The Deal


by K. Corris


Thank God it was finally over. This had been one long, tedious, and yet ultimately unsuccessful mission, filled with too many unexpected problems and surprises.  The only two ‘good’ things about it were that there were only injuries, no loss of life, and they had been able to limp home to port under their own power.


Seaview’s four senior officers, Admiral Harriman Nelson, Captain Lee Crane, XO Lt. Commander Chip Morton, and Seaview’s CMO, Lt. Commander Will ‘Jamie’ Jamieson, now all sat in the Admiral’s office at NIMR, the Nelson Institute of Marine Research.  They were comparing notes to be sure they were all on the same page about everything that happened while it was still fresh in their minds.  So many things had happened so fast and so close together, they didn’t all make it into the boats’ logs at the time. The officers would then be able to write their post mission reports at a later time, after they went on shore leave and got some much needed sleep. 


Nelson was definitely not in a good mood.  Rarely did they ever have to scrub a mission, and this was one they had been handsomely paid for by a new client.  NIMR’s contract with this client guaranteed successful completion or their money back, plus reimbursement for any other expenses they may have incurred preparing for the mission.  NIMR would have to absorb that cost, plus all of Seaview’s operating expenses, repairs, crew salaries and medical expenses.  Of course the Institute had insurance that would help, but money wasn’t the Admiral’s main concern.


In between comments and questions, a very irate Nelson was smoking up a storm, one cigarette after the other. Then he started coughing, and it soon turned into such hacking Nelson could hardly catch his breath.  Chip ran to get him water, while the doctor tried to do what little he could to help him breathe easier.  Lee was standing in the back watching, obviously worried.  It took a few minutes, but at last the Admiral stopped coughing and was finally able to take a deep breath.  Then the lectures began.


“Harry, you have to stop smoking!  Now! Cold turkey!  You can do it, you have to do it!  You get worse every day!  Every time I do a lung x-ray on you, I expect to see a dark spot of cancer!  And if you keep having coughing spells like this, I won’t be able to medically clear you for diving anymore!”


“Sir, my brother-in-law just quit smoking by using one of those new e-cigarettes.  He said it really helped him when nothing else had worked.  And he feels great now.  I’d be glad to go out and get you one, Sir.”  Chip meant well, but it just wasn’t the right time for it.


“Leave me alone, all of you!  It’s my body, and I can take care of myself! I’ll quit if and when I want to quit! I don’t want to hear another word about it!  That’s an order!”


There was dead silence in the office.  Lee hadn’t said a word.  Until now.


“Sir, I’ll make you a deal and maybe we can save two lives.  You give up smoking, and I’ll give up ONI.  I’ll put in for a two month leave of absence right now, and if you haven’t had a cigarette for the last 30 days by the end of it, I’ll tender my resignation to Admiral Johnson.”


First Chip and Will looked at each other astonished, and then back at Lee.  You could tell by his expression that he was dead serious.  They were both thrilled at Lee’s offer.  Everyone, especially Nelson, had been trying for years to get the Captain to quit ONI before it killed him.  Now he was offering to give it up willingly and maybe save the Admiral’s life as well.  What an incredibly wonderful turn of events!  They turned back to Nelson to see his reaction.


“Captain Crane, are you trying to blackmail me?”  The Admiral’s tone was both accusing and incredulous at the same time.


“Blackmail?  No Sir, this isn’t blackmail.”


“Then what do you call it, Captain?”


“I don’t know Sir, maybe, affection driven desperation?”  Lee sounded both hurt and confused.


“Captain Crane, did you hear my order, that I did not want another word said about it?  Or do you think you are above following my orders?”  The Admiral jumped up and turned around to look out his window for a moment. Then he quickly turned back around, still yelling.  “This is insubordination Captain!  I’ll . . . where did he go, how dare he walk out on me when I’m talking to him!  Go get him back in here, NOW!  Who the devil does he think he is?” 


Will and Chip both turned and quickly walked out of the office, with Will closing the door behind him.  They just looked at each other, and then started to walk through the reception area. 


“Doc, what just happened in there?”


“I’m not sure Chip, but I think that attack must have really scared the Admiral, and he just overreacted.  There wasn’t time for him to pull himself together from it before Lee made his offer. He was already pretty upset, and it didn’t take my medical degree to tell his blood pressure was way up there.  Did you see how red his face got?  Let’s just leave him alone, give him a chance to calm down while we find Lee.  That poor guy, he must feel like two cents.  That had to be a very hard thing for him to go through, offer to make a sacrifice like that, only to have one of the most important men in his life swat him down like an insect and make a fool out of him.   No wonder he walked out, he was probably embarrassed on top of being devastated.  We have to find him.  I’ll try his office, you go see if his car is still there.”


They met back in the reception area.  “His car is gone Doc, he must have run out of here pretty fast.  Look, I’m going after him, but only to be sure he is all right, not to bring him back here.”


“Good idea Chip.  I’ll tell the Admiral we couldn’t find him and are both going out to look for him.  I don’t want to be here either, now that I’m sure Harry is all right.  Call me when you find him, I need to talk to him for a minute.”


“Do you want me to wait out here for you, be sure you get out of the Admiral’s office alive?”


“Thanks Chip, but this isn’t the first time I’ve walked into the lion’s den.  Harry knows he can only push me so far before I start pushing back. He may outrank me, but I am still the only one here who can give him a direct order, as long as it is medically related, and this certainly is. You go take care of our Captain, if you can find him.  I want to try to talk him into not withdrawing his offer, give the Admiral time to think about it when he is more clear headed.”


