CONFUSING THE MEMORIES
Disclaimer: Voyager, Tommy, Kath and the rest of the crew belong to Paramount. Iím just having fun, - honest. No profit will be made from this story.
"We canít keep doing this," BíElanna announced angrily banging her fist on the tabletop. The senior staff were gathered together in the briefing room - with two noticeable exceptions. The Captain, of course, and Tom, who was busy in sickbay.
Chakotay, who didnít feel comfortable, sitting in the Captainís chair, was pacing to and fro behind it instead. "How many casualties this time?" he asked.
"Five," Harry answered. "Two serious. The Doc and Tom are still working on them."
"We lost another shuttle too," BíElanna added. "The damage to decks eleven and twelve is pretty extensive."
Chakotay ran his hands through his hair in agitation. "Damn it all. Every time we attempt to do anything, the Tamans are right on us. None of our plans are working."
It had been over a week now since the Captain had been sentenced to ten years on a Taman prison farm and Voyager was starting to look a little worse for wear. The Tamans had become infuriated when Voyager did not move on and had begun firing on them to make them move. They were hopelessly outnumbered and each plan to rescue the Captain that they had come up with; had been thwarted.
"We canít take much more of this," BíElanna warned. "Weíre sitting ducks. I hate to say this Chakotay, but we need to move away. Not keep circling around either, but actually leave. Any more damage and I donít think Iíll be able to fix it."
"Lieutenant Torres is right Commander," Seven agreed. "We have no more materials left to continue patching things up. We need to restock."
"Weíre also running out of food Commander," Neelix spoke up. "With the replicators off line, thereís been a real rush on my cooking."
"We just donít have the power to get them back on line," BíElanna fretted. "We need to find a power source, and soon."
Chakotay stopped his pacing. "I know. We canít leave the Captain here though."
"Perhaps we could return when we are fully functional again," Seven wondered.
Chakotay sighed deeply. "I donít want to give the order to move on, even for a little while. I donít want her to think we are abandoning her."
"We wouldnít be abandoning her Chakotay. Weíll be back. As soon as we can," BíElanna told him.
He turned towards Tuvok. "What do you think Tuvok?"
Tuvok took a while to answer. "None of our ideas have been feasible Commander. I regret to say that there is no viable way to rescue the Captain. It is a hopeless situation at the moment. We have already lost two crewmen and three shuttlecraft. Two more crewmembers are fighting for their lives in sickbay as we speak. We are in grave danger if we stay here any longer. I believe that it is the only option. We must leave, for now."
Chakotay sighed once again. "Youíre right. Iíll make a ship-wide announcement. I need to tell Tom first though. Iíll ask the Doctor to send him to me, as soon as heís finished in sickbay."
Tom had them all worried. For some reason he blamed himself for the Captainís capture and no one could talk him out of it. He roamed the ship like a ghost. His agitation was so great that he couldnít sit still for a minute. He had tried to steal the Delta Flyer on more than one occasion. Now the shipís computer was set to announce a warning to security if he went anywhere near a shuttlebay.
"Iím worried how heíll react," Harry told them. "Heís on the point of collapse as it is. The Doctor had to sedate him to get him to rest yesterday."
"I know," Chakotay answered. "Iíll just have to stress to him that weíll be back. That weíre not giving up."
Tom walked through the corridors in a daze. They were leaving. Chakotay had just told him. He had walked off without a word and Chakotay hadnít tried to stop him. He was surprised at himself. He thought heíd yell and argue, maybe even beg Chakotay to stay. But when the time came, he had done none of those things. He felt numb.
Deep inside heíd known that they would have to leave. He just hadnít wanted to admit it. While they were here, there was still hope. He could believe that at some stage he would be able to steal away without anyone knowing and rescue Kath all by himself. He knew he could do it if he was just given the chance. Every time that he had tried there had been some one there to stop him, though.
He tried to picture the prison Kath had been sent to. Akreteria kept popping into his head. He shuddered as he tried to picture her struggling to survive for ten years in a place like that. Sheíd never make it. No one could. He clutched his stomach as dry heaves shook him. He hadnít eaten anything for days, so there was nothing there to come up.
A hand on his shoulder made him jump. "Come on Tom. Letís get you to your quarters." It was Harry. He let his friend lead him away. He didnít really care. He was too tired to think clearly. He wasnít giving up on Kath. Chakotay had promised that they would be back, as soon as possible. He would bide his time. He knew that he would be able to rescue her eventually.
Days and then weeks passed as Voyager limped along looking for a planet that was suitable for their needs. Repairs were going agonizingly slowly. Tom became more and more agitated. They had to get back to Kath. Time was important. Kath was tough, but prison was prison.
The longer they took to rescue her, the greater the chance that she would be killed - by another inmate, or one of the guards. Tom broke out in a cold sweat whenever he thought of it. He wasnít sleeping or eating properly. People said he resembled a walking corpse, but what did that matter? He had to come up with a plan.
Chakotay had taken him off of the conn a few days ago saying that he was no longer fit for duty, and he really didnít care. It gave him more time to think. To work out a way of rescuing Kath. He had to. He was desperate.
The Commander had tried to talk to him, on more than one occasion, telling him how worried everyone was about him, but he hadnít really listened. All his thoughts were centered on Kath. On how she must be feeling, or thinking or doing right now.
