Title: A Problem Shared
Rating: Tame (at the moment - could change later)
Disclaimer: Paramount's, not mine!
Summary: A compassionate gesture from Tom leads to something unexpected.
Chakotay sat on the stool at the bar, and surveyed the sea of smiling faces
around him. Neelix had resurrected the old resort program, hoping that an
informal setting for his impromptu 'end of hostilities' party would boost
the crew's morale even further. Judging by their reactions, it seemed to be
Chakotay watched the Captain as she attempted to explain the finer points of
beach volley ball to Seven. She'd already coaxed the ex-Borg out of her jump
suit and into a flowery dress, much to the delight of most of the male crew
members, so Chakotay had no doubts that Janeway would succeed in this, her
newest mission. Perhaps next time, she might even get the younger woman to
take part rather than just spectate, he thought.
Nearby, Naomi Wildman was giggling at her mother's attempts at building sand
castles, and doing her best to knock them down before they were barely out
of the bucket. Behind them, a small group stood chatting and drinking
together, and laughing at the happy girl's antics.
Chakotay's gaze roved towards where Neelix was busy handing out plates of
some unknown delicacy to a small queue of brave individuals. From the
pleasantly surprised looks on the faces of the recipients, the food
obviously didn't taste too bad. Chakotay smiled slightly, and took a sip of
his cold beer. Everybody around him seemed to be enjoying themselves, but,
he thought, no matter how many times he was in a scenario like this, he
always felt alone.
It wasn't a feeling he enjoyed, or wanted, but to some degree, he thought,
it was probably his own fault that he felt this way. He'd taken his
responsibilities as First Officer of Voyager seriously, and put all his time
and energy into them. Because of that he'd never really had the opportunity
to become close to anyone, and most of the crew regarded him as off-limits
when it came to socialising. He was the First Officer, and was still seen as
such even when he was off duty. Most people were wary of chatting to him in
case they accidentally revealed something that might get them into trouble.
For this reason most of his conversations were work-related, rather than
pleasant social talks.
Chakotay sighed, and drained his beer. There didn't seem much point in
staying at the party, after all he'd sat here on his own for the best part
of an hour now. He didn't really want to head home yet though; once his
cabin door closed behind him he really would be alone, at least here he
could pretend that he wasn't. Should he stay, or should he go? He wasn't
quite sure *what* he wanted, and snorted at his own indecisiveness. As he
sat lost in his tangled thoughts, he was unaware of the scrutiny he was
receiving from the figure sitting beneath the tree to his left.
Tom watched the play of emotions on the Commander's face, and nodded to
himself. After observing how everyone seemed to ignore Chakotay after they'd
initially greeted him, it was pretty obvious to Tom what the quiet man's
problem was. Chakotay was lonely, and it showed.
Tom had experienced loneliness at various times throughout his life, and
knew how overwhelming the feeling could become. He had firsthand knowledge
of what it was like to be excluded from gatherings because of rank. His own
status as an admiral's son had precluded his participation in many
activities. A lot of people had been uncomfortable with his presence, always
expecting him to 'report back to daddy', so they had either stayed away from
him, or discouraged him from joining in.
Of course, there was the other side of it too; some people only wanted to
know him *because* of his father. They weren't interested in knowing *him*,
they just wanted to be associated with Admiral Paris' son, and that had had
a profound effect on Tom. Once he'd realised what they were doing, he'd
kept his distance from everyone and loneliness had set in. He hadn't had any
close friends until he met Harry Kim. But even Harry had been unable to
completely eradicate Tom's loneliness; he still felt it, even now.
Tom brushed the sand from his clothes as he stood up, and decided to join
his kindred spirit at the bar. He would end Chakotay's solitude for a short
while, and perhaps it would help.
Tom sat himself down on the stool next to Chakotay "Fancy another beer?" he
Chakotay looked up, surprised. He'd just about decided to head home, and now
here was Tom Paris offering him a drink. "Thanks, Tom, another beer would be
great" he answered with a smile.
Tom smiled back, then summoned the holographic bartender and ordered two
beers. Chakotay shifted round to face Tom as the ice-cold drinks were placed
in front of them.
"Enjoying the party?" he asked.
"Well, it's nice to see everyone relaxed after the week we've had, but I
never really feel a part of these things; they always bring the Admiral's
'let's put my son on parade' extravaganzas to mind, so I don't ever really
enjoy them. How about you? You enjoying it?"
"About as much as you are" Chakotay confessed with a grin. "I don't feel a
part of it either"
"Actually, I'd noticed; that's why I came over. I thought we could sit and
keep each other company, if you don't mind, of course"
"I don't mind at all, Tom. In fact, if you hadn't come over I'd be on my way
back to my quarters now. I didn't really want to go home, but it wasn't much
fun sitting here on my own"
Tom swallowed a mouthful of beer, and placed the glass back on the counter.
