Title: Returning to Reality
Author: Leone
Part: 8/11
Rating: R
Codes: C/P
Feedback: tarrashenna@yahoo.com
Disclaimer: Paramount's, not mine. No infringement intended.
No money being made.

Dedicated to Cha_Club and everyone else who've been waiting
patiently while I had writer's block.

Returning to Reality
By Leone

For a moment, Tom and Chakotay stood in silence and stared at their
counter-parts. Their *dead* counter-parts. Then Chakotay took a deep
breath and looked around the room. When he spotted the golden door
in the opposite wall, Chakotay touched Tom's shoulder. Once he got
the younger man's attention, he pointed to the door and said, "There's
our exit, if you're ready to leave."

Tom sighed in relief. "Let's get out of here," he said, not wanting to
stay a moment longer now that he could leave.

The two men made their way over to the door, carefully avoiding the
two bodies in the middle of the room. Once they reached the door,
Tom opened it and rushed outside, relaxing when he saw his spirit
guide waiting for him. Then he turned his head and looked at Chakotay,
who had followed him out at a slightly slower pace. "Can we
leave this place, altogether?" Tom asked.

Chakotay nodded. "If that's what you want," he answered.

"It is," Tom said firmly.

Before Chakotay could say anything, another 'voice' sounded. [Just
follow us, Children,] the falcon 'said'. [We'll show you the way out of
this forest.] With that she spread her wings and swung into the air
while the wolf rose to her feet, both guides moving in the direction
they had come from earlier.

Tom and Chakotay spared a last glance at the small cabin, then they
followed their spirit guides out of the forest. When they were clear of
the trees, the two men said goodbye to their guides, then ended their


Chakotay opened his eyes and gazed at Tom. The younger man was a
little pale and seemed to be very tired. When Tom opened his eyes,
instead of the usually blue, they were a dull gray with fatigue and
shock. Chakotay rose and held out a hand to Tom. When Tom took his
hand, Chakotay pulled the other man to his feet. "Come on, Tom. Let's
get you to bed," he said, and led Tom into the shuttle.

Once they were inside, Chakotay helped Tom undress, then gently
lowered the half-asleep younger man to the bedroll. He pulled the
blanket over him, and once Tom was asleep, Chakotay went outside.
He picked up the blanket they'd been sitting on and folded it neatly.
Then he returned to the shuttle and put the blanket down before he
stripped. Dressed in his boxers and a t-shirt, Chakotay lay down beside
Tom, wrapped his arms around him and fell asleep.


When Tom woke early the next morning, he discovered that his head
rested on Chakotay's chest, the other man's arms wound around him.
Sighing softly, Tom lay unmoving for a few moments longer until his
bladder demanded his attention. With another sigh, Tom reluctantly
pulled away and went to the bathroom.

A few minutes later, Tom returned to the main part of the shuttle in
deep thought. He was puzzling over the vision the night before. He
didn't understand why he would have nightmares about being tortured
by somebody he didn't even know. Not to mention the appearance of
Chakotay as his lover. Sure, Tom found the man attractive, but they
had just recently become friends. Then there was the fact that these
dreams had started years before Tom even *met* Chakotay.

"Tom?" Chakotay's voice interrupted Tom's thoughts. He looked
down at his Commander, who was now sitting up, studying him.


"How do you feel?" Chakotay asked quietly.

Tom thought about it for a moment. "I'm tired... and confused," he
answered. "I mean, why would I dream about not just one, but *two*
people I don't even know? Okay, so I know you. *Now*. I didn't
when these nightmares started. Also, the other person, Gerald? I've
never even seen him." Tom looked at Chakotay as if he expected the
other man to provide the answers to his questions.

Chakotay sighed quietly. "I don't know. You'll have to ask your spirit
guide." When Tom nodded, Chakotay added a warning. "Just don't
expect a straight answer. I've noticed that, for some reason, spirit
guides seem to prefer speaking in riddles."

Tom snorted. "Yeah, I noticed that too. However, I don't really feel
like visiting the spirit plane again just yet. I think I'll wait a few days,
if you don't mind," he added.

Chakotay nodded in understanding. "That's all right. Just let me know
when you're ready to try again, and we will." He ran a hand through
his hair before continuing. "I think it would be wise if I'm with you
when you go into trance. Just in case. Also, you might need someone
to talk to afterwards, and I'm a good listener. Or so I've been told."
The last was said with a wry smile.

Tom smiled slightly. "You'd have to be," he remarked. "You *are* the
ship's de facto counsellor."

"Yeah." Chakotay got up and headed to the bathroom while Tom prepared
their breakfast.


After breakfast Tom and Chakotay flew the shuttle a few kilometers to
the east to gather the minerals B'Elanna needed. The men were quiet
while they worked, both thinking about their experience in the spirit
world the night before.

