Title: Finding Home (1/1)
Author: AtiJen Daniels
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Paramount and the Roddenberry family. I imply no copyright infringement.
Rating: PG 13 for m/m relationship.
Pairing: C/P
Summary: An automated message reminds Chakotay of certain bad things in his past and Tom is there to help him adjust.
Beta: A very big thank you to Jeanette and Christine who Beta'd this for me and gave a wary new writer a chance. Please note that all mistakes therefore are mine.

The ship shook suddenly and almost threw Captain Janeway out of her chair. The look of amazement on her face was mirrored on every face on the Bridge.

"Report," she barked.

"Shields at maximum and holding," reported Tuvok.

"Damage to external sensors is minimal, but I am unable to scan for the source of the disturbance." from B'Elanna

"I can't see anything out there, Captain," said Tom Paris.

"We are being hailed Captain, audio only," said Harry Kim.

"Put it through," she said as she sat up straight in her chair.

"This is an automated message to inform you of your illegal entry into our space. Our defence systems have issued a warning accordingly. Please vacate our space. Please vacate your present location and leave, else we will be forced to respond with a more deadly force."

"Tom, can you get us out of here through any other way?" She asked.

"Yes Ma'am, but it'll take us off our course slightly for a while."

"At this point, we have no other option, take us out."

When she turned to talk to Commander Chakotay, she noticed that he had gone pale and was staring intently at his console. She could bet that he wasn't seeing anything on the console.

"Commander. Commander? Chakotay!" She called, her voice rising with each call.

"Yes, Captain," he responded distractingly.

"Is there a problem?"

"No! No Captain, there's no problem."

At the conn, Tom had turned at the Captain's third call and had seen the expression on Chakotay's face and this made him worry. He admired the Commander and felt that he was on his way to falling in love with him. He wished the feeling was mutual, but he knew that Chakotay didn't like or trust him. They had moved on beyond the on-sight hatred at the beginning of the journey to tolerance on the part of the Commander. On his part, he first noticed Chakotay when he joined the Maquis. At that time, he wa
s so messed up that the sun could have been square and he wouldn't have noticed. One thing that did register though, was the barely disguised disgust and distaste on Chakotay's face whenever he looked at him. This look followed him everywhere. While he spent time in prison, he took every effort to change the way he looked at things and the way the universe looked at him. The chances of a good relationship were still nil, but he needed to give himself the option of being able to cultivate one. Ever si
nce he got on the ship, he wished for one with Chakotay. In the beginning it looked impossible so he had a few hit and runs with a couple of people on the ship but for long-term prospects, he really looked to Chakotay.

Chakotay could feel himself losing the fragile hold that he held since the automated message had come on. The captain was looking at him with an expression of worry, but there was not a lot that he could tell her. He didn't share this part of himself easily and moreover, there was no one on the ship that he felt that comfortable with. He got lonely sometimes for company, friendship, and companionship, but he didn't see anyone who would welcome advances from him.

He used to think that maybe the captain would have in the beginning, but she was devoted to Mark and he admired that in her even though it wasn't directed at him. When he couldn't take any more of it, he excused himself from the bridge on the grounds of illness and Janeway asked him to report to sickbay.

"You can return to the bridge when you've been cleared fit by the doctor," finished Janeway.

Chakotay went to sickbay, but as he expected, the doctor could not find anything conclusively wrong with him besides shortness of breath, increased heart rate and he was bordering on hyperventilation. He was asked to stay overnight for observation. He didn't mind as he felt that he needed some peace and quiet and so didn't bother to contradict the doctor. He only had one visitor that night and that was the captain checking in with the doctor. After he had fallen asleep, he had another visitor, as he w
as asleep, he didn't see Tom Paris sit and watch him tossing and turning. Tom watched him for about an hour thinking, 'What can I do to help you, Chakotay?' He then went back to his room with Chakotay's troubled sleep still weighing heavily behind his eyes as he fell asleep.

The next morning, after waking up early, the doctor recommended complete rest for three days and then light duty for two more days before he could fully return to work and go on the bridge. He didn't mind besides, 'I might need that long to refocus myself anyway,' he thought.