“Sounds like a plan to me Doc.  I’ll try his house first since his car is gone, then I’ll go back to the boat.  Good luck in there.”




Lee was driving a bit faster than the speed limit cautioned.  He wanted to put as much distance between the Admiral and himself as quickly as he could.  As exhausted as he was and as much as he was looking forward to finally sleeping in his own bed, he knew he couldn’t go home, it was the first place they would look for him.  At the very least, he was sure Chip would come after him, and he needed some time alone to think.  Why in heaven’s name did he walk out like that?  Lord, he wished his head would stop hurting.


Was he really nothing more to the Admiral than another employee at NIMR?  Had Lee been reading the signs wrong all this time?  Nelson wasn’t just his CO and boss.  Lee had thought of him as a good friend, mentor, and father figure as well. And he thought Nelson had some of the same feelings for him.  Had it been nothing but wishful thinking on his part all this time?


Lee pulled over onto the shoulder and turned the car off.  He had to think for a minute. Well, the Admiral was already upset about everything that happened on the boat, and then Lee had put him on the spot, in front of others.  But they had certainly had words in front of Chip and Jamie before.  Maybe this time was different because it was more personal, not boat business?  Maybe the Admiral felt Lee had forced him into a corner and so he was striking out?  That certainly had not been Lee’s intention.  He was only trying to show the Admiral how important he was to him, and how worried he was about the Admiral’s declining health.  He had hoped his sacrifice would prove to the Admiral how much it meant to Lee for him to quit smoking, important enough that he would give the Admiral something he knew he desperately wanted. If he wouldn’t quit for the sake of his own health that he obviously didn’t care about, maybe he would do it for Lee’s sake. 


But the bottom line was it hadn’t worked, had it?  When it came right down to it, Lee risking his life working for the Office of Naval Intelligence didn’t matter as much to the Admiral as his cigarettes did. He sat there trying to come up with explanations for the Admiral’s behavior when he realized he was having a hard time keeping his eyes open.  He hadn’t gotten much sleep in the last seventy-two hours, and he was more than exhausted.  Turning around and heading home was beginning to sound pretty good right about now.  But he really didn’t want to deal with anyone tonight, not even Chip. He needed aspirin and some uninterrupted sleep so he’d be better able to handle this in the morning. Well, there were several motels up ahead.  He turned into the first one that had a vacancy sign.  




“Doc?  I can’t find him anywhere.  Knowing Lee, he’s probably gone to ground somewhere to lick his wounds.  I think we should wait and deal with this in the morning.  How was the Admiral?”


“He didn’t say much when I went back in.  I told him Lee was gone, we couldn’t find him, and he just sat there staring at me.  I said I thought we should all go home and get some rest, we’re all too tired for this now. He still didn’t say anything so I just said good night and left.”


“Well, home is certainly where I’m heading.  I’ll find him tomorrow and I’ll let you know when I do.  Good night, Doc.”


“Good night, Chip, and don’t forget when you do find him, I need to talk to him.  ‘Bye.”




Despite his exhaustion, Lee woke up only a few hours later, immediately wondering where he was.  Well, this isn’t my cabin in Seaview that I’ve woken up in every morning for the last month, and it isn’t my bedroom at home, and it isn’t Sickbay or Medbay.  That’s right, I stayed at a motel last night.


Then the memories of last night hit him like a sledgehammer. Well, I’m awake now.  Might as well get dressed and go home.  Maybe I can get a few more hours of sleep in if I’m in my own bed.  I’m sure I won’t be bothered by anyone at this hour.  Everyone else was exhausted too and will probably sleep in.


He walked into his home not a half hour later to hear the telephone ringing.  Looking at the caller ID, he realized it was Admiral Johnson at ONI.  At this hour?  It was barely five in the morning!  That’s right, it was already around eight back east.


“Good morning, Admiral.”


“Good morning Lee.  Thank goodness you’re finally home, I’ve been trying to get you. I know it’s still pretty early out there, but I need you out here immediately. Lee, this is a real emergency. Can you catch the first flight out, civilian or military?  I’ll brief you when you get here.  If you think there is going to be a problem with Nelson, I’ll call him now.  Can you do it?”


“Yes Sir, I can do it, and don’t worry about Admiral Nelson. I’m on shore leave.”


“Terrific. Call me back with the flight details and I’ll have you picked up. See you soon, Lee. Goodbye, and thanks.”


“Talk to you in a few minutes, Sir. Goodbye.”


Lee made his arrangements, called Admiral Johnson back with them, took a quick shower and repacked his overnight bag.  It was still too early for anyone to be at the Institute, so he simply left a message saying only that he was taking some of his shore leave and would call when he got back, leaving no further details.




He just barely made the plane in time.  The flight back east was uneventful, and Lee was actually able to catch a few more hours of sleep.  The jeep waiting for him quickly whisked him away.  He was in Admiral Johnson’s office being briefed not an hour after landing.


“Ok, Lee, here it is.  We had this mission all planned out to the finest detail.  Then the agent assigned to it had an accident after he got there and wasn’t able to get a message to me until late last night.  He was going in a couple of days early to settle in, look less conspicuous, so we can still get you there in the nick of time, if we hurry.  We particularly needed you to cover for him because he was meeting a foreign undercover agent that you have worked with before, so you showing up instead of him won’t seem suspicious, he knows you.  We haven’t been able to make contact with the foreign agent to let him know what happened.  He’s probably still en route. But our man was delivering some very sensitive, urgent intel, all of which is on a flash drive, hopefully still somewhere with him in his hospital room and not at the scene of the accident, so the hospital will be your first stop.”


