As the day progressed he wondered if Lee was avoiding him. Wherever he went looking for Lee he wasn't there, he'd just left, he'd been gone for an hour, he was on his way to somewhere else in the boat. When he caught up to Lee it was after 1900 hours and it was only because one of the oxygen generators went off line. He'd given him half an hour to see the job well started and then went to rescue his captain from himself and endeavor to drag him forward for dinner.
"I'm not hungry, Chip, I had a big lunch." Lee protested as soon as he saw Chip come into the air recycling room.
Chip nodded, knowing Lee had had half a sandwich and not finished that. Cookie felt it was his responsibility to keep Lee fed. The cook had recognized in the first two weeks of Lee's service aboard the big submarine that his only hope of getting his new skipper to eat even half what he thought he needed was to enlist the aid of the XO. Chip and Lee had easily fallen back into much of their old Academy relationship, which included Chip's chivying Lee over his eating habits. During times of stress his friend often seemed to stop eating entirely. Since service thus far aboard Seaview had mostly consisted of one emergency after another Cookie had taken to reporting to Chip whenever Lee missed more than two meals in a row.
Now Chip nodded to Lee as he stepped back a little from the action around the air scrubber and waited. No way would he say anything about Lee's failure to eat all day in front of the crew, but by the same token he wasn't leaving Lee to work all night with no food. So he waited. Lee would know what he wasn't saying. Waiting, he studied Lee and reevaluated his earlier notion that Lee had slept the previous night. His friend looked exhausted with dark circles under his eyes. His face was gaunt probably from both lack of sleep and food and Chip could tell from the stiff way Lee was holding himself that he was in pain.
Lee hadn't woken him in the night because he hadn't slept. Chip didn't realize he'd sighed until he caught Lee looking at him over the backs of the three working crewmen. The half smile on Lee's face told him that his friend had heard him.
Lee gave him a slight nod and in five minutes the two men were walking forward toward the wardroom, side by side.
"You didn't sleep last night, it's written all over you. You've got some sort of pain meds they gave you on the carrier, but you stopped taking them. They make you drowsy and you didn't want to sleep."
Lee made no comment, walking slowly down the corridor, one arm held close to his belt the other stiffly at his side.
"You were afraid you'd wake me up again? Or were you afraid you'd wake the Admiral?" Chip stopped walking to prevent Lee from ignoring the whole conversation.
"We going to eat some dinner or speculate on my sleeping habits?" Lee asked, turning to face Chip.
"The pills make me sleepy and hung over. We'll be in port by 2300; I can miss a night's sleep and function fine. Now can we go eat?"
"Yeah, let's go eat because I'm sure you want something to eat?" Chip said with exaggerated sarcasm.
Lee turned and resumed his slow walk toward the wardroom. Two long strides and Chip caught him up.
"I'm worried about you, you don't look well." Chip wanted to reach up and feel Lee for a fever, but knew that the captain of the Seaview wouldn't tolerate that familiarity that his best friend allowed in the privacy of his stateroom.
"I know," Lee said with a tiredness in his voice Chip knew he was deliberately sharing by way of an apology for his earlier brusqueness. "We'll be home soon."
The meal passed with very little conversation as Chip ate and watched Lee try to stay awake while playing with his food. Once Chip finished his steak he reached across the table and took Lee's dish, swapping his own.
"Wasted on you."
Lee shrugged abstractly but made no comment, beyond listlessly playing with his glass of water.
"Come on, I'll postpone my desert long enough to see you to your cabin."
"I'm heading to the Conn, no point in turning in now, we'll be docking in another four hours." Lee put his hand on the table as he pushed his chair back.
Chip reached across and grabbed his forearm to slow Lee's rise and spoke softly. "So you've got some pain medication and I would guess an antibiotic you're supposed to be taking."
Chip watched Lee's eyes darken as his expression hardened. He didn't say anything though, continuing his delayed movement away from the table.
"Catch you later," Lee said, as he moved toward the hatch.
