Title: The Alternate Path (4/4)
Author: AtiJen Daniels
Rating: R for m/m relationship.
Pairing: Chakotay/Paris
Summary: Tom and Chakotay go in search of Spirit guides and find a whole lot more.
Beta: Not Betad
Feedback:atiejen@yahoo.com
Website:http://www.geocities.com/atiejen
Archive: Yes Please. Just let me know.
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Paramount and the Roddenberry family. I imply no copyright infringement.
Notes: *** POV Change; //Thoughts//

Chapter Four

***Tom***

When we get into the mess hall we join the line to get our meals from Neelix and as if by mutual consent, we separate. He goes off to sit with the Captain and I sit with B'Elanna and Harry. The prospect is somewhat not as appealing as it would have been so many months ago when we first started this journey but I know that whatever changes I find in the future, they were my friends when I had none and I still need them; maybe not as much but I will always need to have my friends. While I sit down, I think to myself that I probably owe B'Elanna an apology for jumping down her throat during the battle.

"Hi B'Elanna, Harry." They both nod and answer back but B'Elanna's answer is only a grunt so I assume she is still angry.

"Are you okay Tom?" Harry asks me. I'll not pretend not to understand him but I need to know where he is coming from. As far as I know, I haven't treated him any different in the past few days so I'll need to know the source of his unrest in order to answer.

"I'm fine. Why do you ask?" At my question, he exchanges a brief glance with B'Elanna, which makes me suspect that they have discussed this previously. It puts me slightly off balance. What is going on?

"Why are you guys looking at each other like that? What is going on?" Harry exhibits some reluctance before answering so he must be the one designated to ask.

"Well Tom, the past few days, you have been very irritable. What is going on with you? It's not like you to loose it in the middle of a fight like you did today. You snapped at everyone even the Captain. Commander Chakotay had to come and caution you so what is wrong?"

When I hear the last thing he asked, I smile to myself. They thought Chakotay was cautioning me; he was the reason I was able to concentrate enough to get us out of there safely. But somehow I don't think telling them that would be such a bright idea. So I have to give them a good reason.

"There is nothing wrong Harry. I am fine. I didn't mean to snap at you B'Elanna and for that I am sorry. It's just that the fight came to us out of nowhere." This sounds lame even to me but there is nothing more I can say to them.

"I accept your apology Tom but it still doesn't tell us what happened." B'Elanna said to me.

"Nothing happened guys as such. It was just the fight that is all." I look at both of them as I say this trying to convey to them how serious I was that they drop this line of questioning. They must have understood me because they went back to their food and left me to mine but Harry just had to have the last word.

"You know we are your friends Tom. If there is anything that you want to talk about, we are here."

"Thanks guys. I know that but there is nothing to worry about. I am fine." With this I get up to leave, partly because I don't want to continue eating Neelix's concoction and partly because I want to end the conversation. I have no answers to the questions I can see in their eyes; the ones that they haven't yet come round to asking and its better that I leave before they can ask. I go back to my quarters and lie down. Maybe later in the evening, I'll go to Sandrine's and spend some of my down time with them. It would probably go a long way to alleviating their suspicions that something is wrong. Also it would take me away from my own company, which is filled with thinking and more thinking lately.

At Sandrine's later that day, I find that most of the crew also have the same idea as I do and are spending their down time in the bar. Noticeably absent is Chakotay. Well, noticeably to me anyway. I think of sending him a message and inviting him but I don't do that because I think he may need this time to get ready for Saturday, which is something I should be doing. I guess I am preparing in my own way. There are a few takers on my offer for a pool game and I have some fun playing. There is really no competition on offer so I just relax an enjoy myself.

After a while, I leave the table open to the rest of the crew and move to one of the darkened corners of Sandrine's. It gives me the opportunity to watch the others and talk to them if necessary but not be a part of them. The fact that it is the same position Chakotay was sitting in while he played his guitar doesn't escape me either. Some time later, I notice that B'Elanna and Harry have moved on to one side away from the rest of the crew and their partners and are having their own conversation. Subconsciously, I lean closer to them and listen to what they are saying.

"Harry, did you believe that crap Tom was spouting to us today in the mess hall?"

"I know there is something going on with him. He has changed and he isn't talking to me anymore; not about the important things."

"Well, after we broke up, things were uncertain between us for a while and then it got better when I got together with Tuvok. At least I think it got better. Do you think that he is still not okay about our break-up?"

"I don't know but now that you mention it, I noticed that he started retreating from me as I got closer to Seven. Does that mean anything?"

"I don't know either but there is really no need for him to be jealous or anything, we are still his friends. I can understand a little bit about his being jealous about me but you guys didn't have that kind of relationship did you?"

"No!! How could you even think that?" Harry sounded aghast and disgusted about the idea.

"Well, there is nothing wrong with it if that's what you want but I'm assuming that it isn't."

"No. Never. Do you think that is why Tom is retreating from me? Do you suspect something?"

"Why are you asking me? Tom is the one you should be talking to not me." B'Elanna was beginning to sound exasperated.

"What more can I do. I tried talking to him and that didn't work. Last time I offered to listen, he chose to talk to Chakotay instead."

"Chakotay? They are often just civil to each other so what has Chakotay got to do with it?"

"He said that he needed him in his official capacity as the ships counselor so what do you think?"

"I am not thinking anything. I refuse to think anything. Tom knows I am with Tuvok now so when he is ready, he'll talk to me. In the mean time, I'm going to spend some time with my partner."

"Maybe that is not it. Maybe he is just feeling left out now that he is on his own. Since we have found partners and he is alone." Now Harry was sounding like the friend I knew him to be. He's always trying to find a reasonable explanation for everything.

"Whatever the reason may be, you know what kind of person Tom is. The more you ask him, the more reticent he will be so lets hope he will talk to us when he is ready. There is nothing else we can do. As for the other, he knows how much you like Seven so I don't think he will do anything to jeopardize that. Anyway, it's a bit late to do anything now isn't it? He's had a lot of time over the years to approach you but he didn't so maybe we are wrong."

"That could be the case but Seven thinks that maybe now that I am unavailable to Tom, the attraction is greater; you know the whole forbidden fruit thing."

"Maybe, but you can never tell with Tom. Just wait till he says something and think of what you'll say to him if he does say something. I have to go now anyway. Tuvok is leaving and I'd like to take a brief stop in engineering before I go to sleep. Goodnight."

As their conversation dies away and they leave, I stay there for a while actually surprised about what I've heard. I never actually thought that my friends had such a low opinion of me. It seems going out of my way to let them have the time they need for their new relationships has backfired on me. I then walk out of the holo-deck thankful that they left before me because I don't think I could disguise my anger at them. The next time I take note of where I am, I notice that I am standing outside Chakotay's quarters and have already pressed the buzzer. I don't know what I'll tell him considering that I don't quite know how I got here.

"Come in." I hear him say as the door opens to admit me. He looks like I just woke him up and I regret that but he looks good with his pajamas and sleepy eyes. Enough, that isn't what brought me here.

"I'm sorry to wake you Chakotay." He gestures me to the couch in his living area and then sits at the other end twisting round to face me.

"It's okay, I haven't been sleeping for a long. What is going on, why are you here so late?"

"I don't really know." As hears this, he looks at me with disbelief

"You don't know. Are you okay?"

"I was in Sandrine' s this evening when I overheard a conversation B'Elanna was having with Harry."

"From your demeanor, I guess they were talking about you. And you didn't like what you heard. You do know that eavesdroppers never hear anything good about themselves."

"I know that Chakotay but the way they were talking; Harry is my closest friend and I just didn't expect something like that from him. B'Elanna, I can understand to an extent but not Harry."

"If you don't mind my asking, what did they say that upset you so much?"

"When B'Elanna and I broke up, it wasn't my decision and it hurt for a while but I got over it. She loved Tuvok and I saw how good he was for her so I gave them some space and after a while things started getting better or so I thought." I was getting bitter and he could hear it in my voice.

"What did she say that makes you think otherwise?"

"I'm getting to that. Harry then started getting closer to Seven so I also gave him some space. I know how much he wanted a chance with her and I didn't want to do anything that will get in their way. As a result of keeping out of the way of both of them, B'Elanna thinks that I am jealous of her new relationship and Harry and Seven think that I have secretly been in love with Harry and now that I know he is definitely unavailable, I have realized my feelings for him and then guess what?"

"What?"

"It is because of these newly realized feelings that I have decided to talk to you as the ship's counselor."

"Did you tell them that you were just giving them the space you thought they needed?"

"Are you kidding, I couldn't think of anything to say at the time and from the disgust I heard in Harry's voice, I could never bring up such a thing with him."

"Don't take this the wrong way Tom but do you feel that way about him?" I couldn't pick anything from his voice on what his opinion would be if I said yes but I couldn't lie about that. I had never thought of Harry that way.

