Lee was so exhausted he couldnít see straight. Pushing back on the door to shut it, he stumbled towards the bunk. He tried to heel out of his shoes while pulling off the jacket heíd been too tired to remove after berthing the flying sub and nearly ended up on the floor. His equilibrium wasnít up to multi-tasking. Coming to a halt, Lee gave up on removing his shoes for the moment. With a greater effort than it should have taken -- his wrist was hurting him -- he was able to slip his jacket from his body. Sighing from the blessed relief of feeling slightly cooler, Lee started taking off the sweaty shirt. His fingers fumbled over the buttons. Why did they have to make them so small? After an eternity, the cuffs decided to slip open. Lee noticed his sore wrist was bruised and swollen. Minor damage compared to Clarkís injuries. He was going to have to do something about that man. This was the third time Clark had managed to get his arm stuck in the gear shaft. Not even Riley was that accident-prone. Trying to get the rest of his shirt buttons undone, Lee winced. He opened and closed his hands, trying to adjust to the pain and numbness. His eyes closing and practically asleep on his feet, Lee was tempted to sprawl out across the mattress, clothes and all. He could not remember the last time he felt this tired. Now that Seaview was no longer in danger, the Captain finally lost the adrenaline rush that, along with his conscientious attention to duty, had kept him on his feet and functioning. Jamie would be happy to find the Skipper following his advice and hitting the sack. Heíd get Doc to look at his wrist tomorrow. The pain wasnít enough to keep him awake. He was so tiredÖ
Dammit! Lee almost screamed. His fingertips were still numb, his wrist had no strength, and the buttons refused to cooperate. That was it! Either he was going to tear the shirt off -- it was worth the cost of replacement if it got him to bed any quicker -- or he was going to sleep with his clothes on. Wouldnít be the first time. The only drawback was that the environmental control system on Seaview had not yet been able to cool the boat. The temperature controls had been malfunctioning; first it was freezing, and then it was like living in a sauna.
Crane sat heavily on the bunk. At least he could get his shoes off. Lee reached down and then fumed. The floodwater heíd battled through had soaked his shoes. The laces had gotten wet and somehow managed to turn into knots. After a few minutes of painful struggle to loosen them enough to remove his shoes, Lee gave up. His wrist had gone from aching to excruciating. Cradling his hand to his chest, Lee flopped back on his bunk and closed his eyes. He wasnít going to bother undressing. He stretched sideways to lie along the mattress. Taut muscles became limp as the tension and worry that had so overwhelmed him gradually diminished. Craneís ONI training made it easy to ignore his injury. He knew it was asking for trouble not having his wrist examined, Doc would not be happy, but he was so weary! It wasnít even worth the effort to lift his legs up onto the bunk. It felt so good to be off his feet. Breathing deep and slow, Leeís head dropped to the side; the blankets were soft and comforting against his cheek. He sighed, contented. This felt so goodÖ When someone tapped softly on his cabin door. Lee was no longer awake to hear it.
"Lee?" Chip tapped again then quietly slipped into the room. He stood motionless while he studied his sleeping commander. The skipper had pulled off another minor miracle, but it had cost him. His friend was so fatigued that he hadnít bothered to undress or get under the covers. He looked a mess, hair standing up in sweaty spikes, jaw unshaven, and eyes red and puffy. His clothes were uncharacteristically disheveled, a few buttons partially undone. Leaning down Chip picked Leeís jacket up from the floor. That was very unlike his neat and tidy captain. Throwing it in the laundry bag, Chip eyed Lee with concern; suspicious of the way he was clutching his arm to his chest. Lee moaned and twisted before settling down again. The Exec stepped up to the bunk for a closer look, no longer worried about waking Lee. Mortonís forehead creased. One wrist was purple and swollen. Heíd thought Lee was hurting. Damn the stubborn fool. All Lee would say was, "Iím fine." Arms crossing, Chip glared down at his idiotic friend. Leeís arm moved again in a useless effort to find a more comfortable position. Dark hazy eyes blinked upwards. Chip set a firm no-nonsense expression on his face. Leeís eyes widened. He tried to sit up too fast and swayed, looking pale.
