The Shattering of the Mask 18
See part 1 for disclaimer
Chakotay was feeling oddly unsettled as he sat in his command chair on the Bridge. He had been aware of Kathryn's surreptitious glances all morning and Harry Kim had looked definitely uncomfortable when they had met in the turbolift on the way to shift. The gaps in his memory troubled him greatly, and evidently were a matter of concern for other people too. Maybe he should have taken the couple of extra days sick leave that the Captain had offered, he pondered.
It wasn't like amnesia, exactly. He still knew who he was, and why he was on Voyager rather than the Crazy Horse. He remembered the rest of Voyager's crew, well most of them anyway, and had numerous specific memories of the various adventures and encounters that they had experienced together. Yet, like a broken jigsaw puzzle, there were a vast number of gaps in his memories.
For instance, he could remember the Caretaker's array, and Ocampa, but he couldn't remember anything of the first couple of weeks on Voyager when the crew first merged. He could remember Harry Kim being a naive, sweet-natured Ensign, but hadn't the faintest idea how he had turned into a brash lieutenant who was apparently shacked up with B'Elanna Torres and had developed some chip on his shoulder judging by his brusque manner in the lift.
Yet the weirdest thing of all was that although he "remembered" Tom Paris, he had been momentarily stunned when the pilot had nervously scuttled across the bridge to take his place at the helm, reaching his post with scant seconds to spare. Tom's tardiness hadn't surprised him. He had a clear memory that time-keeping was not one of the pilot's strengths. No, what had amazed him was that he had met Tom in the Maquis, had served with him on Voyager for six years, and he had never once actually seen him before.
Shit! Tom Paris was a babe! Damn, maybe it had taken a knock on his head for him to see clearly for the first time in years. Tom Paris was six foot three of long-legged, blonde SEX.
But it wasn't just the change in Tom's appearance that bothered him. It was more than that. The pilot's mannerisms were wrong. Chakotay's memories insisted that Tom was a big-mouthed, cocky, arrogant bastard. Yet the evidence before his eyes denied those memories, convincing him that he wasn't only suffering from memory gaps but from an altered state of reality.
Hell, how could Tom have ever been perceived by him as anything other than the shy, nervous young man that he evidently was?
It was as though he was looking at his past through a lens of distortion, where everything was just a tiny bit off-kilter. Somehow his mind had gotten Harry and Tom mixed up. Obviously, Harry Kim had always been the brash, brusque man he had disliked, and Tom was the naive one whom he felt protective towards.
The blow to his head hadn't given him false memories, it had just jumbled them up.
He wondered whether he should discuss these new symptoms with the Doctor, but decided that it would only cause Kathryn to worry even more about him. He was constantly aware that she was glancing at him from the corner of her eyes and that Tuvok, despite his typically professional manner, was also keeping a quiet vigil.
The Doctor had assured him that although he had probably lost certain memories for good, that the neural pathways of his brain would quickly learn to circumnavigate the gaps and would close them up until he was barely aware of the problem. The same healing process would undoubtedly deal with the memories that were "wrong".
All he had to do was deal with people as he currently found them, and ignore his own obviously faulty recollections. Perhaps the best way to start the healing process would be to spend a little time with the real Tom Paris. Surely his interaction with the blond would quickly dispel Harry Kim's face from his memory.
He chuckled quietly. Who was he trying to fool? He didn't want to spend time with Tom Paris for medical reasons. The only playing Doctor he had in mind was of a completely different nature.
Spirits, why the hell hadn't he made a move on the pilot before now?
Tom was barely hanging on by the skin of his teeth. He knew that Tuvok was keeping a close eye on him. The Vulcan had even surreptitiously logged into the helm at one point and entered a necessary course correction when a low chuckle from Chakotay had caused Tom to freeze in terror during a complex maneuver.
It had seemed so easy on the holodec, when he had interacted with the holo-Chakotay. He had been sure that he could deal with the sight of the real Commander. What he hadn't anticipated was the smell of him. The way his own nostrils constantly flared as a faint whiff of eau de Chakotay drifted from the Command chair. Tom could feel the perspiration dripping down his forehead, stinging his eyes until they burned. His fingers were shaking so badly he could barely move them over the helm and minute tremors chased up and down his back like ghostly fingers playing a violent crescendo on his spine.
When the Captain finally approached him and whispered in his ear, he was so shocked by the touch of her hand on his shoulder that he nearly crawled under the console in terror.
"It's 1130, Tom. I think you should call it a day for today," she said quietly, steeling herself against the mute plea of his miserable blue eyes as he interpreted her words as a decision to ground him again.
"I'll see you here again tomorrow, Tom. Bright and early, this time," she joked reassuringly..
Tom released his breath with an audible sigh of relief. It was okay. He hadn't blown it completely. She was going to give him another chance.
"I, I think I would like to go now," he confessed softly.
She squeezed his shoulder comfortingly.
"You did great, Tom. I'm proud of you," she whispered.
The corners of Tom's mouth attempted a tiny smile as he climbed to his feet. He hesitated for a moment, looking anywhere but at the Commander who he would have to pass to exit. Then, ducking his head to avoid Chakotay's eyes, he practically ran off the bridge.
"May I speak to you privately, Captain?" Chakotay asked, a few moments later.
"Of course," Kathryn agreed casually, rising to her feet.
Chakotay didn't notice the look exchanged between Kathryn and Tuvok, but the Captain's quick glance was enough to warn the Vulcan to switch his monitor to Chakotay's signal. It would be a long time before Kathryn would allow herself to be alone with Chakotay without Tuvok's secret surveillance.
