Author’s note: This story was written for Liz cos I promised her a Lee-centric story. Kind thanks to Rita for allowing me to 'borrow' Chris again and for supplying the original story idea.
Lee Crane woke with a start. And promptly wished he hadn’t. His head throbbed like a bitch – and that was only the start of it. His eyes – which he had prised open with difficulty and closed again just as quickly – ached, his lashes feeling as if they were glued together. His mouth was dry like it was stuffed with cotton and any movement of his neck hurt. In fact, everything above his shoulders hurt. He felt like he’d been bashed upside the head with a two by four.
Which raised the salient point – what the hell had happened to him? He wracked his brain to recall but it hurt – a lot – so he gave up. It seemed like too much trouble right then. There were more important issues. Like where the heck was he? How did he get here? What time was it – jeez, what day was it? Forcing his eyes open again he tried to orient himself, without moving his head. His gaze was fuzzy and no attempts at blinking would bring anything into sharp focus. He could tell that, wherever he was, it was semi dark – the shadows indicating that it was it was possibly late evening. He also realised that his ears were ringing and he couldn’t hear with any great clarity. But he could tell that he was lying flat on his back on a comfortable surface and his head was cushioned on something soft and smooth that smelled fresh and clean – clinically clean.
Lee groaned, whether aloud or not he couldn’t tell, as recognition dawned. Med Bay. Nowhere else smelled quite like it – well, Sick Bay did but there was no sense of motion as on his boat so he was fairly sure that he was once again trapped in the Institute’s medical centre and probably subject to Jamie’s not so tender mercies for the umpteenth time since becoming Seaview’s captain almost four years ago. Not that he disliked the good doctor – on the contrary. There were several occasions when Jamie was all that had stood between him and his Maker. And for that Lee would be eternally grateful. It was just that Jamie was always – but always – overly conservative with his diagnosis and treatment, standing him down way more than Lee considered necessary or appropriate. A regular mother hen.
Now that he had the ‘where’ down, how about the ‘when’? He raised his right arm and squinted but his blurred vision couldn’t make out the time on the face of his watch. Its very presence though was heartening, indicating that he hadn’t undergone surgery, intubation, an MRI or any other invasive procedure. Which meant he couldn’t be too bad. The thought cheered him no end – even if he couldn’t remember what caused him to be here in the first place. But it bode well for the length – or otherwise – of his stay. Although Jamie would probably want to keep him until he could recall what had put him here but, despite wracking his brain again, he couldn’t come up with anything and concentrating was only making his headache worse.
However the ringing in his ears seemed to abate, at least a little. It wasn’t so much a ringing now but a constant murmur. Voices. Familiar voices, thankfully. He turned his head slightly in that direction but even that small movement caused a spike to drill right into the very recess of his brain and he couldn’t prevent the moan that tore from his throat. It appeared to stir up the voices and he heard the soft swish of the door as someone either entered or left. Left, he concluded, as the sounds ceased. He moved restlessly on the bed, becoming increasingly agitated that his senses weren’t co-operating fully. He stilled again as a hand grasped his right forearm gently and a second gripped his left shoulder firmly, preventing him from moving. The hands were large, male, lightly calloused – not unkind, in fact there was an innate re-assurance in their grip and in the soothing words Lee could ‘feel’ emanating from the person holding him but couldn’t quite decipher. It made him want to try opening his eyes again though so he gingerly set about separating the encrusted lashes as much as he could. It wasn’t as much as he’d have liked but enough to allow him to make out a large blurry figure leaning over him. The hand on his arm squeezed lightly as the man spoke again and this time Lee could make out the tone if not the exact words. Progress!
The hand left his shoulder and the blurry figure straightened up but didn’t move far from his side. Lee distinctly heard the quiet sound of water trickling then jerked slightly as something soft and warm was wiped gently across his eyelids before continuing up to his forehead. He winced involuntarily as the cloth encountered a particularly tender spot at his left temple. Again the hand on his arm squeezed supportively and Lee tried one more time to open his eyes, blinking dazedly in the room’s subdued lighting as the warm water did its thing and his lashes lifted unhindered. His focus sharpened until he was looking into worried blue eyes in a pale anxious face, mussed fair hair testament to its owner’s concern. Even as Lee watched, much of the strain left the blond’s features, his shoulders slumping as tension drained from him and a smile lifted both sides of his mobile mouth.
