1/1 (Sequel to "The Secret")
Warnings: Angst alert.
Obligatory Boring Disclaimer: They are not mine; they are Paramountís blah blah blahÖ
"Iíve got to speak to you," Tom pleaded through the door.
"You canít come in, itís bad luck to see me on our wedding day," BíElanna laughed.
"Please, BíEl. Itís important," Tom begged.
The tone of his voice finally convinced her. She let the door slide open and then narrowed her eyes suspiciously at his wild hair, blood-shot eyes and rumpled clothing.
"I thought you were only going to have a couple of drinks and then get an early night," she snapped. "You promised, Tom."
"I know, I know," Tom answered sheepishly, running a nervous hand through his hair. His gesture did nothing to improve his disreputable appearance.
"Sit down, before you fall down," BíElanna snapped, turning to her replicator to dial breakfast in the hope that food and coffee would repair some of Tomís self-abuse.
"Eat," she snarled, almost throwing the food on the table.
Tom looked at the food and turned a pale shade of green, which only drew BíElannaís notice to the huge, reddened lump on his forehead.
Tom flinched as her fingers investigated the wound, feeling the swelling that spread right under his hairline.
"Who or what hit you?" she demanded.
"Chakotay," Tom confessed guiltily.
"He punched you?" BíElanna asked calmly.
"He broke a chair on my head," Tom muttered.
"So I take it that he doesnít want to be your best man?" BíElanna commented dryly.
"Itís not funny!" Tom shouted angrily, and then winced as his mingled hangover/headache bit back with alarming viciousness.
"Iím not laughing, Tom. Youíre right itís not funny. Itís pathetic. Your whole relationship is pathetic. Youíre two grown men behaving like naughty schoolboys, and frankly I donít know why I agreed to this whole mad scheme."
"Cos you find me irresistible?" Tom smirked cheekily.
"Irresistible? Iím not that self-destructive Tom. I admit that I thought I loved you, but that was before I realised what an idiot you are, you BOTH are."
"Aw, you love me really, BíEl," Tom replied.
"Youíd better hope so, considering the fact that you might end up married to me at noon, Tom," BíElanna laughed.
The green-tinge to Tomís skin paled to ghostly white, he swallowed convulsively and then leapt up and raced to the bathroom. BíElanna heard the unmistakable sounds of retching and tried not to take it personally. She was sure it wasnít really the thought of marrying her that made him physically sick, but the fear that Chakotay would let him do it.
She had tried to talk Tom out of this madness.
Deliberately backing Chakotay into this corner was as likely to drive the big man away as it was to force him to acknowledge his relationship with Tom. They had deceived everyone for so many years, that the longer the secret continued, the more impossible it was to confess.
She had been outraged by the deceit herself at first. She had fallen so hard for Tom Paris that discovering the truth had figuratively swept the ground out from under her feet. Yet, it had been a comfort too, of sorts. At least she understood that it wasnít her fault that the relationship wasnít working.
Moreover, to be fair to Tom, he had never pretended that it was, or ever would be, anything more than a casual fling. It was she who had pushed for more, sure that if she was persistent enough, Tom would eventually love her back.
However, when they had faced death together, when the chance of rescue seemed impossible, and the air in their spacesuits had been running out, she had blurted out "I love you," and even with certain death staring them in the face, Tom had been unable to lie, to tell her that he loved her too.
So she had known, and Tom had reluctantly confessed the truth. After her initial anger, she had colluded with him, agreeing to be his Ďpublicí girlfriend, playing jigger for him and Chakotay, because she loved them both.
She never told anyone, except Tuvok, what Tom had confessed, not even Chakotay. She knew that Tuvok already knew, because he had mind-melded with Tom once, and without actually breaking Tomís confidence she had managed to convey to the Vulcan that she was aware of the truth.
Despite his air of emotional distance, Tuvok was a caring man, who wouldnít have let her so-called relationship with Tom progress this far, had he thought her ignorant of the facts.
However, it was one thing to pretend to be Tomís girlfriend, quite another to agree to be seen as a jilted fiancé at the alter.
Tomís plan depended on the idea that his imminent marriage to her would spur Chakotay into a public declaration of love. It was a measure of Tomís desperation that he seemed almost oblivious of how she would look if the plan worked.
She, BíElanna Torres, would be seen as a dupe. The other crewmembers would pity her, would laugh at her even, for being stupid enough to have agreed to marry a man who was actually already married to someone else.
There was no sane reason for her agreeing to the plan. Only a sad, selfish hope that Chakotay would walk away. As pathetic as it seemed, even to herself, she wanted Tom enough to accept being his consolation prize.
At 1145, Tom checked his terminal again. Still no message from Chakotay, despite the numerous notes Tom had posted that morning. Only a notice of non-contest in reply to the request for annulment,that he had posted in a fit of temper after his tenth message was ignored. He choked back a sob and gave in to the urge to comm the other man yet again.
