by torch 1996

Disclaimer: Paramount owns everything. I'm not asking for money, just the occasional word of encouragement. This story is a sequel to Catch me, I'm falling, which in its turn was a response to finally seeing The Chute. It's not quite as dark as Catch me, or maybe it is. Do not archive this story without permission.

(Don't) fall on me

The force field flared up and the man inside cried out, staggering back from it. He'd been trying to reach through it; he should have known better than to even try. Janeway shook her head slowly. She hadn't wanted to believe the news when she heard it. Now she had to face the truth. He fell to his knees from the shock, but looked up and met her eyes. All she could see was pain. And that hurt her, too. She wanted to reach out to him. She wanted an explanation.

"Is there anything I can do for you?" she asked, but there was no answer. Turning around, she met ensign Lee's eyes instead and found it far easier. Lee, secure in her own sanity and Tuvok's instructions, would handle guard duty well. "I'll be back later, to see how—" There was a strangled scream as he threw himself against the force field again. Janeway spun around, and narrowed her eyes. "Has he done this often?"

"Yes, captain," Lee said, looking bothered. And no wonder. The shock the force field emitted was strong enough to discourage anyone who'd come in contact with it from touching it again. Watching anyone do it deliberately had to be disturbing no matter what he'd done.

The captain touched her comm badge. "Janeway to Tuvok. Come to the brig, please." She remained where she was and watched silently as the man she'd thought she knew rocked silently back and forth on his knees. When Tuvok walked in, Janeway slowly turned her head to look at him. "He keeps moving into the force field. We have to find another way of restraining him."

Tuvok nodded. "I see. I advise against trying to confine the prisoner in his quarters." Janeway nodded. She wanted him under surveillance; to judge by his present behavior, he was quite likely to try to hurt himself. "We could try to find another empty room. Or we could use some simple method of physical restraint, and keep him here."

"Do that to start with,"Janeway said, "while you investigate other possible locations. I don't want him to keep hurting himself this way." She turned again to look at the prisoner and tried to keep the concern she felt from showing in her face. Oh, she was angry. But most of all she was worried.

Tuvok nodded at ensign Lee and together they carefully turned the force field off and walked into the cell, lifting the prisoner up and seating him on the bench. Janeway moved closer and saw that they locked his hands together behind his back, fastening them to a bar set into the wall — probably for that very purpose. She felt another wave of depression. It looked positively medieval, and for a moment she wanted to take back her request. But she couldn't let him go on like this.

He didn't fight them, and moments later they were back outside again. Tuvok turned the force field back on, from force of habit, she supposed. "I will look into the matter of finding another room, captain."

"Good." She couldn't keep her eyes off the prisoner. He was still wearing the same clothes, plain dark pants and a shirt that was ripped and blood-stained. Now he sat still, slumped, his head bent. "I'm going to sickbay. Tell me if he wants anything," Janeway said, and with one last backwards glance walked out of the brig.

The corridors of Voyager had never seemed so bleak and uncomfortable. She walked slowly, or what passed for slowly with her, trying to think things through. It was hard to get past her feelings: shock, astonishment, disbelief. Imprisoning Suder had grieved her enough. But this, this was someone she knew far more closely than the confused Betazoid who'd mostly stayed in Engineering. Someone she would never have believed would end up in the brig on a charge of attempted murder.

Going to sickbay the captain had plenty of time to think about it, and to come to the depressing conclusion that she had completely misjudged what was wrong with Harry Kim and Tom Paris.

She stepped inside, trying to wipe the insecurity from her mind or at least from her face. Kes was there, and so was B'Elanna. They stood with the doctor around the single occupied biobed, and Janeway walked over to join them. "How is he?"

"Awake, for one thing," Tom Paris said. The captain moved forward to stand next to B'Elanna, and he looked up at her out of bloodshot blue eyes. Those red eyes were the only remaining physical sign of what he had been through over the past few hours. "Where's Harry?"

"In the brig." She put a hand on his shoulder to keep him from trying to lift his head. It hadn't taken the doctor that long to fix him up, but to judge from the way his voice sounded and the face he'd made, talking hurt. No wonder. "Don't worry about it."

