(Author’s note: Dear readers, after I finished ‘Tests’, a number of you wanted to know what happened to Lee and how did he deal with what had happened to him. Here is my answer…)

A Time to Heal

By

Linda Delaney

 

 

Lee Crane shifted uncomfortably in the bed. Almost a month after he'd been shot on the Seaview, and he still couldn't get Will Jamison to disconnect all the tubes and wires that he was attached to! Not only were some of them plain uncomfortable, but a few were just down right embarrassing! He'd learned long ago the indignity of hospitalization, but right now, enough was enough! Added to the affronts to his personal dignity, and the constant, still almost chronic pain that he felt, was the inability to do for himself. His hands were covered in bandages, wires, and metal rods and assorted other 'alien' objects holding them rigid and making any hope of movement impossible. His hips were another story altogether. Will told him that it could be up to six months before he was free of any pain from his hips, and that was if he healed well! That didn't take any future complications into consideration!

To make matters even worse, during a storm the last week, the roof on his house had been damaged, and his mother and son had had to move into the Institute’s apartment building for an indefinite period of time. The roofers had found that the house needed a new roof, and he couldn't even be there to see what was going on!!

The Seaview was having a refit of her reactors with a new system that Admiral Nelson had designed, and he couldn't oversee that either! Nelson was on the boat, and Chip Morton had offered to oversee the roof project, but it still wasn't the same! They were his jobs to see to, no one else’s!

He tried to move around the bed again and was stopped by the pain in his hands and hips, (and shoulders and side... it just went on and on!)

A very tiny and pretty nurse happened to walk into his room at that moment and he scowled blackly at her.

She hesitated a moment and then said to him, in a very bright and perky voice.

"And how are we today?"

He glowered at her, "And how are we supposed to be?!!!"

'Oh, my...I..I...I'm sorry, Captain!" and she turned and fled from the room.

Chip Morton poked his head through the doorway, "That's not the way to win friends and influence people, Lee! Jamie’s never let you out of here if you keep scaring the nurses away!"

Some of Crane's moroseness left him at the sight of his friend.

"Frankly, Chip...I don't care right now. This is damned uncomfortable! And downright embarrassing at times!"

Morton chuckled, "Don't you think I know it, Lee? Hate to say it, but 'been there, done that, hated it!'..."He grinned at Crane, "but I did survive!"

Crane managed to smile back, "Yes! As I recall with the help of a very special lady!"

"Who is, as we speak, out with your mother and Robert, getting some things for the apartment. Helen wanted you to know that she and Robert would be coming by later."

Lee smiled at the mention of his son...He had, at least seen more of Robert since he'd been here at the Institute's Med facility.

Chip sat in a chair next to the bed, "Lee, there's a problem at the house."

Crane rolled his eyes upward, and groaned. "What now? Isn't the roof enough of a problem?"

Chip shrugged, "Well, when the roofers started the work, they found dry rot in the beams of the roof as well as in the boards. It all needs to be replaced. Makes the job a longer one...three to four months, weather permitting. Looks like you'll be in the apartment for at least that long!"

"Great! Robert is going to love being cooped up in an apartment!"

"Oh, I don't know...there are a lot of kids in the complex, I think that he'll do fine! And your mother seems to be enjoying herself already! She's making a lot of new friends..."

"What floor?"

"Huh? ... Oh! Fifth floor, four bedrooms.... Furnished.... Tastefully according to Helen...Beautiful view of the ocean... Right next to Caitlin Davis' place."

Chip noticed how Crane's attention seemed to rise at the mention of the Karen's daughter, but he shrugged it off... After all, Caitlin was what, 15 years younger than Lee or him, and she wasn't impressed by uniforms... "Or older men!!" Chip thought.

"Oh. And mom seems happy enough there? She knows we may be there for a while?"

" Yep. She's even making some noises to Matty about staying there after the roof is finished. Something about you and Robert needing your own space when we're in port. "

"That doesn't surprise me. The last time we were home she mentioned it to me, about getting her own place, but then she let it drop. Said that it wasn't important. " He thought for a moment, and then said "You know, Chip, mom does need some space of her own. With Robert getting older and needing her less, she's entitled to a life of her own.... That's if her son can stop depending on her in a pinch! "

"Low blow there, Skipper! You and I both know that if Helen didn’t want to help you out she wouldn't!"

He sighed. "I guess that you're right, Chip, but..."

"Don't worry about it now, Lee. There are a few more important details to take care of, regarding the house... and some news about the boat!" His interest level increased at the mention of the Seaview.

"What about the boat?"

"Well, with the O.O.M. pushing like he is, the refit is going faster than he thought it would. We may be finished by the end of the month."

'How is she taking to the changes?"

"Pretty well, I think. If she wasn't happy, I don't think things would be going as well as they are. "

"You know, Chip, I think I owe the old girl a great deal...maybe even my life!"

Chip nodded solemnly, "I don't question, I’m just along for the ride!"

Lee laughed, and laughed hard, for the first time in a long time..."Don't tell her that! Do me a favor, will you? Every once and a while let her know that I haven’t deserted her, will you? She’s a sensitive lady!"

Morton looked at him; "Don’t you think I’m doing that already, Skipper? I also know how to treat ‘the lady’. "

Just then, an angry Will Jamison charged into the room. "Lee Crane, just what did you say to that Nurse?!!! You sent the girl crying not just from the room, but from the hospital! You know, they've just about had enough of you're bullying of the staff here! They want to throw you out, catheters, monitors and all!! The famous Captain Crane has become nothing but a stubborn, willful, pig-headed bully to the nursing staff!"

Lee was trying to look chastened, but Chip Morton was sitting there with an ever-widening grin on his face.

"I'm inclined to send you home, Lee, but I'm afraid that if you bully the nurses here, I won't be able to get anyone to help you once you are home...and you will need help! The Foley stays until you can use your hands, and that's a good month away! The drain in the side also stays until the infection clears. The other wounds are healing, and as soon as the hands can be used, you can get out of bed. Until then, the only getting about will be getting you from here to the apartment! I know that the therapy department was in today to start working with the hips, and I know that they hurt. Get used to it... Any sympathy I may have had for you just went out the door with that poor nurse! Now if I can make the arrangements, I'll be sending you home, tubes and all day after tomorrow. Providing I can get some nursing staff to take you on as a patient!" Jamie turned and left the room muttering about Crane's bull headedness, and Chip exploded laughing.

"You know, Lee, this is about the angriest, I've ever seen Will!"

Crane lifted his arms, slightly, in despair.

"Look at this, Chip!" Morton immediately sobered. "All of these contraptions, and they still don't know if they’ll work again" There was no missing the absolute fear and hopelessness in Crane's voice. " I can't get out of this damned bed! Because of the hands and the side wound and the hips - I can't even lift my arms higher than the bed rails because of the shoulder wounds - did Will tell you that I tore one of the shoulder wounds open yesterday? --- Boy, did he yell about that! You want to know how I did it? I sneezed! I moved the wrong way, and I sneezed!! I can't hold my son or put my arms around him because I might break something!" He turned his head and body away from his friend in an act of complete defeat.

"Go away, Chip! Just go away and leave me alone, will you?...Do whatever needs to be done with the house, and the boat - Just leave me alone!"

Chip rose from the chair, and reached to pat Crane on the shoulder. Crane pulled away from the touch, and Morton dropped his hand.

"Sure, Lee," he said quietly. "I'll let you know later how things work out." He left the room and met up with Jamison in the hall. Chip shrugged his shoulders. "I tried Will! I really thought that talking about the house and the boat would help him - I guess it backfired!"

"Maybe I came on a little strong as well - - But he really did terrify the poor nurse!… Well, I have to get him out of here, I'm sure of that, now. Helen has had a hospital bed and the other equipment delivered to the apartment, and she's setting them up in the living room. She says it has the best view of the ocean! My corpsmen, Frank Lerner and John Warner have volunteered to help out with his care at the apartment, since we're going to be land bound for a while with the refit! Lee should be comfortable with them around."

Chip smiled at the memory of his care under the two corpsmen. "And he won't be able to bully them around! I know from personal experience that it doesn't work!" He looked down the hall, and said under his breath to Jamison "Storm brewing at 0900, Doc!" Harriman Nelson was storming down the corridor. Loud enough for Nelson to hear him, Jamison said...

"Right, Chip - I'll tell Lee when he wakes up... Have a good day," as Morton left, he turned and said, smoothly, "Oh, hello, Admiral."

 

 

Once Crane heard Chip leave, he allowed all the pent up emotions to come to the fore. Jamison was right, of course. He had been unreasonably cruel to that poor nurse, to all of the nurses in fact! He was taking out his frustrations on everyone around him! Yesterday had been frightening enough! He really only did sneeze and move at the same time when some of the tissue in the right shoulder had given way. It had bled badly, for a tear, and after what he'd been thru with blood loss, Jamison had been rightfully upset...and so was he!! And then the discussion with the Orthopedist, Dr. Mullholland, about his hands and his hips had been brutally frank!

The doctor was young, and on the cutting edge of all the new technologies regarding orthopedic repairs. The fixators on his hands were a good example of that technology. The doctor had also told Lee that if the fixators and the surgery didn't work, well then he would lose the use of his hands for good! End of Career! End of Seaview! End of his life! He wouldn't be able to hold Robert's hands again, to teach him to throw a ball, to play catch! He let the tears of rage and frustration flow, punctuated with deep heaving sobs. He really didn't feel as if he could manage one more thing!

Harriman Nelson stood in the doorway and waited. He didn't want to cause Lee any more anguish and pain. Their long years together had taught each man to respect the others boundaries, emotional as well as physical ones. He was probably closer to Lee than any other person. Their relationship had evolved to one of a father and son, and in that context, he wanted to reach out to the younger man and hold him.

He could well imagine the distress he was in! Will Jamison had informed Harry of all of the ramifications of Lee's prognosis. Will was very concerned about the depth of depression that Crane was suffering.

Nelson walked, quietly, over to the bedside, and laid a hand on Crane's shoulder. "Lee," he said softly. "Care to talk about it, lad?"

The sobs slowly stopped and Crane turned to face Nelson. He tried to clear his throat and regain some of his composure.

"Admiral...? Why... what are you..."

"Will called me about your, er,...Confrontation with the nurse...He was concerned...."

Lee shook his head, "He shouldn't have bothered you...I would have handled it!"

"I'm sure you would have, if you could get the poor woman to come near you again!"

"I'd've sent flowers and a note...I'll send all of them flowers!" He said testily. "All I want them to do is stop asking 'How are we doing today!' We are doing lousy, and we don't want to talk about it...! How's that for an answer Admiral, do you really think that they would have liked an answer like that? Dear God, I'm sick of all of this! .... Maybe you should have just let me die, there on the boat, and none of you would have to put up with me, and I wouldn't have to put up with all this!"

"Lee, you don't really mean that!"

"Don't I sir? Why shouldn't I mean it?" he asked angrily "What good am I doing right here, right now...? And if my hands don't heal, what good will I am to anyone? I’ll just be a useless cripple who can't do anything for himself! Won't that be a real joy for my mother and son to live with...and my friends, they'll love to visit ‘poor Lee’!

"Aren't you a little bit ahead of the game here a bit, Captain?" Nelson asked him gruffly! The prospect of a Seaview without Crane at the helm disturbed Nelson greatly. While he knew that it was a distinct possibility according to Jamison, he didn't intend to give up the fight easily, and he wouldn't let Lee sink into the morass of depression. Lee Crane was a fine officer and a good friend, and he did not intend to lose him in either capacity!

"Lee, you're drowning in self pity! This isn't like you!'

"May be it’s the new me… Harry!"

Nelson was taken aback. In all their years, Crane had never called him by his given name! He decided to ignore it, and instead, get angry with his Captain.

"Well, I don't like the new you, Lee. And I don't think that too many of your friends and family will like him either!"

"Well then maybe I should find some new friends!"

"Maybe you should, Lee! And a new family! Perhaps I'll come back later if you change your mind!"

He turned on a heel and started out the door.

Crane called to him, as he went thru the door..."No.... Admiral...! Wait...! Please!!!"

Icily, "Yes, Captain...?"

"I.... I’m sorry, sir. I certainly didn't mean to hurt your feelings...sir.

Nelson turned back to face Crane, saw the repentance and the despair in his face and the iciness was immediately dropped. He went to the bedside, and grasped Lee's arm. "I know that it’s hard, lad. I know the prospects aren't the best, but we'll deal with it together! You and I, and Helen and Robert, together. We'll deal with it and we'll get thru it!!"

"Get thru it? I hope so." There was a long pause on Crane's part, "But, Admiral...what if..."

He left the end of the question hanging. Nelson looked long and hard at the younger man, his Azure blue eyes locking the amber-hazel ones in a fierce grip.

"Then we'll handle it! Let's wait and see what the results are! In the meantime, let's concentrate on getting you out of here and back to the apartment! It's not home, but it's not the hospital either! "

Crane settled back into pillow, defeated. "Whatever you think is best, Admiral." He said resignedly." I don't seem to have much of a choice or say in the matter."

In an attempt to lighten his friends' mood, he asked him, "Have you seen Helen and Robert today?"

"No, sir...Chip told me that they would be by later today."

"Your mother seems to be enjoying the move. I must have twenty messages from her about what she can and can't do regarding the apartment.... Did you know she was going to ask me about staying there after the house is livable again?"

"Chip mentioned it, sir. I'm afraid I was pretty rude to him as well as to you. I told him to get out, and he did. I know that you are all trying to help...its just that if there is no way to help, then what..."

"Well, let’s just say that I have a few ideas and there may be some help already on the way!"...

 

 

Caitlin Davis stared at the laptop on the desk. If she was going to modify it for a different use, she had to concentrate on her work and not on the other things that were distracting her. The last thing she needed to think about was how worried she was about Lee Crane. HN had told her mother, Karen Nelson about the depths of Crane’s depression since his shooting on the boat. HN told Karen that Lee wasn’t recovering as well as he had on other occasions, that the damage to his hands had been so severe that the orthopedist had told Lee that he may never use them again. That had set the Seaview’s Captain into a downturn that no one seemed to be able to pull him out of. On the advice of Nelson’s Psychiatrist, Bricker, Jamison and Nelson were making plans to get Lee out of the Med Center and home… Unfortunately his home had been damaged, in last weeks’ storm and his homecoming was going to be to the apartment next to hers, (not a bad break for her, though!) and not his own home. But Jamison believed that any place out of the Med Center was a better place for Lee Crane than a hospital facility. The best place would have been the Seaview, but that was out of the question, with the nature of his injuries and the refit of the boat.

Caitlin had come up with the idea to modify an older laptop to voice commands, so that Lee would be able, by means of a modem and the phone line to keep tabs on the boat and the work on his house. She had approached Nelson, Jamison and Bricker and all had given her an enthusiastic approval. Now she had to make it work!

She wished that Lee would realize how much she cared for him. Robert knew! And she and Lee’s son had become fast friends in the last few years. Whenever she’d been home from Virginia Tech, she’d volunteered to baby-sit for Robert Crane, and later Alex Morton. Robert Crane was a bright and happy child, and secure in the enormous love squandered upon him by his father, grandmother and all of the adults in his life. Everyone tried very hard to compensate the child for the loss of his mother when he was only an infant. At times it seemed to Caitlin that no one who had known Cathy Crane had gotten over her loss. Everyone who knew Lee Crane knew that he hadn’t gotten over it. Every time he looked at his son, he saw Cathy’s eyes, her smile, her spirit, and he didn’t seem to want to let her go. Caitlin knew she was fighting an uphill battle in that direction. She was in love with the Seaview’s Captain, had been for a long time. She’d even invited him to think about it after her Mother and HN’s wedding. She’d kissed him and told him that she didn’t play games like that! What was the man? Totally dense? Damn!

And that had been only the first of a number of times they had been ‘thrown together’!  She had to smile to herself when she remembered the kitchen at the Morton’s and the strawberries at  her mother’s baby shower.  And the when Lee had returned from the mission with the drug dealers, right before Sean’s birth. The way he looked at her…well, she knew he was at the very least, intrigued. And she couldn’t begin to count the times when they had been together…. Most of the time, she knew that the man wasn’t dead! That afternoon on the beach, after the volleyball game, well… she’d had ample proof of his interest then… And now, well, now he was just being a self-indulgent, stubborn, self-destructive individual, who only wanted to feel sorry for himself!!! He’d better get out of this black mood! She would have something to say about it if he’d let her! And maybe even if he didn’t! She most definitely was her mother’s daughter!! She set to work, getting the laptop in working order!

 

 

Helen Crane opened the door to the apartment, and her grandson followed her in. Robert had grown pensive as of late and Helen was very concerned for him. At nine, he was beginning to show the promise of his adulthood and he was looking more and more like his father. His personality was becoming more like Lee’s as well. The stubbornness, the focus on doing what was right at all costs…For a nine year old, he was so much like his father!!!! And with Lee being hospitalized for so long and not knowing what the end result of all of his injuries would be, Robert had grown more and more quiet. He was carrying two large grocery bags for her and although she had asked to share the burden, he had adamantly refused to allow her to help. She sighed as Robert carried the bags into the kitchen of the large apartment. In a sense, she was grateful that part of the roof had been blown off. Overseeing to Lee’s care would be much easier here than in the house. At least all of the rooms here were on one floor. And having the two corpsmen in the house to help wouldn’t have been possible. At least here, each man could have their own room if they wished. The large hospital bed and all of the medical equipment overflowed the living room area. Frank and John had promised to come over to help set things up. Lee would be coming home tomorrow. At least this was better than a hospital for him. And Robert would be around except when he was in school. That should help Lee’s spirits a lot… to be around Robert. How could she get him out of this depression? There had to be something that she could do. Perhaps she could enlist Caitlin Davis for help. Regular visits from that pretty young woman should help Lee! She certainly cared a great deal about him. A great deal! She was a lot younger, but…

"Gran…" Robert called her from the kitchen.

"Coming, Robert. What do you want, dear?"

"Gran, could you help me here. I’m not sure where you want me to put these things."

She went into the kitchen and stood next to the counter where her grandson was unpacking the bags, and putting items away. He held up a package of some kind of fruit.

"Over here, dear. That’s one of your father’s favorites…or at least it was when he was your age. I thought that I could fix it for him when he came home. A special treat, you know."

"How is dad going to do it here, Gran, away from the hospital, I mean. His hands are still in those things, and I heard the Admiral and Jamie, I mean, Doctor Jamison, talking about it. Dad still has to stay in the bed. He won’t be able to do anything for himself at all…still! And then they said that the therapist would come here, to work on his hips and his legs… How are they going to do all that here, Gran? John and Frank are going to be staying here too, they said. Gran, is Dad going to be ok? I mean, his hands, they will work again, won’t they? I mean after all that Dad has been through?"

She took him into the living room and she sat down on the couch, pulling the youngster next to her. "Sit here, Robert, and let’s talk. You are very worried about your Dad aren’t you? And you’ve been trying to be very brave about, haven’t you?"

His lower lip began to tremble, and he nodded in assent. "Then why haven’t you asked me or talked to me about it? You’ve always talked to me before."

"I’m sorry, Gran. I know that you’re very worried too. The guys at school say to just not talk about it and it will get better. And the Chief says that Dad will be ok and not to worry. And Riley said don’t ask and you won’t get any bad answers that you don’t want to hear. And then I asked Uncle Chip, and he told me to talk to you or the Admiral. And I tried to talk to the Admiral, but Sean was being a real pest, and I couldn’t get serious, you know…. I’m scared, Gran. Really scared that Dad won’t get well, and that we won’t have the Institute to live by and that he won’t have the command of the boat, and that we’ll have to leave Santa Barbara. I don’t want to do any of that! I…"

The apartment doorbell rang, and Helen rose to answer it. "I’ll get that and be right with you Robert."

Caitlin Davis stood in the doorway, holding a casserole. "Hello, Helen. I just brought this over, so that you wouldn’t have to do any dinner tonight. You’ve got so much to do to get ready to bring Lee home! I just wanted to help you if I could."

Caitlin had developed a real fondness for Helen Crane in the years she had been at NIMR. The older woman was kind and generous and loved her son and grandson to a fault. There wasn’t anything that she wouldn’t do for the two of them. She stepped thru the door and Robert was standing next to his Grandmother.

"Hello, Caitlin."

"Hi, R.C., How are you doing?’

The boy shrugged his shoulders and Helen took the casserole from Caitlin’s hands. "Robert, take Caitlin into the living room and I’ll put this in the kitchen, and join you."

Caitlin let her arm fall over the boy’s shoulder and walked with him. When Helen came into the room a few moments later, Robert’s head was buried in Caitlin’s shoulder and he was sobbing. Caitlin had her arms wrapped around the boy, and was gently stroking the back of his head and talking low and soothingly to him. Helen quietly turned and left the two of them alone. She knew that Caitlin would tell her all she had to know at the right time…

 

 

"Hey, Skipper, how’s it going?"

The irrepressible COB, Francis Sharkey charged into Lee Crane’s room. The man had the look and manner of a faithful watchdog, always seeing to the needs of Seaview’s Senior Staff, whether they asked for it or not! They were his chosen projects as long as he was on the boat and, and therefore there wasn’t anything that he wouldn’t do for them, or at least try to do.

"What can I do for you today, Sir?"

"Get me out of here, Sharkey and away from all these well meaning but totally useless women!"

