Rating: R for language.
Warnings: Angst alert.
Obligatory Boring Disclaimer: They are not mine; they are Paramountís blah blah blahÖ
Chakotay groaned quietly as Tom finally dragged himself up from the floor, looked around the smashed bar with confusion, and then staggered towards the table where Chakotay was sitting quietly, nursing a synth-ale and a black eye. The pilot looked royally pissed.
The whole of Alpha Shift had hit Sandrines like a swarm of locusts after the excitement of the race. Several weeks of unbearable tension had erupted into a virtual orgy of drinking, revelry and the odd fistfight.
Captain Janeway had turned a blind eye on the necessary release, instructing Tuvok and himself to stay low key and only step in if actual violence erupted.
Of course it had, a minor disagreement between Tom (of course) and several ex-maquis, rapidly escalating into an all out brawl reminiscent of the Wild West, rather than a Federation star ship.
So he had stepped-in, hence the black eye, the smashed holo-bar and a room full of stunned, drunken crew nursing bruises, minor cuts and undoubted headaches.
Anyone with actual injuries had been transported to sickbay, twelve crewmembers had been sent to the brig, and the Captain had simply shrugged at the remaining carnage and left people to sober up in their own time. Chakotay would have almost put money on the fact that she had been hiding a grin.
Spirits, it had been fun, though. He had forgotten just how satisfying a drunken, good-natured punch-up could be. Of course, he had only waded in to break the fight up. The fact that the sound of smashing the chair over the back of Tomís head had been so damned satisfying, was just incidental.
Besides, it had been for Tomís sake, after all. The pilot had managed to make a surprisingly good account of himself, but in the end had been completely surrounded by a group of pissed off crewmen who had evidently decided that his self-satisfied smirk needed to be wiped off his face permanently.
With only a couple of seconds to intervene before they descended like a pack of wolves on the still defiant blond, Chakotay had discounted his ability to take on all six of them, and had instead diffused the imminent fight by taking Tom out himself.
His unexpected act had diffused the situation immediately. It hadnít stopped the fight, of course. People were enjoying themselves far too much, but it had at least diverted the violence from Tom.
Chakotay felt a twinge of guilt about the look of complete astonished bewilderment in Tomís blue eyes as he sank to the floor under Chakotayís blow.
Still, Tom only woke with a headache. Without Chakotayís interference, he would have ended up in sickbay with several broken ribs and his nose caved in.
"You hit me!" Tom accused as he collapsed into a spare chair at Chakotayís table.
Chakotay shrugged, meeting Tomís furious glare with an apologetic smile.
"I put you out of the fight before it got out of hand, thatís all."
"Gee, thanks for nothing!" Tom snarled.
"Put it this way, Tom. At least you woke up here rather than Sickbay or the brig."
"So you were doing me a favour, huh?" Tom pouted, "Tell you what, Chief. Donít feel the need to do me any more!"
Chakotay just grinned into his drink, his lips twitching.
"You donít want me to do you anymore?" he queried.
Tom flushed beautifully.
"Shit, youíre a bastard," he snarled.
"Did I ever tell you how cute you are, when you pout?" Chakotay chuckled.
He waited for Tomís unfailing sense of humor to take over, as it always did. Only this time, it didnít.
"Yeah? Well screw you, asshole. You hit me with a fucking chair in front of everyone! Youíve finally gone too far. I want a divorce!"
Chakotay spluttered, choking on his synthale, and his eyes narrowed worriedly, as his husbandís decidedly drunken, if not slightly concussed, blue eyes focused intently on him from across the table.
"I gathered that from BíElannaís little Ďannouncementí" he snarled.
"Yeah, I wondered when you were going to mention it," Tom spat back.
"What the fuck do you think you are playing at, Tom? You canít marry her, youíre married to ME!"
"Really?" Tom drawled sarcastically, "Iím surprised you remember THAT little fact."