Finally Voyager came across a small M-class planet that had the materials that they needed. Tom worked tirelessly day after day and more often than not into the night to prepare Voyager for itís return to rescue Kathryn. He fell into bed at night so exhausted that he couldnít even think, let alone dream. The crewís concern over him grew, while they collected the foodstuffs and materials that they would need for a long siege. The repairs to Voyager were finally completed and Chakotay announced that they would be leaving the next morning.
Tom, who had been in an agony of despair, the longer they were on the planet, began to feel hopeful again. He went to see Chakotay to ask if he could return to duty at the conn. He was so used to working non-stop all day that he knew he had to continue. He had to do something, anything to keep busy. It would be nearly two weeks before they would be back at the Taman borders.
The Commander regarded him steadily from his seat behind Kathrynís desk. It bothered Tom somewhat to see how easily Chakotay had taken over from Kath. He looked like he belonged behind the desk, sitting where Kath should be sitting.
He hadnít been in this room since Kathryn had left, and he felt a little sick as he remembered that last visit. He and Kathryn arguing like that. She had been right, of course. He had let his personal feelings interfere and had overstepped the boundary. And he had promised her that he would never do that. Professional at all times while they were on duty - well he certainly hadnít been that.
It really upset him to think that that was the last time they had been together. Kath had been so mad at him, and he didnít blame her. But look what had happened. If only she had listened.
"Tom, I donít think it would be a good idea to put you back at the conn," Chakotay finally said. "Youíre not up to it, in my opinion."
Tom looked at him in amazement. "What are you saying? Of course Iím up to it."
"Tom, have you taken a good look at yourself in the mirror?"
Tom flushed. "All right, so Iíve looked better. But Iím still the best pilot on the ship. I feel much better than I did before. I even slept most of the night last night."
Chakotay shook his head. "You look like death warmed over. I know what a good pilot you are but at the moment your concentration is terrible. Do you realize that I had to speak to you three times just then, to get your attention?"
"Iím sorry. But flying is second nature to me. Please Chakotay. I need something to do. Kathrynís been gone for eight weeks now. I canít handle just sitting around waiting to get back to Taman space. I have to keep busy."
"I understand that Tom, but I canít let you take the helm. Weíll keep you busy, just not at the conn." As Tom opened his mouth to speak again, Chakotay held up his hand. "Save your breath Tom. I donít intend to change my mind."
"Damn it Chakotay. I can handle the conn. I know I can. I would never endanger the ship. Voyagerís safety is my top priority." His voice wobbled a little, so he took a couple of deep breaths to get himself back under control. Gods, what was he going to do now? Burst into tears because he couldnít get his own way? What was wrong with him anyway? He was acting completely unprofessional these days and what was more, he couldnít seem to stop it.
"Tom, youíre pushing yourself too hard." Chakotay got up from behind the desk and walked around to him. He put his hand on Tomís shoulder, but Tom shook it off. Gods, the last thing he needed right now, was sympathy. He really would burst into tears. He took another deep breath and kept his eyes on the floor. He could feel Chakotay watching him.
"You canít keep everything bottled up inside, Tom," Chakotay finally said quietly.
"Itís always worked before," Tom managed to grind out.
Chakotay sighed, but before he could say anything else, Tuvok requested his presence on the bridge. Tom followed forlornly behind him.
"A small ship is hailing us Commander," Tuvok announced as soon as they entered the bridge.
"On screen," Chakotay ordered.
He looked in astonishment at the small, dilapidated vessel on the view screen. It reminded him of Neelixís little ship only in desperate need of some maintenance.
"This is Commander Chakotay of the starship Voyager. Can we be of assistance?"
"I am Keenan of the Leandra. I have been looking for you Commander."
"For us? Are you sure?" Chakotay asked in surprise.
The little man on the view screen nodded. "I am a trader. I travel all over this region and am respected wherever I go. I have some messages for you."
"That is correct. I have been promised payment on delivery. I was recently in the Taman section of this region and they have a message for you."
"I see," Chakotay said grimly.
"I do not require payment for this one as the Tamans have already paid me well. The rest of the messages however do require payment."
"The rest? Who are the messages from?" Chakotay felt his heart beginning to pound and saw Tom out of the corner of his eye, take a step forward.
"I can tell you nothing more until I receive payment. The woman who gave them to me to deliver, said you would pay me well."
"The woman?" Tomís voice was a croak. "What woman? Where was she?"
The little man shrugged. "As I said, I require payment before I can tell you any more."
Tom turned quickly to Chakotay. "Chakotay please! Itís Kathryn. It has to be. Tractor his ship in."
Chakotay turned to him. "Tom, calm down." He turned back to the view screen. "Mr. Keenan, we would like to bring you aboard our ship, to discuss this further. Are you agreeable?"
Keenan nodded. "The woman told me that you would treat me well. I have no objections."
"Very well then, weíll beam you aboard in a few minutes. Chakotay out." Chakotay turned to Harry. "You have the bridge Ensign. Tuvok. Tom. Youíre with me."
"A goblin," Harry thought to himself as he sat across from the strange little man, in the briefing room, a short time later. At least to him that was what Keenan resembled. Images from childhood, of old fairy tales his parents read to him, ran through his head.
