Title: Day of Decision
Archive: CPSG, ASCEML, BLTS, Cha_Club, Paris Nights, TPD
Spoilers: Small ones for the first season.
Summary: Answer to the CPSG Anniversary Challenge. Set during the first season, Tom and Chakotay each reflect on their current antagonism toward each other and come to some decisions. This story assumes that Tom spent about a year in the Maquis before his capture.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns all rights to Star Trek Voyager, its characters, and the Voyager episodes referred to in this story. The story idea is mine, but I am doing this just for fun, no money to be made.
Indecision is the highest form of torture. It knots your stomach, causes your hands to clench, and makes you want to scream until the pounding in your head bursts. Of course it is a predicament simple to escape; all you have to do is decide. As he stopped in the corridor, half-way to Commander Chakotayís quarters, Tom Paris thought that the worst thing about indecision was how even after you decide, it creeps back into you, wrapping around your mind, and making you doubt that hard fought decision.
What was he doing going to Chakotayís quarters? He was probably the last person the Commander would want to see, but he was also probably the only person who had noticed that something was really bothering the man. He had first realized it two days ago--the softer tone, the absolute calm, almost as if he was removed from it all. It wasn't a huge change in demeanor, but it was one Tom still recognized. When he had served with Chakotay in the Maquis, he had seen this mood come over him after someone had been badly injured or had died. He seemed calm, but Tom knew it was just the opposite. Something was deeply troubling him, and so he was turning inward, going deeper into himself until he could get a handle on the situation. And he probably wants to do that alone, Tom told himself. He doesn't need your help, particularly now.
Once though, Chakotay had needed him. He had been able to help the older man come to terms with the pain and frustration that came with life in the Maquis, and that had meant the world to Tom. They had been lovers then; it hadn't been for long, a few months at most, but it had been one of the few times in his life that Tom had felt happy. Then he had gotten caught by the Federation and had ended up in prison. He had spent a year remembering that brief period of happiness, only to end up with Chakotay hating him and thinking him a traitor. Ah yes, life was wonderful.
So why the hell was he going to see if a man who hated him was okay? Granted Chakotay's antagonism had died down some during the months they had been in the Delta Quadrant, but it was obvious he'd rather be around anyone else than Tom Paris. Tom found that he was walking again, his feet seeming to make up his mind for him. He knew darn well why he was going. Chakotay was hurting, and he couldn't just sit by and do nothing. No more than he could have let the man die in the caves on Ocampa. He cared whether or not he wanted to. No sarcasm or facades could destroy that truth.
Taking a deep breath, he pushed the chime on the Commander's door. "Come in," Chakotay called. The doors slid open, and Tom stepped inside. The lights were barely on, making it difficult for Tom to see at first, but his eyes adjusted, and he could make out Chakotay standing near the viewport.
He cleared his throat. "Commander."
Chakotay turned, and Tom could see the surprise on his face, which was quickly covered. Before this Tom had never stepped foot in the Commander's quarters on Voyager.
"Lieutenant. What can I do for you?" Chakotay asked formally.
"Nothing, actually. IÖ" Tom started. Damn, he didn't know what to say now that he was here.
Chakotay looked at him, mockingly. "Paris if this isn't important, maybe you should go back to your quarters, write out what you want to discuss, and we can take care of it when we are both on duty." He turned his back to the pilot.
Tom winced at the disdain in the Commanderís tone, but he tried to keep the hurt out of his voice. "Chakotay, whatís wrong?"
Chakotay turned at Tomís soft question, surprise again briefly showing on his face. He looked Tom over and snorted in disgust, as he crossed his arms across his chest. "For a moment, I believed you were really concerned. Youíre almost as good as Seska, Paris, but Iím not in the mood. Use the door." He glanced slowly back at the portal, as if the other man had ceased to exist.
