Title: Alone (No Comfort Series)
Part: 13/?
Author: CatHeights
Pairing: C/P
Rating: NC-17, language, sex, a little violence, touches on suicide/self-injury
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Summary: Finding his life crashing down around him, Tom tries to figure out why this is happening and how he can regain control. In this story, Thirty Days never happened. Also several events in previous seasons are assumed not to have occurred, including the events in Blood Fever and Tom receiving any contact from his father.
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Story Sequence: No Comfort To Be Found; Time Slipping Slowly; A Greater Pain; What Had He Missed; Spiraling Out of Control; Not this Time; Listen to Himself; Be Patient; Nightmares for Dreams; Filled with Confusion; Back into the Swing of Things; Ask For Help
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Feedback: CatHeights@yahoo.com
Archive: BLTS, Cha_Club, CPSG, ATPS, Paris Nights, TPD, anyone else please ask first.
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Warning: This storyís subject matter is at times very disturbing. Severe angst. Self-injury.
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Disclaimer: Paramount owns all rights to Star Trek Voyager, its characters, and the Voyager episodes referred to in this story. The story idea however is mine, but I am doing this just for fun, no money to be made.
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Tom kicked at the cushion that was blocking his path. Moments ago, frustration pouring through his veins, he had torn into the couch, tossing pillows and cushions violently across the room. He had thought it would help to alleviate some of his anger; it hadn't.

After fleeing the holodeck, he had hurried through the hallways, not acknowledging anyone he passed. Once inside his quarters, he had tried to sit down on his couch but found that he couldn't keep still. He was too angry, both with himself and Chakotay.

How could he have been so stupid as to believe that Chakotay's concern was anything more than pity? Chakotay had never been offering him another chance at their relationship. The older man had just been trying to help out poor, fucking crazy Tom.

"Worthless," the voice said. "I pity you."

A painful ache started to grow in his chest, and Tom snarled as he recognized it. "No fucking way," he said as he slammed his fist into the wall. No way was he letting that voice get any edge.

He welcomed the anger letting it drown out the voice. This fury felt good and familiar. About to hit the wall again, Tom froze as his mind flashed him an image of pressing his wrists against restraints. He was trying to break out, but he couldn't, and his inability was infuriating. The image faded but the rage it brought with it did not.

His anger now intensified, Tom hit the wall one more time and then spun around and headed toward his bedroom. Once inside, he tore the sheets off the bed, sending the pillows flying. One landed on his night table, knocking the pictures he kept there to the floor, while the other landed harmlessly against the wall.

He stormed around to the other side of the bed, tripping slightly as he stepped on a picture. It was an old-fashioned earth style picture frame, and the glass shattered underneath his foot. Sparing it barely a glance, he kicked it out of his way. The glass scattered while the frame still holding onto the picture slid across the floor until it hit the wall.

Tom moved over to the night table, grabbed the edge of it and with a grunt sent it tumbling. It landed first on its side and then slowly tipped until it was upside down. His fists clenched tightly, Tom stared at the table for a second and then spun around and walked out of the bedroom. As he entered the living area, his door chimed, and he froze, breathing heavily.

Shit, the last thing he wanted to do right now was talk to anyone. The door chimed again. What if it was Chakotay? Well if it was the holier than thou Commander, he could just stand out there until they got back to the Alpha Quadrant. No way was he letting him in so that he could hear some crap about how Chakotay was just trying to help him. He was just fine handling things on his own.

He remained still as the beeps continued, requesting entrance. Finally they ceased, and he felt the tension leave his body. Well if it had been Chakotay, he was gone. Gone. The thought made him want to sit down, curl up and cry. Tomís jaw tightened as he tried to get a handle on his emotions. He had to remain in control, or heíd be vulnerable to that damn voice. He forced himself to breathe in and out, concentrating only on each breath. It took a few minutes, but eventually he felt calmer, or more accurately empty. The urge to cry was gone as well as the burning anger that had filled him.

