"The Dark Tunnel"
Part 3: Culmination

By Layla V. v_layla@hotmail.com

Rating: NC-17 for non-consensual sex, violence, m/m sexual content and
mature language. Angst. H/c.

Post: Cha_Club, CPSG, TPDorm, Paris Nights. Anywhere else, please ask.

Disclaimer: All characters owned by Paramount. I am merely playing
with them. No copyright infringement is intended.


Story notes: What if things had happened differently on the Ocampa
staircase during the attempt to rescue Chakotay?

This story uses major events taking place in Caretaker and the start
of Voyager's season 1.

This story is divided into three major parts (this is the third and
final part) which are then further divided into four smaller parts for
easier posting to the list.


Author's notes: As always major thanks go out to Morticia for her
invaluable suggestions and for betaing this story. You're the best,

Also thanks go to my dear friend Natosha for her encouragement and
help in that little piece of exchange at the end of the story. You
know what I am talking about, sis.

Feedback is always welcome at v_layla@hotmail.com! Thanks. :-)


Culmination 1/4

It's the beep beep beep of the alarm that wakes me up. I am tucked in
comfortably in the warm bed, the duvet snug around me. A sweet ache
throbs in my body, my toes curling in contentment, as memories of what
we did last night rivulet back into the crevices of my mind. Sighing
happily, I breathe in deeply the salty, masculine scent permeating the
sheets and suddenly a sensation of something being out of place hits

Something's wrong, very wrong.

My eyes snap open in panic. The room is dark around me, the air
suddenly feeling excessively chilled, as a shiver runs down my length
in cold realization.

I am alone. Chakotay's not here. He should've been here, should've
been spooned up behind me the way he was when I went to sleep, the way
he led me to believe he'd be.

My heart clenches, as suddenly the sweet throbbing along my limbs and
muscles isn't the only pain inside me. I squeeze my eyes shut, trying
to calm my breathing but a swirl of pain fills my tightening chest.

I can feel my eyes filling behind my tightly shut lids, as the reality
behind my ridiculous expectations dawns on me.

Of course he left. So what if his arms had been tight around me, his
smooth chest firm on my back, his voice softly murmuring reassuring
words in my ears before I'd drifted off into oblivion? I am Tom Paris,
the traitor. What could last night have meant to him, if not just a
way to relieve his rage and the burning fire in his veins? It's not
really his fault, not his failing; I can't possibly blame him. So what
if I'd never felt safer than I did last night when he'd taken care of
me and wrapped me up in his arms? He isn't here now and his absence
means he finally realized the error of his ways and left discreetly to
avoid any further discomfiture between us.

I open my eyes, blinking the unsought tears away, and sit up on the
bed, my gaze falling on the chronometer. It's 0630 hours, my day off -
the first of two, in fact. I want to do nothing more than fall back on
the pillow and pull the covers over my head, drowning myself in my
choking misery. But my body is so used to following the same old
schedule of getting up at this time every morning for duty, that I
know sleep would elude me no matter how much I want to stay in bed.

I pull the covers off and swing my legs to the side, setting my feet
on the carpet and then halt.

My uniform from last night is lying on the chair, the jacket, pants
and the turtleneck neatly folded on the seat.

For a moment, I feel mystified.

Did I leave them like this last night?

A streak of confused hope stirs in my heart and I find myself leaping
to my feet, dashing to the bathroom door and swinging it open.

It's empty of course.

Sighing with defeat, depressed beyond anything mere words can explain,
I step inside the bathroom, going about my morning rituals almost on
autopilot. After I am finished, I come out and grab the shorts lying
on the chair, pulling them on. I am tugging the buttons closed as I
walk through the door out into the living room and I freeze at the
sight before me.

Chakotay, clad in nothing more than his shorts, his shirt pulled over
his broad shoulders but left open at the front, is sitting on my
couch. His hair mussed, the handsome face pensive with thought, his
long legs are spread out in front of him as he leans forward with his
elbows resting on his thighs and his chin propped up on his palm,
staring out the viewport.  The swish of the door closing behind me
jerks him out of his thoughts and he looks at me with startled, brown

I can hear the thudding of my heart inside my chest, guilt and
trepidation warring with my senses.

