Title:  Listen to Himself (No Comfort Series)
Part:  7/?
Author:  CatHeights
Pairing:  C/P, K
Rating: R, angst
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 A/U, Thirty Days never happened.  Voyager never stopped on the Monean homeworld, instead they took a slightly different course.  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.
Story Sequence:  No Comfort To Be Found; Time Slipping Slowly; A Greater Pain; What Had He Missed; Spiraling Out of Control; Not this Time
Feedback: CatHeights@yahoo.com
Archive:  Cha_Club, ATPS, Paris Nights, TPD.  Anyone else please ask first.
Warning:  This story's subject matter is at times very disturbing.  Self-injury and severe angst.   Parts 3 and 4 especially contain disturbing content.
If you're missing a part, you can find it on my website, http://www.geocities.com/catheights/

Dedicated to Frisky for all her insights and encouragement!
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.

Listen to Himself (Story 7 - No Comfort Series)

Tom thought wryly that to an outsider it probably looked like Chakotay and Harry were escorting him to the brig, rather than his quarters.  Harry walked right next to him while Chakotay hung back, as if he were on guard in case Tom decided to bolt.  The silence that surrounded them added to the disturbing image that had popped into his mind.

At another time, Tom would have shared his thoughts, using it to poke fun at his friends, but not today.  While his mind recognized the situation's amusing quality, he was just too nervous to appreciate the humor.  He could feel Chakotay's eyes on his back, and the attention bothered him.  He had no idea why Chakotay had insisted on accompanying him and Harry.

When Chakotay had said that he was going walk with them, Tom had wanted to tell him that it wasn't necessary, but he was afraid to open his mouth for fear that somehow the words would come out wrong.  It seemed that lately every time he spoke, he said something designed to push the man he loved further away.   Right now, he felt like he had been given a second chance, and he wasn't going to blow it--Tom Paris didn't ruin second chances.

He was still a bit amazed that Chakotay had offered to stay with him.  When the Doc had told him that he could be released from Sickbay, as long as someone stayed with him, he had said a prayer of thanks that Harry's suggestion had been taken.  His relief turned to shock, when the Doctor told him that Chakotay was one of the people being suggested to stay with him.   He had briefly wondered if it was the Captain's idea, but before he could ask, the Doctor informed him that Commander Chakotay wanted him to know that he had asked to stay with Tom.  He had been speechless, as a small bit of hope began to grow.  Maybe he hadn't completely screwed things up.  Chakotay had been there when he woke, and now he was asking to stay with him. Why?

Then, the panic had started to build.  He couldn't let him do that.  He'd surely say something wrong.  His brain seemed to be
making choices by itself recently.  How could he be sure that he wouldn't do something to make Chakotay hate him?  Tom could feel his breathing quickening; he had to calm down.  In his panic, he had tuned out the Doctor.

"Tom, are you all right?  Remember that I told you it is only a suggestion.  The Captain said you are to choose whomever you want.  Harry can just stay if you like.  Why don't you do that?"

His breathing almost normal, Tom realized that the Doctor didn't like the idea of Chakotay staying with him.  He'd bet that Chakotay had insisted.  Must have been one interesting discussion, he thought.  He'd have to see if he could get it out of Harry.  Right now, he needed to decide what to do.

Tell them you want Chakotay and Harry to spend time with you.

That thought came across loud and clear, and he knew that was what he needed to do.

"Doc, it's okay.  Chakotay and Harry each spending time with me is fine," he had said.  The Doctor had started to question his decision, but Tom had added firmly, "That's what I want."

As the Doctor had walked away, what surprised Tom was that for the first time in months, he felt like he had made the right decision.  He had become so accustomed to feelings of inadequacy that this certainty seemed out of place, and yet it was also familiar.  A bit more of the fog that had been clinging to his brain over the last few months dispersed.

He recognized this voice; it was his own.  It was the little voice that told you when you'd gone too far or when you needed to go a bit further.  His own instinct.  He had learned years ago that ignoring that little voice was what always got him into trouble.  It had taken him some time, but he had learned to trust in himself.  So why did it feel like it had been such a long time since he had been guided by his own instincts?  Instead, he had been hearing that other voice.  The one that made him cringe. What was that?