“Sir, where am I going?”


“Actually, Lee, you are only going down to the Cayman Islands.  I know you are on shore leave, so once you retrieve the intel and pass in on, I don’t care if you spend a few days there.  You’re doing me a big favor on short notice.  The main thing is to have an ONI agent there who the foreign agent is already familiar with and trusts or he’ll leave.  He’s the one at great risk here. It’s vital this intel reach their government as soon as possible.”     


After going over the finer details, Lee was on his way back to the airport.   By late that afternoon he was walking into the hospital room of his dear brother, worried to death about his condition after his terrible accident.



Earlier . . .


“Doc?  It’s Chip. I know it’s early, but I couldn’t sleep.  He’s still not home, his bed hasn’t been slept in, his bag isn’t here, and neither is his car.  I know he’s got to be sleeping somewhere, he’s was ready to fall over last night.  I’m going to check the boat again, if he isn’t there, I’ll cruise past Lana’s house, see if his car is there.  She’s the last girl he dated, but I think they broke up, but I’ll check anyway.  If I can’t find him then I’m going back home and see if I can catch a few more hours of sleep. I just wanted to find him before he got it into his head to take off.  Talk to you later.”


“Okay Chip, good luck, and I’ll let you know if I hear anything.  ‘Bye.”  Jamie, always up at the crack of dawn to tend his patients, ended the call and reached for his coffee cup.  He didn’t have a good feeling about this.  As tough and strong willed as Lee could be, he also had a soft, vulnerable side to him that he kept pretty well hidden.  There was no doubt in the doctor’s mind that Nelson’s words last night had cut Lee deeply.  He didn’t deserve to be treated that badly by the Admiral, especially when the incredible sacrifice he had offered to make had been solely for the Admiral’s benefit.  What had Lee called it? That’s right, affection driven desperation?  That pretty much said it all.



Lee got to the hospital and found the room.  He leaned down and quietly explained to the poor man laying there who he was, using the proper code words.  It took several tries, but he eventually understood where the other agent was telling him to look for the drive. He found it, fortunately still safely hidden in the lining of the suit jacket where it was supposed to be. Thank goodness they hadn’t thrown the jacket out after they had cut it off of him. He also grabbed the agent’s room key card.  He wouldn’t be using it, and Lee needed a place to change, leave his gear, and maybe crash. He felt bad for the agent, he truly was lucky to be alive. Being hit and thrown by a drunk driver wasn’t the kind of danger you looked out for in this business.


“Look at it this way Pete, what better place to recuperate and do physical therapy in than the Cayman Islands?  And since this happened on duty it will all be on Uncle Sam’s dime.  It’s just a shame you won’t be up to enjoying any of the beautiful ladies I’ve noticed here. Oh, well, can’t have everything.”  It was hard to tell if the groan was from the pain or Lee’s comment.  All those casts!


“Okay, I gotta go call Dad, let him know you are going to be all right, eventually.  I’ll try to stop by tonight.  Uh, don’t go anywhere!”  The last comments were for the benefit of the pretty nurse who had just walked into the room.  Lee gave her one of his dazzling Hollywood grins. He’d certainly enjoy a walk on the beach with her when he was done tonight!


Lee headed for the hotel.  Man, what a place!  Did Admiral Johnson treat all his full time agents like this?  Lee never got digs like this! He was lucky if he could find a bat infested, cold damp cave to hide out in. Maybe it was part of the cover? And the room itself was incredible!  Every amenity you could possibly want and then some.  He picked up a room service menu left on the nightstand.  Certainly an improvement over the insects and snakes he’d been forced to survive on during some assignments!


He made his first contact with Admiral Johnson. “Arrived safely Dad, big brother is doing as well as could be expected, but he’s going to be here a while. I’ll give you an update on his condition later tonight. Oh, by the way, I found the little souvenir you asked him to get for you.  I’ll take care of it for you.  Gotta go Dad, I saw some pretty ladies at the beach bar here I want to meet.  ‘Bye.”


He took a quick shower and shaved.  Dilemma.  He’d come to Washington in his uniform, and changed into his black jeans and black turtleneck before he left there.  They were his usual ONI work clothes, and the only civvies he had brought with him.  And they definitely weren’t beach attire.  He wished he’d known before he left Santa Barbara where he was going to be sent. He certainly had beach clothes back home! And he had no time to go shopping.  Well, what clothes did Pete have here?  He thought they were maybe close to the same size, and he certainly wouldn’t be using them for a while.  He opened the closet and looked.  He pushed a bright green shirt aside, too bright for his taste. Okay, here’s a white button down shirt. That will do nicely.  Now, he must have brought another pair of pants with him, where were they?  He started looking back the other way, and realized the hangar with the green shirt on it was too heavy for just a shirt, must be another pair of pants under the shirt.  Oh my!  The pants were even greener than the shirt that went with them!  He certainly didn’t think much of Pete’s taste in clothes.  Well, maybe wearing them with the white shirt instead of the green one would at least cut down on some of the glare. He wanted to fit in discreetly, not glow in the dark!  What was Pete thinking?  Oh well, it was only for a couple of hours. He hoped.


He changed and sat down on the rail of the balcony that overlooked the cove with the ocean behind it. He still had a few minutes. What a beautiful view!  Maybe he would take Admiral Johnson up on his offer to stay down here a few days. He sure could use it.  He mentally went over the plans for the meeting and was glad he did.  He’d almost forgotten to take the flash drive out of his black jeans pocket and put it into these lime green fluorescent ones!  Not like him to almost forget something that important. He definitely needed a break and some more aspirin.   




