SEEK (Sequel to HOPE)firstname.lastname@example.org
ST: VOY - C/P
By Layla V.
Rating: R, Angst
Post: Cha_Club, ATPS, CPSG, Paris Nights, TPDorm, CKOS. Anywhere else, please ask.
Posting date: 07-May-2001
Disclaimer: All characters owned by Paramount. I am merely playing
with them. No copyright infringement is intended.
Story note: This follows the events of FIRE, DAZE and HOPE. Amidst all the turmoil and heartache, Chakotay looks within himself and is
overwhelmed at what he finds.
Continuation of the FIRE series. This story takes some hints from
events that took place in Equinox I & II, makes it's own assumptions
and moves on from there in it's own new direction.
Author's note: I had originally 'planned' to finish this story in
three parts. I was absolutely determined, sure, resolved. I thought I had it in my grasp. I put my foot down and gritted my teeth and said, yes, three parts are going to be it.
Don't know HOW, but something happened somewhere in the middle of HOPE and Mort laughed at me and said, "Hah! I told ya so!" I swallowed hard and looked at her, saying, Fine, I'll finish in part FOUR now. That's it. Part four is going to be it. I even went and told all who knew I was writing part 4 that yes, this is the end, the absolute end, I am gonna finish it, you just see.
Well, umm, this IS part four and uhh, that 'something' has hit again. This is NOT quite the last part, folks. Mort is looking the other way
but I can hear her snickering. *Sigh*
Oh well, I SWEAR I'll end it in part FIVE. I mean it. *hee hee* And well, since I took so long to post this part, part five will be coming a little sooner than you expected. :D
Thanks again to Mort for all her support. She's the best beta in the whole damn world!!! :-)
Feedback is craved for and always welcome at email@example.com! Thanks. :-)
The grass soft under my touch, my fingers toy with the dew-soaked blades as I deeply inhale the fragrant morning air. I am sitting on
soft soil covered with fallen twigs, my back pressed to the wide, firm trunk of the redwood, my tree. My knees brought up and pressed against my chest, I scan my surroundings for any sign of what I came here looking for and sigh again.
The wolf is nowhere to be seen.
I am in my familiar meeting place. I have been here for what feels like hours, but it seems that my spirit guide is deliberately avoiding me.
My gaze lingers over the setting before me, the line of oaks to my right, the bed of daisies directly in my line of vision, the bubbling sounds of the brook hidden from my view a few meters away. It's a terrain that I have explored countless times, ever since I made my first spirit journey. This is the place I come to at times of unrest or when I have questions that I need answers to from within myself. It's a place that is so close to my heart that it soothes my mind the moment I take the step from the outside world into the vision one.
However, today, the sights and sounds of my vision do nothing to calm
I am restless.
My heart is filled with a distress that somehow slows the flow of oxygen to my lungs. My mind is immersed in conflict that is now as familiar as the vision setting I have drawn myself into. A conflict that has been tugging along with each shaking breath I take, ever since I was left in my quarters this morning, alone. With a lot of questions. Not about the one that I caused pain to. But about myself.
What do I want? What am I looking for? What am I going to do?
I sigh and look around for any sign of the wolf. She's not here. I feel abandoned. I want to talk to her. I need to talk to her, but she's playing games with me. Oh Spirits, where is my guide when I need her?
Impatient and tired of just resting my butt on the cool soil of my meeting place, I get up from under my tree and decide to look around. If my guide won't come to me, then I'll go to her. She has to be around here somewhere, after all.
I take the familiar pebble-laid path that leads to the brook, my bare feet tracing the steps to the edge of the creek. I pause a second to breathe in the wet aroma of the soil. It's a favorite place of mine. Many a time I have sat here, my feet immersed in the cool water, while I thought up solutions to life's many problems, and found them with astounding clarity. Water has a soothing effect on me; it calms my senses and relaxes me.
The water won't help me this time. I need to find my guide.
I follow the pebbles until they are replaced by cool grass, set in a neatly aligned pathway that leads to the woods. I am hoping I will find the wolf somewhere nearby. I have wandered into these woods before. I know the many paths spread out between the trees, as well as I know the back of my hand. I have never gotten lost before, so I know I can take a chance. Besides, the significance of my being here is
reason enough to take chances, I think.
I walk into the woods, the mighty oaks of my vision infinite in stature, and step onto the trail that I know will lead me to the clearing inside. The clearing where I have, at times, found my guide. After several long minutes of ducking under the low branches, and walking through the thick foliage, I find myself approaching the clearing. As I walk out of the dense woods and into the clear space, I pause to take in the view.
As expected, the small pond is there in the middle of the grass-covered clearing. It's surrounded on one side by leafy shrubs of different varieties, and on the other by low-lying flowerbeds of various known and unknown genuses. Daisies, daffodils, violets, and lilies, they're all there.
But still no sign of the wolf.
Frowning at her strange behavior, I step closer to the pond. I look down and stare at my reflection in the crystal clear water. Feeling that perhaps I should wait for the wolf here awhile, I slide down to the grass. Everything is so beautiful here. A splattering of yellow spring bulbs, pink tulips, and purple violets between the rich green of the grass underneath. I slide my fingers through the flowers and leaves and breathe in the various scents permeating my surroundings.
Suddenly, from the corner of my eye, I catch sight of something new, something I hadn't noticed before. Behind the pond, away from the other flowers and foliage, is a lone rosebush. And from the stems of that bush, grows a single white rose. The sight of that rose makes my heart speed all of a sudden. Never before have I ever seen such a beautiful flower in my life. Regal and proud, it stands apart from all other flowers, the beauty of the others suddenly paling in comparison to this single rose.
Drawn to it like a moth to a flame, I stand up and step around the pond to reach its side. I don't think I have ever seen it here before. In fact, I have never seen any roses in this setting before, let alone a white rose. They're extremely rare. I have seen very few in my life as it is. As I near it, the heady sweet fragrance captivates me. Not able to stop myself, I reach down to gently touch the soft petals. They are glistening with the early morning dew and I watch spellbound, as the light caress of my fingers causes a drop to slide down the petals and fall to the grass below.
