By R. L. Keller
Wife of mine, I love you with my entire being. But I am never letting you talk me
into having dinner at that restaurant ever again! Will
Jamison, M.D., F.A.C.S., and CMO of the Nelson Institute of Marine Research,
stifled a groan as he sat at the desk in his small office aboard NIMR’s
research submarine, Seaview. He’d been
eating Lu-Tsi’s wonderful Chinese cooking for just over twenty-five years – as
well as all of the other kinds of menus she had mastered. He thought that he’d been introduced to
pretty much all of the world’s different spices that she liked to experiment
with. When Lu-Tsi started raving about
the new authentic Szechwan restaurant that had opened in
It wasn’t until several hours later that Will realized his digestive system was objecting to ‘something’ he’d eaten. He managed to keep Lu-Tsi, a retired nurse, from seeing the several doses of fizzy stuff – not to mention the couple more of pink stuff – he had to take. She did realize that he’d not slept well, but he was able to pass it off as nerves over Seaview’s departure the next day. The cruise was going to be fairly long, and into an unusually unstable underwater area.
By morning Will decided that
the worst was over. He was able to say
his extended good-byes while hiding only one small belch, and actually felt
quite back to normal as he walked from
He was able to put the discomfort aside for a few minutes. When he entered the Control Room to report aboard with the O.D. he caught the tail end of a bit of teasing between Seaview’s XO and CO. Not all that unusual – the two young men were long time friends. But it signaled to Will that his all too serious, extremely workaholic Skipper had quite obviously enjoyed the brief vacation he’d just returned from.
When Will had heard that Cdr. Crane was going to be gone for a few days he’d automatically assumed that Lee had been called away by ONI, and he began to worry. It seemed that the man simply could not come back uninjured in some way. He’d muttered same to his boss, Admiral Harriman Nelson, and was totally unprepared for Nelson’s answering chuckles. Nelson had told Will quietly, making sure that he was not overheard, that it wasn’t ONI that wanted a few days of Lee’s time but a certain young lady who lived one state north. Will knew immediately who Nelson was referring to and relaxed. But Nelson had warned him “mum’s the word.” Lee had only told Nelson because the trip was so close to Seaview’s sailing. Lee kept his private life just that – private. And he wouldn’t take kindly to the whole institute finding out that Dr. Becca Radiwan was slowly becoming more than merely a good friend.
Will saw Lt. James nod to him
and mark him in on the Crew Roster, so Will headed for his office in
Once a quick check showed all
Will was not overly pleased with himself over the next several hours. He told himself firmly that he was, after all, a doctor, and didn’t need anyone telling him how to treat himself. He finally lay down on his bunk as he felt Seaview gently leave her berth and head into the channel toward open water. He wanted to be back in Sick Bay before the Skipper ordered ‘Angles & Dangles,’ the swoopy up, down, and sideways maneuvers all submarines did upon leaving port to make sure that everything was safely secured. The mood Lee was in, Will had a feeling he just might get a little carried away, that thought causing Will to grin. But Lee – or most likely Chip – would give an all-boat five minute warning beforehand, and Will decided to rest until the call came.
But nearly an hour later the intercom was still quiet. Will had felt Seaview, as smooth as she was, slip into deeper water, and wondered what was causing the delay. He got up, glad that his stomach was finally settling down and his headache wasn’t nearly as strong. Stepping into the head, he was splashing cold water on his face when the deck suddenly disappeared from under his feet. His forehead bounced off the edge of the sink, and everything went black.
* * * *
The giant submarine Seaview
was about two hours out of her homeport of
“That area of the ocean bed is subject to frequent, and occasionally severe, earthquake action,” Lee had answered with a heavy sigh.
Now he sent the blond a quick grin as Chip audibly groaned, studying the cruise parameters.
“Just once couldn’t the Admiral find something to study that didn’t require hazard pay on the part of his crew?”
