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.)
I stir my soup around, making no attempt to eat it. My thoughts are with Tom and my lack of progress with him.
I honestly thought that I was close to a breakthrough with him earlier, but it didn't happen. He's determined not to talk to me and I'm at a loss as to how to proceed.
I tell myself to be patient. Surely Tom will speak to me, eventually. I don't feel all that confident, however. If only he was willing to receive help. Tom's problems are too much for me to handle, but there's no one else.
"Chakotay, can I talk to you?"
I nod, as B'Elanna slides into the chair across from me. She looks drawn and pale.
"I've just come from sickbay. I could barely get two words from Tom. How much longer are you going to keep him in there?"
"I'm not sure."
"He needs to get out of there, Chakotay. You know how much he hates sickbay."
"He hasn't said anything to me about wanting to leave."
"Has he said anything to you, at all?" she asks bitterly.
"Not much," I admit.
"Damn it! He promised me."
"That was before Harry's little bombshell. I think he's still trying to deal with that."
"You CAN help him, can't you?"
I hesitate for a few seconds and she frowns at me fiercely. "I hope so." My voice isn't very convincing.
Snarling a Klingon oath, she jumps up. "I feel so helpless. What can I do? I have to do something."
I reach my hand out for her. "B'Elanna..."
She steps back, out of reach. "I hate feeling like this. I hate it." Turning, she rushes from the mess hall.
Neelix hurries over. "Commander, I couldn't help noticing how upset B'Elanna is. Is there any news of Tom?"
It takes me a few moments to focus on him and the story that has spread throughout the ship. "Not at the moment," I finally answer.
"The Doctor will find a cure, won't he?"
"I hope so," I find myself saying for the second time in as many minutes.
"I know he isn't allowed any visitors besides yourself, the Captain and B'Elanna, so would you tell him that we're all thinking of him?"
He hovers beside me and I look up at him inquiringly. "Was there something else, Neelix?"
"Well, yes, Commander. It's Harry. I'm really worried about him."
"Harry?" I repeat.
"I think he's sick. He's not eating and he looks awful. I'm wondering if he's caught the same virus that Tom has. He really hasn't been himself since they came back from Yaran."
"He's probably just worried about Tom," I say.
"That's what I thought at first too, Commander, but this is more. Much more. He refused to let me take him to sickbay, but I really think he should see the Doctor."
I try to reassure Neelix as best I can. I know what's wrong with Harry, of course. The guilt is obviously affecting him.
I had gone to Harry's quarters to speak with him when things had calmed down in sickbay after his accusation. He had been upset over what had happened, but strangely unrepentant.
He had kept insisting that it had to be done that way. I read him the riot act, trying to make him see just how much damage he might have done. Perhaps I went too far.
I sigh heavily as I make my way out of the mess hall and down to his quarters. Harry may need counseling too.
As soon as Harry opens the door I see what Neelix means. He looks terrible. He appears to be in even worse shape than Tom. Harry's emotions have always been close to the surface. There's no way he can hide what he's feeling the way that Tom can.
His eyes are swollen and red. His face is blotchy and his hair is a complete mess. He looks as if he's been crying on and off for the past three days. He probably has.
"Neelix is worried that you're ill. I can see why."
"You know I'm not sick, Commander."
"You soon will be if this keeps up," I answer.
Harry swallows and shakes his head. "I'll be fine. How's Tom?"
I find myself frowning. "He just needs some time."
"But, he's going to be all right, isn't he?"
"It's still early days, Harry." I don't want to make false promises, but I don't want to see Harry more troubled than he is already.
"I - I don't understand. Hasn't he told you anything?"
I find myself sharing my frustration without meaning to. "The sessions aren't going very well at the moment."
Harry looks devastated by this. "How could I have been so wrong? I thought that once Tom's secret was out, he'd have nothing to hide from any more. I thought he'd finally talk about it."
"He refuses to discuss anything with me and I don't like to push him."
