Castle Roland

Finding Clarity

by MultiMapper


Chapter 1

Posted: 31 Mar 16

Finding Clarity

Copyright © 2007 MultiMapper
All Rights Reserved

Golden Semi-Colon Award
Awarded to MultiMapper for _Finding Clarity_

Fennis II was a beautiful planet with warp capable inhabitants who were very friendly and inviting. After some mutually satisfying trade negotiations, the government officials invited the crew of Voyager to enjoy a harvest festival in the capital city.

Lieutenant Tom Paris, the chief helmsman of Voyager, walked through the capital square with his best friends, Harry and B'Elana, looking through merchant stalls for trinkets and just enjoying the festive atmosphere. An odd triangular symbol at one of the stalls caught Tom's eye. Unnoticed by the others, he left for a moment to check it out.

Tom walked up to the elderly woman who was proprietress of the stall and noticed that she didn't have any wares displayed. Overcome by curiosity, he asked the woman, "What are you selling?"

"I offer a service of clarity."

"I don't understand."

"Sometimes, we make our way through life and become distracted from the things that are most important. I simply aid in returning to the path." She said with a look of ultimate peace in her eyes.

Tom thought about this for a moment, then asked, "What would I have to do?"

"Take my hands." The woman said in a motherly tone as she extended her hands to him.

Tom took her hands cautiously then looked into her eyes.

"What now?"

"It is done."


"Soon you will find clarity, be well, enjoy the festival." She said and gave him the most loving smile that he'd ever seen in his life.

"Um... thank you." Tom said hesitantly.

She nodded once, then looked away from him, toward a gathering of people in the central courtyard.

Having been dismissed, Tom walked away from the booth somewhat dazed.

A moment later, he caught sight of Harry and B'Elana and hurried to rejoin them.

They hadn't noticed his momentary absence and soon he forgot that he had left their company.

Upon arriving back on the ship, Tom made his way back to his quarters. When he found himself alone, he began to think. At 03:00 Tom snapped out of his thoughts and realized that half the night had passed. Tom dragged himself to the bed and collapsed.

When the alarm sounded, Tom awoke and realized that even during his sleep, his mind had been racing. He had been thinking about the stages of his life and the choices that brought him to this day. He sluggishly went through his morning routine, then went directly to the bridge and continued on to the ready room for the morning briefing.

From the moment Tom stepped onto the bridge, he was completely focused on his job without any sluggishness or distraction. Through the briefing and on through the course of his shift, Tom was the consummate professional. Although no one noticed at the time, Tom passed up several opportunities to make his typical smart assed comments. Instead, he responded to every inquiry or direction directly, concisely, and respectfully.

After the shift ended, Tom went back to his quarters without giving his day of work a second thought. As soon as he had changed out of his uniform, he sat on the edge of his bed and began to think...

...and think...

"Tom? Are you in there?" Harry's voice called over the comm at Tom's door.

After a moment to snap out of his deep thoughts, Tom reluctantly stood and said, "Come in."

"What's going on? I haven't seen you outside of duty for over a week." Harry asked with concern.

"Um... yeah. I just haven't felt much like going out." Tom said evasively.

Harry looked closely at Tom and saw dark circles under his eyes and a gaunt hollowness to his overall appearance.

"Are you feeling alright? You look like you've been sick." Harry said cautiously.

"I'm feeling fine, I've just got a lot on my mind." Tom said in a distracted voice.

"Is it anything I can help with?" Harry asked cautiously, already knowing that his offer of help would be refused.

"No. Really, there's nothing wrong." Tom said and tried to force a smile onto his face.

The false smile was the last bit of confirmation that Harry needed to prove that something really was wrong.

"Do you want to go out and shoot some pool or check out the resort program?" Harry asked cautiously.

"Maybe some other time. It's been a long day, I'm going to turn in early." Tom said as he ushered Harry toward the door.

{Sure you will.} Harry thought to himself as he looked again at the dark circles under Tom's eyes.

