Title: Too Much To Take (8/?)
Author: CatHeights
Pairing: P/T (C/P implied)
Rating: PG-13 - R. This is a slash story. If reading about a relationship
between two men disturbs you, read no further.

Feedback: I would love to hear your thoughts, e-mail me at
Archive: Protective!Chakotay Archive. If someone wants to archive the story
somewhere else, that’s fine by me as long as you drop me an e-mail letting
me know where it will be archived.

Spoiler Warning: Barge of the Dead; Extreme Risk; Nothing Human.

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.

WARNING: This part is entirely P/T. Those of you who have been following the
story will know why. Don’t worry C/P will return in the next regularly
scheduled episode <grin>.

Dedicated to my husband for his patience, humor, and consistent feeding of
my ego. To you with all my love.

As he waited for B’Elanna to answer her chime, Tom swore his stomach had
somehow gotten lodged in his throat. He swallowed hard as the door slid open.
B’Elanna stood before him, her face composed, her body language restrained.
She looked so familiar and at the same time, so different. He could almost
see the distance that hung between them.

“Come on in,” she said, and Tom forced himself to enter her quarters. As
the doors swished closed, he swore he heard them whisper, “too late to turn
back.” Now that he was here facing B’Elanna, all his previous confidence had
vanished. He told himself that this was what had to happen, but it sounded

“You know the code. You could have just entered,” B’Elanna said.

Tom spoke softly past the lump in his throat. “I guess I felt like I
really didn’t have any right to just enter.” He saw a flicker of sadness in
B’Elanna’s eyes as he spoke. Silence fell between them. He kept trying to
recall what he had planned to say, but his mind refused to remember. Finally,
unable to stand the quiet, he looked at her and said, “B’Elanna, I’m sorry. I’m
sorry for shutting you out these past few days.”

B’Elanna breathed a small sigh of relief. The silence between them had
been fraying her nerves, but she really thought Tom should be the first to
speak. She had come to some conclusions on her own, but she wasn’t going to
address those concerns until she heard what he had to say. She needed to
know if what she thought was happening to their relationship was the truth.
Besides, having spent the last few days on an emotional roller coaster because
of him, she felt he owed her an explanation.

“Rather than an apology, I’d like to hear why you were shutting me out,”
B’Elanna said.

“That’s a fair request,” Tom answered.

“Not an easy one, though, is it?” B’Elanna asked softly. Tom just
nodded. She was right. This was hard. Possibly one of the hardest things he
had ever done. He could only think of one thing that had been harder, and it
was the last thing he needed to think about right now.

B’Elanna sighed and said, “Why don’t we sit down? There’s no reason to
stand here to discuss this.”

They sat on the couch, but where as before they would have gravitated
toward each other, now they were both careful to situate themselves as far to
opposite ends as possible. B’Elanna’s quietness disturbed Tom. He had
expected her to scream, maybe even throw things at him, but she did neither.
He remembered reading once that the true sign of the end of a relationship
was when the fighting stopped and only the silence remained. A small part
of him had hoped that everything was a mistake on his part and that he and
B’Elanna had not run out of chances. The silence that enveloped them
crushed that hope. It was over. He sighed staring at his hands.

“Tom. What is going on?” B’Elanna asked. He could hear the impatience
in her voice, but he noticed that there was no anger in her question. He had a
feeling she had decided some things on her own.

Not looking up, he said, “After you went back to the Barge of the Dead
and we almost lost you, I didn’t handle it too well.” He forced himself to look
up before he continued. He opened his mouth to speak again, but quickly
closed it and gulped. B’Elanna’s quarters had disappeared. He was inside a
scorched shuttle the stench of fire and blood filling his nostrils. His eyes met
B’Elanna’s accusing ones, which were frozen in death. Blood clotted around her
neck, which had been detached from her body. He closed his eyes with a sharp
intake of breath. No, he thought, I have things under control. This should not
be happening. It’s just a dream.

“Tom?” B’Elanna said as she watched in concern as he paled and closed
his eyes. He didn’t answer her. She noticed he was breathing heavily and his
hands were clenched. What was going on inside his head? She moved closer to
him placing a hand lightly on his arm and saying again, “Tom.” He jerked
slightly at her touch. Remembering with a pang of pain a few days before his
saying, “Don’t touch me,” she removed her hand. She eased herself back from
him, but only slightly.