I rest my knees on the grass and trace the stem from which the flower grows. I can't believe I missed this before. Enthralled by the many colors of the other flowers by the pond, I had failed to notice the pale beauty of the white rose. Yet, now that I have seen it, I can't seem to get my eyes off it. Or my hands. I close my eyes and let my fingers gently stroke the flower and the stem, a smile suddenly tugging at the corners of my mouth. I don't know why I smile. It's just somehow very soothing, being here, finding this rose, touching it.
Lost in the feel and scent of the flower, I am suddenly taken by surprise as I feel a stinging jab on the finger that was stroking the rose stem. My eyes fly open at the stabbing pain that explodes on my right hand. Flabbergasted, I look at my index finger, and wince at the drop of blood that slides down from the prick site.
I accusingly look at the rose stem.
Thorns. It has thorns.
I take my stabbed finger into my mouth and suck at the small wound. The blood in my vision tastes as metallic as in any reality I have faced before.
This is when it occurs to me that something has changed.
With a start, I look around and realize that the setting around me has shifted. I am no longer in the clearing inside the woods. There is no pond. There are no flowerbeds close to me. I am not even in the woods anymore. There are no trees nearby.
Feeling apprehensive, I stand up with shaking knees and look at the wide expanse in front of me.
I am in a large, seemingly endless meadow filled with lush yellow and green stalks and grass. Far away, at the edges of my vision, I can make out the outline of distant mountains. Other than that, it's just this perpetual grassland spread out in all directions. I don't know this place. I have never been here before, even in my visions.
For a while, I stand stupefied, feeling lost, not knowing where to go or what to do.
Something brushes against my leg and startled, I nearly jump out of my skin. My heart hammering inside my chest, I look down and slowly let out a breath I didn't know I was holding.
It's the wolf. Feeling relieved, I breathe slowly to calm my heart. She's here. I am not lost.
"There you are." I look at the beautiful silver-furred creature.
"There you are," she repeats, grinning, and settles down in front of me, her tail wagging on the grass floor.
I frown. "What is this place? Where have you brought me?"
"Me?" She seems puzzled. "You are the one who have brought me here."
"But..." My eyebrows narrow at her nonchalant attitude. "I was waiting for you in the clearing and before that I was under the tree for hours, when all of a sudden I found myself here. I've never been to this place."
"Well, it's your vision quest," she smirks at me and I grit my teeth. "Nice place, is it not?" She looks at the field before us. I follow her gaze to stare out as well and can't help but agree. Even though the place is strange and I have never seen it before in my visions, I can't deny the fact that it is beautiful.
The sky, a lovely blue, is partially covered with fluffy white patches of cloud. The sun peaks from behind the clouds and the whole setting creates a blissful sense of peace. A bird cries out in the distance and my eyes follow its flight pattern in a wonderment which only being close to nature provides me.
"It's so lonely." The wolf's voice interrupts my reverie. I look down in amazement to watch her nuzzling at the rosebush.
The rosebush is still here. Although the whole setting changed and
the pond, the trees, and the clearing disappeared, and were replaced by this meadow, that lone rosebush has remained. Along with its lone rose.
"It's beautiful, but lonely," the wolf says.
"It is beautiful alright." I fold my legs and settle down on the grass again. "But it has thorns." I take my index finger inside my mouth and realize the metallic taste of the blood is nearly gone. It was a small wound. It hurt for a while but it's healing already.
"Of course it has thorns. It's a rose." The wolf looks into my eyes. "Everyone comes with their thorns." There is something in her deep dark eyes, which holds my gaze, not letting me break the contact. "You do as well." She cocks her head to one side as if analyzing me.
Her eyes look reproachful. I feel my throat tighten.
"He hurt me." I swallow hard.
"He was lonely." She looks at me sadly. "He needed comfort, your approval. You pushed him away."
"He held back things from me." I bite my lower lip. "He didn't tell me everything he should have."
"And what happened when he wanted to tell you?" She smirks. "You didn't want to hear what he had to say. You were afraid to open your mind."
"It wasn't my fault," I snarl at the magnificent beast and abruptly stand up.
"Oh, it's never your fault, is it?" the wolf huffs. "You, fearless explorer of new worlds and galaxies, are too afraid to explore within yourself, to understand your own emotions." She shakes her head in disapproval. "You found the rose appealing as long as you didn't touch the thorns. Yet, once that happened, all you could do was reject it. You let the beauty of it wither into nothingness because you were too scared of being jabbed by an occasional thorn."
I feel my eyes burn at the sudden overflow of emotions.
/---I love you and I didn't ever mean to hurt you---/
The words ring in my ears.
But I hurt him, didn't I? Am I worthy of that love if I hurt him back?
"Look," the wolf's voice is full of sorrow. I look down and gasp at what I find. "You killed the rose." The rosebush has shriveled up within moments. The rose has fallen to the grass.
"No," I cry out and fall down to my knees. I reach out to gather the rose in my hand, but just as my fingers touch the flower, it starts to dry up and wilt before my eyes. One by one, all the petals fall down and seconds later, the flower that was once so full of life and beauty, has turned to dust. "No..." I moan.
All of a sudden, I feel the setting shift again. However, this time it's the sky and the clouds that change. The same clouds that were a brilliant white and filtering bright sunlight down to the meadow are turning black now.
Within a blink of an eye, everything turns pitch dark. I can't even see my own hand in front of my eyes. A sense of dread engulfs me. Blinded and upset, I get up and look left and right but I can't see anything.
"Where are you?" I call to the wolf.
There is no answer.
Suddenly there is another shift in my setting, though I can no longe see anything. Goose bumps form on my flesh as I feel the stirrings of a storm around me. A strong gust starts blowing on my face, as suddenly every nerve ending on my body is aroused and I feel deafened by the howling winds. Everything is so loud that I feel my eardrums will shatter. My heart thunders inside my chest and my hands reach out blindly in front of me, as I stagger around and desperately call out again.
"Where are you?"
