No Regrets - Part 40|
Please see part 1 for disclaimer, codes, summary, etc.
I'm dreaming, delirious. There are voices around me, vaguely familiar, but I can't understand what they're saying. My head feels strange and there's a buzzing in my ears.
I feel the cold press of a hypospray against my neck and I can feel myself sinking down under again.
"He'll be fine," a voice says distinctly, and then I know no more.
I open my eyes to see Chakotay's face peering down at me anxiously. "Tom? How do you feel?"
"I... What happened?"
"You got hit by the door. It knocked you unconscious. They tell me you're fine."
He helps me sit up, and I look around our cell in disappointment. "We're still here. I thought... I was almost positive..."
"What is it?"
"How come they've left the light on?"
"It's a special favor until you're feeling better. I don't think they're as bad as we thought. They were very concerned about you, and raced you away immediately for medical treatment. They've even left us a reasonably decent breakfast. There's juice of some sort, and fruit, and some type of lumpy thing that actually tastes quite good."
I begin to eat hungrily as Chakotay goes on to say that he's quite confident he can talk our way out of this, now that he knows our captors can be so reasonable.
I hope he's right, but don't feel quite as confident as he does.
"You're very quiet. Is something wrong?"
"No, not really. I guess I just feel a little let down. I was so sure we'd been rescued when I first woke up."
"What made you think that?"
"Well, the fact I could see you for starters and... I'm not sure. Something about when I was getting treatment. It felt like I was in sickbay or something."
"What exactly did you see?"
"Nothing. It was just an impression. It's hard to describe, but I remember feeling safe for just a moment. I guess I must have been delirious."
"Perhaps you smelt something familiar, something that reminded you of our sickbay?"
"That must be it. I suppose all sickbays have the same type of smell. It's disappointing though."
"I know. Try not to think about it."
The door opens once more, but neither of us bother to stand up from the bunk. "Are you feeling all right?" one of them asks me.
"Yes, thank you," I say, surprised.
As soon as they collect our tray and leave, the blackness surrounds us once again.
I sigh in annoyance.
"Are you okay, Tom?" Chakotay asks worriedly. His hand clasps mine tightly.
"I'm fine," I say shortly, irritation overwhelming me. I pull my hand away from his and stand up abruptly. "I hate all this darkness and I hate being held captive, but I am *not* claustrophobic. And I really wish you'd stop treating me like I'm about to go crazy or something. I'm not about to start screaming, crying, or throwing myself about the cell."
"I can't help being concerned."
"I told you I'd conquered my phobia; why won't you believe me? I think that's what annoys me the most about you. Your complete inability to admit it when you've misjudged a situation."
"That's not true. I can admit to making a mistake." He sounds a little hurt, but my indignation propels me forward.
"Bull shit! Not from where I stand. Or is it just where I'm concerned? You're so sure I'm still claustrophobic, even though both the Captain and the Doc have told you I have it under control. And you were so sure I was in love with Harry. I told you I wasn't, but... oh... no... you were convinced you were right."
Okay, now I shouldn't have brought that up. I don't want to talk about any of that. Especially when I can't just walk away.
"I was wrong and I've admitted that to you many times. I think you're being a little unfair here, Tom." I can't believe how calm he sounds.
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Then why did you bring it up?"
"I have no idea. I was just using it as an example that you make up your mind about me and then stubbornly refuse to listen."
He doesn't say anything, and I sigh in frustration. Deciding that standing around in the dark is rather pointless, I go back to the bunk and sit down next to him again.
I'm wracked with guilt over Tom's accusation. What he said was true. I *do* make up my mind and then stubbornly refuse to consider I may be wrong. I'd refused to listen to the Captain and the Doctor concerning Tom's claustrophobia. Just like I'd refused to believe Tom that night when he'd told me he wasn't in love with Harry. I'd refused to believe that he could actually be in love with me.
Why? When had I become so inflexible? Have I always been this way, or this a recent behavioral trend since being stranded in the delta quadrant?
I try to remember back to the days in the Maquis, and... yes, I must admit, I was rather obstinate then. So, is the war with the Cardassians the cause of this rather unattractive personality trait?
Unfortunately, as much as I'd like to, I can't blame the Cardassians. I can remember, quite distinctly, being told on more than one occasion during my Starfleet career, that my sheer bloody-mindedness would be my downfall.
And then there was my father. He often referred to my mulishness in a light, teasing manner, although I'm sure my uncompromising attitude caused him much heartache.
My attitude has definitely hurt Tom, and he's the last person I wanted to hurt. And here I am still doing it.
I'm surprised to feel his hand snaking into mine, and then his fingers squeezing gently. "Chakotay, I don't want to argue with you. I just want you to listen to me."
"I don't want to argue either, Tom," I say sadly. "You were right. I do refuse to listen once I've decided something. I'm sorry for not listening to you. So, the close confines of our cell aren't bothering you?"
"No more than they are you."
"Well, to be truthful, they're bothering me a little, and the darkness is bothering me a lot."
"Me, too," he whispers.
"Let's take our mind off it," I suggest. "Have I ever told you about the time my father took me on one of his expeditions? I'd made up my mind, before we'd even left home, that I'd hate every minute of it, so I naturally did. Instead of seeing the beauty around me and appreciating it, I focused on the heat and the insects and sulked the whole trip."
I tell him all about it and he chuckles warmly. "So you were rather mule-headed even back then," he says.
"I'm afraid my stubbornness can be traced right back to my birth, now that I think about it," I admit.
I find myself telling him of my childhood, my mother and father, brothers and sisters, and my complete refusal to embrace our culture and beliefs. I tell Tom of my impatience to leave what was, to my way of thinking, a backward existence.
We discuss my people and my ancestry for some time. I'm surprised just how comfortable and relaxed I feel confiding in him. I can't remember ever talking to anyone in this manner. I've always felt slightly constrained, always kept a little of myself back.
Tom understands my feelings of guilt and regret over the pain my attitude caused my father. He tells me he has the same regrets regarding his own father.
"I hate the fact that I don't seem to have learnt anything," I say, full of remorse. "I can still be as stubborn as I was back then. From now on I'm going to try and be a little more willing to reassess my ideas."
"Really?" Tom says, sounding more than a little disbelieving. "So in the future, when you're absolutely certain you're right about something, you'll be open to the possibility that you may be wrong?"
"I certainly hope so. Am I really that bad?"
"Only where I'm concerned, it seems."
"I don't mean to be that way, Tom."
"I realize that. So, if and when we get back to Voyager, what are you going to do about the situation with Harry?"
"Harry?" I'm stunned at the question.
"Yeah. Do you think you could back off him a little?"
"You make it sound like I'm all over him," I say, feeling slightly resentful. What the hell are we doing discussing Harry? I thought we were about to discuss the two of us. Harry - the weasel - Kim is the last person I feel like discussing.
"You've been a little rough on him," Tom rebukes mildly, but it's enough for my resentment to boil over. Why the hell does he feel it's necessary to speak on behalf of Harry? After everything the little bastard did too.
"I've been no rougher than he deserves," I answer angrily. "He took advantage of you and has manipulated you from the very first day."
Tom pulls his hand from my grasp. "That's between him and me. It has nothing to do with you, and you have no business giving him a hard time because of it."
"Of course it has to do with me," I say loudly. "I'm the first officer, and it's my duty to ensure that everyone on board behaves in a responsible manner. Harry didn't do that."
"That is so much shit!" Tom yells. "Is that your justification for picking on Harry? Because, if so, it's absolutely damn ridiculous."
My voice rises to match his. "He had sex with you, Tom. You went to him, upset and confused, searching for comfort, and he damn well screwed you instead."
"He did not screw me!" Tom practically screams. "He sucked me off, if it's any of your business, and I..."
"Don't," I say hoarsely, jumping from the bunk in my agitation and staggering over to the opposite wall. "I don't want to hear it. I don't want to know about it."
"Damn you. You're doing it again. You've made up your mind things happened a certain way and you won't listen to the truth. I took advantage of Harry. Don't you understand? I knew how he felt about me and I used that.
"I admit, I went to him hurt and confused, telling myself that he would never reject me; hurt me the way you did. But I'm the one who approached him. I'm the one who kissed him. I'm the one who asked him to make love to me. So, it's a little unfair that you've put all the blame on him."
"He knew how confused you were," I stubbornly argue, taking a deep breath to steady my breathing. How the hell did we get onto this subject anyway? We'd been so happy only moments ago. Sitting so companionably, discussing my childhood. I'd shared some of my fondest memories, telling him things I've never told anybody.
It had felt so good and now... My jealousy concerning Harry has ruined it all. I know Tom's right. I've made up my mind once again, and am refusing to listen, but... I can't help myself. Why am I being like this? What's the matter with me?
