NOT SO TENDER MERCIES
*Triquel to 'Small mercies/Tender Mercies'
“Now, Jamie, that is not
kind.” Chip Morton eyed the doctor
consideringly over the top of his sunglasses before taking another swig from
the dripping long neck held casually between his middle and index fingers. He shifted into a more comfortable position
on the lounge chair, sliding down further and propping his bare feet on the low
rail that edged Lee’s wooden deck. He
could tell that Jamieson was ticked off – annoyed rather than flat out furious
– but unsurprised. The physician knew
better than to expect to find his most frequent patient actually obeying his
orders. “He’s not far and he isn’t
over-exerting himself so why don’t you grab a beer and take a load off.” The blond indicated the cooler on the floor
within arms reach, too lazily content to move. He was tired, having spent most
of the previous night in a not so comfortable chair in the Institute’s
Will Jamieson shielded his eyes with one hand and tracked down the beach in the direction Chip had indicated. He could see two figures, heads close, obviously deep in conversation. They were too distant to identify positively but he noted that they were of approximately equal height and one sported close-cropped dark hair while the other was sandy-fair. He snorted, shook his head and gave in gracefully. Snagging a cold one from the ice chest he popped the top and dropped into the adjacent chair, eyeing the seemingly relaxed XO. The usually pristine Morton was ultra-casually dressed in faded T-shirt and worn khaki cut-offs, basking in the late afternoon sun whose rays made even the tiny fair hairs on his lightly tanned arms and legs shimmer. His wheaten hair shone like spun gold and Jamie – not at all that way inclined – could see how the tall, well-built exec could make female hearts go pitta-pat. Add to that his exalted status as Seaview’s executive officer and.… That he was also pretty much unaware of the adulation notched him up big time in the CMO’s estimation. But what he admired most about the younger man was his total devotion to his CO, friend and brother. Jamieson had never seen anything like it in either his years in the navy or in civvie street. Even now he could tell that Chip’s eyes behind the dark lenses were focused on the beach, his posture deceptive. The trained eye could see that the muscles in his shoulders and back were taut. He reminded Jamie of a tiger, golden, toned, sleek and smoothly suave – all totally illusory; the reality being a deadly predator when the situation called.
“He couldn’t wait twenty-four hours?” He knew he was expected to grouse so he did.
Chip shrugged one shoulder indolently. “You know Lee. If he thought Chris was in need of talking to he wouldn’t rest. Easier to get Chris here than to have Lee chomping at the bit to get to him. The guys helped.”
For the first time Jamie was aware of voices accompanied by soft laughter coming from the beach at the rear of the deck and the smell of sizzling beef had his stomach growling. Ski’s mid-west drawl drifted towards him followed by Pat’s quieter response and Riley’s infective laughter. The troops had rallied.
Part of him wanted to protest that this
was not what his patient needed. Lee should
be resting quietly following a severe blow to the head suffered only the
previous afternoon. What he should
not be doing was walking the beach in the hot
Raking a hand through his thinning hair – and getting thinner by the day owing in great part to the CO and XO who were his greatest challenge as a physician – he quaffed the last of his beer, tossed the bottle into the recycle bin and snagged another. Two being his limit, he vowed to savour this one, tried to emulate his XO’s deceptively relaxed stance and sat back in the chair. Almost immediately he felt the effect of the suntrap that was the wooden deck. Overdressed by far for the heat, in chinos and polo shirt, he quickly knocked the top off the beer and took an appreciate sip, casting a glance at the pair who were ambling slowly toward them down the beach. They weren’t close enough yet for him to see Lee’s face but the slight slump to the captain’s shoulders had him worried. Cmdr. Lee Crane did NOT slump. Shading his eyes with one hand he squinted in an attempt to improve his vision. It didn’t help.
Everything in him wanted to jump to his feet, race down the beach and grab hold of the dark-haired, incredibly foolhardy, overly conscientious young man who was his commanding officer. One part of him ached to shake him til his teeth rattled while the other – saner – part wanted to get him off his feet and into bed – preferably sedated! He set down his bottle with an audible thump, casting an exasperated glance at his laid-back companion who continued to sip his beer with the air of one who hadn’t a care in the world.
“Easy, Jamie.” The quiet voiced words were more command than suggestion, the blond never shifting position. “He’s doing OK. I gave Chris explicit instructions not to let him walk too far. They’ve only been out there about ten minutes and food should be just about ready. He’ll be back here in two and in a better mood than if you haul his ass in now. We’ll get him to eat something, let him have a beer and have him wanting to crawl into bed before he realises that none of this was his own idea.”
Jamieson snorted even as he picked up his drink again. Seemed like Morton had it all under control. Not that he should have doubted it for a second. Chip was too good an exec and too good a friend not to have Lee managed – in whatever way he could get the younger man to accept. “You don’t honestly think you have a hope in hell that Lee doesn’t know what you’re up to?” He couldn’t resist yanking the habitually ultra calm officer’s chain, having gone too many rounds with both men when their health was a concern.
Chip sipped at the beer lazily, but Jamie realised that it was more for effect than for what he was actually imbibing. “Nope. But my way – and with some of the crew here – he’ll let me get away with it. Your way, he’ll bitch and moan and end up frustrated as hell and won’t rest without you prescribing one of your good ole cocktails.”
The physician held out both hands in surrender, accepting that he was beaten by pure unadulterated logic – and a man who knew their skipper and friend a lot better than he did. One who had the man’s interests totally at heart. “I give in. You’re sorted. Just make sure he takes one of the pain pills before he goes to bed – it’ll help him to rest better. And no more than one beer.” He heaved himself to his feet, finishing off the bottle in two quick swigs. He couldn’t resist one final rejoinder. “Oh, and make sure you get some decent sleep tonight.” He could see the tell tale signs of lack of sleep on the exec’s fair skin.
Chip tipped the sunglasses a little further down his nose, eyeing the medic almost accusatorily. “Where are you going so darn fast?”
Jamie shrugged. “You’ve got things well enough in hand. Better if Lee doesn’t know I was here checking up on him. Saves all round on the frustration.”
Chip’s cerulean eyes narrowed, flashing dangerously before he pushed the sunglasses back up to hide the impact of the glare that had been known to have ratings squirm. “Since when did Lee Crane have a problem with a friend visiting on a Sunday afternoon and partaking of a barbeque dinner? Plenty of food to go round, good company too. And I happen to know that Lee has a very fine bottle of Courvoisier – mainly cause I bought it over a while back.” He knew Jamie liked an occasional brandy.
Jamieson was warmed by the casual acceptance into their circle. He knew both men respected his position as Seaview’s CMO but also regarded him as a total pain in the butt when it came to health issues that affected them. Usually it was Nelson who drew him into the social arena. It meant a lot to have Chip invite him to stay and know that Lee would welcome his inclusion. Just before he got too complacent, Chip jerked his head towards the black medical bag he’d left just outside the French patio doors.
“You might want to drop that back to your car. Lest Lee gets the wrong idea. Really don’t want all my hard work messed up by props.” So saying, he dropped bonelessly back into the lounge chair as if he hadn’t a care in the world.
Jamieson, knowing better, took the expert advice.