Standard Disclaimer: Tom Paris, Voyager and all its crew belong to Paramount/Viacom.
No profit will be made from this story.
Warning: Please take note of the rating. Severe angst. Disturbing in parts.
Codes: P, All, P/T
Rating: R (Just to be safe. Rather dark in places.)
The sound of my slap echoes around the room. I watch, as almost in slow motion, Tom topples sideways from the force of my blow and the Captain catches him before he can fall to the floor.
Chakotay is beside me in an instant, pulling my arms behind by back before I can hit Tom once more. And make no mistake, I would have. I want to hit him over and over again. I want to hurt him as much as he's hurt me. I've never been this angry in my life before.
Somewhere in the recesses of my mind there is the knowledge that Chakotay's hold on me is hurting. It doesn't matter. All that matters is the pain in my chest. It's so bad that I don't believe anything will ever be able to take it away.
"This isn't going to help," Chakotay hisses in my ear.
I don't care. I struggle a little to break free from his hold. I know that at the moment I'm stronger than he is.
"Keep it up and I'll break your arm. I mean it, B'Elanna."
Now the Captain's in my face, her eyes glittering at me angrily. "Unless you can control yourself, Lieutenant, I'll have you thrown in the brig."
I glare right back at her, but she doesn't back down. She's all mother tigress protecting her cub and that thought just fuels my anger even further. I'm the one who should be protecting Tom, not her.
Kahless, the pain that knifed through my heart when Harry told me what Tom had tried to do. That he could do that to me...to us. I had to keep it together, for Harry's sake. Harry is a complete mess. He feels so guilty about everything. Not me. I refuse to feel guilty.
But, he tried to kill himself. Because of me. Because I betrayed his trust and the Captain pushed him into a corner. I hate her for that. This is all her fault. If she'd handled things differently, this wouldn't have happened.
I betrayed Tom because I thought she could help him. I thought she would make things better. Not worse. Things are so much worse now.
How dare she stand there hovering over Tom, like some guardian angel? She's the one I'm mad at now. She's the one I want to knock senseless. Chakotay's hold on me is too tight, however.
I look past her shoulder to see how Tom is reacting. The Doctor is fussing over him with a regenerator.
He glares over at me and sniffs. "You broke two of his cheekbones. I think, Captain, that the best place for her WOULD be the brig."
I stop struggling against Chakotay and watch Tom instead. He's just sitting there as the Doctor runs the regenerator over his cheek. There's a defeated look in his eyes. He looks completely devastated as he stares back at me.
This isn't MY Tom. My Tom doesn't give in like this. He's a fighter, a true warrior. He's resilient and courageous, with a stronger spirit than anyone I've ever known before. My Tom is not a quitter; he's a survivor. My Tom would never act like this.
I had never thought, never believed it possible, that Tom would try to kill himself. The thought had never entered my mind...not even fleetingly. I know that there's a lot I don't know, but for him to have tried this...
The look in Tom's eyes is now pleading. He's pleading with me for understanding and forgiveness. I can't find either.
I take a deep breath to calm the pounding in my chest. "How dare you," I manage to say, my voice trembling with emotion. "Do I really mean so little to you? Do my feelings for you mean so little?" I've never kept my feelings secret. He knows how much I love him.
He's shaking his head now, attempting to say something, but I don't want to hear it. "You're a selfish pig, Tom Paris. A self-centered, self-absorbed, self-indulgent pig."
"That's enough," the Captain snaps at me. She gives me a dangerous look, but I ignore her. If I say anything to her, it won't be pleasant.
"And what about Harry?" I yell. "The poor kid's a mess. Do you have any idea what you've put us through?" How dare he hurt Harry like this. How dare he hurt me. How dare he make me feel so guilty for caring about him so much.
"I'm sorry," Tom whispers shakily. "I wasn't thinking about any of that."
Chakotay shakes me roughly. "Stop it right now, B'Elanna. Tom doesn't need to hear this."
