(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.
When I was a small boy, maybe four or five, my father gave me a puppy. He was a huge bouncing ball of gangly legs, fluff and tongue. I called him Chinook. He was the first true love of my life.
His collie grin and bright black eyes are etched in my memory so vividly that I can almost see him now. I was the centre of his universe. To his canine eyes I was a god. I stole his love and affection and when he was no longer convenient to me, when he stood in the way of my selfish ambitions, I abandoned him.
That surprises you, doesn‘t it? I expect you cannot imagine me doing such a thing. Cannot believe that I was once so callow and cruel?
To be honest, as I look back, I cannot either. The memory of him still haunts me. The ghost of Chinook has run faithfully at my side through all the years of my adult life. Sometimes, like now as I stoke Tom‘s sleeping head, I find myself expecting soft fur under my fingers and am surprised and bereaved by its absence.
Growing up on Dorvan V, with its rolling hills and uncultivated wilderness, I had a freedom as a child that most federation citizens can only dream of. There were no cities or concrete roads. Just miles of uncharted space where my gentle people had made a home.
Chinook and I ran wild over this land for all the early years of my childhood. Untamed and unfettered we developed that special relationship that I believe can only exist between a boy and his dog. Secure in their love for me, my family brought me up on a loose rein, allowing me to make my own mistakes. They granted me the space to learn my own wisdom, as I grew brown and strong in the sun.
Dorvan V was given to my people in reparation for a terrible wrong. Five hundred years ago we were hunted almost to extinction for no crime other than the fact that we lived on a bounteous land that stronger, crueler people wanted to own. There was no prime directive back then to protect us.
The superior weaponry of a less civilized race overcame us. We were herded into reservations and denied any access into the society that had enslaved us. But my people did not despair, they waited quietly, they prayed in the dreaming tents and preserved their belief in the beauty way until they would again find a land where they could live in peace.
I was raised knowing this. That we had overcome all adversities and that finally the Spirits had rewarded our faith and granted us this good life on a new planet near the Cardassian border.
I knew no other way of living and so my childhood was a happy one. My family was large and loving. All disputes were mediated not by governments but by tribal elders, wise old men who had generations of meditation and knowledge behind their decisions. All discipline was meted out with love and a light hand.
But, as always, my people had to compromise for what they wanted. It had been ordained that the price of our freedom was that our children had to be brought up with knowledge of the Federation. So when I was twelve, my bare feet were forced into leather sandals, my sun browned limbs wrapped in the restrictive embrace of clothing and my long hair was tied back. Thus bound, I was forced to attend school in the federation embassy.
I hated it. Leaving my family, leaving Chinook. For eight hours of every day I was forced into a sterile room and force-fed details of a life I could hardly begin to imagine. Each night I would return home to our simple wattle and daub home, to the warmth of a real fire, the loving shelter of my family and the ecstatic welcome of poor lonely Chinook.
Each morning I would take the long lonely trek back to the shining prison that locked me like a criminal from the sunlight. I cannot describe the misery that I endured for the first years of my incarceration.
I don‘t know exactly when I changed, when I began to fall under the spell of cleanliness and technology and space travel. When I became enchanted by the promises of adventure that were whispered in my ears. I only remember that my footsteps towards the school became lighter and the journey home became longer.
By the time I was fifteen, I no longer rushed home. I would find excuses to stay later and later at the embassy. My home was no longer a place I found comforting. I could only see the poverty we lived in. I was bewildered and angered by my people‘s refusal to accept progress. I was even unmoved by the frenzied greetings of faithful Chinook. I barely noticed his muzzle graying and his eyes becoming opaque like frosted glass as the years progressed.
I had found a dream. I began to scorn my people‘s failure to embrace the new technologies. I called my father a fool for clinging to a way of life that I now saw as retrograde and pointless. I saw my people as hopeless relics of a long gone age and their efforts to gently guide me back into the fold were met only with repulsion.
By the time I was seventeen the stars beckoned me intolerably. They winked at me through endless, sleepless nights, tormenting me with their hidden secrets. I could no longer see the beauty of the Dorvan dawn or appreciate the value of the wonderful wealth I had in my close and loving family. I saw only the invisible chains my family wrapped me in. I felt as though their loving embrace was choking me.
As I passed the Starfleet entrance exams and waited breathlessly for my acceptance to the Academy, I was resolute in my decision, deaf to my father‘s pleading with me to reconsider my chosen path.
As I counted down my days to leave I was unheeding of his warning that I was chasing fool‘s gold. That there was nothing of value that could be found in the universe if I couldn‘t find it within myself. That everything that really mattered was already within my grasp if I could only open my eyes to see it.
It was during this period of waiting that my old friend Chinook began to fail.
He had become riddled with bone cancer. Every week found another tumor growing on his thin frame. I used his condition to rail against my people. His illness was a validation of my opinion that it was foolishness to refuse new medical technology. I was filled with selfish, righteous anger instead of the silence of true grief.
