"Is this an official reprimand?" Chakotay asked coldly.
Kathryn rubbed her eyes tiredly. If she looked at Chakotay's granite
face for one more second she had a feeling that she would slap him,
if only to see shock on his face rather than the all too familiar
camouflage of glacial indifference.
She took a deep breath and then a steadying sip of her coffee, and
she almost regretted that she had ever brought the subject up.
"Chakotay, we're friends. I *thought* we were friends, at least. And
while this most certainly is *not* an official reprimand, it probably
should be. I have received numerous complaints about your attitude.
"The comments range from aloof and reserved to downright cold-blooded
and indifferent. Everyone is concerned about you, Chakotay. They
care. *I* care, and I can't bear to see you doing this to yourself.
You never smile any more. You are so unapproachable that the lower
ranks are terrified to share the bridge with you. You're the First
Officer, Chakotay. The crew have to feel comfortable around you."
Chakotay stiffened, but if anything his expression only grew more
remote, his eyes flat and dispassionate, his once generous lips
frigid and harsh.
"If you believe I have been derelict in the performance of my
duties," he grated.
"Not at all," she interrupted placatingly. "You are, and always have
been, a perfect First Officer, Chakotay. I am not suggesting that you
have done any less than your best professionally. You haven't missed
a single shift and your command decisions have been impeccable. All
I'm saying is that I already have a Vulcan senior officer, I don't
need *another* one. Besides, as I have always maintained, out here we
are alone. Voyager is not just a ship, it is a family and you were
always its heart, Chakotay. The general morale is lower at the moment
than it has ever been."
"Then perhaps you should be discussing this with your Morale Officer,
Captain. I was not aware that emotional welfare was my
responsibility," Chakotay replied cuttingly.
"The very fact that you just said that to me proves my point,
Chakotay. You always cared. Your concern for each and every member of
the crew was the one constant that everyone could rely on. You have,
however, been cold and distant with everyone for months. Since you
and Tom broke up, to be honest."
Chakotay flinched minutely at the mention of the pilot's name, his
composed guise wavering, and Kathryn felt guilty. Not so much that
she was willing to drop the subject however. Enough was enough, she
"My `relationship' with Tom Paris was a mistake," Chakotay
snapped. "One I have considered at leisure and have concluded as
being an incident I would rather not dwell on any longer. I would
prefer it, Captain, if you would refrain from mentioning it again."
"I agree that the relationship was a mistake, Chakotay. I just wish
you could both move on and put it behind you," she replied.
"I HAVE put it behind me," Chakotay growled.
"Which no doubt is why you haven't left your quarters on an evening
for over four months?" Kathryn challenged.
"I prefer my own company," Chakotay replied quellingly. "I don't
recall any Starfleet Regulation that requires me to spend my off-duty
hours in pointless socialising. As a Senior Officer I am within my
rights not to socialise with lower ranks."
"Since that excludes everyone on Voyager except myself, I think you
are taking the point too far," Kathryn retaliated.
Chakotay just shrugged, his eyes as flat and cold as opaque glass.
"Crewman Johnson came to see me yesterday," Kathryn said, watching
Chakotay's face for a reaction. He merely raised an eyebrow in an
uncanny imitation of Tuvok.
"He said he came to you for counselling about whether he should
continue to pursue a relationship with Crewman Harris, and you
advised him it would be a better use of his time to learn a musical
"So?" Chakotay asked dispassionately.
"So he wanted an advance on his rations towards a cello," Kathryn
Chakotay just shrugged again, unmoved.
Kathryn's eyes narrowed. She had tried to keep the conversation light-
hearted, but evidently it would take more than a bad joke to break
through Chakotay's shell of indifference.
"B'Elanna came to see me yesterday too. She was concerned about Tom,"
At last she saw a flash of emotion deep within Chakotay's eyes.
Granted it looked more like hate than concern, but still, it was an
"To be honest, I'm rather concerned about him myself," Kathryn
continued. "He's a shadow of his former self. He never socialises
anymore. He never jokes or laughs. He's become almost as ghost-like
as you have."
"Well, as we both know, Paris doesn't respond well to being
exclusive," Chakotay laughed coldly.
"He doesn't respond well to being with Harry," Kathryn snapped. "It's
as though the life has been sucked out of him since Harry moved in
"So?" Chakotay snapped. "What's this got to do with me? He made his
choice. He chose Harry. He made his bed and now he has to lie in it."