Admiral Nelson had gone back to the Institute earlier that morning.  He had legal issues to go over with NIMR’s Legal Department, repairs to Seaview to get under way, and the usual amount of catch up work to do that always accumulated while they were away at sea.  He also had plenty of ruffled feathers to smooth over with his very disappointed new client.

client. very dissapointed fled feathers to smooth after they had been gone to sea._____________________________________________

Ah, who was he kidding?  He was here because he felt so sick about what he had said to Lee last night.  He had to be out of his mind to treat Lee that way, especially when he was finally saying the words Harry had prayed to hear him say for so very long.  What the devil had gotten into him?  He knew how upset he was about everything, but to take it out on Lee? Lord, please let me be able to fix this.  And please let his offer still be good.  I know how blessed I am to have someone in my life that truly cares about me enough to make a sacrifice like that for me.


He checked Lee’s office, but he wasn’t in yet.  Harry didn’t really expect him to be.  He should still be home sleeping himself!  He went back to his office and started doing paperwork, but couldn’t concentrate on it.


Okay, I’m going over there right now.  Apologize to him as soon as he wakes up, he’ll know I’m sincere if I do it right away, before he has time to remember or think about it. I’ll make a pot of coffee and be waiting for him when he wakes up. Yes, that’s it!  That’s what I’ll do!


The Admiral put away his paperwork and walked to his office door, and stood there for a moment.  Then he turned around and walked back to his desk.  He slowly took out his pack of cigarettes, took one long, last look at them, then tossed them in the trash.




Lee glanced at his watch. Okay, on to the meeting place.  He hadn’t seen Dimitri in several years.  The last time they had worked together it was to help Interpol catch a US Navy lieutenant who was smuggling stolen diamonds out of Greece.  They had become fast friends, both honor bound to serve and protect their countries, even with their lives.  Cut from the same cloth. He couldn’t help but wonder what was on the flash drive that would help the Greek government so much.  Usually, he was the one getting the intel, so he was pretty much aware of what it was. Not this time.  All he was ordered to do was retrieve the flash drive and then discreetly hand it over to Dimitri while the two old friends enjoyed a drink together at an outside tiki bar on the beach.  At least, that’s how Lee hoped it would go down.


Lee found a seat and ordered one of those fancy drinks that had a little paper umbrella and a wooden skewer of fruit in it.  May as well play the part of the lazy beach bum.  He casually glanced around the bar, everyone there looked pretty much like an innocent tourist, although that was no guarantee.  In a few minutes he saw Dimitri walk in, and watched as he casually sat down on the nearest open seat and ordered a beer.  Lee immediately went into his act.  He wanted to get a real surprise reaction from the other agent, before Dimitri had a chance to check out the bar and spot him first.  Make it all appear so unplanned. He called over to him.


“Dimitri!  Dimitri my old friend, is that really you? After all these years!”  Lee grabbed his drink and walked over to where Dimitri was sitting. “You look so good, my friend!  Are you here on vacation also?  What good luck!”  They hugged, then shook hands, Lee passing the flash drive hidden in his hand to Dimitri.  It was done so very quickly and smoothly.  Dimitri didn’t bat an eyelash, just casually slipped his hand into his jacket pocket. He casually glanced down at Lee’s pants but didn’t say anything.  Then they actually did sit and visit for a bit, Dimitri never asking why Lee was here instead of the other agent he was briefed to expect.  Lee knew he must be curious, he certainly would be curious and suspicious if it was him. So he went into a story about just having visited a colleague in the hospital who had been here on business.  Poor fellow had been hit by a car right after he got here and was lucky to survive.  Lee was quickly called in to finish making the business deal for him. He could tell Dimitri understood what had happened. 


“I am so sorry about your friend Lee, but it is so good to see you again. Perhaps a small silver lining, eh?”


They talked for almost a half hour before going their separate ways.  Lee knew Dimiti had to get the Intel back on the next flight out.  Well, his part was done.  He ordered another drink, and moved to sit at the other end of the bar, nearer the ocean. Finally, after a month of pure hell, he started to relax.  Even that infernal headache was finally going away.



Well, he hadn’t been able to find Lee anywhere last night or earlier this morning.  And now it was late morning, after ten.  Chip never slept this late, he must have been really exhausted.  A quick shower and cup of coffee and he was on his way back to Lee’s.  


He was surprised and somewhat relieved to see Nelson’s car parked outside Lee’s beach house.  It not only meant that Lee was home, but that the Admiral was probably trying to straighten out what had happened last night. Lee’s car must be in his garage. Chip sat there a moment. Maybe he should leave the two of them alone, not interrupt anything.  Nah, I want to see with my own eyes that Lee is ok, and I have to give him Doc’s message.  I’ll just stay for a minute.     


The front door was open so he just let himself in, as usual.  He couldn’t hear them talking, but they might be out on Lee’s back deck. Whenever he was home, Lee spent all of his free time out there, or swimming in the ocean off his beach, fishing from his jetty, or working on his boat in his covered dock. Lee had found the perfect place to live to do all the things he enjoyed, especially being so near his beloved ocean. 


He could see the Admiral sitting out there, and smelled fresh coffee brewing. 


He walked out onto the deck.  “Good morning, Sir.  Lee not up yet?”


The Admiral just sat there, staring straight ahead.  “I’ve lost him, Chip.  He’s not here; he’s gone on an ONI mission.  After what I said to him last night, he’s probably going to get himself killed, and that is exactly what I deserve.  This is all my fault.”


