Castle Roland

Finding Clarity

by MultiMapper


Chapter 3

Posted: 7 Apr 16

Finding Clarity

Copyright © 2007 MultiMapper
All Rights Reserved

The drumming abruptly stopped and the silence became overwhelming.

"What's happening?" Tom asked in a whisper.

"The first cycle is complete. You're free to leave the lodge and enjoy the cool evening air for a few minutes, or you can remain here and meditate while more stones are added to the pit." Chakotay said quietly.

"What are you going to do Chak? Um... is it okay if I call you Chak?" Tom thought to ask.

"That's fine Tom. And I think I'm going to go outside for a few minutes and enjoy the night sky." Chakotay said peacefully.

"Is it okay if I go with you? I'll stay here if you need to be alone." Tom said hesitantly.

"It's fine Tom. I brought you here so I could share this with you." Chakotay said, then started working his way toward the door.

Tom started feeling his way along the wall, back the way he came when Chakotay said, "Please come this way. It's tradition to move clockwise when you enter or exit the lodge."

Tom turned around and felt his way along the wall.

"Why do you move clockwise?" Tom thought to ask when he finally found Chakotay.

"I could give you a long mystical explanation about the patterns of nature but I think the real reason is so we don't butt heads in the dark." Chakotay said, then crawled out the low opening.

Tom chuckled at the response as he waited for Chakotay to finish crawling out the door.

"Did you ever see anything so beautiful?" Chakotay asked as he slowly walked away from the lodge and the fire to stare at the night sky.

Tom walked to Chakotay's side and looked up into infinity.

"We live among the stars. We see them every day. But for some reason they seem so much more beautiful now." Tom said in a voice of wonder.

"The stars haven't changed. We have." Chakotay said peacefully.

"Because I've gotten in touch with my spirit guide?" Tom asked cautiously.

"Maybe a little, but I think that it has more to do with the tension that's always been between us. Without having to keep our defenses up, we can be open to something like the beauty of the night sky." Chakotay said speculatively.

"Can I ask you something?" Tom asked hesitantly.

"Anything you want." Chakotay said seriously.

"Why don't you like me?" Tom asked in a toneless voice.

"Because it's difficult for me to deal with your insults and negative attitude." Chakotay said simply, not expressing any emotions in his statement.

"But even when I did my best, it wasn't good enough. You always acted like you disapproved of me. What else was I supposed to do?" Tom asked curiously.

"I can't answer that in such general terms. If you can ask about a specific instance, I'll do my best to explain what I was thinking and feeling at the time." Chakotay said as he turned his attention to Tom.

"Back on the Ocampan home world, I went back for you. I was willing to die to try and save you but... it wasn't enough." Tom said quietly as he kept his gaze on the stars.

Chakotay closed his eyes and quietly said, "I'm sorry for that Tom. I treated you unfairly. At that time Janeway was the enemy and I saw you as a traitor to the Maquis cause. Even though it was wrong of me, it was just easier to see you as a traitor than to take the time to look deeper. I was consumed with my responsibility to my crew and focused all my attention to seeing that they would be treated fairly on Voyager."

"So it wasn't really about me?" Tom asked quietly.

"No Tom. It had nothing to do with you personally. It was just the safest way for me to deal with you given the limited information I had about you and all the other demands on my attention at the time." Chakotay said as he turned his attention back to the sky.

"Then what about when I left Voyager to expose Jonas as a spy on our ship?" Tom asked as he glanced at Chakotay.

"By that time we had established the pattern of how we deal with each other. You would insult and jab at me up to the brink of my tolerance, and I would use every bit of self control that I could gather to keep from beating you senseless. By the time we reached that point, I don't think there's anything you could have done that would make me change my mind about you." Chakotay said, and a note of regret could be heard in his voice.

"How about now?" Tom asked in nearly a whisper.

"I'm not sure. I think I'm beginning to like you but... I'm reluctant to open myself to the insults and attitude." Chakotay said quietly.

Tom nodded, then looked back to the sky.

The sound of a drum beat drew both men's attention.

"Ready for round two?" Chakotay asked as he turned to face the clearing.

"Yeah. Thanks for being honest with me Chak." Tom said quietly.

"Thanks for letting me be honest." Chakotay said, then gestured for Tom to walk with him back to the camp fire.

"What's the purpose this time?" Tom asked as he settled into his place along the wall.

"Cleansing." Chakotay said simply as he poured two ladles of water over the rocks.

After the hiss and sizzle subsided, Tom quietly said, "I'm guessing that you're not meaning that in a physical sense since we're all sweaty and have been crawling in the dirt."

