Some stories just show up one day without rhyme or reason. This is one of those stories. Just a little bit of warning: this story definitely reflects my somewhat warped sense of humor. Ad there is a little bit of language.
Thanks to my Beta, you know who you are.
The Morning After
Chip Morton usually walked down the hill to his friend’s house. The two condos were separated by only a few yards and both men were accustomed to coming and going to each other’s house whenever the mood struck them.
Chip was bored tonight and unable to raise his current girlfriend, Serena Harrison, on either her house phone or her cell phone. It was Serena’s habit to ignore the phone if she was deep into some research and Chip tried to give her as much space and freedom as possible. It only seemed fair since his job took him out to sea for weeks at a time.
So rather than pester Serena when she was obviously busy, Chip decided to drop in on Lee. With his sister, who was also Lee’s current girlfriend, (Chip was still trying to rationalize how he felt about that) out of town, he figured Lee would be at loose ends.
Chip made his way across the yard and to the side of the house. A river rock sidewalk went all the way around the house and Chip followed it up to the corner of the condo. He froze when he heard Serena’s voice.
“It’s awfully big, Lee,” she was saying.
“Don’t let it intimidate you,” Lee replied.
Don’t let what intimidate her? Chip thought but stayed where he was. Surely this wasn’t going where he thought it was going.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen one this big, much less handled one,” Serena said.
Oh my gawd…
“Oh, I’ve seen bigger. My father. My mom used to complain it would take her hours…” Lee’s voice grew muffled at the end and Chip felt his blood start to boil. This was disgusting. This couldn’t be happening.
Serena’s voice again. “And why isn’t your girlfriend here doing this for you?”
Lee’s voice. “Because she’s not here and I need some relief.”
Chip felt his stomach sour and roll as the implications of what he was hearing sank it. His girlfriend and his best friend…
“And obviously you’d never think of taking this to Jamie,” said Serena.
“Jamie’s first suggestion would be surgery. I think that’s a little drastic,” said Lee.
Chip couldn’t stay any longer. Feeling like a dog kicked to the curb, he slunk back to his condo. He didn’t even bother with the lights, choosing instead to walk through the dark house. He paused at the fridge and grabbed a beer before heading to the living room. He threw himself into his favorite chair, unable to sit on the couch. The couch was where he and Serena used to sit, watching old horror movies together with a giant bowl of popcorn between them. She would lean back against him, his arm around her while she laid her head against his chest, feeding him popcorn, one kernel at a time. That always led to…other activities.
Chip sucked down the beer and got up for another. What was he going to do now? He’d already told her that he loved her and yet she’s falling all over Lee as if…
His thoughts began to turn disjointed and angry. His best friend. Lee knew how he felt about Serena. Was his sister suddenly not good enough for him? Did he have to try and conquer every woman who worked at NIMR? And Serena? She claimed she was never even attracted to Lee!
After the fourth beer, Chip considered going to bed but he couldn’t bring himself to get out of the chair again. Besides, his bed was where he and Serena usually ended up after a movie and he just could not face that reminder.
With one long leg thrown over the arm of the chair, Chip drifted off to sleep, tormented by dreams of his best friend and the woman he was in love with.
The Next Morning
Chip came into work late, growling like a bear that needed another month’s hibernation. His secretary, Kim Martin, efficiently handed off his day’s messages and gave her charge plenty of space. She wasn’t going to tempt the wrath of the XO, not when he was clearly looking for a head to bite off.
Chip vanished into his office and did not re-emerge. Not like Mr. Morton at all. Kim always brought fresh pastries into the office and Chip usually dropped his stuff off then came back out for coffee and donuts. The fact that he hadn’t even come out for coffee sent off alarms in Kim’s head.
Still puzzled, she picked up the phone and dialed the direct extension into Lee’s office. Lee should be in this morning and she was thankful when he answered after one ring.
“Yes Kim?” Lee asked.
“Lee, I hate to bother you, but have you talked to Chip this morning?” Kim asked.
“No. I missed him. I think he’s running late. He has shown up, hasn’t he?” Lee asked, concern creeping into his voice.
Kim moved swiftly to kill the worried tone. “Oh yes, he’s here, but something’s not right.”
“What do you mean?”
“Something is bothering him. He’s very upset. I mean extremely angry. He paused long enough to take his messages and when I said ‘good morning’ to him, he snorted and said ‘for some people, I guess.”
“That doesn’t sound like him at all. Chip’s a definite morning person.”
“Maybe you can talk to him and find out what’s bothering him. I hate to see him like this,” Kim said.
“Don’t worry about it, Kim. I’ll give him a couple of hours to stew and I’ll come down and see if I can get to the bottom of things. Let me know if he leaves though.”
Kim breathed a sigh of relief. “I will. Thanks, Lee,”
“Not a problem. Can’t have the exec snapping unnecessarily, can we?”
Lee kept his word. About two hours later he popped into Kim’s office and jerked a thumb at the closed door.
“The lion still in his den?” he asked.
Kim grinned. “Hasn’t left, unless he’s crawled out the window.”
“Hmm. Not impossible, though not likely. Well, here goes nothing. Wish me luck.” Lee griped the door handle and pushed in. He found Chip at his desk, determinedly working at something. Lee gently closed the door behind him, reading the signs that his friend was indeed in an extremely foul mood. The blond did not look up as Lee entered. “Hey Chip,” Lee began, hoping to break the ice.
