In His Mind‘s Eye
by Margaret Berger (MaisieRita@aol.com)
Voy, P, Rated R for language and adult situations
Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek, Voyager, and all of these characters. I‘m just playing with them in their free time.
Feel free to archive.
WARNING!!!! Angst alert! If you don‘t like Paris angst, don‘t even bother reading this story. This my first attempt at fanfic, and I‘m very nervous about exposing it to public view, but I suppose there‘s not much point in writing it down otherwise. Please send me feedback, especially if you like it. (If you hate it, well, please don‘t be nasty!)
"Damn." Tom cursed under his breath. Just figures, doesn‘t it. Can‘t even go on a simple little cultural exchange mission with something getting fucked up. To wit, a seasonal weather disturbance in the upper atmosphere forced the shuttlecraft down out of the sky in the middle of fucking nowhere and now he, and most of the rest of the senior command crew, were marooned for three days, three goddamn days, until the storm blew over. Or was due to blow over. He wasn‘t particularly optimistic about that working out as planned, either. Three days and two nights and nothing to do but sit around. Damn, damn, damn. Although it wasn‘t the days that were going to be the problem. It was the nights. Shit.
He threw down some blankets at the campsite with a growl. "Hey, Tom, you o.k.?" Harry asked, too cheerfully. Sure. Harry probably loved camping, toasting marshmallows, telling ghost stories, and sleeping under the stars. Tom shuddered. Sleeping under the stars with all his fellow officers. That was a laugh! He‘d be lucky if he didn‘t -- -- -- stop it! Just don‘t think about it.
You‘ll be fine.
"I‘m fine." Tom muttered. He stalked back to the downed shuttle and grabbed some rations. Starfleet emergency rations. Just dandy. One notch below Neelix‘s cooking. Worse than leola root, even, which was saying something.
He tossed the packets onto the small but growing pile of supplies, and took a quick mental inventory. Not enough rations for three days. He guessed there would be some more packed away in the cargo hold. There was a river about two kilometers away where they might be able to catch some fish, but God only knew if they‘d be edible. Given the way his luck was going, they wouldn‘t be. He spun around on his heel to go back to the shuttle and nearly crashed into Captain Janeway, who was carrying some wood for the fire. "Lieutenant, are you all right?" she asked, amused, as she neatly sidestepped out of his way.
"I‘m fine." he sighed. "I‘ll be fine." He paced back to the shuttle and tore through the cargo hold. Yup, just as he‘d suspected. There were extra rations there. He gathered up as many as he could carry and made his way back to the camp site. Funny, they didn‘t look like Starfleet rations. And what was this label on the side? He peered at it. Oh god. These were packed by Neelix. Probably leola root casserole. Yecch. He threw them down disgustedly, turned to go, and promptly smashed right into B‘elanna.
"Watch where you‘re going!" she said, darkly. Not too happy about being here either. Tom nodded his apology, then regretted it. Must have banged into her harder than he‘d thought. The world spun, and he swayed, losing his balance. "Whoops, steady there, flyboy." B‘elanna said. She caught his arm and held him still until he stabilized. "You all right, Paris?"
"I‘m fine!" he said, irritably. If one more person asked him if he was all right, he was going to scream. Scream and yell and throw a tantrum until they left him the fuck alone. Yeah, sure. Real mature, Tommy. Chakotay would just love that, watching Tom completely fall to pieces. He‘d get that concerned look on his face like he gave a shit and ask "What‘s wrong, Lieutenant?" when all the while he‘d be telling himself he‘d always known that Paris was unstable, that he couldn‘t handle the pressure, that he couldn‘t be trusted.
Tom sighed. The Commander wasn‘t like that, and Tom knew it. O.k., fine, so they were never going to be best buddies, but Chakotay was scrupulously fair with him, and seemed to be doing his best to put their past behind him. Tom suspected, uneasily, that the problems he had with Chakotay stemmed from the fact that the Commander reminded him of his father in a lot of ways. And given that resemblance, Tom just couldn‘t help pushing the man, testing his patience and tolerance. Waiting for the inevitable explosion, so he could stop worrying about it. So he could see how deep the similarities really ran.
Speak of the devil, here came the Big Man himself. Chakotay walked near, loaded down with medkits, tricorders, and phasers. "If you‘re not too busy, Lieutenant," he said in that ever so slightly sarcastic tone they‘d all come to know, "I could use some help." Tom shook himself out of his reverie, and began taking some of the instruments out of Chakotay‘s arms and piling them neatly on the ground. He was brooding to himself, wondering how in the hell he was going to make it through two consecutive nights with all these other people around, when he realized that Chakotay was staring at him expectantly.
"Ummm, sorry Commander, what was that you said?" He felt the heat rise in his face and willed the blush to go away before it became noticeable.
Chakotay sat back on his heels and laughed. "Welcome back to the land of the living. You were gone for a good few minutes, there. But I just wanted to know if you were up for a hike to the river. The Captain and I are going to see if there are any fish. You look a little stressed; I thought the walk might help you work off a little excess energy."
You look a little stressed. Yet another polite inquiry as to his well being. Aarggggh. Tom allowed himself the mental scream that he didn‘t dare voice to Chakotay. Damn the man. Always the perfect First Officer, looking out for the crew‘s welfare, always calm and collected. Couldn‘t he be just the slightest bit perturbed that they were stuck down here for three days with no way to get back to Voyager? Would it damage his reputation that much to show he was human?
Tom realized he was glaring at the ground and kicking up piles of dirt. Whoops, better stop that! "Sure, Commander. You‘re right, I am a little..." he paused briefly, "tense. Maybe a walk will help." He caught Chakotay looking at him out of the corner of his eye, and figured he‘d better change the topic before Chakotay decided he wanted to pry further. With practiced ease, as if the thought had just occurred to him, he asked smoothly "Fish, Commander? I thought you were a vegetarian."
Chakotay had risen to his feet and was brushing the dust off his uniform. "I am. But the rest of you aren‘t, so it can‘t hurt to check what‘s available. There aren‘t enough rations for the five of us to last three days. Maybe we‘ll even find some fruit or vegetables closer to the water." He called to the Captain to join them, and the three officers made the hike to the river.
In fact, they did find several trees burdened with strange, ovoid, purple and orange fruit that the tricorder deemed edible. On the other hand, there were no fish to speak of in the river. Tom and his two senior officers picked as much of the fruit as they could hold, and brought it back to camp just in time for dinner.
The whole evening had a rather festive air to it, Tom thought afterwards, despite the inhospitable setting. They were all together, uninjured, in no immediate danger, and Captain Janeway had declared it a sort of unofficial shore leave. He even managed to relax, at least a little bit, when Harry shared the very funny story of his audition for the Julliard Youth Symphony. That led to B‘elanna‘s tale of her first, disastrous, day at Starfleet Academy, which had Chakotay laughing so hard he was in tears even though he‘d obviously heard it before. Tom had just managed to convince himself he was calm enough to make it though the night, when Janeway, determined not be outdone by B‘elanna, started to tell the story of her first time in command of an away mission. Which unfortunately seemed to have happened during her tour on the Al Batani.
It was probably a very funny story, judging by the peals of laughter ringing out around the fire, but Tom couldn‘t hear it over the sound of blood pounding in his ears. His heart was hammering so loudly he was afraid that Harry, sitting next to him, would hear it. "And when we got back to the ship, the Captain told me I was supposed to wear it, not eat it!" The Captain. Captain Paris, not yet an Admiral, but almost there, each mission another rung up the Starfleet ladder. Tom remembered this particular mission, the Arias expedition. Gene Paris had been away for almost four months. Tom unwillingly remembered the night his father had come home. The events ran through his mind like a televid he couldn‘t turn off, and he felt himself start to shake.
Stop it, stop it, stop it! he commanded himself, furiously willing away the tremors. Self-control born of long practice won out over adrenaline-induced panic, and he forced air into lungs that had momentarily stopped working. Glancing around, he breathed an inaudible sigh of relief—no one seemed to have noticed. But gods, he knew now that there was no way he was going to make it safely though the night. Briefly, he considered filching a sedative from one of the medkits, but rejected that idea when he realized that they were at the bottom of the pile of supplies. No way to get one without causing everything else to come crashing down. He supposed he could just ask for one, but then he‘d have to come up with some plausible explanation, and what could he possibly say, and anyway sedatives didn‘t always help and even if they did they‘d just wear off in a couple of hours and then where would he be? Right back where he started. Shit.
The evening shadows slowly deepened, and the stars began peeking through the night sky three or four at a time. Soon enough, the entire sky was filled with twinkling points of light. "I keep forgetting how they look." Chakotay mused, gazing absorbedly at the stars.
"What?" B‘elanna was incredulous. "Chakotay, you see the stars every day!"
"Not through an atmosphere." he replied, smiling. "They‘re much..." he searched for the right word, "*colder* on the viewscreen. Don‘t you find them friendlier down here?"
B‘elanna shook her head. "Stars are stars, Chakotay.
Whether we‘re up there or down here."
But Janeway nodded. "I know exactly what you mean, Commander. Planetside, they look less bright, not as distinct. Fuzzy. They remind me of home." She gazed up at them. "Even so, I‘d still rather be up there."
Wouldn‘t we all! Tom added silently. He‘d stayed out of the conversation, concentrating instead on claiming a blanket and staking a spot for his bedroll. Not that he planned to do any sleeping. He figured the best he could do would be to just stay awake through the night. He could nap the following day—sleeping was always less of a problem during the day for some reason—and then he could stay up again the following night. Hell, it was only two nights, and he‘d pulled consecutive all-nighters more than once during his astrophysics senior seminar at the Academy.
Now, that senior seminar, that was really something! Cheryl O‘Sullivan was in that class with him, and her father was an admiral, too. She was probably the one person in the world he knew was really friends with him, as himself, not as some admiral‘s brat and ticket to advancement. They spent a lot of time together that year, and things might have progressed beyond the casual level of intimacy they shared, but the friendship with Cheryl was much too important to Tom for him to risk fucking it up by fucking her. Anyway, he wasn‘t sure he was ready to risk sharing himself quite that intimately with someone else. Especially if it meant taking his clothes off in front of her; no, there was no way in hell he was going to do that. So they stayed just friends. Good friends; really, she was the best friend he‘d ever had until, well, until he met Harry. And yet, even with Harry, it was different. Tom was different, older, even less sure of his tenuous footing in the world. It wasn‘t that way at the Academy. He and Cheryl had gotten up to some serious mischief back then!
Tom snuggled cozily under the blanket, reminiscing about wild weekends, evenings, and Academy vacations, spent in New Orleans, San Francisco, and Paris. Assorted sounds from around the fire assured him that Harry, B‘elanna, Chakotay and Janeway were settling down for the night as well. He listened to their breathing as they fell asleep. He kept himself determinedly awake for a while, concentrating on memories of Cheryl to keep him from thinking about anything else. The steady noise of the fire was really very soothing, though. Tom‘s mind started wandering, the stress and excitement of the day caught up to him, and, despite his best intentions, he fell asleep.
"Tommy, are you dressed yet? Your father will be home any minute!"
"All right, all right, already. I‘m dressed." Tom walked into the living room, straightening his tie. "And don‘t call me Tommy. I‘m 15!"
"14. You won‘t be 15 for another month." Emma gazed at Tom with a critical eye. "That tie doesn‘t really go with that jacket, your collar‘s crooked, and those pants are getting too short. And those shoes! You should at least have polished them." She turned to the bar and poured herself a glass of very expensive whiskey.
Tom stuck his tongue out behind her back. "You‘re not my mother. I don‘t need fashion advice from you, Auntie Em. They don‘t dress that well in Kansas."
"What a pleasant way to be greeted after a four month absence." The deep sarcastic voice came from behind him and Tom whirled around, unprepared. "Thomas, I will not tolerate you being disrespectful to your aunt." Gene Paris gave his son a disapproving look. "You should listen to her, Tom. You dress yourself with the talent of a three-year-old." Without so much as a second look at his son, Gene gave his sister a quick hug and led her into the dining room. "Emma, it‘s so considerate of you to have stayed with Thomas this past week. I hope he didn‘t give you too much trouble."
"Not too much trouble, Gene." She paused, then shrugged dismissively. "You know what he‘s like. But tell me all about the mission!" Tom trailed behind the two elder Parises and sat, stone- faced and silent, throughout dinner. He excused himself from the table as soon as they‘d all finished eating, and made a beeline for his room. Not bad at all this time. He breathed a sigh of relief as he got undressed and ready for bed. Only one quick insult which Dad hadn‘t even had his heart in, and otherwise he‘d escaped unscathed. Aunt Emma must be a calming influence. They should have the nasty old witch over more often. A few hours later, Tom was deeply asleep, not even dreaming, when the door to his room burst open with a cry that spoke of hinges bending under the stress. "What the fuck is this, Tom?" His father came storming into the room, waving a datapadd wildly in the air.
Oh shit. Tom was instantly awake, but still groggy and tangled under the covers. He felt himself lifted and slammed into the wall. His breath came out in a whoosh as he leaned there, momentarily stunned.
"What‘s the meaning of this, Tom? How can you get a B- in political science? You‘ve got politicians all over this house every fucking weekend! I guess you‘re just too goddammed stupid to listen and learn anything. God forbid you should actually use that pathetic excuse for a brain! I can‘t believe it; I‘m stuck with a fucking moron for a son." And so on.
When he‘d finally gotten tired of yelling at Tom, Gene starting beating him. Tom had been waiting for it, bracing himself for it, mentally psyching himself up. Don‘t give in to him, Tommy boy. He likes it when you cry. He likes it when you beg. Be a man, Tommy. Men don‘t cry; they don‘t beg; they don‘t cry; but oh god it hurts; it does! He‘s fucking nuts; why won‘t he stop I‘m not fighting him, oh god it hurts, don‘t cry, Tommy! All thought was soon erased. The only thing left, like a refrain from a song, was the running chant ‚Don‘t cry, don‘t cry, don‘t cry‘. Then, suddenly, it was over. And he‘d managed—somehow he‘d managed to stay silent through it all. He was bruised, battered, and bleeding, and yet there was a small feeling of victory racing through his blood. He‘d won, ha! Take that, Dad, I‘m a real man whether you like it or not! His father was gone, who knows where. Tom thought he might have passed out for a few minutes. Christ, his body ached, but he‘d won, dammit! And then Gene Paris came back into the room, holding a largish metal cylinder.
Oh shit. What‘s that? Another one of Dad‘s little toys? Probably picked it up during the mission. Likes to do his shopping in the dark alleys, always manages to find the guys who have this sort of stuff to sell, don‘t know how he does it, where he finds—oh shit, no, please don‘t; please don‘t, I‘ll be better, I promise; I promise, god no DON‘T oh god; I promise I‘ll try harder, I‘ll be better, Daddy; I promise I will; oh god please stop; please stop; no no NO—
Somewhere in the back of his mind Tom heard the sobbing and the pleading and knew the cries were coming from him. He‘d lost, again, and this was worse, so much worse, oh god please, maybe he‘ll just kill me this time and be done with it; please, please, I just want it to stop I don‘t care if he kills me just please make it stop...
"Should we wake him?" Harry whispered. He was sitting up, hunched into his blankets against the chill night air. A few feet away Tom was thrashing and moaning in his sleep. "I dunno." B‘elanna whispered back. "Are you supposed to wake people from nightmares?"
"Maybe it‘s not a nightmare," Chakotay mumbled groggily from the other side of the fire. "Maybe he‘s just having a particularly vivid dream about the Delaney sisters." "Commander!" Harry said, slightly shocked.
"Lighten up, Ensign. We‘re on shore leave, remember?"
Across from him, Tom stiffened and cried out, still asleep. "I think we should wake him." Harry said. "I can‘t stand to watch this. "
"Then stop talking about it and do it already, Starfleet."
B‘elanna grumbled. "Some of us are trying to sleep." "I second the motion." Janeway whispered loudly from B‘elanna‘s other side. "If you prefer, Ensign, I‘ll make it an order."
Harry crept over to Tom‘s side. The older man had curled into a tight fetal ball, hands protectively over his head. Harry gently shook Tom‘s shoulder. "Hey, Tom, it‘s o.k., wake up, it‘s just a dream."
"No, Daddy, please don‘t, I‘ll be good, I promise!" Tom mumbled, indistinctly. His thrashing grew more violent. "Tom, Tom, wake up! It‘s o.k., it‘s o.k., buddy. Wake up." Harry gave a particularly insistent shake, and Tom bolted upright, his eyes looking around in panicked alarm. Harry backed off slightly. "It‘s o.k., Tom. You were having a nightmare. Everything‘s o.k."
Tom stared wildly around. Shit. He‘d fallen asleep, and look what happened. What a fucking surprise. His heart was pounding. Christ, he could still feel his father‘s hands on him. When the fuck was he going to get over this? It had gotten a little better, for a while, when he‘d realized that Voyager was well and truly stuck in the Delta Quadrant, and that, with any luck, he wouldn‘t be home for 75 years. It was getting better, easier to sleep. And then he‘d gotten thrown down the Chute, and that brought back a whole other bunch of awful memories, and everything started all over again. Even now, months later, it was getting worse, not better. He put his head down in his hands and concentrated on taking deep, measured breaths. "Are you o.k., Lieutenant?" Chakotay, sounding concerned, looking for all the world like the concerned father figure Tom had never had. Tom‘s stomach lurched, and plummeted. What another fucking surprise. He got up, unsteadily, and stumbled his way to a nearby grove of trees where he could at least be sick in some privacy.
He stayed there for a few minutes afterwards, needing the time to compose himself somewhat, then slowly walked back to camp, trying not to gag at the taste of vomit in his mouth. He needed some water desperately. As he moved back into camp, Harry stood up silently, and held out his canteen. Wasn‘t that just like Harry? A true friend. The truest Tom had ever known. He rinsed his mouth out with relief. "Thanks." He handed the canteen back.
"You o.k., Tom?" He could read the concern in Harry‘s eyes.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"Nothing to talk about, Harry. Just a nightmare. I don‘t even remember it." God, it‘s too damn easy to lie to Harry. Just throw an ounce of sincerity in your voice and he eats it right up. Tom hated himself a little more. "Sorry I woke you. Why don‘t you go back to sleep?" B‘elanna, Chakotay, and Janeway were already dead to the world.
"You sure you‘re all right?"
"Yup. I‘ll be fine. Thanks for the water." Tom pretended to settle down under the covers, and waited until he heard Harry‘s breathing even out again before he got up and moved out of the camp. That was enough sleep for one night. Might as well go watch the stars and try to invent some new constellations.
END PART 1
Morning dawned, chill and bright. As the two suns made their way over the horizon, Tom roused himself from the ground, grabbed his blanket for use as a towel, and made his way towards the river. Better wash up early, before everyone else gets up. Either that or don‘t wash at all, and after yesterday, not washing was a particularly unpleasant prospect. He stripped and dove into the water. It was deep enough for swimming, and the current was comfortably strong. Tom was out of practice, but he remembered enough from the private lessons he‘d had to be able to hold his own against the current.
Brrr. Damn, the water was cold. He wasn‘t going to be able to stay in too long. Too bad—he kind of liked the sensation of floating weightless in the water. Like freefall, but more grounded. "How‘s the water, Paris?"
Tom choked and spluttered as he swallowed a mouthful of water. B‘elanna? Dammit, what was she doing up at this ungodly hour?
"I‘ve always been an early riser, Lieutenant." Tom cursed himself as he realized he‘d spoken his thoughts out loud.
B‘elanna stripped down to her tank top and dove in. She broke for air and shivered. "Gods, it‘s cold!" She swam a few strokes in Tom‘s direction. "What are you doing up so early, Paris? I always figured you for one of those people who rolls out of bed 10 minutes before you‘re due on the bridge." Tom mumbled an indistinct reply. At least she hadn‘t noticed he‘d never gone back to sleep last night. Carefully keeping his body submerged in the water, he angled his way towards the bank of the river. Maybe he could get out and wrapped in the blanket without B‘elanna noticing.
"Morning!" Harry‘s cheery voice dashed Tom‘s hopes of an easy escape. He looked up to see Harry dive into the water, followed closely by Janeway and Chakotay. Great. Just great. "Oh my, it‘s cold!" Janeway announced as she came up for air. "But as my father always said, there‘s nothing like a good brisk swim in the morning to get the blood going." She gave this pithy advice quick action, and set off through the water with a few even strokes.
Tom treaded water as he thought about his options. (1) Stay in the water until everyone else got out and went back to camp. Freeze to death. (2) Sneak out of the water when no one was looking. (3) Get out of the water casually. When questioned, pull out one of his old standby cover stories. (4) Tell the truth. Option (4) he threw away immediately. No way in hell. Option (1) would be fine except for the part about freezing to death. Tom discarded it. Option (2) he tossed out as extremely improbable. It would be impossible to escape notice with 4 extremely giddy and cheerful Starfleet officers splashing around so close to shore. So it looked like it was option (3). Tom sighed. He hated lying to his friends. He‘d tried so hard to turn over a new leaf since he got on board Voyager, but circumstances seemed to be conspiring to drag him back down.
Might as get it over with. He swam over to the river bank and pulled himself out of the water.
"Getting out so soon, Tom?" B‘elanna called as she splashed some water in his direction. A short pause. "What the hell‘s that?"
Well, that didn‘t take too long. Try playing dumb. "What?"
Tom called back as he reached for the blanket.
"Those markings on your back. Some kind of tattoo?"
Now all 4 heads were focused on him. He felt himself
blushing under their steady regard, and began toweling himself
off furiously, carefully keeping his back to the river. Let them
concentrate on this one, and not see the others. "No, it‘s not a
tattoo. It‘s just scarring. From the accident." There. Throw in a
reference to Caldik Prime and cross your fingers. Hopefully now
they‘d rightly assume (for the wrong reasons) that he didn‘t want to talk about it and they‘d shut up and leave him alone. "Couldn‘t the doctors heal it?" This from Harry. "They did the best they could, Harry. It looked much worse before." Tom finished toweling off and quickly got dressed. The Captain and Chakotay were silent. Thank the gods for small miracles. "I‘m going to go fix us some breakfast. Any requests?" His voice was cheery, light, business-as-usual. "Leola root casserole, anyone?"
He was greeted by loud groans and a vicious splash of water in his direction, which he was able to duck. Tom laughed lightly. "I‘ll see you all back at the campsite." He walked off purposely towards the camp.
A few minutes later, the rest of the crew got out of the water. B‘elanna toweled off vigorously. "I think Tom was covering up about those marks on his back. I think it was a tattoo, and he‘s just ashamed to admit it!"
Harry laughed, but Chakotay grew somber. "It‘s not a tattoo, B‘elanna. And it‘s not scarring from the crash, either. He‘s lying."
Janeway was disbelieving. "Lying, Commander? Why on Earth—or wherever—would Tom lie about it?" "I don‘t know, Captain. But I recognized those markings. They‘re from a Tarkesian laser whip. The scars it leaves are unique, and easily identifiable, if you know what you‘re looking at."
"The Tarkesian laser whip is a torture device, Commander." Harry‘s voice was low, slightly incredulous. "They were outlawed over 50 years ago under Ngomo‘s fair treatment initiatives." "Tell that to the Cardassians, Ensign. Or the Ferengi. Or the Likaturi. I was in the Cardassian camps; I‘ve seen the marks those whips leave, before this. I know what I‘m seeing now. Trust me."
"But Tom was never in any camps." Harry insisted. "He went straight from the Academy to the Exeter, and then to Caldik Prime. After the court martial, I think he bummed around Earth for a while before heading out to join the Maquis." "I know." Chakotay replied. "He certainly wasn‘t captured by the Cardassians in the few weeks he was with us. And I don‘t for a minute believe he got those scars in prison." He paused. "I can‘t explain it. But those are definitely laser whip scars." "One thing‘s for sure; Tom doesn‘t want to talk about it." the Captain said. "So I suggest we respect his privacy and not bring the subject up again."
Well, well. Not a word from anyone. Could it possibly be that they believed that ridiculous story? No. They weren‘t that stupid, and he wasn‘t that lucky. So they were just playing dumb. Fine. He wasn‘t going to bring it up if they weren‘t. Tom puttered around the campsite for the rest of the day. Harry and B‘elanna went scouting to see if they could find any other fruit for dinner, anything to save them from Neelix‘s rations, and the Captain and Chakotay took a hike up the mountain to see the view. How cozy! Tom laughed to himself. Apparently the wind patterns in the upper atmosphere created some breathtaking effects with the sand in the desert. Yeah, right. As if everybody couldn‘t see what was going on with those two. Everyone, that is, except the Commander and Janeway. Two of the most intelligent people he‘d ever met, and they‘re as blind as two Meldavian cave mice. Left to his own devices, Tom took it easy. Don‘t want to get tuckered out, Tommy boy. No repeats of last night, please. Maybe, if he could get through this night with no—incidents --, the rest of them would figure it was just a one night deal. Please god, just for once, let something go right! Harry and B‘elanna returned as the shadows were beginning to lengthen, laughing and cracking jokes, laden down with armfuls of fruits and vegetables. "You should have come with us, Paris," B‘elanna said as she began to lay out her precious cargo. "We found an entire grove of fruit trees. Plus over an acre full of wild vegetables, all edible! They‘re good, too! I don‘t think even Neelix could ruin them."
