Title: Beyond the Bounds of Friendship (1/1)
Author: Dusk (dusk@goldserve.net)
Pairing: K/V
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: All things Trek are owned by Paramount, not me. I make no profit from borrowing them.
Archive: VSPS
Webpage: https://www.angelfire.com/falcon/dusk/
Summary: This is episode-related - in 'Blood Fever', what if Vorik had decided against going down to the planet?
Comments: Feedback - including constructive criticism - is always welcomed. To Jena, for telling me just what was wrong with the first draft :)

***

Vorik sat silently in his room. Around him, the candles burned, and thousands of meters below, the away team was still exploring the caverns. His hands clasped, he stared mindlessly at the tiny flames. He could not meditate, as he knew was his only option. The most he could do was stare at the flames as inside, his mind roiled with colours and flashes and images.

He picked up an ornament at random and calmly hurled it against the wall, watching it shatter with distanced satisfaction before returning to staring at the flames.

Slowly but surely, he knew he was going insane.

***

"Personal time?"

Harry nodded. "Yes, ma'am."

"How -much- time?"

"I'm not sure. Probably a few days."

Captain Janeway put down her padd. "Can I ask what for?"

"Captain, do you know what Vorik's doing right now?"

"Yes," she said slowly. "I do. Do you?"

"Not exactly. But I know it's not going to work."

"You do." Statement, or query? He wasn't sure. He continued anyway.

"Vorik's a friend. I can help him, if he'll let me. Can I have the time?"

"That's just it, Ensign. Do you really think he'll let you?"

"I... I'm not sure. But I have to ask. I'll come right back here if he refuses, and my request can be considered cancelled. But if he doesn't...."

After a moment, she nodded. "Very well." He turned to leave, and she added, "Good luck, Harry."

"Thank you, Captain." He nodded and left her ready room. She watched the door close behind him. Did he even know *what* he was offering? Automatically, she shied off of that line of thought and tightened her grip on the familiar coffee cup. He was an adult. It was his choice to make. She wasn't entirely comfortable with the entire situation... but she'd heard the doctor's prognosis if the young Vulcan didn't accept help from *someone*.

It was times like this she felt the distance the strongest - situations that just wouldn't occur at home. They'd lost too many to the perils of unknown space. As Captain, she had no intention of losing any more crew members. She was willing to try anything.

***

The door to his quarters opened. Vorik didn't look up.

"Go away." No inflection. Just a statement.

The door closed again, with the intruder still inside. Vorik whirled, meditation lamp in hand, and stood with it poised to throw.

"GET OUT OF HERE!" He was beyond caring about propriety, control. He noted that it was remarkably satisfying to roar at the top of this lungs and prepared to repeat the words.

"I'm not going anywhere." The calm tone of Ensign Kim's words cut through his blaze of anger like a knife. He dropped the lamp, and it fell to the floor, extinguishing itself as it hit. He didn't notice.

"Why are you here?"

"Because you need help."

"And you believe you can help me?" He didn't know or care how the Human knew what was happening. Sarcasm was something else he would have to try again sometime.

"I believe I can try."

"You have *no* idea what you're talking about!"

"I know enough."

Vorik stared at him for a long time. Harry was starting to become concerned when at last the Vulcan responded.

"Why you?"

Harry walked a little further into the room. "Because we're friends."

"You go far beyond the bounds of friendship here, Human. Leave while you can."

Harry didn't move. "How old are you, Vorik?"

"That is none of your concern."

"I don't know a number, but I know you're only a little older than me."

Silence.

"I'd guess about 26 Terran years."

Silence.

"24," Vorik corrected him slowly.

Harry nodded. "But I know that for your species, you're even younger than me. Barely out of adolescence. Right?"

A curt answering nod. "What does it matter?"

"It matters, because I *know* what it's like to be the youngest in the group. To be considered a kid by the rest of the crew. *That's* why. Because I understand what it's like to be *you*." He was getting closer, now.

