The Shattering of the Mask 19
See part 1 for disclaimer
The Commander was beginning to feel truly concerned about Tom Paris. In deference to Tuvok's position as Tom's counselor, he had attempted to stay detached from the Pilot's obvious difficulty in resuming his former life, yet it was not in his nature to sit back and ignore the pain of another human being.
He knew that his own feelings were unimportant, that it would be a long time, if ever, before Tom recovered sufficiently from his experience to deal with the sexual interest of another person. So it wasn't his attraction to the younger man that motivated him to interfere. It was simply his inability to turn his back on Tom's suffering.
The Captain had asked him to keep an eye on the pilot, and run interference between him and the rest of the crew. He understood and applauded her reasoning. It had, however, been a pointless request under the circumstances, since Tom never interacted with any of the crew.
Tom had arrived on the bridge every morning for the past two weeks, had performed his duties adequately, and at lunch time had sped off to his quarters where he had remained until the following morning. Chakotay had checked Tom's replicator records and the energy consumption of his quarters and had reluctantly decided that whatever Tom was doing alone for all that time, he wasn't watching vids or listening to music, he was rarely eating and he certainly didn't appear to be sleeping.
Each time Tom emerged for his next shift he looked paler and more tired than the day before. Chakotay had asked Tuvok whether Tom was suffering from nightmares, since it seemed the most logical reason for the ever-growing dark patches under Tom's dull blue eyes. Tuvok had been a little curt with him for asking, citing the confidentiality between counselor and patient as the reason for his silence on the matter.
Chakotay understood, yet couldn't help feeling a little hurt. He was a counselor himself, after all, and his question had only been prompted by concern. Personally, although he understood Kathryn's decision to pass Tom's care over to Tuvok, he was bemused that Tuvok was so reluctant to confide in him.
He may have lost portions of his memory, including those relating to his own treatment of Tom, yet surely his years of experience in similar matters would make him a natural sounding board for the Vulcan. Tuvok had little or no understanding of the complexities of the human psyche, and Chakotay knew that Tom's refusal to leave his quarters was an indication of intense fear and depression in the younger man.
So, in his appointed role as Tom's "protector", Chakotay decided that it was time that he took matters into his own hands. While he had no intention of interfering in a "professional" capacity, as First Officer the welfare of all of the crew was his legitimate concern.
For the first time ever, he delayed his own arrival at the bridge, checking Tom's position so that he could perfectly synchronize his own emergence into the corridor of the Officers Quarters just seconds after the pilot had scuttled, head bowed, from his own quarters and into the turbolift.
Chakotay coughed, not wanting Tom to panic because he hadn't noticed his entrance. Even so, the younger man spun around in terror and backed quickly into the opposite wall, his eyes panicked.
"Good morning, Tom," Chakotay said softly, pretending not to notice the way Tom's chest was heaving with agitation. Tom didn't reply, his heart was hammering so loudly that it seemed to echo in the tiny compartment and he was breathing so heavily that Chakotay feared he would hyperventilate.
Carefully, Chakotay edged backwards, allowing the Pilot the maximum amount of room. He wondered whether this had been a terrible mistake. Spirits, the way Tom was looking at him, you'd have thought that Tom believed that he was dangerous. Then again, Tom had probably lost the ability to trust anyone, he decided.
"I've been concerned about you, Tom," he said quietly.
Tom's eyes flared with obvious surprise and Chakotay thought he detected a tiny relaxation of the pilot's shoulders. Encouraged, he continued.
"I thought perhaps we could spend a little time together tonight," Chakotay said.
"Together?" Tom gasped, his already pale face losing all remaining color.
"I thought we could share a table in the Mess, Tom and talk a little," Chakotay explained patiently. He hoped that Tom would try and face the Mess Hall as long as he knew that Chakotay would be there too, to support and protect him.
Tom just stared at him with the frozen gaze of an injured deer. His mouth opened and closed several times, but the only sound that emerged was a terrified whimper.
"I'm sorry, Tom. It was a stupid suggestion," Chakotay berated himself, realising that he had badly miscalculated. He had hoped that Tom would respond to his offer of support. Since he had apparently shared his quarters with Tom after the rape, he had assumed that since Tom understood that he himself was no threat to him, he would feel safe enough with him to face the other diners. Obviously, he had been mistaken.
The turbolift doors opened and Tom began to edge slowly along the wall, evidently desperate to escape. Chakotay stepped back from the doorway, allowing Tom free access to the bridge, and rubbed his eyes tiredly, mentally kicking himself for terrifying Tom so badly. Tom probably needed more time, he decided.
So he couldn't believe it when Tom paused in the doorway, his back to Chakotay and whispered over his shoulder, "What time?"
"Um, 1900?" a now completely confused Chakotay suggested.
Tom's head ducked, in what was presumably a nod, and then he fled towards the helm.
Tom reached hesitantly into the bathroom cabinet for the hypospray. He had already taken two doses more than he was supposed to and if he took the remaining one, he would either have to get through shift tomorrow without any chemical assistance, or would have to admit what he'd done and run the risk of the Doctor refusing to let him administer his own medicine any more.
