Rating: R, violence Code: C/P Part: 1/5
Summary: Chakotay rescues Tom from an attack while on shoreleave, and the two end up confronting each other about issues pending between them.
Dedicated to: Britta, for helping me name it, and the Listmoms at Cha_Club, fo inspiring me to write Protective!Chakotay in the first place.
Disclaimer: Everything StarTrek is owned by Paramount and various corporate ninnies. This is not-for-profit fun, like they would want it anyway.
Archive: Cha_Club, ATPS, VSPS, CPSG, any others please ask first
Chakotay walked by the seedy bar in a less than savory part of the spaceport. He did not expect to find any of the crew in this area, but wanted to make sure that the Voyager crew had gone to the more tourist-friendly parts of the city for their last night of shoreleave. Chakotay was too familiar with this type of area from his Maquis days, and had hoped to never see anything like it again. But at the same time, he was afraid some of his former Maquis crew might come down to this area of the spaceport for "old times sake", or to find some less than legal substances. He knew that many of the former Maquis still resented the tight Starfleet ship Janeway ran, and thought that she was much-to-much "by the book."
As a result, Chakotay felt the obligation to come and check for his former crew, without getting anyone from the ship formally involved. He knew what Tuvok would do to crewmembers engaged in such quasi-illegal activities that the former Maquis might find in this area.
Chakotay found that all of his old Maquis instincts were returning, and that he was walking with that knowing swagger he used to affect in the ports of the frontier, that walk that said he knew what he was doing, where he was going, and how to take care of himself, and that anyone who messed with him did so at their peril. He found himself watching movement out of the corner of his eye, marking likely troublemakers in the back of his mind, and also marking potential security officers and the like. And unbidden came the little acknowledgments -- they could get parts at that establishment, this one might be good for clothing -- all the little things he had to track as a Captain and cell leader in the Maquis.
It did not put him in a good mood.
He had thought that one of the good things about joining forces with Janeway, about agreeing to merge the Maquis with her Starfleet crew, was that he would never have to find himself in circumstances such as these again. Places like this hurt his soul. The dark miasma of pain and misery seemed to seep into him, dirtying and contaminating his inner self, causing him to feel unclean, unworthy of his spirit guide's attention. It would take days of prayer and ritual for him to feel clean again after this little excursion.
Despite this, Chakotay kept on with his patrol of this dingy little area of the spaceport. He owed it to his Maquis crew to keep them out of trouble, with the locals or with Tuvok. And this was no different from what he had done too many times in the Maquis. In fact, he reflected to himself, it was how he had found the Maquis the best pilot he had ever seen -- Paris. Chakotay had literally picked him up out of an alley and taken him back to the ship to sober up, only to find that the miserable dregs he thought he had saved in a fit of compassion actually could be useful.
They had both changed from that day, Chakotay reflected to himself as he walked past what he assumed was a tattoo parlor, although, given the sounds coming from inside, that could be a dubious assumption. Chakotay had found the center he lost after his father's death, or maybe never had at all, before he embraced more fully his people's customs. Serving on Voyager he had found some peace for his soul, a way to release the anger that had consumed him in the Maquis.
But being back in a place like this brought back all the old anger, the hatred, the frustration. And made him think of Paris again. Paris had changed too, Chakotay reflected. The chief helmsman of Voyager was not the wasted, drunken, horribly conflicted young man he had dragged from the alley that day. Rather, he had matured into a remarkable young man who upheld his duties as a senior officer, for the most part, well. Still, there were times when Chakotay flashed back to that alleyway, and what had been . . .
Chakotay came back to the present when he heard familiar voices arguing ahead. He advanced quickly through the gathering crowd to find several crewmembers arguing with the local constabulary.
"What did you do, Dalby?" Chakotay barked when he arrived at the squabble.
"What makes you think I did something, Chief?" Dalby shot back as a constable pulled on his arm.
"I know you Dalby, and Sanchez, and Everhart. What did you do?"
