Author's Note: * Many thanks to Susan for all her help. My grammar leaves a lot to be desired at times and as I am a Brit who lives in Australia I often need assistance “Americanizing” my tales J This story originally appeared in the Sub Pen list at Yahoo Groups.
The morning shift was in full swing as I descended the spiral stairs, a little late for once. I knew there was no cause for alarm at my tardiness as my XO has everything well in hand. I look around the control room which is already bustling with the daily routine. What are they all going to say when they find out I am being seconded by ONI for yet another mission? The Admiral is already annoyed with me but that is nothing to what HE will say! A quick glance at him shows Mister Morton on the job, as efficient as ever and meticulously dressed in his khaki cloak of duty. I notice and approve the crisp, ever-so-appropriate stance, the perfectly in-control body language that gives nothing away to the casual observer. Turning away to the great windows of the boat, I think momentarily about his appearance as I ponder the best way to inform him of my latest foray ‘off boat’. No emotion is evident on his face; no joy nor pain, no eagerness nor fear - just a stoic mien, all cool and calm and collected as he works efficiently in front of the men. God, I envy him sometimes, for I cannot seem to emulate him. It has always been this way; I am forever blowing hot one minute then cold the next, depending on the situation, and my emotions are never far from the surface on obvious display for all to see.
But sometimes I wonder if he is aware that his carefully cultivated duteous appearance is shot to hell as soon as someone who knows him well looks into those baby blues of his.
More than once I have heard it said that “the eyes are the windows to a person’s soul” and where my good friend is concerned it certainly is the truth. Smack bang, dead on target. No matter how Mr. Imperturbable comes across to those unfortunates who do not know him well, those of us who deal closely with him on a daily basis know the real story behind the façade he demonstrates to the world. To gauge his real thoughts and feelings, we only have to look straight into those betraying eyes of his. No matter how he tries to veil his genuine emotions, the truth always shines brightly from the depths of the one thing he cannot control, his eyes.
I am not alone in this particular observation. Anyone who has daily dealings with Mister Morton tends to rely on what his eyes are revealing as much as to what he is saying, sometimes even more so when he is being his usual tight-lipped perfect officer.
The Admiral recognized this aspect of my buddy’s nature early on in their acquaintance. He told me that even he avoids Chip’s eyes when he’s giving an order he suspects would meet with Mister Morton’s disapproval. He knows without a doubt that he will see not only disappointment but accusation glaring back him. I know the XO would never undermine the admiral’s authority – or mine, for that matter – by any action or word whatever the provocation; but, that doesn’t stop him from giving us his opinion and advice without even opening his mouth.
I remember Jamie remarking on how our mutual friend can be suffering terribly and yet his outward demeanour is all spit and polish… until you get to his eyes. Looking into those depths can reveal such a torrent of pain, whether it is his own pain or that of a friend - that it cannot be denied, no matter how relentlessly he tries to shield it from scrutiny.
The crew are wise enough to jump at every order he gives, but there is never any real fear of him, only for him when things go wrong. Mind you, Sharkey believes they always take a quick peek into those eyes of his just to make sure that all is as it should be without any additional hazardous possibilities over and above Seaview’s regular perilous occurrences.
Oh, Yeah Charles Phillip Morton makes
effective use of his eyes when on the boat; he certainly knows how to keep us
all on our toes, no one and nothing is allowed to be out of place if he
has anything to do with it. But once we reach port and he steps ashore, that’s
another kettle of fish! Yes sir, he gets good use out of them then, too. Just
about every woman, both young and old, that is attached in any way to NIMR are
falling all over each other trying to claim a moment of his attention, and,
hopefully a date with him at the very least. It has got to be the eyes;
probably the vulnerable look I’ve seen him flash at them.
The ladies seem to zero in on his eyes right away. He claims it is his handsome looks that rope them in by the armful; I always make sure to remind him, sarcastically, of how modest he is as well. If driven, I might have to admit that he does use his eyes to good effect. I have overheard quite a few of our secretaries commenting on his eyes, claiming that’s what initially caught their attention in the first place. He’s got this knack of using them to convince his latest targets that he’s got whatever it is they are looking for, in abundance. A single look is all it takes and they’re catching their breath before laying themselves at his feet. I wonder if he even knows he’s doing it. I think I need to utilize some of his methods to see if they will work for me. Not that I don't have my own brand of success with the ladies, but it’s nothing like the accomplishments he always seems to manage.
He is like a brother to me, and I have seen every possible emotion looking back at me from his expressive eyes over the years. But the one I hate and try to avoid at all costs is the icy glare of disbelief, worry and dread he gives me when he finds out that I have accepted yet another ONI assignment. I could really do without today’s upcoming lecture! I wish for our friendship’s sake that I could turn them all down to please him, but then the surprise and joy I would see in his eyes wouldn’t last long. He would soon notice my self disgust as I see myself avoiding what I know to be my duty. It wouldn't be long before he was taking the weight of my feelings onto his own shoulders as he is wont to do. What would happen to my buddy then, I wonder? And what would happen to me?
I cannot risk finding out, and I will not risk him in any way that can be avoided. I never had a brother until I met him, and I have gotten so used to him being around that I would hate it if I did something that hurt him or drove him away.
So, Chip Morton, Lt. Commander, Executive Officer, best friend and brother, I think we will have to agree to disagree on this issue. It’s time to summon you to the nose and get it over with. As soon as I open my mouth, you'll know what’s going on. You'll be scrutinizing my face, my every word, as your rage builds, not really at me but at the situation. Then after you've had your insubordinate say and I promise to take care, all I'll see from those understanding eyes of yours will be acceptance. Then with your impassive mask once more in place you’ll return to your duty and leave me to mine.
I think when we hit port it’s time I took you out for a well deserved drink just for being the great human being that you are. You’re such a great friend, a fine gentleman and perfect officer that any sailor would be proud to serve with you! I know I am. Thanks, Chip, just for being you. Here goes, time to face the music!