|Lost and Found
"Tom? Tom!" Chakotay called urgently to the semiconscious man lying heavily across his chest. The Lieutenant was moaning incoherently, his red-hot body twitching every now and again as the sweat poured off him and pooled on Chakotay's skin, cooling rapidly and making the older man shiver despite the heat radiating from the feverish man above him. Chakotay stared down at the pilot as best he could, but it hurt to move too much. His neck was becoming increasingly stiff and sore, and he could only catch occasional glimpses of Tom's flushed face. The younger man looked to be in a bad way, and Chakotay was acutely aware of how helpless he was to ease Tom's suffering. "Telsesh, you bastard! Get in here!" he yelled, his loud, angry voice bouncing off the walls of the tiny room. "I know you're watching. Help him!" he ordered. "He's sick. He needs medical attention!"
His demands went unanswered, but it wasn't until his throat was hoarse from repeating them over and over, that Chakotay finally accepted the fact that, apart from him, no-one was concerned with Tom's plight. Telsesh or one of his men were no doubt monitoring the situation, but they were not going to intervene. He looked anxiously down at Tom, wishing for the hundredth time that his arms were free of his bonds so that he could at least hold the younger man and comfort him.
For a brief moment, Chakotay closed his eyes as his own discomfort took hold. The muscles in his shoulders, back and neck were screaming out for relief after the lengthy time they'd been held in their enforced position. His arms were numb, and Tom's weight was causing his bruised body to ache persistently, but he swallowed hard and forced himself to ignore it all as he resumed his vigil over the babbling man on his chest, coming to the realisation that quietly spoken words were all he had at his disposal in his efforts to settle him. It took a while, but eventually his soft, soothing voice filtered through and Tom finally ceased his ramblings, then lay still. Giving a small relieved sigh, Chakotay stopped talking, but continued to keep watch as best he could.
It was about an hour later that a soft snuffling noise caught Chakotay's attention. As he moved to gaze at Tom, he was surprised to find that the Lieutenant had managed to lift his head, and Tom's bleary blue eyes were attempting to focus on his face. "Cold, Chay," Tom murmured before his head fell again. "So cold."
"Tom? Can you hear me?" Chakotay asked, relieved that Tom had spoken to him, but worried by the fact that the younger man had said he was cold. And why was Tom calling him 'Chay'? "Tom. It's Chakotay. Can you move?" he queried softly.
"Don't know. Hurts."
Tom's voice wasn't much more than a puff of breath against Chakotay's skin, but the Commander was overjoyed by it. Even though it was only a whisper, the fact that he'd answered the question meant that Tom was more lucid now. Chakotay lifted his head and spoke to Tom again. "Tom? Try to move," he coaxed. "Try to get the cover, then lie completely on top of me and pull it over you. Maybe that, and the extra body contact, will help to warm you. Do you think you can manage that?"
Chakotay heard Tom draw in a small breath, then felt him nod against his chest. "I'll try," he answered, and slowly began to move. It was a struggle, his body still felt like it was on fire, but Tom located the blanket with one questing hand, then inch by inch, worked it over himself before he wriggled into position and finally collapsed, exhausted, on top of Chakotay.
"Well done, Tom," Chakotay praised him. "Now you need to rest. When you're feeling stronger, you can tell me what happened to you."
Tom shifted a little, letting his legs drop between Chakotay's, then held as tightly as he could to the older man's body and tucked his head into Chakotay's neck. Feeling more comfortable, and less cold, he made a small sound of compliance, then drifted off to sleep.
Chakotay closed his eyes, wondering again what Telsesh had done to Tom. He hadn't noticed any sign of physical injury, although that wasn't surprising; the guards had thrown Tom on to the bed almost as soon as they'd entered the room, and Chakotay's positioning had made it virtually impossible for him to see any part of Tom except for the top of his head, and his shoulders. It had only been when Tom had shifted that Chakotay had seen the younger man's arms or caught a quick glimpse of his face, and neither had given any clue as to what ordeal the Lieutenant had been through. So what had happened to him? Why was he in such a bad way? Had Telsesh abused him mentally? Or had the Nahldarian used more drugs on him?