"I'll see you tomorrow Har. I really need to get to sleep." Tom said as he all but threw Harry out into the hallway.

"Yeah. Tomorrow." Harry said to the door as it closed in front of him.

"Commander? Do you have a minute to talk with me?" Harry asked nervously from Chakotay's office doorway.

"Of course Ensign Kim, what can I do for you today?" Commander Chakotay asked as he sat back in his chair and devoted his full attention to Harry.

"Well, I, um... I'm kind of worried about Tom and... I didn't know who else to talk to about it." Harry said uncomfortably.

"Please have a seat and tell me what's bothering you." Chakotay said as he sat forward with interest.

Harry sat down and was silent for a moment as he collected his thoughts.

Finally he looked into Commander Chakotay's eyes and said, "Tom's been acting strangely for a couple weeks now. Last week I tried to talk to him about it and he was in such a rush to get rid of me he nearly threw me out of his cabin."

"Go on." Chakotay said in a measured tone.

"Well, since then, I've been watching him. He goes to work, then he goes back to his cabin and stays there." Harry said intently.

"It's his right to be alone if he chooses to be." Chakotay said simply.

"You don't understand Commander, he's not eating. I don't think he's been sleeping. I'd be willing to bet that he's replicated new uniforms because he's lost so much weight that his old ones don't fit anymore."

Chakotay thought about how earlier that same morning he had noticed that Lieutenant Paris looked thinner.

"Haven't you noticed how different he's acting on the bridge?" Harry asked in a slightly pleading voice.

"Yes. He's been very professional. In fact, I made a note to myself just yesterday about it for his performance review. His conduct the past two weeks has been exemplary." Chakotay said as he looked Harry in the eyes.

"Yeah. That's not like Tom at all. He hasn't even made a joke in two weeks." Harry said desperately.

"Ensign Kim, return to your duty station and I'll look into the matter." Chakotay said seriously.

"Yes sir." Harry said reluctantly.

"Ensign, if Lieutenant Paris has a problem, I'll see that it's dealt with." Chakotay said firmly.

Harry smiled with relief, then said, "Thank you sir."

"Go on." Chakotay said and returned the smile.

Chakotay considered Harry's words for the rest of the day and did his best to observe Tom's behavior at the helm without being obvious about it.

About an hour after Tom had gone off shift, Chakotay completed his reports for the day then made his way to Tom's cabin. He reluctantly pressed the button by the door, not completely sure what he was going to say.

After a long moment of silence, Tom's hesitant voice sounded over the comm, "Come in."

Chakotay walked into the darkened room to find Tom sitting on the couch curled up into himself with his knees to his chest.

"Tom, can we talk?"

Tom looked up slowly with pain evident in his eyes.

Chakotay was taken aback at the emotional state that Tom appeared to be in.

When Tom realized who had walked in, he quickly stood and quietly said, "Yes sir. Please come in and have a seat."

Tom gestured to the couch and waited for Chakotay to sit down before taking his seat again.

"What's wrong Tom?" Chakotay asked quietly with concern.

"What do you mean? Did I do something wrong?" Tom asked, almost sounding panicked.

"No, you just haven't been acting like yourself the last few weeks and I wanted to know if you're having a problem." Chakotay said honestly, feeling like he was talking to a complete stranger.

"I can't really explain, I need a little more time to be able to put it into words." Tom said reluctantly.

"Do you need to see the Doctor.?" Chakotay asked quietly, not sure if the suggestion would provoke a hostile reaction.

"I went to see him yesterday. I don't really feel sick but I had him check me out anyway, just to be safe. The Doc says that besides being a little underweight, I'm fine."

"You're not fine, Ensign Kim says you've been distant and you haven't been eating."

"Yeah, I've just been thinking, I might have forgotten a few meals." Tom said in a voice of distraction.

"What have you been thinking about, if you don't mind me asking?" Chakotay asked cautiously.