Hell, they were only beta-blockers after all, not real drugs. Just something to take the edge off. Alcohol would have done just as well, in his opinion, but despite his flush account, his replicator pointblank refused to dispense anything other than synthale. Undoubtedly at the Captain's orders.
Cursing her well-meaning interference in his life, he reluctantly replaced the hypospray and gulped desperately against the new wave of nausea that shuddered through his body.
Shit, he needed something, anything. If he didn't release the pressure in his head, he was going to explode.
He checked the chronometer. 1800. He had time. If he was careful.
He set the regenerator on the edge of the wash basin, picked up his knife and carved into his arm, tracing along the existing scars until the white tissue burst into a fiery red blaze of pain. He gasped, clenching his teeth against the sharp agony, yet he could feel the nausea receding, washed away in the clean fire of physical pain.
Control. He was in control. This was his pain. Something real, something he could concentrate on to the exclusion of everything else. Something that could at least temporarily quench the unbearable pain in his soul.
He was startled back to reality by the sound of his door chime.
It was 1900 already, he realised, as he glanced in terror at the time. He had lost an hour, although he would have sworn he had only been standing at the basin for a few minutes.
"Just a minute," he called out in panic, running the regenerator rapidly over his arm and rinsing the blood under the tap until the evidence had disappeared. He grabbed the first shirt in his wardrobe and hastily pulled it on, still buttoning the front as he released the door lock.
Chakotay blinked in surprise. If Tom wanted to keep a low profile then the Hawaiian shirt was a strange choice, he thought.
Tom seemed to make the same decision.
"I, I need to change," he gasped and ran to his bedroom, slamming the door.
Tom leant his back against the door and struggled for breath. He had put on a short-sleeved shirt. A fucking short-sleeved shirt. It hadn't been until Chakotay's eyes had widened at the garish top that Tom had remembered the numerous white scars on his left arm.
He stumbled back to the wardrobe and found a long-sleeved black tunic that hung almost to his knees. He inspected himself in the mirror with satisfaction. There was no way he was walking down the corridor with Chakotay with his ass on display, he decided.
He was almost at the bedroom door before he stopped in confusion, turned and ran back to the wardrobe to chose a blue, short-tailed shirt that matched his eyes. Hell, he didn't want Chakotay to think he wasn't interested.
He checked the mirror. Yeah, he looked good in this, he decided. His jeans were just tight enough to show his ass to advantage.
He looked good, looked like Tom Paris, looked like - like- like a FUCKING WHORE!
Chakotay was beginning to get concerned. He could hear Tom moving around, could hear the slamming of what was presumably his wardrobe door, and was beginning to think he had made a mistake again. If Tom found the idea of leaving his quarters so terrifying that he couldn't even get dressed to go out, then maybe it would be wiser to leave it for a little longer.
He had just decided to say so, when the door opened and Tom emerged, his lanky frame buried beneath a loose pair of maintenance overalls. Apart from the fact that the pilot would look sexy in a sack, in Chakotay's opinion, there was no explanation for the dowdy outfit other than Tom's obvious fear of his own attractiveness.
*You poor little bastard,* Chakotay thought as Tom hovered nervously in front of him, his eyes firmly fixed on the carpet.
"Let's go eat," Chakotay said gently.
Tom looked up in surprise only to see a friendly smile on Chakotay's face. He stared transfixed at the dimples on Chakotay's cheeks, the bright whiteness of the even teeth and the soft warmth in the brown eyes. His own mouth twitched minutely as he attempted an answering smile.
"Okay," he mumbled and followed Chakotay into the corridor.
He was careful to walk a step behind, ensuring that Chakotay was never out of his range of vision. His nerves were on fire. This was the real Chakotay, he told himself over and over. Even when Chakotay had thought he was Simon his face had never been that gentle, his eyes had never been that soft.
Yet, it still felt like he was following a possibly rabid dog, one that could wag its tail at you one moment, then rip your throat out the next.
*I'm in control,* he told himself firmly, although he bitterly regretted not taking that final dose of tranquilizer. He couldn't afford to blow this. It had to work. Chakotay had to really be the man he had fallen in love with.
Because the alternative was unthinkable.
If Chakotay was a monster, if the gentle soul he had occasionally glimpsed beneath the madness was the true illusion, then Tom's own carefully constructed mask of sanity would splinter apart.
Because he could live with the humiliation of his captivity, he could slowly learn to deal with the memories of the rape and abuse, but he could never, ever forgive himself for having fallen in love with Chakotay unless the other man proved himself worthy of that love.
It didn't matter what Tuvok said about "Stockholm Syndrome". It was irrelevant whether the Captain believed his behaviour was justified. The truth was that the only person whose opinion really mattered was his own. It was his own face he saw in the mirror each morning, his own conscience that kept him awake at night and his own cock that was hard and weeping every morning as he woke with Chakotay's name on his lips.
He hadn't pleaded for Chakotay to be allowed to stay on board because he loved him. He didn't want Chakotay to be his lover again because his body was crying out for the other man's touch.
It was far more basic and selfish than that.
Tom needed Chakotay to prove himself a good man after all, simply to prevent Tom's own self-disgust from tearing him apart.