This is a stand-alone story that fits most anywhere in the Voyage timeline. I don’t often work with the admiral. I find he’s a difficult man to understand but sometimes…
Would somebody like to tell me why I was soaking wet and why was my head pounding? I just lay still, not sure what had happened, only knowing that every bone in my body ached. I knew that feeling. Seaview must have had another tantrum, tossed me around pretty good, from the feel of things. I took stock of my aches and pains, aware I was leaning with my back propped against something warm. I was aware of somebody calling my name. The voice was familiar, but I just couldn't get past the pain in my head to put a name to the voice.
"Admiral? Admiral, can you hear me? I need a sign, Admiral. I know you hear me." The accent, the tone, the sense of worry. I knew that voice. I needed to tell him I was fine, not to worry. "Lee?" I managed. I heard a sigh, so filled with relief I had to stop and wonder what happened. Something about a bulkhead breach? That would explain the water and why I was drenched.
"Right here, Admiral. Just take it easy. Damage Control should have the breach shored up anytime now," Lee said. His voice seemed to be coming from a point over my head. I pried one eye then the other open. Lee was standing with his back against the bulkhead, watching me with a hundred emotions reflecting in his eyes. We were standing in cold dark water, up to our chests. I hadn't realized it before but his left hand was pressed over my chest, over my heart, his other arm was wrapped around my waist, holding me up and out of the water. When he saw me open my eyes, I saw relief flood those liquid amber eyes of his.
"I'm fine, Lee, just fine," I managed, unconvincingly if the look on Lee's face was any indication.
"Just hold still. You took a nasty knock on the head. We'll get you to Sickbay and Doc can take a look at you," Lee said, his eyes still colored by worry despite the relief I saw seconds ago.
That when I remembered what happened. An undersea quake and we had been too close to the Solaris seamount. I remember Chip's frantic call to brace for shock waves, the tilt to starboard, then being thrown to port. I remembered a horrific crunch and the sound of metal tearing, and the impact as the wall of water knocked me off my feet. I recalled looking back toward the hatchway as water poured though in a knee deep flood and seeing Lee framed in the doorway.
"You disobeyed a direct order. I told you to dog that hatch," I said, trying to put some fire into those words. Crane met my gaze, a defiant spark in his eyes.
"With all due respect, admiral, I did dog the hatch shut. You just failed to mention which side of the hatch I was suppose to dog it from. I saw you slip under and I made a snap decision," Lee explained. No remorse. No regret. I pushed away from him, hoping to stand on my own. I felt his loosen his hold on me, but the throbbing in my head had my balance thrown off and I slipped, dropping into the cold floodwater.
Crane grabbed me under my shoulders and heaved me up and out of the water, me gasping for air. This time I didn't resist as he braced himself against the bulkhead. Seemed like that's how it always was, him bracing himself to hold my weight, to lend support for my ideas and dreams. He was a pillar I could count on. Crane was always there for me to lean on.
"Just relax admiral, lean on me, I'm not going to let you go," Lee said, tightening his grip in me, keeping my head above water. I sighed, tightening my grip around his right wrist. I felt his hand close around mine in an unspoken gesture.
"I know you're not, son. I know."