Chakotay tried to calm himself. All his worrying speculations were driving him crazy, and were utterly pointless. He would have to wait for Tom to come round again before he would get any answers. Providing, of course, that Tom was up to it. So, for the next couple of hours, Chakotay determinedly kept his wandering mind away from thoughts of Telsesh, instead, focusing all his attention on Tom's slumbering body as he kept vigil over the younger man. But the moment Tom began to stir again, Chakotay immediately returned to his previous thoughts. Perhaps now, *finally*, he would find out what had happened.
Tom came round slowly, with little idea of where he was at first. His head ached, his limbs felt like lead, and it took him a few moments to realise that he was lying spread-eagled across Chakotay. He lifted his head, then winced as the movement caused a sharp pain to race across his chest, making him feel suddenly nauseous. Moving as quickly as his sluggish body would allow, he scrambled to move away from the Commander, his body convulsing as his empty stomach then tried its best to eject its non-existent contents.
"Careful, Tom, or you'll fall," Chakotay warned as the Lieutenant lurched to the side of the bed, his face pale, and his eyes involuntarily watering as he continued to retch.
Incapable of speech, Tom couldn't respond to Chakotay's concern. Violent spasms rocked his body, each uncontrollable shudder bringing with it a wave of pain that surged through him as his muscles contracted. He struggled to bring his knees up to his chest, hoping to ease the vicelike stomach cramps that were almost unbearable in their intensity, but he only succeeded in doing what Chakotay had warned him of. With a strangled cry of pain, Tom crashed to the floor.
"Tom! Tom! Are you okay?" Chakotay called frantically. He could no longer see the younger man, he could only hear Tom moaning and coughing near the bed, and he was beside himself with worry. "Telsesh!" he yelled. "Please! Help him! Now!"
Again, there was no response to Chakotay's shouts, and in desperation, he pulled roughly at his restraints, making the skin around his wrists chafe and bleed. His efforts to free himself proved useless, though, and the bonds remained firmly in place. Tears ran silently down his face as he realised that there was nothing he could do; Tom was essentially on his own until the episode passed.
Almost ten minutes went by before Tom started to feel better. Resting his head against the welcome coldness of the stone floor, he took one deep breath after another as the cramps began to subside and the pain lessened. Sweat was pouring from his body, and the pants he still wore were soaked through and clinging uncomfortably to his legs. He pulled at them, easing the damp material away from his skin as he tried to sit up, finally becoming aware of Chakotay's worried voice as he used the edge of the bed to pull himself upright.
"Tom? Speak to me. Please."
The Commander's words were soft, and Tom was surprised to hear a definite tremble in the older man's voice; Chakotay sounded really shaken. He eased himself up further, and leaned over the bed, close to Chakotay's face. "Chakotay?" he questioned, reaching out with an unsteady hand to wipe at the tears glistening on the Commander's cheeks. "Are you okay?" For the first time since he'd been returned to the room, Tom noticed, as Chakotay turned to face him, that the older man was still shackled to the bed. He stared, horrified, at the blood that was dripping from Chakotay's wrists, staining the white sheets below them.
"Tom? Are you better?"
Tom nodded, returning his gaze to Chakotay's face as tears appeared in his own eyes. "Yeah. I'm okay. But you're not. Your wrists are a mess," he stated. "They need attention."
"I'm all right," Chakotay insisted. "I just want to know what happened to *you*, Tom. What did that bastard do to you? What made you so ill?"
Tom looked away for a moment, anger at what Telsesh had done welling up inside him. "He marked me, Chakotay," he said in a soft, intense voice. "He claimed me as his property. Apparently, I belong to him now."
