Title: Phoenix Fire

Pairing: C/P (predominantly)

Chapter Four (4/?)

Summary: Deep Space Nine. The crew waits. 

So the crew of Voyager waited in the debriefing room. Their fates hung in the balance. They were home …and not home. They had journeyed across the quadrants seemingly for nothing. For the captain, Kathryn Janeway, the homecoming had turned into uncertainty. What could she do? Ideas, suggestions, possibilities and tangents ran rampant in her mind. To her, her ship … her crew was in danger. 

Alicia von Hartman, Kathryn Janeway: Captain and Woman, p. 70.

The debriefing room had the feel of a brig. The metallic walls gave the impression of coldness and sterility. Even the air was chill, reinforcing the starkness of the place. Two Starfleet officers, their faces stony and grim, guarded the door. 

Kathryn Janeway frowned darkly, her hands resting on her hips. She wasn't pleased. Sure, Sisko sent warm food and water as refreshments. She tried asking the guards questions but they didn't even respond to her, captain or not. They were simply trained for the job: secure the prisoners and no questions asked. 

No, this wasn't the way to treat a Starfleet captain and her crew. 

"Please let me speak to Starfleet Headquarters," she had said calmly. But the one she termed Gruff didn't even bat an eyelid at her. His companion, Duff, mirrored the same response. 

Now, she was imprisoned … of all things … on a Federation space station!

She rubbed her head, conscious of the throbbing ache between her temples. Looking about her, at her crew, didn't help ease the headache either. She spied Harry sitting beside an ice-cold Seven; the young man was trying to strike up a conversation with the half-Borg. But he was evidently failing for her face was impassive, her eyes neutral. Kathryn felt a twinge of sympathy for Harry; he must have felt the tension in the room, the unspoken thoughts hanging like a thundercloud. 

Naomi was folding paper cranes with her nimble hands while her mother and Neelix watched in silence. The adults were sober and the child had evidently picked it up. Her normally cheerful face was frowning but she continued folding her cranes. 

B'Elanna paced up and down, alone … reminding the captain of a trapped cougar. 

Her eyes rested finally on Tom and Chakotay. The two men sat in a corner, Tom with his eyes closed and Chakotay looking around the room with his dark eyes. He glanced over, saw Kathryn and nodded slowly, a slight smile on his face. "Have faith," the nod seemed to say and Kathryn drew strength from it. Chakotay didn't act nervous nor was he anxious. He behaved in his normal fashion: stoic, unfazed. Yet, Kathryn knew that the former Maquis leader took in everything, his eyes missing nothing.

As for Tom, the pilot hadn't moved in his wheelchair. 

The captain of Voyager sighed, starting to pace like B'Elanna. At least, walking up and down this sorry excuse of a debriefing room helped her release all the bunched-up tension in her body.

*** *** *** 

Prisons all look the same, Thomas Eugene Paris thought, opening his eyes and seeing two women pace the length of the room, their faces grave and certainly unhappy. He suddenly remembered the Auckland penal colony and he shuddered, the memories of his incarceration flooding back like a chill river.

No, prisons ain't nice, even with regular food and drink … 

Tom closed his eyes again, willing the images away from his mind. He kept seeing himself …or someone resembling him …beaten by other inmates. That Tom was badly bruised, his cheeks stained by his own blood, his lips puffy. He had a feral, almost crazy grin on his face, as if he dared the prison bullies, challenged them with his lack of fright. He didn't want to submit to the prison pecking order.

Not in a million years. 

He found himself hating the images where he lay drugged by the strong sedatives. He could still remember the medics trying to apply the dreaded hypospray to his neck. 

The Feir'n had offered him freedom. Freedom from his past. Freedom from his sordid life. Then they left and he became crippled, a man confined to a wheelchair. 

Tom hated them. He hated these memories because they always returned with a vengeance. He could try to bury them deep inside his psyche but they would emerge, darker than ever. 