"Oh yes he could, B‘ela. He could use that awful pepper sauce on them!" Harry laughed. He was almost giddy, Tom thought. And what was with this "B‘ela" business? Something going on he should know about? Tom felt unaccountably depressed at the thought. Jealous, he supposed, although he wasn‘t sure of whom. Who do you want more, Tommy? Harry or B‘elanna? As if it matters! You can‘t risk getting too close to either of them. Just because they‘re your friends doesn‘t mean you can trust them.
"You o.k., Paris? You look kind of gloomy." Harry interrupted Tom‘s increasingly depressing train of thought. His voice was a little hesitant.
God, he‘s probably thinking about the damn scars. I‘m doomed. Get a smile on your face, Tommy! "It‘s your fault, Harry. I was fine until you mentioned that pepper sauce. Just thinking about it gives me indigestion."
Janeway and Chakotay showed up a few minutes later. They‘d harvested a tuber that looked suspiciously like leola root, but tasted more like horseradish. Tom took on the unofficial role of chef and shooed everyone away from the cooking area. "No one can disturb the master while he‘s creating." he said loftily. Creating. Hmm. What‘s to create with? Starfleet rations? Uggh.
Neelix‘s rations? Double uggh. Maybe he could mix and match. If he‘d had a pot, he could mix up a great veggie stew, but cooking pots were not standard Starfleet emergency equipment. Oh well. Wait! Inspiration hit and Tom jogged back to the shuttle. Yeah, this‘ll work. He snagged a few crash helmets and made his way back to camp. At least he had some mixing pots. He should be able to serve in them, too. They might even hold up over the fire, if they weren‘t held too close to the flames. Tom hummed happily to himself while he poked around the fire. B‘elanna and Harry were telling each other dirty jokes, to which Janeway and Chakotay were pretending not to listen. Something caught in the back of Tom‘s mind, some memory. This reminded him of something. A family camping trip? His mother cooking over an open fire.
He remembered, vaguely, one of the last vacations they‘d taken before his mother died. He‘d been 6, and the family had gone to Lake George. That must be it. They‘d gone camping, just the three of them. It had been fun. Things were better before Mom died. Before Dad got so out of control. He shooed his mind away from that train of thought, before it got too unpleasant, and placed his concentration on the task at hand. Let‘s see what we can do with this!
45 minutes later, he announced grandly. "Dinner is served." "Mmmm, smells good!" B‘elanna said. "I‘m starving. What‘s to eat?"
"Vegetable stew a la Paris." he replied with a grin. "Made from our family‘s secret Irish recipe, handed down from one generation to the next for hundreds of years." "I‘m almost afraid to ask what‘s in it, Lieutenant. Considering we‘re nowhere near Ireland." Chakotay said. Then he took a taste, and leaned back, a funny expression on his face. Tom looked at him anxiously. He hadn‘t cooked for a while, and these really weren‘t ideal circumstances. "Is it o.k.?" No answer. "Commander?"
Chakotay still didn‘t answer. He took another, tentative mouthful. Harry, B‘elanna, and Janeway watched him cautiously, spoons poised over the makeshift bowls. "Well?" they said, all at once.
"It‘s ... good." Chakotay exclaimed, sounding nothing if not astonished. He took another mouthful. "*Very* good." Oh, for god‘s sake. The man could be very aggravating. Janeway was the next to risk it. "Delicious, Tom." she said, delightedly, as she dug heartily into the bowl. Encouraged, Harry took a taste. "Wow!" He didn‘t speak again until he‘d finished the whole portion, and then he only spoke long enough to ask for seconds.
"Where‘d you learn to cook?" B‘elanna asked, in-between mouthfuls.
"My dad wasn‘t around much when I was growing up." Tom figured he could talk a little bit about his childhood without setting off a panic attack. Just keep it light. He continued, "After my mom died, he‘d be gone for a couple of months at a time. I had to fend for myself a lot; I watched televid broadcasts until all hours of the night. There was this one cooking show aimed at kids." He shrugged. "I‘d record it each week, and keep playing it until I figured out how to make the whole meal." Tom paused to take a mouthful of stew. It really was good. "I don‘t know; I guess eventually I just learned how to mix spices and ingredients and stuff, ‚til I could do it without thinking about it. Sometimes I‘d even cook for the house staff..."
He stopped, embarrassed. Boy, it wasn‘t like him to run on like that. And mentioning the household help! Like Chakotay and Janeway didn‘t already think he was just a spoiled admiral‘s brat. He didn‘t really need to give them any more ammunition, did he? At least no one‘s saying anything. Guess they‘re too busy eating. Looks like they‘re really enjoying it, too. Tom felt a ridiculous surge of pleasure.
Gods, you‘re pathetic, Tommy. You need constant praise, don‘t you? Always have to be the center of attention, always have to be told how good you are ... wait a minute. That‘s Dad talking. Shut up, asshole.
Tom shook himself mentally and looked guiltily around. As usual, no one had noticed anything. Thankfully, he‘d kept his mouth shut this time. He wondered if everyone else had this sort of internal dialog constantly running through their heads Sometimes it made it difficult as hell to think. Harry and B‘elanna, not so hungry now, were nonetheless picking at the remains of the stew. Sitting closely together, they were discussing modifications to the warp engine plasma flow control routines. The Captain and Chakotay were discussing an upcoming wedding between two members of the astrogation department. Boy, everybody‘s just pairing off, aren‘t they? Look at Harry and "B‘ela". If they were sitting any closer they‘d be in each other‘s lap.
When B‘elanna and Harry‘s conversation gravitated over to the recent problems with the navigational controls, Tom was able to join them and offered some wild solutions that got progressively more and more farfetched as the night went on. Janeway and Chakotay joined in, offering some ridiculous ideas of their own. Eventually, after voting down the suggestion that everyone on the ship should lose 50 lbs to lighten the ship‘s mass, (and thus enable the nacelles to respond more quickly to helm controls), they went to bed.
Tom was absolutely determined not to fall asleep. All he had to do was lie in bed until everyone else was asleep. Then he could get up and walk around, or do whatever it took to stay awake. The wind rustled through the long grass, making it sound like whispers around the fire. It was very peaceful. He was almost going to miss it when they got back to Voyager tomorrow. But it was too quiet here, it made him nervous. He liked to have a lot of people around; it made him feel safe; a lot of people and a lot of noise...
"Hey, you! Yeah, you. I ain‘t seen you around before. You must be the new guy. What‘s your name?"
"Izzat right? They told me it wuz you, but I didn‘t believe ‚em." The tall man sized him up. "Shit, you don‘t look like an admiral‘s brat."
Tom had no idea how to respond to that, so he just stayed silent under the other man‘s intense regard. "C‘mere, blondie. I want to get a better look at you."
"I don‘t want any trouble," Tom began.
"Trouble? Who said anything about trouble? What, those other guys tell you stories ‚bout me, try to scare you? I‘m not gonna hurt you. Just come here for a minute." When Tom didn‘t move, the big man got an annoyed look on his face. "I don‘t like being ignored, pretty boy."
Pretty boy. Blondie. Blue-eyes. Sweetie, even. Tom wasn‘t sure what was going on. He‘d only been here 2 days, but it seemed like everybody already had a cutsie nickname for him. It made him nervous for some reason he couldn‘t exactly put his finger on. There was just something about the way these guys looked at him. Like he was a steak and they hadn‘t eaten in a month.
Tom hadn‘t moved from his relatively secure position by the sink. The bigger man shifted ominously. "You‘re getting me pissed off, ‚Fleeter. What, I‘m such a lowlife you won‘t even talk to me? You think you‘re so much better than me ‚coz your Daddy‘s a big shot admiral?"
"Damn right. You‘d better stop acting like some high and mighty a-ris-to-crat, blondie, ‚coz in here you‘re no better than anyone else."
"I never said I was -"
"You don‘t have to say it, Paris. It‘s written all over you. You think you don‘t belong here. Oh, I get it. You‘re going to tell me you‘re innocent now, right?"
"No." He sighed. "No, I‘m not. Look, I don‘t want any trouble. I just want to go back to my cell and go to sleep. Can I leave now?"
"You‘re not going anywhere ‚til I say you can." This whole scenario was very familiar. The guy had the same look on his face that Dad used to get right before he started beating the shit out of him. Dammit, he wasn‘t in the mood for this! Tom looked around the bathroom. No way out except past the big gorilla at the door. Maybe he could maneuver around him and sneak out, get back to the safety of the central corridor. "What‘s happening here, Kristoff?" Another big man at the door. Kristoff gave him an indecipherable look then let him in the bathroom.
"Nothing, Mickey. Paris and I were just having a little talk." Mickey (shit, he‘s even bigger than this Kristoff asshole) said, "Paris? You‘re the Maquis fuck-up, right?" He looked Tom up and down. "I saw you all over the newsvids after that first accident, when you got court martialed. The newsies couldn‘t get enough of you. Kept saying how it was such a shame, you know, the kid from a good family gone bad. You‘re whole fucking family‘s ‚Fleet, right? Admirals and captains out your ass. They must of gone nuts, you joining the Maquis and all." "Yeah, well, most of my family wasn‘t talking to me anymore, so I don‘t really know what they thought about it." Tom braced himself against the sink. This new guy was obviously smarter than Kristoff, but he looked meaner, and he had the same predatory look in his eye.
"I saw an interview with your old man after you were captured. Said he was finished with you; as far as he was concerned, you weren‘t his son anymore. Said you‘d always been a fuck-up, not in those words, exactly, but that‘s what he meant. Is it true? You always been a fuck-up, Paris?" "I guess so." Gods, he didn‘t want to be here, having this conversation. It wasn‘t bad enough he was in prison—he was going to have to put up with this shit every day? Fucking wonderful.
Two more men entered the bathroom. It was suddenly getting very crowded. "Hey, you guys having a party in here?" "Maybe." Mickey answered slowly, eyeing Tom with a look that gave him the chills. "This here is Tom Paris. He‘s a little bit of a celebrity. He just got here; maybe we‘ll have a little party to celebrate his arrival."
"Uh, look, I‘m about finished in here, so if you fellows don‘t mind, I‘ll just go back to my cell and -" "Not so fast, pretty boy." Kristoff placed himself directly in Tom‘s path. "It wouldn‘t be much of a party without the guest of honor." He reached out and grabbed Tom by the shoulders. Tom faintly heard Mickey telling one of the others to lock the door. Shit. What the fuck was this? All four of them were going to beat on him? Fuck. Well, he could handle it. At least they wouldn‘t have any of Dad‘s little toys. But he wasn‘t going down without a fight; he wasn‘t going to let them think he was an easy target. So he fought, as hard and dirty as he knew how. The other men were surprised. Betcha didn‘t think a ‚Fleet brat knew those moves, did you, assholes?
Eventually he couldn‘t fight any more. He lay crumpled on the floor, aching but silent. It wasn‘t so bad. Shit, he could hold out against a lot worse than this kind of crap. But then one of the other men approached him. Not done yet? Jeez, even Dad would‘ve stopped by now. Who is it, anyway? Kristoff, no, maybe that Harrison fellow. What -- -- -- what the hell is he doing? Oh fuck he is not going to -- -- oh shit! God, no, this is not happening; this can‘t be happening; it‘s a Federation prison; it‘s not supposed to happen here; this is not happening; oh shit; no, god it hurts!
Tom tried fighting, weakly, but the other men held him down and laughed. Please no god this can‘t be happening; fuck it; I‘ll kill them; gods I‘ll kill them all, all of them dead dead dead; this isn‘t supposed to happen; please no -- -- -- Don‘t cry Tommy boy, they want you to cry. They want you to beg. Don‘t cry...
"This is worse than last night!" B‘elanna muttered, sourly. "How am I supposed to get any sleep with him making all that noise? Harry, wake him up."
"Why me? I woke him up last night." Harry huddled deeper into his blankets, trying to ignore Tom‘s ever more frantic moans and sobs.
"Because you‘re his best friend, Ensign. I‘m sure he‘d like to see a friendly face after a dream like the one he‘s having." Chakotay‘s voice was ever so slightly amused. "Chakotay‘s right, Harry." Janeway added. "Besides, we all outrank you. Wake him up so we can get some sleep." "Fine. But I won‘t forget this." Prophetic words, he thought seconds later as he found himself pinned to the ground, Tom‘s hands at his throat.
"Tom," he managed to gasp out, struggling to break the pilot‘s hold. Tom‘s eyes were focused on him, but he didn‘t really seem to see him. Tom‘s hands tightened around Harry‘s throat, and Harry started to choke.
Chakotay was at his side in an instant. "Paris, what the hell are you doing?" He shook Tom, hard, to get his attention, and regretted it. Tom turned around, blue eyes blazing bright with hatred.
"Don‘t you fucking touch me, asshole!" His fists were moving even as he spoke, and Chakotay was down on the ground, blood running from his nose and a pain in his side that spoke of bruised kidneys. Tom turned his attention back to Harry instantly. "I didn‘t forget about you, fuckhead." He backhanded Harry across the face and threw him to the ground.
Harry was in shock. He couldn‘t even recognize his friend. Tom‘s face was hard, cold, like a statue cut in stone. His voice was low and throaty, absolutely devoid of any emotion other than pure hate. And his eyes, gods, his eyes were so cold. As Tom pinned him to the ground with one arm and pulled the other arm back, hand curling into a fist, Harry came to the sudden, unsettling conclusion that he was fighting for his life, and losing. "Lieutenant!" Captain Janeway said, firmly and loudly, at Tom‘s side. "Stop this immediately, Lieutenant. That is an order!" Her voice was commanding and would brook no disobediance.
Tom turned to Janeway, confused, one hand still at Harry‘s throat, the other still curled into a fist. His eyes widened as he looked at her. "Captain?" His hold on Harry eased up slightly as his gaze slid around to Chakotay on the ground, B‘elanna at his side helping him sit up. Suddenly his head whipped around and he looked down at Harry, who could see light dawning slowly in his eyes. Long seconds passed. Finally, "Harry?" Tom‘s hands released, convulsively, and he moved off him in one quick, jerky movement. "Harry? Oh shit!" His voice was anguished. "I‘m sorry, I‘m so sorry, I can‘t believe I hit you, I would have killed you! Fuck, I‘m so sorry, Harry."
Harry didn‘t say a word. He just massaged his throat and stared at Tom.
"What happened, Lieutenant?" Janeway asked gently. Tom was pacing like a caged animal, arms wrapped tightly around himself. He didn‘t answer Janeway. He just murmured over and over "I‘m so sorry, I‘m so sorry". "Maybe if you talked about it, Tom," Chakotay said softly, feeling better now that B‘elanna had given him some water and gotten him to his feet. "Maybe we could help you." He placed his hand on Tom‘s shoulder in a gesture of friendship. Tom shrugged it off, violently, and whirled around. He grabbed Chakotay by the shoulders and shook him. "If you ever fucking touch me again I‘ll rip your hand off and feed it to you for breakfast." His eyes were dark, almost feral; his voice was raspy. "Paris!" B‘elanna said sharply. "Snap out of it!" Tom came to himself, again, and with a sharp gasp released Chakotay‘s arms. He dropped to the ground and wrapped his arms around his knees. "God, I‘m so fucked. I‘m just so fucking fucked up. Please don‘t touch me, Commander. I can‘t... it‘s too much, at night, it‘s too fucking much and I can‘t control it. Please don‘t touch me anymore." His stomach was churning violently. He tried to calm down, to control it, but it was impossible with everybody staring at him.
Finally, he got to his feet. Another battle he was going to lose, but he‘d be damned if he was going to be sick in front of them. "I need to—fresh air, I need some air." Janeway was looking at him worriedly, but nodded her head and stood aside to let him pass. Tom made it back to the same group of trees, before being thoroughly and completely sick. Deja vu all over again, he though, wearily, as he collapsed against a tree trunk. Can‘t take too much more of this. He stayed there, silent and unmoving, until the sun broke over the eastern mountains. Today, with any luck, they‘d be going home. Yeah? And then what, Tommy boy?
END PART 2
"What‘s he doing now?" Janeway asked.
"He‘s still sitting there. As far as I can tell, he hasn‘t moved for the past four hours. I don‘t think he even cleaned himself up after he threw up." Harry had just returned from an hour long vigil.
"Did he see you?"
"I don‘t think so. He‘s just staring at the ground." "Maybe we should talk to him." B‘elanna suggested tentatively.
"You can try, B‘ela, but I wouldn‘t risk getting too close." Harry said sourly, rubbing his aching neck. The medkit‘s dermal regenerator had removed all the bruises, but his muscles were still sore. At least he was better off than Chakotay, who winced every time he moved.
"Ensign, you‘re not made at him, are you?" Chaktoay asked, curiously.
"No, of course not. He obviously wasn‘t in control of his own actions. He didn‘t even know who I was at first. And, gods, I almost clubbed him to death when we were in the Akritirian prison, so I guess he owes me one." He tried out a laugh, but no one was particularly amused. "But..." Harry paused, unsure of how to phrase his jumbled thoughts. "It‘s just, the way he was talking, you know, all the curses, and the threats, and -- -- and the look on his face. So much hate. I‘ve never seen anyone look like that before. It‘s like he wasn‘t even Tom. And there‘s the scar that he lied about. I don‘t understand why he would do that. He‘s my best friend; I thought I was his. But now...now I can‘t help wondering if I really know him at all. I can‘t help wondering what he‘s hiding."
"It‘s not your fault, Harry." Janeway said quietly, and Harry looked at her, startled that she could read the guilt he felt. Why hadn‘t he known? Janeway continued, "He hides himself away, and only lets you see what he wants you to see. It must run in the family; his father was like that, too. You never felt like you got to know the man behind the mask."
B‘elanna spoke up. "Tom doesn‘t like his father, you know. Not at all." Janeway looked at her inquisitively, and B‘elanna fidgeted under the Captain‘s steady gaze. "He hasn‘t said it in so many words, but the things he tells me, they‘re never good. Every time you mention Admiral Paris or the Al Batani, Captain, Tom‘s body tenses up, and his whole face shuts down." "She‘s right, Captain." Harry added. "Just from the way Tom talks about his father, I always get the feeling that their relationship was very uneasy."
"I never noticed." Janeway replied. "I wish I had. I always assumed they had gotten along. Gene never said that anything was wrong between the two of them. Although..." Her look become abstracted and distant.
"What is it, Captain?" Chakotay asked. "Did the Admiral tell you something about Tom? He must have been a teenager when you served under his father. I can imagine he was a difficult child." His voice was light and teasing.
"I don‘t know, Commander. That‘s just it. I‘m trying to remember, but I can‘t think of—I mean, I can‘t recall—I don‘t think I knew Gene had a son until the court martial. He never even mentioned him. The mission was 4 months, Chakotay, and I don‘t think Gene mentioned Tom once."
She fell silent.
The sun was rising higher in the sky. B‘elanna picked up a tricorder and started scanning the horizon. "Hey, looks like those news broadcasts were right. The ionic storm is clearing up. We should be able to get out of here in a couple of hours." As if on cue, Janeway‘s communicator beeped. "Tuvok to away team."
"Go ahead." Janeway replied.
"Are you all right, Captain?"
"We‘re fine, Tuvok. We‘re all fine."
"I am relieved to hear it. Our sensors were unable to penetrate the disturbances in the upper atmosphere. I believe Lieutenant Carey will be able to modify the transporter to cut through the remaining ionic interference, if necessary. Do you require any immediate assistance?"
"Thank you, Tuvok, but no. Our readings indicate that the last of the storm will clear up in an hour or two, and it will take us at least that long to load up the shuttle. Is everything o.k. up there?"
An almost indistinguishable pause. "Yes, Captain."
"What‘s wrong, Tuvok?"
Vulcans didn‘t sigh, but Janeway could swear she heard Tuvok release a long exasperated breath. "Nothing serious, Captain. However, Mr. Neelix‘s latest culinary endeavor has produced some unexpected digestive side effects in approximately ¼ of the crew. It was rather - - - unpleasant. Luckily, the Doctor has been able to treat the symptoms. Things are returning to normal. It is fortunate we were not required to travel for the past few days."
Janeway suppressed a chuckle. "I understand. Keep things under control, Tuvok. We‘ll see you in a few hours. Janeway out."
Chakotay, B‘elanna and Harry were already starting to pack up the equipment. Chakotay straightened up with a barely audible groan. "One of us should really go get Tom." B‘elanna volunteered. "I‘ll do it. He didn‘t try to beat my brains out last night. Maybe he‘ll talk to me." "Just watch yourself, B‘elanna." Harry warned. B‘elanna laughed. "Harry, the day Tom Paris takes me in a fight is the day I renounce my Klingon genes entirely."
B‘elanna found Tom in the exact same position she‘d seen him when she finished her watch almost 3 hours before. They‘d all taken turns watching him. A waste of time, it seemed, since he hadn‘t so much as moved a muscle.
She approached quietly, directly from the front.
"Hey Paris, you o.k.?"
There was no answer for a few seconds, then Tom raised his head wearily. He squinted against the morning glare. "Mornin‘, Lieutenant."
B‘elanna squatted down next to him. "Tom, you haven‘t moved for four hours. C‘mon, let‘s get you down to the river and cleaned up. No offense, but you‘re starting to smell." Tom caught a taste of hours old vomit in his mouth, and winced. "Yeah, I guess I am." He struggled to his feet. "I can clean myself up without your help, B‘elanna. Why don‘t you go back and tell the others that I haven‘t gone on some wild and bloody hunt against the local mammals. "
"They know that, Tom." B‘elanna answered, then immediately wished she hadn‘t.
"What, have you guys been watching me all night?" He looked at her for the first time, and she winced inwardly at the deadened look in his eyes. "Shit. You were watching me. Wanted to make sure I didn‘t do something else crazy?"
"We don‘t think you‘re crazy."
"Good. ‚Cause I‘m not." He started walking away from her, down towards the river.
"Paris, wait up. I‘ll come with you." she called, running after him.
"I don‘t need your help, B‘elanna. I‘m fine, really. It was just a nightmare, for Chrissakes."
"It must have been a doozy. You nearly throttled Harry." Tom stared at her angrily for a second, before his face relaxed into something more peaceful. No, not peaceful. Resigned. "I know. I can‘t believe it. Is he o.k.?"
"He‘s fine. So is Chakotay. A little worse for wear, the two of them, but they‘ll be good as new once the Doctor fixes them up." She waited for a response but got none. "How about you, Paris? You going to be o.k.?"
"I already told you, I‘m fine, B‘elanna. And I‘ll be better once we get off this fucking planet and back to the ship." "What about the nightmares?"
"What about ‚em?"
"Do you remember them?"
"You heard me. I don‘t believe you. You‘re lying again." "What‘s that supposed to mean?" Tom was getting really angry now. He stopped walking and turned to face her. "We know you were lying about the scar, Tom. It‘s not from the accident. It‘s from a Tarkesian laser whip." For a minute, Tom‘s face took on an analytical look, and B‘elanna could swear he was processing the information, storing it somewhere for later retrieval. Then it was gone, and the angry expression returned. "You‘re wrong, B‘ela. I told you, it‘s from the accident. Now will you please go away and leave me alone!" He spun around on his heel and stomped off towards the river. B‘elanna considered following him, but decided against it. He‘d come back to the campsite when he was ready. As she walked back to the others, B‘elanna pondered the last few minutes. She couldn‘t tell if she‘d hurt or helped, but at least Tom was talking. And he‘d called her B‘ela, which was Harry‘s newest nickname for her, and she didn‘t know yet whether she hated it or loved it. The way Tom had said it, though, it was almost like an insult. She shook her head, frustrated. There was one man she would never figure out.
Tom finished washing, and straightened up with a sigh. What the hell had that been about? Gods, she‘d just come to make sure he was o.k. and he‘d practically chewed her head off. You‘re not going to win any friends that way, Tommy. A little bell went off in the back of his mind, a memory tickled at his consciousness for a second before he found it. Oh yeah, that conversation he‘d had with Neelix right before he left the ship to join the Talaxian convoy. What had he said to him? "Deep down, it must be that I don‘t want any friends, or a family, or a home." At the time, he‘d assumed he was just throwing himself into a role, saying what needed to be said to make his departure believable, but now...he wasn‘t so sure anymore. Maybe it was true. Boy, that‘s a depressing thought. He shook it away and started off back to camp. What the hell am I going to say to them? Sorry, I had a little psychotic break, but don‘t worry, it won‘t happen again. Oh, and sorry for threatening to rip your hand off, Chakotay. You know me, always kidding around. Shit. There wasn‘t anything to say. Well, fuck it, then; he wasn‘t going to say anything.
He straightened his spine, threw back his shoulders, and held his head high in his best little soldier manner, and walked into the camp. The other officers looked at him warily. There was nothing for it but to dive right in. "Harry, let me help you with those blankets." He walked over and started folding the blankets into neat bundles. Harry looked at him cautiously, but didn‘t say anything. "Hey, Harry, I‘m really sorry about last night. I guess I was a little freaked out. You woke me up but it was like I was still in the dream, you know? I didn‘t realize it was you." He finished the first blanket and moved on, business-like, to the second. "Are you o.k.?"