“Welcome back, buddy. You had us all worried there for a while.”
Lee was more than pleased that he could hear the words clearly despite the slight ringing that remained in his ears. The relief in his friend’s voice was plain and made Lee want to re-assure him but as he shifted his eyes – rather than moving his head – his glance caught the blood that stained Chip’s polo shirt from his left shoulder almost to mid chest and his hazel eyes widened in alarm.
Following his gaze Chip chuckled mirthlessly. “Not mine, pal. All yours, I’m afraid.”
Tired of lying flat on his back, his memory refusing to divulge any information as to how his blood ended up all over Chip, he managed to croak out a single word. “Up.”
Taking it to mean that he wanted the head of the bed raised, Chip shook his head decisively. “More than my life’s worth, Lee. Jamie’d have my head on a platter with an apple stuffed in my mouth before I’d have it half way up.”
Lee’s mutinous glare was sidetracked as the door swung open and Seaview’s white-coated CMO crossed the floor quickly, his sarcastic drawl evidence of the fact that he had overheard both their words. “Got that right, Commander. And you must be feeling better than you look, Captain, if that scowl on your face is any indication. Now shut up and let me see for myself how you’re really doing. No point in actually asking how you feel, you’d only lie straight to my face!”
Despite the cynical tone and the frown on the lean face, his brown eyes were kind and his hands gentle as he examined his patient. Lee endured the exam stoically, only reacting when Jamie shone the penlight into his eyes and he clenched them shut as the pain arced through his head.
“Hmmm. Not surprising. I’m betting your headache’s off the scale too.” He didn’t waste time waiting for confirmation but turned to his medical bag and withdrew a syringe and a small ampoule. With practiced, economic movements he drew up the required dosage, swabbed Lee’s bicep and injected the hypo’s contents directly into the muscle, earning a grunt in response. Briskly rubbing the site to alleviate the small sting, he motioned to Chip to pass him the bowl of ice chips on the nightstand and spooned several between Lee’s parched lips. “The tests indicate that you don’t appear to have a concussion so I’m happy enough to give you that painkiller. In return you know the drill.”
Lee’s croak gradually grew stronger as he recited the required name, rank and serial number sequence.
“Good. Day and date? And what’s the last thing you remember?”
He had to think about that for a minute. Day and date weren’t a problem – he thought – but most recent memory? “Still Saturday, June 10th?” He caught Chip’s faint nod and Jamie’s frown at the blond, who held up his hands in mock surrender. “Last thing I remember is arriving at the Institute with Chip – this afternoon?” He frowned instantly as anxiety bit. Why would they be at the Institute on a weekend afternoon if there weren’t a problem? “Seaview?”
Chip rolled his eyes and moved to stand next to the physician on the other side of the bed so Lee wouldn’t have to turn his head as Jamie raised the head of the bed to a more comfortable position for his patient. “No, Mr. Worrywart! There’s nothing wrong on your boat. The Sea/Shore Baseball Challenge was today and we rode here together.”
Lee recalled that the annual game between
Institute staff and Seaview’s crew was to be held that day but it didn’t
shed any light on how he had ended up in
“It’s called Retrograde Amnesia, Lee.” Jamie informed him; hurrying on to answer the questions he could see flaring in his CO’s eyes. “Not uncommon in cases like this.”
“Cases like what? And when will I remember?” Lee’s voice was firming but still far from his usual command tone.
Jamieson shrugged, not unkindly. “Let me answer your second question first. You could recall everything within a couple of hours, perhaps when you wake after a night’s sleep, or you may never quite remember what happened. As to what happened….” CMO and XO exchanged glances, the former’s was more a glare and the latter’s bore a decidedly sheepish look as he shifted uncomfortably.
“You took a hard blow from a rather…wildly swinging bat, Lee.” Jamie watched him closely to see if his words jogged any memory. But although Lee’s eyes darkened nothing indicated that he had any recollection of the event.
Lee saw Chip’s eyes slide guiltily towards the door and frowned ominously. “It was you, wasn’t it? You hit me.”
Morton gaped openly at his friend. “Me?” A red tide invaded the previously pale countenance – Lee thought out of guilt but Jamieson knew out of injured pride. “Where do you get off automatically thinking that it was me?” The steely note in the soft voiced words had the other two flinching, both knowing of old that the exec was at his most dangerous the quieter he got.
