NEW: Blue Lights, Speed Challenge, PG-13, 1/1.
Date: Fri, 22 Jan 1999 22:59:24 +1100
From: julad <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Reply-To: PacKage@onelist.com To: PacKage <PacKage@onelist.com>
From: julad <email@example.com>
title: blue lights
general pre-story chatter:
I like these kind of challenges, because even though the writing may suffer for lack of revision, the strangest stories seem to flow into the keyboard. This one is even stranger than I expected. But it's canon: Harry does soothe beautifully, and Tom panics nearly as well. <g>
Well, I managed the 24hr time limit (uncooperative server notwithstanding), 1472 words, the camera and the no kissing. Unfortunately I'm so far from R/NC-17 it's a travesty, but hey, you can't win 'em all. <grin>
For Anagi, whose brutal-as-always beta is the basis of all the revisions I've made.
blue lights, by julad
They stared at one another in the silent space. Faint, rippling light kept them from reading the others' expression, and the low gravity added to the eerie underwater quality of their confines. Harry inched closer to Tom, cool professionalism a wall around his fear.
"What is this place?" His barely audible whisper, brimming with anxiety, seemed to bring the edges of their confines closer. The bluish surfaces crowded the pair, shifting and retreating in a truly alien dance of malevolence and life. Tom's hand reached into his and held tight, reassuring in its cold, sweaty solidity. They pulled themselves together awkwardly, entwining their legs so as not to be separated.
Strangely, the walls retreated somewhat.
"Is anybody there?" A band of illumation flowed past Tom's eyes after he spoke, and Harry saw into them for the first time since this had begun. Wide but determined, the blueness radiated an unearthly light back to their surroundings. Not understanding one bit of what was happening, and liking it even less, Harry slid his arms around his best friend and pulled himself close to Tom's back. Tom squeezed his hand, briefly, and then let go.
"We want you to understand something." Tom spoke quietly, but with calm assurance, to nobody in particular. "We are sorry for capturing the images, but we can't surrender the equipment to you. We can destroy them, if that's acceptable." The sudden, looming darkness of the walls conveyed a definite "no", and Harry gasped his understanding.
Tom turned to face Harry over his shoulder. "Can it be reversed?"
Twined this close, their lips nearly touched as the words were spoken. Harry shivered, but shook his head ever-so-slightly, whispering, "I don't think so."
"We can give you the recording; the.... The substance where the light has been imprinted, but not the technology which captured it. Would you release us to our shuttle in exchange for that?"
Color and medium wavered, uncertain.
"Once we're back to our ship, you can negotiate furthur with our captain," Tom urged, pressing forward his advantage. "And we will use all our resources get the light back out of the imager."
A pause, and then Tom was pounded with golden light -incandescent with it - as his shining face froze in a rictus of agony or ecstasy, or both. Harry clutched him, terrified, pressing his closed eyes into Tom's neck, gripping his hair, refusing to let him go and still barely comprehending what this was or how it had happened...
...and then they were on the floor of the shuttle, damp with sweat, muscles locking them into a position which was painful in normal gravity. Slowly forcing his eyes open, Harry saw Tom's face deathly pale, the mouth and eyes wide open, and struggled to remember the situation as recollection slipped away like a dream.
Eyes trying unsuccessfully to focus on the grey surroundings which were abruptly too dull, too static and lifeless, Harry lifted a clumsy arm to Tom's throat to search for his pulse. A shuddering gasp shook both their bodies, and then a soft moan propelled Harry out of his fugue state and into action.
It wasn't until the solution was found and the crisis was over that Harry noticed Tom's reluctance to leave his side. Tom trailed behind him in the corridor, as Harry stopped by Astrometrics to discuss the phenomenon, then down to engineering to congratulate B'Elanna on reversing the stellar photography process. He followed Harry into the messhall but didn't bother getting any of the food which Harry reluctantly picked at He just sat a little too close for a normal situation, and stared unblinkingly at his hands.
After sneaking several worried glances, Harry shoved his meal away and turned to face him. "Are you okay, Tom? Should I take you back to the doctor?"
Tom shook his head mutely.
"Do you want me to take you to your quarters?"
"Sure." Getting more and more anxious, Harry led the way.
Once they were inside something seemed to break deep inside Tom. There were no noisy tears or dramatic collapses, but a slow blink of his eyes made Harry grab hold of him. He manuevered them both to the couch where Tom burrowed and entangled until they were closer than they had been on the shuttle, and then he seemed to relax a little.
