Title: Those Who Wait
Author: Kim Q
Flavor: duty and sacrifice, holiday
Notes: Written for the
Waters Writers' Challenge #3 "Home For The Holidays." Ever so
slightly edited from the original posting. Set in 1973, just
after the events in "Long Live the King," this is a sequel of sorts to "Carry
On." Chip's mom is based on my own feisty red-haired, blue eyed mother, may she
rest in peace.
They also serve who only stand and wait - Milton
Green sparks flashed from Lee Crane's stormy hazel eyes only to bounce
ineffectually off the thick hide of his so-called best friend, Chip Morton. The
focus of Lee's ire serenely stretched his tall form, setting in more comfortably
into the deep cushions of the plush sofa that faced a blazing fireplace in the
living room of the Morton's Chicago home. The annoying man even had the audacity
to smirk at his commanding officer, blue eyes dancing with wicked glee.
Lee knew it had been a bad idea to prank Chip with the Academy 'cannonball'
pastries after the Army-Navy game. Everyone on the boat knew that the Exec's
payback was a thing to be feared, but this was going too far! Chip never should
have told his mother about the little incident at O'Hare Airport. After all,
Lee's shoulder was only slightly wrenched. He'd gotten worse bruises during
normal turbulence on Seaview. And it certainly wasn't his fault he was the only
one close enough to cushion the fall of the little boy who'd been climbing on
the baggage carousel!
"Are you comfortable, Lee? Shoulder still in pain? Do you need any more
aspirin?" asked Chip's mother with concern, turning around to snap out orders to
her daughters before he could reply. "Margaret, hand me that quilt from the back
of the sofa. Victoria, a fresh cup of hot chocolate for Lee. Valerie,
keep your son off the chair! Lee doesn't need his shoulder jostled!" The Skipper
smiled inwardly as her voice bore more than a passing resemblance to a certain
Executive Officer's commanding tones.
Chip's older sister Margaret flipped her strawberry blonde hair out of her blue
eyes and grabbed the indicated throw, roughly pulling it from under her
protesting brother's back with a wicked grin. She tossed it at her mother who
tucked the quilt carefully around Lee's slim legs, azure eyes shining with
worry for the young man she'd long ago embraced as one of her own. One of Chip's
younger sisters - Lee never had been able to tell the blonde haired, blue eyed
twins apart - handed him the requested cup of hot chocolate. The other pulled
her curious son away from Lee's chair, tempting the tow-headed boy with one of
the newly opened toys pulled from the pile under the festively decorated
Ever the gentleman, Lee suppressed the urge to sigh and graciously thanked the
ladies, snuggling deeper into the ever-growing pile of quilts, mindful of his
sore shoulder. Thanks to Chip's meddling, he'd just have to resign himself to
being fussed over by the formidable Morton women. Though he outwardly glared at
his brother in all but name for putting him in this predicament, he was inwardly
touched by their warm concern for his well being. From the first time Chip had
brought his roommate home on leave from Annapolis, Lee had been welcomed as part
of the family. For an only child whose father died when he was a teenager and
whose high society mother was somewhat less than maternally inclined, their
loving acceptance filled a deep void in his life.
His face lit up with an affectionate smile as he met the concerned gaze of his
best friend's mother. "I'm fine, Anna. No need to worry."
Piercing blue eyes, the same intense shade as those of her son, searched Lee's
face for any sign of subterfuge before she allowed herself to relax and accept
his reassurances. Arianna Llewellyn Morton was barely over five feet tall, a
petite woman with flaming red hair, only slightly frosted with silver, well
suited to her indomitable personality. Though she was born into a similar level
of privilege as Lee's mother, Anna Morton had no time for those who put on airs
or looked down on those who labored. She'd ignored those who whispered that
she'd married beneath her when she wedded a Kentucky born fireman and took pride
in the fact that their marriage had lasted almost forty years. As soon as her
last child was grown and gone, she went back to college, finishing her degree in
math so she could teach at an inner city Chicago high school. She ran her family
and her classroom in a tough but fair, highly organized fashion that the Seaview
crew would have quickly recognized. "Okay, Lee. But if you need anything just
let me know." Anna gently patted his knee and bustled off to deal with her two
oldest children, who were wrestling over a pillow on the nearby sofa, acting as
if they were five years old rather than full grown adults. "Charles Phillip!
Margaret Rose! What on earth do you think you're doing?"
Lee watched with a smug grin as the Morton matriarch skillfully broke up the
tussle between Chip and Margaret, firmly grabbing her tall son by a handy ear
and her smirking daughter by the shoulder, pushing them in the general direction
of the nearby piano and guitar. The fact that both her children towered over her
made not the slightest bit of difference. "If you two can't behave I'll just
have to put you to work!" she scolded, a twinkle betraying her own amusement at
the antics of her kids. "Since your Pops is off romancing his latest lady love,
and my arthritis is acting up, you two have to provide the Christmas music!"
"Yes, Mom!" came the obedient chorus as the siblings gleefully poked and prodded
each other one last time before Chip settled at the piano and Margaret picked up
her guitar. The cozy wood-paneled room was soon filled with the joyful sound of
classic Christmas carols. The two youngest Morton girls and their husbands
settled down with their kids on cushions in front of the cheery fireplace as the
family sang the traditional songs with gusto. Music was always an important part
of the Morton family gatherings. Anna's father had played guitar at a variety of
jazz clubs throughout Chicago and had taught the eldest Morton child to play.
Anna herself had given piano lessons to the neighborhood children to help make
ends meet as she stayed home to raise her four children. Though she'd taught all
her children the basics, Chip was the only one who had stuck with the piano as
he grew into adulthood. The entire clan had been blessed with excellent voices
so the music the family made together was nothing short of glorious.
