Tides of the Heart- Part Eleven: Doctrinen
I am trapped between the cold glare of moonlight and the frantic tapping on my door. I have tried huddling in my bed, covering my head with my pillows to block the sound of Chakotay's pleas. He has finally stopped talking yet, somehow, the faint persistent scratching of his fingernails on the wood is cutting through me more viciously than his words. My heart is beating now to the rhythm of his taps. When he pauses, my heart lurches to a halt, my lungs scream as they drain of oxygen, and then his tapping resumes and I find myself gasping in sympathy, drawing in breath in shuddering relief.
If he gives up, if he leaves, will my heart stop completely?
Each time he pauses I am terrified that he has gone.
When he resumes and my frantic heart jumps to dance to his discordant tune, I am both relieved and angered by his persistence.
I feel alone, lonely, trapped, abandoned yet harassed.
I find myself back on my feet, pacing now, my footsteps jerking in time to his insistent scratching. I freeze as he pauses. I am spurred to movement as his tapping resumes.
I can feel the pressure building up inside me. It churns and boils like lava, threatening to erupt in a screaming fury. It is a familiar feeling, one that usually drives me to my piano. The music is a relief valve for me. A way to pour my soul out in safe privacy.
There is no privacy here, no way to release the pressure without betraying myself to him.
I need to escape, run away. Before I give in to his summons or he gives up on me. What is worse? I don't know. If he never leaves I shall go mad. If he does leave, I think I might literally die.
I reach for my comm badge and call Tuvok.
He responds almost immediately, with none of the ire that most people would show for being rudely hauled awake in the middle of the night.
"I need you to transport me out of here," I tell him.
"Why did you not simply call for an arch?" he replies logically.
"I don't want Chakotay to know I am leaving," I confess.
There is a long silence before he gives a careful measured reply.
"You are, of course, free to leave, Thomas. He will not stop you. You do, perhaps, owe him the courtesy of an explanation or at least a goodbye," he chides quietly.
"You don't understand, Tuvok. I'm not breaking our deal. Well, not really. I just want to talk to you and I don't want him to know I have left the holodec," I assure him.
"You want to talk to me?" Tuvok finally answers. I can picture his left eyebrow raising in a minute expression of confusion and the image is comforting to me. Strange perhaps that I should turn to a man with no emotions to discuss the raging tides of my own feelings. But I need someone to help me separate fear from truth and emotions from needs.
I cannot think while my heart dances to Chakotay's tune.
I need wiser counsel than that of my own beleaguered soul.
"Very well," he replies.
Instead of the expected relief, I feel guilty as I feel the tingle of the transporter against my skin. Guilty that Chakotay should be sitting in that cold corridor imagining that he still has an audience for his sad performance of grief.
I am not prepared for this.
Tom's request is logical. I understand that he is confused, that he feels helplessly cast adrift on a sea of conflict. His fear and his desires are still caught in the same polar opposition.
He loves Chakotay. He needs Chakotay. He fears the acknowledgement of his desires because of his justified terror of being abandoned once more. He sees me as a anchor in his confusion. I am something stable and unchanging in a world that has changed so much in the last twenty-six years that few of the people who remain on Voyager are even recognisable as the crew who were first lost here in the Delta Quadrant.
Over the years, most of those people have done Tom a grave disservice. They saw what they chose to see and ignored the truth.
It was Tom's own fault to an extent. Perhaps it was his pride alone that kept him from correcting people's misunderstandings. I believe, however, that his love for Chakotay and his grief over Chakotay's abandonment, caused him to care little for anyone else's thoughts on the matter until it was too late and he found himself completely alone.
Everyone saw his actions as selfish and unnatural. That he would seek to keep a father from his own son was perceived as the act of a jealous and spiteful person who deserved to be abandoned.
The obvious truth was that Tom was hurt and frightened of losing his husband to Seven and her child. Chakotay should have involved him, should have even perhaps forced him to participate in the pregnancy. Chakotay should, at least, have taken every step to assure Tom that he still loved him.
