This is a stand-alone story that can fit anyplace in the Voyage timeline.
Lee slipped the last report into his 'out' box then leaned back in the chair, stretching stiff muscles. Dropping his hands to the desktop he stared down at the calendar. Something about todays date had been bugging him all day, but he just couldn't put his finger on it. The harder he tried to pin it down, the further away from him it slipped. He had more important things to worry about right now. His up coming assignment in Columbia was weighing heavily on his mind. That was still a week away, Seaview would be in port by then and hopefully he could get that little errand over and done with before Chip found out about it and gave him the third degree. About to give up and turn in for the night, Lee was surprised at the knock on his door.
Come in, he said, watching the door. It swung open and the blond head of his XO presented itself. Speak of the devil . . .Lee thought to himself. Chip grinned at his friend, seeing Lee still awake.
Still up? Doc catches you, you'll get the lecture on how commanders cannot function on three hours of sleep and six cups of coffee, Morton replied dryly, entering and leaning against Lee's bunk.
Don't I know it? I was actually about to turn in. I was just sitting here thinking there was something about the date that was familiar, but it keeps slipping away from me. I can't seem to put my finger on it.
Morton rolled his eyes skywards. Not surprising you don't remember. You were in the hospital at the time.
Lee raised an eyebrow, obviously trying to recall what Chip was talking about. Confusion clouded his amber eyes then the memory came back to him.
Graduation. I had just gotten back from Cuba, he said. Chip snorted.
Yeah, you're first official, unofficial ONI assignment. Course, I didn't know it was ONI until you came crawling back to the States with the tar beat out of you, Chip snarled, his personal dislike for the alphabet agency in question legendary in the annals of Seaview lore.
My first concussion, Lee remembered, his long fingers sliding the onyx ring on his right hand around and around his finger.
Don't forget your first gunshot wound, reminded the blond with a snort.
That's an anniversary I can live without, said the skipper, absently rubbing at his left thigh. The mission had been his first, handed to him personally by Admiral Johnson. He had gone in and done what had to be done, but barely made it out alive. It was only with the help of a couple of local fishermen that he had been able to get a boat and charter his way back to the States. He had come to his senses in a Florida hospital to find Chip Morton waiting for him. Over the years it was a pattern that had been repeated many times over, either in the form of the aforementioned blond or an auburn haired admiral. Lee could only hope this time he could get the job done in one piece. Meanwhile Chip had closed his eyes, obviously thinking about that long ago event, with not very fond thoughts if Lee was reading Chip's expression correctly.
You disappeared for two weeks. Nobody would tell me jack. The day after graduation I heard you had you had been picked up by the Coast Guard, half out of your mind from exposure and dehydration. Some things never change. The last sentence was spoken in a low, almost whisper.
Lee looked away and and couldn't meet Chip's steel blue gaze. No, some things never change. Chip wasn't going to like what Lee was going to eventually have to tell him. A light tap at the cabin door tuned both men's attentions from each other for a second.
Come, Lee invited with a glance at the clock. He wasn't sure who it could be at this hour. He certainly wasn't expecting the balding brown, tall and lanky figure of the CMO. Doc glanced around at Lee, then shifted his gaze to the blond exec.
Am I missing something? the doctor asked, with a raised eyebrow at Lee. Seaview's young skipper was fidgety and obviously nervous about something. Considering the current occupants of the cabin, it didn't take much for Doc to figure out what Lee was so one edge about. The doctor sat a small white paper cup on Lee's desk. In the cup was one small orange and white capsule.
I missed you at dinner. You can't miss a dose. You need to take this before midnight, the CMO said. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Chip's face loose all expression and focus his full attention on Lee.
Dose? Dose of what? What's he got? What is that, an antibiotic? Has he been running damage control again? Chip demanded in his standard stoic XO voice.
Down, Chip. He doesn't have anything. This is just a preventative measure, the lanky doctor said slowly, crossing his arms over his chest as he watched Lee eye the cup with a speculative eye. With a resounding sigh, Lee tipped the cup back and tossed back the pill. He washed it down with a glass of water from a carafe on the edge of his desk.
