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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

“Harry?” After the latest explosion, I’ve finally created a small opening through the bulkhead into his quarters. “Har? Are you okay?” I move close to the wall, trying to see something through the hole. After a moment of straining, I manage to glimpse something at the edge of my vision.

His hand. Lying on the ground, palm up. And not moving. “Harry!” My voice is tinged with fear, growing more desperate with each repetition. “Harry, please!” Just when I’m about to lose control completely, he finally responds.

His hand twitches, fingers briefly curling in toward his palm. Then it’s pulled out of sight, accompanied by a low moan. He’s alive. I take a deep breath, forcing myself to calm down and handle the situation properly. “Don’t move, Har. You could be injured.”

There’s a small noise from the other side that I can’t quite identify. Then his voice, small and weak, but there. “Tom?” He sounds confused and uncertain, probably still disoriented from his unconsciousness.

“It’s okay, Har. I’m almost there.” I quickly set up the next makeshift bomb, a rations package containing a small amount of Horta Nutritional Supplement Three, a weak alkaline earth metal. “Stay where you are. There’ll be a small explosion so I can get to you. Just stay there.”

I wait for an affirmative grunt, then fix the package in place slightly beneath the existing hole. One last time. I insert a straw carefully into the package, methodically sealing the connection with chewing gum. Feeling ridiculous, I move to the end of my makeshift contraption and prepare to set off another small explosion.

I’m not sure I want to explain to Harry exactly how I managed to get through the bulkhead. Although it works, it’s too damn ridiculous to be proud of. After twenty minutes studying the food database, the only thing I could think of was testing the Horta entries to see if any of them were alkaline earth metals. Which I vaguely remember causes an explosive reaction when combined with water. Unfortunately, at least for this rescue attempt, Chemistry at the Academy was a long time ago. And not my best subject to begin with.

So I rigged up this ridiculous contraption. A rations package with a sample of Horta food, attached to the wall by chewing gum. A pipeline of straws, so that I can stand a safe distance away. And because I couldn’t think of a more elegant way to start the reaction, I blow water through the straws. Which is a lot harder than it seems like it should be, since the straw pipeline is long and basically level.

I take a small mouthful of water and blow. After several attempts, I manage to work enough water to the other end to trigger the explosion. There’s a loud noise, and then I’m relieved to see a larger hole. Enough for me to finish with my hands.

I smile in triumph and start enlarging the hole, methodically working out broken sections of the bulkhead until it’s big enough for me to squeeze through. “Harry?” Finally pushing my way into his quarters, I see him curled up on his side in a fetal position. I quickly kneel at his side to check on him.

“I’m okay.” His eyes are closed in a grimace of pain, obviously fighting for control. I place one hand on his side to reassure him, careful not to apply much pressure until I’ve assessed his injuries. “Just….” He opens his eyes, lifting his head to smile at me, but a wave of pain washes over his features, forcing his eyes shut again.

“Take your time, Har. Just breathe deeply and let me make sure you’re okay.” He nods slowly, abandoning the effort to speak. I visually examine him, seeing no obvious lacerations, although there’s a small bruise darkening his left temple. From the position of his body, he has no obvious broken bones. And he’s following my instructions and breathing deeply without any added pain, so he probably doesn’t have any broken ribs.

Wanting to be sure, I gently pull his shirt out of his trousers far enough to feel along his ribcage. He tenses automatically at the touch of my hands, and I murmur, “Just gonna make sure you don’t have any broken ribs, Har.” He nods, relaxing into my touch without speaking. I examine him gently, feeling slowly along the length of each rib for any breaks.

And I can’t help but notice the smoothness of his skin. I’ve had male lovers before, but never any with such amazingly soft skin. Like silk under my fingertips. As flawlessly perfect as B'Elanna. I pull my hands away abruptly and push his shirt back down.

Disconcerted, I clear my throat and say, “You’re okay, Har.” I flick my eyes up to his face, hoping he hasn’t picked up on my discomfort. “Just rest till the nausea passes.” His eyes are still closed, not drawn with pain this time, but simply resting as he focuses on breathing. Delicate lashes rest softly on his cheek, then flutter open. I stare at his eyes, realizing for the first time how dark they are. A rich chocolate brown.

He sits up without nausea this time, dark eyes innocently meeting my gaze. “Help me get to the couch? I think if I rest for a minute, I’ll be fine.” I nod, and help him up. He puts one arm around my neck for support, and I instinctively put my arm around his waist to help. I support him as he stands up unsteadily and moves to the couch. I focus on him as a patient, ignoring the weight of his arm over my shoulder, the feel of my arm around his waist. Just a part of my duties as a field medic.

And as a field medic, I have to figure out why he’s having more difficulty recovering than I did. Assuming he was knocked unconscious by a phaser at the same setting I was, he should be okay by now. Unless…

“Har. Have you had anything to eat since we were in the holodeck?” He shakes his head. And he came to help me after several hours of analysis, and after a regular duty shift on the bridge. I, however, had dinner with B'Elanna right before we found Tabor. And the Doc has made it a policy to administer nutritional supplements to all sickbay personnel during extended crises, so that medical care is not compromised by fatigue, inattention, or dizziness.

I order something simple from the replicator, a light soup that should be easy to keep down, but will get some nutrients back into his system. As it materializes, I’m thankful once again that they’ve left us replicator control. “This should help with the nausea.” I carry it back to him, walking slowly so that no liquid sloshes over the edge.