Lee laughed. “And take all the fun out of it?” he asked way too cheerfully – at least as far as Chip was concerned. He sent Lee one of his better Command glares, something that in the regular navy would not have gone over well. But aboard Seaview, between the old friends, it was accepted easily as Chip knew that it would be. The look stayed in place as Lee picked up the Duty Roster from the chart table, gave his XO another grin, and headed out the aft hatch.
Once he was gone, Chip also grinned. He knew perfectly well that Lee was not making light of the possible dangers this cruise could bring. Lee was absolutely meticulous when it came to the safety of Seaview and her crew. He would be on top of every last detail of the cruise parameters, ensuring that all contingencies had been included in his evaluations. And if, at any point, he decided that the hazards outweighed the safely measures, he would instantly abort the mission - even if it meant going toe to toe with Seaview’s owner, and his boss, Admiral Nelson. Not that Nelson was careless or unthinking of the inherent dangers of a particular project. He just tended to forget, sometimes, what he would be asking his boat and crew to do. Fortunately, Lee had proven to be not the least bit shy about pointing out to the Admiral any little details his boss might have inadvertently overlooked. And had been known to do so at considerable decibels, over and above what Nelson could himself produce – not an easily accomplished task. But, one that had brought him considerable respect from his crew.
No, there was nothing about
this cruise that was causing Lee’s current high spirits and unusually playful
attitude. Chip wasn’t exactly sure what
was, but he suspected that it might have something to do with the fact that Lee
had just returned that morning from a long weekend in
Before Chip could do more
than plot a plan of action the currently nice, calm, cruise took a decided turn
for the weird. Chip heard footsteps
behind him on the spiral stairs leading down from Officers’ Country – among
other places. Assuming they belonged to
a returning Lee he turned with a grin on his face. It instantly changed to puzzlement as the man
who appeared turned out to be Frank, one of Seaview’s two corpsmen. As it was highly unusual for either he or
John to appear in the
Frank recognized the expression – Seaview’s XO hated abnormalities. Well, it couldn’t be helped; Frank was about to hit him with a biggy.
“Ah, Mr. Morton. Ah… sir… We didn’t happen to leave port without Dr. Jamison, did we?”
“Excuse me?” Chip’s voice was firm. He couldn’t imagine that Lee would be feeling silly enough to put Frank up to some sort of practical joke. However… “Explain yourself,” he demanded.
“John and I have been busy working in the medical supply room. I just went to check with Doc about something and I can’t find him.”
Chip still wasn’t quite ready to believe the man. “Where have you looked?” he all but growled. Lee was going to pay for this one!
“Everywhere, sir,” Frank assured him with an honesty in both voice and expression that was beginning to make Chip feel the man’s unease. His frown wavered and he reached for the mic.
“Dr. Jamison, report your
location to the
The seconds continued to roll
by with no response from Seaview’s CMO.
Chip was just about to repeat the call when rapid footsteps could be
heard approaching the aft hatch. Chip
was extremely familiar with the cadence and figured everyone else in the
Frank took the hint. “Skipper, we can’t seem to find Doc. He’s not in
Lee sent a glance back to Chip. “He’s checked aboard,” the XO assured his CO. “If for some reason he went back dockside it wasn’t noted. And surely we’d have gotten a call by now if we accidentally left him.”
Lee nodded and reached for
the mic, still in Chip’s hand. “All
hands, this is the Captain.” Chip hid a
grin despite the seriousness of the situation.
There wasn’t a man aboard that wouldn’t instantly recognize that voice
over the boat wide intercom. “We have a
missing crewman. He may be hurt and
unable to respond. All available
personnel will make a sweep of the boat.”
He almost sighed before he added, “the missing crewman is Doc
Jamison.” He did sigh before
double-clicking the mic again. “
After the instant “Aye, sir” from the radioman, Lee looked at Frank. “You talked to him this morning?”
“Sort of,” Frank
answered. At identical raised eyebrows
from CO and XO, he continued. “Just as I
“Nothing more?” Lee asked.