"Well, that's too bad, because I need to say it right now." This is all my fault. This is all my fault.
Chakotay starts to drag me away. "That's it, you really are going to the brig now."
"Would you like me to sedate her?" the Doctor says, heading towards his instrument tray.
I break free from Chakotay's grip. I have to get out of here. I'm going to break down. My love should have been enough. Why wasn't it enough? I can't bear looking at Tom any longer. I did this. I did this to him. I'll never forgive myself...never.
"Don't bother," I snarl. "I'm going. Tom's made his feelings for me more than obvious." I head for the door with as much dignity as I can muster, considering the fact that I'm now sobbing loudly.
"Wait! B'Elanna, please don't go," Tom calls out to me. I hesitate for a fraction, but then march forward determinedly. He's better off without me. I wanted to help him and look what I've done. I've made things so much worse.
"B'Elanna, I need you." His voice is strangled.
"No, you don't," I sob, without turning around.
"I love you, B'Elanna."
The words freeze me in my tracks. I turn around slowly to see Tom getting off of the biobed.
"I do need you, B'Elanna. I know I've hurt you and I'm sorry. I-I love you."
I've waited so long to hear those words. Over two years. I never expected to hear them in front of an audience. The Doctor is still scowling at me, and Chakotay is looking down at the floor, while the Captain is glancing from one of us to the other, tears in her eyes.
I don't know what to say. I'm still angry with him, or am I angry with myself? And Kahless, I love him. My love for him is stronger than any anger.
"Please, B'Elanna. I'm sorry."
I don't remember moving, but all of a sudden I'm in his arms. He's holding me closely, whispering how much he loves me, telling me how sorry he is and asking for my forgiveness.
"I can't believe I tried to do something so stupid when I have so much to live for," he says huskily. "I have you and that's all that matters."
I nod, too choked up to speak.
"Tom." The Captain's voice is soft, directly behind me. "Will you let us help you? Even more specifically, will you let Chakotay counsel you?"
I can feel Tom nodding. His heart is thumping heavily in his chest. He's scared. So am I. Whatever is going on in that head of his is pretty scary.
I hear the others move discreetly away and Tom sits back down on the biobed pulling me with him. They are talking softly amongst themselves, although the Doctor's voice rises once more to say that I belong in the brig. I decide to stay where I am, wrapped in Tom's strong embrace.
He's rocking me now, telling me everything's going to be all right and it hits me suddenly that I'm still sobbing. I can't believe how much this man affects me. I don't normally cry, as my Klingon genes make it difficult for me.
He pulls me away from him and tips my head up so that I am looking directly into his eyes. "I love you, B'Elanna Torres," he says once more. I don't think I'll ever be able to hear that enough. "I should have told you that a long time ago. I'm sorry I didn't."
"I didn't realize how much I needed to hear you say that," I tell him. "Tom, I'm the one who's sorry. I'm sorry I hit you and I'm sorry I yelled at you like that. I shouldn't have said any of that. I'm the one who was being selfish. Carrying on about how Harry and I were being affected. I'm so sorry, Tom."
He kisses the tip of my nose. "It's okay, I understand."
"You do?" I say incredulously.
He nods. "I scared you. I'm so sorry I did that to you."
"Do things really seem that hopeless to you?" I ask, fear in my voice.
He doesn't answer. There's such a sad, lonely look on his face that I feel like crying again. "Why did you do it, Tom? Why did you want to die? I need to know. I need to try to understand."
He sighs heavily. "I don't understand myself. Everything just seemed so hopeless. I couldn't face talking about everything. All that seemed to be going around in my mind at the time was the hell that I've gone through since I was a kid. I couldn't think of the positives in my life, just the negatives."
"But there are a lot of positives in your life."
There's a bleak look in his eyes. "I guess so, but I wasn't thinking of them at the time. I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking about you or Harry or anyone."