“Tom. Tell me what is the matter,” she said. His lack of response was
starting to really worry her. In all the scenarios that had played out in her
mind of Tom talking to her, she never pictured him looking as if he was about
to faint.

Tom took a deep breath and opened his eyes. He almost closed them again
in relief when he realized that all he was seeing was B’Elanna’s quarters.
Quarters, in which he had made love, had fights, laughed. There was nothing
threatening about this place. He turned his gaze to B’Elanna with trepidation,
but no horror scene greeted him. All he saw was her gazing at him worriedly.
He exhaled in relief.

“Are you okay?” she asked and he nodded. “Do you want a drink of water
or something?”

“No, I’m fine,” he said. He had to tell her what he wanted to now, or he
wouldn’t be able to do it. He started talking, the words stumbling out quickly.
“After I left you in sickbay to recover, I started having nightmares.”
B’Elanna’s eyes widened. “I kept dreaming that I had killed you, and then I
started seeing those images from my dreams when I was awake. I couldn’t
talk to you, B’Elanna. Not when I kept seeing the nightmares.” He balled
his hands into fists hoping to stop the shaking in them.

B'Elanna sat still, shocked. She didn't know what to say. Her mind was
spinning. She had never thought that her actions might be causing Tom such
agony. She had mistaken his silence for anger. She was so caught up in her
own problems that she never even gave a second thought to what Tom might
have felt if she had died. She could feel the guilt pressing in on her chest.

It shouldn't be surprising to her that the whole incident gave him
nightmares. He was prone to them. He would never admit to that, but she had
heard him sometimes crying out violently in his sleep. He never woke, and he
claimed to not remember them in the morning, but rarely a week went by where
he didn't at least briefly whimper while he slept. She, of all people, should have
known that things affected Tom more than he let on.

When she had taken her mark and entered Gre'thor, a version of Harry
accused her of keeping everyone at arm's length, including Tom whom she was
supposed to love. During the past few days while Tom was shutting her out,
that remark kept lingering in her mind. She did keep him at arm's length.
Whenever she let him get too close, she felt caged and limited. If she were
truthful, she wanted him around, but only when it suited her. Yet, Tom did have
a way of sometimes making her feel not so alone. So many times when she
had felt isolated on Voyager, she had needed that. Needed to know that
someone cared, but was that love? Yes, in a way. She loved Tom Paris. She
just wasn't in love with him.

She had always been searching for answers to her actions and her life.
She had thought in the beginning that maybe Tom was one of those answers,
but now she knew all the answers she sought were within her. While she had
been reluctant to work with Tuvok on controlling her anger, she realized her
sessions with the Vulcan had helped. She now could focus on her actions.
She no longer feared the hard questions she needed to ask herself. She was
positive her temper would rear its head time and time again, but she no
longer found her Klingon side threatening. In fact, she had found it quite
satisfying during the first day Tom started ignoring her. A good healthy rage
sometimes helped clear one's mind. She had made some small element of
peace with her conflicting nature. Still, she knew she had a long way to go.
As she was a perfectionist, she knew she wouldn’t hesitate to tear down her
beliefs or anything else that stood in the way of her need to understand her
past, her present, and her future. If he stayed with her, Tom wouldn't fare
well while she searched. He believed in letting things lie and moving on, not
in dissecting old hurts and decisions.

She knew that the more she started searching within herself, her nature
would be to push Tom to do the same. Looking at him now, she wasn't sure
he'd survive such an exploration. She no longer needed someone to lean on
to help her combat her loneliness. She belonged now. Voyager was home.
The closest friends of her life were here with her. She no longer needed to
push them away. She had pushed, but still they had remained her friends.
She had clung to Tom, keeping him at her side, just in case, and it wasn't
fair to him. He was too good a friend to have hurt this way. She wondered
if she could help him in some way, but knew that she'd only hurt him more
by trying. The only way she could help was to set him free and let time
heal their friendship.

She wanted to reach out a hand and place it over his fists which were
clenched, she knew, to hide their trembling, but she knew touching him now
would only make him more tense. She sighed and asked, "After I got out of
sickbay and I came to see you, while we were arguing, we're you seeing your

"Yes," Tom whispered.

"And just now when you stopped talking and closed your eyes, did you see
the same thing?"

"Yeah," he said just as quietly.