He takes it carefully from me. “Thanks.” His smile is just as dazzling as always, the same likable kid as usual. I relax into the couch, letting the familiarity of the situation soothe away some of my anxiety. Everything seems a little less overwhelming now that I have Harry back. I’ll just let him get a little nourishment, then we’ll discuss everything we know about what’s happening on the ship. We’ll come up with some brilliant plan, go find B'Elanna, and save the ship.

When we emerge into the next quarters, the room is dark and still. “Hello?” Harry moves into the next room, looking for the occupant, Ensign Pablo Baytart. “Are you in here, Pablo?” I follow automatically.

Harry comes to a sudden stop in front of me, and I instinctively grab on to him to keep from knocking him over. “Tom.” There is worry in his voice, but I can’t tell why until I pass him. Baytart is lying on the bed, motionless. The right side of his face is splotched with bruises. There’s a nasty cut above his eye, curving back past his hairline, where the dark hair is sticky with blood. I immediately move to his side, accessing his condition as best as I can without diagnostic equipment.

“Get me a clean wet towel, Har.” He complies immediately. I carefully examine the rest of his body, but he appears to have suffered no other injuries. Although the head wound is severe enough to be a problem without proper treatment.

Harry comes back with the towel, passing it to me silently, then standing out of the way while I work. I gingerly wash off the blood, making sure the wound is clean. It’s a shallow cut, although it’s long enough to have produced a lot of blood. And the blood has almost clotted, only a thin trickle still seeping out. I tear off a thin strip of his bedsheet, winding it into a makeshift bandage to protect the wound from further contamination. I critically examine my handiwork. Rather crude, but it’ll have to do until we can get him to sickbay.

“He has a mild concussion, which hasn’t been treated.” I feel a surge of anger at whoever would throw an injured man into his quarters and leave him unattended, but repress it as best I can. Anger can’t help him now. And if his condition is any indication, we have to regain control of Voyager as soon as possible, before anyone is killed. “I can’t do much more for him without a medkit. He should be okay, but we need to keep him awake as much as possible.”

Harry nods his understanding, laying one hand lightly on Baytart’s arm as he calls softly to him. “Pablo.” When this fails, he shakes him gently. “Come on, now’s no time for a nap.” At last, Baytart’s eyes open, looking frightened and confused. After a quick sigh of relief, Harry acts as if there’s nothing out of the ordinary, not letting his concern show. “Sorry to wake you.” He smiles apologetically, and his warmth seems to have a calming effect. “Didn’t want you to miss out on all the fun.”

Baytart struggles to sit, and we both help him up. “Where am I? What’s going on?” His confusion is evident, and growing stronger. Harry and I exchange a worried look.

“How much do you remember, Pablo?” I speak softly, not wanting to frighten him.

His brow crumples in concentration, and he thinks for a long moment before answering. “I’m not sure. It’s all kind of…” He searches for a word, fails, and then finishes uncertainly, “fuzzy”. Harry looks at me in alarm, but I ignore him, focusing on Baytart. “We were on the bridge….” He closes his eyes, trying hard to remember. “Trying to fix an error in the thruster control system.”

I frown immediately. That was yesterday. If he’s lost his short-term memory, the concussion could be more severe than I’d thought. He opens his eyes in sudden alarm. “Did we fix them? Is there something wrong with the ship?”

I immediately reach out to reassure him. “We’ve corrected the problem.” I smile at him, quickly deciding how best to deal with this. We can’t leave him here; his condition is too risky for that. But we have to find out what’s going on, find a way to take back the ship.

I stand up, assuming a distantly professional attitude, and continue in a formal voice. “You did some excellent work on that problem, Ensign.” As expected, he immediately stiffens, sublimating his pain in order to answer.

“Thank you, Sir.” Harry looks at me oddly, wondering what I’m up to.

“However, I require your expertise in another matter.”

He struggles to stand. I ignore the impulse to help, letting Harry steady him. Instead, I stand formally at ease, waiting calmly, as if this is merely a routine exercise. After a brief moment of dizziness, he answers. “Of course, Sir. How may I be of assistance?”

His eyes are clear and alert now. He has pushed back the pain, focusing on his duties. I resist the urge to smile, relieved my ploy is working. That Starfleet endurance can always be counted on. Gives them a reason to stay calm, lets them ignore everything else and perform their duties. And Baytart is a conn officer, one of the more promising junior pilots, so I am his direct superior. The perfect person to summon that courage, and use it to get him through this.

I stroll casually into the main living area, and he automatically follows. Harry lets us leave, understanding the ruse now. I make up a simplified explanation for Baytart, securing his cooperation and obedience without scaring him, then give him some random order to keep him busy.

Harry is at my side as soon as Baytart is too far away to hear. “Is he going to be okay?”

I nod grimly, starting the process to break into the next quarters. “He should be okay for now.” I pause to meet his worried gaze, and reluctantly admit, “But now we have two reasons to get to sickbay.”

He studies me for a moment, then helps me set up The Contraption. “Right.”

We work in silence, given new urgency by Baytart’s condition. We plan to continue this process until we have enough people to stage a breakout into the main body of the ship. Then our priority is to avoid detection long enough to make it to sickbay and reactivate the Doc. And hope that whatever discovery he made right before Chakotay deactivated him will provide us with a way to reverse whatever’s wrong with the rest of the crew.

Continue to Chapter Six