By R. L. Keller
Will Jamison, MD, FACS, let a long sigh escape as he pulled his car to a stop in his carport. His wife, sitting next to him, smiled. “I know that this made a long day for you, and I probably shouldn’t have dragged you out this evening.” It was nearly 2330 hours and the couple was just home from attending a play at the local High School. Several of the young actors were children of NIMR employees.
Will returned his wife’s smile. “The tickets were already bought. No sense wasting them. And it was a great performance. I’d have been disappointed to miss it.” The play was ‘Wicked’, a musical based on the book by Gregory Maguire, and told the story of the witches of OZ from the witches’ point of view. “I knew that Dr. Carstairs’ daughter could sing, but she really has a great voice.”
“Agreed,” Lu-Tsi sighed as well. “But bed is going to feel especially good.”
Will frowned. “I’d better go check on Lee before I crash,” he muttered, getting out of the car.
“He’s fine,” Lu-Tsi said, exiting on her side. “You sicced Esther on him. How much trouble can he get into?” Will sent his wife a disgruntled look across the top of the car, causing her to giggle. “Allow me to rephrase that,” she got out around the laughter.
“Too late,” Will grumbled, but he also finally smiled.
“I should know by now that you won’t rest until you know that all’s well,” Lu-Tsi admitted. “Tell him that if he’s good I’ll bring him breakfast in the morning, complete with fresh muffins. He does hate Med Bay food.”
“He hates Med Bay, period,” Will told her grumpily. “And he’d better be asleep.” The grouching only caused Lu-Tsi’s grin to spread, and Will headed across the relatively short distance to NIMR’s medical facility thinking back on his day.
He’d had a reasonably quiet morning. One of the security staff’s toddlers had taken a spill off his backyard jungle gym and his mother had brought him in to be checked over. Med Bay was the facility of choice for all employees no matter where in the surrounding area they lived unless it was a major emergency and another of the area’s hospitals was closer. In this case the youngster was more ticked off at having his play interrupted than actually hurt, and Will was able to send both mother and son on their way home fairly quickly.
He’d been nearly finished with a leisurely lunch when his pager went off, sending him back to Med Bay from the cafeteria. There had been an accident during a training exercise. Details at that point were sketchy but Will’s ‘favorite’ patient, Seaview’s young captain, Cdr. Lee Crane, was being brought to Med Bay. Eesh, Will had muttered at the time. The man’s not even safe at home. But by the time he’d walked the short distance back to Med Bay his usual pleasant demeanor was firmly back in place.
The frown returned, however, as soon as he stepped through Med Bay’s front doors, and he had no problem following the loud voices to the first of several exam rooms. “Enough!” he said loudly and firmly as he entered the room, and had the satisfaction of halting the battle he’d stepped into the middle of between Lee and Chip Morton. Seaview’s XO, and Lee’s best friend, was trying to get Lee to lie down on the exam table and Lee was having none of it. Will’s first glance showed a thoroughly disheveled CO, his uniform soaking wet. When Will took a closer look Lee was wet from head to feet and his eyes didn’t appear to be totally focusing. After the quick second of silence both younger men started talking again, this time directed at Will instead of each other, and Will growled out a “Stop!” as he finished walking up to them. “You,” he pointed at Lee, “quiet. You,” he pointed at Chip, “talk.” As Lee would have ignored the order, Will sent him a glare. “Skipper, given your track record in these kinds of situations, what makes you think that I’m likely to believe a word you say anyway, so you might as well shut up and lay down. Behave and I might give you a chance at a rebuttal.” Lee sent him as dark and dangerous a glare as Will had ever seen, but he ignored it and turned to Chip. The blond was having a serious problem not bursting out laughing, and Lee’s expression slowly turned to simple disgruntlement.
Chip finally got himself settled down enough to explain. “Lee was supervising a drill for some of the newer crewmembers on how to deal with a flooding compartment. There was a glitch in the training chamber. What was supposed to be a controlled leak got out of hand and Blair panicked. Lee jumped in to calm him down while Sharkey ran to shut off the water. Things got a little crazy, I was told…” Chip hesitated in his narrative.
“I gather Blair won’t be on the next cruise,” Will drolled.
“Ah, no,” Chip told him, rolling his eyes before glancing at Lee. Will had been keeping half an eye on him as well. Lee had apparently surrendered to his fate – at least for the moment – and was laying quietly, his eyes closed. “The other guys in the exercise finally helped, and by the time Sharkey got back things were fairly under control. But he said that Lee was a little shaky, and Blair admitted that he ‘might have’ knocked Lee against the side of the tank.”
“I’m fine,” Lee muttered, and opened his eyes to glare at Chip.
Chip held up two fingers, with a glare back at Lee. “Twice,” he added, “and he has bumps on both the back of his head and the right side to prove it.” Lee muttered something too low to be fully heard and once more closed his eyes. Chip and Will shared a quick grin.