"A lot of people care about you, Tom."
"I know," he says, but the bleak look is still there and it scares me.
The fear must show on my face because he pulls me close once more. "Don't worry, I'll never do anything so stupid again. I promise."
I try to keep my voice light. "You'd better not or next time nothing will stop me from strangling you."
"There won't be a next time, B'Elanna. I promise."
I snuggle into his arms once more, but the worry is still there.
I can't sleep. And I'm sick of lying here trying. Go back to your quarters and rest, they told me. What a joke! As if I could!
It's all right for them. They're there with him. He's probably awake by now. They're talking to him. I need to talk to him urgently. I need to tell him that I know.
I think I've known for a long time, just never really acknowledged it to myself. Because if I acknowledged it, then I would have to broach the subject with Tom. And I didn't know how to do that. I didn't know how he would react.
I was scared, I guess. Scared that he might try to do something foolish. Like space himself, perhaps? I laugh at the irony, only there's no humor in it.
I'm a mess. I went down to see B'Elanna earlier and ended up a crumpled heap on her couch. I was going to be strong and supportive as I knew how distressing she would find my news. Only she wasn't. Distressed, I mean.
She was definitely anxious when I first told her what Tom had tried to do. She wanted to rush off to sickbay there and then. I reassured her, however, that he was fine now. He was sleeping peacefully and would be for some time. After that she simply sat down on the couch and asked me exactly what had happened.
So I told her. I told her what we had discussed in sickbay afterwards as well. And the whole time she just sat there calmly nodding every now and then and saying 'I see'. She looked as unemotional as a damn Vulcan.
The more unemotional she was, the more emotional I became. I blame myself, you see. I couldn't tell B'Elanna why I blamed myself, just that I did. She didn't understand, of course. Why would she?
She thought I was feeling guilty over the fact that we'd spoken to the Captain in the first place, and she's right in a way. Tom was heading for a break down; that much was obvious. It was just a matter of time. If Tom had still felt that he could trust us, he might have spoken to us instead of attempting to kill himself. I don't know. Maybe. But then again, probably not.
He'd told us all that he was ever going to tell us. But I had the power to change that. I knew more. I should have told him. If I'd told him what I knew, he might have talked about it. I could have reassured him, told him that I understood. It might have made a big difference to his view of things. I don't know that, of course. But it might have.
After everything had blown up and Tom had discovered what B'Elanna and I had done, I had my chance. I went there that night especially to tell him. Only he was still so angry and he had slashed my sweater.
I decided to let him calm down a little and talk to him later. I was putting it off...again. Tom wouldn't have put it off. If our situations had been reversed, he would have come straight to me and said he'd figured something out and we had to talk about it.
Why the hell didn't I do that? The reason is simple. Tom has always been a much better friend to me than I have to him. He's always been there for me, seeming to know when I need help. And he's always helped me. Always.
I, on the other hand, have known that Tom needed help for a long time now and I have done nothing. Nothing! I've sat back and watched him struggle to pretend that he's all right.
Some days he carried the pretense off fine and others he didn't. Every time he had one of his bad days I would tell myself that I was going to do something.
The problem was, I didn't know what to do. B'Elanna would come to me, frustrated about something else he had done, or not done. She would want to discuss things, talk about the secrets he was hiding.
And I would say nothing. Well, almost nothing. He trusted me and I knew he would tell B'Elanna what he wanted her to know.
Was that wrong? Should I have told her more? Should I have told her everything I knew? If I had, she would have told the Captain and it would all be out in the open now. The decision would have been taken out of my hands.
I'm a coward, I know. I don't want to be the one to tell. I want it to be someone else's fault, not mine. I want him to blame someone else...not me.
And that is why I say I am not a good friend. This is my fault. If I had done something, said something sooner, he would not have tried to kill himself. Would he?
I don't know the answer to that. And I still don't really know what I should have done, or what I should do now.