I can't stand the thought of Tom being with Harry. That's what's wrong. Spirits help me. I have no right to feel that way. No right at all.
There's a sudden bang on the door and Tom calls out brokenly, "Let me out of here." He starts banging in earnest.
I make my way towards the noise, and grabbing him by the shoulders, spin him around. "That won't do any good."
"Leave me alone," he growls, forcing my hands away.
I reach out and grab him once more, pulling him against me. "I'm sorry," I say softly. "I'm jealous. I'm jealous of Harry. I know I have no right to be."
I wait, holding my breath, to see what Tom will say or do. He doesn't say or do anything. Just stands there in my arms, apparently waiting for me to continue.
"I'll try to be nicer to him in future, I promise." I try to force a note of cheerfulness into my tone. I want that comfortable companionship we shared before to return. "I suppose I haven't made a very good start to my new resolution of reassessing my ideas. I'm sorry. You're right. What happened is between you and Harry, and I've got some nerve thinking it's any of my business."
"No, I shouldn't have said that. I was supposed to be in love with you and yet I slept with Harry. That does make it your business."
"Not really. It's not as if we were together or anything. I have no business treating Harry the way I have been."
Tom said 'was'. In fact, he said 'was supposed to be'. Does that mean he no longer is, or that he never really was?
No, I know he was. I know that for absolute certainty. But is he now? I know it doesn't really matter, because Tom has made it clear that he won't do anything about it anyway, but I need to know.
Cupping his face in my hands, I lean forward and find his lips in the dark. He doesn't resist, kissing me in return with so much intensity, passion, and love, that it leaves me breathless.
My heart swells with happiness as he wraps his arms around me and kisses me again with complete abandon. We pull away, both of us panting a little, and I find myself wondering why he's so determined not to pursue a relationship if he feels that way about me.
"What you said before, about being jealous of Harry. You know there's no reason to be, don't you?" he whispers, pulling me tightly against him. "Harry is the closest friend I've ever had. I know he manipulated me, but he also stood up for me when no one else would. He's always been there for me. He would have died for me in that damn Akritirian prison, and well... you had to be there to understand the situation we were in.
"That's all I can remember you know. I was dying, and they were all circling around me like vultures, and Harry's voice came to me. 'This man is my friend. No one touches him.' I'll never forget that, Chakotay. Not ever. Harry's my friend. He'll always be my friend. Can you understand that?"
"Yes, I think I can. I'm sorry. My feelings for you make me act a little crazy at times." Maybe things are going to be all right between us after all.
"Oh?" Tom whispers seductively into my ear. "What feelings are those, exactly?"
"Very deep feelings," I respond, nuzzling at his neck. He gives a small moan, but then stiffens and pulls away from me a little.
"What type of feelings are you talking about, Chakotay?"
"What? You know how I feel."
"You know how attracted I am to you, how much I care about you." I'm surprised when he lets go of me and moves away quickly. "Tom?"
There's no answer and I step back to the bunk, groping around, trying to find him. He's not there.
Fumbling my way around, I almost trip over him, huddled in a corner of the cell, his knees drawn up to his chest.
"Don't touch me," he says stiffly.
"What is it? What's wrong? Is it something I said?"
"You didn't say anything," he replies bitterly.
I don't understand. "Then, is it something I did?"
"Just get away from me."
"Spirits, and you say *I'm* stubborn. Will you talk to me? Tell me what the hell is going on? I've obviously done *something*, and I'd like to know what it is."
"If you don't know, then I'm not about to tell you."
"Oh for... Is this the way you handle everything? By sulking and acting like a child? If that's the case, it's no wonder you never work anything out."
"Go to hell!"
"I think I'm already there," I retort angrily, standing up and going back to the bunk. "If that's the way you want to behave, then I'll leave you to it."
I sit down furiously. I've just told the little shit how much I care for him and he reacts like that. After the way he kissed me, I thought... Well, obviously, I was wrong. See, I'm getting better already, Tom. I *can* admit to misjudging a situation. I just did.
We stay like that for some time; Tom in his corner, me on the bunk, until my conscience starts to prick at me. It can't be too comfortable for Tom over there.
"Tom, you *can* sit back here, you know."
I can hear him shifting around, but he doesn't answer.
"Fine," I snap. "Don't say I didn't offer."
There's nothing but silence.
"You know, you're far more pig-headed and stubborn than I could ever be," I accuse, a few moments later.
He still doesn't answer.
"Fine, if that's the way you want it." My anger is growing steadily.
I try to think about something else, anything but the silent man sitting in the corner of the cell.
"You're acting like a child," I snarl eventually. To my fury, he remains quiet.
The silence stretches. "Get back on this bunk, Ensign. That's an order."
"Tom, I'm warning you."
I wait, straining my ears for any sign of movement. There's nothing.
"That's it," I cry, provoked beyond all reason. I jump up from the bunk and reach out and hurl him to his feet. He gives a startled gasp and then hits out at my hands.
Pushing him onto the bunk, I throw myself down next to him, pinning him back against the wall. "You'll sit on this bunk, is that clear? Answer me, damn it!"
I can't believe that Tom's managed to psyche me out like this. And all it took was a little bit of silence in the darkness.
"Yes, Sir," he hisses finally. I let go abruptly, my hands a little shaky.
"That was rather childish, Tom. You know that, don't you?"
I sigh. "Tom, I just don't understand what happens between us. One minute everything's great and the next, all hell seems to break loose."
"I guess that's the way it's meant to be with us," he says sadly.
"Will you please tell me what I did to upset you before?"
He sighs. "You didn't do anything. I just didn't want to take things further."
"Then why didn't you say that?"
"Because I'm immature and childish and love to sulk."
"Tom... starting something here probably isn't a good idea, but..."
"No. Starting something anywhere isn't a good idea. Getting involved would be a big mistake."
"I know there's something you're not telling me."
He doesn't answer and then the door swings open and our captors are standing before us.
No Regrets - Part 41
Please see part 1 for disclaimer, codes, summary, etc.
"About time," I say, pushing myself off the bunk. I'm rather glad of the interruption actually.
"Come with us."
We start to walk out of the cell, but their spokesperson steps in front of me. "Not you. Just him."
Chakotay is pulled roughly out of the door.
"Where are you taking him? What are you going to do?"
"We have been perfecting the serum. It should work now."
"And what if it doesn't?"
"Then, perhaps he will die."
"There's no need for this," I hear Chakotay saying from outside in the corridor. "I'm sure we can discuss this reasonably and come up with a solution that will be mutually beneficial."
"There is no need for discussion. We will give you the serum and you will tell us the truth or you will die. It's very simple."
The door closes in front of me and the light is immediately extinguished. I can't hear anything else.
Oh gods, please don't let the serum kill Chakotay. Let him be all right.
Why did I act so stupidly to him before? Why didn't I talk to him? Tell him what was wrong? When he told me how much he was attracted to me, how much he cared about me, why didn't I tell him that I feel a lot more than that for him? Why didn't I tell him how much I love him and that I need to know if he feels that way about me?
I wanted him to say it first, that's why. I didn't want to put that sort of power in his hands until I knew he was willing to admit it too. Only he won't. Damn him!
He's admitted to being jealous of Harry and told me he has deep feelings for me. That should be enough. Why isn't it enough? It shouldn't be necessary for him to have to say the words; I know how he feels about me. I'm not a mushy kind of a guy and neither is he.
So what's the problem? Is it because I've never been in a relationship with a man before and I'm not sure how it would work between us? Would things be equal? My previous thoughts of just how one-sided it could be between us come back in full force.
And Chakotay's right. Things *do* get out of hand between us very quickly. One minute everything's great and the next, all hell *does* break loose. I really want things to be easy, and I can't see that happening with Chakotay.
Now it may be too late anyway. The serum may kill him and I'll always regret not taking my chances with him.
No, I won't think like that. Chakotay will be fine. He'll come back and he'll be fine. I won't believe anything else. I curl up on the bunk, resisting the urge to give in to my fears, and close my eyes and wait.
Something makes me sit up and open them again. To my surprise, there's a very dim light glowing. Not enough to truly see by, but it's there, providing some form of comfort for me. That's strange. Very strange.
Chakotay said these people didn't appear to be as bad as they first seemed and it looks like he may be right. "Thank you," I call out softly. Of course, that means that the cell's monitored, or our life signs are or something. They seemed to know I was distressed.
I can't worry about that now. If they *have* been listening to us or watching us, we haven't been talking about anything they'd be interested in anyway.
My eyes scan the cell, looking for a monitoring device, but the light really is too dim to see anything. I climb back off the bunk and begin to search around in earnest. I don't even know what I'm looking for exactly, but it's better than lying around worrying about Chakotay.
