(Yes another mini epic)
Rating. SLASH, m/m the rest is still undecided
Disclaimer: Tom, Chak et al are Paramount‘s (lucky devils)
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. In fact just lots of angst but quite a lot of humour and no nastiness. Am I really writing this or have aliens possessed my body?
Well I admit my self-confidence took a long suicidal leap off a high cliff last night. I ran out of Chakotay‘s quarters like I had a Kazon warband on my tail.
I know I don‘t generally let it show, but I‘ve never exactly had what you‘d consider a good opinion of myself. I never got a chance to develop one. As the only son of the youngest Admiral in Starfleet history, I learned early in my life that I was destined to be a colossal disappointment to the entire Paris clan. Then I proceeded to make a career of it!
Don‘t get me wrong, I tried desperately to fulfil my family‘s expectations. To be who they wanted me to be. But somehow I always fucked it up.
One for the résumé that. "Guaranteed fuck-up." It didn‘t matter what I did or how hard I tried; I always managed to disappoint them. I always let down the hallowed Paris name. Like the time I spent all summer working on a science project for a school competition. Whilst my friends played ball in the sunshine, I sat in Dad‘s gloomy library and pored over computer files and ancient texts (my Dad had REAL books!) and I even spent hours at his lab at HQ being tutored by all his ass-licking subordinates. I had all the advantages, you see, I had no excuse for failure. By the time I handed the assignment in, I was positive I had succeeded. With the supreme Paris arrogance that was my birthright, I was absolutely certain that I would win the prize for best project. I came second.
I still cringe when I remember the look on Dad‘s face. The way his features screwed up with disgust and disappointment at the offending blue ribbon.
"If you aren‘t first, Tom, you‘ve lost. " he told me, "nobody ever remembers who came second. Who was the second man on the moon, Tom? Who was the second man to achieve warp speed?" And he was right, as always. I couldn‘t remember. So I knew he was correct. Second WAS failure. By which he meant that I was a failure. I still am.
Oh sure, I have learnt to cover up my insecurity with this polished act of brash arrogance that is so smooth that sometimes I even manage to fool myself.
But that isn‘t the same as really believing it.
Take Chakotay for instance (and I wish I could, Take him, I mean). Self-confidence simply oozes out of his every pore. He never has to say or do anything to promote his image of quiet perfection. It‘s simply who he is. He glides effortlessly through life never doubting himself, never questioning his actions, never worrying about getting things wrong because he‘s quite simply incapable of failure. Chakotay NEVER comes second.
How the hell could I have been so presumptuous as to imagine that he would willingly settle for a fuck-up like me? If you asked me to picture an ideal companion for him, a perfect foil for that dark magnificence, I have to admit that it would never look like Tom Paris. It might look like Angel though.
So what now? Do I do the sensible thing and give up? Do I simply creep back to my lonely life like a beaten puppy, Unloved and unwanted? Do I swallow the bitter taste of defeat? Strange allegory that. Most of my favourite pleasures are acquired tastes. My adult palate has learnt to appreciate tart flavours. I have achieved an appetite for many things that were unpalatable to me in childhood. But an appreciation of the vile bitterness of failure can‘t be acquired no matter how often it is sampled. Take it from me, I know better than most people. No one ever learns to savor the nauseous piquancy of defeat.
So what now? Do I admit that the best I can hope for from Chakotay is a mercy fuck?
Because I‘ll let you in on a secret.
Receiving that blue ribbon was one of the finest moments of my life!
It doesn‘t matter that everyone at home saw it as my failure. For me, I was proud of that second place. It was so damned near first that I could almost reach out and touch success. For just an instant I could taste it in my mouth and savor THAT flavour. It was like the first time I tasted chocolate. The sweetness breaking in soft waves, assaulting my senses with unexpected delight. In that moment of time, which is frozen in my memory like a snapshot to be hauled out and gloated over, I was uniquely, unbelievably, ecstatic with victory. I didn‘t see the one person who beat me; I only perceived the dozens who hadn‘t.
Maybe I‘m Chakotay‘s second choice. But that‘s still a hell of a lot better than being his last.