That night, he didn't really want to be on his own so he chose to sit quietly and watch everyone else coming and going at Sandrine's. He got there pretty early and found a quiet table in a corner where he ordered some fruit juice. He watched most of the crew interact and marveled anew at the way the holoprogram brought many people together.

Unknown to him, he was also being watched. Tom Paris was playing pool as usual with Harry, but was acutely aware of the expression or lack of it that was on the Commander's face.

"I wonder what's going on with the commander?" He asked Harry, pointing at Chakotay.

Harry looked at him and then back at Tom and then seeing a strange expression on Tom's face, responded,
"Whatever it is that's wrong, leave it alone, Tom. I don't think that he would like you saying anything to him and it might get you into more trouble than usual, okay."

'But I'd like to help him in anyway that I can,' Tom was thinking and didn't hear Harry calling him,
"Tom...Tom, leave it alone, okay." Harry said with a serious expression on his face.

"Okay, Harry. You're right. There's nothing that I can do," he replied. At the same time he was thinking, 'There must be something that I can do. I can't stand to see him suffering and do nothing, maybe I'll visit him and see whether he'd like to talk or not.'

After a while, Chakotay got up and left, not knowing that he was being observed closely and that Tom also left not very long after he did. After about an hour of sitting, looking at the stars and thinking about how hard it would be to get to sleep, he heard his doorbell ring

"Come in" he said.

He saw Tom Paris standing outside his door.

"May I come in, Commander?" Tom asked without his usual flair.

"Of course, have a seat. What can I do for you?"

They sat on their individual seats for about ten minutes in silence and Chakotay was beginning to get uncomfortable, he really would like to be on his own, although he wasn't doing much that way.

"Are you okay, Commander?" Asked Tom.

"I'm fine thank you, why?"

"I saw you yesterday on the bridge," he said quietly.

"I'm fine," snapped Chakotay. "Now if that is all...?"

"Commander, have you ever had something very important to say that you spent an equivalent of weeks rehearsing and just when you think that all is okay, you go on ahead and lose your nerve at the last minute?"

"Okay, Paris, what do you want to say?"

"After Caldik Prime, I got really nervous about handling the helm of a ship again. It was a stupid human error and I wondered if I could possibly make the same mistake again and many other obvious mistakes, but flying to me is a necessity and I can't...couldn't give it up so I decided to drown my fears in other things. The flashbacks were the worst and I still remember the look in my eyes after one of them. I know that you had a flashback of some type yesterday. I don't know what and I don't think you
'd tell me anyway." He then reached out and placed his hand on Chakotay's two hands that were folded on his lap, this startled the other man.

"Paris," Chakotay began, lifting his head to look at Tom.

"Please, let me sleep on your couch tonight. If the flashbacks return, I can be there for you till you get calm again."

"Paris...Tom, why would you want to do that?" asked Chakotay.

"Please, just let me do this for you. In the morning, before anyone notices, I'll be back in my quarters and you won't even notice that I was here," Tom replied, neatly avoiding the question he was asked.

The look on his face was too earnest to be a joke so Chakotay agreed. Tom then went to his quarters and picked up a change of clothes and his nightclothes. Chakotay went into the bedroom and gave Tom a set of blankets to use on the couch. That night was uneventful and by the time he woke up in the morning there was no evidence of Tom having slept there. He didn't see Tom throughout the day, but at about 2245 hrs, his bell rang and Tom was again at the door.

"May I come in, Commander?" He asked.

"Come in. Please, call me Chakotay as we're off duty. Would you like a drink?"

"No, thank you. How was your day?"

"Okay. Nothing much happened. I'm still off sick by the doctor so I'm resting and taking it easy for a while. I spent some time on the holodeck meditating on Dorvan V, but that's all."

"Do you mind if I stay here again tonight? I promise that I won't be any trouble."

"No, I don't mind and you know you were no trouble, but I still don't understand why you're doing this."

Smiling, Tom responded cheekily,
"Because I own your life," Chakotay gave him a look that clearly showed that he thought the younger man was crazy.
"Okay, okay. Because I'm a very nice guy who thought that maybe he could help out a friend in..."

"But, I'm not your friend and I can handle this. I don't need your pity," Shot Chakotay, interrupting Tom.