Have you ever met somebody and known right from the start that they're going to have a significant impact on your life? That's the way it was with Tom.
Tom came to my rescue the very first time we met. I was being conned big time by a Ferengi barkeeper on Deep Space Nine and somehow Tom got me out of the mess I'd somehow gotten myself into.
I remember looking up at him as we made our way back to Voyager and thinking. 'WOW! This guy's exactly the sort of guy I want to be.' He seemed to ooze self-confidence and charm. Everything about him was what I'd always dreamed of becoming.
We'd almost made it back to Voyager before I realized that Tom didn't have any pips on his collar. When I'd asked him about it he'd told me he was just an observer, on Voyager for just this one mission.
I'd felt a keen sense of disappointment. I had really wanted to be friends with this man. I'd also been surprised. Something about him just reeked of Starfleet officer.
On board Voyager it soon became obvious that there was something going on concerning Tom that I wasn't aware of. Everyone treated him with disdain. He wouldn't tell me why.
That evening I entered the mess hall and saw Tom sitting all by himself, all the tables around him were vacant and everyone in the room seemed to be watching him and whispering. I quickly got something to eat and went over to him.
"It's probably not a good idea to sit here, Harry."
I sat down anyway. "What's going on?" I asked.
He sighed. "I told you before, Harry. It's a long story. Someone around here will fill you in, I'm sure." There was a bitter look in his eyes.
"I wish YOU would," I told him.
He shook his head. "I wouldn't do the story justice. Look, Harry, you probably should go over and sit with them."
"No one tells me where to sit," I said stubbornly.
Tom gave a small snort of laughter. "Fine. I'm not going to pass up some companionship. It's probably the only time I'll have any."
I enjoyed my dinner that night, once I was able to block out the stares and whispers from around us. Tom was a good companion and my small case of hero worship grew considerably.
It didn't take long to find out that my hero had feet of clay. The very next day at lunch, the Doctor and First Officer Cavit pulled me aside to explain to me why I was committing career suicide by hanging around with Tom. I couldn't believe the sordid story they told me. I'd only known Tom for twenty-four hours but I had felt instinctively that he was a good man.
The pain in his eyes when I'd asked him if what I'd been told was true, hurt to look at. He tried to act nonchalant, but he didn't fool me for a minute. He warned me to stay away from him but I told him that no one chooses my friends for me. I'll never forget the look of respect and gratitude that was on his face before the Captain called him to the bridge.
It was Tom that came and rescued me from the underground tunnels on Ocampa and it was Tom that was there for me in those first few terrible months that we were on Voyager. I was consumed with homesickness and he did all he could to take my mind off the fact that we were stuck out here in the Delta Quadrant for the rest of our lives.
In an alternate universe he died for me. Tom always gets impatient with me when I say that. He says that that wasn't him, so it doesn't count. Of course it counts. It shows the inherent goodness in the man, the true spirit.
In that timeline he was down and out - a shell of the man that I knew - and I was a complete stranger to him. He still helped me to return to this timeline, sacrificing his life to send me back.
His friendship has always been my lifeline. I honestly don't think I would have made it through these years without him. And all I could do to repay him was to be his friend also. He had it pretty rough at first. The crew didn't trust him. It took quite some time to earn their respect.
When Tom first started acting up after the warp ten experiments, I thought he was having a reaction to what had happened to him. I didn't really blame him. The whole thing had been a nightmare.
I tried to talk to him about it, but he kept insisting that he was fine. Things just got worse. B'Elanna even tried to talk to him about it, but she didn't get any further with him than I did. He started to avoid us both. And then all of a sudden he was leaving the ship. I just couldn't believe it.
The Captain didn't seem all that worried about his leaving and the Commander seemed almost pleased. I was furious with the both of them. Nothing I could say to Tom would change his mind and before I knew it he was gone.