Chakotay had called them all in to hear what Keenan had to tell them.
"I visited the prison farm on Sarran III. The Tamans allow me free access all over their space. I am very fortunate. They gave me this message for you." Keenan handed Chakotay a padd and Chakotay scanned it quickly. He looked up at the eager faces around him.
"They say that the Captain is well and that they are looking after her. They have let her send us some messages with Mr. Keenan here to prove it. They also warn us to continue on our way and not to return. They are still monitoring us apparently."
"How is that possible?" Harry asked. "Weíre light years away from their space."
"Spies," Keenan answered. "They have spies everywhere. A lot of races around here are loyal to the Taman, in return for the use of the wormhole."
"They say that if we do attempt to return, theyíll shoot to destroy, not disable."
"This one little ship would have no defense against them," Keenan said shaking his head. "You should listen to them and continue on your way."
"We canít do that," Tom said with a frown. He sat forward. "What about the other messages? Do you have them?"
Keenan nodded. "I require payment first however. Your captain promised. What will you give me?"
Harry placed a restraining hand on Tomís arm as he jumped up with a curse. He stood up also and held onto Tom tightly as he attempted to leap across the table at the little Leandra, who let out a little squeak of fright.
"Tom, please!" Chakotay said quietly. He signaled to Harry to move Tom away and then turned back to Keenan. "Those messages mean a lot to us. It is upsetting to have to barter for them."
"I apologize. Your Captain told me to be sure that you paid me well. I did not mean to offend." He placed a small parcel on the table. "Here are your messages. Whatever you can spare will be payment enough."
"Thank you," Chakotay said with a smile. He signaled for two security officers, and asked them to take Keenan to the mess hall. "Iíll meet you there a little later to discuss your reward."
As soon as the doors closed behind them he picked up the parcel and opened it. Harry led Tom, who had begun to shake, back to the table and sat him down in his chair.
BíElanna, who was sitting on the other side of Tom, grabbed his hand. "Are you all right Tom?" she asked softly.
He nodded, but didnít say anything, keeping his head down instead. BíElanna looked over his head at Harry, worry in her eyes. Harry shook his head at her, trying to tell her not to say anything else.
Chakotay cleared his throat and everyone looked towards him expectantly.
"There are four letters here. One made out to all of us. One for Tom." He paused and handed the letter to Tom who clutched it quickly, before hiding it in his lap. "This one is for me and the last one is for Tuvok." He handed Tuvok his before quickly opening the one for them all.
He read quietly for a few moments while everyone watched his face. "Iím sorry," he apologized, suddenly looking up. "Itís probably best if I just read it out loud.
Please look after Keenan and give him anything he wants. I promised him that you would fix up his ship as good as new in return for delivering the messages. His shipís in a bad way.
I am just so grateful that the Tamans have allowed me to say goodbye to you all. And believe me, this is goodbye.
First and foremost, let me just assure you all that I am fine.
The prison is actually a farm and the work is easy and quite enjoyable, if not rather repetitive. The Tamans look after me very well and most of the prisoners are friendly.
I am in no danger whatsoever; please believe that. The Tamans go out of their way to make sure that I am not hurt or sick.
Do not try to rescue me. That is an order. My last order as Captain of Voyager. I put myself in here and I am willing to take my punishment.
I know that you will think about disobeying me and trying to rescue me anyway. The Tamans told me when you finally left their borders and moved on to find somewhere to restock. They believe that you will return.
Please donít. I mean it. It is far too dangerous. I beg you to leave me here.
I know that they have already killed some of the crew. They are not sure how many, but they know that they have destroyed three shuttles.
The thought of anyone dying trying to rescue me is unbearable. They say that they will destroy the ship next time and I believe them. I couldnít live with myself if that happened.
I know that you are a sensible crew. Please make the sensible decision and move on.
Keenan has said that he will deliver any messages that you might have, back to me. I would love to hear from you all, one last time, although I know I will never forget any of you.
I am hoping with all my heart that you will find some way back home within the next ten years.
Do not hesitate; take the chance if you can. If this does not happen however, then I will see you all again on this side of Taman space.
My love and thoughts are with you all, always. Get home - for me.
The room was quiet when Chakotay finished reading. He looked up to see Tuvok and Seven regarding him seriously, concern in their eyes. Harry and Neelix wiped the tears from their faces and looked back at Chakotay also. BíElanna was watching Tom as he studied his hands, turning his letter from Kathryn over and over again in them. Tom was the one who broke the silence. "We are going to go after her though, arenít we Chakotay?" he asked quietly.
Chakotay hesitated. "Iím not sure, Tom."
Harry cried out angrily. "What are you talking about? Of course weíll try and rescue her. We canít leave her there."
"We may have no alternative," Chakotay sighed. "The Tamans know exactly what weíre doing. We have no hope of surprising them. Quite frankly, I donít know of any way to rescue her, without sacrificing this ship and everyone on it."
"So we let the Captain sacrifice herself instead," Harry stated flatly.
"It is her wish," Tuvok answered quietly "I do not want to leave her behind either, but it is the logical decision."
Harry shook his head obstinately. "You wanted to leave her behind once before and we had to talk you out of it. That ended up being the right decision."