"Yeah, I know what you mean" he agreed. "I'd had enough of my own company
Chakotay looked puzzled for a moment. "Aren't you here with Harry and
B'Elanna?" he asked.
"I couldn't drag B'Elanna away from her engines, but Harry's around
somewhere. Probably still chasing after Megan"
"And you're not helping him?" Chakotay asked with a frown. "I would have
thought that would hold more appeal for you than sitting here with me"
"Not really" Tom shrugged. "I'm not really in the mood to find him at the
moment. This might sound mean, but there are times when I just need a break
from Harry. He always wants me to help him with everything. It's not that I
actually mind helping him, but it'd be nice sometimes if he'd recruit
someone else instead. And it would be great if someone could help *me* with
things for a change"
"I thought Harry did that?"
"Yeah, he does, sort of. He tries anyway"
"I don't really understand what you mean, Tom. Doesn't Harry help you with
Tom leaned his elbows on the counter, as he considered how to answer. His
objective had been to try to help the Commander, but it was Chakotay that
was now trying to help him. Did he really want to divulge personal details
to the considerate First Officer? As he asked himself the question, Tom
realised he was treating Chakotay the same way that it seemed all the others
were; he was still thinking of him as the First Officer, and not as another
man and a possible friend. Perhaps by answering Chakotay's question
honestly, he thought, maybe he would be able to coax the other man into
revealing something of himself.
"Harry's my best friend, the only one I've ever really had actually, and he
always offers to help if I've got problems. It's just that, no matter whose
problem it is, mine or his, *I* always end up consoling *him*; he doesn't
just get upset over his own worries, he gets upset over mine too. It wears
me down at times, because not only do I then have to sort out my own
problems, I have to convince Harry that I'm okay, and sort him out as well.
I wish someone else could do it for a change, because even when he's
standing right next to me, the fact that I can't turn to him for real help
makes me feel pretty lonely. I don't know if that makes any sense to you"
"Yes it does" Chakotay replied, looking closely at Tom. "I understand how
you feel completely because I'm in a similar position. Not with my best
friend, because I don't have one, but with the crew. They come to me in my
capacity as unofficial counsellor, and I'm happy to help, but when *I* have
a problem there's no-one I can really go to"
"You don't confide in the Captain?"
"No, not any more. She doesn't really have much time for me now; when she's
off duty she's usually helping Seven with *her* problems"
"And I suppose you can't talk to anyone else, because to them you're just
their superior officer" Tom remarked with a shake of his head.
"Exactly, they're colleagues. They're not friends, I don't really have any
of those" Chakotay stated softly.
A beach ball came flying out of the blue, and knocked the men's drinks over,
causing both Chakotay and Tom to jump back before the cold beer could hit
them. As they picked up the glasses and settled back on to their stools, Tom
came to a decision.
"I don't know about you, but I've had enough of this party lark. Why don't
we get out of here?" he suggested. "The other holodeck's free, we could run
something a bit quieter"
"Okay, do you have anything particular in mind?" Chakotay asked.
"As long as there's no sand and no crowds of people, I'm not bothered" He
snorted lightly before continuing. "That sounds a bit daft, doesn't it?"
"Not wanting people about. I've just been talking about feeling lonely, and
now I want to get away from everyone"
Chakotay smiled at the younger man. "That's not daft, Tom, I was going to do
the same thing if you remember. Loneliness isn't cured by surrounding
yourself with crowds of people, you know. Come on" he said, standing up.
"Let's go to the other holodeck and continue our discussion there"
Unnoticed by everyone, the two men left, and walked in silence down the
corridor. They entered the empty holodeck, and Chakotay instructed the
computer to run one of his private programs.
Tom looked around as the familiar grid was replaced by wild and beautiful
scenery, and he nodded in appreciation of the skill that had been required
to create it.
"Did you do all this yourself?" he asked, taking in the magnificence of the
mountain range in the distance, and the sparkling lake that lay in front of
them. There were trees nearby that had been shaped by the wind, twisted
until they'd been forced to grow almost bent in half. Flocks of brightly
coloured birds screeched as they circled overhead, before darting off in the
direction of the smaller hills to the left of the lake, and disappearing
Chakotay smiled at Tom's obvious admiration for the program. "Yes" he
replied. "I've spent a lot of time on this. It occupies my mind when I need
"Well, it's wonderful, you must be very pleased with it" Tom said,
sincerely. "The attention to detail is incredible"
"Thank you, Tom. Coming from an expert programmer like you that's a great
compliment. I'm not sure I deserve the praise, but I'll accept it anyway"
Chakotay replied with a satisfied smile. "There's a path that goes down past
the lake, do you want to take a walk?" he asked.
"Yeah, sure" Tom replied, looking towards the glistening expanse of water.