Guilt because I thought he'd left. Just because he wasn't in bed with
me, I figured that he'd simply walked away after fucking my brains
out. He came here to sit and ponder over the situation because God
knows I have given him loads to think about over the past few hours
and, yet, I thought the worst of him.

Still, there's this fear. This sense of terrible foreboding that he
could never feel anything good about me. No matter what happens, no
matter what I do, I'll always be the man who he believed
double-crossed him, who until yesterday he called a traitor and a

What direction has his early morning pondering decided my fate in?

"Hey," I say, swallowing hard at the painful lump in my throat.

His answer is instantaneous. I watch, transfixed, as the most
beautiful smile I'd ever imagined on his face, breaks on his features.

"Hi," he replies, opening his arms and inviting me inside.

Dazed, my heart beating wildly, I find myself walking to him and
sinking into his warm embrace. His soft lips kiss the side of my neck,
as he pulls me against his chest and I settle into his lap between his
strong thighs, nuzzling into his neck, inhaling his sweet scent.

"You okay?" he breathes into my ear, his warm hands rubbing my back
and lingering.

"Yeah," I sigh, wrapping my arms around his waist.

"Sure?" He sounds curious.

"Yes." I look up at him. "Why do you ask?"

"I was afraid... we may have gone a little...out of control last
night," he murmurs. "You're not hurting, are you?" His voice is easy
but I can feel him holding his breath in anticipation. He's concerned.

"Just a little," I say, and feel his muscles tense, so I kiss the
smooth skin above his heart in reassurance. "But it feels good,
really, really good," A kiss on his warm mouth. "Don't worry."

He breathes a little easier, his dark eyes shining. "Good," he smiles.

Still there's something in his eyes that makes my heart lurch inside
my chest.

"What are you doing here?" I ask weakly.

"Nothing," A sigh against my cheek. "Just thinking."

I sink my face into his neck, afraid to look into his eyes.

"About what?" I murmur into his skin.

"You..." a pause, "us," a beat, "other things..."

My heart is beating erratically again, no words forthcoming, as
trepidation settles in my veins.


I scrunch my eyes shut, realizing the other shoe is about to be
dropped, my face still pressed into the crook of his neck as I try to
control my breathing.


"I'll have to report last night's incident to Tuvok."

I jerk upright in his embrace and stare at him incredulously. Of all
the things I expected to hear, this was the last thing on my mind.

He looks at what surely must be astonishment on my face and continues.
"It's a security matter and I should've let Voyager's security team
handle it."

"You can't report to Tuvok," I protest. "I never made a complaint."

"The matter was brought to my attention by one of my own people," he
replies calmly.

So this was what he had been thinking about since he woke up.

"I should've reported it."

"You took care of it yourself last night. Let it remain that way."

"Funny," he chuckles, almost sarcastically. "You didn't seem to agree
with my course of action last night."

I disentangle myself from his arms in one swift motion and lean back
on the seat beside him, staring at him with wary eyes.

"Don't push this, Chak."

"I was made aware of a security breach in Voyager's ranks last night.
It isn't right of me to keep this information to myself." He leans
forward in the seat, his brow wrinkled. "It goes against all the rules
and regulations that the chain of command on this ship follows."

"Funny," I snort, "You didn't seem to care about Starfleet regulations
last NIGHT."

"This NEEDS to be reported, Tom."

"No, it fucking doesn't." I jump up from the couch, furious,
irritated. "I couldn't care less if you'd caught them in the act
yourself. I wasn't gonna report it last night before you showed up
here all mad and furious, and I am not gonna report it NOW."

"Why, Tom?" There's that subdued, flickering hint of anger again, as
he pushes himself up from the couch too and faces me. "You were
physically assaulted last night by a bunch of drunkards and yet you
want to stay quiet and not bring those bastards to justice." He grits
his teeth, "What I want to know is WHY?"

"It seems you're not quite up-to-date with all the pertinent facts,
Commander." I can't help the coldness seeping in my tone. "I was the
one who struck the first punch. And Yosa was the ONLY one who touched
me. The rest of them never participated in the so-called attack. And
YET, you punished ALL of them."