"No. He is my friend. At least I thought he was; the only one that I had when I came on VOYAGER. I just didn't expect something like this from him."

"People often fall short of expectations Tom, look at you and I but that doesn't mean that he is no longer your friend. You quarrel, misunderstand each other; make up, forgive each other and then move on. It is the way of friendship. Don't let it get to you so much. It hurts now but the hurt will fade so calm down and then talk to them later okay. Right now, you need to concentrate on Saturday. Everyone has noticed how stretched and snappy you have been. I can understand it being that way before you chose to go ahead but on Saturday, you'll need to be calm and prepared so start practicing."

I know he is right but at this very moment it isn't exactly what I need to hear. I'm still on the early shift so I say goodnight and leave his quarters. When I get back to my quarters, I am too tired to think about anything so I just change into a pair of shorts and fall asleep.

In the morning, when I get to the mess hall, I see Harry and B'Elanna together as usual and remembering their conversation yester-evening, I get angry all over again. I know Chakotay said I should calm down but if I don't get it off my chest now, I'll not be able to concentrate well enough tomorrow. The best thing to do is to talk to them privately, which I do outside the mess hall.

"B'Elanna, do you think that I am still in love with you?" The tone of my voice lets her know that I am very serious about the question. She exchanges a glance with Harry before answering.

"I don't know Tom but I don't think so. Why are you asking?"

"What about you Harry? Do you think I am in love with you?" Another glance is exchanged between them.

"Why are you asking these kinds of questions Tom? We've never talked about anything like this and frankly I'd rather we didn't." I'm not sure if he even bothered to hide it but his unease was very clear and his disgust poured out from ever pore on his body.

"Well, you are right about one thing Harry, we didn't talk about it so I assumed it wasn't an issue, imagine my surprise at hearing that this non-issue has been discussed by a minimum of three people who I thought were my friends. Don't look so surprised both of you; everything gets round on VOYAGER eventually. Harry, I am not in love with you and I never have been. Allow me the illusion of believing that not all friendships are about sex. B'Elanna, you broke it off between us and have decided to move on, I don't begrudge you that so please don't begrudge me the space I need to move on as well."

"Tom, where did you hear something like that? I know that our relationship is not about Sex." Harry asked this but I really don't feel like giving him any answer.

"Tom, I'm not begrudging you anything and I don't know why you would think so."

"With you both starting new relationships, I thought that as a friend I'd give you some space and not intrude on your time with your new partners but you have both interpreted this as jealousy and spite. Where I come from, that isn't the act of friendship; its called betrayal and it is no way to keep friends. How many people do you thing heard you in Sandrine's last night? I've got to go, I don't want to be late for the staff meeting." I don't give them the chance to respond to what I have said but before I leave, I notice the dawning realization on their faces.

As I enter the Captain's ready room, I see that Chakotay is already there. I decide to sit beside him instead of my usual position between Harry and B'Elanna. He can see that there is something wrong and leans over to me to whisper:

"Are you okay? I saw you talking to Harry and B'Elanna."

"Yes. I couldn't just let it go. It was eating into me and I had to let them know I had heard them. It's over, I can now concentrate on tomorrow." By this time, the rest of the senior staff is striding in so he leans back waits for the meeting to start. Harry and B'Elanna have noticed the seat change and look at me but I refuse to acknowledge them. I am not angry anymore, just a little disappointed that they could think this of me.

I do my best to avoid talking to a lot of people throughout the day. I don't need different ideas and thoughts clouding my mind so I avoid large companies and sit in my room listening to music. Harry comes to visit me late in the evening but I don't let anyone into my quarters.
 
 

***Chakotay***

I can see that Tom is unsure of what to do and his recent clash with his friends doesn't help. I wish there was something I could do for him but he has to decide and go forward on his own. The Captain has noticed that I have scheduled some time off for Tom and I tomorrow and would like to know why. I have managed to stall her and pretend some ignorance on any speculation she might have. Since we are not as close as we used to be, it's easy to give her a blank expression and misunderstand the words and meanings she hides between the lines when she talks to me. It wasn't always like this. Maybe we have been out here too long.

I spend the evening in my quarters playing my guitar. Somehow, it relaxes me enough to clear all my thoughts. I look forward to tomorrow; maybe this time, Tom will get his answers. After that, we can work on our friendship. It is difficult for me to get any sleep so I do some tweaking to the holo-program to be used for the vision quest. I have enough credits to allow us to spend the whole day in the holo-deck if necessary so it is possible to book the holo-deck for 10 hours.

On Saturday, I decide to fast alongside Tom to support him. We get to the holo-deck around 1000 hours and for some reason, I still don't take him into the house. Rather, we take the boat and row straight to the island. There, we change into comfortable slacks and a t-shirt.

"Are you ready for this Tom?"

"No, not really but lets do it anyway."

"It is going to be like the last time, I will say the words to begin the ritual and then you just try to calm yourself and free your mind of conflicting thoughts. Imagine that you are some place that makes you happy and your guide will come to you like the last time. This time, just trust her a little and let her do the rest. Can you do that?"

"Yes I can. Do you really think she will talk to me this time?"

"Are you ready to believe her?"

"I've thought most of it through Chakotay. I'll listen and trust her. So yes, I am ready to believe her."

"Then don't worry so much. You are not alone. I am fasting as well and as I wait for you, I'll be praying to the Spirits to guide your way."

"Thank you Chakotay. You don't know what this means to me."

"I think that maybe I do. Anyway we're friends remember. Settle down and lets start."
 
 

***Tom***

Copying Chakotay's lotus position I try to imagine my Grandfather's orchard as I did the last time. This time I pay more attention to Chakotay's words. The strength of his voice as he speaks the words of the ritual show how much he really believes and trusts in what he is saying. I trust him so maybe I can trust his spirits. Closing my eyes, I let myself go and start imagining. When I open my eyes, I am back in my grandfather's orchard and directly opposite me is the Bald Eagle from last time.

//Hello; you are really my guide aren't you?//

//Welcome my child. You have come a long way from your last visit. Do you know why you are here?// Her voice is very beautiful. I didn't know what to expect but her voice reflects on her and she sounds like the wisdom of the ages passed down to us.

//I had a feeling I needed to know more things and when I asked Chakotay about it, he suggested a vision quest so here I am.//

//So why did you come here?//

//I wanted to know why.//

//I cannot just give you an answer to 'Why' my child. There are so many answers to the question 'Why' just like there are so many variations of the question 'Why'. Which Why are you asking?//

//Things were going okay and then I started feeling some kind of discontent. When we first got out here, it looked like I was getting another chance albeit far away from all I knew but still another chance and it was going fine. But the longer we are out here and the more risks we take, all I knew seems farther away leaving me empty. Why?//

//Why are you empty?//

//Yes. Why am I empty? This was supposed to be a new chance away from old disappointment and failures. Meeting new people, seeing new places and making new memories. Yet with all these new things happening, there is some part of me that is empty. I need help to understand.//

//Why did you think he could help you?//

//Chakotay?//

//No. Chakotay.// She interrupts me to give me the correct pronunciation of Chakotay's name. We have to practice for a while before I can get it right.

//Chakotay and I were not really friends but I respected him. The one thing that has remained constant with him throughout all that we have gone through has been his belief in his Spirits. I went to him to see how he could afford to have strength in those beliefs in the face of all the adversity we've had.//

//Did you get your answers child?//

//Some of them. He said I should trust and believe so that is what I am doing now, believing that you are here and trusting you to guide me.//

//I will guide you young Thomas but first you must tell me, where do you intend to go?//

//I want to find what is missing and be complete and I have the feeling that only you can help me.//

//I can show you the way but you have to decide to take the journey and I will be with you independent of your decision.//

//I decided to follow whatever path that you show me when I came on this quest.//

//The walk of the spirits is not always an easy one Thomas. And you know that even though you make the choices here, your journey will continue and take place in the mortal plane where you exist.//

//Chakotay told me to expect that and I am ready to take that road. But what happens when I am out there, will you be with me?//

//I will always be with you Thomas but you made the first decision to seek out a mentor and he accepted that position so trust him in the mortal plane as you trust me in this plane. //

//Who is my mentor? Chakotay? //

//Why are you so surprised child? Was there anyone else? So has it always been, that when the time comes, you will seek him and he will guide you and you will guide him. //

//What do you mean 'I will guide him?' How can I guide him? I don't understand. //

//The spirits do not desert their children and you were not made to exist alone. Some seek out the other part of themselves in their lifetimes and live fulfilled lives. When they are called back to the Spirits, they have the chance to continue their journeys in different ways but their souls travel together. You have one such soul and you have a partner in Chakotay. He doesn't know everything and neither do you but you teach each other, learn from one another and grow together. The bond between you is a strong one and you are just beginning to recognize it. //

