|Tom Through the Looking-Glass
Tom lay still, his back against the rear of the cage and his head lolling forward onto his drawn-up knees. He was dirty and covered in dried blood and bruises. There were insect bites all over his thin body, and a large section of hair was missing from the back of his head.
Anxiously, Chakotay bent down next to the cage. "Tom," he called softly, not wanting to startle him. "Tom, it's Chakotay. Open your eyes, Tommy, please."
When he got no response, he reached through the bars and gently touched Tom's neck, searching worriedly for a pulse. Tom's skin was very cold, and Chakotay feared the worst until he felt a faint but steady rhythm under his fingers. He stroked Tom's cheek softly as he called his name again, but Tom still didn't respond.
Chakotay sighed, then looked closely at the cage as he tried to determine how to get Tom out. He would need to either break the bars or prise open the metal bands that secured the door. "Tom, I'm going to get you out of there," he promised. "I'm going to try and find something I can use as a tool. I'll be as quick as I can." He ran his fingers tenderly down Tom's right arm and took hold of his hand. "I love you, Tom. Just hang on a little longer. I'll be right back." He brought Tom's hand to the bars and placed a soft kiss on it before setting off on his task.
Tom stayed silent and unmoving, although he *had* been tempted to open his eyes. He thought he'd heard Chakotay talking to him, but he was convinced it was another illusion. He'd had a lot of those, although this was the first time he had imagined Chakotay touching him. He remained still though, he wasn't going to take any notice of dreams. He had been disappointed enough by them already.
Chakotay searched the ground around the clearing, trying to keep one eye on Tom as he did. The ground was littered with dead leaves, and he rummaged through them hoping to find something useful. He found a few small stones and some slightly larger ones as he neared the trees, finding a larger rock that he thought might be handy about ten minutes later. Then, to his amazement, he had an incredible stroke of luck.
He had just kicked aside a pile of leaves from the base of a tall tree, when he found a large spear-head lying half buried in the ground. He pulled it out and examined it, finding that it was made from solid metal. He knew it would make a very effective tool, so he took it back to the cage, along with the rock. "Soon, Tommy," he promised as he touched the pilot's leg.
Looking at one of the metal bands that had been pressed together around the top of the door, he inserted the spear's blade where the edges met. By hitting the spear with the rock, he slowly forced the band open. He had to keep varying his angle of attack, but eventually he managed to get the band off. "One down, Tom," he commented before tackling the next one. He kept working, and after twenty minutes of concentrated effort, the final band fell to the floor.
Chakotay took hold of the door and slid it upwards, removing it completely and throwing it aside. "Come on, Tom, it's time to come out of there," he said softly as he took hold of Tom's left leg, slowly and gently beginning to straighten it. He was about to do the same to the other leg, when Tom's eyes flickered open. Tom stared at Chakotay, unable to fully comprehend what was happening and unsure if what he was seeing was real.
Chakotay smiled with relief, then carefully manoeuvered Tom until he was out of the cage and in his arms. He hugged Tom tightly to him, rocking him gently as his own tears fell on the younger man's skin. "I've got you now, Tom. Everything's going to be okay," he whispered. "I love you, Tommy."
Chakotay felt a tentative hand on his arm, and he moved slightly to look at Tom's face. Blue eyes, clouded with uncertainty, gazed back at him. "Are you real?" Tom whispered as he studied the older man's face.
"Yes, Angel, I'm real," Chakotay assured him as he placed a soft kiss on Tom's lips. He stroked Tom's cheek gently and smiled. "I'm going to lay you down for a while, Tom, okay? Just while I take my jacket off."
Tom nodded slowly, still unsure as Chakotay did as he'd said, then put the jacket on Tom. "We need to get you warmed up, Tom," Chakotay explained as he looked into Tom's puzzled face. "I'm going to massage your legs now, they're very cold and they must be stiff."
Tom lay still as his legs were rubbed and kneaded. Feeling slowly returned to them, and he gradually came to the conclusion that this wasn't a dream. He looked at the man bending over him, and started to quietly sob with relief.
