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've been back in my quarters for five days now. Both the Captain and B'Elanna have been fussing over me the whole time.
I wish I could say that I'm now better, but it's not true. My counseling sessions are a trial to be endured. I'm trying very hard to speak openly and honestly with Chakotay, but it's not easy.
He's told me that it's going to take time and I know that's true; how much time I dread to think. We've discussed all sorts of things, but I find it's still too hard to talk about James Manning.
It's not that I don't trust Chakotay, because I believe that I can. It's just that most of what happened, all those years ago, is too painful to talk about.
He hasn't pushed me, now that he knows I'm serious about receiving help. And I am. He's letting me take things at my own pace. We've talked about my rape at the hands of the Kazon and my humiliation at what Zio forced me to do. I've even accepted the fact that everything they did to me was beyond my control.
We've worked through a lot of my feelings regarding it all and I believe that I will eventually be able to move past it. My stumbling block is James Manning. Chakotay's told me that I'll never get better until I can talk about him, but it's just too damned hard.
He's convinced that I didn't murder Manning and if I could talk about exactly what happened, I'd see that for myself. He's sure that I'm remembering things falsely and taking what happened out of context.
It's nice that he has such faith in me, but I know what I did. I can't remember the events that led up to the shooting no matter how hard I try. I have a vague memory of pushing Manning as he hugged me, but that's all.
My one vivid recollection is holding the phaser and firing it. Manning's look of shocked horror is etched in my mind forever. The guilt is still with me and so is the terror. It will always be with me.
I've tried to talk about Manning, I really have. Before every session, I tell myself that I'll tell Chakotay everything. But when I try to, something always stops me. I just can't do it. I hate myself for my weakness, but can't help it.
Whenever I even think of James Manning, I break out in a cold sweat. Everything he did to me is as real as the day it happened. I tried to tell Harry about him once and found the horror too much to handle. I don't think those feelings will ever go away.
Thinking of Harry reminds me that I haven't seen him since that scene in sickbay. I'm not sure if that's good or bad.
I mentioned my unease about Harry to Chakotay this morning and he told me not to worry. Harry had a few issues to work through, but was fine. What the hell that means I'm not sure, but I'd really like to see him.
I don't know what I'm going to say to him when I do see him. I feel anxious about it. The pain I felt when I first discovered what he and B'Elanna did, is still with me.
The betrayal still hurts. I know they did it because they love me and were worried about me, but it still hurts. It hurts that they went behind my back and then tried to hide it from me.
I guess the reason I'm so hurt by Harry's betrayal is because it was so unexpected. There had always been a vague worry in the back of my mind that B'Elanna would do exactly what she did.
It wasn't a solid, tangible thought, but it was there, nevertheless. Harry's betrayal wasn't.
Their love and support mean everything to me, however, so I'm willing to forgive them. Forgetting is harder. Trusting them again is...too hard.
I trust Chakotay and I trust the Captain. At the moment, that's enough. Perhaps I'll feel differently some day. I hope so. I know I want to.
The door chime sounds and B'Elanna lets Chakotay in for another session. She kisses me softly and tells me that she loves me before leaving us alone.
I really want these sessions to be over. I wish I could speed up my recovery. I sigh as I face him. "What do you want to know about Manning?"
"What do you want to tell me?" he counters.
"Nothing...everything," I say in confusion. And it's the truth. I want him to know everything, but I don't want to have to tell him. I don't want to relive it again. I don't know if I can.
He smiles at me. "That's a start."
I find myself smiling in return. I can do this. Today...I can do this. "I hope you have plenty of tissues handy, Chakotay, 'cause I've got a feeling I may need them," I say self-consciously.
His eyes are warm and gentle. "Whatever you need, Tom."
I take a deep breath. "I want to tell you what happened when James Manning kidnapped me. I want to tell you about the abuse. I don't know if I can, but I want to try."
After a few starts and stops I find myself telling Chakotay about the five weeks I spent with James Manning.
I don't know if he can really understand me as I jump from one thing to another at random. Apart from asking a question here and there he lets me recount the whole ordeal in my haphazard way. If he's shocked by my revelations it doesn't show. He continues to look at me with encouragement and support.