Chakotay scattered some wood shavings over the steaming rocks, then moved to his position beside Tom.

"The purpose here is to let loose of all the old poisons in your soul and set them free. Let the steam draw them out of you and carry them away." Chakotay said reverently.

"How do I do that?" Tom asked in thought.

"Think about what you want to let go of. Visualize it and give it a form, then let go of it and let it drift away." Chakotay said carefully.

"I'm not sure I understand." Tom said with difficulty.

"Maybe you could think about it this way. Imagine that we've encountered a magical being who has the ability to go back in time and change something. Think about what you would like to have changed." Chakotay said slowly.

Without hesitation, Tom said, "My father. If I could go back and change only one thing, I'd do something so he never knew I existed. I'd live my life without his demands and expectations pushing at me every moment of my life."

"Then use this time of cleansing to get rid of him." Chakotay said carefully.

"How?" Tom asked with surprise.

"You can't undo everything he did in the past, but you have it within you to take away his power over you. Release the bonds that he spent years wrapping around you and take that power back for yourself." Chakotay said in a distant voice.

"I... don't know how." Tom said in a whisper.

"Visualize your father standing before you." Chakotay said seriously.

"Okay." Tom said hesitantly.

"How does he make you feel?" Chakotay asked in a leading tone.

"Small. Weak. Like nothing is ever good enough." Tom said as his voice began to tremble.

"Then take that power away from him. He's just a man. If you take away the power you've given him, then he can't hurt you anymore." Chakotay said seriously.

"Just a man..." Tom whispered.

"That's right. His judgments of you don't mean anything unless you want them to." Chakotay said carefully.

"I don't have to prove anything to him." Tom said distantly.

"That's right. Set your own standards. Live up to your own expectations." Chakotay said in a slow, soothing voice.

"Okay. I think I've got it." Tom said in concentration.

"Good. Now set it free. Let your father and all his criticisms and expectations flow away from you." Chakotay said in a leading tone.

"Just let it go..." Tom said in a whisper.

"Now that you've released those bonds that have been holding you back, you can be cleansed. Let the spirit and the steam carry away everything that you don't need to carry with you anymore." Chakotay said quietly.

"Chak." Tom said, then a sob escaped.

"Go ahead Tom. You can release the pain in many ways. If your pain wants to come out in tears, then set it free. I'm right here to help you through it." Chakotay said in a comforting voice.

Chakotay felt something touch his leg, then felt Tom's questing hand touch his arm and work it's way down to his hand.

"Go ahead. I've got you." Chakotay said as he held Tom's hand firmly.

The quiet darkness was interrupted by the sound of the drumming and Tom's occasional sobs.

When the crying had finally quieted, Chakotay squeezed Tom's hand and said, "Now bring the peace into yourself. Let it cleanse all the places where the poisons were eating away at you. Let the spirit heal you."

Tom squeezed Chakotay's hand in return, then took in a slow, deep breath.

"Can you feel it? The bonds you've been carrying have been slowly sapping your spiritual energy. Without them, you should feel strength." Chakotay said distantly.

"I don't know what I'm feeling. It's so... light." Tom said in confusion.

"Do you remember what it was like to see your spirit guide earlier?" Chakotay asked in a leading tone.

"Yes." Tom answered in thought.

"Go to him now. Form the vision of the place where you met him and show him what you've achieved." Chakotay said as he released Tom's hand.

There was a long silence as Tom concentrated on the vision.

Chakotay closed his eyes and began to recite the words that helped him reach his own meditative state.

"Akoochimoya. We are far from the sacred places of our grandfather's. We are far from the bones of our people..."

"Chak! Chak! Are you alright?" Tom asked in panic.

Chakotay came out of his meditation and said, "I'm fine Tom. Is something wrong?"

There was a moment of silence, then Tom hesitantly said, "No. Not really. I just... when I tried to talk to you and you didn't answer I was afraid that you had passed out from the heat."

"I was just in deep meditation. I'm really fine." Chakotay said assuringly.

"Oh. I'm sorry if I interrupted you." Tom said timidly.

"That's fine Tom. You didn't interrupt anything at all. I spoke to my spirit guide for a moment, then just let myself float in the peace of the spirit." Chakotay said gently.

After a moment of silence, Chakotay quietly asked, "Is everything okay?"

"I don't know." Tom said in thought.

"What's bothering you?" Chakotay asked with concern.

"Are you trying to make me like Tommy?" Tom asked in a small voice.

"No Tom. I'm trying to guide you to be the best, most fulfilled person you can be." Chakotay said quietly.

Silence fell between them again as Tom thought about the statement.