Before she even saw the expression on his face, she knew it had been the wrong thing to say. "Don't worry about it?" Tom drew breath again and Janeway thought the only thing keeping him from exploding was that he couldn't decide what to say first.

"I can't believe he tried to kill you," B'Elanna said, putting words to Janeway's thoughts. "I just can't believe it." She put a hand on Kes' shoulder. "I'm glad you persuaded me to make sure everything was all right."

The captain nodded quietly, seconding that. If it hadn't been for Kes' vague premonitions, perhaps no one would have been there to hear the sounds of the unexpected attack. B'Elanna had been the one to wrestle Harry Kim away from Tom, and she was still angry. The possessive way she hovered over Tom Paris might go some way towards explaining the extent of her anger.

And Harry and B'Elanna had been such good friends. B'Elanna turned her head to look at Janeway, as if reading her thoughts. "Has he said anything?"

"No." The captain couldn't echo the fury in B'Elanna's eyes. She felt more stunned than anything else. Harry Kim, of all people! From what Kes and B'Elanna had said, Tom had apparently been too stunned to defend himself.

Trying to imagine Harry Kim in a murderous rage, the captain thought she could understand that. She just couldn't believe that Harry would do such a thing. And Tom — he looked wounded, damaged in some essential way that had nothing to do with his physical injuries.

"I want to talk to him," Kes said softly. "At least try to..."

"So do I," Tom Paris said, and all three of them rounded on him. Janeway put her hand on one shoulder, B'Elanna on the other, just in case he was going to try to get up.

Before they'd even finished telling Tom that he shouldn't, the doctor butted in. "Mr. Paris, what you are going to do is rest. Captain, Lieutenant Torres, visiting hours are over."

"I don't need to rest," Tom protested. "I'm fine now." He tried to wriggle out from under the hands that pinned him down.

"I want to keep you under continued observation," the doctor said, unmoved. "You need to rest. And there is a faint trace of disturbance in your brain wave pattern that warrants a closer look."

"Just the old Paris madness," Tom said, but he sank back again, looking unexpectedly meek. Kes stroked his cheek reassuringly, and the captain let go of his shoulder.

"Try to get some rest, Tom." Janeway smiled at him. "B'Elanna, come with me, please." She wanted to make sure that B'Elanna didn't take it into her mind to visit the brig. The chief engineer nodded and they left sickbay together, both of them turning at the same time just before the door closed to make sure Tom was still lying down.

They walked towards the turbo lift in silence.

* * *

Tom swallowed and found that his throat wasn't as sore as all that. It still hurt, but he had a notion that the pain he felt wasn't entirely physical. Easier to blame pain on bruises and injuries than on its real cause, though.

He looked towards the doctor's office, where Kes was putting things in order. The doctor had turned himself off earlier. Tom was grateful for that. He couldn't think clearly when the doc kept hanging over him and asking him annoying questions.

Think? He smiled wryly to himself and watched through half-closed lids as Kes took a last look around the office and walked out. Tom closed his eyes and listened as she crossed the room to look at him for a moment. Then her footsteps went towards the door; he heard it open and close.

After a few more moments he opened his eyes again. It was a relief to be alone, finally. "Computer," he said, pleased to find his voice steady, and back to normal. "Time?"

"0430 hours," it told him. Tom nodded. It had all happened so fast. He had decided to go back to bed, to find Harry tomorrow, to tell him — tell him— Without warning he felt tears rise, hot and insistent. Tom bit his lip and dug his nails into his palms, trying to hold them back.

He'd decided to wait, but then his door had opened and Harry had been there. And Tom had gone fearlessly to meet those outstretched arms, to soothe away the look of desperation on Harry's face.

It had very nearly been the last thing he had ever seen.

He sat up and stretched. All bruises were gone, and there was nothing wrong with him any more. Except that Harry had tried to kill him. Tom got to his feet, grateful that he was still in uniform. He glanced towards the office; no, the doctor had not suddenly been reactivated. Good.