Tom glanced around at the mess in his quarters and with a sigh, leaned down to pick up a couch cushion. Just as he touched the edge of the cushion, his combadge beeped. "Kim to Paris."

Leaving the cushion where it was, he stood up and tapped his badge. "Paris here. Harry if this isnít important, this is not a good time."

"Itís important," Harry said. "Let me in."

Well, that answered the question as to who the hell had been at his door. "Go away. Iím not in the mood for visitors."

"Tough, Tom. You can let me in, or Iíll let myself in. I know your codes, and if youíve changed them, Iíll get security to let me in. So, why donít you open the door?"

Tom swore and called out, "Enter."

The doors slid open, and Harry stepped inside, a concerned look on his face. "You okay?" he said as the doors closed.

"Fine," Tom said in a clipped tone. "You know if you were planning on letting yourself in anyway, you could have just done it, instead of giving me a headache with your constant chiming of my door."

"I was being polite," Harry said, as he glanced around the room. "You seem to have done some redecorating."

"Just working out a few frustrations," Tom drawled. He could feel Harryís gaze on him, and it was making him edgy. His friend had that determined "youíre going to talk about this" look on his face, and the last thing Tom wanted to do was talk. Feeling the need for a little distance, he headed for the bedroom, but of course Harry followed him. Tom kept his back to his friend, hoping heíd eventually take the hint and just leave. He just wanted to be alone. Was that too fucking much to ask?

"Did you have a particular reason for doing this?" Harry asked softly.

Harryís voice sounded odd--hurt almost. Concerned, Tom turned around to see Harry holding a picture frame. He vaguely remembered stepping on one and then kicking it aside. He walked over to Harry so that he could take a look at the picture. It was a black and white image of he and Harry dressed as Captain Proton and Buster Kincaid. Shit.

"Har, it was just an accident. I must have knocked it to the floor, and then I stepped on it. I was so angry at the time that I didnít even look to see what I had ruined." Tom took the picture from Harry. "The pictureís not damaged. Iíll replicate a new frame, same earth style." He looked around the room for a safe place to lay the picture. At the moment, the bed, now devoid of sheets, looked to be the only decent spot. Tom carefully placed the ruined frame on the middle of the bed.

"Iím not worried about the picture," Harry said.

"Well, you donít need to be worried about me," Tom said firmly. "Iím fine. I just needed to blow off a little steam. You canít tell me you havenít seen BíElanna do something similar. I donít think thereís anything in her cabin that hasnít had to be fixed or replicated." He gave Harry a grin, hoping to ease the tension, but it didnít work. His friend still looked grim.

"Youíre right. I have seen BíElanna break a few things in a fit of anger, but not you. You canít expect me to believe that you were just blowing off a little steam and are fine now."

Tom was silent for a moment, and then he sighed heavily. "I suppose this means youíre not going to leave me alone."

Harry smiled faintly. "Not a chance."

Tomís lips twisted slightly. "Come on, help me put my sofa back together so we can have somewhere to sit in this mess."

They were both silent as they placed the cushions back on the sofa. When they were done, Harry took a seat on the couch and looked at his friend expectantly. Still standing, Tom glanced at Harry, his jaw tightening as he did. He looked away focusing on a spot above Harryís head. He still had no desire to discuss anything.

"Tom," Harry said softly.

With a sigh, Tom sat down on the couch. "What?"

"Tell me what happened."

"Nothing happened, absolutely nothing," Tom said with a humorless chuckle. "I was foolish to think something would. That there was an opportunity to fix things, to move forward." His expression hardened. "I mistook pity for interest, and he damn well let me go down that road."

"Chakotay?" Harry asked puzzled.

"No, Neelix," Tom said exasperated. "Of course Chakotay. Who else would do something so condescending?" A harsh look on his face, he continued, "I should have known that it was only a momentary lust on his part. That he would never let go of his low opinion of me. Iím a disappointment, someone not to be trusted."

