Part 22

Big brown eyes.

Peering into his own.

Tom Paris tried to scream. He tried to sit up and scoot away.

He was thwarted on both counts by two pieces of irritatingly effective modern technology-the tissue regenerator in his throat and the EMH's forceful hands on his shoulders, pinning him to the bio-bed.

And the Doc didn't bother to explain to him why he was being held down, being too busy scolding the owner of those big brown eyes, Harry Kim.

"Mr. Kim, I told you-!"

"I'm sorry, Doc. I didn't mean to startle him. I didn't know he was going to try and sit up like that."

"He cannot sit up. In order for the instrument-" The Doc's hand moved to enclose Tom's throat. "-to work properly, he must remain parallel to the floor."

The feel of the Doc's hand, even loosely, around Tom's throat made him uncomfortable. He lifted his arm-no longer broken, he noted-and tried to remove the hand.

It didn't work.

But it did bring the EMH's attention down to his patient.

"Did you hear me, Mr. Paris? You cannot sit up. You can be restrained to the bio-bed, if need be. Do you understand?"

The Doc didn't let go, clearly awaiting a response. Tom suspected from the Doctor's irritated tone that Harry had been here a while. Tom wasn't sure how to communicate his cooperation. If sitting up was bad, shaking his head was probably also on the not-okay list. He settled for mouthing 'yes'. The Doc let go and retreated from the perimeter of the bio-bed, allowing Harry to move in.

As he looked at Harry, Tom remembered how he'd felt when he'd thought he never see his friend again. He felt his eyes well up. He fought like hell to keep the tears from spilling over. That was the last thing he wanted: to be stuck flat on his back, crying, and unable to explain. Well, Harry could probably guess. Harry didn't say anything about Tom's efforts, which was only fair because Tom didn't have a choice about saying anything about Harry's own glistening eyes.

"Hey, Tom."

Harry had the additional problem of trying to keep his voice from cracking.

Harry took his hand in something that resembled a handshake and a squeeze combined. He didn't let go. And he held tight. Tom's fingers began to hurt a little. That was okay.

It was the best kind of pain.

"You look...a lot better."

That was a kind way of saying that he still looked like he'd been hit by a shuttle going Warp 10.

Or maybe a shuttle disguised as a Betazoid bastard named Suder.

Maybe Harry was becoming telepathic, because he squeezed harder and continued.

"That's a good thing, Tom. I saw you before, and..."

The paleness to Harry's skin and the distant look in his eyes told Tom that Harry was imagining exactly what Tom had looked like after the attack, and it wasn't pretty. The look of nausea fluttered from Harry's face, as he visibly forced the image from his mind.

"Anyway, I'm sorry I didn't come to see you earlier. I wanted to, I tried to. Tuvok practically broke my arm dragging me out of the brig. And then he threatened to have me confined to quarters if I didn't report to duty. That why I couldn't get here until dinner." Harry scowled, and spat with significant venom, "I don't know what Tuvok's problem was."

"Perhaps he was concerned you would attempt to break Mr. Dalby's jaw, as you did Mr. Suder's," speculated the Doctor, helpfully.

Harry broke Suder's jaw?

>From the look Harry cast in the Doctor's direction, not only was it true but Harry was not ashamed of his violent actions, as he once would have been.

He looked like he wanted to do it again.

Tom yanked Harry's hand to bring his attention back around. Harry looked back down, reading the questions in Tom's eyes.

"You don't remember, do you?"

Not a thing.

"I was just going to the Brig to visit you, and I met Tuvok right outside the door. He said he'd heard the guard on duty had been called down to Engineering, and he was coming to cover the empty post. We walked in and saw you...and Dalby and Suder."

It seemed to Tom that the pause had been used replaced the words 'getting killed'.

"Suder was choking you, and Dalby was holding a phaser right above your face," Harry was lost in the memory, his hand tightening around Tom's, like it had tightened into a fist to knock Suder away. While Tuvok had disarmed Dalby with minimal violence, Harry, enraged, had exceeded the necessary actions to save Tom. After which, Tom had been beamed to sick bay and Tuvok had forcibly removed Harry from the brig. Which is where Dalby and Suder were residing now, Harry explained.

Harry leaned closer, hand still tightly holding Tom's.

"I know you aren't in a position to argue now, but I think you were wrong earlier. About the Maquis being up to something. Besides what they did to you, I mean."

Harry leaned even closer, whispering.

"After the Doctor updated her on your condition, the Captain and the Commander went into her ready room. They were there for hours. When they came out, they *didn't* like each other. The Captain was looking at everyone with this death glare."

Harry raised his hand to his temple and shot it out in a straight line.

"Chakotay was, he was just quiet. And scary. I didn't like the hostility that was coming from everyone on the Bridge. And now it's beginning to permeate the whole ship. I don't know what's going to happen, but it isn't going to be good."

Part 23 | Index page