Crossing the room, he tugged at the sleeves of his uniform. One of them was slightly ripped. But with luck, no one would notice. It wasn't as though the ship's corridors swarmed with people at this hour. The night shift was at work, everyone else ought to be asleep. And he knew how to get where he was going without being seen by anyone.

He made it, too, though it felt like being on a ghost ship. All this silence, all this emptiness. Or perhaps he was the ghost, he thought morbidly. Perhaps he'd been killed after all and just refused to believe it, just as he had refused to believe it was happening then, in his quarters, Harry's strong hands around his throat.

Tom swore under his breath and stopped outside the door, trying to regain his equilibrium before going in. He ran a hand through his hair, thinking he probably looked a complete mess. Then he went inside, and cleared his throat. Ensign Lee jumped to her feet. "Lieutenant!" She looked completely taken aback. "Are — are you all right?"

"I'm fine," he told her with what he hoped was a reassuring smile, and then turned, praying that nothing of what he was feeling showed on his face. Harry was sitting in there, slumped forward, his arms behind his back. "I've come to see the prisoner."

"Uh, I don't know if..." Lee moved as if trying to get between him and the holding cell. "I don't think he's all there," she said in a low voice, abandoning protocol. "He kept throwing himself at the force field, that's why we restrained him."

Looking closer, Tom could see that Harry was straining against something, his shoulders tense. Arms tied behind his back, then. It seemed horrifyingly uncivilized. But he just nodded. "In that case I'll be perfectly safe, won't I?" he said in a reassuring voice, and leaned past her to switch off the force field.

"Yes, but!" Lee wasn't happy about this at all. "I really shouldn't let you go in there. Not without clearance from Tuvok or the captain."

Tom put a hand on her shoulder and looked deep into her eyes. "Look." This was the hardest balancing act of all. "He's my best friend, and he tried to kill me. I have to talk to him."

She wavered for a moment, but he could see exactly when she gave in to that pleading gaze. "All right," Lee said quietly. "No one said he couldn't have visitors." She went back to her post, and Tom walked across the threshold.

Harry had given up fighting against his bonds. He sat there, perfectly still, not moving a muscle. His hair had fallen forward over his forehead, giving him that unexpectedly hard-edged look he had developed in prison. Tom sat down next to him and took a moment to study the simple cuffs that chained him to the wall. It was evident that Harry had been struggling against them for some time; his wrists were raw, bleeding in some places.

Cursing silently, Tom thought that Tuvok could at least have used padded restraints. He should have thought to bring a dermal regenerator from sickbay; that would have to wait a little, now that he was here.

"Harry," he said gently. The dark head did not lift. "Harry."

Long after he had given up expecting an answer, he got one. "Don't speak." It was low and breathless, more of a request than a command.

"Why not?" Tom heard the hiss of Harry's breath as he started to fight the restraints again. "Don't, keep still, you're hurting yourself."

"It hurts."

"Your wrists?"

Harry shook his head and subsided again. "Hearing your voice." Every word seemed to be spoken with an effort. And he still would not look up.

"You hurt me worse than that," Tom said. "Harry, I have to know why you did it, I have to understand—" He broke off when he realized that the sound he heard was Harry laughing. "Damn you," he whispered.

They sat in silence for a few moments. Tom looked up to see Lee with her back turned, giving him what limited privacy she could. He hoped he hadn't gotten her into trouble by persuading her to let him do this. If Tuvok walked in unexpectedly, he would take full blame for the situation.

"I didn't want to do it," Harry said. Tom almost jumped. "I didn't. I'm not like that. But I wanted to, so much." Frowning, Tom tried to unravel that, restructure it into something he could make sense of.

"Tell me about it."

"No," Harry refused. He hunched his shoulders up as if trying to close in on himself. Tom slid off the bench and knelt on the floor in front of his friend, looking up into his face. Harry's eyes were closed, and silent tears ran down his face. Tom reached out without conscious thought and caught one with a fingertip, tasted it. "It hurts even more when you touch me."

"And I hurt from not touching you," Tom said, his voice raw. "God, Harry, it's been tearing me apart. Wanting you. And then you tried to—" He was reaching his breaking point now. He'd thought he could do this, talk to Harry, but now he wasn't so sure. His control was going to break down any second.