As the day of my planned departure neared, Chinook‘s condition worsened. As tumors in his mouth made it difficult for him to eat and the sick smell of decay followed his limping footsteps, I stifled my memories of the lively puppy he had been and the years of faithful devotion he had given. I saw him only as an unwanted obligation, a barrier the Spirits had created to prevent my escape.
I knew it would be unforgivable to leave him when he was so near death but instead of praying for his recovery I found myself wishing every morning that he had passed away quietly in his sleep.
I could not bear to look at him. He represented everything that I wanted to escape from. Perhaps my heartless reaction to his suffering was just my mind‘s way of protecting me from the futility of hope. I would like to think so.
But the decision was taken from me. Finally admitting that there was nothing but pain left in Chinook‘s life, my father made the decision to end his suffering. I was relieved. Actually relieved because I would no longer be obligated to stay.
Does that disgust you to hear as much as it does me to remember?
It was not until the moment that I was holding his faithful body in my arms, as his trusting eyes watched me in ignorance, as I was hugging him for the last time as the lethal injection took hold, that the horror and loss finally hit me.
I howled. I screamed in anguish at the spirits that I had wasted these last precious years of his life. The times I shut him out of my room so that I could study, deaf to his frantic scratching at the door. The many hours I had regarded as inescapable duty when I walked him, instead of recapturing the wonder of our early years together.
At that moment I should have understood what my father meant. That everything that really mattered could only be found inside my own heart. That knowledge alone could not replace even the love of a dog.
But instead it took my father‘s own death at the hands of the Cardassians to teach me the pointlessness of a life without selflessness. That love should never be spurned for ambition or convenience. That my own selfish desire for happiness cannot be bought at the expense of another.
It was the death of my father that forced me to reclaim my honour. To accept that nothing is more important than being faithful to those who love you. In response to his death I finally fulfilled his wishes. I gave up my life in Starfleet and returned home.
It is strange that the very Federation I had worshipped like a false-idol could not comprehend that my decision was one of honour and duty. That the man who became the "Maquis traitor" was twice the man who had worn their uniform with such false pride.
Don‘t misunderstand me. I believe in the Federation, in its principles and objectives, but the strongest chain is only as secure as its weakest link and the Federation, like all organisations, is full of small-minded individuals who forget that sometimes the letter of the law does not fulfill its intent.
As I waged my own lonely war against the Cardassians I was painfully aware that many of my Maquis companions were simply rebels and misfits, mercenaries who only fought for money and glory. It didn‘t matter. They were weapons and tools I could use but I made friends of none of them. They repelled me. It was only with the Bajorans that I found kindred spirits, people who were fighting not only for their home but also for their belief in the Prophets.
Then I met B‘Elanna and she awakened in me a fierce protective empathy. Her rebellious nature reminded me of my own selfish, wasted youth. Had I been a lover of women I would have cleaved to her and thus filled my empty life but whilst I loved the company of women, their bright intuitive thinking, their strong softness, I needed a different kind of love.
During my years at the Academy and Starfleet I had obviously had relationships but to be blunt they were all just fuck-buddies, people I shared a drink and a bed with for a few nights before moving on. Perhaps it was just that my heart was a vacuum of coldness in those years between Chinook and my father‘s death.
Whatever cruel spirit had lodged in my heart when I was seventeen had clung like a leech, sucking out emotion instead of blood. With the Cardassian invasion, my heart had shattered and that dark spirit had fallen out. I was aware only of a gaping hole within myself that I needed to fill.
It was in this frame of mind, careering emotionally like an empty vessel on a stormy sea, that I met Angel.
He became the second true love of my life.
Perhaps the only way you can truly appreciate his effect on me is to consider the fact that within a mere hour or two of meeting him, I completely abandoned my beloved B‘Elanna alone in an alien spacecraft and failed to do more than send her a cursory comm. message or two for a whole week.
I had never in my life even imagined that creatures such as the Herans existed. When we were beamed onto their ship, the sheer beauty of each and every one of them overwhelmed me. They were like the spirit warriors of my childhood stories. They were taller than Klingons and more exquisite in feature than any artist‘s rendition of unattainable perfection.
I felt too short, too dark, and too ordinary. I had never before felt inadequate physically and I didn‘t like the feeling.
It was almost too much that I had been rescued by such beings. I could imagine the scorn with which they must be regarding us. I thought that we were probably an amusement to them. That they were regarding us like bugs on a microscope and they had deigned to help us only out of the ennui of Olympians.
I remember starting to become angry and defensive just standing there. I was bristling like a Tomcat in front of a rival for his territory. I could actually feel the hairs on the nape of my neck rising.
It was then that Angel looked straight into my eyes and smiled.
As though I were a pricked balloon the air escaped out of me with a gasp. There was absolutely no mistaking the look in those golden cat-eyes. It wasn‘t disgust or pity or scorn, it was pure unbridled lust.