"But you have to. That's the only way to handle Tom. You can't pussyfoot around with him. It gives him time to put up his guard."
"Harry, I don't want a repeat of what happened in sickbay."
He flushes. "I know you think I shouldn't have done it, but it was the only way."
"Harry, I don't want to argue with you and besides, that isn't the point right now. It's done."
"I'm sorry, Commander, but you're wrong. It is the point. It's the whole point. If I'd told you instead of saying anything to Tom, you would have tried to slowly lead him up to it. And it never would have happened."
"I disagree. Over time, when the trust built up between us, I feel sure that I could have persuaded Tom to talk about James Manning."
"Commander, you didn't have time. I know you thought that Tom might try to kill himself again."
"You're right, I did, but I don't see how your revelation has helped anything. Your idea that Tom would talk because everyone knows his secret, hasn't worked."
Harry swears in frustration. "That's because you're not willing to push him. The only way to get the truth from Tom is to hit him when his guard's down. It's the only way I've ever really gotten anything out of him. B'Elanna too, for that matter. He's a little more guarded with her, though."
"I was hoping he would gradually trust me enough to open up to me."
"He might have." Harry doesn't sound very convinced. "Do we have time for that though? I'm scared he's going to try suicide again, only the next time he'll make damn sure he succeeds."
"I've been afraid of that myself," I admit. "I just wish I knew what's going on in that head of his."
"He thinks he's a murderer, and he's racked with guilt over it."
I sigh. "I know."
"If he did murder that bastard - and I'm not saying he did - but if he did, could you blame him?"
"The problem is, he blames himself. I don't know what happened on that cliff, only he knows that, but I find it highly unlikely that it was murder."
"He said in Akriteria that he pressed the button and shot him in the head."
"That may be true, but I'm sure it was an accident."
"That's what I thought too. He kept saying that he was glad he was dead and truthfully, Commander, so am I."
"I wish he'd talk to me about it."
"I told you, Commander, the only way to get him to talk is to push him."
"No, Harry. I can't do that."
Harry shakes his head sadly. "Then it was all for nothing. I threw away my friendship with Tom for nothing."
"Go to hell!"
I sigh heavily as Tom crosses his arms across his chest and stares at me belligerently.
I spent all morning trying in vain to get through to him. We were back in the Doctor's office and Tom was sitting across the desk from me.
He kept his eyes firmly on the desktop and the few times that he looked up at me, I could see a dispirited look in them, as if he felt everything was futile. Things just seemed to be disintegrating.
I continued to question him carefully, hoping against hope that some of his defenses would crumble. Nothing worked and finally I asked him if he wanted another counselor.
"I don't want another counselor, I don't want a counselor, period," he'd answered bitterly.
"Unfortunately, that isn't an option," I'd replied.
That's when he told me to go to hell. The anger I felt emanating off of him yesterday was back once more.
"I'm sorry you feel that way."
"I'll just bet you are," he snarls.
"Why are you so angry, Tom?"
"You won't leave me alone. You're always at me. I hate this. I hate all of this. I feel..." He stops, running his hands through his hair in agitation.
"How do you feel, Tom?"
"Like you've backed me into a corner. I have nowhere to go. I can't move. I can't..."
"Forget it. Forget all of it. I told you. I can't do this."
"Yes, you can, Tom. You can..."
"Shut up," he yells at me, erupting from his chair and pacing back and forth. "This is all so pointless. Counseling is a waste of time. Talking about it isn't going to help."
"You don't know that, Tom."
"Oh yes, I do. Do you know how many times I was told that as a child? How many times I was told to trust them? I could tell them anything - anything - they'd stress. And it was a lie. It was all lies. They told my parents some of the things that happened. They shouldn't have done that."
"That's true and I can't speak for your counselors back then. But perhaps they felt that there were things your parents needed to know. You were just a child..."
"I couldn't trust them," he says in agitation.
"You can trust me, Tom," I say softly.