"I‘m fine, Tom." Harry finally answered. "Are you o.k.?" "Never better." Tom lied. "Just a little stiff from sleeping against a tree. I guess I fell asleep out there." "I guess so." Harry said. He seemed a little uncomfortable. Not surprising, Tom thought, seeing as how I tried to strangle him last night. "Tom, about that dream, do you remember it at all?" Poker face, Tommy boy. "Nope. Not at all." "Really? Because I always remember my dreams if I wake up in the middle of them."
"That‘s interesting, Harry; I never remember mine." He moved away from Harry and the conversation, and went over to Chakotay. "Commander, I want to apologize for what I said to you last night, and for hitting you."
"It‘s not necessary, Lieutenant."
"But I feel awful about it-"
"I said it‘s not necessary, Lieutenant. You weren‘t yourself." Oh, how wrong you are, Commander. I was more myself last night than you‘ve ever seen me. I was exactly myself, the me I used to be, the me I want to stop being, the me I‘m so afraid of. And I do need to apologize because somewhere there‘s a part of me that knew exactly who you were last night, and enjoyed hitting you and hurting you. Doing to you what I could never do to my father.
But all he said was, "I‘m sorry anyway, Chakotay."
The Captain walked over. "Tom, the storm is clearing up.
Once we finish packing up our gear, we should be clear to leave.
Do you feel up to piloting the shuttle?"
"Of course, Captain."
"Because if you don‘t, Commander Chakotay will be able to get us back to Voyager. You could rest."
Tom didn‘t like the way this conversation was going. Not at all. "Really, Captain. I‘m fine. I‘m great." "Are you sure?" She looked concerned.
Shit. She‘s thinking of pulling me off duty. "I‘m positive, Captain. What happened last night, it was just a nightmare. It won‘t affect my performance." He tried to keep his voice steady and confident, and held her gaze without flinching. He waited for an eternity until the searching expression in her eyes softened into one of acceptance.
"All right, then, Lieutenant. You can pilot the shuttle. But if at any time you feel you can‘t handle it, tell me immediately. I don‘t want any stupid heroics."
"Yes, ma‘am." Tom said with a mock salute and a cocky grin.
Janeway rolled her eyes and walked away.
END PART 3
The next few weeks were difficult for Tom. The nightmares were getting worse, in intensity and frequency. Not just three or four times a week anymore, they were coming predictably every night, sometimes twice a night if he was really stressed. The strain was getting to him. He was losing weight, although so far he‘d been able to hide it. More worrying, his response time at the conn, although still well below Starfleet benchmarks, was starting to falter.
Late one evening, he found himself in the hydroponics bay, helping Kes replant some seedlings.
"How are you feeling, Tom?" she asked casually, her concentration seemingly focused on the tiny plant in front of her. "Fine." he said. "Why do you ask?"
"I don‘t know. You seem a little depressed lately. This is the third night this week you‘ve spent here. Neelix is getting jealous again."
"What? He is? I‘m sorry, I didn‘t mean to monopolize your time."
"Stop apologizing, Tom. I was kidding. Neelix knows that you and I are just friends. But seriously, no one ever sees you at Sandrine‘s or the resort any more. People are starting to notice." "Notice what?" Tom was getting panicked. His fingers played nervously with the soil. Gods, could they tell he wasn‘t sleeping? Did Janeway know?
"That you‘re always alone, Tom. You‘re on edge all the time. You never spend any time with Harry or B‘elanna. You never go out at night."
"You‘re imagining things. I see Harry and B‘elanna every day. And I‘m not always alone, I‘m here with you now, aren‘t I? I‘m just a little bored with Sandrine‘s and the resort, that‘s all."
"That‘s all?" Kes‘s tone was disbelieving. "That‘s all. Really." Tom started wiping the dirt off his hands. "Look, I‘ve got an early shift tomorrow, so I think I‘m going to get some sleep." He started towards the door. "Tom," Kes called to his back.
"Yeah?" He turned around halfway.
"You know I‘m always willing to listen if you need to talk about anything."
Tom stiffened for a moment, then forced his muscles to relax, and willed a smile to his face. "Thanks, Kes. I appreciate the offer. But there‘s nothing to talk about. G‘night." Out in the hall, he leaned against the wall for support. Shit, who put her up to that? Captain Janeway? Talk, right. Counseling is more like it. They think I‘m nuts, that I need help. Well, too fucking bad. I‘ve been to counseling before; it didn‘t do shit. Talking never solves anything; just makes you tell people things they have no business knowing about...
"That‘s it. I‘m leaving."
"Please don‘t. I‘m sorry I upset you. Sit down, Tom."
"I don‘t want to talk about this any more." "I know. But you‘ll have to, don‘t you see that? They‘ll force you to keep coming here until you talk about it." Tom sighed, and paced around the small room restlessly. "I know that. Doesn‘t mean I have to like it." "Please sit down."
Tom looked at the counselor for a minute before complying. It was so hard to think straight; the anti-depressants they‘d put him on made him feel like half the neural pathways in his brain were short-circuiting. It took twice as long to complete a thought, and sometimes he couldn‘t manage it at all. He didn‘t even need the drugs—he wasn‘t depressed. He was just so tired. Every day was more of the same shit and he couldn‘t take it anymore. He had just wanted it to be over.
"What are you thinking about, Tom?"
"You‘re the Betazoid, you tell me."
"I can‘t read your mind."
"Why not? I thought you guys were telepathic." "We are, but it‘s not a perfect science. Anyway, you seem to have unusually strong telepathic shielding for a human. What does make it through is muddled by the drugs." "Good. I‘m glad they‘re fucking up someone else besides me."
"Are they bothering you?"
"I just can‘t ... think. They‘re messing up my brain." "Really? Modern anti-depressants shouldn‘t have that effect on you."
"I guess they use the cheap stuff on convicts." "Hmmm. That‘s interesting. You may be right. But we‘ve wandered from the point."
"And what is the point, exactly?"
"We need to figure out why you tried to hurt yourself."
"Hurt myself? That‘s a little bit of an understatement." "Maybe so. If Warden Hollinger hadn‘t come looking for you, you‘d be dead now."
"I know. I‘m never going to forgive him."
"You see, it‘s comments like that one that make the authorities insist on further counseling." "I don‘t need it. I‘m not going to try it again." "Oh?" The counselor was silent for a moment. "I think you really mean that."
"I do mean it."
"So what‘s changed?"
"What do you mean?"
"What‘s different about your life now? Why are you content to live it now when you weren‘t prepared to before?" "Because I thought it couldn‘t get any worse. Now I know I was wrong."
"It‘s worse now?"
"I thought counselors weren‘t supposed to be shocked by anything."
"Sorry. It‘s just that I don‘t understand what you‘re saying." "I‘m saying that I thought I‘d hit rock bottom before, but I was wrong. So if I try it again and fuck it up again, my life will be even worse. I‘m not going to risk that." "Why is it worse now?"
"Because I‘m on these fucking drugs that are turning me into a fucking zombie. Because I have to sit here and talk to you about my fucked up psyche. And all the same shit is still going on." "There‘s no need for profanity."
"It makes me feel better."
"Because it bothers you."
A short silence. "You‘re being extremely uncooperative today, Tom."
"Too fucking bad. I told you I don‘t want to be here." "Let‘s go back for a minute. What‘s all the ... shit ... that‘s going on?"
"You just said all the same shit is still going on. What exactly are you referring to?"
Tom barked a short sarcastic laugh. "Are you as stupid as you look or are you just pretending?"
"Please, Tom. Try to work with me on this."
"I can‘t believe you don‘t know what I‘m talking about."
"Assume I don‘t. Tell me what‘s happening."
"Fuck you. I don‘t want to talk about it."
"You‘re not leaving until you do."
For a minute Tom shivered. He‘d heard that comment too many times. Be a good boy, blondie. Don‘t fight us, it‘s pointless. You know you‘re not getting out of here until we get what we want. He gave a short anguished cry and dropped his head in his hands.
"What is it?"
"Please don‘t make me say it. I can‘t...I don‘t...If I don‘t say it it‘s not as real, don‘t you understand? If I say it, it‘s happening, I have to believe it‘s real."
"The things they do to me. The things they make me do to them."
"Please don‘t make me say it."
"I won‘t tell anyone, Tom. You can trust me."
"Tom, I promise. I won‘t tell anyone. This session is strictly confidential. Tell me what‘s been happening to you."
"They come for me..." Tom whispered. "They beat me so I
can‘t fight them. And then they, they—"
"What do they do, Tom? What do they do to you?" "They make me touch them." Tom was whispering so softly the counselor had to lean forward to hear him. Tom‘s eyes were dry, but the counselor noted the tremors running through his body. "They take their clothes off and I have to do whatever they want, with my hands or ... or with my mouth. And then they force themselves inside and it hurts so much each time; I try to pretend I‘m somewhere else but it‘s too hard because it hurts so much. And then they‘re done and they laugh and tell me what a good boy I am and they go away but I know they‘ll be back. The doctors don‘t care, they fix me up but there‘s no point because the others just hurt me again anyway. It‘s worse than with Daddy because Daddy always had a reason; I‘d always fucked up and so I deserved it, and anyway he never hurt me like that, and these guys don‘t have a reason they don‘t even need an excuse, just a room with a door they can lock."
Merciful gods. The counselor reached a comforting hand towards Tom, but the younger man jerked away violently and whispered, "Please don‘t touch me."
"It‘s o.k., Tom. This isn‘t your fault."
"It is my fault." He breathed shudderingly. "I should be able to stop them. It‘s my fault if I can‘t stop them." "No. No, Tom, that‘s not true. How can you fight off two men at one time?"
"Four. Or five, sometimes. I try to fight, but I‘m not strong enough, there‘s too many of them..."
The counselor felt ill. "This is not your fault." he said firmly. "Is that why you tried to -" "Kill myself? Yes. Because I couldn‘t face it, the whole rest of my sentence being like this, every day wondering when it‘s going to happen and how bad it will be. I just wanted it to be over. Can‘t you understand that?"
The counselor nodded, silently. After a short pause, he asked, "How long is your sentence, Tom?"
"How long have you been here?"
"With parole, you could be out in two more years."
"I won‘t get parole. My father will make sure I don‘t. Anyway, they want to make an example of me, to prove that ‚Fleet brats don‘t get special treatment. That‘s why they threw me into maximum security." He sighed. "I won‘t make it." "You said you weren‘t going to try to kill yourself again." "I‘m not. But I‘ll die in here anyway. I‘m dying already. A little more each day."
"This shouldn‘t be happening. I‘ll try to help. I‘ll see if there‘s anything I can do."
"Are you new here? Is this your first time counseling convicts?"
"Yes. Is it that obvious?"
Tom didn‘t answer; he just shook his head wearily. "You can‘t help me. Don‘t waste your time. I just need to find another way to survive in here."
Tom came back to himself with a start. Voyager. He was on Voyager. In the corridor outside the hydroponics bay. Fragments of memory continued to flash in his mind. ‚I just need to find another way to survive in here.‘ There wasn‘t one. Oh, sure, he‘d found a way that kept his body more or less intact, but his soul had shriveled away slowly and steadily, until there was nothing left, and he was just a walking shell with a bad attitude and a worse temper. What was he now? An imaginary construct. So many lies; he was just one big lie walking around in a Starfleet uniform that he didn‘t deserve to be wearing. He forced himself away from the wall and started walking towards the turbolift. Someday, he kept swearing to himself, someday he‘d tell Janeway the truth. And if she took away his commission, if he couldn‘t pilot Voyager anymore, well, he‘d just have to live with it. Someday he‘d tell her. When he was strong enough.
Back in his quarters, he stripped and threw his uniform in the ‚fresher. Shower. He‘d take a nice, hot, real water shower, then read a book and go to bed. He ordered up some loud music so he wouldn‘t have to hear his own thoughts, and stepped into the water. Oh, this was nice. One of the few pleasures he allowed himself. He lowered his head, closed his eyes, and let the hot water wash over him.
Outside his quarters, Harry and B‘elanna were talking.
"Should we go in?"
"Maybe he‘s sleeping."
"It‘s not even 2100 hours, Harry. I guarantee you he‘s not asleep. He never goes to bed before midnight." "Maybe he‘s not alone."
"Maybe. Computer, identify current occupants of Lieutenant Paris‘s quarters."
"Lieutenant Paris is the only current occupant."
"So let‘s go in, Starfleet."
"But he‘s not answering his door chime."
"What are you afraid of, Harry? Think you‘ll find him strangling his pillow pretending it‘s you?" "No. Don‘t be silly."
"You‘ve been tiptoeing around him ever since we got back from Helvast III. For god‘s sake, he‘s not going to attack you." She patted him on the shoulder. "Don‘t worry, Harry, I‘ll protect you."
He sighed, and entered the Level I security code. The door swished open, and loud rock music echoed through the hallway. B‘elanna stepped into Tom‘s quarters, closely followed by Harry.
"Tom?" she said, loudly, trying to be heard over the music. When there was no answer, she disappeared into the bedroom, emerging seconds later. "He‘s in the shower." she explained. "Let‘s wait."
"I don‘t think this is such a good idea." Harry said nervously.
"He‘ll think we‘re trying to ambush him."
"No, he‘ll think we‘re worried about him and that we want to help him. Face it, he‘s been hiding out ever since we got back and I think it‘s time we found out why. Have you seen him lately? I mean, really seen him? He looks awful."
"Yeah, I noticed. I meant to talk to him, but I-" The music stopped suddenly. "What the hell are you two doing here?"
Harry and B‘elanna turned around to find Tom standing there, dripping, a towel wrapped around his waist. They stared at each other for a few seconds, and then Tom came to his senses with a start and grabbed for a robe. Not fast enough, though. Harry and B‘elanna had already seen his chest, uncovered, red scars made vivid by the hot water, flashing like lasers across pale skin.
"Oh gods, Tom. What happened to you?" B‘elanna was the first to recover her voice.
"Tom, please..." Harry began hesitantly.
"Get out." His voice was cold, hostile.
"We‘re only trying to help. We‘re your friends." Harry‘s voice was desperate. Oh, he‘d known this was a bad idea! "If you were my friends, you wouldn‘t sneak into my quarters. I‘m so stupid. I can‘t believe it; I knew I shouldn‘t, but I let myself think I could. Fuck, I‘m such an idiot. I knew I shouldn‘t!"
"Shouldn‘t what?" Now Harry was confused.
"Shouldn‘t trust you. I let myself believe I could but I should have known that I couldn‘t. I let myself believe you were different but you‘re not. You‘re just like them, just like everybody else. Get out of my quarters."
"Tom, please, we are your friends. We weren‘t trying to sneak in. We just wanted to talk to you. We want to find out what‘s wrong." B‘elanna‘s voice was soothing, gentle. Harry hadn‘t known she could sound like that.
"There‘s nothing wrong. If there was I wouldn‘t tell you anyway." He turned away, angrily. "I‘m getting tired of saying this. Get out." Harry and B‘elanna didn‘t move. "Don‘t make me call security."
"Calm down, Paris." B‘elanna said firmly, trying another tack. "You‘re not thinking clearly. You know you can trust us. You know we‘re your friends. Tell us what‘s wrong." Tom collapsed into a nearby chair. They weren‘t leaving, and of course he wouldn‘t really call security. So he would lose this battle too. "There‘s nothing wrong." His voice was unconvincing. "What are those scars, Tom?" Harry asked softly. "Did you get them in prison?"
Tom laughed softly to himelf, without humor. "No, Harry.
The scars I got in prison, you can‘t see."
"Then from where, Tom? Who gave them to you?" Could he tell them? If he told them, maybe they‘d leave him alone, and after these few most recent months, all he wanted, wanted desperately, was to be left alone. He could make them promise not to tell anyone else, especially Janeway. He‘d never told anyone, not even those assholes in New Zealand when they‘d tried so hard to make him tell. But this was Harry and B‘elanna, and they were his friends so maybe it would be o.k. On the other hand, if he told them, and they got home, and Dad found out Tom had told them,he‘d kill them all, he‘d make them all pay and it would all be Tom‘s fault, again. Unfocused thoughts ran in dizzying counterpoint through his mind at an ever-increasing tempo. His heart started pounding and his breath came faster and faster. He dropped his head in his hands as the room started spinning. Slow, deep breaths, Tommy boy, come on, don‘t lose it in front of them.
Tom was having a panic attack. That‘s what was happening.
Harry had heard about them, but he‘d never seen one before.
"Hey, Tom, calm down. You‘re hyperventilating."
"Tell me something I don‘t know, Harry." he gasped out. Shit. This was bad. His pulse was continuing to accelerate and he was starting to sweat.
"Put your head between your knees, Paris." B‘elanna ordered. "Harry, go replicate a paper bag. Come on, Tom, breathe with me, slowly. That‘s right, one, two, three, four. One, two, three, four."
Harry handed Tom a bag. "Here, breathe into this." Fuck it. This was so stupid. He didn‘t need to do this; he had medicine he could take for the really bad attacks, but then they‘d know it happened pretty regularly and he didn‘t think he wanted them to know that. Tom obediantly breathed into the paper bag until his breaths started coming more slowly, and he felt his heart rate slow down.
"Thanks." he said, weakly, sitting up and falling backwards into the chair.
"Are you all right now?" Harry asked.
"Fine." His fingers played nervous patterns on the arms of the chair.
"Was it talking about the scars? I‘m sorry if I panicked you. I didn‘t know..."
"It‘s o.k., Harry. You couldn‘t have known." Tom paused, then took a deep breath. "If I tell you—about the scars—you have to promise me you won‘t tell anyone. You have to swear it. Not Chakotay, not the Captain, not anyone. No matter what, you won‘t tell anyone."
"But why, Tom?" B‘elanna asked.
"Don‘t ask me why. Just promise me you won‘t ever tell." His eyes were pleading. "I don‘t even know if I can do this. I‘ve never told anybody. No one knows. The only way I might be able to—to do this is if I have your word that you won‘t tell anyone. I have to know."
"O.k, o.k. I promise. I swear I won‘t tell anyone." Harry gripped Tom‘s hand and looked into his eyes. Tom searched for a few seconds, then, satisfied, he turned to B‘elanna. "I promise too, Tom. I‘ll never tell."
"All right." But he was silent, then, for long minutes, twisting his hands nervously around the belt to his robe. Finally, B‘elanna broke the silence. "Tom," she whispered, holding his hand, "please talk to us. Where did you get the scars?"
Tom gripped her hand so tightly she knew if she‘d been a full human a bone would have broken. Then he lowered his eyes so he was looking at the floor and whispered two words, so softly and so hesitantly, B‘elanna and Harry had to strain to hear them. "My father." he said. He let go of B‘elanna‘s hand and wrapped his arms around himself tightly. "My father did this to me."
END PART 4
"Your father?" Harry‘s voice was stunned. "You‘re saying your father gave you these scars?" Tom nodded mutely. "Does Captain Janeway know?"
"No!" Harry could hear the panic rising again in Tom‘s voice. "No, Harry, you promised! You swore you wouldn‘t tell anyone, you promised, Harry!" His eyes were wild, desperate. "You promised!"
"Shhh, it‘s o.k. I know I promised. I won‘t tell anyone.
Relax, Tom." He patted Tom‘s hand gently.
Tom took a deep breath, and shuddered. He dropped his face in his hands. "I shouldn‘t have told you. I‘ve never told anyone. I shouldn‘t have told you; he‘ll find out somehow and we‘ll all get in trouble. Something bad‘s going to happen, I know it. He‘ll make something bad happen."
Harry and B‘elanna exchanged worried looks. They didn‘t know what to do with the information they‘d just been given, but more, they didn‘t know what to do with Tom. Finally, B‘elanna decided the best thing would be to get as many facts as Tom was willing to share, so she pressed on.
"Why did he do it, Tom?"
Tom still had his face in his hands. His voice was muffled.
"Because I was bad."
"Bad???" B‘elanna couldn‘t believe she was hearing this. "Yeah. I was always fucking up, making mistakes, doing bad things, so he had to punish me. He tried to teach me to be better, but it didn‘t work, I was still a fuck-up, I wasn‘t ever good enough."
Harry stared at B‘elanna, wide-eyed. She shook her head in disbelief. "What do you mean, you weren‘t good enough? What could you possibly have done to deserve this?" "You don‘t understand. It wasn‘t all at once. It wasn‘t for one thing. Each scar, it‘s for something else, some other time I screwed up."
"You know the one on my back? The one you said is from a Tarkesian laser whip? That was bad, that time. I was running in the house, and knocked over a Cartegian vase that was on display in the living room. It shattered."
"And he laser whipped you? For that?"
"I deserved it. That vase was hand-made." he said, willing them to understand. "It was a gift from the Carteji emperor after they joined the Federation—irreplaceable. I shouldn‘t have been so careless. He always told me not to run in the house, but I was stubborn, or stupid, I don‘t know. I didn‘t listen." He was staring at the ceiling, remembering. He shook himself to come back to the present, and said speculatively, "I looked up Tarkesian whips in the ship‘s database. I think you‘re right; the scars they leave look the same as mine. You know those things have been illegal for over 50 years? Dad always managed to find stuff like that, though. Every time he came back from a mission, he‘d have something new... When he really had to teach me a lesson, when just beating me wasn‘t enough, he‘d pull them out." Harry finally managed to get his voice back. "Jesus, Tom!
No one knows about this? How—how is that possible?" "I dunno. I‘ve never thought about it. I guess he had the doctors on his payroll, or something. Whenever I had to go to the hospital, it was always at this private place in San Francisco, where they all knew my dad."
"How many times did you have to go to the hospital?" B‘elanna whispered. Gods, she did not want to be in this room anymore, hearing this, but it had been her idea to come, and now Tom had really started talking and she felt she had to listen. "Not too often. Maybe once or twice a year. You know, just when I‘d really fuck up, and Dad would get absolutely out of control. Like that time I quit the swim team without telling him, when he found out he went ballistic. Shattered half my face with a baseball bat. It took 3 operations to get my skull back in one piece. " Tom was staring out the viewport, so he missed the horrified expressions on his two friends‘ faces. "I got to stay in the hospital for a couple of weeks that time. They were nice to me there. They never yelled at me, and they let me have ice cream after every meal. And then, when I got home, Dad was gone again for a couple of months. So it worked out o.k." Worked out o.k.? Jesus! Harry thought he might be sick. All this time he‘d thought, well, who knows what he‘d thought, really? It didn‘t matter. What worried him more was what he might have said. Gods, like that second day on Voyager, in this mess hall, when they were first talking about Caldik Prime, when Tom was talking about getting caught on his first mission for the Maquis. What had Harry said to Tom? Oh yeah, "It must have been especially tough for you, being the son of an admiral." And Tom had gotten the most peculiar look on his face, as if Harry didn‘t understand a thing about it, and why was he wasting his time trying to explain it to him? Harry thought, despairingly, I really didn‘t know a thing about it. How many other comments had there been? How many times had people said thoughtless things about silver spoons and silver platters?
B‘elanna had taken hold of Tom‘s hand and was stroking it gently. He turned to her, and his expression was wide-eyed and innocent. He looked all of about 10 years old. "Now that I‘ve told you, now that you know, you still have to keep your promise. You can‘t tell anyone. Ever. You can‘t ever tell them." It was almost like a child‘s chant, the way Tom was saying it. "O.k." Harry said, quietly. "O.k., Tom."
"Promise me. Promise me you won‘t ever tell." Tom knew he‘d already made them promise, but he didn‘t think he could emphasize it enough. He knew he shouldn‘t have told, he knew he shouldn‘t have done it, but it was too late now, so the best he could do was make sure that no one else would find out. "Promise me." "I promise, Tom. You can trust me." Harry said, quietly. Tom looked at him, briefly, then looked away. He couldn‘t trust Harry, couldn‘t trust anybody, but he could at least trust in Harry‘s word on this.
"Tom," B‘elanna said, hesitantly. "I don‘t understand. You say no one else knows about the scars -" "I guess that‘s not exactly true. Some other people know about them, but they don‘t know where they came from. Those guys aren‘t here, anyway, so they don‘t count.." "But -" B‘elanna was determined not to be sidetracked. "But Tom, what about the women?"
"What women?" Tom looked confused.
Now B‘elanna was embarassed. She was going to have to spell this out? "You know, like Megan Delaney, and Sue Nicolletti...I mean, when you were, uhhh, you know, together, wouldn‘t they have seen the scars?" She thought she was going to die of embarassment.
B‘elanna could hear the quotation marks around the word.
"You know what I mean. The marks are pretty noticeable, Tom. Surely someone would have noticed. If you weren‘t...errr, dressed."
Tom was silent for a few seconds. Then, "I don‘t know why I‘m telling you this, ‚cept I guess if I‘m sharing secrets there‘s no real reason to hold it back. B‘elanna, I‘ve never been ‚together‘ with Megan or Sue. Or anybody else on this ship, for that matter."
Even Harry was surprised. The things you find out about people! Here he‘d thought he‘d known this man. "I don‘t understand. You flirt with every woman on the ship!" B‘elanna was thinking to herself, I always thought you were such a pig! And she thought, I was so jealous! "Protective coloration, B‘elanna. Helps me blend in with the woodwork. No one really wants to go home with a flirt, so it‘s pretty safe. To be honest, if Sue or Megan ever did want to, I wouldn‘t—" He broke off abruptly, and shook his head. "What?" Harry was dying to know the end to that aborted sentence.