It is evident that he did. That both men have separately suffered twenty years of regret and loss over the actions that they both took. The difference is that Chakotay had a wife and family to comfort him and had the support of the crew for his decision. Tom was alone.
Tom chose to be alone, admittedly. Like a wounded animal he curled up and licked his wounds, snarled threateningly at anyone who approached him and deliberately shut himself off from those who would befriend him. It was not truly deliberate though. He acted with his instincts and those who might have been able to break through his self-imposed barrier to help him, died before they had the opportunity to try.
I have tried. I have failed. My own fear has constrained me. I am a Vulcan. Once, when I was younger, I allowed myself to rail against my people's habit of controlling our emotions. I do not regret that temporary flaw in my self-discipline. It taught me an understanding of emotion. It also taught me that I could never allow myself to again relax my mental control.
Sometimes though, I admit, Tom Paris has found a tiny chink in my armor and has unwittingly pried at it mercilessly.
His pain calls to something dark and wild that hides deeply under my self-control.
That is why I did not mate with him.
We shared my ponn farr and I touched his mind with mine and what I found spiraled me so near my own destruction that I immediately pulled back. I threw a barrier up between us so solid that we can now even share sexual relations without me knowing what is happening inside his mind.
The pain inside him is like a voracious beast that is devouring him and in touching that agony I almost lost myself forever. I would have drowned in the tempestuous sea of his emotions and I reacted with fear and revulsion. Not of Tom but of how thin I discovered my own facade of self-control to truly be.
I cannot give him what he needs.
I should have though.
Two years ago, had I taken the risk, opened myself to him, I would have shared his pain and together we might have found a way to overcome it.
He would be mine.
There. I have said it. I want Tom for myself.
Peculiar that he lives his life believing that no-one loves him and yet both Chakotay and I would both do anything to prevent him leaving our lives now.
I am not jealous of Chakotay. That is a human emotion. It has no place in a Vulcan's heart. If I were to allow myself the luxury of jealousy, I would again be opening that dangerous chink in my armor and all my long buried emotions might spew out to destroy me, and this ship needs me whole.
Logically, there is only one path that I can walk now. I must find a way to reconcile Tom and Chakotay. Chakotay can offer Tom what he needs, what I cannot allow myself to offer. Chakotay can, perhaps, convince Tom to stay on Voyager.
I need him in my life. I need to know that Tom is well and happy. I need to know that he, at least, can escape the loneliness of living in an emotional vacuum. I need him to feel the emotions that I cannot dare to feel myself.
It is not logical.
It is, however, the truth.
"It's just sex, isn't it?" I tell Tuvok.
He steeples his fingers and peers at me from the emotionless mask of his face.
"Is it?" he asks.
"Maybe. He just does something to me. He always has. Ever since the first moment I looked at him. The way he walks, his voice, his eyes, shit, even his smell. The blood leaves my head, rushes to my cock and I can't even think. I just want him. I just want to forget everything and give in to my desire."
Tuvok is silent for a long time. If I didn't know better, I would think that my confession has upset him. Maybe it's not a good thing to admit to someone you have fucked that another person turns your brain to mush. Tuvok and I have never had a 'relationship' though, so it's not really the same as talking about a boyfriend to an ex-boyfriend or whatever the hell terms are appropriate to describe the fact that I let my ex-husband fuck me senseless yesterday.
"You are attempting to separate your feelings of sexual attraction from your emotions," Tuvok states finally, his expression too neutral for me to judge whether the idea is good, bad or indifferent.
"Is that wrong?" I ask him, worriedly.
"Not in principle. It is not necessary to have an emotional bond to enjoy mutual sexual relief. You and I have shared physical intimacy in such a fashion," he points out.
"I know, and I value you as my only real friend, Tuvok. You've always been there for me and under the circumstances I know it hasn't always been easy for you to do so," I tell him apologetically.
A strange expression flickers over his face as though I have wounded him in some fashion, which was the last thing I intended.
"Explain," he asks, his voice a little tight.