"I don't mind, but I'd rather not talk about it yet. Not until I have it all sorted." Tom said as he finally looked into Chakotay's eyes.

"I can accept that. Is there anything I can do to help?" Chakotay asked, being drawn into the lost and helpless expression.

"Yeah, and you're doing it right now." Tom said as he tried to force a smile onto his face.

"What am I doing?"

"You're talking to me like I'm a real person."

"As opposed to...?"

"As opposed to a lieutenant, or a pain in the ass." Tom said and a little smirk found it's way into his expression.

The statement made Chakotay mentally step back for a moment. This person that he'd been talking to wasn't the dutiful lieutenant from the bridge or the 'smart ass' that he was accustomed to encountering when Lieutenant Paris was off duty.

Chakotay finally took a chance and said, "Actually, I like talking to you like this. You're usually so evasive that I can't get a straight answer out of you."

"Yeah, I know. I've still got a little more thinking to do. Do you think we could sit down together sometime soon and talk some more about this? I think I've just about figured it out."

"Do you think you'd be ready to talk after shift tomorrow?"

"Yeah, maybe... probably."

"How about my quarters at 18:00, I'll make us dinner and we can talk." Chakotay said and gave Tom a genuine smile.

"Thank you. I'd like that." Tom said and returned the smile full force.

Chakotay then left the quarters leaving Tom much the same way as he had found him. While walking back to his quarters he thought about the Lieutenant's behavior over the past two weeks as opposed to the previous five years.

After a long and uneventful shift, Chakotay completed his outstanding tasks, then went to his cabin to prepare a meal for two.

He took a moment to reflect on how long it had been since he'd done that, but was eventually caught up in the task at hand.

Just as Chakotay was programming their dessert into the replicator, the door signal sounded.


"Come on in."

Tom entered the room looking more wan and subdued than the day before.

"I figured we could talk for a few minutes before we eat. Can I get you anything to drink?" Chakotay said, trying to hide his concern.

Tom considered for a moment, then said, "Llareth, hot."

Chakotay replicated himself a cup of herbal tea and a cup of the mysterious Llareth for Tom. "Llareth? I'm not familiar with that drink."

"It's a Betazoid tea, it's kinda relaxing."

Chakotay handed Tom his beverage and indicated for them to sit on the couch. "I'll have to try it sometime."

"I think you'd like it. I don't even remember where I was introduced to it, I've just always preferred it when I'm concentrating on a problem."

{Well I can't pass up an opening like that.} Chakotay thought to himself, then asked, "So what is the problem that you're concentrating on?"

Tom laughed as he said, "OK, I guess I did set myself up for that."

Chakotay smiled curiously and asked, "For what?"

"You remember what I said yesterday about talking to me like a real person?" Tom asked as he relaxed back into Chakotay's couch.

"Yes..." Chakotay said cautiously, not knowing where this was going.

"I think that's what's been happening with me. I've been defining the different people that I am, and that I'm expected to be." Tom said in a considering voice.

"How so?"

"For example, on the bridge I am expected to be Lieutenant Paris, chief helmsman. In Sandrine's, I'm expected to be Tom, the smart assed pool player..." Tom trailed off to see if Chakotay was understanding what he was saying.

"I get that, but I still don't understand what you mean by the 'set myself up' comment." Chakotay said cautiously.

"It's not just me Chakotay, you have several roles too. Commander, Counselor, and so on." Tom said, then took a sip of his tea.

"I suppose I do."

"When I said that thing about concentrating on a problem, it brought Counselor Chakotay out in full force. I could almost hear the switchover." Tom said with a gentle smile.

"And is that a bad thing?" Chakotay asked cautiously.

"Yeah, for me it is. You have to understand that my father used counselors to try and make me be what he wanted me to be. After the Caldik Prime incident, the Starfleet counselors descended on me like a pack of hungry jackals. Then in Auckland, I had a counselor picking at me every other day trying to 'rehabilitate' me." Tom trailed off with a helpless look at Chakotay.