Quietly, Tom responded, "Maybe I'm your friend and it's not pity, I promise."

"Yeah, but when did your promises mean much?"

"Beginning now!" Tom answered, allowing some of the hurt he felt from Chakotay's response to color his voice.

"Okay, I apologise. I didn't mean to be ungrateful, but I still don't know why you're here."

"I know and it's okay," Tom said. Chakotay went off to his room to sleep after giving Tom some blankets.
"Goodnight, Chakotay."

At this point, Tom was also wondering to himself why he was going through all of this. The only conclusion that he could reach was that he loved the big guy. This of course was okay. The hard part was convincing Chakotay of his love.

During the night, Tom woke up to a muffled cry coming from the bedroom. He got up and went to check on Chakotay and found the room was dark "Lights, fifty percent," he said.

"Please, don't turn on the lights," responded Chakotay, turning his face towards the bed to hide his tears. Tom walked to the floor where Chakotay sat, reducing the light as he went along. He sat on the floor beside Chakotay resting his hands on his folded knees.

"Oh, Chakotay. Can I help in any way?" He asked quietly.

"No, Tom. Not really. I keep having these flashbacks, you know."

"Do you want to talk about it?" asked Tom.

"No! But I think I may have to. I can't hold it much longer. Are you sure that you want to listen?"

"Yes, Chakotay. If you feel up to talking, I'll listen. Like I said, I just want to be a friend."

"I don't have many close friends on the ship you know," he began.
"I have flashbacks to the time when, I was caught and captured by the Cardassians. It wasn't a good time. I managed to escape, but the time I spent there was something I'll always remember. You know, what you hear about the Cardassians being the most brutal race in the alpha quadrant, you don't believe it- at least its meaning- until you come in contact with them as a prisoner. Have you ever been tortured, Tom? I pray that it never happens to you. I wouldn't wish the Cardassians on anybody. You get
hurt to the stage where all your senses betray you. You have this very lightened sense of feeling and they use it against you in the most brutal way. It wasn't nice. A lot of times, I wished that I had died. I had built my life back to a resemblance of somewhat what it used to be and now this had to happen," he sobbed angrily.

"What brought it all back?" asked Tom quietly. Placing his hands on the other man's folded hands and startling them both.

"It was the automated message that we flew into. The same thing had happened. On one of their smaller outer colonies we had flown into a defence net that was invisible to our sensors and had an automated message on audio only, repeatedly telling us what had happened." He then kept quiet and rested his head on their joined hands.

"Do you thing that you could sleep now? I'll keep watch until you fall asleep," Tom asked after Chakotay had finished shaking.

"I'll try. Thank you." Chakotay climbed onto the bed and Tom requested some instrumental music from the computer to play in the background. While this was playing, he made himself comfortable on the floor and kept their hands joined.

He waited until he could hear Chakotay's even breathing then he said quietly:
"Chakotay, I wish I knew how to help you. The only thing that I can do is listen and pray that my being here helps you in some way. If somebody had been there for me, then maybe I would have turned out different and it's got to be better than bottling everything up. I love you and I hope that maybe; just maybe, my love will help pull you back. Sweet dreams my Commander."

Chakotay had woken up when he heard his name, but didn't alert the other man so he heard all that had been said. He then opened his eyes and looked straight into Tom's intent blue eyes. The intent blue eyes widened and looked straight into the brown ones for about two minutes and then Chakotay looked down to their joined hands. He then raised their hands and used it to pull Tom closer till he could place a soft kiss on Tom's lips and said quietly,
"Thank you."
He then closed his eyes and went back to sleep, leaving Tom to wonder what he was going to do when he woke up in the morning. He went back to sleep on the couch and left as usual before Chakotay woke.

The next morning at breakfast, Chakotay was on the line waiting his turn when he heard from behind him.

"Good morning, Commander."

"Morning, Tom. How are you?"

"Fine, thank you. Commander, how about you?"

"I'm doing well, thank you for asking. Please, call me Chakotay."

He was surprised and it showed, but all he said was,

They then went their separate ways. Chakotay left to join the Captain and Tom went on to join B'Elanna and Harry for breakfast. Harry was surprised to see them talking so amicably and remembering Tom's expression at Sandrine's the other night, asked what was going on.