"Why?" Tom finally asked in a voice so low that Chakotay could barely hear it.

"Honestly, I originally intended to bring you here to put pressure on you to determine your stability and self control. I thought that the physical stress of the heat along with being in my company would create enough tension to push you past your limit." Chakotay admitted shyly.

"Why did you want to do that?" Tom asked cautiously.

"So I could see what your limit was and just how you reacted when you were pushed past it. Since you've become... fragmented, I need to know that this part of your personality is stable. It would be irresponsible of me to just accept that all four of your personalities are harmless." Chakotay said carefully.

"So what happened to change your plan?" Tom asked cautiously.

"You did. Instead of shielding yourself behind anger and sarcasm you were willing to open yourself to my instruction. The moment I realized that you would be willing to trust me, I abandoned my original plan and tried to provide the best advice I possibly could to start you on your spiritual walk." Chakotay said seriously.

"Thanks. I guess after seeing how you helped Tommy, I felt like maybe if I gave you a chance that maybe... I don't know... things could be better." Tom said shyly.

"I'm glad you did. I've never felt like there was any possibility of friendship between us before. We're just very different people." Chakotay said quietly.

"And now?" Tom asked hopefully.

"Now I feel very ashamed of myself for ignoring your courage and determination. I've wasted so much time for no good reason." Chakotay said sadly.

"We've both devoted a lot of energy the past five years to finding fault with each other. If you're willing to let it go, so am I." Tom said seriously.

"I think that's a very good idea. The steam can carry away the poison of our hard feelings and cleanse us." Chakotay said thoughtfully.

"I'm with you on most of the spiritual stuff, but why don't we just shake on it?" Tom asked cautiously.

"If that's what you want." Chakotay said and felt to his right for Tom's hand.

"Um... Chak. That's not my hand. But you can keep shaking it if you want." Tom said, obviously trying to suppress a chuckle.

"Very funny." Chakotay said dryly as he pulled his hand away.

"Come on Chak, even though I don't hate you anymore, I'm still me." Tom said frankly.

"I suppose so. But don't be surprised if I don't play along. I'm like Tommy in that I don't find certain types of humor funny because the underlying sentiment is cruel." Chakotay said seriously.

"I bet you're just the life of the party." Tom said with a roll of his eyes (which was wasted in the complete darkness).

"No. As a matter of fact I'm not. I let someone else make a fool of himself to get attention while I settle back and enjoy honest conversation with my friends." Chakotay said firmly.

Tom thought about the statement for a moment, then quietly said, "Maybe I should try that sometime."

"How about the next time Neelix finds an excuse to have a party, you spend some time off to the side with me. You won't lose the option of joining Harry and B'Elana later if you find out you don't like it." Chakotay said seriously.

"Yeah. I'll do that. Thanks Chak." Tom said in thought.

The silence between them seemed deafening, then Chakotay realized that the drumming had stopped.

"Do you want to go out for some air or are you enjoying the heat too much?" Chakotay asked as he started toward the door.

"I think a little fresh air would do me good." Tom said as he followed.

"I think a cool drink of water might be nice too." Chakotay said before crawling out the door.

Tom waited for a moment for Chakotay to make his way out of the lodge and thought about what a journey they had already made and they still had half of it to go.

"Chak, I'm sorry about making a joke in there. I really wasn't trying to be disrespectful... it just happened." Tom said quietly.

"Do you know what my father would have said if he had been in there with us?" Chakotay asked distantly.

Tom hesitantly shook his head.

"He would have told me to stop being such a little old lady, then he would have complimented you on the joke." Chakotay said as he gazed into the distance.

Tom smiled, then said, "Your dad sounds nice."

"He was, but I didn't always see it."

Tom turned to face Chakotay, silently prompting him to continue.

"He always called me contrary. No matter what he tried to teach me, I always seemed to believe the opposite."

"My brothers Beyval and Nayib always seemed to be in tune with him and understood what he was saying, but I... I just never felt like he understood me and I couldn't understand him." Chakotay said as his voice became softer.

"Then I guess we do have something in common." Tom said gently.

Chakotay turned to see the look of understanding in Tom's eyes and felt a small, tentative smile come across his face.

There was a long moment of silence between the men until it was finally broken by Tom asking, "Did you say something earlier about water?"

"Oh, right. It's right here." Chakotay said and walked back to the campfire where a line of men were passing the heated stones into the sweat lodge.

Chakotay picked up a water skin from behind a pile of large rocks and handed it to Tom.

"How do you use one of these things?" Tom asked as he turned it over and around in his hands, trying to find a place where you would drink from it.