“No, sir. Didn’t think anything about it at the time. Just figured that he had something he needed to do.”
“And you said that you checked his cabin?”
Frank nodded, then added almost hesitantly. “Knocked, and when there was no answer just took a peek. He wasn’t at his desk and the head door was open. I didn’t go in,” he admitted.
Lee gave Chip a quick nod and
headed immediately for the spiral stairs.
At a gesture from Chip, Frank quickly followed. Then, with a sudden discomforting feeling of
his own, Chip gave Lt. James the
* * * *
Subconsciously acknowledging that some indeterminate amount of time had passed, Will was trying to make a suddenly fuzzy brain explain why his head seemed to be laying on the cold steel of Seaview’s deck when a sharp intake of breath, followed by an almost shouted “Jamie” forced all other thoughts away. He tried to sit up but encountered instant resistance. However, that didn’t even compare with what his head had to say about the attempted movement.
“Easy, Doc.” Will recognized his senior corpsman’s voice through the fog, and carefully opened his eyes. But the first face he recognized was that of his Skipper, the earlier humor now replaced by worry.
Houston, we seem to have a problem, slipped unexpectedly into Will’s mind, and he sighed.
* * * *
Lee was in no way criticizing his corpsman’s earlier actions when he entered the CMO’s cabin after an unanswered knock on the door – he was just being thorough. It was a shock, therefore, when he walked over and glanced into the head to find his friend lying on the floor. His shout brought Frank to his side instantly, and Lee took a step back to allow the corpsman better access to the small area.
A quick glance at the goose egg on the side of the doctor’s forehead had Frank requesting John, the other corpsman, bring him the ERT, the emergency response trauma bag that was always kept ready aboard the submarine. Lee started to make the call, realized that Chip had followed them up and was already reaching for the intercom, and stayed where he was as Frank started a manual exam of his supervisor. But when there was obviously no boat-wide broadcast of Chip’s call, he sent Lee a frown and hurried to the nearest corridor mic. That call brought John on the run, and Chip returned to examine the obviously nonfunctioning unit in the cabin.
Will’s senses were returning, although frustratingly slowly, and he tried to push Frank away and sit up. “I’m fine,” he grumbled. The comment caused an instant reaction. Frank grinned, Lee actually snickered, and there was a snort from out of Will’s sight that sounded suspiciously like a certain blond. Will briefly closed his eyes before sending a frown at the man he was usually yelling at for using that line. “Allow me to rephrase that,” he muttered.
“Too late, Doc,” came the reply in Chip’s still disembodied voice. Lee’s grin increased, and even Will was finally forced to give the two men he could see a small smile. John showed up about then and, since Frank had been unable to detect any injury other than the bump on the head, the two helped Will up and over to his bunk where they had more room to continue the examination. Will took one look at the grins that were still on the two senior officers’ faces and wisely kept his mouth shut.
“The intercom’s dead,” Chip told Lee rather unnecessarily.
“That would explain why I didn’t hear the call for Angles & Dangles,” Will said to no one in particular.
“Is that what happened?” Frank asked him.
Will nodded, albeit carefully as his head was pounding out the William Tell Overture – complete with cannon fire. “The last thing I remember prior to a few minutes ago is the deck dropping out from under me.”
“And of course this would be the day,” Chip told the medical personnel, “that Lee got overly enthusiastic with the maneuvers.”
Lee drew himself up from where he’d been casually leaning against the desk and sent his impudent XO a glare. “I was totally within regs,” he growled. “We have a few new crewmen aboard, this is going to be a long cruise, and I wanted to make sure everything was shipshape while we were still close to port.” The only thing the speech accomplished was to cause the others to grin more broadly – even Will – and Lee finally grinned again as well.
“Think you can walk down to
Will sent a pretty good glare of his own at the corpsman. “It’s nothing,” he growled. “I’ll just stay here for a few hours.”