"I know that you would have preferred to mind-link with me and mate properly. I'm sorry that I didn't let you do it. Its obvious to me that the barrier is on my side. I guess I am so screwed up over Chakotay that it's impossible for me to let down my defenses," I apologise.
Tuvok relaxes a little at my words, as though my confession that it is my fault that we never managed to go beyond meaningless sex together has reassured him that I have never been stupid enough to expect more from him than his friendship and the occassional comfort of his body.
"You wish to pursue a similar relationship with Chakotay now?" he asks me.
"I can't," I admit. "I can't separate my feelings like that."
"You did with me," he points out.
"I used you," I find myself blurting.
His expression doesn't change but somehow his eyes seem to soften and this time when he simply says "Explain" it is not a demand but an invitation to unburden my soul.
"When I agreed to help you with your Ponn Farr, it was for my sake as much as yours. I thought, I thought," my voice falters.
I cannot continue. I am still unable to articulate what I hoped so much that my link with Tuvok would finally allow me to reveal. Just as he had once mind-melded with me and learnt my deepest secrets, I had thought that as a touch telepath, our sexual joining would throw my mind open to his perusal.
"You thought that I would link with you. That I would share your pain," Tuvok states calmly.
"I failed you Tom. I knew what you wanted. I understood that you threw me a life-line in the hope of clinging onto it yourself. I never considered your needs to be any less an imperative than my own at the time. You needed to share your pain. I failed you. I will always regret that failure."
I close my eyes in both gratitude for his forgiveness and guilt that I caused him to feel failure over something that he had no responsibility for. My burden is heavier than he realises though. I didn't want to just share my pain with him. I wanted to share my thoughts about Seven. Too much of a coward to break Chakotay's heart myself, I had tried to give the responsibility of my suspicions to Tuvok. I had tried to destroy Chakotay and Seven's marriage while remaining apparently blameless myself.
I am bitterly ashamed of that truth. That I ignored the additional suffering that my accusations would have caused a man already ripped apart with grief over the death of his youngest son.
Selfishness. That's all it was. Selfishness and bitterness and jealousy. I tried to use Tuvok as my sword of Damocles.
"Is that what you are afraid of now, Tom. That by accepting Chakotay's offer of his body while rejecting his offer of love, you will simply be using him?" Tuvok asks quietly.
"Aren't I?" I demand. "Besides, I can't do it, even if I want to. I can't separate sex from love anymore, Tuvok. I don't want to offend you in any way, but I couldn't do it with you either."
I see Tuvok wince a little as though pained and I regret my admission.
"You believe that you love me?" he asks me sorrowfully.
"I'm sorry," I mumble. "I know I'm not supposed to, and its nothing like the way I feel about Chakotay. It doesn't diminish my feelings for him, although perhaps it should. Its different. All I know is that even though we never shared our thoughts, we shared our bodies and that has made you a special person in my life. I know you don't understand or approve of that sort of thing, but its true regardless. I do love you Tuvok and I'm going to miss you when I leave."
When I was first stranded in the Delta Quadrant and I realised that I might never see T'Pel and my children again, I felt pain. When Kathryn and Megan subsequently died, a little of myself died with them too. None of those feelings were even close to the agony of hearing Tom's confession that he loved me and that he would still leave.
I cannot recall a moment in my life when I have struggled more to retain my composure. A life-time of meditation is not enough to compensate for the knifing agony of knowing that I could have reached out and claimed him, and in his grief and loneliness he would have clung to me and made me his.
Too late now.
He finally has the chance to reclaim his true love and the only way I can demonstrate my own feelings without destroying myself is to help him to find the courage to take Chakotay back into his life.
He has unwittingly offered me a way to do that, and I will take it.
"I have married three times Tom and I have fathered four children," Tuvok says.
His comment is so unexpected that I find myself riveted by his words and his calm, placid features.
"I have, therefore, loved seven times in the way that you are referring to, though perhaps without the intensity of human emotions," he continues. "Neither Kathryn nor Megan inspired the depth of feeling in my heart that T'Pel did and always will. With the birth of each of my children, I did not feel my love for T'Pel diminish. I found my capacity for affection to increase with each child while my affection for T'Pel remained constant or perhaps even deepened.