He clung to the happier images. The Delta Flyer. The Firebird. He broke the warp 10 threshold. He contributed to the wellbeing of Voyager

There was also Chakotay.

The big man turned and smiled at him. It was a reassuring smile. A kind smile. 

"You seem awfully quiet," Chakotay said, putting his hand on Tom's arm.

"It's this room…" Tom murmured, glancing at the dark eyes watching him. "It…brought back some…memories…"

The warm hand squeezed his arm. Once. "Not a pleasant room, I agree."

"The food wasn't that great either," Tom grinned but he felt cold inside. "I have a sudden craving for Neelix's leola stew."

Chakotay groaned but his eyes twinkled with amusement. His hand caressed Tom's face, a quick fleeting motion. But the younger man was the only person who shared that special gesture of intimacy in the cold debriefing room.

The doors hissed open, startling everyone. The guards admitted a man who strode in, followed by two other officers. He was handsome, his features Middle Eastern. His eyes, liquid with intelligence, roved around the small chamber, finally resting on Tom's figure.

"Thomas? Thomas Paris?" His voice sounded refined, British.

Tom stared at the man with astonishment. "Julian?"

"Doctor Julian Bashir," he introduced himself, a warm smile on his face.

"I haven't seen you…" Tom spluttered.

"For a long time?" Julian grinned, feeling the steady gaze of the captain on him. "I am here to escort you to the Infirmary."

His announcement caused Tom to look up with shock. Chakotay stepped forward and faced the doctor.

"Why him?" The cool voice belied his anxiety. 

"I was given orders," Julian answered, unafraid. "Now, will you excuse me…"

A powerful hand blocked his path. Chakotay glared at him. 

"Please, Commander," the doctor said lightly. "I was given specific orders by Captain Sisko."

Chakotay gave an audible growl. "Orders?"

"Yes. Orders." Julian nodded. 

Tom activated the wheelchair and it came to life with a whir. The sound was jarring in the awkward silence. 

"Chakotay," Tom said, his hand brushing the older man's gently. "Don't worry."

Julian lifted an eyebrow, noting this exchange of words. He took in a deeper breath, hating his orders. Captain Sisko had spoken to him earlier in the morning; he was ordered to examine Tom … and the half-Borg woman.

"I was also asked," Julian said quietly, "to escort the half-Borg woman."

This time, Harry rose from his seat, his eyes flashing. The words "half-Borg" sounded unpleasant … almost rude. 

"What do you mean?" Kathryn Janeway drew herself to her full height. 

Julian didn't answer her. His attention was fastened on the tall statuesque blonde woman who walked up to him, her eyes imperious. 

"I am the half-Borg woman," the blonde said in a flat matter-of-fact voice. 

"Captain?" Harry's voice was fraught with worry. "Captain?!"

"Let me go," Seven of Nine turned to the captain. "I will comply with the orders."

"Seven, you don't have to do this…" Kathryn said throatily. Fear gripped her heart in an iron vise. 

"I am the half-Borg," Seven said slightly amused. She glanced at Julian Bashir. 

The silence in the room became unbearable. Then, Tom stirred, moving forward on his wheelchair, followed by the haughty Seven. Julian was glad to leave for his conscience screamed inside him, making him feel smaller than a dust-mite. The doors slid open, allowing the three to depart from the room. They closed almost immediately and the two guards -- Gruff and Duff -- took their places at the sides, holding their phaser rifles in front of them . 

No one spoke. They were too stunned to say anything. Then, Naomi began to cry, quickly reassured by a similarly distraught Samantha. Neelix said nothing but the Talaxian looked solemn. 

Harry sank down onto his haunches, rubbing his face. B'Elanna growled something in Klingon and slammed her fist into the wall. 

Captain Janeway stared at the doors. She wanted answers. No, she demanded answers. She wanted to wipe the smirks off Gruff and Duff with her bare hands.

In a corner, Chakotay sat down and prayed to the spirits.

Take care of Tom.