//Does he know this? Why didn't he tell me? //

//He cannot tell you what he doesn't know and even if he did tell you, would you have accepted it with your disbelief in all he stands for? //

//I guess not. So will you tell him now? //

//He is the other part of your soul; to fill up that emptiness you feel therefore it is your place to tell him. //

//I'm new at this kind of thing so why would he believe me when he has been doing this all his life and he hasn't been told. //

//Do I have to tell you everything? This is the path you choose; you will succeed if you can and will walk it. But remember something, Love endures. //

//Love?!! //

//What will you do to the other part of you soul, hate it? Whom do you love now? //

//I love a few people, my friends, and family. //

//You have not answered my question. Whom do you love? Who is that one person to whom you have given your heart? //

//Well, I just broke up with my girlfriend so I guess I'm not in a relationship now. //

//Chakotay is alone. He has been walking alone for a long time, waiting for you. He knows how to love young Thomas, but not how to love you. That, you have to teach him. //

//What if he doesn't believe me? //

//That is the road you walk; the bumps don't mean that the road has no destination and if you negotiate it well, then you might cross the minimum number of bumps. I will always be here young Thomas but it is now time for you to leave? //

//Already? //

//Yes child. You have been here long enough. If you stay any longer, Chakotay might begin to worry. Tell him what you think is right when you think its right. Trust your judgment and trust yourself. I am glad that you came. I have been waiting for you. Till we meet again young Thomas, take care of yourself and your Chakotay. //

Everything I have learned from this quest is a surprise to me. It is not what I expected and is definitely not what I wanted to hear. I wonder what I'll tell Chakotay. I've never seen him with a man and as far as I know, he's only ever been with women. With our new friendship, this might just break us up before we even start. When I come out of the meditation, I find Chakotay looking at me. He looks worried so I wonder how long we have been in the holo-deck.

"How long have we been here Chakotay?" At the correct pronunciation of his name, his mouth falls wide open and I can't help the grin on my face. He is the last person I would ever think would wear that expression.

"How did you ?" I don't let him finish his question. I just smile and tell him.

"My guide taught me. Did I get it right?"

"Yes. I'm really surprised. It's perfect and it's been a long time since anyone called me that."   Considering that I can't call him anything else in front of my guide, is it any surprise that I got it right? Wryly, I answer him:

"Well, my guide wouldn't let me call you anything else so I'm glad that it pleases you. How long have we been here?"
 
 

"Oh, About five hours. Are you okay?"

"Yea. I'm fine thank you. Hungry but fine."

"Okay, Lets get changed and leave. Would you like to come to my quarters for something to eat?"

I'd really like to sit down in one small dark corner and rethink all that my guide has told me but given what I have been told about Chakotay and myself, maybe I should spend sometime with Chakotay and see how to go on from there. I don't know how I am going to accomplish telling him what my guide has told me but I think I need to tell myself first.

"Alright but I wont be able to stay long."

"That's no problem. After being in the spirit world for so long, you'll need some time for yourself anyway. Lets just eat and then you can go on from there."

When we get to his quarters, he points me to the couch in his living area and then goes into his room to leave his medicine bundle. While he is doing that, he tells me to replicate whatever I want to eat from the replicator. I know he used his own credits for the holo-deck time so I use my credits for our meal. I am too hungry to handle anything heavy right now so I just choose some plain tomato soup and bread. By the time I finish, he has come back to the room so I turn to him and ask him what he wants. He leaves the decision to me so I get him some mixed vegetable soup and plain wheat bread. We sit down to eat and just talk about mundane things while we do so. I know he is curious about what I saw on my quest but he won't ask and I can't even answer yet.

"Tom, I've just got to ask you this, did it go okay this time?"

"Yes Chakotay. I got some of the answers I am looking for."

"Thank the Spirits. I am happy for you. Are you okay?"

"I'm not really sure yet. Can you ask me in a couple of days?"

"Just take your time Tom. If there is one thing we do have, it is time. When you are ready to talk, remember that I am here if you need me. If you need to go back to your guide, let me know okay."

"Thank you Chakotay. Do you think you could teach me to do this on my own so that I don't have to keep bothering you?"

"You are not bothering me Tom. Friends remember. But if you need to, I'll show you how and after the first few times, you won't need me anymore."

I know he meant that I won't need him anymore regarding the meditations and quests but I couldn't let him have any doubts in his mind about our friendship so I said to him:

"I'll always need you Chakotay. Never doubt that."
 
 

***Chakotay***

I don't know if there was anything in my voice that alerted Tom to my fears that after he becomes comfortable with the notion of doing his meditations alone, our friendship will be of no use to him anymore but I was glad when he assured me that he would always need me. But I am curious though, why was there a need for him to learn how to pronounce my name in the correct traditional form? As soon as I heard him say that, I was filled with this big wave of nostalgia. I wish I were back in Dorvan V. My family was all that I had and they are still there.

His quest lasted for five hours and I can see that it has changed something in him. It is not immediately obvious but I know that he isn't the same man that went to the holo-deck with me this morning. Would he like the changes? Would I? What about the rest of the crew? I know that things haven't been that good between him and his other two close friends and I wish I could help him out but there is nothing I can do. He told me what he did in confidence and anyway, what can I say that wouldn't make the situation worse. We finish eating and he leaves my quarters. I don't need to ask him where he is going. He looks tired and needs some sleep and coming to think of it, so do I.

When I wake up, I discover that I have nothing to do and I've slept most of the day away. I choose to go to my office and get out of the way all the outstanding reports that I had prepared for the 'Ice Queen'. I know it's not a good idea but I had to call her something. When I finish, I'm still not tired so on my way back to my quarters, I take a brief detour to the holo-decks, fortunately Sandrine's is still running so I go in and order some mixed fruit drink. Like I did the last time I was here, I wait for everyone to leave and then ask the computer for a guitar. I go back to my corner and set myself up to play. I notice that those who sat watching me last time have chosen to do the same thing. They all sit in front of me and watch me prepare. I'm not in the same melancholy frame of mind I was in last time so I don't play any sad songs. I just go through some folk songs I used to play for my family and close my eyes and loose myself to the music imagining my family listening to me.

While I play, I get the feeling that someone is watching me intensely. I want to open my eyes and see who that is but if I do, I might lose the magic of that moment so I keep them closed and play for those particular pair of eyes and ears that are watching me so closely and listening so intensely. Even in my imagination of my family I feel there is someone else also watching me. The person is standing in the periphery of my vision, just beside my brothers. I can't make out the person's features but I know that there's someone there. I remember a love song from the 20th century I learnt and I decide to play it for my listener. When I finish playing, I leave my eyes closed for a while trying to imagine playing it to a particular person and no one comes to mind. The only person that could be close enough for me to play to would be Tom and he isn't the one I want to play to so I stop, open my eyes and see just the holo-characters watching me with rapt fascination. They burst out clapping and I thank them and leave. As I get to the door and am about to call for the arch Sandrine walks up to me and says:

"Commander, would you play for us regularly?"

"I'm sorry Sandrine, I don't really like playing for crowds."

"Okay Commander, what about just for the rest of us here. We'll close the bar and just you will make us happy Oui?"

"I'll think about it Sandrine."

"Please Commander, don't disappoint us. We are only holograms non?"

"Okay. I'll play again when next I'm free; is that okay for you? "

"Oui. We'll be waiting for you. Merci Commander, till we meet again."

"Call me Chakotay, But I have one condition" she nods her head so I continue "You tell no one about this. I will only play if there is no body else here." She promises and I call for the arch and leave the holo-deck. By the time I get to my quarters, I have become really tired so I just fall asleep.

The next day, is just as routine as the other boring days on VOYAGER. Slowly finding a way to the Alpha Quadrant mapping through alien space that is often hostile. After my duty shift, I go to the mess hall for something to eat. The Ice Queen is there as well and we sit together. She asks about my day off and I just put her off saying that I spent some time meditating and getting my reports ready. She then alludes to the fact that I spent quite some time in the holo deck to which I ask look at her questioningly,

"You keeping tabs on me now Captain or did you want me for something?" She then haughtily answers.

"I wanted to book some holo-deck time for myself and then noticed that you had booked quite a number of hours that's all. I wanted to spend some time with Michael." She looks at me to see my reaction to the name. There was a time that I would have been jealous of her relationship with anyone else but those days are long gone and I don't hesitate to let her know. When she sees no expression on my face, her haughtiness deflates a little but I pretend not to notice and continue eating. As I'm about to leave the mess hall, Tom walks in and comes to me.

"Hi Chakotay. I have a holo-program that I'd like to show you, do you have any spare time later? We could go for a walk."