"Oh, nothing! I just had something to ask the Commander."

"Oh, okay," responded Harry and exchanged a glance with B'Elanna.

At the Captain's table, she was asking Chakotay the same question and got a similar response.

"Are you better now, Chakotay?"

"Yes, Captain. I'm working on through most of it all and the light duties from the doctor have helped. I'll be able to come back to the bridge in full form soon."

"You know, I'm here for you if you need someone to talk to or..."

"Thanks, Kathryn, it's well." If she was slightly hurt that he felt that he couldn't talk to her, it didn't show on her face. After breakfast, he left the mess hall and went straight to his office without saying anything to Tom.

Tom was worried about what to do when next he saw the Commander. The kiss last night was startling, but he felt every bit of it and he didn't know what it meant. He also didn't know what to do come nightfall. It was different when Chakotay didn't know anything about the way he felt, but now he wasn't sure how Chakotay felt. As far as he knew, Chakotay wasn't in a relationship with anybody else on the ship, but that didn't mean that he went out with guys. It was a good thing that Chakotay was not worki
ng on the bridge as he was finding it very difficult to concentrate already.

On Chakotay's part, he spent the whole day in his office having a hard time concentrating as well. In the past two nights, he had seen a part of Tom that he hadn't seen before and he didn't know what to do about it. Now that he could look beyond the surface, maybe Tom was a better friend than he could be. Tom had said that he loved him but there were a few people on the ship that have been linked to him on the grapevine and none of them were guys. He didn't have anything against Tom being a guy. Befo
re he left the academy for the Maquis, he had had quite a good relationship with a guy, but that fell through when he left Starfleet. He was lonely on Voyager, but he didn't want to use that loneliness as a basis for a relationship. For him, a relationship had to mean something more. Looking at Tom's record on the ship, he wondered if it was possible to have something more or if it was a fling Tom was looking for. All the same, the speculation didn't help him in any way regarding how to behave when ne
xt he saw Tom.

That evening, Tom arrived slightly earlier than usual.

"Hi, Chakotay. Good evening."

"Tom, good evening. Come in."

"Do you think you'd like me to stay this evening?" he asked nervously.

"Would you like to stay?" asked Chakotay, he felt something close to loss at the thought of Tom's leaving that evening. He had not realised how much he had come to depend on the knowledge that Tom was in the next room.

"Yes, I'd like to stay and help, but I don't want to make you uncomfortable in anyway." Beneath the surface of their discussions was the knowledge of Tom's confession the night before, they were not ready to talk about that yet, but Chakotay knew he should say something.

"Tom, I heard what you said the other night and should probably ask you to leave, but I'd really like you to stay tonight. Please, don't take this the wrong way, I've still got some things to work out, and I don't think I can commit myself to anything or anyone right now. I wouldn't like you to think that I'm taking advantage of your feelings, but I could really do with a friend tonight. Do you think you could stay on that basis?"

"Yes, Chakotay. If you need a friend, I'm here."

"Thank you, Tom." Chakotay then looked up and saw that the hour was quite late so he said goodnight and went into the bedroom too sleep.

About three hours later, Chakotay woke up barely suppressing a scream. He turned on the lights and saw on the chronometer that it was 0130 hrs. Tom had heard the muffled scream and came into the room to see the older man sweating profusely and shaking.

"Chakotay, is everything alright?"

"Oh, Tom. I thought...I don't know what I thought, but I just had a very vivid dream or rather a nightmare."

Tom walked towards the bed where he lay and said,
"Try and get some sleep. I'll watch over you."

Chakotay then shifted towards the center of the bed and patted the bed asking Tom, "Please, could I hold you? I don't really think I'd like to sleep alone tonight." Tom looked at him intently.
"Please, Tom. I just want to hold you, nothing else. I'm shaking too hard to do anything else tonight. They are just waiting for me in my dreams and if I don't sleep alone, maybe they won't catch up with me." Tom didn't say anything and just climbed in. Chakotay pulled up the cover sheet over both of them. They lay in a spoon fashion with Tom's back facing Chakotay and Tom felt a heavy hand over him. He then lifted his arm and let Chakotay wrap his arm around him and he placed his other hand on the
other man's and hooked their fingers together.

