Breathe Title: Breathe Author: Lady Shadow Fandom: ST:V Pairing(s): P/Tu, Tu/OMC Disclaimer: The following is a work of fanfiction. It is based on the ideas, settings, situations and characters of the television show “Star Trek: Voyager.” The author of this work of fanfiction neither owns nor claims to own the aforementioned ideas, settings, situations and characters. They are the sole property of the creators and owners of “Star Trek: Voyager” and all other legal associates. This fanfiction is written for entertainment purposes only and no profit is made from the writing or publication of this piece. No infringement of any rights, copyright or otherwise, is intended. Original plot and characters are © Lady Shadow, 2009. Summary : He was seriously beginning to hate the term “explorers” Status: Complete Series/Title/Pos? Y/The Blind and the Blind/1 Sequel/Title? Y/Catharsis Prequel/Title? N Warning(s) : NonCon Genre(s) : Angst Author's Notes : Part of the H/C Bingo contest. Prompt: Rape/recovery. Beta : Self Word Count: 3663 Breathe
He wondered why he couldn't have been more mediocre. He failed at a lot of things – in fact, he sucked at most things, and would have killed to take a step up to 'mediocre' there. But he used to think his piloting was his saving grace – in a lifetime of failures, of being sub-par, Thomas Eugene Paris was a peerless pilot. If he'd been a mediocre pilot he would have never been cashiered out of the fleet, would have never been picked up the Maquis, and would have therefore never been saved from prison by Kathryn Janeway and catapulted 70,000 light years from home.
Consequentially, he would also not be sitting in another stinking cell on an another alien planet with only the dubious hope of rescue to keep him from going insane.
Tom let his head fall forward and tried to breathe through his mouth. He'd never liked the combined scent of mildew and metal.
“How long do you think we're going to be here?” he asked finally. He tried to sound like he wasn't whining.
Tuvok cocked an eyebrow and considered the situation. “We have been in captivity for approximately twelve hours. We will doubtlessly be deemed missing in an hour or less. From that point, Voyager will likely discover our ion trail and track us to this planet with a reasonable degree of speed.”
“Which doesn't answer the question,” Tom pointed out.
“No, it does not,” Tuvok agreed.
Tom banged his head lightly on his knees and tapped his fingers against his ankles. Their space was abysmally small; he was pretty sure that his closet back on Voyager was a little bit bigger. Their space was further confined by the one cot and the bucket in the corner that he didn't even want to contemplate.
“Are they just going to leave us in here?!” Tom demanded finally. He didn't really like small spaces on good days. This was not a good day.
Tuvok made a tiny noise that Tom chose to interpret as a sigh, even though the vulcan would probably deny it. “We are an unknown quantity at present,” Tuvok pointed out. “The most logical course of action would be to quarantine us from the general prison population until we are better classified.”
“Yeah, yeah, logic is all well and good, but I swear I'm going to explode if they leave us locked in this closet until Voyager gets here.” Really, Tom felt that he was being very optimistic.
“It is physically impossible for you to explode from boredom, Mr. Paris.”
“God, you've been alive forever, and dealing with humans forever and you haven't figured out the sarcasm thing yet?”
“In actuality, your statement was a hyperbole.”
Tom glared at him. “Well, excuse me for forgetting those sixth-grade English lessons.”
Tom let his forehead crash back to his knees with a groan. “Why me?”
“Mr. Paris, rather than wallowing in self-pity, perhaps you could devise something more productive to apply yourself to,” Tuvok suggested. He was sitting cross-legged on their single cot and Tom was wedged against the opposite wall. He rolled his eyes and made a grand gesture with both hands in the limited space.
“You're right, Tuvok! I should really look at this as more of an... administrative holiday! While I've got all this free time on my hands, I'll just work on those new engineering schematics!”
“That, while a far better example of sarcasm, is no more constructive than striking your forehead against your knees.”
Tom glared at him dully. “And what would you suggest, sir?”
Tuvok shifted on the small cot, adjusting his legs so one was pulled against his chest and the other hung over the side of the metal shelf. “Join me,” he invited, and it was more of an order.
Tom would have refused, except that his tailbone was hurting and his ass was asleep. He levered himself up slowly and shook his legs out, wincing when his knee popped. He stretched his back and finally fell to the cot. The cushion was little more than a blanket spread over a solid sheet of metal, but the elevated position was at least marginally more comfortable than being jammed up against the wall.
