Warning: the following story contains m/m contents. If you are offended by it, you are welcome to stop reading the story. If you are above 18 and is open-minded, you are free to read it.
Disclaimer: the characters in the story, though owned by Paramount, are products of my imagination and creativity. (yada yada yada)
A Rose with Thorns
Chakotay was sitting in the Messhall, sipping hot jasmine tea. He leaned back, luxurianting in the warmth generated by the beverage, enjoying the peace, the serenity. He had a tough week onboard the ship, trying to handle life’s minor crises that came with the birth of a child and two weddings. He managed to re-shuffle the entire Engineering roster without affecting the general performance of the teams. B’Elanna assisted him as her capacity as Chief Engineer and good friend, giving him pointers and insights. At the end, the teams were re-scheduled and as he was resting at this moment, they were working hard in the Engineering section of Voyager.
He gazed at the tea-leaves in the cup. He was mulling over what B’Elanna had told him as they bent over the roster PADDS. The half-Klingon woman had glanced at him with her dark-fire eyes, a glance that informed him she had something serious in mind. He knew B’Elanna, been in the Maquis with her long enough to understand the inner workings of her mind.
"You have to be careful, " B’Elanna said, eyes intent on the PADD.
"W-w-h-at?" Chakotay was a little stunned. "What do you mean ‘careful’?" He tried regaining his composure.
"You have to be careful, " she repeated again, darting a look around her shoulders. Flicker in her dark-fire eyes. "You know …with him?"
"Him?" B’Elanna meant Tom! An instant rush of defensiveness. "He’s fine with me …"
"Look, Chakotay, he is complicated okay?"
There was anger --- and concern in her staccato voice. Chakotay knew that she and Tom had a brief (but intense) relationship. For a moment, he felt a tiny jab of jealousy, that nauseating unpleasant feeling. But he valued B’Elanna’s judgements, weighted her opinions like gold. She was his friend afterall; he was with her when she was going through that period of confusion and destruction …
"I know that, B’Elanna. " Chakotay nodded, tidying the PADDS into a neat stack. His eyes ached; he was tired. Trying to play Vorik and B’Elanna off wasn’t that easy.
"I mean, Chakotay …I mean I don’t want you to get hurt!" The last few words came out in a furious rush and B’Elanna was flushing --- she was on her feet, almost leaping up with her frustration.
"You don’t want me to get hurt?" Chakotay shook his head. "Why?"
"Arrrraggh!" The Chief Engineer growled, her eyes snapped obsidian flames.
"How am I going to make you listen to ME?"
She slammed her fist onto the table and the PADDS scattered onto the floor.
"Look, Chakotay, Tom doesn’t like people getting too close to him. The moment you do, he becomes defensive and you will get hurt in the process …" B’Elanna said tersely.
After an awkward moment, she managed to settle down and get back into the business of roster work. But her words lingered in the air.
Now her words echoed in his mind. Chakotay shook them away. He loved being with Tom, loved the times he’s spent with the young pilot …the times in the Holodeck, the times in his quarters …They were close, very close. And they had those heart-to-heart talks where Tom told him everything. His days as a Starfleet cadet, his exploits in the Academy, his relationships, his brief Starfleet career, his time in the penal colony. Even his childhood and his young adulthood as Starfleet ‘aristocracy’, under the harsh tyranny of his admiral father Owen. By the spirits, Chakotay loved every moment of it ! Tom dreamed only of flying and he told the Native American about that too. The Delta Flyer was his brainchild, his most precious achievement --- and Chakotay shared the moment of jubilation with him.
The recent ---most exquisite--- experience he had with Tom was in the Holodeck, in the rose garden. Amidst the roses and enveloped by the fragrance, touched by sunlight, they made love. After that, they enjoyed themselves immensely at the Renaissance faire.