"Then I assume that you would rather not speak to Counselor Chakotay."

"I would rather not tonight, but I think I am going to need to talk to him about a few things later. I'll schedule an appointment for that." Tom said, and there was a tone of nervousness in his voice.

"So which me were you wanting to talk to tonight?" Chakotay asked, trying not to sound like a counselor.

"I'd like to talk to the person behind all the titles." Tom said frankly.

"Okay, for tonight the Commander is on the bridge and the Counselor is in his office." Chakotay said seriously.

"Good and the Lieutenant is on the bridge with the Commander and the Smart Ass is in Sandrine's playing pool with Harry." Tom said with a smile, then an expression of concern fell over his face.

Tom looked at Chakotay speculatively then seemed to come to a decision. "Actually this is what I wanted to talk to you about."

"What? Your role on Voyager?" Chakotay asked cautiously.

Tom gave a little laugh. "No, Lieutenant and Smart Ass cover that pretty well."

"Then what?" Chakotay asked as he shifted into a more comfortable position.

"Me, the person that I am, right here, right now. The person without the mile high walls of defenses." Tom said in a small voice.

"What about him?" Chakotay asked, then took another sip of his tea.

"Exactly." Tom said with a nod.


"I've been living in the roles so much, I don't know about him, the person I am when I'm not being the Lieutenant or the Smart Ass."

"Is that why you had the attitude on the bridge, I mean before the last two weeks." Chakotay asked without accusation in his voice.

"Yeah, I think so. When something came up and the Lieutenant needed to express himself, he only had the Smart Ass to use as a voice. The Lieutenant doesn't say much besides 'Yes sir' and 'Aye Captain'." Tom said in thought.

This realization made Chakotay think. It explained so much about Tom's behavior in the past. "Did you notice that you've been talking about your other roles as separate people?"

"Yeah, it's just easier to think of it that way. We even have names."

"Really? Would you like to introduce me?" Chakotay asked quickly.

"Sure, you already know Lieutenant Paris. The Smart Ass is Tom. There is also a daredevil called 'Flyboy'. And then there's me, Tommy."

"Tom are you..."

"Tommy, if you don't mind."

"Okay, Tommy, are you serious about this? Because if you are..."

"I know what you're talking about Counselor Chakotay." Tommy said with a wry grin. "Multiple Personality Disorder. And I promise that I will make an appointment with you and take whatever tests you feel are necessary. In fact, just let me know when you want to see me, I don't have any plans after my shift the next few days. But right now, I'd appreciate it if you would go back to your office so Chakotay and I can have dinner."

"Point taken. The Counselor has left the room, it's just us now." Chakotay said as he tried to switch back to his more casual nature.

"Good. Would you mind if I call you Tay?" Tommy asked hopefully.


"It will just be a signal to let you know that I want to speak to the person behind the roles. Just like Tommy is for me."

"I see, you'll call me Commander if you need me in that capacity, Counselor in that, and Tay in this." Chakotay said in confirmation.

"Yes, and when I call you Chakotay, I'm speaking to whoever is on duty." Tommy's eyes lighted with a gentle smile.

"Fair enough, are you ready for dinner Tommy?"

"Sure am Tay."

Chakotay pressed the replicator button to produce the dinner he had programmed earlier and carried it to the table.

"Ratatouille?" Tommy asked with a delighted glint in his eyes.

"Yes, I hoped you'd like it."

"Yeah, I haven't had it since I was in Marseilles. I haven't even thought about it." Tommy said as he smiled with delight.

"Good, dig in." Chakotay said and felt a swell of happiness at Tommy's obvious enjoyment.

They both started into the dinner, then Chakotay asked, "What are you going to do about Harry? He's really worried about you."

"I know. Tom is going to invite him out to shoot pool on Friday. I think that will take care of things as far as Harry and B'Elana are concerned."

"Are you going to tell him about what's going on?"

"Actually, I'm going to discuss that with Counselor Chakotay when we have our appointment. I have a feeling that the appointment will be before Friday." Tommy said with a teasing grin.