"They didn't pay their bill at a local establishment," responded a clearly exasperated constable.
"Why not? Dalby, tell me now, or tell Tuvok . . ." Chakotay warned.
Dalby visibly winced. "But the drinks tasted like mare's piss!"
"You are on an alien world. What, you thought the drinks would be sweetness and light?" Chakotay responded, annoyed.
"Well . . ." Dalby grumbled . . .
"Pay the bill."
"PAY THE BILL!"
"Then get back to the ship."
"GET BACK TO THE SHIP BEFORE I KICK YOUR ASS BACK THERE!"
"Yes, sir!" chorused three voices, and Chakotay stalked away.
If it was possible, Chakotay was in an even worse mood after the little encounter with some of his former Maquis. He continued to stalk the narrow, dank corridors of the port district, watching for trouble. If he found more Maquis here, they would feel his wraith.
But what he found was, and was not, what he was expecting.
Chakotay first became aware of a commotion near one of the sordid little bars that seemed to infest the area. He at first thought it was a bouncer throwing someone out of the bar, but then realized the commotion was in a narrow alley way and not the narrower entrance to the bar.
Chakotay's first instinct was to keep going -- it certainly was not his fight. But then he thought he saw a flash of golden hair going down, and thought he heard a human scream, and without thought, barreled into the fray.
There were aliens of a sort he had never seen before, reminding him of some sort of strange cross between Cardassians and Bolians, blue-skinned with reptilian features and forked tongues. Chakotay did not fool himself that this would be a fair fight; later, he wondered why he never thought to call the ship for backup, and realized he had fallen back into his Maquis mode of thought, when there was often no one to depend upon but himself, and his fists. And his fists were old and familiar friends from his academy boxing days.
Chakotay took one alien down from behind with a kidney punch before they even knew he was there. As the second turned towards him, Chakotay struck out with a right hook and connected soundly with the alien's chin; from the snapping sound, Chakotay realized he may have broken his neck, but had no time to care -- the third alien had released his victim and was swinging at Chakotay, and the first was moaning but attempting to rise. Chakotay quickly swung and kicked the first in the stomach, sending him back to the ground, moaning, again, and then turned to catch the punch the third had thrown at him, using the alien's momentum against him and turning the hold into a throw over his shoulder, into the alley wall. Chakotay turned back towards the first alien, to see him fleeing the alley. The other two, on a quick inspection, were not moving, and Chakotay moved to check their victim.
To find that it was Tom Paris.
Chakotay knew that he had no time to waste. He pulled Paris to his feet while tensely asking, "Can you walk?"
"I'll manage, Commander," Tom wheezed in response.
"Good, come on, we have to get going."
"Can't I have a sec? They almost killed me!"
"No, you can't, I don't want to be here when the constables come, one of them is dead," Chakotay responded, starting to haul Tom out of the alley and down the street, looking to see if anyone was watching. The glowering look he gave off was enough to cause the few people on the street who may have been looking at them to suddenly look away and mind their own business.
"Dead? You killed one of them?" Tom sputtered, still confused by the beating he had been given and the sudden rescue by the Commander.
"I heard a neck snap, and I am not staying to find out. We have to get you back to the ship and cleaned up," Chakotay responded.
"Because," sighed Chakotay, shooting an exasperated look at the disheveled young man at his side, "do you want Tuvok or the Captain to know what you were doing down here? Or hear about that little incident in the alley?"
"Um, no, of course not," Tom responded, confused as to why it seemed Chakotay was willing to help him cover up his evening's activities.
"Then shut your trap and move those feet. I want to get to a better part of town from where we can beam to the ship, before the locals start looking for us," Chakotay barked at him, hauling Tom after him as he headed for a major thoroughfare nearby that they could use to move uptown quickly.