He looks at me quietly for a few moments. "Yeah, well, that hardly matters now, does it? Everyone knows what I did. I don't have to worry about that anymore, do I? You know all there is to know."
"Hardly, Tom. Why don't you tell me all there is to know?"
"I don't want to talk about it. I don't ever want to talk about it."
"I know that, Tom, but you need to."
"I can't. I just can't." He slumps back in his chair and puts his head in his hands. "Why can't you leave me alone? If you'd just give me a few days, I'll be fine."
"It's gone too far for that, Tom. You're not going to get over this by yourself. You tried to commit suicide. I want to make sure that doesn't happen again."
"It won't happen again," he says quietly.
"I wish I could believe that."
"You can," he says. I am not convinced.
"Can you tell me why you thought killing yourself was the only answer?"
He looks up at me with a sigh. "I don't know. I guess I wasn't thinking straight."
"Why do you think you did it?"
"Gods, Chakotay, I don't know."
"Try to tell me," I say. I don't want to push him, but he's actually talking. I want to make the most of it.
"I guess at the time I was just thinking how lousy everything was," he says after a moment.
"What else can I say? My relationships with Harry, B'Elanna and the Captain will never be the same again. I was thinking about the whole screwed up mess that's my life and everything just seemed so hopeless. I couldn't remember one good thing in my life, only the bad."
"Is that everything you were thinking?"
"Isn't it enough?"
"Perhaps, but you were panicking about speaking with me, weren't you? You admitted that to me in the transporter room."
"Well, if you already know that, why ask? I remember something you told me in the transporter room, too. You told me you wouldn't push. Well, this feels like pushing."
"I'm sorry, Tom, because I really want you to trust me. But you're not being very cooperative."
He flushes and looks back to the floor, refusing to say anything else.
Our session is over and I sit watching as the Doctor helps Tom back to bed and then fusses around him.
The Doctor's behavior would be amusing under other circumstances. He's always treated Tom with sarcastic disdain. Despite this, he's come to care a great deal about our pilot and part-time medic.
My own attitude has changed dramatically towards Tom, as well. I want to protect him, prevent him from being upset or hurt. Spirits! Who would have thought I'd ever feel like that about Tom Paris?
The urge to help him is overwhelming. I just wish I knew how to do it.
"You haven't asked me when you'll be released back to your quarters."
He merely shrugs. "I don't care."
"You've always hated it in sickbay."
"It's not so bad."
The anger that Tom displayed earlier today is now gone. In its place is that calm indifference which, to me, is far more worrying.
Replaying my conversation with Harry from the night before in my head, I decide that he may be right. Pushing Tom may be the only way to get through to him. Any reaction is better than this placid acceptance.
I've been letting Tom dictate the terms of our sessions. No more, I tell myself. It's time to take control. I just hope I'm not making a huge mistake.
Bracing myself, I say, "I want you to tell me what happened with James Manning."
"He can't hurt you any more, Tom."
Tom remains stony-faced and silent.
Taking a deep breath, I prepare myself for whatever will happen next. "I think that he may have sexually abused you. Is that true?"
"Tom, you need to admit the truth to yourself so that you can move past this."
Tom shakes his head. "He didn't."
"I can't help you, Tom, if you won't tell me the truth."
"It IS the truth. I told you he didn't and he didn't. He didn't even touch me like that, if that's what you think."
"I don't know what to think, Tom."
He sighs impatiently. "What's the sense in telling you anything if you don't believe me, anyway?"
He's right, of course, but...
Is he telling me the truth? I look at him suspiciously.
"Believe what you want. I don't care."
I find myself believing him. I'm immensely relieved. The Doctor's report had been correct. They hadn't hidden anything.
"All right then, but he did physically abuse you, didn't he?" I continue.
"He hurt you a lot, didn't he?"
"Can you tell me some of the things he did to you?"
"Tom, how can I help you, if you won't talk to me?"
"Did I ask you for help?" he asks bitterly.
"You told the Captain that you'd cooperate."
"And I told you I can't."
