ST: Voyager C/P
Rating. SLASH, m/m NC-17
Archive: Anywhere, just let me know, please
Disclaimer: Tom, Chak et al are Paramount‘s (lucky devils) Angel is mine (yippee!)
By the way - apologies to the people I told this was a 20-parter, Chakotay has wasted so much time not talking to Tom that we are running into overtime - so blame him!
I took care to visit Sickbay towards the end of Alpha Shift so that there was less likelihood of people calling in with vague complaints and therefore disturbing me as I spoke to the Doctor. Somehow it was always at the beginning of shift when most people suffered from mysterious phantom aches and pains.
The Doctor was alone in his office and seemed both resigned and somewhat irritated to see me. I was used to his grouchy nature and didn‘t take it personally. Therefore I was totally unprepared when he met my words with vitriolic scorn.
All I had said was "I am concerned about Tom, he doesn‘t seem to be happy with our living arrangements. I am wondering whether he would prefer to separate his physical care from our relationship." And the floodgates opened.
Somehow the Doctor‘s programmers had perfected his various expressions of disdain. As First Officer I had rarely been subjected to the range of true disgust that could be portrayed in a single glance. Usually people at least pretended that I was worthy of their respect.
The Doctor, however, regarded me as though I was the lowest form of viral life that he might meet under a microscope. I could almost hear my jaw hit the floor as he snarled his scathing reply:
"As Tom‘s doctor I can‘t imagine anything better than to remove him from your care. I fail to understand why you have abused your position to get Tom within your clutches since he obviously repulses you so much. Your refusal to accept Tom in his current condition undermines every effort he has made to come to terms with the terrible position he is in. You are making a bad situation worse with your continued rejection of his basic rights to be treated as an equal."
"Abused my position?" I spluttered indignantly "I‘ve done NOTHING to abuse him. I‘ve spent 24 hours of every bloody day for the last six weeks looking after him. What the hell are you talking about? What you mean about me being repulsed by him?"
"Tom has been to see me and whilst Doctor/Patient confidentiality prevents me from actually repeating his words, I find under the circumstances I am unable to remain impartial on the subject. I shall ask the Captain to authorise your request since it is obviously in Tom‘s best interests. I only hope that you are aware of how much damage you have done to his already fragile confidence."
"Damage I‘ve done? Spirits, what has Tom said? I swear I have never so much as touched him!" I exclaimed in passionate disbelief at the accusation.
"Exactly!" The Doctor replied dryly "Whilst I don‘t pretend to fully understand the nuances of human sexual behavior, it is obvious to me that by taking Tom home you implied a level of commitment to your relationship that you obviously had no intention of fulfilling. I consider that cruel and unnatural on your part."
"Level of commitment?" I stuttered "Cruel and unnatural?"
"Are you intending to repeat my words back to me all afternoon or do you actually have something of importance to say, Commander?" the Doctor sniped rudely.
Stunned, I sank into the chair before his desk. Some measure of my complete confusion must have shown because although the Doctor‘s next words were harsh they were less judgmental.
"Tom has told me that you no longer feel any attraction towards him. That you prefer to resolve your ‘impulses‘ in other fashions. He naturally concludes therefore that your act of caring for him is due only to feelings of pity and obligation since you do not desire him in any other fashion. He finds the situation barely tolerable and I concur."
"Tom said that? That I don‘t desire him? "
"He couldn‘t be more wrong! I can‘t stop thinking about him. That‘s the problem. That‘s why I can‘t bear to live with him any longer. I don‘t trust myself not to abuse him" I admitted guiltily, my usual protective layer of pride torn away by the combination of the Doctor‘s words and my own broken heart.
"It is hardly abuse if it is what he wants, what he needs." The Doctor replied with evident surprise, "Compounded with his insecurity because of the spinal injury, the belief that he is no longer sexually attractive is an unendurable burden for him."
"But he‘s helpless. I felt guilty even considering it. I have been ashamed of my desire. How could I possibly have initiated something he might have found abhorrent but couldn‘t prevent?" I argued.
"By asking him, perhaps?" The Doctor replied in a kinder voice than his sarcastic words implied. "Perhaps this is simply a failure of communication. Have either of you actually discussed your expectations of this relationship?"
"Yes, well no, not really. It seemed cruel to bring the subject up when he was obviously incapable."