“Well,” Lee blustered, “you always said you’d get me back for the time I nailed you during the Challenge Cup game at the Academy.”
“That was more than fifteen years ago!” Chip retorted, more wounded than angry now. “You can’t believe I’d hold a damn grudge that long?”
Lee didn’t, he knew Chip too well for that, and abject shame washed over him. His head still ached, despite the painkiller that had taken the edge off, but logic and good sense prevailed. “No, Chip, I know you wouldn’t. But who the hell did hit me?”
“Children! Children!” Jamie intervened, somewhat tersely. “Lee, what does it matter who hit you? You’ve got five stitches in your scalp, not to mention some spectacular bruising, a wicked headache, dizziness and, I’m guessing, serious disorientation every time you move. Plus I’m willing to bet you’re nauseous into the bargain. You’ve got yourself an overnight stay right here and if I’m satisfied with you in the morning I’ll release you to your condo to rest.”
Unfortunately Lee didn’t rise to the bait. “Who hit me?”
Chip sighed, cognisant of his friend’s tenacity. “It was an accident, Lee. Leave it go at that, why don’t you.”
“WHO HIT ME?” This time the words were fairly bitten out between clenched teeth.
“It was one of the men. OK, OK,” as Lee looked like he was going to levitate out of the bed, Chip continued hurriedly, “it was Chris. But it was as much your fault as his!”
“How do you make that out?” Lee’s eyes rounded with disbelief. If there was one thing he was almost as good at as boxing, it was baseball.
“Doc warned you that you wouldn’t be able to move fast enough with that strained muscle in your knee.”
“No thanks to your antics today, Captain.” The CMO only used his official rank when he was majorly ticked off.
“You zigged when you should have zagged, Lee. And unfortunately Chris caught you a good one. Jeez, you dropped like a stone. And the blood….” Chip shuddered over-dramatically – at least to Lee’s way of thinking.
“Everyone knows head wounds bleed a lot.” His CO defended.
“Maybe! But I don’t mind telling you that you scared the s-h-one-t out of us, Lee.”
“Not to mention that I thought at one point I was going to have to sedate young Lt. James as well.” Jamie interjected wryly.
“Make sure Chris knows it wasn’t his fault, Chip. I don’t want him beating himself up over this.” Lee did a complete three-sixty – exactly as his friends had known he would!
‘Wish I’d had money on that!’ Morton thought. ‘Woulda been like taking candy from a baby!’
“We’ll make sure, Lee. Now, if you want to have any chance of getting out of here in the morning, get some sleep.” Jamieson ordered as he ignored the scowl sent his way, lowered the head of the bed to an almost prone position and dimmed the lights further. “I mean it!”
Chip pulled a comfortable armchair closer to the side of the bed and turned back to see both men regarding him – one with consternation and the other with exasperation. “What??”
“Chip, you should go home and get cleaned up.” Lee protested but Jamie’s derisive snort had him eyeing the doctor quizzically.
“No point arguing with him, Lee. I lost that one a long time ago! I’ll have someone bring you some spare scrubs and you can wash up in there.” Indicating the suite’s private bathroom.
“Thanks, Jamie.” Morton settled himself in the armchair and winked impudently at his friend as the doctor made for the door. “Some coffee would be nice too.”
“Don’t push it, pal!” The beleaguered medic warned. “Now good night, both of you!”
“How long do we have him for this time?”
Jamieson looked up from writing up his patient’s chart at the disgruntled voice that assailed him. He almost groaned – Sgt. Major, ehhm, Staff Nurse Maguire – Lee’s least favourite nurse and Chip’s nemesis. She put the capital S in starched! Just his luck that she’d have weekend duty this particular weekend! He’d be hearing about this for the next several days – at least! “Just overnight, Staff.” He soothed as he completed his instructions and tucked the chart back into its slot. “Four hourly obs, nothing too serious this time.”
She emitted a most unladylike sniff. “And I suppose there’s no shifting the other one either!”
“You’re welcome to try. But I wouldn’t recommend it.” So saying, Jamie pushed his pen back into the top pocket of his white coat and prepared to depart.
“Suppose we should be grateful for small mercies. At least Admiral Nelson isn’t here or we’d have to put up with the three of them!”
“There is a God!” Jamieson’s mutter was heartfelt as he all but ran for the exit.