I had several inspirations for this story.
1. CJ Hansen’s Exposure. So much emotion in such a little package.
2. The Plot Squid Christmas Challenge. Even though I didn’t complete this story by the deadline.
3. Writers who take an existing scene or storyline from a Voyage episode and make it their own, in this case, Fatal Cargo.
4. And most importantly, my brothers and sisters. After losing our mother six years ago and our father six months ago, we came together at Christmastime, in love and friendship.
5. Under the guise of Voyage characters, this story is about recovering from tragedy, and the power of familial love.
My story begins just as Brock pushes Crane down a flight of stairs ……….
A Christmas Gift
As Lee fell down the stairwell, his legs ricocheted cruelly off each step, the pounding brutal on bone and tendon. Suddenly, his right leg collapsed. Lee heard the sickening snap of bone a split second before the onslaught of incredible pain. The femur of his right leg had snapped, ripped through the flesh of his leg and punctured the skin. Lee collapsed to the deck, screaming. Panicked by Lee’s cries, Brock fled.
Even through the shimmering red haze of excruciating pain and rapidly descending shock, Lee knew he couldn’t wait for someone to find him - he was already hemorrhaging at an alarming rate. He had to get help now.
Barely lucid, acting on instinct alone, using his good leg, Lee slowly pushed his body across the deck to the bulkhead, literally sobbing from the pain. Fueled by a desperate burst of strength, he reached for the intercom and knocked it off its perch. Exhausted, he fell to the deck, cradling the intercom against his chest.
The Control Room was quiet, the shift uneventful. The Admiral and Chip were working at the plot table, while the crew easily tended to their duties.
Then, over the intercom, a faint, frantic voice …..
“Ad ….. m’ril ………. Ch-ip ………. hurry!”
Nelson and Chip looked at each other, puzzled. Harry grabbed the intercom.
“Lee ………. Lee, is that you? ….. Lee! Are you all right? ………. Lee!” There was no response. “Sparks, can you trace the location of that call?”
“Yes, Admiral ………. just a moment ………. got it! Frame 74, aft!”
Nelson ran to the rear hatch of the Control Room yelling, “Chip, call Sickbay! Tell Doc to meet me at …..”
“I’m on it, Admiral!”
Nelson raced down the length of the ship, exited the main corridor, slid to the top of the stairwell, took one step - and froze. Below him, Lee lay sprawled on the deck, writhing in agony. Harry could see the glistening white, jagged tip of Lee’s broken bone poking through his pant leg, his khakis saturated with blood. As Lee fell deeper into shock, his screams had morphed into intense, low guttural moans.
Nelson flew down the stairs and fell to his knees beside Lee. “I’m here, Lee ….. I’m here. It’s OK ….. lie still.”
Harry ripped off his belt and, using it as a tourniquet, tied it around Lee’s thigh to stem the bleeding. He pulled Lee’s upper body against his own and wrapped his arms around Lee’s chest, trying to contain his frantic movements. In his delirium, Lee tried to pull away, as if to escape the unrelenting waves of pain.
“My leg ………. Admiral ….. my leg,” Lee sobbed.
“I know ….. don’t try to talk,” soothed Nelson. “Doc’s on his way …. you’ll be all right.”
“Brock ….. he …..”
“OK ….. don’t worry about Brock …... just be still.”
“Skipper, I’m going to put you to sleep now,” Jamie said gently, injecting the anesthesia into Lee’s IV.
“No! ….. wait,” Lee rasped weakly. “Admiral ………. Harry …..” Lee had been stripped of his blood-soaked uniform and bundled in warm blankets. A splint stabilized his leg for transport and painkillers had eased some of his suffering.
“I’m right here, Lee,” said Nelson affectionately as he stepped to the gurney. He rested one hand on Lee’s chest and entwined the other in Lee’s damp, curly hair. Lee’s eyes were glazed from pain and shock, and he shivered uncontrollably.
“Ad … ad … mir … al ………. please ….. don’t worry,” Lee whispered, his teeth chattering. “I’ll be fine …..”
As the anesthesia took effect, Lee’s face and body relaxed, his eyes closed - and the agony of the last half hour was over.
“We’re ready to go now, Admiral,” said Jamie softly, placing a hand on Nelson’s shoulder. “We’ll take good care of him.”
Harry nodded and pulled away from Lee.
“All right, men …. gently ….. let’s get the Skipper to the Flying Sub,” Jamie instructed the corpsmen.
Harry and Chip followed the medical team carrying Lee’s stretcher out of Sickbay. But once out in the corridor, Harry stopped abruptly and leaned against the bulkhead, drained, his knees shaking.
“He ….. he was in such pain, Chip ….. and yet, he reassured me ….. that he would be all right,” Harry said in awe, his voice trembling. “Where does one find that kind of courage?”
“Admiral ….. that’s Lee.”