"You can‘t leave us hanging like that, Paris." B‘elanna fumed.
"If Megan ever wanted to, you wouldn‘t what?" "Well, shit. How can I say this? If I ever woke up with a woman in my bed, I wouldn‘t know what the fuck to do." Embarassed pause. "No pun intended."
"What?" Harry squeaked. Then he coughed, embarassed. "What are you saying? That you‘ve never..." Tom nodded morosely. "Tom, I get my advice on women from you and you‘ve never even..."
"No! I‘ve never even. Jeez, Harry, what do you want, a written confession?" He looked away, then looked back at Harry, speculatively. "Of course, if I woke up with a man in my bed, I‘d know exactly what to do." Harry got a weird feeling in the pit of his stomach, and tore his eyes away from Tom. "Are you trying to tell us you‘re attracted to men, Paris?"
B‘elanna asked, thinking, well, dammit, now I‘ll never get him. "No. Not particularly. I mean, not to men more than to women." Tom didn‘t seem the least bit embarassed anymore. He was leaning back in his chair, hands resting casually on his stomach, his eyes staring blindly at the ceiling. "Then what-?" O.k., B‘elanna thought, all hope is not lost. "Just that I‘ve had experience with men, and not with women."
"If you‘re not particularly attracted to men, then why would you...?" Harry was thinking, I don‘t think I know this man at all. Not at all.
Tom looked away again. For a minute he thought he wouldn‘t answer; this conversation had really gone quite far enough, but then he thought, what the hell, might as well go for broke. So, finally, "You learn all sorts of interesting things in prison, Harry. Most of which you don‘t want to learn. But you don‘t have a choice, because the other prisoners, they want to teach you." He leaned forward, and placed one hand on Harry‘s thigh. His voice dropped half an octave and became almost husky. "F‘rinstance, Harry, given five minutes, I could have you down on your knees, begging and screaming. With pleasure." Harry pulled away, startled. His stomach was doing nervous flip flops and he had the distinctly unnerving feeling that he was starting to get aroused. He shifted uncomfortably. Tom laughed, humorlessly, and slid back in his chair. He had a grin on his face, but his eyes were empty. "Relax, Harry, I‘m not gonna go down on you here. Or anywhere else. You‘re perfectly safe with me; when Janeway got me out of prison, I swore off sex completely."
"Sw-swore off sex?" B‘elanna stuttered. Tom Paris? The walking hormone? Impossible.
"Yeah. I‘m not doing that ever again. Done it enough for three lifetimes. Besides, there‘s something kind of tidy about it, all my sexual experiences neatly wrapped up into a year and a half in prison."
"All of them?" Harry said sadly, catching the implication. Tom gazed at him, briefly. "All of them. First and last." He forced a parody of a smile on his face. "Don‘t worry about it, Harry. It wasn‘t so bad. I got used to it, after a while. I just—don‘t want to do it anymore."
Silence fell for a few minutes. Tom suddenly realized what he‘d just told his friends, what secrets he‘d shared. Shit. You idiot. What the fuck were you thinking, telling them this stuff? They don‘t want to hear about your shitty life. They‘ll probably never want to talk to you again, afraid you‘ll tell them more horror stories. They‘re probably sitting there trying to figure out a way to get out of here and be polite about it.
Tom figured if he had an ounce of decency left in him he should let Harry and B‘elanna off the hook, so he yawned, conspicuously. "Hey, guys, I‘m pretty tired. I think I‘m going to go to bed."
Harry and B‘elanna eyed him suspiciously. "You o.k., Paris?"
B‘elanna queried, rising from the couch.
"Yup. Fine." He yawned again. "Just tired." Look at them, practically running to the door. I knew it. "O.k., well, then, good night. We‘ll see you in the morning?" "Yeah, I‘ll see you at breakfast." He showed them to the door and watched it shut behind them with a feeling of relief. Gods, what had he been thinking?
He got into bed with a feeling of impending doom. After this conversation, he could just imagine the kind of dreams he was going to have. But he needed to sleep, and he wasn‘t going to give in to the dreams. He considered using a sleep aid, but decided against it. Don‘t want to become too dependent on them, Tommy boy. You know what that‘s like...
Tom walked slowly down the corridor towards his cell. He‘d just been released from the infirmary, but his body still ached. It wasn‘t the beatings—the doctors erased all evidence of that—as much as the drugs. The damn stuff was addictive. ‚Course, nobody thought of that before they made him take them twice a day for 8 weeks. He was off them now, had been off them for two weeks, and he wasn‘t having convulsions anymore, he‘d finally stopped throwing up every time he tried to eat, but his body ached all the time and he got the shakes a couple times a day. He wasn‘t sleeping either, just kept lying there in the dark thinking that if he asked nicely, maybe they‘d give him one dose and he‘d feel better, but then it would start over and he was not letting them hook him on something, he‘d be in their power forever, but gods, he wished he didn‘t ache so much.
Oh, here we are, home sweet home. Enough time to change into a fresh jumpsuit before dinner. He walked into his cell, and cursed as he realized he wasn‘t alone. They‘d been waiting for him.
"Come on, Bert. I just got out of the infirmary." Shit. Not now, assholes, I‘m too tired for this.
"Not my problem, Paris. Wasn‘t me that put you there." Tom felt warm breath on his neck an instant before a beefy hand clamped on his shoulder. He craned his head to take a look. Fuck. Kristoff the Neanderthal. And his little pack of friends, always ready to party.
Gordon shut the door to the cell. "Wouldn‘t be so bad if you didn‘t put up such a fight, blondie. Then we wouldn‘t have to hurt you so much." He was already fumbling with his pants. Guess they‘d decided to let him go first.
Tom‘s heart was sinking. If only he didn‘t ache all the time. If only they‘d leave him alone for a couple of days. If only they didn‘t beat the shit out of him every single goddamn time. He felt a flash of familiarity, and knew exactly where he was going to be in an hour or so. Curled up on the floor, beaten and bloody, bruised inside and out.
Gordon reached for him, one hand curled into a fist, ready to fight. The other men shifted in anticipation. "Wait." Tom‘s voice was so low he could barely hear it himself.
"I ain‘t in the mood to wait, blondie. Don‘t make it tougher on yourself." Familiar patter. They said it every time with no expectation that Tom would give in.
Gordon paused. "What?"
"O.k." A flash of insight, a sudden decision, and he turned down a new path. Well, shit, they were gonna fuck him raw anyway, weren‘t they? There was no way around it, but it didn‘t mean he‘d have to end up with the crap beaten out of him also. No, that was his own choice. Had been his own choice, he amended, because he wasn‘t going to do it anymore. He‘d told the counselor he‘d find another way to survive in here, and if this was what it took, so be it. "Whatever you want; I‘ll do whatever you want. I just don‘t want to fight anymore." Gordon eyed him suspiciously. "You ain‘t gonna fight us?" "No." He started unfastening his jumpsuit without being asked. "Let‘s just get this over with."
45 minutes later, he cleaned himself up and put on some new clothing. Still time to make it to dinner, oh joy. Not that he felt much like eating anymore, but he‘d lost a lot of weight in the last couple of weeks, and he didn‘t think he could afford to lose any more. He winced as he stood up from his cot after putting on his boots. His ribs were bruised. The guys hadn‘t been exactly gentle, but hey, he could still walk, and they‘d mostly stayed away from his face, so at least he didn‘t look like an overused punching bag. Fuck, this was nothing compared to the usual treatment. For all he knew, maybe sex was always like this, a little bit rough, a little out-of-control.
The next time they came for them, he realized that he didn‘t have to just lie there and be passive. If he listened to them, if he figured out what they wanted him to do, they‘d enjoy it more, they‘d come faster, and it would be over sooner. Hell, he was a pilot, wasn‘t he? At least, he had been. Sex was just like flying a ship. Observing details, anticipating movements, coaxing reactions, these were all a pilot‘s skills. With single-minded determination, he applied himself to the task. Hand jobs, blow jobs, straight sex, it didn‘t matter; he was equally focused, equally intense. If he‘d studied this hard at the Academy, he figured, he‘d have graduated first in his class.
Word began to get out. He didn‘t get beaten any more, thanks to whatever gods watched over him in this godforsaken place. Q‘atakh, a huge Surellian who didn‘t know any better, was the last guy who tried that. Put Tom in the infirmary for three days. Kristoff and Gordon and Mickey beat the shit out of the bastard, and told him if he so much as layed a finger on Tom again, they‘d cut off his dick and serve it up at lunch. How ‚bout that, Tom mused, when he heard about the incident. He had protection now. And every once in a while when he said, no, I‘m too tired tonight, they actually left him alone.
Tom started to take a perverse pride in the whole set-up. Here were these guys, murders, rapists, terrorists, and general assholes, and he could have them begging and pleading with him to let them come. If only he didn‘t hate it so much, didn‘t hate all of them so much, it would have been kind of fun. But he did hate it, loathed it with an intensity that seared his soul, and deep down inside, every time one of them showed up at his door, a part of him was screaming. He ignored it, shoved the anger even deeper down where it couldn‘t hurt him, and did what he had to do. It was one of the guards who finally got to him. "Hey, Paris," Peterson called. "Come here for a minute." Tom looked up from the sewage hose valve he was working on, to find Peterson beckoning him over to the guard house. Shit. What now? He walked over, resignedly. "What‘d I do this time?" "Nothing. Nothing. Come inside for a minute." Peterson looked nervous, Tom thought. He went in to the small room. Peterson shut the door behind him. Uh oh.
"What‘s the problem, sir?" Tom asked subserviently. Always had to suck up to the guards if you didn‘t want to get transferred to latrine duty, or cesspit maintenance.
"I already told you, nothing. It‘s just that I heard some of the other prisoners talking about you."
"Oh really? What did they say?" Tom leaned against the wall, wearing his usual look of bored indifference. Peterson was fidgeting, fingering his billy club. Finally, he took a deep breath. "They said you give the best blow jobs this side of Saturn. Make ‚em come so hard they see stars. And I thought -" "You thought what?" Tom kept his face impassive, but he was thinking, no way in hell, fuckhead, I have to take it from them but I do not have to take it from you. Peterson plowed on. "It‘s just that—a position opened up on the day shift. I could get it for you. No more working through the middle of the night. I‘ll do it, if you‘ll give me, well, you know." Tom thought sardonically, boy when I said I had to suck up to the guards I wasn‘t kidding! I don‘t want to do this. I do not want to do this. Yet a part of his mind was saying, insistently, day shift, day shift, day shift. He hadn‘t been here long enough to qualify, it might take another couple of years, and what if Peterson could really get him transferred?
"If I find out you‘re fucking with me, sir, you‘re dead. I just want you to know that before you start making promises you can‘t keep." He stood over the guard threateningly. Tom was about 4 inches taller than Peterson, and had recently started working out in the weight room with Gordon. He meant it, every word. If Peterson was lying just to get sex, he‘d kill him without thinking twice.
"No, no. No bullshit, Paris. Gianelli‘s getting out next week. I can get you his slot. If you‘re good enough." Tom looked at him for a minute before dropping to his knees. And that was that. Peterson screamed so loudly Tom was glad the walls to the shed were soundproofed. The second time, Peterson passed out, and Tom was worried for a few minutes until the guard came around. Then he thought, wow, none of them ever did that before. Must have been the bit with the tongue. He filed the maneuver away for future reference.
When he went back to his cell early in the morning, he looked in the mirror and couldn‘t even recognize himself. Who are you? he thought bleakly at the image. What have you become? The answer came to him, one word which he‘d been trying so hard not to use, but he couldn‘t help it now because he‘d really and truly sold himself, not just given himself away so they wouldn‘t beat him up; this had been an exchange of services, pure and simple. Whore. That‘s all you are, all you‘ll ever be good for again. He smashed his fist into the mirror over and over until it broke. Red sticky blood dripped to the floor but he didn‘t care, just cradled his wounded hand and crept into bed, too dirty, too tainted to bother cleaning up. Don‘t cry, Tommy boy, they want you to cry; but it didn‘t work tonight, it was too much to take. Tom never cried, hadn‘t cried since his mother died, but the tears ran down his face now and mingled with the blood on his shirt. You‘re a whore, Tommy, that‘s what you are, a whore and you‘re dead now, really dead, there‘s nothing left of you, nothing left to do but to sell yourself over and over and over...
Tom sat up in bed, gasping. The sick sense of self-disgust filled him, made him feel filthy and contaminated. Shit. What was that, the third time tonight? A new record. That‘s what I get for spilling my guts to Harry and B‘elanna. What an idiot. His stomach did a familiar lurch. Uh oh. He catapulted out of bed and made it into the bathroom just in the nick of time. He couldn‘t imagine what he was throwing up; it felt like everything he‘d eaten for the last month had come up after the previous two dreams, but he was retching anyway. Afterwards, he dragged himself wearily into the shower. He couldn‘t wash enough, couldn‘t ever really get clean on the inside where all the dirt was, but he craved the illusion that the water was somehow cleansing his soul.
"Computer, what‘s the time?" he asked as he stepped out of 20 minutes later.
"The time is 0417" the pleasant female voice answered calmly.
The middle of the night. He didn‘t need to be on duty until 0800, but he wasn‘t even going to bother trying to go back to sleep. Probably just have another nightmare. This was way, way out of control. Work out. That‘s what he was going to do. He‘d go work out and release some of the stress he was feeling. Then maybe he could sleep.
He made it to the gym without running into anyone; not surprising, seeing what time it was. Three hours later, he wasn‘t any more relaxed, but he was pretty exhausted, and hadn‘t thought about prison or his father for a couple of hours. Wasn‘t that a nice change of pace? There was just enough time to go back to his quarters, take another shower and change, and grab some breakfast before his duty shift began.
0740. Tom walked into the mess hall. Harry and B‘elanna were already there, eating something purple and deeply involved in a serious conversation. Full recollection of the previous night came back, accompanied by the rushing warmth of a full-scale blush. Shit. What had he been thinking? No way was he going to be able to sit down with them and eat. No fucking way. He had no idea how he‘d avoid it; dammit, he should have skipped breakfast entirely, but he was so hungry, nothing was staying down lately, he‘d had to get some food, and now there he was, in the mess hall, trapped.
A hand fell on his shoulder and a pair of merry, high-pitched voices said in unison, "Morning, Paris." Tom turned around with relief to see Megan and Jenny Delaney standing next to him, holding matching trays.
"Good morning, ladies. How are things in Stellar Cartography lately?"
"Oh, you know, same old, same old. Tom, we‘ve got a favor to ask you." Megan‘s voice dropped down to low levels. She whispered, "We need your help."
"Uh oh. I‘m in trouble now." He grinned lasciviously at them.
"No, seriously. We need your help with a holoprogram." "Oh." He pretended to be disappointed. "All right. Let‘s eat while we discuss it." How ‚bout that? A perfect excuse. He could eat and avoid Harry and B‘elanna at the same time! He sank into a seat gratefully and took a bite of food. Repressing his first involuntary shudder, he paused to consider it. Not too bad, actually. Almost edible. Given how hungry he was, it would be fine.
A few tables away, Harry and B‘elanna looked at each other.
"Do you think he‘s avoiding us?"
"What, you think he fixed it up with Meg and Jenny in advance? Come on , Starfleet, even Paris isn‘t that conniving." "I guess not. I wish he was sitting with us, though. We need to talk." Harry hadn‘t slept a wink the night before. His mind had been filled with awful images of Tom, as a child, being beaten by that monster of a father, then with images of Tom in prison, learning about sex in the worst way possible, thinking that was what sex was all about. Other images, even more disturbing, of himself down on his knees, begging and screaming, and—whoa, there, Harry. Get your mind out of the gutter! He felt a flush rise, and thanked the gods for his dark complexion. B‘elanna was similarly lost in thought. She hadn‘t slept either, she‘d seen the same awful pictures of Tom being beaten by his father, being molested in prison. It was the other thoughts that had kept her awake though, thoughts of taking Tom and comforting him, and teaching him what sex could be, if you did it right... Gods, stop it! she commanded herself. Poor Harry‘s sitting right across the table from you and you‘re just ignoring him. Sweet Harry. She‘d used to think of him as sweet, innocent Harry, but that had been before he‘d been thrown in the Akritirian prison. Ever since he‘d been back, he‘d been different, and the few wild nights they‘d had together had shown her a side of him she‘d never expected to see. Wild and sensual and exciting. She smiled at him, and reached across the table to take his hand. The contact brought Harry back to the present, and he squeezed B‘elanna‘s hand back lightly. He felt obscurely guilty. It wasn‘t as if they had a real relationship, or anything like one, but still, they‘d slept together enough times so that you could say they had something, and yet here he was thinking about Tom. He tried to hide it. "Come on, B‘ela, we‘ll be late." Across the room, Tom noted the linked hands and forced his eyes back to Meg and Jenny. Stop it, Paris. You have no right to be jealous. They look cute together. Why would they want anyone like you, anyway, either one of them? Harry sent B‘elanna off to Engineering with a smile, and stopped over at Tom‘s table. "Let‘s go, Tom. Our shift starts in 5 minutes."
"Just a minute, Harry." Tom stood up, but leaned down to talk to Meg and Jenny. "So tonight, after dinner? I‘ll meet you in Holodeck 1 at 1900 hours."
"Sounds great, Tom." Jenny said, with a smile.
"Try not to get into too much trouble before then, sweetie."
Meg added, giving him a friendly pat on the butt. "Hey, hey, hands off the merchandise!" he retorted cheerfully, and left them with a wave and a grin.
When Harry and Tom were alone in the turbolift, Harry tried to start a conversation, but all Tom would say was, "If you don‘t mind, Harry, I don‘t want to talk about it. Can we just forget it?" But of course Harry couldn‘t forget it, and he made up his mind to get Tom alone and have a serious conversation.
END PART 5
Two weeks later, Harry was no closer to his goal of having that serious conversation. He barely saw Tom anymore. At breakfast, Tom would rush in and grab some toast with just enough time to eat it on the way to the bridge. He‘d sit with Harry and B‘elanna at lunch and dinner, if Megan and Jenny Delaney weren‘t there, but he always managed to drag someone else along to sit at the table with them. He never showed up at Sandrine‘s anymore, or the resort, and when he wasn‘t with Meg and Jenny, in the holodeck, he was with Kes in the hydroponics bay, or was working out alone in the gym. Harry had once tried to corner him there, but Tom had gotten annoyed and said, "I can‘t talk and work out at the same time, Harry, and I really need the exercise" and he‘d walked away to the weight machines. B‘elanna was just as frustrated. They compared notes one evening over dinner. Tom was huddled with the Delaneys at a table in the corner. Rumor had it that they were having a wild and passionate three-way affair, but Harry and B‘elanna knew that it couldn‘t possibly be true. There was also a betting pool about what kind of holoprogram the three could be working on. B‘elanna couldn‘t begin to imagine, but with Meg and Jenny‘s imagination, and Tom‘s superior holoprogramming skills, it was bound to be a doozy.
"I was wrong, Harry."
Harry looked up in surprise. This was a rare event! "He is avoiding us. He hasn‘t said two words to me that weren‘t related to the helm controls since that night." "I know. I get the feeling that when he sees me coming, he looks for a way out of the room."
"Me too." B‘elanna was quiet for a minute. "He looks worse, you know. Have you seen the circles under his eyes lately? And he‘s losing weight—his uniform keeps getting looser and looser." "I know. I just don‘t know what we can do about it."
"We can talk to the Captain."
"No we can‘t. We promised."
"I know." She sighed. "It‘s so frustrating. It‘s like we‘re losing him and there‘s nothing we can do to stop it." "Losing him to what? We never did find out what was really wrong. He just told us that other stuff to get us off his back." "I don‘t know, Harry. But we‘d better find out soon."
She walked casually over to the conn, and placed her hand on his shoulder. "I hear you and the Delaneys are having an unveiling of your new holoprogram tonight." "You heard right, Captain." Tom grinned. Over a month of working around the clock had paid off. This one was a beauty. Even better than Sandrine‘s, because it wasn‘t from memory, and it was much trickier to program something from scratch. "Are you coming? It‘ll be a blast."
"Of course I‘m coming. What‘s the dress code?" Tom turned away from the conn for a second to glance at Janeway. "Do you think I don‘t know what you‘re doing, Captain? I know you‘re in the betting pool. You‘re trying to worm some information out of me."
"Mr. Paris. I‘m shocked. You know I would never condone anything as non-regulation as a betting pool." "Uh huh." Tom was obviously unconvinced. "You‘re placing your bets through Samantha Wildman. She never bets in these things." He grinned, again, and Janeway thought how good it was to see him smile. He looked so haggard lately. Ever since they got back from that planet, in fact, he‘d been deteriorating. "You‘ll get nothing from me, Captain. The dress code is comfortably casual. Don‘t wear anything too—restricting." "If you say so, Lieutenant." Hmm, she thought as she walked away. Nothing too restricting. Dammit, I knew I should have put more rations down on the beach volleyball program!
Just about 2100 hours. The crowd outside Holodeck 1 was getting rowdy. Bets were still flying; Chell of all people seemed to be running the pool. With Tom involved in the programming, and so by default out of the betting, they‘d had to improvise. The doors to the Holodeck were locked. B‘elanna and Carey had spent the last 10 minutes trying to unlock them, but whatever the hell security program Paris had running, it seemed to be impenetrable. "This is impossible!" B‘elanna fumed. "The control routines for the warp drive aren‘t this well protected!" "Maybe we should get Paris to take a look at them." Carey suggested, only half joking. It was frustrating to be locked out of the holodeck by a mere pilot. What did he know about security lockouts? Apparently, too much. Carey kicked the door angrily. As if on cue, the doors swished open. Everybody fell back a bit, in anticipation, then swarmed in, to find ... a Terran dance club. Flashing lasers, pounding music, and a large dance floor beckoned. A bar off to the side looked to be stocked with real alcohol, bootleg moonshine that the Engineering staff was constantly brewing in their off hours. Tables of various sizes were scattered around the dance floor, and a few holocharacters were already dancing.
Janeway and Chakotay waited until most of the crowd pushed their way into the holodeck, then followed. She looked around, pleased and surprised.
Tom maneuvered out from a crowd of flurrying hands and bodies and crossed the room to find them. "So, what do you think?" He gestured around the room. "Pretty wild huh? One thing this ship was missing was a place for a good party." He looked around with fatherly pride. Well-deserved, too, Janeway thought. You‘d never guess you were in a holoprogram. You couldn‘t see any of the usual giveaways.
Janeway looked back at Tom. He looked better than he had in weeks. The sapphire blue of his shirt brought out the color of his eyes, and the cut of the shoulders accentuated the fact that he‘d been working out. The pants, though, well, she could see how far the belt went around his waist, and wondered how much weight he‘d lost.
Megan Delaney came running up to them and impulsively threw her hands around his body. "It‘s a hit!" she enthused. "Tom, you‘re a genius!" She planted a big, overenthusiastic kiss on his lips.
"It was your idea, Meg. I just figured out how to code it." He pushed her away gently.
"Oh, you." she complained, falsely. "You have no idea how to take a compliment. Come on, let‘s do the Arcadian Rumba!" She pulled Tom away and out on to the dance floor, where she ordered the computer to play the popular dance tune. It was a complicated line dance, and Janeway watched with amusement as Tom tried, unsuccessfully, to teach B‘elanna the moves. He knew how to dance, she realized. He was really quite good. Somehow, his dancing reminded her of the way he moved at the conn—very fluid, his whole body connected and moving to the same rhythm.
The song ended, and B‘elanna stomped off the dance floor, dragging Harry with her. He‘d fared little better in the dance, and had no objections to sitting down. "Ridiculous!" B‘elanna groused. "Stupid human custom. Dancing in a line." Tom stopped by and handed them both a drink.
"Drink up!" he encouraged. "It‘ll help loosen you up. Your problem is that you‘re too inhibited." He led by example, downing his drink in one quick gulp.
Harry reflected, at least he‘s sitting with us. He and B‘elanna had given up on trying to talk to Tom, and they‘d reached an uneasy settlement. They even ate together, every once in a while, and as long as the talk didn‘t turn too serious, Tom would even stay through the full meal.
"Nice program, Paris." The voice came from behind Tom‘s shoulder, and he turned around to see who was speaking. "Thanks, Sue." he said in some surprise. Susan Nicolletti didn‘t talk to him much, despite what the rumors said. She was wearing a skin tight, very short, electric blue dress with sparkling blue stockings.
"You‘re welcome. It‘s really very nice. Great job with the strobe lights." She tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "Whose idea was it to put in mirrors on the ceiling?"
"Mine." Tom answered with a grin.
Sue shook her head dramatically. "I should have known.
"You‘ve got me all wrong, Sue. I once went to this great club on Risa. The whole place was mirrored; it was outrageous. Put 50 people in the room and you‘d think you were dancing in a crowd of thousands."
Just then, an older song came on. It was a dance tune from about 15 years before. Very dated, but with a driving beat and a familiar melody that everyone knew. "I love this song!" Sue said happily. "Come on, Paris, let‘s dance." She pulled him up and away from the table. He shrugged apologetically at Harry and B‘elanna and let himself be led onto the dance floor. Janeway and Chakotay took the vacated seats. All four watched the dancers for a few minutes. Tom and Sue were easily the best out there, and they were obviously having a good time. "He‘s a really good dancer." Harry said wistfully. "I could never do that."
