Warning: the following story contains implications of a male/male relationship.
Disclaimer: Chakotay, Paris and the Voyager crew belong to Paramount Pictures.
Categories: angst, POV, a/u, character death.
Summary: Prologue to the 'Plenty' series which take place in an a/u where Voyager has finally returned to the Alpha Quadrant. This story forms a short prologue. Tom thinks about his current situation.
When I was a young boy, I used to like the roasted chestnuts at my Nan's. I would sit beside Nan, quietlywatching her wash the chestnuts under clear running water. Done, she would place the brown nuggets into the fire-place. The scent of pine wood would fill the room as she stirred the embers with a poker. Then, after a while, the chestnuts would be done. Sweet, powdery flesh, piping hot and fresh from the fire. The aroma was strong --- earthy and heavy with the fragrance of pine. We would rest on the front porch of Nan's house, the hot chestnuts in a bowl and steaming slightly in the crisp mountain air.
It is odd, but I find myself yearning for those days again. Nan's place was my private sanctuary. A refuge where I hid from pressures. I find myself wishing for the chestnuts once more. To taste one in my mouth. To go back to Nan's house.
Yet, I know something in me is faltering. I have changed so much, both outside and inside. I am no longer the innocent "Tom" whom my Nan used to hug.
I can feel Chakotay stirring in his sleep, murmuring softly under his breath as he turns over, his back facing me. With a sigh, I reach out and touch the broad shoulders gently. They are strong under my fingers and the skin warm under my palm. Under the soft sunlight, I can see the white hairs mingling with the lush black. Chakotay is getting old even though he might protest forcibly and evade my questions. His normally-vigorous morning routine has toned down drastically. Everyone has noticed it. He used to jog for miles. Now, he is simply content to go for a stroll.
I guess that being the captain of Voyager had taken a toll on him. It was never easy from the start. Kathryn's death was sudden. Too sudden. The crew almost revolted and Chakotay had to step in to intervene. The first few years were difficult. The crew complained incessantly and there was an almost-mutiny, successfully quelled by Harry and Seven. When Voyager moved into her tenth year in the Delta, the crew finally adapted to Chakotay's leadership and it was smooth sailing from there.
Well, not really that smooth sailing. We had to evade two more vicious alien races, repair a Voyager literally ripped at the seams and map out the rest of black inky space. By the time we emerged from the wormhole a few years later, we must have looked a mess to the Federation starships waiting for us.
Sunlight is starting to filter through the curtains and I can hear the first bird songs. I close my eyes. I am home. I am home. But I don't feel happy at all. There is this palpable ache within my chest and I don' t know how to deal with it. Maybe, I will ride it out silently. Maybe, I have grown too obstinate in my old age. "Hard-skinned like a chestnut," Nan used to tease me a long time ago. Maybe, I have become somewhat hardened... Too hardened even to cry...
"Boys don't cry," a voice whispers in my heart and I know that it belongs to part-me, part-Owen Paris.
Chakotay shifts once more, coughing softly, and I look at him, the ache in my chest throbbing even more painfully. At this moment, I have never felt so jaded.
The bird songs are growing stronger. Soon, the harsh glare of a new day will come and I have to face it.
(to be continued in "Acorns", the first story in the "Plenty" series.)