The other times the light's been on, although brighter than this, I'd been too busy eating to notice much except the obvious. As soon as my search becomes a little more detailed the light goes out and I curse loudly.
"If I promise to behave and stay on the bunk, will you turn it back on?" I call out. There's no answer, not that I'd expected one, and with a sigh I give up and lie on the bunk once more.
It's a long time before Chakotay's brought back to me. It's hard to tell how much time is going by, but my instincts tell me it's been hours.
They dump him on the bunk and then put a tray of food on the floor next to him and turn to leave.
"How much longer is this going to continue? Did you get what you want?" I ask bitterly.
"Not yet. But soon."
"Is he all right?"
"Damn you! What do you want from us?"
They leave without answering, thankfully leaving the light on.
Chakotay groans softly and I kneel beside him. "How are you feeling?"
He opens his eyes and looks up at me. "Sleepy, actually."
"I don't remember." I help him sit up. "The last thing I remember is standing outside the cell door, telling our hosts that we could work things out. One of them pressed a hypospray against my neck and the next thing I knew, I was waking up here."
I hand him a dish from the tray, and taking the other for myself perch on the bunk next to him. It's leola root again, but I'm too hungry to be fussy.
"I think I should tell you," I say between spoonfuls. "This cell is being monitored."
"Are you sure?"
"Almost one hundred percent. A couple of interesting things happened while you were gone."
"They put a light on for me and then turned it off when I became a little too nosy."
"They put a light on for you? Did you ask them to?"
"No, that's the thing. I was..." I hesitate. Do I really want to admit to Chakotay that I was upset? He'll want to know why and...
"What, Tom? What were you?"
"I was a little upset, okay?"
"It was no big deal," I say hastily.
"You didn't like being left alone in here, did you?"
"No, that wasn't it."
"How upset did you become, Tom?"
"I wasn't hysterical or anything," I say angrily. "I wasn't crying or screaming, I was just... a little upset, that's all."
"Oh, Tom." He squeezes my arm, his face creased in concern.
I grit my teeth in annoyance. He thinks I'm talking about my claustrophobia. I thought we'd sorted this all out. I knew it wouldn't be that simple. He's so pigheaded, I shouldn't be surprised. I'm sick of arguing about it. Let him think what he likes. And why do we argue so much, anyway? Why do I get so stirred up?
If it was Harry insisting on thinking I was still claustrophobic, I'd probably laugh about it. I'd even be touched by his concern. Why can't I feel like that with Chakotay? Why can't I just accept it as a sign that he cares for me?
He's trying to protect me, I know, and in some ways the idea is appealing, but I absolutely hate his stubborn refusal to listen to me. He's determined that he's right. I don't think he'll ever change.
"Tom?" he queries, interrupting my musings.
"What? Sorry, what was I saying?"
"You were telling me that they put the light on for you."
"Oh, that's right. It was only a very dull glow, but I'm sure they meant it to be comforting. As soon as I was feeling a little better, I decided to take advantage of it and I started investigating the cell. That's when they turned it back off again. I don't know if they could see what I was doing or not, but it seems a little suspicious."
"You may be right, but I don't understand why they hit you in the head with the door if they can see us or hear us. Why didn't they know where you were?"
"I hadn't thought of that."
"Were you able to discover anything during your search?"
"Didn't get much time, and the light was a lot duller than it is now. I can't really see that there *is* anything to discover. It's just that I can't help wondering why they insist on keeping us in the dark most of the time. It's almost as if there's some reason they don't want us to be able to see."
"I think they're trying to keep us off guard. The constant darkness is definitely affecting us."
"I guess so," I say vaguely, my eyes scanning the room carefully. Sure enough, the light goes out immediately. "We haven't finished eating yet," I yell.
"I think that proves it. It seems our discussion has them worried."
"Hmmn!" I grunt thoughtfully. "It took them long enough to turn off the light, if that's what it was. They turned the light out as soon as I made it obvious I was checking out the cell."
Our tray isn't collected after we finish eating, even though I call out that they can take it away now. Yep, we definitely have our captors worried.
I don't like the thought of somebody listening to everything we've said and done in here. Although we haven't done anything too compromising, some of our conflicts have been a little personal. It's embarrassing to think that somebody heard them all.
I shake the feeling away. I have more important things to worry about. I'm starting to wonder if these people intend keeping us like this indefinitely. Perhaps we're an experiment of some kind.
I try to calculate how long we've been held captive, but it's impossible to gauge. Less than two days I would think, so it will be some time before Kathryn and the crew realize we're in trouble. And when they do, will they be able to find us and mount a rescue?
I have serious doubts of that happening. From the time we were captured, we've been moving. I'm a pilot, and although I don't have the feel for the helm that Tom has, I know when I'm on a moving ship. And this one is moving.
Tom is convinced that it's a sleek, smooth ship and it's moving rapidly. I trust his judgment. This means that we would have covered a huge distance before Voyager even starts looking for us.
If Tom and I have any hope of escape, I think we're going to have to do it ourselves. I just wish I knew how.
Tom is obviously having trouble coping in here. He's managed to stay in control of his claustrophobia so far, but how much longer can he continue to do so? I'm worried it's all going to get too much for him.
If he panics, will our captors use that against him? Will they try to exploit his phobia? I have to keep an eye on him; try to keep him calm.
I suddenly realize that we've both been quiet for a long time. That may make Tom nervous. He needs to hear my voice. He needs something to focus on.
"Tom?" I whisper. "Is everything all right?"
I hear him sigh. "Why wouldn't it be?"
"I was just making sure."
"Well, I wish you'd stop it. I'm fine. I'm not about to freak." He sounds agitated.
"Just stay calm..."
"You don't sound it."
"Well... I am."
"You're shouting, Tom. That's not the way a calm person speaks."
"How the hell can I stay calm with you constantly at me like this?"
"I'm concerned, that's all."
"I am not going to panic."
"If you stopped shouting, I may be a little more inclined to believe you."
"That's it!" he yells, throwing himself against me. I fall sideways on the bunk and he lands on top of me, shaking me furiously. "How many times... do I have to say... that I'm not damn well... claustrophobic in here, you... thickheaded... bullheaded... lunkheaded, ox? I have it... under control. Why won't you listen to me?"
His voice cracks a little and I realize just how much my stubborn refusal to believe him is hurting.
"I'm sorry," I try to say, as he continues to shake me. He stops abruptly and I can feel his hot breath on my face. "I'm sorry, Tom."
"I just wish you'd believe me about the claustrophobia," he says softly, his voice wobbling a little. "I'm so tired of telling you that I'm not going to panic."
I don't know what to think. Tom certainly sounds convincing. He obviously believes he has it under control, and if he didn't, wouldn't he have panicked by now? I may be undermining everything he's managed to achieve by insisting to believe he'll eventually panic.
"I've been a fool," I say quietly. "I was worried about you, but that doesn't excuse the way I've behaved."
"That's right, it doesn't," he says gruffly.
Without another thought, I reach up and pull his head down to mine, fumbling and then finding his lips in the dark. I kiss him soundly, putting everything I feel into the kiss.
He seems startled at first, his lips slack against mine, but then responds eagerly, running his hands through my hair. As the kiss deepens, he suddenly stiffens and pushes himself away.
"Chakotay, that's not a good idea. You seem to be the one who has a problem with control."
"I apologize. You're right, that wasn't a good idea, especially considering we're being monitored."
"Monitored or not, it still wasn't a good idea."
"I'm not going to regret it."
He remains silent and I reach out to touch his arm. "Tom, you can't keep denying you have feelings for me."
"I'm not denying it, Chakotay. I've never denied it," he says quietly.
"But you don't want to act on those feelings."
"I don't understand."
He refuses to explain his reasoning and I finally drop the subject when I realize I'm upsetting him even more. If... no... *when* we get back to Voyager I intend to discover exactly what is stopping Tom from giving in to his feelings, exactly what it is he's afraid of.
We sit quietly. I don't want to provoke Tom by letting him know that I'm still worried about him. I can't help myself, despite the fact it appears Tom really *has* conquered his phobia. Whether he has or not, he needs me to remain controlled and stable. I can't let him get to me the way he always does.
"I'm so sorry, Tom," I say at last. "Perhaps, since the Doctor's been so successful with you, I should seek his help too? When we get back to Voyager he may be able to regress me back to discover why I'm such a... what did you call me? A thickheaded, bullheaded, lunkheaded, ox?"
"I thought you were born that way," he answers with a sniff.
I sigh. "That's right. I forgot."
He says nothing to that.
He remains silent and I sigh again. Perhaps there's more than one thickheaded ox in here?
I decide to keep my observation to myself.
No Regrets - Part 42
Please see part 1 for disclaimer, codes, summary, etc.