Chakotay responded angrily, jerking his head upwards and staring intently at Tom. "Like hell, you do!" he exclaimed, his ire increasing as he noticed the raised blue design on the raw skin of Tom's chest. "You'll *never* belong to him! If it's the last thing I do, I'm going to make sure that bastard dies a slow and painful death!" He looked wildly around the room as he shouted loudly. "Do you hear that, Telsesh?" he yelled, pretty certain that the Nahldarian was listening. "You're a fucking dead man! And dead men can't own *anyone*!"
"Chakotay. Please. Calm down," Tom soothed, taken aback by the Commander's unexpected outburst. "You're making your wrists bleed more," he continued, alarmed at the way Chakotay's agitation was making him tug at his bonds again. "I know you're a good officer who's always concerned about his men's well-being, but you're hurting yourself. Don't get so worked up. Okay?"
Chakotay was breathing hard, his chest heaving as he dropped his head back to the bed, and turned to face Tom. He nodded to the younger man, then swallowed heavily, acceding to Tom's plea by gradually trying to bring his anger under control. "I'm sorry, Tom, but I... It's...." His words ran dry, and he shook his head, sighing loudly; despite his best efforts, his emotional turmoil was still too great, and it prevented further speech. He wanted to tell Tom that he wasn't only concerned about him as a fellow officer; that his outrage was predominantly personal, not professional. But seeing the mark Telsesh had inflicted, had literally left him angry beyond words.
Tom was totally unaware of the Commander's internal struggles as he reached out to lightly touch the older man's cheek. "That's better," he remarked as Chakotay closed his eyes and began to take deep, calming breaths. "My shirt's still on the floor," he continued. "I'll use it to clean you up."
Chakotay opened his eyes, and shook his head. "No, Tom," he managed to say quietly, his voice still wavering with emotion. "Sort *yourself* out first. You're as pale as a ghost, and you're shivering. You need to get back in bed and warm up."
"You're bleeding, Chakotay," Tom stated again. "I'm going to use part of my shirt to bandage your wrists, *then* I'll get back in bed. Not before. So save your breath, because you're not going to change my mind."
Chakotay snorted. Tom could be really stubborn sometimes. "Okay," he relented. "But don't take too long. I want to know everything that happened while you were with Telsesh, but I want you to be comfortable first. Then, when you've told me all you know, there's some things I really need to tell *you*. As I said before...."
"The Captain," Tom interrupted, stilling his movements. "I should've told you sooner. Telsesh contacted her while I was with him."
"He did? How?" Chakotay asked, puzzled. "The shield...."
"Is no longer in place," Tom cut in. "God knows what day it actually is, but we've been held for longer than we thought. Telsesh deliberately kept us in a state of confusion so we wouldn't be able to plan an escape. And today wasn't the first time he's contacted the Captain, either. He...."
"Wait, Tom," Chakotay instructed. "I told you I wanted you comfortable before you gave me all the details, so come and lie down under the covers. We'll talk about everything once you're warm again."
Tom bent down to retrieve his shirt from the floor, then began to tear it into strips. "When I've sorted you out," he reiterated, using some of the cloth to dab at the blood on Chakotay's wrists.
Realising that Tom was going to attend to his wrists regardless of anything he said, Chakotay kept quiet and let the pilot continue his ministrations, only speaking once Tom had finished a few minutes later. "Thanks, Tom. That does feel better," he conceded, smiling at the look on Tom's face that said 'I told you so.' "Now get in bed, get warm and let's talk."
"Yes, Sir." Tom smiled, then picked up the cover from where it was hanging over the edge of the bed. He hesitated for a moment, not sure just whereabouts he was supposed to lie.
"Climb over me and take the space by the wall," Chakotay said, seeing the uncertainty on Tom's face. "That way, if you go to sleep, I won't worry that you're going to fall out."
