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I am become hollow - a ST: Voyager fic

Fandom: Star Trek: Voyager
Title: I am become hollow
Characters/Pairings: Paris/Kim, Paris/Torres
Full header info posted with Chapter One

Anytime now. Everyone so far has come out of it on the same timetable. So B'Elanna should wake up soon.

I sigh deeply and run my hand through my hair in frustration, glad there’s no one here to see me. I’m alone except for B'Elanna and Chakotay, who are still unconscious. The other patients have recovered and been released after a precautionary observation period. The Doc is still in the brig with our mysterious assailant. Since there’s really nothing to do, and so I could break down without an audience, I dismissed the rest of the medical personnel.

I lean heavily against the bulkhead, letting it keep me standing since I don’t have the will to do it myself anymore. It’s been almost twenty-nine hours since they found B'Elanna in the cargo bay. More than a day without her. All the patients so far have recovered almost exactly twenty-nine hours after they were attacked, so she should come out of it soon. But that reassurance does little to help me stay sane.

I should have been there. Some part of my brain reminds me that Chakotay had time to fight, and he still lost. So I probably wouldn’t have been able to do anything. But that doesn’t really help. I’m her husband; I should have been with her. I could have found some way to protect her. If not, I at least would have been unconscious with her, not having to watch helplessly as she lies there, so still that I keep checking the biobed readings to make sure she’s still with me. It should have been me, instead of Chakotay, knocked down trying to protect her.

Of course, that’s assuming the attacker considers me Maquis. If I’m Starfleet… They could have just killed me for getting in the way. Not that I’m afraid of dying, but then I wouldn’t be here when she finally wakes up. Never get to see her beautiful smile again, or be on the receiving end of one of her temper tantrums. Never make her shudder with pleasure again. Or wake up with bruises all over me from the intensity of our passion. Never lie there watching her sleep, wondering if she’s dreaming about me.

I lean my head back against the wall and close my eyes, unable to watch her anymore. I keep reminding myself that she’ll wake up soon, that everything will be all right, but I can’t seem to make myself believe it. All I can think about is how close I came to losing her. She could have been killed, not just put into a coma. And I would’ve had to go on without her. Or at least try. Now that she’s finally my wife, after all those years of not having her, then dating her but still not being able to get close, I can’t even imagine living without her.

The monitor over her biobed beeps, pulling me out of my morbid thoughts. My heart beats faster, as if my sudden, overwhelming hope is being forced through its chambers. I check the readings to make sure, then allow myself to smile, for what feels like the first time in hours. I resist the need to reach out and touch her, to feel the life return as she wakes up. I’m not sure how much she’ll remember of her attack, if any, but I want to give her time to figure out where she is, and that she’s safe, before I touch her.

I watch, as she slowly starts to respond. Her eyelids flutter softly, and her breathing becomes a little deeper. I catch my breath, fascinated, as I watch my B'Elanna come back to me, irrationally afraid that if I move, I might interfere with her recovery somehow. At last her eyes open, and I allow myself to breathe again. She looks around in confusion, quickly realizing that she’s in sickbay and then automatically searching for me. She smiles hesitantly when she finds me, and I immediately take her hand in mine. She opens her mouth to ask what happened, a fleeting expression of doubt flashing across her face, but the feel of my touch stills her. Her smile grows more confident, and she squeezes my hand fiercely.

“You were attacked. Taken by surprise. But you’re okay now.” I lift her hand to my lips, gently kissing it. My eyes briefly close, relieved to feel the velvety brush of her skin on my lips again. “Everything’s okay now.”

I hesitate, knowing that’s not quite the truth. Although her assailant has been identified and placed in custody, we don’t know what caused the attacks, or what purpose they serve. But that precautionary thought isn’t enough to keep me from celebrating. B'Elanna’s back with me again, and the rest of it doesn’t matter.

Feeling a little silly, but unable and unwilling to hide my relief, I suddenly lean down to take her in my arms. I wrap my arms around her tightly, embracing her and holding her close against me. After a moment of surprise, her arms come around my waist, and we just hold each other for a moment. All the repressed fear and barely suppressed anguish of the past twenty-nine hours washes over me in a wave, and I feel myself shudder.

I release her, pulling myself back to a safe distance. I smile at her, then kiss her softly, trying to let her feel my love instead of my pain. After a moment of tasting her lips on mine, tenderly caressing them with my own, I let her go. Smiling down at her, I softly say, “I’m glad you’re back, B'Ela.”

“I’m glad to be back.” Her voice is light and teasing, but there’s a soft intensity to her eyes that proves she has seen and understood the emotions behind my words.

For a moment, we watch each other in silence, neither of us sure what to say. Then the monitor over Chakotay’s biobed sounds, interrupting our reverie. I quickly confirm that his recovery is imminent, and then activate my com badge.

“Sickbay to the captain.” I wait for her to respond, resisting the urge to return to B'Elanna until I’ve finished my other duties.

“Go ahead, Mr. Paris.” Her voice is hushed, not wanting anyone in the brig to overhear my report. I respond accordingly, keeping my own voice as muted as possible.

