Warning: this story contains implications of a m/m relationship.
Disclaimer: Chakotay and Paris belong to Paramount Pictures.
Summary: a time to give thanks. More Tom than C/P in this case.
Title: Giving Thanks, Receiving Nothing in Return.
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Giving Thanks, Receiving Nothing in Return
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Thanksgiving was generally an ambiguous period for Lieutenant Tom Paris. It was supposed to be a time of celebration where people showed their gratefulness by feasting on roast turkey and cranberry sauce. Families would gather around their dinner tables and give thanks to God or Providence. But for Tom, he had mixed feelings about Thanksgiving.
What's there to give thanks about? You end up receiving nothing anyway. What's the significance of sitting at a table, eating an overrated bird and talking to relatives you probably haven't seen for eons?
He dreaded it the moment Captain Janeway decided to have invited him and Chakotay for dinner. Yeah, the captain was probably feeling nostalgic. Chakotay noticed his reluctance and the big man shot him a cautionary don't-you-dare-argue glance.
So Tom agreed and Kathryn Janeway went back to her ready room, satisfied. It was hard. He didn't really want to go but he gave her his word. He wasn't happy for the rest of the day, even though Harry tried to cheer him up with a session of pool at Sandrines. He went back to his quarters and found Chakotay waiting for him. They ended up arguing about the dinner.
"I don't get it. Why must you attend the Thanksgiving dinner? It's probably going to be boring as hell."
"Tom, give it a try, will you?"
Tom didn't say anything. Instead, he stewed silently, taking a long shower and going straight to bed without the usual cuddle-and-kiss on the bed. He refused to think about Thanksgiving. His dreams that night involved large noisy turkeys and bottles of cranberry sauce. He also dreamed about a heavy-laden dinner table, covered with platters and platters of delicious food, and an empty seat where his father was supposed to be.
Neelix helped out with the food. The traditional turkey had to be substituted with the Delta Quad's equivalent. There was no cranberry sauce but the Talaxian was keen to replace it with the cultivated berries presently being harvested in the airponics bay. Excitement was in the air and the crew joined in the fun, laughing and decorating the Messhall with replicated dried corn. To Tom, it was totally absurd. As a tacit act of rebellion, he spent his time repairing the Delta Flyer. He was horrified that even B'Elanna was seen assisting Harry and Seven in the Messhall. He didn't believe that Miss Cynical was a fan of ancient Earth festivals.
Chakotay was worse. The big man was helping the captain with the sitting arrangements and the number of guests.
Tom couldn't care less.
He had enough with failed Thanksgiving dinners. His father was always absent, always away on some diplomatic mission or an official dinner somewhere. The roast turkey, slaved over by his mother, would go cold. The plate of buttered corn would end up in the fridge and the tossed salad would be thrown away. The silence at the dinner table would be overwhelming and he always hated it when he watched his mother's face crumble with disappointment. She would, without fail, prepare so much, throwing herself into the preparations. She even polished the cutlery and decorated the table with baskets of colorful flowers. Sometimes, Tom admired his mother for her tenacity. Sometimes, he hated her for her overwhelming faith.
She would still give thanks, closing her eyes and smiling even as the food became cold in front of her. But nothing ever happened, even with her silent prayers.
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The day eventually came, much to his consternation. He reluctantly dressed in a simple blue tunic and dark pants. Chakotay wore something similar and as Tom stood in front of the mirror, the big man wrapped his arm around his lover's waist, nuzzling the delectable smooth nape.
"Go away," Tom swatted the frisky hands away and strode straight for the door. Well, it was better to get it over and done with. The quicker the better.
There was the familiar fragrance of roast bird wafting out from the Messhall when Tom and Chakotay reached their destination. There was also the sweet aroma of chocolate pudding. Tom grimaced and Chakotay squeezed his hand lightly as they walked in. Friends and colleagues were already there. Harry. Seven. B'Elanna. The Doc. They all looked surprisingly relaxed. Even dour Tuvok who stood next to the holographic physician with a serious expression on his Vulcan face.
Neelix was bustling around in the kitchen, making last-minute preparations. Platters of delicious-looking food lined the counter. There was even a fruit-punch bowl, filled with golden liquid. Tom took a glass of champagne and walked to the window. Chakotay was talking animatedly with B'Elanna; the big man was holding a glass of fruit juice.