My only answer is the eerie whine of the gale. There is utter darknes all around and a sense of panic inundates my senses. I am pushed back and forth by the force of the wind, as staying on my feet becomes harder with each passing second. Sand, debris and grass are blasted into my face, into my eyes, into my mouth.
"Don't leave me," I gasp through my tightening throat, but the sand is blocking my nose and throat. I hear a familiar sound, like a call of a bird, between the wail of the storm but find it too weak to decipher.
"Please..." I cry out but there is no one there to answer; nothing except for that birdlike chirp that calls to me in the suffocating darkness.
I feel the ground shift under my feet and suddenly I am falling. My arms and legs flail, as my fingernails scratch empty space in sheer desperation to find any crevice, any surface that would stop this fall.
Terror floods my veins. I am going to die. Any moment I will hit the ground and then it will be all over.
A strangled scream barely escapes my throat when suddenly the scene shifts and the darkness recedes. The clouds clear and I find myself in my living room; hunched over my medicine bundle, sweat pouring down my half naked body.
My breathing ragged, my heart pounding inside my chest, I flinch as the birdlike chirp sounds again. I look up and swallow heavily.
It's the door chime.
With trembling hands, I gather the medicine bundle and get up.
"Just a moment," I call out as I put the bundle on a nearby shelf and giving the command for the main door to open, I move into the bathroom. I stand in front of the basin, and look up into the mirror. My forehead is dotted with sweat and my face flushed. I wash my face with cold water and slowly feel my senses returning to me. I, then, take in deep swallows of oxygen in an attempt to calm my heartbeat, and step out into the bedroom. I grab a shirt off the clothing rack and put it on over the cotton trousers I wore for meditating.
Rubbing my face dry with a towel, I walk into the lounge and am surprised to find Kathryn sitting on the couch, looking out the viewport.
"Captain..." I greet her formally, feeling a little uneasy. Our relationship has been slightly rusty since Equinox happened and I am not sure if she would like me to use her first name right now.
"Kathryn, please," she amends, immediately answering my unspoken question and relieving my doubts. The fact that she wants me to use her first name means this visit is not of a professional capacity.
"Kathryn," I nod at her and step over to the replicator, hoping my jitters would fade soon. "Coffee?" I ask, already knowing she wouldn't say no and punching in the codes.
"Please," she replies.
I turn back to her, with our coffees in hand, and sit next to her on the couch, handing her a cup.
"I am sorry, I didn't mean to disturb you from your meditation," she says, taking a sip from her cup, her eyes lingering over the shelf by the wall.
I look up to see the half open medicine bundle lying there and swallow hard at the memories of my session. "It's okay," I shake my head. "It wasn't going very well, anyway."
There is silence for a while as she drinks the strong brew. And then, "Chakotay, what's wrong?" she asks, her voice filled with concern.
I look into her eyes and find the same concern mirrored there. I duck my head and stare into the cup again. I don't know how to answer her. I am feeling too raw, too vulnerable to think of an excuse to dismiss her query, and I have never lied to her. Yet my encounter with the wolf and the things I experienced in my vision quest have my stomach in knots. I need more time to think about this.
I need to see Tom.
She continues when I stay quiet. "You've not been yourself for the past few days and I am worried about you."
Her straightforwardness brings out a rush of emotions into my heart, and I bite my lower lip. "You're right..." Sighing heavily, I decide to go for truth as well, discreet as it is. "I haven't been myself." I look at her. "Some things have happened recently in my life, which have upset me greatly."
"Can you elaborate?" She asks quietly.
"No..." I shake my head. "Not right now. I haven't even figured them all out myself. I need to fix things, take care of problems." God, I need to see Tom now.
"Is everything alright between you and Tom?" Her question brings my head up in a hurry as I lock my eyes into hers, my heart thudding inside my chest.
Beware the observing eyes of the Captain.
"What about Tom?" I throw back the question at her, trying to act unperturbed but the knowing look on her face shows me she isn't buying it.
"He was very upset when you got hurt." She looks at me straight in the eye. "I don't think I have ever seen him that upset before."
I know she is trying to read my thoughts through my face so I lower my eyes to the cup once more, taking a swallow.
She continues. "He stayed in the sickbay the whole night looking out for you."
The coffee tastes too bitter and with a sigh, I put the cup down. Visions of Tom sitting by my bed, worried and concerned, invade my thoughts and I feel myself drown further in guilt. Memories of hearing the Doc telling Tom to get rest suddenly hit me. He was worried about me. He cared. He stayed up all night looking out for me.
I pushed him away.
I realize I am lost in thought again, when Kathryn puts her hand on my arm and I am shaken out of my brooding. "Chakotay, what's the matter? What wrong?" There is quiet urgency in her voice. I suppose I am upsetting her with my behavior.
I look at her. "Everything."
"Kathryn," with a wave of my hand, I interrupt. "Have you ever... secretly wished for something that you felt was... morally out of your reach? Only to have it flung in your face one day and realize you weren't quite ready to face the consequences?"
"I..." Surprised, she stumbles, "...it depends on what that thing may be."
"How about this?" I frown; aware that she knows it's not really her I am frowning at. "Not only you didn't realize what the consequences may be, you also become addicted to this thing, this forbidden fruit. It becomes your life force, the air you inhale, and the water you drink."
A strange sparkle lights her eyes. "Who are you talking about?" she asks, but I have a feeling she already suspects who that may be.
"You try to push it away, you try to deny what you feel," I continue, blinking back tears that suddenly threaten to emerge. "But... you realize... you can't see, can't walk, can't breathe without it." Biting my lower lip in frustration, I lean my head back on the couch and close my eyes.
There is silence in the room as I focus on the ragged sound of my breathing. My ears are ringing as if I have just experienced the sonic boom of an ancient aircraft on a holodeck simulation.
"Are you in love with Tom?" She sounds slightly incredulous, as if the idea never occurred to her before and I can't blame her.
Yes. Dammit yes. "I don't know." I keep my eyes closed. "I don't know anything anymore."
"Is he in love with you?" she asks, and I note that just within a few seconds, her tone has changed. Now she sounds as if she could get used to the idea, given time.