Discovering that Tom was really working undercover to flush out Michael Jonas came as a shock to everyone. B'Elanna's attitude was very similar to Chakotay's. She was upset that the Captain and Tuvok could be so cold-blooded and ruthless with Tom's life. She was also upset that he could be so reckless with it.
That isn't what worried me however. Oh, I was upset about those things too, but what really concerned me was the fact that Tom had managed to pull the wool over my eyes so convincingly. I liked to think that I knew Tom pretty well by then.
It came as a shock to find out that he could keep so much of himself hidden. Discovering that he was a consummate performer, putting himself on display, almost as if he were acting a part made me wonder if I knew him at all.
Then came Akritiria and I found out everything there was to know about Tom, only I didn't realize it at the time. I thought he was delusional. The infection from his wound combined with the effects from the clamp had him saying all sorts of things.
He kept insisting that his Daddy was dead and since I knew that Admiral Paris was very much alive when we'd left Earth, I didn't pay a lot of attention to anything he said. I figured it was the fever in him talking.
When Zio kicked us out of his shelter, I had a hard time getting Tom to co-operate. He was under the impression that I was trying to hurt him, which considering that I'd nearly killed him only moments before was pretty understandable.
Zio stood there watching me try to calm Tom, hissing at me to hurry up. He kept calling him 'the carcass' and I was getting more and more desperate. Although Tom was too weak to stand, or even sit up for that matter, he had still managed to make his arm connect rather forcefully with my chin.
"Tom...please," I pleaded. "We have to get out of here. Let me help you."
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I'm sorry, Daddy. I'm sorry. Please don't hurt me. Please. I'll be good."
He lapsed into unconsciousness and I began to drag him out of the shelter pushing past Zio on the way out. "I don't know why you're bothering," Zio said, looking at Tom with contempt. "He'll be dead soon anyway."
"Shut up," I yelled at him. "Why do you hate him so much anyway? What did he ever do to you?"
"He could have been my greatest ally in here, but like you, he didn't understand. I chose him to be mine. I don't do that often. He didn't even realize the great honor I had bestowed on him. I chose to join with him and make his body mine. And how did he repay me? He wouldn't even listen to my theories. He refused to be my ally."
I looked at him wide-eyed and then down at Tom. He'd said he'd woken up to that welcoming committee and I hadn't even thought to wonder how he'd escaped from their obvious intentions. I guess I'd just thought he'd fought his way out of it.
I felt sick to my stomach. "You bastard," I said pulling Tom out of there. "You forced him to ..."
"Hey!" Zio cut me off. "It was his choice. I didn't force him into it. I don't force myself on anyone. I'm not like those animals out there. If I was, don't you think I would have had you by now?"
I swallowed. I didn't believe him. He was just trying to upset me, I decided. He was lying.
I managed to drag Tom away and when he regained consciousness, for what I thought would be the last time, he actually knew who I was. "Harry," he choked out. "I'm dying."
"No you're not," I said fiercely. "You just need to rest."
He attempted to smile. "Thanks, Har. You're...you're the best friend anyone...could ever have."
I swallowed, tears gathering in my eyes. "Don't talk like that. You're going to be fine."
Tom closed his eyes. "Thanks for everything," he whispered.
There were footsteps behind us, and a voice growled. "Get out of the way. I have first dibs on his clothes."
I stood up slowly and faced the crowd. They formed a semi-circle around us. I swallowed nervously. All I had to protect Tom with was the pipe.
"I want his clothes. I want his shoes," Pit said angrily. He whipped out his knife.
"This man is my friend," I said determinedly. "Nobody touches him."
"Back off," Pit threatened. "You won't have to get hurt."
I stood my ground. Tom would be left in peace for the last few minutes of his life. I would die before I let them touch him. I was certain that that was exactly what was going to happen.
And then the Captain was there, rescuing us, and Kes managed to keep Tom stable until we got back to Voyager.
All the time that the Doc and Kes worked on Tom, all I could think of was how I'd tried to kill him with the lead pipe. He'd been the best friend I could ever have and what did I do the first time I was a little stressed? I tried to kill him.