"I know exactly what happened, Tom," Chakotay continues, as though he
hasn't noticed my deliberate indifference. "You were PROVOKED into
attacking Yosa. And the rest of them may not have participated in the
assault but they also didn't STOP Yosa from attacking you. That, in my
eyes, is as bad as participating in the assault."

"And so, you went right along and instituted your tried and true
Maquis code of discipline by beating the shit out of Yosa, and
confining him and the rest of them to their quarters for the next two
days WITHOUT food or any medical supplies. And NOW you want to report
this entire incident to Tuvok."

"It's the right thing to DO."

"They'll throw you in the brig for taking matters into your own

God, why is he making it so hard to talk sense into him?

"They'll throw ME in the brig for starting the whole thing in the
first place."

How can I tell him that he's the key to all this? That he has to
remain stable for me? That I need him just the way he is, for his
unflinching, strong presence is the reason for all that went right in
this lifetime - and its absence, for what went wrong in the one I left

"We will explain it to them," he goes on, not yet seeing the chaos in
my mind, not yet aware of my impending panic. "We'll tell them how it
started. Yosa's cronies will testify. We HAVE to stop this once and
for all, Tom."

How can I tell him that I can't fucking let anything bad happen to

"I don't WANT to explain anything to them," I yell at him, "I don't
want Yosa's cronies to testify in front of anyone!"


But I am not hearing anything more. A sudden wave of hysteria descends
and I feel darkness clouding my vision, filling my veins.

"I have no intentions of making a mountain out of mole by reporting
anything to Tuvok and practically ANNOUNCING to the rest of the crew
that there are people onboard this ship who are after my ass as if I
am fucking WHORE."

He looks as if he's been struck, his eyes widening with shock, but I
am too far-gone into my own anguish to notice it.

"This isn't PRISON, Chak." My eyes are suddenly filled with tears and
I blink them furiously to keep them from falling, but fail. "I will
not be subjected to the same bullshit here." My throat is clenching,
my heart hammering inside my tightening chest. "I don't belong to
anyone here, I will not, I will never accept this..."


"You can't make me report." I brush the errant tears away, hating
myself for being so weak. "I don't want to talk to anyone."

I cower back into a corner, my palms flat against the wall, trying to
keep myself from splintering into a thousand pieces, wanting nothing
more than to fold in and close out everything around me and slipping
away into a mental nothingness. I hate him for bringing me to this
state, hate myself for being so weak, so powerless, so fucking

I'll never to able to defend him, never be good enough for him - hell,
I'd never be good enough for myself - my wailing mind laments, but his
arms are suddenly around me and he's pulling me upright into an
embrace. I struggle, trying to push him away, my vision blurring with
shameful tears, but he holds me tight against him, shushing me,
rubbing my back.

I hate myself, hate being so weak, so insecure, so damn pathetic.

"You can't make me do this, Chak," I cry, my voice muffled against the
side of his neck, as he leads me back to the couch. I feel his warm
fingers gently coaxing my hair off my forehead, his palms cradling my
face, his thumb brushing the tears off my face.

"I won't, Tom," he says, his voice strained with emotion, yet somehow
reassuring, as I keep my eyes closed and listen to the soft, husky,
soothing tones. "No one will make you do anything you don't want to
do. I am sorry. You don't have to report to anyone, you have my word."

I sag against him, suddenly drained of all energy. He cradles me in
his arms, his hands rubbing my back, kneading my shoulders, coaxing my
tense muscles into relaxing. He says nothing, giving me time, letting
me get my bearings again. For some reason I feel content in the
silence, listening to the steady sound of him taking in air inside his
lungs, feeling the warm puff against my right ear as he softly

In and out, calm and steady, his warm breath fans my face. I start to
feel almost drowsy, relishing the feel of his arms holding me close,
holding me secure.


I stiffen as he finally breaks the stillness.

"You still need to return your combadge to Tuvok. It's broken."

I feel him tense at my silence so I tighten my arms around his waist.

"I will, I'll return it to him and get a new one, don't worry."