We sit silently for some time before I finally say, "We were talking about James Manning."
"No. You were."
"Why did you kill James Manning, Tom?"
Tom looks at me quietly for a few moments before saying, "Because I wanted to."
"You hated him that much?" I persist.
"Of course I hated him."
"Why? You're asking me why? You really ask some stupid questions, you know that, Commander? You know why."
"I want you to tell me."
"Well, I'm not going to."
He sits there stubbornly refusing to cooperate and I sit back and watch him. I can be just as stubborn. I also have something that Tom Paris does not have. Infinite patience. I wait quietly. He shifts uncomfortably.
The minutes go by. I continue to watch him and he looks everywhere around the room, anywhere but directly at me. He finally looks down at his hands, but still says nothing.
More minutes go by and I find my infinite patience being tested. I notice the Doctor hovering around the office door trying to get my attention. I ignore him.
Tom looks over towards the door. "I feel sick."
"No you don't, Tom. You just don't want to talk to me."
He remains silent and all of a sudden there is a loud rapping at the door. I look over in annoyance to see the Doctor beckoning to me. I stand up and go over to the door to open it. Tom doesn't even look up. "What is it, Doctor?"
"Is everything all right? I couldn't help noticing that you both just seemed to be sitting there. And now Mr. Paris looks quite ill."
"Everything is fine, Doctor. Please do not interfere."
The Doctor sniffs. "I am merely concerned about the welfare of my patient. That is hardly interfering."
Tom's chair scrapes behind us. "Doc? I feel kind of sick. I told the Commander, but I don't think he believed me."
The Doctor pushes past me to go to Tom's side. He glares at me as if I'm some kind of monster. "I think Mr. Paris needs to rest."
I grit my teeth. Is Tom really feeling ill, or is he just using that as an excuse to get out of talking to me? I suspect the latter.
It doesn't really matter as the Doctor leads him back to his biobed. Our session is over.
What's it going to take to get through to him? I decide that it's time to change tactics.
My next session with Tom starts a little differently. The first thing I do is deactivate the Doctor. Tom looks at me in surprise but follows me into the Doctor's office.
"How are you feeling now? Do you still feel sick?" I ask him quietly.
He shakes his head. "I'm okay, I suppose."
"That's good. Please sit down."
He sits down, watching me cautiously as I sit down across from him. "You have made it obvious that you don't want to talk about James Manning and I respect that. You don't want to talk about him, so we won't."
"We won't?" He looks at me warily.
"No. There are a lot of other things we can discuss."
"That's true." He still looks at me suspiciously.
"I want to discuss your suicide attempt."
"We've already talked about that."
"Not really. Besides, you weren't completely honest with me, were you, Tom?"
A look of panic crosses his face. "I-I don't know what you mean."
"Really? I think you do."
He is beginning to look agitated now. He is running his hands through his hair repeatedly.
"You said you didn't really know why you did it, but you do."
Tom's agitation has increased significantly. I harden my resolve. "And if you're given half a chance you'll try again, won't you, Tom?"
He looks out towards the sickbay area, for an escape.
"Look at me, Tom." The commanding tone of my voice has him snapping his head back towards me.
"I don't feel very good," he says through gritted teeth.
I ignore him. "I'm right aren't I, Tom?"
His eyes dart around nervously and his breathing is labored. "Leave me alone."
"Answer me, Tom," I bark harshly.
His control snaps. "I should be dead," he practically screams at me. "If it wasn't for you, I would be."
"You still want to die?" I say quietly. "Why? You have so much to live for."
"I have nothing to live for. I was supposed to die."
"That's not true, Tom. There are so many people here who care about you."
"I don't care," he says angrily. "I don't want to be here. I don't want to face what I did."
"You can't keep running away. There's nothing to hide from any more. We know the truth."
Tom jumps up from the chair he's sitting on and starts to pace back and forth. "Why haven't you done something about it then?" he shouts. "Why haven't you put me in the brig? Why the hell isn't Tuvok here, guarding me? Why haven't I at least been confined to my quarters under armed guard for the rest of the journey home?"
