Shuttle Down IV
by Judy and Jacki
SUMMARY: When Tom Paris and Harry Kim crash on Earth almost 400 years in the past, Voyager mounts a rescue operation with the help of Sam Beckett, who has 'leaped' into Tuvok, and Admiral Al Calavicci, and with the sometime hindrance of Captain Braxton of the 29th Century Time Police.
CHAPTERS 10 and 11: The R rating is for real as Tom's experiences as a victim of child abuse and prison rape are described in this chapter and the next two. There is no explicit depiction of rape, but the portrayals are intense and could be disturbing. R also for language. In addition to Tom's counseling, find out how the others are dealing with the stasis situation. Hankies alert! More is revealed about the treatment Tom received at the hands of his father. Lots of hankies for chapter 11!
WARNINGS: RATING: R. Mostly PG-13, but turns into serious R after later parts. The R is for mature themes concerning post-traumatic stress. There's lots of Tom angst. Spoilers for 'Future's End' and any other episode ever shown! Set during end of 5th season.
DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns Voyager and its characters. Quantum Leap was a Universal television series created by Donald P. Bellisario. We've borrowed all of them with no intent for profit. (Consider the cost of the computer, the software, the Internet connection, etc.) The story is ours, copyright 1997, 1998.
ARCHIVE: Archiving is okay, just ask us. We'll probably say yes. Please keep the disclaimer and our names attached.
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CHAPTER 10 : If Teardrops Were Diamonds
[Note: The title comes from the line in a song "Richest One" by Bill Carter. It goes: "If teardrops were diamonds, From the African mines, If heartaches were silver, My whole life would shine, I'd be the richest one, the richest one, In the world, Oh, yes, In the world, Oh-h." I heard it sung by Toni Price on the CD Antone's Women: Bringing You the Best in Blues, 1992, Discovery Records, Warner Music]
Voyager hung in stasis just outside the wormhole. Its lights glittered like stars against the velvet backdrop of space on the one side and against the roiling maelstrom of the wormhole wall on the other side. The way it hung in space, outside of time, Voyager could have been an ornament on a 20th Century Christmas tree.
Haylene outlined a plan to her companions in the wormhole and they spread out through the galaxy while she stayed behind to monitor the unfolding events on the Voyager. She gathered the energy patterns that emanated from all over the ship, particularly from the holodeck, and transformed that energy into crystalline matter. When she exposed it to light, the surfaces of the crystal sparkled like teardrops in a rainbow.
Each of her companions rapidly searched hundreds and then thousands of developing civilizations. Periodically they returned to report their findings to her.
The bridge of Voyager was nearly deserted. Since they were in stasis and the ship seemed safe for now, there was simply less for the crew to do. Chakotay had put everyone on minimal schedules and encouraged the crew to take some personal time. People were free to pursue any leisure activities as long as they stayed away from holodeck 1. On this night, only Janeway, Chakotay, and Kim were on the bridge. Janeway huddled over Harry's station while he pointed out various readings to her. Chakotay hovered nearby.
"No, see this monitor," Harry pointed out. "There's no time passing."
"Stasis," she murmured. "This is almost as much of a headache as time travel. It feels as if time passes, we get hungry, sleepy, we talk to each other, monitor the ship. But no time passes."
"That's it," Harry concluded.
"What about the wormhole?" Chakotay asked.
"There's activity, but no degradation or instability that I've been able to detect," Harry reported.
"I wonder how long this can go on," Janeway thought aloud. Then her thoughts jumped to a subject on all their minds. "Is there any way to monitor what's going on in the holodeck? Do we know if it's doing them any harm?"
Without being told, Harry knew which holodeck she meant. "Not that I've been able to discover. There's three stable life signs, but that's all I can tell you."
She and Chakotay exchanged glances. He saw her concern for Tom and the others in her expression, a concern that had barely left her since the strange exchange with Tuvok in the conference room. He wished he could reassure her, but all that came to mind was a summary of Tom Paris' life, "Kathryn, Tom is a survivor. He'll get through this."
Harry watched them discreetly. Janeway seemed to acknowledge Chakotay's words, but there was something still bothering the captain. Chakotay leaned his head closer to her face and turned both of them away from Harry. His next words were obviously meant for the captain alone. "Your support for him on this side of the holodeck is just as important as what's happening inside."
She smiled and shook her head. How well he had read her misgivings. "I understand that I can't control everything on this ship, but . . . "
"You'd like to," he finished for her. "I know."
She briefly allowed herself to lean against his shoulder and turned her face up to give him a rueful smile. He grinned back at her, dimples surfacing. For a moment, they created their own private stasis.
Recovered from the shuttle simulation, Tom had emotionally pulled in on himself. With elaborate casualness he lounged on the couch across from Sam and Tuvok. "So. Are we done?"
"Is that how it feels?" Sam asked picking up very clearly the emotions Tom was trying to wall off from further exploration.
"Yeah. I had it wrong. Now I've got it right. Harry is fine and I didn't kill him. End of story."
Sam saw how scared Tom was behind those bland words. "I guess I see how it could be the end of that story, but there are other stories, nightmares, that are bothering you and have been for a long time. How about if we take a look at what might be there?"
Under Sam's soothing words and physical presence, Tom tried to figure out if he could let anyone look at his nightmares. Still guarded, he asked, "What's involved?"
"I thought I'd take a history. You know what that means?"
Tom indicated that he understood, but his eyes remained wary. "Okay, but can Tuvok leave?" Tom wasn't sure what would come up next, and there were still some things that he wasn't ready to talk about in front of a commanding officer.
"Of course," Tuvok replied and walked out quietly.
Sam and Tom talked casually for a while about Tom's family. Tom talked warmly about his sister and mother, some of the friends he had growing up, his first girlfriend, his first solo flight, the years at Starfleet Academy. In fact, he talked about every important person in his young life except for one.
Sam wanted to reach out to Tom and he could feel the warmth and compassion entering Tom. For Tom, this experience was still a little unsettling. It felt like he was being hit by a wave of warm water. He couldn't help trying to steel himself, in case it wasn't what he expected, but it was so comforting that he'd succumb to that wave each time. Still, he was a little apprehensive as to why Sam was offering warmth now.
"Tom," Sam began gently, "sometimes what we don't say is as important as what we do say. We can draw attention to things, and sometimes make them larger than they really are if we try to ignore them. I noticed that you haven't mentioned your father, and yet I sense that he was a big part of your early life. Do you feel ready to talk about him?"
"Look, I know you're trying to help, but I don't see that going back to him is going to change anything," Tom replied.
"I used to think the same thing," Sam replied.
"What do you mean?" Tom asked, intrigued. Sam seemed so nice, so innocent to Tom that it hadn't occurred to him that Sam would know about any serious pain.
Sam took a deep breath before he began. "I had an older brother -- his name was also Tom -- who served as a soldier in a 20th century war on Earth, the Vietnam War."
"I've read about that war," Tom interjected. "It was a pretty bloody time in Earth's history."
"Yes it was," Sam continued. "It was a tough time for my family too. My brother was killed in that war. And my father died a short time after that. I went away to school, something like your Academy. I was there because my family wanted me to get a good education, but I also stayed so that I wouldn't have to go home and deal with these losses. After a while, I was able to make peace with myself about my father's death. He lived the life he wanted. But my brother's death was a different story. It was so violent and painful that I just wanted to forget it. Not forget him, just push his death out of my mind. For a long time, I didn't talk about him with anyone. It took a friend, a good friend to help me see that I was only making myself feel worse by trying to avoid it. When I finally faced his death, then I could remember him with less pain."
"And that helped?" Tom asked quietly.
"Things got better," Sam replied honestly. Sam chose not to tell Tom that in one of his leaps Al had traded his freedom from a POW camp to save Sam's brother and in this timeline his brother was still alive. He was afraid of creating false hope in Tom that he had the power in this leap to go back and heal Tom's childhood. Besides, all that Sam had told Tom was true. Years before that leap, early in their friendship, Al saw Sam's pain and made him face what happened to his brother. Al was the only one who he ever talked with about his brother, but maybe it took somebody who had been to Vietnam to understand.
Tom's fingers drummed a pattern on his knees. "What if I don't want to feel better about my father? I don't think we were ever close like you and your brother."
"Tom, whatever you get out of this is for you, not for him. You don't have to like him, love him, or forgive him. But isn't it exhausting to tiptoe around the things that still hurt you, always trying to keep them at bay?"
'How does he know this?' Tom thought to himself. He didn't answer, but nodded instead.
"Then if we can help you cleanse some of the old wounds, you won't have to spend so much time running from your pains. You can heal them and move on." Tom gave him an incredulous look. "I know," Sam replied to the silent accusation, "that there are some wounds that seem too deep to heal, but at least we can help you to find an easier way to live around them."
Tom stared at Sam for a long time. Sam felt as if Tom was trying to look through him, searching for anything that might be used against him. Sam opened his mind to Tom and waited patiently.
"Okay," Tom finally answered. "We can talk about him."
"Tom, do you want to see him? We can create a holoimage if you'd like."
"No!" His protest came out as almost a shout. Taking a deep breath, Tom tried his best to sound reasonable. "Look, I don't want him here. This is tough enough without putting him in front of me."
"Okay," Sam agreed affably. "Tell me about one of your first memories of your father."
Tom's eyes closed as he sorted through memories that he had spent a lifetime trying to forget. His voice was very quiet as he began to speak. "I was five. That morning my father had taken me to Starfleet Academy. I'd flown a shuttle simulation for the Captain -- that's what he was then, now he's an Admiral -- and his friends." Sam noticed that Tom only referred to his father as 'him' or 'the Captain', never using an affectionate term like 'Dad' or even 'Father'. "I was so excited on the flight home," Tom continued, "that I couldn't sit still. I was bragging about what a great pilot I was, and I begged him to let me fly us home. Sometimes I can be a little obnoxious. I guess that was one of those times 'cause he smacked me."
"He took one hand off the control panel and hit me across the face."
"How many times?"
"Wham. Wham. Twice."
"The first time I kind of staggered. The second time I fell to the floor. Then I started to cry. He stopped the flyer and gave me a spanking. Apparently I wasn't supposed to cry."
The only emotion Sam was able to pick up was a kind of detached irony. "What were your injuries?"
"You mean besides a sore bottom?" Sam indicated that he wanted to know. "I lost a baby tooth. My eye swelled up before we got home."
"What happened then? Were you asked about your injuries?"
"My sister was home. She asked."
"What did you tell her?"
Tom took a deep breath. "I told her I fell. She got out the regenerator and fixed my face."
Sam took him back to the incident in the shuttle. "You were five?"
"And you said you could get a little obnoxious . . . what did you mean by that?"
"Just that . . . you know, I was full of myself. Talking about how great I was, what a big pilot I was. . . "
"Have you been around many children?"
"Me? Hell no."
"It's pretty normal for kids of that age to be full of themselves. They're figuring out what they're good at, trying new things. They'll tell you they're the best, the fastest, the smartest . . . you get the picture. Your two sisters must have gone through that before you."