At lunchtime, they had a quick meal before continuing their work.
Neither man relished the thought of staying on this planet for longer
than absolutely necessary. Of course, both Tom and Chakotay knew
that their vision had nothing to do with the planet, but nevertheless
they both wanted to get away from it as soon as possible.

When the sun started to set, they had gotten almost everything the ship
needed and knew that they would be able to get the rest the next morning.

"We should be able to leave around noon tomorrow," Chakotay said as
the two men sat by the fire and ate their dinner.

Tom paused and looked at Chakotay. "Good," was all he said before
he returned to his meal.

Chakotay nodded in agreement, then finished his own meal. When
they were both done, Tom and Chakotay cleared everything away,
then returned to sit by the fire. They sat in silence for awhile, then
Chakotay looked over at Tom. Noticing the younger man's troubled
expression, he asked, "Tom?"

Tom looked up. "Yeah?"

"Do you want to talk?" Chakotay asked quietly.

Tom lifted a questioning eyebrow. "About what?"

Chakotay shrugged. "I don't know. Something. Anything."

Tom thought about it for a while. He didn't really want to talk, but he
didn't want to think about yesterday's vision anymore either. He suspected
that it was the same for Chakotay. Then he got an idea. "You
know a lot of tales, don't you?" he asked. When Chakotay nodded in
confirmation, Tom continued. "You could tell me some of them," he

Chakotay smiled. It was actually a good idea. It would prevent the
both of them from thinking about unpleasant things, and would help
pass the time. "All right," he said. Thinking for a moment, Chakotay
decided which story to tell first, and began, "A long time ago, when
Mother Earth was young..."

When Chakotay started speaking, Tom leaned forward slightly, listening
intently. As the story progressed, Tom became engrossed in the
plot. He made the occasional comment, but never interrupted.


As the hours passed, one story became two, then three. Finally, after
several hours, Chakotay stopped speaking, his voice slightly hoarse,
and looked at Tom, smiling when he saw the captivated expression on
the other man's face.

Tom blinked slowly and caught Chakotay's eye. "Those stories were
amazing," he breathed. When Chakotay chuckled gently, Tom blushed
slightly. "You're a very good story-teller," he added.

Chakotay looked pleased. "Thank you," he said. Then he looked at the
night sky. "I think it's time to turn in," he added when he returned his
gaze to Tom.

Tom nodded and rose to his feet. "You're probably right," he said. He
put out the fire while Chakotay gathered their cups and the blanket
they'd been sitting on.

Once inside the shuttle, Tom and Chakotay lay down on the bedrolls,
like they had the two previous nights, with Tom in Chakotay's arms.
Both men had gotten used to this sleeping position, and were soon


When Tom awoke the next morning, he quietly called for the time. After
the computer had informed him that it was 0400 hours, Tom decided
to stay where he was and just enjoy himself for a while. Turning
slightly, he studied Chakotay's sleeping face, marveling again at how
peaceful the other man looked.

After a few minutes, Tom felt an irresistible urge to touch Chakotay.
He reached out and ran his hand gently over the older man's face.
Chakotay sighed in his sleep and nuzzled against Tom's hand. Tom
smiled softly. *He looks absolutely adorable like this,* ran through
Tom's mind, then he frowned, wondering where that thought had
come from. In the next instant, Tom snorted softly to himself. He
knew perfectly well where it had come from. He was head over heels
in love with his XO, and always had been. Tom was so deep in thought
that he didn't notice when Chakotay woke up.

Chakotay studied the younger man for a moment, smiling softly when
he felt Tom's hand on his cheek. After a minute, Chakotay decided to
let Tom know that he was awake. "Good morning, Tom," he said quietly.

Tom started at Chakotay's voice, and turned his eyes to the other man.
Seeing that Chakotay was awake, Tom quickly withdrew his hand and
blushed slightly. "Good morning," he muttered, clearly embarrassed.

Chakotay's smile widened when he saw Tom's blush. *Spirits, he's
cute when he's embarrassed,* Chakotay thought. "Sleep well?" he
asked aloud. When Tom just nodded, Chakotay got a teasing expression
in his eyes. "Lost your tongue?" he asked. Then his expression
turned wicked. "Can I help you find it?" With that, Chakotay leaned
forward and claimed Tom's lips in a gentle kiss.

Tom gasped softly, then returned the kiss enthusiastically. Pretty soon
it turned from gentle to passionate. Tom brought his hands up to entwine
in Chakotay's dark hair, while Chakotay pulled Tom closer to him.

The kiss continued for what seemed an eternity, and was only broken
when the two men needed to breathe. They gazed into each other's
eyes as they tried to regain their breath. As their lips met again,
Chakotay moved so his body covered Tom's, and Tom's hands moved
down to caress Chakotay's back.

After a moment, Tom moved his hands to Chakotay's chest and started
undoing the fastenings on the older man's uniform. When Chakotay
lifted his head and looked at him, Tom lifted a questioning eyebrow,
wondering if he should stop.