When they woke up in the morning, Chakotay's immediate reaction was one of nervousness when he noticed that he wasn't alone and in his bid to get away, Tom woke up and held his hand.
"Chakotay. Chakotay, it's me, Tom. It's okay."

"Tom?" He asked with surprise in his voice.

"Yes, Chakotay. It's me, Tom."

"Oh, Tom. Thank you for staying." He said remembering. He then pulled the younger man closer to give him a hug.

They stayed like that for a while and before the silence could get really uncomfortable, Tom said,
"As much fun as this is, Commander Chakotay, sir, we both have to report to the bridge this morning. Your days of R & R are unofficially over, just give it two more days." Lightening the situation with one of his wise cracks. Chakotay was grateful.

"Thank you, Tom. You are too kind!" Chakotay responded wryly. They got up and Chakotay said,

"It's late. Do you want to shower here and have breakfast at once?"

"Are you sure you don't mind?" Tom asked surprised.

"No, it's okay. I'll replicate you some breakfast while you shower. What would you like for breakfast?"

Tom while pleasantly surprised, responded,
"Just some toast, boiled eggs and orange juice, thank you. I'll be right back."
Chakotay made his breakfast and set up Tom's clothes while the other man was in the shower. All through this, he was thinking about the past nights occurrences. He remembered how good it felt sleeping beside Tom and then waking up to him. He realised that he was surely falling for the younger man. This shook him a bit and by reflex, he decided to put some distance between them.

When Tom finished his shower, he had breakfast and felt a lightness in him as he waited for Chakotay to finish his breakfast. When the other man finished, he turned to him with a smile on his face and said,
"I've got to go and change. I'll see you on the bridge." Chakotay walked him to the door and as he looked at the smile on the younger man's face, he felt a bit bad about what he was about to do, but he knew he had to do it.

"Tom, I don't think it would be a good idea for you to come back to my room tonight."

Tom's smile had slowly left his face and he didn't know what to say. He felt used and his heart was heavy. He looked at Chakotay with hurt in his eyes and could only ask,

Chakotay had no response for him, so all he said was
"I'll see you on the bridge, Lieutenant." This drew a clear line for Tom and he turned and left.

On the bridge, Chakotay didn't give any indication of there having been anything between Tom and himself and sat through his shift ignoring Tom. On Tom's part, the ignorance displayed by Chakotay made him doubly hurt and got him angry. He felt that his love had been thrown back at his face and as a result, he was unusually quiet on the bridge. If anyone noticed this, they said nothing, each wondering what had gone wrong with him.

After a while, Chakotay excused himself and went to his office to work and think. Mainly, he wanted to think about his budding relationship with Tom. His main fear was of needing Tom so much and then Tom would hurt him and break his heart. He was also wondering about what people would say considering Tom's reputation and also he reflected that he hadn't seen Tom out with anyone male before.

That evening, he saw Tom in the mess hall,

"Good evening, Lieutenant."

"Evening, Commander." That was all that was said between them. Tom was so hurt that he didn't see the confusion in Chakotay's eyes as the other man looked at him. He felt that they had returned to their tolerance stage again and he wasn't sure about how he would handle it.

That evening, in his room, Chakotay missed Tom's quiet presence and missed him in bed. He almost broke down and called for Tom, but he didn't. He chose to meditate that night and even his animal guide wasn't too happy with him. Instead of pointing him in the right direction or giving him a clue, all the animal guide kept telling him was that he knew the right path to take, but that to go on that path, he had to let go and take a leap of faith. After a good night's sleep, he felt better in the morning an
d the feelings of happiness and sadness were warring inside him. The happiness was because the nightmares didn't come back and the sadness was because Tom wasn't there.

The distance between the two men went on for three more days and they were both hurt and lonely missing each other. The third evening after Chakotay had returned to bridge duty, there were slight problems with the gel packs in the mess hall and Tom was assigned to help the doctor. He spent most of the day in sickbay with the doctor. On the bridge, Chakotay felt his absence acutely and was determined to do something about missing Tom.