"Yes, I have that feeling too." Tay said with a smile.

"Tom has always been the one to deal with counselors so this is going to be a little difficult for me. And it might turn out to be difficult for Counselor Chakotay too." Tommy said distantly.

"How so?"

"Because if I start to feel threatened, Tom will step in to protect me." Tommy said as he reluctantly looked up to meet Chakotay's eyes.

"Oh horror!" Chakotay said with a mock shiver.

"Yeah, and that will be the end of the counseling session." Tommy said with a smile at Chakotay's reaction.

Chakotay smiled, then stood and started to clear their empty dishes out of the way.

"So, what does Tay like to do for fun?" Tommy asked with genuine interest as Chakotay placed two pieces of chocolate cake on the table.

"I enjoy boxing on the holodeck and long distance running." Chakotay said absently as he took his seat again.


"And what?"

"Is that all you do outside your duties for fun?"

"No, I also like to meditate and take a spirit walk occasionally."

"Mystic Warrior Chakotay."


"I can't speak for you, but it seems that the Mystic Warrior may be another role in your life."

"I suppose, but it's all me."

"I'm just trying to get to know the man behind all the roles. You know, Tay, the person who enjoys boxing and running. Tay, the person who is willing to share dinner with someone that has been a pain in the ass to him for the past five years." Tommy finished with a gentle smile.

"Tom, er, Tommy, I hate to admit it, but I don't think I know too much about Tay."

"Then I'd like to help you get to know him. From what little I've seen, he's a pretty good guy and worth getting to know." Tommy said honestly.

"Thanks. I'd have to say the same thing about Tommy."

"Before the last two weeks, I don't think I knew me. The me that I thought I knew, I didn't like at all." Tommy said reflectively.

"And now?"

"Now, I think I like me just fine." Tommy said with a smile of accomplishment.

"So do you think you're going to stay like this?"

"Yeah... Well, not exactly like this, but I like having the roles clearly defined and autonomous."


"I don't get lost behind them. I get time to be me."

With dinner finished, Tay and Tommy returned to the couch for some more conversation.

"Tay, I'm curious about something."

"What's that?"

"What do you do about companionship?"

"In what way?"

"I mean, doesn't it bother you to come back here after your shift and not have someone to talk to about your day?"

"I really don't think about it."

"I do... now. I guess I didn't before, but I think that's why I was always running around being the pilot, holodeck programmer, back-up medic and Delta quadrant playboy."

Chakotay thought about the statement, but remained silent, relating to what Tommy was saying on some level.

"I think I was just trying to fill up my time with meaningless things so I wouldn't have to spend an evening with myself."

"I see what you mean. Between my days on the bridge, and evenings doing reports, I really don't have much free time."

"So you fill your off duty hours with work so you don't have to think about it?" Tommy asked quietly.

"Yes, I think I do."

"And if you did think about it?"

"I guess I wouldn't like it."

"I tell you what Tay. I think we can help each other out with this." Tommy said honestly.

"How so?"

"Just by being here for each other. I'm enjoying just sitting and talking with you, and I would like it if we could do this again, and often." Tommy finished with a hopeful smile.

"I think I'd like that too... It's nice to have someone to sit and talk with. We can leave ship's business outside and just talk about whatever interests us." Chakotay said with a dreamy smile.

"Exactly. What do you say? Wanna try it? I know we don't have the rations to do a dinner like this every night, but we could just stop off at one of our cabins after dinner and relax and be ourselves for a while." Tommy said with mounting excitement.

"I don't know if I'll have the time to commit to something like that. My duties..." Chakotay began to say.

"Do you think that Tay deserves to have some time to do things?"

"Come to think of it, Tay deserves some consideration. The commander can deal with things on his own time." Chakotay said decisively.

"Good, I'm going to reserve Tuesdays and Fridays for time for Tom to spend with Harry. But any other night I'd be available to spend some time with Tay, I mean, when you feel like it."