"Chip!" Lee threw an anxious glance at the Exec. "Is something wrong with the boat?" He looked worried. "Is it Parker? I thought Doc said he was going to be okay?" Forgetting his injury, Lee reached a hand out to the bunk wall for balance only to yelp as his wrist sent out an immediate protest. Darting a glance up at Chip, Lee tried to pretend it was nothing. He did not want to go to SickBay. Every time he ended up there, Jamison kept him prisoner for what felt like forever, far longer than was warranted in the captainís estimation. Lee did not feel up to being fussed over. All he wanted to do was sleep -- as long as nothing else had gone wrong with or on Seaview. He kept a questioning gaze on his Exec; ignoring the disapproving look Chip was aiming his way.
"The only thing left on Seaview that needs taking care of is her skipper. Lee, what were you thinking? That wrist could be broken!" Chip Morton was fed up and irritated. His legendary patience exhausted by Seaviewís near disaster and the grueling hard work it had taken to save her. "Iím calling Will."
"No, Chip." Lee was quick to reassure. "I can still move all my fingers. See." Not quite able to hide the grimace of pain, Crane waggled all the fingers on his injured hand.
Chip wasnít impressed, not moving an inch from his resolute stance. Arms on hips, he gave his skipper an ultimatum. "Doc makes a house call or you make a trip to SickBay. You need that wrist examined." Chip felt that looking after his Captainís health was an important element of his responsibility as Exec. His close friendship with Lee had very little to do with it; however, he was grateful for any excuse to make sure his buddy took care of himself. Lee didnít seem to do so well at that on his own.
"I need to get some sleep!" Lee snapped. It didnít appear as though his Exec was going to back off long enough for that to happen. Lee tightened his lips, not entertaining the notion of a trip to SickBay for a second. His fierce glare merely bounced off Chipís thick hide. The blonde was not the least bit intimidated. Damn stubborn mule! Chip was always overreacting. Lee changed his tactics. "Iím exhausted, ChipÖ" He wheedled. "Canít you fix it temporarily? Iíll take some aspirin and be fine." His eyes were begging. He caught the slightest hint of wavering in the blue eyes. Smiling affectionately at his best friend, Lee promised, "Iíll see Jamie the minute I awaken."
Morton sighed heavily. He was a goner and Lee knew it. "All right." He relented. Lee was tired. It had been a long while since heíd seen the skipper looking this pathetic. "Let me help you into your pajamas." He mused over his friend. "You feel up to a shower first?" Lee shook his head. Chip frowned. "You sure thereís nothing else wrong with you?" It wasnít like Lee to go to sleep still sweaty.
"All I want to do is sleep." Lee repeated emphatically. "Iím tired, Chip."
"Okay, okay." Chip had already started unbuttoning Leeís shirt. "Sooner we get you taken care of the sooner you can get to sleep." He held Leeís gaze with determined eyes. "Iím holding you to your word, Lee. You see Doc the minute you get up. No running around the boatÖ You go straight to sickbay." Chip was adamant. "Otherwise, I am never doing this for you again! Willís going to be angry enough with me as it is. Donít exacerbate the situation." Sure from Leeís expression that he would comply, Chip let a grin light up his face. "You donít want the trouble of breaking in a new Exec do you?"
Lee relaxed and let Chip help him out of his shirt, watching amiably as the blonde bent down to work at untangling his shoelaces. "I donít know. Maybe Iíll at least be able to scare the new guy into giving me some respect."
Chip chuckled. "You know I respect you, Lee, as my captain and as my friend." He glanced up with a smile. "Youíre the best." Chip slid off one shoe and started in on the next. How had Lee managed to get his laces into this intricate a knot? The Exec flashed a wry look at his Captain. "And you can take comfort in the fact that you scare the crap out of me on a steady basis." Lee was skeptical. "Believe me. The trouble you get yourself intoÖ itís a wonder Iím not gray. You do have crew on this boat, Captain. Try and remember that. Any one of them would be more than happy to lend you a hand when you need it."
Lee stared up at the ceiling hoping Chip was going to leave it at that. He didnít feel up to another lecture on the unnecessary risks he supposedly took. Heíd heard it all before and had no intention of risking his crew on any task he was more than capable of handling himself. As Captain of Seaview, it was his decision to make. His last shoe dropped to the floor.
