Looking Glass Milk -Part Three
"Tom?" Chakotay asked cautiously, as he entered their quarters and looked around the empty room with an expression of combined hope and embarrassment.
Tuvok and the Captain just shuffled a little awkwardly in the doorway. It had been one thing to discuss the theoretical possibility that Tom was alive but invisible; another entirely to walk through the ship calling his name out to thin air.
Not expecting an actual verbal reply, Chakotay braced himself for the icy touch that the other crew had described in their hysterical reports of 'hauntings'.
"I thought he'd be here," Chakotay said plaintively, as Tuvok's brow rose in a gesture of returning skepticism and the Captain began to wonder why the hell she had ordered a course change based on nothing more than a wild hypothesis. Tuvok's earlier mention of mass-hysteria was beginning to chime an uncomfortable note in the back of her head.
It had been two hours since Seven had confirmed the helicity of the Nebula was consistent with their theory. It had been almost three hours since anyone had reported feeling 'Tom". They had adapted the ship's sensors to detect the presence of any anomalous residues that might suggest the presence of a baryon discrepancy, but the only abnormal readings found so far were in the galley. Which, as several uncharitable crew members had pointed out, was hardly surprising given Neelix's spirit of culinary adventure.
"He's obviously not here," Kathryn said, patting Chakotay's shoulder comfortingly although her tone clearly suggested that she was beginning to doubt he was anywhere on board after all.
"He could be hurt," Chakotay argued. "You said yourself that he's unable to eat or drink. He might simply be too weak to show us that he's here," he added a little dubiously. It was hard to keep the unwavering conviction of Tom's survival in the face of the empty quarters they had shared.
He saw their wedding picture and choked back a sob of distress. What if grief had simply made him clutch at straws? Had the conscious decision to take his own life caused his subconscious to respond with a fantasy of false hope?
Of course I'm fucking here, you Doofus! Tom snarled sulkily from his perch on the arm of the couch. Where the fuck else would I be considering the way you slammed the fucking door shut in my face?
It was an exaggeration, of course. The door to their quarters *couldn't* be slammed, but Tom had spent the last few hours in a growing state of agitation. His whole body ached from the numerous inadvertent kicks and blows of the other crew, his stomach had been empty for so long that he was sure his already lean body had begun to gnaw at his own internal organs just to gain the energy to stay awake and his mouth and throat were so dry and sore that he felt as though they had been blow-torched.
His initial relief at Chakotay's decision to pursue the possibility of his existence had begun to fade the moment the door of the quarters had whooshed shut behind Chakotay and B'Elanna's backs, leaving him trapped inside. He'd tried to get out of the door in time, but he was feeling so damned weak that moving at all was becoming an effort. Moving quickly was just about impossible.
If Tom had allowed himself to stop and really think about the reasons for his physical lethargy, he might have just curled up in a corner and screamed himself sick. Instead, he'd concentrated on feeling pissed. Although at some level he knew he was being unfair, his anger was the only thing keeping him sane and he was reluctant to let it go. As long as he was pissed, he wasn't crying and quite apart from the fear that if he started to cry he might never stop, Tom was too dehydrated to risk wasting any valuable water on something as useless as invisible tears.
So, instead of attempting to make his presence felt, he just glowered from the edge of the couch and tried to ignore the obvious grief on Chakotay's face.
"You are positive that this is the place of his last known supposed manifestation?" Tuvok asked imperiously.
"There was nothing 'supposed' about it," Chakotay snapped back, with more assurance than he felt. Although he was beginning to doubt his own senses, he had no intention of allowing either Tuvok or Kathryn to see that doubt. "Tom somehow managed to penetrate my spirit walk. Perhaps doing so drained whatever energy he had left. He hasn't been felt anywhere else on board since then, so he must still be here."
"If you are correct," Tuvok replied doubtfully, "since he does not show up on our scans, is invisible to the naked eye and has no tangible presence other than an ability to affect the temperature of someone who touches him, how do you suggest we locate him?"
Chakotay opened his mouth to reply. Tom decided to save him the bother. He rose from the couch, staggered awkwardly for a moment as the change of altitude made him a little light-headed, then regained his equilibrium, walked over to Tuvok and kneed him savagely in the balls.
Tuvok's body went rigid. His face remained expressionless but a small exclamation of shock escaped his lips.
"Tuvok?" Kathryn asked worriedly.
For a long moment the Vulcan was silent. Then, when he did reply, it was in a voice almost painfully precise.
"I appear to have experienced the manifestation for myself," he said stiffly.
"Tom touched you?" Chakotay demanded.