"Coffee?" she asked pleasantly, turning her back to hide her fear as the Ready Room door slid closed behind them. Her heart hammered as she found herself alone with this man. She was suddenly aware of just how physically imposing Chakotay was.
"I'd prefer tea," Chakotay replied, then looked confused. "I do prefer tea, don't I?" he asked nervously.
"Indeed you do," Kathryn replied. "Why don't you get comfortable?"
While she dialed the orders, Chakotay seated himself and it gave her a moment to calm down and fix her expression into a mask of friendliness. Chakotay certainly seemed normal, if a little confused by the gaps in his memory. Yet, she had been fooled by him before. She wasn't going to be so foolish as to offer her trust to him again. He would have to earn it, inch by torturous inch.
"What's troubling you, Commander?" she asked as she placed their drinks on the table and sat down.
"Tom Paris," Chakotay replied.
Kathryn choked a little on her coffee. She had hoped to avoid this conversation for a little longer, but after Tom's early dismissal from the bridge, it had been inevitable that Chakotay would raise the question. If he really was ignorant of what had been going on, of course.
"Tom has been ill," Kathryn replied.
She and Tuvok had discussed at length the cover story for Tom's behaviour. She had made a ship-wide announcement that Tom's supposed illness was "off-limits" as a topic of conversation, so as not to impede his recovery, yet since most of the crew were ignorant of Chakotay's actions, there was no way she could stop them possibly discussing Tom's apparent "breakdown" with the Commander.
"I don't remember," Chakotay confessed. "How ill and why?"
"Tom suffered a nervous breakdown, Chakotay, after he was subjected to a brutal rape by some members of the crew who are obviously no longer on board," Kathryn stated bluntly, carefully watching Chakotay's reaction.
"Spirits," Chakotay hissed, his face contorting with apparently sincere horror.
"For the last few months, you have been his counselor, Chakotay. You even let him stay with you for a while until he recovered enough to cope with living in his own quarters again."
"I don't remember any of this," Chakotay choked.
"Obviously, the reason for Tom's breakdown was never made public, and he is slowly trying to get on with his life. He will be working half-shifts for a time, and may, like today, need to leave early. The important thing is that he is allowed to recover in his own time.
"Because of your unfortunate accident, and subsequent loss of memory, Tuvok has taken over as Tom's counselor. It would be unfair for him to have to relieve his experiences again with a counselor who is ignorant of the facts. So I am asking you to leave his further treatment in Tuvok's hands."
"Of course, I understand completely," Chakotay agreed.
No wonder he hadn't seen Tom as a sexual prospect, he told himself. As Tom's counselor it would have been unforgivable for him to act on his own desire for the pilot. It still didn't explain why he had never acted on it before, of course, but he was too horrified by the Captain's revelation to dwell on his own concerns.
The idea that anyone had raped Tom, brutally raped Tom, appalled and disgusted him. No wonder he had looked like a scared rabbit as he had scuttled into the bridge that morning. It was a damned good job that the perpetrators had already left the ship because if they hadn't, Chakotay would have spaced them himself.
"Obviously, I don't have to tell you how vulnerable Tom is feeling at the moment, Chakotay," Kathryn said carefully. "It is imperative that no-one should put him under any "social" pressure because they are ignorant of the facts."
Chakotay nodded decisively. He understood exactly what she was saying. It was fortunate that he hadn't blurted out his own feelings for Tom.
"Don't worry, Kathryn. I will make sure that nobody approaches Tom in that fashion," he swore solemnly.
Kathryn breathed a sigh of relief. Tuvok had evidently been right. Appointing Chakotay as Tom's "protector" would ensure that Chakotay wouldn't entertain any notions towards Tom himself. If the big Maquis truly was cured, then his own sense of duty would prevent him acting on any attraction he might feel.
And if he wasn't, well, letting Chakotay be Tom's "friend" would tempt him to betray himself.
She had felt a little guilty at the thought of using Tom as "bait", but there was no other way to be sure, and the monitoring devices would ensure Tom's safety.
"Fuck! That hurt," Tom cursed, as he watched the blood welling and beading along the length of his forearm.
He had gone to bed as soon as he had returned to his quarters and had slept right through until the morning. He had stirred a little when his door chime had sounded during the evening, and he had vaguely remembered promising that he would accompany Harry to the mess hall. But he had been too tired to get up and answer the summons. The idea of climbing out of bed was too much effort, let alone getting dressed and facing the crew after the spectacle he had made of himself, scurrying off the bridge like that.
The Captain had made her position clear. If Tom couldn't handle Chakotay staying on board, then Chakotay would be put off the ship. So he had to stop feeling sorry for himself and get his act together.
He picked his knife up again and ran another line parallel to the first.
Hissing with the sharp pain of the cut, he decided he needed to run a third line between the first two. He carefully placed the edge of the blade in the crook of his elbow and slowly sliced until he finished precisely in line with the other cuts, at the point where his wrist met his hand.
He contemplated a fourth line, but decided it would spoil the symmetry of his design. He traced his right forefinger carefully over the wounds, wincing a little as a bead of sweat dripped off his forehead onto the abraded skin. The salt stung so fiercely that his eyes blurred with involuntary tears before he drifted away on the faint waves of pain flowing through his arm.
The beep of his alarm spurred him back to reality. He grabbed the regenerator, ran it quickly over the wounds, until only the thinnest white scars remained, then he washed his arm, threw on his jacket and rushed towards the bridge.
He knew how much Chakotay hated people being late.