Would somebody tell me what the blazes is going on? Chip breathed.
With an exasperated snort, the ship's doctor threw his arms up and exclaimed, Oh, for crying out loud, skipper, haven't you told him yet?
Told me what? Lee . . .
Pipe down, both of you, you wanna wake the whole boat? Lee hissed at his two visitors. Both men immediately grew quite but continued to to glare at the dark-haired commander. Lee heaved a sigh and decided he'd better own up and tell Chip what was going on.
Doc's got me on a four stage oral vaccine for typhoid. This is the third dose, he began, to which Chip jammed both hands into his back pockets and began to pace.
You'd better have a good story else the next dose isn't gonna be oral, if you know what I mean, the tall blond ground out. That's when Chip stopped, spun around and put both hands against the edge of Lee's desk, bending over to look his friend in the eye. Do not tell me this is what I think it is, he said in a low growl. Lee locked eyes with Chip, golden amber into electric blue. Meanwhile on the other side of the cabin, the doctor watched with amusement at the impending explosion of Mount St. Morton. This was too good to walk out on now. Beside, if he hung around, maybe he could keep the exec from going overboard.
Columbia. I have a little . . . errand, to run. Typhoid is a problem in the specific region I'm going to.
Doc wasn't disappointed. Chip slapped the top of the desk with the open palm of his hand then opened up on Crane. You sure are a glutton for punishment. Haven't you learned anything? What the devil are you trying to do, break some kind of obscure record? Submarine commander with the most bullet scars?
Come on, Chip it's not that bad, you act like I can't leave the boat without an armed escort, Lee began, but Chip just waved a dismissive hand at his commanding officer.
Some things never change, Lee. How many times have you come back with the crap beat out of you, or more holes than you came into this world with, or better yet full of some weird chemical cocktail?
The ship's doctor was completely forgotten as Chip and Lee traded off, Chip trying to make his point that these ONI missions turned out far worse for Lee than Crane realized and Lee trying to convince Chip that things didn't turn out that bad as often as Chip suggested. It was classic Lee versus Chip and Will wasn't about to leave the two at each others throat.
I don't need a babysitter, Lee was saying.
I'm not saying you need a babysitter, I'm saying I just wish you would be more careful, added Chip, drawing back from Lee's desk and folding his arms across his chest.
Lee suddenly remembered that Chip wasn't the only visitor in his cabin. Jamie, tell him he's over reacting, he pleaded, looking up at the CMO through long dark lashes, trying to look innocent and needy.
Only the doctor wasn't buying Lee's plea. Lee, you have your own drawer in my file cabinet. How can I back you up when I've treated you for nearly every conceivable injury? Between the two of you, I'm going to be bald an another year, he replied dryly.
Chip spun around, surprise clearly written on this face. Me? Wait a minute, what does his ONI missions have to do with me?
Oh, please. You've had your share of gunshots, snakebites, diseases, do I need to go on? How many times have I treated you for an infection, pneumonia, a concussion . . .
Chip rolled his eyes, Alright, I get the picture. This isn't about me, it's about Wonderboy here and his habit of coming back in worse shape than he left in. Nothing ever changes with him, he takes too many risks. The least you can do is back me up on this, since you're the one who has to treat him when he comes back from these little field trips.
The Chief Medical Officer held up his two hands in surrender and backed toward the door. Oh, no, you're not dragging me into this. You two are on your own. Leave me out of this, the doctor said, backing out of Lee's cabin. He had done his job; as long as Lee finished up the vaccine, he should be protected against typhoid, and that would be one less thing he had to worry about. As Jamie made his way down the corridor, he could still hear Lee and Chip bickering like two little boys.
I do not take unnecessary risks!
You do so, Lee,
No I don't,
Yes, you do,
Doc ran a hand through his thinning hair and just shook his head as he headed for his own cabin and his own bunk. Those two were going to have to hammer this out on their own. Some things never change.