"Now, Skipper, you know that even I can’t do that! Until Doc let’s you go you have to stay here! But I know that I can help in some other way!! How about a shave, sir? I don’t think that any of the women around here know how to give a good shave! "

Lee smiled at him glumly, and resignedly said, "Sure, Chief, take your best shot! Just about everyone else has!!"

He lay back on the pillows and Sharkey pulled open the bedside drawer and shaving supplies and proceeded to shave his Captain. The Chief kept up a steady stream of chatter during the procedure, and by the time he was finished, Lee Crane was exhausted. He had never realized how much Sharkey could talk!

Sharkey wiped his hands on a towel and then said, "There you go, Skipper! Bet that feels better?!"

Like a puppy dog waiting for a treat, Sharkey waited expectantly for Crane’s approval.

"Thanks, Chief. The best shave that I’ve had I a long time."

The COB beamed broadly. "Thanks, Skipper. What else can I do for you?"

"Nothing that I can think of right now, Sharkey. Will tells me that I’m going home today."

"That’s great, Sir! Maybe I could go over to the apartment and see if Mrs. Crane could use my help! "

Gratefully, "That sounds like a good idea, Chief. I’m sure that there is something that you can do over there. And if you stay long enough, perhaps I’ll see you then."

"Aye, sir." He grabbed his hat and jacket, and hurriedly left the room. Several minutes later, Will Jamison stood in the doorway and looked at his patient. He was extremely concerned about the Seaview’s Captain. Admittedly, Lee had been through a great deal of trauma with this last incident, but he was not recovering the way that Will would have liked. The depression that he was suffering was very deep, and Will knew that it was tied into the possibility of never having the use of his hands again. All of the parameters of that, were personally disastrous for the Captain, but all they could do was to work towards it not happening. He sighed and entered the room, the situation making it all the more difficult for the doctor.

He picked up the chart at the bedside, looked at it, made a few notes and then spoke to the Captain. "Morning, Skipper. Feeling up to taking a ride today?"

"Once again, Doc, do I have a choice? Everyone is making decisions ‘in my best interests’… so I guess I go for the ride home, or to the apartment. I really can’t fight it, can I? Since I can’t do anything for myself! How are we going to do this? An even better question, Will. What am I going to wear for the occasion?. With these contraptions on my hands, and the ‘tubes’ coming and going, it seems that my options are limited, doesn’t it?"

"Lee, maybe if you didn’t fight me at every turn, we could do something positive, instead of negative? I’ve had a long talk with John and Frank, and if you cooperate, I think the Foley can go, as well as the rest of the tubes and wires. If you cooperate!" For the first time, Crane’s expression seemed brighter. Jamison knew from prior experiences with Crane that he hated what he called the indignities of the hospital, so that maybe going home without them might help improve his spirits.

"Am I to understand that John and Frank are going to comprise my ‘nursing’ staff?"

"That’s right, Lee. Do you have a problem with that?"

"No, Will. No problem.’

Jamison pulled up a chair next to the bed.

"Lee, let’s talk - I know that you are terribly frightened about your hands. I can’t even imagine how I’d feel if I were in your place. I know that it could meant he end of your career, the Seaview, of it all – I understand that you are having a hard time with it all…But you have to know that you are also making the lives of those that love and care about you, absolutely miserable. "

Crane shrugged his shoulders with an ‘If I’m miserable, why shouldn’t everyone else be as well’

"It’s not right, Lee. And it’s certainly not the thing that Lee Crane would do."

"Will, maybe not the old Lee Crane – the one who was healthy and whole. But, in case you haven’t noticed, this is a different Lee Crane!…Definitely not healthy and I don’t know if I’ll ever be whole again!" He raised bandaged hands slightly from the bed in anger and frustration.

"Just get me out of here, Will! Let me go home, or at least to the apartment where I can wallow in my self pity without any outside interference!"

Angrily, Jamison replied, "If you persist in that attitude, Captain, then I’ll be hauling your sorry butt back here faster than you can raise that blessed boat of yours to the surface! Dr. Bricker and I agreed that home would be better for you, but I can easily change my mind!"

He rose from the chair, and stood at the bedside. "Frank is coming in to help you dress - we have your khakis and a shirt that will accommodate the appliances." Crane wrinkled his nose in disgust, but Jamison kept on. He gently lifted the sheet, "here, let me look at your side." He probed the area around the drain, and Lee grimaced in discomfort.

"Still painful?"

"Yes." Was the flat reply.

"I’ll take out the drain, change all the bandages, and take out the Foley as soon as I can get a nurse or corpsman in here. I’ll be right back."

Lee started to reach out for him and then stopped. Instead, in a low voice he called, "Jamie – please!"  He paused. "I really am sorry for all the grief I’ve been giving you,” he sighed.

Jamison, returned to the bedside, and evading bandages, put a hand on Crane’s shoulder.  "It’s ok, Skipper - part of the job description - Taking grief from my most frequent and uncooperative patient!"

A shadow of a smile passed over Crane’s face. "Let me get a nurse to help me and we’ll get started getting you out of here! By the way, the therapist will be to the apartment this afternoon, to set up a schedule to get working on your hips and getting you up and walking… I’ll be right back!"

 

 

"There Skipper, how does that feel? Kinda good to be dressed in real clothes again, huh?"

Lee shook his head ruefully. "Honestly, Frank, it feels a little strange. After a month of just sheets and blankets, well…"

"Well, sir, you just lie back and rest a bit. You’ve had two dizzy spells since we started - if you have another one, I’m gonna have to let Doc know. And he may change his mind and not let you leave here after all! I wouldn’t want that to happen, sir."

Lee nodded in agreement. He was tired out! And he hadn’t done anything! Frank had done all the work! He hadn’t even left the bed. All he’d done was sit up a little, and move around a bit! He hadn’t even left the bed, much less the room!

 

 

Frank Lerner left the Captain’s room concerned. He saw Jamison down the hall with a few doctors and Nelson, and quickly made his way to the group. He placed a hand on Doc’s arm.

"Doc…? I’m sorry but can I talk to you a minute, please?" Jamison turned and looked at the Corpsman

"Frank…?"

"It’s about the Skipper, sir."

 Jamison put an arm over the corpsman’s shoulder and guided him away from the little group. "Yes, Frank, what about him?"

"Sir, I’m worried… I was helping him dress, you know…" Doc nodded." And, sir, well...he’s so thin! His pants, they must be two sizes too big for him! I mean. He’s always tended to be thin, but, sir… this isn’t good!!"

"Thanks, Frank. I know about the weight loss….That’s another reason we’re sending him home. It goes hand in hand with the depression. The fact that he has to rely on others hasn’t helped him. Now, that’s where you and John are going to come in. Between the two of you we can monitor that!"

"Ok, doc… Say is everything ready to get him home? I know that the bed and all the equipment is set up at the apartment."

"Yes, the wheelchair is coming and the ambulance is waiting downstairs. I think that we’re ready. I just need to get the Admiral."

 

 

He had started to doze and a touch startled him.

"Lee…?"

He blinked his eyes open, and Harriman Nelson was standing at the bedside.

"Ready to go home?"

He shook his head to clear it.  "As ready as I guess I can be. Admiral….it’ll be good to get out of here."

Nelson clapped him on the shoulder. "I know, Lad, I know."

Frank Lerner, John Warner, and Jamison came into the room, pushing a wheelchair. Lee looked at them surprised.

"I thought we’d give the chair a shot, Skipper … If you feel up to it."

"My head does – I just don’t know if the rest of me will co-operate."

Nelson and Jamison exchanged significant looks.

"Just let us do all the work, Lee. We’ll do the work and you’ll get to take a nice easy ride!" As Crane sat up in the bed, Frank gently swung the Captain’s legs over the side. Lee took a few deep breaths as the room began to shift in size and direction.

"Dizzy, Lee?"

"A little, Will. "

Jamison nodded, " To be expected, Skipper. Just take it slow…, and if it gets any worse, let me know."

Crane nodded slowly. He knew that he couldn’t give into the vertigo, or all this effort would be for naught and he wouldn’t get home today! He took several deep breaths and let the doctor and the corpsman move him. He knew that he wouldn’t be much help to them and did only as he was told. Frank and John each moved to either side of him and using a ‘basket carry’ lifted him from the bed to the chair. They settled him in and Jamison checked his hands, and then let Nelson move to the back of the chair.

"Ready, Lee?"

Crane nodded tiredly and Nelson pushed the chair down the corridor.

 

 

Helen Crane anxiously paced the small foyer. Harriman Nelson had called her from the Hospital and told her that they were on their way. Robert was simply standing at the door, waiting. She had tried to get him away from it, to sit down and wait, quietly, but he had resolutely refused. She understood where the child was coming from, and after her talk with Caitlin, better understood where the child’s head was. That he was so thoroughly frightened did not surprise her, but the reason for his fears did. He had never known his mother. He had been too young when she died. His father was his only parent, and had been always strong and forward looking and always optimistic about everything. The many times that Lee had been hurt in the course of duty hadn’t bothered the boy, because when he was younger, his father seemed invincible. This time was very different. Lee’s behavior, his depression, his black mood had terrified his son, and he was afraid to tell his father. He didn’t want to make the situation worse than it was so he kept it all within, becoming quiet and withdrawn. He had begun to talk to her, last night and expressed some of his fears, and when Caitlin Davis had come over, the wall had broken and he had released all the feelings that he had been hiding. Caitlin was a good friend to all of the children of Seaview’s Senior Staff, and it made sense to Helen that Robert would feel comfortable opening up to her. She also knew that the boy needed a mother. When was her son going to realize that? Robert suddenly became very excited.

"They’re here, Gran! They’re here!! They just got off the elevator!"

He flung open the door, and resisted the desire to charge down the hall to meet the group coming down it.  Then before Robert could say anything else, they were at the door and he was standing looking at his father in the wheelchair. He wanted to throw himself at the man in the chair, but instead he settled for a hug and gave Lee a polite greeting, and hung onto the arm of chair. From the look on Robert’s face, Helen knew that he was afraid that if he let go of it, Lee would suddenly vanish. Helen looked at her son, and knew that he was completely exhausted form the activity so far. But she also knew better than to say anything to him. She leaned down and he kissed her on the cheek.

"Welcome home, Lee." A few stray tears glistened in her eyes. At least he was home.

"Thanks, Mom," he said quietly. Clearly all he needed now was rest. She looked at him more closely, and realized how thin he was. Well, she would remedy that too. She started to greet the rest of the group. Robert had taken the two corpsmen and led them to the rooms that they would occupy.

Jamison had pushed the wheelchair to the bed, and he and Nelson were talking quietly to Crane, while waiting for the corpsmen to return, to help get the Seaview’s Captain into the bed. Lee was about at the end of his strength. All Jamison wanted to do was get him settled and then he wanted to get Nelson and himself out of the apartment and let Helen Crane and the two corpsmen set up their arrangements. Then too, the therapists were supposed to be arriving later, to set up their schedule.

The two medics came out of the hallway, thanking Robert for his help and eliciting a small smile from him. Robert went back to the side of the wheelchair and Lee put his arm over his son’s shoulder. The appliance on Lee’s hand was uncomfortable resting on Robert’s chest, but he didn’t say a word, grateful for the fact that his dad was there and able to put an arm around him. He missed those moments he had shared with his dad and been unable to have since Lee’d been in the hospital. He was afraid that if he touched him wrong, he’d set off an alarm, or pull put a tube, or hurt this man he so dearly loved.

The return to the room of the corpsmen was Will Jamison’s signal to collect the Admiral and leave. He stood and said to Crane, "Lee, Harry and I will be leaving so that you can get settled. I’ll be stopping by tomorrow. The therapist will be here this afternoon. And if you need anything, Frank and John will be sure to call me. I think that you’ll start feeling better now that you’re home."

"I hope so, Will. Right now, all I am is tired. Just plain tired. "

Jamison clapped him on the shoulder, "I understand…" He grabbed Nelson’s arm, “That’s why we’re leaving. Let’s go, Harry."

Nelson picked up his hat, and leaned over to his Captain.  "I’ll see you tomorrow, Lee. I’m coming, Jamie."

As soon as they left, Lee slumped in the chair, exhausted. Frank Lerner lowered the bed to a manageable height, and spoke to Crane, "Skipper, John and I are going to get you into the bed the same way we got you out of it. " He turned to Robert standing close by his father’s side, "Robert, if you’ll just move over there for about ten minutes, we’ll get your dad settled and then you can come closer again, ok?"

Reluctantly the youngster moved next to his grandmother, never taking his eyes off his father. As the corpsmen lifted the Seaview’s Captain onto the bed, Robert didn’t miss the look of pain and embarrassment in his father’s eyes. Robert ached for his father - he understood pride even though he was only nine years old –and he understood in his own way - how this was eating at his father’s self pride. He watched intently as the corpsmen gently lowered Crane to the bed, and ever so gently removed the street clothes and replaced them with the robe and Pajama bottoms of an invalid. That’s what his father was, an invalid. The tall, strong, laughing man he knew, had been reduced to the sick man on the bed. Robert wanted to cry aloud. More than that, he wanted to get the man that had hurt his father! He wanted to hurt him! But Robert also knew that Lee wouldn’t want, wouldn’t allow revenge. That wouldn’t be the right thing! Frank motioned him over to the bed, and Robert stood next to the guardrail. Lee Crane lay back on the pillow, his face white from strain and exhaustion. A fine sheen of perspiration covered is forehead. His eyes were closed and his breathing was light, and rapid. Frank was on the other side of the bed, hypodermic in hand.

"Skipper, I’ve got some meds here, for the pain. I’m going to give it to you now and it should help a lot." Crane nodded and Frank rolled up the robe sleeve and gave him the injection in the upper arm. "I’ll be in the other room if you want me, sir." And he left the bedside.

Robert stood there for a few minutes more, and then said, very quietly, "Daddy…?"

Lee opened his eyes, and saw his son standing there next to the bed. The boy reached out to his father and touched his arm…"I love you, Daddy."

Lee saw the look on his son’s face, and called to Frank, "Frank, come here for a minute, will you?"

Frank was at the bed in a moment. "Yes, Skipper?"

"Lower the bedrail, will you, and help Robert lie down here with me."

"Daddy, are you sure? I don’t want to hurt you!"

Lee smiled at his son. "Don’t worry Robert, you won’t."

The corpsman lowered the rail and the boy scrambled into the bed. Lee wrapped an arm around his son and held him close and tightly. "There, that’s better now, isn’t it?" he asked him softly. "We haven’t be able to do this in a long time, have we?" Robert nodded his head, and all the control that the nine-year old had struggled so long to maintain finally cracked, and he gave over all of his fears to his father. He cried, and his father held him as tightly as he could to try and chase the ghosts and fears away.

Helen Crane stood in the doorway and watched her son and grandson. As she watched Lee hold his son, she was aware that she was a witness to the beginning of a healing of the spirit of father and son. She knew that there was a long road to follow, but she also knew that at the very least it had begun.

 

 

Several hours later, Lee woke. Robert was still lying in his arms, and he was sleeping soundly. Sitting nearby, in an easy chair, was Helen. She had a book in hand, and was watching Lee and Robert. He stirred, and she looked at him.

"Reminds me of other times, that I’d find him curled up in your bed, on the boat, or in the Sick Bay or Med Facility."

"Yes," he said softly. "But I don’t ever recall him being so frightened before…then again, I haven’t been either!"

She rose and stood at the bedside, stroking the young boy’s hair. "He’s so like you, you know?’

Lee smiled at her crookedly, "I know. You tell me that often! But there’s so much of Cathy in him too! Poor kid! He doesn’t stand a chance! Two stubborn, willful parents!" Lee held him more tightly, and Robert sighed contentedly in his sleep. "I hate to move him, but he’ll be more comfortable in his room. We’ll get Frank to carry him for you, mom." She nodded and signaled the corpsman who had looked up, at the sound of voices. Frank came to the bedside.

"Frank, could you carry Robert to his room?"

"Sure, Skipper…" He reached down, and gently picked up the sleeping boy. Robert sighed again in his sleep, and Frank carried him to his room. Helen fussed with the sheets on Lee’s bed, and then followed Frank to Robert’s room.

Lee shifted and tried to rearrange himself in the bed. Frank came to the bedside and asked, "Skipper, can I do anything for you? Straighten the bed? Get you something?"

As he tried to move, to get more comfortable, he moved wrong and a stab of pain shot thru his left side. He gasped and Frank asked, "Skipper, you ok?"

"Yes, just a wrong move, you know..?" he shifted further…he sighed, the pain didn’t stop. Reluctantly, he said, "Maybe the pain meds…it’s not letting up."

"Sure, Skipper. I’ll get them." He went over to Warner and the two of them talked quietly as Frank prepared the medication. John approached the bed. "Skipper, let me fix these sheets, and see if we can get you a little more comfortable." John smoothed and straightened the sheets, and helped Lee move his position in the bed and Frank gave him the injection. He settled back into the pillows, and lay there, staring out the window, at the sea, until , finally, he gave into the sleep that was pulling at him.

 

 

He slept a dreamless sleep until voices began to intrude on his subconscious. He reluctantly opened his eyes and tried to focus on the source of the voices. Caitlin Davis was sitting at the table in the Dining area talking to Robert and Helen. John and Frank were nowhere to be seen. He cleared his throat. And three sets of eyes turned to him at once.

"Lee, dear, you’re awake?"

"Yes, Mom." He laughed slightly, "I guess so, or I wouldn’t be talking to you, now would I "

Helen came over to the bedside, and kissed him on the forehead. "Now, don’t be sarcastic. We have a guest."

"Hello, Caitlin."

She smiled at the Seaview’s Captain "Hello, Lee. I’ve brought something for you. And I was showing Helen and Robert. " Robert had slid between his grandmother and the bedrail and was watching his father intently. Lee looked at his son.

"Are you feeling better now, Robert?" he asked the boy gently.

"Yes, Dad. Much!" He smiled at his father, and laid a hand on his arm. "Wait’ll you see what Caitlin has brought for you to use!"

"You seem very excited about it!" He looked at Caitlin, "Maybe you had better show me now, or Robert here might soon explode!"

"Dad!" Robert said, but he had a great big smile on his face.

"C’mon, R.C., help me with it, ok?"

Caitlin and Robert moved to the table, and in the midst of much giggling and laughing came back over to the bed. Helen moved a hospital table in front of Lee, and with a great deal of ceremony, Caitlin placed a laptop computer on it. Lee looked at her, with a question on his face. He looked at his hands and the back at her. Robert was standing next to him, and Caitlin was plugging in several wires. When she finished, he said,

"Interesting…. But how…?"

"It’s voice activated, Lee. All you have to do is to talk to it and it will respond."

"Watch, Dad!" Robert said excitedly, "Specifications for the S.S.R.N. Seaview ." The screen jumped to life and in a matter of seconds the Seaview’s specs came onto the screen. Lee gave Caitlin a look of absolute admiration.

She leaned over, next to him, and began to point out several details of the computer to him. Her head was close to his face and he couldn’t help but inhale the sweet scent of her hair. The words ‘Heady and intoxicating’ came into his mind. She laid a hand on his arm.

"Once it’s hooked up to the phone line and the power. All you have to do is to talk to it and it’ll give you any information you need or want to know. And the modem connects you to the boat and the Institute. Just request the information and you can get it! Simply and straight forward!"

Lee laughed, "Maybe for you, or even Chip Morton, but not me! I understand what you’re telling me, but I don’t know if I can get used to it!…Talking to a computer!!"

Caitlin laid a hand on his shoulder.

"Lee, it’s not all the complicated. Really, all you have to do is talk to it. It’ll give you all the information you need. It’s got a huge memory, so you can do about ten to fourteen different activities at one time. I’m on break from my classes right now, so I can come over any day and give you a hand…."She stopped, and looked at the large bulky appliances on his hands. "Oh, I’m sorry, Lee…I didn’t mean… I mean that … Oh, I’m sorry!"

He instinctively wanted to reach out and touch her and tell her not to worry but his hands prevented that. Instead he had to be satisfied with just saying, softly, "It’s alright, Caitlin. It’s a figure of speech. Please…don’t worry !!" He paused and then asked her, "Did you do this modification…to make it respond to speech?"

She nodded too upset with herself to speak. She wanted to cry. Tears glistened at the corners of her eyes.

He wanted to reach out and hold her close, and let her know that he wasn’t upset. She was so caring and giving! She had done so much for Helen and Robert. And look at what she had done for him! All the time that she had put in to do this computer set up! Damn his hands!!!

"Caitlin, please…" he asked her again. She wiped at her face, and saw how angry he was getting with the situation. He looked at Helen Crane and said, angrily to her, "Mom, take this thing away, please?!…I’m sorry Caitlin. I’m just not up to this now…I appreciate what you’ve done here, but not now, ok?"

Feeling that she was the cause of his anger, and the drop in his spirits, she backed off. She looked at Robert Crane and saw how puzzled he was by his father’s actions. ‘C’mon, R.C. - I’ll show you the games that I loaded on here so that you can play them with your dad when he’s feeling up to it." She shot a look at Lee which he pointedly ignored, and took the laptop and the wires back to the Dining Room table, where she huddled with Robert.

Helen moved to the bedrail and said to Crane with quiet admonishment – "Caitlin put a great deal of time into doing those modifications, Lee. You might be a bit more grateful."

