Author's Note especially for non-fandom readers: Set directly after Knight of Shadows. All that my non-fandom readers need to know here is that the crew of the seaQuest went into an environment (a sunken ship called the George) where they all experienced nitrogen narcosis to various extents. I have played with the symptoms of the condition only slightly for effect in this fic. But I'm giving myself a bit of leeway in the sci-fi genre. ;)
No ions for him this time around; he was going to have a shower with water and he was going to enjoy it.
Captain Nathan Bridger let his hand brush underneath the stream of hot water flowing from the showerhead, feeling the blissful heat warm his body. It felt so good to allow himself a moment to relax, a moment to simply forget everything that had happened on the George. Anything to make this wretched headache stop. He pressed his wet hand to his forehead, grimacing under the pain. Keeping his eyes open was just about all he could do and he had long since closed them in an effort to keep the light from making the throbbing worse. Good thing he knew his way around the captain's head like the back of his own hand.
It had been aching ever since they had returned to seaQuest; Kristin had said that it was just an aftereffect of the narcosis and that the pain would stop soon. At the time, he had wanted to believe her. But now, several hours and a few pills later, he had yet to believe her. Of all the times to be resistant to pain medications… He'd always been somewhat immune to the general headache meds, but he'd never needed them like he did right now. With a bit of luck, the shower would be able to do the trick.
A few moments later, he had abandoned his uniform on the floor outside the shower stall and stepped into the deluge. He could feel the heat dispersing the pain of his headache, sending the sensation traveling down the rest of his body. His limbs began to tremble slightly with the feeling and his eyes closed. A part of him wanted to up the crew's water allowances; he knew that they could all get used to water as a part of their showers.
He would have liked to stay under the water forever, but reality started to sink in and he knew that it would be foolish to waste any more of the hot water supply. Reluctantly, he began to test how it would feel to open his eyes. They might not have been used to the light, but they would hold without his head splitting in half. That's always a plus…
One hand reached out to turn the water off but he realized that he was farther away from the faucet than he had thought. He stepped toward the silver mechanism, hand outreached… but too quickly too soon.
An unconscious cry of pain escaped his lips as he twisted down, his right leg screaming all the way. His foot had slipped on the smooth surface of the floor, sending him plummeting.
He groaned through gritted teeth, curled into a heap at the bottom of the shower. He knew that it was going to be difficult to untangle himself, let alone stand up. The glass door of the stall had been knocked open during the fall, revealing the rest of the head and, more importantly, his PAL unit stuck to the belt of his uniform… just barely out of his reach. "Damn." This was definitely not looking good at all.
Dr. Kristin Westphalen glanced up from her clipboard as her PAL buzzed insistently from its position on her bed. "Kristin," it called urgently.
She frowned, rolling her swivel chair over to the bed with her feet. She couldn't imagine what the captain wanted at this hour of the night; he had said that he was going to bed hours ago. Well, so did you, my dear…
"Dr. Westphalen," she said, answering the call crisply as though she didn't know it was him. Her head was still fuzzy after the George, her judgment not quite what it could be. Frankly, she wasn't in the mood for anyone else pitying her. Yes, it was a traumatic experience to be possessed by the ghost of a lovesick child, but really…
"Kristin, I need your help." The voice of the captain was labored and out of breath; if she wasn't mistaken, he was speaking through a clenched jaw. "I need you in the captain's head right now. Please."
"I'm on my way," she said without any hesitation. "Hang tight."
Her hand found her medical bag and she was on her feet in an instant. What in the world has he gotten himself into this time?
She certainly hadn't expected the sight that met her eyes as she entered the captain's head. Nathan was lying on the tiled floor, barely covered in his uniform as though it was a blanket. One look told her that his leg definitely shouldn't be that swollen.
"Nathan, what happened?" She was down on the floor next to him now, gently taking the inflated joint in her hands even though it made him hiss at her in pain. Of course you aren't blushing. But he i- no, he isn't.
He grimaced, eyes closed against her touch. "I was in the shower and I slipped, if you must know. I think it might be brok- aaahhh." He broke off, crying out as her fingers probed as gently as they could.
"Sorry." Her fingers hadn't found what they had been looking for, and for that she was able to sigh with relief. "Well, it's not broken. Just a bad sprain. I'll wrap it up for you and you'll be all better before you know it."