"I felt a sensation of extreme cold," Tuvok agreed, narrowing his eyes as he glared accusingly around the empty room. He would have added that it didn't necessarily prove that Tom was the cause of the cold, except that he couldn't imagine anyone other than Lieutenant Paris touching him in such an embarrassing fashion. To his considerable relief, neither the Captain or the First Officer thought to ask which part of his anatomy had felt the cold touch, and Tuvok decided there was no logical reason to bring the subject up himself.
"Tom?" Kathryn called out experimentally.
Since he was still feeling guilty about the coffee incident, Tom restricted his response to a slap across her cheek. She gasped, her eyes widening as she felt the feather-light sensation of intense cold caress her face.
"Thank god," she murmured. She smiled with relief and although she still felt a little ridiculous addressing someone who was invisible, she forced a note of confidence into her voice. "We know what's happened to you Tom, and we're going to help you. We're heading back to the nebula so that we can reproduce the circumstances that affected your transportation. We know you may be hurt or in pain, but just hold on, Tom. By this time tomorrow we should have found a way to bring you home again."
Just like that? Tom asked. It's that easy?
Then, he saw a shadow flicker in the Captain's eyes and turned in time to see a similar expression of sorrow lurking beneath Chakotay's tentative smile.
So, it's NOT that easy, huh? Tom whispered. Still, he was too excited by their acceptance that he was alive to give more than a fleeting thought as to whether he would stay that way.
Chakotay's immediate response was confused jealousy that Tom had touched Tuvok rather than himself. Then he gave himself a mental kick. Somehow Tom had managed to convince even Tuvok that he was alive and that was little short of a miracle in Chakotay's opinion.
"Tommy?" he asked, opening his arms expectantly.
I told you not to call me that, Tom replied, but he was laughing as he bowled into Chakotay's embrace, wrapping his arms around the older man, thrusting himself full length against the solid body and covering his face with kisses.
Chakotay willed himself to stand still as a knifing cold invaded his torso and face. His body shivered violently as the icy assault continued, but he was deaf to its protests.
Tom was alive. Tom WAS alive, his heart sang and in the blazing flame of that relief, the discomfort of his body faded into irrelevance.
"If the sensors can't pick him up, we can't transport him," Harris pointed out dejectedly.
"I don't want to hear why we *can't* do it, Ensign. I want to hear how we *can*," Kathryn replied firmly. She turned to the rest of the gathered staff and addressed them all as she continued. "We know Tom is here and that time is running out for him. We've managed to communicate with him slightly by using a one touch for yes, two touches for no method, but we don't know all the right questions, he doesn't know all the right answers and besides, yes/no answers are proving limited at best.
"Here's what we *do* know: He's in pain, he can't eat or drink and he's getting progressively weaker. We appear to have substance to him, despite his lack of corporeal presence in our universe. That corresponds with our assumption that he has a far lighter density than ourselves. It's also perhaps one of the reasons we are having such a problem isolating his pattern. His mass is just a fraction of what the computer expects to find when asked to transport as large and complex a life form as a human being. That's one of the anomalies that is causing the error messages.
"In less than ten hours, we'll be back at the nebula. Because of the very real danger of a flare affecting Voyager herself, we need to be ready to attempt the transportation as soon as we arrive there. We'll probably only have the opportunity to try this once so we've got to do it right. Besides which, the Doctor doesn't believe Tom can survive for much longer in our environment. Time's running out for him. So, by no later than 0700 I want you all back here with your suggestions as to how we *can* do this. That will give us two hours to explain the plan to Tom and get him in place."
Chakotay shuddered involuntarily and pulled the duvet tighter against his body to assuage the terrible, numbing ice of Tom's embrace.
Sorry Tom whimpered apologetically. Despite Chakotay's verbal denials of discomfort, his whole body was now quivering so violently that Tom was well aware of his suffering. Tom struggled to control his urge to burrow against Chakotay's warmth. He'd rather die than cause Chakotay pain, but he couldn't convince his body of that noble intention. Possibly because, although he'd been cautious in his earlier replies to the Captain's awkward questioning, he'd become increasingly certain that he wasn't going to live through the night. He was so dehydrated that he could barely breathe. His tongue was so swollen that it felt like an alien invader inside his mouth. Whenever he moved, he was so light-headed that he almost fainted, and his heart was starting to skip the occasional beat.
It was this arrhythmia that convinced Tom that any rescue attempt was going to be too late after all.
He wasn't even scared of dying anymore. He'd moved beyond that point, too tired to even care if he might close his eyes and never wake up again. He just wanted to die in Chakotay's arms, and since that wasn't possible, lying pressed against the solid warmth of Chakotay's body was the nearest thing to comfort that he could imagine.