"What's happening?" Harry asked softly. "What's going on here?"
Tom had his face buried somewhere in Harry's armpit, and his voice was muffled. "You know how I said, in the briefing, that bright light... um."
"It interpreted the shade of your eyes as 'honesty'?"
A shake of the head. "After."
"When it felt like they were looking inside you?"
"Hmm." Tom lifted his head and stared at Harry, and it seemed that his eyes now shone with desperation. "Harry, I'm still ... still *lit up*. Inside. I can see all of myself. I know everything. I understand myself completely and oh, *gods*..." Talking about it seemed to make it a thousand times worse. He was shuddering, convulsing, clawing at his skin... and scaring Harry out of his mind. "I can hear myself thinking about the words I'm saying! I want to *die*! Get me out of here, Harry!"
Harry grabbed both his arm to stop him hurting himself. "Out of where? What can I do?"
"Out of my *self*!" the scream held a raw edge of hysteria.
"I'm taking you to the doctor."
"NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!" Harry's hand paused over his commbadge, and the hand he had released grabbed onto his. "No Harry, please, I need to be here with you because you think the best of me and I couldn't bear to be with anyone else, not the Doctor he's too harsh I couldn't bear it I'm seeing too much! Please Harry don't make me..."
At a loss, Harry gathered him up like before, entwining them as Tom seemed to need. He rubbed Tom's back until the shivering stopped, whispering softly. "There we go, don't talk, don't think about that, just listen to me for a while. Just forget about your mind...."
"But when you say that I CAN'T!"
"Sure you can," soothed Harry, trying to keep his voice calm when he felt nothing but. "Did I ever tell you about when I was, oh, nine or ten, and..."
"It's not working!" Tom wailed, clutching his arm. "I hear your voice, it's too... it's too *everything* and it's all so *transparent* now!"
"What? What is?"
Tom was shouting hoarsely now, eyes turning red, writhing to escape from Harry's tightened embrace. "My desire for you!"
Harry stared, astonished at the confession and then horrified at its consequences. His best friend seemed to be strangling under the weight of his own self-awareness, as he naturally tried to make sense of his revelation and Harry's reaction. His breath started coming in shallow pants; his muscles jerking and spasming. Harry reassured him as best he could, singing nonsense lullabies to distract them both from what was occuring. Then as Tom's pallor took on a bluish tinge, he gave into his own panic and beamed them both into sickbay, yelling for sedation before they had even finished materialising.
Twelve worried hours and zero sleep later, Harry was back in sickbay, holding Tom's hand once again. The doctor, mercifully, had made himself very scarce while Tom was conscious.
"It's nearly faded away now," Tom mumbled, the microtremors in his cool fingers the only indication he was anything but very sleepy.
"Good," Harry brushed the tousled hair from Tom's forehead, still keeping his voice soft. "I'm glad it's not permanent."
"I'll still remember," he sighed, the light of despair flickering briefly behind the deadened blue of half-closed eyes. "I'll know some things about myself forever."
Harry smiled fondly, gently squeezing his friend's palm. "I'll know some things about you forever too, Tom, but they're all wonderful."
Tom managed a tired half-grin. "You see why I needed you?"
"Yeah, I know."
They sat a moment, in surprisingly comfortable silence. Then Tom sighed.
"You know what it was like, Har? Remember getting your psych evaluation results in the last year of the academy? Reading about aspects of your personality which some stranger had recognised but until now, you hadn't?"
Harry pulled a face. "'In conclusion, Mr Kim, although gifted intellectually, is currently hampered by a need for attention, reassurance and reward which would prove crippling in the highly competitive environment of a Starfleet research facility.'" He slumped a little at the memory. "Oh yeah, I know all right."
Tom grimaced weakly. "Multiply it by infinity and put the analyst inside your head to give a running commentary."
Shaking his head, wondering at what Tom had endured, Harry said nothing. Then Tom chuckled a little, drawing his attention back.
"I must be delirious, or I wouldn't be laughing."
"Laughing at what?"
"I can still hear the analyst, as if from very far away, harping on about how I'm avoiding even *thinking* about the discussion we need to have about a certain something."
In answer, Harry trailed their joined hands across Tom's chest, and brought his other hand up to cup Tom's face.
"I think we would be best avoiding the analysis of your desire for me..." he licked his lips thoughtfully, "until you've made a complete physical recovery."