"That was luck Harry. You could have all been killed by the Vidiians and you know it," Chakotay pointed out. "You werenít with the Captain when she first heard youíd come back. She was worried sick that youíd put yourselves at risk. This situation is far more deadly. I truly believe that we will all be killed, and that certainly wonít do the Captain any good. That knowledge would kill her."
"What your saying is that we have to give up. Leave the Captain and continue on our way. Pick her up in ten years time, on the other side. Thatís if we even make it there. And thatís if the Captain is still alive after ten years."
Tom made a small choking sound at Harryís words and BíElanna who was still holding Tomís hand glared at Harry. "Knock it off Starfleet. Weíre all upset about this. None of us wants to leave her behind." She swallowed, tears in her eyes. "I wish there was another way, but we have to move on."
"All options have been considered," Tuvok said quietly. "We have no choice but to continue."
There were tears in Chakotay's eyes as he announced. "First thing in the morning weíll be leaving. On a course for the alpha quadrant. Tuvok, please ensure that all the crew have a chance to hear the Captainís message and prepare a message to her if they wish. Weíll give them to Keenan in the morning."
"Aye Sir," Tuvokís voice rang in the deadly quiet room.
There was silence as everyone tried to absorb the heartbreaking decision, until Tom suddenly stood up and asked shakily. "Iím sorry Chakotay, but can I be excused? I need to read this." He looked down at the letter still clutched tightly in his hand. "I need to know what it says." Before Chakotay could even answer, Tom was headed for the door.
"Of course Tom," Chakotay said as the door slid shut.
Tom ran all the way to his quarters, startling quite a few of the crew as he rushed past them. He had to get away. He needed to be alone. He needed to think. They were leaving. They were leaving Kath behind. Actually, technically speaking, she was ahead of them. He laughed hysterically at the thought.
He was crazy. Crazy with grief. Heíd been crazy with grief before. After the accident, where heíd killed three of the most important people in the world to him. Now he was doing it again. Kathryn was as good as dead, and this was his fault too.
His hands clutched the letter he was still holding, and he sobered immediately. The letter. Kathís letter to him. Her farewell letter. He was too scared to open it, and then all of a sudden he was desperate to open it. He opened it almost reverently and then sat on the sofa, looking at it, his eyes blurring. Wiping them with the back of his hand he tried to read. He found that his hands were shaking so badly that he couldnít hold the paper still. Taking a deep breath to calm down he tried again.
My dearest Tom,
Well, Iíve done it this time havenít I? I promised you that I would be back, and Iím so, so sorry my darling that I canít do that.
I look back at the day I left Voyager and hate myself for the way I acted. For what I said to you. For letting you believe that I was taking this chance for your sake.
I would say anything to get what I want. Please forgive me.
My own pigheadedness got me in this mess. The Tamans would have let me return safely, but I couldnít leave it alone.
I thought I could persuade two more of the leaders to change their vote. They seemed a little undecided at the conference.
I took a chance, completely forgetting I had promised the Tamans to return to Voyager immediately.
I meant what I said in my letter to you all. This place isnít so bad. Itís quite nice actually.
Please donít worry about me. Iíll be fine. Iím a survivor and I will survive.
I also meant what I said about not trying to rescue me. Itís very important. I know that you will still try anyway.
I couldnít bear it if anything happened to you. The Tamans would tell me Iím sure. The thought that you may reach home while Iím here is what keeps my spirits up. I pray that it will happen.
I sacrificed myself for all of you. Isnít that noble?
If anything happened to any of you, then my sacrifice would have been in vain. Donít do that to me Tom - please.
Iím telling Chakotay the same thing. Hopefully, he will listen.
Now for the hard part Tom. This is goodbye. Truly farewell.
I do not believe that we will meet in ten years time. That is such a long time and anything could happen. I want you to get on with your life. Donít wait for me.
I know that in some ways this will be harder for you than if I had died, and I hate myself for putting you through this. I know your tendency to let things gnaw at you. Your tendency to bottle things up.
Donít do that please. Grieve and get on with your life - for me.
I have asked Chakotay to keep an eye on you. He is a wonderful, kind man. Talk to him. Talk to Harry. And BíElanna.
I hope you have been eating properly. I think about you all the time, and worry too. I miss you so much. Every time I close my eyes I see your face. Your beautiful face smiling down at me, and that is what gets me through the lonely nights.
I love you so much Tom, I canít believe Iíll never see you again. We had some wonderful moments together. The moonlight walks and special times on the holodeck.
Whenever I think of you, I think of the fun we shared. You made me laugh, so much. I felt so happy whenever I was near you.
Every minute I was with you was special. You made me feel so special. Thank you for that Tom.
Thank you for all those precious moments. Not nearly enough, I know. Thank you for the love you showered upon me. I was truly blessed. No one has ever loved me the way you do.
I wish we could have had more time together, but that was not to be. I have our memories though and that is what will keep me going. Iíll never forget. Never.
You have some good friends on Voyager, who care a great deal about you. Turn to them.
Be happy again one day Tom - for me.
You will always be in my heart,
Tom found that he was gasping for breath by the time he had finished reading. The tears were streaming down his face as he curled up into a little ball, clutching the letter to his chest. Huge sobs shook his body as he cried uncontrollably. It was as if a key had suddenly unlocked his heart and he was finally able to shed tears over his loss.