Until he could figure out what that voice was, he had decided that it would be best to keep conversation with Chakotay to a minimum.  It was the only way he could be assured that he wouldn't say something to infuriate the man.  He'd work things out in his mind, and then talk to Chakotay.

It had all seemed so simple when he was in Sickbay.  Now though, while he was grateful he hadn't pushed Chakotay away, he wished he could have a little space.  He needed time to think things through, and he couldn't do that with Chakotay's eyes on him.

As Tom keyed in the codes to his quarters, he resisted the urge to sigh in frustration.  He stepped inside and noticed that Harry was glaring at the Commander.  He turned away, his mouth quirking slightly.  So, Harry hadn't expected Chakotay to join them either.  He wanted to tell his friend to give up the glares. Chakotay was too stubborn to let them bother him.

"Are you all right, Tom?" Chakotay asked, and Tom almost jumped at the sound of his voice.  He glanced up and was momentarily caught by the brown eyes gazing at him in concern.   He nervously looked away.

"I'm fine," he said and started to walk toward the couch.  He wished he hadn't looked into those eyes.  They just reminded him of how much he had to lose.

You had no right to his love.

He stopped, one step away from the couch--the voice had returned. He remembered vividly walking around this room, wanting so badly for the pain to stop. As the images came to his mind, so did the feelings.  He could feel the ache in his chest, the feeling of hopelessness growing.   He didn't have any right; he was worthless.

He had to get out of here now, his instincts screamed, and he followed them without question.

"Tom, what's wrong?" he vaguely heard Chakotay ask.

"I can't stay here," Tom said moving quickly toward the door. He'd go back to Sickbay, anywhere. He just couldn't let that voice pull him back down again.  He had to leave now.

"Fine, we'll go to my quarters," Chakotay said taking his arm and quickly moving him closer to the door.  "Harry, gather up some of Tom's things and meet us there."   Before Harry could even respond, Tom felt Chakotay dragging him out of the room and into the corridor.

As he walked, he started to calm down.  I'm all right, he told himself.  He focused on his breathing, and at first wondered why he couldn't get it under control. Then, he realized that it was because Chakotay still had him by the arm and was practically flying down the hallway.

"Chakotay, slow down," Tom said, breaking his rule of not talking.

Chakotay did, and Tom slowly removed his arm.   He could see the worry in the other man's eyes.

"Are you okay?"

Again Tom's eyes met brown and then skittered away.  "Yeah."  He felt like he should add something more, but he was afraid to get into a conversation.  Not now.  He still needed time to think.

"So, you don't want to run a marathon to my quarters?"

Tom could hear the humor in Chakotay's voice, and he was tempted to joke back that he'd rather watch Chakotay run a marathon--it would be a better view.   However, all he said was, "No."

Silence lurked between the two until Chakotay said, "Okay, let's head to my quarters at a more leisurely pace."  Tom said nothing, simply walking beside the Commander.

They reached Chakotay's quarters and after entering, Tom stood inside awkwardly.  So many memories here, good memories.  He wanted them all back again.

"Tom, why don't you sit down?  Rest for a moment," Chakotay said indicating the couch.

Tom nodded, glad for some direction.   He sat on the couch, wondering what he should do now.  Not talking to Chakotay had sounded like such an easy thing to do, but he had forgotten just how much he hated silences.  He perched on the edge of a cushion, waiting for Chakotay to ask him what had happened.

Chakotay came over and sat on the opposite end of the couch, being careful not to crowd the younger man.  "Are you sure you're all right?" he asked quietly.

"I'm fine," Tom responded not looking over.  He tensed, waiting for the next question, but it never came.  Instead, the silence grew for what seemed like an eternity.  In reality, only a few minutes passed before the door to Chakotay's quarters chimed, and Harry was let in.

As Harry put some of Tom's stuff on a table, Chakotay started to walk toward the door.  "Make yourselves at home. Tom, you know where everything is. If you need anything, just comm me.   I'll see you later, okay?"

Tom nodded, but then realized he couldn't just let Chakotay go without saying something.  He looked up, knowing he would find those eyes searching his, and said, "Thanks."

Chakotay smiled.  "You're welcome.  Harry, I'll see you later."

"Bye, Commander," Harry said as the doors opened and Chakotay left.

