The Shattering of the Mask 31
See part 1 for disclaimer
"What the fuck are you playing at, Tom?" Harry hissed as he slid into the vacant space on Tom's right.
"Pool, Harry," Tom mocked. "Have you forgotten the name of it already? Now you have other things to occupy your spare time, I mean." He dipped his head significantly at the end of the bar where B'Elanna was sitting, her own eyes narrow with suspicion as she watched her boyfriend and ex-boyfriend talking.
"You're playing pool with *him*, Tom," Harry snarled. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
Tom flinched a little under Harry's scrutiny but attempted a casual shrug as he reached for the two beers that Sandrine had placed on the bar for him.
"Butt out, Harry. Go fuck your 'girlfriend' or something. It's nothing to do with you."
Across the room, Chakotay stiffened in fury. He didn't blame Harry for the way he felt about him, but it was obvious from Tom's stiff posture and angrily flushed cheeks that Harry was upsetting Tom and Chakotay had a damned good idea that *he* was the topic of conversation. He hesitated to approach though. A show of temper would only seem to prove Harry's wariness of him and might frighten Tom. So he seethed in impotent concern and watched the two men argue at the bar.
"Tom, I'm your friend," Harry said quietly.
"Some friend," Tom hissed. Then he flushed slightly as Harry's eyes went wide with hurt. "I'm sorry. That wasn't fair. You were always a good friend to me until, until -"
"Until *he* deliberately drove us apart, Tom. I admit I was selfish. I thought about my career, I even admit that my feelings for B'Elanna played a part, but ultimately the reason you and I fell out was Chakotay," Harry replied.
"I know," Tom acknowledged sadly.
"Can we, I mean, do you think we, hell, I mean, could we be friends again, Tom?" Harry asked hopefully.
"I don't know, Harry. Can *you* accept that Chakotay and I are together?" Tom replied.
"Together?" Harry gasped in complete disbelief. "As in *together*? Shit, does the Captain know about this?"
"And if I said no, would you run and tell her?" Tom demanded.
"Yes I would, dammit. He's dangerous Tom," Harry insisted.
"He was ill. He's better, and the Captain *does* know, so don't waste your breath," Tom hissed.
"He's better? That's why you flinch whenever he comes near you, is it? I've been watching you, Tom. Every time you take a shot you check that he isn't standing behind you. How the hell can you get "together" with someone who scares the shit out of you?" Harry asked, his voice dripping with outrage.
"I love him," Tom replied firmly. "None of the rest matters. We'll work it out."
"Damn it, Tom. It doesn't make sense. Okay, I accept that Chakotay was ill, but how am I supposed to believe he is better and that you are safe when you obviously don't even believe it yourself?" Harry demanded.
"I *do* believe it, Harry. I just, hell, I just get flashbacks, you know? It's not about Chakotay, it's about Mad Chak. I know they aren't the same person," Tom said defensively.
Harry looked at Tom nervously. It worried him immensely that Tom was trying to separate Chakotay's current persona from his previous one in such a fashion. It didn't seem at all natural to him. Surely it only proved that Tom was still psychologically scarred by his experience, and if so then his current fascination with Chakotay was based on those scars, not genuine feelings of affection.
"How the hell can you forgive him, Tom, after all he did to you?" he demanded.
"The same way as I forgive you for running out on me, and shacking up with my girlfriend I guess," he replied nastily.
Harry jerked as though slapped by Tom's words. His own feelings of intense guilt caused him to respond with uncharacteristic spite.
"She wasn't your girlfriend, Tom. You'd finished the relationship yourself by letting Dalby fuck your ass, if you remember."
Chakotay lurched forwards as he saw Tom's fist fly unerringly into Harry's face, felling him to the ground. Then he froze again, grinding his teeth in frustration. This was Tom's fight, he reminded himself. Tom wouldn't thank him for interfering, even in the capacity of First Officer. Unless the fight escalated, he would stay out of it.
Harry had hauled himself back to his feet and had launched himself at Tom, but as far as Chakotay could see, neither man was really hurting the other, they were just letting off some much needed steam. A few bruises would heal faster than the hurt Tom would feel if Chakotay implied he was incapable of looking after himself by interfering in the fight.
No sooner had he made the decision than he saw B'Elanna rising from her seat, so he swiftly crossed the room to prevent her joining the affray.
"Stay out of it, Lieutenant," he snapped.
"They're hurting each other," she protested. Then her eyes narrowed. "Not that Tom getting hurt would bother *you* I guess," she added viciously.
Chakotay ignored the deep pang of guilt that struck him as he absorbed her words.
"They're friends, B'Elanna. Tom needs a friend. If this will let Harry and him come to an understanding again, then a few bruises on both sides will be worth it."
"Tom's lack of friends is your fault, Chakotay. You loaded the dice against him before he even set foot on this ship and because everyone wants to protect you, everyone thinks he had a fucking nervous breakdown and are avoiding him like a plague. But you know what I really can't forgive you for? I loved him. I really loved him. Did you know that? Did you understand that when you broke us apart?" B'Elanna demanded, her dark eyes sparkling with unshed tears.
"I'm sorry," Chakotay offered helplessly.
"Sure you are. That's why you still have your claws in him, isn't it?" B'Elanna accused bitterly.