“Captain. I wanted to inform you that Chakotay is showing the first signs of recovery. He should be fully conscious in less than a minute.”

“Excellent. I’m on my way.” Her voice belies the enthusiasm of her words, sounding tired and stressed. I frown, wondering what could keep her from feeling the joy warranted by the recovery of her first officer.

“Understood.” I refrain from adding anything, letting her decide whether additional information is required.

“Janeway out.” She closes the com line immediately. I wonder briefly what could cause her to act so strangely, then shrug it off to rejoin B'Elanna. Whatever the problem, I’m sure she’ll explain it to Chakotay. And being the scrupulously ethical person that I am, I should be able to overhear enough while attending to Chakotay’s medical needs to figure out what’s troubling her.

“Okay….” The Doc stares at the readouts on the medical console, frowning fiercely in concentration. “We’ve isolated the hidden transmission that triggered Tuvok’s response. We have a vague idea of how the Bajoran most likely tried to brainwash him from Chakotay’s description. Now, if we can figure out what exactly happened in his brain, maybe we can find a way to cancel out the interference.”

We’ve been studying the medical database, cross-referencing entries, and analyzing the tricorder data from Tuvok for twenty minutes or so. Tuvok is our attacker, acting under the manipulation of some Bajoran extremist who tried to brainwash him, apparently with some success, while he was undercover with the Maquis. But since he can’t remember exactly what happened to him, or explain the purpose of the attacks, it’s up to the Doc and I to find a way to help him.

Behind me, B'Elanna starts to fidget again. After Chakotay left, she stayed with me in sickbay so we could talk. But since the Doc came back with Tuvok’s tricorder readings, the two of us have been focused on analyzing the results and trying to find a cure. Without me as a distraction, she’s getting restless.

The Doc’s eyes flicker briefly toward her, then return to the console. I repress a smile at that. He’s in research mode now, not treatment mode, and I know her presence serves as a distraction and minor annoyance. And B'Elanna’s hopelessly bored, wishing desperately she was in engineering so she could take something apart and play with it. I decide to make both of them happy.

As I move toward her, I hear her start to hum, off key as usual. This time, I can’t help but grin. She built me a television and downloaded programs from the historical database. The advertising jingles she included for authenticity have proven to be annoyingly catchy. We’ve both started humming them when we’re bored or nervous, although she won’t admit it.

I walk a little faster. The Doc won’t be able to restrain himself from commenting for very long, and B'Elanna doesn’t take criticism well. Not that the Doc has room to judge. He hums or sings to himself constantly when he thinks no one’s listening. Of course, he sounds better when he does it, but B'Elanna’s not really that bad.

She looks up and smiles at me as I approach. “Hey B'Ela, we’re probably going to be at this a while. So go ahead and leave if you want.” I smile fondly at her from the foot of the biobed. “See if engineering’s still running after a day without you. I’ll catch up with you after we finish here.” She immediately nods in agreement. Neither of us are skilled at waiting patiently.

The Doc makes what I call his ‘Eureka’ grunt behind us, and we both turn to see what he’s discovered. “Tom, I think I’ve got it!” His expression is pure excitement now; his face lit up with a big goofy grin. “Let me verify something… Yes, that’s it. This should work!” He talks to himself as he pulls up more files from the database, his voice sounding more excited with each confirmation.

“Love ya,” I whisper to B'Elanna. She mouths the words back to me and smiles, still laying on the biobed. I grin back happily, reluctant to leave her again.

There is the sound of a medical monitor alert, and I immediately check B'Elanna’s biobed. But she’s fine. The Doc checks his console and announces, irritation evident in his voice, “It’s Chakotay.”

“What is it?”

“I’m not sure.” I glance briefly down at B'Elanna, trying to keep the concern from my eyes. I tap something random into my PADD, trying to ignore that familiar tickle on the back of my neck. “Sickbay to Commander Chakotay.” He waits, but there’s no response. Something bad is about to happen. I glance over at him, hoping we can keep it from affecting B'Elanna. “Computer, locate Chakotay.”

The crisp, emotionless voice of the computer answers, “Commander Chakotay is in sickbay.” The doors slide open behind us as the computer finishes. Chakotay strides in, eyes cold with some grim purpose. I don’t know what’s wrong with him, but my instincts tell me it’s going to involve B'Elanna.

The Doc opens his mouth, but doesn’t have time to speak. “Computer, deactivate the EMH.” The Doc fades out of existence.

Chakotay takes out his phaser as he moves, striding toward me aggressively. I can feel the adrenaline pumping through my system, preparing me for a fight, but I know it’s already too late. “Commander?” There’s not enough time to reach the phaser holstered on my hip, so all I have is the futile hope that I can somehow snap him out of it in time to protect B'Elanna. And a useless PADD full of medical data.

Chakotay levels his phaser at me and fires. Intense pain radiates outward from the contact point on my solar plexus. The burning sensation quickly overwhelms my fear for B'Elanna as my vision fades, and I feel myself beginning to fall.

Continue to Chapter Four