Title: Phoenix Fire
Pairing: C/P (predominantly), Julian/P (a wee bit)
Chapter Twelve (12/?)
Summary: Explosions. Julian observes. Preparations.
Rating: NC-17, language.
Fuck you. Fuck you all!
--- Graffiti found on DS9.
Benjamin Sisko, the burdens of command and sorrow on his shoulders, sat in his office. He couldn't bear reading another PADD talking about the 'Griffin Incident'. The report was written in concise Starfleetspeak: cold, clinical and detached. It was as if the officer was standing far away, his heart and soul emotionally distant, his hands on autopilot.
A whole damned ship, Sisko rubbed his face with his hand. A whole damned ship! How would the families of the dead feel?
For a moment, he wanted to give up. He had problems enough with his own life as it was. Jake was complaining about something. So was Kasidy: she had helped out with the Infirmary but she remained oddly taciturn throughout the entire crisis.
Ben closed his eyes. He felt unsettled and he hated that feeling. He recalled speaking to Odo who had handed him the security reports. The constable had informed that inflammatory graffiti had been found scribbled all over DS9 in bright colors. The messages were rude and juvenile; Odo's tone betrayed his unease.
"I managed to get them removed," the security chief had said, eyeing Sisko intently.
Odo turned to leave. He strode to the door but he stopped, glancing over his shoulder. "Captain…"
Something had flickered in Odo's eyes. Shadows. "Nothing. Something…had just crossed my mind but it was a…trivial matter." With that, he left the office, leaving Sisko feeling chilled to the bones for some strange reason.
Ben sighed, thinking about his father's café. He would rather sit down with Jake and enjoy a bowl of hot savory gumbo.
Something beeped urgently. He started and stood up. Kira was saying something. Her voice was rapid-fire but he caught the mood and the gist of her incoming message.
His heart constricted painfully.
Two more explosions. One Federation starship. A small merchant vessel. Near Bajor. Two survivors. The Bajoran authorities were demanding answers. So was Starfleet Headquarters breathing hellfire and brimstone.
*** *** ***
The little girl was picking herbs when she saw the first fire-flower in the sky. She gazed up, her mouth shaped in a perfect O, her task forgotten. There was a thunderous boom and a large many-petal blossom appeared.
She smiled, thanking the Prophets. She loved flowers. Her whole family did. Grandmother. Mother. Aunt Neyas. They made tiny bundles of sun-dried flowers for the festivals.
The second fire-flower exploded when she was almost done. It was a smaller one this time.
With a soft sigh, she headed back to her family home, hungry. She could already smell the fragrant stew bubbling in the huge pot.
*** *** ***
"It was a small human-piloted merchant ship," Kira murmured, furious. She glared at Jadzia Dax who said nothing.
The Bajoran spun on her heels and stormed to the lift. She was clearly agitated. Jadzia pursed her lips. Everyone was agitated. Angry. Such flagrant disregard of lives was the hallmark of guerillas. The Trill wisely chose not to mention about the three starships.
*** *** ***
Julian Bashir had not slept well for the past two days. Dark circles ringed his eyes. He had automatically shaved. Personal hygiene. Other than that, he pretty much moved like a machine, doing his job as chief medical officer and nothing else.
He gulped down the bitter coffee as he walked around his Infirmary, checking on the new patients. They were badly burned. Almost sixty-percent body damage. They would have died. But they had hung on with typical human tenacity. Or stupidity, Julian thought glumly. He nodded to his aides, noting their haggard appearances with perverse pleasure. Misery is a shared experience indeed.
Every member in his team looked terrible.
The man watched him with a half-smile on his lips. The blue eyes sparkled with barely disguised humor. Arms folded. The face calm, smooth. He was almost defiant. Proud. Daring Julian and everyone.
Dammit, Tom was almost recovered. He only needed to go through the required occupational therapy sessions and he would be back to normal again. But he didn't seem to be grateful. Just sullen. As if he had been forced to comply.
He was, a voice whispered in Julian's head.