After Tom's shift in sickbay, he was really tired and went straight to the mess hall where he had his meal with Harry. Neither of them knew what they were eating and made some fun and jokes. After the meal, Tom was slightly less tired and when he got to his room, he saw a single yellow rose on his table with a data padd beside it.

I'm sorry,
I miss you.
Please can we talk?

He wasn't sure what to say, but he responded by pressing his comm badge,

"Paris to Chakotay."

"Chakotay, here."

"I'm pretty tired now Commander and just want to rest, can we talk another time?"

"Of course, what time and where?" Chakotay asked.

"What are you doing tomorrow?"


"Then how about my quarters at 1800 hrs?" Tom invited.

"That'll be great, thanks and get some rest."

"I will, Paris out." Tom responded and broke the connection.

Later that evening, Chakotay felt like talking to Tom again and didn't want to embarrass himself by going to Tom's quarters and having the door slammed on him, besides, he wasn't sure of Tom's mood so he opened a comm channel to Tom after checking Tom's location to be in his quarters.

"Chakotay to Paris."

"Yes, Commander?"

"Tom, did I wake you?"

"No. Not really...Chakotay, are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm okay."

"So...why did you call me?"

"Honestly, I don't know. I just wanted to talk to you. How are you doing, you sounded really tired earlier."

"Oh you know, more than the necessary number of hours with the doctor is too much for me and I'd just come back then so I needed some time off. What about you? How was your day?"

"Oh, you know, the usual, empty spaces, spending time on the bridge and you're not there to make your usual cracks."

"Yeah, Tom the bridge clown." Tom said bitterly.

"No, not really. I missed you out there today, Tom." Tom was quiet as he didn't know how to respond. Chakotay then asked, "Where in your quarters are you?"

"In my bedroom, I was about to go to sleep, why?"

"I'm on my bed and I can't sleep." Tom was wondering what was going on.

"Chakotay, besides everything else, I'm your friend. Do you need me to come over to your quarters?"

"Oh Tom, you don't know how much it means to me to hear you say that. There is a part of me that wants to jump up and say yes, but I can still remember the look in your eyes when you left my room that last morning and as much as I'd like you to, I can't ask you."

"You know where I am, Chief. Call if you need me, okay?"

"What did you call me?"

"Oh, sorry. It just slipped out. I'd gotten used to thinking of you as this mysterious Indian Chief and call you that in my mind. Hope you don't mind."

"No, its okay. I think. I don't often get called anything else, but Chakotay. Tom, it was nice talking to you tonight. I know that you can't be, but I wish that you were here."

"Thanks, Chakotay."

"I'll see you tomorrow, Tom."

"You too, Chief. Goodnight."

"Goodnight," he said, then added softly almost as an afterthought, "Sweet dreams, Tom." He then cut off his connection with a smile on his face.

Back in his quarters, Tom was slightly bemused. He didn't know what to make of Chakotay's actions and the entire conversation, but he stopped being angry with Chakotay. Unrequited love was not always the other person's fault and he couldn't blame Chakotay for not returning his feelings. He was glad though that Chakotay hadn't asked him to stay over at his quarters because he wasn't sure about how he would have coped.

The next day, both men were slightly jittery and nervous through the day and at the appointed time, Chakotay shakily rang Tom's bell.

"Come in," he heard.

"Hi, Tom. I've booked some holosuite time, do you feel like spending some time there with me while we talk?"

"Oh, okay. Let's go." Tom was beginning to wonder what was going through the other man's head. They got to the holosuite and Tom saw that the program Chakotay had designed was a park reminiscent of the big national parks in North America in the 20th century. It was quite big with big carvings and carved seats spread out all over the park. There were also a few other people milling about. Some couples around doing the things that couples do, some people on the grass sleeping and the others were holding
hands and walking.

As they walked, Chakotay explained, "I once saw a vid with this scene in it and thought it was very restful, hope you don't mind," he asked with slight apprehension.

"No, it's a fine place, like you say, restful." Chakotay looked at Tom to see if there was a hidden meaning there. Seeing none, he led them to a carved love seat that had two seats facing away from each other. They sat and leaned back sideways to look at each other at the center of the loveseat where the seats met. Chakotay sat looking at Tom for a while.

"Tom, I know that I hurt you. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to."