"Grateful for what? The time and effort, I appreciate – believe me I do! But don’t you realize that if I use that – that thing – Then I’ll be acknowledging that I won’t be able to use my hands again! – Can’t you see that …?" he asked her raggedly. "That I’m saying that this is the end!!! The end of everything, Mom!" Robert looked over as his father’s voice rose in volume. Lee let his hands fall to the bed in frustration and he winced as the jarring motion sent needles of pain shooting up both arms – he tried to shift position and his hips and legs refused to co-operate, and instead they also sent pain messages to his body.

"Damn!!" he shouted aloud.

Caitlin and Robert looked toward him and Robert reached out for her hand. She took it and drew him close, hugging him…"It’s ok, Robert…Your dad is just upset right now." The child nodded numbly and a huge tear rolled down his cheek. She thought quickly and said, "why don’t you come next door with me and I can show you some of the new games that a few of my students designed for the computer." She continued to watch Lee while she held and talked to his son.

"Helen, I’m going to take Robert next door and show him some of the games that my students designed." She informed the older woman - completely ignoring the child’s father - When Helen saw the look in Caitlin’s eyes, she didn’t question her, she’s seen the same look in Lee’s eyes as well…and then she realized that she saw something else there, besides the anger. – "Why, she’s so angry with him because she loves him!" Helen was surprised at the realization, and she also knew that, at this moment, Lee had no clue at all how the girl felt for him. She knew he was too wrapped up in his anger, frustration and despair.

"That might be a good idea!" he barked. Then more softly to his son, "Go ahead now, Robert…Caitlin will call your grandmother when you’re ready to leave."

"Yes, Dad," he said quietly. He touched Crane on his arm, and walked slowly to the door.

Caitlin continued to ignore Lee and spoke only to his mother. "I’ll call you when Robert’s ready to come home. I’ll bring him back over. Maybe the atmosphere in here will improve…I hope so…"

She took the youngster by the hand and left.

"She’s a good friend, Lee. She cares for you very much!"

"…and I’ll be real good for her like this, now won’t I! Some catch for a young woman…an old guy with hands that don’t work. That’s a pretty picture, isn’t it… Lee wearing a bib, being fed by the young girl…real pretty picture!!".

"Lee Crane, stop this!"

"No, Mom…that’s the reality of it right now!!"

"Lee, until you stop this, I don’t know what I, or anyone else for that matter, can do for you!" She walked out of the room and down the hallway to her room, and slammed the door.

Lee lay there in the bed, thinking and feeling sorrier and sorrier for himself.

 

 

Caitlin was angry! How could he be so…so stubborn!! So pigheaded!! Her anger softened slightly, and she also realized how frightened he was! And one thing he would never admit to was fear! There had to be a way that she could help him! If she couldn’t , if someone couldn’t, it would kill him as easily as any of the bullets could have. If someone could help him….

She reached for the phone after checking on Robert. The little boy was thoroughly engrossed in the game he was playing, and at least for the moment, he had forgotten his anxiety about his father.

"Mom, can you talk…is HN around?"

"Hi, Caitlin…No, Harriman took Sean to the office. I’m alone.. why…?"

"Well, I need your help…"

 

 

Tony Rennalt stood at the doorway to the Crane’s apartment. For one of  the few times in his life, he was somewhat unsure of why he was where he was, and of what he was going to do once he went into the apartment.  He had had a long talk with Karen Nelson and figured that his two cents thrown at the Seaview’s Captain couldn’t hurt.  The man needed something to get him going!

‘Damn!! There had to be something someone could do to get Lee Crane out of this black mood he was in! Well, faint heart ne’er won fair maiden, or so the sayin’ goes… Rennalt,  you had better make this one a good one…”

He knocked on the door, and waited, lounging against the side of the frame.  When Helen opened the door, he smiled one of his largest smiles, and said as easily as he usually did.

“Howdy, Ma’am… I’m hopin’  that you’re fine.”

Helen smiled back at him, “Tony, good to see you…I take it you’ve come to stir the pot some more?”

“That obvious, ma’am?”

“Let’s just say that the Nelson Institute is calling out the big guns when it comes to helping my son.  Come in, won’t you?”

The lanky Texan unfolded himself from the doorframe, and sauntered into the apartment, waiting for Helen to close the door.  She took Tony’s arm, and led him into the kitchen. 

“Coffee first...before you see my son.”

Tony crooked a smile, ‘Thank you, ma’am, I’ll be happy to have some, tho’ I’d prefer  something stiffer…”

She patted him on the arm, “Oh, I do understand…believe me I do. On a good day, my son is to say the least, difficult. And these aren’t good days.”

He sipped at the coffee, “Mmm, that’s what Karen, Chip and Harry have been tellin’ me. Now it’s my turn to take a crack at him.  We’ll have to see what I can do.” He smiled at her again, and put the coffee down, “Thanks for the coffee, ma’am. Think I’ll go and see what damage I can do..” he winked, and smiled at her, then moved toward the man in the bed.

Lee was staring out the window. His mood had deepened with his coming home, not improved. There was nothing, absolutely nothing he could do with himself.  The only person that had seemed to lighten his time was Caitlin, but he had been far too successful in pushing her away. He sighed deeply. He had heard the doorbell, and knew one of his friends was going to try and ‘help’ him get into a better mood. He didn’t need help. He didn’t want to be in a better mood. He didn’t want or need help. Maybe he could get them all to leave him alone. He sighed again. No chance of that…none at all. 

Tony sauntered over to the bedside, scoping the lay of the land as it were. He looked around the room, saw a chair, and pulled it to the bed. He sat and stretched his legs to the bedrails, tucked his hands into his pockets, and waited.

Lee waited for his visitor to say something. He could feel the presence at the side of the bed, heard the boots settle on the bedrail,  but he waited for  Tony Rennalt to speak. He didn’t expect what his visitor had to say to him.

Tony sat staring at Lee for a long time, taking in all of the paraphernalia that accompanied Crane. He shook his head, saddened to see not the man he knew, but a stranger in the bed. He sighed, chewing on the toothpick that he had in his mouth. Finally, he grunted, and said, “Crane.”

Lee turned his head, to meet the soles of a pair of boots, and commented, “Probably the best looking part of you, Rennalt!”

Tony ‘humphed’ and stood, leaning over the bedrail.  With a sardonic expression on his face, he asked, “Crane, when the hell are you going to get your sorry damn ass out of that bed and get moving? I hear folks are gittin’ tired of this pity-party of yours

Angrily, Lee returned, “How the hell would you know what or wasn’t a pity-party, as you so call it?  I don’t think you have a fucking clue of how this feels or how this is..”

Slowly chewing on his toothpick, moving the tiny piece of wood back and forth in his mouth, he drawled rather nonchalantly, “How the hell do you know if I do or don’t know how you feel?”

“Because no one can really understand how this feels. No one can. If I don’t get the use of my hands back, I lose it all…my job, my home… everything…You can’t know!”

Quietly, leaning over the bedrail, Tony began to seriously talk to the boat’s Captain.  “Oh, but I sure as hell do know! I‘ve never told this to anyone…not even Harry.  Man, I was a helluva lot younger and a great deal more stupid than I am now… a snotty 23 year old, a kid, my old man called me. Well, I thought I knew it all… really knew it all, and I decided to ride a bronc that my dad had that was scheduled to be broken.  Dunno if you know what that’s like, Crane… a rush like you can’t believe… I didn’t know what for about bronc bustin’ or ridin’ an’ I thought I did. Told my old man’s head buster to get me ole Slate, cause I was gonna break that mean horse.  He tried to stop me, called my father, and the old man told him to let me do it. Told ‘im to let me kill myself if that’s what I wanted to do. So this smart ass kid got up on the meanest bronc on the ranch and spent all of ten seconds on the bastard’s back.  Ten seconds in the air…and the next six months figurin’ out if I was ever gonna walk again.  Broke my back in three places…landed in the hospital in one hell of a contraption for three months. I had all kinda complications, and then the rehab… man, I cussed them all out from here to hell and  back. But they were as determined that I recover as I was not to. You and me, Lee, we’re a lot alike. We’re cussed sons-of-bitches. We don’t want anyone to do anything for us and if someone has to, then they’ll pay for it.”

Rennalt looked around the room and then shifted a bit in the chair before he slowly raised his arms and placed his hands behind his head.  “Man, I know how you’re feeling. At least you’ll be walking, tho’ I’m sure it’s gonna hurt like hell to get moving again…but man, you’ll be moving and that’s a start. C’mon, man, do something positive! Life’s full of tough breaks…you know that.  Most of us, the ones that I call the winners, get up and move on.  Only the losers stay behind and whine and bitch and complain about the rotten things that life throws at them.  I don’t think that you’re a loser, Lee. I don’t. At least, the last time I looked you weren’t.  I know that Harriman Nelson wouldn’t have brought you here in the first place if you were.  But you have to do something about it. The rest of us can’t do it for you, you have to do it. And man oh man, I know that you sure as hell don’t want to.”

Lee glared at him.  He was damn sick and tired of everyone telling him that he had to get on with things…to try.  They had no idea how much this hurt.  How much it would hurt if he couldn’t do it.  They had no idea of how scared he really was to face what could be if he wasn’t able to do what he was meant to do anymore..  Straining to shift just a bit, he spat out, “Get the hell out of my face, Rennalt.  I’m tired of all of you trying to…”

But Tony didn’t give him the chance to finish the sentence.  “Yeah, I know… life’s cut you a couple of bad breaks. Your wife died, young…way too young. Cathy…well, she was one helluva special lady. Wasn’t no one here that didn’t like her, and because of that, it was hard on all of us.  Don’t know whether you knew it or now, but that lady of yours could drink good Irish Whisky with the best of’em.  Probably because of her old man…but she and I shared a lot of tall tales over a couple of shots.  She could give as good as she could take…and she was one of the few people that could keep Harry ‘in line’, if you want to call it that.  Now you’ve got a son to raise, without a wife. But dammit, you’ve got help…you’ve got support…and in case you’re too dense and blind to notice, you’ve got a special lady who would love to be part of your life.”

He shoved his hands into his pockets and without any expression on his face, “And now you’ve had another bad break and so what do you do?  You up and decide, without any goddamn good reason, to one, give up, and two, make the life of everyone who cares one whit about you miserable. And that includes your mother, who’s hurting as bad as you are and your son. Forget about the rest of us for a second and think about your son! Unless you’ve got shit for brains in that idiot skull of yours, which apparently you do right now …you’d realize how lucky you are to have him  I’d just about kill someone if they could promise me I’d have a kid like R.C.!”

Angrily, knowing Tony wasn’t finished with his tirade, Lee murmured, “Robert… his name is Robert. Not R.C.”

“That’s just what I mean, dammit! You get all stubborn about things that aren’t important.  Your son likes to be called R.C.  But you didn’t know that, did you?  You haven’t taken the time to realize that.  You’re the only one in his life that calls him Robert. Formal, stiff and formal…Dammit, man!! You weren’t always this tight-assed and stubborn!! Man, you gotta get out of this bed and start living again!!”

“No. Go away, Tony. Leave me be. I don’t need you, or anyone to tell me how I should feel or what I should be doing.” More quietly, through clenched teeth, “Get the hell out of here… now!!”

Slowly, Tony moved his legs off the bed and stood, without a word.  He gazed down at the man in the bed and shifted his jaw just a bit.  Taking hold of the toothpick, he narrowed his eyes just a bit and then spoke.  “Fine… Have it your way. Stay there, don’t do anything, and let the world go by. And one of these days, when you are tired of feeling sorry for yourself, remember… there are people who are willin’ to help you, if you’re willin’ to let them in!  But it ain’t gonna get any better for you until you do.” He tapped his fingers to his forehead,  “S’long, Captain. I do hope that you change your attitude and things get better… for all of us!”

 

He turned on his heel, and moved to the kitchen, “Thanks for the coffee, ma’am. I’m sure that I’ll be seein’ you around and about. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to give me a call. Harry has my home number and you can get me there or at the office…at any time.”

 

Helen stepped toward him, and kissed him lightly on the cheek, “Thank you for trying to help my son. I know how difficult he is. Thank you.”

 

Tony smiled, and patted her hand, “My pleasure, ma’am.  I know what he’s going through.  It ain’t easy…he’ll make it hell for everybody around him for a while.  But eventually…he’ll realize what an ass he’s made of himself and make the decision on his own.  So, anything I can do for a lady, I’m happy to do,” he smiled at her again and left the apartment..

 

Lee stared after him, angry and surprised. Surprised at the revelation of his fight for survival years ago. And angry that he’d won it, and gone on. Lee was determined. He wasn’t going to make his condition easy on anyone, least of all himself.

 

 

Lee was fighting with Frank Lerner. That would be the only way to describe what Helen was watching. Frank was relentless when it came to following Jamison’s orders. The corpsman was determined to have the Skipper gain back some weight. With Jamison’s approval, he would try any thing he could to get the Seaview’s Captain to eat. And Crane was equally determined to refuse to cooperate.

"C’mon, Skipper…This is a nice meal that Mrs. Crane fixed for you. She said that it’s everything that you like to eat! C’mon, Skipper!… This is good for you…You need to put some weight on…you have to eat something! If you don’t sir, I can hook up the IV again! Doc left the hep-lock in your arm, just in case you don’t cooperate. And he said to tell you that the feeding tube can be setup too!"

"It won’t work, Frank. I’m not hungry! I don’t want anything that you want to give me. Go ahead and hook up the IV…I’m not going anywhere!"

"Look, Sir, you don’t want to hurt your mother’s feelings, do you? She went to a lot of trouble to fix this dinner, and you haven’t touched it."

"She’ll understand! I’m not hungry, Frank! Leave me alone!!"

"I’m sorry, Captain. Part of my orders is to see that you eat three square a day, and I’m going to do it! Whether you want to or not!"

"I’m not interested!"

"I didn’t ask for interest, Skipper. Just participation!"

"I’m not participating, Frank. I’m not hungry!"

"Captain, all I have to do is ask John for some help. If you don’t cooperate, it will be very embarrassing for you!"

"I can’t be any more embarrassed than I’ve been already. There isn’t anything that you can do that would make me feel worse about things than I already do." Lee’s reply was a smug one!

"Oh, I can think of a few things, Skipper. There’s always Miss Davis!"

Lee grew very quiet. Then, sullenly he said, in quiet voice, " Just the meat."

"Skipper?"

"Just the meat. I don’t want anything but the meat."

"That’s good, sir… that’s a start!"

 

 

At 0830 the phone rang. Helen was seeing Robert off to school, and Frank Lerner answered it.  "Yes, Mrs. Nelson. Mrs. Crane isn’t here right now. She took Robert to the bus for school. Yes, ma’am, I’ll tell her.. You’ll be over about 0900. Yes, Ma’am."

"Who was that. Frank?"

"Mrs. Nelson, Skipper. She’s coming over to see Mrs. Crane. Something about an excursion for the children."

"Oh…" was Lee’s disinterested reply.

"Skipper, we have to get you shaved and ready for the therapist. They’ll be here at 1100."

"Go ahead, Frank…we can’t disappoint the therapist, now can we?"

"Skipper, the sarcasm isn’t bothering me at all! I have my orders, sir! I answer to a higher authority…. Doc Jamison!"

Lee rolled his eyes, and allowed a small smile to quickly pass over his face. Jamison did put himself right up there with God, and all the other deities, when it came to Medical orders! He settled back in the pillows and allowed Lerner to shave him without harassing the man.

As he finished shaving Crane, the doorbell rang and Helen Crane answered it. Karen Davis Nelson stood at the door. She reached over and hugged the older woman.  "Morning, Helen, how are you today? You look tired."

Helen shrugged, a gesture that Karen recognized as one of Lee Crane’s as well.

"I’ve slept better. Lee didn’t have an easy night. None of us did."

"So I heard. Caitlin called."

"I see…"

"Is he any better than last night?"

"No. A little more quiet, but not better. He gave Frank and John a hard time about breakfast, just like he did at dinner last night. The only person he’s been civil to is Caitlin, and the only one he’s been even nice to is Robert. Thankfully his whole demeanor changes when Robert is around. Unfortunately, Robert sees a lot and doesn’t talk about it. So, no its’ not much better."

The two women had walked into the kitchen, and Helen handed Karen a mug of coffee.

"Harriman and I are planning an outing to Disneyland next weekend and, of course, Sean wants R.C. to come with us. Sean wants someone his own age to ride the rides with instead of us." She chuckled. "It might be good for R.C. to get away for a while."

"I think that sounds wonderful, Karen. And I approve! Yes, Robert can go with the three of you!"

"What about Lee?"

"What about him, Karen? He won’t stop Robert from going. He really doesn’t seem to care any longer. So, Robert is the most important person in this situation, and we’ll worry about him!"

"Helen, can I talk to Lee?"

"For whatever good it will do, Karen. He hasn’t listened to anyone yet!"

Karen took the mug of coffee with her and went into the Living room and to Crane’s bedside. Lee was staring out the window, and Karen touched his shoulder.

"Lee…?"

"Oh, hello, Karen. What brings you to the invalid’s bedside? Who’s complaining about me now?"

"Oh, are we in a foul mood today, Captain Crane, " she said in a sarcastic voice. "What makes you think I came because someone was complaining? I came for permission to take Robert on a trip to Disneyland with us this weekend. Helen said yes."

"Oh… good… He needs to get out of this apartment! He hasn’t gotten out too much lately…you can blame that on his father!"

Karen Nelson stood and looked at the man in the hospital bed. This was not the Lee Crane she knew and respected. Placing her cup on the stand next to it, she leaned over the railing and got within a foot of his face. She recognized all the signs. He had given into the fear.

"Lee Crane, cut me a break!!! Do you really think that you're the only person in the world who’s ever been afraid? Guess again, Mister!!!! You’re looking at a prime example here! And you know what the hell happened to me!! You were there, remember?"  She drew a quick deep breath and then continued.  "Everyone’s afraid of something at sometime in their lives!! But you can’t give up! You can’t let it conquer you! Because if you do, you lose all control of the entire situation! You, of all people, should know that!!"

She paused and took another deep breath, and continued her assault, looking him straight in the eye.  "I once let my fear take over what I was. I let it rule me! You saw what happened… You saw how it affected everyone around me, including Harriman. It wasn’t until I saw him so angry at me, doing the one thing that it hurt him so much to do, that I realized what I had become…"

She paused again. "You always wanted to know where I went to when I went off that time that he was kidnapped… Well, I went to a friend's cabin at Big Bear Lake and sat down and had a good hard look at myself. I realized that never had I ever given in. But this time I did...I let the fear win. I also realized that if I had any self respect for myself, that I had to ‘get back up on the horse’ so to speak, and get my ass in gear and come out of it!”

She reached over and touched his arm, her tone softening just a bit. "And so do you, Lee. So do you. Remember, my dear, there's a helluva lot of people out there that are in much worse shape than you are…and they’re going on with their lives." She looked at him and saw that her words didn’t seem to be sinking in, so her tone hardened again. "Now, if you want to wallow in self-pity, be my guest! But don’t expect any sympathy from me...or anyone else for that matter!! … I’ve been there, remember?…. And this certainly isn’t the first time that you’ve been hurt! You’ll heal, Lee. It may take longer this time, but you will heal…For God’s sake, Lee. If you don’t give a damn about yourself, then at least look at what it’s doing to Robert and your mother. Your son needs his father! And he doesn’t give a flying rat’s ass if you’re in this bed or not!! What he cares about is that you love him ‘cause he’s sure that he loves you, no matter what!!…Even if his father is being a royal pain in the ass right now."

She walked around to the foot of the bed, and planted both hands on the railing, leaning inward and glaring at him. Karen Nelson had no intention of giving up. She’d been there; she had allowed herself to give in. And she had lost her self-respect in the process. She didn’t intend to let Lee Crane do the same thing if she could possibly help it.

"Now, you can give into the ‘beast’ of self-pity, Lee or you can decide to start to help yourself," she pointedly told him as she turned to go. Then she turned back towards him and said thoughtfully, "Now, if you want help, you’ve got it! From all of us! But just remember the old saying, ‘The Lord helps those who help themselves…so get up off your proverbial damn ass and start helping yourself!!!"

She went towards the door, said goodbye to Helen, and left the apartment.

Helen stood in the kitchen doorway, slowly shaking her head…"Oh, my!" and she looked over toward her son. Lee looked even more sullen than before, and knowing that he was a storm cloud about to burst open, she opted to let the storm take place while she was out of the room, and she went to her bedroom to read for a while. She really didn’t want to talk to Lee at this time. And Lee needed to think about what Karen had said to him…and think about it a great deal!!!!

"Frank!" Lee called the corpsman, "Frank, I need your help here!"

Frank Lerner had watched and listened to the visit Karen Nelson had paid to Seaview’s Captain, and while he had thought she was a strong woman to begin with, she rose 100% further in his estimation with her confrontation with Crane. "That is one gutsy lady!! She didn’t even flinch from the Skipper’s ‘look’!"

He reached the bedside. "Yes, sir?"

"Could you give me a hand here? Nothing seems to be going right this morning."

He dropped the bedrail and reached in to the bed to help Crane sit more comfortably.

"Skipper, we have to get you ready for the therapy."

Crane grunted, and asked…."Get ready, right. Well, do you agree with Mrs. Nelson?’