Chakotay smiled fondly and said, "Give it here and I'll show you."

Tom handed the oddly shaped bladder to Chakotay and watched carefully as Chakotay opened it, tilted his head back and sprayed a long stream of water into his mouth.

When Chakotay lowered the water skin, he noticed an amused look on Tom's face.

"What is it Tom?" Chakotay asked cautiously.

"Nothing. Not a thing." Tom said with an amused smile as he accepted the water skin from Chakotay.

Chakotay thought while Tom took his drink, then cautiously said, "I thought that nothing would bother me as much as your jokes made at my expense, but now I know that it's more annoying to be the butt of the joke AND not hear the punch line."

Tom laughed as he handed the water skin back to Chakotay, then said, "It wasn't anything bad Chak. I promise. I just realized how strange all of this is."

"How do you mean?" Chakotay asked curiously as he sat the water skin back behind the rocks so it would be shielded from the heat of the fire.

"After five years of barely tolerating each other, here we are, standing naked, sharing water out of... some animal's internal organ I guess... it just seems surreal." Tom said frankly.

"When you put it that way, I'd have to agree." Chakotay said with a smile.

Tom noticed the men walking away from the sweat lodge, then he looked at Chakotay with question.

Chakotay nodded that it was time and gestured for Tom to precede him into the domed structure.

"God! I think it's hotter than last time." Tom said as he made his way approximately half-way around the dark room.

"That's how it works. The heat doesn't have any way to escape and they keep adding fresh hot stones." Chakotay said, then waited until he heard the drumming start.

He slowly poured three ladles of water over the glowing rocks, then found a small clay bowl beside the urn of water.

He held the bowl up to his nose and inhaled the sweet aroma.

"What is it this time?" Tom asked, barely able to see Chakotay in the diminishing light and steam.

Chakotay held the bowl over the pit and casually scattered the contents as he said, "Sage and sweet grass."

"Sage, like in sausage?" Tom asked curiously.

"Not exactly, but it's the same botanical family." Chakotay said as he moved to Tom's side.

"Whoa, it's really hot this time." Tom said as he tried to adjust to breathing in the steam.

"This is why the holodeck safeties had to be turned off. This level of temperature and humidity would probably be considered unsafe by the control systems." Chakotay said quietly.

"Yeah. Wait, that means the next one is going to be hotter, right?" Tom asked with concern.

"That's right." Chakotay said quietly.

Tom thought about it for a moment, then said, "If you say it's going to be safe, I'll trust you."

"Thanks Tom. If it looks like it's going too far, I'll shut it down." Chakotay said with assurance.

"So what's our purpose this time?" Tom asked curiously.

"This cycle focuses on personal reflection and your desires for the future." Chakotay said quietly.

"Kinda like, what do you want to be when you grow up?" Tom asked in a half-joking manner.

"Actually, yes. Where do you see yourself five, ten, twenty or even thirty years from now?" Chakotay said seriously.

Tom thought about the question, then asked, "Should I assume that we're back on Earth or still on Voyager when I look that far ahead?"

"Either. The things that are really important aren't reliant on location." Chakotay said with certainty.

"Oh. Um... I don't know what that means for sure. But I get that it doesn't matter... What should I do first?" Tom asked as he felt sweat falling down his back.

"Just look into the future and form an image of your life. How you expect it to be." Chakotay said in a trancelike voice.

Tom concentrated, but found that he wasn't able to bring any visions into his minds eye.

"I can't figure out how to do it." Tom said quietly.

"I'll give you an example, sort of a composite of my past visions, then maybe you'll be able to use that as a guide." Chakotay said carefully.

"Okay." Tom said with anticipation.

"The place is here, on Dorvan Five. The time is thirty years away. The Federation and Cardassians have both withdrawn from Dorvan Five and left it to be self governed and independent. I walk home after a long day of teaching at the local college and find my favorite dinner waiting for me on the table. I am kissed and hugged, then asked to share the events of my day. After my meal, I review correspondence from my friends until there is a knock on the door. I answer the door and it's my oldest son holding my first grandchild in his arms. I invite him in and we have a long talk about the joys and challenges of fatherhood. There's more, but I think that gives you an idea." Chakotay said in a tranquil voice.

"Wow. That was... that was so beautiful." Tom said in wonder.

"Do you really think so? I thought you'd find that type of existence boring." Chakotay said with interest.

"No. It's... like the home I never had, but always wanted." Tom said speculatively.

"So are you ready to form a vision of how you want your future to be?" Chakotay asked carefully.

"Yeah." Tom said in a whisper as he thought about what he wanted.