Chakotay stopped as he felt the shudders running through Tom's body, and looked up. "Tom? What is it?"
Tom stretched his arms towards the older man, and Chakotay went to him, laying down beside him and pulling him close. "I love you, Cha," Tom murmured. "You found me."
Chakotay hugged Tom tightly to him. "Yes, Tom, I did," he agreed. "But we've got to get you moving now, we can't stay here. We need to head for the stream. Do you understand?"
Tom nodded his head against Chakotay's shoulder.
"Good. I'm going to put my pants on you, and then we're going to see if you can stand. Okay?"
Chakotay stood up and removed his pants, then dressed Tom in them, leaving himself clad in his shorts and undershirt, socks and shoes. He knew the pants would be a bad fit for Tom, but they would keep some warmth in, and that was the priority. "Now, Tom, let's see if you can stand," he said as he wrapped an arm around the pilot and cautiously pulled him upright.
Tom was too weak to support himself though, and he desperately grabbed on to the First Officer with both hands. "I can't, Cha. I can't stand."
"Then I'll carry you," Chakotay told him as he picked him up. Tom was much lighter than normal, and Chakotay winced internally at the realisation. "Have you eaten anything?" he asked as he started to retrace his steps.
"No," Tom replied wearily. "I had some water, but I don't know when that was." He snuggled against Chakotay's chest. "How long have I been here?"
"You went missing over a week ago," Chakotay answered. "We didn't know what had happened to you."
"You found me, though," Tom yawned, then closed his eyes and fell asleep.
Chakotay walked slowly on, carrying his precious bundle, until darkness fell. He found a suitable resting place and carefully placed Tom down amongst the leaves. Wrapping himself around the still sleeping pilot, he settled down for the night.
Tom woke first the next morning, feeling much warmer than he had of late, and he wondered why. When he opened his eyes, the events of the previous day flooded back. Chakotay had found him.
The big man's arms were wound tightly around Tom's body, and Tom could hear his steady breathing as he slept on. He reached up and ran his fingers affectionately through Chakotay's hair, smiling as sleepy brown eyes opened and looked down at him. Chakotay smiled back, then bent to give Tom a loving kiss. They gazed at each other, thankful that they were together, then just hugged for a long while, content in each other's arms.
"We'll need to get going soon, Tom," Chakotay said eventually. "We have to get to the stream, you need to drink."
"How far is it?" Tom asked quietly. His voice, like the rest of his body, was still weak.
"Not too far. We should get there in about an hour."
"Okay, but I'm still not sure I can walk yet," Tom commented, concern clouding his face.
"Don't worry about it, Tom. I can carry you. Once you've had a drink and I've cleaned you up, you'll feel a bit better," Chakotay assured him. "Let's go now, then we'll have plenty of time before the sun gets too bright."
Tom nodded, and with effort pushed himself into a sitting position. Chakotay stood and stretched his muscles carefully to loosen them, then gently lifted the younger man up, cradling him securely as Tom held on to his neck. Pushing his way cautiously out of the bushes, Chakotay set off for the stream.
They made steady progress, keeping a watchful eye for signs of possible attack, and reached their goal just over an hour later. Chakotay sat Tom down on a grassy mound at the edge of the stream, then helped him to take a drink of the clear water. "Take it easy, Tom," he cautioned. "Don't have too much in one go. Just keep taking lots of small drinks."
Tom's eyes closed in sheer bliss as he drank the cool water, and he could feel it wend it's way to his stomach. He couldn't remember the last time he had enjoyed plain water quite so much.
"What are you doing, Cha?" he asked as Chakotay pulled off his shirt, and soaked it in the stream.
"You're going to have a wash," Chakotay said, smiling. "Let's take your jacket off first, then I'll start cleaning you up." He helped Tom to remove the jacket, then used his wet shirt to gently wipe Tom's face.
"That feels wonderful," Tom sighed.
Chakotay smiled again and washed around Tom's neck. After rinsing out the shirt, he looked with concern at Tom's body. "I'm going to clean this blood off you now, Tom. I'll be as gentle as I can," he promised as he carefully began dabbing at Tom's right side, revealing numerous puncture wounds as the blood and dirt were removed. "What happened, Tom?" Chakotay asked quietly. "What caused these injuries?"