Tom nodded, and did as Chakotay suggested, adjusting the blanket until it covered them both. He shivered. While he'd been attending to Chakotay, he hadn't really taken any notice of his own condition, but now, with Chakotay cleaned up, and nothing to hold his attention, he became aware of how cold he was. Chakotay noticed, too.
"Come closer, Tom. Let my body warm you, like it did before."
"Thanks, Chakotay." Tom snuggled up gratefully to the older man, lying on his side and pressing his own cold and clammy body against Chakotay's warm skin. It felt good to be where he was, and he sighed, the comfortable position transporting him back in time to the moment just before Telsesh had entered the room and taken him away. Chakotay had been about to tell him something then - something that had made the older man very nervous, and he began to wonder again what it was. He draped his arm across Chakotay's chest, and looked thoughtfully at the Commander's face, remembering how they'd kissed while trying to keep their conversation hidden from prying eyes and ears. Parts of his memory of that moment were a little fuzzy, and he concluded it was due to whatever drug Telsesh had administered to him without his knowledge. But, despite that, one thing was crystal clear - until Chakotay had explained why their actions were necessary, kissing the man he'd wanted for so long had been one of the best moments of his life. And before his explanation, Chakotay had been responding as though he'd been enjoying it as well.
"Tom? Is everything all right?"
Tom shook his head. "No," he answered quietly. "There's something playing on my mind; something from earlier today." He paused. If he asked, would Chakotay answer? Would Chakotay's reply be what he wanted to hear? Could he ever be that lucky? He decided to find out. "I need to know what you were going to tell me just before Telsesh carted me off. You were really nervous, Chakotay, so it must've been important. You said it had something to do with me."
Chakotay took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. "Yes, it was important. *Is* important," he said softly. "And it is about you. I was going to tell you what it was after you'd told me what happened with Telsesh."
"I need to know *now*, Chakotay," Tom insisted gently, raising himself up on one elbow and peering down into Chakotay's hesitant-looking eyes. "Please?" he pleaded. "It's all I can think about at the moment."
Chakotay nodded but stayed silent, turning over in his mind how the best way to answer Tom's question would be. He gazed up into Tom's expectant blue eyes, and came to a decision. "Before I tell you, Tom, would you do something for me?" he asked quietly.
Tom frowned, but answered without hesitation. "Of course. If I can. What do you want me to do?" he asked.
"Would you kiss me?" Chakotay whispered, his nervousness robbing him of his voice. "Please, Tom. I need you to."
'Because of the surveillance equipment,' Tom thought. Chakotay wanted to keep their conversation private again. Well, they *were* on a mission, and Chakotay *was* his superior officer, and it *would* be best if they kept as much new information as possible from Telsesh. He sighed internally, then nodded. "Sure, Chakotay. I'll kiss you." He leaned over and placed his lips against Chakotay's, kissing him tenderly.
Chakotay closed his eyes, delighting in the feel of Tom's soft, moist lips, but frustrated that he couldn't wrap his arms around the Lieutenant and hug him for all he was worth. He wanted to make the most of this moment because he was worried that Tom would react badly to what he was going to tell him, and he believed it would be the last chance he would ever get to be even remotely intimate with the younger man. He opened his eyes as Tom pulled away, the pilot looking at him, questioningly.
"Now, Chakotay. Talk," Tom requested quietly as he studied Chakotay's suddenly apprehensive expression. "What was it you were going to tell me?" he asked. He moved forward until his ear was close to Chakotay's mouth, giving the older man a chance to reply without Telsesh overhearing.
There was a moment of silence, then a small puff of air against Tom's cheek just before Chakotay spoke. "I promise you that what I'm about to say is the truth," he said softly. "But I need to see your face when I say it, Tom. Look at me. Please. I need to see you." Tom lifted his head and found himself mesmerised by the intense look in Chakotay's dark eyes as the older man spoke again, his nervous voice full of emotion. "I love you, Tom," he said shakily, leaving Tom staring at him in a state of silent shock.
BACK Part Twelve