"Don't you ever wonder *why* he's staying with Harry when he
obviously is unhappy?" Kathryn demanded.
Although nobody had been surprised at first that Tom had decided to
finally stop fighting Harry's undisguised adoration of him, as the
weeks and months had progressed Tom's whole persona had changed. The
pilot's demeanour virtually screamed misery and everyone was
commenting on it, although, oddly enough, Harry still seemed ecstatic.
"No, I don't," Chakotay hissed. "I prefer not to think about him at
all. Paris and Kim deserve each other, believe me. Harry's got
the `record' now, hasn't he? So he must be doing `something' right.
As for Paris, he's obviously just run out of new people to screw."
"You used to call him `Tom'," Kathryn said mildly.
"The person I called `Tom' never existed except in my own
imagination," Chakotay replied tonelessly.
"I don't understand," Kathryn said helplessly, only to gasp in pity
as Chakotay finally allowed his veil of indifference to slide enough
for her to finally see the tortured man it concealed.
"He's dead, Kathryn. Even if he never really existed except in my
heart, that's how it feels. It is as though I loved someone and they
died and I can't escape the grief and the pain of knowing that they
have gone forever."
"But he's not dead, Chakotay," Kathryn protested.
"Oh yes he is," Chakotay replied firmly. "Lieutenant Paris may be
alive and well, but my Tom is dead."
"What do you think you look like in that?" Harry demanded furiously.
Tom looked helplessly down at his loose jeans and baggy t-shirt.
"You told me casual," he said, chewing nervously on his lower lip.
"You don't look casual, Tom, you look a fucking mess. I suggest we go
out together, play some pool, and you can't even be bothered to wear
clothes that fucking fit you," Harry growled. "I'm not going out with
you like that. What the hell would people think of me, going out with
a slob like you?"
Tom flushed, his eyes flashing with angry confusion.
"Last night you said we couldn't go out because my jeans were too
tight," he reminded Harry. "You said I looked like a slut. Now, they
are too loose? I can't please you, can I? There's always *something*
wrong with my clothes."
"Oh, that's right, blame me because you only have two dress modes,
slut and slob," Harry purred nastily.
"I'll change again," Tom offered desperately. If he had to spend
another evening in his cabin alone with Harry he was going to start
crawling the walls.
"Don't bother, we're staying in," Harry snapped.
"We *always* stay in," Tom complained petulantly.
"Well, whose fault is that, Tom?" Harry replied smugly.
"I said I'd get changed, Harry. *You* pick my damned clothes this
"You're suddenly very keen to go out," Harry said suspiciously.
"Hell, Harry, it's been months since we did anything together. I just
want to go out for a change. I sit at the helm all day, then I sit
here all night, it's driving me crazy Harry. I need some exercise,
Harry tipped his head at the bedroom door.
"I think you get lots of exercise, Tom, but if you want we can always
fuck *before* dinner as well, for a change," he suggested, licking
Tom shuddered, his skin crawling as usual at the thought of Harry
touching him, using him. When Harry fucked him it wasn't rape, Tom
knew. Harry never hurt him, never *physically* forced him, yet
somehow it would be easier if he did. If Harry had ever just used his
body, Tom would have been able to somehow find a way out of this
But Harry didn't. Harry didn't just fuck him. Harry worshipped him.
Every touch of Harry's fingers on his skin was applied with an
adoration that was impossible to refute and yet was terrifying. Harry
was obsessed by him to the point of madness. Harry needed to own him,
control him, dominate him. Sometimes, he wondered whether Harry was
truly sane at all.
"Why don't we go out first?" Tom wheedled. "It would be fun, Haz.
Like the old days, huh?"
"It's him, isn't it? He's going to be there tonight. That's why you
want to go out?" Harry demanded, his eyes flashing with jealousy.
"Don't be stupid, of course he won't be there. He's never there. He
never leaves his quarters, so there's no reason for you to keep me in
all the time," Tom soothed.
"Who told you he always stays in his quarters?" Harry demanded.
"Who the fuck have you been discussing him with, Tom?"
"No one, Harry. Honest. It's just common knowledge, isn't it?"
"So, you talk to other people about Chakotay?"
"No," Tom denied tiredly.
"Do they pass messages between you?"
"Thought you'd deny it," Harry spat. "SLUT!"