Tom's soft chuckling could be heard and Julian quickly suppressed the surge of frustration. He pretty much wanted to throttle the man. How could he look so…smug when everything was crumbling around him? For a while, Julian believed that Tom was mad. Or, simply too damned confident. The man had that feral look on him, exuding that dangerous quality Julian had found unnerving.
Tom lived on danger. Consumed it. Craved it. Thrived on it.
He positively glowed with energy. Julian felt drained in comparison.
"Doctor," a young aide shouted. "We are losing her!"
Dammit. Julian resumed his 'brisk doctor' façade and hurried over to the biobed. Three aides surrounded the second survivor who gasped and convulsed. Her body was rejecting all the transplants. It was a lost battle. Julian steeled his heart and went through all the possible procedures. His training kicked in. He stuck to the Hippocratic Oath. Yet, the woman seemed to have given up. Her startling hazel eyes, the only thing human in an otherwise ravaged blackened face, pinned him down before she inhaled for one last time and closed her eyes.
Julian gritted his teeth, lowered his head. "Name: Jane Doe. Death occurred at 0900 hrs. Heart failure. Rejection of new skin and blood transplants." He intoned numbly.
Someone was laughing. It was Tom.
That does it!
The chief medical officer stalked over to the man. "Are you enjoying yourself?" Julian demanded angrily. "Why are you taking pleasure from people's pain?"
Tom Paris had that infuriating grin again!
"Well, answer me!"
"I am not." Tom said and lifted a hand idly. "Come here."
"I am not in the mood for fun and games!" Julian growled. The situation was slowly degenerating out of control.
Tom leaned over, grabbed Julian's lapel with one surprising powerful hand and stared straight into the man's eyes. The doctor froze. Those blue eyes were awfully close. Tom was practically next to him! The proximity unnerved Julian, reinforcing the idea that Tom was truly mad.
"Fun and games?" The blonde man chuckled lowly and planted a full kiss on Julian's lips. Before the man could react, Tom bit down, drawing blood. Then, he let go and Julian spun away, wiping his mouth and cursing at the pain.
"You are crazy," the doctor spat, upper lip swollen. He could taste blood.
"Yeah. Fuck you." Tom's feral look reappeared and his eyes became hooded. Suddenly, he flung up his head and howled with laughter.
*** *** ***
He found Kathryn eyeing him with a mixture of anxiety and confusion on her face. He blinked, shaking his head. He seemed to hear…echoes in his head. Tom's laughter.
He was surely going mad.
"Sorry. I was only thinking about something."
The captain smiled. Her face was framed with loose tendrils of russet hair. But she still looked dignified. "So we are committed, aren't we?" She said suddenly.
Chakotay nodded. "We are." He experienced a welcoming influx of adrenaline. He needed that.
Kathryn placed a hand on his arm. "Good luck."
The Native American smiled back. He rubbed his nose, a seemingly normal gesture. Tuvok and Ayala got up from their seats. Gruff and Duff took no notice. Chakotay scratched his cheek and the two men began to edge towards the door. At the same time, Harry shuffled to the table and examined the medical tricorder studiously.
The memory of Tom's smile came into the first officer's mind. It was an uplifting memory and Chakotay grinned to himself. It was about time, dammit. They should have done that a long time ago.
Tuvok was leaning against the wall, his expression unreadable. Ayala began to chat to the Voyager crewmember nearest to the door. Gruff and Duff only lifted their eyebrows but they didn't say anything.
Ayala was saying, "Yeah, the food is bad but not as bad as---"
Naomi started to cry.
For Tom, Chakotay chanted to himself. Tom's radiant smile returned. His handsome face was lifted, his eyes aglow. It was the day he had successfully flown the Firebird.
Tuvok reached out a hand and pinched Gruff's neck. The man immediately crumbled, his legs turned into tofu. Duff reacted all too slowly before Ayala's fist smashed into his nose.
"We have their phaser rifles," Tuvok reported coolly.
Kathryn Janeway nodded.