Harry was shaking his head. "No Tom. That is not how Chakotay thinks of you. You got past all of that distrust years ago. Youíre not looking at things right. What happened to your believing Chakotay was giving you a second chance and not turning your back on that?"

Tomís eyes blazed angrily, but his voice was low and controlled when he spoke. "Harry, Harry, Harry. You just donít get it, do you? There was never any second chance. It was all about guilt. Chakotayís guilt and his pride. Mister I can handle every situation obviously thought my sliding out of control reflected poorly on him, and he had to be the one to make sure I got back on my feet. Well let me tell you, Iíve been doing that on my own for years. I donít need any help from him, and I donít want his fucking pity."

"Chakotay doesnít pity you. And if heís coming across as feeling guilty, itís because he loves you and feels like he should have been able to do more to help you. He was extremely upset and worried about you when you left the holodeck."

Tomís eyes showed surprise for a moment and then a smirk graced his face. "Ah, so the Commander did damage control and called you to come see me. He knew I wouldnít let him through the door."

"Tom," Harry said angrily. He took a deep breath and then continued, his voice tense. "You two had seemed pretty happy at dinner, so what happened on the holodeck that changed your mind about Chakotay?"

"You mean made me see the light. What, Chakotay didnít give you all the details?"

Harry stared at him stonily, and Tom felt a twinge of guilt. Harry was just trying to help. He leaned back into the couch and sighed. "Remember the program I had built for Chakotay? The one the first time we ran it, I fell asleep and was so mad at myself."

He looked over at Harry who nodded. "Well, that was the one we ran. It was nice at first. We walked down to the lake, then I showed him the cabin and finally we headed over to one of the docks and sat down."

It really had all seemed so perfect for a short time. Lying there in Chakotayís lap, watching the hawk glide effortlessly through the sky, he had felt amazingly free. When the bird had passed out of view, he had sat up feeling blessed, and for those few moments, he had been. To be kissing Chakotay again had made him forget about all the weeks of confusion. None of it had mattered right then. His mind had been filled with the need to touch Chakotay. All that he had cared about was being with Chakotay again; the rest could be worked out and discussed endlessly later.

Anger tightened Tomís features as he continued his story. "We made out and eventually I suggested going back to the cabin. Thatís when Chakotay told me that he couldnít do this. It wasnít right. That we needed to talk. Well he should have talked before we started making out instead of screwing around and leading me on."

"I think you misunderstood things. I think Chakotay just meant you needed to talk first. Come on, when I spoke to Chakotay yesterday, you still werenít even talking to him."

Tom raised an eyebrow. "You and Chakotay seemed to have been sharing many chats. Quite a few about me. I guess I should be honored that I make such a fascinating topic."

Harry frowned. "Tom, when I ran into Chakotay yesterday, he looked exhausted. I pushed him to tell me what was wrong." He paused, took a deep breath and then looked directly at Tom as he continued. "You and I talked about everything that happened. How I felt about almost losing my best friend. Chakotay almost lost you, but heís talked to no one about it. Why should it be surprising he wants to talk? Think about this Tom. Youíre not being fair to Chakotay."

Tom shook his head in frustration. What the hell was going on? Harry was supposed to be his friend, and here he was arguing Chakotayís point. He didnít need this. He knew what had happened. Chakotay had told him he couldnít make love to him because it wasnít right. Hell he should have guessed that. After all he had told Chakotay he loved him, but the Commander had never responded back in kind.

Of course he hadnít really given him a chance to answer, had he? Well that didnít matter. All that mattered was Chakotay all along hadnít wanted him. Had felt it wasnít right to be with him.

"Worthless," the voice whispered. "I pity you. You should just let go and die."

Tom sat up straight, his jaw tightening convulsively. "Tom are you all right?" Harry asked in concern, but Tom ignored him.