"Chakotay to Voyager, two to beam up," Chakotay instructed over his comm badge as he supported Paris on a side street near the main market area. Paris had followed him at first, but had started to lag. Chakotay had stopped and checked him briefly, but decided none of the injuries were that serious that he couldn't wait for a safer area to beam up from. He had even taken a few moments to try and clean the blood off Paris' face so as not to shock the transporter tech.
They immediately materialized on the transporter pad and Samantha Wildman gasped to see the condition Tom was in.
"You saw nothing, Ensign Wildman, do you understand me?" Chakotay snapped at her. "I'll take care of Paris."
"Yes, sir," Samantha responded, mystified, and wishing she hadn't ended up on this late shift. Bad enough she had to leave Neelix to put Naomi to bed, and now knowing something about the senior officers she apparently shouldn't . . . "I saw nothing but personnel returning to the ship."
"Good woman," Chakotay replied with a hint of warmth, and led Tom out into the corridor, which, thankfully, was deserted.
"Come on Paris, let's get you cleaned up," Chakotay said as he began to half drag the pilot down the corridor to the lift.
"Um, thanks and all, Commander, but I can get to Doc on my own, I think," Tom responded, and tried to pull away, only to have Chakotay tighten his grip around Tom's waist. Tom twisted slightly, only to have the Commander pull him faster down the corridor and shove him roughly onto the lift.
Chakotay called out for his deck, and turned to Tom, glaring. "Do you ever think, Paris? What would happen if you went down to Sickbay? The Doctor would fix you up, and then immediately report to the Captain the condition you returned from shoreleave in, and she would ask Tuvok to investigate. And then what would you say? Tell them how you were beat up in an alley because you were so stinking drunk you couldn't see straight? In the wrong part of town? How would you explain that?"
"I wasn't that drunk!" Tom responded hotly, beginning to get furious with the Commander. Chakotay may have saved his butt in that alley, but he'd be damned if he would let the big Indian treat him like a two-year-old. "Despite what you may think, I knew what I was doing . . ."
"Oh, I'm sure you did, Paris, I know what you were looking for in that part of town. I was the one who sobered you up when you joined the Maquis, remember? Watched you shake as you went through withdrawal, helped you to the bathroom when your legs were too weak to make it on your own to throw up ---"
"God Damn you Chakotay! That was a long time ago and you know it! That's not me anymore!" Tom spat back hotly, furious over the ex-Maquis' digs.
"I don't think so, Paris. I THOUGHT you had finally grown up a little! I was just thinking that tonight, walking the streets down there, remembering how we met in a place like that -- and where do I find you? Back in the same circumstances I first found you in! You haven't changed, Paris, you are just better at camouflaging how screwed up you are!" Chakotay shot back, and then dragged him off the lift and down the corridor to his quarters, Tom being too weak to pull away.
Tom was furious as Chakotay dragged him into his cabin. Tom finally found the strength to twist away from Chakotay's strangle hold around his waist but simply ended up pulling away, and collapsing onto the floor, his legs not willing to support his full weight.
"Fine, Paris, you want to go to Sickbay? You want to tell Tuvok what you were doing in that alley? We can go that route," Chakotay challenged the man on the floor.
"What I was doing in the alley, Chakotay, is none of your business! And I got jumped, as far as that goes, I'd had a few drinks and was headed back to the ship!" Tom protested hotly from his twisted position on the floor.
"Not the first time you got jumped in an alley, is it, Paris?" Chakotay challenged back, to suddenly see Tom go white.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Tom sputtered, suddenly pale and wide-eyed. Chakotay realized he had triggered something with his comment, but he didn't know what.
Chakotay approached Paris' position on the floor cautiously, not sure what strange direction their conversation had taken. "I was talking about when we met, Tom," he offered, eyes narrowed, watching Paris' tense form. "Are you thinking of something else?"
"No, what the hell would make you think that?" Tom spat back, edging away from Chakotay's approaching form.
"Your reaction," Chakotay responded, squatting down on his heels by Tom's sprawled form. "I assumed you would know that I was talking about our first meeting -- but it seemed like you were thinking of something else entirely."