Even through the duvet, the chill of Tom's touch permeated Chakotay's flesh and seared his muscles with cold fire. He tried to ignore the discomfort, clenching his teeth firmly as they began to chatter with shock. He could feel goose-bumps raising along his arms and tremors began to wrack his whole frame as his body attempted to compensate for the cold.
The initial sharp pain of Tom's touch had gradually faded to an almost bearable numbness, but in the last hour he had moved beyond that state and back towards a ceaseless throbbing misery.
"Tom," Chakotay groaned eventually, although the confession broke his heart.. "I'm sorry babe, but you're freezing me here. You're going to have to let me go."
Although Tom had been telling himself the same thing for over an hour, he still jerked off the bed, unbearably wounded by Chakotay's rejection. He blinked furiously to control his tears of frustrated anger. He was dying, damnit! Surely Chakotay could bear the cold just long enough to let him die in his arms.
Feeling the chilly touch leave him, tears of shamed distress filled Chakotay's eyes. For all he knew, Tom was as cold as his touch felt. It seemed heartless to reject his obvious need for whatever little comfort he could gain.
"I've got an idea," Chakotay said, swinging out of bed and heading for the bathroom where he immediately started to fill the bath with steaming water.
When the water was deep enough and as hot as Chakotay could bear to enter, he carefully lowered himself into the steaming water, then held out his arms.
"Come on babe," he whispered. "Join me."
Tom eagerly started to climb into the bath, only to find that he couldn't enter the water. He lowered himself gingerly onto the hot liquid and gasped at the pleasure of the sensation. It was like lying down on top of a scalding hot water bed. Chakotay moved, and the surface of the water rippled down the length of Tom's naked body.
Well, that proves I'm not a ghost, Tom thought with a chuckle as the friction of the water brought his cock to life.
He latched his lips against Chakotay's neck, and although the older man shivered at the contrast between the hot water and the icy touch against his neck, Tom's touch was now like a pleasant cool breeze offering relief from the almost sauna-like heat of the bath.
"Oh, that feels good, Tommy," Chakotay whispered, reaching under the water and stroking his groin.
The movement of his hand caused the water to ripple again, and Tom arched in pleasure.
Oh God that DOES feel fucking good, he agreed with a groan.
"You okay?" Chakotay asked.
Tom pecked him once on the cheek. YES
Chakotay gave a tired smile of relief.
"I'm imagining this is your hand, Tommy," he explained, as he continued to rub himself under the water. "Is that okay?"
"I love you, Tommy."
The two brief touches terrified Chakotay to a halt. He froze, his eyes wide with sorrowful fear as he tried to understand what Tom had meant. Then a slow, hesitant smile crept over his features.
"Don't call you Tommy?" he asked cautiously.
Chakotay laughed. It was as much hysteria as genuine humor, as much a release of tension as the acquiring of happiness, but it was heartfelt enough to rock his body in the water, and the resultant movement of the water's surface played a harmony of ripples across Tom's body.
Oh yeah, shit, god, oh hell, Chakotay Tom muttered wildly, the pain of his various bruises drowned by the delicious, almost rubbery vibrations against his groin.
Chakotay blinked and seemed to slowly get the message. His hand increased its tempo on his cock and the water surged in time with his strokes, dragging Tom into his rhythm.
Shit, shit, shit, shit, oh shit Tom gasped, as he stared through the clear film of the water and watched Chakotay's cock swelling and pulsing beneath him. He squirmed against the water, grinding his hips into the sensation, gasping in time with Chakotay's ragged breath.
"TOMMY," Chakotay screamed, as he clouded the water with his eruption.
FUCK , Tom screamed in tandem, as he exploded in sympathy, pumping until he could feel the sticky heat of his own cum adhering his stomach to the rippling water.
"I love you, Tommy," Chakotay choked, tears filling his dark eyes and spilling down his face to drip into the rapidly cooling water.
It was all Tom could 'say', but somehow it was enough. Or perhaps too much. Chakotay rocked forward in the water until he could hug his knees for comfort, and he began to cry.
Tom, now sitting on the bathroom floor on an exceedingly sore butt having been bounced clear off the water by Chakotay's abrupt movement, struggled between feelings of sympathy, self-pity and a considerable annoyance at his rude dislodgement.
He opened his mouth to complain, then paused, considered and shook with a combination of tears and hysterical laughter.
I want to live he told himself. I'm GOING to live. I'm going to fucking beat this thing because I love him, and I can't leave him and, besides, I've just experienced the weirdest hottest sex of my life, and I'm fucked if I'll die without telling Harry all about it!