"You do not. You are Human."

"Doesn't matter. I know you're going through something right now, and it's scaring the hell out of you. You're alone and angry and confused, and there's no-one to ask for help."

"I have no intention of asking for help!" Vorik was losing his control. Harry was now less than a meter away.

"But you couldn't, even if you wanted to. You weren't expecting this, and you don't know what to do. Am I right?"

Floods of unfamiliar, unidentifiable emotions coursed through him. He didn't even try to suppress them.

"I am... too young," he whispered, almost sub-vocally. "I am unprepared."

Harry made the final step forward. They were face to face.

"Vorik. You are the only one here who knows what it's like for me. You're my friend. And I have no intention of letting you kill yourself because you're too damn proud to accept help when you know it's the only option."

He cupped the younger man's jaw in both hands, making his intention unmistakably clear to both of them.

Unable to resist the invitation, Vorik took Harry's jaw in the same grip and hauled him closer, kissing him savagely. The Vulcan was rough but Harry opened up and allowed the invasion without protest.

The hunger momentarily assuaged, Vorik regained control and broke lip contact by millimetres. Breathing heavily, he pressed his forehead to Harry's.

"You know what you are offering."

"I do."

"That was nothing. It will be violent and painful, and you must totally surrender yourself to my will."

"The offer stands."

Wild, black Vulcan eyes regarded clear, brown Human ones.

"You are a good friend, Harry Kim."

"I'm a lot more than that, Vorik."

"Indeed."

Their lips met once more in a kiss that was, briefly, as sweet as the other had been rough. Then the fire returned, and Harry felt it engulf him through Vorik's fingertips. He felt the floor against his back, though he couldn't remember getting there. Fragments emerged from the sensory barrage - the rip of cloth, hot skin against skin, and at one point, the coppery taste of blood that was not his own, but overlaying it all and obscuring everything were vivid threads of heat and colour and strength. Giving up the last vestiges of control, he felt the world explode in blinding flashes as the two minds merged and then nothing, and everything.

***

Tom glared at the simple text message on his terminal, rereading it in hope that there was some hidden clue he'd missed the first time.

"What the hell are you up to now, Har?" he grumbled and tapped his commbadge.

"Paris to Kim."

The computer gurgled at him. "Unavailable."

"Unavailable? What does that mean, unavailable? Is he still aboard Voyager?"

"Affirmative."

"Why can't I contact him?"

"Privacy lock engaged requires Command level override."

Tom downloaded the message to a padd and stormed off to the Captain's ready room.

***

The Captain stared coldly at the padd thrown onto her desk.

"Is there a problem, Mr. Paris?"

"Yes, there's a problem. I can't find Harry, and he left this message for me."

He moved the padd closer to her, and she picked it up, reading it silently.

'Tom,

I'm asking for some personal time off. If I don't get it, I'll see you on shift tomorrow. If I engage a privacy lock on my comm channel, please respect it, and I'll tell you afterwards why. If you need to know sooner, ask the captain.

Harry.'

She replaced the padd. "And I assume he's locked out his commbadge?"

"Yes! Captain." He added as she raised an eyebrow. "Did he tell you what was going on?"

"He asked for some time off. I gave it to him."

"Where *is* he?"

She considered how to answer this. From Harry's note, she clearly was being given permission to tell... but it wasn't all about Harry. There was Vorik to consider.

"He said he could help Vorik. I thought it was worth letting him try. I can't tell without overriding the system, but I would imagine that's where he is now."

"You left him alone with Vorik? After what he did to B'Elanna? Are you...." his rising voice trailed off as the stone cold gaze was aimed directly at him. "I mean... what, why?"

"That is neither your concern nor mine. I suggest you take it up with Harry the next time you see him. Suffice to say he is entitled to personal time to assist a friend through troubled times, and as long as he remains on the ship and doesn't endanger anyone I will *not* be checking up on him. And nor will you. Clear?"

"Yes, Captain."

"Dismissed."