Hearing himself compared to Seska, Tom felt the urge to hit Chakotay. How dare he? At least he hadnít slept with the bitch. Her first week on Voyager, Seska had made sure that Tom knew that she and Chakotay were lovers. He had refused to believe it, and his instincts were right. Seska had been lying, but only partially. Chakotay and she had become lovers six months after Tomís capture. He had heard, though, that to Seskaís dismay, Chakotay had abruptly broken off the relationship within a few weeks. He was glad to hear it had only been a brief fling, but still it hurt that Chakotay would take up with someone who had made it clear that she thought Tom was the scum of the universe.
Seska. Maybe that was part of Chakotay's problem, he thought. Not much time had passed since the discovery of her Cardassian DNA and subsequent escape on a Kazon ship. Even if Chakotay hadn't been in love with Seska, he had trusted her, and her betrayal had to burn. Tom took a deep breath, trying to let go of the anger that had surfaced at Chakotay's remark. He wasn't here to get into another fight, and he wasn't about to let himself slip into his defense of smart remarks. Not tonight. Tonight he was here to help, if he could, and he prayed he could.
He straightened his shoulders and was about to speak when he realized just how annoying it was to try to talk to someone you could barely see. "Computer, raise lights to 50 percent."
Chakotay spun around. "You were leaving," he growled.
"Not before you tell me what's wrong," Tom said stubbornly, meeting Chakotay's eyes. At least he was starting to get a response other than cold disdain, even if it was anger.
"Why? You don't really care. What game are you playing Paris?" Chakotay took a step closer, dark eyes sparking dangerously, but Tom didn't move. He noticed that Chakotay's right hand was clenched, as if he held something in it.
"You're wrong. I do care," Tom said, fighting to keep his voice steady. "And I know you, something is bothering you."
"You don't know a damn thing about me," Chakotay sputtered stepping backwards, and turning back to the viewport. As he did, Tom noticed that Chakotay's pips we're missing from his uniform. Was that what he held in his hand? Why?
"Computer, reduce lights to 10 percent," Chakotay said, his voice holding none of the anger that was apparent just seconds ago.
"Why did you take the pips out of your uniform?" Tom asked.
Chakotay looked at him, his face revealing nothing, and then slowly opened his hand to look at the pips lying in his palm. He closed his fingers around them and then looked back up at Tom. "None of your business. I told you to leave."
"No. Not until you tell me what's wrong," Tom repeated, wondering briefly if he had lost his mind. It was obvious Chakotay didn't want him here. There was no way the man was going to confide in him, so why did he insist on staying?
"I suppose my only options to get rid of you are either that or to call security," Chakotay said.
Tom smiled. "I knew you'd finally understand." The smile faded, and he said, "Will you please tell me?"
Tom held his breath as Chakotay stared at him. He wondered what the older man was trying to see. The room darkened once more, Tom could barely make out Chakotay's expression, which made him uneasy.
Chakotay leaned against the wall, squeezing the pips in his hand. "I'm marking an anniversary."
"You're celebrating?" Tom asked, confused.
"No. It's the anniversary of my resignation to Starfleet."
"Oh," Tom said, not sure where this was going.
"When I resigned, I swore I would never wear this uniform again. I had turned my back on my people, and I would never make that mistake again. Yet, here I am in a Starfleet uniform, and it wasn't that hard to put it back on. It wasn't that hard to force my crew into integrating with the enemy." His hand open and closed over the pips.
Tom shook his head. "Chakotay you did what was necessary for the survival of your crew, for both crews. Besides, Starfleet isnít the enemy; Cardassia is. Starfleet is neutral."
"If Starfleet was neutral, why did you end up in jail? I know, I think it might have something to do with the terms of the Federation-Cardassian Treaty. If they don't support you, then they are against you. It's the first rule you learn in the Maquis. You know it as well as I do. Besides, there's nothing neutral about seceding territory, sacrificing people under your protection."
"Well, then, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. We're alone out here. Either we work together to face what's out here, or we die. Maquis, Starfleet, we have a lot to learn from each other, and a better chance if we work as one crew."