“Concentrate on the sound of your breath,” Tuvok instructed.
“Are you going to try and teach me how to mediate? I've got to warn you, that's been tried before-”
“Concentrate on the sound of your breath,” the vulcan repeated implacably.
Tom grumbled under his breath, but closed his eyes and tried to do as Tuvok said. His breath sounded harsh, like wind pushing against canvas.
“Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth.”
Tom's mouth twisted into a grimace, but he took a long breath in through his nose and tried not to gag on the smell. This place was probably hosed down and left to mold after the last inmates were moved. At least, Tom hoped it was hosed down, and the dump wasn't underground or something.
“Feel your lungs as they expand... feel the muscles in your abdomen contract and expand.... concentrate on the sound of your breath.”
Mediating was never attractive to Tom. Meditating was akin to being trapped in his own head, and that was easily the last place in the universe that Tom Paris wanted to be. He shifted on the cot and tapped his thumbs against his knees while he tried to concentrate. Maybe if he concentrated enough just on the breathing, on hearing his own breath, he could block out the horrible stench and stop thinking.
“Balance is the root importance of everything,” Tuvok's soothing voice intoned. “You must be balanced in body and mind. You must find quiet, Mr. Paris.”
Like that was going to happen. He covered up his derisive snort with a cough and tried to get a little more comfortable.
“Awww, how cute.” There was a momentary lag while the universal translators filtered the words.
Tom let his eyes pop open, perversely grateful for the escape from the quiet. There were three humanoid men leaning indolently against the bars. From their dark green uniforms and shiny black boots, Tom guessed they were guards of some variety. He tried to keep the disgusted look off his face, but their skin was the color of a two-day old bruise and their eyes bulged slightly from their heads. All in all, not a very attractive people.
“They are colored pretty, aren't they?” one commented. He threaded his long arms through the bars and leaned forward while he examined them. “You two look lonely in there.” His purple lips stretched into a leer. “Would you like some company?”
“Only if you want your face rearranged,” Tom muttered.
“What was that?” The guard straightened up, his lips twisting into a scowl. “Sounded to me like an invitation. What do you boys think?” They laughed like typical lackeys. Thousands of light years, and no one seemed capable of a little more imagination.
He reached to his hip and brought out a key. The lock turned with a bone-jarring shriek and Tom shuddered. Tuvok remained passive beside him and Tom started thinking of ways to get out of what he was pretty sure they were getting into.
“I know you're both pretty excited for the company,” their jailor said with a sickly smile, “but don't jump up and down for the attention, now.”
Tom went through a mental checklist of their chances of rushing the guards and getting out of the cell. They weren't too high with the limited space. Plus, they'd both been blindfolded when they were taken off the transport ship and tossed into this hell hole, so he had no idea what the outside of the cell looked like.
“Which of you two lovelies wants some attention first, hm?” he asked, maintaining his polite tone.
Tom glanced at Tuvok. The man may as well have been a statue for all that he reacted. Tom sighed and shifted on the mattress, prepared to at least get in one good kick to the groin before they were overwhelmed.
“It is unwise to engage in sexual activity with a member of an unknown alien species,” Tuvok announced in the ensuing silence. Tom felt like groaning. Chatting with these types of people never did any good. If anything, they would just get ticked off for having their stupidity pointed out.
After contemplating Tuvok's advice for a moment, the first laughed. The other two joined in once they were sure it was okay. The leader reached forward and ran the pad of his thumb down Tuvok's cheek. The contrast of his putrid yellow skin against Tuvok's dark complexion made Tom feel ill. The desire to reach out and snap that disgusting thumb right off the disgusting man's hand was almost irresistible. Tuvok didn't deserve to be touched like that. He was better than that, above that.
Tuvok didn't so much as flinch.
“Baby, I won't be unknown for long.” He cracked a horrid grin and Tom couldn't restrain himself any longer. He surged up from the cot, caught the creature's arm and shoved him into the hard metal wall. Tom managed to smash the alien's head into the metal once before he was thrown against the bars. Another of the guards reacted immediately, winding an arm through the bars and around Tom's neck to pin him there.