For the last several hours, Lee had started to show signs of waking from a three-day, drug-induced, healing sleep: gentle sighs … soft moans … slow, languid movements of his head, arms and uninjured leg … fluttering eyelids … brief moments of awareness.
Then, finally ……….
“Mmmm ….. Admiral …..” Lee murmured.
Harry put his work aside, rose from his chair and moved to Lee’s bedside.
“Good morning, Lee,” Harry said softly.
“Mmmm ….. ‘morning. How ….. long?”
“Almost three days.”
“Three days?” Lee moaned in disbelief.
Harry nodded. “How do you feel?”
“I’m not sure,” Lee said, his voice still fragile from the rigors of surgery. “I feel like I’m floating ….. I can’t seem to …..” Frowning, “I can’t feel my leg ….. is it ….. ?”
“Your leg is going to be just fine,” Harry said reassuringly, carefully sitting down on the edge of Lee’s bed. “The surgery went very well. But you’ve been given strong medication to spare you the pain and help you sleep.”
“Mmmm.” Then, softly, hesitantly, “Brock …..?”
Harry paused for a moment. “He’s dead,” he said soberly. “Killed by that creature of his.”
Lee simply nodded and closed his eyes. He lacked the strength to react any other way.
Harry thought Lee had fallen back to sleep, until …..
“Admiral ….. I don’t have the courage to ….. ” Lee confessed. “Please ….. tell me ….. what does my leg look like?”
Looking directly into Lee’s eyes, Harry said firmly, without hesitation, “Lee, you are the most courageous person I’ve ever known.”
Momentarily stunned, Lee stared at Nelson, his expression open and guileless, eyes huge in his pale face.
“Thank you, Admiral,” he said softly. “But ….. not today.”
Harry nodded. “All right.” He had rarely seen Lee so vulnerable.
Harry gently pulled back the covers and looked at Lee’s wounded leg, the surgical site wrapped in clean, white gauze. Trying to lighten the mood, Nelson cocked his head to one side, narrowed his eyes in false contemplation, folded his arms across his chest and said casually, “Well ….. it is a bit swollen ….. and a bit black and blue …..”
“Just a bit, huh?” Lee chuckled gently, regaining some composure.
“Uh, huh ….. just a bit ….. and you’re going to have a whale of a scar for awhile …..”
“Hmmm ….. well ….. there goes my tennis game,” Lee lamented dramatically, following Nelson’s lead.
Nelson paused for a moment and cleared his throat. “Uh, Lee ….. you really don’t have a tennis game,” he teased. “But …..”
“Oh, now that hurts,” Lee interrupted, moaning in mock indignation.
“ ….. but …..” Harry continued, “as usual, you’ll still look great on the court ….. even with those knees!”
“Gee, thanks, Admiral ….. I feel so much better.”
Both men laughed easily, enjoying the moment of lightness, of normalcy.
Then, Lee’s smile faded and his face darkened.
“Admiral,” he whispered, his eyes slowly rising to meet Nelson’s. “I was so afraid.”
“I know,” Harry said, maintaining eye contact, very aware of how difficult it was for Lee to confess his fear. “And I was very afraid for you.”
Both men were silent for a moment, not uncomfortably so, subdued by their own memories of the accident.
“But now,” said Harry, breaking the silence, “now ….. I feel only relief and gratitude. According to the doctor, in a few days, when the danger of infection has passed, you’ll be fitted with a cast and sent home.”
Lee’s expression softened and, in a now-familiar gesture, he brushed his hand back and forth through his hair, jet-black curls springing back to life. Nelson smiled at the gesture and the result.
“With proper rest and rehabilitation, you’ll be back on your feet in several months. That is, of course, if you behave,” Harry teased.
“If I behave?” Lee countered with practiced innocence. “I always behave.”
“Uh-huh,” Harry chuckled.
“Admiral, I promise,” Lee yawned, “I will be the perfect patient.”
“You better be!”
After a moment …..
“Not exactly the Christmas you had planned, is it?” Lee said sleepily, valiantly trying to keep his eyes open and his mind focused on the conversation.
“Lee, Christmas has never held as much meaning for me as it does right now. My captain ….. my dearest friend ….. has suffered a terrible injury. But he’s going to make a complete recovery. We may celebrate the holiday a week or so late ….. but we will celebrate. We have so much to be thankful for.”
Nelson could see that his friend was exhausted.
“Lee, you need to rest,” Harry said, affectionately squeezing Lee’s arm. “I’m going to leave for a few hours for a quick lunch and to check in at the Institute. I’ll be back this afternoon.”
“Mmmm,” Lee responded, nestling deeper under the covers. “I’ll be here.”
Chuckling, Nelson drew away from the bed, dimmed the lights and reached for the door.
Then ….. out of the semi-darkness ….. from almost-sleep, Lee murmured, “I love you, Admiral.”
Nelson turned back to Lee, smiling broadly and said, “I love you, Lee. Merry Christmas.”