"Fuck you, Chakotay," Tom spat, confused by Chakotay's suddenly calm, attentive manner. Where did the Angry Warrior go? "I rather like it the other way around, actually," Chakotay said, grinning, knowing he would totally confuse the young man, and maybe defuse the situation. And if it planted a hint, well, that couldn't hurt either, Paris was one of the most gorgeous things he had ever seen . . .
"What?!?!?" Tom yelped, beginning to think he had entered an alternate universe in that alleyway. First the Angry Warrior saved his butt and covered for him, and now a suddenly calm Chakotay was flirting with him?
"You heard me. Now if you are not going to tell me what is troubling you, lets get you cleaned up. Unless you really do intend to go to Doc, and tell Tuvok and the Captain everything?" Chakotay said, standing and holding out a hand to help Paris up.
"I'm not that stupid," Tom muttered and allowed Chakotay to pull him to his feet and lead him into the bathroom.
Chakotay sat Tom on the edge of the tub and began running water in the sink, wetting towels and pulling vials from the medicine cabinet. He then walked into his bedroom and returned with a medical tricorder and a dermal regenerator.
"Where did you get those?" Tom asked, finally understanding Chakotay's insistence that he bring Tom to his quarters and could fix him up.
"Let's see, I was Maquis, and now I am First Officer, you don't think I would have the tools to take care of little matters like this?" Chakotay asked, looking at Tom with a smirk.
"Guess I hadn't thought of that," Tom admitted a bit sheepishly.
"Well, go ahead and strip and let me see how badly you are hurt," Chakotay said as he gathered up the wet towel from the sink.
"Um, I think I can manage by myself," Tom said as he suddenly contemplated having to strip for his First Officer. After the remark Chakotay had made a few minutes ago, Tom found himself very unsure where he stood with the First Officer, and he felt as if he had shifting sands under his feet.
"What is with you tonight, Paris? Can't you follow a simple order? Pull off that shirt, I'm sure your ribs are bruised, and you've got blood everywhere -- it's a wonder Samantha didn't freak out when she saw you. You can't go through the corridors like that, and you won't even be able to report for duty in the morning unless I regenerate the worst of those bruises," Chakotay said, exasperated.
"Are you sure that is all you are going to do?" Tom asked warily.
"Spirits, Paris, where do you get these notions? What, do you think I have so little self control or am so desperate that I would jump an injured man? Who even said I would be interested in you, Paris?" Chakotay shot back, secretly amused his earlier remark had struck home.
Tom just glared at the big Maquis.
Chakotay sighed and squatted down on his heels. "Do you want to tell me what is really going on here, Tom?" he asked in a gentle voice. "First you freak at my remark about getting jumped in an alley, and now this. I know you've been around, Tom, I know who you were sleeping with in the Maquis. I was tempted then, but you were just too screwed up, and I'd already made one mistake with Seska. But you and Ayala had fun, short though it was. I know you've been with men. So just what is going on here, what is setting you off?"
"Don't give me this noble First Officer routine, Chakotay, you are no better than the rest. Do you really want to know?" Tom snarled, his voice rising. "Some of your wonderful fellow gentlemen officers jumped me in an alley right after Caldik Prime, you know. Then in Marseilles, I had another wonderful little back alley encounter. And of course an encounter, or two, or three, just before I joined the Maquis -- but you know about one of those, don't you? Oh, and then there's prison -- no alleys, but back halls and corridors work just as well. I know what men want when they look at me like that Chakotay -- and you are not getting it, any more than they did. I'm no one's whore!" Tom lurched to his feet and tried to sidestep Chakotay and flee the room.
Chakotay grabbed Tom by the shoulders and pushed him down, hard, back on his perch on the edge of the tub. "I have news for you, Paris, I DON'T want to screw you -- and we are going to get a few things straight around here right now!"
