Diversions & Digressions | fanfiction by mara

Alone Inside My Head (An Exile Coda)

Alone Inside My Head (An Exile Coda)

by Mara

Summary: “After meeting Tarquin, she discovered a compulsion to evaluate every sound for whether it was inside or outside her head.”

NOTES: This is Medie and Chris’ fault–Medie for saying I needed to write a
post-ep and Chris for his comment on the LD about the episode. I’ve stolen a few
bits of dialogue from the actual episode. They should be fairly obvious. By the
way, it seems that everyone and their mother has written a missing scene or coda
for this episode, but I think mine’s a bit different than the others.

//thoughts and/or memories//

* * * * *

It had been a week, but sounds still bothered Hoshi. That was pretty strange for
someone with hearing like hers–shouldn’t she be used to the noises of a
starship?

But after…after meeting Tarquin, she discovered a compulsion to evaluate every
sound for whether it was inside or outside her head. Was that sound Travis
tapping his fingers on the helm, was it her imagination, or was it Tarquin
projecting a sound?

It was difficult to sleep at night, as every creak, every rumble, every click,
needed to be considered. Shadows in her cabin that might hide the image of
Tarquin had to be inspected.

She knew it wasn’t healthy. But she couldn’t stop.

The solidity of the ship helped. Sometimes, walking down a gray corridor, she
stopped and just touched the walls; the slight chill of the metal, hard and
real, reminded her that she was safe.

Liz found her standing like that, palm flat against a wall, cherishing a small
dent where some long-past injury to the ship had never quite been healed.

“Hoshi?”

She started, then turned with a smile. “Hey.”

“What’re you doing?”

“Nothing,” she said. “It was nothing.”

Liz looked unconvinced. “Was there another anomaly?”

“Maybe.” She shrugged. “I really should get to the bridge.” Hoshi smiled
politely and left Liz staring at the wall, as if it might sprout a face and
explain what had just happened. Of course, in the Expanse that wasn’t
impossible.

Immersed in her work on the bridge, Hoshi felt almost normal–surrounded by the
quiet banter of the crew and a new language to program into the UT.

She didn’t participate in the banter, though, doing her work and listening with
mild amusement as Travis and Malcolm debated whether piloting or shooting had
saved the ship in some specific engagement.

It wasn’t unusual, she realized, for her to stay quiet at times like this.
People thought of Malcolm as reticent, but really, it was her. Sure, she talked
to people, but only about language.

Tarquin was right, she felt alone on a ship full of her own people. Her gorge
rose and, for a moment, she was choking on self-hatred and homesickness and
fear.

“Ensign? Is something wrong?”

T’Pol’s voice broke the spell and Hoshi looked up from her console to see
concerned faces. Even Lt. Hess over at the engineering station–who she didn’t
really know–looked worried. Hoshi swallowed. “I’m fine. Just a bit of…stomach
upset.”

“Do you wish to return to your quarters?” T’Pol asked.

Panic stole her breath. “No!” When T’Pol looked taken aback, she modulated her
tone. “No, I’d prefer to finish my shift. I’ve almost got a handle on
Tarkallian.”

“If you’re certain.”

“Yes, Sub-commander.”

“Very well.” T’Pol took her words at face value and returned her attention to
the science station.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Hoshi thanked the universe that Jon wasn’t on the
bridge, as he’d have sent her to sickbay, will she or nill she. Or back to her
quarters, where she’d heard Tarquin’s voice, seen him, where he’d read her every
thought and reappeared even after she’d escaped.

Hoshi slammed the brakes on that train of thought, returning to the symbols in
front of her. But they fought with memories for attention, like two fractious
politicians unwilling to cede the debate floor.

//If I can just isolate the prototypical formulation matrices of this
language…//

//”That’s just what you told your grandmother when she tried to serve you soba
noodles. Now they’re one of your favorite foods.”//

//But it’s made more difficult by the lack of cultural context for the source
language text.//

//”Are you reading my mind right now?”//

The shift seemed to go on forever, but it was still better than…it was still
better.

* * * * *

During dinner in the mess hall, Trip and Travis laughed about their recent close
call in an asteroid field while Hoshi listened.

Phlox came by the table, his genial grin seeming wider than normal. “Will you
please visit my Pyrithian bat?” he asked Hoshi. “It seems to miss you and is a
great deal more fractious when you have not been by.”

“I’ll come to see your bat, I promise.” She smiled at Phlox, hoping he couldn’t
see the way she’d flinched away when he approached.

“The bat and I will hold you to that promise. Come by for the evening feeding.”
Phlox nodded and left.

She went back to eating, sticking random forkfuls of whatever was on her plate
into her mouth.

“Hoshi?”

“Hmm?” When she looked up, Trip and Travis were exchanging worried glances.
“What? I wasn’t listening.”

“Umm,” Travis said, hesitating.

“Spit it out, Travis.”

“Well, what he’s trying to ask,” Trip said, “is if you’re okay.”

“Why does everyone keep asking me that?” She glared at both of them. “I’m fine.”

“It just seems–” Travis began.

