By R. L. Keller
Dr. Will Jamison finished the short phone conversation and hung up the receiver with a large sigh. “Problem?” his wife Lu-Tsi asked, concerned.
Will grimaced. “Remember that bit of miscommunication I had with Chip the last cruise?” A grin started to form on Lu-Tsi’s face. “Yeah,” Will grumbled. “It’s just come home to roost.”
“Oh, dear,” she commiserated solicitously. But the spreading grin left no doubt as to her feelings on the subject. Will glared at her, but they both knew it wasn’t for real and he finally returned the grin, albeit self-consciously. “How bad?” she asked.
Will shrugged. “Nurse Hale wasn’t specific.”
“You sicced Esther on them? That’s cruel and unusual punishment.”
“Let the punishment fit the crime,” Will muttered. “Although,” he amended, “when she finds out what started it she’ll very likely come after me.”
Lu-Tsi chuckled. “Not likely. She’s perfectly aware that those two are capable of creating their own havoc.”
Will joined her in chuckling. “Too true,” he agreed, and headed out the door.
wasn’t a long walk from where the Jamisons lived to where he worked part of the
time. His boss,
Admiral Harriman Nelson, had made provisions for at least some of his higher
echelon employees when he founded and built the Nelson Institute of Marine
Research. When Will had taken over as
CMO aboard NIMR’s research submarine, Seaview, it included a major role in
running the Institute’s
had returned four days ago from a cruise to the
Seaview’s XO – and Lee’s best friend – Lt. Cdr. Charles Philip “Chip” Morton, had never been bashful about complaining when Lee went off for ONI. This time, however, he’d been especially upset, and made a bit unbalanced by the fact that he couldn’t come up with a logical reason why this mission was any worse than all the previous ones. Both Will and Admiral Nelson had taken turns trying to keep the younger man under control until Lee’s return. Unfortunately, something that Will said had been slightly misinterpreted. Will had immediately straightened it out but quite obviously Chip had not forgotten. Now Will was going to have to deal with the results.
first sight to greet Will as he slipped through
the door, he nearly ran into Gunnery Sgt. Esther Hale, USMC (Ret), her arms
crossed over her chest, glaring at Lee and Chip. At barely five feet tall, and maybe 120
pounds soaking wet, there still wasn’t a person on the base – Admiral Nelson
included – who would dare cross the woman.
It was Will’s main reason for offering her a job at
Both were dressed in exercise shorts and t-shirts, and both were decidedly mussed and ruffled. Neither, however, looked particularly injured – for which Will was grateful. He pointed a stern eyebrow at the pair. “Care to explain?” he asked with the grumble in his voice that he knew both were expecting.
“We were just working out in the gym,” Lee started.
“We got a little carried away,” Chip added. Neither looked directly at the other.
“So I can see,” Will answered dryly. “Skipper, if you’ve re-injured that hip…”
Lee cut him off. “That’s not where it hurts,” he admitted, his voice almost shy.
Will buried a chuckle behind a cough into his hand, and frowned as he turned to Nurse Hale. “Take Cdr. Crane to the next room and start the work-up. I’ll be along once I’ve seen to Mr. Morton.” Protocol would usually have him starting with the more senior officer, but circumstances had him turning it around.
Apparently no one thought it strange, either. “Aye, sir,” came from both Nurse Hale and Lee. Will didn’t bury that grin. It was a bit of a joke between he and his very worst patient that Lee would ‘sir’ a lower-ranked officer. It was Lee’s way of acknowledging and accepting Will’s logic and authority to whatever was going on. He slipped off the exam table and quietly followed the nurse out. Will watched him carefully and was somewhat comforted by the fact that Lee wasn’t moving badly at all, although there was an indication of some soreness in his upper body.
Will shrugged and turned his attention to the blond. “Well?” he continued his growl.
“I was just taking your advice,” Chip tried to defend himself. But he kept his eyes partially lowered and there was an ever so slight smile on his lips.
“And you know perfectly well that I was not advocating substituting Lee for a punching bag,”
Chip shrugged. “Whatever works.”