“Sir, I was here a few hours ago and he wasn’t here.  If he’s still not home it just means he’s catching up on his sleep somewhere else.  It doesn’t mean he’s at ONI.  He’ll probably come home as soon as he wakes up.”


“No, Chip.  When I got here and thought Lee just wasn’t up yet, I made a pot of coffee and while I was waiting I realized I hadn’t gotten my messages when I was at the Institute earlier.  I used his phone to get them, and there was one from Admiral Johnson looking for him, and then the next one was from Lee saying he was taking some shore leave and would call when he got back.  I checked his phone log here and there were several calls from Admiral Johnson, one at about five this morning that Lee took and returned a few minutes later.  That was about fifteen minutes before the message he left at the Institute.  And even though his bed hasn’t been slept in, I used his head and it was obvious someone had just taken a shower.  It wouldn’t still be that damp since before we went to sea and there was a wet towel and change of underwear in the hamper.  No, Chip, he’s gone, gone to ONI.”


Chip could feel the blood drain from his face.  He sat down heavily on the deck chair next to the Admiral.  Lee was in no condition to be on an ONI mission.  For that, he needed to be sharp and have his wits about him, and be able to concentrate on nothing but the mission.  And he was exhausted on top of it, physically and mentally, even without last night’s scene. This had been a rough cruise, and the responsibility for any and everything that went wrong was always on the Captain’s shoulders. 


“Sir, you have to call Admiral Johnson.  Have him call Lee back. He’s not up to this now, he’ll get himself killed. At the very least, if Admiral Johnson simply wants this mission to succeed, he needs to get another agent in there.”  Chip wasn’t trying to make the Admiral feel worse than he already did, but damn it, after last night he certainly would hold the Admiral responsible if anything happened to Lee.


“Don’t you think I’ve already done that Chip, right away?  All I could do was leave a message and I’m still waiting for Admiral Johnson to call me back.  But if Lee is already gone, then it’s just too blasted late. And after I made him feel like his life wasn’t even worth a pack of butts to me, he probably wouldn’t agree to be recalled anyway.  Not to mention the possibility that if he thinks I might come around and agree to this deal, he may believe this could be his last ONI mission and want to take any chances necessary to complete it successfully.  Resign with a good record, go out in style, and get his last thrill in.”


“Sir, one thing I have definitely learned from Lee is that he doesn’t do ONI for thrills.  He truly believes it is part of his duty, his patriotic chore to help his country.  And I can’t believe, no matter what, that he would allow himself to get killed just out of self pity.  I have seen him when he was almost dead be able to pick up the pieces and keep going to do what has to be done.  Lee would never screw up a mission for any personal reason.  It’s really more his exhaustion I’m worried about, but maybe he got a few hours sleep in somewhere before he took the call.”  Chip hoped he had convinced the Admiral, because he sure hadn’t convinced himself.


Suddenly the phone rang and both men jumped up and ran in.  It was only the doctor.  Seeing the caller ID, the Admiral just went and sat back down outside.  Chip answered and brought the doctor up to date.


“Well, I called hoping Lee would answer.  Chip, listen.  I realize now I should have said something about this earlier, and I mean while we were still on the boat. Tell the Admiral that when he talks to Admiral Johnson, he has to tell him that Lee suffered a concussion towards the end of the mission.  I would never have cleared him for ONI duty if I had known.  But I knew on the boat that with everything going wrong that the Captain was needed in the Control Room, so I didn’t confine him to Sick Bay. But he was supposed to be on light duty.  I couldn’t enforce it though, with everything else that happened so fast, and I think we all know that it was Lee who got us home.  Sometimes even I have to put duty or what’s best for the rest of the crew ahead of practicing good medicine. He and I had a long talk about him just going home and resting for a couple of days after we docked, and he was supposed to come see me here at the Medbay this afternoon.  I know he had a terrific headache to go with the huge lump, and I truly think that had a lot to do with his walking out of the Admiral’s office last night. That’s the main reason I wanted to talk to him.  Whether we want to believe it or not, Lee does have his limits, even if he doesn’t want to admit it.”


“Damn it Doc, you should have said something!  I’ll tell the Admiral, but he isn’t going to take this well. He’s beating himself up about the whole thing. He believes Lee is going to get himself killed out there because he made Lee think he means nothing to him.” 


“Lee would never do that, he does have some sense of self preservation.  I could see Lee maybe leaving the Institute over this, but definitely not getting himself killed because of it, even as important as the Admiral is to him. He’s more emotionally balanced than that.  It’s more his physical condition I’m worried about, and he may not be thinking clearly enough to handle any of the stress and decisions that usually accompany his ONI missions.  Make sure someone gets him to me as soon as he gets back.”


Chip hung the phone up rather loudly.  At the moment, he was having a hard time deciding which of the three men he was the most upset with.




The Admiral didn’t take it well, not one bit. “I should have known there was something else going on when he walked out.  No matter how bad our arguments have gotten, he always stayed and saw them through until we reached some kind of agreement, compromise or truce.  All I was seeing last night was dollar signs, and the Institute’s reputation going down the drain. Neither one is worth the life of any man, but especially not Lee’s.  How much of our reputation and profit do we have him to thank for?  No, no saying that isn’t right either.  I refuse to allow myself to think for even one more second, that any of this should be business related.   I not only deeply hurt and insulted the most important person in my life, but I did it right after he offered to make a great personal sacrifice for me. I pray I am given the chance to apologize and somehow make it up him.  And as the Lord is my witness Chip, I will never have another cigarette again in my entire life.  I haven’t since last night, and I’ve thrown them all away.  I’m so furious with myself, I haven’t even felt any nicotine cravings.  Doc said cold turkey was the way to do it, and if I can kick the habit and not have another cigarette, maybe Lee will forgive me.   And you know what?  I’m going to stay here all day, in his home, surrounded by Lee’s things, to keep myself constantly reminded of why I am going to do this no matter how tough it gets.  It can’t be as bad as what Lee is going through.  He’s probably sneaking around some foreign country, hot, thirsty, hungry, injured, exhausted, alone, trying to make contact with a double agent or rebel leader, or trying to steal intel or plans, or maybe he’s in a cold, dark damp cell somewhere, in chains after having been beaten and whipped, being starved and denied water, or. . .thristy,__________________________________________________________________________________________________


“Uh, Sir, he’s only been gone a few hours.”