Chip snorted again, and Lee sent a glare at the doctor. “Jamie,” he growled, “if you think that you’re going to get away with that, after what you’ve put Chip and I through all too often, your head’s in worse shape than Frank thinks.” Both corpsmen struggled with – and lost – efforts to hide their smiles. The ‘discussions’ that erupted between the CMO and the senior officers – especially the Skipper – were the stuff of legend aboard Seaview.
“We’re still close enough to
port,” Chip offered all too innocently, “we could turn back if you think Jamie
needs to spend time in
“NO!” Will thundered, and then had to grab his head to keep it from falling off. “It’s not that serious,” he added, a little more quietly.
“Frank?” Lee asked. His eyes were still sparkling, but his voice was serious.
“Shouldn’t be necessary,
Skipper,” Frank answered, carefully not looking at his immediate
supervisor, Will. “He took a good whack,
for sure. And I’ll run a few more tests
“He’s certainly had enough experience
doing that to you,” Will muttered at Lee, causing Chip to once more crack
up. Lee had the good graces to give Will
a quick nod before heading back to the
* * * *
Nothing that afternoon or
evening dissipated Will’s ill humor.
Frank’s occasional checks told both men that Will’s condition wasn’t
worsening. But the headache refused all
efforts to medicate it away. Will was
honest enough to admit that he needed to stay in
Cookie himself delivered what was usually a favorite dinner of Will’s – the chef’s special seafood lasagna. The only thing that kept Will from ordering the man to take the food back to the galley was, he knew that he needed nourishment. Everything he’d eaten after dinner last night had all come back up, and that wasn’t conductive to getting better. Logically, he could tell himself that. Unfortunately, just looking at the food made Will feel nauseous again and he once more pushed the table away. Frank made one attempt to jolly Will into eating but a surly Will turned over and faced the bulkhead, and Frank took the food away.
Will remained laying on his
side, his back to the room, muttering to himself. He’d spent some time that afternoon trying to
find a comfortable way to lie. The
Several minutes into some serious plotting on Will’s part about how to escape from his unwanted and unnecessary confinement, he suddenly sighed. Geez, Jamison, you’re a worse patient than the Command Team – and you’ve always thought that was well nigh impossible. Will snorted softly and let his mind wander back to his *favorite* patients, XO and CO. To say nothing of his boss, Admiral Nelson. Will sighed heavily. His present circumstances were helping him to understand, at least somewhat, the frustrations the senior officers must feel any time he was forced to keep one of them here. And unlike them, he didn’t carry nearly the load of responsibility for the boat and crew that they did. Or, at least, he told himself, while I do have responsibilities to the crew, in this instance no one is receiving less than complete care because I’m laid up. Taking a deep breath, he rolled over onto his back. He caught Frank giving him a concerned look from the doorway to Will’s small office. The corpsman tried to cover it quickly with a smile but Will still caught it, and chastised himself. “Think maybe,” he asked, “Cookie could be talked into heating up some of that beef barley soup he always keeps in the freezer without coming totally unhinged?”
Frank’s smile spread and the worry that had remained in his eyes disappeared. “I doubt he’ll mind at all. Mr. Morton came down to check on you earlier and between the two of us we polished off your dinner. Cookie will never know you didn’t eat it, and probably just figure that you’re making up for lunch.”
Despite his still thumping head, Will chuckled softly. Seaview’s Exec was a master at covering for an unhungry Lee. Usually from the mutterings of his CMO, however, not the occasionally surly master chef. But when Frank noticeably hesitated, Will sent him a sheepish grin. “Relax, Frank. I’ll be here when you get back,” alluding to the escapes Seaview’s senior officers were notorious for. “If you’re nice I’ll even let you help me walk to the head.” Frank snorted but he also nodded, and headed out the door for the Galley.
Frank was just getting Will settled back in his bunk, several pillows helping him sit up, when Cookie once more entered Sick Bay. Will got the distinct feeling that the man knew perfectly well Will hadn’t eaten dinner, but chose not to mention it. He merely nodded when Will thanked him for the soup, accompanied by a thick slice of freshly baked bread, and left. Will shared a quick grin with Frank and tucked into the meal.