Chakotay smirked. "Spoken like a true protégée of Kathryn. You're very loyal to her principles."
Tom said nothing, a feeling of unease spreading in his stomach. This conversation was making very little sense to him. There was more, and he had a feeling he wasn't going to like it.
"You're right. We do have to work together, and I realize that and support it. There's just too much irony in it for me to like it. Still, I have to wonder if maybe my crew would have been better off if I had never left Starfleet in the first place."
Tom's jaw dropped. "What? How can you say that?"
"I seem to attract traitors."
Seska, he knew that was what this was all about. "Chakotay, no one guessed that Seska was a Cardassian, and yours was not the first ship to have been infiltrated by a Cardassian operative. It happens far too easily, particularly when time and resources are not on your side. It's not like you could scan every crewman who came on board. Seska would have fooled any Captain under those circumstances."
"And what about Tuvok? Not many Vulcans who join a Maquis cause. My instincts told me that, but we needed his talents," Chakotay said.
"You needed people. The Maquis couldn't afford to be choosy. And personally I think you would have caught onto Tuvok before Voyager caught up to you."
"And then there's you," Chakotay said, off-handedly, as if it was nothing important, however his eyes said differently.
Tom felt as if he had been punched. Me, his mind yelled, as all the hurt and anger came bubbling to the surface. When he had first seen Chakotay on Voyager's bridge, asking him what his price had been, he had felt his insides go cold. The sarcasm that had been his defense in prison quickly surfaced to cover his numbness. Afterwards, he had thought about going to Chakotay, trying to explain things, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. He kept hoping that Chakotay would eventually calm down and come to him. So, he waited and let the weeks slip by, and then the months, the bitterness growing.
"I never betrayed you," Tom said his tone clipped and icy. "I think we can both figure out that it was Seska who tipped the Federation off so that I would get caught. They were waiting for me Chakotay. I flew into a trap. I don't blame you, and I had hoped in return that you would have had some faith in me. If I had turned on you, trust me, I wouldn't have gotten a prison sentence. I never sold you out." He couldn't believe his stupidity in coming here. He should leave now.
"I never believed that you told the Federation anything after you were caught. I did trust you," Chakotay said quietly.
Tom looked at in him disbelief, his mind still hazy with anger. If Chakotay never thought he was a traitor, why the months of coldness?
"So, tell me one thing Paris, if you didn't betray me then, why did you when Kathryn offered to spring you? Did you find her attractive? Realize you could care less about what we were fighting for? Tell me what it was."
"I know you won't believe me, but if I had thought there was any chance that we would catch you, I never would have agreed to help the Captain," Tom said his voice coming across loud and brittle. He could feel himself shaking with rage and hurt, and this time, he turned away. He couldn't face Chakotay. He should just leave, before he said or did something heíd regret.
"Tell me why, Tom, please," Chakotay said, his voice soft, all of the antagonism gone.
How could he explain it? Explain how day after day, he slowly felt like he was losing his mind. How he was afraid to go to sleep, afraid to wake up. Just when everything seemed to be closing in on him, crushing him to the point of insanity, Captain Kathryn Janeway showed up offering him a way out. He listened to her talk; quickly realizing her information was out of date. She brought up that she had heard that he and Chakotay had had problems, and he had played along letting her believe it was true. He was desperate to get out of prison, to be free of the pain and fear that had become his life.
He wondered who Starfleetís informant had been, as they had only told part of the story. When he first joined the Maquis, he and Chakotay had had a few arguments, but Chakotay had cut through Tomís crap pretty quickly and earned the pilotís respect. By the time Tom had been caught by the Federation, things between the two had been far from hostile.
He took a deep breath. "I had to get out of there. I couldn't take it anymore, but I never would have sacrificed anyone else to get out. I had been gone from the Maquis for a year. I knew nothing that could help her. Besides, I figured there wasn't a Federation ship out there that could navigate the Badlands. I had my doubts when I finally saw Voyager, but still I didn't believe they could find you. Her information was old, and all I saw was a way out of the hell I was in. Maybe I was weak. You can think that if you want. Worse has been thought of me. I know you won't believe me, but I had no intention of betraying you. I figured I'd never see you again," Tom said, his voice ending in a whisper.