He was great about it, but I felt terrible. The whole ordeal had left me disturbed. That I could be capable of such violence. That my anger could get that out of control, had scared me.
Tom tried to make me feel better. He said he would never forget how I had protected him. His words did make me feel a little better but I was still quiet and withdrawn for some time after. Not Tom, however.
He was the exact opposite. I couldn't believe how quickly he bounced back. It was as if nothing had happened.
I, on the other hand, had to see Chakotay. It wasn't exactly counseling, but he helped me to put things more in perspective.
Tom refused point blank to talk to anyone about anything and since he seemed to be fine, no one forced the issue.
I watched Tom closely, anyway. I couldn't forget what Zio had told me. Tom certainly didn't act like someone who had been raped, but then everyone reacts differently. I'd already learned that Tom couldn't be taken at face value. I wouldn't let him pull the wool over my eyes again.
We had been back on board Voyager, going about our usual lives, for over two months when I asked him about it. I certainly hadn't meant to at the time.
Why I had waited that long, I'm not really sure. But he had been looking a little drawn and pale and I had the distinct impression that he wasn't sleeping properly.
We had been in my quarters. I was playing my clarinet and Tom was filling in some conn reports while he listened to me.
I suddenly put down my clarinet. "Tom?"
"Hmmn?" he said, still reading the padd in front of him.
"What happened when you woke up to that welcoming committee at the bottom of the chute?"
Tom looked up at me startled. "What? Why are you asking me about that now?"
"It's been bothering me."
"All this time? It was months ago." I noticed his hands were shaking. "I was hoping that you would have moved past all that by now."
"I don't think I can. Some things just keep going around and around in my head."
"We're better off forgetting what happened in there, Harry."
"I'll never forget it."
"Well, I intend to."
"Just like that?"
"Yeah." He stood up suddenly. "I think I'll turn in."
"It's still early."
"No, you're not. You're running away."
He glared at me. "I'm not running away."
"Then why won't you answer my question?"
"Look, Harry. I'm glad that you found it beneficial talking to Chakotay, but that doesn't mean that everyone's like that. I don't want to talk about it."
He headed towards the doors and I found myself yelling out in frustration. "It's true, isn't it?"
Tom kept on walking.
"Zio told me what he did to you, but I didn't believe him. He raped you, didn't he?"
The doors to my quarters swished open, but Tom stood rooted to the floor in front of them. I swallowed nervously. I hadn't meant to say any of that.
I watched Tom as he slowly turned around to face me and then stepped away from the doors. They swished closed once more. He took a couple of steps towards me, his face pale but his eyes glittering.
He looked like he wanted to pound me into the floor, and I shut my eyes waiting for the inevitable. Nothing happened. I opened them once more to see Tom still standing there, breathing heavily. "I'm sorry," I said tentatively.
My voice seemed to set him in motion. He paced back and forward furiously. "You don't know what you're talking about, Harry. You know nothing about it. Nothing!"
"You're right," I said quietly. "I don't."
"Zio did not rape me. It was my choice, Harry. My choice!" he yelled.
"Choice? What choice? Him or all of them?"
"Yeah, Harry, that's right. And I chose him."
"Some choice. He raped you, Tom."
"Shut up!" he screamed at me.
I don't know why it was so important to me that Tom admit it was rape, but it was. "You were forced to have sex against your will and that's rape, Tom."
He came at me then, pushing me hard. I staggered backwards but managed to stay standing. "Why won't you admit it? He raped you."
"Stop saying that," he raged. "It's not true. I've been raped. I couldn't go through that again, so I chose him. Don't you understand? I chose him."
My heart was in my mouth. "You've been raped before?"
"Please, Harry. I don't want to talk about it." His voice was a broken whisper now.
"Where?" I persisted. "Auckland?" I found it hard to believe. Things like that just didn't happen in Federation prisons.