The leader spat on the floor and gave Tom an ugly glare. “I was going to give us some privacy, but since you care about him so much, you can hold him while I fuck your buddy here within an inch of his pitiful life.” He brought a knee up into Tom's groin and the world exploded in stars. He gagged and sought to draw his knees upwards. Tears pricked at his eyes and he drew in great gulps of stale, wet air.
“Since I'm such a nice guy, I'm going to give you a choice, mister dark and silent. Bend over like a good little boy and you and I can have some nice gentle fun... or, if you're not feeling up to it, we can take your friend here off for a little party elsewhere. The guards' barracks is a lot nicer than this shithole.” He leered and grabbed Tom's face, forcing their faces together in something that was supposed to resemble a kiss. Tom would have bit him, but his jaw was being expertly crushed and he couldn't move it.
Tuvok stood slowly and the guard whipped out a crude but effective-looking weapon. He stood at the ready, but Tuvok only spread his arms in a kind of invitation. Tom groaned and the guard smirked. He straightened up and replaced the weapon in his belt.
“Your friend's got the right of it, here,” the guard said with a leer. He elbowed Tom once in the gut and then pried his friend's arm off Tom's throat.
“Tuvok-!” He was struck again and his protest was lost as the air left his lungs in a painful grunt.
“Sit the fuck down and be a good little boy. Believe me, pretty little angel, you'll get your shot.” He grabbed Tom by his throat and flung him to the cot. Tom caught himself and rose slowly until his back was against the wall. He glared murder at their captor, who only grinned back. “I like to see that fire,” he told Tom with a self-satisfied smirk.
Tuvok remained silent and passive as those grotesque hands ran over his body. The guard wasted little time in yanking Tuvok's pants down. He fondled the man appreciatively and bile rose in Tom's gut. He didn't know what was making him more angry; that it was happening, or that Tuvok was just standing there and letting it.
Tuvok stepped compliantly out of his pants when pushed to do so and moved around the cot with self-contained grace.
“So tell me...Is this pretty little thing your fuck buddy, hm?” the guard asked as he shoved Tuvok down. Tuvok caught himself on both hands and then lowered his chest to the cot. He was forced by space constraints to lay his head in Tom's lap and Tom felt his hands clench into furious fists.
“I think he must be... ready as he is to defend you. Must not like it when someone else touches his property, huh?” He was talking to Tuvok, but his eyes were glued to Tom's enraged face. He made sure Tom was watching as he sucked on his own fingers and then trailed them over Tuvok's skin, down through the cleft of his ass.
“Nice and relaxed, just like an old pro,” the man said, and it sounded like a compliment.
Tuvok jerked forward slightly as those disgusting digits penetrated his body.
“But tight like a virgin.” He grinned. “Maybe that's what's got your dander up, hm? You haven't had this yet? I'll tell you how it is.”
Tom could feel Tuvok's breath warm and slightly labored against his thighs. He thoughtlessly curled his hands around the vulcan's head, as if he could somehow protect him. What he could do to make this better? What could he say? 'It's going to be alright'?!
“That's right, angel, comfort him... talk him through it.”
Tom bared his teeth at the creature, and the guard only laughed. “Stop it,” Tom growled through clenched teeth. “You can have me instead. Just stop.”
“What would I want with you, difficult thing you are, when I've got a tight willing hole right here?” He didn't give any more warning than that. His hips jerked forward and Tuvok went rigid in Tom's lap.
Tom cursed, and then again when Tuvok's hands fisted in the thin mattress. The vulcan tried to relax and didn't make a sound of protest, but his hands didn't unclench. Tom thoughtlessly reached out for them and held them tightly. Tuvok squeezed his fingers hard enough to make the fragile bones creak, but Tom wouldn't say a word. He curled his body over Tuvok's head so he didn't have to watch, so Tuvok couldn't possibly see.
“These are my hands,” Tom whispered, squeezing his hands back, trying to give him something to hold on to. “Concentrate on my hands.”
Tuvok nodded shakily against him and he continued to whisper stupid nonsense while the metal cot creaked and rocked. He thought he was going to break when Tuvok finally released a little distressed noise. His body was shaking and Tom could do nothing for him. He continued to talk and Tuvok suppressed his whimpers.
There was a sudden jerk and Tuvok let out a startled exclamation of pain.
“What is meaning of this?!” a new voice roared.