My comment about the tissues becomes all too real as I curl up on the couch and tell him everything as I remember it. At times it becomes too much and I wonder if I can continue.
He squeezes my shoulder and tells me that I don't have to tell him everything today. But now that I've made up my mind, I want to tell it all. I have to get it all out in the open, so that I can move on.
My desire to finish with these sessions and get back to the helm is overpowering. I'll do anything to make that happen. I just want everything to be the way it was before. I take long deep breaths and continue to speak of the terrible abuse and the constant mind-numbing fear.
Chakotay listens quietly as more and more of my memories emerge. I tell him everything that I can remember. Things that I'd thought forgotten, forever, are now fresh in my mind.
All the abuse, all the terror, are right here with me. It's as if Manning's right here. I start to tremble violently. Chakotay sits next to me on the couch and tries to help me calm down.
"You've told me so much today, Tom. It's enough. Don't push yourself like this. You don't have to tell me everything now. We have plenty of time."
But I want to tell him. I have to. I don't want to put it off. The sooner I tell him, the sooner he can help me get over it.
I shake my head and force myself to continue. Chakotay looks at me worriedly, but doesn't interrupt.
I tell him of my confusion and then certainty that Manning truly was my father and that he loved me despite the pain he inflicted upon me. I confess to feeling that I somehow deserved to be treated that way.
I even admit to my feelings of inadequacy where my true father was concerned. Of my wish to be a REAL Paris, someone that my father could be proud of.
I confide to Chakotay the terrible torment of pretending that I was all right after my rescue and the hardship of keeping to myself all that had happened. Of convincing people to believe that there were no long-term affects from my ordeal.
I speak of the nights I laid in agony, reliving the events of that time. The horrendous nightmares I battled nightly and the sickening knowledge that I was letting my father down, somehow, by having them.
I talk until I can talk no more.
I'm exhausted from trying to keep my emotions under control. How Tom has managed to keep this horrific nightmare to himself all these years is inconceivable.
How can I help him come to terms with something like this? He's been talking all afternoon and most of this evening. His voice is hoarse but still he continues to tell me of the atrocities he suffered.
I don't know which is more shocking. The physical abuses or the physiological ones. That Tom could accept the man's story and truly believe he was his son, indicates some fundamental problem with his real father that was obviously there long before he was kidnapped. It's something that needs to be addressed also.
So many things to address, so many things to work through. Tom has shared so much with me today, but there's still one area that he's shied away from. One thing that he still hasn't told me: what happened on the cliff.
"Tom," I say as he's quiet for several minutes. "Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me all of this. I know it hasn't been easy for you. I think you should rest now and have something to eat. We'll continue with this tomorrow."
He shakes his head. "There's no way I'll be able to sleep. It's all too fresh in my mind."
I nod my understanding. "I'll ask the doctor to give you something to help you relax."
"I've had too many sedatives as it is. I don't want any more."
"You need to rest."
"I suppose. Chakotay, please tell Harry I want to see him."
"Is that a good idea?"
"What do you mean? Why? Doesn't Harry want to see me?"
Tom's agitated and I curse silently. He's emotionally fragile and easily upset.
"Harry's very worried about you," I begin, but Tom interrupts.
"If he's so worried, then why hasn't he come to see me?"
"I thought it might be best if he stayed away for a little while."
"You've told him not to see me?"
"Of course not. It's just that..."
"He's mad at me, isn't he?"
"What makes you think that?"
"He hasn't come to see me and every time I talk to B'Elanna about it she changes the subject. And before, you said that he had some issues to work through. He's angry with me, isn't he?"
I curse silently again. "No, Tom. Harry isn't angry with you. Far from it. He has been upset, however. He feels guilty about what happened in sickbay."
Tom immediately gets more agitated and I curse yet again. "I really need to speak with him. I forced him to reveal my secret. I put him in a terrible position. I should never have done that."
"Tom, I don't understand. You didn't know that he knew."
"I think deep down I did. I just didn't want to face it. He tried to warn me. He told me to tell you everything, otherwise, he would. I didn't listen. I made him betray me."