"Fuck this crap, I'm going out," Tom growled, starting to push past
the furious Ensign.
"So you *are* meeting him," Harry accused.
"You're fucking crazy, Harry. I am NOT MEETING HIM! Now get the fuck
out of my way."
"Take one foot out of that door, and I'll comm the Captain," Harry
hissed. "I'll tell her what you're doing."
"What exactly *am* I doing, Harry?" Tom demanded.
"Dropping your lover in one shit-load of trouble," Harry hissed.
"HE'S NOT MY LOVER," Tom yelled.
"Well he won't be when he's in the brig for assaulting you," Harry
Tom froze in the doorway.
"That's old news, Harry," he said quietly.
"Not to the Captain it isn't. I saved the tricorder logs, remember?"
Harry reminded him yet again. "Oddly enough, she came to see me
today, wanted to talk to me about you. She wanted to know why you're
being so unsociable these days.
"I told her that Chakotay had really hurt you. Of course, I didn't
tell her the details because you asked me not to and I trusted you to
stay away from him. If you go out, though, I think for your own sake
I'm going to have to tell her the rest of the story."
"You bastard," Tom hissed in defeat.
Harry shrugged. With someone like Tom, you sometimes had to be cruel
to be kind. He was rather pissed off with Tom to be truthful. After
almost five months of experiencing true love, Tom should have learnt
to appreciate him. Instead they wasted a good ten minutes every
evening having variations of this same argument.
Perhaps it was just one of Tom's games, testing him like this to be
sure that Harry was still completely under his spell. Yeah, that was
it. Tom just needed to know that Harry would never give him up.
"So, since we're staying in, what do you want for dinner, honey?" he
asked with a triumphant smile.
"I don't like it," Kathryn announced to the silent room.
Judging by the expressions on the faces of most of the Senior Staff,
they didn't like the idea of someone going alone to the surface
"We can't turn our back on this opportunity, Captain," B'Elanna
insisted. "We need the dilithium. I'll go."
"You can't," Chakotay stated bluntly. "Our observation of the natives
clearly indicates that females are considered inferior and can't
trade for goods."
"Primitive savages," B'Elanna hissed.
"Which is why the Prime Directive applies here, Lieutenant Torres,"
Tuvok added. "It appears from our observations that a single "male"
trader would not cause undue suspicion or fear. These people appear
to have a rigid system of caste and tribe. The only interaction
between the scattered settlements happens when lone merchants cross
the deserts that separate the villages. From what we have seen the
merchants never travel in pairs and the initial hostility that they
encounter when they approach the settlements indicates a high level
"I still don't see why Tom has to go," Harry griped, just this side
"Physically he and Seven are the closest to the norm for the natives.
Tom is the only suitable male candidate. He will require only minor
surgical adaptation to blend in," the Doctor replied.
"Nobody *has* to go," Kathryn interrupted. "This is not an order,
Tom. I am uncomfortable with the idea that you will be alone down
there and will fully understand if you would rather not volunteer."
Tom shifted uncomfortably on his seat, trying to ignore the way
Chakotay was glowering at him. There was no way in hell he was
refusing in front of him. Chakotay already thought he was lying scum,
he didn't want to add `coward' to Chakotay's list of adjectives.
"Of course I volunteer, Captain," Tom said nonchalantly, even as his
stomach churned a little. He'd seen the vids of the planet below and
it was hardly his nomination for holiday destination of the year. On
the other hand, it would be a chance to escape Harry's cloying
affection for a few days, which had to be a good thing.
"Thank you, Tom," Kathryn said sincerely. She had never before
questioned whether Tom would put himself on the line for the good of
the ship but he had been so subdued recently that his reactions had
been as unpredictable as Chakotay's of late.
"I will keep a transporter lock on you at all times," Tuvok
stated. "However, it would be preferable if you avoided any situation
which would require its use. The natives would undoubtedly question
your disappearance in front of their eyes."
Tom rolled his eyes.
"I'm aware of the Prime Directive, Tuvok. My cover story is sound.
I'll be in and out of there in no time," he assured the Vulcan.
"I'm sure your acting abilities will be to their usual impeccable
standards, Lieutenant," Chakotay drawled.
Tom flinched but to his relief no one else seemed to notice the barb
in Chakotay's words.
"He's doing it deliberately. It was his idea that you went," Harry
hissed when they returned to Tom's quarters.