Still no answer, Chakotay was refusing to answer his hails. In fifteen minutes, he was going to be married to BíElanna, and still Chakotay was ignoring him.
He didnít care, obviously. Maybe he had never cared.
When Tom and Chakotay had married, it had been in a secret Ďquickieí ceremony, down on some dirt ball planet where the Maquis ship had landed to re-fuel.
Theirs had been a whirlwind affair. Two hours after he had first met Chakotay, he had been in bed with the big man, offering his piloting skills, his body and his soul. His reception by the other Maquis had been rather less enthusiastic. The Paris name, Tomís own reputation, and his tendency to use cocky sarcasm to cover up his nervousness, had forced Chakotay to keep their relationship low-key.
Therefore, it hadnít been surprising that none of the crew were invited to the wedding. It had hurt him, though, that on their return to the ship, Chakotay had told him not to mention it.
Then he had been captured. Starfleet threw the book at him, but not as much as they would have if he had claimed to be Tom Chakotay-Paris. In addition to that self-protection, he was concerned that the Ďfleet would try to use him against Chakotay if they knew the truth.
Chakotay had sent him a message in Auckland, telling him to be patient, to have faith, and so he had waited for rescue.
Then Chakotay had been lost in the badlands, Tom had been given the opportunity to follow him in Voyager, and the deception had just continued.
First, a day, then a week, then a month, then a year and then more years and not once did Chakotay acknowledge him. Never did the older man feel the need to publicly claim Tom as his own.
And it hurt. It hurt Tom at the deepest level of his soul, that the man he loved did not feel the need to claim him.
Chakotay didnít even seem to understand why Tom was hurt.
Although Chakotay regretted the deceit, he saw their relationship as private. He saw no value in sharing their feelings with other people. To Chakotay, it was enough that they had each other, and except for the inconvenience of having to creep around behind peopleís backs, he almost seemed to prefer the anonymity of their relationship.
At first, Tom had felt the same. He had even taken a vicarious thrill out of the deceit. The threat of being caught made their liaisons more exciting. The danger of stolen time seemed so much more valuable than that freely given.
However, he wasnít a naïve kid anymore. He was a man. He had learnt maturity and responsibility in his professional life, and now the secrecy irritated him. He wanted to be honest, open and he wanted not only to be loved, but also to be seen as lovable in the eyes of the rest of the world.
He knew that the "wedding" was a deception of its own, and he wasnít proud of himself. Yet, he was determined to go through with it. He couldnít have deliberately misled BíElanna. He wasnít that cruel, and he knew the risk that she was taking with her own pride.
So, if, as it appeared, Chakotayís decision was to simply walk away, then Tom would not only go through with marrying BíElanna, but he would also endeavor to be the best damned husband to her that he could be.
He would never make her regret her decision, and hopefully, one day, he would learn to love her, as she deserved.
The whole crew was gathered for the ceremony in holodec one. Tom had hurriedly knocked together a program, using parts of Fairhaven to create a large stone church-like building, snuggled in wood-lined countryside. The Captain had even pardoned the crewmembers that had been put in the brig, in honour of the occasion. Therefore, the wooden benches on either side of the cobbled aisle were tightly packed. Only one person was conspicuous by his absence.
Commander Chakotay had not even bothered to put in a token appearance.
Kathryn Janeway exchanged a surreptitious glance with Tuvok. His only expression was a slight lifting of an eyebrow in acknowledgement of her concern.
"Might I have a quick word with you before the ceremony?" Kathryn asked BíElanna.
Tom and BíElanna looked at each other nervously. BíEl squeezed his hand reassuringly before stepping to the side with the Captain.
"Are you sure you know what you are doing, BíElanna?" Kathryn asked with quiet significance.
BíElanna looked at her in surprise.
"You know?" she whispered.
"Iím the Captain, BíElanna. Of course, I know. Itís not my place to interfere in personal lives, no matter how convoluted and peculiar they are. However, I would never have let this go so far if Tuvok hadnít assured me that you knew about Tomís Ďotherí relationship."
"I do," BíElanna confirmed.
"Yet you agreed to marry Tom."
"He thought it would force Chakotay to publicly acknowledge their own marriage. When he received Chakotayís mail saying there was no contest to his request for annulment this morning, I think it nearly killed him."
"Yet you still want to go ahead with the marriage?"
"I love him, Captain, and he needs me. He needs someone at least."
"And what about you, is it enough?"
"No, but itís more than I ever expected. I will settle for it."
"I think you are both making a mistake, BíElanna. But since you are both adults and you have been honest with each other, itís your choice."
"Thank you, Captain."