"Sticks," Tom answered, staring off across the stream. "Sharp ones. They kept prodding at me. I don't know why."
"Were you in that cage all the time?"
"I'd been here two days when they caught me." He took a deep breath, then continued. "They drugged me, poisoned dart to the neck. When I woke up, I was in that cage."
Chakotay stopped his ministrations with the cloth as the younger man started to tremble, and he hugged Tom to him
"They had a few hours fun with me, then left me there alone. They never spoke once," Tom informed Chakotay, then looked up at him. "I thought I was going to die there, Cha. I didn't think I'd ever see you again."
Chakotay sighed as he soothingly rubbed Tom's back. "*I* was getting worried that I wouldn't see *you* again, Tom," he confessed. "I ended up here by accident after we'd tried everything we could think of, and got nowhere."
"But you touched the crystal."
"Yes. I was feeling a little lost as I'd just had a slight disagreement with the Captain, so I went to our quarters. I went to the bedroom and noticed that the marble was missing from the sphere, but I couldn't find it. Then, I noticed the crystal. Something just made me touch it, and I ended up here."
"I had the marble. I found it on the floor," Tom recounted. "Then I did what you did; touched the crystal and got stuck here."
"We need to find a way to return to Voyager. Any ideas?"
Tom frowned in concentration. Something was niggling at him, but it was just out of reach.
"What are you thinking, Tom?" Chakotay asked, watching the younger man lost in his thoughts.
"I'm not sure. It was when you said about returning to Voyager. I thought...." He trailed off. "The trader," he said suddenly.
"What about the trader?"
"Don't you remember? He was pointing at that marble and saying something about returning," Tom reminded the First Officer.
"Yes, he did," Chakotay answered thoughtfully. "He said 'you hold, you return'. I thought he just wanted you to buy the sphere and go back to the ship."
"Perhaps that's how we get back," Tom said, hopefully.
"Except, we don't have the marble," Chakotay gently reminded him. "Do you know what happened to it?"
Tom thought back carefully to when he had first arrived in the alien world. "I had the marble in my hand when I touched the crystal. You said you didn't find it in the bedroom, so I probably still had it when I got here," he reasoned. "I remember waking up next to a boulder. I must have dropped it there."
"Then we'll make our way back to the boulder," Chakotay decided. "We're going to rest here for a while first, though. I want to finish cleaning you up, and I want to get some more water in you before we even *think* any more about moving." Picking up the wet shirt, he resumed his task of cleaning Tom's abused body.
"Can't I just sit in the stream?" Tom asked as Chakotay rinsed out the cloth again.
"Once I've cleaned the blood away, yes. But the water's quite cool and I don't want you in there too long, so I'm going to do as much as I can with the cloth first. Okay?"
"Okay," Tom agreed, then smiled lovingly at the older man. "When we get back to Voyager, you can take over my shifts in sick-bay," he teased.
Chakotay just laughed. 'When we get back to Voyager, I'll probably be going straight to the brig,' he thought to himself, remembering the scene on the bridge.
He finished cleaning Tom's sides, then looked with worry at the wounds. Some of them appeared to be infected, and he silently prayed that he would get Tom back to Voyager soon. For now, all he could do was to keep washing the affected area while they were still close to the stream. Once they were away from the water, he knew they would need to travel quickly. Tom hadn't eaten in over a week, and there would be nothing to drink on the last leg of their journey back to the boulder as they had no means of carrying any water with them.
Chakotay rinsed the cloth a final time. "Ready to go in the stream, then?" he asked as he wrung his shirt out and spread it over some rocks to dry.
"Yeah. Are you coming in as well?"
Chakotay nodded as he removed his shoes and socks, then his shorts. "Let's get those pants off you, Tom."
Tom undid the fastenings, and with the older man's help, wriggled free of them, his dirt covered legs contrasting sharply with the rest of him. Chakotay entered the stream first and sat down in the gentle flow. From his sitting position, the water covered most of his chest. He reached up for Tom as the younger man shuffled towards him, then guided Tom onto his lap.
