Warning:The following story contains a m/m relationship. If you are offended by it, you are welcome to stop reading the story. If you are above 18 and is open-minded, you are free to read it.
Disclaimer: the characters in the story, though owned by Paramount, are products of my imagination and creativity. (yada yada yada)
Rating: NC-17 (swearing and implications of rape included)
Summary: this is a continuing story in the "Rose Tales": Chakotay and Tom talk. The story is written in the form of a POV (Chakotay's). ** Angst **.
Roses and Orchids
The rainforest was enveloped with a thin layer of cool mist. The morning sunlight lanced down through the canopy of leaves, pooling on the ground and turning it into gold. It was peaceful here; there was birdsong and once a while, there would be the cry of some great cat, a leopard prowling in the shadows.
It was always peaceful in the rainforest. My father called it a sanctuary, a place of healing and rejuvenation. Sanctuary or not, the rainforest was also a place of untold beauty and danger. Both prey and predator co-existed in the rainforest for thousands of years. There was a sense of fragile vulnerability in the diversity of plants and animals ... as well as a sense of toughness. Fire might consume the lives of trees but life would return once more, perhaps stronger than ever.
I found myself looking skywards, at the tall trees. They reminded me of silent sentinels, mute guardians of the rainforest. Huge broad-leafed ferns grew profusely on the trees, nestling between the branches or sprouting amongst the smaller leaves of the host plants. Flashes of bright colors informed me about the existence of the elusive creatures living in the trees.
The air was fresh with the hint of earth. The ground beneath my boots was teeming with insect life. Shiny black ants went about their business, carrying tiny squares of leaves or other dead insects. I could hear the rustling in the shrubs and the trees as other larger creatures prepared for a new day.
I smiled, suddenly thinking about my father. He would have enjoyed hiking through the rainforest, picking out new plants, renewing his love for nature. He would stop next to a burst of native rainforest flowers and write down his observations. He had compiled a healthy amount of information on the rainforests of Earth and when he passed away, he gave it to me as his last final gift.
There were sprays of orchids brightening the normal green of the trees. Vivid red, yellow and pink dotted gnarled tree-trunks; they seemed to burst forth in a glorious spurt of color. Their roots curled along the brown bark, covering it with a criss-crossing of brown and lightgreen. I reached out a hand to touch the tendrils of orchid root and felt their coolness beneath my palm. As a child, I had nicked the roots once and watched the clear sap ooze out. My father pulled me aside and scolded me in his gentle voice.
"Value life," he had told me quietly, firmly.
Approaching footsteps alerted me and I turned around, seeing Tom pick his way through the leaf-covered loam.
His eyes regarded me with their startling clear-blue. He had at least put on some weight and a healthy pink was quickly replacing the pale gauntness. His long sleeves hid the cuts marring the smoothness of his arms...
I shook my head, telling myself not to dwell on the past.
"The rainforest holo-program is very realistic," Tom was saying, swatting the mosquito away from his face. He looked at me again and smiled, placing his hand on my arm.
I looked at the man whom I loved and took in a deep breath, inhaling in the reassuring fragrance of the rainforest. "Tom, it's about time we talk." I squeezed his hand.
Shadows flickered across his face like rain-clouds gathering about the rainforest. He drew away his hand and turned away.
He was silent, seeming to stare at the lines of ants on the ground. Finally, he walked over to a moss-covered boulder and sank down onto it, his back facing me.
"Tom, look at me." I said firmly but gently as well.
He slowly glanced over his shoulder. His blue eyes had darkened, his lips thinned with suppressed emotion. "Chak, do we have to do this?"
I sat down beside him. "Yes. You need to talk about it..." I found myself unable to continue for I kept seeing Tom in my mind's eye, a pallid Tom lying on the biobed, his arms covered with red slash marks.
Tom laughed, a self-deprecating sound. "So where do we start? My family? My Starfleet career?" His tone was sarcastic but I could see his shoulders trembling. My heart ached.
"I was kicked out of Starfleet because I lied," Tom's voice was neutral as if he was simply narrating a story. "I lied at my own court-marshal. I lied so that I could save my sorry ass."
I remained silent.