BíElanna returned to Tom, tried to ignore the wistful glance he threw over his shoulder at the empty place that had been reserved for the First Officer, and grabbing his hand, she towed him in front of the Captain.
"Since the first sea journeys, when people first let their homelands in exploration of the unknown, it has been the proud privilege of Captains to perform the rites of matrimony," Kathryn began, her strong voice echoing in the small church.
"Today we are gathered here, far from our homes and loved ones, but in the security of our current home, Voyager, and in the presence of our new family. For that is what we have become.
"And I have the honour of joining two of the young people of our family together, in a public declaration of love and commitment."
Kathryn was distracted by a low involuntary moan from Tom.
Tears were beginning to trickle down his cheeks and he had become distressingly pale. She met BíElannaís eyes. The half-Klingon nodded furiously at her to continue.
Kathryn hesitated. Tom looked like he wanted to turn tail and run.
"Tom? Are you all right?" she demanded, unwilling to continue if the ceremony was just a farce.
Tom shook himself miserably, took a last glance over his shoulder and then turned defeated eyes at his Captain.
"Yes, Maíam," he whispered. "Please continue."
Kathryn saw his knuckles turning white as he clutched BíElannaís hand like a lifeline and sighed. Perhaps BíElanna was right, she finally decided. Tom definitely needed someone to help him to cope with Chakotayís desertion.
When she reached the part of the ceremony where she asked if anyone had any objection to the wedding, however, both Tom and BíElanna turned and looked down the aisle, searching for the voice of dissent that Tom was praying for.
Except for puzzled murmurs from the crew, who were beginning to realise that something was definitely peculiar about the ceremony, the holodec was silent.
Tom staggered as he turned back to the Captain, only BíElannaís supportive arm stopping his shaking knees from collapsing to the deck.
"Iím sorry, Tom," BíElanna whispered sadly.
"So am I," Kathryn added, seeing shame flash through the pained blue eyes as he realised that she knew.
"Shall I continue?" Kathryn asked BíElanna.
"Please do," BíElanna replied, and Tom gave her a look of such gratitude that Kathryn finally relaxed.
It would work out okay, she decided. Tom and BíElanna might not be Ďin loveí but they obviously cared for each other, and perhaps that would be enough.
"Do you, BíElanna Torres take Thomas Eugene Paris to be your lawfully wedded husband?" Kathryn asked clearly.
"I do," BíElannaís voice rang out clearly through the gathering.
"Do you, Thomas Eugene Paris take BíElanna Tor-" Kathrynís voice trailed off as the wooden door of the holographic church was violently thrown open with the force of a tornado.
Her eyes went huge with astonishment, and then the room was filled with a deafening, drumming, clattering thunder.
"What the hell?" BíElanna hissed as the noise reverberated around the room, joined by screams of terror as people scrambled to their feet and away from the aisle. She spun around, gasped and then sat down abruptly on the alter, roaring with laughter.
Tom turned more cautiously, his eyes bugging as the apparition bore down on him with lethal speed.
With a blood-curdling war whoop, a half-naked Chakotay was galloping down the aisle on the largest, ugliest white horse that Tom had ever seen. Its flanks were decorated with swirls of bright paint, the same colors were swept across Chakotayís brow, biceps and bare-chest.
Chakotay hauled the horse to an ungainly halt. It slithered on the stone cobbled floor; coming to a stop with its maddened nostrils flaring in Tomís stunned face.
A spear flashed through the air and embedded itself into the alter with a thunderous bang, its feather decorated length quivering with the force of the throw.
"What the hell do you think you are doing?" Tom screeched hysterically, when he finally caught his breath.
Chakotay grinned evilly from the horseís back, his teeth flashing ferally in his bronze, war-painted face.
"Iíve come to claim my property," he growled, but at least had the grace to give BíElanna an apologetic look.
"I just wanted you to tell people we were married, not declare war!" Tom protested, his face flaming with embarrassment.
"I am what I am, Tom. This is the closest Iím ever going to get to being your knight in shining armour," Chakotay replied unapologetically.
"Wrong tribe, huh?" Tom scoffed.
"Take it or leave it, Tom."
Tom stiffened dangerously. This wasnít what he wanted. He wanted Chakotay to declare his love, ask for his forgiveness, not make the wedding a mockery and call Tom his Ďpropertyí.
"I think Iíll leave it then," he said proudly, even as his heart shattered from his own words.
For a moment, Chakotay just narrowed his eyes and glared at him. He backed the horse as though to turn it, and then clamped his legs violently against the animalís sides.
It leaped forward with an outraged whinny. Chakotay swung out of the saddle, grabbed Tom around the waist, threw him over the horseís withers and then galloped out of the church without a backwards glance at the stunned crew.
The crew surged to the door, just in time to see the horse disappearing into the woods.
"Should we go after them, Captain?" Harry asked in bewilderment.