"I wasn’t trying to listen in, sir."

"But you couldn’t help but hear her, could you?"

"No, sir, but I don’t think I should have anything to say about it."

"I know that you don’t want to think about it, Frank," he said angrily, "But do you agree with her?"

"I don’t have an opinion, Skipper. I just do my job, sir."

"Right… and answer to a higher authority…" Crane slightly sneered.

Frank grinned at Crane’s grudging attempt at humor…."Yes, sir… Skipper, the therapist said that you should be wearing sweats for the session…Do you know where your sweats are sir?"

Lee sighed heavily, "I don’t have a clue…You’d better check with my mother and find out where she put my things. I certainly can’t help you!" He rolled on his side and turned to the window.

"I’ll be right back, Skipper… the therapist will be here soon, sir." Lee nodded his head, and Frank went in search of Mrs. Crane.

Lee stared out the window at the sea. This was the first time in his life that the sea wasn’t calling to him. He had no interest in it at all. He didn’t care!! Why bother? If his hands didn’t work, what good was anything…he’d be a cripple all the rest of his life. Well, if that happened, he'd make sure he didn’t burden any one. There were ways and means of taking care of such things. He held one of his hands in front of him and looked at the apparatus that encased it. It was a combination of steel, bone screws and clips, wires, and bandages. The center of his hand was covered with a large gauze pad, palm and top, that was periodically changed, and antibiotics were periodically applied to all the screw sites. The brace extended up past his wrist, and the entire appliance had to be at least six to eight pounds of metal and steel. He saw Karen Nelson’s face in his mind. ‘I once let my fear take over what I was. I let it rule me ‘ she had said… no one understood his fear right now…no one! Was his fear ruling him? Was Karen right? His fears were different, though…she hadn’t faced the loss of the use of her hands…the end of her career…. or had she…?’

He put his hand back down on the bed…and Frank touched him on the shoulder…

"Skipper, I’ve found your Navy sweats, sir. I think the pants will fit, and I cut the sleeves out the shirt will too…"

"Fine, Frank, fine…do what ever you have to! Let’s just get it done, ok?"

"Yes, sir…" He helped Crane to a sitting position and started to help him dress…

 

 

Half an hour later, Lee was exhausted, and so were the two corpsmen. He was tired of trying… and there was only more to come today. It was 1030 and the therapist was due to arrive shortly…John offered,

"Captain, do you want something to drink? I mean before the therapist gets here."

Lee was tired, but he was thirsty too. "Yes, thank you, John." He said quietly. Frank offered, "Skipper, I’ve got the pain meds here. I’m going to give you a shot now, Ok?"

"No, Frank! No meds…let me wait until after the therapy. I suspect that I’ll need it more, after…I’ll just rest now…" John Warner held the straw to the water to Lee’s lips and he drank his fill, and then he closed his eyes and rested…

 

 

The therapist rang the bell furiously… Walter Bangs was a fairly big man, known to be good at his job and tough too. He was often handed the difficult and recalcitrant patients by his bosses… and he hadn’t failed one yet. This case, however, looked to be a real challenge. This Captain Crane had quite reputation at the military hospitals at Pearl and along the California coast. He was a most difficult man to deal with and according to his primary physician, there was a major problem with depression and anger…well, there wasn’t a patient yet that Walter Bangs couldn’t handle!! He’d see, he would!!

A very pleasant looking older woman answered the door. She smiled at him warmly, in a motherly way, and Walter Bangs felt comfortable with her immediately.

"Come in, Mr. Bangs…Will Jamison has spoken very highly of you!" she turned away from him and toward the man in the hospital bed…

"Lee…Lee… Mr. Bangs is here!!"

"Thanks, Mom… why don’t you bring him on over to the prize display!!" Crane waved his hands in the air…."Look Mr. Bangs…no hands!!! Let’s see how we can get me walking without them!!"

"Lee, he’s only here to do his job… and that is to get you out of that bed! I would prefer to get that out of here as soon as I can!"

"Right!" he muttered.

"Mr. Bangs, why don’t you come over here and meet your patient…"

Bangs moved towards the hospital bed…and he stuck out a hand in greeting.

"How do you do, Captain…" He reached the bedrail and grabbed at Lee’s arm…

"Those fixators are pretty ugly things, aren’t they? But they do good things for bad injuries!! Well, sir…we’ll worry about your hands after those things come off…Dr. Jamison said that you have at least a month more of them… in the meantime, the project is to get you up and walking around again. Your chart says that you were shot in both hips, thighs and the lower legs, too. " Lee nodded angrily. "It also says that the hipbones were chipped. Man, Captain, somebody really doesn’t like you much!!" Crane’s eyes smoldered angrily.

"I really don’t want to talk about it!"

"Ok, Captain…have it your way. Your chart says that you haven’t been out of bed for a month, but that before that you ran up to three miles on any given day that you weren’t on a mission? Then I guess that you were in pretty good shape?"

"I guess…" was the sullen reply.

"Well, then, that may make this easier, sir. May I have a look at the wounds, so I can assess any muscle damage?"

"Be my guest! I couldn’t stop you if I tried!! I’m not going anywhere!!"

Frank Lerner approached the therapist.

"I’m Frank Lerner and this is John Warner. We’re the corpsmen assigned to the Skipper by Doc Jamison. If we can do anything to help…"

"Well, I’d like to get a good look at the wound sites…It would help me set the therapy if I know what kind of muscle and bone damage I’m dealing with."

"Skipper…?" Frank asked.

Lee sighed heavily… "I told him to go ahead, Frank. Maybe if you help, it will get done faster!"

With a gentleness that surprised Lee, the therapist carefully examined the various wound sites, and he was very thorough, especially around the hips. When he finished, Lee was once again drained of all energy and in a great deal of pain.

"Captain, I ‘m sorry if I’ve caused you any discomfort, but I’m afraid that you’re going to be facing a lot more!! The damage to your hips doesn’t seem to be too bad. In fact, with the help of Warner here, I’d like to try and get you on your feet today. Just to stand, if that’s possible. I have a walker with me that may help us."

Lee looked at him with real anger in his eyes… "A walker??!!"

"Why, yes sir… just to get you up and somewhat stable… You’ll see, when I bring it in… "

"Come thru that door with a damn walker, and you can turn around and walk out with it!!! I don’t intend to use any such contraption!!!!"

"Captain Crane, if you’re going to get out of that bed, you have to start now!! And the only way, until we know what the situation is with your hands, is to use the walker to steady you and give you back balance, until you are used to being on your feet again!!"

"NO!"

"Captain Crane…"

"Bangs, let’s talk…" Frank Lerner pulled the therapist aside. The two talked earnestly while Crane glowered at them. Bangs went to the kitchen, where Helen Crane was making coffee and doing lunch sandwiches. He exchanged a few soft words with her and then left the apartment.

"Ok, Frank…" Lee growled at the corpsman…. "What are you up to now? It won’t work, you know… I won’t get out of this bed with a walker!!"

"Well, Skipper, I just do what I have to. And I have to help get you out of that bed…any way that I can!! And you know me, sir…I’ll do anything, as long as it’s legal to follow Doc Jamison’s orders!" He grinned at the Seaview’s Captain, and that only made Crane glower more.

Helen Crane came into the room and asked cheerfully, "Lee, would you like some coffee, dear? Or you, Frank? Or do you think that nice therapist might like some?"

Crane managed to glare at his mother, a withering glare that usually sent crewmen on the boat running to do the Captain’s bidding… His mother, however, merely smiled at him. "You’re in on what ever he’s planning, aren’t you?"

"What ever are you talking about, Lee?"

"I’m sure that you know exactly what I’m talking about, Mom. You and Frank, and that therapist!! What are you up to? It won’t work, you know!!! I don’t have to cooperate with any of you!"

"I swear, Lee Crane, sometimes, you are worse than a five year old child!!!"

She went back into the kitchen and Frank stood there grinning.

"And what are you smiling about, Frank?" barked Crane.

"Oh, uh, nothing Skipper…nothing at all!"

"Yeah, right!!!"

Just then the doorbell rang, and Helen Crane quickly answered it. In a voice that was almost too loud she said, "Why, hello, Caitlin…how are you today?"

"Hello, Helen. I was wondering how things were going…"

"Well, dear, " she linked her arm thru Caitlin’s and walked toward the bed. Lee groaned aloud, and Caitlin stared at him as Helen continued to talk, "you know Lee, don’t you? He’s being his usual charming self, as he always is when medical personnel are trying to help him. You know how he is." Crane continued to stare angrily at Helen. "Lee, Caitlin’s come by to see how you are doing with the therapy…why don’t you tell her, dear."

"What’s to tell? Hello, Caitlin!"

She smiled at him as she reached the bedside.  "Hello, Lee." She softly touched his arm, and continued, "I was wondering how you were doing today… You were so very angry yesterday, and I didn’t want to interfere, but, if I can help…"

The tone of his voice softened considerably when he spoke to Caitlin Davis. "I am sorry, Caitlin… I didn’t mean to get you upset. It’s just that this is so damn frustrating!" She heard the despair in his voice and wanted to comfort him, but she also realized that comfort was what he didn’t need…He needed someone to continue to kick him back to the person he was, not the despondent patient he was being.

"Well, I guess that you don’t need me around when you’re busy with therapy…"

"Does this look busy?" the edge of sarcasm crept into his voice. He shook his head, angry with himself. "Sorry again…"

She leaned over and said to him softly so only he could hear her.

"Stop telling me you‘re sorry, Lee Crane and do something about it instead! Use your anger, you dunce!! "

He looked at her amazed that she had spoken to him like that! This was interesting!! At that moment, the door opened and Bangs returned with the walker… Or at least a modified walker. Rather than the usual grips on the top of the rail, there were placed on each side a raised armrest. Apparently, it had been adapted so that he could lean on the rests, and not use his hands, but rather his arms to guide it while leaning on it for support at the same time.

"Here we go, Captain Crane. This should work real well for you to get going with!"

"And where do we think I am going? Dancing? Long walks in the park? I don’t think so!" Caitlin cast him a look of brewing anger, and he looked away.

"Alright, Captain Crane, why don’t we try and get you on your feet and standing for a few minutes or so today?"

"Why don’t we try and go away and leave me alone!!"

"No can do, Captain…I have to report progress each day…Dr. Jamison and Dr. Mulholland have given me very strict orders. You have to make progress, sir. "

Lee just glared at the man. Then he looked at the other faces staring at him, waiting for him to make his next move. All of them were determined to see that he do something that he didn’t want to do! Once again he was going to have to do something that he really didn’t want to do…didn’t want to doat that moment he remembered a conversation he had had with Robert over a year ago, about doing things that you didn’t want to do…but that you had to do…even if you didn’t want to do it… Robert…what about Robert… Lee sighed heavily, and he looked at Caitlin…

"All right," he said sounding defeated, "You all win…I’ll try. I’m not making any promises…I’m just saying I’ll try!!"

"That’s great, Skipper…that’s great! Let’s go Bangs…tell me what to do…"

Frank Lerner moved to one side of the bed, and giving Crane support from the back, he helped him sit up completely. Lee’s hands rested in his lap. And he sat a bit unsteadily. Frank kept his hand at Crane’s lower back, and asked, "How are you doing, sir?"

"A little dizzy…. I hope that it will pass quickly…"

"Well sir, let’s give it a few minutes, and then we’ll try more."

Caitlin slipped into the kitchen with Helen Crane. The older woman handed her a cup of coffee. "It was good of you to come over, Caitlin. I’m so glad that you are here for Lee. He needs someone like you, dear."

Caitlin blushed furiously, and quietly asked the older woman, "Is it that obvious?"

"Not to others, dear… But I can see it…" she smiled gently at the girl, and patted her on the arm, "Lee needs someone like you, Caitlin. So does Robert. He needs a father and a mother!"

"I… I love Robert, Mrs. Crane - he’s a dear, sweet, loving child. He’s bright, and charming, and HN says that he’s a natural scientist. He loves the sea, and the things in the sea…"

"He’s a lot like Lee as a child, before his father died, and things became so difficult for him. I didn’t help the situation at the time…and there was no support, like Lee and Robert have had…I had to manage on my own…"she paused for a moment. "You are good for Robert, my dear…and you are very good for my son, too."

Caitlin impulsively hugged the older woman. "I’m glad that you aren’t angry with me, Helen. I was afraid if you ever found out how I felt about Lee that you would think I was a foolish young girl, and not good enough for him!"

Helen hugged her back…"Don’t be silly, Caitlin! Since I’ve known you, I’ve known how special you are! And believe me, my dear, anyone that can love my son, has to be very special!! They have to share him with that boat of his, you know!!"

Caitlin laughed, "…. Like Mom has to share HN! I know!"

The two women shared a silent moment and then Helen gestured to the other room, "Perhaps we should go back inside, or a certain Captain will think that we are further conspiring against him!"

Caitlin laughed, and said, "Not when I get finished with him…I still have to give him ‘what for’ for frightening Robert like he did last night! He’s so unsure to begin with, and Lee hasn’t helped any with his rages!!!"

Helen nodded, "I know… I hope that you can do something with him…You’re my last hope! I know that I can’t!!"

She liked her arm thru the older woman’s, "I certainly intend to try!!"

The two women entered the Living Room area as the therapist; John and Frank were helping Lee to his feet. Bangs was holding the walker steady, as the corpsmen were helping Crane stand. Lee was having a problem maintaining his balance, as the room spun dizzily. He was very grateful for the support of the two men, although the entire process seemed useless to him… so what if he could walk, without the use of his hands, he still wouldn’t be able to do for himself! So why bother to walk. The room pitched to the right again, and he said to Frank, "I think I’ve had enough, Frank…Bangs…I’m standing still and the room is moving…I think I’d better sit back down!"

"Yes, sir! But at least we got you on your feet, tomorrow, we’ll try for a few steps!"

"Sure, tomorrow." He said flatly, and wearily sagged into the bed, as the corpsmen tried to help him find a comfortable position. He lay there, totally drained, and in a great deal of pain from his hips and legs, too weary to even fight with the therapist or the corpsmen. And when someone offered lunch, he didn’t argue, he just closed his eyes, and hoped that they would believe that he was sleeping. Within a few minutes, he was asleep, and the therapist made his notes and prepared to leave. He looked to Warner, and asked…

"Frank, what time would be the best time for me to come tomorrow? The Doctors want the Captain to have therapy every day. Until he is up and walking about on his own. As soon as the fixators come off, they said they’ll decide on the therapy for his hands. And they want to get him out… they seem to feel he needs to get outside, and he can’t do that if he isn’t walking."

Frank nodded. "Yep, the Skipper needs to be outside! Being inside is killing him…and the fact that he’s not on the boat…." And idea struck Frank as he talked to Bangs, and he had to talk to someone. ‘May be Miss Davis…’

 

 

Lee woke to someone gently shaking his shoulder, and a soft voice calling his name…it had been a dreamless sleep of total exhaustion, and had not really given him any rest…He wouldn’t sleep well until he knew the final outcome on his hands…

"Lee, can you wake up…?"

He opened his eyes to Caitlin Davis’ softly smiling face.

Shaking his head to clear it, he looked more closely at her, and then turned toward her.

He cleared his throat, "Yes, Caitlin… is something wrong?"

She continues smiling at him, "No, I don’t think so… as a matter of fact, there may be something more right!"

He looked at her, a question on his handsome face. "Something right? Not from my point of view, young lady." He smiled slightly at her.

She touched his arm, and smiled back… "Young Lady? Not that young, Captain…not that young!!" She paused for a moment. "Lee, I have a proposition for you, and before you protest, listen to me, first, ok?"

He nodded, amused at her tone of voice. She knew him very well!!

"First, this has Will and Dr. Mulholland’s approval." He raised an eyebrow in skepticism… "We thought that you might want to go an see how the work is coming on the boat. You can follow it with the computer, if you’ll let me show you how to use it, but we thought you may like to see it for yourself…."

"NO!"

"But, Lee, you know you are interested in what’s going on and we…"

"NO! I don’t want to go on the boat!!"

"Lee, it could be very good for you to see the men, and the boat herself, and…"

"You don’t understand, Caitlin. You just don’t understand…"

All of a sudden the storm cloud that was building in Caitlin Davis exploded… "I think I understand very well, Lee Crane!!! Very well! You're a stubborn, pig-headed, tight-assed, self-pitying man who’s only thinking of himself and what will happen to him if his hands don’t heal! You don’t care about anyone else but yourself, and you don’t want to!! All your noble, high - faluting platitudes about doing the ‘right thing’ and putting others first, is a crock of bullshit!!!! You're nothing but a phony! All you want to do is wallow in self pity, and say to yourself ‘Oh poor me…what am I going to do if my hands don’t work…I’ll just give up, and lie here and make everyone miserable because I am’… And while I’m at it, what about your son??? Do you know how much you have hurt him and frightened him, especially last night? Do you have any idea at all what you are doing to him, and to your mother? You’re driving them away from you! And you’re going to do that to every one who cares about you… And do you know what else? I don’t care! At this moment…even I don’t care!! I love you, you stupid foolish man, and even I don’t care!!!"

She turned on her heel and let the door slam loudly behind her.

Lee was shocked into silence. He’d never seen Caitlin so angry…almost as angry with him as Karen had been!!

‘Like mother like daughter.’… He lay there and reflected for a few moments. ‘Robert…what was he doing to Robert? He had promised Cathy he’d take care of their son…He wasn’t doing a very good job of taking care of things right now…Robert was frightened…He’d told him that when he had climbed into bed with him…Robert was so scared of the things that were going on right now, and he, Lee, wasn’t helping his son…He had to do something! Karen was right and so was Caitlin…But what if…well, maybe they all were right…maybe he should just wait and see, and deal with it when and if the worst possible thing did happen…He’d like to see the boat…to go aboard her…he did miss her…but he didn’t want to see his cabin…no, not that…not yet…maybe, if he could get up on his feet again he could get someone to take him to her…but he wouldn’t leave the apartment using that damned walker… No…he’d leave on his own power, or not at all!!…Maybe he could apologize to Caitlin, and maybe she could show him how to use the computer…but, first he had some fences to mend, and one scared little boy to comfort…’

 

 

Robert Crane burst into the apartment, a ball of excitement --

"GRAN!!....GRAN!...I did it!!! I won the science fair!!!" He skidded to atop as he saw his father look over toward him from the bed in the Living Room.

"Oh, I’m sorry, Dad!! I....I didn’t mean to disturb you...I’m sorry.... I..."

Lee looked at his son, surprised and also dismayed. Robert really was afraid of him!

"You’re not disturbing me, Robert! What is this news that you’re so excited about!!!!"

"I won the Science Fair, Dad.

Lee’s eyes glowed with pride at his son’s accomplishment and Robert read it in his father’s eyes.

"And just how did you do that?"

"Well, Dad, - the Admiral helped me plan it..."

"The Admiral?"

"Yes, sir...I told him about it and asked him for help...He gave me the idea, and let me use his lab to set it up...."

Lee was watching his son with growing interest.

"What is the project, Robert?"

"I built a salt marsh model, and the Admiral helped me get the animals together and showed me the materials I needed, and he helped me design it, but I did it myself...He didn’t do it for me!!...And I won the Grand Prize, Dad!"

"And what is that?"

"A trip to Sacramento in a month for the State Contest.... And two weeks from now, there’s an awards night at school - and the Admiral said he’d come with me, and..."

Robert saw the disappointment in his father’s eyes, at the mention of the trip and the awards night.... he touched Lee’s arm.

"Dad, its ok.... I know that you want to be there, but you can’t...the Admiral offered, Dad.... I called him from school to tell him....’

At that moment, Lee felt something ‘click’ inside, but he decided to keep his own counsel and let Robert continue....

"And in Sacramento, Dad, its a three day weekend, and if you win the State comps, you get to go to the Nationals in Washington DC, that’s two months away... and I know that you, and the Admiral and Uncle Chip go there a lot, but Dad, I’ve never been there! And the Nationals are a whole week long, and there’s all kinds of stuff to do.... The Smithsonian Science Museum.... and maybe, even Annapolis....!!"

Lee smiled at his son’s enthusiasm. It was good to see Robert excited about something, and to see those green eyes sparkling with such a passion for discovery! He cleared his throat, as memories of another time and place began to flood his mind, and he pushed them aside, to concentrate on Robert!!

"Why don’t you go and tell your grandmother - she’s been resting in her room.... and then come back in here and tell me more about it! Robert, this must be very exciting for you!" Forcing his voice to be enthusiastic, he told the boy, "I’m very proud of you son, very proud!"

"Thanks, Dad!" The youngster broke into broad smile and seemed to stand a little taller as he went down the hallway to his Grandmother’s room.

"Frank, can you come over here a moment?" Lee called the corpsman.

Lerner quickly came to the bedside. "Aye, Skipper?"

"Can you dial up Mr. Morton for me?" Frank perked up at Crane’s request. The Skipper was interested in something other than himself!"

"Sure, Skipper… I’ll put it on speaker phone for you!"

"Thanks, Frank… and when I’m finished with Mr. Morton, there are a couple of other things I need to do with your help…"

"Yes sir, Captain…. Yes, sir!"

 

 

Sometime around 1800 the doorbell rang. Robert went running to answer it and smiled as the door was opened and Chip and Matty Morton stood there.