That voice, that goddamn voice. He had heard it when Chakotay was telling him they needed to talk. Heard it and listened to it. He had been so arrogant thinking that he had that voice under control that he had never noticed it slip into his mind. Damn it! He had misunderstood.

"Shit," Tom said standing quickly and heading toward the door.

Harry was on his feet instantly, and he blocked Tomís path. "Where are you going?"

"Get out of my way Harry. I have to talk to Chakotay. Iíve got to apologize." He tried to move around Harry, but his friend sidestepped blocking him again.

"Why are you all the sudden in such a hurry to see Chakotay?" Harry asked.

"Because youíre right, I screwed things up again. Completely misunderstood. Now get out of my way. I need to fix this before itís too late."

"A few more minutes wonít make it too late," Harry said softly. "Sit down and tell me what youíve been hiding. Thereís something that has been bothering you for the last few days. Iíve noticed it, but I was waiting for you to tell me. Whatever secret youíre keeping Tom, you need to share it. Emotionally, youíre all over the place. Donít you see that? A few minutes ago, you were ready to toss Chakotay out of your life forever, and now you want to beg his forgiveness. Whatís going on?"

"Harry, I know it seems like my behavior is irrational. Okay maybe it is, but I understand what is going on. Iíll talk about whatís bothering me, I promise, but I need to see Chakotay now. I really appreciate your helping me to see things clearer, but I need to go, NOW."

Tom thought for a moment Harry wasnít going to move, but then his friend slowly stepped aside and said, "Fine, but talk to Chakotay. Stop trying to handle everything alone."

"I will, I promise. Thanks Har," he said as he flew out the door. Harry followed him, pausing outside the doorway.

As he hurried down the corridor, Tom knew that his friend was staring after him. He hated that Harry was worrying about him again, and he swore heíd talk to his friend later, reassure him. Once again he owed Harry. Hopefully Harry had knocked sense into him soon enough that he could make things all right with Chakotay.

As Tom made his way to Chakotayís quarters, he cursed his ego, his pride and his pure stupidity. He was so damn cocky thinking he had it all under control. Only this morning he had sworn that he wouldnít hurt Chakotay again, and yet here he was hours later having just inflicted another emotional wound.

"Worthless," the voice inside his head whispered. "Give up."

"No," Tom muttered as he quickened his pace. He wouldnít give up, not ever. He had made a mistake and fallen for that voice, but at least when that mistake was pointed out to him, he had been able to recognize what had happened. That had to count for something, didnít it? Of course it did. He was in control, not that fucking voice, and it was going to stay that way.

For most of his life he had been forced to depend only on himself, so he was going to have to fight harder against that inclination to handle things alone. Tom knew he had to tell Chakotay everything. Whatever power that voice had over him would be gone once he talked to Chakotay about it. Right?

"Youíll lose," the voice said.

"No I wonít," Tom said as he stopped out front of Chakotayís door. Realizing he had spoken out loud, Tom nervously glanced around, but no one else was in the corridor to hear him talking to the air.

He took a deep breath and pressed the buzzer. The door slid open, and Tom stepped inside to find himself mere inches from Chakotay. He swallowed nervously.

"Tom," Chakotay said softly as he moved back a bit, putting a more comfortable distance between them. "Are you all right?"

As he met Chakotayís gaze, Tom noticed that his loverís eyes held only concern, not a drop of anger. He was such a bastard; he didnít deserve Chakotayís continued support. Well, that might be true, but now wasnít the time to crucify himself for such things. He owed Chakotay an apology.

"Iím fine," Tom said. "Chak, Iím sorry for running out of the holodeck like that. I kind of misunderstood things. Damn." He crossed his arms over his chest and took a few steps into the room and away from Chakotay. "I canít believe I behaved that way."

Chakotay walked over to Tom, placed his hand on the other manís shoulder and squeezed it slightly. "Itís all right."

Tom turned and Chakotay let his hand drop. "No, itís not," Tom said. "I keep pushing you away. Saying hurtful things. That is not all right."