"The place is here, on Voyager. The time is thirty years from now. We're still working our way toward Earth, but a lot of us have accepted that the ship is our home. I return to my cabin after a long day at the helm and decide to make a special dinner for my wife. She comes home and I kiss her and ask her about her day." Tom said with a smile.

Chakotay's eyes started to widen as he realized what Tom was doing.

"I'd clean up from the dinner while she relaxed after her long day at work. Then our daughter would be there with a baby in her arms and another one holding onto her leg. We'd visit and laugh about the things that kids do and tell a few stories about when she was younger until it was time to put the kids to bed. Then my wife and I would tidy up the place and go to bed, just caught up in our love for each other." Tom finished in obvious happiness.

"Tom, your's is exactly like mine." Chakotay said reluctantly.

"No. It's completely different." Tom said immediately.

"In all the ways that matter, our visions of the future are exactly the same... I'm afraid that me telling you of my vision influenced your own." Chakotay said quietly.

Tom thought about it for a minute, then said, "Okay. I guess I can see why you'd say that, but... this isn't something I decided just because I heard your story. This is something that I've been thinking about since we got stranded in the Delta." Tom said frankly.

"Really?" Chakotay asked with surprise.

"Yeah. I've been playing the field, going from one relationship to another, testing the water without getting in too deep." Tom said quietly.

"So that's what you're doing?" Chakotay asked curiously.

"Well, yeah. At least that's part of it. But the problem is that I'm not finding what I'm looking for. I can get along with all of them okay, but I can't really say that there's one woman that I've been with that has made me want to open up and share my life with her." Tom said reluctantly.

"What about men?" Chakotay asked calmly.

"What about them?" Tom asked hesitantly.

"Have you considered a same-sex relationship?" Chakotay asked seriously.

"No. Not really. Because of some of the stuff that I've been through, I, um... don't think that's ever going to happen." Tom said reluctantly.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Chakotay asked in nearly a whisper.

Tom thought for a moment, then said, "You know I was in prison. Well, they're usually pretty good about seeing that nothing happens but... well, they can't be watching all the time. Three guys got me and... you know..."

Chakotay patted around until he found Tom's hand and took a firm hold of it.

"Thanks. Um, well... I guess I just never even thought about being with a guy after that. So it looks like it's a wife or nothing." Tom said quietly.

"Tom, it's possible to overcome something like this. All you have to do is want it and commit to it and we can restore you to a place where you're free to love whoever you want." Chakotay said with assurance.

"Thanks Chak. Let me think on it. I know you're right, but I don't know if it's worth going through all that therapy to get back something that I never used anyway." Tom said reflectively.

"I won't pressure you about it Tom. I'll just leave the option open to you." Chakotay said quietly.

"Thanks. What about you? I notice that you didn't say 'husband' or 'wife' in your vision of the future." Tom asked curiously.

"I just don't know. My track record with women hasn't been too good up to now, but I've never had anything more than a casual relationship with a man. I don't know if I could achieve the level of emotional intimacy with a man that would be necessary for a long-term relationship." Chakotay said distantly.

"Yeah. I have trouble with that intimacy thing too. I think Tommy would be good at it, but I'm... not him." Tom finished with regret.

"No. You're not him. You're an individual with different emotional needs. Hopefully we'll be able to find someone who can address those needs so you can have a fulfilled life." Chakotay said with a smile.

"We?" Tom asked cautiously.

"We." Chakotay said firmly, then continued, "Tom, before today I've never been comfortable around you. I thought that any attempt that I made to reach out to you would be met with hostility and sarcasm. But I feel like we've gotten past that and can talk honestly to each other as people... friends."

"Yeah." Tom said quietly.

"So whatever challenges you have to face, you can count on me to help you however I can." Chakotay said quietly.

"Yeah. I don't know when it happened, but I think I knew that." Tom said in slow thought.

"Are you ready to complete this cycle?" Chakotay asked carefully.

"Sure. What do I have to do?" Tom asked with a smile in his voice.

"Just focus on your vision of the future. Add in details to make it as real as possible. When you have your vision as complete as possible, you can take it to your spirit guide and show him. When you can give him your vision and show him what you want, he can help to guide you to achieve it." Chakotay said peacefully.

"Um, would it be... wrong or anything if I asked what your vision was like the last time you did this?" Tom asked quietly.

"You mean after Seska?" Chakotay asked in a low voice.

"Yeah." Tom said in a whisper.

"I was in emotional distress. The vision I held at that time was only five years away. I pictured myself back on Dorvan Five, surrounded by friends and family who really cared about me and provided me a network of support." Chakotay said distantly.