"Hello, Robert…How’s it going…?" his godfather asked him as they came in the door… "I hear that you just won a Science Fair!!!" Matty bent over and kissed the little boy, "Congratulations, R.C.!"

Robert blushed and twisted his shoes together, and then he realized that the Morton’s were still standing in the doorway. "Come on in, Uncle Chip, Aunt Matty…Dad, Uncle Chip and Aunt Matty are here!! Gran…Gran!”

Chip and Matty went to Lee’s bedside, and Crane said softly, "Thanks, Chip…Matty!"

Chip put a hand on Crane’s arm… "NO problem, Lee!!!…I get a night out with my wife and a couple of good friends, and the Admiral and Karen get the kids for the night!"

Lee laughed. Robert returned to the room with Helen Crane. "Hello, Chip and Matty. What brings you here?"

"We thought that my Godson and his grandmother would like to go out to dinner at Joe’s to celebrate his achievement! What do you say, R.C.?"

"Yes!" He jumped up and threw a fist in the air, and then he looked at his father, who was smiling broadly at his son!! The little boy sobered immediately. "Oh, Dad…I …" his mood sobered…He looked at Chip and Matty, "Dad… I don’t have to go… I can stay here with you… "

Lee looked hard at his son, "No, Robert, I want you to go! And have a good time. We’ll celebrate at another time, just you and I. Go on now, have fun!!!"

"Do you mean it, Dad?"

Lee laughed, "Of course! Just bring your Grandmother home safely!"

"Yes, sir!! Where are we going, Uncle Chip? Is that that Italian restaurant downtown? " He pulled at Morton’s arm, and the adults followed out the door. Helen turned as they left, "We’ll be back in a while, Lee…I left dinner for you!"

"Have fun, Mom…Enjoy yourself, Robert!"

"Thanks, Dad!!"

 

 

A short time later the doorbell rang, and John Warner answered the door.

"Miss Davis, the Skipper’s expecting you, ma’am…"

"Thank you, John." She walked over to the bedside, and she said, quietly, if a little reserved, "Hello, Lee… You said you wanted to talk to me? Where are Robert and Helen?"

"Didn’t the Admiral let you know? Robert won the science Fair at school. He’s going to Sacramento in a few weeks to the State contest. I called Chip and asked him to take Robert and Mom out for dinner to celebrate… We couldn’t have much of a party here. I haven’t been the best of company…I’m sorry for giving you a hard time, Caitlin…. Thank you for telling me off!"

She offered him a very small smile. "You deserved it!"

"I know. You were right! I have been thinking only of myself, not Robert, or my mother… or anyone else for that matter!! I’m sorry if I offended you, or even worse hurt you!" he paused and said very softly, "I don’t want to hurt you…"

"Yes, Lee, it hurt, but there are more important things than my feelings to consider here…You’ve only hurt my feelings…I’ll get over it… but Robert…he needs for you to stop giving him these messages, by your behavior, that he doesn’t matter to you!!"

"Caitlin, he’s the most important thing in my life. You know that!!!"

"But right now, Lee, he doesn’t!! The night before you came home, he talked to me…actually, he cried to me. He doesn’t understand why you’ve been behaving the way that you have, Lee. He doesn’t know how you feel, and what’s going on in your head…all he knows is that you are treating him differently than you did before you were shot! All he knows is that you are angry all the time, that you are yelling at people, who you wouldn’t ordinarily yell at, that you are being down right mean to people. He’s a lost little boy, Lee Crane! He’s terrified of losing you! Your being shot wasn’t what scared him, because its happened before, and you’ve recovered, sometimes more slowly than others, but you’ve recovered. What’s frightening him is that you are not the same father that he’s known all his life. You’ve taught him to do the ‘right thing’, to put self last, and everyone and everything else first, no matter what. You’ve always been concerned for the ‘we’ and the ‘us’. All he sees, all any of us have seen this last month, is a man who is only concerned about ‘me’!! ‘I won’t be able to go on if my hands don’t work! I don’t want to go on like this! ‘ That’s not the Lee Crane that he knows, loves and respects, Lee. This is a very different person…"

"Maybe I am that different person, Caitlin…Tired of everything that I thought was important."

"Including your son?"

"No…not at all…if you had seen how happy he was with his news about the science fair… and the awards, and all of it. It was good to see him that excited again about something."

"He’s a son that any one would be proud to have, Lee. Any one!!"

"I am proud of him! I just didn’t realize what I was doing to him until you yelled at me earlier, and I thought about it." He smiled slightly at her and she blushed and smiled back.

"I’m not sorry!"

"I didn’t expect you to be. But how can anyone, as young as you are, understand what …"

"What you’ve been thru…? What exactly are you looking at if your hands don’t heal…? What, Lee…a different life, still surrounded by the people that love and care for you, if you have any of those left, and if you’ll let them get close again. It won’t change how Robert loves you, just because your hands don’t work… It shouldn’t change Lee Crane the person…Just the packaging and if you are too proud or stubborn, or obstinate to realize that the package isn’t important, then you are further gone than I thought!"

He lifted his hands in the fixators; the sleeves of the blue robe sliding down his arms with the movement "Alright, then, look at this, Caitlin! For just one minute look at this...and tell me that it won’t make a difference!"

She took both of his hands, in the fixators, in her hands, looked straight into his eyes, and said to him, very slowly and softly, "Lee… these don’t make one bit of difference… These don’t matter if the Lee Crane that they are a part of is the same man that I’ve known for these past years… in fact, if I had the time, and the opportunity, I’d show you how little difference they make!!"

He looked at her quizzically, and wondered exactly what she meant. Then he recalled something that she had said when she was yelling at him…’Even I don’t care!! I love you, you stupid foolish man, and even I don’t care!!!’’

"Caitlin…? You said…"

"I said a lot…maybe too much!” She looked at him, deep into his amber-hazel eyes. She saw the pain and frustration that was there, so close to the surface, and the deeper pain that lay there as well. He in turn saw the something that he hadn’t seen in a long time in someone’s eyes…he saw love! He was startled, but he shouldn’t have been… Caitlin had tried to tell him… had told him…but how… why…?

She continued, "There are a lot of ways to heal, Lee. A lot of ways…." She touched his arm, and then said to him, "Here, I’ll plug in the computer and I’ll show you how this will work… We can get the ‘puter up and running and when Robert comes home, we can show you how to get the games going, so he can play them with you… He really wants to do anything he can to help you, you know!!! And further more, there are others who want to help, too."

Caitlin put the computer on the hospital table, plugged in the two lines and leaned over in front of Lee to make an adjustment. As the day before, her hair fell close to his face and again he was assaulted by its sweet scent. He found it surprisingly intoxicating. She leaned backward; her head near his and spoke to him, most softly, pointing out several different features as she spoke to the computer. She did nothing to try to get his attention, yet, now, he was aware of her in a very different way!

After working with the computer for a few minutes, she turned to him and asked, "Did you have dinner? You sent Helen and Robert out…what about you and Frank and John?"

"My mother left dinner...she said…in the oven…" She straightened, touched his arm ever so lightly, and went out to the kitchen. His eyes followed her until she went thru the doorway. He put his head back on the pillows. He looked down at his hands and sighed. There were so many things against this…He was so much older, there was Robert, the boat, and not the least, the Admiral…

"Let’s see what’s here…" She opened the refrigerator, "There’s some wine, Lee, would you like some?"

Hesitantly he said, "That might be a change…but…with the meds I’ve been taking…"

"If we’re careful, I’m sure it won’t be a problem…" She giggled, "Neither one of us are driving!" She came out of the kitchen with two wine glasses, put them on the table, and let down the rails at the side of the bed. She perched on the edge of the mattress, and held a glass to his lips. He took a sip, as she sipped hers and then she put both glasses down…

"It looks like Helen left some roast, and potatoes, a salad…and some very sweet pudding…Maybe she’s trying to sweeten your mood, Lee?"

He laughed, "It’ll take much more than pudding…"

"You’re not telling me something I don’t know already, Captain!" She stood up and went back into the kitchen and he heard her pick up the phone, and talk softly into it. Lee was smiling to himself...’she was a complex girl…No, make that woman…very complex woman!!’

Just then, she called from the kitchen, "Frank, John, could you come here, please…?"

The corpsmen looked at each other and then at Crane. He shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. He was as curious as they were…

"Yes, ma’am…" The corpsmen went into the kitchen and several minutes later, Caitlin was seeing them to the door.

Frank and John hesitated at the door. "Miss Davis, are you sure that this is ok? I mean did Doc Jamison say that it was alright?"

"Frank, you and John have been here, on call 24 hours, for that last two days…! Time off is certainly ok! You both need it! Will said for the two of you to take some R&R; don’t come back here until tomorrow morning, and no ands, ifs, or buts, about it! Now, shoo!!!"

"But…"

"I can contact Will if I need anything of an emergency nature. Don’t worry!"

"Yes, Ma’am!"

She gently pushed the two men out the door and closed it. Then she came back to the bed.

"I hope that you don’t mind, Lee. I just thought that we could talk a little more easily if we were alone." She sat back on the mattress, and gave him a sip more of the wine. She held the wineglass in her hand and ran her finger slowly around the rim. Then she dipped her finger in the glass, and placed it in her mouth. She licked it slowly and then placed it in the glass again. This time, she ran her finger around his lips, and then, quickly pulled it away. She offered him more, and after he drank, she drank slowly from the same glass. She shared first one glass with him, and then the other…she stood then, and bent over, brushing his face with her hair, coming tantalizingly close to him and then she moved away, catching the wine glasses in her hand and moving slowly towards the kitchen, her hips moving to some unseen rhythm. He caught his breath. It had been so long since he’d felt like this!…My God, look at Caitlin… that little nerdy girl, that had come to the Institute with her mother years ago had grown into quite a beautiful woman. She had tried to tell him, that she was indeed a woman, right after Nelson and her mother had married. She had kissed him, at the airport. Kissed him quite expertly, too! Jealously, he wondered who had taught her that! He looked at her again. This girl/woman was stirring something in him that had been dormant for years… not since Cathy had he felt like this! In his heart, those green eyes, would always have a place, but these blue ones, warm, and caring…and so much love there! But she was so young!! At least in comparison to him…yet, there was something there…could he allow himself to love again? Should he? something told him he wasn’t going to have a choice He smiled as he heard her in the kitchen, and he was anxious for her to return to his side! She came with a single plate of food and a single glass of wine.

"I thought that we could share, " she said mischievously. She set the plate, and a fresh glass of wine down on the bedside table, and then perched on the edge of the bed, hitching herself next to him. A twinkle of amusement played in his eyes.

"Wine or dinner? I had to promise Frank that you’d eat dinner…if you don’t, he’ll yell at me tomorrow!"

"He won’t know if you don’t tell him, will he?"

"I did promise, and I don’t break my promises, Captain!"

"Never?"

She shook her head. "Never!"

"Ok, then…Dinner…I can’t be contributing to you breaking a promise, now can I?"

She shook her head somberly, "Oh, no sir…not at all! Dinner it is then!"

She delicately speared a piece of meat, and brought it to his lips. He took a bite of it, and then she took the rest of it and slowly placed it in her mouth, chewing it carefully. When she swallowed it, she ran her tongue ever slowly around her lips, and reached for the wine glass. Locking her eyes into his, she sipped from the glass, ran her tongue around the rim of the glass, and offered the glass to him. After he had taken some, she put the glass back on the table, and leaning forward, brushed his lips with hers. His response was more than enthusiastic, and when she pulled away, she was gasping a bit for breath

"Caitlin…! I…"

At that moment the phone rang, and she jumped from the bed to get it. Composing her voice, she answered, "Crane residence. Caitlin Davis here."

From the other end of the phone, Harriman Nelson’s voice resonated…"Oh, Caitlin…helping Lee with the computer?"

"Yes, HN." She smiled at Lee, though he didn’t know the question that his friend and CO had asked "What’s up?…How’s the babysitting going?"

"That’s why I’m calling. Karen and I are coming over to the apartment in about ten minutes. Chip called from the restaurant and asked of we could bring the children there, so that they could go home without stopping at our house. And I just wanted to warn Lee that he was about to invaded by a horde of very young, and very active, barbarians!"

Nelson laughed, and so did she…"Ok, HN, I’ll tell him. See you very soon, HN!" Caitlin hung up the phone and looked at Lee. "The Admiral and my mother will be over here in a few minutes. Seems Matty and Chip called and asked if they all could meet here, and collect the associated offspring…" She leaned over to him and lightly brushed his lips with hers… "We’ll have to put this discussion on ‘hold’ for a while, I’m afraid… But you will have to eat some of this dinner, you know…"

He smiled at her. "There’s always the dessert!"

"There are always possibilities, Captain!!" she threw at him, smiling, and then proceeded to help him with his dinner…

 

 

Some fifteen minutes later, the doorbell rang and Caitlin answered it. A slightly frazzled Harriman Nelson stood in the doorway. Sean Nelson hung onto his father’s leg, and young Drew Morton, pulled frantically at Nelson’s arm…. Karen Nelson stood behind her husband, holding a squirming, almost one-year old Catherine Morton in her arms, while Alex Morton stood beside her.

"Hi, HN…hi, Mom...looks like you all’ve been busy!!"

"Yes, quite!" was her stepfather’s reply, as he strode into the apartment.

"Hello, Caitlin," her mother greeted her warmly, and kissed her on the cheek.

Sean Nelson marched over to Lee’s bedside, before the Admiral could get there, and pulled himself up to his full five-year old height. He hadn’t seen Lee Crane since before the shooting. "Uncle Lee!" he demanded, "Are you sick? Why are you in this bed in the middle of the Living Room? What are those things on your hands? Do they hurt? They look awfully funny!! Where’s R.C.?"

Lee turned slightly to face the little boy, and answered him, smiling at the child as he did. "Well Sean, you asked a lot of questions. Shall I try to answer them one at a time?"

"Yes, please, Uncle Lee!"

"Okay…first yes, I am sick, that‘s why the bed is here and I’m in it. Right now, I’m having a hard time walking, which is why I’m in bed."

Sean reached out to touch him, a somber look on the little boy’s face. "I’m sorry, Uncle Lee!"

"It’s ok, Sean…. Shall I answer the rest of the questions?"

Sean nodded seriously, and Lee answered him just as seriously.  "My hands are in these because my hands were hurt, and these may make them better… and yes, they hurt… sometimes a lot!!" Harriman Nelson had moved behind his son as Lee continued to talk to Sean. "And for your final question, R.C. is out with Chip and Matty. I take it he should be home soon." He looked at Nelson, who ruffled his son’s hair.

Nelson looked down at the 5 year old. "They should be home any minute, Sean. Right now, why don’t you help Alex entertain Drew, so that I can talk to Lee?"

"Ok, Poppa…and Uncle Lee…"

"Yes, Sean?"

"I hope that you get better soon, and that it doesn’t hurt so much!!"

Lee smiled at the little boy, "Thank you, Sean."

Nelson looked with a great deal of pride at his son, and then looked back at Lee, "Well, lad, how are you really doing?"

Lee tried to shift his position in the bed, and when he couldn’t he just looked at Nelson, with a resigned air, "About the same, sir. But I’ve had a few discussions with a couple of very determined ladies and some of what they said hit very close to home!!! … I have been something of a son of a bitch, haven’t I?"

Nelson laughed heartily, "Yes, Lee, you have! Some of it not with out good reason… however…it is getting a bit difficult to tolerate! It’s been a long time! "

"Yes, sir, I know that. It’s going to be an even longer time before things are back to normal," he sighed, "If they ever get back to normal! I don’t know, Admiral…"

"As I’ve said before, Lee, we’ll do it together. All of us!"

"Admiral, I want to thank you for all that you’ve done for Robert. You should have seen the look in his eyes when he came home with his news! I also appreciate the offer to go to the Awards night, and the offer to take him to Sacramento. He’s really excited about it!!"

"That’s why I was glad that Chip asked us to meet him here. I did want to congratulate him. He’s a fine boy, Lee. You should be very proud of him!"

"You’re the second person tonight to tell me that! I am proud of him. Very proud! And I told him so before he left!"

Karen Nelson approached the bed at that moment. Caitlin was deep in a lot of laughing and giggling with the three older children. Karen was holding Catherine Morton. She stood next to the Admiral. "Still talking to me, Lee?"

He smiled crookedly, "The question is… are you still talking to me?"

She smiled at him, "Of course, my friend. I know exactly where you are right now! Anything I can do to help you, you have it. All you have to do is ask me!"

Nelson slid an arm around her waist, and pulled her close to him. "All you have to do is to ask either one of us, Lee! Just ask!"

 

 

The little group seated around the hospital bed laughed at the story that Chip finished telling them about Sharkey and the rat on the boat. Lee had been listening to Chip’s tale, but something had caught his thoughts and he had gone a long way off. Caitlin reached out and touched his arm, bringing his attention back to the group. At that moment, four children charged, laughing, into the room. Leading the way was Robert Crane, followed by Alex and Drew Morton, with Sean Nelson bringing up the rear guard. The four collapsed onto the floor in a pile of giggles and whispers, and then Sean stood and walked imperiously over to his father. His five-year-old frame resembled his father’s build, and he mimicked his father’s walk whenever he had a demand to make of him.

"Poppa, can R.C. come and sleep over at our house tonight? We have to make plans for our next mission!"

Karen Nelson looked at father and son together, and smiled at them. She knew that if it were at all possible, that Sean would have his way!

Harriman Nelson bent toward his son, "Well, now, Sean. I’d say that we first have to ask you mother, and then, perhaps, your Uncle Lee might have something to say. So go and ask your mother, first." He gave the little boy a gentle pat and sent him toward his mother’s side.

With equal determination, he presented himself to his mother. "Momma, can he?"

"It’s fine with me, if R.C’s daddy agrees." Not to be deterred, Sean marched to Lee’s bedside. The Seaview’s Captain had been watching the scene unfold. Sean wanted to talk to his uncle, so he found a stool and climbed up on it, leaning on the guardrails of the bed. "Uncle Lee… I want R.C. to stay over night at my house… Please!"

"Does Robert want to come over, Sean?"

Sean nodded affirmation vigorously, his red curls bouncing. And his blue eyes looking hard at Crane.

"Yes he does, Uncle Lee! He said so!"

Lee pretended to think for a moment and then replied, "I think that it will be fine, Sean. Of course!"

"Thanks, Uncle Lee!! R.C., you can come over!! Get your sleeping bag!!"

The two boys ran down the hallway followed by Helen Crane and Harriman Nelson. At that moment, Catherine Morton decided to fuss for attention, and Matty Morton, baby in one arm, rose to collect the other two children, and prodded her husband.

"Chip, its way past Catherine’s bedtime. We’d better go… Lee, you must be exhausted with all this company!"

Crane smiled at her. "Not really. It’s good to have friends around. And the children, too! That’s good for Robert." She leaned over the guardrail and kissed him on the forehead.

"It’s good to see your spirits, improving, Captain! I’ve been missing you, my friend!"

"Thanks, Matty. I hope that I’m back to stay! I think I’ll have to take it day by day!"

Chip Morton clapped a hand on Lee’s shoulder. "Lee, I’ll load the new reactor specs tomorrow morning, so that you can call them up tomorrow afternoon and see if it all makes some sense to you. Then you can enter any changes and we can conference about them."

“Thanks, Chip. There are also a couple of questions that I have about the Control Modifications that I saw on the specs. Maybe you can get the Admiral in on the conference."

"Good idea, Skipper, " he grinned. "I’ll talk to you then. Nite!" He called down the hallway, "See you in the morning, Admiral! Thanks, Helen" he reached down and hauled Drew into his arm, and took Alex’s hand in the other. " ‘Nite, Caitlin, Karen." Matty carried the baby and they left.

Harriman Nelson came out of the hallway with Sean hanging on his arm, and a sleeping bag slung over his shoulder. He smiled at Karen, "Looks like we’re ready to go, Karen. Sean why don’t you walk with mom, and I’ll follow with R.C. and his things."

Sean went to his mother’s side. Karen Nelson leaned over the bedrail and touched Lee’s arm. "Matty’s right, Lee. I’m glad that you‘re spirits are coming back. Harriman has missed you!"

"Thanks, Karen. I know I’ve been a real bastard. I am sorry!" He smiled ant her and she returned it warmly.

"I know where you’re coming from, Lee, believe me. And I know how hard it is!"

"Thanks for all the moral support. "

"Night, Uncle Lee. Thanks for letting R.C. come over!"

Crane smiled at Nelson’s son. "I’m glad that he has a friend like you, Sean."

Robert stepped on the stool and kissed his father. "Nite, dad. I’ll see you in the morning, ok?"

"Ok, Robert. Have fun, but be good for the Admiral and Aunt Karen."

"Yes, Dad, I will." He kissed Helen, "Nite, Gran…yes, I know, I’ll be good."

"Nite, HN, Mom, Sean. I’ll talk to you in the morning!"

"Good night, Caitlin." The three chorused at once. The two children were reduced to giggles as the adults finished saying goodbye, and the Nelsons left. Helen stood in the doorway of the kitchen.

"Lee, if you and Caitlin don’t mind, I’m going to turn in. I’ve had a headache for the last hour or so and I’d like to take a pill and go to sleep. Caitlin, when you leave, would you turn on the speaker so that I can hear Lee if he needs me."

Crane protested, "Mom, I’ll be fine! Go and get some rest. It’ll be a quiet morning here, so sleep in."

