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. Harrowing child abuse scene.
Codes: P, All, P/T
Rating: R (Just to be safe. Rather dark in places.)
Chakotay is still with Tom, so I take the opportunity to catch up on some work in engineering.
Joe Carey has kept things running smoothly while I've been away, but there are some things I still need to see to. Besides, it helps take my mind off of everything.
Everyone has asked how Tom is and I've told them he's slowly recovering. I have to believe that. I just have to.
But my mind isn't on the reports in front of me. And despite my worries over Tom, most of my thoughts are centered around Harry. Joe told me how sick he looks.
I'm worried about him. I don't want him to end up in the same state Tom's in. The only person who could pull him out of his funk is Tom. But Tom's in no condition, however, to do so.
I guess that leaves it up to me, but I don't know how successful I'll be.
With a sigh, I leave engineering in Joe's capable hands and go to find Harry.
He's on night duty at the moment, so I find him in the mess hall, attempting to eat, while Neelix hovers over him.
He looks up startled as I sit down across from him.
"You look sick," I say bluntly.
"I'm fine," he says, with a long-suffering sigh.
"No, you're not," Neelix says quickly. "Perhaps you can make him see sense, B'Elanna, because I can't."
"I'll try," I say and Neelix nods and moves away.
"Neelix is right. You're not fine. You may not have this so-called virus, but you're not fine."
He shakes his head. "B'Elanna..."
"No, Harry, listen to me. You have to pull yourself together. Tom wants to see you, but Chakotay thinks that he's got enough to deal with at the moment. He won't be able to handle seeing you in the state you're in."
"Tom wants to see me? Why?"
"To talk to you, of course."
"What's he going to say?"
"I don't know," I say with a frown. "But you look terrible, Harry. I know Tom would be upset to see you like this."
"It's probably best if I stay away."
"Harry, he's asking about you."
"You're just saying this to make me feel better. I'm sure Tom doesn't really want to see me."
"Harry, I'm not known for my patience. Don't test me."
"You don't understand. Look what I did to him. You saw what I did. I destroyed him. And it was all for nothing."
"It wasn't for nothing, Starfleet. Tom needed help and now he's getting it."
"Is he? Is it working? Is he getting better?"
I hesitate, as the night before flashes through my mind.
"Chakotay says it will take time, but Tom will recover."
"That's what he told me. He also told me that I shouldn't have done what I did. And he was right. I should have told him what I suspected. I shouldn't have blurted it out the way I did to Tom, in front of everyone. He'll never forgive me and I don't blame him."
"Oh for..." I bite my tongue and smother my impatience. "For what it's worth, I think you did the right thing. I'm sure he'll forgive you."
But Harry's too immersed in his own self-pity to listen. "He'll never trust me again."
"Shut up! You're wallowing and I want you to stop it right now. Tom needs you."
"He's better off without me."
The last of my patience snaps and, before I can stop myself, I reach across and slap Harry across the top of his bent head.
"Ow!" He looks over at me in astonishment. "W-what'd you do that for?"
"Because you deserved it. You're not even listening to me. I told myself I would be gentle, understanding and sympathetic with you, but let's face it; that's just not me. I'm so mad at you right now. How could you let yourself go like this?"
"I can't help it. I feel so guilty about what I did. Tom wouldn't be in the mess he is right now if not for me."
"You're the one who's in the mess. Tom's trying to pull himself up, but you're trying to sink down further. I share some of the responsibility for this too, you know. Do you see me wallowing in despair?"
"No, but you don't have anything to feel guilty about. You wanted to get help for Tom as soon as you realized there was something wrong. I talked you out of it. I thought it was more important that he felt he could trust us."
"At the time, it was."
"Maybe, but as soon as I started putting all the pieces together, I should have done something. I should have told him what I suspected. I kept avoiding it."
"I thought that Tom told you what he did."
"No, I guessed most of it. I don't think Tom meant to tell me anything. When we were in Akritiria, he was delusional a lot of the time. He mumbled things that didn't make sense, and I didn't take a lot of notice of him. It was only later - much later - that I pieced everything together. And then I didn't know how to ask him about it."
"I don't understand. What exactly did he say?"
"Well, he said a lot of things, but one thing he kept saying, over and over again was...'I'm sorry, Daddy. I shouldn't have done it'. That was when he was the most agitated.
"I thought that he was talking about the accident near Caldik Prime and he was trying to tell his father how sorry he was for lying. I should have known he wasn't, because he was saying 'Daddy', but I didn't think about that at the time."
"Considering the troubled relationship Tom had with his father, I can't imagine him ever calling him 'Daddy'. Maybe when he was little," I say doubtfully.
