Author’s note: Several people asked for the sequel to ‘Small Mercies’ so here it is – sort of. Sincere thanks once again to Rita Keller for allowing me to adopt Lt. Chris James, my very favourite OC. I hope I did him justice.
He pushed open the heavy glass doors of
the Institute’s medical centre and stepped from the brightly lit foyer into the
relative darkness of the June night.
Relative because the overhang and steps were well lit, as were NIMR’s
extensive grounds. And, even though it
was a Saturday night, illumination spilled from several
But night had fallen while he’d been updating his patient’s chart and he was tired. Acceptably tired and, thank God, not the bone-deep exhaustion that had been known to follow treatment of this particular patient. This once Lee’s injuries had been moderate and he could safely head for his bed knowing that he was leaving his skipper in good hands and was unlikely to be called out during the night.
Who was he kidding? He smiled wryly as he descended the six concrete steps. If there had been any question that he’d be needed in the ensuing hours he’d have slept on the pull out couch in his office that had seen way too much action for his liking. At his age, he required eight straight in a queen size bed with an orthopaedic mattress. His body craved it after each of his stints on the boat – although Seaview’s accommodations were more generous than many vessels he’d served on.
Still, he’d spent enough sleepless nights on behalf of the young man currently occupying one of the VIP suites – this particular one somewhat sarcastically named by Med Bay’s irreverent staff ‘the captain’s quarters’ – to appreciate the anticipation of a good night’s rest. Shifting his briefcase to his left hand, he dug in his pants pocket for his car keys. Despite the proximity of his residence – Nelson insisted on his senior officers occupying condos on NIMR property – Will liked to have his own
transportation close to hand at all times. He’d stopped to rotate his head several times to release the kinks in his neck and shoulders, frowning when he smelled cigarette smoke – one of his pet hates, but he knew Nelson was in Washington – and recognised familiar voices.
The gist of the conversation had him standing in his tracks.
“When do you think we’ll hear?” The speech was clipped but Jamieson could detect the hint of nerves the speaker was trying manfully to conceal.
Two – no, three – dramatically indrawn breaths preceded three almost simultaneous bursts.
“Depends how bad it is. Doc ordered a CT scan AND an MRI.” Total lie, Jamieson almost chuckled, stepping forward to intervene but abruptly decided to ride this one out – see just where it was going. Lee had had a CT scan but no MRI, not that Riley knew about either. Something was definitely going on here! He could practically see the young blond shake his head despairingly.
“It wasn’t your fault.” The calming tones of Patterson – the ubiquitous peacemaker.
“Yeah, like the skipper just ran into his bat!” Kowalski – Lee’s number one supporter – aside from Morton. Will could hear the anger combined with something else in the senior rating’s voice.
“It was an accident, Ski.” Will could practically visualise Kowalski
pace. He knew that Ski was the fairest
person in the world. No way would he
blame Lt. Chris James for the incident that had put their skipper into
“I know that!” Kowalski just about growled at Pat. Jamie could hear the slight hiss as Ski ditched the cigarette and ground the stub under his heel onto the concrete. His groan was silent; his one goal in life – aside from keeping Lee Crane alive and well – was to wean Nelson and Kowalski off that wicked weed for good. And he’d thought he was getting somewhere with Ski!
“Yeah, no way would the lieutenant have gone for that shot if he’d known the skipper was gonna get hit.” An indignant Riley.
“I’m only sayin’…”
“Quit it, Stu. Just… quit it.” Jamieson could hear the senior rating’s footfalls as he returned to pacing. And he’d hazard a good guess that this wasn’t the first round of the same conversation.
“Think it’ll be much longer?” Chris James’ voice wavered slightly, nerves very nearly getting the better of him. Nearly, but there was also resoluteness behind the tiny quaver. Will smiled; almost paternally proud of the young man. He knew both Lee and Chip held the young officer in high regard and had earmarked him for greater responsibility once he was a little more seasoned in the ways of Seaview and her goings-on.
“Doc will let us know as soon as he can.” Patterson’s calm tones once again.
“Yeah, but you never know how long that’ll be when it’s the skipper.” Came mournfully from Riley. “Always seems to take forever with him.”
Too true, Riley, too true.
“D’you think he’ll be OK? I mean… there was an awful lot of blood. But head wounds do bleed a lot.” Jamie could hear Chris begin to pace now.
“Yeah, but he went out like a light. And he hadn’t come to by the time they got
“That true, Ski? You’re the field medic.” Even Patterson sounded worried now.
“Not necessarily. Sometimes the body just shuts down to allow itself to heal.” Thank you, Kowalski. “But he took a real bad blow. Woulda needed a lot of stitches.” Five, Ski, five! Thank you not so very much!
“Bet he’s gonna have some headache when he wakes up.” Riley again.
“Won’t improve his mood any. He’s been like a bear since we got into port
cause of that knee of his. And if Doc
keeps him any length in
Dejectedly shaken heads would accompany the three deep inhalations of breath. Jamieson was now beginning to sense where this was going and a broad grin lit his thin features.
“Wouldn’t want to be around when Doc lets him out, that’s for sure!” Three identically nodding heads after that little pronouncement, Jamie would bet.
“Wouldn’t want to be the one who landed
“He’s gonna be pissed.” Even Patterson, rock of sense that he was, sounded disconsolate.
“I am so screwed.” Chris’s voice was now decidedly shaky. “And I’m on the roster for control room duty next cruise alongside the skipper.”
“Won’t be a problem if Doc don’t certify him fit to go out on the next cruise.” Please shut up, Riley.
“Nah, the lieutenant would have a worse problem then.” Jamieson could now identify the ‘something’ he’d heard in Ski’s voice earlier – relish! “He’d have the exec to deal with!”
Uh oh! They were bringing out the big guns now.