Ice was the operating word. Chip’s blue eyes held no warmth of friendship as they flicked up and dismissed Lee with a glance. “Lee,” was Chip’s simple acknowledgement of Crane’s presence.
Lee stopped, not sure what was wrong here. Was Chip angry with him? Why? Lee tried to remember what he might have done in the last little bit that could cause the Iceman to come to life. There was nothing that Lee could think of to provoke such a reaction in his friend. Lee decided to cut right to the chase. “Chip, have I done something you’re upset about?”
That did it. Morton shot to his feet and advanced, spitting and snarling at his once friend. “Have you done something? Damn it, how can you stand there and ask me that after sleeping with her? You know how I feel about her and you don’t even give a shit!”
Lee drew back. Having been the target of Chip’s temper a time or two before, nothing matched the fury that blazed in Chip’s eyes right now. Morton was beyond pissed and was likely to take a swing if Lee said the wrong thing to him. Lee desperately tried to figure what Chip was talking about.
“Chip, I don’t know what you mean. I’m only seeing Wendy and nobody else. If you’re talking about Serena, I would never…I know how you feel about her and I know she’d never even look at another man. You’re gonna have to give me more to work with, pal.”
Chip clenched his hands into tight fists, obviously trying to hold back the urge to punch Crane’s lights out. He turned his back on Lee, holding himself stiffly in front of the window, unable to face the dark-haired man. “I heard you two last night,” he said.
“Last night?” Lee’s eyes narrowed in confusion. “What did you hear?” he asked.
This time Chip spun and glared at Lee. “I’ve never seen one so big,” he imitated Serena’s awed voice and watched as Lee’s eyes widen in something akin to shock. “I heard you. Do you have any idea what you’ve done to me?” Chip asked, the ache and the hurt in his voice ripping a hole in Lee’s soul.
“Oh God, Chip. No, you don’t understand…” Lee began but the fire burst back to life in Chip’s eyes.
“What is there to understand? You slept with Serena!” Chip bellowed and Lee was pretty sure the entire complex could have heard him.
“No!” Lee blurted.
“Then what?” Chip demanded at full volume.
“If you’d stop shouting at me I’ll tell you!” Lee shot back.
Chip snapped his jaws shut as if realizing the man in his office was also his superior officer. He stared at Lee for a long breath before adding in much a more subdued voice, “I’m listening.”
Lee took a deep breath, reviewing the conversation last night and slowly coming to realize what might have lead Chip to think he slept with Serena. “I had a boil on my back,” Lee began.
“You had a what where?” Chip growled.
“A boil. Or a cyst. Something. It was on my back and it was killing me. I was going to have Wendy lance it when she got back but it was so annoying I had to do something about it. Jamie would have made a five-star production out of it and I wasn’t in the mood to put up with him and his needles. So I asked Serena if she’d ever lanced a boil before.”
“A boil on your back?” Chip’s voice still carried tones of disbelief and astonishment.
“Yes. A boil. It was huge. Serena lanced it, cleaned it out and bandaged it. Here.” Lee started to unbutton his shirt and he pulled it off, turning so he could put his back to Chip. “See? My father had the same problem. He’d get these cysts and he’d have my mother lance them rather than go to the doc and have a report and all that written up.”
Sure enough there was a medium-sized bandage on Lee’s back, just under his shoulder. Chip ran his fingers over the bandage but he didn’t touch it. If Lee could admit that it was hurting, the last thing Chip wanted to do was irritate it further. “You couldn’t ask me?” he asked, his voice this side of squeaking.
“You hate needles. The only thing I could think to use was a big sewing needle. I figured it would creep you out. Serena had the idea of using a scalpel.”
For a long time Chip could only stare at Lee. “Oh God. Lee, I just accused you… I mean…I honestly thought that you…that you and Serena…I can’t believe…” Chip stammered but Lee only grinned.
“I should have mentioned it to you. It never dawned on me you might start taking up eavesdropping.”
“You’re not going to tell Serena I thought you and her…” Horror filled Chip’s eyes as he considered the fact that Lee might tell. Serena would be furious if she found out that he even considered the fact she might cheat on him.
Lee’s expression turned positively evil. “What’s it worth to you?” he asked, pulling his shirt back on and buttoning everything up.
“Lee!” Chip exclaimed as Lee just laughed and turned on his heel to leave.
Before he actually left he tossed one last parting shot at the exec. “I’ll think of something.” The door closed with a soft click and Chip sank down into the chair.
Serena would kill him if she caught wind of this.
Trying to pull himself back together, Chip turned his attention back to the computer and tried to work. About twenty minutes later there came a light tap on his door and Kim entered, carrying a dauntingly thick stack of files.
“Uh, what are those?” Chip asked as she sat the stack, at least seven inches tall, on the edge of his desk.
Kim raised her honey-brown eyes to meet Chip’s. “Ah. Cpt. Crane sent these over and he said to tell you, ‘this should make us even,’” she said.
Chip sighed. “Thanks Kim. Oh, and if you don’t mind, can you bring me some coffee and a few of those donuts, if there are any left?” Chip stared at the price for Lee’s silence. “I’m going to be a while.”