Will snorted. “And did it?” Chip’s expression only went more sheepish. Will let him off the hook and started his exam. Once Chip removed his shirt Will had to admit – quietly, to himself – that he’d been anticipating much worse. Chip’s face showed evidence of a punch or two landing around the jaw, but most of the damage was limited to his torso. Nothing was too serious – it was pretty evident that Lee had pulled his well-documented punching power, toning down what could have resulted in serious damage to nothing more than a few bruised ribs. Will only had to clean up a small scrape over one eyebrow. Chip got a bit huffy when Will told him to lay down and stay put until Will returned, but a quick glare had the younger man complying with the order.
Will, however, didn’t take any chances. He quickly entered the room next door and requested Nurse Hale to go keep her eyes on the blond while he dealt with Lee. The brunet gave Will much the same expression as Chip had, but remained silent as Will gave him a going-over. He found heavier bruising on Lee’s ribcage than there was on Chip, and there was evidence that at least one of Chip’s swings had connected with Lee’s nose. Will checked it for damage but happily found nothing serious. Finally, he couldn’t contain his curiosity any longer.
“Skipper,” he started, and waited until Lee almost looked at him, “you want to tell me how this happened?”
“Did you ask Chip?” was mumbled back, Lee still not looking directly at him.
“I already know his version,” it was Will’s turn to mumble, causing Lee to finally meet his eyes. “I’d like yours.”
Lee kept his head up as Will ran a swab carefully up one nostril to clean up a trace of blood, but kept his eyes lowered. “Chip and I…ah…we sort of got carried away during P.T. in the boxing ring.”
“So I can see.” Will kept his tone level. “You two don’t usually spar, since everyone knows your boxing background.” Lee shrugged but it instantly turned into a flinch, which Will chose to ignore for the moment “Whose idea was it?” Lee sent him a brief look but immediately dropped his eyes again, not answering the question. At least verbally. Will had a pretty good idea that it was Lee, and it caused him to shake his head softly. “Who told you about Chip’s and my conversation?”
A quick grin touched Lee’s lips. “The Admiral,” he answered very softly.
Will nodded. It explained why Nelson was sitting in the waiting room. Having lit the fuse he’d have stayed close enough to control the explosion. “And did Chip figure out that you were pulling your punches?”
Lee shuddered softly. “That’s when he hit my nose.”
Will couldn’t help it – he laughed out loud, if only briefly. Lee shot him a glare but almost immediately dropped his eyes again. Shaking his head softly, Will pulled a chair over and sat down. With his head now lower than Lee’s, the younger man couldn’t so easily avoid looking at him. “I never intended for this to happen,” he told Lee sincerely.
It popped Lee’s eyes to his. “This isn’t your fault, Jamie.”
“Eh,” Will muttered and waggled his hand back and forth, trying to refute the comment.
“It’s okay, really,” Lee assured him with a totally open look. Will returned it. “Chip is never going to happily accept that I continue to take ONI assignments.”
It forced a snort from Will. “No joke, Skipper.”
“He’s too good an officer to do more than yell.” Will nodded. “But he’d too good a friend to let it go unchallenged.” Will grinned and nodded again. “This was a pretty good idea, actually.”
“It still wasn’t what I meant,” Will told him firmly.
“We both know that.” He sent Will a shy smile but his eyes were sparkling.
Will’s smile broadened. “Why do I get the feeling that next time you won’t be so willing to pull your punches?” Lee’s answering grin was positively evil, and Will laughed. He also stood up. “You two safe to turn loose together?”
“Aye, sir,” Lee answered, smiling broadly with the use again of the inside joke. “As soon as we get cleaned up we’re headed to BZ’s for pizza and beer.”
“Then get out of here,” Will ordered sternly. But he couldn’t keep the smile off his face.
slipped off the table, but then stopped dead.
“Nurse Hale?” he asked softly.
Will laughed out loud again and lead the way
back to the first treatment room. Not
saying a word, he looked at Chip and jerked his thumb over his shoulder. Chip didn’t waste any time complying, and
scurried from the room. Nurse Hale shook
her head, but there was a grin on her face as she headed back into the
Nelson shrugged. “Lee’s not the only one who knows how to look out for his crew.” Both men chuckled and headed back to their homes, secure that everything was once more back on an even keel.
Mrs. Will Jamison (Lu-Tsi) used with permission of her creator, Cris Smithson.