"Sure. Give me a call when you are ready."  On getting back to my quarters I rest, change and wait for Tom. He doesn't take a long time before sending me a comm. message to meet him in holo-deck 2. I am unsure as to what kind of program he would be running but since we are going for a walk; I just wear something comfortable for all locations and comfortable shoes. When I get there, he is already waiting for me. We enter the holo-deck in silence and he calls for his program. It is not what I expect. He has made a holo reproduction of his home in the Alpha Quadrant. He takes me into the house and then to his room on the second floor of the home. When we get there he starts showing me the place he grew up in. I am somewhat mystified as to why he is doing this, after all he said we would be going for a walk but I listen to what he is saying and what he isn't saying. He is showing me he place he grew up and how he grew up. The picture he paints is so different from the one I grew up in. I am beginning to understand him a little bit better. After an hour, we leave and as we step out the door, he looks at me and says:

"When I told you to tell me about your Spirits and show me how you could believe so strongly, you didn't hesitate but you showed me your world. This was my world Chakotay. It's how I grew up and it was very difficult to believe in anything so strongly. From what little you have shown me of your world, I know it's different from mine but I'm showing you this to give you an idea of where I am coming from and let you know that I am serious about where I'm going."

"I understand Tom. I never thought that your experiences were the same as mine but I'm glad to get to know who you were. I don't need it to know who you are but I'm glad of the opportunity."

I know that this has something to do with what he saw yesterday during his quest but I'll wait him out and let him tell me what it's all about when he is ready.

"I'm sorry that we didn't go for that walk. Maybe we'll do it again sometime."

"That's okay. This was more interesting anyway." After this we leave the holo-deck and part at the turbo lifts.

Over the next few days, a routine forms slowly. After my duty shift, I go to the mess hall for something to eat and seat either with The Ice Queen or B'Elanna and Tuvok and as I'm leaving, Tom invites me for some time on the holo-deck. He doesn't sit to eat with me and other than the time on the holo-deck, it isn't obvious that things have changed between us. The more time we spend together, I notice that he is unconsciously using this to keep away from Harry and B'Elanna. I know that it's not good for him so I decide to call him up on it.
 
 

***Tom***

The more time I spend with Chakotay, the more content I am becoming. He is an interesting person and unselfishly shares his time with me. All those things about him that used to irritate me so much when we first met, I am beginning to understand. When my animal guide said that he was the other part of me, she was right. He is centered and grounded to the earth and when my reckless ness takes me far away from the ground, I know that one simple call from him will bring me back home. I used to think that he was all boring and a stick in the mud but I understand that he is the stick in the mud part of me while I am the fly in the sky and reckless part of him. We are getting closer daily and I don't quite know how to broach the other subject with him. I have done all I can to show him who I am. It all started with showing him my home and where I grew up. Since then, I have taken him through some holo projections of my life as it was before I knew him.

Today, he has chosen the program that we will be running. I meet him at the holo-deck as usual and the program he calls up is the hologram of the incomplete home he is writing. Since the program is quite large, it takes us a while to walk to the house and as we walk there, he says:

"Thomas. I know that we have been having a lot of fun together and as much as I enjoy this, I know that you also need your other friends. You need to sort things out with Harry and B'Elanna."

Chakotay had taken to calling me Thomas when we're together. I don't know how it started, but during one of our walks, I had told him that it was what his animal guide called me and Chakotay has since refused to call me anything else. When we're on duty, he calls me Lieutenant Paris or just Paris and at other times calls me Thomas; I don't mind really, No one calls me Thomas anymore so from him, its a form of affection and differentiates our friendship from the others in both our lives. I should have suspected that Chakotay has noticed that I've been avoiding my other two friends.

"Things have been sorted. They know I overheard them and I've told them how I feel."

"They're also your friends Thomas. Things can't be sorted if you avoid them."

"I'm not avoiding them. I enjoy being with you that's all."

"Your being with me has never been a problem Thomas and as far as I know, will never be a problem but as I get to know you more, I know that you need your friends and believe it or not, they need you too. I will always be here Thomas. Sort things out with them okay don't let some small misunderstanding create an air of bitterness between you. It was a misunderstanding, forgive and go on. You never know what tomorrow will bring."

"Alright." This time, he doesn't take me to the house but we take off our shoes and walk on the grass on the parkland in front of the house. He goes on to tell me a little about growing up on Dorvan V; spending time with his family. He paints such a good picture that I feel like I know them already. His home life was so different from mine. It helps me know what kind of man he is; not that I didn't know already. From what he has shown me, I can understand why they chose to fight for their home colony rather than let the Cardassians take it. I can also see why he left Starfleet to join the Maquis. He didn't really get on with his father but he loved him dearly. He didn't get the chance to sort things out with him, which is why I think he is pushing for me to get back with Harry and B'Elanna. He still misses his father a lot after all this time. I wonder if he can love me like that. Maybe.

The next day, instead of waiting for everyone to leave the mess hall before I go for my own meal, I am one of the first to go there for the late meal after the Alpha shift. When Harry and B'Elanna come in, they see me sitting on my own and after a time, decide to join me. I respond to their salutations neutrally and continue eating. I know I told Chakotay that I'd sort things out but that doesn't mean I intend to make it easy for them. There was a time that I'd be groveling by now just to keep whatever they offer me but I know that I am worth more than that and I've grown up. When I first came on VOYAGER, I was desperate for some any kind of friendship but after all the time we have spent here, I've paid my dues and if anyone can't judge me by what I've done here, then they don't really want to know me. The past is gone. I've learned from it and I've left it behind.

"Tom, we're sorry, we didn't mean for you to take it like that. We didn't even know you'd heard us." This is from Harry.

"I know that Harry but you don't know who else was listening and one thing I don't need is a rumor like that spreading. Also if you wanted to know why I kept my distance, why didn't you just ask me instead of saying things like that? You guys hurt me and I would not do that to you and you know it."

"We know and were apologize, it wont happen again. So are you going to stop avoiding us now?" B'Elanna asks me straight to the point as usual

"I wasn't really avoiding you, I was just spending some time doing other things."

"We noticed. And on the holo-deck too, where did you get all the credits for all that holo-deck time?"

"I saved some and the others were given to me by a friend"

"If you needed extra, couldn't you come to us? We are your friends after all." Harry sounds slightly hurt by the implication that our friendship might be at an end. I have to disabuse him of that notion.

"I didn't need extra. They were just there for me to use. And you are my friends. Look, next time, I'll let you know what's happening instead of avoiding you okay."

Harry looked like he was going to ask what I meant about the credits and I had to distract him some how. Luckily for me, just then the Klaxons went off and we were all being hailed.

"Red Alert. All Senior Officers to the Bridge." We left what we were doing and raced toward the bridge. When we got there, we found the Captain trying to negotiate some kind of peace with some alien race. They were not listening and continued to fire at us. When she saw that talking was getting her nowhere, we engaged them in the fight we had tried to avoid and left them to clean up their mess. They weren't as technologically advanced as we were but the caused us some damage. We suffered some casualties but luckily, none of them were serious. I was called to the Sick bay to assist the Doctor and when we finished, I was really tired. I went to my quarters and while changing, it occurs to me that Chakotay thinks we will always have time for us but time may not always be on our side. Too tired to do anything about it, I just fall asleep thinking of nothing else.

In the next several weeks, Chakotay and I spent most of our time together. When previously, we would stay secluded in our quarters, we now found different reasons to stay together. The rest of the crew noticed it and Harry even commented on it.

"What is going on between you and Chakotay?"

"Nothing Harry. He is a friend and you're spending most of your time with your new girlfriend so I have to find other ways to occupy myself while you are basking in true love."

"I'm never too busy to spend time with you and you know that Tom. I thought we had sorted this out before."

"I'm not saying there is something wrong between us Harry. But you've got to admit that two's company and I'd make your duo with Seven a crowd that you don't really need." Nothing was said after that and we continued as we were.

The beeping of my comm. badge woke me up. It was a notification from my computer. I had set this up with Sandrine the last time I watched Chakotay play the guitar. I knew he didn't want anyone to know he played but the last time I was there, I sat and listened to him and at some point, I had a feeling he was really playing to me. That was when I told Sandrine to send a message to my computer the next time he played. It's very interesting watching him play the guitar. He pours as much of himself as he can into it like he does with everything else and anyone listening can hear in the music who Chakotay is and what he is feeling. I still don't know how to let him know that I was aware of his secret. I got changed and went to the holo-deck like before. When I got there, he was already playing and I stood at the hidden corner I had picked for myself and sat down to watch and listen. As usual, his eyes were closed and he paid no attention to those watching him with rapt attention and listening to him. He is lost to the music and I wonder where it is he goes to when he plays. I wish I knew and I wish I were there.