Tom tried to sort out what Sam seemed to be getting at. Feeling disturbed, Tom said tentatively, "Are you implying that my father shouldn't have reacted the way he did?"
"What did the little boy in that shuttle think? Did he really think getting smacked and spanked was justified?"
Tom crossed his arms over his chest. He fought against the stinging in his eyes. Struggling to get the words out, Tom told him, "No-o. Not when it happened. It felt . . . very unfair."
Sam saw the pain in those tear clouded blue eyes. It was hard to hold back the rage that he himself felt against Tom's father. But Sam pulled back to his center and sent feelings of comfort and solicitude toward Tom. "Tom, it felt unfair because it was. Your father was never justified in hitting you. Never, no matter what you did. Every single time that this happened it was his fault, not yours." Sam could see that Tom wanted to believe him and he was gratified to see Tom relax, if only a little.
A very pensive B'Elanna sat with Harry in the mess hall. "I miss him, Harry." She was repeating words she had said often to the ensign.
"I know I keep asking this, but what do you think is happening to him?"
"I wish I had an answer."
"What are they doing in there?" she asked her question as if it had not been posed repeatedly.
Harry shrugged, "I don't know, B'Elanna. Your guess is as good as mine."
"I mean, I know they're together. And that's good. I don't think Tom should be alone." She remembered Tom as he'd been before beaming onto the holodeck. "Oh, Harry, he was having such a hard time. I know that he didn't mean the things he said to me, but it still hurt to hear him say those words. But no matter what, I shouldn't have let him shut me out."
"What could you do? Sit on him?"
They both laughed at the image of petite B'Elanna sitting on the tall conn officer, holding him down. B'Elanna began to giggle and in a suggestive leer said, "Actually . . . "
Harry's initial image of kids at play turned to an image of adults at play. He tried not to blush. "B'Elanna . . . "
"Sorry, Harry," she apologized. But all levity vanished as she told him, "That flyboy better be all right."
"Or you'll kill him."
"Damn right," she growled. As she gazed at Harry's uneasy smile, a thought hit her. Speculatively, she asked, "Harry . . . ?"
Her intent expression belied the casual way she'd spoken his name. He realized he wasn't going to like her next words. When she spoke them, he knew he'd been right.
With Tom's permission, Sam discussed their meeting with Tuvok after Tom had gone to take a nap. Sam wrapped up his summary to Tuvok and concluded, "On one level he is very angry and bitter towards his father, but on another level he has no idea how wrong his father was. He believes he deserved what happened to him."
"If Tom was innocent, then it's not a just world," Tuvok theorized. "In a just world, people receive only the appropriate level of punishment for misdeeds. What you described is not appropriate. This suggests that Mr. Paris experienced his world as chaotic and disordered."
"And it would mean that his father didn't love him. Or, if he believed his father loved him, then the abuse he suffered was somehow part of being loved. No wonder he's so cautious around the people closest to him."
"Indeed," Tuvok agreed. "When did the beatings stop?"
"When he was fifteen," Sam answered. "He was accepted into Starfleet Academy. His father went off on a mission and was captured and tortured by Cardassians I gather they're pretty bad. Anyway, the irony is that his father ended up as a professor at the academy full time. Since they were both now in such a public place, I don't think that the Admiral would risk his reputation by beating his son at the Academy. So he switched to words alone as a means to control and batter Tom."
Sam shook his head in disbelief. His feelings about his relationship with his own father were complex -- love and frustration, awe and regret, but no matter how much they'd disagreed on occasion, he'd never felt fear. Even though some tough things had happened in his life, at least Sam had been old enough to make sense of them. But to have a childhood like Tom's . . . he just couldn't understand how a father could harm any of his children.
Tuvok's question brought Sam back to the present. "Did you say that Tom was accepted to the Academy at 15?" Sam nodded. "I believe that may explain a lot. Most cadets are in their late teens or early twenties before they are accepted to the Academy. Because Tom was so much younger, he may have been ostracized by some of his peers. Humans, particularly young males, can be irrationally insecure and competitive. They may have resented Tom's capabilities at such a young age and tried to diminish his status in an effort to increase their own.
"It is an illogical and always unsuccessful strategy," Tuvok continued, "nonetheless, it is frequently executed. Further, Tom was the son of an admiral who served as an Academy professor, so, in a quandary typical of human behavior, he would have to excel to be considered normal."
"But his upbringing left him immature, full of self-loathing, and constantly trying to please a father who couldn't be pleased. He might as well have been wearing a sign: Disaster waiting to happen," Sam replied sadly.
"Indeed, given the odds, it was highly unlikely that he should have reached his current level of functioning." After a moment of reflection, Tuvok queried, "Did he talk about his prison experiences?"
"Only in words of one syllable. The word 'fuck' came up as a verb, a noun, and an adjective. Prison was a recapitulation of childhood. Those more powerful got to do what they wanted and told him it was all his fault. Apart from the rage, rage he doesn't yet acknowledge, I'd say he's pretty confused about prison. Tuvok, that young man should have had help long before now. If his father was too powerful when he was a child, then surely after Caldik Prime . . . "
"The admiral may have been too powerful even then."
Understanding hit Sam. "He would prevent Tom from getting help because of what Tom might tell them about his childhood."
"Precisely. The same with prison. There are some secrets I imagine the admiral did not want out, no matter what the cost to his son."
"Oh, God." Sam was horrified. "And, indirectly, he's still protecting his father such as when he asked you to leave the room . . . Well. One of our goals is eventually to get Tom to the point where he can confront his father."
Tuvok steepled his fingers in thought. "What's your first goal for his recovery?"
Sam had thought about this. "There's a little boy inside Tom who needs him. I think introductions are in order."
Al walked into Sam's office, settling in his chair. This room represented Sam's ideals -- decency, compassion, justice, things Al wished that he could believe in more. But he and Sam had led different kinds of lives. He'd stopped by Donna's quarters earlier and had given her the usual pep talk. For her part, she'd accepted the talk graciously, but he could see the clouds of doubt that lingered in her eyes. Al didn't want to see her doubts or feel his own, so he came to this place.
He didn't know how long he'd been sitting there when he heard a knock at the door. Everyone knew never disturb him here, so he was ready to pounce on an offending ensign when he realized that it was Beth. Some time ago, before the leaps got harder, Sam had the chance to come home himself, but he traded that chance to return to Beth and tell her that Al was a POW and coming back in 6 years. She waited for Al, but he also never forgot the other timeline when he'd lost her. And every once in a while, when the light hit her just right, like now, she'd look so beautiful that he'd wonder if he only dreamed their life together and she would fade away. It always took his breath away until she'd move again and his life was restored. Al never explained these pauses to Beth because he didn't want her to feel bad about the choices she'd made in the other timeline.
Beth never asked Al about these pauses because she assumed they were psychological battle scars that twitched in his soul. In a way, she was right. Al looked so broken in those moments that it strangled her heart. But she had learned long ago that if she just waited a little while, he always found his way back to her. Still, he'd looked more lost during this leap than she'd seen in quite a while and this was the sixth night in a row that he had come to Sam's office.
She kissed him gently and leaned back on Sam's desk, careful not to disturb anything. Beth caressed his cheek and he placed his hand on her own, relieved by the touch. "This is tougher than usual for you, isn't it?" she asked. "You've actually been interacting with people in Sam's location, visited a spaceship, conducted rescue missions, and exposed an alien time spy on your staff, but Sam still isn't here."
If any others had dared to speak to him that way, Al would have chewed them out and walked away. Only Beth was allowed to poke around in his psyche and even then he didn't like it. He liked it even less when she was right. He sank back in Sam's chair, running the fingers of one hand across the armrest. "I don't get this at all," he began. "The more I do to help Sam, the worse things get. It's been over a week and Ziggy still can't get any sort of lock on Sam. And what if this worm hole is tied to the string of Sam's life? What if the string breaks? What if this is how it ends, and I made it happen because I trusted two aliens that I don't know from Adam?"
Beth pulled Al up to her and held him quietly. Al squeezed her to him tightly, almost as if he was trying to absorb her essence into him. When Beth felt him begin to calm, she stroked his hair and said, "I don't believe anything bad is happening to Sam. I can't explain, but I have a good feeling about him right now. And those Voyager people want to help him get back to us."
She pulled back Al's face so that she could look into his eyes. "We never have enough information about the leaps. It's always a gamble, but we've done our best. We'll find him, but even if we don't, nobody could have done more, and Sam wouldn't want you to blame yourself. Sometimes all we can do is have faith and wait."
When he started to look a little better, Beth nudged him towards the door. "Okay, okay," he muttered. "Let me check with Ziggy one more time-"
"No," Beth countered. "You have been running on cat naps too long. At this rate, you're more likely to make mistakes that you really will regret. Ziggy will keep searching and notify you as soon as there is any change, but you're banned from the Imaging Chamber until you've had at least six hours sleep."
Al furrowed his brow. "You don't have the authority to give me orders."
Beth smiled sweetly. "As medical staff, I share Verbena's authority to make decisions about the welfare of any staff and limit their work hours accordingly."
"Well, I don't feel tired," Al grumped.
Beth's smile changed. "Well, I'll have to provide intensive medical care until you do."
For the first time in days, Al felt genuinely happy as he followed her down the hall to their quarters.
"You want me to meet who?" Tom's incredulous voice carried throughout the room.
"Your inner child," Sam told him easily.
"What is that? Some kind of 20th Century superstition?"
Sam smiled and didn't give rise to the challenge. Instead, he told Tom, "So you haven't met your inner child."
"Excuse me, Sam, but I don't have one of these inner childs."
"How do you know? We know from our last talk that some part of you is storing earlier memories, trying to shield you from things that are painful. So are you willing to find out?"
Sam's grin was disarming and he had put it to him as a friendly challenge, the kind that Tom couldn't walk away from. Tom warned, "You're wasting your time, you know."
"We'll see. Ready?"
Sighing, Tom gave the doctor a nervous smile. "Okay."
"Now, what I'm going to ask you to do is simply relax. Open your mind and what you experience will be projected here on the holodeck so that we can see it together. I'll stay with you the whole time." Sam could feel Tom giving into the experience and they both saw a warm beach materialize around them. It was a deserted beach with white sand, frothy waves, and hazy blue skies. They smelled the briny tang of the sea, heard the crashing sounds of the waves and the cries of the gulls.
As they stood near the waves, Sam asked Tom to find the child on the beach.
"I don't see anyone," Tom said truthfully, his gaze sweeping up and down the beach.
"Try walking towards that sand castle . . ." Sam directed.
"There's a toy bucket and shovel," Tom told him.
"Look around again." Sam encouraged. He could feel the child's presence nearby.
On the beach, Tom looked again. He startled, his body tensing and his breath catching in a ragged inhale. Tom saw two eyes in the sand first, staring up at him, then found the nose and mouth. "He's buried in the sand up to his neck." he told Sam, with an edge of panic in his voice.
Sam sent waves of encouragement to Tom. "He's okay, Tom. The child is in no danger. He, like you, is simply afraid and he's hiding himself. Speak to him," Sam directed gently.
The child spoke first, "Fuck off."
A little indignant and a little awestruck, Tom turned to look at Sam, "You hear that? He told me to fuck off."