The silence continues and I can feel myself becoming drowsy. I wonder if I should suggest lying down. I'm not sure how Tom would react to that. Perhaps I should just lean against the wall and give in to the overwhelming urge to close my eyes.
I would like to lay with Tom, but considering his feelings at the moment, I doubt he'll want to do that. I shouldn't have kissed him, of course. He's right about that. Knowing he has feelings for me but refuses to do anything about them is just too damn frustrating.
He's worried I'll hurt him again and who can blame him? Assurances can only go so far and I haven't exactly acted the way I should have. Even now, I'm still not listening to him, my desire to protect him overriding my good sense.
Why do I feel this overwhelming need to take care of him? It's out of all proportion when you consider the type of man Tom is. He's emotional, yes, but he's also tough, resilient and strong. He doesn't need me to protect him.
"I don't think the Doc could help you anyway," Tom says suddenly, making me jump. "I mean, if you're born a certain way, then what hope is there?"
"What?" I struggle back to awareness.
"I said the Doc can't help you."
"Oh!" I'm confused and know I sound it as I try to follow Tom's meaning.
"Maybe he can give you a personality transplant or something."
"You're not exactly perfect yourself, you know," I say, before I can stop myself. He's just trying to annoy me and I wasn't going to let him do that anymore.
"That's for sure. And to make things even worse, I have panic attacks," he says bitterly.
"Tom, if you say you're not going to have an attack, I believe you. It may have taken a little longer for the message to get through my thick head than it should have, but it finally has. I'm sorrier than I can say for not listening to you before."
"So am I," he says, traces of anger still in his voice.
"I wish I could explain to you why I've been acting this way, but I can't. I don't understand it myself."
Tom sighs, and I can hear him shifting around a little, but doesn't say anything. He's quiet for some time and then finally says softly, "Just so long as you believe me now."
"I do," I say quickly. "I'm glad that the Doctor's treatment was successful and things worked out for you."
"Yeah... well... so am I. I really *am* over it, you know."
"I believe you. I really do." I find I'm curious about it all, but wonder if Tom feels like talking about it. "I suppose the treatment was as traumatic as the actual ordeal," I say carefully.
"No, it wasn't that bad actually. I had to relive the whole stupid thing, but I felt more like an observer really."
"I'm still sorry you had to go through that."
"No, it's okay," he hesitates before continuing. "I can't believe something so... silly, could have such an impact on me."
"Oh?" I wait hopefully, wanting him to continue but not wanting to push him into revealing something he may be uncomfortable about having me know.
He clears his throat. "At least it's all been put in its proper perspective now. It was all blown completely out of proportion."
"I'm happy to hear that. Are you okay talking about this, Tom? Can you tell me what happened, or would you rather not?"
"I haven't actually told anybody about it," he says slowly. "Except the Doc, of course. It's so..."
I wait for him to continue, but when he doesn't I ask, "Would you rather not have discovered the cause of your claustrophobia?"
"No, I'm glad I did. I was worried it was something so traumatic I wouldn't be able to handle it. Knowing that it wasn't is a tremendous relief. I guess the problem is, I feel embarrassed about the whole thing."
"I see. If you'd prefer to keep it to yourself, I fully understand."
"I... I don't know. No, I think I'd like to tell you. You've told me things about your childhood. It's only fair."
"No, Tom. I don't want you to feel you're obliged to tell me. I enjoyed talking to you about my family. More than I can say. I haven't opened up to anybody like that before."
"That means a lot to me, Chakotay, but I want you to know that I enjoyed listening to you. More than *I* can say. And I *don't* feel obligated. I want to tell you. I really do. I know you won't tease me unmercifully the way I suspect B'Elanna would. She's been desperate to know, and every now and then comes up with another theory. I almost told her the last time."
I'm ridiculously pleased that he trusts me this way, and incredibly relieved that we're able to talk like this again. "You have my word I won't," I say solemnly.
He takes a deep breath. "It happened a long time ago, when I was just a kid." He pauses and I reach across and find his hand, squeezing it in encouragement. He squeezes back.
"I know you're going to find this difficult to believe, Chakotay, but when I was little, I was a great favorite with adults. I was bright, eager, adventurous, and knew how to do as I was told."
I can't help my snort of laughter. "You?"
He laughs too. "Yeah. Hard to imagine, I know. Things changed as I grew older."
"I can imagine you as a small boy," I say softly. "I'll bet you were damn cute too."
He's quiet for a few moments and I hope I haven't spoilt the mood. I'm relieved when he chuckles. "They all seemed to think so," he says smartly. "Unfortunately, it was my so-called cuteness that got me into trouble. I was picked for the starring role in the end of year production at Kindergarten."
"Now, there's an honor."
"Yeah, well, I didn't want the honor. We were doing a play about a caterpillar and I was supposed to be the caterpillar. All it really meant was that I had to wriggle around the stage for a while, and then lie quietly in my cocoon until it was time to emerge as the beautiful butterfly."
I choke a little and he cuffs my arm with his free hand. "I'll have you know I made a stunning butterfly. At dress rehearsals anyway."
"I'm sure you did," I say, trying not to laugh. "So what was the problem?"
"As I said, I didn't want to be the caterpillar. I wanted to be one of the birds. Those kids got to pretend to soar through the air and swoop down on me. As far as I was concerned those three kids had the best parts in the whole play. All I was interested in was flying."
"Butterflies fly too."
"That's what my Mom said. But it wasn't the same. I didn't get to fly. I was just supposed to step out of my cocoon and flap my butterfly wings a couple of times and then totter happily off stage."
"So, what did you do? Stage 'Mutiny of the Butterfly'?"
"No. My teacher had her heart set on me being the butterfly and so did Mom. Dad gave me a big lecture on duty and honor and other stuff that went straight over my head, and then told me I had to be the butterfly and that was the end of it. I had a solemn duty to perform, and I'd be letting he and everyone else down if I didn't do it. So, I did, but I wasn't happy about it.
"I was supposed to crawl into the cocoon and lay there quietly for a few seconds before letting myself out the back of it and crawling unobtrusively off stage to put on my butterfly wings. I had to then crawl back on stage and into the cocoon, making sure the audience didn't see me. And... Hey Presto! A caterpillar goes in... a butterfly comes out.
"The problem was, I sulked all the way through rehearsals and didn't listen to the instructions on how to open the cocoon. There was a little catch at the back I had to flick up. It was the simplest thing in the world, but I didn't know it was there, and due to some last minute glitches I didn't have to crawl into the cocoon to test it out until the night of the performance."
"Oh, no," I interrupt.
"Yeah, you guessed it. Well, the first half went off without a hitch. I wriggled around the stage the way a caterpillar does, being attacked by all manner of creatures, while the teacher narrated the story. The audience were all oohing and aahing and laughing and saying how cute I was. Being a bit of an exhibitionist I was enjoying it all immensely.
"I even sashayed around the stage a few times more than I was supposed to and the teacher had to remind me to get in the cocoon. The audience thought it was a huge joke, especially when I winked at them before wriggling inside."
I laugh uproariously. "I wish I'd known you back then."
He chuckles in return. "Even if I do say so myself, I was damn irresistible when I was four."
I want to tell him that he's irresistible now, but decide I'd better not. He's made it perfectly clear he doesn't want to hear me say things like that. "Go on," I urge instead.
"Well, I lay quietly for a while, thinking about how I would star in every production all the way through school, and then pushed on the back of the cocoon to let myself out. Of course, nothing happened. I pushed harder the next time, but it still wouldn't open.
"I didn't panic at that point. I did start to worry that I wouldn't have time to get out and put my butterfly wings on and then get back. All I could think about was being late for the grand finale. How I'd be letting everyone down.
"I started to get a little desperate; no matter how hard I pushed on the back it wouldn't open. I wanted to call for help, but knew I was supposed to stay quiet. That's when I decided that I'd have to wriggle out the way I'd come in.
"I didn't want to wriggle out feet first in case the audience could see me, so decided to turn around. The cocoon wasn't very wide, as you can imagine, and I was starting to feel panicky concerning the time factor. Turning around wasn't that easy and somehow I became wedged in sideways. The more I tried to straighten up, the more stuck I became. That's when I really started to get scared.
"The teacher, wondering where the hell I was by this time, crawled behind the cocoon and hissed out to me. The audience laughed in delight, realizing something was going on that shouldn't be.
"I started to cry, because that wasn't supposed to be happening. I was supposed to be putting my butterfly wings on and I was ruining the whole play, because the teacher had had to come on stage. I didn't want everyone laughing when they weren't supposed to be.
"She was telling me to undo the catch, but by then it was too late, I was stuck solid and my neck was hurting me from being so scrunched up. I didn't care how much noise I made, I wanted to get out of there, so started to scream for help.