To Lee's amusement, even Chip's taciturn father unbent enough to sing along from
the comfort of his beat up old recliner, waving his pipe to the beat. Phillip
Morton was an older, mustached version of his son, with the same tall, lean
frame and fair handsome face only slightly worn from decades of fighting fires.
His platinum blond hair had gone mostly white and his eyes were a pale blue-grey
rather than the intense blue of his son's, but the two men shared the same firm
ideals and dedication to duty. Though the two hadn't always seen eye to eye,
especially about Chip's decision to enter the same Silent Service that had
caused Phil to lose a beloved brother, there was a tight, unspoken bond of love
between them that Lee had long envied.
As the combination of hot chocolate and cheerful music relaxed Lee even further,
he gazed around contentedly at the warm domestic scene, glad that Anna had cared
enough to set up this special gathering. Having a husband and two son-in-laws
who were career firemen and a son who was career Navy, she knew full well the
effect emergencies could have on the best laid plans. Upon hearing that
Seaview's Christmas leave was delayed due to their last mission, she'd quickly
moved the time of the big family reunion to a later date so that her boys would
still have a holiday celebration.
Lee wished his own mother could have been as accommodating but Sophia Crane
had been scheduled to go on a cruise in the Mediterranean with some of her
friends at the same time Seaview was to finally return. Of course, Lee had been
invited along, but he didn't relish the thought of being paraded around in front
of rich society matrons as some sort of trophy or, heaven forbid, marriage
prospect for their eligible daughters. His mood took a downward turn as he
realized that he actually felt more at home here with the Morton family than
with his own mother. His gloomy introspection was broken by the unexpected sight
of Phil Morton jumping out of his recliner, grabbing at the pager that hung at
The music faltered and all eyes turned toward the elder Morton as he strode
purposefully towards the phone in the foyer, his manner instantly shifting into
Battalion Chief mode as he dialed his office. After a quick conversation, he
slowly hung up the phone, his entire bearing speaking eloquently of what was to
come. Returning to the now silent living room he stopped in front of his wife,
reached out to take her slender hands in his and sighed. "I'm sorry, Anna, but
there's a huge fire at the Palmer House Apartments downtown and I need to go."
Keeping hold of her hands, he looked over at his two firefighter son-in-laws.
"Michael. Scott. I'm afraid both your engine companies are being called up. I'm
going to need our best teams out there." The two men nodded, quickly embracing
their wives and wide-eyed children then heading to the foyer to grab their heavy
coats and put on their snow boots before heading out to their cars. Phil turned
his attention back to his wife. "Anna, I..."
With a gentle hand on his lips, Anna stopped his words and said with an
understanding smile. "I know, dear." After pulling his head down to meet hers in
a tender kiss, she released him and stepped back. "Now shoo! Time for you to go
save lives!" Phil waved at the rest of his family and headed quickly for the
front door, pulling on his boots and coat as he moved. Anna followed him to the
door, sneaking one last quick kiss. "I'll keep the light on for you, love."
The closing of the door behind their father stirred the Morton children out of
their immobility. Margaret and her sisters gently shepherded their children off
to the kitchen for a final treat of fresh baked cookies and milk before bed. A
pain tugged at Lee's heart as he watched his 'brother' walk over to where Anna
stood staring blankly out the window into the cold blustery night. Chip laid a
gentle arm across his mother's shoulders then wordlessly pulled her into a tight
hug. Burrowing closer into the supporting arms of her son, Lee saw her confident
mask slip as Anna allowed herself the rare luxury of being able to lean on
someone else's shoulder.
The quiet moment was eventually broken by two wildly careening grandchildren
barreling into their legs, breaking Anna loose from her son's grasp. Seeing that
their trajectory would bring them too close to Lee's chair, Chip reached down to
redirect the bouncing kids in the other direction.
Anna smiled warmly at her son then gathered her usual calm demeanor around her
as though it were a suit of armor. Stepping briskly back into the living room,
she headed over to a drawer in the side bureau where the playing cards were
stored. Casting a challenging look across the room to her assorted children
returning from the kitchen with full stomachs, she said with an impish grin, "I
hope you kids are up to some cutthroat cards tonight! I've got some old scores
to settle!" She turned and walked regally towards the dining room, her back
straight and her face serene.
In that moment, Lee realized that he had been completely wrong about his best
buddy. He had always though that Chip's calm and controlled manner under the
most stressful of conditions was due primarily to the influence of his father,
the brave, dedicated fire chief who could out stoic the Sphinx. But it was
finally clear to him that it was the quiet strength of his mother that had made
the biggest impact on her son. The inner fortitude that enabled her to hold her
family together, not knowing if those she held most dear would ever return to
her from their battles with the fiery beast or from endlessly long missions, this was the inner strength that had been passed on to her only son. This was
what enabled Chip to keep calm in the face of chaos and to keep Seaview and her
crew together while Nelson and Crane were off the boat.
Lee recognized that same strength and fierce dedication to family was what
sustained the spouses of Seaview's crew when their loved ones were at sea. He
finally understood in his heart what he'd always known with his head, that one
of the most difficult jobs was that of those who had to watch and wait as their
loved ones faced danger in the line of duty. Few women could accept the
necessary sacrifices demanded of them. But here, in the warm caring home of his
adopted family, Lee could see a living, loving example of such dedication that
had endured for nearly forty years. As he carefully eased his bruised shoulder
out of the comfortable nest of quilts and headed over the dining room table
where Chip, Anna and Margaret were waiting to play cards, he gave thanks to the
powers above for the resolute spouses of those who daily put themselves in
harm's way for the sake of others.
© 2006 Kim Q. All Rights Reserved