"Tell him you're there for him."
Tom looked down at that face in the sand and said, "Hey."
"I hate you," the childish voice told him. "I'm not gonna have anything to do with you. So fuck off."
Walking away a bit, his voice hard, Tom told Sam, "Let's get out of here."
"Go back and tell him you understand, that it's okay to feel that way and that you love him anyway."
Closing his eyes for a moment, Tom struggled with a very troubled expression on his face. Finally, he opened his eyes, sighed and went back over. "It's okay," he said to the little boy buried in the sand. "I mean, I understand."
Sam coached, "Tell him you love him."
"I . . . I . . . " Try as he might, Tom couldn't get the words out. He just couldn't say 'I love you' to that buried boy in the sand. It was as though his own throat was filled with sand. He choked again, finally able to tell Sam, "I can't say it."
"That's okay, Tom. You're doing fine. Tell him you'll be back and that you won't abandon him."
Through the pain, Tom managed to say only part of what Sam had directed, "Gotta go. I'll be back."
As Tom psychologically withdrew from this experience, the beach, the sand, the little boy buried in it, all disappeared and the holodeck regained its now familiar features. As Sam spoke, Tom wiped furiously at his face, desperate to remove any sign of distress. He told Sam, "I don't think that worked out so well."
Sam reassured him, "It was just a first meeting."
"Yeah. Well, Little Tommy hates my guts and doesn't want to have anything to do with me."
Sam told him simply, "Little Tommy needs you."
"Then maybe you'd better tell him that. I don't think he's with the program here."
Sam picked up strong swells of emotion of bitterness and rejection. Sam was surprised to sense frustration as well. "You're frustrated."
"Let me get this straight," Tom clarified. "He's *my* inner child and he just told me to fuck off. You know, I was trying to reach out to him."
Sam nodded, "It's pretty frustrating when you're trying to reach out to someone in trouble, you expose yourself to them and then they don't take the help."
The flat side of a Klingon bat'leth hit Tom upside the head. A light dawned. "Oh."
"Oh?," Sam urged.
"He just did to me what I've been doing to all my friends? Gods, they're gonna hate me." Sam leaned a little toward Tom so that the younger man felt encouraged to continue. Confusion marched up front and center and Tom gave voice to it. "And that kid hates me. But I don't hate my friends."
"What do you feel for them?"
Perplexed, Tom said, "They're my friends."
Sam directed, "Go back to Little Tommy, his reasons for rejecting you."
Frowning, Tom tried to comply with Sam's directive. "I haven't been there for him? I mean, hell, I didn't even know he existed." Tom stopped. "Sam. I don't understand this. What's going on? Who *is* that kid?"
"Who do you think he is?"
"He's me. Right?"
"How old is he?"
"Six or seven maybe, too young to be using the kind of language I heard. But I don't get it. I mean, all this, it isn't real."
"If it isn't real, then why did you get so upset when you couldn't tell him you loved him?"
Biting his lip, Tom nodded, afraid to voice his thoughts. Simultaneously, he knew and feared the answer to Sam's question. "Because I'm unlovable."
"The little boy you found on the beach: is that how you felt about him?"
Tom shook his head. In a strangled voice he said, "No. That's how he feels about me."
Harry could not believe B'Elanna's request. They'd both bent the rules before when it was necessary, but this was too much. "No, B'Elanna, I won't help you."
"But I thought you cared about Tom," she challenged.
"Don't try baiting me like that," he replied, satisfied that he wasn't going to be suckered into this.
"We need your expertise, Harry," she continued relentlessly. "Seven and I tried to get into the holodeck ourselves, but we can't find any locking mechanisms."
"How did you get Seven to go along with this?" he asked.
"I told her that this wormhole species might be trying to assimilate us and that we needed to know if they were our enemy."
"Clever," Harry smiled as he took another stab at his lunch.
"Well it might be true, " B'Elanna continued. "Anyway, this system is closed with some sort of forcefield, but it's not like any energy signature that I've ever seen. And even though it isn't biologically based, Seven thinks that this field is alive."
"Alive?" Harry repeated. This was something he hadn't expected and he was not sure that he was comprehending it.
"Well maybe alive doesn't really describe it. At least it's . . . sentient. Seven said this forcefield is thinking. It understands everything I try to do, anticipates me, and blocks me at every turn."
"Wow. If that's true, then I'm not sure that you can ever get through," Harry replied.
"Well, there has to be a way," B'Elanna protested. "I have to see Tom. There are things that I have to say to him. And I need to know if he's okay. Don't you?"
"Of course I want to see him," Harry replied, a little defensively. "But I won't help you break into the holodeck."
Harry leaned forward. "You gave me good advice before. You told me that I had to face my demons about this crisis and I did. Now it's time for Tom to face his own demons and maybe it'll be easier for him to do so without us right now."
She was appalled. "How can you say that! This is when he needs us the most."
It had taken Harry a while to get to this point, so he felt he could be patient with her. He took her hand and gently said, "Think about it, B'Elanna. Everything we've tried to do to help Tom since he got back to the ship has backfired. The more we've pushed Tom, the more he's withdrawn. And by the time that we all met with him together, he was convinced that we were going to maroon him on an asteroid for the rest of his life. At this rate, we're going to help him to death!"
"I'm sorry. That was a poor choice of words. But you have to admit that nothing is going according to plan."
"That's true," she mumbled dejectedly.
"Harry is right," Neelix interjected as he brought real, fresh coffee to their table.
"You wouldn't be eavesdropping, would you?" Harry asked.
Neelix pulled back trying, but failing, to look insulted. "Eavesdropping? I wouldn't dream of it. It was easy to deduce that you might be talking about our Mr. Paris. You've been whispering for quite a while and I anticipated that your coffee might be cold. I'm just trying to be helpful."
"Helpful? How can you help?" B'Elanna spat.
Neelix turned serious as he sat at the table. "I've had my own challenges lately. After my death, it was shattering to lose faith in the Great Forest where all my loved ones would be waiting for me. When I didn't see them, I had to question many things about my existence. It took a long time to complete my vision quest and find a renewed connection to my family. This was a very personal experience and I was only able to share it with Commander Chakotay because I needed his help as a vision guide. Even now, it would be hard to describe to anyone else. So if our Tom faces similar challenges, then we must allow him to find his way back to us. Mr. Vulcan is watching over him, so he is not alone."
"And I spent some time with Sam, or at least the part of Sam that occupied Tuvok's body. Believe me, he is a good guy and he really cares about Tom."
"What about Haylene?" B'Elanna asked.
"It's true," Harry said, "we don't know anything about her. But if she's like any other noncorporeal being that we've encountered, then she has the ability to destroy us at any point. So far she hasn't done us any harm."
B'Elanna wanted to believe that Tom was okay and she certainly didn't want things to get any worse. "Okay, so maybe I stay away from the holodeck for a little while. I still need to do something. If I just sit around, I'll go mad."
"Ah, I have the perfect task," Neelix said as he led B'Elanna into the galley. He handed her a knife and a tomato.
"What am I to do with this?" she asked incredulously.
"You're to gently peel the skin off, but be careful. These foods bruise easily."
"Why would I peel tomatoes? And how could this possibly help Tom?"
"While I was monitoring the earth transmissions, I saw some wonderful foods. Tom is always one of the first to complain about my cooking, so I thought that I would make some of his favorite meals with these fresh ingredients. Pizza, tacos, the works. Think how pleased he'll be when realizes that these treats were made by you." Neelix leaned in closer, whispering, "If it helps, think of the tomato as anyone or anything that has hurt Tom. Give it what you think it deserves."
"If I do that," B'Elanna said, "then I can't be gentle."
"No problem, we'll just make tomato soup with the leftovers." Neelix smiled.
B'Elanna felt a little ridiculous when she picked up the first tomato, but after a few minutes she attacked the task with vigor.
Tuvok took a turn meeting alone with Tom. He and Sam thought Tuvok might be better able to discuss some unfinished business from the shuttle simulation. But before Tuvok could say anything, Tom remarked with a smirk, "I guess I wore out Sam."
Tuvok cocked an eyebrow. "Or perhaps different approaches will prove helpful in the long run. Sam is nearby. I can reach him if necessary." Tom had the good grace to blush. Awkwardly, he perched on one arm of the couch opposite Tuvok. Matter of factly, the Vulcan observed, "You seem to be having a strong emotional reaction to my comment."
"I realized that you might be thinking I was blaming you or Sam for something and I didn't mean to . . . I guess I . . ." Tom took a deep breath, the flush spreading even more. He wasn't ready to acknowledge that sometimes he just couldn't resist being a smart ass. "I have fair skin. I blush easily."
"That must explain it." After a pause, Tuvok broached a topic that he'd ignored earlier. "Tom, I thought we could go back to something that you said during the shuttle simulation."
"Something I said?" Tom repeated, buying some time. He was fully aware of what had come up but been dropped: Auckland.
"You said that you were upset about the possibility of going back to prison. What are your fears about prison?" At Tuvok's words, an image of the Auckland Prison materialized around them.
Tom jolted. "Gods! Make it go away! Make it go away!" Tuvok closed his eyes and the holoimage was gone. "Are you nuts?"
Tom leapt to his feet and stood angrily before the unruffled Vulcan. He paced for a minute, trying to erase the image from his mind. Even when he'd calmed himself, sarcasm laced Tom's words, "You want to know about fear and prison. Well, you found me out. I guess I was afraid that four years away from prison meant I'd lost my good looks and none of the guys would want me anymore!" Stunned by his outburst, Tom stumbled back into the couch. "Gods, I don't believe I said that."
Tuvok realized that Tom's defenses were fully engaged as if enveloped in a warp bubble that was very likely to take the young man emotionally away at warp speed. "Here's what I see happening. We began to discuss events that hurt you so deeply that even the remote possibility of their reoccurrence made you ill on the shuttle."
"*Remote* is not a word I'd use."
"Please supply your own."
Tom began to crumble in on himself, seeming to shrink into the chair. The bubble of defenses evaporated leaving the pilot trembling. "In that shuttle prison felt very, very real."
"You were afraid that you'd be raped again if you went back."
Tuvok's words put the very worst of his prison past right out there in the open. Shakily, Tom told him, "How did you . . . ?"
Tuvok told him calmly. "I am not unaware of the fact that you'd spent time in prison. Although the Federation maintains that its prisons are for rehabilitation and that abuses do not take place in our modern times, I know that is not the case. A closed society, little in the way of human supervision or meaningful activities, and mostly anarchic conditions mean that there will be predators and there will be victims. Victims will be those who are the least powerful: a certain degree of personal attractiveness would, perhaps, heighten the risks. I do not believe your father extended his resources to help or protect you. Neither Maquis nor Starfleet would offer special protections. You were very young and no doubt considered good looking by those prisoners who had the power to inflict their will on others. The conclusion that you would be victimized is inescapable."
Quietly bitter, Tom observed, "Rape as a *logical conclusion*."
"In human society, rape has always been about power."
"And I suppose you want all those gory details," Tom taunted.
Tuvok indicated, "When you talked to Sam earlier, you provided more details, stories really, about the predators you evaded than the ones who victimized you."