The desire to leave overwhelmed him, and he started heading toward the door, not seeing the concerned brown eyes gazing at him.
"I believe you."
Tom stopped at those words, hope springing alive, and the weight in his chest moved, letting him once again breathe. He turned around, but Chakotay was once again facing the viewport.
"Goodnight, Tom," Chakotay said.
"Goodnight," Tom replied. He swore Chakotay's tone sounded friendly, and he had said Tom not Paris. He had called him Tom earlier too. He hadn't used his first name since they were reunited on Voyager. Maybe there was still a chance. He wasn't sure if he dared to hope. "If you want to talk, or you just don't feel like being alone, I'm here," Tom said and walked out the door.
When he heard the door slide closed, Chakotay turned around and whispered, "I know." He tossed the pips in his hands onto an end table and sat down on the couch with a sigh. Today also marked another anniversary, one that weighed on his mind even heavier.
Two years ago, he had lost three of his crew in a battle with a Cardassian warship. Severely outgunned, he had barely managed to get his ship away. They had limped along to a Maquis outpost where they were finally able to make repairs, and he was finally able to be alone. In a dingy cabin, he had sat thinking about his resignation from Starfleet and feeling the rage at their betrayal. Three more lives lost needlessly. If the Federation had stood by their colonies, none of this would be happening. But it was happening, and he couldn't help wondering what he could have done differently to save those lives.
That night while his mind was filled with recriminations, he had had a surprise visitor--Tom Paris. He had become quite fond of the pilot, particularly once he dropped the smart-ass routine, and he found himself strongly attracted to the man. He always had too much on his mind to do anything about that attraction; there was always something else that had needed his attention. Tom had come to him though, and he found himself opening up to the younger man, a rapport established easily. Just as easily, he found himself kissing the younger man, feeling himself falling into the blue eyes beneath him. They had made love that night, exactly two years ago today, and Chakotay still remembered exactly what it felt like to have Tom in his arms.
For a few months, he had found a haven in the hell that had become his life. Everything was easier to handle with Tom by his side. Tom made him laugh, made him feel alive, and most of all he understood without Chakotay having to utter a word.
Chakotay closed his eyes, feeling once again the pain he had felt when he had learned that the Federation had captured Tom. The helplessness he had experienced at knowing that Tom was going to prison and there was nothing he could do about it. There was a void in his soul that only filled when he saw Tom standing on Voyagerís bridge. Then it brimmed over with anger, hurt and betrayal. He had wanted to smash that smirk off Tomís face, but Janeway had stopped him.
Tomís presence on the away team that had beamed down to Ocampa to search for BíElanna and Harry Kim had both reassured and agonized him. After so many nights spent worrying over the pilot, it was good to see him standing there perfectly fine, but that comfort was ruined by the bitterness of seeing Tom in a Starfleet uniform. His mind screamed at the betrayal, but he had forced it aside because he had needed to find BíElanna.
Then the walls of the Ocampan caves had crashed down around him. A broken leg sending waves of pain through him, he had told Kathryn to get Tuvok and get out. He had resigned himself to dying there, only to see Tom trying to get to him. Images of Tom crashing to his death flashed before his eyes, and fear and pain made his tone rough. Tom had saved his life though, and that could have been the impetus for them to talk, except for the attitude the pilot gave him. Again he had the urge to deck the man.
After a few days, he had decided there had to be some explanation for Tomís behavior and a reason for what appeared to be a betrayal. He waited for Tom to come and talk to him. He had thought Tom would realize that he deserved an explanation. The pilot never came to see him, and his anger returned, particularly as he witnessed Tomís dedication to the Captain. The only explanation was that it had to be true; Tom had betrayed him. He swore at some point that he would go to Tom and demand some answers. He wanted the truth, but apparently he hadnít wanted it bad enough, because he never found the time to talk to Tom. There was always a crisis to be handled, a crewman to calm down or to discipline. It was easier just to let the days slide by. Did he really want to hear Tom tell him he never cared?