"I like the sound of that Tommy. Would you like to meet again tomorrow at 19:00?"

"Yeah, that will give me plenty of time to lose the uniform and get something to eat first."

Chakotay nodded his agreement to the arrangement.

"I guess I'd better get going. It's getting late and the Commander and the Lieutenant have early shifts tomorrow." Tommy said with regret.

"The counselor will schedule an appointment with you sometime tomorrow, if that's alright." Chakotay asked as he stood to walk Tommy to the door.

"That's fine, as long as you let him know that I have plans at 19:00." Tommy said with a smile.

"I'll be sure to tell him." Chakotay said warmly.

"Good night Tay."

"Good night Tommy."

The next morning, about an hour after shift change, Janeway leaned over in her chair and whispered, "I need to discuss something with you in my ready room."

Chakotay nodded, then stood to follow her.

"Tuvok, you have the bridge." Janeway said as she walked with purpose toward the door.

"It's about Tom Paris." Janeway said without prelude as she stopped just inside the door.

"Is there a problem?" Chakotay asked cautiously.

"That's what I'd like for you to find out. I've had three people come to me voicing their concerns about him. They say that he's become reclusive and hasn't been eating." Janeway said frankly.

"Actually, I am aware of that. Ensign Kim came to me two days ago saying much the same thing." Chakotay said cautiously.


"And I spoke to Lieutenant Paris about it. Kathryn, he's working through some personal issues and he asked me to schedule an appointment with him today in my capacity as counselor." Chakotay said very precisely.

The captain had a mild stunned look on her face, then quietly asked, "Are you aware that he would rather spend an afternoon in a pit of Denebian slime devils than spend an hour with a counselor?"

Chakotay laughed, then said, "I'm aware of that, and I even understand his reasons for that attitude. But, he is the one who asked for the counseling session. Since he is willing, his attitude shouldn't be a problem, as long as I'm not too aggressive with him."

"I get the feeling that you already know what the problem is." Janeway said speculatively.

"I have an idea. But I hope to know more after our session this afternoon." Chakotay said as he watched her expression carefully.

"Is it anything that will effect his performance on the bridge?"

"Yes, I think this particular problem might improve his performance. Think about how he has been performing his duties the past two weeks."

"Come to think of it, he has been unusually conscientious and cooperative. It's just not like him." Janeway finished with a questioning look at Chakotay.

"Without breaking confidentiality, there isn't much more I can say except that he is aware of his behavior and has asked for counseling. I think that alone is a reason to be optimistic."

"Agreed. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help."

"I will."


"Come in."

"Counselor?" Tommy said with a somber, somewhat frightened look in his eyes.

"Come on in Tommy, have a seat." Chakotay said and gestured to the chairs across from his desk.

Tommy looked at the chairs apprehensively then sat down stiffly.

"I know you don't want to be here Tommy. You must have some pretty big concerns to put yourself through this so let's just deal with those first. You go ahead and tell me what you think I need to know and ask whatever questions you want. We'll save the tests and whatever else we decide to do for some other day. Is that okay with you?"

"Yeah. I guess the main thing I wanted to talk about is Harry."

"Are you worried that Harry won't like Tommy?"

Tommy looked up, just a little startled, then reluctantly said, "Yeah, I think that's it. I've taken a lot of time to think in the past couple weeks. I've remembered a few times when Harry has seen behind the Tom persona and he didn't react well."

"In what way?"

"If I say something outside the Tom persona, he quickly changes the subject or backs off right away." Tommy said reluctantly.

Chakotay pondered this for a moment then said, "I have an idea about this, it's just something for you to consider, do you want to hear it?"

"Sure, go ahead Counselor."

"Maybe you're afraid that Harry is Tom's friend and not yours." Chakotay ventured to say.

Silence sat like a cold stone in Tommy's mouth. Chakotay waited until the silence became too strained then said, "Or maybe your afraid that you don't like Harry as much as Tom does."