"I love you," Harry whispered. Stars exploded behind Tom's eyes. "I wanted so badly to kiss you, kill you, it's all in my mind and it won't go away." He threw himself forward against the restraints and Tom instinctively jerked back although he knew Harry couldn't get at him.

Then he drew a slow shaking breath. "It's in your mind and it hurts," he said. "It obsessed you and you couldn't fight it." He knew now what it had to be. "Oh, Harry. Damn them for doing this to us." Tom cupped a hand around Harry's damp cheek, moved closer and pressed his lips against Harry's. Harry made a sound, desperation and helplessness, and then they were kissing with instant breathless intensity. The world simply went away, a pale smoke-shadow beside this blazing fire.

"But it's the same," Harry gasped finally, his dark eyes boring into Tom now. "The need, the wanting. I can't separate it, I can't — free myself from—"

"I know," Tom said in a voice he barely recognized as his own. "I understand." He brushed his fingertips across Harry's lips, oh that beautiful mouth, made for kisses. "And I'll help you. Just let me — just this once—"

Then he couldn't speak, because he was crying as he leaned in to kiss Harry's neck gently and run his hands across Harry's shoulders, down his chest. Touching his belly, his hips, his thighs. When he started to undo the fastening of the black pants a quiver ran through Harry and Tom, knowing that only those restraints Tuvok had dug up from god knows where stood between him and death, almost wished Harry had succeeded the first time.

Cupping his hands around Harry's erection he stroked it slowly, savoring the warmth, the hardness, before sucking it into his mouth. And Harry's voice was going to break him to pieces, the only sound that could shatter the brittle glass of his heart. "Tom, Tom!"

* * *

She couldn't sleep. She was too disturbed, too concerned about what had happened. When she'd turned over and tried to pound her pillow into a comfortable shape for the tenth time, Janeway gave it up and got out of bed. Her mind revolved around thoughts of Harry and what she was going to do with him.

Getting out of bed and pulling her uniform back on, she remembered that she hadn't even asked the doctor to look at Harry and see if he'd done himself harm by walking into the force field. Well, that could be fixed now. She could get Lee to help her take Harry to sickbay.

Then she frowned as she gathered her hair together and started twisting it into a simple knot. Maybe not the wisest idea, since Tom was still there. She'd just go to the brig and see for herself if Harry seemed all right, and then she could either get Tom out of sickbay straight away, or take Harry there in the morning, depending on how urgent matters were.

Boots, comm badge... she was ready. Janeway had learned to dress fast. No matter what she was doing, some part of her mind was always prepared to react to an emergency. Now she hardly knew how to linger over this ritual any more, except that she would sometimes spend the extra time in the morning on doing something elaborate with her hair.

Vanity, she thought with a fleeting smile and walked out of her quarters. According to the computer it was 0500 hours, and she could have used some more sleep before her next shift. But it was impossible to let go of the image of Harry Kim on his knees inside the force field, face twisted with pain. Harry, dear Harry who was always so perfectly well-ordered inside and out, what could have done this to him?

Kathryn Janeway frowned. That question should have arisen a long time ago. Taking care of Tom Paris had been their first concern, of course, but she should have gone to the brig when she left sickbay, to try to question Harry again. That was probably why she hadn't been able to sleep: the knowledge that she was ignoring something important. Despite what Lee had said, it surely couldn't be impossible to get Harry to talk.

She increased her pace, and could barely make herself stand still for the turbo lift ride. The corridors of Voyager were empty and she felt sure she wouldn't run into anyone. When she reached the brig she strode inside and drew breath to address ensign Lee, only to find that Lee hadn't even noticed her come in. The ensign was staring into the cell, wide-eyed and pink-cheeked.

Janeway cleared her throat, and Lee jumped and turned towards her. "Captain!" Then she got herself together enough to come to attention. "Captain, I'm sorry, I don't think I should have, but now I don't know—"

"Ensign, relax. What are you talking about?" Lee looked worried, but more embarrassed than panicky, so Janeway figured it couldn't be anything too bad.

