Title: A Problem Shared
Disclaimer: Paramount's, not mine!
Tom groaned, and rubbed his eyes sleepily, as the door to his quarters slid
open and Harry Kim walked in. "Harry? What time d'you call this?" he
grumbled, trying to focus on the Ensign's face.
"07.00hrs. We've got an early start this morning, or had you forgotten?"
Harry asked, crossing the room and seating himself on Tom's couch.
Tom ran his fingers through his hair, and adjusted the robe that he'd put on
hurriedly when the door chime had sounded. The insistent buzzing had
disturbed the pleasant sleep that he'd been having, and he wasn't pleased.
He sat down next to the other man, and rested his head on the back of the
"No, I hadn't forgotten, I'm just not awake yet. My shift doesn't start for
another half hour and I was gonna stay in bed a bit longer. Thanks for
ruining my plans"
"That's okay, Tom. Now you know how I felt last night" Harry muttered.
Tom sat up straight, and gazed at the man next to him. "What are you talking
about, Harry?" he asked with a puzzled frown. As far as Tom knew, the only
plan that Harry had had for the previous evening was to make a play for
"Last night, at the party, I wanted you to join Megan, Jenny and me for some
two on two beach games" Harry stated. "I spent ages searching the resort for
you, but you weren't there; you'd left without even telling me. I only found
out you'd gone when I asked the computer for your location, and it told me
you were in the other holodeck with Chakotay. I mean, what were you doing
with *him*, Tom, when you should have been with us? And you didn't even
answer my hails" Harry added petulantly.
"That's because I never got your hails" Tom replied irritably. "There's
still some communications problems. And anyway, Harry, if I want to spend
time with Chakotay I will, I don't have to be with *you* every minute of the
day, I'm allowed other friends y'know" Tom said indignantly. "Besides, you
weren't worried about me while you were chasing after Miss Delaney, were
"Don't give me that, Tom, I asked you to come with me and you refused."
"Yes, I did" Tom agreed.
It was too early in the morning for this sort of conversation and because of
his tiredness Tom could feel himself getting angry. Usually he would try to
contain it, but this morning he didn't have the energy or the inclination
"Do you know *why* I refused?" he continued. "Let me tell you, shall I? All
you ever want me to do is help you with this, or help you with that. You
don't give a damn about really helping *me* with anything. It gets too much
for me sometimes, Harry, and I need a break from you. That's why I didn't
want to be with you last night. All right?"
The anger in Tom's voice stunned Harry for a moment. "How can you say I
don't help you? I always help you!" he finally said, his own anger rising.
"But if you don't want me around, I can take a hint. I won't stay where I'm
Harry stood up quickly, and made his way to the door before Tom had a chance
to reply. "I'll see you around, Tom" he said, and left.
Tom closed his eyes for a few moments, and tried to calm down; this wasn't
the way he'd expected this morning to begin. After the time he'd spent with
Chakotay the previous evening, he'd gone to bed feeling happy and content
for once, but that feeling had now been shattered.
He took a few deep breaths, and when he'd managed to relax a little, he got
up from the couch and headed for the bathroom. The shower beckoned, and
after he'd pulled off his robe, he stood lost in his thoughts as the warm
water rained down on him.
He had always chased after Harry when they'd argued previously, but this
time Tom decided he wasn't going to. He'd explained to Chakotay how Harry's
actions made him feel sometimes, and this time, Tom decided, Harry would
have to make the first move if he wanted to fix things between them.
After drying off, Tom re-entered his bedroom. He glanced at the time and
made a mad dash for his clothes; he'd stayed in the shower far longer than
he'd thought, and was fifteen minutes late for his shift. He dressed
hurriedly, and with a muttered curse, ran out of his quarters.
As he stepped from the turbolift on to the bridge, all eyes turned towards
him and he became the unwitting focus of attention.
"Ah, Mr. Paris, I see you've finally decided to join us" Janeway remarked,
as Tom went to take over at the helm. Her next statement stopped him from
doing that, though. "You're not needed on the bridge today, the Doctor
requires your help in sickbay. There's still a fair amount of damage down
there, so that's where you'll be stationed until further notice"
"Yes, Captain" Tom said calmly.
Clearing any trace of annoyance from his features, he turned away from the
helm, and started to walk back towards the lift. As he passed Chakotay, the
older man gave him an almost imperceptible nod, and whispered so that only
Tom could hear.
"How about one of those beers tonight, Tom?" he asked.
"Sure" Tom whispered back. "I'll see you later"
Tom realised the question had been Chakotay's way of showing his support for
him, and he appreciated it. It was nice to know that he had someone on his
side, and the fact that it was Chakotay came as a pleasant surprise. As he
continued his journey to sickbay Tom felt a lot less agitated than he'd done
His mood deteriorated again though, as the day dragged on. By the middle of
the afternoon, Tom would have happily swapped his sickbay duty for a stay in
the brig, just so long as he didn't have to see the Doctor ever again.
