Lee stared at the blank videophone screen. He felt suddenly chilled in spite of his pajamas and robe. The words still reverberating through his brain. ‘They had to watch it of course. They wanted to make sure no classified information had been disclosed while you were under interrogation. If you had talked, then they needed to know what information was revealed so they could respond with suitable damage control.’ Admiral Kennett had been solemn as he added that the videotape was immediately destroyed after viewing. At Admiral Nelson’s insistence.
Admiral Nelson. Lightheaded, the Captain leaned heavily on his desk. Gaze unseeing. His mind slowly making sense of the last five minutes. The interrogation he had suffered at the hands of the People’s Republic. The reason for his current status as ‘medically unfit for duty’, for his confinement to his cabin. Had been videotaped and intercepted. And watched by a select ONI committee. Which just happened to include his Admiral. They had watched… Lee doubled over, the groan tearing it’s way out from deep inside. With a screaming, animal cry of pure anguish and rage, Lee swept everything off his desk. Grabbing the video monitor and sending it crashing.
Someone rapped on the Captain’s door. "Sir. Is everything alright?" A tentative voice asked.
Lee started laughing, running his hands through his hair.
"Sir?" The voice was back. "Can I come in?"
The laughter took on a touch of hysteria. Lee’s hands now covered his face. The black darkness over his eyes welcome. He tried not to think or remember. Oh, God!
His door creaked open, anxious eyes met his as Patterson peeked through the partial opening, his eyes staring… watching… "Get out!" Lee picked his desk chair up and threw it into the door. It slammed shut.
Seriously concerned for his Skipper, Patterson ran towards sickbay.
Admiral Nelson was relieved to finally be back aboard his submarine. The last two weeks had been a nightmare. First, losing Lee. Then, the Captain’s return in less than pristine condition. Nelson grimaced, climbing up from the flying sub. And getting it through that thick head that he was in no condition to command a nuclear submarine... The battle that raged when Jamison insisted Lee remain resting in his cabin, and in his pajamas!
Completely subdued as he stepped up into the sub and greeted Seaview’s Exec, Nelson thought of the reason for his recall to ONI headquarters. Thank God, Lee need never know. Watching that tape had been the hardest thing the Admiral had ever done. It was one thing to look at his Captain’s injuries and recognize their source, and quite another to see exactly how they were inflicted. He’d kept reminding himself repeatedly that Lee was safe and with Chip and Jamie. Watching the terrified and hurting man on that tape was devastating. Even knowing Lee was no longer in the hands of that sadistic bastard did not help. Nelson felt impotent and nauseated with fury. He had made damn sure that tape was destroyed before his own eyes.
Chip was just about to give the Admiral the boat’s status when a call came over the intercom for Admiral Nelson to please come to the Captain’s quarters. The Exec and Admiral exchanged worried glances. "Admiral, Lee had a video call from Admiral Kennett just a few minutes ago."
"Admiral Kennett." Nelson was astounded. "Why on earth would he…?" He paled. Ignoring Chip’s look of inquiry, he practically ran up the spiral staircase, mind solely on his Captain. Kennett wouldn’t have been stupid enough to… Yes, Ken certainly would. He increased his pace.
Nelson’s worst fear was recognized as he entered Lee’s cabin without knocking. Captain and CMO stood facing each other down from opposite sides of the room. Lee switched his glare to the Admiral. Eyes a bit wild and accusing. Breathing hard. The room was in shambles.
Jamison’s voice was calm and steady. "Sickbay, Skipper." The Captain deliberately leaned back against the wall behind him. Arms crossed. Eyes narrowed. He was pale and trembling, cheeks flushed with rage. He would have been intimidating if it weren’t for the sulky look and oversized pajamas. His robe hung loose and disheveled as the dark riotous hair.
"Captain…" The Doctor continued to keep his voice low and soothing. The Admiral interrupted before he could finish speaking.
"Doc. Give us a few minutes alone." He looked over at his CMO. "I promise I’ll personally escort him to Sickbay. Just give us some time." Despite the order, Nelson was asking.
