By Morticia


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!)

Part 29


I woke slowly from a hazy, horrific nightmare and stretched
luxuriously to ease the knots in my shoulders and the aching
stiffness of my knees.

Yawning widely, I was surprised by how much I had to struggle to open
my eyes. They seemed to be crusted firmly together and I rubbed them
with my oddly greasy fingers as I was assailed by flashbacks of my
weird dream.

I had dreamt that I had been crushed in a shuttle, my body shattered
and left paralyzed. Jeez, I had even been going to marry Chakotay!
How crazy was that? (Given that he hated me now!)  It felt so real,
even now, that I could actually feel intense exhaustion in my body
rather than the sensation of rest that sleep should have given me.

Finally my eyelashes agreed to part and I opened my eyes right into
Chakotay's. He was bending over me with the strangest smile on his
perfect face.

Shit! I must have overslept. Why else would he be in my quarters?

Then I blinked as my eyes took in the room behind Chakotay and I
realised that I wasn't in my quarters at all.

I was in a huge sterile white room, lying on a soft trolley-bed and
completely surrounded by the smiling faces of at least a dozen purple-
skinned aliens, all dressed in flowing multi-colored gowns.

My fingers were still hovering above my eye sockets and I could see a
film of slime all over them. Raising my head I saw that my whole
naked body was covered in transparent green slime.

SHIT! I was lying completely naked in front of a room of grinning
strangers and my Commanding Officer, covered in lime Jell-O!

It was my worst nightmare come to life.

Therefore I was still asleep.

Only I wasn't.
That's when I realised that none of it had been a dream at all.

I groaned as memory flooded me. I had been paralyzed for over a year.
I was on a planet called V'rakn and I had been immersed in a tank in
an effort to heal me.

And that was when it actually finally hit me, over five minutes after
I had unthinkingly rubbed my eyes with my own fingers.


"Chak!" I gasped, my throat tight and voice hoarse with disuse "I can
move.I can fucking move!"

"I know, Babe." He answered softly, "You survived the treatment
without complications. The V'rakn'hal say that you will make a
complete recovery."

"Fucking fantastic!" I cried as I tentatively moved my legs and then
my toes. My limbs were stiff and sore, but they moved.

"How do you feel, Tom?" Chakotay asked gently

"Well, I don't want to sound ungrateful but there's a slight problem,
Chak." I whispered

"What's wrong, Babe?" He replied with such fear and concern that I
was a little ashamed of myself, but still, I had my pride to consider.

"I've got no fucking clothes on!" I muttered furiously

I honestly think that he had been too caught up in the excitement of
the moment to notice. He certainly blushed a dark shade of red at my
words and grabbed a sheet to cover me.

Indignantly I saw a couple of the V'rakn'hal hide expressions that
were suspiciously like sniggers as Chakotay hurried to restore my
modesty.  Then my sense of humor returned. How the hell could I be
anything but ecstatic on a day like today?

"I'm really cured?" I asked Chakotay hesitantly, unable to truly
believe it.

"Yes, babe. You'll be walking and flying again in no time." He
assured me softly, but there was definitely something wrong with the
way that he was talking to me. Something in the way his eyes kept
darting away from my face, as though to hide a secret.

"Then what's wrong, Chak?" I begged, suddenly terrified that there
was a problem he was hiding from me.

"Nothing, Babe. Honestly. You are going to be fine."

"When am I going to be able to get out of here?" I asked eagerly

"About two more weeks. They say it will take you that long to regain
your motor skills. Then, as long as you take it easy, you'll be able
to walk back onto Voyager."

"Then I WILL be able to `walk up the aisle' with you" I gushed

Chakotay mumbled something that I couldn't quite hear. That's when
the first tendrils of fear began to wrap themselves chokingly around
my heart.

"What did you say, Chak?" I asked nervously

"I just asked whether you were sure that you still wanted to marry
me." Chakotay mumbled, his head turned away in embarrassment.

I went cold. For a moment I forgot how to breathe. As calmly as I
could manage I stuttered

"W-W-Why d-do you a-ask?"

"You were under a lot of pressure, Tom. You needed me at the time.
Needed a commitment from me. But that's changed now. I will
understand if you want to break the engagement."

As clear as day, like being hit broadside by a shuttle, I realised
that I had been right. Chakotay had never wanted me to be cured. He
had never really wanted me at all. He had looked after me because of
pity and his proposal had stemmed only from a warped sense of honor
and now he wanted to be released from his promise.

I understood.

I wasn't even angry with him. He had done his best for me. He had
made my life bearable with his lies. I had always known deep inside
that the price of my cure would be the unvarnished truth. The
terrible truth that he didn't love me.

Someone once told me that you couldn't truly hate someone unless you
loved them. That was nonsense. I loved Chakotay with every atom of my
body yet I was incapable of hating him, even as he ripped my life
apart yet again.

I loved him enough to let him go gently, to ease his guilt.

"Yeah, Chak. You're right. Everything's different now." I said and my
heart didn't explode, it simply faded away into nothing and all that
was left was a dried-out husk that used to be Tom Paris.


I spent most of the next two weeks in my quarters, crying. I tried to
meditate but the pain in my chest was so overwhelming that it
dominated my thoughts and denied me any chance of peace.

Kathryn had been right.

Tom didn't love me.

