Debra Fran Baker
"Get away from me!"
"I love you!"
"Tom, please. Just go." Chakotay buried his head in his hands.
"Why won't you let me see you?" Tom stood by the cabin door, oblivious to the people passing by.
"You *know* why."
"I never wanted to hurt you." Tom sat down on the couch next to him.
"You did. I have the scars to prove it. Go away. It's bad enough I have to see you on the bridge every day."
"Is that an order, Commander?"
"This is wrong. This is very, very wrong." He pulled Tom into his arms and buried his face in his shoulder.
* * *
The other side of the bed had been empty and cold. "Tom? Pretty one? Where are you?"
"In here." He was in the sitting area. His voice sounded odd.
"Come back to bed. We have hours before we're on shift." Silence. And then another sound. "Tom? Are you all right?"
"Just...go back to sleep, Chak. I'll...I'll see you on duty."
What was wrong? He got out of bed and opened the door. Tom, who never left their bed unless he were dragged, was sitting on the couch fully dressed, his arms wrapped around his knees. His eyes were red. Chakotay sat beside him and touched his cheek. It was wet. "Tom?"
"I can't do this anymore." He turned his face away."You can't do what?"
"Two of you. I can't do two of you. There isn't enough of me."
Chakotay felt a chill down his back. "Two of us? Who?" Why did he bother asking?
"Do...do you love her?"Tom turned around. "I don't know. I think...maybe. She's so beautiful and so brilliant and...she needs me."
"You told me you loved me."
"I do. God knows I do. But..."
"I have to...Please, Chak, try to understand."
"Understand that you're leaving because she needs you? I need you, too, Tom. I love you."
"You don't need me. You're strong and centered and you have the captain. Maybe I'm tired of sharing you. B'Elanna - she acts so tough but she's fragile. She needs someone to lean on."
"And who will you lean on?"
"Me? I don't lean on anyone. Chakotay, I can't hurt her."
"You can hurt me. Maybe you do love her more." Tom looked stunned. "I don't know."
"How long? How long have you been..."
"A couple of months now. Since...the Day of Honor. She said those words to me, while we were drifting out there. I thought she'd...forget them when we got back safely, but she didn't."
"What did you say to her, Tom?"
"I...didn't. I was stunned and scared and thinking that I never got a chance to say goodbye to you. I was going to die out there. I said nothing. At least then. Oh, God, Chakotay, I'm so tired. Tired of lying to her, of lying to you, of hiding the two most wonderful things that ever happened to me from everyone. Please, understand. I had to pick one."
"Why her?" Chakotay tried hard to remember that he liked B'Elanna and that he was proud of her accomplishments on this ship. Right now, all he could see was his Tom in her arms.
"It's...easier. We're the same rank - I even outrank her a little. We're not in the same chain of command, except for the captain and you. And...and..."
"And she's female." He could feel his voice go dead."I'm sorry, Chakotay. Until...I mean, I always knew I liked men, but you know you were...even in prison...but women...and B'Elanna is so beautiful. *You* know, Chakotay."
"I won't make you stay. But...once you leave here, it's over. If you want to commit to B'Elanna, commit to her. Come out in the open about her. As you said, it's...easier."
"What about us?" Chakotay had to turn away from the pain in his voice. "There is no 'us', Mr. Paris. There never was one."
"Not even...I want to be your friend."
"I don't know if that's possible. Go away, Tom. Let me be alone."
"Can I at least...kiss you good bye?"Please, yes. "Just go. Now. Go back to your cabin. I'll...I'll see you on the bridge."
Tom stood up. He reached out as if to touch Chakotay one last time, but pulled his hand back. "Goodbye, Chakotay. I'm...sorry." He had left the cabin without looking back.
* * *
"Tom! Get back here, you pig!"
"I'm late for shift, B'Elanna!"
"A kiss will make you later?"
"The way *you* kiss..."Chakotay steeled himself to ignore their byplay. It had been two years since he and Tom broke up, and it still hadn't gotten easier. Every smile he flashed her, every casual touch he gave her in Chakotay's presence cut him as sharply as it had in the beginning.
He could make the effort to be friends with *her*. He could counsel her on her problems adjusting, even on the flaws in her relationship with Tom. He couldn't hate her. It wasn't her fault that Tom chose her - she didn't even know they'd been rivals. But as for Tom...they'd been becoming friends before the night Tom had so sweetly assaulted him in Sandrine's, and now even that was impossible.
Janeway had noticed the coolness between them, that he'd gone out of his way to not be with Tom in the past few years, but she only mentioned it once.