Tom lifted his head slowly. A new man was standing in the cell doorway. His big body was made to seem bigger yet by the small space, and no one could have mistaken the look on his face for anything but unadulterated rage.
“Take these men to confinement!” he snapped over his shoulder. “I'll deal with you later,” he promised in a dark voice. Other guards rushed forward to cease their struggling compatriots, and they disappeared out of line of sight.
Despite being their apparent savior, Tom trained a stoney glare on him. The newcomer glanced down at Tuvok and winced. His expression softened as he looked up at Tom.
“Do you understand me?” he asked gently.
Tom considered not answering him, but Tuvok nodded and pushed himself up on shaking arms. Something strange in Tom made him want to wrap his arms around the vulcan and protect him.
Fat lot of good my protection has done us so far, he thought miserably.
Tuvok turned over slowly and sat gingerly on the mattress.
“You have my... sincere and utmost apologies,” the new man said. He sounded sincere enough, distressed and frightened enough, but Tom wasn't inclined to trust this sort of thing. “There is nothing we can possibly do to make this up to you...” He made a gesture and a stout female with her face covered in a wrap slid into the cell. She carried a basin of what looked like clean water and had pressed white cloths draped over her arms.
“Please, clean yourselves,” the man offered. “Your people have arrived to collect you. Once you are...decent, we will return you to them with our heartfelt apologies, and whatever amends we can make.”
“That will be... unnecessary,” Tuvok said. The new guard gave them a wary look. He didn't know Tuvok well enough to be able to detect the waiver in his voice, the little lift that sounded to Tom like border-line hysteria.
Unsure of what else to say, the man withdrew. The woman deposited her burdens and scurried out quickly, leaving them alone. For several long seconds, there was silence. Tom wanted to rave at him for being an idiot, he wanted to slap him. He wanted to offer him some comfort and didn't know how.
“Thank you, Mr. Paris,” Tuvok whispered finally. His head bowed slowly and his eyes drifted closed. “I would thank you further not to discuss this incident.”
“Tuvok – you have to see the doctor! You could be hurt or...” He stopped, because he didn't even want to contemplate what that creature could have been carrying.
“I will see the doctor. I will, however, request that the captain not be notified.”
Tom could understand that. He nodded slowly, and miserably promised, “I won't say anything.”
“I am indebted to you, Mr. Paris.” He moved slowly to gather the cloths and the basin. His hands shook and Tom pretended he didn't notice. He reached out and took the soft cloths and water from him. Tuvok didn't protest, but turned over and hid his face in his forearms.
Seeing the damage made Tom's anger boil up anew. He couldn't stop himself from hissing, “Why did you do that?!” He didn't expect an answer, and was therefore a little shocked when Tuvok's upper body lifted slightly from the mattress.
“I am far better able to control my physical and emotional responses than you are, lieutenant. I was the logical choice. Furthermore, I am your commanding officer and thus responsible for your safety.”
“Bet I out lap you on experience,” Tom snapped without thinking. Tuvok's head tipped, but he didn't respond and Tom let it drop.
The captain met them in the transporter room with a worried frown creasing her brows. Tuvok stood up to her concerned expression with typical vulcan stoicism. She drew them aside with a furtive glance tossed back at their escort – the same man that had pulled the guard off of Tuvok.
“Were you hurt, either of you?” she asked quickly, seemingly unconcerned that one of the aliens was within earshot. She did at least take the precaution of lowering her voice.
Tom could practically feel the alien's anxiety as he waited for their answer.
“No,” Tuvok answered simply.
Janeway searched first his face and then Tom's. When she seemed unable to pick up any kind of falsehood -why she thought there would be any was anyone's guess- she nodded. “Both of you report to sickbay for a routine examination. Debriefing can wait until tomorrow when you've both had a chance to rest.”
She gave them a bitter, apologetic smile. It wasn't as if she could have predicted that her away team would be captured on a routine scientific scouting mission, but then... it seemed to happen a lot, one way or another. Maybe she was starting to get as tired of the term “explorer” as Tom was.
Janeway dismissed them with a nod and they eased passed her into the corridor. As the doors were closing, her 'diplomatic voice' drifted back to them, plying her charm to their potential trading partner.
They were silent as they navigated the corridors to sickbay. Once inside, Tuvok ordered the doors locked and pulled himself onto a biobed.