"That's right," Harry nods in agreement. "I was too worried about Tom to think about that, though. Instead, I patted his shoulder and squeezed his hand, which I was holding at the time. I told him not to worry because he'd more than made up for that mistake and his father was now sure to be proud of him. He shook his head and said his Daddy couldn't be proud because he was dead.
"I felt Tom's forehead then and realized he was running a fever. I told him that everything was going to be all right and that I was sure his father was still alive. He became even more agitated and started moaning over and over again that his Daddy was dead and it was all his fault.
"I thought he was talking about the Admiral. I had no reason to think he was talking about anyone else. I didn't know about Manning and even when I did find out, I still didn't know he made Tom call him 'Daddy'.
"I tried to calm him down, telling him that his Daddy wasn't dead, but he kept insisting. He told me that he pressed the button and shot him in the head. I dismissed it all as the fever talking, because I knew the Admiral hadn't been shot in the head."
"So when did you suspect that Tom was talking about Manning and not the Admiral?"
"After you told me about Tom's kidnapping I looked up Manning's official record. It stated in there that he'd committed suicide after kidnapping a small boy, operating under the mistaken belief that the child was his son. Reality was too much for him and he'd shot himself in the head."
"I told you about the kidnapping a long time ago, Harry."
"I know, but I still didn't put it all together. It wasn't until Tom told me, a few weeks before the Monean incident, that Manning made him call him 'Daddy'. I remembered everything Tom had said in Akritiria and I realized that it all fit if it was Manning Tom was talking about and not the Admiral."
"I see," I say slowly.
"Now do you see why I feel so guilty? That was months ago. I kept putting off doing something about it until it was too late. I let Tom down. If I'd said something sooner..."
"Harry, I understand why you feel so bad," I say, covering his hand with mine. "But it's not too late. Tom will get over this. I know he will."
"I hope so, B'Elanna, but I just can't face him."
"He needs our support. Both of us."
"I'm sorry, I can't."
"If the situation were reversed, Tom would be there for you."
"I know and that just makes me feel worse. I'm a lousy friend. Tom would never have done to me what I did to him."
"You did what you thought was best at the time. You cared enough about him to risk everything. I think that makes you a great friend."
"It was wrong."
"Starfleet," I growl. "Stop this."
"B'Elanna, I can't. I just can't."
I snort in disgust. "I give up."
I stand up abruptly and shake my head towards Neelix, who is watching us. He sighs and stirs a pot he's sniffing, vigorously. I know the little Talaxian suspects that more is going on than just a virus, but he hasn't asked.
He watches me sadly as I head towards the door and on impulse I go over to him and squeeze his arm. "I'm sure he'll be fine. He just needs some time."
Neelix gives a small smile. "I hope so, but I'm more concerned with Tom. He's going to be all right, isn't he? I know Chakotay's counseling him."
I decide to drop the pretense. "Chakotay assures me that he will be eventually."
"Well that's good enough for me. If there's anything I can do to help, please let me know."
"Thanks, Neelix. I will."
I head back to Tom's quarters deciding that I hadn't handled Harry very well. He just made me so mad. I decide to tell Chakotay about our conversation and let him handle it.
And if Harry still hasn't pulled himself together in a few days time, I'll do more than just hit him across the head.
It's now evening, and I lie here in bed, scared to go to sleep in case I dream of that bastard again. You'd think that with all these revelations and everything he did to me, that I'd be at peace with my decision to kill him.
I wish I was. I wish I could say, 'I'm glad that I killed him', but I'm not. I'm relieved that he's dead, but I just wish someone else had killed him - not me.
Chakotay wants me to try and remember exactly what happened on that clifftop. I don't want to. He still seems to think that it was self-defense. How could it possibly have been?
I feel B'Elanna crawling into bed next to me. Her hands come onto my shoulders and she starts massaging them. "Try to get some sleep," she whispers.
"What if I have another nightmare and hurt you again?"
"I'm a big girl. I can take it."
"I don't want to hurt you."
"You won't. It'll be all right, Tom."
I shut my eyes reluctantly. I don't want to go to sleep. All is quiet for some time as I struggle to relax.
Harry's face suddenly forms in my mind and I try to push it away. He looks pale and shaky, but has a determined glint in his eye. He looks the way he did in sickbay all those days ago. I roll over quickly and sit up.
B'Elanna opens her eyes in surprise. "What is it?"
"Is Harry all right?" I ask her.
"Why do you ask?"
"Chakotay said he feels guilty about what happened in sickbay."
She sighs. "You know what he's like. Don't worry, he'll be fine."
I barely hear her. "If he feels so guilty then why hasn't he come to see me? Has he even asked if I'm all right?"
She sits up too and calls for the lights. "He asks after you all the time."
"I want to see him."