I couldn't bear to be anywhere near him. I knew that the rest of the
crew was visiting him as he convalesced. There was no reason for me
to be there. He didn't need me anymore.

I didn't hate him for his choice. I had forced him into a position
where he had been dependant on me for his very life. Of course he had
thought he was in love with me. He hadn't meant to mislead me.

But, like Tom said, everything was different now.


I gave the orders to prepare for take-off and was pleased to see the
immediate eager efficiency of the crew as they took their stations
and started the safety checks.

The six weeks on the soil of V'rakn'hal had finally palled for them
and they were ready to set off again on our journey home.

The senior officers all took their places on the bridge, except for
Chakotay - and Tom, of course.  Chakotay's absence was a worry. I had
expected that he would have pulled himself together by now.

Hopefully, once we were on our way, when V'rakn became just a dot in
the distance, he would begin to rebuild his life and I would be here
to help him.

I was about to give the final countdown to lift-off when Chakotay
burst onto the bridge, half-dressed and wild eyed.

"WHERE'S TOM?" He screamed at me and the rest of the Senior Officers
almost fell over at their posts in shock. I was furious that he would
make such a public display of himself.

"In my ready room, Commander. NOW"

The bridge was deathly silent as I stalked off, followed by the
enraged first officer. As soon as the doors closed behind us he
erupted again.

"I've checked with the computer. Tom is not on board." Chakotay
shouted, advancing towards me in a decidedly unfriendly way.

"I know." I replied calmly and my words stopped him in his tracks.

"What the hell do you mean, you "know"?"

"Tom has decided to stay on V'rakn. He never relished returning to
the Alpha Quadrant. As you know, there's no guarantee that he will
have his sentence commuted. He feels that he has spent enough time
imprisoned inside his own body without possibly ending up in a prison
cell when we get home." I explained reasonably

"And you agreed to let him stay?" Chakotay asked incredulously

"It's his choice, Chakotay. Besides it is better for all of us, this

"How exactly is it BETTER?" Chakotay queried, his voice now soft but

"You know how vulnerable Voyager would be with only half-power. The
V'rakn'hal have agreed to accept a part-payment in exchange for Tom's
piloting skills. They have offered him a position as a tutor in their
fleet and have agreed that he will be such a valuable addition to
their staff that they have waived the rest of the fee."

"You mean you've sold him to them, like chattel?" Chakotay howled at
me and I felt a headache coming on.

"Don't be dramatic, Chakotay. Tom loves to fly. You know that. He
will enjoy his new position and he is grateful enough to the
V'rakn'hal to want to stay with them."

"Bullshit! If that's true, why the secrecy? Why didn't he tell anyone
of his decision to leave?"

"He asked me to let everyone know once we had left. He didn't want to
have to say good bye. He's still not strong enough emotionally to
deal with that kind of scene."

"I remember you once refused to accept one of Tom's decisions because
he was not emotionally capable of choosing what was right for him.
You overruled him THAT time, Kathryn." Chakotay challenged

I lost my temper then.

"Yes, I over-ruled his choice and look what happened? I let you throw
your life away on him, Chakotay. You have spent the last year as his
personal nurse and virtual slave. You were going to marry him,
dammit. Don't you realise that staying with him would have destroyed

"Is that what this is really about, Captain? Me?"



I forgot Tuvok, forgot my position as Captain, forgot everything and
finally told him the truth

"Because I love you, Chakotay and I can't stand by and watch Tom ruin
your life."


Kathryn's words were like a slap in the face, the slap I needed to
come to my senses.

Suddenly I realised that all of my doubts about Tom had come from her

There was no reason in hell why Tom would choose to stay with the
V'rakn'hal unless it was to avoid me, and there was no reason he
would feel the need to avoid me unless he truly did love me.

Tom hadn't refused to marry me. He had just given me the escape that
he thought I wanted.

I looked at the diminutive form of Captain Kathryn Janeway. Her whole
body was quivering with barely concealed fear. Her eyes were bright
with unshed tears. Her right hand trembled as it reached out as
though to touch me.

I saw her, finally, for what she was. I realised what she had done
and why.

"Permission to speak freely, Captain." I asked softly


I saw Chakotay's eyes fill with understanding at my words. His huge
bronze frame became still and his face filled with a kind of

When he said "Permission to speak freely, Captain" so softly, I
tensed with excitement and nodded my agreement.


I reeled with shock at his words. I had never heard such fury and
hatred in his voice before.


I saw Kathryn's face go white with horror at my words and I rejoiced
in her pain. She deserved every word I was about to speak.

"I am going to the surface and I am going to fetch Tom home. If you
want to keep this conversation between us, you will welcome us back
aboard and announce to everyone how pleased you are at Tom's recovery
and return.

"Two weeks from today, you will marry us publicly, and you will smile
and congratulate us and you will never, ever do or say anything to
undermine our relationship again.

"If you do not agree to this, I will announce to the whole crew that
you were prepared to abandon Tom on an alien planet just because you
saw him as a rival for my affection.

"I am sure that they would all be very unhappy with you, especially
your HUSBAND!" I spat venomously

And I didn't even wait for her reply; I simply turned on my heel and
rushed to the nearest transporter room.

It occurred to me that she might simply leave me behind as well as
Tom. But to be honest, at that moment, I didn't give a damn.