“May I ask why you've felt the need to take it upon yourself to lock my doors, Mr. Tuvok?” the doctor asked with his usual frostiness.
“I require private medical attention,” Tuvok answered.
“Which is exactly why you've locked Mr. Paris in with us, I suppose. That makes perfect sense.”
Refusing to rise to the bait -as if he would- Tuvok merely replied, “Mr. Paris is aware of the condition and will also require a medical workup.” He explained the situation with succinct dispassion. Only Tom seemed to be able to detect the tiny fissures in his vulcan armor. It made him feel like something was squeezing his chest.
The doctor recovered from his shock quickly. His concerned expression was smoothed away and he stated, “I will consent to your request for privacy if and only if nothing serious or life-threatening is found in your blood stream. There are a myriad of diseases and parasites-”
“I am aware, doctor. Please conduct your scan.”
For once, the doctor was silent and did as he was asked. He drew blood samples from them both and announced that they would have to stay over night under surveillance. Tom turned away politely when the doctor had Tuvok lay down so he could regenerate the damage.
He was shocked to feel Tuvok's hand catch his as he turned away. If the doctor was shocked as well, he didn't let on. Tom turned back as casually as he could and twisted his hand to lace his fingers with the other man's.
Tom ignored the hum of the regenerator and concentrated on the sound of Tuvok's breath.
The prison planet was well behind them. Tuvok knew the exact measurement in AUs and standard kilometers. He could pinpoint the exact location on a star map. He knew how long it had been since they'd left Ludrian space to the exact second.
He should have felt better. He should have felt calmer. He should not have felt like something was looming over his shoulder. He should not have felt.
His logic had been sound. It was no conceit to suggest that he was stronger mentally than the volatile Mr. Paris. He was in control of his body's responses. He was in control of his emotions.
Why did he feel like he was being pulled apart?
An unexpected contact on his left arm made him jump. He swiftly repressed the reaction and disguised it by turning towards the unwelcome invader. The commander seemed not to have noticed his initial reaction and angled his body into Tuvok's space with a pad in hand.
Tuvok stepped back, ostensibly to give him more room.
“Did you see this new security program?” Chakotay asked, offering the pad up for inspection. Tuvok privately felt that this was no excuse to come marching over to his console and invade his private space and touch him. He reached out and gingerly plucked the pad out of the commander's hands, not giving away for an instant how nervous and crowded he felt. How angry he was that he did feel nervous and crowded. How confused he was that he was angry.
“I have not yet had an opportunity to examine this,” Tuvok announced. He concentrated on the data displayed before him, automatically processed the lines of code into something coherent. “Is this Mr. Paris' work?” he asked, even though he knew it was. Lieutenant Paris had a very distinctive coding style.
“Yes. I've had him helping Gerron with it. Do you think it has merit?”
“It will require further study before such a distinction can be made. I will look into it this afternoon.”
The commander smiled and touched him again – a pat on the shoulder this time. Tuvok had to restrain himself from hitting the man's hand away. Did no one on this ship respect personal space?!
Tom Paris approached him a moment later. He stayed on one side of the console and made no attempt to reach out and touch the vulcan.
Tuvok looked up from the pad and gave the pilot his full attention. “Yes, lieutenant?”
“I was wondering if you had some time to go over some things with me. Maybe this evening?” He made a blanket gesture towards the pad and Tuvok glanced back down at it.
“Perhaps the holodeck?” he suggested.
Tom waved a hand dismissively. “It's not quite to that point yet. I was thinking maybe a conference room.”
Tuvok lifted an eyebrow. The lieutenant should be well aware that all the conference rooms were occupied for bi-monthly section meetings tonight and tomorrow. “The conference rooms are reserved, Mr. Paris.”
Tom made a typically expressive human gesture comprised of snapping his fingers and waving an index finger towards Tuvok. Over the years, Tuvok had come to associate this gesture with 'you're right,' and merely waited.
“What about my quarters?” Tom suggested finally. “I'll even bribe you with a nice replicated meal.”
Tuvok found the concept to be somewhat disquieting and didn't know why he was concerned about being in another's 'territory.' He straightened his shoulders and asked, “Would mine suffice?”
Tom shrugged easily. “Sure. Dinner's still on me. 1800 sound good?”
“That would be acceptable.”
