Title: Too Much To Take (4/?)
Author: CatHeights
Pairing: C/P, some P/T
Rating: R, death, disturbing dream images, angst (lots of it), m/m. This is
a slash story. If reading about a relationship between two men disturbs you,
read no further.

Feedback: I would love to hear your thoughts, e-mail me at
Archive: Protective!Chakotay Archive. If someone wants to archive the story
somewhere else, that's fine by me as long as you drop me an e-mail letting
me know where it will be archived.

Spoiler Warning: Barge of the Dead; Extreme Risk; Nothing Human. This story
is sort of a coda to Barge of the Dead, so if you haven't seen the episode you
may be a bit lost in the beginning.

Disclaimer: Paramount owns all rights to Star Trek Voyager, its characters,
and the Voyager episodes referred to in this story. The story idea is mine,
but I am doing this just for fun, no money to be made.

Deb, again thanks for your comments. As always, they are insightful and
extremely witty. I think I solved that, hey that was great, why don't we get
a ham sandwich problem -:)

Chakotay stood by the couch in the living area unsure of what to do. He was
reluctant to leave. He hoped that he had relaxed Tom enough that the man
would sleep through the night, but he had his doubts. He couldn't bear the
thought of Tom waking alone from his nightmare. Plus, he realized he would
have a better chance of getting Tom to talk about the nightmare when he had
just woken from it. Chakotay was convinced that in order for Tom to put this
nightmare to rest he needed to tell someone about it. If he could unburden
his soul, it would go a long way in helping him to come to terms with the
dreams. There really was only one thing to do: spend the night on Tom's
couch. He'd never get any sleep in his own quarters anyway. He'd just be
wondering if Tom was all right.

Besides, he had off tomorrow, and after he rearranged the duty schedule so
would Tom. As far as Chakotay was concerned Tom was in no condition to be
sitting at the conn or working in sickbay. It was time for a forced
vacation. As it was still early and he wasn't tired, he figured it would be a
good idea to stop by his quarters to get a few items. One of the advantages
to being First Officer was that he had the necessary security clearance to
gain access to any of the crew's quarters. He could get back into Tom's
quarters without having to be let in.

He headed off to his quarters. One inside he changed into a black t-shirt
and tan sweat pants. That would do for sleeping tonight. It wasn't his usual
sleeping attire, but somehow he didn't think sleeping in the nude on Tom's
couch would be such a good idea. He grinned shaking his head at the thought.
He went into his closet and pulled out a black duffel bag and some off-duty
clothes to wear in the morning. He tossed the clothes into the bag, and on
the way out of his sleeping area, he stopped to grab a pad that contained a
gothic novel Kathryn had recommended. He wasn't sure it would be his type of
reading, but he figured it wouldn't hurt to give it a try. Finally, he
walked into the living area and stopped by the table to grab a few data pads
containing some crew reports he needed to review. In less than ten minutes,
he was already on his way back to Tom's quarters.

He let himself inside and deposited his clothes and pads on the couch. He
couldn't resist the urge to check on Tom. When he entered the sleeping area,
Tom was resting quietly although he was no longer sleeping on his stomach. He
had curled up on his right side. Chakotay thought that even asleep Tom still
looked utterly exhausted. Resisting the urge to sit on the edge of the bed
and run his hands through the man's hair, Chakotay left and settled down with
his crew reports.

He had gotten through almost all of the reports when the sound of a
blood-curling scream caused the pad to slip from his hand. It clattered
loudly on the floor, but Chakotay barely noticed. He jumped to his feet as
another scream, somehow even more terrified than the first, reverberated
through the cabin. His initial shock fading, Chakotay ran toward Tom. The
sheet dangled off the edge of the bed looking as if Tom had tried to push it
as far away as possible. Tom himself was curled in a tight ball in the upper
corner of the bed pressed against the wall still screaming.