"BíElanna?" Kathryn asked worriedly.
BíElanna wiped a tear out of her eye and gave a brave smile.
"It was really romantic, donít you think?" She finally commented, looking wistfully towards the trees.
"I donít understand!" Harry cried, "Tom and Chakotay are married?"
"They were, they annulled it this morning to allow the legal wedding of Tom to BíElanna, but evidently they have changed their minds," Tuvok stated.
"That might be what YOU saw, Sir, but from where I was standing, Tom said NO and Chakotay kidnapped him!" Harry protested.
"Weíre on the holodec, Ensign. If Tom didnít want to go with the Commander, he only needed to say, "end program"," Tuvok replied.
"Let me DOWN!" Tom hollered desperately into the horseís sweat drenched neck.
Chakotay swung the animal into the clearing in the wood that he had designed earlier, when he had inserted his sub-routine into Tomís holoprogram.
He waited until Tom had slithered off the horseís withers, swung his moleskin-clad leg over the horseís rump, and as soon as his bare feet touched the soft grass, he deleted the animal from the program.
Tom was looking around the clearing in wonder. A large banner was strung between two trees and several printed papers were dangling from brightly coloured ribbons.
Without turning or speaking to Chakotay, Tom walked over to read the printouts. They were a series of legal documents. All dated that morning, all attesting to Tom and Chakotayís marriage of seven years. There was even a will in which Chakotay had assigned all his possessions to his husband, Tom Paris-Chakotay.
"I know I should have done this years ago, Tom. Youíre right and Iím ashamed. I have logged all of the paperwork on the main computer, have emailed a personal explanation and apology to everyoneís individual workstations and as soon as we reach home, I will make sure that our marriage is properly logged there too."
Tom choked back a sob as the man he loved handed everything he had wanted to him, and his own honesty was possibly going to destroy it.
"I have to tell you something, Chak," he said tentatively.
"BíElanna knew all along. She only agreed to marry me to try and force your hand," Tom confessed nervously.
"Oh?" Chakotay asked, his face expressionless.
"And, and the Captain knew too. I didnít realise until the ceremony," Tom garbled.
Chakotay nodded, he had suspected that much when the program had continued to run after his Ďelopementí.
"Just tell me one thing, Tom. Would you really have gone through with the ceremony if I hadnít turned up?"
Tom ducked away from his gaze and mumbled something incoherent. Chakotay stepped forward, grabbed Tomís shoulders firmly and forced him to face him.
"Well?" he demanded.
Tom bit his lip and closed his eyes in dread before finally whispering, "Yes."
"Good," Chakotay replied gruffly.
"Good?" Tom squeaked, his eyes flying open in astonishment.
Chakotay laughed ruefully at Tomís confusion.
"You finally forced me to act honorably towards you, Tom. I honestly hadnít seen my actions in that light. Our marriage is a private thing to me. In my opinion, it was never necessary that we shared our feelings with other people.
"But after you left me, last night, I spoke to my spirit guide and she said I was a blind fool. I asked her why she had never told me that before, and she answered that I had never asked the right questions.
"So, since you forced me to face up to my own failure to do right by you, I am glad to find that you had no intention of doing wrong by BíElanna. I donít like to think that I would love someone that I couldnít respect."
"Do you?" Tom asked softly.
"Respect you? I just told you I did, didnít I?"
"LOVE ME!" Tom spat in frustration.
"I adore you, Tom Paris-Chakotay. I love you, worship you and treasure you with my life, and I promise that I will never give you cause to doubt me again," Chakotay replied sincerely, his dark eyes devouring Tom with unmistakable hunger.
"So youíre going to marry me, again?" Tom asked, his eyes dancing.
Chakotay coughed and blushed.
"What is it?" Tom demanded, worriedly.
"Um Ė the annulment Ė "
"I forged it. Weíre still married," Chakotay confessed.
Tom looked at him in complete astonished disbelief, and then he finally began to laugh helplessly.
"Then if I had married BíElanna it wouldnít have been legal?" Tom managed to choke.
"Well, I didnít want to take the chance, Tom. Iíve never ridden a horse before. What if I had fallen off or arrived too late?" Chakotay replied defensively.
Tom roared with laughter.
"Some Indian you are! Never ridden a horse before?" he gasped; tears of merriment rolling down his cheeks.
"Wrong tribe," Chakotay grinned back, holding out his hands pleadingly, and Tom moved forward into his embrace, sighing as Chakotayís strong arms wrapped themselves around him and squeezed him tight.
"Forgive me?" Chakotay whispered into his ear, his soft breath making Tom shiver with excitement.
"Always," he replied, feeling his heart drumming in rhythm with Chakotayís as the warmth of Chakotayís touch melted the last of his resentment and replaced it with contentment.
For the first time in years he felt truly loved.
Finally, he felt as though he had come home.