"No one said I shouldn't let him in," Lee whispered miserably. "Only I don't think, um." Another wave of pink flooded her cheeks as she glanced towards the cell, and Janeway decided it was probably just as well if she saw for herself what the ensign was talking about. She stepped forward.

Harry was still sitting where Tuvok had restrained him, but not slumping tiredly any more, he was fighting the restraints desperately. Kneeling between his legs was Tom Paris, Tom Paris who should be on a biobed in sickbay right now, with his head bent, and he was, no, he couldn't be doing that. But he was.

The captain closed her eyes for a moment. Oh, my. She had to get Tom out of there. She might have to charge him with sexually molesting a prisoner. Why was he doing that? She had to stop thinking about it, about the way it looked, except that she could still hear Harry moaning. When she opened her eyes again it was just in time to see Harry throw his head back and cry out.

Turning her head, Janeway looked at Lee. "Ensign," she said softly, "unless Ensign Kim chooses to file charges, I don't want you to mention this at any time in the future."

"I wouldn't, captain!" Lee said with every appearance of sincerity. "But captain..." Janeway could see that Lee steeled herself to proffer a contradicting opinion. "I don't think Ensign Kim is in any state to file charges. And w-we're the only witnesses." Now she looked miserable.

"I'm not asking you to forget this," Janeway said. "As soon as the ensign is recovered enough to be able to communicate clearly, we'll find out what he wants to do." She sighed and hoped that that moment wasn't too far away. Then she raised her voice. "Lieutenant Paris."

Tom got to his feet and walked outside, coming right up to her. There were traces of tears on his face, and he casually wiped his mouth with the back of his hand before saying, "Captain. I'm glad you're here. We need to get Harry to sickbay."

Her brows drew together and before she could stop herself she said, "What did you do to him?"

Tom looked exasperated. "I can't believe you don't know that, captain. He needs help. We both do. When the doc took out the implants, something went wrong." For one moment he looked away and an expression of such perfect distress passed across his face that she wanted to reach out and hold him. "Please, captain. The sooner we do this the better. If we just get him to sickbay I'll explain everything."

"Tom, you should be in sickbay," she said. "What possessed you—"

"I had to talk to Harry. Don't say it," he added, holding up a hand as though he expected her to make a ribald joke. "Remember the doctor said there was an irregularity in my brain wave pattern? He never scanned Harry for that, but I bet you'll find his is a lot worse. Those implants left something behind, and if we don't get it fixed soon I'm going to kill myself."

The look in his eyes made it impossible for her to doubt him, and she called for another security detachment. Lee looked on in silent bewilderment as Harry was escorted out of the cell, walking in meek silence before suddenly trying to throw himself at Tom's throat, crying all the while. Tom turned and ran, and the captain went after him.

"Tom," she said when she caught up with him, "I know it's painful, but—"

"I'm going to sickbay," he snapped out. "We're going to have to sedate him. Otherwise you can't have the two of us in there at the same time anyway." He was crying too, and hardly seemed to notice. Perhaps it had to do with the effects of the implant. With Harry, it had obviously left behind some kind of residue that stimulated violent impulses, and with Tom, well. She wasn't going to blush, there was no time for that. Instead, she ordered the computer to activate the emergency medical holographic program.

Once they got to sickbay, the doctor was standing in the middle of the room wearing what Janeway secretly thought of as his Grade Three Frown. "Mr. Paris, you were ordered to stay here and rest!"

Tom ignored that comment. "Doctor, have you had the time to look at that brain wave scan yet?"

"Mr. Paris, I insist that you lie down."

"In a minute. Doctor—"

Janeway interrupted. "Doctor, I need a hypospray to sedate Harry Kim. Quickly." He looked about to start arguing with her instead of Tom, so she gave him the sternest look she could manage. "Now, doctor."

It worked. He gave her the hypospray and she went outside as Tom began the argument again, hoping the doctor would have started to listen to whatever it was Tom was saying by the time they got Harry Kim there.

The security detachment with Harry was just coming out of the turbo lift when she arrived there. He looked calm enough for the moment, and she concluded that it was only the presence of Tom Paris that made his violent impulses flare up. That meant they could let him walk all the way to sickbay under his own power. Not until just outside the door did Janeway raise the hypospray.