The silence continued but then with eyes downcast, Tommy slowly and slightly nodded his head.

"And that's okay." Chakotay said in a voice of assurance.

Tommy looked up questioningly.

"Tommy, you like who you like. If Harry is Tom's friend, so be it. Let them have their fun sometimes and you do your own thing other times." Chakotay said seriously.

"Counselor, I thought that you would be trying to force me back into being one person, I didn't think you could accept me as Tommy. Why aren't you trying to make me like I was before?" Tommy asked with fear and confusion in his voice.

"To put it simply, I think you're better off like this. Too many people try to fix things just because they're outside the norm. You're condition is unusual but from what I've judged from our talk last night, you seem to be well adjusted, thoughtful, and trying to better your current situation. What more could I hope for you? But if you feel that you have a problem and that we should try to reintegrate you, then I will do everything I can to help you."

"I kinda just assumed that you'd think that I was messed up and try to fix me." Tommy said in a lost voice.

"No, I think you should decide what is going to make you happy, then let me know and I'll try to help you get it." Chakotay said with a warm smile.

"So you think I'm okay? I'm going to need to think on that one for a little while before I make any life altering decisions." Tommy said in a considering voice.

"That sounds like a good idea. I do have some concerns that you need to be aware of." Chakotay said quietly.

"Like what?"

"I find Tommy to be well adjusted and a very likable person. And to put it frankly, Lieutenant Paris is a commanding officer's wet dream. But I don't know about the stability of Tom and Flyboy. I would like to schedule future sessions with them to make sure that they aren't a menace to themselves or others." Chakotay said cautiously, watching carefully for Tommy's reaction.

"You mean that you're afraid that Tom will get drunk and start tearing up Sandrine's or Flyboy might want to do World War I dog fighting with the holodeck safeties turned off?" Tommy asked slowly.

"Yes Tommy, that's exactly what I'm afraid of. But as far as your role in these counseling sessions, I think we need to define your goals so I can help you achieve them." Chakotay said with a smile.

"Okay counselor, I have to admit, you just surprised me. I've been through more counselors than I can name and I've never had any of them tell me that I'm fine before. I think I like the sound of it. And one other thing... "

Chakotay nodded to encourage Tommy to continue.

"When you meet with Tom and Flyboy, you might consider meeting them on their own turf. Tom is going to be a complete prick to you if you sit him down in an office and try to get him to open up to you. And Flyboy has so much nervous energy, his fidgeting will probably drive you up the wall before you can pry five words out of him."

"What do you suggest then?"

"I think if you set up a time to play pool at Sandrine's with Tom, or even play some cards with him in my quarters, then he might be more cooperative. As for Flyboy, just join in some of his interests and he'll open right up, maybe rock climbing or skydiving." Tommy said in a speculative voice.

Chakotay nodded his agreement, then asked, "Where do you want to meet at 19:00?"

"Let's meet at my place." Tommy said with a happy smile at the change in subject.

"Sounds good, I'll see you then."

After a comfortable evening of general talk and companionship in Tom's cabin, the two went their separate ways. The next morning they worked their shift and an overall sense of harmony seemed to fall over the bridge as the tension that was usually between them was noticeably absent.

Finally the shift ended and they met each other in the turbo lift.

"Deck five."

"Deck eight."

"Big plans tonight?" Chakotay asked as the turbolift began to move.

"I guess so. Tom is going to play pool with Harry." Tommy said reluctantly.

"Well, let them have their fun. Tom's been really good about letting us have time to do what we want." Chakotay said with a smile.

"Yeah. I guess so. What are you going to be doing tonight?" Tommy asked curiously.

"Crew performance reviews. Tuvok and I are going to be up most of the night getting them finished." Chakotay said with a sour look.

"I won't whine about watching Tom and Harry play pool then." Tommy said with a sympathetic smile.

"Just tell me all about how it went tomorrow." Chakotay said as the turbolift doors opened.

"You've got it. I'd better get going." Tommy said quickly.