He was pleased that he'd suggested coming to the other holodeck now;
Chakotay seemed keen to show off his handiwork, and Tom was happy to let
They followed the rough path down towards the lake, but stopped just before
it reached the edge. A large tree had fallen across the track, and barred
their way. It wouldn't have taken too much effort to clamber over it, but
they decided that here was as good a place to stop as any. They perched side
by side on one of the thick branches that jutted out from the tree's gnarled
trunk, and looked out across the tranquil landscape before them.
"I can see why you'd want to create a place like this" Tom commented. "It's
"Yes, it's peaceful here, and the solitude it offers helps me to think"
Chakotay said quietly. "When I have no-one to consult about my problems, I
come here to meditate and contact my spirit guide"
"And that helps?"
"Yes, to a certain degree, although most of the time I would prefer to
interact with a flesh and blood person instead; words aren't always enough,
or what's needed, you see"
"How d'you mean?" Tom asked with interest. He turned to face Chakotay and
noticed a faraway look on the older man's face as he gazed out across the
"I long for the same kind of thing that you do, Tom; I'd like to have
someone who could solve my problems for me sometimes" Chakotay explained.
"But there are occasions when I don't actually feel like talking about my
worries. As I said before, having a group of people around you isn't always
the cure for loneliness. What *does* go a long way to solving it is having
one person that can see into your soul and who, without being told, knows
that you're hurting. All I want sometimes is for someone to notice that I'm
troubled and just come up and hug me, but it will never happen. People like
you and I always appear strong to others; they believe that we're more than
capable of taking care of ourselves. It never occurs to them that sometimes
we might have fears or worries that we can't cope with on our own. And it
would seem that, because I've never embarked on a relationship with any crew
member, they believe that I'm happy to live without the comfort of physical
contact; that I don't need it. Well, they couldn't be more wrong. It's a
basic human need, and I need it as much as anyone else"
Chakotay's soft voice, tinged with sadness and longing, combined with his
wistful expression, prompted Tom to act. Without really thinking about what
he was doing, Tom placed his arm around the other man and pulled him close.
Chakotay felt his eyes start to fill with tears at Tom's spontaneous
gesture, and he rested his head on the younger man's shoulder. "Thank you"
he whispered, and embraced Tom tightly.
They sat with their arms wound around each other, offering silent support
and understanding, until Tom finally found his voice. "You're right, y'know,
sometimes a hug *is* better than words" he said, pulling back to look into
the older man's eyes. "I haven't felt this content in ages"
Chakotay smiled. "Neither have I, Tom" he replied quietly. "But it isn't
just the hug that's filled the emptiness within me. What's really lightened
my spirit is the fact that you saw me alone at the resort's bar and wanted
to help me. It's been a long time since anyone cared enough to put their own
problems to one side and addressed mine instead. Thank you" he said, and
leaned forward to place a quick kiss of gratitude on Tom's cheek.
Tom laughed gently at the unexpected kiss from the normally reserved man.
"You're welcome" he replied, and gave Chakotay a small kiss of his own.
Chakotay chuckled at Tom's response, and gave the younger man another warm
hug before standing up. "Come on, let's walk a little further" he suggested,
and held out his hand to haul Tom up from the branch.
After climbing over the fallen tree, they were able to once again follow the
path that led them around the edge of the lake. For the next hour they
ambled along admiring the view, and chatted incessantly about anything and
everything that came to mind. It was relaxing and friendly banter, and
exactly what both men had wanted and needed.
"I've really enjoyed this, Chakotay" Tom remarked, as they finally completed
their circuit of the lake and found themselves back at their starting point.
"D'you think we could do it again sometime?"
"I'd like that, Tom. Perhaps we could meet up in a few days, after the rest
of the repairs are finished" Chakotay suggested. "If it's possible, I'll
arrange for us to have the same day off, then we can spend a little longer
here if you'd like"
"D'you think we'd have enough time to explore in the mountains?" Tom asked,
gazing out into the distance. "I bet there's a great view from up there"
"Well, providing no-one objects, we could always add whatever time we have
together and reserve the holodeck for as long as we can"
"I've only got about five hours credit, what about you?"
"I haven't used all of last month's time yet so, with this month's allowance
as well, I have twenty three hours available. That should be plenty"
"You can't use all of it, Chakotay. Just match my five hours and we'll make
do with that"
"It's okay, I don't mind using it, Tom. I've really enjoyed tonight, and I'd
like to spend more time with you. Please allow me to book whatever we can up
to our joint limit, okay?"
Tom could see this was something that Chakotay wanted to do, and he wouldn't
dissuade the older man easily. "Okay" he agreed "But you'll have to let me
buy you a beer or two to make it up to you"
"I think I can live with that" Chakotay replied, smiling. He instructed the
computer to end the program, and gestured towards the door. "Come on, we'd
best get home. We've got a busy few days ahead of us"
Tom nodded, and they left the holodeck, chatting amiably about their