"The Dark Tunnel"
Part 2: Expiation

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 part 2) 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. :-)


Expiation 1/4

"Lights, half illumination."

A warm glow spreads across my living room in answer to my command,
illuminating my dwellings in a soft pale light. I hear the doors slide
shut behind me as I walk towards the viewport, shucking my uniform
jacket, watching distant stars and planets streaking by my window at

For the first time in the last one-and-half-months, Voyager is finally
traversing through a peaceful region of space. No hostile aliens to
fight. No hard asteroid fields to pass. No bizarre spatial anomalies
to encounter.

No Kazon either.

For the first few weeks they constantly seemed to be on our tails;
first one faction, then another, then yet another. Always taking
potshots at us or causing trouble with other alien species we dealt
with. My heart felt to be perpetually stuck in my throat during that
tense period of time. However even they seem to have left us alone at
the moment, disappearing somewhere in the shreds of their
self-proclaimed region of space. At least for now.

The surprises life throws at us never cease to amaze me.

Lieutenant. I am a Lieutenant on Voyager. The Chief Conn. Officer for
this beautiful Intrepid-class starship that I thought lost a year ago.

In another lifetime.

Yet here she is. Alive and breathing. With all her crew - Maquis and
Starfleet alike - intact.

I step to my left until my knees touch the front of the small lounge
sitting in front of the viewport, conveniently placed at a
ninety-degrees angle, and slide down on it, pulling my feet under me
so that I still face the window.

As I stare into the blackness of space beyond the viewport, I remember
the day Captain Janeway told me she was integrating the two crews. I
remember the absolute terror that filled my veins as my insides
screamed at the apparent horror of it all. I wanted to warn her about
the conflicts, the blood, the murders, the fighting, about the gangs
and beatings and rapes and insanity. I wanted to tell her that it
could never work because I had seen what happens when you integrate
two enemy groups and force them to live together.

But then she told me that Chakotay was going to be the First Officer
and, right there and then, it occurred to me that this was the thing
that was going to make all the difference this time. He was the key to
the puzzle, the answer to all questions, the reason why it was
actually going to work this time.


The revelation slowly dawned that, by saving him at the stairs on
Ocampa, I somehow had changed the entire history of the conflict,
rewritten the timeline, and eradicated the reality of my nightmare.

Yes, there are problems, friction between the two crews still exists,
and no one can deny that. The Maquis are a conflicted people -
hot-tempered, emotional and passionate. And being First Officer, and
an ex-Fleet and ex-Maquis one at that, Chakotay is the one who has to
bear the brunt of it all, from all sides.

The fact that he honored the Starfleet uniform but felt violated by
the Federation when it signed its treaty with the Cardassians doesn't
matter to some people. The fact that the same Cardassians slaughtered
his father and so many family members, and that was what forced him to
resign his commission and join the Maquis cause, doesn't seem to
count. All they see is the Starfleet officer who betrayed the
Federation to join the Maquis, and now has switched sides to join
Starfleet again.

There was, and still is, antagonism from many people, but I think he's
really doing a hell of a job. The skilled manner with which he handles
the Starfleet crew, and disciplines some of the wayward Maquis, has
earned him genuine respect among the ranks in a very short time.
Maquis weren't the only ones who had a problem with the merger. I know
many of the Fleet crew who hated, and some still do, the idea of
taking orders from the felon they had been sent to capture. But they
are small in numbers and fast dwindling.

Having B'Elanna promoted to Chief engineer helped matters some, I
guess. Yep, she's B'Elanna now. Even I get to call her by her first
name at whatever occasions we have face-to-face encounters. She is
undoubtedly the best engineer around and her Maquis to Starfleet
transition has surprised even me.

She, like Chakotay, faced problems from the Fleet ranks at first, but
her dedication and obvious expertise in the engine room, plus the
quick way she's re-learning the Fleet protocols she herself abandoned
on joining the Maquis, is proving to people that she means business.
Besides, it helps Chakotay to know that he has one of his own people
with him among the senior staff.

Senior staff. Will the wonders life throws my way never cease?

To be a part of the Voyager senior staff, to be the fourth in command
in the hierarchy even outranking B'Elanna, sometimes feels too good to
be true. I sometimes feel like I am still stuck in an extended version
of some crazy dream gone out of control.