"Chakotay doesn't want you to see him the way he is now. He's wallowing."
"Chakotay told me that it was my decision. If I wanted to see him, I could."
She frowns. "I'm sorry, Tom, but I don't think he'll come at the moment. I tried talking to him earlier, but he's just so wretched. Chakotay's going to try and talk to him tomorrow."
I climb out of bed and start pacing around the room. "I hate the thought of him feeling so bad. He thinks I'll never forgive him, doesn't he?"
B'Elanna bites her lip and nods. "I told him that you were asking after him, but he says he can't face you. He's convinced that you'll never trust him again."
I pace around my quarters some more, my thoughts in turmoil. My feelings regarding Harry are just so confused at the moment. I don't even know why I feel so determined to see him.
B'Elanna watches me with a worried frown on her face. "Chakotay doesn't want you worrying about him."
"It's too late for that."
Chakotay's probably right. I should wait until I've sorted out my feelings a little more before I see Harry. But I don't want to wait. I want to see him now. I want to tell him how much his misguided attempt to help me hurts.
Our friendship was special. It meant everything to me. I need that friendship. I need Harry, but I don't think it can ever be the same again.
I now know why I want to see him. I want to confront him for what he did. I want to yell at him and let him know how much he's hurt me.
But he already knows that. That's why he's so guilt-ridden and can't face me. That's why he thinks our friendship is over.
B'Elanna comes over and gently leads me back to the bed. She climbs in next to me and then pulls me into her arms making little soothing noises. I realize that I'm crying and have been for some time.
"I miss him," I choke out between sobs.
"I know," she says softly. "Talk to him, Tom. If he won't come to you, then you go to him. As soon as you feel up to it, you go to him."
I decide to take B'Elanna's advice and go and see Harry. He won't come to see me. Chakotay says that although he's spoken to him, Harry is stubbornly refusing to listen.
A worried look crosses Chakotay's face as I tell him of my decision. "I don't think that's a good idea."
"I need to see him. You said it was my decision."
"That's right, I did. And it is. I just think you should give it a few more days."
"I have to see him now."
"Why? Do you intend to have a reconciliation with him or a confrontation?"
"I don't know, Chakotay. I just know I need to speak to him."
"Tom, you're not ready for a confrontation at the moment and to be honest, neither is he. If that's what you intend..."
"I told you...I don't know. I want to talk to him." My voice cracks a little and I swallow painfully. "I miss him and I'm worried about him."
Chakotay sighs. "If you're going to go to him then I'll take you. You may run into some of the crew and you're not ready for that. Their questions and well wishes may be too much for you."
I nod, just eager to go, now that I've made the decision. The computer tells us that Harry is in his quarters, so we make our way there.
We don't meet up with many of the crew as we walk along the corridor. The few we do see, smile and say it's good to see me up and about again and then hurry away. Chakotay's fierce frown might have something to do with that.
My heart is thudding as we reach Harry's door and Chakotay presses the chime. My hands are sweaty and I begin to shake.
I have absolutely no idea what to say to him. This is a bad idea. Harry is taking a long time to answer the door and the longer we stand here the worse I feel. The pounding in my chest is becoming painful and I feel a little dizzy.
"Chakotay...I don't think I can do this."
He turns to look at me, but as he does the door opens and Harry is standing there, his face pale as he stares out at me.
"T-Tom," he stutters. He looks awful. Worse than I could ever have imagined and the very small part of me that felt he deserved to feel so guilty shrivels and dies.
No one should ever feel so bad that they do this to themselves. And especially not Harry. Harry, who from the very first moment I met him, has been my friend. We've been through a lot together out here in the Delta Quadrant. I've been there for him and he's been there for me - always.
My eyes burn and my throat aches as I look at him. Chakotay was right. I should have waited. I'm not ready to see Harry, especially not like this. I can't handle this. I knew he was feeling guilty, but I hadn't expected this level of self-recrimination.
"Tom wants to see you," Chakotay tells him.
Harry tears his eyes away from me to gaze at Chakotay. "I wish you'd warned me you were coming," he says shakily. "Come in."
But I can't go in there. I can't look at Harry another moment. This is my fault that he looks so awful. I've caused this.
They both look at me in alarm as I back away from the door, shaking my head. Why didn't I listen to Chakotay? He hadn't wanted me to come here. He'd supported my decision, but he hadn't liked it.
I continue to back away until I hit the wall on the other side of the corridor. Chakotay is beside me in an instant. "I shouldn't have come," I choke out. "I can't do this."
"It's all right, Tom, you don't have to." He takes my arm and guides me away. "I'm sorry, Harry. Tom's not ready for this yet. He does want to see you, but it's too soon."
