(Yes another mini epic)
Rating. SLASH, m/m ®
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?
"Can I talk with you a moment, Chakotay? Privately?" I spin around in surprise at B‘Elanna‘s soft question. Just the fact that she is using my name rather than rank is warning enough that this is a personal matter and I‘ll just bet that I know what it is. I sigh despondently even as I give a submissive nod and lead her into the deserted observation lounge, which I have just passed on my way back to my quarters.
She‘s a little out of breath. Her small chest is heaving slightly against her tight uniform and a thin bead of sweat has gathered on her ridges making her forehead gleam even in the dimmed light. She must have run to catch up with me after I left Tom in Sandrines tonight.
I shouldn‘t be surprised really. I had sensed her bright interested eyes on us all evening. Several times I had looked up and caught her concerned and contemplative expression as she watched Tom and I interact. I suppose this conversation, which I am dreading, was inevitable. I simply hadn‘t expected it so soon. It certainly didn‘t take her long to put 2 and 2 together. Or maybe that should be, to put 1 and 1 together.
And it‘s not fair. It isn‘t as if Tom and I are being obvious in any way. It‘s only been three days since we agreed to start a relationship and we‘re both taking it very slowly. Just wining and dining and spending off-duty time with each other. A couple of chaste kisses. The occasional hug. We don‘t want to rush anything. Actually, that‘s somewhat misleading. The truth is that I alone am controlling the snail‘s pace of our courtship. Tom, on the other hand, is coming at me with typical breakneck, head-on, full warp speed.
But he‘s being oddly good-humoured about my failure to respond. Instead of the sullen, sulky expression of rejection that I expect each time I disentangle myself from his over-exuberant embraces, all I see is a mischievous smile playing around his pretty lips. His eyes are bright with secret knowledge. He knows it‘s just a matter of time. He is prepared to wait.
However, that doesn‘t stop him trying it on at every opportunity.
I guess he wouldn‘t be Tom if he were any different! So, as far as I know, no one has even discerned the changed dynamics of our relationship. They may be surprised by the amount of time we are spending together but, to be honest, I don‘t think anyone but Harry Kim has noticed even that much.
And as much as I dread this conversation, I would have been disappointed in her had she not. We are too close for secrets. You see we have a special bond, B‘Elanna and I. She‘s like the daughter I never had, the daughter I obviously never will have. That probably surprises you; that I see her in those terms. Then again, maybe not. It wasn‘t just the lack of any other suitable candidate that made her ask for me to give her away when she married Seven. When B‘Elanna first joined my Maquis cell, raw psychological wounds still smarting from her abortive attempt to survive Starfleet academy, she was the most unpopular recruit we had ever accepted (This was before Tom‘s dramatic debut, of course). To be honest, the general consensus within days was to throw her back where we had found her.
Fierce as a wounded vixen, she snapped wildly at any attempt to befriend her. Her quick uncontrollable temper drove most people away in droves and her quicksilver brain and her efforts to achieve engineering excellence, at the cost of any personal consideration of the crew, overwhelmed even the most generous-hearted of the rest. Like the time she took the sonic showers off line for a week to increase engine efficiency and never even bothered to let us know, let alone ask for permission. By the end of the week, the tempers were fraying so badly in that small, overcrowded and now pungent ship that there were many volunteers to take B‘Elanna off line, permanently.
For weeks she skulked silently through my ship like a lone wolf, baring her fangs at any gesture of friendship, snarling at any attempt to reach out to her.
I loved her.
From our very first meeting, I secretly adored every part of her defiant nature. I took it on myself to save her, to tame her, to gentle her raging soul. I took my time; I never wanted to break that indomitable spirit. I simply taught her to sway like a reed in the winds of adversity. To bend a little instead of always standing with rigid pride, howling defiance, in the path of the destructive storm of life.
She had never been loved before.
That‘s a little unfair. I‘m sure her mother did love her, in her own way, but for a half-human child trying to satisfy the demands of her bitter Klingon parent there was never any nurturing, only discipline and inevitable failure. Her father had long since abandoned them both and whilst I hate him a little for B‘Elanna‘s sake, I can sympathise with his decision (I‘ve met B‘Elanna‘s mother!). It‘s just a shame he didn‘t take his little girl with him when he left. She‘s so like Tom it‘s frightening. It‘s strange that although her background was so different materially from Tom‘s, they both suffered such similar abuses. Both had one dominating parent who could never be pleased. Neither was ever capable of achieving the impossible target of earning the affection that should have been given to them for free. Both came to me bitter and wounded, their self-esteem destroyed, their coping mechanisms equally defensive, and their personalities twisted and malformed.
I have wept for them both, those sad, lonely, unloved children. Unlike my failure to see through Tom‘s carefully cultivated persona, my blind ignorance for which I am not sure I will ever truly forgive myself, I understood B‘Elanna from the very first moment. Never once in those early days did I raise my voice to B‘Elanna or discipline her excesses. I simply withheld my approval when she displeased me. She soon learnt that it was better to bask in the warmth of my regard than freeze in the cold of my disapproval. I became her mentor, her guide, and her surrogate father.