"I'll see you tomorrow." Chakotay said with a smile as he watched Tommy hurry away.


"Excuse me Tuvok, this may be important." Chakotay said as he stood from the table where they had been working.

"Come in." Chakotay said as he walked toward the door.

Tommy rushed into the room, then froze when he saw Tuvok at the table.

"It's okay. What's the matter?" Chakotay asked with concern at the expression of worry on Tommy's face.

"Can I... can we... talk privately?" Tommy fought to ask past hitching breaths.

"Of course, come with me." Chakotay said and motioned for Tommy to walk into the bedroom with him.

Tuvok quirked an eyebrow at the unlikely circumstance of Lieutenant Paris coming to Commander Chakotay for emotional support, then mentally filed his speculation for later thought and went back to his work.

"What's wrong Tommy?" Chakotay asked at the devastated look on Tommy's face.

"I... we were playing pool... and... and...." Tommy fought to say.

Chakotay pulled Tommy into a comforting hug and whispered, "Calm down for a second then tell me what happened."

Tommy clutched onto Chakotay desperately and tried to calm himself.

After a long silent moment, Chakotay quietly asked, "Feeling better?"

"Yeah. Thanks Tay."

"Can you tell me what's got you so upset?" Chakotay asked as he continued to hold Tommy close to his chest.

"Tom and Harry were playing pool. Then B'Elana joined them." Tommy said from the embrace.

Chakotay slowly started rubbing Tommy's back to soothe him.

"Well, they were having fun and everything was fine until... I guess I thought I could come forward and maybe have some fun with them too." Tommy said in a trembling voice.

"What happened?" Chakotay asked gently.

"I missed a shot and they made fun of me. Harry and B'Elana both started laughing at me and calling me names." Tommy said as tears started falling down his cheeks.

"What did you do?" Chakotay asked as tears started to well up in his own eyes.

"I let Tom take over again and he just started laughing with them and pretended like he was goofing around." Tommy said in a pained voice.

"Tommy. You've never had to deal with something like this before because you've always had Tom to shield you from it. Harry and B'Elana weren't being cruel, they were just interacting with you the way they always do." Chakotay said gently.

"But I'd never call someone a 'loser' or a 'disgrace to the Fleet' no matter how badly they played." Tommy said in misery.

"I know. That's one of the things I like about you Tommy. You're an honest and caring person who would never hurt another person's feelings. But you've got to understand that they weren't serious when they said those things, they were just playing." Chakotay said gently.

"It doesn't matter. I don't want to be around people who make me feel like that. I want to have friends who... empower me. I want to have friends that will know I'm being honest when I say how much I appreciate them and will share their feelings honestly with me." Tommy said desperately.

"I agree. Those are the type of friends that you need. That's the kind of friend that I'm trying to be for you." Chakotay said cautiously.

"You are Tay. I guess I haven't told you before, but I really do think of you as a friend." Tommy said as he pulled back to look Chakotay in the eyes.

"Thank you Tommy. And I think of you as a friend too. I'm sorry that you've had such a bad experience but it might have turned out for the best." Chakotay said as he tried to sound optimistic.

"How's that?" Tommy asked cautiously.

"Just think about what you've learned. The type of people that Tom enjoys spending time with aren't the same type of people that you enjoy. Now that you understand that, you can be on the lookout for new friends who are the type of people that you would like to spend time with." Chakotay said with a gentle smile.

"But what about Harry and B'Elana?" Tommy asked quietly.

"They're Tom's friends, let him spend time with them like you planned before." Chakotay said simply.

"Thanks Tay... I'm sorry I interrupted you while you were working." Tommy said shyly.

"That's fine. You're more important to me than performance reviews, and besides, I was ready to take a break." Chakotay said with a warm smile.

"Thanks. I'm going to go now. I'll see you tomorrow." Tommy said with a happy smile.

"I'll see you then. Have a good night." Chakotay said, relieved that Tommy was feeling better.

To Be Continued...

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