Instead of responding, Chakotay pulled Tom into his arms. Tom slipped his arms around Chakotay, pulling him close. He leaned his head down on Chakotayís shoulder, and took a deep breath. It felt so good to be in those arms, to have that connection.

For a few minutes they stood there silently holding each other. Then, Chakotay ran a hand soothingly down Tomís back before moving out of his loverís arms. "Tom, I donít want to upset you, but we do need to talk. I need to know why you keep pushing me away. Please talk to me."

Tomís lips twisted in a weary attempt at a grin. "You mean youíd like some explanation for these mood swings. Canít say I blame you." He looked at Chakotay sadly. "Donít worry, Iím not going to start yelling and run out this time. Youíre right we need to talk. I owe you an explanation."

"You donít owe me anything. I just wish youíd confide in me. Let me help you."

"No, I owe you a lot. If it wasnít for you, Iím not so sure I would have been able to pull myself out of the pit Iíd fallen in. Even if I didnít say it, it helped having you there. Knowing you hadnít given up on me."

"I wanted to be there. I needed to be there," Chakotay said. He took Tomís arm and added, "Come on, letís sit down."

They sat on the couch, and Tom rested his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands. Sighing heavily, he said, "Geez, where do I begin?"

"Wherever is easiest. Take your time," Chakotay said as he placed his hand on Tomís back.

Tom took a deep breath. "When I woke up in sickbay and the Doc told me that you and Harry had found me," he paused for a moment, clenched his left hand and sat up straight before continuing, "with my wrist slit. I was convinced that it was just another nightmare. I had been having a lot of them lately, so why couldnít that have been one more? It wasnít until I woke again and saw Harry that I finally believed it wasnít a dream."

As he was forced to face again the truth that he had at the very least attempted to harm himself, Tom found that each breath he took was a struggle. His chest burned, but he figured he deserved the pain. Deserved to suffer for what he had put his friends through. How could he have done that when he knew what it was like to loose someone that way? Knew how it felt to blame yourself and wonder every damn day if you could have done something that would have made a difference or if something you had done was the reason. It was the one thing he had swore no matter what he would never do. Maybe he hadnít tried to commit suicide, he just couldnít believe he had, but heíd come too close. Way too close.

Tom stood up. He needed to move around, give himself something else to focus on instead of the words. His head down and his arms across his chest, he began to pace.

"Take your time, Tom. You donít have to tell me everything right now. Just tell me what you can," Chakotay said.

Tom nodded, acknowledging Chakotayís statement, but not really agreeing. He did need to tell everything now. He couldnít battle this voice alone, he knew that, and no way was he going to let it get another opportunity to drive a wedge between him and Chakotay.

"Coming to in sickbay was kind of like being woken from a dream. Almost like someone had splashed cold water in my face and suddenly I was awake, and everything that had happened over the last few weeks was a blur, kind of faded. My actions seemed unreal; it was like somehow I had lost sight of myself. I donít know quite how to explain it. Except that it was almost as if someone else had been running my life while I took a back seat."

"Are you saying youíre not sure why youíve been behaving this way?" Chakotay asked.

Tom shook his head, paused in his pacing and turned to face Chakotay. "No, Iím saying I didnít know then why, but Iím pretty sure now. Then all I knew was that I had to start listening to myself again, following my own instincts. Somehow those instincts that Iíd come to depend on had gotten pushed aside. I struggled to hear them again, and the first thing I heard was to let you stay with me. Still, I was so afraid of doing something to push you away. It seemed every time I opened my mouth, I said something designed to make you hate me. So I decided that I would agree to have you stay with me, but I would keep my mouth shut until I could figure out why I kept saying these awful things to you."