"Now, Lee…."

"Helen, I’ll turn that speaker on when I leave. Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"No dear, good night!"

She walked down the hallway and they heard the door close. Lee let out a long held breath. "I know she means well…"

"She does, Lee, she does…" The lights in the room had been turned off, and the curtains on the balcony doors pulled wide to allow the light from the brilliant full moon to stream in. The room took on a bluish cast. Caitlin sat on the edge of the bed, and tentatively ran her hand down the side of his face…He raised an eyebrow in question. She leaned forward and kissed him lightly. He carefully wrapped his arms around her, not wanting to hurt her in any way, but feeling the desire to hold her close. She relaxed in his arms, her head resting on his chest. For a few minutes, neither spoke.

‘It feels good to hold someone close like this! It’s been so long…so very long…she was so gentle…so kind to Robert, to his mother… she said she loved him! Had loved him for years!”

Softly, "Caitlin…"

"Yes, Lee?"

"Since you were 17?"

"Call it a crush, at least at first. I knew that you were married. That put you off limits. And you were so busy all the time, when you did talk to me; I thought that you were just being kind. So I just stepped back, and watched. Just because I told you at the time that uniforms didn’t impress me, that didn’t mean that you didn’t impress me!”Sadly and more softly. "I can’t tell you how sorry I was when Cathy died. I liked her Lee. She was always so very kind to me." She looked into his eyes and saw the pain and hurt that still resided there. She also knew that she would do all in her power to remove some of that beginning now!

"Then when Mom and HN got married, I figured it was time to let you know how I felt. I thought that if I kissed you, you would start to think about it…. But you didn’t! Talk about feeling exasperated. I felt that I’d have to hit you in the head with a two by four to make you wake up and take notice. Even when Sean was born, and that pseudo DEA guy was hanging around, I thought you felt something!! But, man - oh – man, Lee Crane, when it comes to recognizing feelings, you are slow on the uptake!"

He smiled at her, somewhat sadly, and said, "Maybe I just didn’t want to admit it!"

She turned her face up to his and he bent his head down, slightly, to kiss her, gently at first, and then with a growing urgency. She pulled herself closer to him, and ran her hand across his chest.

He looked down into twin pools of crystal blue. Her eyes locked into those smoky amber hazel ones…

He held her tighter, feeling the warmth of her against him, and experiencing feelings that he never thought he could feel again. She sighed softly and he felt his emotions stirring. She took his face in her hands and kissed him firmly on the lips, her sweet tongue darting quickly in and out of his mouth. He pulled her closer and returned the kiss, slowly pushing his tongue into her mouth and gently exploring its sweetness. His kiss left her breathless and wanting…she pushed against him, and ran her hands over his face and chest. He kissed her face, her chin and trailed kisses down her neck. She returned his kisses, with kisses of her own on his face, his neck and light fluttering kisses across his chest, teasing him with their delicacy, and arousing him as he had not been in too long.

Gracefully, without his even being aware of how, her blouse and bra slid to the floor. Her silken flesh moved against his bare chest, and he groaned with frustration and wanting, He wanted to stroke and caress her, to feel her soft, silken skin beneath his fingers…but he couldn’t! Anger began to replace the passion, and sensing that, she kissed him, most passionately and said softly to him, "Ssshhh…. Lee, don’t. Let me, this time…we’ll have plenty of time. Another time… Another place… Just let me…if you want…"

"Want…?" he asked hoarsely, " I have… I do…but, Caitlin, I’m so much older… there’s Robert… the Admiral...and…"

She put a finger to his lips, to silence him and followed it with a warm and hungry kiss. "Don’t talk… don’t think…Just let me…" She leaned forward and brushed his lips with hers…He pulled her into as tight an embrace as his hands would allow, without hurting her, and returned her kiss with a growing passion.

"Oh… Lee…" she whispered in a soft voice already husky with desire.

"Caitlin…" his voice was just as hoarse with overwhelming intensity.

Taking this for permission from him to continue, she leaned forward and kissed him, again, gently at first and then with growing fervor. In a few moments, he realized that somehow, she was no longer wearing her skirt, and panties, and the she was now, lying there next to him, completely naked.

The moonlight made her skin glow blue-white, and she took her hands and slid them slowly down and then up her body, smiling provocatively at him. She took two fingers, slid them into her mouth, and out and then, as he watched mesmerized, she traced a path around each breast, and nipple and down between them, towards the core of her womanhood. She leaned forward slightly, and she rubbed the two fingers into her honeyed place and then took them, and reached toward him and slid them into his mouth. Eyes locked to hers with burning desire and he licked and then sucked them. She drew them slowly from his mouth and slid them back into hers. She leaned forward, pressed her lips gently to his and was rewarded with kisses were more hungry and demanding than before. Her hands slowly moved down his body, opening the pajama pants and sliding them down off his hips and smiling at the response she had drawn from him.

"Thank you, Captain, for the salute!" she whispered huskily.

He shifted slightly and wrapped his arms around her and pulled her toward him. Her soft body slid against the length of his hard lean one, that even prolonged illness could not diminish, and she sighed, contentedly. His lips met hers and the taste of her, still lingering in his mouth now mixed with the taste like sweet wine, as his tongue explored every inch of her mouth and then his kisses roamed to her neck and her shoulders. She shifted and pulled herself up and brought her breasts even with his lips. He brushed his lips against one and then the other, and pulling her closer, captured one rosy nipple between his teeth, and gently pulled at it, capturing much of the soft, delicate flesh, in his mouth. She gasped at the sensation as he began to suckle at it. She arched her body toward him. He turned his attention to the other breast as she moved against him. He held her close, drinking the scent of her. She ran her hands over his face, and shoulders, holding him equally close.

Her hands continued to move down his body, and he released his embrace slightly. She moved her hips rhythmically against him, and he felt her sliding toward his manhood. She reached down, stroking gently as it hardened against her. Lee groaned with pleasure, and she smiled at him, sensuously. She held him in her two hands, for but a moment, and then rose up to mount him. He watched her, curious at her slight hesitancy, but being driven by a need too long unsatisfied, and he slowly moved his hips toward hers. Her hesitance was drowned out by desire, and she moved in a downward motion, to help him pierce, and enter her innermost self. He felt a brief resistance and then slid into her warm moistness, surrounded and entrapped by its sweetness. She felt his largeness as she pulled him within, and felt the resistance, as he came against the slight barrier, but instinct now made her push hard, and the barrier gave, with a slight pain and then the wonderful hardness of him filled her, driving away any discomfort. She settled onto him, and slowly began to move her hips with his, matching his movements. She was stroking his face, his chest, kissing him, her hunger building, seeking satisfaction. He was holding her close, kissing, sucking at her breasts, his building need, rapidly approaching its’ peak. He was trying to hold himself, to give to her the satisfaction that she sought, first, but his control, so long dormant, was rapidly disintegrating. They were moving together as one, when she let out a cry as she reached her peak, and his followed thereafter, and she lay against him, and he wrapped his arms around her, and held her to him.

Time seemed suspended for them, and she lay there feeling more content than she ever had in her whole life. No matter where this took them, this is what she had desired. She wanted had Lee Crane to be her first lover, her ONLY lover. She wanted Lee Crane to love her as she loved him. She let her hand gently graze his chest, and she sighed contentedly. Her legs were wrapped around his long lean ones.

He let her lay there, desperately wanting to stroke her hair, and run his hands down her smooth skin. For now, he had to settle for just holding her close. Damn! There was so much more he wanted to give her…. to do for her!

She sighed in contentment, and he looked at her, lying here, with him. She was beautiful! Tiny, like…he pushed the thought from his head… He wanted to treat her like the special woman she was…he wanted to make love to her his way, not like this. He couldn’t do much for her and she deserved to have more, much more!

She sighed again. He shifted his arm slightly to try to make her more comfortable, and the movement caused her to stir. She gently pulled his face towards hers and kissed him. "I love you. I will always love you."

He kissed her lightly on the top of her head, and again, breathed in her fragrance … "Caitlin… I … I can’t…"

"Don’t say anything else. This is the way that I wanted it to be. I hope that you did too. There’s nothing more to be said, for now. You know how I feel, that’s all…"

She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him again. Then she said, quite reluctantly, " I think that I had better go. The last thing in the world I want to do is upset Helen. And if she finds me here, she may get very upset." She smiled at him, "You’ll have more explaining to do than you’d care to." She lightly slid from the bed, and bent to pick up her clothes. He watched her, riveted to her movements by her grace, and total lack of embarrassment in her nudity. She dressed quickly, watching him as she did, and as she finished, she gave him a dazzling smile and leaned over to him… "And now, Captain, we have to get you settled…"

 

 

Helen Crane turned in her sleep and waking looked at her clock. 0300.

The light on the monitor was still off. Was everything ok with Lee? Caitlin had promised to turn it on when she left. She wouldn’t forget to would she. Helen started to sit up and then stopped. Maybe Caitlin hadn’t left yet! That could be! Maybe she and Lee were still talking…or maybe… after all the girl was in love, deeply in love with her son…Helen lay back on the pillows… maybe…

 

 

Caitlin had left the apartment quietly. Lee lay there in the bed, reflecting on the last few hours. He was truly in turmoil! He felt as he hadn’t felt in years…Caitlin had stirred emotions he thought were long dead. She had shocked him into realizing that he was still alive, even though Cathy was dead. He wondered as he drifted off to sleep, listen and watching the ocean and finding in it once again, the peace that it had brought to him so many times before…

 

 

Caitlin Davis also lay awake after she had returned to her apartment, and gone to bed…what did Lee think of her? He didn’t reject her after they’d made love…he didn’t act appalled or repelled by her forward behavior…he didn’t say anything that would indicate he didn’t want to see her again, in fact he had asked her to come back to the apartment to help him with the computer in the morning… he had asked her to continue to help him with it as long as he needed help…she smiled to herself… lying there in his arms, she had gotten a new awareness of herself…never had she felt so cherished and so loved…even though’ he couldn’t touch her the way he wanted to, the way that she wanted him to, he had held her and he had loved her…the only question was did he love her… she believed that he did, in some secret place within him that he had not yet discovered…she believed he did…

 

 

At 0930, Walter Bangs rang the doorbell at the Crane apartment. After yesterday’s encounter with Lee Crane, he was set for a difficult session. Crane was going to be a real challenge to work with. He’d had difficult patients before, but this man was unique! Then again, he had been warned by Dr. Jamison to expect the worse and then it would get even worse than that! Well, he was up to the challenge. Question was, was Lee Crane?

Helen Crane answered the door with a smile, "Good morning, Mr. Bangs. How are you today?"

"Well, thank you, Ma’am. How is the Captain today?"

"In very good spirits, Mr. Bangs…"

"Please, Ma’am…call me Walter. I like to have a certain amount of informality with my clients. It helps when things get rough."

"All right, Walter…Lee is in a very good mood this morning… I’d grab at it as I don’t know how long its going to last. Frank persuaded him to take his pain meds before you came, so that he won’t be so uncomfortable when he stands and tries to walk. And his over all mood is good too!"

Bangs walked over to Crane’s bedside. Warner and Lerner were at the Dining Room table, ready to assist when and if they were needed. Bangs noticed a subtle difference in Lee’s mood, from yesterday’s.

"Good Morning, Captain…"

"Good Morning, Bangs…What say that we get this whole thing started…?"

"Yes, sir. I’d like to get some exercises on the hips and legs and then maybe a few steps?"

"Fine…" he said brusquely, knowing the level of discomfort and frustration that he would face, he just wanted to do it while he was feeling positive about the experience. Warner and Lerner exchanged smiles as they saw a bit of the old Captain Crane begin to resurface. "… Let’s just get to it!"

Bangs let the bedrail down, and motioned to the corpsmen to join him….

"Captain, I want you to sit up and then we’ll see how well you can use your legs. You’ll have to let me know what your limits are and when to stop…"

 

 

Forty-five minutes later Bangs was saying goodbye to Helen Crane. She was thanking him for his time, and patience with Lee.

"Walter, thank you so much! We all appreciate how you are working with Lee. I know that he is so difficult. You seem to be helping him… did he make progress, today?"

"Yes, Ma’am. The Captain is going to do real well if he maintains the attitude he had today!! Why I’ll bet he’ll be walking in a couple of weeks without any help, although he’ll need some one with him as long as he has those fixators on his hands. They’d set anyone’s balance off, even if they didn’t have the Captain’s other problems. Anyway, Ma’am… At least we know that there wasn’t any damage to his legs in his ability to walk. There was some damage to the hipbones, and that’s what is giving him the problems with walking. According to the x-rays and from what I can see from the exercises today, it’s pretty much healed…we just have to get him used to using the legs and hips again… A month is a long time to be in bed…but if Captain Crane works every day as hard as today, things will progress quickly! I’m encouraged, and I think Drs. Jamison and Mulholland will be as well!"

"Walter, that is some of the best news that I’ve had in a long time! I’ll bet that Lee was pleased with the news, too" Impulsively she gave him a hug, "Thank you!"

Bangs blushed, and stuttered… "Thank you, Mrs. Crane. Yes, the Captain was better today, I think! I’m optimistic, but let’s not celebrate quite yet!! We have a long way to go!!"

"Oh, I understand, Walter. But it is good news!"

"Have a good day, Ma’am. I’ll be back same time tomorrow!"

Helen closed the door behind the man, and said a silent prayer of thanks. " I wonder what really happened at with Lee and Caitlin last night? Whatever transpired, it has certainly turned my son’s attitude around!! Thank you, Lord, for whatever she did!"

She walked over to the bed; Lee was lying back on the pillows, eyes closed. He looked exhausted! Poor Lee! She shook her head slowly. "He’s been through so much! He deserves to have some happiness! Maybe he can find some with Caitlin! Just maybe…"

She reached over and touched his arm. He turned wearily toward her. "Mom…?"

"Lee, dear, Caitlin called and wanted to know when she should come over. She knew that you’d be tired…I told her that this afternoon would be better. Around 1400."

He smiled at her. "Thanks. Maybe I’ll be up to it by then. I’m just wiped out right now…and it hurts like hell!!!"

"I’m sorry, Lee. I wish I could help you more!"

"You’ve done so much for Robert and me since Cathy died, Mom! So much!! It’s you that I should be helping, not the other way around!! I’m sorry for all the grief I’ve given you!!"

"You don’t have to apologize for anything, Lee. You are my son! Robert is my grandchild! I want to help you as much as I can. I love the both of you!" she patted his arm. "I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to help you!"

"Thanks Mom. I appreciate All that you’ve done, especially recently!!"

"I know, Lee…I know!!" A tear slid down her cheek. She pushed the few stray strands of hair from his forehead. Then she bent over and kissed his forehead. She turned and left the room. He looked out the window again, to the sea… The Patio doors were opened and a soft breeze blew into the apartment. He was relaxed… there were still some milestones ahead, but he was beginning to believe that it would all work out. And in his heart, he realized that Caitlin Davis was going to be a part of it!

 

 

Several days later…

Caitlin sat on the edge of Lee’s hospital bed as he softly spoke to the computer, and watched the information scroll the screen. "See that, Caitlin? That’s where the new Computer and inertial navigation system have been put into the boat. Chip says that your work has really been an improvement in the INS." She looked over at the man in the bed. There had been a marked change in Lee Crane since the night they had spent together. She had no idea if that was what had spurred this change. But at least there had been a change!! She edged closer to him and laid a hand on his leg. He looked at her and smiled.

"Is that where the system will be installed?"

"Yes, why…?"

"Because, there might be an even better place for it, call up the schematics of the Control Room, would you?"

"Control Room schematics, SSRN Seaview."

Caitlin bent toward the screen… "Ask Chip if that locker space is necessary. If not, just move that locker, and that Panel, and put the entire system there. It makes more sense this way… It’s closer to the Main Computer. It can use the system and yet be independent. And it can draw on the main power system, and not need to be rigged for power! See the power conduit to the main is right above here!"

Lee laughed lightly, "I know one Exec that is going to let the designer of the refit know what he missed!! And it won’t make the Admiral very happy!!!"

"And if the Admiral ain’t happy, no one is happy!" they both laughed…Caitlin grew more serious, "How did the session go today?"

His voice became tinged with some anger… "Just great! I was able to walk down the hallway and back!! Then I got into bed, and fell asleep for three hours! Just like any Old man!"

She leaned toward him and whispered into his ear, "I hardly think that old man would apply to you, Captain! Not after the other night!" He looked at her with amusement in his eyes.

"Thank you… Little girl!!!"

She giggled, and kissed him lightly on the cheek. "I have to leave, now Lee. I’ll be back later. Helen invited me to dinner tonight… You don’t mind, do you?"

"Not at all Caitlin…not at all… in fact, I have a favor to ask of you and maybe we can discuss it after dinner…"

 

 

The Science Fair at the Santa Barbara Middle School was a well-attended event. Given the proximity of the Institute to the School, and its fame, Science was a big part of the curriculum. Robert’s winning the first place for his project had not gone unnoticed by the local media, due the celebrity of his father, and of course, his sponsor. The fact that this was the first time an NIMR offspring had won anything at the local event simply added to the media crush.

Robert was excited about the Awards, and the fact that there would be reporters present, increased the level of his excitement. He knew that the Admiral and his father were famous people and that the world looked to the Institute often for new and exciting breakthroughs, but this time, the attention was on him! He knew it was because of his connections, but it was on him and he’d never had this many people asking for his ideas before. He had promised Lee to talk only about the Fair and the project, but they were asking so many questions!!!!

"Robert…" one particularly aggressive reporter asked, "Where is your father, Captain Crane, this evening? Shouldn’t he be here with you at such an important event? Isn’t it a fairly uncaring attitude for a parent not to be present for his child’s award ceremony? Especially since the reason he won is because of the notoriety of the Sponsor he chose?"

Robert looked at the smirk on the man’s face and was about to answer, when a firm hand squeezed his shoulder, and Harriman Nelson’s voice answered the question.

"You know, Mr. uh… Doyle…To ask that kind of a question of a nine year old is a bit, shall we say, unfair? After all this is his night, not his father’s or mine!"

"Well, Admiral, if it really is his night, then why isn’t his father here? We’ve all heard of the famous Captain of the Seaview. You’d think that his son’s award would make him show his face!!!"

Harriman Nelson was getting angry with the reporter, but he didn’t want to spoil Robert’s night, so he answered, very careful to control the famous temper that was beginning to come to the surface… "Mr. Doyle, Captain Crane is still recovering from severe injuries that he received on the Seaview’s last mission. Robert asked me to stand in for him, as it was in the lab at the Institute that he had done his project. Believe me, if Lee Crane were physically able to be here this evening, he would be!" he bent down to Robert and said to the boy, "We’d better take our seats, I believe the program is about to begin!" And with that, he steered the boy away from the crush of reporters.

Doyle muttered under his breath, "Arrogant, pompous son of a bitch…!" and walked toward the back of the auditorium!

The School principal stood and after saluting the flag and singing the National Anthem, began to speak. Robert shifted uncomfortably in his chair, as the Administrator droned on. Unfortunately, Mr. Seidel was not the best of speakers, and soon had the entire audience uncomfortable with his speech. When he stopped, finally, the audience heaved a sigh of relief. The principal cleared his throat, and announced, "Ladies and Gentlemen we have a pleasant surprise for you. This evening in our audience, we are privileged to have Admiral Harriman Nelson of the Nelson Institute of Marine Research. The Admiral was the Sponsor of our Grand Prize Winner, and he has graciously agreed to say a few words to all of us…Admiral…!"

Nelson strode to the stage, and took the podium.

"I really don’t belong here on this stage, this evening. This is a night for the children to celebrate with their families and friends. I am honored to be the sponsor of the Grand Prize winner, and I encourage each and every one of you to take your young people with the interest in Science and nurture the interest. Because we are so very proud of Robert and his project, the Institute has decided to begin a program in conjunction with the Middle School and to open up the facilities of the labs to any of the youngsters that are interested in doing their projects as Robert did. We will work in conjunction with the school and her faculty to give the girls and boys here the opportunity to work with the best and brightest minds in the scientific world. We feel that it’s the least we can do, as a fully participating member of this community, and we would like to begin as soon as possible. And now I’d like to turn this back to Mr. Seidel, and the children."

There was a thunderous round of applause from the audience and cameras flashed and people cheered. Nelson took his seat next to his wife, and Karen Davis Nelson leaned over to him kissed him lightly on the cheek, and said, quietly, "Nicely done, Harriman!" He smiled back at her and patted her hand. Sean squirmed in his seat, and Robert said to him,

"It won’t be too long now, Sean. What your Daddy had to say was important. The awards will start soon."

Sean looked at Robert with open admiration. Robert had won a prize! His, Sean’s, daddy had helped! But the grownup that was talking was making him awfully tired! Sean’s squirming stopped, and he leaned his head against his father’s arm. Nelson automatically put his arm around his son, and Sean snuggled further into the crook of his father’s arm, and started to doze. When Robert’s name was finally called, Sean was sound asleep in his mother’s arms and the Admiral was clapping long and hard for the youngster on the stage. Robert looked out at the audience, and Nelson saw the sudden brightening of his face, and the broadening of his smile as he looked at the back of the hall. Robert seemed to stand taller and prouder. Nelson turned to look, but as he gazed at the back of the hall, all he saw were the faces and heads of the people and reporters that he had seen through the evening.