"So talking about the prison's more colorful rapists didn't prove entertaining enough? You want to know more about them? I can tell you what their victims said. Is that what you want to hear about?" Tom's voice had taken on an edge as he'd become more and more agitated by the prospect of talking about prison. He told Tuvok fiercely, "I can't go through that again. I won't!"
"And I doubt very much that you will."
"Oh, so it's just like I said," Tom snapped sarcastically, "losing my charms after four years."
"No. You have resources now. Those resources will be doing everything in their power to prevent you from ever going back. If by some miscarriage of justice that happens, those resources would be expended to protect you."
Confused, Tom asked. "Whose resources? I doubt if my father . . ."
"As Seven would no doubt say, 'your father is irrelevant'." Tuvok leveled with the troubled pilot. "The Captain will do all she can to keep you from returning to prison."
"-- maybe before I crashed the shuttle."
"Her support would be unconditional, Lt. Moreover, I have resources of my own. They would be at your disposal."
"What?" Tuvok's generosity astonished him. "But "
"I didn't think you even liked me," Tom protested.
"Justice must be done." Tuvok's tone was carefully neutral, betraying no feeling one way or the other on the subject of personal affection.
"I . . . I don't know what to say. I'm speechless."
"A condition that is not without its virtues."
Tom recognized the Vulcan's humor and shook his head, a newborn smile touching his lips. But the moment was fleeting. Tom began to tense up again, pulled into the memories of Auckland. It always happened like this -- he'd put it in the back of his mind and then like Jack the Ripper, the memories would sneak out of the fog and slice his soul open. He ran has hand across his chest and half expected to see blood on his fingers when he drew them away. Tom's fingers were trembling when they raked through his hair.
Tuvok sensed that there was new trust in the pilot even as wariness remained. "I believe that I've accurately described the power motives of the perpetrators." Tom's blue eyes fixed on Tuvok's face, waiting inevitably for the commander's next words. "But your experience is more important, your experience as a victim."
With a start, Tom realized Tuvok had actually asked a question. "You want to know what it feels like to be the victim?" Tom pulled his long legs up on the couch and hugged his knees to his chest. His earlier bluster all but gone, nearly inaudibly, he said, "I've never talked about this. I don't know if I can."
"I can ask Sam to return." Tom nodded. There were still some things that he couldn't tell Tuvok to his face. And he needed to drown in a wave of comfort if Sam had any left.
Tuvok walked out discretely as Sam came in. For his part, Tom felt Sam enter before he actually saw him. Sam sat next to Tom, but was careful not to touch him. Mouth dry, heart thudding, Tom chose the demons he was willing to expose. "Tuvok said I should talk about being a victim. Okay. You need to know something. Yeah, it's a lot about power. But it's also about sex 'cause that's how the power is expressed. You can't imagine the vulnerability, the way you have no say about what happens to you, it's all against your will. The way it happens in prison, it isn't just you and him. It's you and them. They watch 'til it's their turn, or they hold you down. They laugh about you, talk about you as if you're not even there."
Shuddering, Tom closed his eyes. His next words seemed to be directed to himself. Remembering, he whispered, "And, it hurts. Physically, it hurts so bad."
"You hurt so terribly that you don't think you'll ever survive it. And they don't care what you're going through. I know." Sam continued for him. Tom looked stunned, surprised that Sam understood.
Sam remembered his own leap as a rape victim. He'd leaped in after the rape was over, but he experienced all of the aftereffects. The shame and humiliation, the guilt, the pain. And that no one wanted to hear what really happened. It hurt most of all when even Al had doubted him. But at least Sam hadn't been alone. He couldn't imagine how much harder it was for Tom. Although Sam realized that Tom had been speaking in the third person and using his body to barricade himself, he let it go. Tom no doubt needed the distancing in order to speak at all. The room was so silent, he could hear the ragged breaths of the younger man.
After a moment, Tom added painfully, "And that's not even the worst part."
Respectfully, Sam asked, "What was the worst part for you?"
Tom passed a hand over this face as he tried to summon the courage to tell Sam about what had haunted him over the past four years. He swallowed hard before he could he choke out the words. "It was . . . it was my body." His lip trembled as his voice cracked. With tear filled eyes, Tom implored Sam, "Oh, Gods. I don't know if I can tell you. This is so bad."
Sam reached out to the young man and enveloped him in comfort. It did not erase the young man's pain, but eased it a little. Sam spoke softly, "No matter what happened, I won't leave you. I'll be here for you and we'll get through this together."
Sam sent wave after wave of soothing warmth and protection toward Tom. "You don't need to carry this burden alone anymore, Tom. You can tell me." Tom gulped, shame flooding through him, flushing his face a hot red. Steeling himself, face buried behind his knees, he blurted out his painful secret in strangled words. "I . . . I'd . . . my body would respond, you know? I couldn't stop it. I didn't want that . . . but I couldn't help it . . . And I hated myself for it."
The sobs tore out of him, wracking his frame, shaking him so hard that Sam reached out to steady him. Tom's feet thudded on the floor as he released his knees to bury his face in his bands. Sam held him for a long time, soothing Tom. Sam could feel Haylene's presence and pulled further strength from her.
The pent-up shame of years-old betrayal worked its way out in a dam burst of tears. He was aware of Sam's calming presence. Although this was something he never thought he'd speak about with anyone ever, he felt grateful for Sam's steady reassurance as he sobbed over the agony he'd been through in prison, both from without and from within. As he slowly gained control, Sam continued calmly at his side, a warm hand hovering over his back. For Tom it was as if he were slowly pulling out of a bad dream. Bunching a handkerchief in his fist, he wiped at his eyes as the tears finally quelled. Through wet lashes, he looked at Sam and in a small voice said hoarsely, "Now you know."
"Yes. I know and I understand." Sam held onto Tom very gently. "What happened to your body was not your fault. You were right, you couldn't help yourself. It's just something that sometimes happens to male rape victims. But it doesn't mean that you were any less a victim."
"But it wouldn't happen to somebody else," Tom argued. "You wouldn't see any other member of this crew lose control of themselves."
"Pon Farr," Sam said, unsure of why the words had escaped his lips.
"What?" Tom asked.
"Pon Farr," Sam repeated, as Tuvok's thoughts entered his mind. Tuvok hadn't eavesdropped, in fact, had retreated into meditation. But Sam's desperate search for something about the crew and loss of control intruded into his meditative state and Tuvok somehow thought that Pon Farr might provide what was needed. Although very difficult for any Vulcan to discuss, Tuvok was willing to share this knowledge through Sam if it would help Tom. Once he shared the information with Sam, he returned to his meditations.
Sam continued, "When Vulcans undergo the Pon Farr, their minds and bodies, which have always been under their control, are no longer working as they think they should. They lose the ability to resist impulses, to shut out pain. It has happened to Tuvok and it will happen again. And you personally saw what happened to Vorik and to B'Elanna. It was extremely distressing for both of them to face that experience. But you supported B'Elanna and helped her to learn to live with it. And you still cared for her. Now she cares for you."
Tom nodded slowly, remembering very clearly how Vorik and B'Elanna had acted under the influence of those alien forces. But he also knew that he was human, not Vulcan or part Klingon and that he had a different relationship with his body. "I . . . it's different."
"I know. Human physiology is different." Sam resumed his seat. "Sometimes it doesn't even feel like it's your body, like it's happened to somebody else and you're just observing it."
"Yeah, that's what it was like."
"I can understand how painful that was for you to have your body respond under those circumstances, how much like a betrayal that must have seemed. But it was a normal response and it doesn't say anything bad about your character or your humanity."
Sam's understanding was hard to argue with, but Tom tried. "I should have been able to control it!"
"You're human, Tom. You couldn't escape this experience anymore than they could escape Pon Farr. In both cases, if each of you hadn't done what you did, you probably would have died."
"I know what you're saying, but . . . "
"But it's too much to absorb at once. You don't have to come to peace with it right now. Just take what you can from our talk." Tom nodded, unable to speak. Sam appreciated how tired the pilot looked. "Perhaps you'd like to get some rest."
Getting to his feet, Sam helped Tom to stand on shaky legs. "I'll be all right."
Watching Tom stumble off to his room, Sam decided to say one more thing. "Tom. I think you have a great deal of courage."
Tom's backward glance was one of shock.
The bed in Tom's room was nicer than that in his quarters: a thick mattress, a heavily padded headboard, a memory pillow. He'd fallen on it exhausted and had dropped into a troubled sleep, tossing restlessly, muttering in his sleep. He was unaware of a blue and silver alien presence appearing soundlessly in his room. Haylene cocked her head, gripped a grape sized crystal that hung on a band around her neck, and surrounded him with a clear energy field that hung like a protective blanket over the young man. She nodded once in satisfaction and disappeared as quickly as she had appeared.
Sam joined Tuvok in an adjoining room. "Tuvok, I think I just shocked Tom by telling him he had a lot of courage. But it's true. And you know what? You are a man of compassion."
The Vulcan blandly raised one eyebrow. "How so?"
"You chose to reveal something very personal about yourself and your people. Given what I know about you from this shared leap, I can guess that self- disclosure like that is pretty difficult for you. And I think all of that is complicated by your thoughts about Tom Paris. He's someone you sometimes respect, but you don't see him as completely reliable."
"Mr. Paris does sometimes respond in unpredictable and illogical ways," Tuvok conceded.
"Despite your . . . reservations about Tom, you still allowed me to share details about one of your most intimate experiences. That is a display of compassion," Sam concluded.
"Mr. Paris is a valued member of this crew and his recovery must be expedited if Voyager is to leave this wormhole. If this revelation about Pon Farr expedites his recovery, then sharing this information was the logical thing to do, Dr. Beckett. However, Haylene has allowed me to recognize and understand the human necessity of praise. Your words honor me and I accept them graciously," Tuvok replied.
Tuvok began to close his eyes and Sam began to leave, assuming that the Vulcan was resuming his meditation. But Tuvok called out to him. "Dr. Beckett, I wish to return a compliment to you. When I first entered your facility at Stallion's Gate, I did not see the value in your work. Your actions seemed reckless, illogical, egocentric, and immature..."
Sam laughed a little. "Tuvok, if that's a compliment, then I have to tell you that you haven't mastered this concept yet."
"Please allow me to continue. As I said, I questioned the validity of your project and my encounters with Admiral Calavicci did not assuage my reservations. However, there were significant revelations from Ziggy and I've observed the way that Tom responds to you. I've read the crew's reports on your prior appearance on this ship as well. It seems that you have made every effort to promote the well-being of those entities that you've encountered. Your actions are still a violation of the Prime Directive and you may yet wreak havoc on future events that you do not understand. But I cannot deny that your intentions are honorable, that you care deeply about justice, and that you've garnered positive results for distressed individuals. There is only a small number of humans entrusted with knowledge of Pon Farr. The accumulating evidence suggests that you are one of those who can be trusted."
Sam was overwhelmed. He knew that this was a difficult admission for the Vulcan to make and that Tuvok's respect was not easily won. "Thank you, Tuvok, thank you."
"You are welcome."