I want to tell Harry, I'm sorry. I know my behavior must be upsetting him even more. I didn't want to do that. I really didn't.
The words won't come, however, and I can only watch in complete misery as Harry's face crumples and tears run down his cheeks.
"Harry, go back inside and wait for me," Chakotay says, the distress obvious in his voice. "I'll take Tom back and return as soon as I can."
He then leads me away, hurrying down the corridor. Tears pool in my eyes and my vision blurs as he bustles me towards my quarters. B'Elanna is coming towards us from the opposite direction and meets us at my doors.
Her face registers her dismay at the state I'm in as she keys in my access code. I hurry to the bathroom, sobbing, as soon as Chakotay lets go of my arm.
"Please leave the door open," Chakotay calls out to me, which causes me to sob even harder.
"Damn it all to hell!" I hear Chakotay say.
"What happened? What's going on?" B'Elanna asks.
"I made a mistake. Tom wanted to see Harry and against my better judgment, I let him. I knew it was a bad idea, but I took him there, anyway. He was so insistent that I relented."
"Kahless! I told Tom to go to him. But I didn't mean for him to go today. I meant when he was stronger."
"He wasn't ready to see Harry in the condition he's in. Harry looks even worse than he did yesterday."
B'Elanna's figure appears in the doorway. "Are you okay, Tom?"
I blow my nose and wipe my face. "No. I've just upset Harry even more."
I step out of the bathroom. "I'm sorry, Chakotay. I should have listened to you. I just didn't expect Harry to look that awful."
Chakotay shakes his head. "I'm the one who's sorry. I should never have let that happen. Are you going to be all right?"
"I feel really bad about what happened."
"It wasn't your fault. I need to go and see that he's all right, though. I'll be back later."
I nod as he leaves and sit down on the couch. B'Elanna snuggles down next to me. "Can you tell me exactly what happened?"
"I'm not exactly sure. While we were waiting for Harry to open his door, I started to panic. I didn't know what I was going to say to him or even why I was really there.
"I still felt a little mad at him, I think. I was worried too. Then he opened the door and I was completely unprepared for just how sick he looked. All I could think of was that it was all my fault. He was completely distraught because of me."
"That's not true, Tom. It's not your fault. Harry is wallowing and that's his problem, not yours."
"It sounds so simple when you say it like that."
"I know it's not simple, and I'm just as worried about Harry as you are, but you have enough on your mind. I hate to hear you blaming yourself for something that's out of your control."
I close my eyes and let my thoughts drift. I remember all of the good and bad times Harry and I have shared over the years.
Our friendship is far too important to me to dismiss from my mind. I sit quietly and wait for Chakotay to come back and tell me that Harry's all right.
I'm still crying when Chakotay returns, but I don't care. I let him in anyway.
He takes one look at me and heads into the bathroom, coming back with a damp cloth and holding it out to me.
"Harry, this can't continue," he says, as I wipe my face.
"I'm sorry. I know I'm wallowing in self-pity. B'Elanna's already told me that, but I can't help it."
"You made a tough choice and it's understandable that you're upset about it, but crucifying yourself like this won't help anybody."
"I know, but I feel so awful about causing Tom so much anguish. I just can't forgive myself."
"You didn't cause Tom's anguish, Harry. Tom's past took care of that."
"But I made it worse. I betrayed his trust."
"You forced him to face the truth. I can only imagine how hard that must have been for you."
"It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. And now he hates me, doesn't he? You saw how he reacted. He can't even bear to be near me."
"Tom doesn't hate you, Harry. Have you taken a good look at yourself in the mirror lately? He was shocked when he saw how ill you look and unfortunately he blames himself. In the delicate emotional state he's in at the moment, it was too much for him to handle."
"B'Elanna told me he was asking after me. I should've gone to see him, shouldn't I?"
"Not looking the way you do now. He has far too many things to deal with as it is; he doesn't need for you to make him feel guilty."
"I didn't mean to make him feel like that."
"I know that, Harry. I also know how much your friendship with Tom means to you and I understand how much pain you're in. However, this self-indulgence has to stop."
"Self-indulgence?" I feel a little indignant at the Commander's harshness.
"I'm sorry if my tone is too blunt, but it's time to pull yourself together, as B'Elanna would say."
I fight for composure and the Commander's face softens. "I don't mean to sound harsh and unsympathetic, because, believe me, I'm not. Your friendship with Tom is a wonderful thing. It's something that I've often admired."
"Of course. I think everyone on this ship has at one time or another. We all wish we shared a relationship like the one you and Tom have."
"Had," I correct quietly. "It'll never be the same again. Tom has a real issue with trust."
"You're right. He does."
"But, I knew that, didn't I? I still did it anyway. I decided, at the time, that I was the only one who could help Tom and I would...no matter what the cost. It just hurts so much."