"Are all your visions of the future on Dorvan Five?" Tom asked quietly.

"Yes. It's my home." Chakotay said gently.

"I never really had one of those. I mean, we had a house to live in everywhere we lived, but it always felt like we were living in someone else's house." Tom said frankly.

"Would you like to have a home?" Chakotay asked cautiously.

"I think so. Like I said, I've never really had one, so I can't be sure. But it sounds nice." Tom said in a considering voice.

"Well, I know that I will eventually have a home, even if it ends up being in a cabin on this ship. So if things don't turn out exactly the way you want them to, you'll always be welcomed at my home." Chakotay said quietly.

"Thanks Chak. I get the feeling that Tommy's going to be visiting you a lot." Tom said with a chuckle.

"And he'll always be welcomed, but I was talking about you Tom. I want to keep the friendship that we're starting to develop. I'm seeing things in you that I've never noticed before." Chakotay finished in a distant voice.

"What are you seeing?" Tom asked curiously.

"My father for one thing. There's something about your sense of humor that's a lot like his. I'll probably never understand either of you." Chakotay finished with a chuckle.

"I don't know about that. You seem to be doing alright." Tom said casually.

"I have to work at it. Reacting to your humor with offense has become a knee-jerk reaction." Chakotay said honestly.

"You shouldn't have to work at it. A joke is funny or it's not." Tom said seriously.

"Really? Well, then I've got some bad news for you about the last five years..." Chakotay said slowly.

Tom started to chuckle and said, "I knew you had a sense of humor somewhere in there."

After a moment, Chakotay quietly asked, "You think I was joking?"

The room was silent but for the beating of the drum.

Finally Tom heard an unusual hissing sound. It took him a minute to realize that it was Chakotay's stifled laughter.

"Good one Chak. You almost had me believing you." Tom said with a smile.

Chakotay let loose a gale of laughter at the statement.

Tom started to chuckle, drawn into the infectious laughter.

"Chak, you may not use it very often, but you've got a very good laugh there." Tom said with a smile.

"I have a feeling that If we spend some time together, I'm probably going to be using it more often." Chakotay said as he fought to get his laughter under control.

"I'll do what I can." Tom said happily.

"Are you ready to try to make your vision of the future now?" Chakotay asked in a carefree voice.

"Sure. Do you think it'll be okay if I make my vision of a home here on Dorvan Five? I really don't have anyplace that's special to me back on Earth and... you know... Tommy will want to be close by." Tom finished shyly.

"That'll be fine. Go ahead and construct your vision and take it to your spirit guide so he can help guide you in the direction to make it a reality." Chakotay said peacefully.

"Are you going to do it too?" Tom asked curiously.

"I wasn't planning on it at first, but... I think I have one or two additions to make to my previous vision." Chakotay said warmly.

The room became silent except for the rhythm of the drum.

"Chak?" Tom asked in a whisper.

"Yes?" Chakotay answered immediately.

"The drumming stopped." Tom said quietly.

"Oh... I guess I was so caught up in my thoughts that I didn't notice." Chakotay said, then started moving for the door.

"Is everything okay?" Tom asked with concern.

"Everything is fine. My spirit guide just gave me something to think about that's... distracting." Chakotay said uncomfortably.

"I won't ask." Tom said as he followed Chakotay along the wall quietly.

"Thanks Tom." Chakotay said, then opened the flap and crawled out of the low opening.

"I'm so tired I can barely stand up." Tom said as he struggled to his feet.

"Let's get a drink of water, then I want to show you something." Chakotay said as he led the way to the fire.

"I think you're already showing me everything you've got." Tom said as he glanced at Chakotay's ass.

There was a moment of silence between them, until Chakotay finally asked, "That was something like a joke, right?"

Tom broke into laughter at the question while Chakotay took a long drink of water.

"Here. Don't drink too much or you'll probably throw up when we go back in." Chakotay said as he handed the water skin to Tom.

Tom nodded, then took a long drink of water.

Once Chakotay had put the water skin behind the rocks again, he motioned toward the path that they had arrived on.

"Where are we going?" Tom asked curiously as he followed closely behind Chakotay.

"I just wanted to show you my vision." Chakotay said quietly as he led the way.

"Your... you made it?" Tom asked with surprise.

"That's right. Every now and then something will get to me and I'll come here to get away from everything for a while. I had originally intended to recreate my father's house but when it came time to do it, I decided that I wanted to make my own place." Chakotay said, then stopped as the path opened into a clearing.

Tom stepped beside Chakotay and looked at the house carefully.

"It's beautiful." Tom said quietly.

