"What happened?" the Doctor's voice asked as the EMH materialised behind him.
Tuvok turned towards the Doctor. "The Commander was attacked."
The EMH dropped to his knees beside the Vulcan, tricorder already running over Chakotay's still form. "Traumatic penetration of the lung... haemothorax... blood pressure..." He broke off, slapping at his com badge, "Doctor to Bridge, emergency beam out to sick-bay!"
Tuvok stood against the sickbay bulkhead, watching as the Doctor worked on Chakotay. His mind reeled, thoughts running unchecked. What had he done? How could he have done this? How could he have let the situation deteriorate to such an extent that he had committed the most contemptible of all Vulcan crimes - the forced entry of someone's mind?
The Captain had tried to warn him, had offered her help, had offered to listen. And in his arrogance he had refused her, believing that he could remedy the situation on his own.
As a result, Commander Chakotay was lying here, his body beaten and broken, his mind possibly so badly damaged that he would never recover...
< < Stop! This is illogical! > >
Kathryn Janeway took an involuntary step backwards in surprise as the Vulcan jumped like a startled deer. The terror in his eyes was quickly hidden, but not quickly enough. Kathryn reached out, touching his arm, trying to project calm. Then she snatched her hand away as she realised he was shaking uncontrollably. For a brief moment she floundered, unsure how to deal with this situation when he was so obviously having to battle to control his distress. And then the small voice at the back of her mind told her that to show Tuvok any emotion now would probably undo him completely.
She dropped back into clinical Captain mode, demanding, "Report, Lieutenant Commander!"
For a moment he said nothing, visibly pulling himself together. When he finally spoke, his voice was calm, but there was an edge to it that worried Kathryn more than his physical distress alone. "I was attempting, unsuccessfully, to meditate... Commander Chakotay came to my quarters and asked to talk with me... I let him in. I have no clear recollection of the events that followed, except that... I attacked him." He clenched his jaw, fighting to maintain his control as the emotion threatened to swamp him, swallowing hard before adding, "Both physically and mentally."
The Captain returned his gaze evenly for a moment, then folded her arms, asking simply, "Explain."
He tightened his hands into fists, feeling the nails dig into the skin of his palms, trying to stop himself shaking, trying to keep his mind logically ordered as regret, recrimination, guilt, and terror swept through him, threatening to shatter his control. "When I regained consciousness I found that I was... linked... to him."
Janeway frowned, getting a sudden, leaden feeling in the pit of her stomach.
He swallowed, unsure of how to explain to her the magnitude of the crime he had committed. "Such a link can only be forged with a mind meld." His voice cracked but he carried on, blurting out the words before they destroyed him, "In my... emotional state I do not believe I sought his permission before doing so."
The memories crashed in: Chakotay's terrified screams as Vulcan power sliced through human defenses; pushing aside the voices of the Borg collective that even now lurked in Chakotay's subconscious; ignoring the stifled cry of pain as he had ripped through the fragile human mind, pushing into every corner, smashing down every attempt the human had made to stop him. Until he had come to that small centre of calm, hidden deep within Chakotay's mind; the small warm glow that had been laid bare and now beckoned to him, promising warmth, promising release from the emotional nightmare. The power of that deeply hidden secret had exploded through him, sent him staggering backwards even now.
In some plain of reality he was aware that his legs had given way and that he was falling. But it was irrelevant: inconsequential against what he now remembered. Instinctively he reached out through the mind link, wanting to hear the words again, no longer caring that the voice was not T'Pel's. In the depths of his madness, Chakotay had saved his life. In the depths of his grief, Chakotay had saved his sanity.
And there, at the end of the link, so faint that he wasn't sure if he had heard it or imagined it...
< < Tuvok, my love... > >
A tear pushed from beneath Tuvok's closed lids, coursing slowly down his cheek. He could hear the sound of the Captain's voice but shut it out, clinging to the faint link.
< < Tuvok...? > >
Calm swept in... and the impossible image of a beautiful, shimmering, flying insect that he knew was a dragonfly, but had no recollection of ever having seen before. He found himself smiling. < < T'hyla... rest. I am here. > >
The tear trickled down Tuvok's cheek, terrifying her. "Tuvok! Tuvok! Can you hear me?" He had only been on the floor seconds, but to Kathryn they dragged like hours. She started to turn, to call out to the Doctor. Then she saw the corners of Tuvok's lips tug slightly upwards and his eyes drift open.
The Tuvok that looked out at her through dark, Vulcan eyes was more akin to the Tuvok she knew than the one she had seen over the last few days. "I am uninjured, Captain."
He started to push himself off the floor and she rose to her feet with him, helping him to stand. He looked across at the diagnostic bed for a moment, then turned his attention back to her, stating, "Captain, I request that I be relieved of duty and placed under arrest for the assault on Commander Chakotay."
"Tuvok..." she began.
But he silenced her with the quirk of an eyebrow, interjecting, "I am uncertain about the state of my mental well being, Captain. If you were to ask for assurances that a similar incident would not occur again, I would be unable to give you such assurance."
She nodded, respecting his wishes, "Very well, Commander, you are relieved of duty until further notice and confined to sick-bay until the Doctor certifies that you are fit to leave. Disciplinary action will be postponed until that time." She tapped her com badge, ordering, "Security detail to sick-bay, on the double."
* * * *