Over the time that we have been together, I have come to love him. Maybe not so much as any other friend but like a deeper extension of myself. He has become my best friend, my lover and my mate. He just doesn't know about the last two yet. The fact that we don't yet share a bed is not yet an issue. I love him. As usual, I leave the holo-deck after I hear him play the song that I think he is playing for me and me alone. Sometimes, I just imagine to myself that he knows I am here because I can hear how much feeling he puts into that one love song. I know I have to tell him that I have been listening but not yet.

Over the next few days, our routine continues and I get to see him in different poses. When he is tired, happy, teasing, sad, he's even let me see him cry. Today, we are sitting on a beach somewhere and just talking. He is looking tired and I tell him so.

"It's just been a bad couple of days that's all Thomas. Things will get calmer soon and I'll be okay."

"I booked quite some time for us so why don't you take a nap. I'll keep watch and wake you after 30 minutes."

"Are you sure you don't mind?"

"I offered didn't I? We're here and there is no one watching; sleep and I'll keep watch." He looks at me strangely for a while at my phrasing and then nods his head and lies back and immediately falls asleep. To be honest, I don't quite know why I said what I did but it must have meant something to him. I'll ask him when he wakes. As I watch him sleep, his face takes on a youthful appearance that isn't there when he is awake. It's like the cares he carries are lifted off him and so is his age. He is a very handsome man and it is so obvious. I turn my back to him and continue watching the sea. We are alone here and it is so restful in his company. I can be myself and he won't judge me for it. After a while, I hear him stir and his breathing changes and I know he is waking up. I turn and see him, he looks so beautiful that I can't help myself and I lean down and place a kiss on his lips. His mouth opens you to me for a while and before I can really deepen the kiss, he realizes where he is and stops.

He then looks at me in stupefaction. I don't think he was expecting this and for a while says nothing. His face has taken that inscrutable mask that I can't see through and I wonder what he is thinking.

"Thomas, you are my best friend, the only one I've ever had. My confidant and I love you like a brother. In fact you are my brother but I love women and I can't love you that way."

"Chakotay, I may be your brother but we share no blood and we're already lovers."

"What do you mean? We are not lovers; we're just friends."

"I love you Chakotay. Like no one I've ever loved before and like no one will ever love you. The fact that we dont sleep together at the moment is -pardon my phrase- irrelevant."

"No. That's not true, maybe you're just lonely since you broke up with B'Elanna and you've been spending too much time with me so maybe we should stop spending so much time together. I'm sorry if I led you on in any way Thomas but it isn't true; it can't happen."

"Neither apologies nor gratitude remember. This isn't about loneliness and B'Elanna Chakotay. It's about both of us and it's been happening for a while. Even after all the time we have spent together, do you not recognize love when you see it? I know that I've only seen you with females but love Chakotay should not discriminate on the basis of gender. It accomplishes all things and endures all things."

"I'm sorry Thomas but that is not the way I think. I wasn't brought up that way and this isn't what I know. I can't change who I am. I'm sorry Thomas."

"I'm not asking you to change Chakotay. You grow and become who you are as a result of how you were brought up but who you are now is not who you were then. You don't know everything Chakotay and neither do I. I have trusted in learning what I do not know; can you not give me the same trust?"

"I'm really sorry Thomas. You are my brother and I love you but I can't be your lover as well. I have to go. I'll see you some other time.

The speed he uses in running away from me, I don't think can be calculated. It didn't go the way I thought it would but at least he didn't resort to violence. I know that I am right and sooner or later he will recognize it too; I hope it can be sooner because I'd like to get on with the rest of my life with him. If he doesn't, I'll just have to tell him what my animal guide told me. If he asks his animal guide, he should be told the same thing.
 
 

***Chakotay***

I can't believe that Thomas kissed me. We don't have that kind of relationship and I don't want that kind of relationship with him. When he told me today at the beach that he would keep watch while I slept, it sounded so much like something that my brother would say that I thought to myself that in the midst of all this adversity, I've managed to find a brother. Imagine my surprise as I wake up to him kissing me.

For a moment, I returned the kiss and it felt so comfortable and now I don't know how to act around him anymore. Why did he have to spoil it? He says that we are lovers, HOW CAN WE BE LOVERS? We're friends. I've always loved women. I should meditate about this but right now, I'm too confused to do anything. Another thing that is making me reluctant to meditate is the fact that Tom alluded to my trusting him which is the same thing my guide told me to do.

I fall asleep and dream of Thomas. In my dream, we are on Dorvan V and I've taken him to my favorite place. It's the peak of one of our small hills. The hill is surrounded on all sides by vegetation and as you sit on the hill, all you can see around you is the tops of tree. I like it here and it's the place I came to for my first vision quest. In my dream, Thomas and I are young lovers, holding each other and kissing. This isn't the first time we have been here and I notice how comfortable we are together. I wake up more confused than before but I think that the cause for this dream is what Thomas told me yesterday. I have to spend some time away from him for a while.

The next few days are an effort in avoiding in each other. The routine we have been going through has become so much a part of me that I feel like a part of me is missing now that Thomas is away from me. I miss him and it doesn't help that every night when I get to sleep, I dream of him. We are always at my favorite place on the hill and he calls it our place. We don't talk much. We just spend time together comfortable in each other's company. He holds me and loves me. When I look into his eyes, I see such love in them. I wonder what he sees in my eyes.

Last night I had the dream again and we were both older men. When I look at my hands, I see the wrinkles that tell me that I have become an old man. Thomas is also older and still in love with me. He continues to hold me and I am weak. Just before I wake up, he says to me:

"Our time here is at an end Chakotay. We will meet again in the time to come and I will wait for you until then. I will always love you my beloved, soul of my soul, heart of my heart, the other half of me. Go on and till we meet again, remain in our love."

When I wake up, I know that I'll never have the dream again and I am still unsure of what it all means. It's my day off so I don't get up for a while but laze in bed wondering what the dreams are all about. I'd like to make some additions to the home program but I'd given it to Thomas some days previously. I can remember how surprised he was when I did that. I don't quite know why I did that but at the time, I felt that I could add no more to it for the moment so I gave it to Thomas to add what he thought was right. His holo-programming skills surpass mine and he understands what the place is about so I had no qualms in trusting him with it. As I lie on the bed, I hear the chime of my buzzer and I have a feeling it's Thomas. My respite is over. I put on a robe and go into my living area calling out to him to come into the quarters.

When he comes in, he can see from the lack of expression on my face that I am expecting him.

"So have you decided to stop avoiding me now Chakotay."

"I wasn't really avoiding you Thomas, I just needed some time to think. I was really surprised at what you did and didn't want to encourage you an further."

"Have you meditated about it?"

"No Why?"

"I thought so. I know that if you meditated, you'd have come to me sooner?"

"What do you mean by that?" Now I'm really surprised. He must know something that I don't.

"There was something my animal guide said and I thought that if you saw your animal guide, then he/she would tell you the same thing."

"Well, what did she tell you that you think she'd tell me?"

"Oh no. That is something you need to ask her yourself. And if I tell you, then you may not believe me."

"I'll believe you now so can you tell me?"

"Why now and why not before. What has changed?" I don't quite know how to answer that. The dreams I had have been very private and I don't really want to tell anyone about it.

"I have just been having some strange dreams that's all."

"What kind of dreams?"

"Just different ones that's all"

"Why don't you meditate and ask your guide about the dreams. Maybe she'll interpret it and tell you what it means."

"Okay, I'll meditate and tell you about it. Why don't you come back later today." He pauses for a moment as if he is thinking about something then asks:

"I don't know if it can be done but since this is about the both of us, can we meditate together?"

"I don't understand. What will be the purpose and since you're still so new to this, I'll not be able to watch out for you if you have any problems."

"Chakotay, you told me that during your last quest, you saw my guide. If she could come to your quest at that time, then maybe she'll come again and if it's some how possible for me to be there, then both of them will answer whatever questions we have. Trust Chakotay. Isn't that what you told me to do?" I guess he's telling the truth so I have to trust the Spirits to know what they are doing and if Tom is right, then they know more than they are telling me.

"Can you give me 30 minutes to prepare myself?"

"Sure. Can we do it here or do you want to go to the holo-deck?"

"I think I'd prefer to be here." I then go into my bedroom, take a quick shower and change putting on my comfortable pair of slacks. When I get back to the living area, Tom is still waiting for me patiently and he has moved to the center of the room already sitting in the lotus position. There is an aura of calmness around him that lets me know that he came to see me prepared for this eventuality. I get my medicine bundle and sit in front of him.

"Are you sure about this?"

"Not really, but like you said, Trust." He's giving me back my words now. Not Fair. We both place our hands on the Akoonah and I start the words of the ritual.

"A-koo-chi-moya. We am far from the sacred places of my grandfathers. We am far from the bones of my people. But perhaps there is a powerful being who will embrace us and give us the answers we seek."