Like a few more minutes?
I frown but keep my eyes closed. "He says so. I don't know."
"Did he tell you he loved you?" I almost smile at the further noticeable shift in her tone. How sure she sounds, her confidence returning, as if her grasp on the situation is getting firmer by the passing second. "Chakotay?"
I open my eyes and sit up, turning sideways to look at her. "Yes, but the circumstances that led to that..." I swallow, "...confession... were less than ideal."
"If he said that to you, then he meant it," she says, looking me straight in the eye. "I saw him with you in the sickbay, Chakotay. He was terrified." She shakes her head. "I didn't know of what, at that time, but now... now I am sure of it. He was terrified of losing you. He was a man in love, and now I know who he is in love with."
"Kathryn..." Wonderful, I got my Captain getting overexcited now. I chucked Tom out of my quarters twice in a row. I doubt he would be that crazy about me at the moment.
"What about B'Elanna?" she asks suddenly, a slight frown knitting her brow and I take a deep breath.
Strangely, the mention of my friend's name no longer makes me cringe with guilt. Maybe it's because of how B'Elanna spoke to me that night. Maybe it has something to do with what Tom told me this morning, or perhaps it's because of what the wolf said.
"Nothing but thorns..." without thinking, I find myself muttering.
Kathryn looks at me closely. "What did you say?"
I shake my head. "Nothing," I sigh. "Tom broke up with her a few days back."
"A few days back?" She says. "I got reports from Engineering that they had quite an argument up in her office yesterday." Yeah, he had told me that too, but I was so busy being bitter about our last encounter that all I cared for was for him to get a taste of his own medicine. "I take it that had something to do with you?"
I stifle my groan at that. "I don't know." I rub my throbbing temple with my fingertips. "All I know is that I have managed to make a mess out of things on a grand scale."
She looks at me. "Chakotay," she says gently. "I have known you long enough to know your habit of putting the blame on yourself even when it may not be your fault. I have no idea what has transpired between you and Tom..." she sighs. "And frankly I don't want to know unless things get settled between all of you. However, all this talk of you needing Tom, him being the air you breathe. I think I can pretty much say... you have got it pretty bad, Commander."
I look up to see an amused look on her face.
Great. She's getting a kick out of it. "It's not funny, Captain."
"Of course not," she smiles. "But I trust your instincts and have faith in your abilities to work out the differences between my chief pilot and yourself."
Before I can answer her, my half-drank cup of coffee slides and falls off the table, the brew spilling over the carpet. The frames on my walls tremble, a shudder going through the whole room, the whole ship.
Bewildered, I sit up on the couch, but Kathryn is already on her feet. "Janeway to the bridge." She taps her combadge. "Report!"
"It's just turbulence, Captain. Nothing to worry about," Ensign Grimes responds. "It was just an asteroid field, but we seem to have passed the worst of it."
And sure enough, the shudders become less and less until they are gone, the turbulence passed.
"Alright, keep me posted," Kathryn replies, but before she closes the link, a frown passes through her brow. "Ensign, where is Mr. Paris?"
I look at the chronometer for the first time in hours. It says 1918. Which means I was in the vision quest for more than five hours. Time surely moves faster on the spirit plain.
It also means something else.
It's the Beta shift. Tom was supposed to be on it. Over an hour ago.
I hear Grimes procrastinating over the comm. line. "Umm... Captain, Ensign Paris..."
"Yes, Mr. Grimes?" Kathryn asks firmly.
"He hasn't shown up for his shift yet," comes the sheepish reply.
"Did you try to comm. him?" The Captain is pissed now.
"Yes, but there was no reply and we thought...." Grimes stutters.
Kathryn cuts him off. "Very well, Mr. Grimes. Janeway out." She turns around and pierces me with a glare as if it's all my fault. I swallow uncomfortably.
"Janeway to Paris." She taps her combadge again.
I hold my breath, waiting for him to reply. But there is no response. My throat turns dry and my heart starts pounding raggedly against my ribcage.
"Computer, locate Ensign Paris," she asks.
"Ensign Paris is in his quarters," the computer replies.
Visions of a dry and withering rose falling to a grass bed enter my mind and I feel my breath catch in my throat. Something has happened to Tom. He has gotten hurt. He's probably lying in his quarters, unable to respond to us, and its all my fault. I pushed him away. I hurt him.
I hear the Captain tapping her combadge once more. She is going to contact someone.
"Captain." I jump to my feet, interrupting her in mid-sentence. She looks at me warily. "Let me go check on Tom." I plead with my eyes.
She frowns. "Chakotay, the Doctor told you to take it easy and...."
"I am feeling fine." I stop her again. "Please, I won't be able to take it easy unless I have... seen Tom." I gulp and look at her expectantly. "Trust me."
She seems reluctant for a while but seeing the imploring look in my eyes, finally sighs in resignation. "Fine. But I want an explanation of why he didn't report for duty." She takes a step towards the door and pauses just inside. Turning her head back, she looks at me sympathetically. "He probably just overslept, Chakotay."
I nod at her, as I accompany her out of my quarters. With a promise that I will comm. her as soon as I have 'spoken' with Tom, I take the turbolift to Deck 4.
At Tom's door, I press the chime. When, as expected, he doesn't answer, I use my command code to override his lock. The doors swish open. I take a step inside his quarters and feel myself turn cold at the scene before me.
Tom is lying on the floor of his living room, face down.
I am moving before I have even fully registered the whole situation. "Tom," I hear my fearful voice call out, as I slide down by his side and my hands reach for his neck. Sudden hot tears well in my eyes as my fingers search for a pulse, my heart drumming a frenzied beat. When a stable pulse is found, I finally remember to breathe.
That is when the smell hits me.
The room reeks of alcohol, and so does Tom. My stunned eyes linger on the bottle of whisky lying beside him and, shakily, I pick it up only to realize it's empty. Fortunately, the stain on the carpet where it had fallen indicates it wasn't empty when it fell down.
So at least he didn't drink the whole thing.
I suddenly feel this insane burst of anger bubbling under my skin.