After a moment, Sam confided, "You know, Tom was barely able to walk when he left to lie down. I wonder if he's going to have the stamina to finish this."
"If we were in real time, he would not, not in this rapid a time frame. However, stasis seems to allow us to move ahead much faster than could happen in real time. How much can he take? I do not know, but I believe he has the desire to see this through."
"As much work as we've done, he's only scratched the surface. We've yet to see his rage brought out."
Tuvok thought through the implications of Sam's statement. "Apparently it is very human to express such feelings as rage. A Vulcan would strive to suppress them."
"The problem with Tom's rage is that it's unrecognized. And, since it doesn't come out, it goes inward. He feels shame, guilt, self-loathing. Bringing it outside would mean that he could recognize it, deal with it, redirect it symbolically to its rightful targets."
"The people who abused him?"
"Right. As long as it stays bottled up, it controls him and he doesn't even know it," Sam theorized.
"I see. That is an interesting way of looking at troubling emotions."
Before they could talk further, the air vibrated with gut wrenching screams. As soon as Sam identified the sounds, he ran towards Tom's room as fast as he could go. Tuvok followed closely on his heels.
Resistance and Revelations
Sam heard Tom's screams grow louder with each step towards his room. After witnessing Tom's self-inflicted injuries while dreaming on earth, Sam feared he might find Tom physically damaged again. But when he arrived, he saw Haylene's protective bubble that prevented Tom's thrashing body from falling off the bed or hitting any walls nearby. The bubble's hue darkened each time Tom's activity increased, but it didn't seem to be constricting or pressuring Tom. In fact, the young man seemed oblivious to its existence. Tuvok watched as Sam slowly approached the bubble. At the lightest touch, the bubble dissipated and allowed Sam to enter Tom's personal space. At Sam's instruction, Tuvok moved closer and gently pressed Tom's shoulders and chest to the bed to stop the worst of the thrashing.
Tom continued to struggle and Tuvok tried to reach into his mind to bring him to consciousness. The torrent of emotions threw Tuvok back mentally is if hit by an electric shock. Still needing to make a connection, he tried to reach Tom through words. "Tom. Tom. Wake up." Finally, the screaming and tossing subsided as Tom opened his eyes. Frightened, his gaze darted frantically from side to side, from Sam to Tuvok. Tuvok could still sense the chaos of Tom's thoughts and saw some of the terrifying images that had been devouring the Lieutenant. The agony was still as real for Tom as if he had never awakened.
Tom's breathing began to even a little as awareness of his surroundings returned. He shrugged them off when they offered to help and managed to sit up by himself. Still trembling and not yet sure of his bearings, Tom dropped his head into his hands. Sam kept one hand over Tom's shoulder as he tried to transmit some calming energy. Tuvok noticed that Tom kept peeking through his fingers to scan the room as if verifying his surroundings. As he gained more control, Sam moved to the end of Tom's bed, careful not to crowd the still frightened young man. Given the intensity of the talk about the prison experience that had dominated the earlier session, Sam expected Tom's nightmare to have something to do with his incarceration.
"Tom," Sam began, "you're still on Voyager and you're still safe. Whatever you were dreaming has stopped and it's not happening now. The people that care about you are still here and we'll watch out for you. . ."
"Stop saying that!" Tom exploded. "It doesn't change anything. You're here now, but where were you when I needed you? Where were any of you when it was happening? You care now? So what! I'm the one that had to go through it all . . ."
"Go through what, Tom? What happened?"
"Just forget it, it was nothing," Tom muttered. "I'm fine now." Tuvok and Sam could feel Tom withdrawing from them in a false bravado. Despite his words, the heart-stopping terror was still with him. Tom shuddered, pulled his legs to his chest and hugged his arms around his knees. To Sam, he looked as if he was trying to make himself smaller. Tuvok noted that, tactically, Tom was minimizing his exposure to a physical attack.
Sam began to move a little closer, but he saw Tom flinch in response and Sam pulled back. 'God, what did they do to you?' Sam thought to himself. He hated the thought of causing Tom any more pain. Still, he knew it was necessary to continue. It was like cutting out damaged tissue that, left alone, would turn gangrenous and eventually poison this boy to death.
"Tom," Sam began, "I know you're still scared. So if you'll allow me, I'm going to share some comfort with you. You'll feel it enter, but it won't harm you. You can tell me to stop at anytime, okay?" Tom nodded slightly and Sam very slowly opened himself to Tom. He allowed Tom to absorb this in silence for a few minutes before pushing forward. As Sam continued to share calming energy, he could feel waves of terror at the edge of Tom's consciousness. He knew he had to proceed gently. "You've faced a lot of things that you've been running from. But these things would only be surfacing now because you're strong enough to handle them. You've been very brave, but very alone for so long that you don't how to lean on other people. Maybe nobody was there for you before, but we're here now and we can help you deal with the effects of what they did to you. I promise, Tom, we'd fight to the death to protect you now."
'Why would you help me? You don't even know me." Tom asked, genuinely confused.
"Tom," Sam proceeded, "Although all you feel right now is pain, I know that you are more than that. I can feel your kindness, your compassion for other people who live on the fringe, your courage, your confidence, and the many times that you've taken on risks for others. You're a good man and good men must be saved."
This unaccustomed kindness when he felt so vulnerable was disorienting to Tom and he retreated further into himself. Tuvok wanted to reach into Tom's mind and pull him back to them, but Sam stopped him, signaling that Tom mustn't feel cornered right now. Sam watched as Tom began rocking slightly, struggling to find his voice to speak.
Shaking his head from side to side, Tom said, "No, I'm not good, I'm bad. I'm always bad. That's what he says."
Sam was surprised at how little Tom's voice had become, and he felt another presence. Tuvok tapped Sam on the shoulder and Sam turned around to see a holoimage. He instantly recognized the face as that of Little Tommy from the beach and was pleased to see him again. If the adult Tom couldn't tell him about the nightmare, maybe the younger one could. Sam was about to speak when he felt another, more malevolent presence and he was sure that this other man was nearby.
So this was the Admiral.
Janeway half-turned on her couch to stare out her window at the wormhole filling the view. Its colors swirled round and round like a child's fingerpaints on wet paper. Chakotay quietly came in and joined her.
"It's quite a sight," he commented.
She welcomed him with a grin. "Hi, yourself."
As he bent down to kiss her, she placed her arms around his neck and pulled him in closer. "Mm-m." "Mm-m, indeed, Kathryn." He felt so much joy that his chest just couldn't help but swell at her touch. The grin that split his face matched hers in intensity.
"Do me a favor," she requested.
"Anything," he promised.
"Hm-m, anything?" she teased. "You haven't even heard what I wanted."
He sat beside her and favored her with another large grin, one that forced his dimples out into the open.
"That," she said, enigmatically.
"I don't understand . . . "
"Those dimples. Don't ever lose them."
Laughing with her, he swore, "Never."
A second, longer kiss and she finally broke away. "Everything okay?"
"Yes. Actually everything is okay. The ship is very quiet, the crew are taking some time off. The senior officers are a bit restless, but that's to be expected. . . "
"Any officer in particular?" she responded.
"Let's see, Seven has given up on the idea of leisure for now. I still think that is a difficult concept for her, so I suggested that she spend some time in astrometrics trying to decode more of the messages from Starfleet. The doctor is fretting about finding a new assistant until Tom returns and told me that no one he's interviewed seems to match the doctor's technical standards or gift for bedside compassion." Janeway was glad they were alone when the guffaw escaped her lips. "Neelix is trying to keep B'Elanna occupied, but I suspect that she's trying to work on a way to break into the holodeck to free Tom or at least spy on him."
Kathryn began to object to this, but Chakotay smiled in return. "Don't worry. We talked and she knows now that she can't do that, that we've given our word to Tuvok, but she needs the mental distraction. Besides, I expect her pride is a little hurt to think that she can't get around Haylene's locking system. B'Elanna just needs to think that she can win before she can let it go."
"What about Harry?"
"He seems to be doing better. He's calmer these days. I didn't ask him what he was doing on the holodeck, but he's not spending hours on the same program anymore. In fact, I stopped by his quarters last night and he was playing his clarinet."
Janeway smiled. "It's been a long time since I've thought about how much pleasure and life music can bring to a starship. Do you think he'd ever do a concert for us?"
"Maybe someday. The crew may need more forms of entertainment if we continue to sit in this wormhole."
She sighed. "We've come a long way. Before you came in, I was sitting here thinking . . . So much has happened. A motley crew of Starfleet and Maquis has been tossed around the universe, we've encountered multiple species that have tried to destroy us and yet we always emerge. We walk away with some battle scars, but our crew is stronger."
Chakotay agreed. "Our very young senior officers have grown up very quickly and . . . "
She finished his sentence, ". . . and very well." She sighed and decided to change the subject. "And how are you doing?" Kathryn asked him, moving a little closer.
"I'm fine. Personally, I find this to be a peaceful place." Chakotay looked out at the tapestry of colors around them with appreciation. "I've had some powerful visions during meditation and I don't know what's out there, but I can feel its heartlight. This is strong medicine and I expect that some of us may benefit from it as well."
Kathryn could see some of his happiness, but there was something more. She reached out and placed her hand on his chest. "Chakotay, what else is happening to you?"
He hesitated a moment, then pulled her hand away. "I don't know how you're going to respond to this, but I've had to continue thinking about our eventual departure. Kathryn, this is no reflection on my feelings about Tom. In fact, I recently told him how proud we are of how he has turned his life around. But it is possible that we may have to leave the wormhole before he's ready to pilot Voyager again. So I've been running some simulations on the holodeck in case I need to fill in for him at the helm. It will be a precarious and difficult maneuver back to open space, so I've been practicing."
Chakotay looked at her a little sheepishly. Kathryn could tell that he felt a little uncomfortable about this, as if it was a betrayal of their confidence in Tom. They had all responded out of friendship for Tom, but they had to consider some practical ramifications of this situation. Since Chakotay had taken over personnel matters, she knew that he would have to consider a possible replacement for Tom out of all of the crew with piloting skills. Still, she could see that he didn't want any of the less experienced crew to take on this responsibility, so he placed this burden on his own shoulders. In addition to watching out for the whole crew, he was concerned about *her* feelings. She smiled and placed her hands on his own. "Of course, you're right," she replied, "I'm glad that you're thinking about all of us and Tom can always work in sickbay until he's ready to fly again. Besides, a few of your old Maquis moves might be just what we need to get through this. And personally, I couldn't have gotten this far without you." He smiled and hugged her tightly. As he patted her hair and nuzzled his lips close to hers, she tried to relax into his arms. He kissed her gently and, closing her eyes, she kissed him back and raised the stakes.
Behind them, the wormhole continued to display its whirling colors in a timeless pattern of unearthly beauty.
It took Sam a minute to realize that he was hearing two voices, one from the adult Tom and one from the child Tom, yet both of them spoke in the same child vocabulary and cadence. When he first began asking questions, both of them responded simultaneously and he watched both of them carefully. Eventually, though Little Tommy stopped speaking as he entered a bedroom space and lay down on the bed. He could feel the Admiral's presence, but he couldn't see him yet. So Sam turned to the adult Tom for more answers. "Tom," he began gently, "can you tell me what's happening?"
