's not," she cried. "See, I sort of did some stupid things before and now I worry that I'm just a perverted sex fiend and I'm ashamed and I don't want you to think I'm some slut."

"I would never think that," Fletcher assured her. "Don't talk."

"You're the kind of guy I wish I waited for," she sobbed.

"Okay, come on, let's get you into bed," a flustered Fletcher said.

"I'm so jealous of Scarecrow and that girl you had back home. I bet you miss making love to her."

"Dana, don't talk," Fletcher said. "You're not in control of your thoughts."

"Do you want to know the disgusting perverted slutty things I did?" She sobbed. "You'll hate me forever."

"I don't want to know," he said.

He helped her to her feet and walked her into the bedroom. Her panties had slipped down just far enough to reveal her ass crack and Fletcher gently hiked them back up to try to preserve her dignity. As soon as her head hit the pillow, Simpson either passed out or fell asleep. Fletcher pulled the covers over her and climbed onto the bed next to her to go to sleep himself.

It was noon when Simpson finally awoke (or came to) in the next day. She went into the bathroom and cleared out her bowels and bladder, took a hot shower to wash the memories away and then dressed in some sweats. She looked pale and dehydrated when she looked at herself in the mirror. She found Fletcher sitting at the kitchen table reading the paper.

"Guess we're not going jogging today," Fletcher grinned when he saw how horrible she looked.

"Oh God," Simpson groaned.

"You look awful," Fletcher informed her.

"Thanks," she frowned.

"Do you think you can hold down some coffee?" He asked.

"I'll try," she replied, collapsing into one of the chairs.

Fletcher poured her a cup of coffee and put it in front of Simpson who was slumped in her chair holding her head in her hand.

"Ew, on second thought, how 'bout some water instead?" She groaned.

"Sure," Fletcher replied, getting her a bottled water from the refrigerator and taking the coffee away.

"Boy, I've never been that drunk before," Simpson admitted.

"Any particular reason you drank yourself into oblivion?" Fletcher asked.

"No," she admitted. "I mean I've been thinking about my sister since I saw her and I guess I kind of felt sad during Thanksgiving and maybe I've been feeling a little guilty about us ripping off the government..."

"You didn't say anything last night to any of those guys in your drunken stupor about our...arrangement...did you?"

"I don't think so," Simpson said, squinting in thought. "I don't remember much, to tell you the truth." She looked at him. "Why, did I say anything stupid to you?"

"No," Fletcher lied.

"Well, as soon as my head stops spinning and pounding we can go do the laundry," she said. "It's wash day."

"I already did it," Fletcher let her know.

"Really?" She asked with surprise. "Did you do it right? You didn't shrink all my unmentionables did you?"

"No, I've been watching you long enough to get it down pretty good."

"Gee, thanks for doing that, Fletch," she said with appreciation.

"You just take it easy and get well soon," he said.

"Hangovers suck," Simpson decided.

Simpson spent most of the afternoon sprawled out on the couch relatively immobile. Fletcher brought her ginger ale and saltine crackers but she wasn't interested in eating anything else but by late afternoon she was feeling better and color was returning to her face.
"Thanks for being so helpful, Fletch," an embarrassed Simpson said.

"For better or worse," Fletcher joked.

"That was definitely my worse," Simpson said.

He looked at her with a smirk on his face.

Simpson rolled her eyes. "Shut up," she said.

They watched television until Simpson turned in early, exhausted and weak from her drunk. But in the morning she was as good as new, excited to be heading to chapel services for God's forgiveness with Fletcher by her side.

After the services, they went out for Sunday brunch and Fletcher noticed that Simpson had an unusual smile on her face during most of their conversation. He grinned knowing this is what happiness and contentment was. He really wasn't sure how this sham marriage thing was going to work out when he agreed to it but now he knew that being with Simpson was exactly what he needed in his life.

"This hasn't been so bad, has it?" He asked Simpson.

"No," she smiled. It hasn't been that bad at all."

Simpson deliberately leaned across the table, bringing her face close to his while looking into his eyes and moving her lips to his. Fletcher loved the feel of her soft and gentle lips but soon they were open and she was sliding her tongue into his mouth which once again surprised him. Fletcher smiled shyly at Simpson.

"I don't think we should be tonguing each other at the Country Buffet," he told her. "On Sunday morning."

She giggled and broke the smooch. "Yeah, it is a family restaurant," she agreed.

"Not that I mind, of course," Fletcher let her know.

She laughed and when they left the place Fletcher was hoping Simpson would change her mind about going to the gym and take him home instead. But to the gym it was for some jogging, yoga, stationary bike riding, and a little bit of basketball (Simpson even played to even up the sides and she handled herself rather impressively against the competitive male testosterone).