He left the Ready Room and headed straight for the holodeck. His pool table, in his bar, with his holograms, seemed suddenly very welcoming. And distracting. As an afterthought, he set the computer to inform him when the lock was lifted on Harry's comm channel.

***

Harry slowly became aware that the ceiling he was staring at was not his own. His head was pounding; the light was dim; his muscles were starting to protest, and something was wrong with the bed. As the pounding receded to a dull ache, he realised that was because he wasn't laying on a bed.

"What happened to my clothes?" he murmured.

"I'm not sure," someone answered. Harry raised himself to one elbow and saw Vorik lying bonelessly, much as he had been, a little distance away.

"What about the furniture?"

Vorik continued staring at the ceiling. "I believe it got in the way at some point."

"At many points from the look of it." He pulled a padd out from under him and tossed it away, then half-crawled over to the prone Vulcan, and his breath caught. He ran a finger over one of the more prominent bruises, and Vorik finally met his eyes. In them, he saw concern, weariness, but fortunately, no regrets.

"Whoa, did I do that?"

"Yes. You did much; I did much. But I'm sure I returned the favour...." He raised a hand and gently touched Harry's side, frowning when Harry winced. "You are sore?"

"A little." He finally noticed the light level. Most of the candles scattered around the room had burned out. "How long were we out?"

"Many hours, maybe more. We should eat. The respite is brief." He made to get up, but Harry stopped him with a hand on his chest.

"Vorik..." he wasn't sure what to say. Things had been much simpler, earlier, when they didn't need to think or reason. "Are you ok?"

"I am fine. I am tired. Let me up."

Harry removed his hand, and Vorik got to his feet. Unselfconsciously, he walked over to the replicator. As he did so, Harry got full view of the vivid green-brown bruises and scratches that marred the pale skin. He wondered if the young Vulcan had even noticed.

Vorik placed a plate of food and a glass of water in front of him, then returned to the replicator and collected his own. He saw the new concern in the Human's eyes and kissed him gently on the cheek.

"Harry. You have done a wonderful thing for me. I am properly grateful and more. What worries you?"

"You seem even more reserved than usual. Is something wrong?"

Vorik realised his error after a moment's reflection. "You are Human. You are unfamiliar with this condition... I did not properly warn you beforehand of the effects. The lethargy is, to my knowledge, completely usual, but it will not last long. I hope you are prepared for the return of the blood fever?"

"I didn't think it was over, no."

"Eat. You will need it." He began to eat from his own plate, and Harry followed suit. The food, though unfamiliar, was pleasingly bland. Probably chosen specifically for that quality, he decided.

They ate in silence. Vorik returned the empty plates to the recycler in the same vein. He could feel the blood fever returning, lessened in intensity but no less insistent. He lay down on the cool floor, eyes staring at nothing. After a moment, he felt Harry lay next to him.

"Are you ready to start over, Harry?"

Harry raised himself onto one elbow and grinned. Vorik nodded and pulled him closer, reaching for him physically and mentally, the comparative coolness of human skin soothing against his own. This time, the fire was fierce, but not overwhelming. They could proceed with a modicum of control.

Harry once more gave himself willingly to it, giving as good as he got, forcing Vorik down, only to be flipped onto his back a moment later. He ignored the crash of fallen furniture as irrelevant, barely noticed the flicker as one of the remaining candles fell to the floor and ignited a fallen piece of clothing. The fire suppression systems kicked in immediately, and a fine shower of cold water burst from the ceiling, soaking everything in the room.

Harry looked up at the unexpected shower, and Vorik took the opportunity to gain the upper hand once more. Pinning Harry down, he turned his face to the cool mist.

"That feels so... *good*...."

"Shoulda set fire to something before, huh?" He smiled and fastened his lips to the exposed throat. Vorik shivered at the conflict between the cold water on his back and the warm mouth on this throat. This time he allowed himself to be shifted to the floor without a fight.