"What will you say to him?" His tone shifts again, "He will ask how it
got smashed and ended up with a Starfleet issue footprint on its
surface that doesn't match YOUR shoes."

I take a shuddering breath, feeling tightness invading my chest again.

"I'll come up with some excuse, Chak, leave it to me, I can handle

"Oh, I am sure you can."

There's something in his tone that is too bitter, too accusatory, to
be ignored. My eyes fly open and I pull my arms from around his body,
trying to push myself off him but he grips my shoulders hard, not
letting me move.

"Let me go," I snap at him, my fingers curling, trying to claw his
arms off mine but he only squeezes my shoulders in response, pulling
me closer to him. "Let me off!"

"NO!" he snarls. "You will NOT run away this time. TALK to me,

"Talk about WHAT?" I grit my teeth. "I am tired of this, Chak. Tired
of making you mad at me all the time."

"I am not angry at YOU, Tom." He suddenly seems tired, his face
anguished, "Not you at all..." He swallows a lump in his throat.

I shift to the next seat again, a strange flutter in my stomach and
peer at him curiously.

"Then who, Chak?"

He lowers his eyes to his lap, his hands falling to his thighs, and
takes a shaky breath before looking up at me. "I am so pissed, Tom, so
upset that this happened right under my nose and I didn't know
anything about it." His brown eyes are suddenly moist, clouded with
conflict. "I can't believe I let this happen - they were Maquis, all
my people - and I couldn't stop them from touching you."

I feel something turn inside my chest.

All these waves of anger, of pain and scorn and hostility, that I feel
drifting off him, are all directed inwards - at himself - not me. The
pensiveness I saw on his face when I walked into this room this
morning, catching him brooding all by himself. Last night's rage aimed
at Yosa and his men, the frenzy and strife within himself when he
interrogated me about what happened. The despair, the struggle - in
his eyes, on his face, in his heart. All of it boils down to one
lonely helpless emotion.


He wouldn't stop looking for you, Torres suddenly speaks up in my
head, he barricaded himself in his room, he blamed himself for not
being alert enough, she says, losing you devastated him and you're
just like him, Paris, she concludes, you're just like Chakotay.

Just like Chakotay.

Am I? Am I just like Chakotay?

But that isn't true. Couldn't be true. He is an honorable, principled
man who was fighting a war for his homeland. He lost half his family
to the Cardassians and resigned his commission to join a freedom
struggle against a foreign military occupation of his home world. And
me? I was but a mercenary, someone looking simply to pay off his
bar-tab, someone looking for a fight against the wretched Starfleet.
The Starfleet that had taken all my dreams and aspirations of becoming
one of the greatest pilots ever, and torn them into shattered, sorry
little shards.

Like broken glass.

Leaving a bloody mess in its wake.

How can anyone compare me to him? How can I be like him in any way?

He's an honest man, who fought for a noble cause. I am a liar, a
loser, who got thrown into prison on his first fucking flight for the
Maquis. There's simply no possible comparison between the two of us,
is there?

Yet here he is, blaming himself for what happened even though he had
no way of knowing, no way of stopping it from occurring. Drowning
himself in swells of needless guilt and self-recrimination for no
reason whatsoever.

And here I am. Rolling over the same burning, aching coals of
self-pity and hatred. Beating around the same bush. Marching to the
same damned tune. Hating myself. Hurting myself. Floating in the same
stifling waters of self-disgust and aversion. Blaming myself for all
the wrongs that occurred in my life for there was never anyone else to

Guilty as charged.

Just like Chakotay.

But it was always my fault, wasn't it? Who else could I blame? I did
lie to Starfleet. I did join the Maquis to pay them back. I was a
mercenary. A drunkard. And I did lose out on my first flight. But,
God, I never meant to lose Chakotay on the stairs at Ocampa that
cursed day. I still blame myself, don't I? I've blamed myself for
twelve long months, crying myself to sleep, living in that hellhole.

The fact that I am sitting here right now, looking at Chakotay - an
alive Chakotay - means I've been given a second chance. A chance to
break this vicious circle. To end all the guilt. Once and for all.
Chakotay was never to blame for my getting caught by Starfleet.
Chakotay wasn't to blame for last night's attack on me. I have to end
this. Now.