How absolutely dimwitted could he be? Who the hell does he think he is, drinking himself to unconsciousness like this? Just because he had a... a misunderstanding... with me? What if something had happened to him? For a second, I have this urge to jostle him awake, to shake him into awareness, and to scream and yell at him, telling him what an absolute jerk he is. If I were in his place, I would never have gotten drunk and passed out. I would have thought about the situation and talked about it to someone. I am so fucking tired of his stupidity.
Feeling the rage coursing through me, I grab his shoulders and bluntly turn him around on his back, and am stopped dead right there.
His face is streaked with dried tears. I feel myself sag as a wave of anguish passes through me, and all my anger of moments ago drains from my body.
I made him go through this. I made him cry. I made him drink.
I hurt him.
I feel like kicking myself as the realization of what I was about to do crashes down on me. I was actually going to hit him, to scream at him. I squeeze my eyes shut and sigh with fatigue.
Janeway was right. I am responsible for this.
His hands are so cold and I find myself rubbing them gently with my hand to warm them, my other hand reaching out to smooth his brow. Cradling him in my arms, I pull him up and settle him down on the couch. I grab the empty bottle and glass and put them in the recycler. I then turn around and survey his quarters for things I am going to need.
After a little search, I retrieve a medkit and some wet towels from the bathroom. I find a hypospray and tricorder inside the medkit. Scanning him with the tricorder reveals he has had a bit too much of that whisky, so I access my own account and program a bowl of bouillon soup and a glass of fruit juice for later use. I gently rub his face clean with the towel and then press the hypo to his neck. There is that familiar hiss, a moment later I hear him moan, and then those
eyes flutter open.
Blinking wild blue eyes stare at me for a moment before comprehension sets in and he bolts upright on the couch. "Chakotay," he says, and then his face contorts in pain and he groans, his fingers reaching for his temple.
"Easy," I croon, steadying the swaying body in front of me with my hands on his shoulders.
"Oh God, my head," he pants, his fingers clawing at his temple. "It feels like its gonna explode."
I can't help but run my fingers through his mussed up hair, gently rubbing his scalp, willing the pain away. He raises dazed eyes to me, confusion evident on his features. I know one hypo wouldn't help much with the amount of alcohol he had in his system, so I smooth his hair off his forehead, massaging his undoubtedly throbbing temple.
Suddenly he sits up on the couch, his mouth clamping shut, and a nauseated look brushing his features.
"I need to..." He croaks but without finishing his sentence, he has pushed me out of the way and getting up, he staggers into his bedroom. By the time I get to my feet, he has disappeared into the bathroom. I follow him quickly but just as I get inside his bedroom, I hear the distinct sounds of retching. I walk into the bathroom to find him hunched over the toilet, throwing his guts up. My heart goes out to him. I know he can't be feeling good. All that alcohol he drank is coming out now and before long, he will be pretty much dehydrated.
Making sure he will be able to hold himself up in his condition, I retrace my steps to the living room and comm. the Captain to apprise her of the situation as discreetly as possible. She wants to know what Tom has done but I don't give anything away other than the fact that Tom is not feeling well, which is certainly true. She asks if he would need to go to the Sickbay, and I tell her that there would be no need for that. I inform her that he would be alright after a good night's sleep and that I would adjust the roster so that he can make up for his missed shift, and then sign out.
I access my computer from Tom's terminal and adjust the crew roster so that no one would bother him about missing this shift. After that, I get the soup and juice I had programmed earlier from the replicator and walking into his bedroom, place it all on his bedside table.
I step inside the bathroom and watch Tom leaning over the sink, his chest heaving with exertion. He splashes water over his face, but I don't think it does him much good. While the vomiting would have helped his stomach, it would also leave him weaker, and I know from experience that the nausea would persist a little longer. Going over to him, I put my arms around his waist and help him out of the bathroom. He doesn't protest. I settle him down on his bed and give him another dose of the analgesic. Immediate relief pours on his face.
"Thanks." He shakes his head as if to snap out of his delirium. I rub the perspiration off his forehead with another towel and hold the tray with the bowl of bouillon soup in front of him.
"Eat," I order.
He frowns. "I don't feel like eating anything."
"That's too bad." I raise a brow at him. "Because, you'll just have to force yourself to eat this. And after you have eaten this, you will drink this glass of juice I got for you as well."
"What the hell are you doing here, Chakotay?" He scowls at me.
I sigh. "You didn't show up for your shift. The Captain tried to comm. you but there was no answer."
"Oh shit." Realization dawns on him. "I am late for the shift." Suddenly he is scrambling to his feet. He looks at the chronometer. "I need to get ready."
I put my hand on his shoulder and gently push him back down on the bed. "That's okay. I changed the roster. You are due on the alpha shift now."
He looks at me suspiciously. "You really like changing around my duty roster, don't you? I thought you were off-duty, Commander."
Hmm. So, he's going to try the alienating strategy now, huh? Well, it's not going to work. "I may be off-duty but I am still the First Officer." I take a deep breath. "And if you wouldn't get drunk to the bone on a duty day, I wouldn't need to change around your roster."
A shadow passes through his features and he bites his lower lip. He doesn't reply back, keeping his eyes on his lap. I wet my dry lips. Spirits, I need to stay calm. He needs someone to be gentle, someone to understand.
"Tom, finish this." I point to the tray on his lap.
"I am not hungry."
"You're dehydrated after all that throwing up you did." I say forcefully. "You need fluids. Or perhaps you'd like me to take you to Sickbay and let the Doc set up an intravenous line to replenish the fluids you lost."
"It's not that bad, Commander," he drawls.
"It could have been." I shake my head at him. "What the hell did you think you were doing getting drunk like this, Tom?"
"What I do in my off-duty hours is none of your fucking business, Commander." He grits his teeth, stressing on my rank.
I sigh. "I don't think you'd appreciate getting an official reprimand from the Captain for drinking right before your shift, Tom," I
stress on his name.
He looks up at me, exasperated. "What the hell do you want?"
I place the spoon in his hand. "First, I want you to finish this," I take a deep breath and look at him. "Then, we'll talk."