Sudden understanding dawns but I merely ask, "Why would we do that?"
"Because I have to be punished."
"Why?" He gives a small bark of laughter. "Chakotay, in case you've forgotten, I killed someone. I'm a murderer."
"I see. And you think your punishment should be death, so you tried to kill yourself."
"I'd rather be dead than locked up for the rest of my life. I couldn't handle those few months in Auckland, and those thirty days in the brig were a nightmare. I can't do that again. I just can't." His tone of desperation is frightening to hear.
"Tom, you're not going to be locked up." I stand up and go around the desk to stand in front of him.
He shakes his head. "I have to be punished. I'll be confined to quarters. Never be allowed to leave. I can't take it. I'll go insane. I can't do it. I can't."
I grab hold of his arms. "That's not going to happen, Tom. I promise."
"But it has to. I killed him. I'm a murderer."
I give Tom a little shake. "Listen to me. You're not a murderer."
"You're wrong. I am. I am."
"Tom," I beg him to believe me. "You were a little boy at the time. Eight years old. I don't know what happened, but I do know one thing. It would have been physically impossible for you to murder James Manning unless you did it while he was asleep. And we know that didn't happen. He was found at the bottom of a ravine with a phaser blast to the head."
"I did kill him. I did."
"That may be, but I'm simply saying that it wasn't murder. The only thing I can think is that perhaps you were struggling and somehow the phaser went off. You blame yourself for killing him, but it was an accident, or perhaps even self-defense, but it certainly wasn't murder."
"You don't know anything about it." Tom knocks my arms away and resumes his pacing.
"You're right," I say. "I don't. That's because you won't tell me. Tell me, Tom. Tell me what happened."
"I hated him. I hated him so much. I wanted him to die. I wanted him to be punished for everything he did to me."
"Of course you did and that's perfectly understandable. That doesn't mean you murdered him."
He stops his pacing and looks directly at me. "You're wrong, Chakotay. It wasn't an accident and it wasn't self-defense."
His voice is calm, quiet, and unemotional, all of a sudden.
"It was murder. I meant to do it. I pushed him off the side of the cliff, but he managed to grab some bushes to stop his fall. When he tried to climb back over, I shot him. Point blank range. Right through the head. So don't tell me I'm not a murderer."
So now it's done. The truth has finally been told. Everything that I've tried to hide all these years is now out in the open. They'll lock me up. They'll have no choice. And I will go crazy.
I can already feel the madness creeping around the edges of my being. I don't think it will take very long at all. Death would have been so much better. But I doubt if I'll get another chance.
The Captain's in the Doc's office now with Chakotay. He's telling her about my confession. At any moment her face will convey her feelings of horror. Perhaps there will be disgust and disappointment as well. She thought she knew me. Well, she didn't know me at all. I close my eyes to block out the sight.
I open them again when there is a soft touch on my arm. The Captain is smiling down at me.
I look at her in bewilderment. She's smiling at me?
"You're looking a little better, Tom."
I almost snort at the ridiculous statement. I haven't bothered to glance in a mirror lately, but can imagine what I must look like. And why is she smiling at me? She should not be smiling.
"I don't understand," I say in confusion. "Aren't you shocked?"
She frowns at my question. "Shocked? What about, exactly?"
"My confession. My refusal to cooperate," I say in exasperation. "Isn't that what Chakotay's been telling you about?"
The frown on her face deepens. "No. Your counseling sessions are strictly between the two of you. He can let me know how things are going, but he can't tell me what is said. Nor would I expect him too."
"Of course he tells you," I argue.
"No, Tom, he doesn't."
"But, he has to."
She shakes her head. "What is said between the two of you, stays between the two of you."
"I don't believe you. If he doesn't tell you, who does he tell? The Doc?"
"I wish you'd believe me, Tom. Chakotay will tell no one."
I look at her in disbelief and she sighs sadly. "You really can trust him, Tom."