“See ya then! Thanks, sir.” Tom tapped the console lightly and eased around it to the turbo lift. Tuvok watched him go out of the corner of his eye.
The candles were lit. The room was comfortably warm. Tuvok settled on his cushion in the far corner of his quarters and closed his eyes.
Tight like a virgin-
His eyes snapped open and he drew in several near-frantic breaths through his nose. This was, in a word, ridiculous. He would never see that man again, and every second they were hurdling further and further from that place.
Why did it seem to get worse every time he closed his eyes? He shifted on the cushion and recalled his long ago lessons from childhood. He, like so many of his peers, had been conflicted, filled with warring emotions that seemed to run too deep to tame. He had been successful then. He would be successful now.
I will purge this emotion by accepting it. I will allow it to pass through me.
Agony! His body jolted forward and he felt those clammy hands gripping his hips, jagged nails digging into his skin-
It took a moment to realize that he'd cried out. He curled forward and dropped his forehead to the floor, his arms coming up to cover his head. His breath came in harsh pants and his hands curled to dig at the thin carpet.
He felt... he felt... he felt.
The door chimed and he jumped, crying out in startlement. His heart thundered and he stared wide-eyed at the door as if that man was going to walk in....
Lieutenant Paris' familiar voice broke the strange panic building in his chest and he felt suddenly drained.
“Come,” he called hoarsely.
The door opened with a muted whoosh and Paris seemed to glow for a moment, backlit by the corridor lights.
“Whoa!” Tom pulled at the neck of his jacket. “Turning your quarters into a little piece of home, huh, Tuvok?”
Tuvok swallowed hard, forced his throat to open up and rose to his feet. “I find this temperature to be optimal for meditation,” he explained, like he had to explain himself. Paris's blue eyes darted over him and Tuvok had the unnerving feeling that he knew. He knew, and somehow that didn't bother Tuvok as much as it should have.
“Mr. Paris, perhaps we could reschedule our meeting for the day after tomorrow, when the conference rooms will be free. I find that I am not feeling entirely well tonight.”
Paris gave him a patient look. “Cut the crap, Tuvok. We both know I didn't come here to talk holoprograms.”
Tuvok felt his lips purse and he drew away in instinctive defensiveness. “I am afraid that I do not quite follow.”
“Tuvok... if you were anyone else - anyone else -I would send you to... well, you. Or maybe Chakotay.”
Tuvok's heartbeat seemed to thump in triplets. His eyes narrowed.
Tom sighed. “But I get not wanting anyone to know. I really do. So... I'm all you've got, then.”
“I appreciate the sentiment, Mr. Paris, however-”
“It's not going to work, Tuvok.” Tom crossed his arms over his chest, but his expression was gentle... understanding.
“Trying to meditate it out. Bottling it up. Just hoping that it will go away once you've put enough space between him and you. It's not going to fix itself.”
“Mr. Paris. Your attempts at comfort are laudable. They are, however, misdirected. I am quite well.”
Tom took a few steps closer to him and he automatically stepped back.
“Is that why you just about jump out of your skin anytime someone touches you?” Paris asked softly. He advanced again and Tuvok took another shuffled step backwards, aware that he was running out of room and already feeling trapped.
“I do not-”
“It will get worse, Tuvok. No one else has noticed yet, but they will. If you don't want to talk to me... go talk to the holodoc. Let me develop a program for you so you can do it yourself. But you've got to get this out, or it will start to decay inside of you. It will eat at your insides, pull you apart.”
“How would you know?” Tuvok snarled, heat boiling out of his chest to claw at his throat. Mechanically, he recognized that it was anger. No, it was fear.
Paris looked tired. “Like I said... I've out lapped you a few times in experience, Tuvok. I know it doesn't make it better, hearing that from me. I'm not saying that I know how to fix it. But I understand in a way most people will never understand, and I'm not going to let you fall apart right in front of me.”
There was silence for many long seconds. Tom looked utterly defeated, stood there with his arms away from his sides, wrists out. Tuvok realized that he was vulnerable, that the pilot had just opened up to him in a way he'd probably never opened himself to anyone. For one horrible second he wanted to pounce and tear that vulnerability out. He wanted to make Tom Paris bleed. For that horrible second, he blamed the human for everything – not just what had happened in the Ludrian jail, but everything.