"I think so too. It's not a big dream, but it's mine." Chakotay said with a smile.

"Can we go inside?" Tom asked hopefully.

"Not right now. The last cycle will begin soon. I just wanted to show you what my dream was like." Chakotay said shyly.

"It's really nice Chak. Maybe you could help me make a place like this." Tom said speculatively.

"You have a lot more holo-programming experience than I do." Chakotay said frankly.

"Yeah, but you have a lot more experience with what works best on Dorvan Five, and besides... I think it would be fun if we could do it together." Tom finished quietly.

Chakotay smiled at the statement, then said, "You're right on both counts. Let's get back to the sweat lodge now. We've just got one more to go."

Tom nodded and turned to follow, then thought to ask, "What's this next one about?"

"Growth. Now that you've made contact with the spiritual plane, healed old wounds and made a goal for the future, it's time to look at yourself and decide what kind of person you want to grow into between now and the time you reach your goal." Chakotay said as he led the way.

"So I'll be looking at myself and deciding what I want to change?" Tom asked cautiously.

"To some degree. Before we came in here you told me that you were just fine the way you are. If you really believe that, then what you will be focusing on isn't as much how you're going to change as how you're going to grow." Chakotay said as he carefully led the way down the path lit only by moonlight.

"I don't get the distinction." Tom said slowly.

"Well, for the sake of argument, let's say that you're feeling that you don't get enough of an opportunity to express yourself creatively. You could look at the things you already do, like holo-programming and consider other avenues like.... painting." Chakotay said as they could see the firelight through the trees ahead of them.

"I have no talent for painting at all." Tom said with a sour look.

"It's just an example. Consider the things in your life that bring you happiness and fulfillment, then look at ways that you can expand those parts of your life in the future so you'll end up in a place where every day is filled with joy and you have no regrets." Chakotay said, then noticed that all but one of the elders was gone.

"It's time." Chakotay said and motioned for Tom to enter the sweat lodge.

Tom glanced at the man by the fire in time to see him hit the drum.

He turned and lowered himself to the ground, then crawled into the hot moist darkness.

"Chak, I'm not sure I can go through with this." Tom said weakly as he took shallow breaths.

Chakotay responded by pouring four ladles of water over the mound of rocks in the middle of the room.

"Fuck! I can't breathe." Tom said as he struggled to inhale the steam.

"Relax. Don't fight it. Just take slow steady breaths until you get used to it." Chakotay said in a low voice.

"Isn't this bothering you at all?" Tom asked as he tried to get his breathing to slow down.

"Of course it's bothering me. But I'm determined to go through with it, so whining about it is pointless." Chakotay said slowly.

"Point taken." Tom said with resignation and rested his head back on the wall.

"Tom. Who do you want to become?" Chakotay asked seriously.

"I don't know." Tom said frankly.

"That's the only wrong answer to that question." Chakotay said more quietly.

"I guess it goes back to when I was a kid. When I was about... ten or eleven, my dad had these counselors trying to 'motivate' me. My IQ tests said that I was smart enough to be getting straight A's in school, and I wasn't, so I needed to be fixed." Tom said in a voice of distant memory.

"When I figured out what he was doing... that's when I figured out that I didn't want to grow up to be like him." Tom said in thought.

"But you joined Starfleet." Chakotay said curiously.

"My attendance was not optional. The Admiral made sure that I had nothing else in my life to distract me from his path. When I got into the academy, I thought that maybe everything would be okay and I guess I made a pretty good go of it, but... being an admiral's son comes with a lot of baggage." Tom said with a note of pain.

"I'm sure there were people who could see that you were just another student trying to make his way." Chakotay said with concern.

"There probably would have been if the Admiral hadn't tried to help me out along the way. I had the biggest and best of everything. My name was at the top of every list to volunteer for anything extra... and I didn't put it there. Chak, I was going to crash and burn at some point, unfortunately it was when I was serving aboard the Exeter... I'm sure you've heard all about what happened at Caldik Prime." Tom whispered.

"I've read the report. But reports don't always accurately reflect what happened. " Chakotay said quietly.

"Well, this time they do. I was so convinced that I could do anything, I was just so full of myself that I was showing off. Every stunt had to be just a little bigger and more dangerous than the one before. Anyone with common sense would have known better. But I just kept doing stunts and taking risks like there was no tomorrow... And you know what? I didn't care. I knew that there was a chance that I could die doing all that showing off and I just didn't care... But then it happened. My luck ran out. In the blink of an eye, there I was in the wreckage of my ship. Three people... my friends... were dead and I was alive. And it was all my fault." Tom said as his tears flowed freely down his cheeks.