 The Admiral just glared at him, then stomped back outside.


Chip went into Lee’s kitchen and poured them each a cup of coffee and brought them out to the deck.  The following silence was deafening.




Lee was still sitting at the bar, enjoying his Pina Colada, the cool ocean breeze and breathtaking view, when he heard a familiar female voice.


“Lee?  Lee Crane, is that really you?”


He turned to find one of his old girlfriends, looking better than ever standing right next to him.  Wow!


“Bridgette!  My God, how good to see you!  You look terrific!  How long has it been?  About two years, right?  Please, join me.  Uh, you are alone aren’t you?”


“Yes Lee, I’m here alone.  We just finished a magazine shoot.  The other models were in a hurry to get back to NY, but I wanted to take a few days to just relax.  I’m not booked again until next week.  So, what has my favorite submarine Captain been up to?  Is Seaview parked somewhere nearby?  Are you just grabbing a few hours – what do you call it? - R&R?”


“No, Seaview isn’t docked here.  I’m just here alone for a few days rest & relaxation. Gee, you look great.  Uh, are you by any chance free for dinner?”


“Yes, but only if you have other pants you can change into.  I seem to remember your taste in clothes being more on the darker side.  I don’t want to have to keep my sunglasses on through the whole meal.”


Lee let out a small groan.  And there was absolutely no way he could make up an excuse to her, she knew him too well.  Well, he had his black jeans. 




Chip finished his coffee and said goodbye to the Admiral.  He had crewmen in Medbay he wanted to check on, and someone had to start getting Seaview’s repairs underway.  “Sir, please let me know the minute you hear anything, either from Admiral Johnson or Lee himself.  And good luck with what you are trying to do.  I’m sure Lee will appreciate it.”  Other than a nod of his head, there was no response from the Admiral.  Chip left and headed for the Institute.  He never heard Lee’s phone ringing as he got into his car.


The Admiral ran in and picked up the receiver, and after seeing the caller ID, said a quick prayer. “Hello Robert, please tell me you know where Lee is.”


“Hello yourself, Harry.  Look, I really needed him, we had a little emergency that only he could handle and he said he was on shore leave.  As far as I know right now, he’s fine.  But since this is classified, I really can’t tell you anymore.  But I can tell you he made his first check in on time and isn’t due for his second one yet. Relax Harry, this mission is a quick walk in the park.  And I will let you know if anything goes wrong.  Do you want me to call you after he makes his second check in?”


“No, I want him to call me after he’s made his second check in. Tell him it’s an order.”  Warning bells went off in Nelson’s head when he said that.  Not a good idea to have phrased it that way after last night.  “Uh, I mean, just tell him I would greatly appreciate it if he would please call me here, I’ll be waiting at his house.”


“Harry, is there something else going on here I need to know about?  He did tell me he was on shore leave, and it isn’t like Lee to lie to me.”


“He is on shore leave, but there is something I need to clear up with him ASAP.  Also, our doctor wants you to know that he considers Lee medically unfit for an ONI mission.  He received a concussion at the end of our last mission and is supposed to be home resting.  Please keep that in mind if he is injured or doesn’t check in.  Could you at least tell me, is he still in the U.S.?”


“No, he isn’t.  But he did seem absolutely fine when he was here in my office being briefed earlier.  This is a fast easy mission Harry.  He’s going to be fine. Stop worrying, Crane’s a grown man and can take care of himself.  I’ll have him call you when I hear from him.  I gotta go.  Goodbye.”


Admiral Johnson hung the phone up, then just sat there looking at it. He sensed something was wrong, but knew Crane wouldn’t let whatever it was get in his way.  Crane was a good man, and a very good ONI agent.   He wished Nelson would stop acting like the man was his personal property, Crane only worked for him in the reserves.  ONI was active duty. Johnson knew from previous experiences that there was some kind of emotional bond between them, but that had never stopped a CO from sending one of his subordinates into danger before.  Nelson had gotten soft since he retired. Thank goodness Crane didn’t let it stop him.  Well, he couldn’t.  Admiral Johnson could have his reserve status revoked and Lee back on active duty anytime he needed him. And when he was back in the active Navy, Johnson became his CO, and he had to follow his orders.  That was never a problem until Nelson stuck his nose in and Naval protocol went down the drain.  


When would Nelson realize how lucky he was that ONI was the only branch of the Navy that ‘borrowed’ Crane, as desperate as they were for good submarine Captains? And the reason for that was ONI had first dibs on him, and Admiral Johnson made sure they all knew it. If ONI left him alone, or if he ever resigned from it, he’d be returned to active duty so fast Nelson’s head would spin, his friendship with Admiral Starke not withstanding. He may be the head SUBCOMPAC, but even Starke still had to answer to the SecNav. But Crane’s connection to Seaview gave ONI a very valuable and unique resource to use when necessary.  And Crane was as loyal and dedicated to ONI as Admiral Johnson himself was, he wasn’t in it for money, glory, or even rank.  He just wanted to do what was right, help make the world a better place.  He needed more agents like Crane.  Ok, enough.  Whatever was going on between those two, he wasn’t getting in the middle of. But the more he thought about it, he decided he wasn’t going to pass Nelson’s request on to Crane until after the mission was secured.  He didn’t want Crane sidetracked or distracted, even from a simple little courier mission.  Crane was under his command right now.  The transfer was probably done by now anyway, if they had both made the first of the three scheduled attempts to meet.