"Don‘t kid yourself, Ensign." Janeway said with a smile. "I took dance lessons for years—I can recognize a trained dancer when I see one. Looks like Sue Nicolletti‘s taken a few lessons herself."
The song ended, with a round of applause for Tom and Susan, who bowed and accepted the cheers with good humor. They made their way back to the table, laughing, followed closely by Megan and Jenny.
"You two were great!" Jenny gushed. "I wish I could move like that. Especially that move with your hips..." she did a crude parody of one of Tom‘s dance steps.
He laughed. "You could do it, Jenny. I learned that move when I was just a kid." He puckered his face and spoke in a high voice with a rough imitation of a French accent "Ze hips, eet ees verrry important to let zem sway to ze muzik." "Madame Beaujois!" Sue exclaimed. "You knew her?" "Sure." Tom answered in some surprise. "I studied in her San Francisco studio for years. Starting when I was about 7. Had to be able to dance at all of the ‚Fleet functions my dad dragged me to." He paused. "How did you know her?" "I took lessons with her also, for a couple of years, until my mom married my stepdad and we moved to the East Coast." Tom stared at her for a few minutes, really stared at her. The table fell silent. Then, suddenly, "Susie Kilborne! You‘re Susie Kilborne!"
Sue stared back, open-mouthed. Slowly, her eyes widened.
"Tommy? You‘re that Tommy?" They both burst out laughing.
"You two knew each other when you were kids?" Megan said.
"Oh, that‘s just too weird."
"Knew each other?" Sue laughed. "We were dance partners when we were 9! Oh god, Tommy, do you remember that awful, awful, routine she made us do at the spring show?" He groaned. "I wish I could forget it. Every time I hear "The Songbirds of Spring", I get sick to my stomach." He made a face, but couldn‘t hold it, and laughed. "Gods, Susie, I just remembered that dress she made you wear. With the big pink bow in the back and that blue ... thing ... on the front!" "Remember it? Tommy, I have pictures of me in it." Her eyes widened again. "I have pictures of us at that recital! Do you remember the outfit she made you wear? Those ballet pants!"
"This I have to see!" Megan said, wickedly.
"Oh gods." Tom groaned. "You have pictures? Burn them. Please. So help me, Susie, if I see those pictures posted on the ship‘s net, I‘ll..."
"Put a spider down my back?"
Unexpectedly, Tom blushed, and looked down at the table.
"Jeez, I was just a kid. That‘s what little boys do to little girls." "And what do big boys do to big girls?" Sue asked with an innocent look.
Tom coughed, and his face grew flushed. He cleared his throat and said, "They ask them to dance. Come on, partner, let‘s have another dance for old times‘ sake." He rose gracefully to his feet and whisked Sue away to the dance floor. "Oh my stars and garters." Jenny said with delight. "Do you know, that‘s the first time I‘ve ever seen Tom Paris at a loss for words. He may have met his match."
"They do make a good looking couple." Janeway said. "Mmm." Megan agreed. "He‘s absolutely dishy. I could just eat him up. If he‘d let me."
"Oh, Meg, stop pouting and get over it already." Jenny said, rising to her feet. "He‘s made it perfectly clear he‘s not interested. There‘s still plenty of other fish in the sea. Like Rollins over there. Let‘s go steal him away from Henley." The sisters left. "Dishy?" B‘elanna fumed. "Like Tom‘s a piece of meat, or something!"
"Jealous, B‘elanna?" Chakotay teased.
"Me? Jealous? Don‘t be ridiculous. Why would I be jealous?" She gulped down the rest of her drink and slammed the glass on the table. "I just don‘t like to hear them talking about him like he‘s..."
"What, B‘elanna? Single, unattached, and available?"
Chakotay said with a grin.
"Forget it. Come on, Starfleet, let‘s dance." She pulled Harry to his feet with a growl, leaving Janeway and Chakotay behind, chuckling.
Harry and B‘elanna were almost done with breakfast by the time Tom showed up the next morning. He looked to be in good spirits, and waved to to them when he saw them sitting in the corner. Harry even thought Tom was going to sit down with them, when Jenny and Megan burst through the door. "Tom!" they said, in unison, and surrounded him, laughing and chattering. The club was a big success, and it had been their idea, originally, so they were basking in the glory. They pulled him over to sit with them, and mere minutes later, Sue Nicolletti walked in, carrying a big box.
She headed straight for Tom‘s table, and Harry and B‘elanna were able to overhear the conversation without much difficulty. "I rummaged through all my stuff last night before I went to sleep and I found a whole box of pictures! You won‘t believe the stuff that‘s in here, Tommy. Look at this!" She pulled a picture out with a flourish and waved it in front of his face. Tom grabbed it and studied it for a minute, then made a disgusted face and put it face down on the table.
"Hey, I want to see that." Jenny said, and made a grab for it. Tom held it up in the air, over her head, but then Megan started tickling him and he couldn‘t hold her off and keep Jenny away from the picture at the same time, and after much laughing and shouting the picture was passed around the table. "Oh, Tom, those tights!" Jenny said, laughing so hard she had tears streaming down her face.
"Thanks so much, Susie." Tom said, pretending to glare at Sue. "What else is in that box?" He snatched it out of her hands and rummaged through it, triumphantly picking out one particular shot. "Aha! Here‘s that awful dress!" Sue started shrieking with fake anger and tried to get the picture away from him, but he held her off easily, laughing, and passed the picture to Megan, who took one look and burst out in hysterical giggles. Harry and B‘elanna, looking on, were feeling a little bit left out, when Janeway and Chakotay came strolling in. Almost touching, B‘elanna noted abstractedly, most of her attention still focused on the raucous table by the window. "What‘s going on over there?" Janeway asked, seating herself comfortably next to Chakotay, across from Harry.
Harry responded glumly, "Oh, Sue Nicolletti found some pictures of when she and Tom were kids together at that dance studio. I guess they‘re pretty funny."
"What‘s wrong with that, Ensign?" Chakotay asked, slightly distracted by the loud giggles coming from behind him. "Nothing." Harry said unconvincingly. He paused. "It‘s just that ... oh forget it, it‘s stupid."
Sue now had one picture held high in the air, and she was running around the table, being pursued by Tom. "Dammit, Susie, that‘s not fair, I was only 8 years old!" She shrieked as he almost caught her and sped up, but she slowed down around the curve and he tackled her. They both fell, laughing, to the floor, where Megan pounced on them and grabbed the picture to see what the fuss was about. When she got a good look at it she started laughing so hard she fell down too. Harry was drumming his fingers in irritation on the table. "Come on, B‘ela, let‘s get out of here. Our shift starts in 10 minutes."
"All right, Starfleet. Let‘s go."
Chakotay and Janeway smiled at each other over their coffee, but couldn‘t help but overhear Harry‘s bitter comment to B‘elanna, "It sure looks like he doesn‘t need our help, B‘ela. Guess he‘s found himself some new best friends." B‘elanna patted his arm sympathetically and led him towards the door.
END PART 6
"This is ridiculous." Janeway thought with exasperation. She said as much to Chakotay, sitting across the table, trying to force down Neelix‘s latest concoction.
"I know," he said, grimacing. "It‘s barely edible." "What?" she said, confusion evident in her voice. She followed Chakotay‘s gaze to his plate, and shook her head. "No, not the food! The situation with Tom Paris. It‘s ridiculous." "What‘s ridiculous about it?" he asked, without much interest. "He spends all his time with the Delaneys and Sue Nicolletti, and he barely talks to Harry and B‘elanna anymore. I don‘t think he‘s sleeping; he‘s hardly eating—he must have lost 15 pounds since we got back from Helvast, and he was too thin before then—his uniform looks two sizes too big. He‘s not concentrating on the bridge, Tuvok says his response time at the conn is down by 5%. Nothing to really worry about, but still ..." Chakotay cocked an eyebrow at her. "Seems like you‘ve been keeping pretty close tabs on your favorite hotshot pilot." Janeway answered, a bit angrily, "Not any moreso than I‘d do for any member of this crew." She retreated a bit. "O.k., maybe that‘s not true. It‘s just that, I feel a bit responsible for him. And I can‘t help wondering if this isn‘t somehow my fault." "Your fault?" Chakotay wondered. I will never understand women, he sighed internally.
"Yes. Ever since B‘elanna and Harry told me about Tom‘s poor relationship with his father, I can‘t stop thinking about it. He was fine before we were stranded on Helvast, then I told that stupid story about my time on the Al Batani, and he had those nightmares." She took a sip of coffee. "Then, last night, at the club, I mentioned Captain Paris again, I guess I wasn‘t thinking, and I realized B‘elanna was right, Chakotay. Tom‘s whole face turned to stone. It was almost frightening." "Two comments, if I might, Captain."
"One, I don‘t think Tom was fine before we were stranded. He hasn‘t been himself since we got him out of the Akritirian prison. I don‘t think he‘s been sleeping well since then; he had dark circles under his eyes for weeks before the crash, and, if you recall, he was edgy the minute he realized we were going to have to spend a couple of nights down there. I think he knew he was going to have nightmares, and was afraid we were going find out about them. The nightmares and the scar."
Janeway grinned. "Seems like you‘ve been keeping pretty close tabs on our hotshot pilot yourself." Chakotay acknowledged it with an apologetic smile. "He is our best pilot." He paused. "Anyway, comment two. If you‘re feeling guilty, why don‘t you talk to him about it? Apologize, if you think you have to."
"An excellent suggestion, Commander. I knew there was a reason I picked you as my first officer."
"Oh, and here I was thinking it was because the Maquis would have mutinied if you hadn‘t." They both laughed, and finished their coffee.
An uneventful shift was dragging on forever. Tom couldn‘t wait for it to be over. He was itching to get back to the gym. He was holding on, just barely, and it seemed the only two places he could find any peace anymore were the gym and the club. The gym, where he could throw himself into a workout so hard he couldn‘t concentrate on anything other than the weights. The club, where the music was so loud he couldn‘t hear himself think, where Susie and he could dance until he was ready to collapse. It didn‘t help the nightmares, unfortunately; they were still coming a couple of times a night, but at least his dreams weren‘t intruding on his days anymore. He‘d tried to do something about the nights, he‘d even reluctantly gone to see the holodoc, but he‘d tried the prescribed sleep aid for one night, and when he‘d started dreaming, he couldn‘t wake up, and when he finally did wake up he was already in the middle of a panic attack so severe he could barely breathe. Even with the medicine, it had taken him over an hour to calm down, so he‘d given up on sleep aids. He‘d given up on dinner, as well, since he was just throwing it up every night, and now he was hungry all the time, and losing even more weight. He ate breakfast with Sue and Meg and Jenny every morning, because he simply couldn‘t bring himself to sit with Harry and B‘elanna so soon after waking, with the dreams still so fresh in his mind, and the two of them always looking like they wanted to have a ‚serious‘ discussion. No way. It had been a big mistake telling them anything; he‘d wanted them to leave him alone but now they were always breathing down his neck. "Mr. Paris? Are you with us?"
Shit. "I‘m sorry, Captain. I was just thinking about something."
"Obviously. Please try to keep your attention on the conn while you‘re on duty."
"Yes, Captain." Shit. "I‘m sorry, Captain." "No harm done, this time. Just don‘t let it happen again, Lieutenant."
"Yes, ma‘am. Did I miss an order, Captain?" "No. I just asked if you would join me in my ready room when your shift was over."
"Of course, Captain." Uh oh. What‘s this all about? Tom spent the rest of his shift worrying about the upcoming meeting. Finally, finally, finally, the next duty shift arrived. He briefed the relief officer on conn conditions, stood up, and followed the Captain into her ready room.
"Sit down, Mr. Paris."
Uh oh. She‘s got that serious look on her face. What‘d I do now? He sat down, uneasily, his fingers drumming nervously on his leg. He waited for her to speak, and noticed that she seemed to be having trouble getting started. Shit, this isn‘t going to be good news, whatever it is.
"Lieutenant." Janeway took a deep breath. " Tom. I can‘t help but notice that you‘re not yourself lately." "I‘m fine, Captain." Tom said automatically. "No, you‘re not. You‘re not sleeping enough, or eating enough, for that matter. I‘m afraid this is somehow partly my fault."
"Your fault, Captain?" What the hell was she talking about? "Yes." Janeway looked away for a minute, seemingly trying to collect her thoughts. "It‘s been brought to my attention that you and your father ... didn‘t get along, and I‘m afraid that I‘ve—" "Excuse me, Captain," Tom interrupted, with an edge to his voice, "but who told you I didn‘t get along with my father?" "I don‘t see that it matters, but it happened to be Lieutenant Torres."
"Uh huh." Tom controlled his voice, barely. "I don‘t suppose Harry had anything to add?"
"Not too much, Tom." Janeway looked up and for a second, a brief instant, saw a terrible rage fill Tom‘s eyes, and grip his body. Then it was over, and she saw him, with a visible effort of will, relax the tension from his muscles. It was a disturbing display of control.
"Captain, begging your pardon, but I don‘t think my relationship with my father is any of your concern." Goddamn them, I can‘t believe I trusted them! Fuck it, I knew I shouldn‘t have. What were you thinking, Tommy? Damn them damn them damn them, they made you trust them! A white-hot anger filled his insides, driving out every other emotion and thought. No way could he sit here and have a civil conversation with Janeway. He barely managed to choke out the words, "May I be dismissed, Captain?"
Sensing that further discussion would be useless, Janeway nodded her head. She watched Tom leave with an uneasy feeling she couldnÆt shake off.
Tom strode furiously out of the ready room. Damn them, damn them, damn them. I canÆt believe I was so stupid! I canÆt believe I fucking trusted them, I let myself believe I could trust them. Goddammit, itÆs their fault for making me trust them; no, itÆs my fault for letting myself believe them but I will not make that mistake again! TomÆs conscious mind was swirling out of control in wild angry bursts of thought. Underneath it was a rage he hadnÆt allowed himself to feel in years, an anger lurking just beneath the surface which heÆd hidden away and tried to ignore, but which had never really disappeared. He walked blindly into the turbolift, ignoring the curious stares from the crew on the bridge, and didnÆt even hear himself asking "Computer, location of Ensign Harry Kim."
Harry was actually enjoying his dinner. Voyager had some precious stores of actual Earth grain, which Kes had painstakingly cloned and cultivated in the hydroponics bay. Neelix, under careful direction, had cooked some pasta, real pasta, not that awful hair pasta, and Harry was savoring every last noodle. He was sitting with Megan Delaney and Sue Nicolletti. Lately, the only chance he had of talking to Tom was if he was with TomÆs new friends, so heÆd taken to eating with them whenever possible. Tonight was a perfect opportunity, since although BÆelanna didnÆt get along too well with Megan, she was stuck in Engineering and wouldnÆt be around for dinner.
"So tell me, Nico, whatÆs Tom Paris really like in bed?" Megan was pumping Sue for details, HarryÆs presence not at all a deterrent.
"I wish I could tell you." Sue said glumly. "He wonÆt touch me. HeÆs being the perfect gentleman." She pushed the food on her plate around with her fork. "I canÆt believe it! He chased after me for so long, and I wasnÆt interested, and now that I want something to happen, he wonÆt even set foot inside my quarters. ItÆs very ... frustrating."
Megan sighed in agreement. "I know exactly how you feel."
HarryÆs communicator beeped. "Janeway to Kim."
"Go ahead, Captain."
"I thought you should know. Tom left my ready room a few minutes ago. He seemed a little—upset. He might be looking for you or BÆelanna."
"Understood, Captain. IÆll keep my eyes out for him." Harry clicked off his communicator, feeling ridiculously pleased, totally misreading JanewayÆs comments. Tom was upset and was looking for him? So he finally wanted to talk. It was about time! As if on cue, Tom walked through the doors. If Harry had been looking for it, he would have seen the set to TomÆs jaw, the stiffness of his body, his hands clenched into fists. Harry rose to greet him, then blinked with surprise as he found himself on the floor, his jaw aching. Tom had hit him!
"Tom, what are you—" He stopped speaking as Tom pulled him roughly to his feet, only to punch him again, hard, right in the face. Harry heard a sickening crunch and knew his nose was broken.
Tom pulled him to his feet again and shook him. "You made me trust you" he ground out. Harry saw the fury in his friendÆs eyes and recoiled as if heÆd been struck again. The room had fallen silent; everyone was frozen as if unable to move. Tom shook Harry again. "You made me fucking trust you! Do you have any idea how hard that is for me? I thought you were my friend, you and your fucking girlfriend B‘ela; I canÆt believe I was such a fucking idiot." Tom was shaking with rage. "Just stay away from me from now on, the both of you. I donÆt ever want to talk to either of you again."
He threw Harry down to the table and spun around to leave. Harry managed to gasp out, "Tom!" and Tom whirled around as if heÆd been struck.
"Are you deaf or just plain fucking stupid? What‘ll it take to convince you? I have to break every goddamn bone in your body?" He pulled Harry up and hammered him once, hard, in the kidneys, then dropped him, leaving Harry on his knees, coughing and gagging.
Less than a minute had passed since Tom walked in the room. Commander Chakotay, who had been sitting a few tables away, finally leapt into action. "Security team to the Mess Hall." he shouted, tapping his communicator badge a mere instant before he started speaking. He grabbed a hold of TomÆs arm, and pulled him off of Harry.
Tom stared dangerously into his eyes. "DidnÆt I warn you not to ever touch me again?" His voice was low and controlled. Chakotay had just enough time to think to himself, oh shit, before he was reeling under a flurry of blows. Come on, Chakotay, it hasnÆt been that long since you trained in hand-to-hand, he thought, trying desperately to defend himself from the onslaught, and he managed somehow to land one weak punch in TomÆs midsection.
Tom didnÆt even flinch, if anything it made him even more angry, and he continued the assault with renewed vigor. Chakotay could tell he was severly overmatched, and concentrated on protecting his vital organs from TomÆs punches. Finally, thank the spirits, Tuvok and a team of two other security officers sprinted into the Mess Hall. In a flash, Tuvok had pulled Tom off the Commander.
"Lieutenant, please restrain yourself." he commanded. He readied his hand on TomÆs neck to perform a neck pinch if necessary.
Not thinking, just reacting, Tom twisted out from Tuvok‘s grip and whipped around, and Tuvok found himself, to his surprise, pinned against the wall. "DonÆt try your fucking Vulcan magic tricks on me, Lieutenant." Tuvok couldnÆt understand it; he was unable to break the pilotÆs hold. This situation was extremely ... illogical. He was stronger than the human. "This isnÆt your fight, Tuvok. DonÆt make me hurt you." Tom threatened as Tuvok tried to free himself. His arm pressed against Tuvok‘s throat.
The other two officers, stunned for only a minute, closed in. Chakotay, from his vantage point on the ground, wasnÆt able to see too much of what followed, but in only a minute or so, it seemed, it was all over. And it was Tom who was walking away unharmed, and the security team who was lying, broken and bleeding, on the floor. Chakotay dragged himself over to Tuvok, who appeared to be unconscious. "Will someone call the Doctor?" he rasped out hoarsely. Gods, but his ribs hurt. Megan Delaney was the first out of her seat, a mere heartbeat later. She tapped her comm badge. "Medical emergency in the Mess Hall." she said, a little shakily. "5 to beam directly to Sickbay. Lock on to Lieutenant Tuvok, Commander Chakotay, Ensign Kim, Crewman Potter, and Crewman GÆtenda and energize."
The sparkling lights of the transported filled the room seconds later, and whisked the injured officers and crewmen away. There was silence in the Mess Hall for another 30 seconds or so, before an excited buzz burst throughout the room. Megan collapsed into the seat next to Sue Nicolletti, who hadnÆt moved since Tom walked in the door. "Maybe itÆs a good thing you never got him in bed, Nico," she said, trying to muster some false cheer. "Looks like he might like it a little rough." Sue looked at her blankly, and dropped her head in her hands.
"What the hell happened?" Janeway said angrily. 5 of her crew in Sickbay? She paced around the room furiously. No one was talking yet, and the Doctor had shooed her to the waiting area while he and Kes worked on the worst of the injuries. "Tom Paris happened, Captain."
Janeway turned to find Chakotay leaning against a wall looking pale.
"He came tearing into the Mess Hall like the hounds of hell were at his heels, walked straight over to Harry Kim, and attacked him. I tried to pull him off, but he turned on me. When the security team got there, he fought them all off. IÆve never seen anything like it; I doubt thereÆs a scratch on him." He rubbed his ribs and grimaced. Nothing wrong but some bruises, so the Doctor had moved to him to the end of the treatment queue. Janeway stared at Chakotay for a minute, then said, "Computer, location of Lieutenant Paris."
"Lieutenant Paris is in his quarters."
Janeway tapped her comm badge. "Security, I want a detail assigned to confine Lieutenant Paris to quarters. Put at least 4 guards outside his door, armed with phasers." "Aye, Captain." came the disembodied answer.
BÆelanna stormed into the room. "Where is he? IÆll kill him! Chakotay, are you all right? WhereÆs Harry? Is he o.k? WhereÆs Tom? IÆm going to break his nose and show him how it feels!"
"I see youÆve heard about the ... incident, Lieutenant."
Janeway said dryly.
"Heard about it? ItÆs all over the ship! WhereÆs Tom?" "HeÆs in his quarters, BÆelanna." Chakotay said. "There are 4 security officers outside his door. HeÆs not going anywhere." "Captain?" the Doctor queried, walking over. "Mr. Kim wishes to speak to you." Janeway nodded, and walked to the treatment bay, closely followed by Chakotay and BÆelanna. With relief, she saw that Tuvok was sitting up, and that Potter and GÆtenda were conscious and aware.
"Mr. Kim, what happened?" Janeway asked, laying a hand on his arm. Kes had repaired the worst of the damage to HarryÆs nose, but it was still swollen and bruised, and needed another pass with the regenerator.
"ThatÆs what I was going to ask you, Captain. When you called me, you said Tom was upset when he left your ready room. I hadnÆt spoken to him all day, then he just came flying in and came at me. Can I ask what you were talking about?" Oh dear. Janeway had been dreading this. As soon as sheÆd heard Chakotay mention Tom‘s name, she knew, just knew that sheÆd triggered something with her unsuccessful attempt at an apology. She supposed Harry deserved the truth, after all, heÆd just had his nose fractured by his best friend, and it was her fault. Janeway began a little slowly, "IÆm sure youÆve seen that Tom hasnÆt been himself lately. I was feeling guilty about it. After what you told me about his relationship with his father, I felt I needed to apologize for any comments I might have made that upset him. I was afraid that something I said might have caused him emotional distress."
"I donÆt see why that would have made him go attack Harry."
BÆelanna said, impatiently.
"IÆm getting to that. In retrospect, perhaps I shouldnÆt have phrased it this way, but I told him that IÆd heard he didnÆt have a very good relationship with his father. I never got any farther than that. He stopped me immediately and wanted to know who IÆd heard it from." Harry and BÆelanna exchanged wide-eyed glances.
"Oh no." BÆelanna whispered. "I forgot about that conversation on Helvast. That was before -" She shifted gears. "You told him you heard it from us?"
"I didnÆt see any reason to lie."
"Shit." Harry whispered, looking down. It was the first time any of the others had heard him swear. He stared at B‘elanna, a frantic look in his eyes. "He thinks we broke our promise, B‘ela. He thinks we told her."
"Damn." she said, quietly. "No wonder he broke your nose."
Janeway looked from one to the other of them, confused.
"What promise? What‘s going on here, B‘elanna? Harry?"
"Tom ... told us some stuff, Captain." Harry said, hesitantly. "About his ... relationship with his father. He made us promise not to tell you, or anyone. Ever. He made us swear it. So of course we promised, and we haven‘t told anyone, but now he thinks we did."
"I see." Janeway pondered the situation for a moment. "I can understand that he might have been upset by his interpretation of events, but that‘s no excuse for him to attack you, Harry. And certainly no excuse for an assault on Chakotay and a security team." She made up her mind, swiftly. "I‘m going to talk to him and find out what the hell‘s going on."
"Are you going to punish him, Captain?" B‘elanna asked quietly. Her whole demeanor had changed since she had stormed into Sickbay; she was quiet and pensive, visibly upset. "I can‘t very well let such behavior go unpunished. I suppose I‘ll have to put him in the brig for a time, and confine him to quarters when he‘s not on duty for a few weeks after that." "Isn‘t that a little too harsh, Captain?" Harry pleaded. "I‘m not going to press charges. I just need a chance to explain to him that we didn‘t lie to him, that he can still trust us..." "I‘m sorry, Harry. I can‘t dismiss this sort of behavior lightly. This is a small ship, and I can‘t afford to set that kind of precedent for leniency." She turned decisively and headed for the door. "I‘m going to go see him. Chakotay, if you‘re feeling up to it, you should come with me."
"Captain" the Doctor interjected..
"Yes, Doctor?" Janeway said impatiently, itching to be out and moving.