"Tom, wake up. You're having a dream," Chakotay said. He laid a hand
on Tom's shoulder trying to offer some comfort, but it only caused Tom to
scream again and to try to push himself even closer to the wall. Damn, how
was he going to get through to him? He firmly grabbed a hold of both of Tom's
shoulders pushing the man on to his back and saying loudly, "Tom, come on
wake up. It's Chakotay. I'm here with you. It's only a dream. I won't let
anything harm you. Come on, Tom. You've got to wake up." Please wake up,
Chakotay thought, you're scaring me. Tom's reaction to the nightmares was
much worse than he had expected. Was this what he had been going through
each night?

He shook Tom again and called out to him, "Tom, I know you can hear me.
Listen to my voice. It's only a dream. You just need to listen to my voice
and to wake up. Then it will be all over." Tom was struggling violently and
still screaming although the screams were quieter now as his voice was
becoming hoarse. He bucked against Chakotay's hold and his eyes flew open.
Tom's hands were clenched and he was breathing in ragged gasps. His
frightened eyes met Chakotay's, and Chakotay released his hold on Tom. He
didn't want to further disturb the man by restraining him. "Chakotay," Tom
said roughly as he coughed and sat up.

Chakotay sat down next to him and placed a hand softly on his back.
"It's all right. It's over. You're awake now."

Tom shuddered as the nightmare vividly came back to him. He could feel
the blood from the bat'leth oozing onto his hands. "No more," he whispered
and then stumbled off to the bathroom. Chakotay could hear Tom retching and
sobbing. If this was the sequence of events for the last few nights,
Chakotay thought, no wonder Tom was reluctant to sleep.

He walked into the bathroom, stepped around Tom who was on his knees,
and got a towel. He wet it slightly. Tom had stopped retching and was
leaning back on his heels, his chin to his chest. Chakotay knelt down next to
him handing him the wet towel. Tom took it gratefully welcoming the feel of
the damp fabric on his sweaty face. He felt the muscle in his right thigh
spasm and he moved back so that he was sitting against the bathroom wall.
The wall felt cool and he was grateful to have something to lean against. He
wanted to say something to Chakotay, but he couldn't find the energy and
then he started coughing. He winced as each cough aggravated his already
sore vocal cords and exhausted lungs. He heard Chakotay get up.

He returned with a glass of water. Sitting next to Tom, he held the
glass to his lips. "Come on take a sip. Your throat's too dry. Drink it
slowly and the coughing should stop," Chakotay said soothingly.

Tom shakily put both hands on the glass and brought it to his lips.
Chakotay kept one hand lightly on the bottom of the glass, as he was afraid
Tom wouldn't be able to maintain a grip. After the first sip of water, Tom
began to gulp the liquid down. He hadn't realized how thirsty he was. He
felt Chakotay tug lightly on the glass. "Easy Tom," he said. "Don't drink it
too fast or you'll get sick again." Tom nodded. Chakotay was right gulping
the water wouldn't help. He forced himself to take even measured sips until
the glass was empty.

Chakotay put the empty glass aside. "You okay now?"

Tom nodded and said, "Yes, thanks."

He hated to do this to Tom, but he knew now was probably the only time
he would be able to get him to answer. "What were you dreaming about?"

Tom looked at him his eyes wide and pain filled. Chakotay was tempted
to tell him to forget he asked, but Tom started talking. "I was trapped in
the pilot seat. We had crashed. I was flying and we had crashed," he said
his voice catching. "A piece of debris had pinned my leg to the seat. I
couldn't move and I couldn't pull it out. I called out to the others, but no
one answered. Susan had been in the copilot's seat, so I knew if I
managed to turn myself, I should be able to see her. I turned and saw
her head lying close to me. The angle wasn't right."

Tom started to gasp and Chakotay gently rubbed his arm, "Shhhh. It's
okay," Chakotay comforted.

Tom took a deep breath and continued, "She was too close. I realized it
was just her head that was next to me, her body was still strapped into the
copilot's seat," he started to sob. "Just her head."

Chakotay's heart ached. He put his arms around Tom guiding him to lie
against his chest. Tom went willingly clutching at Chakotay. "I couldn't
see the others, but I could smell burning flesh. They could have still been
alive, but I couldn't help them. They might have been burning to death, and I
couldn't help them and it was my fault," his voice trailed off in a wail.