Chip finally made it to his office at NIMR after visiting the injured crewmen in MedBay and stopping at the cafeteria for a quick late lunch.  He checked his messages, immediately interested in the one from Admiral Nelson, left just a few minutes after he left Lee’s.  He should have stuck around a few minutes longer. Nelson said he had spoken to Admiral Johnson, Lee was on an ONI mission that Johnson had called an emergency but still just a quick walk in the park.  He’d be fine, and Johnson would tell him to call Nelson after his next check-in.  Chip though it all sounded too familiar, and too good to be true.  Until he laid his own eyes on an unscathed Lee Crane, in person, he would continue to worry.   Until then, he had his, Lee’s, and the Admiral’s responsibilities to take care of.  At least all of his men in the Medbay were doing well.  Ok, time to go down to Seaview, get a good look at the damage in the daylight and start scheduling repairs. All the less for Lee to worry about when he got back, who knew what condition he would be in. Admiral Nelson would have to handle the legal and PR issues.  Chip thought for a moment.  Would taking care of those things now take the Admiral’s mind off everything else, or just make him miss Lee and want a cigarette even more?  He decided to leave it alone.



Lee didn’t want to go home yet, and had pretty much forgotten the incident with Admiral Nelson. Well, not forgotten as much as put it in its right place. He knew the Admiral’s temper, and that he didn’t mean anything he said when he lost it. They would work it out when he got back. The man wanted to smoke himself to death, there wasn’t a damn thing Lee could do about it.  All he had needed was to get away from the center of things to be able to put them in perspective.  As much good as the Admiral had done for the world, he was entitled to a couple of innocent if deadly vices.  Lee’s offer to make a deal had been pure selfishness on his part, he realized that now.  And he had treated the Admiral like a child on top of it, offering to make a deal with him, and even giving him conditions.  What was he thinking?


Lee knew he had enough shore leave to stay down here longer, problem was he was on ONI’s payroll, active Navy, not the Institute’s.  Well, he was due to check in again soon.  He’d report mission successfully completed, and ask Admiral Johnson to please take him off active duty at the end of the week, thanks for the few days paid R&R.  He’d find his own way home.  Besides, hadn’t Jamie made him promise to get some rest? What better place to do it in? The only other ‘duty’ he had left was to visit poor Pete and let him know the mission was completed successfully.  If it was him lying there in that hospital bed, he would still have the mission on his mind.  He wanted to let Pete relax, tell him everything was taken care of, just concentrate on getting better.     


He called and got Admiral Johnson’s voice mail.  He made his report and ‘request’ quickly, just before his cell phone died.  And he had been in such a rush he had forgotten to pack his charger.  Oh well, everything was done and taken care of.  Now he could truly relax and have some fun, with beautiful Bridgette.  




Admiral Johnson received Lee’s message, and let out a long sigh of relief.  Then he hurried to report to the powers that be.  The US had done everything it could possibly do to prevent the assassination of the Greek president.  It was pure luck that ONI had inadvertently stumbled across the plot. But they had passed on all the intercepted intelligence as quickly and securely as possible, putting it right into their hands, not even trusting the Internet or the suspected mole in the Greek Embassy.  He’d left a message for Lee giving him Nelson’s ‘request’, and telling him to take a month partying down there, he didn’t care.  Other than paying him and pinning a few medals oh his chest, ONI had done little for Crane, and he more than deserved some compensation and appreciation.  Nelson even covered all his medical expenses when he was injured on an ONI assignment, an unfortunate occurrence that happened too often only because Crane was that good.  Any other agent would have been killed outright.  Crane had accumulated enough shore leave while on ONI’s books to warrant a little vacation at the government’s expense.  Admiral Johnson had also been keeping track of the amount of time Lee accumulated on active duty for ONI missions.  Adding that to the time he accrued when Seaview was put on active duty, he would make the next rank soon enough.




It was late evening, and still no call from Lee. The Admiral still sat on the Captain’s back deck, still staring out at the ocean but now watching a beautiful sunset he couldn’t appreciate.  He was still worried, and still furious with himself.  Funny thing though, all he had thought about all day was Lee.  Not once had he even thought of wanting a cigarette.  Maybe this ‘cold turkey’ approach was the way to do it after all.  He sat there a while longer, and then finally decided to call Johnson again.  He didn’t care if it was one in the morning out there.


A very groggy and gruff Robert answered the phone.  “Harry, what’s wrong now?”


“Lee still hasn’t called me yet.”  Nelson felt foolish the minute the words were out of his mouth.  


“You woke me up at one in the morning because a grown man hasn’t gotten around to calling you back?  He left me a message saying the mission was successfully completed and he was fine.  I then left him a message telling him to call you, and that since he had given up some of his shore leave to help us out, to stay down there a few days and relax at ONI’s expense.  He’s probably doing that right now, and getting more sleep than I’m getting!  Good night Harriman!”


The phone slammed down before Nelson could ask where down there was.   Well, Robert had said earlier that Lee was out of the country, and ‘down there’ meant south of the country. Good Lord!  Did Johnson send Lee to communist Cuba?   And then told Lee he could spend a few days vacationing there?  What was he thinking?