"Tom, don't do this. Don't upset yourself any more. At the time, you couldn't even admit to yourself what you'd done. You couldn't acknowledge Harry's suspicions."
"Don't try to make me feel better, Chakotay. Harry's upset with me and he has a damn good reason."
"You have to stop blaming yourself for everything. Things happen that are out of your control."
"I know that."
"Then accept it."
Tom rests his head back on the couch and closes his eyes. He's quiet for some time and I wonder if he's fallen asleep. I stand up very carefully, but his eyes open immediately.
"You WILL let Harry see me, won't you?" I hesitate. I really don't want Tom to see Harry right now. Harry's guilt makes him look positively ill.
If Tom sees how bad Harry looks, he'll only blame himself. But not seeing Harry could also increase Tom's self-doubts.
"If that's what you want," I reply.
He looks uncertain. "I should see him, shouldn't I?"
"That's your decision."
"Why did you ask him to stay away?"
"I didn't. He decided that. He's sure that you wouldn't want to see him. He thinks you'll never forgive him for what happened in sickbay."
"So he's staying away in case I tell him that?"
"I think so. Is that what you're going to tell him?"
"I don't know what I want to say to him. I want things to be the way they were between us, but..."
His voice trails off and he sighs. "I don't know if it ever can be."
"That's understandable. You're still hurting. If it helps, so is he. He's full of guilt over what happened and blames himself for causing you so much distress."
"I hate to think of Harry feeling that way, but there's a small part of me that thinks he deserves it. Is that awful? I really need to speak with him, don't I?"
"No, Tom, it's not awful, it's normal. But you're not sure what to say to him. Let it wait a while. You have enough to deal with at the moment." I'm hoping he'll agree. That might give Harry time to pull himself together a little.
"I don't know what to do."
"You don't have to do anything right now. You're exhausted."
"But I have to."
"Not right now. Right now, you need some sleep. Don't worry about Harry."
"You're right, I know. I can't help worrying though."
Harry believes that his friendship with Tom is over but that doesn't appear to be the case. They'll have some tough times to get through, but I'm sure they'll remain good friends. I'm glad.
Tom closes his eyes once more and this time they don't open as I quietly move away. I comm B'Elanna to let her know that Tom and I are finished for the night. She says she'll be right here.
Looking over at Tom once more, I see that he is staring at me. "Chakotay, I AM going to get better, aren't I? I know you said it will take time, but I thought I'd start feeling better once I started talking about Manning. I told you everything I could, but I don't feel better at all."
"Tom, you're completely drained at the moment. Recovery is a slow process. After a good nights sleep I'm sure you'll feel better."
He nods slowly and I smile at him reassuringly. "B'Elanna's on her way, so I'll leave you now. We'll talk again tomorrow. Goodnight, Tom."
I meet up with B'Elanna in the corridor.
"How did it go?"
"Very good. We're making real progress."
"I'm glad. This session was a lot longer than your previous ones."
"Yes, it was. It's been very difficult for Tom, but he's opening up now. He's completely exhausted. He needs to rest."
"I'll make sure that he does." She squeezes my arm and then hurries away.
I make my way to my quarters, my thoughts focused on Tom's terrible disclosures.
I need to visit with my spirit guide. She'll help me find the wisdom needed for Tom's recovery.
Chakotay told me that their session went very well. It was certainly long enough. I guess I'll just have to take his word for that as Tom looks completely worn out.
I watch him as he attempts to eat some chicken broth I insisted he have. He's not eating enough and I'm worried. He's lost so much weight these past few weeks.
I've been nagging and mothering over him these past five days and it's beginning to annoy him. Good!
At first he just did whatever I said, like some sort of mindless robot. Now I can see some spark coming back to life within him. My Tom is still there, somewhere beneath the surface.
Who would have thought that I, B'Elanna Torres, would fuss and hover over anyone? If I'm acting out of character that's because of the power this man holds over me. I would do anything for him. Anything! If that includes annoying the hell out of him, then I'll do that too.
I just wish I could do more. I want to help him so much. Chakotay tells me that just being here for him is enough. I can only hope that that's true.