"Go to Hell, Chakotay!" Tom bellowed back, fighting to rise again, even though he had nearly not had the strength to rise the first time, much less did he have the strength to do so fighting off the burly First Officer now.
"I may already have, Paris, from your Christian world-view, from what I did in the Maquis. My conscious is my concern, not yours. You are going to listen to me, Paris. I don't care what may have happened to you with other men. I am not going to hurt you. I am going to fix you up. And then you are going to get some sleep. Here. So I can make sure you are all right. And that is ALL that is going to happen. Now can you understand that, or did you get hit harder in the head than I thought?"
"I hear you just fine, Chakotay, I just don't trust you. I've heard similar lines before -- and ended up in trouble. You don't want to help me -- you are just after something, and you are NOT getting it," Tom responded, glaring up at the big Maquis.
"Did it occur to you Tom, I probably killed one of the natives down there, one of your attackers? Did it occur to you I might have a little self-interest here? Do you really think I want you going to the Captain or Tuvok with that little piece of information? Does that satisfy you? You have a hold over me, all right? Now will you cooperate?" Chakotay replied, suddenly calm again.
"But -- all you really have to do is tell them it was self defense --"
"Yes, but they will say I didn't need to kill one of them. After all, I am boxing champ, right? I should know how to incapacitate an opponent, especially one I surprised. No, they will not buy that, Tom," Chakotay said calmly, trying to make Tom understand, trying to give him anything he needed to trust Chakotay, even if it was potentially lethal to himself. How could he make Tom trust him?
Because, Chakotay realized suddenly to himself, that was what he wanted. He had never seen this side of Tom before, this vulnerable, scared side masquerading as bravado. He reminded Chakotay of an abused dog he had helped as a child, that would strike out in fear snapping at everyone who tried to help it, until it finally learned to trust him . . .
And, Chakotay realized, if he was going to be fully honest with himself, he had been in that area of the city not only to look for his straying Maquis, but, just maybe, to find Paris too. Tom had been in his thoughts much more lately, as he had been during that walk, when he thought of how he met Tom in a place very much like it, and how much Tom had changed . . .
"I spoke out of turn before, Tom," Chakotay said softly, trying to break through. "I was angry, that kind of area brings back too many bad memories for me. I know you have changed, I've seen it -- you are not the way you were in the Maquis. So what bad memories were you chasing tonight? What drove you down there?"
Tom chuckled harshly. "Haven't we just been talking about it, Chakotay? Caldik Prime, the Maquis, prison, the men . . . the Captain's too careful, Chakotay. Can't get real booze on board even if I try, and I know better than to ask those bastards with the still. So I had the chance to get stinking drunk, and forget, for a little while. Do you think I wouldn't take it? In a place like that, if my money's good, no one asks questions. Except a few of them started to look at me funny, and I figured I'd better get out while I could -- only it was too late, they followed me and dragged me into that alley. And that's it. O.K.?" Tom spat out, glaring, challenging Chakotay with his eyes.
"Tom, that is the way you dealt with things in the Maquis -- that is why we met the way we did. I would think that you'd realized that by now . . ." Chakotay started.
"Now the counselor routine, hm, Chakotay? Anything to make me let my guard down?" Tom spat, continuing to distrust the big Maquis.
“So what were you running from, Tom? Which memory was it tonight? Prison? Caldik Prime? Those men? Your father?” Chakotay continued, seeking a way past those damn barriers Tom had erected like a glacier wall against the outside world.
“Fuck you Chakotay! I am not having this conversation with you!” Tom half yelled, half sobbed, and attempted to rise and get past him again.
Chakotay gently pushed him back onto the edge of the tub again, and squatted down on his heels before the distraught man. “Tom, please, for once, listen to me. I may be attracted to you, but I am NOT going to do anything about it tonight, not when you are feeling so scared and vulnerable. Now just let me clean you up.” Chakotay rose and turned to the sink to retrieve a wet cloth and the regenerator, and Tom slumped on the edge of the tub, temporarily defeated.