Our relationship has deepened over the years. It has developed the subtle nuances of long association. We have both reached a level of trust in each other. And just as a child grows from seeing a parent with god-like adoration, into an adult who can finally perceive the many flaws that lurk under the image, so B‘Elanna has learnt to see beneath the still waters of my surface to the raging torrent below. So I am not surprised that she is confronting me now, only apprehensive. Oddly I find myself almost trembling at the prospect of her inevitable disapproval. The parent has become the child. Strange isn‘t it?
"What‘s going on between you and Tom, Chakotay?" B‘Elanna demands fiercely with typical directness.
Despite my disquiet, I find myself grinning at her characteristic audacity even as I try to formulate a reply. "Going on?" I say innocently, a delaying tactic to give myself time to think.
"Don‘t bother denying it. I know you too well. You‘re seeing him, aren‘t you?" she accuses
"And if I am?" I reply softly.
She is confused and momentarily wrong-footed by my easy admission. Her frown forces her ridges down to almost conceal her black flashing eyes.
"Do you know what you‘re doing?" she demands incredulously.
"No," I confess "But it‘s too late, B‘Elanna and I‘m too tired, too lonely to fight it anymore."
B‘Elanna bites her bottom lip pensively before answering "I understand your loneliness Chakotay. To be honest, I‘m more surprised you haven‘t given in to your needs earlier. But why the hell did you pick Tom Paris?"
Suddenly I am angry. I am furiously, bitterly disappointed in her. Of all people, I would have thought B‘Elanna might understand. I thought that she was one of his few true friends. I am appalled that she really thinks so little of him.
She actually flinches as I lash out; she‘s never seen such venom on my face or heard this tone of outrage in my voice before. "Why the hell shouldn‘t it be Tom? He‘s brave, beautiful, clever, witty, and wonderful. He‘s worth ten of anyone else on this ship!" I cry and both of us can hear the unspoken "including you." but instead of erupting with justified anger she just looks pityingly at me as though saddened by my passion "I know, Chakotay. But he‘s also more sensitive and vulnerable than most people realise. I can‘t bear the thought of him being the victim in this. I know you too well, Chakotay. I know the promise you made. I understand what a promise means to you. I know that you can‘t ever offer Tom what he needs." B‘Elanna replies softly "Whatever you give him won‘t be enough for him. I know, because Tom and I are so alike and it wouldn‘t be enough for me!"
I am ashamed of my outburst, of having had so little faith in her, after all.
"Sorry" I whisper and she is generous enough to wave my apology away with a shake of her head.
"Does he know?"
"Yes, of course!"
"Oh!" In that single word I can feel an unplundered wealth of disapproval.
"He says he accepts the situation, that he‘ll take the chance." I say defensively.
"And then just walk away?" She laughs in disbelief "That‘s what he says."
"Do you really believe him?"
"I don‘t know"
"And what about you? Will you just walk away too?"
"If the situation arises. It may not."
"But can you?"
It is a painfully long time before I can answer. I am aware of the ticking seconds with every panicked beat of my heart. I know that the longer I take to reply, the less likely she is to believe that the answer is yes. So, as I always say, if in doubt go for honesty. "I don‘t know." I whisper brokenly "I really don‘t know." And to my horror, I begin to cry.
Stepping swiftly forwards, concerned pity etched on her face, B‘Elanna runs the back of a hand softly down my wet cheek. I ignore my pride, close my eyes and lean into the comfort. We stand there in this frozen tableau for a long time as Voyager speeds on through the night, her engines humming happily as she unwittingly carries me ever closer to my Rubicon. I can feel B‘Elanna getting restless. Her concern for me conflicting with her knowledge that Seven will be waiting for her, wondering and worrying about her lateness.
"Go home, B‘Elanna" I order her gently.
"Will you be alright?" She asks with soft concern. "Yes." I reply. We both know that it‘s not really true but that it also cannot be helped.
"Go home to Seven, B‘Elanna" I repeat gently, "Leave me to think this over, I need some time by myself now!"
"If you‘re sure you‘re alright"
"Go!" I pat her gently on the shoulder.
She surprises me suddenly with a fierce hug before abruptly she spins away, as though embarrassed by her show of affection, and she leaves with just a fleeting backwards glance.
I walk slowly to the observation window. My tears blur the countless passing lights. As I stare out of the Plexiglas I am struck, as though for the first time, by the absolute vastness of Space. Each one of those pinpricks of light is a star. Planets surround each star. Many of those planets team with life of one fashion or another. There are an endless, infinite variety of souls in the galaxy. In this vast universe, filled with billions of billions of life forms, can an insignificant dot like me really matter? Can any decision I make have any implication in the greater scheme of things? Is there anyone truly judging me, weighing my life, finding me wanting? Do the actions of any one person really matter that much? Will life as we know it grind to a halt because of one broken promise? Does it really matter if I grasp for my own happiness? Yes.
Yes, it does.
Because it matters to me.