The Shattering of the Mask 26
See part 1 for disclaimer
"I don't believe you," Tom said desperately. "She wouldn't have left him behind. What about the Maquis? She needs him. She wouldn't have left him behind just because of me. Oh god. It's my fault, isn't it? It's all my fault. He's alone on an alien planet and it's my fault!"
"It wasn't your fault, Tom," the Doctor assured him. He had known this was a bad idea. Tom was far too fragile to deal with the burden of this kind of grief.
"Yes it is. You told me she left him because I'd been seeing him," Tom cried. "Oh, shit. What have I done?"
"You misunderstood me, Tom. I only meant that your seeing him was the reason the Captain *agreed* to let him go. Chakotay made the decision to leave himself," the Doctor answered quickly.
"That's not what you said," Tom denied angrily.
"Yes it is, Tom. You just don't remember clearly. It's your medicine probably, you know it sometimes makes you confused," the Doctor continued, praying that his ethical subroutines could cope with this much deception.
Tom chewed his lower lip and rubbed at his temples in confusion.
"I don't believe you," he muttered desperately. "I don't believe she'd have left him behind. This is just your way of trying to keep me away from him, isn't it?"
"Tom, I -"
"COMPUTER. LOCATION OF COMMANDER CHAKOTAY?" Tom screamed.
"Commander Chakotay is in his quarters," the computer answered pleasantly.
"LIAR!" Tom yelled at the Doctor in triumph.
"Tom, Chakotay's comm. badge is probably in his quarters. That's all. He's left the ship. He's not coming back."
"I DON'T BELIEVE YOU!"
"Tom, please calm down. This isn't helping. You're going to hurt yourself if you don't stop throwing things around."
"I want to see Chakotay!" Tom demanded.
"I told you, he stayed on V'tx'n. He's not here," The Doctor replied, approaching Tom with a hypo hidden behind his back.
"LIAR! I want to see him NOW!"
"Tom, please, calm down. I will ask the Captain to -"
"I don't want the fucking Captain, I want Chakotay!"
The Doctor dived at Tom's neck with the hypospray, Tom twisted and swung his arm against the doctor's, causing the hypo to fly out of his hands and smash against the wall.
"Bastard!" he hissed.
Looking at Tom's wild, terrified but decidedly furious eyes, the Doctor made a decision.
"Okay, Tom. Let's go *see* Chakotay," he offered.
Tom narrowed his eyes in suspicion but followed the Doctor to the door and out into the corridor.
"Are you sure that you can cope with entering Chakotay's quarters?" the Doctor asked in sudden concern.
"I want to see him," Tom hissed back, although his face had turned white at the prospect of returning to the place of his incarceration.
At some level, he knew that Chakotay *must* have left the ship. No one would dare say he had if he hadn't unless they really wanted to drive him insane. Even so, he had to be sure, he had to *know*, before he could even begin to face what it would mean to himself that Chakotay was gone.
Chakotay's quarters were deserted. Chakotay's comm badge was lying in the middle of his low coffee table.
Tom wasn't sure if it was the realisation that Chakotay had really gone, or the fact that he was back in the quarters where he had been held captive, but suddenly he was overcome by such a sudden rush of nausea that he had to bolt for Chakotay's bathroom.
The Doctor listened to the sound of Tom retching and wished for a moment that he was not a hologram because he felt sick himself and he didn't know how the hell a hologram was supposed to deal with *that* feeling.
He comforted himself that at least Tom now seemed to have accepted the truth and decided to give Tom some privacy. He couldn't leave him alone, because of the Captain's orders, but he did not follow him into the bathroom.
Tom shakily pulled himself back to his feet and flushed the bowl. He rinsed his mouth under the tap but couldn't eradicate the bilious taste in his mouth so he opened Chakotay's bathroom cabinet in the hope that he might have left some toothpaste or something behind.
Then he just looked in the cabinet for a long time and thought.
The Doctor didn't hear Tom creep slowly out of the bathroom and into Chakotay's bedroom.
Tom quietly opened the wardrobe doors and looked inside.
"Are you alright?" the Doctor asked, when Tom finally returned to the living room.
"He's really gone?" Tom asked calmly.
"Yes," the Doctor admitted.
"Can I trust you?" Tom asked seriously.
"Yes," the Doctor stated although had he been human he would have flushed in embarrassment.