In a thin voice he told them, "I'm home from school 'cause I'm sick."
Tuvok was not particularly comfortable with human children and didn't know how to respond to Tom in this state, so he decided to communicate through Sam. 'A hypospray should heal his illness,' Tuvok signaled to Sam.
"What about a hypospray, Tom? Wouldn't that make you feel better?"
"The Captain says no. He says big boys don't use 'rnators and hy'sprays, that's for girls and sissies. Starfleet 'fficers tough it out when they're sick."
Sam realized that at this point in Tom's life his father was a captain, not yet the admiral that he would become. "Is there anyone home with you?"
"My sisters are at school. They're not sick," he replied.
"Where are your parents, son?"
"Mom went to work. She had a 'portant meeting."
"And your father?" Sam asked. He had a bad feeling about what was coming and tried to prepare himself.
Tom tensed and took a ragged breath before answering. "He's home, in his study," Tom's voice became smaller still. Taking Sam into his confidence, he said solemnly, "I have to be good. Be quiet so he can work."
An image of the Captain emerged in his study. Sam and Tuvok saw a strong man in his forties working at a large console. It was obvious that he loved what he was doing, but to Sam, the man looked angry.
"No," Tom whispered. "Not this." He began rocking again and became silent.
For the first time, Little Tommy spoke directly to his older self. "Yes, they have to know. You can't ask me to remember it all by myself anymore."
At that both Toms fell silent as Little Tommy moved from his bed. The boy looked flushed and groaned as he held his stomach. Sam immediately recognized the signs of a child who was very dizzy, weak, and a little dehydrated. He saw Little Tommy move down the hall towards the bathroom, but as he expected, the boy didn't make it. There was vomit on the pajamas, the rug, and the hallway table. This made the little boy feel even worse and he fell to his knees, sobbing.
Sam wanted to move forward, but Tuvok restrained him. 'The child wishes to communicate important information. We must not interfere until the sequence is complete. This is a historical event which cannot be changed. It is not one of your leaps,' he signaled to Sam. Maybe Sam couldn't comfort the child before him, but he instinctively put an arm around the adult Tom as he watched the unfolding events.
To Little Tommy, Sam said, "Can you show us what happened next?"
They all heard boots climbing the stairs at a rapid pace and even Sam flinched when he heard the Captain's voice roar, "What is it now, you damned good for nothing . . .?!"
The boy caught his breath and scrambled into the bathroom, trying to hide behind the toilet. He was shivering uncontrollably. He put a protective hand over his head and another hand went into his mouth to stop the cries from coming out. "I got to hide. Got to be quiet." He muffled his voice, "I gotta stop breathing."
Tuvok and Sam saw the Captain stop in the hallway when he stepped in the vomit. There was more bellowing. "What is this? How dare you make such a mess? Dammit, you know better. As if I don't have enough to do today, I've gotta deal with this . . ." It jolted Sam to see how quickly the man's face turned red and he seemed to be shaking with fury. Sam expected him to start swearing again, but the man steeled himself to silence and just stood in the hall.
Confused, Sam mentally signaled to Tuvok, 'What's he doing?'
'Listening,' Tuvok responded. 'It is a tactical move -- if you don't know where the enemy is, wait for him to make the first sound, the first move. It allows you to gather the most information without revealing your own position.'
'But this isn't a war game,' Sam replied. 'It's a sick little boy.'
'It's war to the Captain,' Tuvok deduced. 'A battle of wills.'
Tuvok's supposition was confirmed. Eventually, Little Tommy heaved a sigh and a smile passed the Captain's lips. In an unconscious imitation of the boy in the bathroom, the adult Tom curled up on the bed, trying to make himself curl into a small ball . He tucked his head under his arms and pushed his hands out to ward off the approaching danger. "Oh, gods, no. He's finding me. No no. Please don't let him see me. Please, please, no." Tom's body was shivering and his teeth were chattering. The boy in the bathroom was shaking as well. Sam hugged Tom more tightly as he and Tuvok watched the events play out in helpless horror.
Teeth still chattering, Little Tommy told them what they all saw. "His hands. . . his hands. I see them. They're coming towards me. I can't breathe. His hands. Please make them stop. No, don't hurt me, please don't hurt me. I'm sorry. I can clean it up." He gagged and the little boy threw up on the Captain's boots. "Don't hit me. Please don't hit me! No! No. . .ow . . . it hurts, it hurts, it hurts . . . "
The boy let out a piercing scream and clutched his arm to his sides as the Captain punched him in the side. Another arm went up to the side of his head when his head hit the bathroom floor. Panic and pain played a pas de deux on Tom's body as he relived, along with the boy, the beating in his bathroom. Tears flowed unchecked as he sobbed out, "Can't cry, can't cry, can't cry."
The boy pleaded, but his father continued hitting and spanking Tommy until his anger was spent. After what seemed like an eternity, the blows finally stopped and the Captain pushed the convulsively sobbing boy on to the floor and stalked out of the room without a backwards glance. He left Tommy with bruises and cuts that turned his fair skin red and purple and with vomit that crusted on his pajamas and body. The holoimage froze, with the child alone in his anguish.
Sam felt physically ill. As a medical intern, he'd seen his share of abused children and had thought he could imagine what they'd endured. He was wrong. Sam turned back to the other men and noticed that even Tuvok seemed visibly shaken by what had happened. But Sam became more concerned when he saw that Tom was in a catatonic state. Sam wrapped the blanket around the still shaking young man hoping to provide some warmth to counteract the shock. Sam rubbed Tom's back and smoothed his hair, all the while trying to coax him out of his agony. When he got no response, he asked Tuvok to focus on reaching Tom's adult mind to bring this part of Tom to the forefront. Sam was still worried about Tom feeling cornered, but if they didn't bring him out of this unresponsive state now, they might lose him for good.
Slowly, Tom returned to them. His body unclenched and lengthened out. His trembling diminished and Tuvok sensed the return of his adult brain patterns. Letting go and standing back, Tuvok watched the painful transformation Tom made from traumatized child to bewildered adult. Gradually, Sam's stroking and soothing were no longer needed. Tom blinked at Sam a few times and struggled to sit up. Sam gave him a hand and placed the blanket around Tom's shoulders. Tom shrugged it to him and leaned back against the heavily padded headboard. He looked stunned, his face puffy, his eyes dulled and reddened with pain. Finally, the shivering began to abate as he hugged the blanket even tighter around him.
Sam's voice was concerned. "Doing better?"
Tom nodded, still too shaky to speak.
"What happened just now, is that something you remember from childhood?"
Tom shook his head. He ran a still shaking hand over his face. Tom tried to speak, but his first attempt produced an unintelligible squeak. He tried again, sounding breathless, his voice hiccuping from the crying. "I . . . that's . . . I didn't remember that. Not . . . until now. It's like. . . it's like it just happened."
"It did just happen," Sam validated. "That memory came back to you unfiltered by time. It's been inside you in its own protected spot. It's been waiting until you were old enough or safe enough before it came out of hiding."
"I . . . it was . . . I was right there." Tom took a ragged, deep breath. He commented on the nightmare. "If only . . . it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't gotten sick."
Tuvok replied, "That is an illogical conclusion from the series of events we just witnessed."
"Not everything is logical, Tuvok," Tom growled. "Some things are just true, but you probably wouldn't understand that. I bet all of you Vulcans are just perfect children and perfect parents. Do you think it was easy to let you see this? Your precious logic, you probably don't even care."
"Do not confuse restraint with apathy, Tom," Tuvok countered. "I am not unaffected by what I've seen. The human ability to ignore the depth of Vulcan emotion and our efforts to control it continues to . . ."
'Tuvok,' Sam mentally interrupted, 'he can't process what you're telling him. He's asking you to tell him that his feelings are valid and that he's safe to be vulnerable in front of you. You have to show him how you feel about this and help him see his own reactions are just."
'You may be right, but it is . . . difficult to respond emotionally.'
'You were once willing to share images of your violent emotions to free B'Elanna from mental torture. I'm simply asking you to do the same for Tom,' Sam signaled. 'It will expedite Tom's recovery and Voyager's travels. In this case, emotional expression is the logical response.'
Tuvok focused his energies to turn off some of the barriers which kept his emotions in check. Tom and Sam watched as Tuvok reversed the events in the holoimage to the point where the Captain was hitting Little Tommy. Tuvok then stepped into the running holoimage, and with an intensity that shocked both Sam and Tom, he ripped Tom's father away from the little boy, nerve pinched him, and slammed the man against the wall into unconsciousness. When the Captain was hanging from Tuvok's hands like a used washcloth, he simply dropped the man to the floor. The Vulcan then stepped over the crumpled body and carefully picked up the crying child. Even though he seemed uncomfortable with a child in his arms, Tuvok carefully carried the boy in one arm and towels and medical equipment in the other as he returned to the bedroom. He carefully placed the child back in the bed and treated his wounds and stomach illness. With the child sleeping easily, Tuvok then turned back to Sam and Tom, his expression unusually . . . human. "Tom, does this demonstrate what you need to know?"
Finally, with the permission to feel his hidden rage, a transformation came over the young man. With a guttural cry, Tom whirled sideways on the bed as the blanket fell away. He pounded both his fists against the headboard as if he could pummel it to nothingness. Tuvok realized that Tom was now doing what was needed. At the same time, Sam knew that Tom's physical attack left out the verbal part. "Tell him what you think. Tell him now, Tom."
Choking on his rage, Tom shouted, "How dare you! How dare you!" He pounded the headboard with all of his strength.
"Tell him how angry you are," Sam encouraged.
"I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!!" Tears flowed as Tom continued to struggle to get out the rage. Each statement was punctuated by a fist thrown against the headboard. "You never loved me!"
"You should be protecting me," Sam suggested.
Tom's fists flew furiously. He sobbed out, "Protect me, god dammit. Protect me, you bastard!" He screamed again, "You bastard! You bastard!"
His anger overwhelming him, Tom collapsed on the bed. He sobbed into it as if his heart were breaking, as if he had lost someone he loved. He cried out, "You killed me . . . you killed me."
"Let it out," Sam encouraged softly. "Just let it out."
They let the child in Tom cry himself out all the while providing reassurance once again in both words and touch that they were still there and that he would be all right, that he was safe now. At some point Tuvok realized that Tom had cried himself to sleep. Sam covered the sleeping pilot, seeing once again in his own mind the terrified child who'd been so brutally betrayed by the father he thought had loved him. To himself, Sam said an 'oh boy' with a degree of sadness that he couldn't remember experiencing before.
"'Near, far, wherever you are . . .'"
Rachel had reached her limit. "Rain, stop singing that song! Isn't it enough that I have to hear it on every radio and CD player on the base?"
"Rachel, what do you think? Was Tom really from, you know?" Rain plaintively asked, pointing skyward.