We both look at each other for a last glance before we close our eyes. When next I open my eyes, I find that I am at the island of the home program I have been writing. Looking around me, I find Thomas and he is as surprised as I am.

"Well, this is a surprise. Were you expecting this?" He asks me like I'd know.

"You're asking me? This is the first time that something like this has ever happened to me so I have no idea what to expect." We hear a noise and fight in front of us; my animal guide is lying down and looking at us.

"Is that your guide?" Tom asks me. There is awe in his voice and I can't blame him. She took my breadth away as well the first time I saw her.

"Yes. That is my guide. She is beautiful and sometimes exasperating. But I love her to bits." At this, she raises her head and looks straight at me

//You have returned Chakotay. Do you now see clearly?// she always asks me this.

//You're asking me this again and I still don't have an answer for you. What is it I am supposed to be seeing?//

//Who is this with you?//

//Oh this is the friend I told you about Thomas Paris. Thomas, this is my animal guide. //

//Hello! //

//Welcome young Thomas. It is good to see you here; do you recognize the place? //

//Yes. This is the program that Chakotay started and I am also putting some additions to it. //

//It is your home; both of you.// At this I am really surprised. What is she talking about? Then Tom's animal guide flies in and lands on a stone next to my guide

//Welcome young ones. So you have come here finally. We have been waiting for you? //

//Why were you waiting for us? What are we doing here? Please, What is going on? I don't understand. //

//You need to open your eyes young Chakotay and see what it is that is awaiting you? //

//Okay, I'll bite. What is it that is awaiting me? //

//You told me that you are seeking love and upon finding you reject it //

//What love? I will never reject love. It is what I've been looking for.//

//Yet you reject Thomas and his advances. Why? //

//That is just a mistake. I only have such relationships with women and can't be lovers with Tom//

//What is wrong with Tom? //

//There is nothing wrong with him but he is a man and I can't love a man. //

//Why can't you love a man? //

//It's just not the way I am. That's all //

//Open your eyes young one and see that you are not the way you think you are but the way you were made by the Spirits. You are the way you are according to the Spirits, the same way your ancestors were. //

//Why don't you tell him the same thing you told me during my quest.// Thomas asks his guide

//Chakotay is one of our more stubborn children and I can't just tell him. I need him to accept and understand because it will make him happier. //

//What should I understand? //

//I asked you once what it is you seek in a companion. Should I remind you of what you told me?//

//Yes please.//

//Compatibility, strength, faith, beliefs and love. You also said that you didn't see this in any of your friends. Do you see these in Thomas? //

//Yes, I see all these things in Thomas but ...// She interrupts me saying:

//Why then do you let something as insignificant as gender deter you from what it is you have been looking for?//

//What is it that you know about me Chakotay? // This was asked in the melodic voice of Tom's guide. After I had discovered the nature of Tom's guide, I had done some research on the Bald Eagle to see her attributes.

//You are known for your Swiftness, Strength, Courage, Wisdom, Illumination of Spirit, Healing, The talent to rise above the material to see the spiritual and the ability to see the big picture.//

//Can you not see the reflections of these in Thomas's spirit?//

//Yes I can see that. I saw this after spending so much time with him. //

//What is it you know of your own guide Chakotay? //

//I know that she faces the end of a one's cycle with dignity and courage; she is a spirit teacher and offers guidance in dreams and meditations. She has instinct linked with intelligence and is high on social and familial values. She has a steadfastness to her that strengthens her skill in protecting herself and her family. She takes advantage of change and has the ability to pass unseen thus good at outwitting her enemies. She is linked with death and rebirth. //

//Thomas can you see the reflections of these in Chakotay's spirit and character? //

//Yes I can.//

//Your guides are a reflection of you young ones. The characteristics they display should be a conduct map for you showing you what the spirits have prepared for you. What have you told Chakotay of our last discussion Thomas?//

//Nothing. I didn't know how to tell him anything and the first time I kissed him, he didn't talk to me for days. What do you think would have happened if I had done anything else? //

//Chakotay, I will tell you the same thing that was told to Thomas. When the Spirits made their children, they were not made for a lonely existence. Some of you are lucky to find in your lifetime, that other part of yourselves that makes you complete. If not in one lifetime, then in the others to come. Your souls journey together going where the spirits send them but never as one, always as two that make a whole. You have one such spirit and the other is Thomas. When the time was right he sought you out and you guided him. //

//You have been dreaming recently haven't you?// My guide suddenly asks me.

//Yes. I have been having some strange dreams//

//Have you told Thomas about them?//

//No. I haven't told anyone.//

//Tell him.// Oh No!!, This is something I really didn't want to do.

//Thomas, they started after that first day you kissed me and told me that to we were already lovers, I dreamt that we were on Dorvan V and on the hill where I had my first vision quest. We were lovers and that was our place. As the days went by, I continued having the same dream. We would be in the same place; not talking much and just kissing and holding ourselves. The love between us was obvious even to me. I thought it was just a result of what you said to me so I didn't need to say anything about it.//

//What does it mean.// Thomas then asks his guide

//Before I answer that question, who is Chakotay to you Thomas?//

//He is the other part of me. While I deal in flights of fancy, he is grounded to the earth. No matter how high I fly, he can always bring me down and no matter how deeply rooted he is, I know that I an always take him up for a while.// Now that is a surprise to me. I never knew that Thomas thought of me that way.

//You show opposite images of the same soul. It may not be a perfect mirror image but some piece of him will always remain in you and the same of you in him so that in the lifetimes to come, you'll always find each other. We have accepted it, your soul recognizes it so do you accept it Chakotay?//

//I have no choice do I?

//No you don't have a choice but you can always decide not to make the choice so I ask again DO YOU ACCEPT IT CHAKOTAY?// When your guide asks you a question in that tone of voice, you had better answer and answer fast so I give her the answer I know comes from the hidden recesses of my heart, which I haven't yet acknowledged to myself.

//Yes I accept it.//

//What was it that Thomas said to you?//

//What? //

//In your last dream, It showed you the end of your last journey together. The last thing Thomas said to you, say it to him so that he too may understand.// I think really hard to remember what Thomas said. When I do, I look to him and notice that his eyes are wide open like he is really surprised by all of this. Well, he isn't the only one.

//He said: We will meet again in the time to come and I will wait for you till then. I will always love you my beloved, soul of my soul, heart of my heart, the other half of me. Till we meet again, remain in our love. //

//Do you accept it Thomas? //

//Yes I accept. //

//Chakotay, like your ancestors before you, he will be your shield-mate in time of war and your refuge in the time of peace. Do you accept?// This was sounding more and more like a marriage ceremony.

//Yes, I accept.//

//Thomas, Chakotay will fill your empty places, be your shield-mate in the time of war and your refuge in the time of peace. Do you accept? //

//Yes I accept.//

//You both recognize and accept what you are to each other. Will you now partake in the marriage ceremony laid down in the old ways of your people, Chakotay, so that the others of your world will recognize what it is that is between you?// I know that this has to be done properly so walking up to where Thomas is sitting, I fall to my knees before him and ask him:

// "Like my ancestors did before me, I will now do. You are the other part of me and here before my Spirits and my animal guide and yours, I ask you: Thomas will you marry me?"//

By now I am so overwhelmed by the emotion of what I am doing that there are tears in my eyes, I am on my knees in front of Thomas awaiting his answer. He then gets on his knees and tells me:

//Yes Chakotay. With our spirit guides bearing witness I accept your proposal. I would be proud to be your husband.//

He also has tears running down his eyes and using my thumb I wipe away his tears. We both stand and look back at our guides.

//This is your home. Let us go into the house where we shall continue.//

The boat that is moored at the island is not a very big one but we three can fit in it comfortably. The Eagle flies in front of us and does some summersaults while she flies. We laugh at her antics and I turn to Thomas and say to him:

//Show off. Just like you.//

//Of course. Did you ever think otherwise? // We all laugh at this and get out of the boat as we get to the edge of the backyard.

Inside the house, the room we finally settle on is the living room, which is the biggest one. At the moment, it has no furniture and so we sit on the ground in the middle of the room. The Wolf and the Eagle have come in with us and are beside us respectively. The front door then opens up to admit my father and another elderly gentleman that I don't know. When Tom sees him, he jumps up and exclaims 'Grandpa' as he runs towards him. They hug each other tightly and even I wince slightly from the strength of their grip. Walking closer, I can hear a part of their conversation.

//Oh Tom, its good to see you again.//

//Grandpa, How did you get here?// I'd like the answer to that question as well. This is unlike any meditation I've ever been on and I'm getting more visitors. As far as I know, this doesn't happen.