Tuvok recognized the viciousness in himself and was shocked at it. Vulcan emotions ran so deep and strong that they had to be controlled or they spelled disaster. He hadn't realized that he had gotten so far out of control over such a short period of time. If Paris was right and it just got worse...
He bowed his head in acceptance, and for a moment he thought he was going to drown under it. It didn't feel better at all to accept it, he felt like he was suddenly standing at the edge of a cliff and staring across an endless ocean, knowing that he had to cross it and that he would have to swim the whole way.
“What do you propose?” he choked out, because if he didn't speak he was afraid he would be overwhelmed and never be able to again.
“A little unconventional therapy,” Tom answered. The man was obviously trying to keep his voice light and Tuvok clung to it like a safety line.
“I wasn't aware that you were a qualified therapist.”
Paris' lips twisted in a shallow smile. “I defy the man who says you have no sense of humor.”
Tuvok appreciated the attempt at levity, but said nothing. He eased around Paris and lowered himself slowly to the couch. After some hesitation, Tom sat at the other edge of the couch and Tuvok tried not to betray how irritated he was with the proximity.
“And what, in all of your wisdom, would you suggest we do now, Mr. Paris?” Tuvok inquired. He didn't look at his guest and kept his hands on his knees. If they were a little tighter than they needed to be, Tom didn't notice or mention it if he did.
“We're just going to sit here,” Tom said. His breath left his lungs in a sigh. “And you're going to tell me when you've had enough of me being here.” He gave the vulcan a weak smile.
“You are attempting to... acclimate me to physical proximity?” Tuvok guessed.
“You're a smart guy.”
Tuvok had to admit that it was a decent suggestion, but somehow knowing what was going on made him feel less at ease rather than more. Was this how Kes felt when he was pushing her to open her psychic abilities?
After a few minutes of tense silence, Tom drew a datapad out of his jacket and started to read aloud. “Call me Ishmael...”
Tuvok arrived at the staff meeting a full thirty minutes early. He chose the seat at the end, furthest from the door and took out a datapad. He'd now undergone three of lieutenant Paris' 'unconventional therapy' sessions and was exhausted. Despite his best efforts to the contrary, things seemed to be getting still worse rather than better. On the second night, he allowed Paris to sit marginally closer to him, but was consumed for the entire hour by his presence.
He didn't exactly feel threatened by Tom Paris, but he was acutely aware of the space surrounding his own body. Anyone else in that space made him immediately uncomfortable. Last night he'd tried to force it himself, sitting less than a hand span from the pilot while the man read. He couldn't even hear the words over the pounding of his own heart and was forced to abandon the couch altogether a few minutes later. Paris' didn't even break his cadence while he gave Tuvok time to get himself together.
Now, less than twelve hours later, he was being subjected to a roomful of bodies. He eyed the chair next to him with some annoyance, knowing that the First Officer would probably take it. Since the Caretaker incident, his and Chakotay's relationship had been... strained. Tuvok believed that the First Officer was operating under the false assumption that Tuvok begrudged him the position. As Tuvok did not (normally) indulge in such as things as regret or bitterness, it was a patently false assumption, but it remained regardless. He had done his utmost best to put the commander's fears to rest with little success.
Tuvok was always a man who preferred his own space, but now that he wanted companionship less than usual, the commander apparently decided to make good on Tuvok's overtures. He knew, logically, that to do anything to dissuade the man would be deleterious to their future working relationship. He knew, logically, that the situation would be much improved once he overcame this pesky aversion to social contact.
What he knew logically didn't do him a lot of good lately.
He stared blankly at the pad in front of him, not seeing a word, but hoping that he would appear preoccupied and no one would think him any more approachable than usual.
The door opened and Tuvok's pulse quickened, but he maintained his occupied farce and didn't look up. The chair next to him shifted and he glanced up briefly, expecting to see commander Chakotay. Tom Paris was a strangely... welcome sight. Paris gave him a slight smile, little more than a twitch of the lips, and turned his attention to his own pad.
“You're certainly here early, Mr. Paris,” the commander greeted a moment later. The door closed behind him and he made his way to the chair opposite Tuvok.
“Well, stranger things have been known to happen,” Paris said dismissively, waving one hand in a flighty gesture.