Part of that grin came back now as Will walked through Med Bay’s doors. It was returned by the duty nurse at the front desk, and Will headed for the third floor where he’d finally settled Lee into a private room. Actually, it hadn’t been much of a fight. Once Will confirmed the presence of the two hits Lee had taken, coupled with several body bruises, Lee admitted to a pounding headache. An MRI confirmed that there wasn’t anything more serious. Lee adamantly denied having aspirated any water, and Will could find no evidence that Lee was fudging the truth. But Lee hadn’t argued – well, too much, anyway – when Will ordered a night of observation.
Will glanced at the Nurses’ Station as he stepped off the elevator on the third floor. Esther Hale, RN, USMC (Ret.) was sitting, visiting with the other duty nurse and working on a knitting project of some kind. Will raised an eyebrow and got back a nod in response, meaning everything was under control
The retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant had become Will’s rather unsecret, secret weapon against NIMR’s senior staff. She didn’t take guff from anyone – up to and including the Admiral. The rest of the nursing staff adored her, as did most of the doctors. A couple had been heard muttering about her. Will had conscientiously tracked down the issues involved, discovered that it was the doctors’ feelings that had been stepped on, not anything Nurse Hale had done wrong, and quietly laughed behind said doctors’ backs. Now he returned the nod and continued down the hall to Lee’s room.
Opening the door quietly, Will did nothing more than take a step inside, observing the young man who had quickly become a thorn in his side. The lights in the room were muted but it wasn’t totally dark. The head of the bed was raised high enough that until it got dark outside Lee had been able to see out the window toward the ocean. Lee’s head was still turned in that direction but his eyes were closed and his breathing regular and relaxed.
Will had no idea why, but lyrics from one of the songs in the play he’d attended that evening filtered into his mind.
I’ve head it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
It was certainly true that Lee had come into his and Lu-Tsi’s lives when they needed ‘something.’ Their only child, a son, had been killed in a diving accident. Both parents had taken it hard, and Will had decided that the switch from regular Navy to NIMR might be just what was needed. Lee and Lu-Tsi had made a quick connection. Will knew that Lu-Tsi’s instant evaluation that Lee needed someone to look after him embarrassed the young man terribly. But the friendship that had developed between the two had finally brought Lu-Tsi out of the funk she’d fallen prey to after their son’s death, for which Will would be eternally grateful.
His own relationship with Seaview’s young captain had started off a good deal rockier. Will had not been impressed with what he’d originally assumed to be total disregard for his own health and safety. It had taken Will a bit to realize that Lee was merely totally focused on his job and his crew.
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
That kind of devotion to duty was unfamiliar to Will. With Lee’s help he’d come to see that service on a submarine had its subtle differences from the surface ships Will had always served on previously. Will had learned that patience, and a certain amount of leeway – and he laughed silently at that pun – was necessary to deal with the intense young man.
And we help them in return
Will could take a certain amount of satisfaction in being responsible for Lee’s acceptance of some limitations to his stubbornness.
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes the sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Again Will grinned silently. His battles with Lee were the stuff of legend among Seaview’s crew. They could get heated and loud. But Will had been thrilled the first time Lee had actually begun to accept Will’s logic instead of simply blowing him off. And he worked hard to try and understand, and be helpful without hindrance on those occasions when Lee had logical reasons for ignoring Will’s advice.
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you
It had been a major learning experience on both men’s parts, and had forged a strong friendship between the two strong-willed men.
“If you’re just going to stand there staring at me, you might as well go home,” came softly from the bed. Lee’s head hadn’t moved, but Will could just make out his partially opened eyes.
“I’m always a bit stunned when you actually choose to cooperate,” Will sniped right back, and finally walked up to the bed where the pair shared a quick grin at the friendly banter. “Why are you awake?” Will asked, not unkindly.
Lee shrugged. “Guess I knew you’d come check on me. How was the play?”
Will chuckled. It was so typically Lee to be interested about everyone around him, even when he chose to keep so much of his own personal life private. “It was very enlightening – on several levels,” Will told him with a private smile, before putting a more firm expression on his face. “Now, back to sleep, and that’s an order.”
Lee grinned as he once more closed his eyes. “Aye, sir,” he used the joke the two shared, that Lee would ‘sir’ a lesser-ranked officer.
“Lu-Tsi said, if you behaved yourself, she’d bring you breakfast in the morning,” Will added as he pulled the blankets up and tucked them comfortably around Lee’s shoulders. Lee didn’t open his eyes but a broad grin appeared, and was still evident as Will left the room and headed home, content now that this least-favorite patient – and one of his best friends – was resting easily.
Who can say if I’ve been
Changed for the better?
I do believe that I’ve been
Changed for the better
Because I knew you
I have been changed for good
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Lu-Tsi Jamison used with permission of her creator, Cris Smithson.