It still staggers my mind.

I notice a light blinking on my computer terminal and lean forward to
tap on the interface. It's a message from Harry, who's on night shift
at the moment, asking me to join him for breakfast and, with a smile,
I send a quick affirmative reply to his terminal. I lean back on the
couch and pull my legs up on the table lying in front.

Harry is a nice guy, a good friend, someone who has accepted me into
his circle without any questions about my past. He doesn't care that I
was kicked out of Starfleet or that I was involved in a shuttle crash
that killed three people. He doesn't concern himself that I was part
of the Maquis for a while or worry about the fact that before I came
to Voyager I was in Federation prison serving time as a

None of that matters to him.

He just sees and accepts me as I am right now, as Tom Paris. I'm the
guy who saved him from the Ferengi barkeep at DS9 and the guy who
flies the ship better than anyone else onboard. I can't help but give
him credit for his openness of mind. There's maturity behind that
green ensign innocence that is hard to rival on this whole ship.

Especially considering that I haven't been that lucky with the rest of
the crew.

The Maquis still think of me as a traitor who led Voyager to them. The
Starfleet crew can't forget the guy at Caldik Prime who lied about the
cause of the shuttle crash. There are days when the attitudes I have
to endure on this ship get to be a little too much.

Torres thinks I am an asshole and doesn't talk to me unless it's a
ship-related matter. It shouldn't surprise me, because I know it took
her a long time - several months in fact - to trust me in that other
lifetime as well.

I've tried looking up Dalby many times but he doesn't seem to be in a
very receptive mood these days either. Everyone says he's a jerk and
an idiot and has a big attitude problem, and I would believe it too if
I didn't know better. I suppose he's back to square one again. There
are times that I have to stop and remind myself that he doesn't know
me, or even himself, the way he did in that other reality.

The frequency of threats that I receive from the anonymous bullies has
been steady and continuous. So much so that there are times I have
difficulty remembering that I am not on Lovaugim anymore.

The open glares in the turbolift, the whisperings in the messhall, the
jibes and biting comments in the corridors, all seem like the
incipience of an all out madness, of complete and total mayhem, as was
the case on Lovaugim. Where there was no turning back, no escape, no
liberation. Just pain and guilt and suffering for the sufferer.

There are times I come across someone I knew from the planet, someone
who had been one of the bullies, who had hated me and had used his
force or backing to push me and fight me and degrade me, and I feel
myself go rigid with terror. My breath catches up in my throat, the
oxygen around me suddenly dipping to an all time hazardous level, and
I start to forget which is reality and which is dream.

Was there ever a dream or was the dream a reality as well? I ask
myself, as confusion and chaos envelop me again, stifling me. And I
have to turn around, blindly walking out of wherever I am standing;
looking for a place where I can breathe and collect my nerves, not
sure whether this is all a part of the dream as well, or whether what
I had experienced on Lovaugim was ever real.

But despite the threats and intimidation, no one, and I repeat no
Maquis or Starfleet crewmember, has dared touch me as yet. It's as if
even when they talk me down or give me the hard looks, at the back of
their minds, they feel a presence - a resistance - holding them back -
keeping them in their place.


Yes, I guess he has kept true to his word. The word that he gave to
Captain Janeway, when she made him the First Officer, that he would
make sure of my safety on Voyager.

It baffles me that he took the life-debt seriously.

But then, he would, wouldn't he? He's the kind of person who'd make
sure to honor a promise, who'd remember someone who made a request to
him, who'd never forget somebody he owed something to. Isn't he?

My hand slips inside my trousers pocket and I take the seashell out. I
keep it on my person 24 hours a day, seven days a week now, always
there to remind me of the realness of this reality.

My forefinger traces the spiral ridges on its surface almost
reverently, lovingly. It's a beautiful shell and, over the past
one-and-half-months, I've had more time to study it closely. It's
approximately 4-inches wide and 5-inches in length, with a kind of
leaf-shaped silvery white exoskeleton. The colors that shimmer on its
surface, which I had once suspected to be paints or dyes, are not
artificial at all. Doing a little research on seashells in the ship's
database, I found out that the patterns on the shell are natural
formations and are part of the shell, rather than a surface

The fact that these beautiful hues of rainbows, engraved on this outer
skeleton of what was once part of a sea-faring animal, are a work of
nature makes me more intrigued than ever. What do these patterns,
these shapes, mean? What significance do they hold to Chakotay?