He squeezes my shoulder. "I know it does."
"Do you think he'll ever forgive me?"
"I believe so. It may take some time, but I think it will be all right."
"Is that why Tom wants to see me?" I ask hopefully.
The Commander hesitates and my hopes are dashed.
"I don't know. Tom doesn't really know, either. He just feels he needs to speak with you. He couldn't manage that today, but I have no doubts that he will try again, very soon. That's why I want you to pull yourself together. I want you to be ready when he does."
"Thank you, Harry."
As soon as the Commander leaves, I go into the bathroom and stare at my reflection in the mirror.
Chakotay's right. I do look ill, extremely so. No wonder Tom was shocked at my appearance. I feel terrible that I made him feel so guilty.
My conversation with B'Elanna in the mess hall comes back to me and I admit to myself that she was right, too. I'm a mess. No wonder everyone's avoiding me. The crew thinks that the so-called virus that debilitated Tom has also infected me.
I've let them think it. But now, as my reflection gazes back at me, I decide that enough is enough. No more self-pity. B'Elanna and Chakotay were right. I've been wallowing, indulging myself. Well, no more!
Tom always teased me about my guilt trips. My friendship with him might be in doubt but that didn't mean my life was. It's time to move on.
I won't put any pressure on him, whatsoever. I'll make it as easy for him as possible to say what it is he needs to say to me. And I'll abide by whatever he decides.
After all, I'm his friend. And I'll always be his friend.
Chakotay assured me that Harry's fine and is pulling himself together. I'm glad. I don't want to have to worry about him.
My last counseling session didn't go well. I'm tired and so is Chakotay. I'm starting to feel guilty that my revelations are disturbing him. I didn't tell him that, though. He'll only worry that I've found something else to feel guilty about.
He wanted me to concentrate on how I killed Manning. I couldn't. Something is blocking me. Chakotay told me not to worry about it; that eventually I'll be able to remember, but I don't want to. The very thought of those memories scares me.
I hate going to bed with my last thoughts on Manning. I don't want any more nightmares. I don't want to accidentally hurt B'Elanna again.
She tells me not to worry, she can handle it and then rubs my back and shoulders whispering to me to try and get some sleep. It's become our nightly ritual.
I close my eyes obediently and let myself drift off.
I moan a little in my sleep. I know I'm dreaming but I can't seem to wake myself up. I fight to push the dream away and open my eyes, but I'm not strong enough.
The dream continues.
I'm struggling to break free from a man pulling me along behind him. I'm little again. I'm just a kid and I'm scared. Even more scared than usual.
Something terrible is going to happen. He shot that lady. He said she was only stunned, but the way she fell to the floor makes me think that she's dead.
Daddy hits me so hard that everything fades out for a few seconds. He drags me up the path and I stumble to keep up.
"It's all ruined now," he's saying. "Everything. They won't leave us alone now. They can't have you, they can't. You're mine."
We're soon at the lookout and he throws me onto a rock. "Stay there," he warns me. I can't move anyway. I'm too scared. He has the phaser in his hand.
He's saying something about things not working out the way you want them to, but I'm still too scared to move.
He turns to look at me now. "I can't let them take you back. You know that, don't you?"
He does something to the phaser and then points it at me. I whimper in fright.
"I don't think this will hurt. Come here, Tommy."
Is he going to shoot me too? "Please don't kill me," I beg.
"I don't want to, Tommy. I really don't. But I don't know what to do anymore."
I find myself walking towards him. I want to run away instead, but I know he'll catch me and hurt me even more.
He kneels down on the ground and hugs me tightly. I hate him so much. He then kisses my forehead. "Who do you love, Tommy?"
"You, Daddy. You."
"I love you too, Tommy." He lifts the phaser.
"Please, Daddy, I'll be good. I'll never be bad again. I'll do everything you tell me to. I promise."
He shakes his head, but puts down the phaser. "It's too late now. They're going to take you away from me."
"I won't let them. I'll tell them that I want to stay with you."
"They won't let you. This is the end, Tommy."
He leans forward to hug me again, but I step back and twist from his grasp.
I'm standing right on the edge of the cliff now and he lunges for me, still on his knees. I manage to duck past him and push him away from me. He starts to sway out of control and struggles to regain his balance. I watch in horror as with a yell he tumbles over backwards and then I scream as he falls from my view.
I throw myself on the ground and scramble to the edge, to peer over. I can't see a body below. Suddenly a hand comes up and grabs my neck. He's caught on some bushes just below me.
"You little shit," he hisses. "You tried to kill me. You're the one who's supposed to die here, not me."
His hand is tight on my throat and I begin to choke.
"Help me back up, now."
