No Easy Answers by Ronda

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In Tom's quarters, the Doctor scanned him with medical tricoder, as he did every time he came to check on him. The readings were within normal limits. “Well, Tom, your blood pressure and heart rate are still stable. The cardiac monitor did not give any alerts for last night. You won't need any medication again this morning.”

Tom smiled, “That's good. I actually had a good night's sleep with no nightmares. The dreams I did have were actually nice.”

“I still want to keep you on the restricted diet,” explained the Doctor. “It will be helpful in keeping your blood pressure stable. You don't have very many days left now. Once your thirty days are up, you will be off the restricted diet provided you have no further health problems.”

“Hey, it may be restricted as you say, but it sure beats leola root. It's a little bland though,” said Tom. “I don't suppose I could talk you into letting me have some pizza.”

“No, pizza is not on your current diet. It's too high in fat and sodium. There will be ample time for you to indulge yourself in pizza later,” said the Doctor sternly.

“Oh well, nothing tried, nothing gained,” answered Tom with a impish grin.

The Doctor sighed, “Have a good day, Tom.” With that, he walked to the door and let himself out.

The morning had gone very smoothly, and Chakotay was taking a late lunch. As he picked up some food from the serving line, he saw B'Elanna and Harry sitting at a table. He walked over to them.

“May I join you?” he asked.

“Sure, Commander, have a seat,” replied Harry.

Chakotay sat down with them. “How are the two of you doing?”

“Well, except for missing Tom, I am doing okay,” said B'Elanna. “I did ask the Captain if I could visit Tom. You were right, she did refuse me, but she did give me an explanation of her actions which provided some food for thought.”

“Oh? Care to enlighten us, B'Elanna?” asked Chakotay.

“Uh, I'd rather keep it between the Captain and myself,” she said softly.

“Understood,” answered Chakotay. “How about you Harry, how are you doing?”

“Well, at first, I had nightmares about being ordeded to fire on the Delta Flyer, but those have finally gone away. I wish Tom on the bridge. He generally makes it a lot more interesting,” explained Harry.

“He does make it interesting,” chucked Chakotay. “I wanted to let both of you know that Tom is doing well. The Doctor's report this morning stated that Tom's blood pressure and heart rate have stabilized to the extent that while he is still on a restricted diet, he has not had to administer the last two scheduled doses of medication. I also think that talking with his animal guide is helping him a lot too.”

“I talked to the Doctor, and he says once Tom has served the thirty days, that he will be off the restricted diet as long as he has no further health problems. I'm going to fix him a supper that he won't soon forget,” said B'Elanna with a mischievous smile. “I've been saving replica rations since this started.”

“I know Tom will appreciate that, B'Elanna,” said Chakotay. “The food he's getting right now is good food, but it's still restricted to foods to keep his blood pressure down. Which can make for rather bland meals.”

“I've been on the Doctor's bland diet before,” said B'Elanna with a shudder. “That's why I am going to give him a special dinner when he gets out.”

“I can't wait to do Captain Proton with him on the holodeck again,” said Harry. It's not as fun when he is not there to play the Captain.”

“I'm glad the two of you will be there for him when this is over. It may be hard for him for the first few days. Though, from my observations, he has most of the crew's support,” said Chakotay.

B'Elanna picked up her tray with her now empty dishes. “I've got to be going,” she said. “I want to run some diagnostics in engineering this afternoon. I'm also conducting a drill. I'll see you later.” She walked over and placed the tray in the replicator to be recycled.

“Sorry to leave you alone Commander, but I'm due back on the bridge now,” said Harry as he collected his tray.

Chakotay turned his attention to his meal, so he could go to his office and go through the stack of reports on his desk. He hoped to have them all finished before he had to go and supervise Tom's next vision quest. He had a feeling that the Doctor would want them supervised as long as Tom was confined. It served a two-fold purpose. If the vision was very intense, there would be someone there just in case Tom needed assistance. It also provided Tom with a little company to help ease his sense of isolation.

At 1500 hours, the chime sounded at Tom's door. He smiled and sat on the floor with his bundle as Chakotay entered the room. Chakotay was well known for his promptness.

As he entered the room, Chakotay noticed that Tom was already on the floor with his bundle. He was glad Tom was beginning to relax around him. It meant Tom's level of comfort with him was increasing. That could only improve their working relationship as well.

“I see you're ready to begin, Tom,” said Chakotay.

Tom nodded, “I really appreciate you doing this more than you know, Chakotay. I think I'm finally beginning to make peace with my past.”