The discovery of Seskaís betrayal had made him resolve again to talk to Tom. He had realized immediately that Seska had to have been the one who tipped off the Federation to Tomís location. Tom had gone to prison because of his poor judgment in choosing comrades. Chakotay had to admit Seska had been one hell of a spy. She acted every inch the Bajoran.
He remembered beaming down to an evacuated Cardassian war camp, hoping to rescue any survivors. There were none. The Cardassians had murdered everyone in the camp before leaving, and had done so without mercy. The bodies, women, men and children, were brutally mutilated. Later that night, Seska had shared with him some of her *memories* of the Cardassian occupation of Bajor. She recounted horrible atrocities. He wondered whose stories she had stolen, and how she could tell them so well.
Talking had led to a lot more, and he slept with her. He had felt that they both were just reaffirming that they were alive. Each reaching out for the comfort of another amidst all the horror, but Seska had wanted more. After a few times, he brought things to an end. He didnít think it was fair to her to let her believe he was interested when he wasnít. Besides, waking up to find Seska in his arms made him miss Tom all the more.
Yet, he still hadnít talked to Tom about any of it. He woke up most mornings missing him, but he did nothing about it. The past few days the memories had been even stronger, and he found himself struggling to make sense of all that had happened over the last few years. Losing his father, resigning from Starfleet, finding and losing Tom, being tossed into the Delta Quadrant, betrayed by Tuvok and Seska, and seeing Tom everyday, never able to touch him.
So tonight, he had sat here brooding, remembering some things best forgotten, and trying to come to some sort of a decision. When Tom entered his quarters, Chakotay had been shocked, and hopeful, but he had quickly covered up his reactions, unwilling to set himself up for disappointment. He wasnít disappointed though. Tom had made that step he had dawdled over for so long. He had come just when Chakotay needed him the most, just as he had done in the past. Instead of meeting Tom halfway, he had snapped at him, trying to hurt the younger man as much as the memory of the pilotís sarcastic responses still hurt him.
When Tom had spoken about why he had accepted Janewayís offer, Chakotay thought his heart would break. What had happened to him in prison? In two steps, he could have had Tom in his arms, but his feet wouldnít move. He gave Tom the absolution that he knew he so badly needed, but then he let him go. Why?
He didnít know. Maybe it was because for so long he had hoped Tom would come to him and prove he still cared that when it happened he was too stunned to do anything. Really though, he thought it had gotten easy to do nothing. It hurt to lose Tom. Would it hurt to get close again?
He squeezed his eyes closed, hearing again the pain in Tomís voice as he said, "I figured I'd never see you again." He had thought the same thing, but fate had given them another opportunity. He had to stop wasting that chance. A life filled with regrets was no life at all. He stood up and headed to the bedroom to get changed. Tomorrow he would talk to Tom and start to sort things out. Maybe they could find a way to cross the distance that had settled between them.
Chakotay paused in the doorway. Why tomorrow? Was he just delaying again? His head hurt, and he knew he wouldnít be able to talk to Tom calmly tonight, but he hated the idea that he might wake up tomorrow and change his mind. He walked over to his computer terminal, and sent a message to Tom asking him to meet him for dinner tomorrow at 1800 in his quarters. There, now he had taken that step. He started to head back to his bedroom, when the computer beeped that he had a reply message. He opened it. All it said was, "Iíll be there. Tom."
Walking back to the bedroom, he smiled at how quickly Tom had answered. He got ready for bed, and as he lay down and closed his eyes, he was still smiling. Tonight, he didnít see Seskaís smirk or a torn apart ship. No, he saw laughing blue eyes, and felt the touch of those soft lips on his. He was done with remembering, done with wondering. He had decided that it was time to make sure he had Tom Paris in his arms again.