I know I need to return it to him. If only I'd get a chance. If only
he'd talk to me. If only I'd get the courage to return it to him.

It must be done. It's his good luck shell, his safety net. Myth or
superstition or not, I have experienced the powers of it first hand
and I know the shell is special in some way.

The shell must be returned to its rightful owner as soon as possible.

It's just that, for some reason, Chakotay keeps me at an arm's length.
He's professional and polite on duty but somehow I get the feeling
that he doesn't truly trust me yet. At least, not on a personal level.

It hurts. I want to get to know him. I want to be able to talk to him.
There are so many things I want to do with this man, so many things I
want to share, but I never seem to find myself in the same room alone
with him once we are off-duty. I want him to trust me.

God, why won't he trust me? Even after Ocampa he can't bring himself
to trust me. I want him to know that I never betrayed him.

I want to tell him that I love him but first I want to be his friend.

I know I have to return the shell.

It's just that I worry that once I give the shell away, I would have
nothing to remind me of the reality of this situation, nothing to
ground me, nothing to let me know that I am not still stuck in an
endless dream.

The shell is the only thing that assures me that I am awake and that
the life I am living on Voyager is indisputably real. That my
experiences here are not the result of a wild imagination working its
way through a dream from which I can wake up anytime.

The shell is my only connection.

But the shell isn't mine.

I must return it to him.


I lean across the smooth, felt-covered surface to rack the balls in
the middle of the table, and then straighten back to scan the room,
seeing who's here. The alpha shift broke two hours ago and I expect
the bar to fill out pretty soon.

I watch one of the gigolos flirt with Greg Ayala and try not to laugh
at the expression on his face. The slowly building crowd is buzzing
around me. Maquis, Starfleet, holograms - they're all here.

It doesn't matter that Tom Paris is the guy who programmed this
particular bar. Chez Sandrine is still popular among all on its
opening day.

It's ironic that even though Voyager has been low on power sources and
we've had to cut back on the use of everything from replicators to
sonic showers to the auxiliary computer core, the holodecks can run
independent of all ship systems and for seemingly endless periods of

I can't imagine who designed it this ridiculous way but, as absurd as
the situation may be, I find myself thanking them for thinking of the
crew's entertainment in even dire circumstances.

If only photometric projections could keep your belly filled. I don't
think I can take Neelix' cooking for much longer.

Voyager has spent the last two days chasing after a nebula that we
thought might provide us with a suitable power source, but which
turned out to be this giant space faring creature. Not only did we,
unaware as we were, go inside this huge nimbus life form, but we also
managed to get lost in the maze inside and had to torpedo our way out
of its belly. Of course, when Captain Janeway realized we had injured
the creature, she decided we fix the damage we had inflicted as well.
So we went back in and fixed it, and had to depart sans the power
source, but seemingly on better terms with the creature.

The Captain has given the Alpha crew the next two days off. Still, if
tonight isn't a night when the crew needs some relaxation, I don't
know what is.

I turn to Ricki, who's leaning against a pillar and signal her to keep
a watch on my table. She smiles back at me demurely and I grin back,
and turn around to walk to the bar, shaking head at my seemingly
accurate description of even the holographic ex-girlfriend.

I don't know why I added her to this program. My memories of the real
Ricki aren't exactly fond. She's a part of a past that was rather
bleak and depressing for me. I had just been kicked out of Starfleet
and used to spend my whole days and nights cruising the bars and
nightclubs in Marseilles, getting drunk, and getting picked up. It's
not a particularly meritorious time in my life. But then, it was also
during this time that I came across Sandrine and made some very good
friends at this very bar. I'd like to think that since Ricki was a
part of this era of my life and this was the place where I first came
across her, that's the reason why I still keep bringing her back in
all my holo-programs. Not because of who she was but rather to
maintain the authenticity of the environment.