Chakotay worked as quickly and clinically as he could, healing the bruised ribs, the cut lip, the scraped knuckles and abrasions, using the hypo to deal with the minor concussion, making Tom stand and turn while he took care of the bruises and abrasions on his back from multiple impacts with the brick wall of the alley. Tom was silent, and surly, but cooperated, and Chakotay took that for a good sign.
“There, Paris, that's about all I can do,” Chakotay said as he injected an analgesic into his arm. “You'll be sore tomorrow, but no one will know what happened. Now let me get you something else to wear.”
“Its pretty late, Chakotay, I don't think anyone will be in the corridors, I can make it back to my cabin like this,” Tom responded, turned away from Chakotay as he reclaimed what was left of his shirt from the bathroom floor. Chakotay studied his body language for a moment, noted how he almost cringed as he turned away and bent down and seemed to wrap the shirt around himself for protection. Given what was left of the shirt, Chakotay knew it might provide psychological protection, but that was all.
“No, Tom,” Chakotay responded quietly, his mind made up. He would make Tom stay, and try their often-aborted conversation again. “I don't want you to take that chance, and those clothes are a wreck. I have some sleeping pants you can use tonight,” he added, noticing the wary look that returned to Tom's eyes.
“I told you before, Chakotay, I don't trust you,” Tom responded in a harsh tone, trying to gather his shirt around himself like frayed dignity.
“And I thought I told you you didn't have to, that you have something to hold over me -- my killing that alien in the alley,” Chakotay responded calmly, trying to offer Tom the same bait again, hoping this time he would take the hook. “And besides that,” Chakotay continued, thinking he was seeing some thawing in Tom's demeanor, “you saved my life on Ocampa, remember? So I owe you.”
“I've never tried to collect on that, Chakotay, and you know that!” Tom barked back. “Besides, you told me wrong tribe, remember?”
“So maybe I lied,” Chakotay said as he took a step towards Tom. “And that is one of the reasons I've been changing my mind about you, you know -- the fact that you never attempted to take advantage of that fact, despite the crap the Maquis were giving you.”
“Yah, you sure never did anything about that,” Tom responded in a sour tone.
“How do you know it wouldn't have been much worse? How do you know I didn't do something?” Chakotay said reasonably, talking another step towards Tom, attempting to stalk his prey while it was unawares. He seemed to be making a bit of progress . . .
“Are you saying you've been protecting me all along, Chakotay?” Tom said suddenly, studying the dark man with narrowed eyes.
“Maybe.” He took another step towards Tom.
“Why do you care?”
“Why shouldn't I?”
“No one does.” Shoulders slumped, Tom appeared to be awaiting a blow.
“Have you asked?”
“Have you asked anyone if they care? Harry, B’Elanna, the Captain -- me? Do you ever ask for any help, Paris? I could have made it easier, if I had known sooner what was going on -- but you never ask for any help. What are you afraid of? What are you running from? Why don't you let anyone in?” Chakotay took a final step towards Tom, and laid a hand very carefully on his shoulder.
“He taught me to trust no one,” Tom said suddenly, looking Chakotay straight in the eyes. He studied what he saw there, seeing compassion in the strong brown eyes, and wondering . . .
“And how much other crap did he teach you that you have already rejected, Tom?” Chakotay responded, knowing without Tom saying who he was talking about.
“You were running tonight from what you have been running from your whole life, weren't you, Tom? From the pain, the fear, the loneliness --”
“Don't tell me to fuck off again, Paris, it is getting old,” Chakotay responded, moving his hand to Tom's arm and drawing him into the bedroom.
Chakotay matter-of-factly reached into a drawer, drew out some sleeping pants, and shoved them at Paris as he stood behind him. “Go ahead and change, I’ll be right back,” he stated, grabbed his own clothes, and returned to the bathroom.