He lets go of my neck and grabs my arm instead. I can't help him up. He's too heavy. He pulls himself up anyway. Slowly and steadily. The whole time he's saying what he's going to do to me when he reaches me.
I somehow wrench my arm free and back away. His head is now visible as he claws his way back up over the edge. I don't know what to do. I look around for somewhere to hide. But there's nowhere. If I run back down the trail he'll soon catch me.
Something gleams in the sun and I realize that it's the phaser, lying where he must have dropped it. I hurry over and pick it up.
His face now appears over the edge and then both arms. He's right next to me, but he needs his arms to balance so he can't touch me.
"Put that down," he snarls, seeing the phaser in my hand.
I point it at him instead.
"What the hell do you think you're going to do with that? Shoot me? What sort of kid are you that you'd shoot your own daddy? What sort of person would do that?"
"I hate you," I yell. My finger is right on the button now. All I have to do is press.
He looks scared now. "Tommy. I'm your daddy. You love me."
"No, I don't," I say, starting to cry. "I hate you. You have to stay there. You're not allowed to come back up."
"Put that phaser down, Tommy. It's the last time I'm going to tell you."
"No. If you climb up anymore I'll shoot it."
"That's a terrible thing to say, Tommy. I'm your daddy."
"I don't care. I'll shoot. I will. I will."
"They'll put you in jail, Tommy. Forever and ever. If you shoot me, that's what will happen. You'll be a murderer, Tommy. Evil. They'll put you in jail and never let you out again."
My hand trembles. Is that true? Would they put me in jail? Am I evil? Only someone evil would want to shoot their own daddy.
"Remember what it was like in that trunk?" he says. "Well that's what jail is like. Dark and scary, with things crawling around just to get you. You'll be locked up with them for the rest of your life. Is that what you want? It'll be dark and scary and you won't be able to move. You'll be trapped. You'll be all alone."
"No," I scream.
"Yes," he says, starting to pull himself the rest of the way up. "A murderer who killed his own father. Only someone completely evil could do that. You'll rot in jail."
I shake in terror at the image. I don't want to go to jail. I don't want to be locked up in a small dark cell. I whimper in fear. I'll have to let him come back up and do all those things he says he's going to do to me. And he will. I know he will.
"I'm your daddy," he says. "You know how important it is to do as I say." He's almost completely over now.
The phaser wavers in my hand.
"When I get hold of you, you little shit, you'll wish you'd used that. I'm going to kill you. Slowly and painfully. Put the phaser down - now."
Without another thought, I point it right at his forehead, millimeters from me, and press the button. A hole forms in the side of his head and his eyes fill with horror. The smell of burnt flesh makes me gag as he falls backwards once more over the side of the cliff. There's a dull thud moments later.
I throw the phaser over after him and scramble as far away from the edge as possible. Still gagging, I roll myself up into a little ball too horrified to even cry.
Someone is shaking me now. I bolt to a sitting position, awake at last. I can still smell the burnt flesh and I discover that I'm gagging as well.
"Tom," B'Elanna says urgently. "It's all right. It's a dream, a nightmare."
I collapse against her, fighting for breath. "It wasn't a nightmare," I say at last. "It was a memory. I remember what happened now. I remember it all. It was self-defense. He was going to kill me. I know he was."
She holds me tightly, waiting for me to calm down. "You're not a murderer, Tom. That's what's been worrying you so much, isn't it?"
I nod against her. "But I'm not. It wasn't murder. It was self preservation."
"Oh, Tom," she says softly. "I never doubted that for a moment. None of us did."
It's as if some giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel like laughing, but I'm pretty sure I'll start crying instead. "I'm not a murderer," I repeat. "I'm not a murderer. I kept thinking that I had a choice. That I chose to kill him."
"If anyone deserved to die, he did," B'Elanna says angrily.
"Perhaps," I say. "But that's not really the point. I thought that I chose to murder him as some type of revenge for all he'd done to me."
"And if you had, would that have been so wrong? You were a child at the time."
"I guess I keep forgetting that. But for me...yeah it would have been. But it wasn't like that, anyway. He didn't give me any choice. None at all."
B'Elanna hugs me tightly once more. "Everything's going to be all right now, Tom. I just know it."
And finally...finally, I believe that that's true.
I let myself into my quarters and sink down wearily on my couch. The message light's flashing on my terminal and I groan as I struggle to get back up again.
It's from Chakotay. He wants to talk to me. He says that he'll be in his office all morning and I can see him whenever it's convenient.
Perhaps it's about Tom. I hope so. He may be asking for me again. This time I'm ready for him. I'm ready to face whatever he feels he has to say to me.
I wash my face and quickly comb my hair, deciding to see Chakotay as soon as possible. If Tom wants to see me, then I'll visit him immediately.