"It wasn't his idea," Tom argued. "I'm the logical choice. Anyway,
it's no big deal."
"No big deal?" Harry demanded furiously. "You're going to be alone on
a hostile planet, with natives so paranoid that they only allow
single visitors, and then only after giving them a full body search.
It's a damned suicide mission. It's Chakotay's doing, I swear. He's
trying to get you killed."
"For god's sake, Harry. Yesterday you said I was having an affair
with him behind your back. Now you think he's trying to kill me. I
wish you'd at least be consistent in your fantasies," Tom complained.
Harry's face fell.
"I'm only concerned about you because I love you," he moaned. "You're
so damned ungrateful, Tom. Here I am, the only person who gives a
shit about you and you act as if it's a crime to care about you. I
didn't see your precious Chakotay trying to talk the Captain out of
sending you down into a death trap."
"It's not a death trap, Harry. It's a mission," Tom snapped, but
Harry could see the first traces of uncertainty in Tom's eyes. Harry
rammed the point home.
"It was so mean of him to say that you were ideal for the mission
because you're such a natural liar," he said sympathetically.
"He did *not* call me a liar," Tom protested.
"Actor, Liar, whatever," Harry shrugged. "It was obvious what he
"Was it?" Tom asked, his eyes suddenly sparkling with unshed tears.
"Of course it was," Harry commiserated. "Everyone noticed. Tell you
what. Why don't you go tell the Captain you've changed your mind?
Like she said, it's a voluntary thing."
"I am not changing my mind," Tom hissed.
Harry just smiled enigmatically.
Tom took a deep breath, straightened his shoulders and stepped
forward into the Captain's ready room. He was so busy rehearsing what
he was going to say that it took him a moment to realise that it was
Chakotay sitting in the Captain's usual chair.
"Lieutenant?" Chakotay spat.
"I, um, I was looking for the Captain," Tom muttered, keeping his
eyes firmly locked on the carpet under his feet.
"She's not here," Chakotay clarified unnecessarily. "What do you
"I, um," Tom stuttered.
A cold smirk played on Chakotay's lips.
"Oh, don't tell me. You've decided you *don't* want to do it after
all," Chakotay mocked. "What happened, Paris? You discovered there
wasn't any bonus pay on offer?" he mocked.
Anger flared through Tom. He'd just spent two hours arguing with
Harry over the away mission. He had finally given in to Harry's
threats, only to find himself derided by the man he had sold his soul
Fuck it. Guilt was guilt, but he had taken reparation too far
already. He was sick and tired of trying to protect a man who
evidently would never see him as anything but scum. Maybe he *was*
scum, but if so then why the hell was he even trying to be anything
He would go to the surface, he decided. It was the least he could do
for the rest of the crew, and if Harry finally made good on his
threats, then so be it. He couldn't live like this any longer.
He stiffened his shoulders proudly and looked Chakotay straight in
the face for the first time since the day Chakotay had broken his
"I came to discuss a personal matter. That is all, Commander. It can
wait until I return from the planet," he said proudly, then turned on
his heel and left the room without waiting to be dismissed.
Chakotay narrowed his eyes as he watched the door close. He wasn't
fooled. Paris *had* come to decline the mission, he was sure.
Fortunately for the rest of the crew, he had obviously shamed Paris
to his senses. It was surprising, but satisfying, that Paris still
cared at least *that* much about his own opinion, he decided.
Tom didn't risk returning to his quarters. He hoped that if Harry
didn't find out he had gone until it was too late, then he wouldn't
bother going through with his threat. After all, why would he waste
his only lever over Tom?
Harry wasn't his friend. Tom understood that now. He'd understood
that since the first night that Harry had blackmailed him into having
sex with him. Harry *did* love him. But it wasn't any cause for
celebration. Harry's version of love was a selfish, possessive
Harry's love was an albatross around Tom's neck, choking him,
weighing him down, draining him of strength and eating away at Tom's
If he had one, of course. Chakotay hadn't seemed to think so and Tom
was beginning to believe he was right. Harry's love, as injurious and
oppressive as it was, was probably the best that he deserved.
Hell, with any luck Harry would turn out to be right about this being
a suicide mission, he decided as he left Sickbay with his new facial
ridges and headed for the transporter room.
Maybe this *was* a plot by Chakotay to finally claim his vengeance.
Perhaps he would die on the planet below.
To tell the truth, the thought was oddly appealing to him.