"Why did you lie about what happened?" Chakotay asked quietly.

"I didn't. My fucking father went in behind me and changed my official report. I guess he thought he could smooth things over so I wouldn't get kicked out." Tom said in despair.

"Why didn't you tell someone?" Chakotay asked, having no doubt that Tom's version of the story was true.

"Tell who? And why? So I could stay in Starfleet? Even though I didn't like the way it happened, at least it was a way out. By the time they were able to prove that my statement was a lie, I was glad to be out of it all." Tom said, then angrily wiped the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand.

"I'm sorry Tom. I didn't know." Chakotay said quietly.

"I know. I never told anyone about it. As far as anyone knows, I was reckless, I crashed, I lied about it and was thrown out of Starfleet. And you know what happened after that, you were there." Tom said as he wiped his eyes again.

"If I had any clue about any of this back when you joined the Maquis, I would have taken better steps to protect you." Chakotay said quietly.

"Chak, I got captured on my first mission. It was a trap... probably set up by Seska." Tom said frankly.

"Or Tuvok." Chakotay said with resignation.

"Either way, I never blamed you for it. I know I did everything the way I was supposed to, but I was led into a trap. It wasn't my fault, it wasn't your fault, and it doesn't matter out here in the Delta anyway." Tom finished seriously.

Chakotay slowly nodded and said, "You're right Tom. But I still feel bad knowing that you were in that prison and I never even considered trying to help you."

"It's okay Chak. You're here now. I don't know about the spirit stuff like you do, but I think we're here right now because we're both finally ready." Tom said quietly.

"I can accept that. So do you know who you want to grow into?" Chakotay asked quietly.

"I don't have a clue." Tom said immediately.

"Let's try a different approach. Think back over the past few months and try to identify the one or two things that you've done that have brought you the most happiness and fulfillment." Chakotay said seriously.

Tom thought about it for a moment, then asked, "Do I have to tell you?"

"No Tom. I don't need to know. Just take that experience and try to see how you could incorporate it into your everyday life. Expand on the idea and find ways to achieve that feeling in different ways." Chakotay said carefully.

"Okay... Let me work with that for a few minutes." Tom said in deep concentration.

"I'm going to meditate now, but it's just to help me center my thoughts. Feel free to ask me any questions you have." Chakotay said calmly.

"Thanks Chak." Tom said appreciatively.

"Chak, can I ask you something?" Tom asked in nearly a whisper.

"Of course. Anything you want." Chakotay said peacefully.

"What kind of father do you think I'll be?" Tom asked quietly.

Chakotay was surprised by the question, but did his best to get over it and give a thoughtful answer.

"Well, if you mean you personally, I think you probably would be able to deal with a child on his or her own level and become a friend as well as a parent. If you're speaking of you, Tommy, Flyboy and the Lieutenant... I suppose you would each take on the parental duties that you're best suited for and probably end up being a better parent than most." Chakotay said in a considering voice.

"So you don't think I'll end up being like my father?" Tom asked with concern.

"As long as you're worried about it, I don't think it will be a problem."

"Good. I think it's about time for me to look at settling down to raise a family."

"That might be difficult in our current situation."

"I know Chak. But no one said it would be easy."

"How sure are you?" Chakotay asked quietly.

"Completely sure. Look at the directionless life that I've led up to now. I'm scattered, trying to be all things to all people. No wonder I've split into separate personalities. But when you asked me about what gives me a feeling of fulfillment... the only thing I could think of is when I'm taking care of Naomi. There's no other time when I feel completely at peace. I guess I never thought about what it would be like to have that feeling every day. I can't imagine a more perfect future." Tom said with contentment.

The sound of the distant drumming was all that could be heard as both men thought about what Tom had said.

Chakotay reached beside him and placed a hand on Tom's shoulder, then said, "Let's get out of here."

"But we're not done. The drum is still going." Tom said hesitantly.

"You've accomplished the purpose of this cycle. The only thing you'll accomplish by staying longer is sweating some more." Chakotay said as he turned toward the exit.

"No. That's fine. Besides, I don't think I have any sweat left anyway." Tom said as he followed.

"Before we leave I just want to say that I'm really proud of you Tom. Before we came in here I didn't think you would have the courage to endure the steam. It turns out that you faced your past, your self and your future without backing down. You've earned my respect." Chakotay said reverently.

"Um... I think the steam is making you go all sappy. You'd better get moving." Tom said shyly.

"Whatever you say my friend." Chakotay said happily as he crawled out the low opening.

{Tommy's not the only one making new friends today.} Tom thought with wonder, then followed.

To Be Continued...

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