Originally published to The Subpen
Paperwork Ė the bane of every commanding officerís existence, back to the dawn of time. Mountains of it covered Commander Lee Craneís desk this bright mid-winter morning, and the little bit heíd managed to move from the looming piles to his outbox was discouraging. He swore it multiplied in the night, when he was gone Ė was there any such thing as birth control for reports? Maybe that was something the Biology Department should look into. If they could patent it, NIMR would stand to rake in a fortune.
Without even seeing it, he knew Chip Mortonís desk didnít look anything like his. His executive officer had a knack for paperwork unmatched by anyone Lee had ever met. Paperwork disappeared from Chipís desk almost as soon as it appeared. It was a highly irritating trait, made moreso by Chipís smugness when ever Lee mentioned it.
His musings were interrupted by a soft knock and a softly-voiced "Hi there."
Lee looked up to see a smiling Lynn Murtagh Ė Lynn Morton, he corrected himself Ė peering around his office door with a tentative smile.
He greeted her with a genuine smile of his own. "Good morning, Mrs. Morton." As heíd thought they would, his words made her smile widen and brought a flush to her cheeks and a glow to her eyes. "Gotcha," he said.
Lynn ducked her head sheepishly. "Yeah, Lee, you did. That last name is something Iím still getting used to."
"WellÖyou did go by Murtagh for a long time, after all," Lee acknowledged.
"Yeah, I did. And besides, Iím keeping Murtagh professionally Ė Iím too well-known in my profession as Lynn Murtagh to change now, and I donít want to trade on Chipís name here at the Institute, either."
Which was a pretty savvy attitude on her part, Lee thought. "What does Chip think about that?"
She shrugged. "He thinks Iím being practical, as usual Ė and I think he expected it, anyway. Itís common for women in the professions." Her eyes widened as she looked at the mounds of paperwork on his desk. "Wow. You look swamped. Maybe I should just leave you to it."
"No -- itís nothing that canít wait," Lee said, clinging to her presence like a lifeline Ė anything to break up the mind-numbing drudgery heíd been immersed in since heíd arrived four hours earlier was welcome. "Come on in."
She stepped into the office. "Are you sure? I donít want to take you away from anything important."
"Itís all important, but believe me, I can use the break," Lee assured her. "My eyes are starting to cross. I donít seem to have your husbandís knack for dispensing with paperwork Ė or so he tells me every chance he gets. Sit down. Were you looking for Chip?"
"Nope." Lynn eased into the chair in front of his desk, sitting with one jeans-clad leg tucked under her. "Iím here to see you."
"Me?" Lee smiled. "Thatís a pleasant surprise."
She inclined her head in acknowledgement. "Thank you. Actually, I came over here to chastise you."
Lee gave her a mock frown. "Uh-oh. What did I do now?"
"Itís more like what you havenít done," Lynn said softly. "Youíve been making yourself way too scarce lately."
Lee didnít even pretend to misunderstand. "You and Chip have only been married a couple of weeks. You need your space."
Lynn shook her head. "We have our space," she said firmly. "We need our family, too."
"Iíd think your own family would fill that bill most admirably," Lee said dryly.
"Oh, believe me, Lee, they fill that bill very well," Lynn said, her tone an arid match for Leeís. "But theyíre only half of the equation Ė okay, considering the size of my family, itís more than half. But youíre family, too Ė youíre Chipís family, and we need you around us, too."
Leeís eyes widened, then softened. "Iím glad you feel that way."
"Good. Then come to dinner tomorrow night." She paused, then went on. "Weíve hardly seen you since we got home from our honeymoon. Marriage doesnít mean you have to ignore your friends, yíknow."
"We see each other every day," Lee pointed out. "Chip and I are practically in each otherís pockets all day long, and the three of us have lunch together at least twice a week."
Lynn shook her head. "Itís not enough for us to see you just in work."
"Us," Lynn confirmed. "I kinda like your company too, yíknow."
Her softly-voiced comment warmed him. "Thank you, kind lady."
"Youíre very welcome, kind sir." She cocked her head to one side. "So...we can count on you for dinner? I make a mean lasagna."
"In that case Ė how can I refuse?" Lee narrowed his eyes as a thought suddenly occurred to him. "But Lynn...why is this coming from you and not Chip?"
Lynn held his gaze steadily. "Because you might argue with him, and heíd let you off the hook too easily. But you wonít argue with me because you donít want to hurt my feelings."
Lee blinked in surprise, then smiled ruefully. "Youíre right."
Her smile widened into a grin. "I learn fast."
Lee gave her a sly smile. "I bet you had a little coaching, too."
She shook her head. "Nope. He doesnít even know Iím here."
"So this is an independent project?"
Lynn shrugged. "Sorta. Weíve discussed it. Chip figures youíll come around at your own speed. Iím a little more impatient."
"I thought working with dolphins taught you to be patient," Lee teased.
"Ah, but youíre not a dolphin, Captain," she shot back. "Youíre a human male."
"Good of you to recognize that."
"And as such, you require me to employ different tactics."
"Such as?" Lee asked in amusement.
"Such as the direct approach. Sometimes it works better than subtlety on male Homo sapiens."
"Yes, sometimes it does," Lee agreed.
Lynn cocked her head slightly to the left. "So, since we agree on that particular principle Ė what are you doing Sunday morning?"
Lee blinked in surprise at the abrupt change of direction the conversation had taken. "Um...sleeping?"
Lynn shook her head. "I have a better idea. I know you and Chip used to spend your Sunday mornings on the golf course before I entered the picture. Come over for breakfast with us. I make a mean Belgian waffle."
"From scratch?" Lee asked.
Lynn cocked her head to one side. "Is there any other way to do it?"
"I never really thought about it." He smiled. "I love Belgian waffles."
"Does that mean youíll come for breakfast?"
"How can I refuse such a gracious invitation?"
"You canít." She rose. "Well, Iíve accomplished my mission." She skirted the desk, leaned down and gave a surprised Lee a kiss on the cheek, then moved toward the door. "See you at lunch?"
"I wouldnít dare miss it."
Lynn grinned, tossed him a wave, then left the office.
Lee stared after her for a moment, then turned back to his paperwork, his heart just a bit lighter than it had been moments before.