Once finished, Will continued to sit up for awhile, visiting with Frank and going over a few things that on a typical cruise would be normal Sick Bay chatter. John was included when he came on duty about 2030 hours. Will was feeling very relaxed by the time Frank headed for his bunk so it was with some surprise that, once he’d laid back down and tried to settle in for the night – after making both corpsmen laugh when he told them firmly that he was getting up in the morning and resuming his duties – that he found himself once more getting tense. He tried to blame it on his previous mutterings making a return. But when push came to shove, he couldn’t. Once his head stopped pounding quite so badly, the bunk became surprisingly more comfortable. The soup had tasted wonderful and there was no sign of the earlier digestive distress. No, he just couldn’t quite put an answer to the puzzle, and fussing about it threatened a return of the pounding head. As John dimmed the lights in the main Sick Bay room Will turned toward the bulkhead, closed his eyes, and tried to sleep.
But sleep wouldn’t come. No matter how much he tried to relax he couldn’t. He lay quietly so as not to trouble John, and tried to focus on what was troubling him. The answer just wouldn’t come and he steeled himself for a sleepless night.
He didn’t think that he’d fallen asleep but suddenly ‘something’ felt different. The lights were still dimmed although the room was nowhere near dark. Everything as quiet. But Will’s sixth sense noted a change and he rolled over. Sitting in a chair next to his bunk was Lee. Apparently studying something in a folder, he looked up and smiled the shy little smile that always made him look even younger than Will knew him to be.
“Sorry, Jamie,” he said softly. “Didn’t mean to wake you.”
“What are you doing here?” Will all but demanded, glancing at the wall clock and discovering that it was almost 0200 hours.
Lee’s expression went sheepish. “It’s been sort of a weird day,” he admitted. “Every time I headed down to check on you I got interrupted. First there was a little glitch in Engineering. Nothing serious. We didn’t even need to slow down to get it fixed.”
“But you just had to keep an eye on it until everything was back to 100%.” Will’s voice held a smidge of the lecturing tone he so often used with his CO. As usual, Lee’s grin went even more sheepish.
“I called and Frank said you weren’t getting any worse,” Lee made his excuse. Will snorted softly. “About the time I got back to the Conn Chip got tied up with the fathometer – turned out to be just a loose wire but it took some time to track down.” As Will rolled his eyes, Lee hurried with his explanation. “Chris needed to go over the munitions list with the MAA.” Lt. James, most often Chip’s second in the Conn, had recently taken over as Seaview’s Weapons Officer and was still working closely with the Master-At-Arms, Chief Hauck. “I took the Conn until Chip had things back under control.” Normally Lee wouldn’t ‘have the Conn’ on a regular basis – just when the cruise demanded it. But Seaview’s command structure allowed for easy interaction and division of duties between the officers. Not to mention the fact that Lee spent as much time as possible in the Conn anyway, no matter what was going on. “Then there was a call from Lu-Tsi…”
“WHAT?” Will shouted, sitting up sharply. His head reminded him why that wasn’t such a good idea just yet at the same time Lee reached out to him, urging him to lay back down. Will continued to glare at him, resisting Lee’s efforts. “Why didn’t anyone tell me she’d called? What’s wrong?”
Lee’s chuckles finally got through Will’s tirade. “Chill, Jamie. Nothing’s wrong. Well…”
“I suppose you told her what happened. I need to call her.”
“No, you don’t.” Lee’s voice turned serious, and he firmly pushed Will back down. “Nobody told you she called because she didn’t want to talk to you. She wanted to talk to me.”
“What?” Will’s voice was still raised, even though his head no longer was. “Why?”
“Because she figured you wouldn’t say anything about being sick all last night.”
It was Will’s turn to lower his eyes into a sheepish expression. “Thought I hid it better from her – that she hadn’t realized it,” he told Lee, his voice a good deal softer.
Lee grinned. “All these years and you still underestimate her,” he said with fondness.