“Don’t pretend to care. Don’t try to read my mind!” The mess hall went nearly
silent in astonishment, and Hoshi got up and stalked out of the room, not
looking at any of the faces.

* * * * *

Walking the corridors, she ran a hand along the wall, ignoring the odd looks
from passersby. It didn’t matter, as long as they couldn’t tell what she was
thinking. Nobody should be able to read your mind, know so much about you, use
those things against you.

The corridors all looked the same and she didn’t notice anything else until a
set of doors slid open up ahead and Phlox stepped out. Automatically, she took a
step back, remembering someone else wearing his face.

“Ensign?” He looked sad and she was sorry for that.

“Hi. I guess I could visit your bat now.”

“That would be nice.” Phlox’s voice was very gentle, but stepping into Sickbay
still made her gulp. This was a place she’d felt safe, a person who was her
friend, and it was ruined–just like her quarters. That dizzying moment when
someone else’s words seemed to come from Phlox haunted her, made her shy away
from a place she’d previously come for comfort and sympathy.

Phlox seemed to sense her mood and left her alone with the Pyrithian bat, which
she eased out of its cage, murmuring soothing phrases. It stopped its frantic
fluttering as soon as it smelled her, settling on her hand, leaning against a
finger when she stroked its head. The fluttering rumble of the bat’s purring
sound of happiness made her grin, and she petted the bat, lost in the moment.

“Perhaps I shall take this opportunity to clean the cage,” Phlox said.

She jumped, not having noticed him coming over, and the bat chittered its
annoyance. “That’s probably a good idea,” she said.

She stepped away and leaned against a biobed as Phlox cleaned. With his back
turned, she was able to keep a wary eye on him, alert to any signs he wasn’t
real.

“I’ve been hearing some disturbing things,” he said after a moment.

She tensed and the bat made a clicking sound. “Oh?”

“Indeed. People are very concerned about you. Even…well, I won’t name names,
but five different people have approached me looking for advice, suggestions, or
any ideas about what is wrong.”

“Nothing’s wrong,” she said automatically.

Phlox closed the cage and turned around. “We both know that’s not true. You’ve
hardly been yourself since your sojourn with Tarquin, and the situation has
become critical.” He studied her, and the tone and the worry were so Phlox she
wasn’t quite afraid. “I had hoped you would talk to someone about what is
bothering you, or come to me of your own volition.”

“There’s nothing to talk about.”

“When did you last sleep?”

“Last night!”

“For how long?”

She blinked, the answer eluding her. “Two hours?” Phlox didn’t say anything and
she bristled, the bat stirring restively on her hand. “Maybe I wasn’t tired.”

“What do you dream about?”

The bat screamed and fluttered its wings, and Hoshi looked down, surprised.

Phlox opened the cage and gestured for her to return the bat to its home. “I was
correct,” he said as they watched the bat investigate its cleaner surroundings.
“My bat has taken a liking to you. They have a touch of empathic ability, you
know. And this bat tells me you’re agitated.”

Numb, she waited for him to reach his point.

Phlox let out a puff of breath that was the Denobulan sigh. “You’re not acting
normally, and we are concerned.”

“It’s all in my head,” she said.

“What is?”

“That’s what you always tell me when I think there’s something wrong. This time
you’re right, it’s all in my head. So it’s nothing.” She nodded to herself.

Phlox was at a loss for words, but he pulled himself together. “Obviously you
are upset. That is certainly something.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Why would you think that?” She looked at him in confusion and Phlox tilted his
head. “Never mind. Just believe me that your welfare matters very much. To me
and to many other people aboard this ship. And my medical training tells me you
need to rest.”

Hoshi turned away, began to wander among the cages. “I’m alone. That’s one thing
that Tarquin was right about. I’m alone inside my head and that’s a good thing.
I don’t want anyone else in there.”

“How much did he read, Ensign? You did not specify that in your report.”

“He saw everything.” She shuddered.

“Everything?” Phlox sounded horrified.

“He was in there for days.” Once she’d started, the words flowed out. “He saw
everything, knew everything about me, came to me as you, as the captain, as a
human. He came back, bringing the coordinates, and the captain was happy.”

“No, the captain was most certainly not happy!”

Hoshi looked up, startled out of her train of thought. “What?”

“He was angry, very angry that your mind had been invaded again.” Phlox stepped
forward. “Yes, the coordinates will help our mission, but I hope you realize
that the captain would not wish to sacrifice you for that mission.”

She found her back was up against a biobed. “It wasn’t his fault. I convinced
him to let me go in the first place, I convinced him to let me stay.”

“But you didn’t deserve to have your mind invaded.” Phlox sounded very sad. “You
need to rest now, I promise you that will help.”

“If I sleep, how do I know what’s real? How do I keep control? I know that I’m
alone in here when I’m awake. I’m okay as long as everything stays real.” She
frowned at him. “Are you sure you’re really Doctor Phlox?”

Phlox nodded. “Yes, I am quite certain I am.” His hand flashed up and before she
could react, he’d injected her with a hypospray.

“No!” She lunged forward at Phlox, trying to hit him, kick him, but her vision
narrowed, grayed, and finally went black.