When Robert came back to his seat, his face was shining in absolute pride and pleasure. Harriman Nelson leaned over, "You look very happy Robert…I guess that the award pleases you very much!"

"There was an even better thing than the prize, sir. Dad was here!"

"Lee!"

"Yes, sir. He came in as the Principal was announcing my name! He just stood back there and he watched the presentation. Then he left. Caitlin was with him."

Nelson nodded sagely. "I see, Robert!" He chuckled. "I thought that the two of them were up to something!"

"Well, sir, that was about the best thing that could have happened tonight. Dad was here!! Could you please ask Aunt Karen to tell Gran? She’d want to know. "

Harry leaned over to his wife and whispered a few things to her. She smiled as he took Sean from her arms, and she leaned over to Helen Crane, who looked quite surprised, and very pleased!

The program ended and the audience began to leave the Gym. Admiral Nelson held Sean tightly as the little boy continued to sleep soundly, now in his father’s arms. A number of the parents and audience members came over to him to thank him for what he was going to do for the school. He was anxious to leave, to get back to the apartment and see Lee, but he couldn’t be rude and not talk to these people. After about 20 minutes, however, Sean’s weight was beginning to become a bit much, so he excused himself, and with the rest of the group following him, made his way to the parking lot.

He was settling Sean into the car seat, when the reporter, Doyle came up behind him. "So Nelson, I see that you are grandstanding again!! Don’t you guys ever stop?"

Doyle had pushed Nelson over the line. He hated nosey reporters. He hated sarcastic reporters. He hated all reporters. Doyle was all of that and worse! Finishing settling Sean in his seat in the car, Harriman Nelson slowly turned on the reporter. "Mr. Doyle, what the Institute and I choose to do for the school is our decision. Whether or not you approve is irrelevant to me. If you want to question me, my motives or anything else that is not classified, is your prerogative. However, right now, my only concern is my son, and my Captain’s son. This is still Robert Crane’s night, and I do not intend to spoil it for him if I can help it! I will say this once, I will say it strongly and I will say it with the thought that I do not want to make a scene…Mr. Doyle, go away!!! Call my office to make an appointment, but right now, go away!!" Patterson, who had been at the evening at Lee Crane’s request to record it, quietly moved in behind the reporter and as soon as the Admiral finished speaking, put a hand on the man’s shoulder. Doyle turned, and Patterson said, very quietly,

"I think that you had better leave now, sir. You can call the Institute in the morning and make an appointment to see the Admiral."

""Yeah…right…like he’ll keep it!" Patterson’s grip on the man tightened.

"Are you questioning the Admiral, sir?"

"Oh, You‘ll be hearing from me soon, Admiral Nelson, don’t worry! You’ll be hearing from me!"

Patterson shook his head as the reporter walked away…"That’s bad news there sir…bad news!"

"I know Pat, but there is very little I can do about him now!! Let’s get back to Lee’s apartment! Robert is very excited!!…" He paused…"Did you know what the Captain and my step-daughter had planned?"

"Oh no, sir! Not at all!"

Tongue in cheek, Nelson questioned, " are you sure, Pat?"

"Oh, yes sir!" came the emphatic reply! Nelson chuckled, shook his head and held the door for Karen to get in. Robert and Helen got into the back seat, and Nelson drove the car out of the school lot, followed by Patterson in another Institute car.

 

 

Robert rushed into the apartment, trophy in hand… "Dad!" the boy was in for another surprise. "Dad!" The youngster came to a sudden halt. His father was sitting on the couch, not in the hospital bed that he had occupied for the last weeks. Sitting next to him was Caitlin Davis. They had been talking, quietly, when Robert rushed into the Apartment. Robert walked over to the couch. "Dad, I couldn’t believe it when I looked at the back of the hall!!" His voice caught, "Thanks, Dad." Lee was grinning at the boy.

"Well, there are a few surprises left in the Old Man!" he joked. Then he added softly, "I am very proud of you, Robert. Very proud! I wanted to be there for you, but I didn’t know if I could, and I didn’t want to promise you and then disappoint you!" Lee extended his arms to his son and the boy literally dove into his father’s arms. Lee took a deep breath and held Robert as tightly as possible, with the fixators still on his hands. He wanted Robert to know how much he loved him!

"Daddy, how did you do it…I mean get to the school, and the auditorium? I couldn’t believe it when I saw you there!"

Lee smiled at his son. "I had a lot of help. Caitlin, and Frank and John, and of course, Walter, the therapist. If he wasn’t as stubborn as I am, I don’t think I’d have been able to get back on my feet as quickly…"

The Nelsons arrived at that moment, walking through the open door. Sean’s sleepy head lay on Harriman Nelson’s shoulder, but the Admiral’s stride was purposeful, as he made his way to the couch.

"Lee! Lad! You did it, eh?! Somehow I knew you’d get there! Caitlin, you had a hand in this, didn’t you?"

Caitlin blushed, and said softly, "Lee wanted to surprise R.C., HN. I couldn’t let anyone in on the secret…Only Frank, John and Walter knew, besides me!"

"Well, I can’t say that I was completely surprised!! After all, I know Lee longer than anyone here, save Helen, and I also know that he can do anything he puts his mind to!"

"Thank You Admiral! Robert, don’t you have something that you wanted to give the Admiral to say thanks for all of his help?"

R.C. jumped off the couch and ran into his room, coming back moments later with a small box in hand. He handed it to Nelson.

"Thank you, sir, for all that you’ve done for me. I promise you that I will continue to work hard at my science. I want to be a scientist like you are, sir!"

Nelson flushed with pride, a bit embarrassed at the youngsters’ compliments. Karen had taken Sean into her arms, when she saw Robert going for a gift for her husband. She sat in chair, beaming at him, and said softly, "Open it, Harriman."

Somewhat flustered, he opened the box. He was accustomed to doing the giving, not being on the receiving end! Inside the box, lay a layer of cotton. He picked it up, and stared at what lay beneath it. A golden tie-tac, with two dolphins rising from of the waves, and in the center the nose of the Seaview. It was all delicately cut out with a fine touch, and the windows of the boat were tiny blue white stones. Nelson was taken aback with both the delicacy and the beauty of the work. Lee smiled at the Admiral’s reaction to the gift. Robert was beaming.

"Robert, I don’t know what to say…this is an absolutely beautiful gift." He looked first at the boy and then at his father. Lee nodded slightly in the older man’s direction, acknowledging the thanks that lay unspoken. Robert spoke up.

"Admiral, I’m glad that you like it, sir. Dad said that you would." Almost bashfully, he added, "I did the design on the computer that Caitlin gave me and Dad called a jeweler and had it made." He handed a box to Karen Nelson, " Aunt Karen, this is for you, from Dad and me. To say thanks."

"Thank you, R.C." She carefully opened the box, and found in it a pendant similar to her husband’s, but slightly larger and hanging from a delicate gold chain. "It’s beautiful, just beautiful, thank you both, very much! I’ll treasure it!!" Sean snuggled into the crook of her arm, and she looked at her husband. "Harriman, we’d better leave. It’s late, and Sean is sound asleep."

Nelson nodded, thoughtfully, and took the sleeping child from Karen’s arms. The little boy sighed and burrowed into his father’s shoulder. Nelson looked to Crane and said softly, "Congratulations, Lee. I think we had a major milestone this evening. I’m proud of Robert and also of you, lad. Very proud! Thank you for the gift. It’s something I’ll treasure always."

"You’re welcome, Admiral. We’re both very glad that you liked it."

Karen bent over and kissed Lee and then Robert. "Thank you both. It’s beautiful! Lee, I’m so pleased that you’re getting on so well! Hopefully the next step will be just as positive."

Lee gestured slightly with his hands, "Next week, Karen… next week."

The Nelsons left, and Helen quietly left the room with her good nights, steering an increasingly sleepy Robert Crane to his room.

"Good night, Dad. Thanks…I love you!"" He said sleepily… "G’nite, Caitlin."

"Good night, Robert." Lee said, his voice hoarse with love for his son, "I love you… and I’m very proud of you!"

"I know, Daddy…I know."

"Good night R.C." Caitlin said softly.

Very soon, there were no longer any sounds from the bedrooms, and Caitlin moved closer to Lee on the couch. He put an arm around her, careful that the fixator didn’t hurt her. She leaned heavily on his chest, and let him hold her. After a few minutes, he kissed the top of her head, and said, "Thank you for tonight, Caitlin. It made it a very special night for my son. "

"I know it was, Lee. I know. He looked so happy when he saw you standing there. So surprised and pleased. Thank you for letting me be a part of that moment."

She turned her face to him, and he bent down and tenderly kissed her. " I want you to be part of many more moments, Caitlin." Then he pulled his head up and said softly, "I wish I could do this better, with a little more finesse, but so be it! If you look in the drawer, next to the bed, you’ll find a box for you." Like a little girl with a surprise, she rose and went to the table, opened the drawer, and took out the small, gold jewelry box. She looked at him and smiled, opening it quickly. She took out the pendant on the chain and smiled again at him.

"Oh, Lee, It’s just beautiful!" the design of the pendant was the same as the Nelson’s except that the dolphins and Seaview were encased in a ship’s wheel, similar to the collar insignia that the officers of the boat wore.

"Robert helped with this design, too. He did it all on the computer… We both owe you a great deal of thanks, Caitlin. I don’t think I would have had the courage to go to the school this evening if it hadn’t been for your help… and scolding!" His eyes were twinkling with delight as he reminded her of the times she had been less than kind with her words to him after and before some of his more grueling therapy sessions. "You are definitely your mother’s daughter!!"

They both laughed softly. She took the pendant and clasped the chain around her neck. "I really love it Lee. It’s just beautiful! Thank you!"

She sat next to him again, and once again, he put his arm around her. "Caitlin…These come off next week…Thursday…"

"I know. When do you have to be at the Hospital?"

"Mulholland says Wednesday night. Surgery to remove them, first thing Thursday morning. Jamison going to assist him…and then, we’ll know!"

"Yes, then we’ll know, and you’ll go on, one way or the other. We’re hoping, praying for the best, but whatever the end results are, you… we… will go on and live with it!"

He sighed heavily. "Yes, we will. You all have made me realize that. You, Robert, the Admiral,” he laughed lightly, "Your mother, you all have made me realize that. Still…"

"You’re in love with a certain ‘Lady’ and are afraid of losing her."

"Yes. Terrified, actually."

"Then, for that time being, don’t think about losing her, think about how it’s going to feel when you are back at the helm on a starlit night standing on the Flying Bridge. Think about the feel of the boat as she glides through the water, above and below the surface…" She looked at him and saw the wistfulness and yearning that the thought and memory of the silver lady that owned his heart brought to his face. He was lost in memory for a moment and then he looked down at her.

"Will you…?"

"Be at the hospital? Of course. Wild whales in a mating frenzy couldn’t keep me from being there… along with every member of your ‘family’. And that means an awfully crowded Waiting room! Sharkey told the men yesterday, HN said, and they all want to be there for the news!"

He shook his head. "Sharkey still doesn’t know how not to spill news!"

She laughed, "It’s the guard dog syndrome in him, you know… He feels that you, HN, Chip, are his special ‘care’ projects. Anything that affects you, affects him and the boat… He’s not forgiven himself for what happened to you. He feels that he failed you."

Lee looked at her somewhat startled. He knew that Sharkey ‘looked after’ the command staff, but he hadn’t realized the COB was blaming himself for the shooting. "I guess I’d better have a talk with him."

"That wouldn’t be a bad idea. But, why not wait until the surgery is over. When you know the outcome. Talk to him then…"

He nodded in agreement. "That sounds like a better plan…" He pulled her closer. "I’m glad that you’re here…" He kissed the top of her head lightly. "Very glad…You’ve helped me deal with this whole situation in a much better way, I think!" She gave him a very warm kiss, and gently ran her hand along his face. "I love you. I hope that you believe that."

He kissed her gently again, "I do, Caitlin, I do…I just can’t...not yet…not until I know… not until then can I…"

"I know, Lee. I know. Don’t worry about it now. We’ll wait until after the surgery. I’ve waited this long, a few more weeks won’t matter." She smiled gently at him. And then she rose from the couch. "I think I’d better get ready to leave. I have to return to Poly-Tech tomorrow, and I’ll be there the rest of the week. I’ll be back after classes on Wednesday, and I’ll come right to the Hospital. Right now, I’ll get Frank to help you, if you want to get to bed?"

"I’ll call him, later. I’d just like to sit here, for a while and watch out the window, from a different view!" he smiled at her again, "Thank you again, for everything, Caitlin. You’ve helped make my son a very happy boy, tonight."

"Believe me, Lee, it wasn’t a very difficult thing to do! I truly enjoyed it! You are a very lucky man. He’s a very special boy!"

"I know. Thank you!" She leaned over, and kissed him again. "I’ll see you next week, Lee." She left the apartment, and he sat staring out the window, thinking about a good many things…

 

 

That week passed quickly, with many more small accomplishments for Lee. His endurance was improving, his ability to remain active, walking for longer and longer periods, increasing. He was feeling better, both physically and emotionally. Yet he was filled with quite a bit of apprehension, and as the day for the removal of the fixators approached, he found his temper becoming shorter and shorter. Finally, Wednesday arrived, and Jamison and Nelson came to the apartment to bring Lee to the Hospital. It was the first time in the doctor’s long experience with Seaview’s Captain, that Lee was actually anxious for a trip to any kind of Medical Facility! Jamison joked with Crane as they rode to the Hospital.

"Lee, this has to be a record. Lee Crane willingly entering a hospital! A real record!"

Crane grinned back at him, enjoying the doctor’s delight at the situation.

"Then maybe you’d better enjoy the moment, Jamie. I don’t think that it will ever happen again!!"

"Oh, I am Lee, I am!"

Nelson asked him, "How are you really feeling about it, lad?"

"Scared as hell, Admiral. Scared as hell. But anxious to get it over with. At least, by tomorrow night, we’ll know…" he shuddered involuntarily, and Nelson put a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

"Put it in God’s hands, Lee. So far he hasn’t failed you, lad. I don’t feel He’s going to do that now."

"I hope not, Admiral. There’s just so much at stake!"

"Then we’d better get there and get ready for tomorrow!"

 

 

A gentle kiss on his forehead brought him awake. Caitlin was standing next to the bed.

"Hi." She said softly.

"Hi, yourself…" was the sleepy reply.

"Sorry I got here so late. I had a student with a problem… I couldn’t leave it alone."

"Don’t worry. They gave me something to help me sleep. Jamie told Mulholland that I haven’t been sleeping. I never should have mentioned it to him."

"I wanted to see you before the surgery. I wanted to let you know that I was here. There are so many things that I’d like to say right now. I know that it will work out all right tomorrow, Lee. I just know it."

"Yes, well… I know how I hope it will turn out." He looked at the fixators, and sighed. "At least these will be gone. Even if…" she placed a finger over his lips.

"Shh, don’t say it, don’t even think it. Let’s just be optimistic, not pessimistic!" She smiled at him, and laid her hand on his arm. "I have Jamie’s ok to sit with you tonight. I’d like to stay, if you want…"

"Yes, its’ just that I don’t think that I’ll be much company. That sleeping pill…"

"I know. But if you don’t mind, I’d like to stay. For a while…"

"I don’t mind, I’m just afraid that I’m going to fall asleep and not be very good company for you."

"Don’t worry about being good company, Lee. You just sleep. I want to b here with you. I know I’ve told you this a lot, lately, but I love you, Lee Crane!!"

He nodded sleepily, "Yes, you have, Caitlin…yes…you have…" He fought the sleep that was overwhelming his capacity to oppose it, but the sleep won out and he fell into a deep slumber.

Caitlin stood at the bedside and looked at this man that she loved. They had overcome so many obstacles in the last few weeks, and she knew that there were many, many more to go, but, first, they had to get over this one… this very big one! Whatever the outcome, she knew it would be difficult, but she also believed that they could do it, together, if Lee allowed it! If Lee allowed it!! He was so stubborn about so many things!! Well, she’d deal with it as she had to. First, get the surgery over with, and then they’d move on…

She sat down in a nearby chair and watched the man on the bed as he slept…

 

 

Lee fought his way to consciousness. He was aware of a different feeling in his hands. They felt lighter! But the pain was intense! Different than the pain of the shooting… a pounding, throbbing pain in both hands at the same time. He couldn’t stifle the moan that escaped. A soft hand ran across his forehead, and he forced his eyes to open. The face bending over was blurred, but retained familiar contours as Caitlin’s face came into focus.

"Lee…?"

"Mmmnnh,… Caitlin…"

"Yes… Lee."

He cleared his throat, "My hands…"

She lifted his right hand, now only bandaged in the places where the bone pins had been placed, and gently placed it over hers. He started slightly with the sensations her touch brought. It had been a long time!

"The fixators are off. Dr. Mullholland said that as far as he can see, the damage is healed. The rest is going to be up to you. He said to expect them to be pretty painful for a while. He anticipates at least a month of therapy to bring them back up to full use."

"But…"

"No buts, lad!" Admiral Nelson’s voice boomed from behind Caitlin. "It went well, Lee! Jamie and Dan are very pleased with the results!" He moved next to Caitlin. "I’ve something here that I’ve been holding for you, Lee." He reached into his pocket and pulled out Crane’s signet ring.

"It was damaged in the shooting, but I had it repaired." He put it into Caitlin’s hand, "Why don’t you put it on Lee’s hand, Caitlin?" She looked at Crane, and he nodded in the affirmative. She took his left hand in hers and he winced as a wave of red-hot pain rolled up his arm, muscles unused in two months screaming in protest of the movement. Caitlin flinched slightly, at the thought that she had caused him any pain, but continued moving the ring onto his finger and once it was in place, she gently set his hand down. He stared at his hand, and the ring. The fingers, and both hands were swollen and discolored, but the ring had fit easily enough. The bandages on the pin sites were weepy and crusty with discharges, but they were his hands, not some steel and wire contraptions. The fact that they were painful with the attempts at movement had to be a good sign, a sign that there was some hope of full recovery…Caitlin and Nelson wouldn’t lie about that! He lifted his left hand and tried to bend the fingers. There seemed to him to be a slight twitch in the fingertips…maybe he was just imagining it! Or hoping it!! Or maybe, just maybe they really had moved. He looked at Caitlin, trying to read her face, without any luck. And Nelson was presenting an equally implacable façade!

Finally he asked them, "Well, did I move my fingers or not? It felt like something happened...Someone tell me!!!!"

Nelson broke into a huge grin, and Caitlin smiled just as happily… "Yes, lad, you moved them!!! I just wasn’t sure if you were trying to or if it was muscle spasm! I’ll get Will!"

Nelson left the room excited. Caitlin took his right hand in hers and gently applied some pressure. Lee winced. "Felt that one?"

"Yes! Pressure and some pain. But the pain has been there since I woke up."

Will Jamison came into the room with Nelson. Jamison presented Crane with his usual business-like attitude, the one he used when he was dealing with his usually intractable patient.

"Lee…how are you feeling?"

"Better than I thought, Will."

"The hands?"

"I tried to move them, Caitlin and the Admiral seem to think that I was successful!"

"Mind trying it for me?"

Lee nodded. Will took one hand and then the other, and Crane tried to move the fingers. There was an almost imperceptible movement on each. Jamison grinned at the Seaview’s Captain. "Looks like they’re right! I think that Dan did a good job for you, Skipper! Not that it’s going to be easy, Lee. If you thought that the hips were bad, wait ‘til the therapy for the hands!" then he said, in a softer voice, "I’d say the surgery was a success, Captain… now the rest is up to you! I’ll arrange for Banks to stop by later and you can get started on the therapy immediately!"

Crane gave Jamison a curious look, and sighed heavily. "Somehow, Will, I think that you are getting some perverse enjoyment out of this!"

Jamison smiled back at him. "Think what ever you want, Captain! I’ll never tell!!" They both laughed, and Nelson and Caitlin joined them.

"I’ll be going, Lee. It seems to me that we can send you home tomorrow, if all bodes well. I’ll call Helen and we can get rid of that Hospital bed. I’ll let John know that he can come back to the boat for the next watch. Maybe Frank can leave you by the middle of next week." Crane’s mood continued to brighten the more that Jamison had to say. "I’ll let Banks make that call depending on how well the therapy is going. Rest now, Lee. You’ve got a long road ahead, but I think we are beginning to see the end of the tunnel, at the very least." He clapped Crane on the shoulder and left the room.

Nelson moved to the space that Jamison had vacated. With a great deal of emotion, he managed to say to Lee, "Lad, she’s just waiting for you to come home. And now we both know that you will! And soon!! When you’re up to it, we’ll get the Chief to bring you over to her." His voice grew worried. "There is one more hurdle, though, that you have to get over."

Lee shuddered involuntarily. In a low, strained voice, he said, "My cabin."

"Bricker says that you have to face it before he’ll release you back to duty…"

"I understand that. But I don’t even want to think about it right now, Admiral… Right now, all I want is to spend some time with Robert and get used to using these," he gestured with his hands, "All over again."