And that was the way Harry found him hours later, still curled up in a little ball and still sobbing.
"Howís Tom?" BíElanna asked the next morning as she joined Harry for breakfast.
Harry shook his head. "Heís a mess. He cried all night. There was nothing I could do for him."
"Just being there, would have helped. Where is he now?"
"Still in his quarters. Heís writing a letter to the Captain. Keenan will be leaving soon."
BíElanna nodded. "I gave him mine on the way here. Did you write to her?"
"Of course. I thanked her for everything sheíd done for me and told her Iíd watch over Tom."
BíElanna gave a small laugh. "So did I."
Harry frowned. "I hope Tom will be all right now. He needed to grieve. To say goodbye to her."
"Youíre right, but it will take time Harry. Donít expect too much, too soon. The Captainís only been gone for eight weeks. Heís only just said goodbye to her."
"Nothing will ever be the same again, will it?" Harry said sadly.
"No," BíElanna agreed. "But we have to be there for Tom. He needs us."
Tom sat staring listlessly out at the stars as they streaked by the view port. He didnít really care how beautiful the nebula was that they had recently passed. He just knew that if he sat this way, with his back to the room, people generally left him alone.
Everyone was well meaning of course, but he just didnít have the energy for conversation. He knew that they genuinely cared about him, and he felt a little guilty sometimes that he couldnít respond the way they all wanted him to. Most of the time it just seemed to be too much effort.
He had lost count of the times heíd tried to sneak away on a shuttle, the first week after they had moved on, but Tuvok had caught him each time. Heíd finally given up. It had just seemed to be too hard. Too much energy involved. He still wasnít back at the conn and he wondered whether he ever would fly again. That thought didnít really bother him either.
The Doctor had pumped him full of all sorts of drugs - he couldnít be bothered finding out what they were - but nothing had helped very much. He just wanted to sleep. His friends had tried everything to cheer him up, and he felt really bad that they had failed. BíElanna had yelled at him on more than one occasion and tried to make him mad a few times too, but it hadnít worked. Getting mad would have taken too much effort.
All he did these days was sleep and drag himself to the mess hall and back to his quarters. They had cut off his replicator rations so that he had to come out of his quarters to eat. The only trouble was, he really didnít care if he did eat. So then Chakotay had ordered that he wasnít allowed to stay in his quarters for more than half of each day. He would have security drag him around the ship if necessary.
If he had had the energy, he would have been really mad at the acting Captain, and he suspected that maybe deep down he was. He wondered if he could make his way back to his quarters now. Surely heíd been out long enough.
A hand touched his shoulder lightly. "Hi Tom," Harry said sitting down across from him. "See anything interesting out there?" Tom merely shrugged, but continued to stare out at the stars.
"Have you had dinner yet?" Harry asked him.
Tom shrugged again. "I think so," he answered quietly.
"Oh? Whatíd you have?"
Tom took a while to answer. "Vegetable broth?"
"That was last night," Harry said in exasperation. "Neelix said you havenít eaten anything all day. Iíll get us some goulash, and Iím warning you, youíd better eat some of it."
"Iím not hungry Harry."
"So, what else is new?" Harry sounded angry and Tom slowly turned to look at him.
Harry looked awful, Tom thought guiltily. That was his fault too. Harry was worried about him. He was also missing the Captain. Normally, he would have been the first one to cheer Harry up. Heíd let Harry down - badly. He wasnít much of a friend; that was for sure. "Iím sorry Harry," he said quietly.
Harry sighed in frustration. "Donít be sorry, just eat something. God Tom, youíve got to snap out of this. The Captainís been gone for four months and you havenít slept or eaten properly in all that time. You look like the living dead. Do you think the Captain would want you to spend the next ten years like this? Because I donít. She loves you. Do you think sheíd want to see you like this?"
Tom shook his head. "You donít understand."
"Iím trying to Tom. Youíve got to stop feeling guilty and blaming yourself for something you had no control over. Youíre wasting away, right in front of me. Every oneís worried sick about you."
"Iím sorry," Tom apologized again.
Harry sighed again and changed the subject. "Howíd counseling go? Did you talk to Tuvok?"
Tom shook his head. "Not really. I canít talk to him. Not about feelings and stuff. He doesnít understand."
"Thatís not true. He understands about emotions. He just doesnít show them, thatís all. You have to have counseling, the Doctorís insisting, and since he doesnít believe that his program is up to it, that only leaves Tuvok or Chakotay. I know who Iíd pick."
"Thatís because you get on better with Chakotay. I get on better with Tuvok."
"Tom, itís not a matter of who you get on with better, itís a matter of who can help you the most."
"I donít want to talk to Chakotay," Tom said stubbornly.
"Well, is talking to Tuvok going to help?" Harry asked impatiently.
Tom shrugged once again. "Counseling is a waste of time. I already knew that."
"At least give it a try."
"Whatís the point? It wonít bring Kath back. It wonít help get her out of prison."
"Youíre right - it wonít. But it might help you to be able to function better. Please try to snap out of this depression youíre in Tom. If not for your own sake then for mine - and all the other people that care about you on this ship."
"Iíll try Harry."