Image is a funny thing, isn‘t it?
Here I am, sat on the bridge, so tired and depressed that I feel like the artificial gravity has tripled. I‘m pinned in my chair by this huge invisible weight. Incapable of escaping the tsunami of depression that is threatening to crash over me, leaving me drowned and smashed in the scattered flotsam and jetsam of my shattered dreams But no one has noticed. Oh no, as far as they are concerned I am just being my normal stoic, silent self. To them I am an unshakable rock, unchangeable except by eons of erosion. Eternally dependable. Chakotay.
I have a mad urge to leap to my feet and run around the bridge howling war cries like my ancestors.
I can shut my eyes and virtually see myself do it. See myself captured by security and sent to sickbay for a very long time. Tempting thought that, actually. I can almost hear the hiss of the hypospray that would fly me to oblivion.
But it would involve more effort than I am capable of at this moment.
And I would miss watching Tom.
After last night, it‘s all I‘m ever likely to be able to do.
I‘m fidgeting so much at the Conn. that the Captain has asked me twice whether I‘m okay. She probably thinks I need the bathroom! I can‘t help it. For the first time ever, I beat Chakotay to the bridge. I never got a chance to look at him, to smile my apology, to let him know I‘m sorry for the way I stormed out last night. To let him know I‘m willing to accept his terms. Okay, willing is not the right adjective. Insert ‘desperate enough‘ and that‘s probably closer to the truth.
I didn‘t even hear him come in and sit behind me. You‘d think I would notice something like that, wouldn‘t you. You‘d think my senses would hone in like radar at the slightest hint of his presence. But the truth is I only knew he‘d arrived because the Captain said "Good Morning" to him in an ironic tone.
He‘s never been late before. Ever.
Was he late on purpose? Was he so reluctant to look at me that he deliberately dawdled to ensure I would be seated with my back to him before he arrived?
I must have really hurt him with my reaction to the photograph.
He must hate me for running out the way I did.
Damn. When am I going to learn to think before I act?
He‘s so upset he can‘t sit still in his seat. He looks like someone has set fire to his butt.
There‘s an image to torture me for the rest of my sorry life:
I tried my best to make today easier on him. After the way he ran out of my quarters last night like a scalded cat, I realised that the last thing he would want to see this morning was my face. So I arrived late.
Beyond belief isn‘t it? Dependable, by the book, Chakotay being deliberately late for duty? Even Tuvok blinked at my tardiness and Kathryn was definitely snide when she greeted me. But, to be honest, I don‘t care.
The way Tom has reacted since he became aware of my arrival has proved to me that I did the right thing. If he can‘t even bear the thought of my sitting behind him, how on earth would he have coped with having to smile and greet me, as if nothing had happened? Spirits, I am so tired.
For hours after his precipitous departure I just sat and looked at the photo he had dropped. Desperately trying to convince myself that his reaction had been for the best. That Tom‘s rejection of me was the only sane course of action.
It‘s the best thing that could have happened. This way I won‘t get the chance to hurt him any more and I won‘t have to face the guilt of betraying Angel.
I accept that it‘s the best way for all of us.
The only way.
So why is that sickening despair crushing me, smothering me with its black weight?
Why do I have this urge to leap forwards to the Conn, throw my arms around him and beg for another chance?
I can feel tears needling at the back of my eyes and the Herculean effort to retain my composure is suddenly too much. "Permission to leave the bridge, Captain" I manage to whisper Kathryn looks at me with concern. It dawns on her that there is something wrong and I see the worried solicitude in her eyes. But she doesn‘t question my request, she simply agrees with a gentle nod.
Perhaps her marriage has taught her compassion. As the turbolift doors close, I see Tom‘s shoulders relax and I know without doubt that it would be best if I avoided him for as long as possible. Perhaps even changed the duty roster so he wouldn‘t have to see me.
In the privacy of the turbolift I finally let the silent tears escape.
As I hear the turbolift doors closing, the strength sags from my body and I feel my shoulders slump.
Only the rigidness of the seat and helm prevent me from curling up into a fetal ball of misery.
He couldn‘t even bear to look at the back of my ungrateful head.
He hates me.