//Tom, still with the questions. Have you forgotten all the times we used to sit quietly together in the orchard? There was no need for words just like there is no need for questions now. Just trust. I have come to witness your marriage. You have grown up so much and now you are getting married. Will you not introduce me to your future husband?//

//Chakotay, meet my Grandfather, remember I told you about him. Grandpa, this is Chakotay.// Now I know who he is. The man who made a place of refuge for Thomas as he was growing up. I am glad that Thomas has the chance to see him again. Nodding my head to him in a show of respect I greet him in the ways of my people.

//Greetings Grandfather. It is good to meet you. I am glad that you are able to be here.// He stares at me strongly for a moment and then nods back to me accepting my greeting. My father is waiting so I walk over to him all the while trying to calm the nervous flutters of my stomach. The last time I saw him, we didn't exactly part in the most amicable of terms so I don't know what to expect.

//Greetings Father. I'm very glad to see you again. It has been too long.//

//I have been here Chakotay. I have seen all that you have done and I'm very proud of the man that you are. Thank you for walking the path of the Spirits and honoring your ancestors the way I honored them. The Spirits have brought me here to witness your marriage. I am very glad that you will now open your heart and take some one into your life. The lonely life is not the one for you and I pray that you will find in your marriage the same fulfillment and more that I found with your mother. Now introduce me to the man you are too marry.//

From what he is saying, he doesn't give me the impression of minding that I am marrying a man. I'm just getting married and that's what he knows. Tom's gaze is fixed on me and with a brief glance; I catch his eyes and indicate that he should come closer. When he arrives with his grandfather in tow, introductions are made all round.
 
 

We stand chatting for a while and then a Kite flies into the room and perches on one of the windowsills. It is lovely with varying shades of gray all round it and a pristine white beak. A brief whistle and we are all silent. His voice is strong and sounds very wise when he speaks to us.

//Chakotay, Thomas come into the middle of the room // There is no chance of disobeying that order so we do as instructed, watching him and waiting for what is to come. Our guides are beside us as usual and indicate that we should kneel.

//Chakotay, like in the times of your ancestors, are you willing to take the man before you as a your life-mate in the world you reside in and a soul mate in the spirit world.//

//Yes I am willing.//

//Thomas, the man before you has accepted that you are his mate. Are you willing to accept him in accordance to the traditions of his people as a life-mate in the world as you know it and a soul-mate in the spirit realm so that your souls may travel together for as long as you are able to?//

//Yes I am willing.//

//Now face each other and your witnesses will start the ceremony.//

As we turned to face one another, my father walked to Tom's side and his grandfather came to me. On my father's hands, there was a needle and some ink. Tom's grandfather had in his hands a knife and a long piece of chain. They looked to us and I'm sure the same nervousness that I saw on Thomas's face was reflected on mine. I'm also sure that the smiles they gave us were supposed to be reassuring but they did nothing of the sort. For me anyway and I think the same can be said for Tom because he was still nervous. The kite then flew towards us and stopped at a place where it was in the middle of us but visible to everyone in the room.

//Like in the days of old, you will cut yourselves and allow your blood to mix together indicating your belonging to one another and as your wounds heal you seal your promise to each other. Are you ready? //

//Yes //  We both answered. The knife was offered to me first and I made an incision on my left palm. It hurt. I had to cut deeply so that I could feel it and never forget. I then offered the knife to Thomas and he repeated the process on his right palm. We then put our hands together in a handshake with our palms close together Tom's grandfather used the chain to wrap our hands together keeping them tightly sealed. For a moment, I imagine that I can really feel the blood that is flowing through the joined hands. The kite then says:
//Two halves of a whole. What do you have to say to one another.//

I wonder if I'm supposed to say the traditional wedding vows here and look to my guide for guidance. As I look into her eyes, the words come to me. I turn and look at Thomas. What I see in front of me is a vision. I see radiating from him such brightness and strength of will that wouldn't be otherwise obvious. He is a handsome man, compassionate and a good man. On seeing now who he really is, I am grateful to the Spirits for giving this man to me. I can love him and I will love him. Actually, I do love him. Looking into his eyes I say the words straight from my heart.

//Thomas, I promise you my heart, my life, my trust and my body forever. All that I have and all that I am belong to you and I am honored to share your life. You are my beloved, the heart of my heart, the soul of my soul and the blood of my blood. My husband, may you find in me all that you want and all that you need.//

I pour my heart into my eyes and those words to let him know that I mean every word I've said. With his eyes still on mine, he says the repeats the words to me. The strength of his voice and his eyes let me know that he means every word he is saying.

//Chakotay, I promise you my heart, my life, my trust and my body forever. All that I have and all that I am belong to you and I am honored to share your life. You are my beloved, the heart of my heart, the soul of my soul and the blood of my blood. My husband, may you find in me all that you want and all that you need.//

I can't help myself and I lean towards him and place a chaste but claiming kiss on his lips. He kisses me back just as hard and I know that even as I have claimed him, so has he claimed me. As we finish our kiss, the kite instructs my father:

//Kolopack, you may continue the ceremony.//

Tom's grandfather removes the chain binding our hands and I notice that there isn't as much blood as I expected on it. Looking at my hand, I am amazed to find that the wound has completely healed and look at Thomas to see the same surprise on his face. You'd think that I won't allow anything to surprise me here anymore. My father then lifts Thomas's face towards him and painstakingly uses the needle and ink to place a replication of the tattoo on my face on Thomas's face. No-one had told us about this and I hope that he doesn't mind. As I watch it being done, I look at Tom's face and all I see is a smile. He looks happy to be here and so am I. Who would have ever thought that I'd find in the man I met in that dump of a bar so many years ago, the other half of my soul.

I suppose I should be the first to admit that when the Spirits take you on a journey, they really take you on a journey. It isn't too long before the tattoo is finished and then my father turns to me and gestures for me to give him my left hand. Perplexed, I give him my hand and he proceeds to put a tattoo reminiscent of wide wedding ring on my middle finger. I guess there will be no need to replicate wedding rings when we get to the real world. Upon finishing with me, he does the same thing with Thomas's middle finger.

//On this day, in the presence of the Spirits , your guides and representatives of your ancestors you have made a commitment to one another. What the Spirits have joined together; should stay together for the consequences of separation are severe. Therefore, do not let anything come between you for it is your responsibility to maintain your marriage. Respect your union, respect your love and respect each other. Remember in all that you do that love does not rejoice in iniquity but rejoices in the truth, Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things an endures all things. Chakotay, bear your husband and brother, Thomas. Thomas, bear your husband and brother Chakotay. May your union be filled with all manner of good things until we meet again.//

As his voice fades away, I look at Thomas and the only thing I can say to him is:

//Thomas, I love you. // I can see that he wasn't expecting this nonetheless, it has made him very happy and he responds with a very big smile on his face as he says to me:

//And I love you too Chakotay. // We both stand up and look to our respective witnesses and they both have very proud looks on their faces.

//Chakotay, I am happy that have taken on the responsibility of taking care of my grandson. Know that he also has the responsibility of taking care of you. Take care of him even as you allow him to take care of you. We will meet again someday but until then, be happy in your marriage and with your husband. Tom, I am happy and very proud to have been a witness to your marriage.// This was said to us by Thomas's grandfather and when he finished, my father then said to us:

//Thomas. I am very happy to welcome you to our family. It is good to know that my son will be in good hands. I can see the man that you are and I am proud to call you my son. Chakotay, Thomas, you are both good men so always listen to one another, believe in each other and trust one another. May you be happy and find completion in your marriage. We will be watching and waiting for you and until the spirits call you to themselves, may you both live long and prosperous lives together. It is time for us to leave. It was good to witness your marriage. Goodbye to you both.//

They leave as they came in and suddenly; it is just our spirit guides and us that are left in the big room. As if planned. Thomas and I move towards each other and hug one another tightly. There are tears in my eyes as I can't believe all that has happened to me. Pulling Tom's face away from my shoulders, I place both palms on his face and pull him towards me for a kiss. This is our first kiss as a couple and though it starts out as an exploratory kiss, it fast becomes so much more. He is the first man I've ever kissed and I don't think I'll ever kiss another. Kissing him is a very different experience. His mouth is in equal parts hard and soft, opening up to me and pulling me in. In the midst of this, I feel my Guide's fur rubbing my legs and I'm slightly embarrassed to find that I'd forgotten where we were. We break the kiss simultaneously and I lean down and bury my face in my guides fur. I am so thankful for all that she has done for me and though I lack the words to adequately express my gratitude, she understands when I say what I can.

//Thank you//

//You are welcome young Chakotay. Now it is time for you both to leave. Go and begin your married life together. You have heard all the advice that you have been given. Remember it always and we will always be here to guide you should you need us. // I look back at Thomas and move into his arms. With our arms round each other, we look back at our guides and with our hearts in our eyes, we exchange a glance and then Thomas says:

//Thank you both for everything. // Before we leave though, there is something that I'd like to know.