I'm not used to the role I've been forced into and I'm not sure how to act. I'm used to doing things, not standing by and letting someone else fix things that go wrong. There's nothing I can do to fix this, however.
Tom pushes the bowl away and lets out a sigh. "I'm sorry, B'Elanna. I'm just not hungry."
"You should eat a little more, Tom." I think my tone of voice is a good imitation of the Captain's and I'm quite proud of the achievement. We've both been mothering him and fussing over him to almost sickening proportions.
Definite annoyance flashes across his face. "It's not going to hurt me to skip a few meals."
"That's true, but it's not just a few. Is it?"
He gets up and glares at me before making his way into the bathroom. I can hear water splashing. He's not going to deflect me that easily.
I head in after him. "I'll keep the broth warm and you can have some later."
"I don't want any later."
"Nonsense." Now that was definitely the Captain.
He gives an impatient shrug but doesn't say anything.
"Chakotay said that you need to rest. I'll go and turn down the covers."
"You don't have to do that, B'Elanna. You're not my servant or maid or whatever."
"I want to."
"Well, I don't want you to." He takes my arm and leads me over to the couch.
"Look, it's not that I don't appreciate everything that you've been doing, because I do. I couldn't have gotten through these past few days without you, but you have to stop this. Between you and the Captain, I'm feeling..."
"Smothered?" I say helpfully.
He gives a small nod. "I'm sorry, I know I must sound ungrateful and I'm not. It's just that the two of you are driving me crazy."
"Well it's about time," I say. My Tom is coming back to me. I smile in delight. There's a look of confusion on his face, as if he's not quite sure what just happened, but then he smiles in return.
It isn't long before we're lying in bed together and I'm gently rubbing his back. His breathing is slow and even and I'm pleased that he's fallen asleep so quickly. I kiss the back of his neck and snuggle in behind him.
"B'Elanna," he whispers suddenly and I give a little start.
"I thought you were asleep."
"Almost. I told Chakotay all about Manning. It was hard, but I did it."
I squeeze him gently. "I'm glad."
"Later, when I'm feeling a little stronger, I want to tell you about him. I want to tell you everything. I want you to understand."
"It's all right, Tom, I already understand. But it would mean a lot to me if you're able to share with me those memories. I thought you might have difficulty trusting me again."
"I might. I don't know how I feel really," he admits. "I don't want to feel like that. I want to trust you."
"I understand how you feel. I really do. I don't want you to tell me anything that you don't want to. We'll work this out, I know we will."
"I love you," he says softly.
"I love you too," I choke in reply. That Tom can say that to me now, means more than anything.
I blink back tears and kiss the nape of his neck and he gives a small sigh, nestling back against me.
Wrapping my arms around him, I close my eyes and listen to the steady sound of his breathing as it lulls me into sleep.
B'Elanna contacts me in the middle of the night to tell me that Tom is having a nightmare. The worst nightmare she's ever seen. She can't wake him and I can hear his screams through the comm link.
I beam directly to his quarters moments later to find B'Elanna struggling to hold on to Tom as he thrashes about wildly. Her nose is bleeding and one eye is swollen shut.
Tom's arms are flailing around uncontrollably as he screams 'no', over and over again. I wince as one of his arms connects with B'Elanna's ear.
"Let him go," I say quickly.
"Are you sure?" she pants.
"Yes," I answer. I close my eyes as Tom's head crashes sickeningly into hers. She lets go abruptly and staggers from the bed. I grab hold of her before she can fall.
Tom, meanwhile, is a frenzy of motion. He is still screaming the word 'no' as he fights with the bedclothes to get himself free. Completely entangled, he throws himself from the bed, only to land on the floor in a heap.
Before I can move, he scrambles frantically across the room on all fours. I wince once more as he collides heavily with the wall and then huddles against it, moaning softly.
Quickly sitting B'Elanna down, I contact the Doctor and then make my way carefully across the room.
Tom doesn't react as I kneel beside him. "Tom?" I say softly, but he doesn't answer. The nightmare still has him in its grip.
I hear the Doctor beam in behind us. "What happened here?"