"Then suddenly I'm no longer pinned to the seat," Tom continued
violently shuddering. Chakotay kept murmuring soothing words as Tom clung to
him. "The others are gone, but the scent of death is still all around. I feel
like it's seeped into my skin that's how strong it is. I look down and
B'Elanna's bloody head is at my feet and I'm holding the bat'leth that," he
can't finish at first. Finally, he whispered, "that decapitated her. Her
blood is dripping down my hands. Another death that's my fault."

Chakotay tightened his grip around Tom, rocking the man gently. He kept
whispering soothing words trying to calm the man down. Tom didn't deserve
this torture, and as Chakotay sat there holding the sobbing man, he could feel
his anger toward B'Elanna building. She was supposed to be in love with Tom.
How could she have let things get to this point? Didn't she realize her
actions also affected Tom?

He quickly recognized he was being somewhat unfair to B'Elanna.
Chances were Tom had never told B'Elanna about his nightmares. Tom had
said he hadn't had them for years, so it was possible the subject never came
up. Still, Chakotay had a feeling that when Tom said he hadn't had the
nightmare for years, he meant he hadn't had it consistently for years. He
would bet that the original nightmare had visited Tom at least on a few
occasions after his early months on Voyager. It wasn't the dream alone
that was wearing Tom down. It was its constant repetition.

Tom had said he had nightmares on a pretty much regular basis from the
time of the accident until he started serving on Voyager. Chakotay thought
back to when he had recruited Tom into the Maquis. At the time, he had
wondered what would lead an admiral's son and a top-notch pilot to become a
drunk and, Chakotay suspected, an addict. Now he knew. He couldn't believe
how stupid he had been back then. He had found Tom highly attractive but had
written him off as a waste and a looser. He was so wrong. If he had taken
the time to look behind Tom's mask, he might have been able to break
through his defenses and maybe ease some of his suffering. Not to mention,
he might have realized sooner how he felt about Tom.

His heart constricted as it dawned on him that the cocky pilot had most
likely been waking every night screaming while serving on his ship, and
Chakotay had never known. Still, to be fair to himself, there wasn't much
time in the Maquis to truly get to know people. He had been captaining a
barely held together ship whose crew complement contained a number of
mercenaries. He couldn't fully trust his crew, his ship constantly needed
new parts, and he was trying to fight the Cardassians and stay ahead of the
Federation. With so much to juggle, he didn't really have the time to
seriously contemplate why his new pilot behaved in such an annoying manner.
Well, now he had the time, and Tom would come first.

Chakotay realized Tom's sobs had died down to the occasional sniffle
when Tom took a deep breath and moved slowly out of his hold. He cleared his
throat and without looking at Chakotay, he said quietly, "Sorry, I'm all
right now."

"Tom," Chakotay said, "you have nothing to be sorry about. Why don't we
get you back to bed?"

Tom nodded and got to his feet unassisted. Without another word he
walked back into the bedroom and climbed into the bed. Rather than lying
down, he sat against the wall, his knees drawn up and his head in his hands.
Chakotay could almost feel Tom withdrawing into himself. He couldn't let
that happen. He sat down on the bed next to him and gently pulled Tom's
hands away from his face. He put a finger under Tom's chin and tilted it up
so that their eyes met. "Don't shut me out."

Tom's eyes widened in surprise and Chakotay continued, "You don't have
to deal with this by yourself. You are not alone."

Tom's breath hitched. Yes, he was, he was always alone, wasn't he? At
the times when it mattered most he was always alone.

Chakotay saw the despair in Tom's eyes and was determined to dispel it.
"I'm here. I won't leave you to face this on your own. I mean it, Tom. You
are not alone. Okay?"

Tom let out a shuddery breath and said, "Yes." He squeezed his eyes
close. He was so tired. He felt himself being encouraged to lie down. He
let Chakotay guide him down to the bed. Once again he found himself in
Chakotay's arms his head resting on Chakotay's strong chest. Soft caresses
stroked his head and his back. The dream's tension drifted away and only
exhaustion remained. "Sleep, Tom," Chakotay whispered. "I'll be here.
You're not alone." He felt safe, warm, and very tired. His mind latched
onto the sound of Chakotay's breathing and to that rhythmic sound he fell