Yet, for some strange reason, Tom was a little standoff-ish during the faire…
He was aware that Tom didn’t really like him working that hard. But he had to. He was the Commander, second in command. The scheduling of rosters fell on his shoulders. He couldn’t help it. Even Kathryn understood; she smiled at him with her grey-blue eyes, empathising. But he was doing his job …
What does B’Elanna mean by ‘Tom doesn’t like people getting too close to him’?
I am close to him …
I mean, I talk to him. Shared things with him …
What does B’Elanna mean by ‘Tom doesn’t like people getting too close to him’?
The hiss of the Messhall doors opening. Familiar voice, familiar laughter. Chakotay looked up and once again admired the beautiful radiance of his lover. Doesn’t he know that he looks good in the command-red uniform? The sea-blue eyes that would shift into different shades saw him and Tom smiled. Chakotay’s heart leaped.
" Off-duty already?" Chakotay smiled as Tom walked over. Their hands clasped each other briefly, lingered for a moment. Then they withdrew quickly for the off-duty shifts were coming in for their lunch. Neelix’s cheerful voice greeted them by name, introducing them to the dishes.
"Yep, " Tom said grinning as he took two cups, poured coffee into them. "Here wait, you are drinking jasmine …jasmine tea?" He lifted one eyebrow, teasingly.
"I like jasmine tea, " Chakotay chuckled. Tom had already moved to the line of officers and crewmen getting their meal-trays. The Commander smiled to himself, openly appraising the pilot’s physique. Tom kept fit with his holograms, had a strict exercise regime.
He waited until Tom came back with a tray literally groaning under the sheer weight of food. Chakotay tried to determine the types of food piled on the tray. Hmm, there was stir-fried Delta Quadrant greens with native peppercorns. Braised gigagal (Delta Quad game beast, shot during a food-gathering mission), smelling heavenly. More vegetables, this time roots that looked suspiciously like peanuts …huge peanuts with edible coverings. Rice, Delta Quad variant, round, resembling sago. Tom was a big eater. Chakotay chuckled again.
They sat down at a corner-table, Tom attacking his meal almost immediately. Chakotay watched him eat, silently observing every tiny nuance, every movement. What does B’Elanna mean by ‘Tom doesn’t like people getting too close to him’? The man sitting in front of him was open, cheerful …
Tom felt the warmth of Chakotay’s gaze. "What’s up, big guy?" He tossed a quick query while still happily chewing away at the gigagal which had a jerky-like texture.
Those blue orbs returning his gaze unsettled the Commander a little. To him, those eyes looked clear, innocent.
"Tell me more …about yourself, " the Native American said tentatively. Took a sip at the cooling coffee.
" Good God, Chak, I have probably poured out everything to you! What do you want to know?"
He turned his attention back to the food, toyed with his knife.
Chakotay blinked. He sensed a tinge of defensiveness, rigidity in the shoulders.
There was one thing Tom’d ever told him about: the ‘accident’ that got Tom dishonorably discharged. The one where he lied about his involvement. It was a touchy issue that had altered Tom for a while, threw him into a period of depression and drinking.
"The incident that got you kicked out from Starfleet …"
The moment the words came out from his mouth, Chakotay knew he made a wrong move, a bad move. For Tom had flung up his head, his blue eyes sparking sapphires of …anger. And despair. The blue flickered, shadows creeping across a face once genial and open.
"That’s the past, Chakotay …" Tom drawled softly but he swallowed convulsively, trying to get back to his meal. Yet, distress was obvious in his eyes, in his gestures. "Why did you want to know about it? I mean, I am onboard Voyager now. Nothing else, not even that, matters!"
Tom was getting worked up. Chakotay put a gentle palm on the pilot’s arm …and was shocked to feel the barely-suppressed trembling under his hand. "Okay, love, I won’t broach it again …Okay?"
The pilot shook his head slowly, refusing to listen.
"I am …sad, Chakotay. I thought you really accepted me …I guess you don’t …" A tremor in his voice.
"I do, I do!" Chakotay said hurriedly, pained to see tears in Tom’s eyes. "I do accept you!"
"Then why did you ask about …that thing?"