"All the other kids must have gathered around as the teacher took the back off the cocoon and tried to pull me out. It was a very small opening and there was no way I was going to fit through it sideways.
"She then decided she'd have to pull me out from the front. The opening was a lot bigger. The problem was, I was too far back and she couldn't reach me.
"The parents helping out backstage came out to help, all calling out suggestions and some of the kids started to cry, saying they were scared I was going to die because there was no air in the cocoon so how could I breathe?
"There was plenty of air coming in from the front, of course, but I started to worry that with my head pushed in against me the way it was, the air wouldn't be able to reach me. Then Joey, my best friend at the time, said very solemnly that I'd probably have to stay like that, because even if they got me out, they'd never be able to straighten me back up again.
"That thought terrified me and on top of the other kids yelling out that I was going to die, I panicked completely and starting screaming hysterically. The other kids joined in, convinced I was in my final death throes or something. You can imagine the chaos.
"Anyway, they managed to turn me around and pull me out and Mom and Dad were there to comfort me. As time went by, I forgot all about it. But, those stasis chambers must have brought it all back into my subconscious again."
"That must have been terrifying for you," I say in sympathy.
"It was at the time, but I'm all right about it now. Honestly."
"I believe you. It's just a shame you didn't get to show everyone what a beautiful butterfly you were."
He sighs dramatically. "Just imagine how different my life would be now. I may have become a performer instead of a pilot. Anyway, now you can understand why I don't want to tell B'Elanna. I can just imagine her reaction to the whole butterfly thing."
"What about Harry? I'm surprised you haven't told him."
"Harry came up with a theory, right from the start, that I must have had a difficult birth or something. In a way, the whole cocoon experience *is* a little like that, having to be turned and pulled out. I couldn't face Harry comparing the two. If you'd ever had to listen to his fond remembrances of life in the womb, you'd understand."
"It seems I've missed out on something," I say in amusement.
"Believe me, you *don't* want to hear it."
"If you say so."
"I do. You know, the thing I like to remember whenever I think about that whole incident now is the way my Dad held me. He wasn't mad at me for ruining the play, or embarrassed that I'd made such a fuss. He just hugged me tightly, saying that I was safe, that he'd never let anything hurt me. It's one of my most cherished memories now, so I'm glad the Doc could help me remember it."
"I see what you mean."
We talk softly, although I'm so tired I can hardly concentrate at times. I don't want to end our conversation. It feels too good... too right. I never want it to end.
When I hear Tom starting to yawn, however, I suggest we lie down and get some sleep. I tell him he can have the side next to the wall, and although he doesn't say anything, he seems a little hesitant.
I wonder how he reacted when he woke up to find he was snuggled up against me last time? Perhaps he's worried the same thing will happen again. I'm certainly hoping it will.
However, as soon as I lie down, I find my eyes closing of their own accord. I'm too tired to stay awake. I battle sleep, waiting for Tom to succumb, so that I can maneuver myself around and have him in my arms once more.
His breathing is becoming deeper, steadier. It won't be long. I just have to wait.
I wake up with a slight jump, disorientated for a few seconds, wondering where I am. There's a body pressed in against my back, arms wrapped around my torso and a face resting against my neck. Tom!
How long have I been asleep? There's no way of knowing. Has it been minutes or hours? Do I dare roll over and try to shift Tom around? If he's been asleep for a long time, it might wake him up. Then again, if he's only been asleep for a few minutes, it might wake him up as well.
Do I risk it? I quite like the feel of being held against him in this way, but would like to have him in my arms even more. I decide to take the chance and move around slowly.
Tom mumbles a little and moves away. I curse quietly, but finish my rollover. I'm no sooner on my back, when Tom throws his arm over my chest and rolls over so that he's lying almost on top of me, his upper half splayed across my chest.
His head nuzzles into my neck, his groin against my thigh, and I take in a deep lungful of air. Spirits... he's hard. I can feel his erection poking into my leg and my own penis begins to throb at the thought.
I just stop myself from moaning aloud, the thought of reaching down and touching him through his trousers, overwhelming. I grow hard instantly, visions of fondling him swimming through my mind.
I can feel a wet spot forming on the front of my pants and tell myself to stop it. Calm myself down. Think about something else.
My thoughts center on Tom's penis resting against my thigh, however. I can picture it in my mind. I can see my fingers caressing him and imagine the look on his face, and the moans he would try to smother. I swallow, smothering a moan of my own.
I have to get rid of this erection before Tom wakes up. Of course, the easiest way would be to reach down with my free hand and take care of it. I can't do that though. Tom's sprawled all over me. I'd wake him up for sure. I can imagine his reaction if he woke up to find me jerking off, while he lay across me. I can't bear to think of it.
The thought of Tom's reaction dampens down some of my excitement, but then I get a mental image of him whispering seductively, 'Let me take care of that for you', and I'm harder than ever.
Spirits, I need to gain control, but where Tom's concerned, I have none. Everything was so good between us, I don't want to ruin things. I rub my hand across my groin and almost sob in frustration. I have to stop this. I'm becoming more aroused by the second and this won't do. Oh Spirits! If only I could touch myself.
I feel as if I'm about to burst through my pants leg. I need to release my penis... now, it's so damn painful. But... I mustn't think about bursting, or... or... releasing, or... oh Spirits! Oh... shit! I'm going to have to take care of this. I'm going to have to take the chance that Tom doesn't wake up. It's a hell of a chance, I know, but the alternative is no longer bearable.
I fumble one-handed to free my swollen penis from its confines, trying to move as little as possible so that Tom isn't disturbed. I tell myself to be completely quiet, no moaning, or groaning. I must remain silent, so that no one can hear...
The thought of our captors listening and watching, stops me cold. What if they know what I'm doing? What if they can see me? It may be pitch black in here for us, but they may have some type of technology that enables them to see in the dark.
They could be watching me right now. They're probably sitting there, eyes glued to the monitor, talking excitedly among themselves. The thought is enough to cause me to soften and I'm quickly able to get myself under control.
Thank the Spirits! Tom begins to move restlessly against me, and it isn't long before I feel him sit up.
"Chakotay?" he whispers hoarsely. I'm not sure whether I should let him know I'm awake. He's probably embarrassed that he woke up laying across me like that. Perhaps I should pretend I'm asleep. That might be best.
"Chakotay!" he whispers again.
I remain quiet, trying to keep my breathing even and steady.
"Chakotay!" his voice wobbles a little. "I... I don't think I can take this any longer. I think I'm going to panic."
No Regrets - Part 43
Please see part 1 for disclaimer, codes, summary, etc.
I bolt up in concern, my hands reaching out for him. "It's okay, Tom. I'm here. I'll help you. Deep... oomph...!!!" He hits me in the chest.
"I knew it. You *were* awake," he hisses.
"Ow... Tom! That hurt."
"You were pretending to be asleep," he accuses.
"That was for *your* sake. I didn't want you to feel awkward."
"Well, thanks a lot. Now I really feel awkward."
"I'm sorry," I apologize, deciding that I can never do anything right with Tom.
"The only thing I can think, is that you're rolling over in your sleep," Tom says suddenly.
"That must be it," I agree. "I've always been a rather restless sleeper."
"That explains it then."
I remain silent. It doesn't explain his enthusiasm for snuggling up against me, but I decide I'd better not mention that.
We take it in turns to use the bathroom facilities and then sit quietly on the bunk. Despite my attempts to start a conversation, Tom remains curiously silent.
"Is everything all right?" I finally ask, thinking he's probably angry with me for believing he may panic. "You're very quiet."
"I've just been thinking about what happened in here before."
I swallow, getting ready to try and explain that he caught me unawares. I hadn't had time to think things through.
"Our captors didn't come back and get the tray."
"Oh!" I sigh in relief. "I hope they're still going to bring us in something to eat. I'm rather hungry."
"Now that you've said that, I'm sure they will."
"I've been wondering if they have some way of seeing us, even in the dark."
"Maybe. It's certainly a possibility."
"I don't like the thought of them watching everything I do. Some things are very personal."
"I can't say I'm too happy to have an audience every time I go to the bathroom either."
"Spirits! I hadn't thought of that."
"Well, what were you thinking about then?"
He gives a small snort of laughter. "Have you been beating the meat while I've been asleep?"
"Beating the meat?" I repeat incredulously.
"Jacking off. Masturbating."
"I know what it means. I just can't believe you'd say that. There may be people listening, in case you've forgotten."
"I haven't forgotten. Well... have you?"
"No, I have not," I almost shout, my memories of earlier coming back in full force. Damn him! I know I'm blushing furiously, and even though Tom can't see it, perhaps they can. "That's not an appropriate topic..."
"Lighten up, Chakotay, or I'm going to have to start calling you, Tuvok."