Will grinned back. Lee and Lu-Tsi shared a very special friendship. Rather than feeling threatened by it, Will would be eternally grateful. When Will had first come to NIMR he and his wife were still mourning the loss of their only child, a son lost in a diving accident. It’s what had caused Will to leave the Navy and accept Nelson’s offer – he thought that a change of venue would help draw Lu-Tsi out of the depression she’d fallen into. And it had worked, too. Although, not quite how Will had imagined. The first time Lu-Tsi and Lee met, a special bond was formed. Lee started to bring Lu-Tsi out of her funk. Lu-Tsi decided that ‘someone’ needed to look out for Seaview’s impossibly young captain and elected herself to the position. Much to Lee’s embarrassment.
“Dumb, I know,” Will admitted, acknowledging Lee’s comment. He’d met Lu-Tsi shortly after med school. He was doing his internship and she was fresh out of nursing school. Tiny in stature, it hadn’t taken Will long to learn that she had a will of spring steel. But after their son’s death, which they’d both taken hard but her especially, he’d started treating her a bit like the proverbial china doll, over-protecting her. Somehow, even when Lee had managed to help pull her out of it, he hadn’t stopped. And every so often, like now, he was reminded of just how stupid he could be.
Lee’s grin spread. “I didn’t tell her about your little oopsey. It wasn’t your fault anyway, or had anything to do with dinner last night. Just an accident caused by a faulty intercom.”
“You can explain it to her when you get home,” Lee teased him.
“Gee, thanks heaps,” Will growled. “But you still haven’t explained what you’re doing here at this ungodly hour of the night.”
Lee’s expression got sheepish again. “After Lu-Tsi called, I was on my way down to tell you when Admiral Nelson called.” He sighed heavily and held up the folder still in his hands. “Didn’t realize he wanted my responses to the reports he’d given me quite so fast.”
“Yeah, so…” Will still didn’t understand.
“So,” Lee gave him the shy little through-the-lashes look that Will was so familiar with, “one of the things that makes it even halfway bearable to be stuck here is that Chip and the Admiral visit as often as they can. Chip and I felt bad that you’ve been all alone, except for Frank and John, since they brought you down here. Chip managed to get down for a bit but you weren’t in the mood for company. This is the first chance I’ve had.”
Instantly Will knew what had been bothering him earlier. And knew that he never would have figured it out on his own. When one of Seaview’s ruling triumvirate was in Sick Bay – usually Lee, Will acknowledged silently, but only because he was most often putting himself between his crew and whatever danger was threatening them – the other two spent as much time with the injured as they could spare. All three held a very special place in Will’s life. To suddenly realize just how special he thought of them, and how much they felt the same way, was a little unsettling. And also, Will could admit, gave him a very warm glow inside. He wasn’t sure just how to respond.
As Lee continued to give him a shy smile, Will knew that he had to say something, and finally settled on what would be a typical ‘Will’ response. “So, you’re trying to make me feel better by letting me find out you’re forgoing what little sleep that crazy body of yours seems to thrive on,” he grumbled. He crossed his arms over his chest and glared at Lee. It had the desired effect – Lee grinned openly. “Go to bed,” Will ordered. “That will make me feel better.”
“Aye, sir,” Lee said, the grin spreading. It was a little joke that the two shared – that Lee would ‘sir’ an officer of lower rank than himself. It was Lee’s way of accepting Will’s logic. With a nod, Lee rose and headed for the door. When he stopped there and looked back, Will pointed a finger at him. “Out,” he growled. Lee chuckled, but left.
Will chuckled as well. The warm glow continued to grow, especially when he thought of Lu-Tsi’s call to Lee. Sometimes you have to be smacked in the head - literally, he shook his wounded body part carefully - to realize just how good you have it. On all fronts, he told himself. He easily went right back to sleep, a smile still on his face.
Mrs. Will Jamison (Lu-Tsi) and her background with Will used with permission of her creator, Cris Smithson.