"Chakotay's love for you was not weakened by his love for his children. It was not even diminished when he learnt to love Seven. Love is not a cake that can only be cut into slices, each slice reducing the original whole. A person's capacity for love increases as each recipient of that love is added.
"You say that you have learnt to care for me and yet your love for Chakotay has never faltered. Can you not, in the same way, see that Chakotay's love for you has remained constant too?"
I know that he is right. I know that Chakotay loves me. It's not the point though, is it? The question is whether Chakotay's love is enough for me. He is not like me. He is calm and rational, he thinks everything through, he makes his choices based on honor and responsibilities and common sense. He does not feel the fire that I do. His passion doesn't rip him into shreds until all rational thought is discarded, sacrificed to the raw passion of his emotion.
In this he is like Tuvok. Both men are dark, mysterious, strong, untouchable, dependable and a little cold. Chakotay's chill is demonstrated most clearly by the way he can separate his own desires from what he feels he *should* do. Like his choice to leave Starfleet and join the Maquis. Like his choice to leave me and marry Seven. Like his choice to become Captain when he did not want the role and his decision to give the Captaincy to Tuvok when he didn't really want to give it up.
Chakotay will always do the *right* thing, no matter the personal cost. One day, if the time comes again that he must choose between the right thing and me, he will leave me again. Knowing that, it is impossible to give what remains of my heart back to him.
"He'll destroy me," I whisper. "When he leaves me next time, I won't survive."
Tuvok bows his head in acknowledgement. He knows that it is true.
"Where will you go?" he asks me suddenly.
I am too surprised by his sudden capitulation to answer at first, and when I do it is with hesitancy since I don't know the answer myself.
"I don't know. I just want to leave. I haven't thought it through yet."
"You wish simply to run away," he accuses.
"So?" I spit. "It won't be the first time I've run away from a problem. It's a Paris specialty."
"We are in an uncharted region of space. You could run out of fuel or oxygen before you find a place to land," Tuvok tells me.
I shrug. I know he's right but if I agree to stay until we reach a suitable place to disembark I have a strong feeling that we will never reach one, at least not until Voyager can no longer put off the need to replenish her own supplies. I don't care anyway. I'm not afraid of dying alone. I've been alone for so long that the idea is oddly comforting.
It's not suicide, is it? It's just taking a chance, spinning the wheel of fate, and no longer caring about the outcome.
"Have you decided that you wish to die alone?" Tuvok asks me abruptly.
I feel myself flushing in guilty fear that he has finally read my mind, only to realise that he is actually asking whether I will remain a solitary wanderer or seek to find a new mate.
"It wouldn't be fair, would it? Asking someone to fill his shoes, I mean. I can't ever love anyone else enough, and I know myself how much it hurts to be on the other side of that kind of relationship. Chakotay loves me but he doesn't love me enough."
"Are you sure?"
"HE LEFT ME," I scream.
"That was twenty years ago, Thomas. Can you not allow yourself to believe that he has changed?"
"I can't afford to believe," I reply sullenly.
"What are you risking by trying? Can you be *more* unhappy than you are right now? Do you truly think that it will hurt more if he leaves you a second time? You are already prepared to set off on a possibly suicidal journey alone just to avoid him. You may as well give him the benefit of the doubt first and enjoy whatever happiness *does* come your way.
"What is the point of worrying about what *might* happen? We could all die tomorrow. Voyager could be attacked and we could all perish, or perhaps either you or Chakotay could die. Life has no guarantees and you know that. You are also not a coward. You know that everyone must take life one day at a time. Either you are lying to me or you are lying to yourself."
My cruel words are a calculated risk and I am consequently not surprised to see Tom jerk to his feet in outrage.
"What the fuck do you mean, calling me a liar?" he demands furiously.
"When Chakotay asked you to give him a second chance, to share these seven days on the holodec, you had every reason to refuse. He no more deserved a second chance than he deserved the fact that you have stayed with him for all these years. You have enjoyed these past few days, despite the undoubted pain that you have felt and you have shared sexual relations with him despite the fact that you are no longer a person who can do that with someone that your do not care for deeply.