"Tom!" I say warningly.
"What's it matter? They've already heard me confess that Harry sucked me off."
"Tom! That's enough."
"Hey! I'm just trying to liven up our conversation. Make it more interesting for them."
"Well, I'd prefer a change of topic."
He says nothing to that and I find it impossible to say anything either. I'm very conscious of the possibility of our captors listening in, and can think of absolutely nothing to say that won't show how annoyed I am with him at the moment.
So much for the warm companionship we'd shared before going to sleep. I should have known it couldn't last.
My annoyance quickly abates as Tom remains silent and I can't help sighing and moving around a little. I'm starting to feel restless. "I suppose they'll try to question me again. I wish I could remember what happens. I hate not knowing what they're doing to me."
"Hmmn!" Tom murmurs distractedly.
"My stomach's rumbling; I'm so damn hungry."
"Hmmn!" Tom murmurs again.
"Sorry, I've just been thinking," he says slowly, sounding as if his thoughts are far away.
"You said that before. About anything in particular this time?"
"This whole situation actually. There are some things that don't make sense."
"As far as I'm concerned, none of this makes sense," I retort. "Keeping us in here like this is ridiculous."
"I suppose so," he mumbles, his mind obviously drifting once more.
He stays silent after that and when the door finally opens, and our captors enter with another tray of food, he remains on the bunk eyeing them closely.
They take our empty tray and leave quickly, refusing to answer any of my questions. I'm grateful they've left the light on again, although it's much dimmer than usual.
Tom takes a bite of fruit and I can just make out his grin in the semi-darkness. "At least the food's good. Better than we get on Voyager really."
"I wouldn't say that," I protest.
"Speaking of Voyager, why don't we just tell these people what they want to know about it, and then maybe they'll let us go?"
"There's nothing we *can* tell them," I say warningly. What the hell?
"Sure there is," he says carelessly, finishing off his piece of fruit and taking another one.
What's Tom up to? Surely he knows we're being monitored. We can't take the chance that they may be listening to us.
"There's plenty we can tell them," he says loudly. "We can tell them about the wonderful people on board. They already know about Harry, of course. Remember him?" he shouts at the ceiling. "He's the one that went down on me."
"Tom!" Is he trying to provoke me?
"What? What else do you think they'd like to know, Chakotay?"
"Tom, no more. I mean it."
"You don't like me talking about Harry, do you?"
"I told you why before... and this is not something I intend to discuss with a probable audience. Now, shut up!"
"It really bothers you, doesn't it? What would you say, if I told you I really didn't enjoy the whole thing very much? For all Harry's self-confessed experience with guys, he really didn't do anything much for me. I don't think he's had as much practice as he pretends."
"That's enough, Tom," I yell infuriated.
"You know," he drawls, completely ignoring me. "Comparing the two, I'd have to say that B'Elanna, despite the fact that she gets a little too excited with her teeth, gives a much better blow..."
"That's it," I yell, throwing myself against him, gagging him in the process. What the hell is the matter with him? Why is he acting like this? Why is he being such a total little shit?
He grunts and tries to push me away, but I hold onto him grimly. We struggle furiously, each of us trying to gain the upper hand, and I decide that knocking him out is a pleasant option.
The door opens while I'm still wrestling with him, and our captors enter. We struggle to our feet. I'm red-faced, but Tom merely smiles at them smugly.
His smirk apparently has the same effect on the guard coming in to collect our tray as it always does on me, because it elbows Tom out of the way rather viciously.
"Hey!" he says, rubbing his side.
Another of them, standing in the doorway, steps inside and pushes Tom roughly onto the bunk. When he attempts to stand, he's pushed back down again, gritting his teeth when his head connects with the wall. That was a little uncalled for.
Tom glares up angrily at the two of them, but they say nothing, leaving quickly and slamming the door. The light blinks off immediately.
"What the hell is going on with you?" I hiss angrily. "You made me miss most of my breakfast."
Tom brushes past me in the dark and begins to kick at the door.
"Tom, give it up," I say tiredly.
"Let us out of here," he yells.
"Tom, it won't do any good. What the hell is the matter with you?"
There's silence for a few moments and then his assault on the door becomes more frantic and he begins to yell repeatedly that they have to let him out.
"Tom, for Spirits sake..." I reach out and try to grab hold of him but he twists from my grasp.
"I have to get out. I have to get out," he moans.
"Tom?" I don't understand. He's panicking, but he's not supposed to be panicking. He had this beat. I believed him when he'd been so insistent. Perhaps telling me about it all has caused him to regress again. Damn it!
"Tom," I plead. "Don't let it consume you like this."
He'd been acting so strange. I should have guessed. I should have seen this coming. I wince as I hear him banging his way around our tiny cell, his breathing coming in ragged sobs.
I reach out once more to hold him, but he pushes me away, his cries becoming louder and even more frantic as he scrambles around.
I'm finally able to capture him by the arms, pulling him against me tightly, when the door opens and four guards pour into the room, bringing the light with them.
"It's okay now, Tom, it's okay," I try to soothe, hugging him closely as he struggles in my arms. I'm worried about one of the guards, who has a hypospray in its hand, and is advancing towards us.
Tom's eyes are trained on the guard as it reaches out and presses the instrument into his neck. He sags immediately against me, his eyes still fixed on the guard, and I help him onto the bunk, laying him down gently.
I'm surprised when he smiles up at me and winks, just before his eyes close as the sedative takes effect.
"He has a condition which I'm sure you're aware of, considering you've been listening to us," I say, turning to our audience. "Could you at least leave the light on until he's feeling a little more settled?"
The guard who seems to be in charge, watches us for some time before nodding. "We are monitoring your life signs. We are not listening to you, or watching you."
"I find that hard to believe."
"We try to respect your privacy at all times."
"Your idea of privacy and ours may be a little different."
It shakes its head and turns to herd the other three, who appear reluctant to leave, out of the cell. I hardly notice them, my concern for Tom overwhelming me.
He'd had a panic attack, despite his assurances that he'd overcome his phobia. Despite the fact that I was keeping a close eye on him, too. I'd let him get to me again, instead of looking after him the way I'd promised myself I would.
I lie on the bunk next to Tom, and pull him into my arms, cradling him closely. I don't care if he does feel awkward, or embarrassed, or uncomfortable when he reawakens. He belongs in my arms and that's where he's staying.
It's not that easy, of course. As soon as he wakes, he attempts to pull away. I hold on tightly. "How do you feel?" I ask softly.
"I'm not sure. Let me go."
"I think you should stay here."
"I need to think, and... I... can't... do... that... like... this..." he says between struggles.
I almost fall off the bunk, as he pushes at me to let him go. He manages to break free and tries to crawl over me. I grab him once more.
"Chakotay, will you stop being such an asshole?" he yells in fury. This isn't exactly what I'd had in mind. I don't know why I thought we'd be able to just stay wrapped around one another. Wishful thinking, I suppose.
"If you don't let go of me right now, you'll be sorry," he hisses.
"Fine," I say, letting go abruptly, no longer feeling in the least romantic or protective towards him. I watch him stagger from the bunk and crouch in the opposite corner.
"Why do you keep fighting me?" I growl in frustration.
"I told you; I don't want to get involved."
"That had nothing to do with getting involved. You panicked and I was trying to make you feel better. Nothing more. I'd try to comfort anybody who reacted as severely as you did."
"I can just see you snuggled up here with Chell."
"I would certainly try and do all I could to comfort him if he needed it."
"Will you stop it? You are so full of shit. You kissed my forehead, don't try and deny it."
"All right then, I won't."
"Well, I don't think you'd be kissing Chell's forehead."
"You're probably right."
"And your hands."
"What about my hands?"
"Were you touching my ass while I was unconscious?"
"No, I was not," I reply indignantly. "And, Tom, you seem to have forgotten one very important thing. You had a panic attack, and we're going to have to deal with it."
"They left the light on," he says suddenly.
"I asked them to. I thought you might appreciate it when you woke up."
"I do. Thanks."
He stays quiet for some time and I'm not sure if this is a good or a bad thing. As the silence continues I begin to worry. Tom stays in the corner, his head bowed, as still as a statue.
I decide to go into counselor mode. I want to try and avoid any more panic attacks if possible. "Tom, we have to talk about what happened."
"No. It's okay. There's no need," he murmurs.
"There's a very big need. I'm worried it may happen again."
"If they turn the light off, it probably will," Tom says loudly, looking up at the ceiling.
"We have to find ways of helping you to cope, Tom. If you feel the panic starting to overwhelm you again, you need to stay in control."
"It's okay; I'll be fine. It's not going to happen again."
He sounds so confident, but I'd like to know how he can be after what happened just a few short hours ago. "You lost it completely, Tom. I don't want that to happen again."