Tom watched as Harry walked over to get them some dinner. He wished he could snap out of it. He would just have to try harder. Push the guilt and sorrow down and get on with his life, as unappealing as that now was. He didnít think that the pain would ever lessen.
"Tom, sit down. Itís time we had a talk." Chakotay paced back and forth behind his desk. Tom sat quietly looking around the room. "You need counseling Tom. Iím more than happy to oblige, but I know that youíve never been completely comfortable with me. Thatís why you picked Tuvok. But you wonít talk to him either, he tells me."
He stopped as he noticed that Tomís attention seemed to be on the tribal shield that heíd hung behind the Captainís desk. Tom was looking at it as if heíd never seen it before. But Chakotay knew that he had - more than once.
"Tom?" Tomís gaze swung back to him so he continued. "We need you back at the helm. Weíll be in a dangerous area of space soon, Sevenís picked up all sorts of anomalies, and we need our best pilot at the helm."
"I understand," Tom said quietly. "Iíll do my best." His eyes drifted back up to the shield again and Chakotay looked around at it in surprise. No, there was nothing different about it. It was still the same. He looked back at Tom again, who was now staring at the opposite wall.
Chakotay walked around to the other side of the desk and perched up on it so that he could lean in towards Tom. "Tom?" he asked again. "Look at me, please." As Tomís eyes met his, he felt surprised. There was something hiding in their depths, something so deep that Chakotay wasnít sure what he was looking at. "Will you talk to Tuvok? Open up a little?"
Chakotay could easily see the bitterness in Tomís eyes now. "Thereís no point." The voice was flat - emotionless.
"What exactly do you mean by that? Thereís no point in talking to Tuvok, or thereís no point in the counseling?"
"Both. It wonít help." Tom sat forward in his seat and his gaze drifted around the room once again.
"Tom," Chakotay said firmly and then found he had to repeat himself to get the manís attention. "You donít know that."
"I do actually. Iíve had counseling before, you know. It didnít help. It was a waste of time. Just like my sessions with Tuvok are." Tomís voice was still emotionless. As if he didnít care one way or the other. His eyes told another story however.
Chakotay stared at him thoughtfully. He had read Tomís psychological file before, on more than one occasion. He knew all about the abortive counseling Tom had received after the accident at Caldik Prime, and then again in the penal settlement at Auckland. Tom had sabotaged every session. "Tom, counseling will only work if youíre willing to try. Willing to accept help."
Tom didnít answer, merely stared at the desk in front of him. "Are you willing to try with Tuvok?" Chakotay asked him.
"I never asked for help," Tom finally answered quietly. "This was all the Docís and your idea."
"And it is absolutely necessary," Chakotay confirmed.
Tom sighed listlessly. "I know youíre only insisting on this, to get me back at the helm. I donít need counseling to fly. Why donít we save a lot of---"?
"That is not the reason I want you to seek help," Chakotay interrupted him. "If we have to get by without your flying skills, we will. Itís for your own sake. Everyoneís worried about you. For the sake of the spirits - Iím worried about you. I know weíve had our problems in the past, but I consider you a friend. I care about you Tom. I hate seeing you like this."
Tom continued to stare at the desk in front of him, and Chakotay sighed in frustration. "If you wonít talk to Tuvok then I must insist that you see me instead. I know you wonít be comfortable with that, but you leave me no choice. Kathryn asked me to ensure that you were all right and I promised her I would."
Tomís leg began to bounce in agitation, and Chakotay was quick to notice. "I know that Kathryn asked you to talk to me, in the letter she wrote to you. She told me she did, in her letter to me." Tomís leg bounced even more and any trace of listlessness was gone from his face. He was pale and sweaty. Chakotay wondered if this was a good sign or not. Tom had dragged himself around the ship like a zombie the last two months, since heíd given up on rescuing Kathryn, not caring about anything. At least this was some sort of emotion.
"Kathryn was worried how youíd handle the separation," Chakotay continued softly. "It seems she was right to worry. Youíre fading away in front of us. Sheíd be devastated if she could see you now. This isnít what she wanted. She wanted you to get on with your life."
Both of Tomís legs were bouncing now and he couldnít seem to keep his hands still. "Shut up," he ground out.
Chakotay leaned across and put his hand on Tomís shoulder. "You know Iím right."
Tom flinched as if heíd been branded and jumped up out of his chair with such force that the chair tipped over backwards. "Donít touch me. If I have to talk to somebody then Iíll talk to Tuvok, not you." He swung around and headed for the door.
"Stop!" Chakotay ordered. "I didnít give you permission to leave."
Tom stood with his back to Chakotay, taking in huge gulps of air as if all of a sudden he was suffering from a lack of oxygen. "Permission to leave, Sir," he managed to gasp out.
"No," Chakotay answered softly. "Youíre mad at me arenít you? Why? Because I made the decision to continue our journey? Because I left Kathryn behind?"
Tom swung around to face him. "It was so easy for you," he accused angrily.
"Easy? You think that was easy? It was one of the hardest things Iíve ever had to do. Kathryn meant a great deal to me too, you know? I made the decision for all of us. It was the only thing I could do under the circumstances. If there had been another way I would have taken it."