Whatever the outcome of that meeting, I'm then going to come back here and get some much-needed sleep. No matter how hard that may turn out to be.
My door chime sounds and I look over in surprise. "Come in," I call out. I start as Tom steps through. He still looks terrible. His clothes just hang on him and his eyes are red-rimmed with dark circles under them.
"Tom, what are you doing here?"
"I wanted to see you."
"Does anyone know you're here?" I'm not sure if he's supposed to be roaming around the ship by himself.
He nods. "I told B'Elanna."
He stands there awkwardly, just inside the doorway and I wave him over to the couch. The silence between us is uncomfortable and that causes a sharp pain in my chest.
We've never been uncomfortable with one another before. "How do you feel?" It's a stupid question, considering the way he looks, but at least it's something to say.
"Better actually. I know - you don't have to tell me - I look like hell."
"Har, I hate to be one to tell you, but so do you."
"According to the crew we picked up a virus on Yaran."
He smiles. "So Chakotay told me. Do you know what it is?"
I'm pleased to see him smile. "Apparently it hasn't got a name."
His smile vanishes quickly. "Harry, I'm here because there are some things I have to say to you. Some of it's really hard and I don't know if I'll be able to say all of it or not."
I gulp and nod. So this is it. My heart beats loudly and I prepare myself.
Tom is quiet for some time, seeming to gather his thoughts. "Harry, I'll never be able to forget what you did in sickbay." His voice falters a little and my heart sinks.
"I understand," I somehow manage to get past the huge lump in my throat. He's here to tell me that we can no longer be friends.
I'd expected that. No matter what Chakotay had said, I'd known that he wouldn't be able to forgive me. I'd hurt him too much. He wants to settle things between us so that he can move on.
I try not to show the pain I'm feeling at his decision. I don't want to make this any harder for him than it already is.
"I'm glad that you're feeling better," I tell him. "I hope Chakotay can help you, Tom. I really do. You won't be alone. You have B'Elanna and the Captain and even the Doc. Not to mention the rest of the crew. Everyone's asking about you. You're lucky, Tom. They all care about you."
"I know," he says softly. "But I need you too, Harry. I don't think I'll be able to get through these next few months without you."
"I don't understand," I say in astonishment. "You said you can't forget what I did."
"That's right. I can't. If you hadn't forced me to face everything, I think I'd be dead now."
He gives a small chuckle. "Don't act the naïve young Ensign with me, Harry Kim. You know what I'm talking about. I was never going to tell Chakotay about Manning. I had it all planned. I was going to bluff my way through it all and first chance I got I was going to kill myself. You knew all of that, didn't you?"
"I hoped I was wrong, but I knew I was right when you refused to promise me that you'd tell Chakotay everything. I feel terrible about what I did in sickbay. Maybe I was wrong to blurt out your secret like that in front of everyone but, at the time, it seemed the only way."
Tom's eyes are clouded with pain. "That hurt, Harry."
"I know and I'm sorry. So very sorry."
Tom's quiet as he struggles with his emotions.
"I betrayed your trust. Can you ever forgive me? Do you think you'll ever be able to trust me again?"
"I want to," he answers, a small catch in his voice. "I understand why you did what you did. I know just how worried you must have been. I can look back now and see just how troubled I was.
"It's funny. I wouldn't have been able to admit that yesterday. Today, everything's different. Today, I can see just how much I needed help."
He sighs and rests his head on the back of my couch. "I can't believe that I was so messed up, I preferred to die than face up to what had happened to me."
"I've never been so scared as I was in that transporter room, Tom."
He shakes his head. "Me either. I promise I'll never do anything like that again. You have no reason to believe me, I know, but I won't. I guess I'll just have to prove that to all of you."
"You don't have to prove anything to me, Tom. I know when you're lying."
"I know you do. Harry, I meant what I said. I really do need you, but if you don't want a high-maintenance friend, I understand. I really do."
I snort in amusement. "Now who's acting the naïve young Ensign? You've always been a high-maintenance friend, so what's new?"
Tom's eyes are full of gratitude and I look down at the floor quickly. I think I'm going to cry and I've done enough of that lately.
Tom touches my arm. "Here, Har." He hands me a tissue. I wipe my eyes and then get us both a drink.
"You seem a lot better," I say, handing him a glass of juice.
"I don't know if I am, but I feel more at peace than I ever have before."
"That's wonderful, Tom. So Chakotay's helping?"
"When I finally let him. He's been great, actually. I think we might even be friends now. I know I have a lot of counseling in front of me, but it doesn't seem so bad all of a sudden. I can really talk to him."
"I'm glad, Tom. Have you told him about Manning?"