"I could hear them screaming, 'Tom! Tom! I hurt!' " The tone changed slightly. "They were screaming and cursing, Chak. They were dying because of me. Because of my pathetic leadership. Caroline ... Sam ... they were calling out for me even as their shuttles burst into flames. 'Tom! Goddamn you! Oh God! Oh God!' They were saying. They wanted me to save them but I flew away. I killed them, Chak."
"I was court-marshaled. Dad was there. He looked upset for a Paris had committed a crime. I had killed. I am a murderer, a cold-blooded son-of-a-bitch. I was 'dishonorably discharged'. But Dad didn't even care, I think. He always expected me to do well ... be something I wasn't ... I could hear them screaming in my mind ... 'Tom! Oh God ...it's so hot ... Tom!' "
"Tom..." I said softly.
"God knows how many counsellors I had seen ... the number of psychologists ... I began to drink..." His voice wavered. "I began to drink ... waste away ... I didn't care ... I just drank, had sex and more sex ... Then, I joined the Maquis..." He gazed at me then, rubbing his face furiously.
"I was caught after two years!" Tom grinned unpleasantly, a maniacal glint in his eyes. I began to worry. However, the manic light dimmed, faded away. "The penal colony at Auckland was a nice place ... Damn it, they assigned me another psychologist! I hated talking to her but I played along with it ... It's a screwed-up game anyway..."
He stared into the distance, his expression drawn, haggard. I could hear the faint hoots of some animal coming from the hills. I leaned close to Tom, my senses attuned to his entire being. It was hard for him, I could see. It was a struggle and he fairly wrestled with his own inner demons.
"You know something, Chak?" Tom whispered brokenly. "There's a pecking order in prison ... and 'pretty boys' are the submissive ones. I was Rakul's 'pretty boy' one day, Goko's the next. They ... fucked me ... in the dark and for a while, it hurt like hell ..." He gritted his teeth, the feral glow coming back to his eyes once more and I could only hold his hand, provide the physical and moral support. "But afterall a few months, it didn't matter ... I would close my eyes and let them ...do whatever they wanted with me. Dr Marassi sensed something ... was wrong and she tried to probe ... I didn't care ... I didn't want to care anymore..."
The silence was painful. Tom could only stare glumly at the soil beneath his boots. He squashed a beetle with his right heel and I winced to myself. The rainforest around me suddenly became enclosed, suffocating.
"I kept ...everything to myself ... Bottled it up. It worked for a while ... " He sighed, turning to face me again. This time, tears were rolling down his cheeks. "But I cracked, I think ... They had to sedate me before I really hurt myself ... And you know what? My dad didn't even care ... "
My own eyes were drawn to his arms. I could see his wrists; the scars were there, a sober reminder. I lifted my hand and stroked Tom's face. Once. Twice. I wanted to protect him. To keep him from more harm.
It hurt to listen to Tom's inner pain but somehow, I was glad. He was finally ... finally talking to me about it. He used to clam up and refused to say anything. It hurt to see Tom, a beautiful rose, torn apart by his own inner conflict. He reminded me ... of Dad's orchids. Delicate, needing extra care and nourishment. Yet ... yet I knew that orchids display a remarkable ability to adapt as well; Tom was strong, outside and inside.
"Then ... I met you ... on Voyager..."
Surprise shot through me and I gazed at Tom.
"You haven't changed much, Chak. I saw you in the Maquis.... You are still the same man." There was a ghost of a smile on his face. His features suddenly became strained. "Do you ... hate me now?"
My heart constricted and I placed both of my hands on his shoulders, forcing him to look straight at me. "Spirits ... No! I don't hate you, Tom! I don't! What made you say that?"
"Because I killed my friends... " He said hoarsely, already on the verge of tears. "Because I am a fucking nutcase ... a timebomb waiting to explode..."
"Tom!" I gathered him into my arms and he began to sob. Great tearing sobs that wracked the body in convulsions. My eyes burned with my own unshed tears. But it was a good start: the healing had begun. "Tom, listen to me. I love you and I care about you. I don't care about your past ... You are brave ... and you need to continue to be brave..."
I could feel him nod and I smiled even though hot tears were streaming down my cheeks by now. I saw the orchids growing in the rainforest trees and hope grew in my heart.
Tom would heal and I would help him heal.
As I held him in my arms, I could hear my father's voice: Value life.