"Don't worry, it won't." I'm surprised to hear the soft, gentle tone of his voice. I'd expected impatience. I'm even more surprised when he smiles at me warmly.
He stands up from his crouched position in the corner and then steps over to sit next to me on the bunk, squeezing my arm. It's almost as if *I'm* the one who needs reassurance.
I close my eyes in disbelief when he leans forward and kisses me gently on the lips and then whispers into my ear, "I'm sorry about before. I just had some things I had to think about. Can we start all over again?"
"From where?" I croak.
"From when I first opened my eyes would be best, I think."
The next thing I know, I'm lying on the bunk and Tom is burrowing in beside me. "Hold me," he whispers.
I don't need any urging, but I'm still a little stunned by the reversal. I cradle him close, however, and he settles down with a deep, contented sigh.
"Whatever they gave me sure makes you tired," he mumbles.
"Try and get some more sleep then."
"I will. I'll be all right now. You don't have to worry. I'm not going to panic again, I promise."
"I'm glad to hear it. I don't know if *I'll* be all right though. I have to tell you, Tom, I don't understand this. One moment you're pushing me away and the next you're asking me to hold you."
"I'm sorry. I know I'm sending out mixed signals."
"I know you still have feelings for me, so why are you being so insistent on not becoming involved? Is it because I'm a man? Is that the reason?"
"No, of course not."
"It's just that I know you've never been in a relationship with a man. Does the thought make you nervous?"
"No, at least not in the way you mean. I wonder how every day life would work between us."
"That happens in all relationships."
"If it's not because I'm a man, is it because I'm your commanding officer?"
He's quiet for a few moments. "In a way."
"Tom, I would never let that interfere with our relationship."
"That's easy to say until something happens. And, anyway, how do you know I wouldn't be the one to let our relationship interfere with the command structure?"
"You're a fleet brat. You know how to separate duty from off-duty. No, that's not it. You don't really trust me to do the same. That's what's wrong, isn't it? You think I'll still try to be in charge when we're off-duty, don't you? You think I can't separate Chakotay from the commander."
"It's been a long time since I've had to, but I hope so. I can see that my behavior over the past few months must have reinforced any doubts you had concerning me. I've been bloody minded, arrogant and a total ass. You've just spent two years with B'Elanna, who was constantly trying to take charge. Constantly trying to be the dominant partner in your relationship, and you don't want to go through all of that with me. That's what's wrong, isn't it?"
"That's some of it," he says softly.
"Tom, I don't know how to convince you that it wouldn't be like that with us. Despite appearances to the contrary, I'm not like that. I could never be happy in a relationship if it wasn't based on total equality. If you truly don't want to take a chance with me, I'll respect your wishes. You know I will, but I need to know the reasoning behind it."
"You've guessed most of it. I was worried things would be uneven between us and I'd end up in a similar relationship to the one I was in with B'Elanna, except this time the shoe would be on the other foot, so to speak."
I'm not exactly sure what he means by that, but before I can ask him he continues. "I just couldn't go through that again, especially not so soon. I want an easy relationship and you're anything but easy."
"I could say the same about you."
"I guess you could."
"We don't have to rush into anything. We can take things slow. I don't want there to be any regrets between us, Tom."
"Neither do I."
"If... I mean... *when* we get back to Voyager, I'd like to discuss this with you properly. Will you give me a chance to prove to you how much you mean to me?"
He yawns loudly. "I like the sound of that."
So do I and I smile happily. *When* we get back to Voyager. I'm determined we will.
Stroking Tom's cheek gently, I wonder just what exactly our captors plan to do with us. We can't stay in here indefinitely. I think if they were going to hurt us, they would have done so by now. I still believe I may be able to talk them into setting us free.
Tom snuggles against me, sighing contentedly and I lie there for some time, just enjoying the relaxed feeling between us. It's perfect. Everything's perfect. At least, it would be if we could disregard our imprisoned status.
Minutes later, Tom's sound asleep. I kiss the top of his head, and with a contented sigh of my own, close my eyes tightly.
No Regrets - Part 44
Please see part 1 for disclaimer, codes, summary, etc.
I open my eyes again some time later, as Tom moves restlessly against me. He's waking up. I'm a little surprised that the light's still on. It's duller than it was before, but it's still there. I'm not about to complain.
Tom shifts around once more and I groan in agitation. I can feel his erection poking into my leg. Does he always wake up with one? Probably. I fight to prevent mine from springing up to join his.
It's a sheer battle of willpower, and I have to wipe the beads of perspiration from my forehead. I win the battle, but lose the war as Tom begins to nuzzle against my neck, gently biting and sucking, nipping and licking.
He moves upwards and I can feel his tongue swirling around my earlobe, before he takes it between his teeth and begins to nibble gently. It feels so good, I moan.
"Tom," I say hoarsely, attempting to move away a little. "I don't think that's a good idea."
"Why not?" he breathes into my ear.
I suck in my breath. "Because..." I try to think clearly. I know there's some reason. A good reason too. "We shouldn't... we can't do this here."
"What exactly do you think we're about to do?" he teases, still biting at my ear.
I try to focus. "We're being watched, remember?"
He sighs, but stops his nibbling. "I don't think they'd be watching us now," he says quietly.
"How can you be so sure?"
"I'm not. It's just a feeling I have."
"I wish I felt that way. They did tell me that they were monitoring our life signs, not watching or listening to us. They said they were trying to respect our privacy, but we can't take the chance."
"I'm willing to take the chance."
"You say that now, but how would you feel after, if you discovered they'd watched the whole thing?"
"What whole thing? All they'd see is two men showing their affection for one another. I don't have a problem with anyone watching that."
"Well, I do, and I don't have any intentions of providing those bastards with a peep show."
"Hey!" Tom sits up abruptly. "I don't know what was in your mind, but all that was in mine was a bit of necking and kissing." His voice rises in indignation. "I had no intentions of taking it any further. And I think you're taking a lot for granted."
"I'm sorry, but things always seem to get out of hand between us, you know they do."
"I also know I have enough self-control to prevent a peep show. What'd you think was going to happen? Did you think I was going to suddenly strip off, bend over, wave my ass in front of you, and scream 'take me'?"
"Of course not," I say angrily, sitting up also. "But you and I both know that what you were doing would have progressed further than what you may have had in mind."
"Really? Well, excuse me. I forgot I was with Commander No-Control."
I feel as if he's knifed me in the heart as pain stabs through me. "Only where you're concerned," I snap.
"I guess I should be flattered," he snaps in return.
"Maybe you should."
"Well, I'm not! Great! We're arguing... again. Why the hell are we always arguing?" he yells.
"I have no idea. You're the one who starts it." I can't believe how much Tom's comment has hurt me. Commander No-Control! Spirits, that hurts.
"Oh, really? And what universe did you suddenly pop in from? You start more than I do. You may enjoy it, but I hate arguing all the time."
"I do *not* enjoy arguing all the time. And would you please try to keep your voice down? They may be listening even now."
"They better damn well not be," Tom shouts at the ceiling.
"Just try to stay calm."
"Don't start that shit again. I'm not going to panic."
"That's what you said last time and look what happened."
"Shit!" He sighs loudly. "I forgot about that."
"Well, I haven't. I believed you, Tom. It took me a long time to really listen to what you were saying, but I finally did. I honestly believed you had it under control, only to discover that I had genuine reasons to worry all along."
"I think I'm going to be sorry I put on that little performance," he says miserably.
"You're hardly to blame. You probably just need a few more sessions with the Doctor, that's all."
"Yeah." He doesn't sound very convinced.
"It was just a temporary setback, that's all."
"Yeah," he says again.
Although seeing him is difficult in the almost dark, I get the impression he's hanging his head dejectedly. The urge to comfort him is irresistible and I reach out and pull him against me. I expected him to resist, but he leans against me willingly instead.
"We'll get through this, Tom," I tell him quietly. "I'll help you."
I'm surprised to hear him chuckle in response.
"What's so funny?"
"Nothing," he says. "I've just decided that this feels good, so I give up. If you want to protect me, then go right ahead."
"Tom, it's not like that," I say hastily. "I know you can look after yourself."
"It's okay. I don't mind. It's rather nice to have you worrying over me."
"I can't help it."
"I know. I think that's one of the reasons why I love you so much."
My heart soars at his words. Trying to dampen down my elation, I say lightly. "Then I think I'd better keep on worrying about you." I lean in and kiss him soundly on the lips, and immediately worry that something isn't right. Although Tom can't help responding, I get the impression he's still holding himself back.
"Nobody has ever affected me the way you do," I say softly. "I've never felt this way about anybody before."
Tom wraps his arms around me without saying anything. I know he's far more emotional than I am, and could be overcome with happiness, but I don't think that's what it is.