***

On the Bridge, Janeway looked up as a flag appeared on her console display. It showed a minor fire hazard on one of the lower decks, but then almost instantly showed the threat over as the suppression systems did their work.

Out of habit, she forwarded the message to Security with a note to deploy someone to confirm that the threat was over, then frowned as Tuvok intercepted it. Glancing back at him, he met her gaze steadily for a few seconds, then returned his attention to his console.

Looking more closely at the original message, she recognised the site of the fire as the quarters of Ensign Vorik and nodded to herself, understanding Tuvok's silent recommendation that they dismiss the incident. He, after all, was more aware than anyone of the need for privacy at such a time.

***

Tom was in his quarters when the computer informed him that Harry's privacy lock had been lifted. He immediately abandoned the report he'd been working on.

"Finally! Computer, location of Ensign Kim?"

"Ensign Kim is in his quarters."

The door wasn't locked, and he walked in to find Harry seated and inexpertly running a regenerator over one arm. Tom stopped him with a hand, and Harry finally registered his presence.

"You're doing it wrong," he muttered as explanation and took the regenerator from the unresisting ensign. Silently, he changed the settings and started over on the bruised arm.

"So...." he said after a few minutes.

"So?"

"*So*, maybe we need to talk about some things?"

"Things?"

"*Things*, Harry. Like, I don't know, you deliberately and inexplicably locking yourself away for three days with a chemically imbalanced Vulcan and emerging looking like you'd gone ten rounds with a heavyweight boxing champion?"

"It's not *that* bad... is it?"

Tom sighed and moved around to Harry's back, which looked *exactly* 'that bad'. "That is not an answer, Har."

"Look, I offered some help to a friend who *needed* it pretty badly."

"Help? And what, he repaid you by beating the crap out of you?"

"Nobody beat me, Tom."

"Then what... my god, Harry, are these *teeth*marks?"

"You should see the other guy...." a ghost of a grin crossed Harry's face, and the long silence was broken only by the low hum of the regenerator.

"And where *is* the other guy?"

"Sickbay. The Doctor's running tests."

"And fixing a few less than minor injuries?"

"Yeah, that too. Come on, Tom, I know you have *something* to say about this. Spit it out."

Tom turned the instrument off with a loud click. "Honestly? I don't *know* what to say. You voluntarily put your life in the hands of a terminally horny Vulcan...."

"Well, it's not quite as casual as that. I mean, I did *think* about this beforehand. And in all likelihood he would have died if someone hadn't intervened. You don't think that's reason enough to put myself in a little jeopardy?"

Tom snorted. "A little? Harry, even the *Delaney* sisters aren't this rough. And no, I'm not gonna tell you how I know that." He grinned. "So, do I get any juicy details?"

"Tom, I don't even remember most of it. It felt like my brain had caught fire... not to mention other parts. I tell you, I'm going to be looking at Vulcans in a whole new light from now on. Besides, you make it sound so...."

"... sordid?"

"Well, yeah."

"And I suppose it wasn't?"

Harry wiped a tiny fleck of green blood off his right hand with his left thumb. Residual threads of white-hot fire still lurked at the edge of his vision. He could still feel the ten distinct spots on his face where it felt as if Vorik's fingerprints had been invisibly burned into his skin. And ever so faintly, the fading but still noticeable feeling of returning sanity from Vorik, as he endured a plethora of medical tests with only token protest.

In a mixed up way, he was glad of the reminders, physical and mental. The bruises would fade in time; the fire would burn itself out... but he'd been warned that the faint strands of connection would most likely lurk in his hindbrain, inactive but always present. It seemed right that there be some lasting remainder of an experience shared on such intimate levels, the most emotionally intense connection in either of their young lives.

He stared at the small, dark smear of alien blood on his thumb and speculated on what it represented.

"No, Tom, it wasn't."

***

Another day, another celebration of some meaningless alien holiday. The Talaxian claimed they were essential to maintain crew morale, but Vorik couldn't see how when nobody even knew what they were celebrating.