He walked over to the couch and sat down sideways, perching lightly on the edge of a cushion. Tom looked at Chakotay, his eyes meeting worried brown ones. His stomach ached and bile rose in his throat as he wondered again how it was he could hurt someone he loved so much. Turning his gaze to his lap, Tom squeezed both his hands into fists and was surprised by the pain that lanced through his right hand. He realized it had been aching dully for a while. Unconcerned, he vaguely wondered if he had broken something when he slammed his fist into the wall. His right hand twitched, but he didnít open it; the pain seemed to drown out his guilt.

"Tom."

He jumped slightly as Chakotay took his left hand, prying open the clenched fingers, and then massaging them between his hands. Tom unclenched his right hand. It was throbbing painfully now, but he ignored it. He took a deep breath, letting the feel of Chakotayís touch calm him and allow him to focus on what he wanted to say.

"I was so afraid of losing you again that I didnít want to chance speaking until I could figure out what had been going on. I just wanted to figure out what the voice was and be sure I could control it. I waited too long though. Iím sorry."

Chakotay frowned. "What voice?" He released Tomís hand and rested his palms lightly on the younger manís knees.

Tom gave a half-grin. "Ah, this is where you tell me Iím crazy." The grin disappeared. "Iím not crazy."

"I never said you were."

"You havenít heard the rest of the story, yet," Tom said, once again coming to his feet.

He walked over to the viewport and leaned against it, keeping his back to Chakotay. "I started to realize that while I seemed to have lost the ability to guide myself, there was definitely something spurring me to action. One voice. A voice telling me it pitied me, that I was worthless, and numerous other uncomplimentary things."

Tom stood, back straight, bracing one arm against the viewport. "It was that voice I heard when we were in the holodeck tonight. Telling me I was worthless. I thought I had it under control, and I guess I hadnít. I was so confident, and it slipped right in."

Even before he felt the strong arms on his shoulders, Tom sensed Chakotay's presence behind him. He let his hand drop from the viewport and relaxed into that touch.

"Is this voice a familiar one?" Chakotay asked quietly as he massaged Tom's shoulders and upper back.

Tom tilted his head slightly, stretching his neck as he felt his shoulder muscles relaxing under Chakotay's touch. He exhaled deeply before answering.

"If you mean by familiar is it a voice of someone I know or have known well--no. Yet it is also familiar. I know I've heard that voice in another situation. If I could just remember."

He turned around slowly, leaning against the wall and facing Chakotay. "When I was finally able to really think about the nightmares I had been having, particularly the one you woke me from, I found some clue as to what I think happened. The dreams were filled with shit from my past."

Tom closed his eyes. "Things I remember all too vividly. But then I remembered parts of the dream where I was restrained in a chair. I could feel cuffs cutting into me and the frustration at not being able to break free."

Eyes opening, Tom began to breathe heavily again. "In my dreams, I heard that voice when I was trapped in the chair. Chakotay something happened to me, I think it was a few months before we started dating. Something happened to me, and I was made to forget about it, but now those memories are resurfacing."

He couldn't tell if Chakotay believed him or not. He sighed as he recognized the reserving judgment look on the older man's face. Come on Chak, you have to believe me. I'm not crazy.

In a gentle, even tone Chakotay asked, "What makes you believe the voice and your being restrained are actual memories rather than just elements in a recurring nightmare?"

Tom took a deep breath, pushing away the momentary pang of hurt. He doesn't believe me. Be calm, logical, he told himself as he began to justify his belief. "As time passes, dreams loose clarity, they don't gain it. Plus I'm getting flashes of being in that chair while I'm awake. The more I focus on trying to remember those dreams, the picture in my mind of that chair and that voice becomes a little clearer. It happened, I know it did."

"And the other things that happened in your dream, those were all things that you remembered happening -- unpleasant things?"

Crossing his arms over his chest, Tom frowned. "I know what you're thinking, Chakotay, and you're wrong. This is not some buried memory from my past. The result of me not dealing with past shit. Whatever happened, it wasnít me choosing to forget, someone forced me to forget. And while they were fucking with my mind, they decided to take me on a little trip through memory lane. Thatís why all those lousy memories are littering my dreams, someone was poking around in my head." Tomís eyes glared dangerously. "I donít need therapy. I need to find the bastard who did this to me."