There was laughter but it sounded hollow in Tom's ears. He finished his champagne in a single gulp, feeling miserable.
"Tom," Chakotay's voice.
He stared into dark-brown eyes. "Yes, love?"
"You are uncommonly quiet. The Tom I know is unbelievably talkative."
Tom grinned despite of his self-imposed gloom. "Even the most talkative dude has his 'down' days."
"C'mon, Tom. Go and enjoy yourself. Don't keep thinking about your past." Chakotay whispered softly as he leaned over, placing a hand on Tom's shoulder.
The big man had done it again. He had hit the nail on the head as usual.
Tom was about to open his mouth, say something vaguely nonchalantly when the captain walked in, dressed in a light-blue ensemble of blouse and skirt. She greeted everyone warmly, gesturing Neelix to start the dinner.
"Thanksgiving is a time for us to be grateful. It is a time for us to count our blessings." Kathryn began, her grey eyes sparkling. Tom sighed inwardly, seeing another woman who sat on her chair, waiting for her husband to come back.
"I hope you take this time to celebrate, to enjoy the blessings given to us." The captain continued, nodding appreciatively at the generous amounts of food on the counter. "Now, shall we partake of this marvelous feast?"
The roast bird tasted sweet and tender; Tom found himself eating a couple more slices. The salad was fresh, the pasta was both spicy and savory.
There was a time when he absolutely hated the food. When he was fourteen, he showed his displeasure at his father's constant absence during Thanksgiving. It was a beautiful evening and his mother had prepared a sumptuous feast with the customary golden-brown turkey. His sisters were present too, their faces neutral. Expressionless. Then, the same thing happened again: his father, Starfleet admiral extra-ordinare, had called in saying that he was held up at a conference. The next thing Tom knew was a smashed roast turkey on the floor and his mother staring with a strained expression on her face.
Then, his mother started to cry.
"Oh, sorry, Chak. I am wool-gathering "
The big man was watching him intently. "Are you alright?'
"I am okay, Chak "
"No. You can't lie to me."
Tom curbed the automatic sarcastic retort. "I don't like Thanksgiving, that's all."
"I know that but you have to learn how to let go "
"Look. What's the point of giving thanks when you receive nothing in return?"
"What's the point of giving so much and you get back so little? " Tom muttered and stood up. "I'm going " He said good-bye to Kathryn and strode out of the Messhall, not caring if Chakotay followed him or not.
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Chakotay did follow him afterall. The big man brought along a plate of chocolate pudding as a peace offering. It was sweet of the Native American and Tom appreciated this simple gift, knowing that the big man was known for his patience. They didn't talk much that night and Tom was content enough to snuggle against Chakotay, wrapped in his own world.
He dreamed of his mother again. It was the same dinner table, bearing the same turkey and plates of honey-glazed ham. His mother was standing beside the table, her hands clasped as if in supplication. Her green eyes were glistening with tears. Tom walked up quietly and confronted her.
"Why do you keep letting yourself suffer?"
She turned those tear-filled eyes on him. "Because I have faith."
"Faith. Mom, listen to yourself. Don't you ever learn? He will never come back! Stop deluding yourself!"
"He will. Look, he ate the rice pudding I made for him .See, see?" She pointed at the bowl of rice pudding, her face radiant with a joyous smile.
"He doesn't care about you, Mom. Why do you give him so much? You never never get anything in return!"
"Because I love him, Tom. I love him. He's my husband."
"Why do you lavish so much praise on him?!" Tom backed away, chilled and outraged. He loathed his mother's total submission her lack of self-worth
"I only give. I don't expect anything in return, Tom."
Then, she lifted her hands and prayed, "Thank you Lord for giving me this family."
Tom gasped and woke up, tears streaming down his face. Next to him, Chakotay snored softly in his sleep and Tom reached out a hand, stroking the face, seeking reassurance.
Of course, Chakotay didn't know about this aspect of his beloved Tom Paris. It was something so shameful, so painful to remember. A woman's self-worth, centered on the person of her husband who didn't seem to care about her at all. Preparing the Thanksgiving meal defined her existence and it still frightened Tom. He wondered if he was like her.
Maybe, he had been giving so much and receiving nothing back in return. He wasn't sure about the 'thanking' bit. There was nothing for him to thank for. He was trapped in the damned Delta Quadrant and they were still trying to find a way back to home.
But Tom promised himself that he would not become his mother. He would not suffer like her.