Normally he could tolerate the sometimes arrogant and bossy EMH, but
although he'd ignored the Doctor's self-oppinionated nonsense as much as
possible, he'd still ended up in several arguments with him.
Now, as his shift came to an end, Tom was as irritable as he'd been after
the confrontation with Harry that morning. As soon as the door closed behind
him, Tom raced away from the Doctor's lair and made his way to his quarters
to shower and change.
As he dressed, he decided he would have to call in at the mess hall to eat.
He didn't have enough rations left to treat Chakotay *and* use the
replicator, so he would have to brave Neelix's cooking for the foreseeable
future. As Chakotay was willing to share his holodeck time though, Tom
thought that his own sacrifice of a few good meals was only fair.
Tom smoothed his shirt down, and checked his appearance in the mirror, and
once satisfied, he left his quarters and walked quickly to the mess hall.
B'Elanna's team had been working on the communications system, and
everything was fully functional again, so Tom decided he would contact
Chakotay as soon as he had eaten.
As he entered the busy mess hall, he noted that he wouldn't need to comm
Chakotay after all. The older man was already there, seated by himself at a
table near the viewport. He was staring out at the stars, and idly picking
at the half-finished meal in front of him.
After spending a few obligatory moments chatting with Neelix about the
evening's delicacies, Tom helped himself to some vegetable stew and crossed
the room to the Commander's table. He was surprised to realise that just the
sight of the calm man had helped to ease his tension, and as Chakotay smiled
up at him as he approached, he felt himself relax even further.
"Hi, mind if I join you?" he asked.
"Please do" Chakotay responded, gesturing for Tom to sit opposite him. "Gone
vegetarian, have you?" he teased, as he took note that Tom had chosen the
same thing that he had.
"For now, yeah. Have you seen what's on the menu tonight?" Tom responded.
"I try not to look. Neelix puts all the vegetarian dishes at the far end of
the counter and that's the only place I choose from. Mind you, some of those
concoctions look pretty frightening at times"
Tom laughed, and swallowed a mouthful of stew before answering. "Well, I
can't imagine anything worse than what's on offer tonight. There's a choice
of fried Harkantan jula grubs, that Neelix insists are very nutritious, or
raw Narvellian earth worms served with rice. Given that choice, I reckon
most of Voyager will go vegetarian tonight. I don't know why Neelix hasn't
got the message that most of us aren't that adventurous"
"Perhaps he likes a challenge" Chakotay suggested with a grin. "Maybe it's
his goal to convert us all to Delta Quadrant cuisine one by one"
"Either that or kill us off one by one" Tom pointed out.
Chakotay smiled. "Yes, there are usually two sides to a coin, and that is a
possible alternative" he conceded.
"That reminds me" Tom said, frowning at his companion. "How come you weren't
as mad with me this morning as the Captain was?" he asked. Chakotay's
support had been more than welcome, but the reason for his concern had
played on Tom's mind all day.
Chakotay finished the last of his stew, and placed his spoon in his bowl
before answering. "I wasn't mad, because I'm sure you never intended to be
late" he replied with certainty.
"No, it wasn't intentional. But how did you know that?"
"Observation, and big ears" Chakotay grinned. He gazed sympathetically at
Tom then as he explained. "When Harry arrived on the bridge this morning I
noticed he was agitated, and then, shortly afterwards, I overheard him
telling someone that the two of you had had an argument. I knew that would
have upset you, and I was sure that was why you were late. I'm sorry you got
sent off to sickbay, but I didn't think you'd want me to mention it to the
"Well, you're right on all counts" Tom confirmed. "Harry and I just had a
stupid row that'll blow over eventually, and it wasn't anything Janeway
needed to know about. Thanks for not mentioning it, I appreciate it"
"You're welcome, Tom. Now why don't you finish your stew, because rumour has
it that there's a couple of beers in Sandrine's with my name on them"
Tom grinned, and tucked into his meal as he considered the man in front of
him. Chakotay seemed so different to how he'd been the night before, Tom
thought. The lonely air that had surrounded him then had gone, and had been
replaced with a more light-hearted one. Tom was pleased, not just because of
Chakotay's change of mood, but because his own had lightened since sitting
down with him. As he remembered Chakotay saying how the emptiness inside him
had been filled, Tom hoped that the transformation wasn't just temporary,
and that maybe it really *had* been down to him.
Chakotay watched Tom finish his meal, and smiled. Tom was good company, he
thought, and he hoped Tom felt the same way about him. He found the
variation between serious and humorous conversation refreshing, and hadn't
felt so relaxed with someone for a long time. They'd learnt a lot about
each other in their short time together on the holodeck, and Chakotay really
hoped that his new-found friendship with Tom would grow, and that they would
learn a lot more.
Tom placed his spoon down, and looked up at Chakotay. The older man seemed
to be lost in his thoughts, and Tom grinned as he waved his hand in front of
the other man's face.