"If you don‘t mind, I‘d like to come with you and examine Lieutenant Paris. The most severe injuries here have been dealt with; Kes is capable of treating the rest." "Commander Chakotay said Lieutenant Paris wasn‘t injured." "Commander Chakotay is not a trained physician, Captain." the Doctor said disapprovingly. "Besides, Mr. Paris has a certain medical condition which may have been aggravated by this incident, and I would like to check up on it." "What kind of condition?"
"I‘m afraid I can‘t tell you without his permission, Captain."
"I see." Janeway mused silently for a minute. "Very well.
Come on, then."
END PART 7
Tom was pacing around his quarters restlessly, unable to calm the still rapid beating of his heart, unable to think with the blood pounding in his ears. Dammit, Tommy-boy, you could have killed him, you should have killed him, no, it‘s Harry he‘s your best friend but he lied to you. So what if he did it‘s your fault you never should have trusted him even if he promised he might have meant it at the time but you never should have trusted him it‘s your fault, not his.
He slammed his fist into the wall over and over but it didn‘t help; the ache in his hand couldn‘t mask the ache in his heart. He felt betrayed, like he hadn‘t felt for years, not since after the accident oh shit why was he thinking about that now, it wasn‘t going to help any...
Tom woke up, groggy, in unfamiliar surroundings. He was lying in a bed, in a white room. Where the hell am I? He tried to sit up, but pain filled his abdomen and made him gasp. A subtle beeping began to fill the room, and in response, a man walked through the door.
"Good, you‘re awake. How are you feeling, Tom?" "Doctor Cafferty?" Tom tried to focus. Was he back in the hospital? He didn‘t remember his father coming to visit, but couldn‘t imagine why else he‘d be in the hospital. "Yes, it‘s me, Tom. I can‘t say I‘m happy to see you again. I thought you were going to try to stay out of trouble." "I am trying." Gods, his throat was sore. "Could I have some water?"
"Of course." Cafferty tapped a few buttons on the wall, and a minute later a young attendant delivered a glass of water. "Drink slowly, Tom. You‘ve been on feeding tubes for over a week, so your body needs time to adjust."
Tom nodded. He was familiar with the routine. After a few sips, he throat started to feel a little better, and he was able to ask, "Doc, what am I doing here? Why am I back on Earth?" "You‘re not on Earth, Tom. You‘re still on Caldik Prime.
Your father called me in from San Francisco to take care of you. What do you remember about the accident?" At Tom‘s blank look, Dr. Cafferty continued, "Do you remember the shuttlecraft flight?"
Suddenly, without warning, Tom remembered. A funny reading on the subspace sensors, an unplanned detour to check it out, a gravity well overloading the impulse engines, explosions rocking the shuttle, light and fire and pain and screams... "The others," he gasped. "What happened to the others? There were 3 other officers in the shuttle with me."
Dr. Cafferty looked away for a minute, then looked back, his expression stoic. "I‘m sorry Tom. They didn‘t make it. Their injuries were too severe."
"No, oh no, they can‘t be dead, they can‘t be. It was my fault, I shouldn‘t have gone off course like that, it was my fault, Doc, they can‘t be dead!"
Cafferty gave him a funny look. "Relax, Tom. You‘re confused. The accident wasn‘t your fault. The shuttle was pulled off course by a subspace fluctuation."
"What? No, that‘s not what happened. I saw something on the sensors, I went to check it out—" "Shh. Don‘t get worked up." He looked towards the door and nodded. "Tom, your father‘s here. He wants to talk to you." Tom‘s spirits sank. What was he doing here? He‘d never bothered coming to the hospital before. "O.k." he said glumly. If the bastard was really here, he was going to have to talk to him sooner or later. Shit.
Dr. Cafferty left, and Admiral Gene Paris walked into the room, shutting the door behind him. He looked down at his son in the bed, and grimaced disapprovingly. "Looks like you‘ve really fucked up this time, Thomas."
"I know." Tom felt himself getting tense. Relax, Tommy- boy, he‘s not going to hit you here, you‘re already in the hospital. "Fortunately, I was able to take care of it, but I won‘t be around to cover your ass all the time, Thomas. Next time, try to follow orders."
"What are you talking about? What do you mean, you took care of it?" He stared at his father, a terrible suspicion forming in his mind. "Doc Cafferty said the shuttle was pulled off course by a fluctuation in subspace; that‘s not what happened. What did you do?"
"I said I took care of it. The report‘s already filed. You don‘t have to do anything except rest up and heal." As far as Gene was concerned, the topic was closed. He moved on. "I‘ve talked to Captain Kleinman. After you finish your tour here, you‘ll be transferring to his ship as Second Officer, stationed at the conn." "You filed the report for me? A false report? It was an accident, Dad. I shouldn‘t have changed my heading without authorization, but the explosion wasn‘t my fault. They won‘t blame me for it. It‘ll just be a reprimand for going off course like that." No, Starfleet wouldn‘t blame him but he would blame himself, forever and always, they wouldn‘t be dead if it wasn‘t for him...
"Don‘t argue with me, you little shit." Gene was getting mad. Tom recognized the look and shivered. "Maybe you‘re not smart enough to understand the consequences of your actions, but I am. You will not have an incident like this staining your permanent record. The report‘s been filed. Leave it alone. Don‘t disobey me, Thomas."
Tom nodded, mutely, blankly. He wouldn‘t disobey his father, he never did. The consequences were too terrible to be contemplated, he‘d learned that the hard way. Gene Paris left without another word. It was the last time he would ever speak to his son.
Tom was released from the hospital three days later. He went back to his barracks, to the room he‘d shared with his co-pilot Christopher, and stood just inside the doorway, unmoving, for almost an hour. They‘d cleared out all of Chris‘s stuff already. Gods, he couldn‘t do this. He couldn‘t live like this, live this lie. It was his fault, and no one knew it, and they were all smiling at him and comforting him and telling him how lucky he was to have survived, when he shouldn‘t have survived at all, it should have been him who died, not them. He had to tell the truth, he had to, or he‘d go crazy.
He went to his CO and started to explain. When Tom had gotten halfway through his story, when he‘d finished explaining what had really happened on the shuttle, the officer had looked at him in disgust and said, "Coward. You filed false reports?" and ripped off his rank pips and called for security to lock him up in the brig. There hadn‘t been a chance then to explain that it hadn‘t been him, but his father who filed the reports; in the brig he realized that no one would believe him anyway. So Tom stayed silent, and never said a word when they court martialed him and threw him out of Starfleet, never said a word when his father disowned him and forbade the rest of the family to talk to him, never said a word when the newsies started hounding him, trying to find out what made him do it. He escaped to France, and lost himself in Paris, deep in bottles of Sandrine‘s best whiskey. Finally, out of money and with nothing better to do, he left Earth and flew freighters in exchange for passage to the Demilitarized Zone to fly for the Maquis. At least he could still fly. They hadn‘t been able to take that away from him. Not for a few weeks anyway; not until his first assignment when ‚Fleet security showed up and captured him...
He came back to his senses, gasping. No no no, the nightmares, the memories, they weren‘t supposed to get him like this, not during the day. Shit, he couldn‘t even breathe, and his stomach was lurching and he was going to throw up but he couldn‘t breathe and couldn‘t move so how could he make it to the bathroom?
He didn‘t. Fuck. All over everything, his clothes, the floor, the bed. He wanted to clean himself up, clean the room up, but he still couldn‘t breathe, his pulse was racing, getting faster, not slower, and his body was starting to shake. Shit, this was really, really bad, he needed a hypo but he couldn‘t walk, he was shaking so much. Tom collapsed to the floor, sitting with his back to the bed, his knees pulled up to his chest and his arms wrapped around his legs. Dimly, the sound of the door chime rang in his consciousness. He couldn‘t answer, couldn‘t even think about answering, could only concentrate on getting one gasping breath after another into his burning lungs.
Outside, Janeway chimed the door again, impatiently. When the door still didn‘t open, she chimed her comm badge. "Janeway to Paris." No answer. "Computer, override door lock, authorization Janeway Alpha-4."
"Authorization confirmed." The door slid open. Janeway strode in, and wrinkled her nose in distaste at the smell. She stopped short at the sight of Tom huddled on the floor, and called over her shoulder with some urgency, "Doctor?" The Doctor came in next to her, took in the situation at a glance, and was at Tom‘s side in an instant. "Medicine, Lieutenant. Where is your medicine?"
Tom shook his head, weakly. He couldn‘t talk. The Doctor shook his head in aggravation. He‘d only brought a tricorder with him, no supplies, he hadn‘t thought he‘d need them. "Is it in your dresser, Lieutenant?" Tom shook his head. The tremors were getting worse. "The bathroom?" Tom was barely able to nod agreement. "Commander, will you please check in the bathroom for a hypospray?"
Chakotay disappeared into the bathroom and reappeared a moment later with a hypo in his hand. "Is this it?" The Doctor took only a brief look at it, before shaking his head. "No. But leave that here." Chakotay went into the bathroom again while the Doctor scanned the hypospray with the tricorder. He made disapproving clucking noises with his tongue. Chakotay came back, with a second hypospray. "Is it this one?"
The Doctor nodded his head, grabbed the hypo, and injected Tom with it. "Now then, Lieutenant, head between your knees, breathe slowly, let‘s just take a few slow deep breaths." Tom tried to comply, but it was so hard. His lungs were complaining about the lack of oxygen and he just wanted the burning feeling to go away.
"I said slowly, Mr. Paris. It won‘t help matters any if you continue to hyperventilate." He scanned Tom with the tricorder and considered for a minute before injecting Tom with a second dose of the medicine. "That should help." He watched dispassionately for a few minutes until Tom‘s shaking had died down, and his breathing returned to normal. "How do you feel?" Tom laughed, weakly but sarcastically. "What d‘you expect? I feel like shit." He wiped his shirt off absentmindedly, and looked down when he felt the wetness. "Shit, I‘m fucking covered with this. What a mess."
"Yes." the Doctor agreed. "We need to talk, Lieutenant. The level of medication remaining in these hyposprays is much too high. You haven‘t been taking your medicine in the dosages we agreed on."
"I didn‘t agree to anything."
"You said you would take the ostiapropine regularly." "I said I‘d take it when it got bad, and I have been. This one just snuck up on me. I was fine one minute, and the next I couldn‘t breathe."
"What about the sleep aid?"
"I didn‘t like it." He looked at his clothing in disgust. "D‘you mind if I clean up and change my clothes? This uniform is pretty awful."
The Doctor turned at looked at Janeway. "It‘s not my decision, Lieutenant, although I don‘t see why the Captain would mind."
Tom looked up, realizing for the first time that there were other people in the room. Shit, she‘s been here the whole time. Chakotay too? Wonderful. Fucking wonderful. The Captain nodded, and Tom grabbed some fresh clothing and disappeared into the bathroom to change. When he got out, the Doctor was gone, and the Captain and Commander were seated on the couch, waiting for him. Shit, he really wasn‘t in the mood for this. "I can pack up some stuff in 5 minutes, Captain." "Excuse me?"
"To take with me. You are going to throw me in the brig, right?" He had brought some damp towels from the bathroom, and was attempting to clean up the mess he‘d made. "I was planning on it. Before. Now I‘m not so sure. The Doctor tells me you‘re sick."
"You mean crazy." He sank down into the chair opposite the couch.
"No, I mean sick. In need of medical attention. He said you‘re suffering from a hormonal imbalance that requires a treatment regimen, but you haven‘t been taking the medicine properly." She thought for a minute. "He said you‘ve been taking it reactively, not proactively."
"Uh huh." Tom wasn‘t impressed. "*He* can take that shit every day. I won‘t. It fucks up your brain and your body. It‘s bad enough I have to take it a couple times a week; I‘m not getting hooked on shit like that again."
"Language, Lieutenant." Chakotay reprimanded.
Tom said, "Sorry" even though he really wasn‘t.
Janeway continued, "I‘m not sure what to do with you, Tom.
You just put 5 of my crew into Sickbay."
"Don‘t be too impressed, Captain. None of them could fight for shit." He grimaced. "Sorry. I mean they couldn‘t fight very well. Sorry, Commander, but it‘s true. None of you would have lasted a week in New Zealand."
"Not even Tuvok?" Chakotay asked, unsure why he was bothering to encourage this pointless conversation. Tom laughed. "Especially not Tuvok. Fuck, he‘d be dead by the end of the first day. That neck pinching shit really annoys the other prisoners." At Chakotay‘s irritated look, "Oh, sorry, I‘ll try not to swear so much."
Janeway waved it away. "Look, Tom. I‘m worried about you.
You‘re just not yourself lately, and—"
"What?" She was irritated at the interruption but let it go. "I am myself, lately. I wasn‘t before, that‘s all. I tried it for a while, I really did. I tried to be who you all wanted me to be, but it‘s not working. I can‘t do it anymore." Chakotay and Janeway looked at him curiously. He sighed. "Look, I know you want to think I‘m some great success story; you got me out of prison and gave me a second chance and now I‘m this model officer and all, but that‘s nothing but a load of bullshit to sell to the kids. I hate to be the one to tell you this, Captain, but once they put me in prison, they should never have let me out. I don‘t deserve to be here." "You are here, though, Tom." Janeway said, too startled at the turn of the conversation to make any sensible rebuttal. "And despite what you apparently want to believe, you have been a model officer for most of this journey. I think it‘s your illness that is making the difference, and that the illness can be controlled." "I don‘t want to take that medicine, Captain. You can‘t force me to."
"You‘re right; I can‘t. But I can give you a choice. Take the medicine, as per the Doctor‘s orders, or spend the next two weeks in the brig, and the following month on restricted duty." "Some choice. Fuck." He said it absently, staring out the window. "Oh. Sorry." He turned back to face them. "Do I have to decide right now?"
"Yes, I‘m afraid so. The crew needs to know that the situation is under control."
"You mean, that I‘m under control."
Janeway ignored it. "I talked to Harry and B‘elanna in Sickbay."
"Oh, really. How nice for you." Tom looked away again. "They think you‘ve misinterpreted the situation. They didn‘t break their promise to you, Tom." His gaze flew to her face, searching for the truth in her eyes. "They told me about your father over a month ago. On Helvast. All they said was that you didn‘t get along with him. Anything else you might have told them since then has remained private, Lieutenant. I know nothing of it."
Tom glanced over at Chakotay, but found nothing there to contradict what Janeway was saying. "So you‘re telling me I busted Harry‘s nose for no reason?"
"Essentially." Chakotay said dryly.
"That‘s just great. Makes my whole fucking day just a little bit better. God, I did it again. I‘m sorry. Once I get started it‘s hard to stop."
"As in so many things, Lieutenant. Try to keep that language off the bridge, will you?" Tom nodded his acquiescence. "What do you think about taking the medication?" "It‘s either that or the brig, right?" Janeway nodded firmly. "If I say I‘ll take it, what will you tell the crew? If they find out I‘m on drugs, they‘ll think I‘m some kind of fu--, umm, some kind of basket case."
"I won‘t tell them anything, Tom, except that the situation has been handled. I‘ll have to place you on restricted duty for two weeks, regardless. I can‘t let you get off with no visible punishment."
"No. I guess you can‘t." He looked at Chakotay. "What would you do?"
"You‘re asking my opinion?"
"Yeah. Why are you so surprised?"
"I thought you hated me."
Tom blushed and looked away. "I never said—" "You didn‘t have to."
"I don‘t hate you, Commander. It‘s just that, sometimes, you remind me so much of my father that I kind of, well, I kind of freak out about it."
"Oh." Chakotay digested this. "I‘m sorry. If you can tell me what it is I do that disturbs you, I‘ll try not to do it. As for this particular decision, if it were me, I‘d swallow my pride and take the medicine."
"Why?" Tom appeared to be genuinely interested. "I‘m a little bit claustrophobic. I‘d go crazy if I had to stay in the brig for two weeks."
"Really? Now I‘m even more convinced, you‘d never last in New Zealand. If we ever get back, try not to get convicted, o.k.?" "O.k."
Tom sighed, and addressed himself to Janeway. "All right, Captain. You win. I‘ll take the damn stuff. For a while. Just don‘t expect me to be my usual witty self." "I‘ll try to keep my expectations sufficiently low, Mr. Paris." She got up to leave. "I‘ll expect you on the bridge at 0800 hours tomorrow, Tom. You‘re not to be out of your quarters except when you‘re on duty for the next two weeks." "I understand."
"I‘ll contact the Doctor about setting up treatment for you.
He‘ll be monitoring you to ensure you follow his instructions."
"Yeah, I figured. You know, it‘s not a hormonal imbalance."
"Your illness? Perhaps the Doctor over-simplified it for us." "No, that‘s not it. He can‘t talk about it without my permission. Doctor-patient confidentiality and all." "Oh." Janeway didn‘t know where this conversation was going, but she sat back down.
"The medication is for panic attacks. I get them a lot. They can be pretty ... debilitating." His voice was musing, distracted. "According to the Doc, it‘s fairly common for abuse survivors." "Abuse survivors?" Oh no. Janeway was afraid to hear what came next, and glanced at Chakotay for support. He was staring at Tom, barely breathing, barely moving. Tom, for his part, was sitting in the chair, staring at the far wall. "Yeah. Harry and B‘elanna, they saw the scars, got me on the way out of the shower. I‘d never have told them otherwise. I thought if I told them the truth, they‘d leave me alone, but it didn‘t work. They were hounding me worse than ever. Guess I should be more careful when I bathe."
"The scar on your back?" Chakotay whispered. "Yeah, that‘s one of them. Not the worst, but it‘s the hardest to hide. I‘ve gotten pretty good at it over the years, but sometimes... well, you know how it can happen, you saw it by accident too."
"Who?" Janeway asked, quietly, although she already knew the answer.
Tom didn‘t answer directly, but asked another question.
"How well did you know my father, Captain?" "I thought I knew him fairly well. As well as anybody else on the mission." She thought to herself, it seems I didn‘t know him at all.
"Did he ever get mad at you? Yell at you?"
"I‘m not surprised. I wouldn‘t have thought so. He liked you."
"He yelled at you?" The room had gotten incredibly quiet. Janeway would have sworn she could hear the warp drive humming.
"I told you when we first met, Captain, my father only accepts the best and the brightest. Unfortunately, I wasn‘t either." There was no pain in his voice, just a terrible matter-of-factness. "So he yelled at you -- -- he hurt you?"
"Yeah. It‘s not like I didn‘t deserve it, I was a real fuck-up. I never did anything right. Poor Dad, he wanted a son he could show off and got stuck with me instead. He tried to teach me, but it didn‘t take, I couldn‘t learn to be good enough for him, I couldn‘t learn to be someone I wasn‘t. When I screwed up, he‘d have to punish me. I guess he just got carried away sometimes." He took a deep breath. "Anyway, the Doc says that‘s why I get panicked. I don‘t know what triggers it. It can be anything, really, ‚though usually it‘s just someone talking about him. Makes me think he‘s waiting around the corner with the belt, ready to teach me a lesson. Most of the time I can stop it before it gets too bad, but sometimes it gets out of control. Kind of ironic, really; it‘s his fault I get these attacks, but if he knew I was taking medication for them, he‘d think I was even more of a fuck-up. A real head case."
"Surely you don‘t believe that those beatings were your fault." "Why shouldn‘t I? They were. He never hit me without a reason." His eyes were reflective. "So anyway, I also have this other problem. Probably related. Sometimes I get really angry, and it‘s just like one of the attacks. Gets out of control. Usually I can quench it, but sometimes it‘s too much, and I go a little nuts. Harry‘s lucky I only broke his nose. In prison, I once knifed a guy for looking at me funny." He gave a half-smile at Janeway‘s startled expression. "Oh, don‘t worry. He survived. Starfleet didn‘t saddle you with a murderer without telling you, Captain. It doesn‘t happen very often, anyway. This is the first time since we‘ve been out here that I haven‘t been able to keep it in check. I should probably get Tuvok to teach me how to control my emotions a little better, then maybe it wouldn‘t happen at all." "Tom..." Janeway whispered.
"Oh, I know, I shouldn‘t have told you. It‘s not fair that you have to be weighted down with all my shit, but I figured it would be better if you understood why I acted like I did." He paused for a few seconds. "I thought you should know. You know, it‘s kind of interesting; it really wasn‘t so hard telling, this time. It was much worse telling Harry and B‘elanna."
"They want to talk to you." Janeway remembered belatedly.
"Should I send them here?"
"No. I don‘t want to see them."
"But, Tom, I told you that they didn‘t tell me anything. Don‘t you believe me?"
"Yes, of course. I still don‘t want to see them."
"I don‘t understand. They won‘t understand." "I can‘t help that. I don‘t want to see them. I can‘t. Maybe ... maybe someday. Not now. Please, Captain."
"Very well, Lieutenant." Janeway was disappointed, but unwilling to push Tom any further on the issue when he was still so obviously fragile. "Let‘s leave him alone, Commander."
Outside, in the hall, Janeway instructed the security crew to reduce the guard detail to two people, and to escort Tom to and from the bridge for his duty shifts. Meals would have to be provided by the security team as well. When she was finished with these mundane details, she motioned to Chakotay to follow her back to Sickbay. He still needed some medical attention. Chakotay followed her, slowly, lost in thought. Janeway needed to talk. "It‘s unsettling, Commander. I thought I knew Gene Paris. I can‘t believe I was so utterly wrong about him." She shook her head in disbelief. "I feel much worse, Captain. I thought I knew Tom Paris, and I was completely wrong about him. I thought he was spoiled, shallow, and self-centered. I thought he‘d been handed everything he ever needed in life and he just threw it away without a second thought. Do you know, I even thought he‘d had it easy in prison? I automatically assumed he was in some minimum security lock- up, pampered because of his father‘s connections." " I could have told you that you were wrong there, Commander. I first met him in the maximum security facility. The place looked nice, parks and all, but a prison is still a prison. You could tell as soon as you set foot inside the security gate. I wish you could have seen Tom then, Chakotay. He put on this arrogant face, like he had to consider whether or not to accept my offer, but you could read it in his eyes—he was terrified I‘d say I didn‘t want him. I knew even then that if I got him out he‘d do everything in his power to avoid going back." "But you took him with you anyway."
"We needed him. I had no other choice. Truthfully, I really didn‘t think it was my problem."
Chakotay absorbed this silently. Then, "Do you know what frightens me the most, Kathryn?"
"That I remind Tom of his father. That he looks at me and reads something in my eyes that reminds me of that ... monster. Am I that unforgiving?"
"You don‘t appear that way to me."
"I wish I didn‘t appear that way to Tom."
END PART 8
Tom was watching an old televid, one of his favorites, when door chime rang. Hmmm, too early for dinner. A visitor? Not Harry or B‘elanna, hopefully. He‘d had to get rid of them three times in the past two weeks, and now that he was going off restricted duty tomorrow, he was worried he wouldn‘t be able to avoid them for too much longer.
The door chime rang again. Oops, he hadn‘t answered it. "Come in" he called out, turning off the vid. Commander Chakotay walked in the room. Tom was surprised; Chaktoay never came to his quarters.
"What can I do for you, Commander?"
"Nothing. I just came to see how you were doing." Chakotay seemed ill-at-ease, pacing around the small living area. "Have a seat, Commander. Don‘t worry; I‘m not going to hit you." Tom tried an apologetic smile that didn‘t make it past his mouth. Gods, he was tense already, and the man hadn‘t even said anything yet.
"I‘m not worried." Chakotay gave a weak grin back. "There are still two security guards outside your door." He perched uneasily on the edge of the couch. "The Doctor says you‘ve been taking your medicine regularly. How are you feeling?" "Oh, just great, Commander." Not as bad as he would have thought, actually. When he‘d expressed his concern to the Doc about getting hooked on the drugs, the hologram had just snorted, and said, "I would never prescribe an addictive drug for you, Lieutenant. Do you really think I‘m that ill-informed?" So Tom took the doses he was supposed to; he had no choice really, since the Doc was monitoring the ostiapropine levels in his blood daily. The sleep aids were a different matter altogether. He‘d tried them again, once, and had the same problem as the first time. Forget that! Instead, every night he dutifully emptied one dose into the air, just in case the Doc thought of checking the level of medicine remaining in the hypo.
Chakotay asked casually, "No more panic attacks?" "Not recently." No, the drugs seemed to be taking care of the attacks. Too bad they weren‘t doing anything about the nightmares, they were still coming two or three times a night, and they were getting worse. More intense, more vivid. Left him feeling even more shaken and sick. Eating dinner continued not to be a viable option. Chakotay was looking at him curiously. "I think the medicine is really helping." Tom said firmly. "Good. That‘s good." Chakotay‘s eyes wandered around the immaculate room some more. He was obviously trying to work up the courage to say something, but didn‘t know how to start. "Look, Commander, is there something you want to say to me?"
"Is it that obvious?"
"Frankly, yes." He fixed Chakotay with his steady gaze. "Dragging it out isn‘t going to help matters any; you‘re just making us both nervous."
"I suppose." He fidgeted. "O.k." He paused. "O.k. then.
Look, I‘ve been thinking about what you said, last time I was here.
I need to know ..." He stopped.
"Yeah?" Tom prompted.
"It‘s just that you said something that upset me, and I need to deal with it."
"Uh huh." Tom replied, skeptically. "So which thing was it?"
Gods, this was taking forever.