Torn, Jamison studied his Captain and Admiral. "Alright. But just a few minutes." His eyes went to Nelson again. Face stern. "Then I want that man in Sickbay." Nelson nodded.
The Admiral waited until Jamison shut the door behind him before speaking. "Lee…"
"Why didn’t you tell me?" Lee burst out, pushing off of the wall, betrayed and hurt. Humiliation flooding throughout his entire body. He ran his hands over his hair again, clutching strands of it in his fingers, face focused on the floor. When he spoke again, it was barely audible. "How many people saw it, Admiral…? Who saw it?" He looked up determinedly. ‘I want to see it. I have a right to see it."
"Lee… I… I couldn’t tell you. " Nelson stuttered. "The tape was destroyed! Only a few of us saw it. I’d rather not say who."
"ONI never destroys anything they think might be useful." Lee was adamant. His eyes flamed. "I want to see it." He repeated. "Admiral, I have to see it. I have to know what… what…" Lee turned away, frustrated and overwhelmed with sick desperation. He placed his hands on the wall paneling, his forehead thunking against it. He couldn’t seem to catch his breath. He wanted to sink into the floor and disappear.
"Lad." Nelson whispered. "Do you think I would let them keep that tape? Let anyone who wanted to, get their hands on it! It’s gone, Lee. I watched it destroyed." He stepped towards his Captain. "It doesn’t matter what was on it. No one will ever see it again."
"I want to know! I want to know what was on that tape… what you saw… I…" His voice broke. Lee faced Nelson again. His expression defiant and angry, haunted eyes shining with tears. Under the Admiral’s stricken gaze, the tears spilled over, sliding down the ashen face. Lee glared, ignoring them, letting them fall. "I have a right to know!"
Lee wanted to curl up in a hole and die. Just the thought of the ONI committee, and Nelson, watching him scream like a baby from the pain… watching him tied down… naked and helpless… chilled him to the bone. If only he could remember. It was all so fuzzy; did he remember begging them to stop? What had they seen? God! How could he face any of them again?
At that moment, all Admiral Nelson wanted in the whole world, was to get his hands on the son-of-a-bitch on that tape. To tear out his heart with bare hands. Nelson’s entire body shuddered under the strain of holding back from Lee. He wanted to take the wounded man in arms and hold him. To somehow rip the pain from that battered spirit. Enraged and powerless, the Admiral lost control.
"You want to know what we saw on that tape!" Nelson yelled, striding forward to grab Lee’s shoulders in iron hands. He refused to let Lee pull away. "We saw the torrid depths a human being can sink into, the corrupt decaying of a man into that of a soulless beast!" He shook Lee, following the wide-eyed trembling man to his knees. The Admiral choked back tears of his own, voice quivering as he continued. His hands gentling and supporting his Captain. "And we saw the strength… and courage… of a man in the most trying of circumstances." Nelson met Lee’s wondering eyes with his own. Trying to express his words visually, to let Lee know how much they were truly meant. "We saw his endurance… his unshakeable refusal to surrender… we saw his loyalty… to his country and to his uniform." The Admiral’s voice deepened and softened. "Lee… What we saw..." He swallowed, never taking his eyes off Lee’s for a second. "…was a man who inspired our deepest admiration… and our respect." Admiral Nelson’s hands slid up to cradle his Captain’s face, his thumbs, carefully drying wet cheeks. Lee stared blindly back at him, shivering. "Lee." He whispered. "I saw a man I was so proud of… proud to call my Captain. And so proud, Lee… so proud to call my friend."
Lee weakened with relief, falling forward into arms that caught him gently, but wrapped around him forcefully. He buried his head into a welcome shoulder. Trying not to think, to feel, emotions in turmoil.
"Oh, Lee." Nelson rocked the most important person left in his life, face pressed into soft dark hair. "They didn’t destroy you before. Don’t let them do it now. It’s over. Seaview has you back. I have you. And neither of us is about to let go."
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