“I'm glad, Tom. I had issues with my father. He died before I could resolve them. I sincerely hope that we will make it home in time for you to be able to reconcile with your father,” said Chakotay in a sober tone.

“I never thought I'd say it, but I hope so too,” answered Tom with unmistakable sincerity. He began spreading his bundle out. “I'm ready if you are.”

Chakotay sat on the floor beside him. “Place your hand on the Akoonah and concentrate on the bag with B'Elanna's hair. A-koo-chee-moya, We are far from the sacred places of our grandfathers. We are far from the bones of our people. This man seeks to commune with his animal guide to get the answers he seeks. Close your eyes, Tom. Breathe to fuel the light in your belly, and let it expand until the light is everywhere. Now, return to the place of you animal guide.”

Tom once again found himself on the African plain with the she tiger. “Hello, she tiger,” he said with a broad smile.

“Hello, little one,” she answered in her rumbling voice. “How are you today?”

“Well, things are improving. I haven't needed my last two doses of medication. So, that was really good news. No nightmares last night either. Just sweet dreams about B'Elanna,” answered Tom happily.

“That is good, little one. Now, tell me about your time with the Maquis,” she requested.

Tom swallowed. His guide knew him so well. “Well, after I was kicked out of Star Fleet, I was really angry.”

“Who were you angry with, little one?” inquired the she tiger.

“Let's see, Star Fleet, my dad, and mostly myself. If I had done the right thing in the first place instead of lying because I was afraid of what my dad would say and do, I would have never been kicked out of Star Fleet. So, I only had myself to blame. I was still mad at Star Fleet for not giving me a chance to prove myself. I was mad at my dad because he disowned me........I was pretty much mad at the world. I was drinking really heavily too. Alcohol helped numb my feelings of worthlessness. Then the Maquis offered me a job as a pilot. I was excited to have a chance to fly. I had thought I'd never get to do that again. The money would pay my bar bills, and I'd be able to fly,” said Tom.

“Were there any other factors involved,” asked the she tiger.

Tom was quiet for a few moments and the she tiger waited patiently. “Well, I think on a subconcious level, I saw it as a chance to get even with the Cardassians for changing my loving father into .... into...into the person he was when he came back,” answered Tom quietly.

“And when you got caught by Star Fleet?” probed the she tiger.

“It was my first mission. I was flying solo. I was almost back to the Badlands when the Defiant hailed me. I tried to play cool, but they knew the Maquis ship I was in. I had lots of contraband. I knew I had failed in my mission. I was returned to earth and charged with treason. I wouldn't tell them anything. They kept trying to offer me plea bargains if I would give them information on the Maquis. I basically got fed up with them, and finally told them that they could go to hell, because I was not giving up the Maquis,” answered Tom. I ended up with a five year sentence.

“Yet, when Captain Janeway came to you, you were willing to help her,” said the she tiger.

Tom smiled crookedly, “I told her I'd help her track down the Maquis just to get out. When we approached the Badlands, the location I gave her was not one of our bases. Too many smugglers were in that area for it to be safe. I didn't feel guilty about it. I just did what I had to do to get out of that damned penal colony and be free.”

The she tiger nodded. “That is understandable. And your relationship with your Captain now?”

“I don't know. I really disappointed her.” said Tom sadly. “I did what I had to do. She said she admired my principles, but that she could not ignore what I had done. She thought I was past this 'kind of conduct.' I told her that my actions did not mean serving under her command had not changed me for the better. I hope she believes that. Now, I have to earn her respect and trust again. That's probably going to take a long time. At least she is keeping me as the Chief Conn Officer.”

“You must keep faith and confidence in yourself, little one. What others think of you is not as important as what you think of yourself,” said the she tiger.

Tom sighed, “I know, but when others think badly of me, it still hurts no matter what. I just have to overcome it.”

“Now, it is time for you to return to your friends, little one. I'll be here for you,” assured the she tiger.

Tom opened his eyes and stared at the items from his bundle for a few moments, thinking about something that had been on his mind off and on all day. He turned and looked at Chakotay. “Sir,” began Tom in his most respectful tone. Would it be possible for me to have a PADD to record my thoughts on. I think it would help me process a lot of these things I've been experiencing in my vision quests.”

Chakotay smiled, “I'll check with the Captain just to make sure, but I doubt she'll have any objections to that.” He rose slowly to his feet. “I think it will be very helpful for you to do that.”

“Thanks, Commander,” said Tom. “I really appreciate it.”

“You're welcome, Tom,” he replied as he let himself out of Tom's quarters.