"Then why did you?" Tom asked perplexed.

"I'm not sure how to explain. I've been on my own for a while now and though it's not the best situation and I get lonely, I had settled. Do you know what I mean?" he asked.

"I think so, but I don't understand," answered Tom

"I know. Over the few nights I stayed with you, I saw how easy it could be to fall into a relationship again and I saw a part of you that I didn't know about. You have to admit; we didn't have a good past to build on. Your relationships here on the ship have not had a good record and I'd really rather not be a notch on your belt."

"That's not true, that's not how I thought of you," Tom replied, aghast and slightly angered.

"Maybe not, but Tom, I'm older than you and not to sound conceited or anything, you could do so much better on the ship, male or female, and it made me wonder if this was just one of your rather expensive jokes."

At this point, Tom was really angry and the look on his face could be best described as disillusioned. He started to get up, but Chakotay put a hand on his own and asked him to take a walk with him before going away. They started strolling and Chakotay continued talking,
"I could see the earnestness in your wanting to be friends, but love, now that is deep and I don't take that lightly."

"And you think that I do...?" Tom interrupted angrily

"Let me finish. I didn't think anything would come of it, but when I saw myself looking forward to your coming back the next evening, then I began to get worried, I began to need your presence and I really didn't think I could afford to come to you in any kind of relationship based on that need. There has to be something else in every relationship. After the night we spent together, I needed to sort out for myself exactly what I was feeling and how to handle whatever it was without hurting. The only reg
ret I have is that I had to hurt you in the process of doing that."

"I think I can understand that, but you haven't told me what you have come up with if anything, how do you feel?" Tom asked warily, but Chakotay kept silent. They kept walking for a few seconds and Tom touched him slightly to make him stop walking and look at him.

"Chakotay, you know how I feel. I love you, not for your age, but for you as a person and I can't promise I'll not hurt you the same as you can't promise not to hurt me. You just did, but I'll not go out of my way to hurt you, okay. Love to me means more than a one-night stand and I want more than one night with you. I'd like a relationship with all the bells ringing and I think we can make it work, but I can't do this on my own. I need you for that and I'd like you to need me a little at least as mu
ch as I need you, can you do that?"

"Oh, Tom. I do need you, but now I can say that I need you in the right and healthy way. Loving you crept up on me slowly and before I knew it, I had fallen for you. I really do love you, Tom." He then reached out, took hold of Tom's hand, pulled the younger man closer and wrapped his arms round him. When Tom felt those hands around him, he sighed in relief and wrapped his own arms around the older man. They stayed like that for a few minutes and Chakotay said,
"You can break my heart so easily and that is what really shook me. I've missed you, Tom. I'll not send you away again."

"I'm glad to hear that. You do realise that you can break my heart equally as easily. Welcome back, Chakotay."

He then leaned in and placed his lips on Chakotay's. He felt the other man's lips open and engage him in a full kiss, they stayed like that for a while, but a bell ringing in the background then broke the silence. Chakotay reluctantly released his lips and said

"Warning bell. We have to leave in five minutes. Thank you, Tom," he then said looking deep into Tom's eyes.

Tom then said,
"I love you, its over. Now, may I invite you for dinner in my quarters? I've got quite a few rations to spare and you can have anything on the menu. I know that you are a vegetarian, but I hope that you don't mind if I have some meat."

Chakotay just looked at him, before replying:
"Yes, thank you. I'd like to come for dinner and I don't mind if you have meat."
They left the holosuite together and Chakotay said he'd be there about thirty minutes later. At the selected time, Chakotay had changed into brown slacks and a cream shirt that complimented him and brought out the colour of his skin.

When he rang the bell, Tom had also changed into black jeans and a mauve shirt that made him look really good. They both smiled.
"Chakotay, come in."

"Thanks, Tom. You look really good. You're not on the menu are you?"

"Thank you and you're a vegetarian remember," Tom said surprised and blushed.

"But, that's cooked meat. You my dear, are very raw meat and that should reflect on the menu."

By now, Tom was really red and Chakotay laughed.
"I wonder if you are really red all over?" he asked in a loud whisper and Tom choked. "Okay, okay. I'll stop, let's eat."