"Well, you certainly moved in here quick enough. Really made yourself at home. Kath wouldnít recognize the place." Tom waved his arms around angrily.
Chakotay felt himself flinch. It had taken him weeks to make the agonizing decision to move into the Captainís ready room and quarters properly, instead of flitting between here and his first officers quarters. He had finally realized he wasnít being fair to Tuvok, who needed more room, now that he was first officer. Tom, who hadnít been in the ready room since heíd moved all of his things in, obviously resented it.
"Tom, I was running between here and my old office so many times a day, I was getting dizzy. Not to mention the time wasted. As much as we both hate the situation, Kathryn is not here. Iíll be the Captain for the next ten years, and youíll just have to get used to it."
"What if I canít?" Tom shouted. He took a few deep breaths and Chakotay could see that he was trying to get himself under control again. He decided that now wasnít the time to mention that Tomís attitude to him would also have to improve. Ensigns assigned to the conn just didnít speak to their commanding officers - their Captains - the way Tom spoke to him, a lot of the time. He sighed as he remembered some of the arguments the two of them had had in the past, Kathryn having to step in between them on more than one occasion.
Tom was almost at breaking point though, and the last thing he needed was a lecture on protocol at the moment. Besides, Chakotay wanted to keep his relationship with the crew the way it always had been - as much as possible anyway. They all felt - except for Tom, of course - that they could come and talk to him, about anything, and he wanted that to continue.
He sighed again as he wondered just what he was going to do about Tom. Things couldnít continue like this. At least heíd managed to get a reaction out of the man; that was more than anybody else had been able to do over the last few weeks.
"Weíll deal with it together Tom," he said, in answer to his shout. He walked over to him cautiously, as if he were a wild horse about to bolt. Tom was shaking now and Chakotay was worried that the man was about to collapse. He carefully took hold of Tomís arm. "Come and sit down, before you fall down," he said, leading Tom to the sofa and gently pushing him down.
Tom choked on a sob. "I canít do this anymore. It hurts too much."
Chakotay sat down on the sofa next to him. "Itís all right Tom. Let it out. Let go of some of the pain. Talk to me. Tell me what youíre feeling. Tell me everything."
"Yes you can. Iím not here to judge you. You can tell me anything." Chakotay got up and walked over to the replicator to get Tom a glass of water.
"I hate her. I wish the Tamans had killed her." Tomís voice was loud in the room. Chakotay swiveled around so quickly, that the water slopped over the sides of the glass he was holding. Tom buried his face in his hands.
Chakotay swallowed before walking over towards him and placing the glass on the table in front of the now sobbing pilot. Well, heíd wanted Tom to tell him what he was feeling. He hadnít expected this though. "I donít think you mean that," he said softly.
Tom looked up at him at that and wiped his eyes with the back of his hands. They were blazing with anger now. "Yes, I do. If she were dead, I could get on with my life. She told me to. She told me to be happy again. How can I do that, when all I can think of, is her in prison?"
"Tom, sheís assured us that the prison isnít that bad."
"Of course sheíd say that," Tom interrupted. "Whatís she supposed to say? ĎThis is hell. Get me out of here?í She wouldnít want to worry us."
Chakotay sat down next to him again. "Tom, Keenan told us what the prison was like. They donít mistreat the prisoners. Itís a farm and it sounded quite nice."
"Itís still a prison, Chakotay. No matter how nice the surroundings are; youíre still locked up. Your freedom and privacy are gone. You have to do what youíre told, when youíre told. You have no choices. I know what itís like. Auckland looks nice from the outside too. I was there for only a few months, and I thought I would go crazy. I canít imagine what ten years would do to you. And no matter where you are in the galaxy, prison inmates are all the same."
"You donít know that."
"Yes I do." Tom buried his face in his hands again. "Why didnít she listen? Why didnít she come straight back? She could have, you know? She had the chance. The Tamans would have let her. Instead she went chasing off to try and change their minds."
"She wasnít thinking clearly. She forgot she had to come straight back. All she could think about was shaving ten years off our journey."
"Of course. The great Kathryn Janeway," Tom said sarcastically, jumping up from the sofa and pacing the room. "Single handedly she was going to perform a miracle. Where does she get off, being so arrogant? Pig-headed? Stubborn? Ruthless? Iím so damn mad at her. I feel like something is going to explode inside of me."
"So, you donít really hate her. Youíre angry with her."
Tom stopped his pacing. "I donít know," he said in confusion.
"What happened in here, before she left? When she called you in here from the briefing room? You argued, didnít you?"
Tom nodded. "She was so mad at me. Iíd crossed the boundary. We promised ourselves we wouldnít let our personal relationship affect our professional one, and I did. I shouldnít have done that. I embarrassed her." He came back and sank down on the sofa again, tears running down his cheeks. "She intimated that if I couldnít handle her being the Captain then it would be all over between us."
"Iím sure she didnít mean that. It would have been a heat of the moment thing."
Tom shook his head. "We were going to talk about it when she got back. Chakotay, I feel so guilty." He was crying in earnest now and Chakotay pulled him against him.
"Itís all right. Let it out," he said rubbing Tomís back in an attempt to comfort him. "Itís perfectly normal to feel angry, the way you do. Itís a natural response. You mustnít feel guilty about it. Most people feel like this at some stage or another. Itís all part of the grieving process."