"Have you slept at all these last few days?" she asked concerned.

He shrugged. "Off and on. I slept plenty last night and today. It's no
big deal."

She shook her head. His answer was so typical for him. He had just told
her that he had nightmares of her being dead that haunted him while he was
awake, but it was no big deal.

"Tom, have you talked to anyone else about these dreams?"

"Yeah, I did. It helped me to sort some things out and realize how
unfair I was being to you."

Well, B'Elanna thought, relieved, at least Harry managed to get through
to Tom. The thought that Tom hadn't been left alone to suffer diminished her
guilt somewhat. "Oh, Tom. I'm so sorry. I was so caught up in what was
happening to me that I never stopped to think about how I was hurting you."

Tom just stared at her. He hadn't expected her to apologize. He wished
she would yell at him or throw something. He was prepared to deal with her
anger. He could be cold, get angry in return, but this understanding that she
was showing just increased the unremitting pain that was growing in his chest.
He stood hoping that by moving he might diminish these feelings.

His back to her, he said, “We both do that a lot you know. We don’t stop
to think how our actions affect the other.”

“You’re right, we do,” B’Elanna said still seated on the couch.

He turned to face her. It was time to say what he had come to say.
“B’Elanna, I think….” His mouth went dry and his words trailed off. He
swallowed and started to try again, but B’Elanna spoke first.

“You think it’s over between us,” she said softly.

“I do,” he said meeting her eyes.

“I think we’ve actually both known that for a while. I guess we both
enjoyed the fighting so much we tried to forget it,” she said halfheartedly.

He grinned slightly at the joke. “You always were up for a challenge.”
He turned serious once again. “You’re one of my closest friends, and I just
didn’t want to lose your friendship.” He gazed into her eyes hoping to find
the answer he wanted there.

She stood up and walked over to him. “Couldn’t happen. I wouldn’t let
it. You lose me and you’d be in big trouble,” she said with a smile. He
grinned in relief. She’d miss that grin. It was the same one she saw
sometimes when she woke in the morning right before he gently kissed
her. She would miss the feel of his hands on her back touching her bare
skin, and the way his hair felt when she ran her hands through it. She
knew there would be mornings to come when she would yearn for Tom
to be there next to her once again, waking her slowly with kisses. During
those times, their desire for each other had meshed together effortlessly.
Sex had never been a problem for them; it was everything else that tore
them apart. It had been quite a while since they had shared such
moments of tenderness. Even before today, those times had become only

“You’re right. Lose you? You’d never let me. We’ve shared too much for
that,” he said still smiling that slight grin and gazing at her fondly.

“We have. No one else would believe the half of it,” she smiled back.
Even though she knew it was best for both of them, it was hard to let him go.
Her smile faded. There was so much she thought she should tell him. How
much he had meant to her. How much he did mean to her. “Tom,” she
started to say.

Tom saw her change of expression. He knew what she was going to say and
knew if she did say it he would fall apart. It would just be too much. He put
a finger against her lips. “Shhh. I know,” he said simply.

She nodded noticing how his eyes glistened with unshed tears. He was
right. There really wasn’t anything else that needed to be said. They both knew
it all, and saying it wouldn’t ease the pain.

“Are you going to be all right?” she asked.

“Me, of course. I always bounce back,” he said giving a poor imitation
of his normal cocky grin. “What about you?”

“I’ll be okay.” She wanted to hold him and make sure he would be fine,
but she had given up that right. Even when she had had the chance to protect
him from hurt, she had done a poor job of it. She couldn’t help ease this pain
for him, as she was the source.

“Take care of yourself,” she said.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said softly.

She had always figured if things ever ended between her and Tom it would
end in a violent argument. In that scenario there was no room for thoughts of
one last kiss, but it was one thing she found herself thinking about at the
moment. She looked into Tom’s eyes and swore she saw the same thought
there. She leaned in toward him, and he tilted to meet her lips. They kissed
a soft, gentle, final kiss. When it was done, Tom pulled B’Elanna to him
wrapping her firmly in his arms as he rested his chin on her head. He couldn’t
believe he was letting her go.

Finally, he let his arms drop and he took a step back. “I’ll see you

She nodded. “Goodnight, Tom.”

“Goodnight, B’Elanna.”

She watched Tom, her lover, walk out of her quarters and become simply
her friend.