"God, that feels good!" Tom exclaimed as the water washed over him and Chakotay carefully rubbed at his legs with gentle hands. Tom sighed and rested his head against Chakotay's neck. "I really do love you, Cha," he said with undisguised emotion. "Thank you so much for loving me."
Chakotay wrapped his arms around Tom and squeezed tenderly, tears stinging his eyes. "I'm not whole without you, Tom," he said softly. "You're a part of me. The part I can't do without. I love you more than I'll ever be able to put into words. More than I'll probably ever be able to show you." He took a deep breath. "Without you, there's nothing. I just wouldn't exist."
Tom lifted his head to gaze into Chakotay's tear-filled eyes. He silently pulled the older man's head towards him, then kissed him with every ounce of love he possessed while the stream flowed quietly around them. Minutes passed as they kissed, trying to convey their deepest feelings to each other without words, until Tom shivered involuntarily.
Chakotay pulled away in concern. "You're getting cold, Tom. Come on." He gathered Tom to him and lifted him out of the water, placing him carefully down on the grass. He picked up his damp shirt and used it to wipe as much water as he could from Tom's body before helping him to dress. Chakotay put his shorts on, then placed the wet shirt back on the rocks to dry. "Have another drink, Tom, then we'll rest until the afternoon. My shirt will be dry by then, and we'll miss the worst of the sun."
"How long will it take to get to the boulder?"
"It took me about a day and a half to get from there to here, but I was pushing myself. Realistically, I'd say we're looking at adding at least another day to that."
"Do you think we'll make it? I mean, I haven't eaten in the last week, and you haven't eaten since you got here either. And you have to carry me," Tom noted with concern as he looked intently at the older man.
"We'll do it, Tom," Chakotay answered with certainty. "I'll make sure we do." He dipped his hands into the water. "Let's drink now, and rest. Then we'll go as far as we can before it gets dark."
After a long drink, they snuggled together in the shade to sleep, in readiness for the journey ahead.
When they woke, the sun was well past it's peak and the glare was bearable. They drank again, then set off, following the stream back towards the point where they would branch off into the forest. There was about four hours of light left and they used it as best they could, stopping every hour to rest and drink. By nightfall, they were over halfway to where they would leave the stream.
"It feels colder tonight, Cha," Tom remarked as they settled down to sleep.
"Come here, then. Let me warm you up," Chakotay replied. He rubbed briskly at Tom's arms and legs. "Feel any better?"
"A little. But what about you? You've got less on than I have."
"I'm fine, Tom. I don't feel the cold much," Chakotay answered as he cuddled Tom to him and rubbed the younger man's back. "Try and sleep now. I'll keep you as warm as I can." He wrapped his body as tightly as he could around Tom, piling leaves on top of them as insulation. Tom drifted off to sleep, and Chakotay soon followed.
Sunlight filtering through the bushes woke Chakotay the next morning, Tom still sleeping in his arms. He lay watching Tom for a while before deciding to wake him. They needed to get moving soon, to make the most of the early light. He gently shook Tom as he called his name. Blue eyes finally opened, but barely.
"Tom? I need to clean your wounds before we go. Okay?" Chakotay said, as he looked closely at Tom.
"I'm tired, Cha," Tom mumbled as his eyes closed again.
"Tom. You've got to wake up now," Chakotay insisted. "You need water. Come on." He pulled Tom into a sitting position, holding him against his chest as Tom struggled to open his eyes. "I'm taking you down to the stream now," Chakotay told the younger man as he picked him up.
He carried Tom down to the water's edge, laying him down and removing his jacket. He ripped a sleeve off his shirt, not wanting to use all of it this time, and soaked the material in the water. As Tom lay quietly, struggling to stay awake, Chakotay gently dabbed at the angry wounds on Tom's sides. Once he'd finished, he rinsed out the cloth and washed Tom's face. That revived the younger man enough for Chakotay to get him to drink. "Have a little more, Tom," Chakotay coaxed as he held his cupped hands full of water to Tom's mouth. Tom sipped at the water with effort, but was too sleepy to take much. Chakotay put the jacket back on him, then lifted him up.
