Summary: Two bodies in relative motion excite resistance when they come together. Two wills clashing create another kind of friction. Somewhere between animosity and arousal is the place where they meet.
Characters: Paris, Janeway, Chakotay, Kim, Stadi
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own the rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
Warning: This story contains mentions of rape, prison trauma, post-traumatic stress syndrome and panic disorder.
April, 2371 – Fourteen months earlier
Tom’s been avoiding small spaces since he was a kid, and prison has done nothing to cure him of his claustrophobic tendencies. Problem is, now that he’s out, there’s something terrifying about not having a wall at his back. As for leaving Earth’s atmosphere … Well, he has no intention of ever returning to home soil. As soon as he’s bullshitted his way through Janeway’s good graces he plans to disappear into open space.
It’s just that space is so big.
They’re approaching Deep Space Nine and he’s sweating, running a finger inside the suddenly-too-tight collar of the rankless Starfleet uniform that was tailored to his exact specifications this morning. He’s flirting with the shuttle pilot to take his mind off how nervous he is, but twenty-two months in Club Fed has left his delivery inept and his timing way off.
She can tell, of course, this Lieutenant Stadi. She’s Betazoid; she can see right into his soul. He knows this because she’s giving him exactly the response he needs, reflecting amused disinterest, as if he’s just some ham-fisted guy she met in a bar. A guy with no history and nothing to live down.
Tom wishes he could tell her how grateful he is, but of course, she already knows.
“That’s our ship,” she says, smoothly ending his lame chat-up attempts. “That’s Voyager.”
She starts rattling off the ship’s specs, but Tom is only half-listening. Too busy picturing himself at the helm, fingers confident on the controls, pips on his collar.
Too bad he’s screwed up any chance of that ever happening again. Still, at least his father will have the satisfaction of knowing he was right all along: Tom Paris will never amount to anything.
They dock, and Stadi escorts him to his assigned quarters on the far side of the habitat ring. He tosses the kit bag containing his meagre belongings on the bed and pretends to be unimpressed. “So this is where they stash all the paroled convicts, huh?”
Her smile tells him he hasn’t fooled her one bit. “We’re scheduled to depart for the Badlands on stardate 48305.1.”
“Three days from now?” Tom frowns. “What’s the hold-up?”
“Some of the crew is still en route from other postings,” Stadi explains. “And Voyager just returned from her shakedown cruise. The engineering team needs to make some repairs.”
“What happened?” he asks.
“You can access the replicator for food and personal effects,” Stadi continues instead of answering his question. “And you’re free to move about the station until we leave –”
“What, no ankle monitor?” Tom raises a sarcastic eyebrow. “No babysitter? What if I steal a shuttle and take off through the wormhole?”
“I think you’d find station security more than adequate to stop you before you got anywhere near an airlock,” Stadi says placidly. “If you’d like to access the holosuites or restaurants, most of the amenities are in the central core. Just ask the computer to direct you –”
“No need.” Tom leans back on the bed, hands under his head. “This isn’t my first time on DS9.”
“Captain Janeway would like you to assist us in preparing a flight plan and to go over some of the mission details.” Stadi holds out a padd. “Report to upper pylon two at 1900 hours. I’ll escort you to Voyager.”
“Yes ma’am,” Tom says smartly, taking the padd and tossing it on the bed without looking at it. He grins up at her. “What are you doing for the next few hours? Want to grab a drink at Quark’s, maybe try out a couple of holoprograms? Or,” he leans back on his elbows, “we could just stay right here.”
“See you at 1900,” the lieutenant replies with the faintest of smiles, and turns to stride out of the room.
Tom mooches around his guest quarters for a bit, ordering from the replicator at whim and playing music at top volume and, feeling silly but determined, kicking off his boots to jump on the bed like a child. The combined sleeping and living space measures three times the size of his cell in New Zealand, but even so, after an hour he finds himself prowling the perimeter.
It still takes him a further fifteen minutes to steel himself to walk out into the corridor.
The habitat ring is relatively quiet, and the few people he passes glance at his uniform and nod politely. Tom, used to slyly whispered threats and the sharp, vicious dig of elbows when traversing common areas, can’t stop himself from pulling in tight, shuffling flat against bulkheads, but when he reaches the central core that becomes impossible. The promenade is alive, a cacophony of laughter and conversation spilling out of open doorways, the musical trill of gambling machines and the roar of Dabo! as he passes Quark’s. He edges toward the relative quiet of the replimat, navigating clusters of alien visitors, slinking past uniformed Starfleet officers and Bajoran militia with his head ducked low.
It’s overwhelming. His heart is trying to pound its way out of his chest, hands clammy and shaking. Why didn’t he realise this was going to happen to him? Has prison screwed him up forever? How is he going to survive this moment, the next hour, the rest of his life?
He’s no stranger to panic attacks and he knows he has to get out of here, right now, before he passes out or curls up in a ball right here on the promenade. Tom ducks into the next doorway he sees, eyes closed, hugging the wall as he tries to swallow down the nausea.
“Breathe,” he hears someone say, “just breathe,” and then there’s a hand against his shoulder blade and he shudders, eyes screwed shut, waiting for the hand to press his body flat to the bulkhead, every muscle tensing in fear of what always happens next.
But there’s no pressure, no hard weight against him. The hand is removed and a moment later he hears the soft chirp of a medical tricorder, and all the while there’s the voice, calmly reminding him to breathe, telling him everything is all right, telling him he’s safe here.
Gradually Tom stops shaking, his breathing slows, and he leans his exhausted forehead against the wall and opens his eyes.
“Sorry,” he mutters, rough and almost unrecognisable.
“There’s nothing to be sorry for,” says the voice, which Tom now recognises as human, male, with an accent that reminds him of his sister Moira’s teenage obsession with period holoprograms, all drawing rooms and corsets and stately dances.
He can’t help a small smile at the memory.
“Feeling better?” the voice asks.
Tom considers it. “Yeah,” he decides, straightening up. “Thanks.”
The voice, Tom sees, belongs to a slender man about his own age and height in a blue-shouldered uniform and lieutenant j.g. pips.
“Julian Bashir, CMO,” the man says. “Would you mind taking a seat? I’d like to take some further readings.”
Tom nods, following him over to the biobed and hoisting himself up. The doctor’s head is bent over his tricorder, which is chirruping quietly.
“Will I live?” Tom jokes, but it comes out sounding flat, almost desperate.
Bashir closes the tricorder and gives him an encouraging smile. “Undoubtedly. Have you experienced panic attacks before?”
“Yeah,” then Tom corrects himself, “I mean, yes, sir.”
“Do you usually take medication for them? I can give you a small dose of improvoline.”
Tom shakes his head. “I’m okay.”
The doctor leans a hip against the biobed. “What’s your name, crewman?”
Crewman, Tom thinks. I suppose it beats inmate.
He looks down at himself in his red-shouldered uniform. Last time he’d worn it, he’d equalled this doctor’s rank.
He has a sudden urge to blurt out everything – prison, the Maquis, Caldik Prime, his father, everything – and bites down so hard on his tongue that he tastes blood.
“Excuse me, sir.”
Tom slides off the biobed and walks out of the medical bay without looking back.