He shook his head, his breathing ragged.
"Before then?" I continued. "Before the Maquis?" Anything could have happened in those dark days after the crash, but he was shaking his head again.
His ragged breathing had turned into ragged sobs and I felt terrible for upsetting him like this. I led him over to the couch and sat down next to him.
I'd only ever seen Tom cry once before. The night he'd come back from the Kazon. He'd been emotionally and physically exhausted and the Commander had upset him. At least, that's what I'd thought at the time. Now I knew differently.
"It was the Kazon," I said softly. "When they took you that time." His sobs increased. "Oh God, Tom. Does anybody know?" He shook his head vigorously.
I couldn't believe he'd been hiding this all these months. I tried to get him to tell me what had happened, but he wouldn't. I didn't like to push him any further than I had already. He made me promise not to tell anyone and considering how upset he was I agreed.
The weeks and then months flew by and Tom seemed to be his old self. I thought that perhaps by sharing his secret with me it had lessened his burden.
And then one night, Tom got drunk. He and Chakotay had been blamed for killing a drug merchant on a space station that we visited. They were imprisoned and although it wasn't for very long, as Neelix came forward and told the truth, the experience affected Tom to a disturbing degree.
He was at first overly bright and cheerful, which I knew meant that he was upset. As the evening wore on he became more and more morose.
"I couldn't bear it," he told me, over and over again. "The cell was tiny. Too small for both of us. I had to pretend. Again. It was hard, Harry; too hard. It's too hard to pretend now."
He was getting more and more upset as he spoke. We were in the holographic resort at the time, and somehow I managed to get him out of there and back to his quarters.
"What am I going to do, Har?" he asked me miserably, as I tried to get him to lay down. "What if I can't pretend anymore?"
"Then you don't," I told him. "You don't have to pretend, Tom. You can just be yourself."
"I have to pretend, Harry," Tom hissed at me fiercely. His eyes were far too bright and the intensity in them shocked me.
"Pretend about what?" I asked.
"About everything. I can't be locked up again, Har. I can't. I can't go to jail. The cells are too small."
I nodded. I thought he was remembering Akritiria; although we weren't locked up in cells there, it was still a prison. He continued to mumble about jail and begged me not to let them put him there.
I didn't know what to say. Getting locked up seems to be a common occurrence out here in the Delta Quadrant. I didn't want to make a promise I couldn't keep.
Just as I thought he was ready to settle down he sat back up again. "Harry, am I a horrible person? Is that why these things happen to me?"
"Of course not," I said quickly. "Why would you think something like that?"
He rubbed his forehead. "I don't know. Someone once asked me what sort of a person I was, that I could do ..."
His voice trailed off. "Do what?" I asked.
"I'm not sure. I can't remember."
"Who asked you?"
"I can't remember that either," he answered in frustration. "I'm being punished for it though, aren't I?"
"For what, Tom? What are you talking about?"
"I don't know! I did something and that's why I have to be hurt. That's why I have to be locked up. Zio knew. He told me that I had it in me to be just like him."
"You're nothing like Zio," I said firmly.
"Yes, I am. Zio could see it. That's why he chose me. There's an evil in me, Harry."
I was starting to feel scared at the intensity in Tom's voice. "Tom, that's not true. There's no evil in you. Zio was crazy. You shouldn't pay any attention to him."
But Tom wouldn't listen to me. He was convinced that fate was punishing him, and that Zio had been right about him. He had become more and more upset and there had been nothing I could do to change his mind.
That is the night that he told me exactly what had happened with Zio and I became even more worried about him. He had experienced this only months after the Kazon's assault. He hadn't dealt with either experience.
I had promised to tell no one and I was serious about that promise. He needed help but I didn't know how to help him. So, I listened. I listened as he told me some, but not all of the sordid details. I held him as he cried and I hoped and I prayed that it was enough. That my friendship would be enough.