Personally, he felt his morale would have been considerably higher if he didn't have to endure the meaningless chatter and experimental food that went hand in hand with such events... and if people would stop asking him how he felt. It didn't seem to matter how many times he insisted he was in perfect health, people persisted in asking anyway. As if he would announce it to all and sundry if his health were less than perfect.

Commander Chakotay strolled by, glass in hand. He actually seemed to enjoy these events, Vorik noted.

"Ensign, I'm glad to see you about. I trust you're feeling better?"

Vorik maintained an expressionless face with some difficulty. The Commander meant well, he knew, and he was always concerned if any of the ship's personnel fell ill. Still....

"I am well, thank you, commander."

"Good to hear it..." Chakotay looked around as he heard his name called to see the Captain waving him over. "If you'll excuse me?"

"Of course, sir."

Taking a deep breath, Vorik extricated himself from the gathering and headed for the observation deck. Perspective, that was what he needed. Stars shone in the cold vacuum of space regardless of the activities of sentient beings, unchanging within a mortal lifetime. He was not the first to use them as a stabilising influence.

Harry saw him leave and frowned.

"What's up, Har? Problems?" Tom asked, noticing his friend's distraction.

"Something like that." He got to his feet. "I have to go."

"You alright?" The casual enquiry masked serious concern, enough to get Harry's attention.

"I'm fine, I just have to sort something out. Stay here. Enjoy your meal, we'll talk later." He hurried after Vorik, leaving Tom staring after him.

***

Harry found Vorik alone on the observation deck, standing by one of the large windows, watching the stars.

"What do you want, Harry?" Vorik asked quietly, not turning around.

"I just want to know if you're all right; that's all. I can leave if you want me to."

Vorik made no reply to that. He didn't know himself whether he preferred Harry to go or stay.

"I know something's troubling you."

"So you have been watching me now?" There was no hint of condemnation in his tone, just a flat query.

"I don't need to watch you. I just... know. Do you want to talk about it?"

Vorik kept his stance by the window, staring out at the unfamiliar stars. "If we were back in the alpha quadrant, I would be married now."

"Do you regret that things didn't work out that way?"

"What is the point of debating what might have happened, if things were different? Things are not different. They are only as they are."

"But you are thinking about it, Vorik."

There was a pause while Vorik examined this statement, debated how to answer, how much to say. Eventually, he settled for just nodding.

"It was arranged when I was four years old. We did not even meet until I was fourteen."

"Did you like her?" Harry knew this wasn't the root of the problem, though he wondered if Vorik did. Perhaps if he could keep Vorik talking, they would be able to find out what the problem really was.

"I did not dislike her. She did not live close enough for us to meet often. She was an artist. My father would talk often about her sculptures, how they had been accepted at a gallery or won her a place at University. She was very talented." And probably still was, but it made no sense to talk about her in the present tense. She was in the past. Everything was.

"What was her name?"

"T'Sena."

It became apparent that Vorik was not going to offer anything else.

"Do you miss her?"

"I did not even know her. No, I do not miss her." He turned around for the first time. "But it was all arranged. I would be in Starfleet. She would have a fine career as a sculptor. Eventually, I expect we would have produced offspring. There was no confusion; nothing unexpected was going to happen. From the time I was old enough to understand, I knew exactly how my life was going to proceed."

"I see."

"No, you do not see. You cannot possibly 'see'. I had a structured, logical existence with no room or desire for deviation. We have been in this quadrant for three *years*, and all that time I have worked under the assumption that I was only postponing this plan, that even in such extreme circumstances, nothing could change it."

Harry was silent.

"It did not occur to me until recently that I can never have that, now. I cannot resume the life that I left behind, because it is gone. My wife-to-be will never be my wife. For the first time in my life, I have no idea what the future holds. There is no way to predict or plan when there are no constants. It is... unsettling, and I do not have anyone to turn to for guidance." Having clarified this in his mind only now, he paused to consider the ramifications. His final sentence was almost whispered. "And I find that solitude has no benefits when it is enforced by circumstance."