"Tom? Is something wrong?"
He's quiet for so long, I wonder if he's going to answer me. When he finally does, his voice is full of emotion. "Do you think they're listening to us?"
"I... I don't know. Why?"
"You are such a pain in the ass."
"I... what? What do you mean?" I ask in confusion.
He pulls away from me and stands up abruptly. "This isn't going to work, you know," he yells to the ceiling. "You may as well let us go."
I sigh in exasperation. What the hell is going on with him now? He's impossible to keep up with. And he says *I'm* anything but easy. "If they *are* listening, I doubt that will stop them."
Tom continues to address the ceiling. "I've had it with this shit. I want it to end... now! If you won't end it, then *I* will."
"Tom, that isn't going to help."
"I think it will."
"Well, I think you should come back here and sit down."
"Stow it, Chakotay."
I decide the only thing to do is wrestle him back onto the bunk. I have absolutely no idea what's happening in that head of his, but am worried he may be heading for another attack.
I have him in a choker hold when the door suddenly opens and two of our captors enter, the third remaining in the doorway.
Tom hisses, "Asshole!" at me, when I let him go, and then turns to face them. "So, you *were* listening," he accuses immediately.
"Our sensors indicated that you were becoming agitated," the leader says quietly. "We wanted to ensure you were all right."
"Well, now that you're here, I'd like to thank you for your rather questionable hospitality, but it's time Chakotay and I left."
"Tom," I warn, wondering what the hell he's up to now.
He merely smiles at me, and then throws himself at the other guard. The move is so sudden that I have no chance of reaching out to stop him. The guard makes a strange gurgling sound as Tom pounces, and fires its weapon.
I stare in disbelief as Tom falls to the floor in a crumpled heap, the guard gazing down at him. We all stand there in stunned silence for a few moments and then react at the same time.
The guard in the doorway steps into the cell as their leader kneels beside Tom, rolling him over. I throw myself down on the floor next to him, pushing the leader out the way.
"What the hell did you shoot him for?" I hear the guard from the doorway ask, as I check Tom for a heartbeat and pulse.
"He came straight for me. I panicked. I didn't mean to shoot him."
I barely hear the guards talking as I listen to Tom's heart beating strong and steady. "He's still alive," I say in relief.
"Our weapons have stun capability only," the leader tells me. "He'll be fine."
They help me get him on the bunk and then bring us in a tray of food. I don't even hear them leave as my relief that Tom's all right changes into a burning fury.
What the hell did he think he was doing? He could have been killed. We had no idea our captors' weapons were only able to stun. Of all the stupid... idiotic... ridiculous...
He groans and rolls over, sitting up rather shakily. I make no attempt to help him, standing above him, glaring instead.
He looks up at me with a slight smile, and swings his legs over the side of the bunk. "I take it that didn't work," he says lightly.
"And just *how* exactly was it supposed to work?" I growl. "Have you completely lost your mind? What the hell did you think you were doing? It was pure luck you were only stunned."
"I guessed I would be," he interrupts.
"You *guessed* you would be?" I pace around the cell in front of him. "You *guessed*? That was a hell of a chance."
"Not really. I knew I was right."
"You knew no such thing," I yell furiously. "What were you trying to do anyway? Surely you didn't really think you'd be able to escape?"
"No, that wasn't my aim."
"Really? Then what the hell was?"
"I was trying to get a reaction out of you and it seems I succeeded."
"You what? You risked being killed to get a reaction from me?"
My fury rises to a new level and I pull him up from the bunk and shake him roughly. "You fucking asshole! Do you have any idea what I went through when they shot you? I thought you were dead, you little prick. And now I find out that was all for my benefit. You did that to get a reaction from me? What type of reaction were you hoping for, you utter shit? "
I shake him furiously. "What the fuck were you thinking? How could you deliberately put me through that?"
He pushes me away from him and shouts, "I couldn't give a fuck what you just went through, Chakotay. Do you have any idea what you've put me through these past few months? Whatever pain I just caused you is nothing to what I've gone through since that day in the lift.
"And you just keep on hurting me. I told you I love you, you witless ass, and what was your response? What the hell is the matter with you? Why can't you tell me how you feel?"
"I *did* tell you how I feel," I yell.
"Just once I'd like to hear the words. I'm in love with you, you fatheaded dipshit, and I think it's about time you told me that too."
"Of course I'm in love with you, you moronic imbecile. And I do not have a fat head, or... what the hell is a dipshit?"
"Take a look in the mirror."
I look at Tom in total disbelief, my anger dissolving. "Are you telling me that you risked your life so that I'd tell you I loved you?"
"I wasn't risking my life, but... yes."
"I thought you knew I was in love with you," I say quietly.
"I did, but... well... I needed to hear you say it."
"But I have... many times."
"No, you haven't. Not once."
I open my mouth to argue and then close it again. He's right. I've never said that to him. In all of my apologies and entreaties to him to give us a chance, I've never said I love him. I've used words like care and deep feelings instead.
He told me he loved me, and what did I say in return? I told him that I'd never felt this way about anybody before, but I didn't say I loved him.
I remember Tom's strange words to me now, when he first admitted to me how worried he was that things would be uneven between us. He said something about the shoe being on the other foot and I hadn't known what he meant. B'Elanna once confided to me that she felt her love was a lot stronger than Tom's.
Is that what he meant? He thought his feelings for me were stronger than mine for him? Why haven't I told him I love him? I'd just assumed he knew. He did, but he needed me to tell him too.
It was only natural that he would, considering the way I behaved towards him. I can see now why he's been so insistent on not starting anything between us. No wonder he's been so hesitant, thinking that he loved me more than I loved him, and worrying that I would try to dominate the relationship the way B'Elanna did with him.
"You're right," I say softly. "B'Elanna told me I was a damn idiot, but I had no idea of how much of a one I am until now. I can't believe how stupid I've been. Tom, I'm not the sort of person to give flowery speeches, you know that, but I love you with all of my heart, all of my being. I can't imagine existing without you. You're everything to me. Everything."
He hugs me closely, whispering quietly. "I don't need flowery speeches or sappy prose, Chakotay. I just need to know that you love me as much as I love you."
"I do, Tom. I do. When you called me Commander No-Control before, I was more hurt than you can imagine. With you I really don't have any control over my emotions. None at all."
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have called you that."
"I'm glad you did. It made me realize something that I hadn't understood before. I now know the true reason why I lied to you and didn't tell you how I felt right from the start, and the reason why I've been acting like such an ass since.
"Everything I said to you was true. I was afraid of rejection and being hurt, and I didn't want to cause problems between B'Elanna and you, but I was scared, Tom. My reaction to you in that lift terrified me. The thought of losing control so completely, consumed me with fear.
"I've been in love before, but I've never lost control like that. And every time I'm with you, I feel that way. It scared the hell out of me, Tom. I've always prided myself on my emotional control, and to discover I had absolutely none with you was more than I could handle.
"I suppose I've been trying to take back some of that control by visualizing myself as your protector. I wanted you to need me, and instead, all I did was convince you that I was a stubborn ass and would try to dominate you."
"Chakotay, I do need you," he says, kissing me softly. "I need you in my life. I need you to love me."
"I do love you, Tom."
His lips are warm and gentle as they meet mine and it's some time before we break apart.
"Tom, you have to promise me that you won't do anything so drastic to get a reaction from me again."
"It wasn't really drastic; I wasn't in any danger."
"You only guessed those weapons would stun. You had absolutely nothing to go on but your gut feelings. Am I right?"
"Well... yes, but..."
"No buts. You took a stupid risk..."
"Chakotay, there's something you don't understand."
"Tom! I understand perfectly. I want your promise."
"You're being a stubborn ass again, Chakotay," he says with a chuckle.
"Tom, I don't think I can laugh about this. I'll never forget how I felt when that guard shot you." My voice chokes with emotion.
"Chakotay, you don't..."
"Okay, okay. I promise."
"Thank you," I say, pulling him into my arms and kissing him soundly. We're both a little breathless when we pull apart.
"Now, you have to promise me something too," Tom whispers into my ear.
"When we get out of here..."
"You're very confident."
"Yes, I am. Now, shut up and let me finish what I was saying."
"*When* we get out of here and get back to Voyager, you have to promise to show me the best way to have anal sex. Harry didn't get to show me that."
"Tom! They're probably still listening."
No, things will never be easy with Tom, but they certainly won't be dull either. I decide the best way to handle him is to shut him up, and proceed to do exactly that. Pushing him onto the bunk, I lie down beside him and pull him into my arms.
"When we get back to Voyager, I intend to show you a lot more than that."
We're soon kissing passionately, all thoughts of our captors, our prison cell and circumstances, forgotten.