He took a deep breath and let out a long sigh.  It suddenly occurred to him that Lee may be just fine and hadn’t called Nelson simply because he didn’t want to talk to him. He would just have to wait until Lee came home to straighten everything out.  He dumped out the coffee, cleaned up and locked Lee’s house, and left.   He had to get a grip on himself.  There were other repercussions to be taken care of from the mission, and it wasn’t fair to let Chip shoulder the entire burden himself, especially with Lee out of the picture.  He’d screwed up, and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it but wait.  He drove over to the Institute and got back to business.  Everyone else would be gone at this hour, he would be able to get a lot done.




Needless to say, the next few days were pure bliss.  Best ONI mission Lee had ever been on.  Thanks to Bridgette’s voracious appetite, second only to Chip’s, he had actually managed to put on a few pounds. They were in three different restaurants every day. He had never been able to figure out how she maintained that beautiful figure.  But they were doing a lot of swimming, walking, dancing, and shopping.  Lord, did they do a lot of shopping!  He didn’t care, he enjoyed her company, and most of the items bought were for him. She insisted he have a proper beach wardrobe, even if it was only for a week. He hoped no one he knew spied him in the tiny little Speedo bathing ‘trunks’ she got him. And when he said he was going out for a run, she joined him and had no trouble keeping up, like she ran three miles every day.   Must be how she kept those beautiful long legs in shape. In her heels, she was only one inch shorter than him, and he was 6’2”! And of course, there was all the intimate ‘exercise’.  That part of their relationship had always been hot. Why had they ever broken up?  Yeah, that’s right, careers. He was always out to sea when she was between assignments, and she was always on location when he was home.  But it did still feel like old times, good old times.


But fun filled days go by even quicker, and soon it was time for both to go their separate ways again.  All good things must come to an end, and boy, had this been a good thing. They promised to keep in touch, and get together whenever they could swing it.  Lee left not only feeling the soothing benefits of an incredible vacation, but also the exhilaration of having been with someone he still loved.  Oh, well, life goes on.  Time to go home.




Between the Admiral, Chip, and the uninjured crewmen all working hard, they managed to pretty much recover from the mission.  Nelson was besides himself with relief and joy when, a week later, their new client called and wanted to know when they could try again.  The man said they had talked to enough other clients to believe in NIMR’s reputation, and realized that this mission had been the exception, not the norm.   They would work out the financial give and take after the mission was successfully completed.  Nelson said no way.  The next mission would be a freebie, completely at the Institute’s expense, let’s just set a date.  “And we will still compensate you for your expenses incurred during the last cruise.”  Nelson knew how important the Institute’s reputation was to future business.  You couldn’t even begin to put a price on it.


He was staring out his office window, truly relieved by this positive and welcome turn of events, when he heard a quiet knock on his open door behind him and turned.


“LEE!  Lee, your home!”  The Admiral quickly walked over to his Captain, giving all appearances of intending to give him a great big bear hug, but hesitated right in front of him.   So many words rushed through his mind, he didn’t quite know what to say first.  Especially since, after all this worry, he didn’t think he had ever seen Lee looking healthier or more relaxed. 


“Lee, I am so very, very sorry for what I said to you, how I treated you.  Please, you have to believe me, I didn’t mean it, I wasn’t myself. Please, forgive me.  I haven’t had a cigarette since that night.  I’m done with them, forever.  And it’s got nothing to do with your proposition, it has to do with you.  I know how lucky I am to have someone in my life that cares so much for me.  And I refuse to accept your sacrifice.  I know what ONI means to you.  I don’t want you giving it up for me.  I- . . .”


Lee just smiled and took one step forward and gave the Admiral the bear hug he knew the Admiral had wanted to give him.  “Admiral, if you want to smoke, I should be the last person to deprive you of the pleasure.  And as far as that night is concerned, it is forgiven and forgotten.  It’s great that you quit, I just don’t want you quitting out of guilt.  It wouldn’t last, and you would come to resent me for it.  Now, do you have a few minutes to bring me up to date?  How’s Seaview and my crew?”


Before the Admiral could respond, they heard voices in the hallway, then Chip and Will walked in, happily surprised to see their Captain and friend standing there.

While Will stood there studying the Captain, Chip immediately walked over and pulled Lee into a big brotherly bear hug, so very relieved to see him not only home, but obviously uninjured.  


Then it was the doctor’s turn. He went over and shook Lee’s hand.  “I thought you were on an ONI mission.  What did they do to you Lee, keep you prisoner in a health spa and force good food and sunshine on you?   You not only look more relaxed than I think I have ever seen you, but, my goodness, have you actually put on a few pounds?  You have to come over to my office Lee, I want to check you out.  I especially want to weigh you!”


Lee let out a little chuckle. “Admiral Johnson sent me down the Cayman Islands and said I could stay for a few days when I was done, then I met my old girlfriend Brigitte down there and we had, um, a very good week together.”


“Brigitte?  Wasn’t she the one with the great big---“


“Admiral Nelson!”


“Eyes!  I was only going to say eyes!”


“Ok, Sir, what color were her great big eyes?”


“Uh, blue?”


“No, Sir, Bridgette’s eyes are a very bright green.”  


Caught. As his office filled with the good-natured male laughter of the men he considered his family, Admiral Nelson again realized how truly blessed he really was.


“Okay, I’m taking you all out to dinner so we can catch up.  I can’t wait to see if Lee can eat as much as Chip!”



The End    


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