They showered at the gym before heading home. Fletcher took a seat on the couch to catch the score of the football game (Saints-Panthers) when Simpson plopped down next to him, lifting up her legs and stretching them across his to watch the game too.

"Saints are up by twenty," Fletcher let her know. "No point wasting our time with this."

"Well, is there anything else you'd like to do?" Simpson asked in what Fletcher interpreted as a seductive tone.

He glanced at her and noticed a slight smirk on the corner of her lips.

"Have you had enough of this marriage of convenience?" He wanted to know.

"What do you mean?" She asked, taken aback. "Do you want to end it?"

"No," he said openly. "I want to consummate it."

Simpson openly blushed at his comment.

"We have to have our Christmas leave requests in by Friday," Fletcher reminded her. "Are you going to come home to Greenville with me?"

"I don't know if I should," she admitted.

"If you do, I don't want it to be on a sham," he said. "I would like to legitimately introduce you to my family as my wife."

"Fletcher, I….."

"Dana, we've been doing this long enough to know how we feel about each other," Fletcher told her. "We've been dating each other as a couple. We like each other. We get along with each other. We know each other."

"I don't know if I know how to have normal sex," Simpson revealed.

"Normal sex?" Fletcher frowned.

"Hen said married sex is making love," Simpson explained. "I'm not sure if I know how to do that. My sex life has been about sex, not love."

"Are you ready to change that?" Fletcher asked.

"I'm frightened, Fletch," she admitted. "Liking you so much scares the hell out of me."

"It can be scary," Fletcher agreed, reaching his hand out to brush the side of her face.

"Why did you marry me?" she asked. "Was it really just to get out of the barracks?"

"Of course not," Fletcher admitted sheepishly.

"What?" She asked, gazing at him with disbelief.

"Dana, I was attracted to you from the moment you walked into the Admin Office to check in," he revealed.

"Why didn't you say something?" She asked with surprise.

"Because every unmarried guy in the command hits on every available woman around," he sighed. "I didn't want you to think I was just another guy looking for an easy lay."

"I've waited my whole life to find a guy who would like me for me," she said freely. "It took me a while to figure out that being an easy lay wasn't the answer."

She sat up, taking her legs off of his lap and leaning into him, matching her lips to his. Fletcher quietly moaned as her lips caressed his mouth. Then she broke the kiss, stood from the couch, reached her arm out and he accepted it. She led him into the bedroom, dropping his hand and walking to the window.

"Getting out of the barracks wasn't really my only mission," she said as she stared out the window. "I just wanted to have a normal existence. A house like this. A comfortable feeling. A home cooked meal. A guy who cared about me and respected me and just wasn't looking for sex."

"Well, guys are always looking for sex," Fletcher teased as he stepped up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist from behind.

"Not too many guys would sleep in a bed next to a woman for months without mauling her, Fletch," she said, turning to face him. "Either you're gay or you're a gentleman."

"I like you too much to disrespect you or take advantage of you," he replied. "I was willing to wait until you figured it out."

He felt her soft lips press against his mouth and he kissed her before working his mouth down to her chin, neck and shoulder. Simpson moaned as she allowed him to kiss her all over and his hand worked its way up her back to unfasten the back of her church dress she had put back on after her gym shower. She felt the dress open and the feel of his hand on her bare skin as the dress fell to the floor and she sighed with anticipated excitement.

Fletcher continued kissing her shoulders, neck, collar bone and even her chest above her bra and Simpson's breathing became hitched.

"You're beautiful, Dana," Fletch whispered as he moved one of his hands to cup one of her breasts.

"Todd," she gasped as he used his other hand to squeeze her other breast and tweet her nipples through the fabric of her bra.

Simpson's eyes went wide when Fletcher unfastened her bra and it too fell to the floor, revealing her striking breasts for him to see for the first time.

"Oh, Dana," Fletcher said with true amazement.

Her breathing became staggered as he played with her bare breasts and toyed with her nipples and when he put his mouth on them and began to kiss her there she almost fell to the floor herself. Fletcher continued kissing her body as he slowly moved down to her stomach. When he dropped to his knees, he reached out and tugged her panties down her thighs and his wife was finally naked for him.

"Oh God, Dana!" He practically cried.

"Make Love to me, my husband," she whispered as she clasped both hands to the sides of his face and pushed him into her intimate area.

Later, after their marriage had been consummated by some incredible lovemaking, the married couple lay naked on the bed cuddling each other.

"Boy," Simpson whispered as she pushed herself against him. "There's nothing better than married sex!"

"It's very convenient," her husband smiled as he kissed her on the forehead.