(Yes another mini epic)
Rating. SLASH, m/m NC-17
Archive: Anywhere, just let me know, please
Disclaimer: Tom, Chak et al are Paramount‘s (lucky devils) Angel is mine (yippee!)
In this story Tom and B‘Elanna never got together (Hooray!)
Chakotay and Paris‘s aggression was due to (you guessed it) Unresolved Sexual Tension! Chakotay had left a male lover back in the Maquis and can‘t get over the loss. Tom is completely besotted with Chakotay and is sure that the Commander is attracted to him too but can‘t get anywhere with him.
Tom Angst. Chakotay Angst.
It was exactly one year after Tom‘s accident when I decided to implement the plan that had been germinating slowly in my head for months.
Nobody had mentioned the date, not even Tom, but I could see the weight of the terrible knowledge in everybody‘s faces. A whole year had passed and we were still no nearer either a short-cut home or a cure.
Tom had finally stopped fighting me. He no longer asked to be allowed to die. But he accepted my loving friendship with the dull helpless eyes of a wounded animal and each night when I abandoned him in Sickbay he would mentally curl up to lick his wounds.
By then he would even tell me frequently that he loved me but I recognised that his words were largely inspired by his need to please me. He was simply trying to keep me happy, because of his terrible dread of ultimately being abandoned by me.
Every morning when I collected him from Sickbay, to dress him and put him in his chair ready for Alpha shift, I would see a flash of relief in his eyes. It was as though he believed that one-day I simply would not bother to turn up. I could only think of one way to finally prove how much I cared.
It was time to cement my commitment to him, to us. To reward the unbelievable trust he had shown in me simply by his act of surviving for so long. I knew that we could never have a real relationship under the circumstances. I knew that I could only offer him my love and support by simply being there for him, but I hoped that if nothing else came out of my idea, I would at least put to rest his fear that I would ever tire of looking after him.
I spent the whole morning consulting with Kathryn and the Doctor over the viability of the surprise that I had planned for Tom. Once his condition had finally stabilized and he was eating properly, the main concern had been his continued inability to breathe without assistance.
A couple of weeks previously the Doctor had finally replaced the external artificial lungs with biomechanical transplants. We all held our own breath for days while we waited to see whether Tom‘s body would reject the invaders but a whole fortnight had now passed without incident and Tom was finally breathing on his own.
I was surprised by Kathryn‘s initial vehement denial of my request but since the Doctor had no objection, she finally agreed as long as it was what Tom said he wanted. So I hurried from Sickbay to find Tom and break my surprise to him.
Tom was in observation lounge 2 with Harry. Even as I entered the room I was assailed by memories of that fantastic first night Tom and I shared. It had been in that very room, over a year previously. I could feel my throat constricting in pain at the loss of the life we could have shared if only I had not driven him away into the path of his destruction.
As he heard me enter, Tom swung his chair around so that he could face me and the tears that were streaming down his face confirmed that he was sharing my remembrance.
As we looked at each other through the bleakness of mutual regret, Harry coughed nervously.
"I‘ll go then, shall I, Tom?" he asked, flashing a quick embarrassed glance at my face which confirmed that my night of passion with Tom had been the topic of discussion before my entrance.
"Yeah, sure Haz. See you tomorrow" Tom‘s voice was low but smooth. The implants had finally allowed him to speak complete sentences without gulping for air.
"Commander" Harry nodded politely and then he scuttled out.
Laughing gently at the fact that six years out in this wilderness might have given Harry Kim the maturity and experience of someone twice his age but had never quelled his nervousness of Senior Officers, I turned to my beloved.
"Did I interrupt something good, babe?" I asked mischievously, letting him know from my wry smile that I had a good idea of exactly what he and Harry had been talking about.
"Naw, I was just giving Harry a few seduction pointers" Tom laughed, only the tiniest hitch in his voice betraying his distress.
"Well, despite our own delightful actions, Tom, I don‘t think that here is really the best place for fraternization of that nature." I laughed gently and was relieved that he took my comment at its face value.
"Harry Kim? Screwing in here? You‘ve got to be kidding, Chak, I‘d be surprised if he could do it in his own quarters!" Tom joked back.
"Talking of quarters, Tom. I think it‘s time that you left the Sickbay, don‘t you?"
I was surprised by the immediate dismay that flooded Tom‘s face.
"No..." he whispered in sudden terror "I can‘t be alone, I can‘t be alone like this. What if, what if something happened and no-one was there..What if I fell out of bed.. what if no-one came and got me up in the morning.." his voice was rising hysterically as his eyes darted in panic.
I rushed forwards to stop his words with a firm kiss and I ran my hands soothingly down his useless but sensitive arms.
"Shush, babe, I didn‘t mean to frighten you. Of course, I don‘t mean you‘ll be alone. I‘m asking you to move back in with me so we can be together. So I don‘t have to leave you alone in Sickbay every night. I want you to come and live with me again, Tom."
Tom‘s eyes were huge and dilated above his gaping mouth as he absorbed what I was saying. Then just as his lips began to form into a blinding smile, I saw his face drop in renewed dejection.
"I can‘t" he whispered "I need my bio-bed, my emergency machines, my medicines and anyway, no-one will let us do it."
"I‘ve thought it all through, Tom. I wouldn‘t have mentioned it if it weren‘t possible. I can replace my double bed with a single and we can put them together so that you can still move your own side as you need to.
"There‘s room for some emergency equipment but now you have your implants you can breathe without assistance. We can keep a life-sign monitor on you at all times and the Doctor will immediately transport you back to Sickbay if you experience any difficulties.
"As for your last point, I have already spoken to the Doctor and the Captain and they both agree that it‘s okay as long as you want to try it."
"As long as I want to try it?" Tom gasped with laughter, "Why wouldn‘t I say yes?"
Then just as suddenly his laughter was cut off by a sob, as he realised exactly why he wouldn‘t.
"No, Chakotay. I can‘t let you do it. I can‘t let you throw your life away looking after me 24 hours a day."
"I don‘t consider it ‘throwing my life away‘ Tom, it‘s what I want, it‘s all I‘ve dreamt about for months. Every time I‘ve had to leave you in that bloody Sickbay it‘s only the thought of you eventually coming home that‘s kept me going."
"Coming home." Tom repeated to himself quietly, as though trying it on for size.
It was all I could do to wait silently for his answer as he mulled the possibilities over in his mind.
Then he smiled.
For the first time in over a year, that true, huge, sunny Tom Paris smile lit the whole room and ignited my heart.
"Yes." He said firmly, "Yes, I want to come home."