“Oh, boy! Mr. Morton ain’t gonna be happy.” Understatement, Riley.
“Yeah, you know the way he gets when there’s anything wrong with the skipper. All quiet and growly at the same time.” Pat was getting into it as well now. Jamie struggled to suppress a chuckle.
“Nothing’s good enough for him. And if anyone so much as steps out of line…”
“He’ll have them assigned to KP duty for a month!” Jamie could just about see all three seamen shudder.
“And that’s gonna piss Cookie right off. He don’t like anyone interfering in his kitchen.”
“Not to mention that if the skipper ain’t on board then we don’t get any of the usual treats.” There were groans all round and he could imagine the gloomy faces.
“Food’s never the same when the skipper’s off the boat.”
“Cookie’s never the same when the skipper’s off the boat!” This from Ski.
“And trust me, you DO NOT want to be around Mr. Morton!” Riley had fallen foul of the exec one too many times and his tone was heartfelt.
“Now hang on, I’ve never seen the XO lose his temper – despite intense provocation.” Will was gratified to hear the young officer’s voice firm as he defended his superior.
“He doesn’t have to lose it. He just has to look at you with that steely glare and frown. Makes you feel about two inches high.” He could almost feel Ski shudder.
“Yeah, and then – without opening his mouth – he makes you realise how disappointed the skipper’s gonna be and you just about want to sink through the deck plates.” Patterson.
“And then he makes sure that you’re so busy with extra duties that you don’t have time to even think about gettin’ in trouble.” It seemed to Jamie that Riley was usually in some sort of trouble with their exacting first officer.
“Ain’t gonna be a fun cruise if the skipper’s off injured and Mr. Morton’s in command.” Kowalski sighed deeply.
“When are any of our cruises exactly ‘fun’, Ski?” Patterson the pragmatist.
“You know what I mean, Pat. Murphy’s Law being what it is, you can guarantee something’ll go wrong! And if Mr. Morton is worried sick about the skipper…” Ski was laying it on a bit thick now, Jamieson thought wryly.
“Maybe it won’t come to that. Perhaps the captain will be okay in time for the next cruise.” He could hear the hope tinged with despair in Lt. James’ voice.
Breaths were sucked in. “You haven’t been aboard that long, sir. When the doc gets the skipper in his
clutches, well, the skipper he don’t stay down easy.” Kowalski again. “Soon as he’s conscious he starts yelling to
get out of
“Yeah, it gets kinda loud.” Riley snickered.
“Well, that’s good then.” James’ relief was palpable.
“Not exactly. Either doc lets him out…”
“Or he ‘escapes’…”
“And then he re-injures himself…”
“And doc gets him back…”
“Or doc keeps him under until he thinks he’s on the mend…”
“And then the skipper yells even louder and is mad at doc…”
“Who doesn’t care one whit…”
“And then the admiral sides with doc…”
“And Mr. Morton helps the skipper escape…”
“Then doc gets mad at the skipper and the exec…”
“And the admiral has to calm everyone down…”
“He finds out how the skipper really is and then takes doc off to his cabin for a little restorative whiskey…” Jamieson startled at Pat’s words. He hadn’t realised that was common knowledge on the boat.
“And Mr. Morton keeps the skipper out of both doc’s and the admiral’s hair…”
“While he makes sure the skipper don’t overdo it.” Riley concluded happily.
“Ski, can I have a cigarette?” Will recognized it was time for him to take action. Chris sounded like he was getting a headache.
Strolling casually around the corner he watched amusedly as all four leapt to their feet from the planters they’d been perched on, Ski guiltily stuffing a cigarette pack into his pants pocket.
“Don’t you gentlemen have somewhere you need to be?” He addressed the three seamen, his tone mild but the glint in his eyes all-knowing and they quickly grasped they’d been rumbled.
“Aye, sir. But, first, how’s the skipper?” Ski, as usual, was their spokesman.
“Sleeping – finally. A nice dent in his head that took five stitches but won’t keep him down for long.” This last as young Chris James looked like he was going to be ill.
“Can I see him, sir? I’d… like to apologise.” The young officer straightened to almost attention, despite his civvies.
“Tomorrow will be time enough, Lieutenant. Rest is the best thing for him right now. IF he behaves himself I’ll release him to his condo tomorrow afternoon. You can go see him then.” He turned a narrow-eyed glare on the others. “And you three can see him the following day – if I can keep him away from the boat that long.” The latter was almost under his breath but brought forth the requisite grins from the worried trio who melted silently away at his “Be off with you now!”
Jamie cast his professional gaze over the anxious young officer who was still practically leaping out of his skin, his complexion tinged with pallor and fatigue, his sandy hair mussed from running his hands repeatedly through it. God, they must be sending babies to the Academy these days if all the graduating officers looked this youthful. Either that or he was getting old. He snorted dryly, reminding himself to talk to Nelson about that.
There was no way young James was going to sleep tonight in the hyper state he was in. Perhaps it would be best if he let him see for himself that Lee…. No, not going to risk waking him for anything short of a nuclear holocaust!
“Come on, son, I’ll drop you home. You look like you could use a drink.”
“I’m not much of a drinker, sir. I share with Bobby (O’Brien, Seaview’s second officer) and there might be some beer in the fridge.”
Will was already shaking his head. Beer was not what was called for here. “I just happen to have a nice aged bottle of Jameson’s at my place. Not quite the admiral’s family tipple but tonight it will do admirably – if you’ll forgive my atrocious pun.” He was relieved to see that had scared up the ghost of a smile. He would do better than that – now that he had the lieutenant at his tender mercy. He cupped his hand under the younger man’s elbow and guided him towards the car, leaving Chris with no option but to come along.
“And let me tell you a little story about our esteemed captain and exec….”