"You donít understand." Tomís voice was muffled and he sniffed loudly. "Sheís there because of me. She put herself at risk so that I could get home quicker."
"She did that for all of us. You shouldnít try to carry that load."
Tom shook his head and pulled away. "She told me she was risking herself for all of us, but especially for me. So that I could see my Dad again. She said I needed to, to let him see how much Iíd changed. I must have made her think that that was the most important thing in my life. I donít know how I did that, because it isnít. I feel so guilty about making her think that. I never meant to. I hardly ever mentioned my father to her."
Chakotay cursed under his breath. Spirits! No wonder Tom was such a mess. "It probably wasnít anything you did. Kathryn was very close to your father. She blames herself for so much. I think she feels she has to make amends."
"I know that. Donít you see? I canít live with the knowledge that she did this for me."
"Tom, she shouldnít have said that to you. I donít know what to tell you."
Tom pulled out the crumpled letter from Kathryn, that he always carried with him, from his pocket. "She says in here that she hates herself for saying it. That sheíd say anything to get her own way, but I know she meant it."
Chakotay sighed. "She probably did. She did it because she loves you. Because sheís filled with guilt over us being stuck out here. She made a foolish mistake and forgot her promise to the Tamans. She has to live with that now, just as we all do. She would hate to think that you blamed yourself like this. I truly believe that she would have done it anyway. Sheís so desperate to get us home."
Tom sipped his water as he listened to Chakotay. "Youíre probably right."
"I am right." Chakotay confirmed.
Tom looked over at him and tried to smile. "Thanks Chakotay. I feel a little better now. Talking seems to have helped a little."
"Iím glad Tom. Weíve made a start and thatís important."
Kathryn Janeway sighed wistfully as she looked up at the stars. She always came out here at night and tried to imagine what was happening on Voyager now. What was Tom doing now? Was he all right? Gods, she missed him. It was an ache deep inside her; that never went away. She missed them all. Every last crewmember. Thatís how she often fell asleep at night. Remembering every name, and putting a face with it. She found it was becoming harder and harder to do that these days.
She missed flying through space. She missed the excitement and adventure. The danger and beauty that was up there among the stars. And more than anything, she missed being Captain Janeway. Solving the problems and making the hard decisions that was all part of the captaincy. Here she did as she was told - immediately. No questions asked. Sheíd learnt the hard way. The guards left you alone if you blindly followed orders.
Once the Tamans had been sure that Voyager had moved away, her treatment had changed. She wasnít mistreated or anything, but she was now regarded as just one of the pack. You worked all day in the fields, as hard as you could and you werenít shipped off to one of the factories or even worse the mining camps.
Punishment here was swift and fast. There were only two forms. Denial of certain privileges for the minor infractions and Ďthe boxesí for the more serious. She had been locked up twice in Ďthe boxesí over the five months she had been here and vowed she wouldnít be again. ĎThe boxesí were no bigger than a dog kennel and resembled them as well. You were locked up in them for days at a time, with only a small window to see out of. They were so small that all you could do was kneel in them, or curl up in a little ball.
The first time she had been thrown in one she hadnít known what to expect. Panic settled in as her memories of being captured by the Cardassians, and being locked in a similar contraption, washed over her. She had been left in there for two days, for not finishing the row of seeds she was supposed to be planting. It was the third time she had been warned about being too slow.
The first time they had denied her the books she was reading to help pass the time, for a week. The second time she wasnít allowed any hot water for two weeks. That had been hard, as the water was like ice and she still had to stand under the shower for the full five minutes - morning and night.
By the time she had crawled out of the box at the end of the two days, the little bit of rebelliousness that had prompted her to work so slowly was gone. She didnít want to go through that again. She found herself in the box again only two weeks later though - for fighting. There were certain prisoners that you knew that you had to keep away from and she hadnít been fast enough.
Kathryn had known that sooner or later a confrontation would be necessary and she also knew that she couldnít back down. If they thought she were weak they would never leave her alone. She had taken on three at once - her Starfleet training coming in handy - and although they had eventually got the best of her, she had put up a good fight. The Taman guards had broken it up - finally - and thrown the four of them in Ďthe boxesí for three days.
When Kathryn finally emerged from the cramped little space she had made a solemn oath to herself that that was the last time. And so far sheíd managed to keep it. There had been a few other fights, ones that she couldnít avoid, but they had been one on one and sheíd won most of those. They had been conducted away from the guards as well so that her punishments had been loss of privileges instead of Ďthe boxesí.
"Janeway," a voice said behind her. "Youíd better get back in here. Itís lights out in five minutes." It was her cellmate Salem.
Kathryn tore her eyes away from the sky and followed her companion back inside. Her friend.
Salem would probably want her to tell her another story tonight, once the lights were out and they were supposed to be sleeping. It had become a nightly ritual. Kathryn didnít mind. She had so many stories to tell and Salem never seemed to tire of hearing them. She especially loved to hear her speak of Tom and tell of the things he had done. The things that they had done together.
It helped her to remember everything. It made her feel a little closer to them all when she spoke of them. If sometimes the memories would be too painful, especially when she thought of Tom, and she could only sob her heartbreak, Salem would comfort her.
End Part Two