And if I can convince Chakotay of that, then perhaps I can convince
myself of having a little faith in my own innocence too.

I cover his right hand with mine and as he looks up at me with pained
eyes, I weave my fingers through his and touch his face with my right

"It wasn't your fault, Chak." I dip my fingers into his thick hair and
revel in its soft silkiness. "Stop blaming yourself."

"But, Tom, I was responsible for your safety."

"And you have fulfilled your promise the best way you could," I cut
him off quickly. "What happened last night could've been prevented if
I'd turned around and walked away from the scene. I am partly to blame
for getting involved too."

He frowns defiantly. "Yosa instigated the whole thing. I know what he
did, how he riled you up. They told me what happened, all the bullshit
he said to you. Everything that goes wrong in your life isn't your
fault, Tom, and I will not listen to you putting the blame on yourself
for things that you had no control over."

I don't know whether to laugh or cry at his words. I look into his
dark eyes, bright with emotion, his face portraying the struggle
within him. Isn't it unbelievable how two people can come up with the
same conclusions at the same time, while sitting at opposite ends of
the spectrum, without being aware of it?

Just like Chakotay. Am I?

I trace the line of his jaw with my index finger, "And I will not
listen to you putting the blame on yourself for things YOU had no
control over, Chak."


"No buts." I cradle his face in both hands, his skin warm and
fragrant, "I will stop blaming myself if you stop blaming YOURSELF,
Chak," my thumbs strokes his strong jaw, his soft skin lightly covered
with early morning stubble, "It's as simple as that."

His brown eyes shine with slow realization. "Tom..."

Instead of answering him with words, I tip his face up as I lean over
to cover his lips with mine. With a sigh, he parts his lips and my
tongue slides inside his mouth, meeting its mate with quiet reverence.
His mouth is sizzling hot, his lips like velvet, as our tongues slide
and curl around the other, taking time to reacquaint ourselves to each
other's taste and feel. The kiss grows languorously, our lips and
tongues dancing the seductive dance of spit and heat and breathless
gasps, as the sharpest of teeth nip gently at quivering flesh. I slide
my fingers into his hair, tilting his face sideways to deepen the
kiss, and moan as I feel him stroking the roof of my mouth with his
relentless tongue, his own moan rumbling back into my mouth.

A delightful humming starts in my temple, my nerves buzzing, my heart
racing, as I taste his sweet mouth and revel in the muskiness of his
scent. He kisses me sweetly and deeply, his lips moving over mine with
quiet determination, before his fingers slide into the curls at the
base of my head, rubbing lingeringly, and he gently, reluctantly,
disengages his mouth from mine.

I groan in disappointment but he strokes my hair, his fingers soothing
and tender, and tucks my face into the crook of his neck. I breathe in
his tang, kissing his flushed skin - sweaty with desire - and try to
control my breathing. I hear him doing the same, breathing raggedly,
as I tighten my hold on him, my hands slipping around his waist, my
fingers tracing his spine and caressing his strong, muscular back.

"Tom." He shivers at my ministrations and kisses the top of my head.
"I need to talk to you, babe."

I rub my earning morning beard over his chest, making him shiver

"About what, Chak?"

There's a pause, an ever so slight one, before he slips his fingers
around my biceps, stilling my hands, and I feel a kiss land softly on
my forehead.

"About the shell."

I barely stifle a groan as my heart once again fills with dismay. The
shell. Oh God, will my torment never end?

I look up at him, my heart in my throat. "I didn't steal it from you,

He looks deeply into my eyes, as if assessing me, his face thoughtful
and serious. His eyes are deep and dark and beautiful, but my heart
beats ever so frantically, my insides tight with turmoil.

How will I explain it to him? How the hell will I explain the shell to
him? I am back at square one, back where I was last night, back where
I was two damn months ago. This man may have fucked me through the bed
only a few hours ago but nothing has really changed, has it? He's
still suspicious. I still haven't come clean about everything to him.

How CAN I ever come clean? He'll think I am crazy.

"I know, Tom."