(Yes another mini epic)
Rating. SLASH, m/m (not sure how to rate this, some disturbing imagery)
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. 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?
I know that it is just my imagination that I am cold. The ambient temperature in my quarters is precisely controlled. There are no draughts in a Starship. Therefore the freezing breeze that whispers around me, caressing my naked body with ghostly embraces is impossible. The rigid gooseflesh on my shivering limbs is merely a psychological phenomenon.
I know this, but even so, the fact remains that I am too cold to sit here any longer. Too aware of the chill in my body to relax into meditation. As if the state of mind required to meet my spirit guide had ever been a possibility today, anyway. Self-delusion seems to be my favorite pastime at the moment. I have been sitting here futilely for hours. My jumbled thoughts and emotions chasing each other like snarling dogs and cats around the grey ruined alleys of my mind. My legs are stiff as I unwrap my body to stand. Suddenly I can feel the dull aches and niggles of a dozen old injuries. The muscles in my calves are prickling as though savaged by tiny teeth.
I‘m getting old, I realise suddenly, and the realisation is like a dash of icy water over my already cold frame. Too old to be alone.
"What‘s up, Tom?"
Lost in contemplative misery I hadn‘t even heard Harry‘s approach. As he sat down with his tray he looked at me in concern and waved his fingers in my face "Voyager to Tom! Come in Tom!"
I shook my head and focused on the offending hand
"Put it away, Haz, before you poke my eyes out"
"So what‘s up"
"It doesn‘t look like nothing to me."
"You don‘t look fine"
"What‘s that supposed to mean?"
"We‘ll you‘ve eaten your dinner so I KNOW something‘s wrong!"
I gaze at my tray in astonishment. He‘s right. I‘ve eaten everything Neelix gave me. I didn‘t taste it (obviously); in fact I can‘t even think what colour it was. I just sat like an automaton and shoveled it in my mouth.
Comfort eating. That‘s what my Nan used to call it when she used to chase my tears away with homemade cookies. Ugh! Fancy comparing Nan‘s cookies with Neelix surprise!
Remembering her soft generous lap, her plump smiling face, I am choked by a sudden wave of nostalgia and guilt. She‘s been dead for years. Dead in a transporter malfunction long before Caldik Prime. Her body twisted and knurled into a monstrous quiver of tortured flesh. I cannot bear to think about her. Haven‘t thought about her for years. But I‘m wallowing in self-flagellation today. Counting my past transgressions and lining them up like ducks in a row. My own private portrait gallery of the ghosts of my many victims. It was my fault, you see. The transporter accident was my fault. I don‘t mean technically. I was only ten at the time. It was not until I joined Starfleet that I was actually given weapons of destruction like shuttles to do my dirty work. No, I wasn‘t responsible for the accident, only the fact that she was in it.
I‘d fucked up again, big surprise, and Dad had gone crazy. He‘d only just returned from Cardassia where he‘d briefly been a POW. He was changed by the experience. Don‘t misunderstand me, he‘d always been tough and demanding but somehow he was worse after that experience. It was like despair had found a chink in his armour and had slunk in and made a home there for the duration. You could almost see it hovering over his shoulders like a deformed hump. Anyway, I fucked up and he punished me more than I thought I deserved so I sent this whining vid-clip to Nan. Showing her the bruises. Playing for sympathy like the coward I was. She was in Europe at the time at some big inter-planetary conference. But she didn‘t hesitate.
She took one look at my tear-stained, snot-covered face and jumped on a transporter pad. She never arrived. Or at least what arrived fortunately didn‘t live long enough to become her. Dad was so mad with me, he made me go with him to identify the remains. Making sure I could finally be in no doubt of the cost of my actions. I remember puking everywhere. I even remember how the doctors were horrified at my presence. How they tried to stop Dad taking me in. It was nice of them, to care I mean. But then I‘m sure they only bothered because they didn‘t know it was my fault she was dead!
So, anyway, that‘s how Nan died. It was a blessing in a way. It meant she never witnessed my ultimate disgrace. I never had to see scorn warp those well-loved features. She died with her illusion that I was worth caring about.
Except, maybe, just maybe, she would have been the one person who would have understood. The one person who loved me enough to forgive what couldn‘t be forgiven.
I can‘t prevent a small sob escaping.
"Tom?" Harry is really concerned now. I have to make an effort to comfort him.
"S‘Okay, Haz. I guess I‘m just suddenly homesick!" I explain with a false but hopefully convincing smile.
"Oh!" He says, but he‘s known me too long to accept it as the real answer. Nobody could have been my friend for the last five years and fail to realise that I am the one person on Voyager who didn‘t particularly want us to get home.