Nelson nodded. He was watching the looks being exchanged between Lee and Caitlin, and he smiled to himself and thought, "Well, well…It looks as if my Captain has finally realized how much Caitlin cares for him! It’s about time!! Lee needs someone in his life, and who better than Caitlin. Robert adores her, Helen cares a great deal for her, and Lee has finally let her in!" He chuckled to himself. "She’s been in love with him for so long! Guess he finally woke up and recognized it. " He cleared his throat, and laid a gentle hand on Caitlin’s arm, while leaning over the bed to talk to Crane. "I’ll be going, Lee. We need to get you back to the boat as soon as we can. Once you’re recovered, I want you back on duty as soon as possible! She needs her Command Staff back at full strength!"

Chip Morton entered the room and added, "I’ll second that, Lee. She needs her Captain!" He joined Caitlin and Nelson at the bedside. "Congratulations, Lee. Jamie said the hands have healed. All that’s left is for you to do the work to get them up to snuff!!" Morton shared a smile with his friend."

Lee raised his right hand and laid it on his friends’. Morton could see what the gesture cost his friend, the pain and the effort draining the dark- haired man’s reserves, but he didn’t move his hand. Lee felt strong ripples of pain radiate up his arm, and he flinched with the feeling, but kept the contact with Chip’s hand. It felt right to Lee, almost as if the physical contact enabled the strength of the friendship to flow between the two men. After several minutes, Morton moved his hand away and Lee let a small sigh escape…

"Thanks, Chip… for it all."

"No problem, Lee. And more good news. The house will be ready by the end of the week. All of the work, inside and out is finished. All that’s left is the refurnishing. And Helen, Caitlin and Matty promised that that will be finished by Saturday. You’ll all be able to go home for real by the weekend!"

"Thanks again, Chip. For pushing it!!"

"That’s the job of the XO, Skipper! Pushing to get the job done!!" He clapped Crane on the shoulder, and said more quietly, "Glad to be of any help, Lee. You know that. All you ever have to do is ask." He moved away from the bed, and said to Crane and Caitlin, "I have transport duty tomorrow, Lee. The Admiral and I will be here at 1030, ready to get you back to the apartment. All you have to do is be ready for us. Goodbye, Caitlin, Lee…see you in the morning!"

After Chip left, Caitlin bent over the bed and kissed Lee gently. "I’m going to go now, too, Lee. I’ll see you in the early morning. You try and sleep now… I love you, Lee Crane."

He reached for her hand, and she felt the slight pressure as he tried to squeeze it. He whispered softly, "Thank you." And then she placed his hand back on the sheet.

"You’ve won, Lee. You’ve beaten the odds. You’re going back to the boat, and to your command and she is waiting for you. So are your men. You’ll be back there soon…. Now you rest and I’ll see you tomorrow."

She kissed him and left.

He lay there on the bed, and after a few moments, he raised his hands and looked at them… "Healed!! Really healed!! Oh God, Thank You!!" A single tear slid down his cheek, and he let himself slip into an exhausted sleep…

 

 

A little more than two weeks later, Lee Crane stood at the door to his cabin on Seaview. He was flanked by Harriman Nelson and Chip Morton.

At that moment, he had a knot in his stomach that was like a rock. His hands were trembling slightly as he reached for the doorknob. There was a thin line of perspiration across his forehead. Nelson had a hand on Lee’s shoulder. "You don’t have to do this now, lad. It can wait."

"No, Admiral, it can’t. I have to do it now… I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to face this. Like the doctors have said, this has been my home. Seaview is my lady! If I don’t do this, now, then I’ll never be able to work here again. I need to do it, and I need to do it alone. ‘Face my fears’ they told me."

"But you don’t have to do it yet, Lee. There’s still time. The doctors have told you the therapy is going well, but you still have time, you’re not done with it yet!"

"Right, Chip, I know I’m not done with the therapy. But Bricker said to go with this when I felt ready. And I feel like I have to do it now."

"Well, then, Lee, we’re here for you. Just tell us what you want us to do."

"Right now, Admiral, nothing. If I do need you I’ll let you know. I have to do this myself…" He reached for the doorknob again, and slowly turned it. He reached for the light switch and turned it on. The light was bright and sudden, and he was temporarily startled. He recovered himself, and stepped inside the cabin. He shuddered as the memories of that last time he was in his cabin flooded his emotions. Nelson watched the set of his shoulders, and reached out for him, but Chip Morton held his hand back. He looked at the Exec, and read the message in Morton’s clear blue eyes. He dropped his hand, and leaned back against the bulkhead as Crane closed the door to the cabin behind him.

Lee moved slowly about the cabin. It had been policed and well taken care of in his absence. He sat weakly on the bunk. His mind was assailing him with sounds and memories of that last time he was here. He slid down the side of the bunk and sat heavily on the deck. His hands touched the cold metal. He had a flash of memory.

Cold steel against his cheek. The steady thrum of the engines as he lay there, his cheek against the deck. Reality slowly seeping away, along with his blood. The pain and the loneliness…

He shook his head and held it in his hands.

The laughter…the laughter…it didn’t stop!!! …You’re going to die, Captain, you’re going to die!! And more laughter!!

His whole body shook with tremors. He had to deal with this! This was his cabin! His place!! He wrapped his arms around his chest, and rocked slowly back and forth.

"…And the Admiral will have more guilt to live with. If I didn’t push him over the edge the last time this should do it!!…. you want to know what I want, Crane…I want you to die…painfully…slowly… and alone!!!…I want Nelson to be in pain over the death of his friend, the man who is closer to him than a son! And he’ll learn that you were here all along…that you slowly bled to death here in your cabin… There’s no hope for you! No hope!! You’re going to die, Captain Crane!!"

He shuddered and heaved a sigh. "It’s over!" he told himself aloud… "It’s all over, Crane! Get a hold of yourself!" He lifted his head, and placed both hands, palms down, on the deck. "How did you do it, girl?" he asked softly "…how did you let them know that I was here? That I was hurt?” He was still confused about the events of that morning. He remembered drifting…remembered the pain…the feeling of falling… he couldn’t remember them finding him…He couldn’t remember being in Sick Bay. He remembered seeing Cathy’s eyes, and wanting to be with her, and then seeing Robert and he remembered that he had decided to fight his way back to Robert. It had been quite a fight!! And now here he was back on the boat!! Where he wanted to be…where he belonged… But he had to get over this fear of the cabin. It was all over for him if he couldn’t do that!! He shuddered again…all of a sudden he was cold…so cold… He shouldn’t be cold. He was wearing his jeans, turtleneck and denim shirt over it!! The boat was warm enough! He had to get this under control! He wrapped his arms around himself again… and he started to tremble. Until this moment, Lee hadn’t thought about how much this had affected him… his life was here… his being was part of this boat… he had to deal with this…the doctors had warned him…he put his head down on his drawn up knees, and let his arms pillow his head. He let the shudders that he had been holding in control rack his body, and tears that he had held since he entered the cabin flowed freely.

Harriman Nelson was not known for his patience… and waiting for Lee to deal with this all by himself was grating on Nelson’s nerves. The time was passing slowly and he wanted to help his friend, his surrogate son. He needed to do something to help Lee through this, and Lee had gone stubborn and closed up on him. He humphed loudly and Morton looked over at him.

"I’m going into the cabin, Chip." He had his hand on the door, waiting for Morton to stop him. Chip didn’t. Something told Chip that Lee needed the Admiral’s presence with him right now. He knew that Crane drew on the Admiral’s strength and Nelson on Lee’s. They needed to renew the connection. Now was the time to do it!!

"Understood, sir," was Morton’s reply.

Nelson opened the door and went into the Captain’s cabin. He closed the door behind him. He saw Lee sitting on the deck, his head bowed onto his knees, shaking with tremors. He went over to the younger officer and put his arm around Crane’s shoulders, and gently helped him to the bunk. Crane relaxed as Nelson helped him. Neither man said a word. Nelson waited until Crane stopped shaking and then quietly asked, "Lee, are you okay? Do you want to talk about it? Or do you want me to leave?"

In a voice that was barely above a whisper, Lee answered, "No…don’t leave, Admiral."

"All right, lad… Do you want to talk?"

"It’s just hard…I keep seeing Bernard…I can hear his laughter…he was laughing because he and I thought I was going to die…I was so alone, Admiral! And just the memory of it!! And the boat…how did she know? There is so much I don’t remember…that I can’t remember…"

"Perhaps the part that you can’t remember, you shouldn’t remember. The mind often blocks things out that we aren’t meant to remember…" He pulled up a chair to sit opposite Crane. He clasped his hands in his lap and bent forward. "Lee, there’s a lot that I don’t remember about my time on that island and in the Sanatorium. Frankly, much of it I don’t want to remember. It’s too painful…and what I do remember still gives me nightmares at times!"

Lee looked at Nelson, surprised. He had thought that since the doctors had released the Admiral that the entire episode was in the past. He didn’t realize the older man was still troubled by the incident after all this time.

"We recover, Lee…but I can tell you from personal experience that it takes a long time…Ask Chip…he’ll tell you the same thing…You can’t believe that he is completely over his experience either. That’s the insidiousness of what Gamma has done. It’s going to be with us, in some small way for the rest of our lives. And we can use it to help us be better than we were before, or we can let it eat away at us and destroy us." He rose from the chair and went to the door. He motioned Chip into the cabin. Morton came behind the chair and Nelson sat down again. Lee looked from Morton to the Admiral.

"Lee, its still there… the beating…it comes to me at the strangest times…I never know…so I let it come and then I deal with it when it does… Or we deal with it. Matty and I. And you know that it’s been a long time since it happened."

Angrily he responded to his two friends! "But the shooting happened here, in this room…my cabin… I can’t walk away from it! I’m going to have to live with what happened here. Each time I come in here I’m going to have to live with it!! Don’t you realize how this has changed how I feel about her? Every time I come here "

"We can refit the cabins, Lee. Change assignments. Change the cabins…"

Crane considered this for a brief moment, and the looked at Nelson… "No, sir, we can’t. Because then, he will have won! And I won’t let him!"

Morton and Nelson exchanged looks and then the older man rose from the chair. He put an arm around Crane’s shoulder, "Let’s go, Lee. I think that you’ve had enough for one day… And we have to get you over to the Med Facility. Therapy is waiting for you!"

Crane shook his head slowly. "I think Chip called it right, when he called them torture sessions! Jamie was right. This is harder than the walking was. I never thought about how much we use our hands and don’t think about it." He sighed and stood. "I guess that we’d better get to the Med Center, before Jamie sends out a search party!"

 

 

Lee Crane sat at his desk at the offices of the NIMR, and carefully finished writing a note. He picked up the phone, hit two buttons and waited patiently. "Patience...something he'd learned a lot of in the last months...." A voice answered the phone. "Admiral Nelson's office. May I help you?"

"I certainly hope so, Angie."

"Lee…good to hear from you! How can I help?"

"My secretary is out today, and I need to get a hold of Stu Riley or Kowalski. Can you do it for me?"

"I'll be happy to! Do you want them to your office or the boat?"

"The office if you don't mind."

"Not at all, Lee! If I can find one of them, they'll be there as fast as I can get them to you!"

He smiled at the enthusiasm of the Admiral's secretary. "Thanks again, Angie. I owe you one!"

"No problem, Lee! No problem! Have a good day, now!"

"You too, Angie." he laughed. He hung up the phone, and rose from the desk, to go to the window. The large picture window overlooked the dock of the SSRN Seaview. The boat was berthed now, and he couldn't help the thrill he felt each time he saw her. Perhaps even more now! He's come so close to losing her, to losing it all...!! He looked down at his hands, turning them over several times...they looked fine...they felt fine...but it had been so very close!!! And so very hard!!! Now that he was back in full swing, with the latest mission under his belt, he has a lot of thanks to give…and one of them was going to be a particularly pleasant thanks.

A knock on the door, and Stu Riley stuck his head in and asked, "Skipper, you sent for me, sir?"

He turned about, "Oh, yes, Riley, I need you to deliver something for me."

 

 

Caitlin Davis grabbed her bag from the back seat of the car and sighed. She was glad to be home! Her Grad studies were going well, but they were intense, and she looked forward to the long weekends that she spent at the NIMR. She was also grateful that she could escape to the apartment. When she’d moved in with Karen and HN after the Wedding, it had been wonderful – they were a family!

They still were, she loved them both deeply! But with the arrival of Sean Pearce Nelson, she realized that she now needed her own place, as much as she loved her baby brother! HN had not assigned their apartment to anyone else, so after a few well-placed words, they had agreed to give Caitlin the apartment for herself.

She’d been living there when the Cranes had moved in next door. Helen Crane was still living there. She stepped out of the elevator, went to the door of her apartment and let herself in. she turned to close it and found Stu Riley’s smiling face in the doorway.

"Miss Davis?"

"Yes, Stu?"

"The Skipper asked me to deliver this and wait for an answer, ma’am."

He grinned and handed her a single red rose and a note. The envelope simply said,

Caitlin

Inside it read;

Caitlin,
Would you like to come to the house tonight, around 2000? Riley will pick you up, and drive you here.
Just let him know.
Lee

She smiled to herself and then looked at the seaman who stood in the doorway.

"Tell Captain Crane ‘Yes’…and will you pick me up at 1945, please?"

"Yes ma’am!" he grinned, and left quickly. She shut the door behind him and stared at the rose and note and fingered them thoughtfully. Then she glanced at her watch – Two hours! She had a great deal to do!

 

 

Caitlin dressed very carefully. The contents of her closet were strewn about her room, and on the bed lay her dress. A floor length plum-colored sheath. Very simple and very plain. She dropped the towel and slid the dress over her head. She fussed with her thin straps, and satisfied with the feel of it, she looked in the mirror. The dress fit like a glove, the way that it was supposed to, clinging to her breasts and the curve of her hips, and accenting her flat stomach. The side slits allowed her slender legs to show to the best of their ability. Her hair softly framed her face, and the new cut allowed the rest of it to fall gently on her shoulders. The only jewelry she wore was a single gold chain around her neck, and her only fragrance was an old southern one, Lemon Verbena. She felt very confident about the way the she looked and felt. She went to the apartment door, picked up her tiny purse and left.

 

 

She rang the doorbell at Lee Crane’s house, and waited. Within seconds, the door opened and Seaview’s Captain stood there smiling at her. They hadn’t seen one another in more than a month and Caitlin was pleased to see how much better Lee looked. The gauntness was gone from his face. He was tanned and relaxed. There was a twinkle in his amber-hazel eyes that she hadn’t seen in along time. He smiled at her with delight, and she returned it with a radiant smile of her own. He held out a hand to her, "Caitlin…"

She took his hand, "Lee."

His hand grasped hers more tightly, and intertwined his fingers in hers. He marveled at her touch. She was exhilarated at the feel of him. He led her thru the great room and out to the patio. There were candles, of all sizes, everywhere all over the patio, and down the stairs to the beach. On the table was a wine cooler with a bottle of white wine, "Pere Patriarche Blanc" and two wine glasses. He slid his hand from hers and went to the table and poured them each a glass. He came to her side and handed her one of the glasses. He lightly touched his to hers and said, quietly, "To beginnings…"

She returned the tap, and said, even more softly, "Yes, Lee, to beginnings…"

They each took several sips of the wine, and he bent his head toward hers and brushed her lips softly. "Thank You!"

"For?"

"All of it…Mom, Robert, the house…. most of all…you…"

She blushed under his scrutiny…."Lee…"

"No, now, you just listen…that night… in the apartment…you made me realize a lot of things… I really believe that I began to get better then! You allowed me to begin to feel again…You opened my heart, and broke down the wall that I had built… you helped me deal with the fear that I had… and you made me realize that without all of the more important things in my life, I wouldn’t have a life. I owe you a great deal, Caitlin!"

She took his hands in hers, and turned them palm up. She raised them to her lips and kissed each of them, one at a time.

"Your hands are healed. I knew they would, I told you they would … and once your hands healed, I knew the rest of you would heal as well " She held his hands tightly in hers, and then kissed them again. "…And I know you. I knew it would take time. And that is something that I have a great deal of, Lee. I have all the time you need…" She drank the rest of the glass of wine and held the glass as he poured more. She took another sip of the wine and then, he took her hand in his.

"Come on," he said softly, "let’s take a walk on the beach." They put their glasses down on the table and went down the steps to the beach. It was a moonless night, but a clear, starry one. The surf was gentle as it lapped at the shoreline. Both were barefoot as they walked, hand in hand, in quiet thought, in the ankle deep surf… When they had walked almost a half-mile from the house, Lee stopped and pulled Caitlin towards him, wrapping her in a strong embrace and kissing her hungrily. She responded in kind, and when the kiss was finished, she was gasping slightly.

"Lee…"

"This is my turn, Caitlin… If you want…this is how I want it to be…" she looked into his eyes and saw that he was unsure of her, even now…and she didn’t want that…she wanted him to know how sure she was!

"I want this to be…just as much as you!"

She saw the uncertainty leave his eyes, and be replaced by the smoky haze of desire.

"You are sure?" he whispered.

"Oh, yes…very, very sure!" she reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck; he bent his head and kissed her passionately. His hands began to explore her body, in a way that he had been unable to before. He stroked her back and her neck, and he took great pleasure in the feel of her…her silken skin, the smooth contours of her body in dress that clung her curves. He slowly let his fingers caress all of her form, and then just as slowly, gently let one strap, and then the other, of her dress, slide slowly down her shoulders, the dress slide over her hips and down to the water at their feet. His hands roamed freely, almost triumphantly, over her lithe body, and she thrilled at his touch, as he became familiar with her.

He sensitively stroked her back, her buttocks, and let his hands explore her flat stomach and the soft core of her being. She writhed in response to his touch, in that most private of places. Delicious waves of desire washed over her… She let her hands play along the strong the muscles of his back and shoulders, and she pulled at his shirt to let it, too, fall to the surf, and she ran her fingers over the strong muscles of his back and shoulders, and lightly ran her fingers along his spine, and drew her hands, slowly, to his chest

His hands found their way to her breasts, and he began to circle each with his thumbs and forefingers, gently stroking. He kissed her neck, her shoulders, and his mouth made its way to her breasts, first lightly kissing and then gently biting, then sucking at one and then the other. She moaned in pleasure as he continued to arouse her body further. Her hands found his belt, and her fingers quickly released its hold on his waist, and she unfastened the button at the waistband and gently pushed his pants downward, over his lean hips and let them slide down his long legs to the surf. So intent were they on each other that neither noticed, nor cared that their clothes slowly washed out to sea. Her hands caressed his hips and thighs, and found their way to his groin, and she brushed his manhood with feather light caresses, and it hardened further. She brought groans of ecstasy from him, as she teased and stroked him and he pulled her closer against him, his hands still roaming her body, finding the sensitive spots that brought gasps of delight from her.

He gently grasped her back and buttocks and in a single motion, eased her to the soft, wet sand. The warm waves continued to roll smoothly over them, as he lay on his side next to her. He continued stroke and caress her wet, silken body, and again began to suck at her breasts, now salty with the water. His mouth continued to move downward, kissing her stomach, and reaching her pearl of pleasure. He tongued it lightly, then harder, and then sucked gently on it until she thought she could stand the exquisite feelings no longer. She was whimpering with unbridled sensuality, all thoughts for anything but ultimate gratification driven from her mind by the sweet carnality of the here and now. He lifted himself over her, and she spread her legs wide, inviting his entry. He entered her, gently at first, with slow steady strokes that she sought to meet and match the rhythm. His hands stroked her breasts; his mouth sought and hungrily met hers. She wrapped her arms, and legs around him and moved with him, rising closer to the peak of satisfaction. The warm water swirled around them increasing the eroticism of act. His strokes increased in speed, and she felt herself reaching the peak of satisfaction and in another stroke, she was there!! Her mind exploded in blue – white cascades of color and she sighed and went limp. He, too reached his peak in a blinding explosion of brilliance, and he gathered her in his arms and held her there, as the waves washed over them.

After a seemingly endless time, Lee rose to a sitting position. Still cradling Caitlin, he pulled her close in his arms, lifted her and began to walk back to the house. She slid her arms around his neck, and when he bent his head toward hers, she captured his mouth with hers. She clung tightly to him as he carried her along the beach, allowing her mouth to do a careful exploration of his. Her tongue sought all the sweet recesses, the teeth, his tongue… she began gently, but her ardor increased as he responded to her explorations. When they reached the house, he gently set her down on the deck, and led her into the house and up the stairs to his room. It had been redecorated since the roof leaked.

He picked her up and laid her down gently on the bed… The big sleigh bed was new to the room, and had replaced the four-poster that had been there before. Lee lay down next to her, his body sidling close, gathering her in to him. She felt like she belonged here. Like she belonged with him. She pulled herself closer to him, molding her body to his…their nakedness a link, rather than a hindrance. He kissed her shoulder and back, and breathed softly into her ear.

"I love you Caitlin."

Her heart leapt with joy at hearing those words from him.  "I love you, Lee."

"I want you to be here with me always. I want you to be a part of my life, my son’s life. He loves you very much, you know."

"And I love him. And you! I want to be with you forever, Lee. "

He held her closer. He spoke softly into her ear. "I want you to be comfortable here…to feel that you belong here…to be part of this house….to help to make this a home…"

"I want that too, Lee…very much! But we have plenty of time, Lee. Plenty of time…we have to adjust to us, first, and then, we can move to the next step…" She reached for him and wrapped her arms around his neck, and kissed him warmly. He pulled her closer to him, responding to her kiss with equal passion…

Decisions had been made…bodies and souls had healed… Time for Healing was passed…Time for Living again had begun.

 

 

 

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