"You say that it is your way of saying goodbye. I believe it is your way of punishing Chakotay. You wish to make him suffer. You want to force him to love you again and then you will leave him, just as he left you. This is not a reconciliation, Thomas, it is your way of hurting him, as he once hurt you. You want to fly away safe in the knowledge that he now suffers as greatly as you do so that you can *both* die in unhappy loneliness."
"It's not true," he protests, his face twisted in misery that I should vocalize such an accusation.
"Is it not?" I ask softly.
His whispered "No," is little more than a sob.
Tom's pain knifes me but I cannot relent. I am being unfair, being cruel perhaps but it is the only way to force him to face up to his own needs. I cannot let him run. I cannot turn my back on his pain. I must push him beyond his current grief so that he can perhaps finally find some happiness. Giving wise counsel is not always a case of telling the truth. It is advising someone to believe something that will help them.
It would be easy to side with Tom on this issue. I would find it frighteningly easy to take a stance against Chakotay, to vilify his actions and applaud Tom's strength in resisting Chakotay's current overtures.
Easy, but wrong.
"Then prove it. Go back to the simulation and actually *try* this time. Stop using this as an opportunity to show Chakotay your pain. He *knows* your pain. He has lived with the guilt of it for twenty years. Try to give him a real chance or stop torturing him and leave now," I tell him bluntly.
For a moment, as Tom sways indecisively between anger and fear that I may be right, I worry that I have gone too far. I do not believe Tom is deliberately punishing Chakotay with his behaviour and some part of me is applauding the fact that Chakotay is finally seeing first hand the anguish that tortures Tom. Yet, I believe my words too. Subconsciously at least, Tom *wants* this to fail.
Unless I can convince him to embrace the situation with more determination to succeed we may as well escalate it to the next step. I would prefer Tom to choose to accept Chakotay rather than let Tom leave and then transport Chakotay onto his ship. On the other hand, perhaps it will take the proof that Chakotay is willing to leave Voyager to convince Tom.
I want to avoid that option. I could lose both of them and apart from my personal feelings on the issue, Voyager cannot afford the loss.
"I never wanted to hurt him," Tom protests, his eyes sparkling with hurt and a little fear that I am right.
"But you have. Just as he never meant to hurt *you,* Thomas. Sometimes we all do things for more than one reason. We think we are doing the right thing at the time and only afterwards do we reflect on our mistakes. Why did Chakotay agree to divorce you?"
"Because he didn't want me anymore. He had a family. I was just a loose end," Tom spits
"Do you really believe that?"
"I don't know," he confesses. "We never talked about it."
"Perhaps, before you 'run away' you should have that talk then. Perhaps you will still chose to leave but at least you will understand *why* you are leaving."
I am so numb with cold that my limbs have frozen so that only my tapping fingers still have life in them.
I am exhausted. Despite the discomfort of my position I keep finding my head drooping towards my chest and then, strangely, the ceasing of my own tapping is what jerks me awake once more. Odd that the absence of noise becomes almost a noise by itself.
When the door opens I am so surprised that I unbalance and sprawl gracelessly into the doorway.
Tom's hands are gentle as he helps me up onto my numb legs and half-drags me to the warmth of his bed. I am too stunned to even protest as he pulls the covers up over my chilled body and when he crawls in next to me and then spoons up behind my back so that the warmth of his own skin begins to seep through my pajamas, I am simply so relieved that I can barely speak.
"I'm sorry," I whisper, as his arm snakes around me and clutches me tightly.
"Shush," he whispers back. "We'll talk in the morning. Go to sleep, Tay."
There is something a little ominous about the way he mentions that we will "talk in the morning", a slight harshness in his tone that is not reassuring, and yet I am in his room, in his bed and he is holding me as though my presence is welcome and even after all these years our bodies still mould together with the perfect fit of two halves of one whole.
As the chill leaves my body, banished by Tom's warmth, I dare to hope that perhaps the rising of the dawn will bring hope to us after all.