"You're wrong." At Vorik's raised eyebrow, Harry elaborated. "I do see, because I'm in a very similar boat. I had a career plan that didn't involve spending three years missing in action with no immediate hope of return. I had a girlfriend, Libby... we were getting pretty serious. If we were back on Earth, we'd probably be married by now. But like you, I've been changed by this. If we got back today, and even *if* Libby was still waiting for me, which I really doubt she is... she and I would have *nothing* in common now. We wouldn't be able to just pick up where we left off. I left there a kid, fresh from the academy... I'd be returning an adult, a seasoned officer who's survived stranger things than most officers see in a lifetime."

Vorik was still just watching him, hands behind his back, head slightly cocked.

Harry took a step closer and dropped his tone of voice ever so slightly. "But on one point, you're wrong. Voyager is alone out here, and her crew is completely isolated from everything we left behind. But us, you and I... we aren't alone."

Vorik looked away. Harry took a deep breath. "You can avoid me, avoid even thinking about it if you want, but it doesn't change the fact that we went through something. *Together*. Something we both agreed to do, though we were both risking our lives. I was a part of you. I *know* you, as well as you know yourself, and you know me. We shared that fire, I channelled it through myself to save your life... and now I'm in here..." he raised a hand and brushed Vorik's temple with his knuckle. Vorik allowed the touch without comment. "...Permanently," Harry finished.

Vorik grasped Harry's wrist and gently pulled his hand down. "Harry, you know I can never repay that debt. But that bond will fade in time if we don't maintain it. You don't have to spend your life joined to me."

"But we don't have to let it fade, either."

"Yes, we do," Vorik said, his tone neutral.

"No, we don't!" Harry pulled his hand away. "Vulcans can justify anything with logic if they want to. I've seen Tuvok do it, and I've seen you do it. So stop telling yourself you have to, and ask yourself if you *want* to."

Vorik's face tightened for a moment before the impassive mask returned. "Do not presume to..."

"I *do* presume!" Harry didn't let him finish. "I can follow every thought in your head, and what's more, you're not even trying to keep me out! You've spent years training, and if you wanted to, you could do it easily. You know that. I know that. Maybe that's the problem."

"The problem... is that I don't know what to do. This is the first time that how I wish to proceed and how I should proceed have differed so greatly. Do Humans never have to seek guidance?" There was a note of despair in Vorik's otherwise steady voice.

"Yeah, we do." Harry smiled a little. "In fact, we probably should do it more often. But there comes a point where you have to start trusting your own judgement. Sometimes you have to do what's right for everyone, and sometimes you have to put yourself first. If you're not ready to make that choice, I'm not going to force the issue. But you have to make it sometime. You know what I think we should do." He turned to leave and was stopped by a hand on his arm.

"Harry...."

"I'm not angry, Vorik. I know I look it, but I'm not. I'm just going to give you some space to think this through, ok?"

"I'm sorry."

"You don't have anything to apologise for."

"Yes, I do. It was not my intention to treat you so disrespectfully."

"You haven't been disrespectful; you've been trying to sort out something you don't know how to deal with. I know that's not easy."

"I should not have had to deal with it at all."

"I see." Harry looked away.

"No! That's not what I meant. I keep creating problems where none exist." Past conclusions, internal debate and confusion all crystallised into one fact: his past could not be recovered... but his future held possibilities. A constant that he desired, rather than one decided for him, had been offered. He could deny it, or accept it. "Please... stay."

"Just now?"

The decision wasn't hard.

"No... permanently." Apprehensively, Vorik offered his first two fingers. His relief was almost tangible when Harry understood and returned the touch without hesitation.

Harry drew the shaking Vulcan into his arms, diffusing the tension.

"It's ok," he whispered. "I'm not going anywhere."

[end]





* [Home] * [Lord of the Rings] * [Angel] * [Other fandoms] * [dusk@goldserve.net] *