"I don't wanna talk!" he says indignantly.
"Eat first," I frown at him. I knew this was not going to be easy. Nevertheless, my none-too-gentle vision quest session notwithstanding, or perhaps because of it, I am prepared for all eventualities.
I almost smile at that thought.
Who the hell am I kidding? There is going to be only one eventuality as far as I am concerned.
He is angry. He is upset. He is hung over. He probably doesn't trust me right now. He is feeling vulnerable and naked, having shed all his layers in front me just hours ago. But one thing is for sure.
Tom Paris is mine and I will earn his trust and love once more.
I watch with barely concealed satisfaction as Tom finishes his soup, all the while throwing furtive glances in my direction. I hand him the glass of juice and he scowls but chugs that down as well. No doubt, he was thirsty after his bout with the booze.
"How are you feeling now?" I keep my voice soft, my tone non-confrontational.
"I am alright." He puts the tray aside. "By the way, shouldn't you be in bed right now?" He lifts an eyebrow. "The Doc released you yesterday and he specifically said you were to take it easy for the next seventy two hours."
"Then perhaps you should make it easy for me, Tom." I look him straight in the eye. "Talk to me."
"There's nothing to talk about, Commander." I watch the mask fall in place once more.
I sigh and decide to go for the simple truth. I lean forward and touch his cheek fleetingly with the tips of my fingers. "I want to apologize, Poocuh."
As if hit by an electric current, Tom recoils from my words. "Don't say that." He staggers to his feet and takes a few steps back to put some distance between us.
Confused, I too stand up. "Don't say what?" Spirits, where did this wall, this barrier spring out from? Why is he clambering away from me now? All I want to do is to touch him, to tell him I am sorry, to fold him in my embrace. However, I will respect his wishes. For now. "Don't apologize?" I ask him.
"No," he frowns. "Don't call me that." His voice falters. "I am not... your... Poocuh."
"But you are, Tom!" I bite my lower lip in frustration. "You are! I had some time to... think about what you said, and..."
"Don't!" He cuts me off in mid-sentence. "I don't have the strength for this anymore, Chakotay." I see pain and desperation in his eyes, and once again, feel overwhelmed with the sense of guilt, which my talk with the wolf had engulfed me in. "I can't endure all this changing of minds, this confusion, this rejection anymore." He screws his eyes shut for a second and then opens them and looks at me pleadingly. "Don't do this to me, please."
He is scared. Of course. Maybe I shouldn't have been so direct about this whole situation. Maybe I should go easy on him. "Tom," I say gently, taking a small step forward. "Would you at least sit down here and hear me out? Please?"
I watch myriad emotions unfold on his face, before reluctant acceptance settles in. He nods and walks back to the bed, sitting down once more. I take a deep breath of relief and follow him there. He frowns at the tray lying on the bed, on top of which sit the empty bowl of soup and glass of juice. He reaches out with a hand and touches the rim of the glass with one elegant finger. He looks up at me.
"But first can I have some more of this?" He smacks his lips. "I am still kinda thirsty."
Warmth floods my veins. The man has just woken up from an alcohol-induced stupor, and here I am pushing him about talking to me. My heart fills with tenderness for him.
"Of course, Tom," I smile at him gently and grab the tray. "I'll get you some right away" I spring to my feet and walk out of his bedroom. It isn't until I am out in the living room and moving towards the replicator, that I realize something is amiss. His quietly muttered words make sense to my jumbled brain a tad too late.
"Computer, lock bedroom door and engage privacy lock Paris Beta three."
I spin around just in time to see the door closing to a prize-winning swish on my face. For a moment, I stand there, my mouth dropped open in shock, blinking like an idiot at it. Then, heaving a sigh, I dump the tray on the coffee table and stride back to the bedroom door. I pound on it with my right fist.
"Open the door, Tom."
I take a staggering breath. This is getting ridiculous now. "Aw, c'mon, Tom, you know very well that I can override this lock anytime. So why don't you open it yourself."
"No, you can't," I hear him say. "Not this one. Why don't you go back to your quarters before I call security."
I barely smother my snigger at this. "I doubt you will call security on me, Tom. Open the door."
"I said no," he replies equally indignantly. "And I also doubt you will override this lock, Cha. You are far too honorable not to respect my need for privacy."
This time I do snigger. "This has nothing to do with being honorable, Tom. I want to talk to you." I take a deep breath. "Open the door." But he remains silent. "Alright, ready or not, here I come." I take a step back from the door. "Computer, override lock, authorization code Chakotay Alpha 47A." There is no lock on this ship, save the ones on the Captain's door, which won't open to this voice command.
As expected, the door swishes open and smiling smugly, I take two purposeful strides and am inside the bedroom once more.
Ah, the scheming little twerp is hiding in the bathroom, eh? I walk to the bathroom door, expecting it to deny me entry, but to my surprise, it opens without complaint. I step inside and look around in bewilderment at the empty bathroom. I walk to the shower stall and fling the small curtain away, but of course, it's empty. Perplexed, I step out in the bedroom again. Where did he go?
"Computer, locate Ensign Paris."
"Ensign Paris is in his quarters," the monotonous mechanical reply comes.
I run out to the living room, thinking that perhaps I missed him getting out of the bedroom somehow, but find it empty as well. Frowning, I walk back inside the bedroom and suddenly spot something that partially answers my queries. I walk to the bedside table and pick up the combadge that lies there, as if cackling at me.
Realization dawns on me. "Computer, did a site-to-site transport take place in Ensign Paris' quarters a few minutes ago?"
Oh. So, Tom somehow managed to get himself transported out of his quarters without having his combadge to lock onto.
"Computer, what was the destination point of the transport that took place?"
"Unknown." Ms. Monotony replies. "Relevant data to extrapolate that information missing."
I grit my teeth and drop the combadge back on the bedside table. Tom is not here. I can't speak with him. I have no idea where he is. I guess I didn't handle the situation quite as deftly as I should have.
Feeling disgusted with myself, I walk back to my quarters.