"Then I want to know the truth," Tom said quietly.
"The truth?" The Doctor asked nervously.
"Tell me *why* he left. No bullshit, no lies, just the truth."
The Doctor's subroutines chased themselves in confusion between the Captain's orders and his responsibility to his patient. He knew that his lies to Tom had already caused harm, and a further lie at this point could destroy Tom's capacity to ever trust anyone again.
"He knows," the Doctor finally blurted. "He accessed his locked medical files."
He waited for Tom's panicked reaction. Instead the pilot simply nodded.
"Thank you for being honest," he said quietly. "I appreciate it."
And to the Doctor's surprise, Tom simply walked out of Chakotay's quarters and returned quietly to his own.
"He's alright about it?" Kathryn asked in surprise.
"I am as surprised as you are, Captain," the Doctor replied.
"Well, to tell the truth, right at the beginning, before we thought of the idea that you could remove Chakotay's memories, Tom accepted that there would be no way that Chakotay would be able to face him if he knew what he had done. So, I suppose it makes sense to him that Chakotay would chose to leave," she commented. " At least he doesn't know what Chakotay intends to do. Unless you found it ethically necessary to tell him *that* too?" she added nastily.
"If we had told him *everything* before the Commander left the ship, Tom might have been able to convince Chakotay *not* to kill himself," the Doctor snapped back.
"Oh God, don't you think I know that?" Kathryn replied. "Do you think it was an *easy* decision to make? Tuvok and I both pleaded with him for hours to change his mind. Tuvok even mind-melded with him, with his permission, so that we could be *sure* his decision wasn't somehow being influenced by his original illness. We did *everything* we could to change his mind."
"Not everything," the Doctor replied pointedly.
"No. I drew a line at using Tom Paris," Kathryn agreed. "Chakotay's mind was made up. He couldn't live with what he had done, and to be honest, if I were him, I would feel the same way. If I had involved Tom, it wouldn't have saved Chakotay, it would simply have destroyed Tom as well. This way, Tom will never know what really happened and he will put Chakotay behind him and will move on.
"I made a decision, a terrible decision, to allow one of my crew to take his own life. Don't imagine that is something I can live with easily, Doctor. Yet, my only alternative, given Chakotay's determination to die, would have been to put him in the brig and then convene a hearing for him to argue his right to commit suicide. Whether he won or lost that hearing, and the probability given the law is that he would have won, it would have destroyed Tom to witness it. Furthermore, if I had forced Chakotay to the necessity of a hearing, what he did to Tom would have become public knowledge.
"I had no other choice and I alone must live with what I did, and God help me for my decision."
No sooner had she uttered the words than the lights went out.
"We're dead in the water, Captain," Baytart told her glumly.
"The warp engine is on-line," B'Elanna argued. "We have full power to the shields and deflectors and life support is stable."
"However, the communications grid, navigation system, the lights and the sensor arrays are off-line," Tuvok stated.
"So we are completely blind," the Captain concluded.
"In more ways than one," Harry agreed as he stumbled over someone's legs in the near total darkness.
"What the hell has happened to the emergency lights?" Kathryn demanded.
"They are off line too," Tuvok stated unnecessarily.
"What is wrong with the computer?" Kathryn snapped.
"It's more a case of 'who' is wrong, Captain," Harry's muffled voice replied from under the console he was checking with a small pencil-light.
"Sabotage," Tuvok concurred from his own station.
"You're telling me that someone has deliberately crippled *my* ship?" Kathryn demanded in outrage.
"She's not crippled, Captain, just temporarily blind. We have full defense systems and safety critical functions. We just don't dare *move* until we know where we are going," Harry chirped.
"That is correct," Tuvok said as he made an adjustment that brought the Bridge's interior lights and a couple of the terminals back on.
B'Elanna checked something on one of the restored terminals and took a deep intake of breath.
"I'm going back to my Engines in case the stupid bastard did something to *them* that I don't know about yet," B'Elanna hissed, and marched off to the turbolift.
The doors didn't open.
"I'll kill him," she screamed as she headed for the Jeffries Tube instead.
"Kill who?" Baytart asked innocently.
Kathryn walked over to the screen that B'Elanna had been looking at. It showed the shuttle bay, from which the Delta Flyer was missing.
"Tom Paris," Kathryn said, in a surprisingly mild voice.