Off duty, and enjoying a rare day in Lubbock, Rachel Hernandez and Rain Robinson had taken a break in shopping and stopped at a small cafe shop near the mall. Rachel bought some time by taking a sip of her cafe latte. With Rain's brown eyes soulful pools of pain, Rachel shook her head. Placing the mug on the table, Rachel said, "I don't know, Rain. It really seemed that way. But I can't be sure. Why do you ask?"
"Well. Tom appeared in my life twice in two different years in two different cities. Could that really be just a coincidence? I mean, shouldn't that indicate something?"
"I don't know, like there's some cosmic connection. Maybe we were meant for each other."
"Or maybe you were just there to help him each time. More likely? Coincidence. Rain, it's been what almost two weeks? You need to move on, gal. Tom is not coming back into your life. And even if he'd stayed, you saw it. He has a girl friend or something."
Rain sighed and drank some cappuccino. "This is so weird. The first time he disappeared, it was okay. He had to go and it was kind of like an interesting time I'd spent with him and Tuvok. But this time . . . he was so helpless. I just wanted to take care of him."
Her co-worker smiled. "Oh, Rain. You had it bad. But . . . he was kind of cute."
Rain took offense, "*Kind of* cute? How about devastating? Gorgeous? You could even take him home to your parents."
"Rain! He'd been in prison. I don't think you'd want to explain that to your parents . . . much less all the rest. Let's see: 'Dear Mom and Dad: I met this cute guy who says he's from the future. Twice now. Only this time he crashed his spaceship and got banged up. Gee, folks, I fell for this guy. I'm sure he'll leave his part-alien girlfriend behind once he knows how much I want to take care of him. And, of course, he'll like it that I won't let him out of bed' -- no, scratch that, this is to your parents. Okay, 'I think we should invite them all to the wedding, the humans, the aliens, the holographic doctor. Once he gets out of prison, I'd really like you to meet him.' What do you think, Rain, will the folks go for it?" Rachel was laughing good naturedly at the absurdity of it all and her friend tried hard to keep a straight face.
"You left out the blue eyes," Rain said in mock protest, all the while trying not to giggle. "Now you gotta admit those are blue eyes to die for."
"Hm-m," Rachel smiled. "Oh, yes, Rain, to die for."
After a long moment where they both sipped their coffee, Rain said, "Okay, let's go see Titanic again."
"Again?," Rachel winced. "What is this? The fifth time?"
"Sixth. But it helps. Please?," Rain begged.
"Rain, women like you amaze me. You keep looking for love in the stars, in the ocean, but you never see it when it's right in front of you."
"I thought you were just telling me to let go of Tom."
"Tom is not the only man with blue eyes, Rain."
No matter how much she begged, Rachel would not tell her more about love that day.
"Fuck this," Tom announced when he entered the office. "This is ridiculous and I don't want to do it anymore."
He looked around and saw both Sam and Tuvok seated in the office armchairs. It felt as if he were staring down twin photon torpedoes. Well, he thought, bracing himself, he'd just go ahead and tell them what he thought. Then they could all get out of this holodeck and go on with their lives, whatever those were.
"I'm not surprised you feel ready to quit," Sam acknowledged mildly and invited him to sit on the couch.
Tom sprawled on the couch and scowled at them. His posture was one of surly defiance. "You're not going to talk me out of it."
"Of course not," Sam agreed easily. "How bad is the headache?"
"Stop poking around inside of me. If I want you to know I have a headache, I'll tell you I have a headache," Tom snapped.
"Tom, I didn't enter you without permission and I don't intend to do it in the future," Sam responded nonplused. "It's just that it's typical after an emotionally draining experience for someone to have a headache the next day. You went through a psychological vomiting, if you will, and that takes its toll on a body. Would you like some thing for it?"
"No," Tom muttered. Sam simply sat there and Tuvok seemed to stare off into the room, almost invisible in his stillness. Tom wished he could control the whine that seemed to have entered his voice. "My whole body hurts. It really hurts. And everytime I talk to either one of you I end up crying my guts out. Well, screw this. It's not getting me anywhere and I'm tired of it."
"You're saying it hurts to get angry."
"What I'm saying is that I want to stop. You said I didn't have to if I didn't want to." If only he weren't sounding like a little kid. "Well, I don't want to."
"You're right. You don't have to."
Tom had expected them to put up a fight. It threw him off balance to hear Sam just talking to him as if he'd said he didn't want to eat any more leola root. "It's okay?"
Sam nodded as Tom's confusion created a frown to replace the surliness he'd come in with. Sam noticed, "You seem a little confused."
Tom gave a half-hearted snort. "I thought you guys'd say no."
"You didn't expect that what you wanted would count for anything now." When Sam pointed that out, Tom gave him a 'how did you know?' look. Sam continued, "So, I ask myself, why would you think in those terms? And I wonder, when did your needs ever matter to your father?"
Tom tried to think of a time and came up blank.
"Facing up to him could be helpful to you."
"Oh, yeah. He gets angry and I'm gonna be helped by that?"
"His anger is pretty scary. He beat you up, more than once. What do you feel when you're faced with his anger?"
"Scared shitless?" Feeling restless, Tom got to his feet and began pacing the room. Sam seemed willing to drop the matter of his father. Good. He didn't need to see all over again how easily his father could make him feel like a helpless kid.
Sam detected Tom's anger and his despair. But he also wanted to let the young man know he respected his decision to discontinue the sessions. "Tom, I sense there's a lot of anger that you have over what happened. But before we go on, if we go on, I want to be sure it's okay with you that we do."
Tom stared at him with undisguised surprise. "You really mean that, don't you?"
When Sam nodded with a trace of a grin, Tom realized it was okay. But there was something that bothered him about these sessions and he'd better say something. "Just promise me I won't start crying again."
Sam's laugh sparked Tom's own. Sam told him, "We have a saying in my time, 'no pain, no gain'."
"We have a saying on my world, 'no pain, no gain'," B'Elanna told the doctor.
"That may work with Klingon healers, but I am not convinced of its value," the doctor sniffed in response. "Some of these cuts are pretty deep and a few more centimeters on this one and you would have hit an artery. What were you doing to cause such damage?"
"I was working on a project for Lieutenant Paris," she replied cryptically.
"She was cutting tomatoes," Neelix gleefully interjected as B'Elanna rolled her eyes.
"Tomatoes?" the doctor asked incredulously.
"Yes, they are small red Earth fruits," Neelix continued. "That's why we didn't notice the cuts right away because the tomatoes are red too. Did you know that many Earthlings think a tomato is a vegetable? It's not, you know, it's a fruit, but they still put it in salads and on burgers, just like a vegetable . . ."
"I'm familiar with the botanical derivations of Earth produce," the doctor interjected. B'Elanna watched the verbal volley between them and smiled. She was actually enjoying it as Neelix was driving someone else crazy for a few minutes.
The doctor was racing to finish the repairs on her hands as Neelix began to provide an update on his sociological knowledge gleaned from American soap operas. "You would not believe the complexity of family relationships in American culture. Twin sisters separated at birth end up married to the same man and he doesn't tell one about the other. Children are born one week and return as adolescents the next, only to procreate with their amnesiac aunts. And apparently polygamy is acceptable if you have multiple personalities. And demonic possession appears to be quite common. I wonder if that experience is similar to Sam's leaping. Oh, not that he's a demon, of course, seems like a very nice chap overall, but I mean the possession. You know I have no memory of being Tuvix, but maybe that was like possession. Doctor, could you help me retrieve Tuvix's . . ."
"Done!" the doctor yelled with relief. He quickly began putting away his medical tools. "I'm sorry, Neelix, I don't have time to talk about Tuvix, amnesia, demons, tomatoes, or tv. I have to do . . . something. Something very important. Something very important for the Captain. Now."
"For the Captain," Neelix brightened. "Why didn't you say so? What can I do to help?"
B'Elanna laughed out loud at the doctor's stricken expression, a gesture she would soon regret. The doctor adopted a Cheshire cat smile as inspiration struck. "Yes, Neelix, you can help. In fact, you're the only man for the job. Lieutenant Torres should start exercising those wrist tendons as soon as possible. I think that two hours of Parises Squares for the next couple of days should do the trick. And she needs plenty of rest, too. So make sure that she listens to at least two Klingon operas, in their entirety each day. She'll fight you on this, but it's only the pain talking. I expect you to make sure that she complies completely."
"Oh, opera is very good for the body and soul," Neelix added.
"So I've heard," the doctor agreed.
"But," B'Elanna sputtered in anguish.
"And if she refuses," the doctor continued, glaring at B'Elanna, "bring her back here immediately. It is possible that she may have picked up an unusual bacterium from the Earth foods and I'd have to sedate her to run several days of tests. This could delay Mr. Paris' return to us, but that's the price of superior medical attention."
"You can count on me!" Neelix exclaimed, placing his hand on the doctor's shoulder.
"I'm sure that I can," the doctor said smugly, staring at Neelix's hand as if it had become permanently affixed.
B'Elanna began to speak again when the doctor whispered to her. "Lieutenant, I misjudged the value of your Klingon philosophy. Now I do see that your pain will be my gain. Thank you for the inspiration." More loudly the doctor said to both of them, "Well, thanks for stopping in. Call me if you need me. End emergency medical program."
'I'll get him for this. I don't know how, but I'll get him,' B'Elanna thought to herself as Neelix began pulling her towards the door.
Tom told Sam and Tuvok that he wanted to think about continuing their work for the rest of the day and he would let them know his decision in the morning. To his relief and surprise, they agreed to his terms. He tried to recall everything that happened so far and realized they had been straight with him. When he hadn't wanted to speak in front of Tuvok, Tuvok had left the room. When he wanted to stop, they said all right. Sam was really good at figuring out what was going on with him. Unburdening himself of the things he thought he could never talk about had been met with comfort and acceptance. Working with them hurt like hell, but it was probably his best chance to someday stop hurting altogether. Well, maybe not altogether, but was it possible that he could come close?
"Yeah. Okay," Tom told them simply after breakfast.
Sam decided to go back to Tom's belief that his father's beatings were his own fault. "Let's talk about the incident where your father beat you in the bathroom."
Tom looked down at his shoes. Quietly, he acknowledged, "Yeah. You saw it. I fucked up and got the crap beaten out of me."
Sam's mouth made a motion of distress. "Tom, you seem to keep telling us that getting hurt by him was your own fault. Where does that come from?"
"He- - uh- - told me." Tom spoke so softly that Sam wasn't sure what he'd heard.
"I'm sorry, I didn't hear you." When Tuvok started to repeat Tom's words, Sam stopped him. He knew Tom had to say them for himself.
Tom gave in and spoke up, "All right. He was a captain then but I'm going to call him the Admiral. He my father, the Admiral told me later it was all my fault."
"What did he say?"
The young man on the couch shuddered at the memory. In a bitter voice he reported, "This part I actually remembered before today. First off, he came to see that I'd cleaned up everything. I hadn't. I kept gagging and getting sick. It didn't matter to him, no excuses. At the time I thought he was going off on me because I hadn't cleaned up the mess I made. Now I think he must have been referring to the beating as well."
Imitating his father's voice, Tom parroted, "'You little shit. This is all your fault. You never do anything right . . . " Tom's voice drifted off, ". . . and so on. It's what he always said."
"What about your mother?"