It isn't until I am in the turbolift, that the memory of it hits me with such profound clarity, and I find myself smiling dazzlingly at the closed doors of the moving vehicle.
Cha. He called me Cha.
I look up from my position on the carpet, on all fours; sponge smeared with cleaning gel in hand, and look at the door. What now? Why can't people disturb me at times when I am relatively free? I stare at the coffee stain on the carpet, which the falling cup had left earlier, all thanks to unexpected space turbulence.
The door chimes again.
Suddenly it occurs to me that it could be Tom. May be he had a change of heart and wants to talk now. I scramble to my feet, stain and sponge momentarily forgotten, and brush my hands on my slacks.
I look expectantly at the opening doors and my eyes widen with surprise.
She walks inside and stares around my quarters uncertainly. Her eyes trail over the viewport, my bedroom door, the coffee table, and the shelf by the wall, before meekly falling on me. Hmm, this should be interesting.
"Chakotay, how are you?" she asks softly.
I close my mouth in time to swallow heavily against a tightness that is somehow dissolving away slowly, but surely.
"I am alright," I reply, unsure about the purpose of her visit. "How are you?"
She steps forward. "I am fine." She looks me straight in the eye. "Chakotay, I want to apologize for my behavior that night."
I suddenly have this urge to pinch myself on my arm to check whether I am awake or dreaming. She sees the look on my face and sighs. "I am serious," she says.
"You want to apologize?" I repeat her words; still unsure of whether I heard her right.
"Yes," she walks to the couch and sits herself down. "I had no right to talk to you that way. I know that now. Whatever happened between you and Tom..." Something that looks like a frown passes through her features. "... I should have been more objective about that situation, instead of lashing out at you like that."
I step back and slide down on the couch as well. "You mean... you approve of... what happened between me and Tom." I ask.
"NO!" She replies vehemently, then winces, and swallows audibly. "I mean, I don't know," she amends. "It's really none of my business what you two did, since Tom and I had already broken up."
I see. Well, time for some excavation. I run my fingers through my hair and look at her. "Why did you break up?"
She looks at me, a wary expression on her face. "We had a misunderstanding." A frown knits her brow. "Tom says I cheated on him, which is kind of true, I guess." She looks at me closely. "Tom has already told you, hasn't he?"
I sigh. "He did, this morning, but I was not in a very receptive mood then." I fight to keep my guilt at bay. No time for it here.
She leans back on the sofa, suddenly more relaxed, as if she can recognize my guilt and take heart in the fact that she isn't the only one who screwed up. "Well, I did my best to put him off you, when he came to see me yesterday. He said he loved you and was quite determined to keep you." She wets her lips and sighs resignedly. "Don't be too hard on him."
I can't stop the small groan that escapes my throat. She looks at me worriedly. "It's too late for that, I guess."
She rubs the bridge of her nose thoughtfully, and looks up at me. "You mean, you guys already fought?"
I screw my eyes shut and swallow hard. "Twice in a row." Baffled, I bite my lower lip. "And now he won't speak with me."
She doesn't reply back. I hear the sound of her steady breathing and my erratic heartbeat. When the silence stretches on for too long, I open my eyes to look at her and find her staring back at me with a funny look on her face. "You are in love with him too, aren't you?" She snorts. "You didn't mean what you said when we last spoke, did you?"
I look down at my hands folded on my lap. "At that time I wasn't sure of his feelings, and when I spoke to you, all I wanted to do was to get out of that Observation Lounge by any means possible." I look back at her. "After how I treated him this morning, he refuses to see me."
She shakes her head at me. "You've gotta be kidding," she sighs. "Of course he wants to see you, Chakotay. He will do anything to make what you two found work." Suddenly she stands up and makes a go for the main door.
"You're leaving?" I stand up too, perplexed by her abrupt departure.
"Yes." She turns around and looks at me, a strange expression on her face. "I thought I had screwed things up with both of you." The corners of her mouth quirk up in amusement. "But it seems you two are in enough of a mess yourselves. And all of a sudden, my problems..." She closes her eyes for a second and sighs, then opens them again to look at me. "...My feelings... seem very small compared to what you two have entangled yourselves into." She turns around to walk out of my quarters.
The doors swish open and I suddenly have this drive to stop her, to make her finish her thought. What does she mean by all this? I know the Tom situation is in a mess, but her feelings do matter. She matters. To me
"B'Elanna..." I call out.
She pauses at the doorway and turns around once more. She looks at me for a while and then leans against the doorframe with an arm. "Don't worry, Chakotay. If you don't give up on Tom, he will never give up on you." She wets her lips with her tongue. "I have never seen this fire in his eyes before and I would be lying to say that I am not jealous
that it's not directed at me."
Her gaze lowers to the floor and then she looks into my eyes again, a sad smile on her face. "But Tom was right. I don't love him like that, and he doesn't love me the way a lover should. If we had, all this wouldn't have happened in the first place."
A twinkle appears in her eyes. "Make it work, Chakotay. If either of you hurt the other one more time, I will personally come and break your bones."
With that, she turns around and disappears down the corridor. The door closes behind her.
I sink back down into the couch. Her words reverberate in my ears.
/--- If you don't give up on Tom, he will never give up on you---/
That's the key isn't it? Don't give up. Don't be afraid of rejection. Even if things seem impossible, even if the cobwebs you are stuck into seem too intricate, too messy to get out of, don't give up.
Never give up.
I pick the sponge off the carpet and throw it into the recycler. It's time to get dressed and get out of here.
I have to see Tom.
I have been sitting here for two hours precisely. I checked on Harry half an hour ago but he was due on gamma shift and was in a hurry. From his tone, it seemed he was trying to hide something from me but I decided not to push him too much. If Tom is with him, that's fine. How long would he stay there? How long would he stay out of his quarters? He is bound to come back sometime, right?
Earlier I had made rounds of the messhall and the resort, but Neelix wasn't at either place and no one else seemed to have seen Tom. I have a feeling he is with Harry. I don't want to extract him from his best friend's domain. I want to face him in his personal quarters or some place less public and make peace with him there.