Tom breathed a sigh of relief, his muscles suddenly feeling like gelatin.  All he needed was just a little time to figure things out, and then he could handle being in Chakotay's presence.  He just didn't want to mess things up this time, and he couldn't think when Chakotay was standing so close.

He looked up to see Harry watching him, concerned. Harry started to say something, but Tom cut him off saying firmly, "Harry, I'm fine.  Really."  He gave his friend a smile.  "Stop worrying."

Harry grinned back, coming over to take a seat beside Tom.  He leaned sideways into the corner of the couch so he could face his friend.  His smiled disappeared.  "Good, then what happened?

Tom was taken aback for a moment by the directness of the question, particularly as it was the one he had been expecting from Chakotay.   He chuckled.  "Nothing like getting right to the point, Har.  I think you've been hanging around Tuvok too much."

Harry's smile returned.   "Nah, I just know you.  No sense hinting.  You'll either tell me or not, and waiting around to ask won't change that."

"Hey, I'm not that stubborn. You're mistaking me for someone else," Tom said in mock indignation.

Harry just raised an eyebrow and looked at him. Tom had no trouble interpreting that expression.  Get on with it.

A smile fleeted across his face, and then he took a deep breath, serious for the moment.  "I'm not completely sure.  I was standing there, and I started remembering how I felt," he paused, "that day.  It all came back to me.  That feeling of just too much and then just nothingness. I don't know how to describe it, and I knew I just couldn't be in that room any longer.  I had to get out."

He was breathing harder, and his chest ached.

"That's it?" Harry asked.

Tom looked up, surprised.  Wasn't that enough?  "Yes, why?"

"I just thought that maybe.." Harry's voice trailed off.

"Maybe what?"

"It's nothing, just forget about it," Harry said, looking uncomfortable.

Tom shook his head.  "Tell me.  I'm not going to freak out on you."

Harry looked at him appraisingly for a long moment and then said softly, "I thought maybe you had been thinking about how you hurt yourself."

Tom looked startled.  "I guess that would make sense, but it really didn't cross my mind.   It still seems a bit unreal.  I
know I did it, but." He looked at Harry apologetically.  He betto Harry it was very real, but to him, he still couldn't believe he had done something like that.

"I understand," Harry said, and Tom knew he meant it.

It was time to stop talking about all this, though.  As his confusion continued over what he had done, he could feel the
despair creeping into his mind again.  He'd learned throughout life that you took things one step at a time.   There were
moments in one's life where the big picture was just insurmountable, and the only way to handle it was to break it
down and look at the pieces.  All he needed to do now was to figure out a way to remain calm and not let this feeling get to him.  Then he could take a look at what had happened and why.

It was time for a subject change.  "So how much of a stink did Chakotay raise to be allowed to stay with me?"

Harry snorted.  "You know Chakotay, he stated it as if it was the most logical suggestion and of course the only solution."

Tom smiled and said a bit wistfully.  "He doesn't give up. You've got to like that in a man."

"Tom, are you okay with staying here?  You can always stay at my place," Harry said.

Tom looked around the room, taking in the familiar, comforting sights.  Despite the current awkwardness with Chakotay, this was where he wanted to be.  Oddly, he felt like he could draw strength just from this place alone.

"I want to stay here. I never would have thought about it on my own, but now that I'm here, it feels right.  I can't even begin to understand why I let things go bad with Chakotay, but I will figure it out.   I feel like he's giving me a second chance, Harry, and I'm not going to turn my back on that."  Tom laughed hollowly.  "I was afraid he hated me."

"He couldn't hate you.   He loves you.  I know he does, but I just wanted to make sure that you didn't need a little space right now.  If you do, just let me know, and you are welcome to hang out in my quarters."

"Thanks, Har.  I admit that I'm glad he's gone right now.  I just need a little time to think, but I'll be fine later.  I promise.  Now how about we watch some vids. You pick something."   He stretched his arms out in front of him, trying to work out some of the tension he felt over Chakotay.   It was time to move on from this topic too.

Harry nodded and stood.  "Good idea.  Let me go find something."

As Harry wandered off to see what vids, if any, Chakotay had already downloaded, Tom briefly closed his eyes. Everything is going to be okay, he thought, I'll make sure it is.  He felt like he had regained some control, not enough, but it was a start.  His instincts were back, and he had temporarily beaten "the voice."   All he had to do now was to keep remembering what experience had taught him--to listen to himself.