"I think itís time we went to bed, Tom," Chakotay soothed. "Letís discuss this tomorrow when youíve calmed down."
Tom pulled himself gingerly to his feet and glared down at the older man.
"Forget it. Itís over. Itís been seven years, Chief. Seven fucking years and you still have never told anyone about us. Youíre still pretending you hate my guts. Youíd still rather knock me out in a fight than let anyone see that we have a relationship."
"Dammit, Tom. Donít turn this one incident into that old argument. I hit you. Iím sorry. But it saved your ass."
"I wouldnít need my ass Ďsavingí, if you told those Maquis assholes the truth. They still think I betrayed them, betrayed you," Tom replied bitterly.
"So you want to turn around to the Captain, after all these years and admit that the only reason you joined Voyager was to escape Auckland and get back to me? I donít think it will go down too well."
"Itís your fault, dammit. If you hadnít played that stupid game on the bridge when we first arrived Ė" Tom accused.
"At that point I was still planning to grab you and run to the Crazy Horse. Then after the Array collapsed and Janeway offered you the post of Chief Pilot, you wouldnít let me tell her."
Tom bit his lip uncertainly and sank back into his seat, his eyes filling with tears.
"I thought, I thought we could just start seeing each other, let people think we fell in love here."
"And then the fiasco with Jonas effectively put paid to that plan," Chakotay confirmed sadly, "we had to let that get behind us."
Tomís eyes flashed with renewed fury.
"But, itís been YEARS Chak, and thereís always some reason the time isnít right, always one thing after another why you wonít tell anyone. I am sick of sneaking to your quarters in the middle of the night, of you reaming me out in public just so no one puts two and two together if they see us together."
"I know, Tom. Iím sorry, truly sorry, but itís too late. A secret is just another name for a lie. We have tangled ourselves in the deception for so long that we are trapped by our own deceit."
"You mean BíElanna."
"Spirits, Tom. You werenít supposed to make her fall in love with you. We decided that you would date women on the ship, get a reputation as a playboy so that no-one ever wanted to have a real relationship with you."
"YOU decided," Tom reminded him bitterly. "You decided that I would be the slag and you would be the mystic celibate."
"Youíre right, but I didnít think you would do celibacy convincingly," Chakotay growled.
"You see, even you think Iím a slag!" Tom griped.
Chakotay grabbed Tomís hands and squeezed them tightly.
"I love you, Poocah. You are my husband, and I trust you. I trust you enough to let you date anyone on this ship. I know you would never betray me. What does it matter what anyone else thinks?"
"Itís easy to say that, when it isnít you they think it of. If you really loved me, you wouldnít let me be treated like this. Besides, I saw your face when you hit me and you enjoyed it, I know you did. It wasnít about saving my ass, youíve wanted to hit me all day!"
Chakotay flushed and sighed.
"Maybe I have," he confessed. "I have been so jealous, so torn up inside. I canít believe you let it happen. I really donít understand how you could have been so damned stupid."
"Itís gone on for so long, Chakotay. I ran out of excuses. Thereís only the truth left, nothing else will do."
"I know," Chakotay whispered in defeat.
"So make your mind up, Chief. You can keep your secret, or you can keep me."
"Donít do this, Tom, please."
"You see the weird thing is, that I donít love her like I love you. But at least she isnít ashamed of me. She wants a public wedding. She wants to be BíElanna Paris. Sheís actually willing to carry my name."
"Tom, I Ė I Ė." Chakotay lapsed into silent contemplation, dropping his face from Tomís gaze. He made no move to stop Tom rising to his feet.
"Youíve got til mid-day tomorrow, Chief. Either reveal our secret, or send me a private annulment. By tomorrow night, I am going to be known as a married man." Tom said firmly, giving Chakotay one last sad glance as he left the bar.
In twelve hours, after seven years of uncertainty, he was finally going to know, one way or another, whether Chakotay had ever really loved him.