Tom looked at Chakotay who had his hands palm outward in a placating manner and laughed. He was enjoying himself. This playful Chakotay was one he hadn't met before, but he knew that he'd have a lot of fun getting to know him. He asked what Chakotay wanted and the older man asked for an Italian meal so Tom ordered pasta in tomato sauce with mixed vegetables and garlic bread. Tom then ordered some spaghetti in Bolognese sauce and garlic bread for himself. While they were eating, Chakotay fed Tom some
of his veggie meal and continued to tease him about his eating meat. They ended the meal laughing themselves silly.

At the end of the meal, they shared a bottle of wine on the couch and Tom was looking at Chakotay with a look of bemusement on his face.
"What...why are you looking at me like that?" asked Chakotay

"Oh, nothing, it's just that I've never seen you like this. I like it," smiled Tom.

Chakotay responded with a serious voice,
"I should hope not; I am a Commander and your second in command, after all." Then he smiled,
"I'm glad you like it. I can stop being a Commander when I am with you." He then reached out and held Tom's hand saying, "Thank you, Tom for the meal and the company. I really enjoyed myself tonight."

"I'm glad. I had fun too. We should do this again sometime."

"I'd really love to stay, but you and I both know that it is probably too soon. I'll miss you, but I'll be looking forward to seeing you on the bridge tomorrow."

"Are you going to be okay tonight?" Tom asked.

"Yes, Tom. If there is anything I'm sure of, it's that I'll be okay." He then pulled Tom close and kissed him full on the lips. Their lips met and retreated, Chakotay teasing Tom's lips and tongue till Tom raised his hands, held his face straight and placed a kiss on Chakotay that reached to his toes. Chakotay then stood and walked to the door smiling. Tom walked behind him and when they got to the door, Chakotay kissed him and said goodnight. He smiled all the way to his quarters and after he got i
nto bed he commed Tom.
"Chakotay to Paris."

"Paris here, are you alright, Chief?" Chakotay smiled at that

"Yes, I'm alright. Just wanted to say sweet dreams."

"So, I'm waiting" he joked and Chakotay laughed.

"Sweet dreams, Tom." He responded softly and broke the connection.

The next morning on the bridge, there was a new brightness to Tom's steps that was noticeable to everyone. The Captain was wondering what was going on and asked Chakotay. He claimed that he wasn't sure, but said that he would find out. He had a look on his face that told the Captain that he knew exactly what was going on. Before the lunch break, Chakotay got up and walked to the conn to stand behind Tom and said quietly to him so that only Tom could hear,
"Your mood is infectious, care to join me for lunch and compare notes?"

"I'm already having lunch with Harry and B'Elanna. Make that dinner and you have a deal." Tom said.

"You always keep up your end of the deal?" he asked smiling.

"For you, always." Tom replied seriously.

"In that case, my quarters, 1900 hrs, okay for you?" He then rested his hands lightly on Tom's shoulders and squeezed.

Tom looked up at him with a smile in his eyes,
"I'll be there, Chief."
Chakotay went back to his seat and told the Captain that Tom was just happy. She looked at him with a knowing smile on her face and didn't say anything.

That evening, Tom arrived on time and after Chakotay let him in, the first thing he did was take Tom's hand and pull him close for a kiss. It was a full kiss, then Chakotay invited Tom to place any order from the food replicator using his own credits. They both had bread and soup and talked mainly about the goings-on on the ship putting humorous slants on the day's events.

After dinner, they sat on the couch in a comfortable silence, looking at each other. Then Chakotay pulled the younger man to himself and started kissing him and caressing him. He then asked Tom,
"Spend the night in my arms, Tom?"

"I thought you'd never ask, Chief." He replied.

That night, after they made love, Chakotay pulled an unresisting Tom into his arms and whispered,
"Thank you, Tom."

"Welcome back and welcome home 'Kotay." Responded Tom.

"Goodnight, baby."

"Night, I love you." Replied Tom sleepily.

Chakotay looked down onto his lover's face and wondered briefly about how good things felt in comparison to a few weeks earlier. He was thankful and glad that he had found someone he could love and like Tom said, they could hurt each other, but home is where the heart is and you always found a way back home.