//The Kite; who was he? //

//What do you know of the kite Chakotay? // Thomas's guide asks me with a smile in her voice. She is hiding something; I know it. But I don't know anything about the Kite so I reserve my comments about her amusement.

//Nothing. I didn't really have cause to look him up so I don't know anything about him.//

//The Kite; He is the guide of prophecy and communing with the spirit world. He has clarity of vision that allows him to see a lot of things from a distance. He was here to both preside over your marriage ceremony and to consecrate your vows to one another. Also to bestow upon you the blessings of the Spirits. As you leave, we give you yet another reminder of what has gone on today. Never forget what you are to one another. //

Thomas's guide then gives us his own piece of wisdom:

//This place that you are building is your home. You started it Chakotay but it now belongs to the both of you. As you grow together, build it up and make it into the home you would have made for yourselves were you on your home planet. Make it the refuge in the storm for both of you. Go with the protection of the Spirits. Chakotay let Thomas give you the wings to fly; Thomas let Chakotay give you a place to land after you have flown. Be Happy. //

This time, our departure from the meditation isn't as abrupt as my last few ones and I guess its because I have managed not to displease my Guide. When I open my eyes, Thomas is still sitting in front of me in the lotus position but this time, there is a difference, above his eyebrows on his left temple is the tattoo that I saw my Father put on him. Looking down at my hands, I see the tattooed ring circling my middle finger and a large cut that has healed is across my palm.
 
 

***Tom***

When we come out of the meditation, I don't know what to expect. All that has happened to us seems so surreal now that we are in the real world. Chakotay is still sitting across from me and staring at me with some mild stupefaction on his face. The look more than anything lets me know that the mark his father put on my face is still there. A brief look at my left hand confirms my suspicion. I'm married. Who would believe it? Who'd have ever thought when I met Chakotay so many years ago that he would turn out to be the most important person in my life. I wonder if he knows that he is the most important person to me.

When I look back at him, he gives me a private smile that shows off his perfect dimples and stands up. He then gives me his hand and pulls me up to my standing height and pulls me into his arms for a full body hug. Now I know that everything is going to be okay. We pull out of each other's arms and move on to sit side by side on the couch.

"Are you alright?" The one question that I am sure yet unsure of the answer.

"Yes Chakotay. I am fine. What about you?" For some reason the distance between us seems too much and as though he can hear what I am thinking, he reaches his free hand towards me and pulls me close to his body with my head resting on his chest, just above his heart.

"I'm fine. This was a first one for me and it was an experience, wasn't it?"

"Oh yes it was. My husband. Who would have believed it."

"I'll be the first one to tell you that I'd never have believed it but I'm really glad with the choice that the Spirits have made for me. If the other half of my soul had to be anyone, I'm glad that it was you Thomas. My beloved, I love you." When he first said this to me, I thought he was just overwhelmed with the whole moment but the way he says it now, I believe that he loves me.

"Thank you for telling me. I love you too Chakotay."

"Thomas, there's something I have to tell you?" Was it too good to last? There is slight apprehension in me as I listen to what he has to say:

"What is it?"

"It's not that I don't trust you but I've never loved a man before and I don't want you to be disappointed okay." Is that all, he sounds like he is expecting the axe to fall. Then I remember that my guide warned me about something like this so I tell him what I know to be true:

"Oh beloved, you couldn't disappoint me. I have never loved you before so as I learn to love you, so will you learn to love me. Forget about loving a man and just love me. I trust you and now I know that you trust me too, the rest will come. I meant the vows I made to you; all that I am and all that I have I give to you."

"Thank you Thomas." We stay together for a while and I think that while he is in such a good mood, I might as well let him know the secret I have been keeping from him.

"There is something I have to tell you Chakotay. Please don't be upset okay."

"What is it?"

"I know that you play the guitar. I saw you playing one day and you played so well that I programmed Sandrine to let me know whenever you play so I could come along and watch and I've been doing that ever since. I'm sorry; I didn't mean to invade your privacy but I just had to listen to you."

"So that was you! It's okay Thomas. I had a feeling that someone was watching me very intensely while I was playing and I couldn't imagine who it was. When I couldn't put a face to my admirer, I just decided to play from my heart to the owner of those passionate eyes. I'm glad that it turned out to be you."

"I thought so. I always felt there was a particular song that was played just for me and I always left immediately after hearing that song. Will you play for me?"

"Some day beloved, I'll play you a song that will tell you the words in my heart." I'm glad that he isn't upset and I hope that when he does play for me, he does so with his eyes open so that I can read his heart from his eyes even as I listen to the words he sings. I'm puzzled about something his guide said though

"What do you think your guide meant when he said that they have given us a gift?" He thinks for a while before answering my question.

"I don't know. Maybe well find out at our next meditation but lets not do it for a while yet okay."

"I know what you mean. I'm tired and I want to get some sleep, join me?"

"Thomas!!"

"Just sleep. We were under for about 6 hours and I'm to tired to do anything but sleep. Please beloved, lets hold each other for the first sleep of our marriage. Start as we mean to go on."

It doesn't take a lot to convince him. He smiles at me and gives me a peck on my forehead before dislodging me as he stands up.

"Ok, lets go and get some sleep."

I feel more comfortable sleeping with nothing but my underwear and I tell him so.

"Do you mind if I change? I don't sleep well when I wear clothes so mind if I sleep in my underwear?"

He blushes before answering:

"No I don't mind as long as you don't mind if I do the same." At that we look at each other and burst out laughing. As the laughter dies away, it occurs to me that this is the first time I'll be seeing my husband naked. The same realization dawns on him and our eyes lock on one another as we take off our clothes. When he removes his shirt. I notice on a tattoo just above his left breast on his heart. Before I can even think to ask him when he'd done that tattoo, I see that it is a tattoo of the bald eagle, my animal guide. He then reaches his hand to my left breast and I look down to what he is looking at and notice that there is a tattoo on my heart just above my left breast as well. It is the tattoo of the red wolf, his spirit guide. So this is the gift that our spirit guides have given us. Some wedding present.

"Some gift huh, we'll always remember."

"Yes Thomas, well always remember." As he turns round to climb onto the bed, there is a small tattoo of a Kite on his right shoulder and I'm sure that there would be an identical one on my shoulder as well. I point it out to him:

"They also gave us the tattoo of the Kite Chakotay. I guess we are really blessed by the spirits."

"I'm glad Thomas. I'll do all that I can to make you happy."

"Thank you Chakotay. I promise to do the same." We climb into bed and he lies on his back pulling me into his arms, I lie on top of him with my head on his shoulders and my arms round his waist. Just before I go fall asleep, he asks me:

"I didn't know about the tattoo Thomas. Are you sure you don't mind having a mark on your face?" I didn't know he was worried about that. Raising my head and resting my chin on his chest I try to answer him as honestly as I can. Tracing the tattooed ring on my finger, I tell him:

"This is the mark that I wear as a visual expression of my commitment to you Chakotay, as my life-mate, my husband, brother and my beloved." I then move on to trace the mark his father made on my face and while doing so, I tell him:

"This is the mark I wear in honor of my soul-mate and my husband. He wears his in honor of his ancestors and I wear mine in honor of him. I have no regrets Chakotay and I wear your mark with pride. Tomorrow we tell Captain Janeway about our change in status okay."

I think I've managed to surprise the both of us with the depth of commitment that I am ready to bestow on this journey that we are about to begin because I see his eyes shine brighter as they fill with tears as he listens to my words. He then reaches down and pulls me up for a kiss. Ever since the first kiss that he gave me while we were on our quest, I know that his kisses are special and I don't think I'll ever tire of them.

"Okay. We'll tell Captain Janeway before the staff meeting tomorrow."

"Sweet dreams Chakotay." As I fall asleep, I hear him say:

"I'll see you in our dreams Thomas. Sleep well."

As the two men fall asleep in each other's arms, the two older men watching them smile at the beautiful sight and then look towards one another. Kolopak of Dorvan V breaks the ice saying:

"Come, there is much I would like to learn about my newest son Thomas and I think you would like to hear about Chakotay. Let us go. We have much to learn from and about each other and a long time to learn it in."

In a glade that looks very much like the island in Chakotay and Tom's holo-home, the Red Wolf stretches on her paws and watches the Bald Eagle spread her wings and circle around her head. She knows that soon, the Eagle would tire of circling and take to the skies but she also knows that when the Eagle tires and needs to rest her wings, she would always return to the resting place of the Red Wolf where there will always be a nest for her to lie and a stone for her to perch on.

The two men sleeping are blissfully unaware of any of these. They are busy dreaming of each other and hoping that they will meet somehow and somewhere in their dreams. This is the beginning of so many things that will happen to them on this journey they have started together and the two things they both have are the blessings of the Spirits and a commitment that will see them through.

The End