Warily, Tom asked, "What about her? She did what she could."
"How do you mean?"
In a small voice, he confessed, "I never told her. I don't think she knew."
"But she saw your injuries?"
"Hey. We have regenerators in the 24th Century."
"She saw them, Tom." Tom flushed and Sam sensed the younger man's shame. He asked, "What is it?"
"I - -uh- - lied to her. She asked me once. A different time when I was about eight or nine. She kept asking me, 'Tommy, what happened? Tommy, what happened?' Really insistent. I guess she knew and she wanted me to tell her. But then I was a kid and I was more scared of him if I told her. So I lied. I said I got hurt playing Parises Squares it's a sports game. Finally, she stopped asking anymore questions and fixed me up. Told me to go rest up in my room. I don't know, was I really that scared? Or did I just think lying would be easier? But somehow I couldn't tell her the truth." He shrugged. "I don't know why I couldn't tell her."
"You do know, Tom."
His eyes were a startled blue. "I do?"
"Sure you do."
A crimson curtain crossed his face. He swallowed and the words came out through his teeth. "I was ashamed."
"He did a number on you."
"What do you mean?"
"He was the adult. He beat you up and then blamed you. He had you believing him and too shamed to tell your own mother." Sam paused. "Tom, you were manipulated by a smart, sadistic bully, and unfortunately, he was your father."
"Oh, shit, I hate this." Tom moaned.
"What is it you hate?"
Once again restless, Tom drummed his fingers on his thigh. He took a few deep breaths to bring himself under some semblance of control. "What do I hate? Everything. My weakness. His power. Being born a Paris, being the family screw-up. Should I keep going?"
"Tom. A little boy should be able to be a little boy or even to be a screw- up and not be beaten. Yeah. That's something to hate, all right. If it had been me, I'd be crying buckets."
"Shall we compete?" Tom challenged in a wry tone of voice.
"There's no competition," Sam conceded sadly. "But there is something else I think you should know: In addition to being a bully, I think your father may have set you up as well."
"I don't follow."
Sam pointed out, "Some people need an excuse say drinking too much to enact things they wouldn't do sober but wish that they could." Tom blushed, remembering his own use of alcohol and drugs for that very purpose. "I'm not talking about you here, Tom. I'm talking about your father. You've told me you didn't think he was ever under the influence when he took after you, but maybe his excuse was his fear of you."
"What?" Disbelief almost struck a smirk onto Tom's face. "Fear of *me*?"
"Think about it, Tom. How many five year olds could fly like you did?"
Honestly, Tom told him, "None."
Tuvok joined in, "You are the best pilot I have ever encountered."
A flush crept up Tom's neck. "But . . . ?"
Sam took up the thread of his hypothesis. "I think that your abilities created a terrible ambivalence in your father. On the one hand, he could bask in your reflected glory. But on the other hand, he also felt that your accomplishments overshadowed his own, diminished him somehow in the eyes of those whose opinion mattered to him. For a man accustomed to an orderly military life, ambivalence is an unacceptable state of affairs.
"So, how to solve this problem? Beat you, berate you, make sure no triumph was without pain. Then his son would never outshine him. Of course, the downside was that he would go so far that his son would eventually act in ways that would embarrass him. I suspect he preferred your mistakes over your accomplishments. And your mistakes actually magnified the value of his accomplishments, as others could admire his stoicness in the face of your failures."
Tom just stared at Sam trying to understand this analysis. He began to shake his head, but Sam interrupted. "In a minute. I'm really bothered that your father wouldn't give you anything to fix your upset stomach and fever. Tuvok, what about it?"
All eyes turned to the commander. "A simple hypospray with the appropriate settings should have cured even a child as sick as young Tom appeared to be." Tuvok turned to Tom, "So, if he prevented you from using the hypospray, then he increased the likelihood that you would, in fact, get sick again."
No verbal answer was necessary as the horrified expression on Tom's face told them all they needed to know. Doubling over, as if struck by a physical blow, Tom moaned, "He . . . he . . ."
"He set you up," Sam concluded. "He made sure your sickness would disrupt him and give him an excuse to beat you. And then he made sure you knew it was all your fault."
Tom closed his eyes, the seemingly never ceasing tears squeezing from his eyes. To think of his father as deliberately tormenting him all of his life was almost too much to bear. But Sam's words had put a whole new outlook on his relationship with his father. The anger surfaced again. Bitterly, he said, "Oh, that bastard."
Sam recalled that Al once tried to convince him that evil was real. Up until now he hadn't believed him, but the Admiral was the kind of man who could change his mind. He saw Tom collapse into the couch shaking his head. The pain prominently etched in his face for both to see, Tom whispered, "I can't take any more. Please, I can't take anymore."
Sam struggled to find words of comfort. "Tom." He sent huge waves of sheltering comfort toward Tom trying to break through the younger man's barriers. "It's going to get better. I promise you."
He was rewarded for his efforts by a halting flicker of hope in that drawn, pale face. Desperate to believe, his voice child like, Tom echoed, "You promise?"
The look on Tom's face stopped Sam's heart. Emotionally, he reached out again, touching that slender thread of hopeful trust with all he had to offer. He locked his gaze with the pilot. "I promise, Tom."
This time Tom shuddered, hoping with whatever was left of him that he could trust Sam, or someone, to keep his word.
Haylene's companions brought her intriguing news. They may have found a developing planet with peoples on one of the continents that she might be interested in. Leaving one of her colleagues to monitor the wormhole, Voyager, and its crew, Haylene transported herself to the planet and did as her colleagues had done: remained noncorporeal as she observed the activities.
She had come to a temperate climate, the humanoid people there were possessed of tools, wheels, domesticated animals, and had a form of written language. In their cities, there were teachers, philosophers, inventors, artists, and athletes, as well as politicians, shopkeepers, traders, tinkers, and thieves. Their family groupings were clan-like with a brutal patriarchal structure. As she watched, she discerned that the dominant males were typically brothers who mated with any of the females of age in the group. The younger males were beaten and ostracized as soon as they were old enough to pose a threat to the ruling brothers.
One family clan she watched had a boy on the edge of puberty, a boy named Mendarin with purple eyes and light brown hair. Although physically there was little resemblance to Tom Paris, Haylene detected a similarity of attitude. The boy avoided the older males, ducked his head at their approach, and busied himself with tasks that should have earned praise from the elders. There seemed to be a hope on the boy's part that he might do something that eventually would be pleasing to the elders, but in the time she watched, he never did win their approval. She saw the tears of disappointment form and fall from his eyes as he turned away once again from the adults. Given the pattern of the community, she knew that he would soon be battered and chased from the region. She knew that not all the young boys so treated survived. But she bet that Mendarin would be one of the survivors; there was a sweetness about him coupled with a practical side that would see him in good stead in the time ahead.
She fingered her crystal. It was not yet ready, nor were her plans. She transported herself back to the wormhole and checked in on the threesome on the holodeck.
Stepping into the office, Tom checked out the room. He was glad to be out of his room. Remembering that long ago beating had been truly unnerving. And although he found Sam's interpretation of his father's motivations equally horrifying, at a gut level, he knew they were accurate. Sam welcomed him inside and after a few exchanges about how Tom felt, Tom asked about revisiting his inner child. Surprised, but also very pleased, Sam encouraged the younger man to go ahead and project the scene.
Tom created the same beach and ocean as before. This time the boy sat on the sand sculpting starships. The child wore a t-shirt and shorts and large sun hat. He seemed to be only a year or so older than the Tommy who'd been beaten for being sick. Wondering what Little Tommy's reaction would be to him this time, Tom walked over and squatted down near him. When the boy looked up, he said to Tom scornfully, "It's you."
Tom realized he hadn't exactly made progress with the boy. He tried out his brightest smile. "Yeah. I'm back. What are you making?"
"It's the starship Enterprise." Tommy's tone suggested that any idiot could tell that.
"A good ship," Tom complimented. "I'd like to sit down here. Okay with you?"
The boy snorted, "Like I care."
Tom tried to figure out something that would get a conversation going because so far he seemed to have succeeded in simply antagonizing the boy. "So how old are you?"
"That's all grown-ups care about. 'How old you are, what grade are you in school?' Who cares?"
Tom sat on the sand and dusted some of the sand off his hands. That idea had gone nowhere, in fact, had only earned more derision from the child. "So you think I'm a grown-up?"
"You look like one, but you always fuck up so I guess you aren't."
That hurt. With a sigh Tom had to agree with the boy. "Yeah. You're right. I've made a lot of mistakes. But I'm trying now, really hard, to grow up. I hope it isn't too late."
A little bit of the tough guy mask on the boy slipped a notch as he heard Tom admit to his failures. Under sandy bangs he slanted a look at Tom. "So why are you here?"
"Sam made me come?" Tom laughed.
Even though he smiled, the boy pulled his mask back on. "Right. Sam makes a grown-up do something he doesn't want to do."
From his chair across the room, Sam realized that Tom was trying to forge a connection with the boy, but that he was going about it all wrong. He thought about offering a suggestion to Tom, but held back for awhile longer in the hopes that Tom would think of something himself.
Stung, Tom decided on honesty, "I needed to see you."
Tom gazed out at the waves crashing in on the beach. He remembered asking Sam what kids like him did in Sam's time. Softly Tom said, "When I was little I didn't have a grown-up like I needed."
"What'd you need?"
"Someone who wouldn't hit me or yell at me. Someone who would protect me."
"What about your sisters?"
"They were kids, too."
"They tried to protect us," Tommy pointed out and Tom was heartened to hear that the child included him in his observation.
"Yeah," Tom agreed. He knew that sometimes his sisters' plans to protect him had backfired. But at least they had tried. "When they were old enough, they left home."
"They left us alone?" the boy asked surprised.
"I'm afraid they did." Tom watched as Little Tommy shivered and smashed a fist down on the sand starship. He saw the boy's eyes fill with tears. Holding in his own sadness, Tom opened his arms to the boy. "Hey. C'mere."
He reached out and brought the small child over to him and hugged him to his lap. "That's why I'm here, Tommy. I'm here for you. I won't leave you."
Tears streaked through the sand on the boy's face as he looked up at Tom's face. "You promise?"
His voice husky with unshed tears of his own, Tom said, "I promise. I won't hurt you. If the Admiral hurts you, I'll be here." Tom hugged the boy tighter and took a deep breath. He didn't know if he could say the next words, but he struggled to get them out, "I'll love you."
Small thin arms threw themselves around Tom's neck and the child cried in his arms. Tom's own tears flooded down his cheeks and he let them fall. His heart hurting, he gave the small boy all his love. Tenderly, he murmured, "I love you, Tommy, I love you. Don't ever doubt it. Don't ever forget it."
The sandy wet face looked up at him and snuggled against his neck. The childish voice said, "I love you, Tom."
Watching from across the room, Sam nodded in satisfaction as Tom rocked the little boy in his arms. The barriers Tom had to cross to get to the point where he could nurture his inner child had been huge and he had crossed them. The healing Tom needed with himself and his past was being accomplished as he watched. Sam felt very proud of Tom. Surprised, he found he had to wipe away some tears of his own.