Holding his hands out in front of him, palms outward, Chakotay said, "I wasnít suggesting you needed therapy. I was just trying to get a few more details." He paused for a moment, gave Tom a wary glance and then continued. "I do think talking to the Doctor might not be a bad idea. Just hear me out. The Doctor may be able to tell if parts of your memory are blocked and be able to treat you so that you can remember."

Fear, panic and rage all battled inside Tomís head fueling him with the need to move. He forced his way past Chakotay, knocking his arm against the other manís shoulder as he stalked past. Someone messing with his mind. Someone taking his control. Goddamn it, not again, never again. "No one is playing with my mind. Do you hear me?" he hissed, feeling his throat close as the anger choked him.

For a long time the only sound in the room was Tomís heavy breathing. Then, Chakotay took a step forward and said, "Tom, you know I wouldnít hurt you or force you to do something you didnít want to."

Struggling to contain the urge to blindly lash out, Tom couldnít answer. He knew Chakotay was only trying to help and knew that talking to the Doctor would probably make a lot of sense, but he couldnít do that yet. He couldnít let someone else in. Dear God, why couldnít Chakotay understand that. Well, maybe because you havenít really tried to make him understand.

His breath coming in small huffs, Tom met Chakotayís eyes. He swallowed hard, twice, before he managed to get his voice to come out in the semblance of a normal tone. "I know. I just need some more time to figure some things out myself. Iíve been going through my logs and the ship logs, trying to trigger my memory. Not much luck yet, but I havenít been at it that long. I will remember what happened. I just need some more time to figure it out. Let me try this my way first, and if it doesnít workÖ." He paused, taking a deep breath. "Well, then Iíll talk to the Doctor."

Chakotay nodded, moving closer to Tom and putting a hand on his shoulder. "Okay, but promise me one thing."

"What?" Tom asked warily.

"That *weíll* try it your way. Let me help you figure things out."

Tom smiled, feeling the tension slip out of him. "I was actually kinda counting on you to help me."

Chakotay smiled back. "Good," he said, taking Tomís right hand and squeezing it.

Tomís smile turned to a grimace of pain, as his hand forcefully reminded him of how damn much it hurt. He saw the surprise on Chakotayís face turn to concern as he glanced down at the hand he was holding. Chakotay released his grip, and Tom looked at his hand, noting that his knuckles and fingers were a mottled red, purple and blue. Well no wonder it hurt.

"What did you do to your hand?"

"I was a bit angry when I left the holodeck, and I kind of took my frustrations out on the wall in my quarters. While the wall had no objection, I think my hand did." His lips twisted slightly upward. "Colorful isnít it?"

Chakotay shook his head in exasperation. "You should have said something. Let me get the regenerator. Go sit down." He headed to his bedroom to retrieve the portable regenerator he kept there and a medical tricorder.

Tom walked over toward the couch, but didnít sit down. He paced slowly in that area, feeling a bit tired. He looked up as Chakotay came to stand next to him, and then started to run the tricorder over his injured hand.

"Well, you didnít break anything," Chakotay said.

"Thatís good to hear," Tom said as Chakotay used the regenerator on his bruises.

When Chakotay was finished, he said, "Flex your hand."

Tom did, flinching slightly. "Pretty much good as new. Thanks."

"Itís got to still hurt. Do you want to go to sickbay to get something for the pain?"

"Nah, Iím fine."

Chakotay put the regenerator and tricorder away, and then returned to Tom. He picked up his loverís left hand this time, carefully inspecting it before entwining his fingers through Tomís, and leaning in to gently kiss him.

As Chakotay started to step back, Tom slid his now healed right hand into the other manís hair and moved in to capture his lips for a deeper kiss. He felt Chakotayís hands slide around his waist, and then up his back, and Tom pressed in tighter, closing any gaps between their bodies. Thoughts of nightmares, voices and guilt vanished as desire flushed through him.