And now I am so desperate to stay in the DQ that the mad urge to take over engineering and eject the warpcore directly into a planetoid is becoming almost irresistible.
Because even if Chakotay hates the way I acted last night, even if it takes him months to forgive me, if I could find a way to strand us here, to eradicate any possibility of returning home, then surely he would finally give in and love me.
But only if he didn‘t find out what I‘d done, of course. Which would be highly unlikely. Even more unlikely than him coming to my quarters tonight and making up!
If I had really thought it through I wouldn‘t have come here. I guess it was only because I truly thought that Tom hated me that made me think it a good move to come to his quarters. I guess that sounds peculiar but it‘s true.
After giving up my unproductive attempt at meditation I attempted an equally futile task, that of trying to amend the duty rosters to separate Tom and I. You‘d think it would be easy, wouldn‘t you, just splitting up two members of a crew this size. If it were anyone else it possibly would be. But the Chief Conn. Officer and the First Officer belong on the bridge together.
Anyway, what about Department Head meetings? I think Kathryn would soon smell a rat if we took turns finding excuses not to attend together.
No, the only solution is to make our peace, accept that our abortive relationship had been a mistake and move on. That‘s why I went to his quarters. Just so we could settle our differences before another long bridge shift. The path of good intentions and all that! You see, I was totally unprepared for Tom‘s reaction. When I walked through the door I nearly looked over my shoulder to see who was following me. It could have been the ghost of Zephram Cochrane himself, judging by the absolute joy that filled Tom‘s beautiful face.
"Oh, Chakotay!" Tom sighed blissfully.
That‘s when I realised my colossal mistake. So here I am, standing three steps inside Tom‘s quarters, wishing desperately that I had a time machine to undo the last 60 seconds. "I‘m so glad you‘ve come. " Tom beamed, "I am SO sorry about last night. I was stupid and childish to run off like that. It was shock I think. I felt.well I felt inadequate I guess, but it doesn‘t matter.
All that matters is us!"
He‘s walking towards me, arms outstretched, with a huge welcoming grin splitting his face and I admit for a moment of weakness I am tempted. But sanity takes over and I put a hand out forbiddingly. Tom freezes uncertainly, his eyes darting between my stony face and my raised arm. I see his face crumple. The smile slips slowly off his face like melted wax. His eyes widen and darken in horrified understanding and his Adam‘s apple jumps with his heart-rending sob.
Sucker-punched he wavers for a moment in anguish and then a shutter slams down behind his eyes and all I can see is his hate as he waits for me to explain my presence.
"I‘m sorry Tom, I just came to make sure that you were okay. That you didn‘t have a problem with me."
Tom‘s eyes narrow dangerously as he considers my inadequate words.
"Oh, don‘t worry Commander," He drawls with sudden comprehension "I‘ll keep it off the bridge" On another occasion that insolent tone would have sparked my anger. As it is, I am simply filled with guilty sorrow as I turn to leave. Tom‘s voice is surprisingly soft as he stops me with his question "Won‘t you at least tell me why?"
"Because I love you, Tom."
I see him blink in complete confusion
"That‘s, that‘s crazy. If you love me what‘s the problem?"
"Loves a sacred thing to me, Tom. Maybe it‘s an Indian thing."
He‘s unsurprisingly unamused by my weak attempt at humour. He folds his arms across his chest and stares me down "Explain" he demands.
"I can‘t just turn it on and off, Tom. How can I share my life with you and then turn to you one day and say it‘s over? I thought I could try. Thought as long as I was honest with you that we might have a chance. But I thought about it all last night after you left and I realised that I was wrong. I can‘t do it to you, Tom. It would be obscene."
"I don‘t care. I‘m willing to take the chance if you are."
"It‘s easy to say that now, Tom. We are light years from home. " "So take a chance Chakotay. We might never get home and even if we do, how do you even know he‘s still waiting for you? " "Because he is, Tom. He can‘t live without me. He will never give me up. Accept it Tom. We cannot do this. "
"Maybe he‘s dead, have you thought of that?" Tom screams bitterly at me. "If he loves you so damn much, if he can‘t live without you, maybe he slit his wrists the day you were lost in the badlands!" I find myself pale at the words. Not the content of course, I‘ve thought of little else for five years, but the venom, the pain in Tom‘s voice as he says it. I‘m not angry at his cruel words.