“Not much stranger,” Chakotay returned. His voice was almost affectionate, and Tuvok noticed a mellowing of his attitude towards the pilot as well. Something about it made him feel... strange, almost possessive. His hands tightened on the pad, and he casually hid them in his lap before anyone could notice.
Tom engaged Chakotay's attention, keeping the commander from trying to draw Tuvok into conversation, and the rest of the bridge crew trickled in over the next few minutes. Harry immediately claimed the seat next to Tom and started up an animated conversation until the captain arrived and called the meeting to order.
Tuvok did his best to pay attention, but once his own report was delivered, he found his attention wandering.
Chakotay caught his eye. Smiled at him. Tuvok was suddenly frozen in rabbit-like terror and averted his gaze. Decades of conditioning kept his face clear of expression, but his hands tightened in his lap. A moment later, Paris' hand slowly covered his, hidden by the table and the twisted position of the pilot's chair. A part of Tuvok expected that he would be nervous at the contact, but he felt himself calming down and turned his hand over to curl his fingers around the pilot's.
The meeting passed without further incident and Tom remained in his seat and talked with Harry until Tuvok reluctantly released his hand.
He was actually pacing – pacing- by the time Paris made it to his quarters, an hour later.
“I am sorry,” he said tightly as soon as the pilot made it through the door.
“For?” Tom asked quizzically. He moved straight for the couch, making no attempt to force contact or conversation on Tuvok if he didn't want it. The way Tom treated him enraged him – not because he didn't appreciate it, but because he needed it. He needed to be treated like... a wounded animal.
“The meeting. Your hand.”
Paris shrugged easily. “I gave it to you.”
“But I needed it!” He realized he was shouting, and the realization knocked some of the rage out of him. He felt thoroughly overwhelmed, felt like he was drowning and that Thomas Paris was the only thing that was holding him above water. He wondered with a sort of horror if he would end up dragging the pilot under with him.
“There's nothing wrong with needing some reassurance, Tuvok,” Tom said softly. His voice was earnest the way it normally wasn't; the other man usually tried so hard to keep his tone light.
“I can't control myself, and I don't understand. The commander just... he just smiled and I...” He took a slow breath. “I thought I was going to faint.”
Tuvok buried his hands in his short hair and pulled at it. “I should not be falling apart this way. My wounds have all healed, I will never see that man again! I have decades of training, I have been tortured and interrogated and made to play the role of a betrayer and I have never lost my control. Tell me why this is happening!” He rounded on Tom with a desperate look, wanting to beg the pilot to just take it all away, make it all better. Give him the answer.
“The wounds on the body are easy to heal,” Tom answered slowly. “Maybe that's what makes it all worse.” He shrugged slightly and his shoulders slumped when he let them fall. “A few minutes with a regenerator and all the physical evidence is gone, but the mental wounds are a lot more stubborn.”
Tuvok wasn't convinced. Paris leaned forward on his knees and fiddled with his own hands. “Correct me if I'm wrong, because I've never actually confirmed this with a vulcan,” he glanced up at Tuvok to make sure the man was paying attention. “I've been told that it's not that vulcans don't have emotions, just that they're so strong you have to control them or they're wild.”
Tuvok sat slowly in his desk chair. “That is accurate. We were a... very violent people before we learned to control our emotions.”
“Well, then considering the law of equal and opposite reactions, doesn't it make sense that when you do lose control, it goes everywhere? Since you've been repressing them for so long...”
Whereas nothing had been able to make Tuvok feel better for weeks, that simple statement did. It was logical, he could process it, understand it. By understanding it, he could accept it. Acceptance was the first step to control. His relief felt like a physical burden pulled off his shoulders.
“That is... an acceptable explanation, Mr. Paris. Furthermore, the bond I share with my wife has... long since been severed. Vulcan mates support each other in emotional control.”
Tom smiled weakly. “We'll get you through this, Tuvok. Promise.” He stood and moved slowly and casually towards the seated Vulcan. Tuvok felt his pulse jump like it always did, but when the pilot offered his hand, Tuvok accepted it. Tom sat at his feet, his arm draped across Tuvok's knees. Somehow, being up higher made Tuvok feel better, more in command of the situation.
Tom rested his head gently on Tuvok's knees and Tuvok reached out hesitantly to comb his fingers through the pilot's blond hair. For the first time in weeks, he felt like he was in control, and there was a sort of peace across the troubled waters of his mind.