Chip finished his pie thoughtfully. He understood Lee's reluctance to see the corpsman on board. Lee would figure the doctor he'd seen on the carrier had taken care of all his injuries. Chip understood how Lee's mind worked regarding his too frequent injuries. He didn't understand the underlying cause of Lee's aversion to the medical profession but he understood its operation perfectly. In the Lee Crane School of medicine it was, sometimes, necessary to see a doctor but it was never necessary for a follow up visit. Doctors sometimes proscribed medications but it was never necessary to actually take them. Doctors assigned periods of rest but such were always optional. What was amazing was how often Lee's actions worked out. Occasionally, of course, he ended up in the emergency room or near death because of his disregard of the medical profession but it mostly seemed to work out well enough to keep Lee ignoring modern medicine.
Four hours later and the big submarine was docked and nearly empty of her regular crew. Chip finished his last walk through the boat and headed forward to find Lee sitting at the conference table on the Admiral's front porch.
"The OOM gone?" Chip asked, as he sat down opposite Lee and began sorting through the pile of reports waiting for him.
"Yeah, left half an hour ago." Lee didn't bother to look up, his head supported on his fist.
Chip slid the bottle of pain pills he'd liberated from Lee's cabin across the table. He knew Lee had seen the medicine by the tightening in his face, but the other man made no comment.
"You planning to climb up that ladder in an hour when we finish here?" Chip asked, concerned he might have gone too far in going into Lee's cabin after the pills. "I saw them last night on your desk," he answered the unasked question. "Thought they would be more useful here than there."
"You take a lot upon yourself, Mr. Morton."
"You tell me. You climbing up that ladder without those pills?" Chip stood up and went to the coffee pot on the credenza and poured two cups. When he returned to the table Lee took the proffered cup and neither man mentioned the bottle that had disappeared from the table.
The next hour passed in desultory conversation as they read through the final department reports and signed off on them. Late leaving crewmen called out companionable 'Good-byes' as they passed. Chip handed the last report to Lee and waited for him to finish reading before rising to his feet.
"Come on let's see how good those pills are?"
"What makes you so sure I took one?"
"I'm the XO, you would never disregard my good advice without telling me why." He looked at Lee, knowing this to be absolutely true. He thought that was probably why they were such a good team. They had so much respect for each other, so much trust.
"I need to get my gear," Lee didn't look up from folders he was neatly stacking on the table.
"I had the COB arrange to move my car over to the dock and load our duffels. Nothing standing between home, and us, except your procrastination. Come on, let's go." Chip could see that Lee was still reluctant to leave, wandering away from the table toward the big windows instead of toward the ladder to the sail.
"Okay, okay I'm coming." Lee turned and walked over to the ladder, pausing before he reached up and grabbed the rails at shoulder height. Understanding now that the delay had been about waiting for the control room to empty before he started up the ladder Chip quickly walked over to stand behind him.
"I got your back." Chip assured him softly.
Lee gave a quick nod of his head. There was very little Chip could do to help. Lee climbed the ladder slowly but steadily never stopping his slow ascent. Chip shook his head, wondering how much pain that had cost before quickly following his friend up onto the deck.
Lee made no complaint about riding in Chip's car. The drive to Lee's cottage on the NIMR grounds was short and silent. Chip parked his car in the driveway and turned toward Lee who was slumped in his seat with his head against the window. It was only when he began to speak that Chip realized his friend was asleep. He got out of the car, grabbing their duffle bags and closing his door quietly. Even so when he came back to the car from unlocking the house and dropping the bags Lee had woken and was struggling to get out of the seat. Chip caught him by the arm and helped him onto the sidewalk.
"So, did you take those pills on an empty stomach?" Chip asked softly.
Lee made no reply, shaking off Chip's arm in the entryway and heading toward the back of the house.
"Damn pills make me sleepy, I'm showering and going to bed. Don't bother driving, stay here." Lee's speech was slightly slurred and Chip grinned as he followed Lee down the hall. Didn't only make him sleepy, he thought his friend was probably feeling no pain at all.
I am going to end this story at this point and continue the rest of it as "Waking Lee - part 2". The second part of the story will be rated M so you will need to change your rating setting in order to view it. To all those who have been following the story and taken time to send me notes, thank you very much.