"You in there?" he asked.
"Sorry, Tom" Chakotay apologised. "Are you ready to go?"
"Yep, come on, let's go find those beers" Tom said, reaching across the
table to squeeze Chakotay's arm.
Chakotay smiled, and patted Tom's hand. "I won't say no to that" he
commented, and stood up.
They disposed of their empty bowls, and spoons, and wandered out of the mess
hall to holodeck one, where the Sandrine's program was running. There were a
few groups of people, mostly junior crew members, dotted around the room,
but there was a quiet spot on the far side of the bar. After procuring a
couple of cold beers, Chakotay and Tom headed in that direction.
They sank down side by side on to the wooden bench and leaned back against
the wall. As they enjoyed a moment of comfortable silence, Tom sipped at his
beer and found himself sneaking glances at Chakotay over the top of his
In all the years that they'd spent on Voyager, Tom realised that although he
had obviously seen the Commander hundreds of times, he'd never really taken
notice of him until the previous night. He'd been surprised by his
He'd always had a vague picture in his mind of a strong, capable man that
had no time for anything except work, and while some of it was true, Tom now
knew that there was much more to Chakotay than that.
He *was* strong, but he was also vulnerable to loneliness. The solitude that
everyone assumed Chakotay wanted was forced upon him by his position as
First Officer; it wasn't what he really wanted.
Tom had also discovered that although Chakotay *was* capable, he wanted a
break from responsibility at times. Like Tom, he wanted to have someone sort
out his problems for him on occasion. It wasn't really too much to ask for,
Chakotay was also kind, considerate, and generous. He was a good man, but
all in all, Tom decided, he wasn't as tough on the inside as he appeared on
his handsome and controlled exterior.
He was a gentle soul that craved a friend; someone who would show him that
they cared. Even though Tom had only spent one evening with him, he'd
already begun to regard Chakotay as a close friend, and he was determined to
prove that to the older man.
As Tom continued his silent evaluation, Chakotay glanced his way and noticed
how preoccupied Tom seemed. "Is everything okay, Tom? You look a million
miles away" he commented.
"Oh, yeah, I'm fine" Tom replied, placing his glass on the table. "I just
got lost in my own thoughts there for a moment, a bit like you did in the
mess hall" he said with a grin.
Chakotay studied Tom carefully. "Is there anything I can help you with? I
will if I can, you know" he offered sincerely.
"Thanks, Chakotay, I know you would, but I'm okay" Tom replied. Then a
thought that he'd had earlier in the day came back to him, and he addressed
the older man again. "Now that you mention it, though, I *was* going to ask
you a favour"
Chakotay's face became serious, and he gently placed his hand on Tom's
shoulder "Anything, Tom. Just ask" he stated.
"Okay, but don't take this the wrong way or anything" Tom warned.
"I won't, Tom. Just tell me what's on your mind" Chakotay said with concern.
He couldn't imagine what it was that seemed to be making Tom nervous.
"Well, it's just that your name's a bit of a mouthful, and after a few
drinks it's going to give me problems, so I was wondering if you'd mind if I
shortened it occasionally"
"Shortened it to what?" Chakotay asked, intrigued.
"Well, it's the middle part I'll have trouble with, so I thought about
leaving that out and calling you Chay. Is that all right?"
Chakotay gave a small chuckle and gazed up at the ceiling. "Chay" he
repeated. He smiled to himself, then smiled broadly at Tom. "Chay's fine,
Tom" he replied, looking pleased. "Although I don't think I'll bother
shortening *your* name further" he added.
Tom smiled. He hadn't been entirely sure that Chakotay would react
favourably to his suggestion, but he was pleased that he had, and that his
ploy seemed to have paid off. He'd had a hunch that no-one had ever given
Chakotay any kind of friendly nickname before, and judging by the man's
bright smile and sparkling eyes, it was obvious to him that he'd been right.
"So, Chay" Tom said, emphasising the new name "When do we get to go back to
that beautiful holodeck program of yours? Are we likely to get time off
soon? I know there's about another half a day's worth of repairs to be done
to sickbay, but what about the rest of the ship?"
"It shouldn't take much longer, Tom. The most urgent repairs have all been
carried out, there's just minor things that need doing now. I'm hoping to
schedule our break for two days time. I've already checked the holodeck
availability, and we should be able to book around twenty hours there;
providing no-one complains about it anyway"
"That's great. I'm really looking forward to exploring those mountains with
you" Tom said, holding Chakotay's gaze for a moment.
"So am I, Tom" Chakotay replied softly. "I think we'll have fun"
Tom smiled, then signalled to Sandrine to fetch two more beers. As they
picked up the glasses that she brought them, Tom tipped his towards
"To friendship, Chay" he said warmly, as their glasses touched.
Chakotay smiled and repeated the toast. "To friendship, Tom"
They both took a long drink of their beer, then spent the rest of the
evening enthusiastically discussing their plans for their upcoming trip to