"I've told Chakotay everything there is to tell. Except how I killed the bastard. I finally remembered all of that last night. A great weight's been lifted off my shoulders, Har. It wasn't murder, it was self-defense."
"I knew that. Well, I suppose I didn't really know that, but I guessed it."
"It seems everyone did, except me," he says with a smile. "I know he hurt me, but I just couldn't handle the fact that I'd deliberately killed him. I didn't want to think I was capable of murder at such a young age."
"I can understand that."
We sit together in a comfortable silence, just like it used to be between us and I'm so happy, I think I'm going to burst.
Tom leans forward. "Since I'm off duty for the duration and you've just come off duty that means we're both free."
"Well, I don't have to see Chakotay until after lunch, so if you can stay awake till then; how about we visit the holodeck?"
"I don't know," I say warily. "Are you allowed to?"
"I'm not under house arrest. As long as I'm with someone, Chakotay's happy."
"You look like you could use some sleep. You might be the one battling to stay awake."
"I'll be fine, Har. I really need to get my mind off of everything. Don't worry, I'm not repressing it again. I just need a break from all of it."
"Well, if you're sure."
We both stand up and Tom puts his arm across my shoulders, exactly the way he always did before. "Let's go, then."
I smile in delight and nod, too happy to speak.
"Wait a minute," I suddenly remember, as we head for the door. "I'm supposed to see Chakotay some time this morning."
"I think that was to tell you that I wanted to see you."
"Oh, okay. I'll comm him and let him know what we're doing."
As we head down the corridors of Voyager we pass quite a few members of the crew. They smile at us and ask us how we are. I do most of the talking as Tom seems a little hesitant. They look at him with concern. His appearance adds to the lie that he's been desperately ill.
He receives many well wishes and more than a few hugs along our journey and by the time we reach the holodeck he's looking a little shaky.
"Har." His voice sounds a little wobbly. "You wouldn't happen to have a box of tissues on you, would you?"
So here I am, sitting in the Doc's office once more, but I feel so different to the last time I was in here.
My session with Chakotay is finished and the Doc suddenly pokes his head through the door. "If you've finished your session, Commander, I'd like to just run this tricorder over Mr. Paris."
Chakotay nods. "Go ahead, Doctor. We're through for today."
I run my hands through my hair. "I know what you're going to say, Doc. I'm not eating properly and I need to get some more sleep."
"That's right. You're not sleeping properly and you need to eat more." He snaps the tricorder shut. "Since you know that already, I won't say it. I'll have to give you a vitamin supplement."
He goes over to the replicator to make up the said supplement and I roll my eyes at Chakotay. He gives me a small smile.
"And don't think I didn't see that, Mr. Paris," the Doc calls out. "I may have to replicate some drops for your eyes as well."
Chakotay tries rather unsuccessfully to hide his grin. I shrug and grin too. It feels good to banter with the Doc again.
I don't know when I'll be able to fly again. My fingers itch to feel the helm underneath them once more. Chakotay says it will take some time, just like everything else. Meanwhile, I have the holodeck to practice in.
I've told him all about my memories from last night and although it's still as upsetting as it was then, I feel at peace within myself. I know I have a long way to go and the road will sometimes get a little bumpy -okay, a lot bumpy - but I have finally accepted the fact that none of it was my fault.
There was nothing I could have done any differently. I'm not a murderer. I killed in self-defense. I had no choice at the time. I can live with that.
The past is exactly that, the past. Now it's time to get on with my life. Life is definitely worth living. I'm lucky. I have so many people that care about me. They will help me through the rough times, and I know there will be quite a few of those.
I feel strong and confident, however. I will get through this. It will be interesting to discover the real me along the way. He has so much to live for.
Authors note: I can not believe how immersed I became with this story. It totally consumed me to the exclusion of everything else. All I wanted to do was write and then rewrite it - change this, flesh out this and delete that. It even haunted me in my sleep. Real life took a very big back seat.
I want to thank everyone who voted for "Betrayal" as their favorite general story in the long story category for the TPD awards. Knowing that you liked it so much is an award in itself.
I'd also like to thank my husband and children for their patience and understanding over the past few months. My sudden mood swings must have been a trial.
I need to give a very special thanks to Sara for her wonderful beta-ing. Coming in over half-way through can't have been easy. I really appreciate all that you've done. Whenever I've tended to veer off course, you've helped to get me back on track with your thoughts and suggestions. Your insight and general 'feel' for the story and what I was trying to say, have helped to turn this into something I'm really proud of. Thank you.
"Betrayal" is dedicated to everyone on the ATPS list for their feedback and support. Without your kind words of wisdom and encouragement, I doubt that this would have been completed. You're all truly wonderful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Hugs to you all.