Tom rocked into the kiss, his heart pounding. He glided his hands underneath Chakotayís uniform top, that first touch of skin sending a shiver through him. He wanted to be closer to Chakotay, to touch more of him--all of him. He moved his hands further up his loverís back, and then he felt Chakotay pulling away from him.

His hands slipped off of Chakotayís body, and his heart paused in fear. This is what had had happened earlier. Chakotay had said they should talk first, and here he was again trying to rush things. He just couldnít help it. He needed this; he had to know that Chakotay truly wanted him.

He tentatively raised his eyes to meet Chakotayís, and the desire he saw reflected in that dark gaze answered all his doubts. Tom watched as Chakotay slipped off his uniform top and then his undershirt. He had gotten things wrong again, thank God. He took off his own shirt and stepped back into Chakotayís arms, sighing at the delicious feeling of skin sliding against skin as they resumed kissing.

As they made their way into the bedroom, the only sounds were of soft moans and breathing. Tom had a feeling that Chakotay was as reluctant as he was to say anything that might break the mood. Silence was fine by him. Words werenít necessary, and Tom didnít think it was worth tempting fate or that voice at the moment. Feeling Chakotay suck at the hollow between his neck and shoulder, Tom was positive that if something happened now to prevent him and Chakotay from making love, the sexual frustration would surely send him over the edge.

The rest of their clothing was removed quickly, and Tom kissed Chakotay roughly pushing him down on the bed. He explored every inch of his lover. Touching, kissing, licking, and smiling at the responses he got. He enjoyed the feel of Chakotayís body arching into his touch. Tom wanted to drown himself in this feeling--wanted to drown himself in the taste, the touch, and the scent of Chakotay.

Grabbing a hold of his hand, Chakotay entwined their fingers, and Tom found himself being pushed onto his back while Chakotay took his turn at exploration. This time it was he doing the arching as Chakotay licked his way down Tomís stomach to his groin. He hissed at the feel of the soft wetness of that tongue. Too much sensation. He wouldnít last.

Even though he wanted to slow down their pace, Tom still groaned when Chakotay got off of him. Breathing heavily, Tom clenched at the sheets, only releasing them when he felt the heat of his loverís body pressed against him. He reached his hand out to caress Chakotayís arm, which was resting on his now bent knees.

That caress turned into a hard grasp as he felt one of Chakotayís fingers slip inside him. Yes, that was what he needed, but he wanted to feel more. Tom pressed downward as Chakotay continue to stretch him. Damn that felt good, but it wasnít enough. He didnít want to wait any longer. He groaned twisting slightly, and felt Chakotayís hand leave him.

Before he could complain about the loss, Tom felt Chakotay lift his legs and slowly enter him. His breath came out in short bursts of air, as he started to take control of the pacing of their lovemaking, encouraging Chakotay to move into him faster and with deeper thrusts.

The ability to think clearly fled, as the need for release continued to build in him. He heard Chakotayís choked cry as he came thrusting harder into Tom, which triggered Tomís own release.

It seemed to take a long time for his breathing to return to normal, and his mind to be able to register a thought. He was curled up next to Chakotay, his head resting on Chakotayís chest, his eyes closed. Tomís skin was damp, and it made him feel chilled, but he was too lethargic to be bothered to reach down and pull the sheet up.

Chakotay stirred and Tom raised his head opening his eyes. Tracing a finger down the side of Tomís face, Chakotay said softly, "I love you."

Tom smiled. "I love you too," he said and then lay back down in his loverís embrace.

For the first time in weeks, Tom felt completely at peace. Everything seemed right. He knew that this was only a temporary respite from the confusion in his life, but it was a respite that changed everything. Sometime soon, the reality of the voice would confront him again, but when it did, this time he would be better prepared to face it--because this time he wouldnít be doing it alone.

To be continued . . .