Chakotay finally looked directly at him. "You said I reminded you of your father."
"Oh." Tom looked away. Shit. Did I say that? Idiot. "I wouldn‘t have thought that was bad, before. I never met the man, but I respected Captain Janeway‘s opinion of him. Now, after what you told us, I—" He stopped, again, then forced himself to continue, "I can‘t stand to think that I treat you like he did."
"Relax, Commander, you don‘t. You don‘t beat on me, and you don‘t yell. Not usually. "
"Then what is it? I just...have to know, Tom. I can‘t sleep." Join the club. Tom sighed. "You really want to know, Commander? You won‘t like it."
"It‘ll be better than not knowing."
"Maybe. Oh, I don‘t know, it‘s stupid." He breathed in shallowly, then continued at Chakotay‘s hesitant nod. "When I first met you, in the Maquis, the way you looked at me, it was like you‘d heard all about me and you‘d already decided I was a fuck- up, I‘d always been one and I‘d always be one." Chakotay gave Tom a startled look. "You never actually said it in so many words, but it was in your eyes. You looked at me the same way my dad did. Sometimes you still do." He looked away, out the window. "It‘s like nothing I ever do will be good enough for you, the way nothing was ever good enough for him." Chakotay didn‘t say anything. He sat back in the chair, staring at Tom with a stricken expression on his face. "I told you, it‘s dumb. I know that. You‘re not like him. It‘s just that—I can‘t help it sometimes; you get that same look in your eyes that he used to have, like I‘m the galaxy‘s biggest screw- up, and it‘s all you can do not to -- -- -- Oh, forget it. I‘m an idiot. I shouldn‘t have said anything."
"You‘re not an idiot."
"Yeah, I am."
"No. You‘re not. You‘re right. You‘re right about me. Gods, I‘m sorry, Tom. I didn‘t realize ... I guess I thought you wouldn‘t notice. I tried to hide it, from you as well as from myself. " Now it was Tom‘s turn to be silent. The expression on his face was unreadable, the perfect mask.
Chakotay felt a desperate need to explain. "I saw the newsvids when they forced you out of Starfleet. I resented you, even then. I thought you were this spoiled brat who could have had everything you ever wanted, just by reaching out your hand. Then you just threw it all away, threw away your Starfleet career, when that was all I‘d ever wanted, and I couldn‘t have it, I had to save my home... I hated you for just giving it up." Tom gave him an inscrutable look. Chakotay winced. "I‘ve probably got that story wrong too. The more I get to know you, the less I can believe you would have falsified reports, not without a damn good reason, anyway." He shook his head, and tried to get back to the topic. "When you joined the Maquis, I didn‘t trust you. I figured you were slumming, waiting for your father to come and get you. Gods, Tom, if you could have seen yourself. Attitude up to here!"
He made a chopping motion at his neck.
Tom nodded. " I remember. I was pretty awful." "Then you got caught, on your first mission no less, and I thought you‘d just been careless, like before. You‘d gotten in trouble again, only worse this time, and maybe we‘d been lucky to get rid of you when we did. I didn‘t take it seriously, your trial, because I figured you‘d end up in some country club minimum security playground. I was sure your father would pull some strings, make sure you‘d get a cushy work assignment, good reviews, then parole after a couple of years." Tom shuddered, almost imperceptibly, and looked away. "I know, I was wrong about that too. Then when I saw you on the bridge of Voyager, and realized they‘d let you out of prison to help hunt us down, I thought you were a weakling and a coward. I hated you some more. Even when you saved my life, I assumed you had some ulterior motive." He stood up, too restless to stay on the couch. "Then we got stuck out here, and everything changed. Captain Janeway obviously trusted you, and as her First Officer I felt it was my responsibility to trust you too, or at least to treat you fairly. I think I was able to treat you fairly, but I guess I just couldn‘t bring myself to do the trusting part." Chakotay stopped pacing and turned to look directly at Tom. "So, you see, you were right after all. I probably did have that look in my eye. I did think you were a screw-up. It‘s even possible that nothing you did would have been good enough for me. That‘s over now. Can we wipe the slate clean, and start fresh? No preconceptions?"
"Jeez, I don‘t know, Commander. Sure, I‘d like to, but," Tom felt his face get red, "hell, I get nervous every time I see you. I‘m always half-afraid you‘re going to beat the shit out of me." Chakotay laughed. "If there‘s one thing I‘ve learned in the past few weeks, Lieutenant, it‘s that I have no chance against you in a fair fight. You‘d eat me alive. I don‘t think you have anything to worry about." He grinned. "Just try not to piss me off so much. Keep the smart-ass comments to yourself every once in a while, o.k.?"
"Aye, aye sir." Tom gave a mock-salute.
"I‘ll see you on the bridge at 0800 tomorrow, Lieutenant."
"I‘ll be there with bells on. Sir."
Chakotay grimaced, and let himself out. Tom stared after him thoughtfully for a few minutes, then shook his head and turned the televid back on. Too much deep thought late at night gave him a headache.
"I can‘t do this."
"Sure you can. Come on, Paris. We‘ll all walk in together."
Megan gave him a gentle pat on the shoulder.
"No, I can‘t go in there. Everyone‘s going to stare."
"No they won‘t." Jenny said.
"Yes they will. I can‘t do it."
"Come on, Tommy, just take a deep breath and go in. We‘ll be right next to you." Sue added, reasonably, "You do need to eat. And I know you don‘t have any replicator rations left."
"Have you been peeking at my account again, Susie?" "Just to see if you had enough for me to challenge you to a pool game. Which you don‘t. Now come on, you‘re just putting off the inevitable. Let‘s go in."
"What if Harry and B‘elanna are there?"
"What if they are? We don‘t have to sit with them if you don‘t want to." Megan was getting impatient, and hungry. "I don‘t want to sit with them. Everyone‘s going to be watching to see if I punch him again."
"Are you going to punch him again?" Sue asked.
"Well, then, there‘s nothing to worry about." "Come on, Paris, we‘re starving!" the Delaneys said in unison, and they pushed him towards the Mess Hall doors. He gave in, and entered cautiously. Conversation died down for a second, but when Tom made his way to the serving area without punching anyone, the buzz picked up again, and the curious glances turned away.
"See, that wasn‘t so bad." Megan said comfortingly, as she sat down across from Tom. "Everyone‘s gotten over it, Paris. They‘re more interested in Freddie Bristow."
"Why? What did he do?"
"Didn‘t you hear?" Jenny giggled, sitting down next to her sister. "After B‘elanna slapped him, he turned his affections to Donna Henley. He‘s been following her around like a puppy dog. She can‘t stand it. There‘s a pool running on when she‘s going to slap him, and how much damage she‘ll inflict when she does it."
"Shit, you‘d think he‘d have learned his lesson with B‘elanna, and go after someone a little less ... dominant." "You‘d think so," Megan said, "but you‘d be wrong." The conversation stayed light and gossipy, and Tom tried very hard not to look over in Harry and B‘elanna‘s direction. It was a relief when they finally left, without coming over to talk to him.
Outside, in the corridor, Harry and B‘elanna stared at each other bleakly. "I can‘t take it anymore, B‘ela. He knows we didn‘t tell the Captain anything. Why won‘t he talk to us?" "I don‘t know, Starfleet. But I‘m tired of waiting to find out.
Let‘s go." She pulled Harry down the corridor after her.
Long night. The club was still up and running, and Susie, Meg, and Jenny had insisted Tom come with them. Tom went, reluctantly, but ended up having a good time. Hours later, happily exhausted, Tom came back to his quarters. The door swished open, and Tom blinked at the unexpected light. He always turned the lights off when he left.
"Hi, Tom." B‘elanna‘s soft voice greeted him. Oh shit. "You know, most people wait outside my quarters."
"We figured if you saw us, you‘d leave."
"You‘re probably right." Fuck it, he was going to have to have this conversation one day or another. He‘d been putting it off for over two weeks, might as well get it over with. Tom plunked down in the chair, across from Harry and B‘elanna on the couch. "So what‘s on your minds?"
"Why have you been avoiding us?" Harry asked directly. "We told you, we didn‘t tell Captain Janeway anything." "I know you didn‘t."
"Then what is it? Tom, we just want to be friends again. This -" Harry waved his hand around vaguely, "this situation, with us, it‘s awful."
"It‘s better this way, don‘t you see? The two of you have each other now. You don‘t need a third wheel."
"Third wheel? What, are you jealous?" B‘elanna said, incredulously. "*That‘s* what this is all about?" She looked at his face closely. "I don‘t believe you."
"I can‘t be jealous? My two best friends find true love, and I‘m left out in the cold?"
Harry laughed lightly. "I think you‘re getting ahead of yourself, Paris. B‘elanna and I, well, I don‘t think true love is how we‘d describe our relationship."
B‘elanna agreed. "Harry and I just sleep together sometimes. A little bit of fun, Tom, that‘s all it is. You can‘t be jealous of that; you said you swore off sex."
"I don‘t think that precludes my being jealous." "This is all bullshit, Paris. Even if you are jealous, that‘s not the real problem." B‘elanna wanted to make sure the conversation didn‘t stray too far off course.
"Who made you ship‘s counselor, Lieutenant?" Tom asked, trying for a grin and failing miserably. B‘elanna didn‘t answer. She and Harry looked at Tom and waited.
"Oh all right. I‘m not jealous." Sure you are, Tommy-boy, but let‘s not get into that now. "I just need a little space. The two of you are my best friends. The best I‘ve ever had, you know that?" Harry allowed a small smile to touch his face. O.k, this wasn‘t so bad. At least Tom thought they were still friends. "When I thought you‘d told the Captain all that stuff, I felt—shit, I can‘t even describe it to you. It was awful. It hurt, worse than anything else has for a long time. Understand?" Harry thought he was starting to. "You felt betrayed."
"No, no. Gods, I‘m fucking this up." He took a deep breath. "It‘s just that, I usually try to keep a certain ... distance between me and the rest of the galaxy. Like a forcefield. I figure if I don‘t let anybody get too close, they can‘t hurt me. Do you understand?" He fidgeted uncomfortably. He‘d never tried to put this in words before, and he was afraid it was coming out sounding stupid. "No." B‘elanna answered. "W hat are you saying, Tom?
We‘re getting too close to that barrier?"
"Sort of." This was hopeless, he‘d never be able to put it in words. "No." He sighed. "No, I‘m saying you‘re already on the other side."
"Oh." Harry said. Then light dawned. "Oh, I get it. That‘s what you meant when you kept saying we‘d made you trust us." "Right. I haven‘t trusted anybody in a long, long time. And when I thought that you‘d broken your promise, I was mad as hell at you, but I was more angry at myself. For being stupid enough to trust you."
"But we didn‘t break our promise." B‘elanna said, reasonably. "Doesn‘t matter. I hadn‘t realized, before, how close I‘d let you become. Don‘t you see, I can‘t risk that, I can‘t let it stay like that. When you let people get too close, you only end up getting hurt." He shook his head. Fuck it, this sounded ridiculous, but it didn‘t change the way he felt.
"We won‘t hurt you, Tom." Harry swore.
"We‘d never do anything to hurt you, Tom."
"You can‘t promise me that. I can‘t, I just can‘t risk it." "So where does that leave you?" B‘elanna asked. "You end up with a lifetime filled with acquaintances but no real friends. You push us away, and spend your days with the Delaneys and Sue Nicolletti? Then when they get too close, you push them away too?"
Tom was silent for a minute. "You make it sound pretty pathetic."
"It is." B‘elanna smiled. "You‘re going to have trouble with Sue, anyway. She‘s falling for you."
"What? No, she‘s not. I figure she‘s the safest one on the ship for me to hang around with. I pretended to chase after her for months; she was absolutely not interested." "That was before she knew you were her little friend Tommy from dance class. Haven‘t you seen the way she looks at you? She‘s falling hard."
"B‘elanna‘s right, Tom. Sue and Megan were talking at lunch one day, oh yeah, it was right before you broke my nose," pointed pause, "and Sue is definitely interested. She‘s trying to figure out a way to lure you into her cabin."
"Well, shit." Tom looked out the window, disgusted. "Don‘t you see, it‘s not going to work. You can‘t keep everyone away forever." Harry tried to make his voice sound reasonable.
"I can try."
B‘elanna fumed. "That‘s just plain stupid, Paris. We won‘t let you get away with it. Voyager‘s too small a ship. You‘re stuck with us as friends, whether you like it or not." Tom brooded for a minute, then broke into an unexpected smile. It lit up his whole face. "I never had anybody try so hard to keep me as a friend. It‘s kind of nice." He relaxed back into his chair. "O.k., you win. I‘ll stop avoiding you, if you‘ll stop cornering me in my quarters for these long, serious conversations."
"It‘s a deal." Harry said, and grinned. He squeezed B‘elanna‘s hand with relief.
Tom noted the squeeze, and reflected, "I wasn‘t completely lying before. I am jealous of you two."
"Paris, we told you it‘s just for sex." B‘elanna sighed. "If it bothers you that much, you can join us one night." Or as many nights as you want.
"That‘s a good idea," Harry added, trying hard to keep the enthusiasm out of his voice. "Maybe it‘ll make you feel better." Tom‘s face lost most of his color, but he tried hard to keep his expression neutral. "Gee, thanks, that‘s a really ... generous offer, but, you know, like I told you, I don‘t do that anymore." Stop thinking about it, Tommy-boy. They‘d never hurt you like that, they didn‘t mean it that way.
B‘elanna couldn‘t keep all of the disappointment out of her voice. "I promise you‘d like it, Tom. It‘d be fun." Tom didn‘t say anything, and B‘elanna decided not to push it. "Think about it. If you ever change your mind—decide you want to try it—just let us know."
"Sure." Tom agreed, nervously. "I‘ll think about it." No way in hell. Not now, not ever. A yawn caught him off guard. "Computer, what time is it?"
"The time is 0245."
"Shit." Tom said. "It‘s late. I have to be on duty at 0700 tomorrow; we‘re running checks on the nav controls." "All right, we‘ll leave you alone." Harry rose from the couch. "I‘ll see you on the bridge tomorrow. Maybe we can play some pool at Sandrine‘s tomorrow night?"
"Why, you have extra credits you‘re looking to give to me?"
"I‘ve been practicing, Paris. B‘elanna‘s been giving me a few pointers. Maybe you‘ll be giving me the credits." "In your dreams, Harry. Now get out and let me get some sleep."
They left, and Tom got ready for bed. Sleep, he thought, yeah, right. Or at least a close approximation.
END PART 9
Shore leave. Don‘t ever go on shore leave again, Tommy-boy.
It‘s just asking for trouble.
"How is she?" Harry asked, nervously.
Chakotay finished scanning the Captain with the tricorder and snapped it shut glumly. "Not good. She‘s contracted some sort of virus through the wound in her leg. If these readings are correct, it will tear through her system in less than 6 hours." "How long until Voyager comes back?"
"They‘re supposed to rendezvous with us tomorrow evening." "Too late for me, Commander." Janeway rasped hoarsely, her eyes fluttering opening.
"Captain, you‘re awake."
"You‘re very observant, Harry. Help me sit up, please. If I only have 6 hours left to live, I‘d like not to waste it by lying down. Where are we?"
Since the question was directed at him, Chakotay answered. "Some sort of prison. There was a coup at the palace. Looks like we‘ve pulled our famous trick of wandering into the wrong place at the wrong time."
"What‘s the guard situation like?"
"Four of them. One of them would be enough. They‘re armed with something that looks like phaser-compression rifles. They‘re also huge—must be over 7 feet tall."
"Resting, or trying to. He‘s not doing too well. Ever since they threw us in here, he‘s been getting more and more agitated." "Oh dear. I want to talk to him."
"Captain, you should really rest."
"Is it going to help any, Chakotay?"
He looked away, then shook his head. "No. You need antibiotics, or some kind of medicine."
"That‘s what I thought. Please call Tom over here."
Tom came as beckoned, and looked at Janeway‘s pale face. The panicky fluttering in his stomach increased. Oh gods, no, she can‘t die. She can‘t. I won‘t let her. "Captain. I‘m glad to see you‘re awake."
"Tom, Chakotay tells me you‘re getting upset. I don‘t want you to let this beat you, do you hear me? Consider it an order." "Yes, ma‘am." He looked away, anywhere but at her face. "You need medicine, Captain. We told the guards, but they ... just laughed. Said we‘d need to pay for it, but we don‘t have anything they want."
"It‘s o.k., Tom. We‘ll think of something." "Uh huh." Something? No, there‘s only one thing. Only one currency to trade in when you don‘t have anything else. It will work, they‘ll trade for it. Guys like them, they always will, I‘ve seen it too many times before. He‘d been trying to think of other options, but there weren‘t any, he knew what he‘d have to do and gods he didn‘t want to but he‘d have to do it, he wouldn‘t let her die.
Tom forced down his rising panic, and tried to call up the fake calm of his prison demeanor. Act like you don‘t mind, like they can‘t hurt you. Act like it‘s just another deal. Come on, Tommy-boy, you can do it.
He rose and started for the guards. Chakotay pulled at his arm. "Where do you think you‘re going, Lieutenant?" "To make the best deal I can. We need that medicine, Commander."
"We‘ve been over this. We don‘t have anything to trade." "Sure we do." Tom took a deep breath. As Chakotay watched, his whole body relaxed. He started walking towards the door, no, swaying would be a better description. He was eyeing the guards with a certain look that Chakotay couldn‘t define. Suddenly, the Commander realized what was going on. He performed a quick intercept.
"Absolutely not, Lieutenant. I will not allow you to ... do this.
We‘ll find another way."
"There is no other way, Commander. We need that medicine. I won‘t let her die, not when I can save her. No one else is dying because of me."
"Sit back down, Lieutenant. That‘s an order." Tom looked at him regretfully. "Guess you‘ll have to court- martial me when we get back, Chakotay. Sorry." He tried to shake off Chakotay‘s arm, but the Commander wouldn‘t let go. "You said yourself you can‘t beat me in a fair fight, Chakotay. Don‘t make me prove it. I can take out both you and Harry if necessary, but I don‘t really want to." He stared at Chakotay rigidly, until the Commander released his hold. "See you later" he whispered, and turned for the door.
Jesus. Chakotay sat back down on the floor shakily. Janeway had already lost consciousness again.
"What‘s Tom doing?" Harry whispered.
Chakotay answered reluctantly. "He‘s trying to make a trade for some medicine."
"I don‘t understand. We don‘t have anything they want." "Tom doesn‘t seem to think that‘s the case." His eyes tracked the pilot‘s progress across the room. Tom was moving as smoothly as if he were dancing, almost as if he were gliding across the floor. His eyes were focused intently on the alien guards. When he reached the first one, he pulled his head down to whisper in his ear, and ran a finger slowly across his jaw. It was like a seduction ritual, Chakotay realized, sensual and erotic. "Gods, Commander," Harry gasped, finally catching on.
"You can‘t let him do this."
"I tried to stop him, Ensign. He wasn‘t interested in what I had to say."
"But you don‘t understand! You don‘t know..." Harry trailed off. He couldn‘t tell, even now, he couldn‘t tell. He shivered. "I don‘t know what this will do to him, Commander. I‘m afraid." "I know. Me too."
Across the room, the four guards were raking their gazes up and down Tom‘s body, and grinning at each other. One reached out to grab him by the shoulder. Tom pulled away, and shook his head. When he spoke, his voice carried across the room. "Uh uh. I‘m not going anywhere with you until I know we have a deal."
"Maybe we don‘t want to deal with you, little alien. Maybe we‘ll just play with you for a while."
"I suppose I couldn‘t stop you. But think how much better it would be if I went willingly. I guarantee you‘ve never felt anything like it." Tom pushed his body up against the tallest of the guards, and moved sensuously against him. His hands were moving to places that Harry and Chakotay couldn‘t see, but could imagine. Tom‘s voice dropped too low for them to hear as he murmured something to the guard.
The alien growled, and pushed Tom back. They were both breathing heavily. "Do we have a deal?" Tom asked, his voice low and husky.
No answer for a few long seconds as the guards exchanged looks. Suddenly, the tallest one ground out, "Yes. But you‘d better be worth it."
"Don‘t worry," Tom laughed, "I will be. Trust me." The guard grunted, and unlocked the door to the cell, pushing Tom out in front of him. The other three aliens took up their positions again, laughing and joking with each other. Harry felt sick. "Commander, I can‘t stand it. He‘s in some room right now, with that guy, and he‘s going to ... to ..." he broke off when he realized he couldn‘t bring himself to say it. "It was his decision, Ensign."
Harry looked at him, startled, and Chakotay could see the anger in the younger man‘s eyes. Chakotay pleaded silently with him to understand. What else could he have said? What else could he have done? He couldn‘t physically restrain Tom, even if he wanted to. Chakotay finally looked away, unable to stand Harry‘s voiceless accusations.
Chakotay and Harry waited silently for Tom to return. The guard returned first, smiling, and motioned for one of the others to take his place. He gathered his cronies around, their conversation filled with crude gestures punctuated by lewd noises. Harry felt sick to his stomach.
It was hours later when they finally brought Tom back, and by that time all of the guards had left the room twice. Tom walked across the cell unsteadily. His uniform was ripped, although mostly still in one piece, and his face was bruised. He looked like a zombie, Harry thought, uneasily. Tom came over to the Captain. She was awake, but her fever was increasing. "Captain, I got you some medicine." He held out one shakey hand, holding a small vial. "Come on, drink this. It‘ll make you feel better."
"Wait a minute, Lieutenant." Chakotay ran a quick scan on the contents of the vial. It was antibiotics, all right. "It‘s o.k." Tom snorted. "Of course it‘s o.k. After that performance, they ought to have given me a whole fucking pharmacy." Janeway managed to swallow the liquid, and leaned back with a sigh. She got her first good look at Tom. "Mr. Paris, what happened to you?" She‘d mostly been sleeping during Tom‘s absence.
"Nothing that can‘t be fixed, Captain. Why don‘t you rest now?"
She peered at him worriedly, but she was so tired, it was hard to keep her eyes open. Tom didn‘t look right, though, there was something wrong with him and it was very important she figure out what it was... Janeway fell asleep.
Once he was sure she was asleep, Tom moved away from her, away from Harry and Chakotay. He slid down the wall, wincing when he landed in a sitting position, and pulled his knees up to his chest. Without a word, he wrapped his arms around his legs and put his head down to his knees. After a minute or two, he began to rock back and forth, slowly and rhythmically. Harry could hear him talking to himself, or humming, he wasn‘t sure which. There were no discernable words, just a steady droning which rose and fell in volume.
"Tom?" Harry called, softly. No answer. He crept over to where Tom sat huddled against the wall, and touched his arm gently. "Hey, Tom, you o.k.?" Still no answer. Tom didn‘t even raise his head. "Tom, come on, buddy, you‘re scaring me." He touched his arm again, a little more firmly. Tom jerked his arm away, but didn‘t speak.
"Jesus, Paris, look at me for a minute. Come on, it‘ll be o.k."
Harry‘s voice was unconvincing.
No answer for long seconds. Finally, a garbled, "Go ‚way." Harry was unutterably relieved to hear Tom speak. "I just want to make sure you‘re all right."
Tom still hadn‘t raised his head, so his sarcastic laugh was muffled by his arms. He spoke again, "I‘m fine, Harry, just great. You don‘t need to worry about me, it‘s all in a day‘s work." He paused, then said "Please just go away", and Harry would have sworn he heard a sob in Tom‘s throat.
Shit, Harry thought. Is he crying? He looked at Tom, all hunched over, and felt helpless. He didn‘t say anything, and when, a minute later, Tom started rocking again, Harry stood up quietly, and walked back to Chakotay‘s side. Within a few hours, the antiobiotics had taken care of the virus, and Janeway‘s fever broke. She fell into a natural sleep for a little while, then woke up, more alert than she‘d been since they‘d been thrown into the cell. "Chakotay," she whispered hoarsely, "what‘s going on?"
Chakotay turned to her quickly. He‘d been dozing, and hadn‘t noticed she was awake. "How are you feeling, Kathryn?" "Fine," she said, "considering I thought I was dying. What happened to me?"
"Don‘t you remember, Captain?" Harry said groggily, also just waking up.
"No...no, I don‘t think..." she was lost in quiet thought for a second. "I remember, Tom gave me some medicine? No, that must have been a dream."
"No, Kathryn." Chaktoay said quietly. "It wasn‘t a dream.
You‘re remembering correctly."
"I don‘t understand. Where did you get medicine from?"
"The guards." Chakotay said tersely.
"The guards! How did you convince them to help us?" Chakotay and Harry looked at each other, unwilling to lie to Janeway but unable to tell the truth.
"Gentlemen? I asked a simple question." She looked from one face to the next.
Reluctantly, Chakotay answered. "Tom ... made a deal with them."
"Deal? What sort of deal?"
"Captain, please..." Harry said, anguished.
"What‘s going on here? Where‘s Tom?"
"Over there." Chakotay said quietly, indicating with his head the corner where Tom was sitting.
Janeway turned and looked, and what little color had returned to her face drained away. "My dear god." she whispered. "What happened to him?"