"I guess …I guess I want to know you better …"
Tom glared. "That’s not a good way to know about me, Chak!"
"I mean, love, we have been together for a while …"
"That’s not the right way!"
Tom drank the coffee and stood up. His knuckles were white. Chakotay could see how upset he was: his lunch was half-eaten.
"I have to go, " was the terse reply.
"I am sorry." Chakotay attempted to salvage something positive out of the conversation. "Free tonight?"
Tom glanced back. A flicker of a strange emotion in the eyes.
"Maybe. Maybe not."
Then the pilot was off, leaving a wake of chill behind. Chakotay rubbed his face tiredly.
Score: Chakotay, nil.
Tom walked out from the Messhall, his innards twisted in a cold hard knot. His eyes were burning and he wiped at them, at once furious and disappointed, at himself and at Chakotay.
Why? Why? Why?
Chakotay had unwittingly tapped into his darkest, most private fear. He had tried to bury those memories deep into his psyche. He had tried to hide them so far deep that for a long while, he almost forgot about its presence. He had tried counsellors, psychologists. But he was normal …barely normal.
Now his lover had to ask and all the memories came rushing back. Dark, chilling, painful.
And he hated it. Hated it with a capital H.
Why does Chak have to help?
He had tried so hard to rebuild his life. At first, Captain Janeway offered him a second chance. Then, a slow grudging acceptance from Voyager’s crewpeople. Followed by Warp 10, the sharp realisation that he was able to do something. People started to admire him for his skills, the skills he so prided. The healing was starting already when B’Elanna came into his life. Harry was there to help him as a very good friend. Tuvok, impassive Vulcan as he was, accepted him too, even though there were some belief clashs along the way. Then, Chakotay. Oh how he loved Chakotay’s attention, his nurturing. Chakotay cared. Cared enough to spend time with him, talk to him, protect him.
Tom groaned inwardly.
He wanted to run away from Chakotay. Run as fast as he could …
Rejection was a cruel mistress.
Chakotay sat in his darkened quarters, aware of the aching loneliness in his heart. The bottle of chardonnay stood unopened. The salad sat in the plastic bowl cold, untouched.
Tom had forgotten to turn up again. His excuse this time: nothing.
He remembered how deliriously, deliciously intimate they were, esconced in each other’s arms, basking in the Holodeck’s sunlight. The perfume of the roses was so light, enticing. The fallen petals rubbed against their bare skin, soft velvet texture.
His own voice sounded hollow in the confines of his room.
He went to bed, alone.
The Commander woke up early the next day and took a cold shower to clear his mind. He had a sleepless night, missing the physicality of hugging Tom next to him. He stood under the blast of cold water, rubbing his face vigorously. Come on, Chakotay, come on …settle!
He growled to himself. He could see himself giving B’Elanna an earful but then again the half-Klingon would probably wallop him.
The Bridge was quiet, a workplace exuding calm and efficiency. Chakotay glanced around. Someone wasn’t at his usual position at the CONN. His heart sank, to his dismay. To stem the negative emotions, he moved purposely to his command chair, sat down in it.
Hiss. The turbolift door opening.
"Uh, hello Chakotay …"
Eyes Chakotay longed to see blinked at him. Tom smiled tightly and strode over to the CONN.
Only "Uh, hello Chakotay …" ?
That bugger …was avoiding him.
"Tom!" Chakotay managed to catch up with the increasingly elusive pilot. "Tom, wait up!"
The Commander wasn’t going to let Tom escape, not without a decent sit-down-and-talk session. It was getting serious, the young man simply refusing to meet him. Dates were downright rejected. Sometimes Tom disappeared. Chakotay was becoming very, very frustrated. And it hurt too, the implicit rejection in Tom’s voice whenever they met (though very briefly).
Stiffness in Tom’s stance indicated his reluctance. " Chakotay, I am late for Kim’s clarinet recital. Seven and B’Elanna are there already!" His tone: half-rebuking, half-joking and generally evasive.