"I think I'll try to get dressed before we do anything drastic." He shifted slightly, one hand trying to cover himself as he moved.
"Of course. Do you want any assistance?" she asked, fairly certain she knew the answer to that question.
"I think that I'll be fine," he said, grunting as he tried to get himself into a sitting position. When he realized that it simply wasn't going to happen, he looked sheepishly up at her. "Can you help me sit up? I should be fine then."
She bit back her smile as she nodded, carefully holding him under the arms and pulling him up. Once they were both satisfied with his position, she got to her feet and picked up her bag. "Let me know when you're ready and I'll help you come out to your quarters. I'm going to go and find some ice."
Once she had gone, he allowed himself to exhale, chastising himself for letting his face redden when she'd touched him. He'd felt it happening, but he hadn't been able to stop it. Damn unprofessional of him. He'd been the one to ask her because he knew that she would help him discreetly. Although if it really was sprained, discreet wasn't really an option anymore.
How did he manage to get himself into this fix?
It was difficult for Kristin to support him long enough to make it all the way to the bed, but he refused to call anyone else in to help. She decided not to comment on the fact that his pride was going to be the death of him, but he knew that she was thinking it.
He tried not to groan when he finally made it onto the bed. "That took more effort than expected," he said with a wry grin, out of breath from the exertion and pain. The groan did manage to escape when she took the joint to position it for wrapping. "What's your diagnosis, Doctor?"
She grinned, pulling an ACE bandage from her bag and unrolling it. "You were either hit by a small, German sports car or you've encountered a professional wrestler in the last twenty-four hours."
"I would have said run over by a donkey cart in order to save a child's life."
"Maybe. Or you could have simply passed out and fallen over in the shower." She gently began to wrap the leg, her movements brisk, but efficient. Experienced was the word that Nathan would have used.
"Well, I didn't pass out," he said, trying to maintain some dignity in this hopelessly embarrassing situation. "It was the headache. My head was spinning and I lost my balance when I took a step."
Kristin shrugged, beginning to finish off the bandage. "That might teach you to take the medication when I give it to you."
"I did take it," he protested, quite honestly. "It just never kicked in."
She smiled and clipped the bandage, then reached behind her to grab the bag of ice that she had retrieved from the mess. "Right. I'm going to try to elevate that leg and then we're going to ice it. And then we're giving you a different pain medication." She looked squarely at him this time, and he pretended to flinch under her gaze.
Luckily for Nathan, the sprain was not too serious. It was painful for a few days, but Kristin was relentless in her demands that he rest it as often as possible; Commander Ford was only too glad to step into the role of captain, leaving Nathan with no choice but to stay off the leg, much to his chagrin.
The official story was that he had simply stumbled on a loose bit of carpet in his quarters because he wasn't particularly keen for the entire crew to know that he had slipped in the shower. Kristin had laughed merrily when he'd asked her to use that story, but she complied.
A few weeks after the injury, she returned to his quarters to check on his progress. She couldn't hide the grin that leapt to her face when she saw how restless and annoyed that he looked, propped up on his pillows.
"And how is our patient today?" she asked teasingly, ducking as he made as though to throw a pillow at her.
"I don't see why I can't return to the bridge now," he said, crossing his arms and only half-pretending to glare at her. "I'm feeling much better and I promise that I won't overdo it."
"And why do I feel as though returning to just sit on the bridge would be overdoing it?" She sat down on the bed next to him and began to unwrap the bandage.
"I have absolutely no idea," he said innocently. "You know that it drives me crazy to just sit here and do nothing."
"Of course. And I also know that you'll drive yourself even more crazy if you put that leg right back by overworking. You're just going to have to trust me."
He was silent as she set the bandage aside and lightly began to check the joint. Her fingers didn't hurt as much as they normally did, and he allowed himself to breathe as she moved. "Well, that certainly seems much better than it did." She picked up the bandage again and began to wrap.
"Does that mean that I'm excused?"
"We'll see. If you're better tomorrow, I'll think about it." She smiled down at him, dodging as he playfully swatted at her.
"I'd much appreciate it, Dr. Westphalen."
"Not at all, Captain Bridger."