"That's what he said, but they all told me that."
"All the counselors in the past."
"I understand," she says softly. "Tom, Chakotay is an honorable man. I think, deep down, you know that. If he gives you his word, then he means it. You've known him for many years now. You know I'm telling you the truth."
I stubbornly refuse to concede. "Why wouldn't he tell you? It's not like you don't know everything anyway. You, B'Elanna and Harry, all know what I did."
"Perhaps, but it's up to you as to what you decide to tell us. Chakotay wants you to trust him, Tom, and he won't betray that trust. I promise you, you won't be betrayed again."
I look past her to Chakotay, who is still in the Doctor's office, having some sort of earnest discussion with him, now. I recall my thoughts, all those days ago, back in my quarters.
I remember thinking Chakotay would understand and that I could trust him. I believed him to be a man of his word. Back then, I told myself that he would never betray my confidence. I didn't know why, but for some reason, I just knew that it was true.
I'd believed it a few days ago. Can I believe it now?
The Captain pats my arm. "Chakotay wants to release you to your quarters, but has a few arrangements to make with the Doctor."
"They're putting me on suicide watch."
"Yes, they are."
"It's probably for the best," I admit.
A look of pain crosses her face. "You'll get through this, Tom. You're one of the strongest people I know. That you've survived the way you have all these years, is proof of that."
I decide to bare all. It seems to be getting easier. "I really am a murderer, Captain. I did kill James Manning."
"So you keep insisting."
"I know you all think that it was an accident or self-defense or something, but it wasn't. I did it deliberately."
I wait for the look of horror, but it doesn't come. Her face remains neutral. "If that's true then I'm sure you had a very good reason."
"No, I didn't. I hated him and I wanted him dead."
I'm trying to deliberately shock her now. I should have known the Captain's made of sterner stuff.
"I'm sure that's true. And as I said, I'm sure you had a good reason."
"I should be locked up. That's what happens to murderers."
"I don't think that would help anything, do you?"
"Captain, I should be punished."
"That's not for me to decide. I can't be your judge and jury on this. We're in the Delta Quadrant, Tom. If you really did kill this man in cold blood..."
"I did," I insist.
She sighs. "It happened in the Alpha Quadrant, twenty-five years ago, when you were only a child. There were definitely extenuating circumstances. We only have your memory of the events to interpret and they may be confused. There is just no viable way to investigate this from where we are."
"There's no need for an investigation. I confess. I remember quite clearly what I did."
"Those memories may not be real. You were a traumatized eight-year old. You had gone through five weeks of hell with that man..."
"Captain, I know what you're trying to do," I interrupt. "It's no good. I know what I did."
"You're the only one who knows what happened up there, Tom."
"That's right. I am. I killed him. I was so mad at him for what he had done to me that I shot him."
"You don't look very worried."
"Should I be?"
"Maybe. Who knows what I might do next." My throat chokes up and I have to swallow painfully. "If I can kill at the age of eight, imagine what I can do now."
"Tom, I truly believe it was self-defense."
"I was eight years old, Captain. How could it be self-defense? Can you imagine me standing there on the edge of the cliff, battling him for the phaser?"
She puts her hand on my shoulder. "If you're trying to test me in some way to see if I'll stand by you no matter what, then I can assure you I will. I mean that, Tom."
I nod, too choked up to speak.
"I think I can speak for all of us here. B'Elanna is waiting for you in your quarters. She insists on being there for you, no matter how long it takes. And Harry. He's known about this for some time and hasn't said a word until now. Did he run away from you when he learned the truth? He's stayed by your side through it all."
I shake my head. She's right. They'd all been there for me; I just hadn't let them help me. I'm crying again. Gods! I can't believe how little control I seem to have.
She holds me gently as I continue to cry. I don't think I'll ever stop, but somehow the tears are helping me. I feel a ray of hope. Perhaps all these people that care so much about me can help me to live with what I've done. Perhaps I can find peace after all.