"Tom's having a nightmare. We can't wake him," B'Elanna says.
The Doctor hurries over and kneels beside me. "Mr. Paris," he says urgently.
Tom remains huddled against the wall, not reacting to our presence at all. With a sigh, the Doctor takes out a hypospray and presses it against Tom's neck.
Tom immediately stiffens as the Doctor touches him and then goes limp as the sedative takes effect.
"Help me get him back to bed," he tells me. "What brought this on?"
"We had an intense session today. Tom discussed James Manning in great length. I think the memories were too much."
The Doctor helps me tuck Tom in and then turns his attention to B'Elanna. "Oh my!" he says, running the regenerator over her eye.
She shrugs impatiently. "I don't care about that. Is Tom going to be all right?"
I sigh and look down at him. "I hope so. He insisted on telling me everything he could remember. It was obviously more than he could handle, all in one day."
"He's had nightmares before, but never like this one. I didn't know what to do. He wouldn't wake up. I shouldn't have tried to hold him."
"He must have been dreaming about being pinned down. It wasn't your fault, B'Elanna. You didn't know."
She shakes her head. "I thought he was getting better."
"He is. He's willing to talk, but it will be some time before he can deal with this."
"Will he, Chakotay? Will he be able tp deal with all of this?"
I nod, trying to look more confident than I feel. "He's a survivor. We just have to give him time."
"I'm so worried about him."
I squeeze her shoulder. "I know, B'Elanna. But, I think you should go back to your quarters now. You need some time away from this. I'll stay here with him."
"No, that's all right. I'd rather stay here. I want to be here when he wakes up."
"I'm going to have to insist on this, B'Elanna. You need to rest. You're looking more than a little strained."
"Of course I am. What do you expect?"
"B'Elanna, I didn't mean that as a criticism. I'm concerned for you too, you know. You need sleep just as much as everyone else."
"The Commander's right," the Doctor agrees. "Mr. Paris will not wake up for several hours, so I suggest you both get some sleep. I'll stay here with him."
I feel as reluctant to leave as B'Elanna does , but know the Doctor's right. With a small nod of agreement I take B'Elanna's hand and lead her away.
She growls softly but then sighs sadly. "Look after him, Doc."
Tom looks a little startled when he wakes up the following morning and rolls over to see me sitting in a chair next to his bed. "What's the time? I think I must have overslept."
"It's after eleven."
"Eleven? I did oversleep. Where's B'Elanna?"
"I sent her away for a while. She needed some time to herself."
"I guess I'm getting too much for her."
"No, it's nothing like that. She just needs to rest."
I watch him carefully as he sits up and stretches.
He eyes me, as well. "Is something wrong?"
"What do you remember about last night?"
"Last night? Nothing. Why?"
"You had a nightmare. We couldn't wake you."
"I did? I don't remember anything about it." He sits forward quickly, a worried frown on his face. "What did I do?"
"You were panicking. The Doctor had to sedate you."
"Maybe it's a good thing that I don't remember it." He attempts a weak smile and climbs out of bed.
I wait while he showers and dresses. He scowls at me when he comes out of the bathroom. "You don't have to babysit me, Chakotay. I don't have to have someone with me all the time anymore, do I?"
"At the moment - yes."
His scowl deepens. "You still think I'm going to try and do myself in, don't you?"
"I'll be honest with you; I don't know. I hope not, but I'm just not sure."
He gives a small snort and throws himself down on the bed. "What if I told you I won't?"
"I'd still stay here with you."
"In other words, you don't trust me."
"I get the impression that you still think that death is a viable option."
He puts his arm over his eyes and is quiet for several moments. "You're right; I do," he murmurs.
My heart sinks at Tom's confession. I had been hoping I was wrong. "Why, Tom? I know things are difficult now, but you will get past this. I know it's hard, but it will get better."
He pulls himself up to a sitting position on the bed, wraps his arms around his knees, and pulls them up to his chest. His eyes are dull and cloudy as he looks at me.
"I can't live with what I did. I murdered him. I hated him so much that I murdered him."