I understand his bitterness. After all, I caused it. "I can‘t take the chance, Tom. I can‘t lead you on and then discard you. It‘s not fair, it‘s not right and I won‘t do it." Grief-stricken I look at him, noting his pale trembling, his sick despair. I have done this to him. With one error of judgement, With one thoughtless, tactless wink I have turned my beloved Tom into this shivering wreck. Well, no more. It‘s over. "I won‘t do this to you, Tom. Put me, put US out of your mind. It isn‘t going to happen." I say with gentle sorrow and even as my heart screams in protest I turn to walk out of the door.
"Who died and made you God, Chakotay?" I hear myself hiss venomously. It is enough to make him pause his exit. Bewilderment is etched over his guilt-ridden expression, like a faint line drawing on top of an oil painting. When he speaks it is in that same damnably soft tone. Considerate, caring, concerned. He is trying to find a way to placate me.
"What do you mean, Tom. You know that this is the only solution, don‘t you?"
I want to scream. I want to shatter that composure. I want to see passion in his face not this careful appeasement. "How dare you make my choices for me? Do you think so little of me that you don‘t believe I even know what my own feelings are?" "I‘m not questioning the validity of your emotions, Tom, I just don‘t believe you‘ve considered the ramifications of your decision. I think you‘ve had enough rejection in your life without having to suffer mine as well."
"What the hell do you know about MY life?" I yell.
"Enough" Chakotay replies simply. "I won‘t be responsible for hurting you."
"You ARE hurting me!"
"You‘ll get over it, Tom." He says sadly and turns to leave again. I watch him leaving me forever. Like everybody always leaves me.
That‘s when I lose it completely.
Without conscious choice, without even being aware of making the decision, I launch myself across the room and crash into his back. Momentarily winded by my sudden assault he is helpless against my flailing fists as I pummel his chest again and again. I‘m not punching him; I‘m just battering his chest with the heels of my hands. Trying desperately to break through to his heart and force it to respond to me. I am crying so hard I barely see his reaction. I expect him to grab my wrists or maybe even strike me in the jaw. But I don‘t care what he does to me; at this point I‘m too hysterical to care.
It takes me a moment to realise that he has simply wrapped his strong arms around me and pulled me into his embrace. Crushed into his chest I stop fighting and begin to heave with great racking sobs. He tightens his hug and begins to stroke my back soothingly. Such a simple action but it disarms me completely. I simply drop my head onto his shoulder and collapse against him and we stay like this, our hearts thudding desperately together until their rhythm finally slows. "I‘m sorry," we both say simultaneously, and the sudden releases of tension make us stagger a little.
Without any spoken agreement, we make our way to the couch and sit down together. Chakotay keeps one arm draped across my shoulders and I sigh as I snuggle in a little closer. I feel him stiffen a little but he doesn‘t actually object to my action. We stay that way for a long time, both lost in thought. Finally he releases me with a huge sigh and straightens himself up. I feel bereft as he removes his arm and then turns slightly to face me.
"So, Tom, what do we do now?" Chakotay asks, searching my face with his brown eyes full of concern.
I find myself unable to answer. I look down at my lap where my fingers are dancing together in a nervous waltz. Chakotay gives another sigh. I can sense him making a decision. I don‘t dare look at him in case I jinx it. When he finally speaks, I shut my eyes just in case.
"Okay, Tom, I owe you the truth at least. I will give you my offer and then it is up to you to decide whether to accept it. You‘re right. It‘s your decision too."
Hope and fear war inside me as I finally look up to hear his ‘offer‘ "I love you, Tom and I‘m reasonably certain you feel the same way.
What I want, what I would like, is a relationship with you. Not just sex but friendship and companionship. I want you to share my quarters, to share my life. To be the first thing I see in the morning and the last thing I see at night. I want us to be able to be open about our feelings. I want to share our happiness." "That‘s what I want too." I interrupt breathlessly but I am stopped by his raised hand to my lips.
"I haven‘t finished, Tom" he warns softly, so I shut up and nod for him to continue.
"I want all these things Tom but I have to know, have to be absolutely certain, that you understand it might not be forever. That should the day come that I have to leave you there will be no recrimination, no hatred between us. Are you sure you can really do this, Tom? Are you absolutely positive that you want to take the risk?"
You see, he doesn‘t know me really. For all his love and concern he really doesn‘t know me at all, does he?
I‘m Tom Paris. Risk is my middle-name.
Besides, whilst I am touched by his loyalty, the odds are in my favour aren‘t they? Let‘s look at this in perspective: the chances of us surviving this journey - Slim, the chances of us returning home -
Slim, the chances of Angel being alive and still waiting for him
I haven‘t got anything to worry about.