Warning: the following story contains contents of a m/m relationship.

Disclaimer: Chakotay and Paris belong to Paramount Pictures.

Rating: NC-17

Category: angst, implications of sex

Summary: Another story set in the 'Rose Tales' series. A sequel to "Potpourri of Roses". Healing begins but it is not easy. Knowledge of the previous Rose tales will help in the understanding of the story. Tom's POV. Bittersweet piece. **Hanky alert**

"Trail of Roses"

I dreamed last night, Chakotay.

I dreamed about a well-trodden path lined with rose petals. I was standing in the middle of the path, looking down at my feet. I remembered feeling surprised that they were not bleeding. Not lacerated. Not bruised. Two whole feet, unblemished by cuts. Healed.

Perhaps, the dream was a sign. That I am finally going to be okay.

You are looking at me with those dark-fire eyes of yours. I touch your face, shocked to see the worry-lines creasing your forehead. You worry too much, Chakotay. Do you know that you look horrible when you worry? You were frowning when you fetched me from Sickbay and you are frowning still.

I am really touched, Chakotay. Candle-lit dinner. Steak. A trail of roses, leading from the door to the table. I never knew you are that romantic ...

You smile at me, stroking my brow. I feel lightheaded, closing my eyes. No more medication. No more brusque-holodoc attitude to face. No more questions. No more concerned friends circling around the bio-bed, looking at Tom Paris Exhibit A.

Get well, Tom. Don't think too much, Tom. Be strong, Tom. You can survive this, Tom.

And all the while, I heard the voices howling in my head. I was half-frightened to look down at my feet.

You put more food onto my plate, afraid that I can't get enough sustenance into my body. I smile and gaze down at the steak, seeing faces appear. A distant howl starts in my head but it is quickly silenced. I begin to chew, savoring the taste and the texture. It has been long since I have eaten such rich food and I begin to feel queasy, putting down my fork. I see your lifted eyebrow, the query in your eyes.

I know that you avert your gaze from my wrist. In fact, you ignore looking at my arms together. But, the T-shirt I am wearing doesn't hide the faint scars or the fact that I cut myself.

The knife on the table glistens wickedly. I fight against an urge to pick it up and draw it across my arm.

You want me to heal. I can see it strong in your eyes, in your gestures. I want to be healed too. Healing. Is it that simple? They told me about healing in the psych ward in prison. They told me about healing after the court marshal. I heal but I push all the darkness into a corner. The darkness doesn't go away. Instead, it grows, accumulates like a thunderhead.

You can't heal completely in prison. You can't. You are surrounded with hardened criminals, the rejects of normal Federation society. Their eyes follow you wherever you go. And they talk about you in the dark. Admiral's brat, they spit out with scorn in their faces. Spoilt son. Starfleet failure. They covet your body, more so if you are new. So you bear with it, grinding your teeth when they take you from behind without the niceties of lubricants. You bear with it, biding your time. But you end up hurting, inside and outside.

I see you get up from the chair, leave the table and walk towards me. Your face is sad now and you reach out with your hand, your fingers wiping away tears from my face.

Sure, you get sent to the resident prison shrink. You are instructed to pour out your feelings to a salaried sheltered individual. You talk, evade and talk even more. Sometimes you cry and end up feeling ashamed. Sometimes you rant and rave, hurling abuses at everyone, at the system, at yourself. Sometimes you sit numbed as the shrink spills out honey-coated advice. Yet, the moment you leave, it starts again. Pain. Humiliation. Anger towards faceless crims who fuck you in the dark.

I find myself holding the knife and you have to pry it loose from my fingers. This time, I see the tears falling down your face. Somewhere deep within me, I feel the thunderhead rolling, hear the voices gibbering, mocking.

Sometimes the pain is so dark it becomes virtually physical. It starts from an ache and it evolves to a raging screaming pain in your chest. The only way is to take something ...anything ... and get it out.

You lean over and kiss away the tears. I can feel your warm breath, puffing on my cheeks. You gather me close and I rest my head against your shoulder. You begin to kiss my earlobes, my forehead and the base of my throat.

The prison crims don't care about foreplay. They go straight into business. Wham bam, thank you Sam. No kissing. No gentle caresses whatsoever. They simply pull down your pants and do it. You can only close your eyes and pray it to end quickly. You filter out the sounds and try to forget. At the end, you crumble onto the floor, sore and used.

I let you remove my T-shirt and you begin to nibble at my skin. You are ever so gentle, Chakotay. I never knew that lovemaking could be that ... beautiful. You care for me the ex-convict, the failure who feels better dying in the dark.

I welcome the sex with relief. You are most skillful, Chakotay, alternately biting and stroking my skin until it is swollen for more. You are gently arousing me and I moan with pleasure.

Then you pause and I look up, seeing a sudden look of determination on your face. You pick up the steak knife and I feel myself cringing automatically. I can feel the fear rushing back again like a cold blizzard. You look at the knife as if it is some fanged serpent.

"You don't need this," you say and fling the knife away.

Away from me. Away from us.

I open my mouth but I find myself speechless. You lift my left arm and gently kiss the almost invisible scars. Then, you look at me and I can see the love in your eyes.