I suppose I'll let her hang around for a while and see how she does.
If she's as mind-shatteringly pompous and self-indulgent as the real
Ricki was, then I'll delete her.

I reach the bar and call for Sandrine but she's not there. I turn
around, scanning the crowd for her but she doesn't seem to be anywhere
around, and I am just about ready to start worrying about my
holographic patron when I hear her voice from somewhere behind the

"Oh, Monsieur Thomas, is that you?"

I walk behind the bar to find her crouched on the floor, barely
cradling two crates of synth-beer bottles on elbows, one of which is
just teetering on the side - about ready to crash down.

"Need help?" I smile at her expectant look as I kneel down to help
ease the two crates off her hands and set them down on the floor.

"Thank you, my Thomas," she smiles gratefully. "You averted a total

"My pleasure, mon cheri." I bow dramatically. "But I do think I
deserve special a treat now." I grin at her. "Any ideas?"

"Always playing games, are you, Monsieur?" She smiles indulgently at
me. "How about I mix you your favorite margarita as a symbol of my

"It's a deal, Sandrine." I grin at her and am about to push myself up
on my knees when I hear the wooden doors of the bar swing open, and
two sets of voices walk inside, speaking in, what can only be termed
as, excited tones.

"...But are you absolutely sure it didn't get mixed up in your stuff?
I mean I got everything else, the only thing missing is that one

I freeze. It's Chakotay.

"I don't think it's in my things, Chakotay." The other voice is
B'Elanna's. "I looked this afternoon after you told me it was missing,
but it wasn't there."

"I've been searching for three days now," he says, sounding defeated.
"Where could it've gone? I thought you'd gotten most of my stuff from
my cabin. You got my medicine bundle..."

"Well, the shell wasn't THERE with your medicine bundle," she says,
obviously exasperated. "And besides, I thought you always wore it
around your neck for good luck or something. I thought you had it with

"Not this time." He lowers his volume, a hint of hesitation suddenly
coloring his tone. "Do you mind going through your stuff once more for
me? I'll help you look if you want."

"There's nothing to look at, Chakotay," she says impatiently. "My
quarters are practically barren. I got more of YOUR stuff from the
Crazy Horse than mine. I even forgot my Ruvarian energy stabilizer
set, the one and only of its kind, which I got from..."

"Yes, yes, I know," Chakotay interrupts her. "From a Ktarian trader on
Logas III in the middle of a strike we made against a Cardassian post.
You've been telling me for the past three weeks, B'Elanna."

"Yeah, so?" she huffs. "What I am saying is there's not much to look
at in my quarters."

"Please?" he says softly, an almost playful plea to a close friend.
It's a tone I've never heard in his voice before. He's never had a
reason to talk to me like that. I almost have this urge to stand up so
that I can see the look on his face, and treasure it.

There's a little pause and then I hear her sigh as she gives up the
token resistance. "Oh, alright. This thing is really important to

"Yes it is," he sighs. "You have no idea how much, B'Elanna. It's...
its priceless," He fights to find the right words. "It's charmed, and
it... it watches over me."

"Well, it doesn't seem to be watching over you lately," B'Elanna
drawls. "Otherwise we wouldn't be stuck in the stupid DELTA quadrant."

I wince and there is silence for a second or two. I imagine him
staring a hole between her eyes, and then I hear him take in a deep,
ragged breath. "Okay, never mind," he grumbles. "It's my fault. I
don't know why I talk to juveniles like YOU about anything."

Then I hear him muttering and walking away from the bar and B'Elanna
saying something about the dense commander not being able to even take
a joke, as she apparently follows him and their voices muffle down in
the noise of the bar.

I feel my heart thudding in my chest as I sit back on my haunches and
try to digest what I have just heard.

Chakotay is looking for the shell. He's upset that it's missing. How
could I have not KNOWN that this would happen?  Of course he's upset.
That shell is obviously very important to him. Isn't that what Torres
told me? I should've returned it to him the day we came back to
Voyager, the day I brought him back alive from Ocampa.

"Thomas." Sandrine, who'd been sitting beside me all the while I was
eavesdropping on Chakotay and B'Elanna, looks at me concernedly. "What
is wrong? What is bothering you?"