"I know what you're going to say. It couldn't have been murder. I told you what happened. I looked him straight in the eye and I pressed the button. I was so full of hatred and I wanted him to die so badly."
"Tom, he did some terrible things to you. He..."
"Have you ever killed anyone? Not in self-defense, but just because you hated them?"
"Yes," I say quietly. "Quite a few Cardassians, actually."
"How? There were other options available at the time. I chose to kill them to avenge my father. To pay them back for what they did to my family and friends. It was my revenge for destroying my home and way of life."
"Chakotay, it's not the same. You did that in the heat of battle. And, besides, if you hadn't killed them they sure as hell would have killed you."
"Perhaps, but I didn't have to sink to their level. There were quite a few times when I could have disabled a ship, but I chose to destroy it instead."
"It's still not the same. I was just a kid. I was eight years old, for Gods sake. How could I do it, Chakotay? How could I hate that much at such a young age?"
"You were living in a constant state of fear. He abused you both physically and mentally. Of course you hated him. It was perfectly natural."
He looks at me for a long moment and then slowly nods. Sitting with his hands clasped around his knees, he stares off into space for some time.
I get up and go over to the replicator. "You should try and eat something," I tell Tom.
He glances over at me with a wry smile. "Yes, Mom. Could I have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?"
I grin in return. "As long as you don't expect me to eat one of those things."
"You don't know what you're missing."
"I prefer to live in ignorance."
He chuckles and climbs off the bed to join me at the table. We sit eating in a companionable silence. My thoughts are on Tom's nightmare and the need to discuss it.
But not yet. This is the most relaxed that I've seen Tom so far and I'm not willing to spoil it.
I acknowledge the fact that a genuine friendship has developed between us. Our relationship had always been a little strained, so I'm pleased by this unexpected outcome.
Tom, who is halfway through his second sandwich, suddenly pales and places it back on his plate. "My nightmare from last night. I remember it now."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"No." He gulps. "Do I have to?"
I shake my head. "Not if you don't want to."
"Why did this have to happen now? I thought things were improving. I thought that after yesterday everything would be better."
"It's going to take a while, Tom. I think that perhaps yesterday, you dredged up a few too many painful memories all at once. It's going to take some time for you to handle it all."
"I told you everything I could yesterday, because I wanted all this to be over. It's never going to be, is it?"
"It will be one day. You have to be patient. You've come a long way in a very short time."
He swallows painfully. "I just want everything to be the way it used to be. I could cope with the occassional nightmare and reminder of things I wanted to forget. Now I can't cope with anything. Ever since my thirty days in the brig, it's all been too hard."
I wait quietly and he continues. "I hurt B'Elanna last night, didn't I?"
"She made the mistake of trying to hold you down. Don't worry, she's fine. She's worried about you, of course, but there was no damage done."
"Everyone that's ever hurt me was there," he says, after a moment. "Every way I turned, someone else was there. I couldn't get away. They were all holding me down. Hurting me. And then the Kazon were everywhere. Their hands were all over me and no matter how hard I fought, I couldn't get free."
He's trembling and I reach across to squeeze his arm reassuringly. He swallows painfully, and I quickly get up and get him a glass of water.
"I was fighting, trying to get away, but there were too many of them. And then...then they changed. They became Zio. He was touching me. Stroking my face. Telling me I was beautiful and that he would relish every moment with me."
He takes a small sip of water, his hand's shaking so much that the glass suddenly drops to the floor. I hurry to pick it up and place it on the table.
Tom puts his hands over his face as he recounts the rest of his nightmare in a strangled voice. "Then it was Manning towering over me, only there were more than one of him. There were dozens. All telling me to be good. They all had cords in their hands and were whipping them through the air."
I rub his shoulders gently as he battles to continue. "They all joined together until there was just one. He was holding me down and telling me how much he was going to hurt me. He was laughing. Chakotay, he was laughing!"
His cries are anguished. I hold him as he sobs.
"He used to set me up. He'd make me do something wrong, just so he could punish me," he tells me brokenly. "I didn't understand. I didn't understand how much he loved to hurt me. Oh Gods, no wonder I hated him. No wonder I had to kill him."