I hope he won't make me take drastic steps.
I look around the living room and notice small details that remind me how different it is from my own quarters. Yes, his quarters are not as big as mine, as that is expected privilege that comes with a higher rank, but they are also more colorful, more loud then my place. While they may not be as orderly as I keep my quarters, there's nothing untidy about Tom's quarters either. A stack of vids on the shelf, some abstract art pieces on the walls, a beautiful replica of a sailing ship on the corner table. Tom's tastes are more psychedelic then mine but they certainly create a nice homely feeling.
I stifle a yawn and lean back on the couch.
I was careful not to touch anything in here. It's enough that I have broken into his quarters without his permission, I don't want to give him any further reason to be upset at me. For a moment, even though there was no answer to my chimes, when the computer informed me that Tom was inside his quarters, I thought that perhaps he had returned; but when I stepped inside his bedroom to check, it was only his combadge still lying on the bedside table. I was careful to leave my combadge back in my quarters though. I don't want him to do a location check on me and find I am in his quarters. I want to catch him by surprise.
I even momentarily fancied a twisted plan of hiding in his bathroom and grabbing him there but then decided there probably shouldn't be any reason to revert to such desperate measures. At least not yet. I am willing to go to any and all lengths to get Tom to talk to me, but first I will try the civilized way.
As civilized as breaking into one's quarters can be, that is.
I feel another yawn coming and this time make no effort to stop it. It's been a long day. My head hurts, my limbs ache, and the newly regenerated tissue feels itchy. I hope no one reports my activities to the Doc. He'd be less-than-enthused with my resting practices.
I lean further back into the couch, my back settling on the soft cushions that cover the seats. The couch feels so nice and comfortable that I can't help but lounge back into it, the softness of the foam and cushions soothing to my aching bones. I yawn again and feel my eyes getting watery with the exhaustion of the whole day.
May be I'll just take a short nap for a while. I can always talk to Tom when he comes back. I won't really sleep, just rest for a while. In fact, it would be better if I were rather rested when I talk to Tom. I sound more convincing when I am coherent.
With that thought, I snuggle back into the cushions and close my eyes.
I have no idea when my body betrayed me, and my exhaustion won out, and I was claimed by a deep, long-needed sleep.
I am wrapped in something warm, soft and extremely comfortable.
Was that noise I heard a while back?
With a start, I sit up on my bed and blink around my room. It takes me a few long moments before I realize I am not in my room and this is not a bed at all. It's Tom's couch. I am in Tom's quarters, in his living room. I look down to see the warm blanket wrapped around me, and for a moment am confused.
I didn't have this blanket with me when I settled down here.
Realization hits me and I jump off the couch, moving towards the
"Tom?" I call out.
The bedroom doors admit me without much protestation and I step inside to a yet again empty room's welcome. I stare at the refresher's blinking lights, which tell me it's still in use, meaning someone deposited articles into it a short while back.
He's in the bathroom.
I step up to the bathroom door, sure in my heart that it won't open this time, but it again defies me and opens without a hitch. I squeeze my eyes shut, telling myself I don't really want to go inside and walk into Tom while he is probably taking a shower; but the silence inside tells me there is no one in the bathroom. Still I duck my head to
take a sneak peak inside, and find it glaringly empty.
I spin around on my feet and walk to the middle of the bedroom and stand there, panting. Where the hell is he? The combadge isn't here anymore.
"Computer, locate Ensign Paris."
"Ensign Paris is on the bridge."
My eyes fly to the chronometer and I gape in disbelief at the reading: 1143 hours.
Dazed, I walk out to the living room, my mind puzzling over this obvious mystery of how the heck I stayed asleep for almost twelve hours. The twelve hours, during which Tom obviously came back to his quarters, changed and dressed into his uniform and went off on his morning bridge shift. How could I not wake up while all this happened?
My eyes first fall to the coffee table in front of the couch and then narrow at the spectacle of a lone hypospray left lying atop the glass surface. I pick it up and turn it around in my hand, staring at it as if it's the twelfth wonder of the Serralian Moon Orbit. Determined to solve the mystery, I take out the nearly empty vial from the casing, walk back to the bathroom and dig out the medkit. I take out the tricorder, scan the vial, and grit my teeth at the findings.
He pumped me up with the wretched Rexlin to make sure I stayed asleep and not fucking bother him anymore.
Frustrated, I want to smash the tricorder against the wall of the shower stall but instead take deep breaths to calm myself.
It's not my tricorder. It's not my bathroom. These are not my quarters.
I am obviously not welcome here.
I sigh and swallow hard at the depression suddenly tightening my throat. He doesn't want to talk to me. He didn't even bother to wake me up, not even to scream at me at breaching his privacy so blatantly. Spirits, what am I going to do, how do I tackle this?
Feeling miserable with myself, I walk out to the living room to stand in front of the viewport and stare out. The temperature suddenly seems too low and I feel a shiver run down my spine. I fold my arms across my chest and rub at the goose bumps forming on my arms.
My gaze falls over the couch and I stare at the blanket.
The blanket Tom had wrapped me in.
I sigh and walk to the couch, sliding down between the cushions again. My fingers touch the blanket and I feel something tug inside my heart as suddenly the warmth returns.
Yes, he could have woken me up and yelled at me for invading his privacy, for getting inside his quarters without his permission, but he didn't. Instead, he gave me a tranquilizer, wrapped me up in a nice, warm blanket, and let me sleep on.
He didn't yell. He didn't kick me out. He tucked me in.
I couldn't be all that unwelcome after all, could I?
I must admit that I do feel much better this morning. The sleep did help. I am feeling well rested, fresher, stronger and am ravenously famished. I think I'll go back to my quarters and replicate a jumbo vegetarian platter or something.
Too bad Tom has pushed me to this, though. With his going out of his way to avoid me, he has literally asked for trouble, hasn't he? Tom has left me with no choice but to take drastic steps now.
With a contented smile on my face and a promise to myself to make it worth our while, I make my way towards my quarters.
No one I encounter on the way mentions the blanket tucked under my left arm.
To be concluded in RAPTURE