I look at the hologram solemnly and then swallow. "Nothing, Sandrine.
I just have to come clean about some business." I smile at her and
stand up.

Chakotay and B'Elanna are standing beside a table in a corner, still
looking to be involved in a heated debate about something. I grab a
bottle of synth-beer from the counter and walk around the bar, trying
to figure out what to do. I am not sure cornering Chakotay and telling
him that I have his shell in a crowded bar would be a wise move.

But then again, he probably won't beat me up so hard in front of so
many people.

The ridiculousness of my thought brings out a chuckle from my throat
and then I shake my head. Think, Tom, I berate myself as I walk back
to my pool table, my eyes invariably falling back on him. Standing in
the corner of the bar. Unaware that his lost shell isn't lost at all,
just displaced.

I doubt he'd actually BEAT me up if I went to him, but he'd be upset.
Yes, he'd be very upset. Especially since he seems to hate me so much.

/---He didn't HATE you, Paris, he CARED for you, too fucking much---/

I hear Torres' voice repeat her words in my mind and my head jerks up
to stare at him. He has his hands on his hips, as he looks down at his
half-Klingon friend, his head shaking in disapproval at one of her
comments. His body language is a little tense, as if he's still hurt
at her words and she seems to be trying to cheer him up. She playfully
snarls at him and with a huff, turns around and pulls out a chair,
sitting down at the table. I watch as a reluctant smile breaks on his
handsome face and he slowly follows her, pulling out and settling on
the chair across from her.

I feel my throat tighten. How many times have I wished to have
camaraderie like this with him? How many times have I wanted to sit
down at a table and be able to chat with him, talk with him, ask him
about the things that he likes, tell him about the things that I do?

/---He CARED for you, too fucking much---/

But he won't even talk to me anymore. How can you care for someone and
then obstinately ignore him like this? Yet, it wasn't Chakotay who
told me that he cared for me, was it? It was Torres who said that, and
it was in a different lifetime, a different reality. It was probably a
different Chakotay she was talking about. Or perhaps she only said it
to make me feel better.

 "Hello, Tom. How are you tonight?"

The smooth drawl takes me out of my brooding and with a start I look
to my right to find Seska standing next to my table.

"Wh..what?" I feel baffled by her presence. What does she want? This
is the first time she has approached me in this reality. All of a
sudden I realize that the feeling pressing foremost down on me is one
of extreme discomfort and uneasiness, of suddenly being thrown off by
her unexpected, and unwelcome, appearance.

"I said how're you doing tonight?" She smiles fiendishly, her eyes
glistening purposefully as she slowly rakes them up and down my body.
"Care for a game of pool?"

I feel a shudder go through me at her words and demeanor. " I am
fine." I curl my lips in disapproval. "And no, thanks."  I turn away
from her, grabbing the cue-stick and trying to fix my attention on the
stack of balls racked at the side of the table.

"Why not?" The tone of her voice shifts, as I break with the cue ball,
and she grips the edge of the pool table. "All I asked for is a
friendly game of pool."

"We're not friends," I snap at her, keeping my eyes on the table,
willing her to go away. Just go away, you bitch, I don't want to have
anything to do with you, not anymore, not in this lifetime.

But she's not willing to walk away just yet.

"What the matter, Paris?" Her voice rises in volume as her tone fills
with naked contempt. "The Maquis aren't good enough for you to play
pool with? You don't socialize with us, do you?" she snarls at me.
"You only SPY on us."

I realize the whole bar has suddenly fallen silent, everyone listening
to our exchange, and feel my heart thundering inside me. The silence
seems almost accusatory, as if everyone agrees with her. And yet it
wasn't me who started this.

"Look," I turn to her, trying to control my voice and to keep it down.
"I don't wanna fight with you. I don't wanna fight with anyone else
either. I'd just like you to leave me alone."

"You're a traitor," she spits the words at me. "You cheated on us in
the Maquis and you led the Federation to us in the Badlands. How many
more times will you cheat on us, Paris?"

I clench the cue-stick in my right hand and gritting my teeth, turn
towards her. But before I can say anything else, I feel someone's
presence right behind me and stop right in my tracks.

"Is there a problem on this table?"