Chakotay stood for a few moments in the bathroom, listening. Paris wasn't making a noise, but he thought that was good. If Tom was going to throw a temper tantrum or leave, he would have heard it by now. Chakotay leaned on the sink and looked into the mirror, wondering if he was seeing the same man he saw this morning. This morning the First Officer of Voyager had faced him, confident, about to go about the daily routine and maybe even take a little shore leave. Before the mirror now he saw the Maquis Captain, with the drawn face and tension about the eyes, the set lips and almost-dead eyes. How could so much happen in such little time? First those streets, the memories, then the alley, and Paris -- spirits, what was he to do with Paris? It was bad enough he had realized to himself, and implied to Paris, that he wanted him -- only to have Tom metaphorically run kicking and screaming at the idea. And now that same reluctant, recalcitrant, hardheaded rebel was going to sleep over . . .
Chakotay sighed. If he did anything tonight, it would be the end of everything, before anything had even begun. He didn't know if he had actually begun to reach Tom or not, but he was too tired, both physically and spiritually, to try any more tonight. He went through the motions of his nightly ablutions and returned to the bedroom, to find Paris sitting on the edge of the bed in the sleeping pants, tension palpable.
“Go to sleep, Tom,” he said, pulling down the covers and motioning to the bed.
“I still don't trust you, Maquis,” Tom responded, body stiff, Chakotay knew, not from the earlier beating but from tension.
“I'm keeping an eye on you tonight Tom, that is all there is to it. You can stay tonight, you can stay forever, I don't care, but I am going to MAKE you stay tonight. You did have a concussion, I want to make sure everything is all right. All we are going to do is sleep. Now get in bed,” Chakotay said, exasperated and exhausted, and pushed Tom down on the bed.
Tom warily crawled to one side of the bed and turned on his side, facing the starlight. He tensed as Chakotay crawled into bed himself, settling behind Tom and throwing one arm around his waist. Chakotay tried to sleep, to ignore the tense form under his arm.
Some time passed.
“You really meant it, didn't you?” came a soft voice from in front of him.
“Meant what?” said Chakotay sleepily.
“That you weren't going to do anything.”
Chakotay became alert immediately, as if the ship had come under attack. “Of course not, Tom, I gave you my word, you were just going to sleep here tonight,” he responded softly.
“It helps, a little,” came very softly.
“Helps what, Tom?” he asked just as softly.
“The pain that you were running from tonight, trying to drown tonight in that bar -- its all of it, isn't it? Your father, Caldik Prime, the Maquis, prison, the men, the back alleys --”
“The pain isn't going to go away, Tom, until you begin to trust someone.”
“I'm afraid to let it go.”
Its my life -- without the pain, what's left?”
“That's why you need to trust someone, to let the pain out -- and find out what your life might be like without all the pain,” Chakotay said, still in the same soft voice.
“You were serious with that shit before, weren't you? About the killing, and my saving your life, and that you wouldn't do anything, that I had a hold on you, that I was safe with you,” Tom continued, some bitterness now creeping into his voice.
“Yes, Tom, I was. And you can use that hold as long as you wish,” Chakotay offered, drawing the thin frame a bit closer to him.
“If you are screwing with me, if you try anything, Chakotay,” Tom responded in a warning tone.
“Not unless you want me to,” Chakotay shot, unable to help himself and grinning. It was a good thing Tom could not see his face . . .
“Will you trust me, Tom?” Chakotay said, and moved his hand over Tom's heart.
“I can really stay? Not just the night? As long as I need to to straighten some things out?”
“Yes, Tom, as long as you need, as long as you want,” Chakotay answered, touched by the pleading tone he was finally hearing. “I’ll help you chase away your demons.”
“Hmph. You make it sound like you are going to be my salvation, Chakotay,” Tom said, finally relaxing into sleep.
“I certainly hope so, Tom, I certainly hope so, for both our sakes,” Chakotay responded, and drifted off to sleep himself, Tom secure in his arms.