"Tom is not incapable of responding to your touch. He has sensation in 80% of his body. My research has satisfied me that Tom can enjoy a physical relationship despite his impotence. He can still gain gratification from sexual stimulation. His body has created a whole new set of pleasure zones. His mind will adapt to let him enjoy whatever form of love you show him."
"I didn‘t know. He never said anything!" I moaned plaintively.
"To be blunt, Commander, it was up to you. You are in the position of power in your relationship, whether you like it or not. You should have reassured Tom that it was okay to ask questions regarding his sexuality.
"Talking about sex can be difficult for anyone. In his position it‘s almost impossible. Your reassurance that you were still a willing partner was imperative. I understand that you were both overwhelmed by the changes that have happened. Talking about your feelings would have made it easier for you both to adjust to those changes.
"As it is, Tom feels that he has been thrown a lifeline only to have it ripped away. He is too frightened of being rebuffed again to risk bringing up the subject. Your continued rejection of him is only confirming his inability to be perceived as a sexual being and although I am not human myself, I have been programmed with enough data on the subject to understand how crucial sexual image is, especially in someone as young as Tom. "
"I‘ve been so fucking stupid. Again!" I cursed as I realised just how much further pain I had unwittingly caused Tom. The Doctor was right. If Tom and I had been in a strong relationship before his accident perhaps we could have worked through this. But Tom never really trusted my declaration of love even before his accident and with good reason:
I spent five years too afraid to step forwards and declare my feelings. When I finally took the chance to start our relationship I wasted what turned out to be the last week of his health by second-guessing him and refusing to tell him how I felt. I let him stagger under the impossible weight of my relationship with Angel and repeatedly told him that I would leave him if we got home.
Then I spent a whole year after his accident refusing to commit to him, dancing around the subject of our relationship until my final mistake as I spent the last six weeks accidentally re-enforcing his feelings of inadequacy.
In my mind I replayed our recent interactions. I realised that Tom‘s bitter tears had stemmed only from my refusal to touch him, to love him. I had thought I was being noble when I treated his body like just so much meat to be prepared and cleaned. How humiliating that must have been for him. His fragile ego must have been shattered by my refusal to even kiss him.
I was a blind stupid fool who didn‘t deserve Tom‘s love.
It had been easy to accept all of the difficulties Tom and I would face in trying to resume our relationship physically as insurmountable obstacles, but the truth was, love was a bitch, paralysis or not! Loneliness and solitude were black clouds that had to be fought off daily by everyone. No relationship was without problems but it helped if you still viewed your partner as a sexual being. I had been unthinkingly cruel to Tom.
I had failed to appreciate that he had the same right to have feelings as anybody else. I had been so arrogant to think that it was only I who was so frustrated that I had to hide in the shower every night. Tom had not had that opportunity for relief. He had had to lie there, knowing what I was doing.
I could no longer deceive myself that he hadn‘t been fully aware of my actions. It must have been torture for him.
"If it‘s not too late, if Tom agrees to give me another chance. How will I know what to do? How can I be sure that I won‘t hurt him? And to be crude, what about his ‘plumbing‘?"
"As I have already explained I have researched the subject just in the hope that you would ask." the Doctor replied pompously and launched into full lecture mode.
"On a practical level, I can advise you that avoiding intense genital or anal stimulation when Tom has a full bowel will help avoid an ‘accident‘ during sexual activity. Apparently it is a good idea to keep some protective sheets, a towel, and a urinal nearby.
"The catheter can be folded along Tom‘s penis and held in place with a condom or tape. Plenty of water based lubricant should be used when you have intercourse."
Perhaps noticing my lack of appreciation for the indelicacy of his comments, the Doctor changed tack.
"On a less pragmatic note, sensate focus and pleasure mapping are all suggested ways to explore various parts of Tom‘s body. Exploration can include using different kinds of touch with both the hands and the mouth like stroking, rubbing, squeezing, kissing, sucking and nipping. I have also read that incorporating lotions, oils, and powders may increase his pleasure in the sensations Tom experiences."
I could feel the heat of my ever-deepening blush simply radiating off me in waves.
Despite the Doctor‘s matter of fact tone I was mortified by his easy discussion of the proposed details of my renewed sex life with Tom.
But since it was my inability to talk about sex that had started this whole sorry mess, I swallowed my embarrassment and simply thanked him quietly for his assistance.
Checking the time, I realised I had still got time to get back to our quarters and prepare before Tom‘s return from duty. I had six weeks of neglect to make up for and I was going to make sure that from his first entrance this evening, he would be in no doubt as to how much the wind had changed.