Harry jerked his head back and looked at her, recognition momentarily lighting his eyes. "Captain, what—"

"I'm sorry, Harry," she said gently. "We'll get you better, I promise." Then she touched the hypospray to his neck. He slumped sideways against Lee, and was picked up and carried inside.

Tom and the doctor had compromised: Tom was sitting on a biobed, talking as fast as he could while the doctor studied a console and made acerbic comments. When Janeway and the others entered, the doctor turned and gestured at them "Put the ensign down there. Carefully." Then he looked straight at the captain. "It seems that Mr. Paris, although his medical vocabulary isn't quite what one would wish, is substantially correct. The implant had caused small but significant changes in the epanorthosic and erothanatic receptors that—"

"Can you undo the damage?" the captain interrupted. She looked from Harry, laid on a biobed in the usual Dead Pharaoh position that was one of the reasons she didn't really feel comfortable in sickbay, to Tom, pale and anxious and red-eyed.

"I believe I can." The doctor looked pleased with himself. "As Ensign Kim appears to be more affected than Lieutenant Paris, I can't be absolutely certain that some memory damage may not occur. This is a delicate operation, and—"

"And you should get to it right away," Tom said, his voice rough. "Start with Harry. Now."

The doctor opened his mouth as if to argue, but then turned around and went to pay attention to Harry Kim. Kes had arrived in sickbay, too, tousle-haired and sleepy-looking, and now she came to assist him. Janeway sat down next to Tom and put a hand on his arm. "Tom."

Suddenly, he looked tired. Even the blue color of his eyes seemed to fade a little. "I know, captain," he said. "I'll put myself on report as soon as I wake up."

"That's up to Ensign Kim," she pointed out.

"If the doctor's right, Harry probably won't even remember it," Tom said. Then he laughed, a tired, humorless laugh. "Probably be the weirdest trial in Starfleet history, where the accused turned himself in and the victim doesn't know what happened."

"You're affected by the implant, too," Janeway said. "I don't think you can be held accountable any more than Harry can be held accountable for trying to kill you. Were you planning to file charges against him for that?"

Tom gave her a stunned look. "Of course not!" Then he sighed. "But I'm still rational, captain. More or less. I know what I'm doing. I knew..." His lip quivered and he turned his head away so that she wouldn't see, but she put an arm around him and pulled him down against her shoulder, and held him as he cried. She didn't let go of him until the doctor came to sedate him.

Janeway went to the bridge when her shift started, instructing the doctor to call her as soon as either Harry Kim or Tom Paris woke up. It was a peaceful, routine morning — the only challenge was to explain during the meeting of the senior officers where the two men were, without saying too much. B'Elanna and Chakotay kept asking her questions; B'Elanna seemed mostly relieved and pleased that the mystery was explained, but from the look in Chakotay's eyes, he knew she was hiding something.

"It's something personal," she said firmly to him, as they sat sideways in their chairs out on the bridge, facing each other across the computer console. "What everyone will know is that they suffered aftereffects from the implants and the doctor is taking care of it. What you already know is that Harry tried to kill Tom. Anything else is..." She swallowed. "Is their pain to deal with, and you will not hear about it from me."

Underneath her words, of course, was the awareness that either of them might come to him, talk to him as a counselor. Chakotay nodded slowly. "All right," he said and settled back in his chair. "I understand."

It seemed to take forever until the doctor's call came. When it finally did, she was out of her chair and into the turbo lift so quickly that she almost didn't have time to tell Chakotay that he had the bridge. Not that he didn't know, but command protocol had to be followed at all times.

Janeway found herself praying silently that the doctor's treatment had worked. He was exceptional, she knew that, but all the same she started to worry that he had perhaps drawn faulty conclusions based on Tom's less than expert theories. No, of course he wouldn't do that, he would have examined everything thoroughly before taking action.

Walking into sickbay, she saw Kes and the doctor hovering over one of the biobeds, and heard the doctor's matter of fact voice asking, "How are you? Are you feeling anything strange now?"

Janeway held her breath.

"No. Nothing." Pause. "I feel nothing."

* * *

After the fall

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