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The Cave III: Trapped!
Vickie T. — 2 Oct 1998, 8:26 PM

After about an hour, the sun was high enough in the sky to provide a diffuse light through the cavern. Tom gave the place a thorough inspection and determined that there was no point of egress aside from the hole in the ceiling they had fallen through the night before. Tom did, however, discover a basin in the side wall of the cavern into which water dripped from some spring or runoff point above. The water had a strong metallic taste, but seemed perfectly safe to drink. Tom drank his fill then used Chakotay's hat to bring water back to the ranch foreman.

Tom knelt close to Chakotay's side as he handed over the makeshift bucket. Chakotay studied Tom's face, then, without warning, drew back his fist and hit Tom on the jaw with all the force he could muster from his awkward position. Chakotay then cried out in pain and put both hands around his knee in an attempt to steady his broken leg.

Tom landed flat on his back, a few feet away from Chakotay. Under more normal circumstances, Tom would have attacked the man, both fists flying. However, there was no way he could take a swing at the injured man, no matter how much he had been provoked. The highly unsual situation caused Tom to resort to an action that he, like all men, hated above any other - he began to talk about what had just happened.

"What in the h*ll was that for?," he asked Chakotay, as he rubbed his jaw.

Chakotay pointed at Tom's face. "I was married to a Klingon Indian woman for 16 years. I know what that represents," he said, clearly referring to the bite-shaped bruise on Tom's cheek.

Tom, with an uncharacteristic flash of insight, related, perhaps, to the recent blow on the head, suddenly understood what Chakotay must be feeling. B'Elanna was, after all, Chakotay's daughter, not just his only remaining family, but the only visible reminder of a woman Chakotay had loved deeply for many years. To see B'Elanna fall in love with any man would be difficult. How much more difficult, then, must it be to see his daughter love a man that he believed to be a thief, a scoundrel, a man with no solid moral fiber.

"Chakotay," Tom said softly, "I know what you think of me. And I know that you have good reason to think those things. I haven't always behaved, well, like a gentleman should. But I'm not like that anymore. I've grown up in the last few years. If you think about it honestly, you'll realize that's true. And you know what, I love your daughter. Yeah, that's right, I love B'Elanna and I intend to marry her and be the best husband any woman could ever wish for."

With that, Tom picked up Chakotay's hat and walked over to the basin for another try at getting the injured man a drink. Tom wasn't sure who was more surprised at his confession - Chakotay or himself. Chakotay still hadn't said a word in response to Tom's outburst and he remained silent as he drank from the hat Tom handed him.

Suddenly, both men heard faint sounds coming from above.