"You want him back?" Chakotay asked in surprise.
"It's too late," she spat. "You won, okay? They say you were crazy. I don't believe it. You were crazy like a fox. You got what you wanted, didn't you? How fucking crazy is that?"
"I didn't get what I 'wanted', B'Elanna. I didn't *want* Tom to be walking around like a shell-shock victim. I don't want the man I love to flinch every time I go near him. I don't fucking *want* to spend the rest of my life feeling sick with guilt for doing things that I don't even remember doing, things that I can never put right."
"You should have killed yourself, Chakotay. That was what your honor demanded. You're a coward," she spat.
Chakotay reeled with hurt. Yet, he understood that she wasn't talking now as a spurned lover, but as a Klingon, for whom honor was more important than life.
"I would be a coward if I *did* kill myself, B'Elanna. It's what I wanted to do."
"What stopped you?" she demanded.
"Tom did. He needs me, B'Elanna. I don't deserve him. I don't deserve for him to need me. But he *does* need me, and I won't turn my back on him," Chakotay replied softly.
"You can't make things right, Chakotay. You can't undo what was done."
"I know, but maybe I can make his future better. I took away eight years of his life and I owe him at least an equal amount of my own life to try and right the wrongs that I did."
"And what then, Chakotay?" B'Elanna demanded. "No, don't tell me. By then you and he will be an *item*."
"Maybe. Or maybe he'll heal and move on without me," Chakotay said sadly.
"I really think we *should* stop the fight, or there will be nothing left to move on," B'Elanna replied acerbically.
Chakotay shook his head.
"They're okay, look," he replied, nodding to where Tom and Harry were now cautiously circling each other and trading insults rather than punches.
"How do you figure that?" she asked suspiciously.
"Because, any moment now, Tom is going to laugh," Chakotay replied quietly.
B'Elanna looked at him in disbelief.
Harry watched Tom's right hand warily. His jaw and ribs were already aching from its surprisingly strong punch.
"I never said you were mad. I said you were out of your fucking mind. It's not the same thing," he hissed defensively. "It's not an insult. It's true. You *are* out of your fucking mind."
And Tom laughed.
"Yeah, I guess I am," he agreed finally.
Harry looked at him in hesitant hope.
"Forget it, Harry. Take me *and* Chak or call it quits," Tom warned.
"You really mean that, don't you?" Harry gasped, massaging his sore rib cage.
"Yeah," Tom replied firmly.
"I can't deal with him, Tom. Not yet. I look at him and I not only remember what he did. I remember what I *didn't* do and I am so ashamed of myself that I want to die."
"You saved my ass, Harry. Remember? You broke into Mad Chak's quarters and saved my ass, literally. Don't you think that makes up for everything? I do."
"You do?" Harry asked in disbelief
"Yeah," Tom answered softly.
"So why the hell did you just beat the crap out of me?" Harry whined.
"Because I'm out of my fucking mind, remember?"
Harry snorted but grinned back. Then his smile faded a little.
"I can't deal with you and him together Tom."
"I struggle with the idea of you and B'Elanna, to be honest," Tom replied.
"So no foursomes, huh?" Harry said.
"No foursomes," he agreed.
"Wanna play pool tomorrow night?" Harry asked hopefully.
"Sure, I've nearly cleaned out Chak's account. I may as well have a go at yours," Tom laughed.
"We okay, Tom?"
"Sure Harry. We're better than okay. We're friends," Tom said quietly.
B'Elanna rolled her eyes as she saw Tom and Harry hug each other.
"I guess you were right," she admitted grudgingly.
"Yes," Chakotay murmured with relief.
"Harry hates you, you know. He can't forgive you for what you did."
"I can't forgive myself, B'Elanna," Chakotay answered sadly.
B'Elanna cleared her throat.
"What I said was unfair, Chakotay. About you deliberately pretending to be crazy. I know it's not true. I just wanted to hurt you."
"It's okay, B'Elanna. I hurt you. Turnabout is fair play, isn't it?"
"If you ever hurt him again, I *will* kill you, Chakotay," she told him solemnly.
"If I ever hurt him again, I expect you to, B'Elanna," Chakotay replied, equally solemnly.
"If Tom and Harry start seeing each other like they used to, we are both going to be spending a lot of time alone, Chakotay."
"I know," Chakotay answered. "But I want Tom to be happy, so its okay."
"Humph," B'Elanna growled.
They stood in silence for a long time, watching Tom and Harry get reacquainted, neither of them willing to interfere in the delicate process of mending fences.
"You still box, Chakotay?" she asked abruptly.
"Not recently," Chakotay replied.
"We should do it sometime," B'Elanna said. "It's something to do while the boys play."
"You just want to kick my ass, don't you?" Chakotay asked wryly.
"Of course I do. You got a problem with that?"
A smile tugged the corners of Chakotay's mouth.
"No problem. No problem at all," he murmured.
"Good," B'Elanna said simply, but she paused to give Chakotay's arm a slight, almost friendly squeeze as she turned back to her stool at the bar.
For the first time in weeks, Chakotay remembered the difference between being alone and being lonely.
He smiled softly as he returned to the pool table to wait for Tom. It had been a day full of surprises and for the first time since his return to Voyager, he allowed himself the luxury of hope.