Needing to cover as much distance as they could as quickly as possible, Chakotay set off resolutely along the track. He pushed himself to keep going, even though Tom seemed heavier in his arms today. He knew it was the lack of food starting to kick in, sapping his strength, but he wouldn't allow himself to give in to it. He focused his mind on their goal of reaching the boulder, and pushed all other thoughts aside.
It took three hours to reach the point where they would leave the stream, having stopped several times to drink and rest. It was almost mid-day, the sun high in the sky, and Chakotay decided he would have to rest longer this time. Every part of him ached from his efforts, and they needed to make the most of their last chance of water.
He set Tom down on the edge of the stream. The pilot had slept for almost the whole three hours, only waking to drink when Chakotay had roused him. Now, he was slightly more alert, and Chakotay was grateful for the fact. "Tom, I'm going to soak in the water a while to try and ease some of my aches. Will you be all right there?"
"Could I go in as well?" Tom asked quietly.
"Let me go in on my own first, then you can have a quick dip before I get out. Okay?" Chakotay said as he brushed his hand over Tom's cheek.
Tom nodded. "Okay. I'll lie here 'til your ready for me."
Chakotay smiled and placed a quick kiss on Tom's nose, then removed his clothes and shoes. He took the torn shirt sleeve from the waistband of his shorts, where he'd carried it, and wet it. He gave it to Tom to wipe his face with, then stepped into the stream. He sank down gratefully into the cool water, resting his head on the bank as he stretched out. He closed his eyes against the glare that was starting to build in intensity, then let the stream wash the weariness from his limbs.
Tom lay on his stomach on the bank behind Chakotay, and gazed fondly at the big man as he soaked in the water. He could still hardly believe that Chakotay had found him. It was a miracle, he thought. A shudder ran through him as he thought what his fate might otherwise have been. A vision of himself starving to death, alone and trapped in a cage in the forest of an alien world, flitted in front of his eyes, and he closed them to shut it out. He only opened them again when Chakotay called to him.
"Do you want to come in now, Tom?"
"Yeah, but could you give me a hand getting these clothes off?" Tom asked as he slowly rolled onto his back.
Between them, they removed Tom's clothes, then Chakotay helped him into the stream. They sat together, Tom on Chakotay's lap, and enjoyed the feel of the soothing water, drinking as they did.
"The next part of our journey is going to be harder, Tom," Chakotay commented as he used the cloth to wash Tom's neck. "I need to sleep for a couple of hours before we set out."
"I wish you didn't have to carry me. It would be easier then," Tom said, feeling guilty.
"Don't worry about it. I'll sleep, drink as much as I can before we go, and I'll be fine. You do the same. Once we get to the boulder, we'll find that marble thing and get back to Voyager," Chakotay said positively.
"We don't know how it works, Cha."
"The trader said 'you hold, you return'. Perhaps that's all there is to it. Perhaps you're meant to leave it somewhere when you arrive, then collect it again when you want to leave," Chakotay suggested.
"I hope it's that easy," Tom replied, looking into the older man's eyes.
"We'll do it, Tom. I know we will," Chakotay said reassuringly. "I think we'd better get out of here now though, before you get too cold. We'll get dressed, then try to sleep."
Two and a half hours later, with as much water in them as their stomachs could hold, they started on the next part of their journey, heading away from the stream. The glare wasn't so bad now, but Chakotay walked in the shade of the trees as much as he could. They had soaked the piece of cloth in the water before they'd left, and Tom held it, using it to cool Chakotay's face every once in a while as the older man carried him.
They walked for forty-five minutes, then rested for fifteen, repeating the pattern for the next two hours. After that, Chakotay found he was tiring more quickly, and had to rest after thirty minute intervals. He pushed on as far as he could though, before night finally put an end to their travels.
As they curled up together in a nest of leaves at the centre of a group of broad-leaved bushes, sleep came quickly to the exhausted and weakened men.
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