"Tom, we seriously need to talk …"
The pilot pulled away from Chakotay’s grasp. "I am sorry, Chakotay. I am simply late. "
No more ‘Chak’. Only ‘Chakotay’.
"Tom, are you avoiding me?" Chakotay asked a tad too sternly.
To his horror, Tom’s nonchalant façade crumbled briefly to show fear. Then like a passing breeze, it disappeared, replaced by the cocky grin. "Well, am I?"
"Damn it, Tom!" Chakotay wanted very much to throttle the arrogance out of this beautiful young man. At the same time, he also wanted to take the pilot into his arms and give him a heart-stopping kiss.
" Don’t play coy with me!"
"I am not coy," Tom said, turning to go.
That does it.
With a fluid move, Chakotay grabbed Tom by the arms and pinned him against the wall. The proximity, the closeness of their bodies made Chakotay’s loins ache in response. Oh great spirits, he was in agony. He fixed Tom with a glare and Tom only glared back in defiance, shaking with anger and shock.
"Lemme go, you …" Tom hissed, struggling to extricate himself out of Chakotay’s firm armlock. Passing officers were giving them weird looks.
"Just tell me what the hell is going on!" Chakotay snarled next to Tom’s ears. "Damn it, I am losing it all because of you!"
"Me?" Tom rasped and without any warning, he kicked the big man in the shin. Chakotay yelped and automatically released his vise-like grip. Tom wheeled away and remained in a safe distance. " Me? Why are you blaming me for ?"
"Egotistic bastard, " Chakotay snapped. " Because I damn well care about you!"
"Me? Egotistic bastard?" Tom sniffed haughtily. " And you care about me? HA!"
What Chakotay did next, he regretted immediately. The hand was down before he knew it. The slap was sharp, loud. Tom gasped, his left cheek smarting.
"Oh damn, Tom …" Chakotay cursed himself. "I am sorry …"
Tom didn’t say anything, just looked stricken and unhappy like a wounded puppy.
"Damn it, Tom. Don’t just stand there like that." The Commander felt like rushing over to Tom and hugging him. But given Tom’s present state, he doubted that he could. "Damn it, Tom! I really DO care about you. I want to know what’s going on!"
A soft strangled sound, as if Tom was trying very hard not to cry.
"Just give me some time okay?" The young man said quietly. " Let me think. Chakotay, leave me alone okay? Please?"
Chakotay let the words sink into his fevered mind.
"I want some time to myself."
Just two weeks ago, Tom was happily cuddling in his arms,laughing at his teasing …
"You are afraid I will get too close to you, aren’t you?" Chakotay whispered. "Aren’t you?"
"Spirits, Tom. That’s why I am here for. To care about and for you!"
Tom shook his head.
"Do you know that my heart is bleeding to see you like that? Damn it, love, it’s not good to keep them inside for too long!"
"B’Elanna said that too …"
"B’Elanna cared and I care now. Are you listening to me?"
A brief flicker in the blue depths. "I am …sorry."
"I should be the one saying sorry. Look, Tom, I am here to help okay?"
Chakotay laid a gentle kiss on Tom’s forehead. He was still trembling, like a hunted rabbit.
The big man opened his eyes. Silence greeted his ears, soft ship silence. His body was relaxed, spent from love-making. He turned around to put an arm around Tom …and met empty bed space.
Chakotay sat up on his bed.
Tom was gone. Only rumbled sheets remained.
No wait, something was lying on the sheets. Chakotay, sighing, touched it …and it stung! In the semi-darkness, he could see blood welling up, a small pearl of red on his finger.
"Computer, lights. 30%"
The room gradually acquired illumination and Chakotay saw what had stung him. A rose. A long stemmed yellow rose. He picked up the rose carefully and he saw them.
Thorns. Rows of small sharp pointed thorns, like serrated teeth
Chakotay continued looking at the yellow rose. It was just starting to bud and he could see the petals peeking under the green folds.
It was going to be a long hard journey.