"I thought you two were over that animosity, Chakotay."
"Things change, Captain. And sometimes, things don't change enough."
"So long as the ship runs and the bloodshed is kept to a minimum, I won't interfere."
"Thank you, Captain."
"What *is* it with you, Paris?" B'Elanna's voice cut through his thoughts. "I have to fight with you for a simple kiss."
"Kissing you is never simple. I have to get to the bridge. I'm already an ensign - I don't even want to think what the captain will do if I'm any later. I'll see you tonight." Tom gave her a quick peck on the cheek and hurried on, past Chakotay. As he did, their eyes met. There was something there in those sapphire eyes - some shadow that echoed the one in his heart. Then it was gone and Tom took off down the corridor.
B'Elanna strolled after him, a grin on her face. "B'Elanna, he's going to kill you when he finds out he's not late."
"I only reset the chrono five minutes ahead. This way we *did* have time for a kiss. It's his first day back, after all." Chakotay shook his head.
* * *
"Why aren't you with B'Elanna tonight, Tom?" Harry set up a bank shot on the pool table.
"She's busy. You know how it is - always a crisis somewhere, and she's the only one who can manage it, even with Seven's help." Chakotay looked up from his coffee. Tom's voice was odd - more resigned than upset. He tried to remember the last time he'd seen those two together, and his mind drew a blank. "I think you're actually winning this time, Har."
"Right, Tom. You're not hustling me tonight." The two men went on with the game, and Chakotay turned back to his book, but every so often, he could feel Tom's eyes on him. He forced himself not to look up, and when he finished the coffee, he got up and went to his cabin and tried to sleep.
Every time he closed his eyes, though, he saw Tom as he'd once known him. Chakotay thought he'd banished those images - pretty Tommy laughing in his arms, stretched out on the bed moaning in pleasure, glowing in the aftermath of orgasm, sleeping restlessly in the dimness of his cabin. If it had only been lust, maybe he could have masturbated and gone to sleep, but it was more than that. For a brief period he'd finally thought he'd found someone to spend his life with, and even though Tom had gone on, he was still in Chakotay's blood, in his heart, in his soul. The trip was getting longer and longer.
Finally, after a cup of herbal tea and a perusal of training manuals, Chakotay managed to drift off. It was then that he heard the signal to his door.
"Who is it?"
"Chak? It's me. Tom. Can I come in, please?"
"Enter!" Chakotay struggled out of bed and pulled on a robe. Tom, who was wearing a worn t-shirt and a pair of shorts, stood just inside the door. "Computer, one-half lights." He gestured to the couch.
"How can I help you, Ensign?" There, that was the right degree of formality.
"Do you know what today is, Chak?"
"It's the third anniversary of the stupidest thing I've ever done in my life."
"Third?" Chakotay blinked."Yeah. Three years ago I broke up with you just because you were...God, I was an idiot. Chakotay, you told me that when I walked out on you, that was it."
"In her quarters, alone. We broke up tonight. It's over." He looked as resigned as he had earlier. Chakotay told his heart not to beat so fast.
"If you're looking..."
"It's okay." He touched Chakotay's hand just for a second.
"What happened? You two seemed to be doing all right. You haven't even been fighting."
Tom chuckled. "We stopped fighting months ago. And then we stopped talking or spending time together. She was always with her engines, and I was with friends. The only thing we did was have sex. Not even making love. Until tonight. Tonight, we talked. As friends. And we said goodbye. As friends. It's funny."
"Three years ago, I was an idiot and lost you even as a friend. But I think...I think B'Elanna and I are where we should be."
"And now you want to come back to me?"For an answer, Tom moved closer and kissed him. Chakotay, in shock, jumped up and practically flew across the room, and they'd argued.
* * *
"Why is it wrong?" Tom's hands stroked his back gently."These last three years - I was just starting to forget you."
"Liar. Every time you looked at me, even tonight, I could feel it. Because I never stopped loving you, either. Even when I was in *her* arms, I thought of you. She's very strong, but you...you are gentle and she could never be."
"You never loved her?"
"I think I must have at one point, but I don't remember when it was. Please, Chakotay. Forgive this fool, this idiot and let me come back to you."
The only answer Chakotay could give at that moment was to hold him closer. Tom relaxed a bit and kissed the top of his head. Finally, he looked up. "I guess I'm also an idiot, Tom, but I can't live without you."
"I'll never hurt you that way again, Chakotay. Three years ago, I felt like I'd lost a part of my soul. I have it back again."
"I love you, Thomas." The trip suddenly seemed shorter now.
Debra Fran Baker email@example.com