* * * * *

Hoshi floated in a half-waking state, enjoying the feeling of being well-rested,
the sensation that if she wanted, she could sink back into sleep. Shifting a
bit, a small piece of her mind wondered why it didn’t feel like her bed.

That woke her up a bit more. Where was she?

She cracked open an eye and found she was on a biobed in Sickbay. Not only that,
but the captain was sitting in a chair beside the bed, concentrating on a padd.
She blinked at the top of his head, confused.

“Captain?”

His head shot up and he looked relieved. “Hoshi, good to see you awake. How are
you feeling?” Jumping out of the chair, he came to stand by the bed.

“I feel fine. What am I…” A memory came back to her, something about trying to
hurt Phlox. Wandering the halls. The Pyrithian bat. Screaming in the mess hall.
Tarquin. “Oh my.”

“Hoshi?” Jon looked worried.

“Sir…I remember now. I’m sorry, I don’t know why I was acting like that.”

“It’s okay, we do.” He looked down at the padd and took a deep breath. When he
looked up again, his face was very serious. “Phlox says you hadn’t been
sleeping.”

She looked away. “No. Not really. After Tarquin…came to my quarters that last
time, I started to worry. I was worried he might come back. That made it hard to
relax enough to sleep.”

“Understandable. Unfortunately, lack of sleep has some fairly predictable
effects. Such as paranoia and hallucinations. And once they’ve set in, it
becomes a vicious cycle, making it more and more difficult to sleep.”

“Oh.” Hoshi’s face felt warm. “That’s why I was having trouble telling what was
real. Why I kept thinking Tarquin was back. It was my fault.”

“No!” She turned to look at Jon and he glared at her. “It wasn’t your fault. It
was our fault for not realizing the severity of what had happened to you.
Somebody should have noticed or thought about it. I should have thought
about it.”

Closing her eyes, Hoshi fought back tears.

“I think everyone’s feeling a bit guilty right now.” His voice softened.
“Someone’s been sitting with you ever since Phlox knocked you out. In fact,
Malcolm just left a little while ago and Travis is due to arrive next. We
thought it might help if you weren’t alone when you woke up.” He paused. “You’ve
been out for over 24 hours, and Phlox says his drugs wore off after 12.”

“Hmm.” Her throat felt like it was closing, a combination of embarrassment and a
bit of fear.

“Hoshi? Look at me…talk to me.”

She opened her eyes and tried to speak, but it didn’t work very well, and she
had to clear her throat a few times. “It’s just…I’m still scared that he’ll
come back.”

“I know, and I’m so sorry this happened to you.” Jon shook his head.

“Me too.” She managed a watery smile.

“But let me tell you something I should have said before.” He paused, waiting
until she was looking at him. “I’m proud of you. You were incredibly brave to
agree to meet with Tarquin and even braver to stay, considering what he’d done.
And you saved the entire ship through your quick thinking when he was going to
destroy Enterprise.”

“Then I ruined it all by breaking down when I got back.”

“Stop that!” Command voice made her struggle with the urge to salute him. “I
told you already, we’re at fault–first, for not believing you, and
second, for not thinking about the consequences of having your mind…invaded.
We failed you, not the other way around. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, sir.” Her voice was small, but strong.

“Good.” Dropped down into the chair, he looked at his hands, which still held
the padd. “It’s okay to be scared of Tarquin returning. Hell, I’d be scared.” He
looked up. “You need to come to me or Trip or T’Pol if you’re worried. Agreeing
to meet with Tarquin was brave, but trying to handle the aftereffects by
yourself was unnecessary.”

“I didn’t…I didn’t want you to think I was the frightened ensign who first
came aboard.”

“Nobody would think that. I’m so very sorry you thought we would.”

Hoshi looked away, running her mind over the week since she’d returned to
Enterprise. Much of it was hazy, like a bad dream. “Tarquin said I was alone and
told me he’d seen how I feel isolated.”

Jon watched her and waited, obviously sensing she wasn’t done.

After a few moments of gathering her thoughts, she continued. “He was warped by
his time on that planet, both the time spent alone and the time with his
‘companions.’ I think he’d forgotten how non-telepaths communicate, or maybe he
never knew. But what he saw as loneliness, I see as normal. It’s not a bad thing
to be alone inside your head. I don’t think humans are meant to know too much
about each other.”

When she’d been quiet for a while, Jon responded. “You’re not alone, you know.”

“I know.” The fuzzy memories shimmered in her mind. “He confused me enough that
I forgot.”

“Don’t do it again. You scared us.”

“I won’t forget again.”

The curtain around her bed slid away to reveal a grinning Phlox and Travis; it
was a tossup whose grin was bigger, and Hoshi had to laugh at the pair of them.
The sound of her laughter just made them grin more, and soon even Jon was
grinning along.

Travis grabbed her into a big hug, which just made her laugh harder, and Phlox
gently touched her shoulder. Her smile got a bit watery, but everyone pretended
not to notice.

As they cheered her return, Hoshi kept her thoughts to herself. Which was
exactly as it should be.

–end–

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