"Phew!" Chip held his nose far away from Leeís socks. "We may need to surface and scrub the air! Or else you could bottle that foot odor and use it as a deadly gas." Morton grinned. Lee just growled sleepily, pulling his legs away and trying to reach the damp socks. He pulled at them with his good hand and almost hit the floor as he tipped forward; Chipís quick reflexes kept him upright. "Never mind, Iíll get them." This went way beyond the call of duty and into the realm of true friendship. The wet cotton clung stubbornly to Leeís ankles, but Chip got them off.
Refusing Chipís assistance, Lee removed his slacks; the belt and fastening were no challenge for his good hand. The blonde rummaged through the captainís drawer, pulling out a clean pair of pajamas. "You wonít need to unbutton this pajama top. I think itís large enough to slip right over your head, Lee." He tossed them onto the bunk beside Lee and continued poking through Leeís dresser.
"Chip, what are you looking for?"
"That elastic wrap Doc gave you for your knee a couple of months ago. Itís still here isnít it?" Chip answered his own question as he pulled out the bandage wrap. Turning back, he discovered Lee now had on his pajamas. They were a little twisted around, but they were on. Good. Morton held back an indulgent smile, not wanting to aggravate Lee, who hated feeling fussed over or patronized. Too bad Chipís mom was not around. She adored Lee in his pajamas, purposely buying him a size too large, which the considerate Lee felt obligated to wear on their visits home. It was a matter of some irritation to the rest of the Morton clan that an under-the-weather Lee dressed in pajamas could sucker the iron-willed Mrs. Morton out of anything! A fact some of them were unrepentant about taking advantage of, sending Lee in to ask permission for something they would normally never get away with. It was a tricky matter as Lee was canny enough to know when he was being used. Fortunately for Chipís nieces and nephews, Lee was a marshmallow where they were concerned. As for Chip, his father, and his uncles, none of them had the slightest compunction about hiding behind the favored son in a hazardous situation. Such as had occurred last month when an impromptu competition over the last of the popcorn had ended with a broken vase. It was ugly as sin but held great sentimental value. One look into those big apologetic hazel eyes and his mom was toast. His father had treated Lee to an expensive steak dinner for taking the heat. Getting on the wrong side of his mother was never a comfortable place to be. Chip had personally experienced her evil sense of humor. Mom always got even.
Lee let Chip add toothpaste to the toothbrush; the patient man waiting while Lee finished a shortened version of his nightly ritual. His bed was luring him like a siren to oblivion. His wrist was still aching badly but he had no intention of telling his Exec. Chip probably knew anyway. Sometimes Lee thought Chip felt Leeís pain as though it were his own. Lee headed gratefully to his bunk; the covers were pulled back. Lee sat down. At the Execís urging, Lee held out the injured wrist with no hesitation or second thought. Chip was excellent at first aid, even qualified to be on an ambulance crew.
Chip always felt that same tug on his emotions at the easy way Lee placed himself in his friendís capable hands. Chip had studied hard to be ready for any first aid emergency. During the early years of their friendship, it had become rapidly clear that with Lee as his friend, knowledge of treating injuries and illnesses was a necessity. Too many times it had been left for Chip to discover whether an injury or illness was serious or not. Lee did not seem to have the capacity to make good judgments in this one area. Perhaps it was because of Leeís high pain threshold. As far as Chipís best friend was concerned, if it wasnít incapacitating, it could be safely ignored. An opinion the CMO, the admiral, and the exec did not happen to share, much to the Captainís disgust. He had a strong dislike of any medical facility. Nelson had gone through three doctors before Jamison came along with just the right bedside manner for dealing successfully with the Skipper.
Morton expertly wrapped the support bandage around Leeís wrist. He also handed over the pain meds he found tucked into the same drawer. Lee hardly ever used them -- not liking the groggy feeling they gave him -- but Will was an optimistic man. This time Lee took one with no complaint, willing to do anything if it would get him to sleep faster. By the time Chip pulled the covers over the now prone body, Lee was half-asleep. Tucking the blankets around him, Chip was surprised by a sudden surge of protectiveness towards his friend.
Lee yawned and stretched sleepily. The throbbing in his wrist was negligible and the mattress comfortable. This was heaven. He was dimly aware of Chip pulling the covers up to his neck. Blinking, he met the softened blue gaze. Leeís lips curved in a smile. Chip was getting sentimental on him. He could always tell. "Night, Chip." Lee snuggled into his pillow and let go; with a breath he slid into sleepís willing arms.