"He... he made a deal, with the guards." Harry repeated. "When he came back, he was fine, for a few minutes. After he gave you the medicine, though, he sort of fell apart. It‘s been getting worse and worse. He‘s been like that for a while, now." They all looked at Tom in silence for a few seconds. He had pushed himself as far into the corner as possible, and was still rocking back and forth, but now he was shaking uncontrollably as well. Harry couldn‘t hear it, but he was pretty sure Tom was still humming to himself, too. They hadn‘t tried to talk to him in over an hour; it was after Harry‘s last attempt that Tom had pushed himself into the corner.
"I get the distinct feeling there‘s something you‘re not telling me, Commander. Ensign." Janeway looked at them sternly. "What kind of deal was this? What did Tom trade for the medicine?" When neither Chakotay nor Harry answered, Janeway started getting annoyed. "Perhaps you didn‘t understand me, gentlemen. Let me make this perfectly clear. You will tell me the terms of the deal." She turned to her First Officer. "Commander?"
Chakotay swallowed, hard. "Tom sold them some ... services in exchange for the medicine, Captain."
"What kind of services?" Neither man answered. "I hope you‘re not telling me he gave them technical information. He‘s fully aware of the importance of the Prime Directive in situations like this..."
"No. No, Captain. It was nothing like that." Chakotay interrupted hastily.
"Then what? My patience is wearing thin, gentlemen. Spit it out. That‘s an order. What kind of services did he give them?" "Sexual." Harry whispered, then dropped his head in his hands.
Janeway stared at him blankly for a minute, then whipped her head around to search Chakotay‘s face. He wouldn‘t meet her gaze, and looked down at the ground. "You don‘t mean he—" she whispered, "he didn‘t—" "He did." Chakotay forced his eyes to her face. Her look turned accusatory. "You let him do that? Commander, surely you know I‘d never have allowed him to prostitute himself for me!"
"I know. I tried to stop him, Kathryn, but he was adamant. I gave him a direct order to sit down; he just ignored it. Said I could court martial him when we got back. What could I have done?" Something. Anything. I should have done something to stop this. But then Kathryn would have died, and I‘d have lost her forever. Selfish bastard ... you let Tom sell himself to save her life. You should have done it yourself.
. Janeway‘s communicator chimed. She turned around, hastily, so her back was to the guards. "Voyager to Janeway." Tuvok‘s voice. Just as on Helvast, it was a relief to hear him.
"Tuvok, can you get a transporter lock on us?" A short pause. "Yes, Captain". As efficient as always, Tuvok asked no questions.
"Beam us directly to Sickbay."
"Understood. Tuvok out."
The comforting glow of the transporter beam whisked them away, out from underneath the startled guard‘s noses.
Several hours later, and evening on Voyager. Harry and Chakotay had been released from Sickbay after a cursory exam showed them to be in good health. Janeway had been cured of the virus, but the Doctor requested that she remain in Sickbay overnight for observation. She agreed, reluctantly. They‘d sedated Tom almost as soon as the sparkle of the transporter beam faded away. The Doctor ran diagnostics, took scans, and hemmed and hawed before saying that there seemed to be nothing really wrong, other than some bruising and some vitamin deficiencies. "The beating doesn‘t appear to have been severe enough to cause any real damage, Captain. Lieutenant Paris probably just went into shock. Trauma and fatigue can trigger a regression to an almost fetal stage. He‘ll be fine when he wakes up."
Janeway was relieved, but couldn‘t help feeling incredibly guilty every time she looked at Tom. He looked so pale, lying there on the biobed. She couldn‘t help but ask herself, "Would I have done it for him, if the situations were reversed? Could I really have gone through with it?" No answer was forthcoming. Tom woke up just as Kes was ordering some dinner for Janeway. He sat up slowly, and the Doctor came hurrying over. "How do you feel, Mr. Paris?"
"You‘re always asking me that, Doc." He tried out a grin. "I feel fine."
"Hmmph. You‘re not fine." At Tom‘s startled look, the Doctor continued, "Oh, I cured all the bruises and injuries from your imprisonment. However, I noted some vitamin deficiencies when I ran an overall scan, and I have just finished comparing today‘s exam results from those of your last full physical. Have you any idea how much weight you‘ve lost in the past 6 months?" Tom shifted uncomfortably. "I dunno. A little." Janeway was listening intently, although she was pretending to eat her soup.
"A little? You can‘t be serious. The exact figure is closer to 16 pounds, Lieutenant. I can‘t imagine you were unaware of it." "16 pounds? Really. Well, you know, I‘ve been working out a lot lately. Guess I got rid of some excess fat..." "You had no excess fat to begin with. On your last physical, your weight was already 5 pounds lower than the optimal level for your height and physique. You are getting dangerously thin, Lieutenant. We will have to start you on a strictly controlled diet. Beginning now."
Kes walked over with a tray full of food. "Here you go, Tom. All your favorites. Tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches," she made a face, she couldn‘t understand how Tom could eat the vile things, "and a chocolate milkshake. High in fat. We need to get your weight back up."
"Gee, thanks, Kes, it looks great, but I‘m not really hungry right now, and -" "Lieutenant, you will eat that food, or I will place you on an intravenous feeding tube, and will remove you from duty." The Doctor‘s expression was threatening.
Tom sighed. "All right, no need to get nasty. I‘ll eat it." He started with the soup. Gods, once he started he realized how hungry he was. What a waste, he knew he was just going to throw it up a few hours later. He‘d have rather saved it for breakfast, but try explaining that to the Doc, with Kes and the Captain sitting right there. They‘d find out soon enough, he supposed.
"Tell me one thing, Thomas. Why am I paying for tennis lessons if you‘re just going to lose the match? Can‘t you do anything right?"
"I‘m sorry, Daddy, but he was a lot bigger than me, and I‘ve only been taking lessons for a few months..." "Excuses again! Everything‘s always excuses, Tom, but they don‘t make things better. I won‘t tolerate failure, Thomas." "I‘ll try harder, Daddy. Please don‘t be mad at me."
"Where are you going?"
"Did I give you permission to leave? Did I tell you this conversation was over?"
"No, sir, but I thought—"
"Don‘t think, Thomas, you‘re not smart enough to do it right.
Get over here."
"No, please Daddy, I‘m sorry, don‘t be mad, I‘m sorry..." "I said get over here. Don‘t beg, it‘s humiliating. If you wouldn‘t fuck up all the time, I wouldn‘t have to punish you like this. I don‘t enjoy it, you know."
Liar. "No, please Daddy, don‘t, please Daddy, I‘ll be better, I‘ll be a good boy..."
"That‘s right, blondie, you‘ll be a good boy. Stop fighting us, Paris, you‘ll just make it harder on yourself." "Get the fuck off me, asshole."
"Listen to the ‚Fleet brat curse. Nice mouth, Paris. I can think of better uses for it. Here, do something with this." "Fuck you." Ow.
"Maybe someday, blondie. Hey Gordon, help me hold him down. He‘s acting up again."
"Dumb-ass. When you gonna learn, Paris? Now we have to mark up that pretty face of yours. Tell you what, Mickey, let‘s double-team him. You can have the front, I‘ll take the back." "Sounds like fun."
"Please don‘t." Ow. Shit, I‘m so tired, there‘s too many of them and I‘m just so tired. Fuck, I don‘t want to do this, this guy‘s shoving himself right in my face. Maybe I‘ll just bite it off. Yeah, that would be kind of fun to - shit! Ow ow ow. God this hurts. Fuck, he‘s gonna tear me in two. They really expect me to concentrate on giving a blow job when he‘s ripping me apart? Oh shit, it hurts, I hate this.
Hate this hate this hate this. Hate them. Make them pay for it. Good reviews, best work details, better cell. At least they don‘t beat me up like they used to. Who is this anyway? Oh, it‘s Kristoff. Should have realized. Noisy bastard. God how I hate this. Get this over with now, get the damn credits and trade them for some whiskey, get so drunk I can‘t remember any of it. Let‘s see, he likes it when I do this...ha. You‘re so predictable, asshole. Maybe I‘ll make you scream this time. Let everybody else know that you‘re in here, at my mercy for a change. Here we go, buddy, what do you think about this? Oh yuck. I‘m not cleaning you up, fuckhead, do it yourself. Gods, how I hate this. Hate them. Hate myself for giving in and doing it for them...
0514. The Captain woke, again, to the sounds of retching. She sat up, blearily, and looked at the biobed on the other side of the room. Tom was sitting up in bed, vomiting, and Kes was helping him lean forward, holding a bedpan for him. What was this, the third time tonight? Tom was obviously sick, Janeway worried. He must have contracted the virus also, or some other disease.
"All done, Tom?" Kes said gently, wiping his face with a cool cloth.
Tom nodded wearily. Shit, he thought the nightmares were bad before. Now they were all running together, his father and Caldik Prime and prison; he couldn‘t keep them straight anymore. New scenes were intruding, Harry coming down the chute in the Akritirian prison, B‘elanna split into halves by the Vidiians, Janeway on the ground in the K‘tombi prison. Gods, his life was just one long series of nightmares. His stomach lurched. Oh fuck, not again. "Kes, I‘m gonna..." he managed to gasp out, before he had to clamp his lips shut; and thank the gods she made it to his side in the nick of time.
The Doctor came walking out of the office. "Again?" He made a note in the datapadd he was holding, and picked up a medical tricorder. "This is the third episode tonight, Lieutenant." "Thanks for filling me in, Doc." Tom said, as sarcastically as he could manage with Kes cleaning his face off. "You say it‘s like this every night?"
"I usually don‘t throw up this much, ‚cause I don‘t eat dinner anymore. It seems to help. But yeah, I get the nightmares, and I wake up sick to my stomach."
"Is it always three times a night?"
"No. Sometimes it‘s only two."
"For how long has this been going on?"
Tom had to stop and think. "I don‘t know. A couple of months? No, longer, I guess. It wasn‘t really bad until Harry and I got back from Akritiria. I think being in prison again was bad for my psyche."
"I see. So you were having similar episodes even before that imprisonment?"
"They weren‘t nearly as bad. I didn‘t usually throw up. And the nightmares were only coming once or twice a week." "Do you remember when the nightmares began?"
"I‘ve always had a lot of nightmares. Ever since I was a kid.
I figured I had a particularly vivid imagination." "You have always had nightmares once or twice a week, since your childhood? I find that hard to believe, Lieutenant." "No, that doesn‘t sound right. I don‘t think I did, not that often. I just can‘t pinpoint when they started getting worse. After we were on Voyager, I think. Actually, for a while, they were pretty bad, but before Akritiria, they‘d kind of been getting better." "Why didn‘t you consult me on this before?"
"Jeez, it‘s just some bad dreams."
"And concomitant vomiting."
"So severe that you stopped eating dinner altogether, and lost almost 16 pounds."
"Well, yeah. I guess."
The Doctor looked severely displeased. "I wish you would have consulted me earlier. This sort of sleep pattern is most abnormal." He sighed, the long-suffering martyr. "I‘ll see what I can do for you, Mr. Paris." He turned to go back to his office. "Hey, Doc."
"Can I go to the gym?"
"I don‘t think that‘s wise. Try to get some sleep." Well, shit. Tom lay down grumpily. Why didn‘t I come see you earlier? Because I knew you‘d treat me like a two-year old, that‘s why.
END PART 10
0720. Janeway was up and dressed. The Doctor had cleared her for a full return to duty. She was going to get some coffee with Chakotay before going to the bridge, but first she wanted an update on Tom‘s condition.
"I‘m sorry, Captain, but I don‘t know what the problem is." The Doctor was frustrated. "It doesn‘t appear to be a virus. I can‘t find any irregularities in his neural pathways. It may simply be a psychological problem, but Mr. Paris assures me there is no history of mental illness in his family."
Harry and B‘elanna walked into Sickbay. Together as usual, Janeway thought, musingly. Chakotay followed close on their heels.
The Doctor was continuing. "I believe it would be best for me to keep Lieutenant Paris here under observation until we can determine the cause of the problem."
"Tom‘s sick?" Harry asked, coming up to them. "We‘re not sure, Harry." Janeway replied. "Something‘s wrong with him, but we don‘t know if it‘s an illness or not." "Can we talk to him?"
"Of course." the Doctor said.
Tom was sitting up in his biobed, tearing through some breakfast. Scrambled eggs, toast, pancakes, another milkshake. Yum. This diet thing wasn‘t so bad. It wasn‘t even coming out of his replicator rations.
"Morning, flyboy." B‘elanna said with false cheer. "How are you?"
"Fine." Tom said, shortly. He was trying, he really was, but it was still hard to talk to them, especially when they were together. The familiar panicky feeling started welling up in his chest, and he pushed his tray away.
"The Doc says you‘re sick." Harry mentioned offhandedly.
"Yeah. Still getting those nightmares."
"Oh." Harry was relieved. "I thought—I was afraid you‘d ... gotten something, you know, from the guards." Tom looked at him sharply, and gave a quick glance at B‘elanna. Something he saw there disturbed him, and a shadow passed over his face. He looked down at his hands. When he raised his eyes again, they were impassive and icy. "You told her, didn‘t you? Thanks a lot, Harry."
Uh oh. "Jeez, Tom, I‘m sorry. I didn‘t figure you‘d mind. I only told B‘ela; I wouldn‘t tell anyone else. It upset me, and I needed to talk to someone-" "It upset you? Fuck it. You‘ve got a lot of nerve." Harry was insulted. "I was upset for you, Tom. After what you told us, I know how hard it must have been for you to-" Tom interrupted him with an angry laugh. He stood up, now, and his eyes were dangerous. "What, I tell you a little bit about my life and you think you know me? You don‘t know shit, Harry. " His voice was getting louder, and his stance was threatening. Chakotay and Janeway walked over to see what was happening.
"Come on, Tom, I‘m just trying to say that I understand how difficult it was-" "Oh, shut up already, Harry, you‘re just pissing me off. You‘re such a fucking idiot; you don‘t know anything. You think it was hard for me to fuck those assholes? Or do you think it was getting paid for it that bothered me?"
Harry was trying to back away slowly. "I don‘t know, I didn‘t think about it like that. Both, I guess?"
Tom shook his head in disgust. "You‘re unbelievable. What would you know about any of it? Do you think that was the first time I ever sold myself?" He glared at Harry, then at Janeway. "All those good reviews, all those commendations, the rehab commission was so fucking pleased with all my work. I fucked my way up and down the cellblock for those reviews." He laughed, bitterly. "You know how I got to work in the motor pool? I went down on half the guards and trusties. So fucking those alien assholes to get some medicine was nothing new for me, except that I promised myself that part of my life was over. And you," he focused on Harry again, angrily, "are trying to tell me you understand how I feel?"
B‘elanna spoke up, trying to defuse the potentially explosive situation. "Tom, calm down. Harry‘s your friend. He‘s upset that you‘re hurting."
"Oh really?" He eyed Harry for a minute, then took a step towards him. "I think he‘s upset I won‘t do him." Harry backed away again, horrified. "That‘s it, isn‘t it, Harry?" Tom‘s voice was low and sultry. "You‘re insulted, ‚coz I‘d fuck those assholes but I won‘t fuck my best friend. The thing is, they were paying for it, and you probably couldn‘t afford me." He fixed Harry with his gaze, and it was almost hypnotic. Harry couldn‘t move, couldn‘t breathe. "Tell you what, I‘ll give you one for free. What would you like, Harry, a nice little blow job?" He moved in closer, until he was inches away from Harry‘s face. "I guarantee it‘ll be better than anything B‘ela can do for you. What do you think, Harry? If I suck you off, will everything be all right? Can we be friends again?"
Harry finally came to his senses, and pushed Tom away with a gasp. "Dammit, Tom, stop it!"
Tom turned away with a laugh. "Oh, I forgot, pure, innocent little Harry Kim. You‘d never be with a whore, would you Harry?"
"Stop it; stop talking like that. You‘re not a whore." Tom laughed again, but it sounded forced. "Shit, Harry, what did I just finish telling you? I sold my ass up and down the cellblock." He turned away, and with a sudden twist of his body, sat down on the biobed, and started to shake. "Please just go away. All of you. I don‘t want to talk about this anymore." "Lieutenant." The Doctor‘s voice was low and coolly rational, in stark contrast to Tom‘s angry rants. "You have to talk to someone. You are obviously in need of some counselling to help you to deal with-" "Bullshit. Talking about it doesn‘t change anything. It doesn‘t make it go away."
"No." Chakotay spoke for the first time. "But it can give you a sense of control over your own memories. You control them, instead of them controlling you."
"Too late, Commander."
"Tom." Janeway‘s voice was quietly compassionate. "Let us help you."
"I don‘t want your help. I just want you to leave me alone. I don‘t want to fight anymore." Tom hid his head in his hands. "I‘m so tired..."
"Perhaps it would be better if you all left now." the Doctor said quietly, motioning with his head to the door. He prepared a sedative and injected it into Tom‘s shaking body.
"Stupid little shit, can‘t you do anything right?"
"I‘m sorry, Daddy, I didn‘t mean to..."
"Apologies aren‘t good enough, Tom. They don‘t make things better. They can‘t bring back things that are broken." "I‘m sorry, Daddy."
"You killed us, Tom. We trusted you and now we‘re dead. It should have been you, not us."
"No, Chris, please don‘t be angry, I didn‘t want you to die, you have to believe me."
"You can‘t make it right, Tom; you can‘t bring us back. You fucked-up again, but we‘re the ones who have to pay for it." "I‘m so sorry."
"Shit, those ships are Starfleet! You flew us into a trap, Paris!"
"I didn‘t know they‘d be here."
"You should have known. You grew up ‚Fleet, you know how they think. This is all your fault—we‘re going to rot in some Federation hellhole and it‘s all your fault, you stupid fuck." "I‘m so sorry; I didn‘t know..."
"Get over here, pretty boy."
"Please don‘t make me."
"Come on, you know you want to, you know you deserve it. It‘s the only way to atone for all your sins. And you have so many sins to atone for, don‘t you."
"I never meant to hurt anyone."
"But you hurt them just the same. Come here, Paris, and take your punishment like a man."
Don‘t cry, Tommy-boy, they want you to cry...
"Doctor, he‘s having another nightmare."
"Did you run a neurocellular scan?"
"Yes, here are the results. Should I wake him?" "No. Give him a doze of this medicine. It should put him back into normal sleep without waking him. Hmmm. This is interesting. The neural transmitter levels in his hypothalmus are extremely high. That would explain the intensity of the dreams, although not the frequency. Quite interesting..."
1645. Janeway and Chakotay walked into Sickbay. Tom was sitting up, forcing down some tomato soup. "Kes, I swear, if I eat another mouthful, I‘m going to explode."
"No you won‘t. You need the calories. Eat."
"You‘re a cruel woman."
"Flattery will get you nowhere. Now eat! I want to see that bowl scraped clean. Oh, good afternoon, Captain. Commander." "Hello, Kes." Janeway said with a smile. "Tom, how are you feeling?"
"Better. Stuffed. This is my 8th meal today, though." "Don‘t be ridiculous, Tom," Kes said with a smile. "It‘s only the third, and you barely touched your lunch." "I feel like it‘s my 8th. Can I stop now?"
"No. I want that bowl empty."
"She‘s so mean, Captain. Can‘t you order her to leave me alone?"
"I suppose so, but I won‘t. You do need to gain some weight back." She looked at him critically for a minute. "Your color‘s already better."
"Yeah, well, I slept for a couple of hours before, and I didn‘t wake up even once."
"No nightmares?" Chakotay asked, pleased.
"Actually, the Doc says I had one, but he dosed me with something and it went away. I don‘t even remember it, for once." He looked down at the still half-full bowl and sighed, then swallowed another mouthful of soup. "Commander, if you see Harry, could you tell him I‘m sorry? Seems like I‘m always yelling at him lately. I‘m lucky he still talks to me." "He‘s a good friend, Tom." Janeway agreed. "Better than I deserve. Harry and B‘elanna, both. I‘ve got to thank them. If I can do it without tearing their heads off." He smiled a self-deprecating grin, and forced down another spoonful of soup.
"Ah, Captain. Commander. I‘m glad you‘re here." the Doctor said brightly, joining them. "I have some good news." They looked at him expectantly. He smiled, with obvious self- satisfaction. "I‘ve determined the cause of Mr. Paris‘s nightmares."
"Shitty memories, Doc. I could have told you that." "No. Sorry to disappoint you, Lieutenant. Do you recall when you were false convicted of murder, and alien engrams were implated in your brain?
"I take it that‘s a rhetorical question."
"Yes. At the time, I removed the engrams, and reversed as much of the damage to the neural pathways as I could. Unfortunately, the procedure was not 100% effective, and some residual side-effects remained."
"I did have some nightmares after that. But they went away after a couple of months. And they weren‘t nearly as bad as these recent ones."
"I‘m not finished, Mr. Paris." He gave a disapproving glare, designed to silence Tom. "The Akritirian clamp was designed to encourage the production of acetocolyne, a chemical which stimulates agressive tendencies."
"You said you were able to counteract its effects, Doc." Sigh. "Yes, I did. In Mr. Kim‘s case, I was completely successful. However, in your case, the clamp interacted unpredictably with the lingering damage from the alien engrams. The result was a series of violent and intense nightmares based on some of your unpleasant memories. As in the case of the forced recall of the implanted memories, each nightmare you experienced caused further damage to your neural pathways, which in turn made the nightmare episodes more frequent and intense."
"Oh, that‘s why they kept getting worse and worse. I thought I was just going crazy."
"Hardly." the Doctor said dryly. "Although had you come to me earlier, we might have detected the problem and treated it before the symptoms became so debilitating." "So you can fix it, Doctor?" Janeway inquired. "The damage to the neural pathways can be repaired, at least as much as the first time. I‘ve been studying some alternate therapies in my database; it‘s possible we will be able to repair the damage entirely. I can‘t promise that, but it is possible." He checked the datapadd in his hand. "You still have other problems to deal with, Mr. Paris, that I can not heal." "Oh yeah?"
"Yes. I strongly recommend counselling to deal with the emotional effects of your past. The violent outbursts you‘ve been experiencing lately are not entirely related to your health problems. You need to learn to deal with the underlying feelings of rage."
Tom shifted uncomfortably. "I guess so." Shit. He‘d hoped he could get out of it.
"No guessing about it, Lieutenant. I am going to make it a medical condition of your remaining on duty." "Great. Thanks a lot. When can you start this neural therapy business? I‘d like to get out of Sickbay sometime this century." "I already completed the first session while you were sedated. It appears to have been successful. I‘d like you to come back each day for a week, after you get off duty. I‘ll have to sedate you each time, I‘m afraid. The treatment will be most effective when you‘re dreaming, and the affected area of the brain is active." "Sure. Whatever." Tom looked around Sickbay, getting antsy. "Are you done with me for today? I‘d really like to go work out, then maybe meet Harry and B‘elanna for dinner, see if I can explain this all to them."
"Finish your soup first, Lieutenant." The Doctor ordered firmly. "Then you‘ll be free to go."
2000 hours, in the dance club. "So you‘re going to be o.k.?"
"Supposedly. I don‘t know; it‘s hard to imagine sleeping without nightmares. I can‘t remember the last time I made it through an entire night. It was months ago." He looked around. "The Doc can‘t erase all my shitty memories, though. Too bad." "Try to remember the good ones, Tom, and the bad ones won‘t seem so overwhelming." B‘elanna suggested. "I don‘t have a lot of good memories." Tom complained.
"That‘s one of my problems."
"So, you‘ll have to make some new ones." Harry said, with a twinkle in his eye. "In fact, here comes someone who I‘m sure would be willing to help you out in that department." Tom turned around to see what Harry was looking at, and gulped. Sue Nicolletti had just entered the club, in a short red dress that was barely on and left very little to the imagination. Sue walked straight over to their table. "Hi, Tommy. We‘ve missed you around here! Nobody else on this ship can dance to save their lives. Want to show them all how it‘s done?" She leaned over to extend her hand, exposing most of her generous cleavage.
For a second, Tom was panicked, and looked at Harry desparately for some help. Harry just shrugged his shoulders and gave him a calm smile that said, all yours, buddy. Suddenly, Tom straightened his shoulders, put on his most flirtatious grin, and grabbed Sue‘s hand. "All right, Susie. You‘re on. But I‘m warning you, I‘m feeling a strange urge to dance to ‚The Songbirds of Spring.‘ I don‘t suppose you have a dress with a big ribbon on the back, do you?"
"You never know, Tom. You‘d be amazed what I keep hidden in my closet. You‘ll have to come check it out sometime." The invitation was clear, and Tom cocked his head at Sue for a minute before responding, "I may just do that one of these days. Come on, I‘m getting tired of sitting here. Let‘s dance." He stood up and in one fluid motion had Susie on the floor, moving to the music."
"My god, Harry, I think the man may actually go for it!" B‘elanna said, amused, as she watched the duo take control of the dance floor.
"You may be right, B‘ela." Harry watched them dance, then said thoughtfully, "I think I‘m jealous."
"Oh, don‘t you worry, Starfleet. We‘ll get him. One way or another. Come on, let‘s dance." She led him onto the floor, and they started dancing, poorly.
"Well, Commander," Janeway said, from the corner of the room. "It looks like things are back to normal." "Indeed it does. Care to dance, Kathryn?"
"Why, Commander Chakotay, I‘d love to." And they danced the night away.