(Set after 4th season ep Nemesis)
Lieutenant Tom Paris: Personal Log - Stardate 4879.2
I'm still trying to work out how I feel. One minute I'm so angry that I can barely control it. The next I feel...crushed, as if weights have been dropped on me. Right now I feel nothing. Numbness. Emptiness. As if he had not survived, as if he had been killed down there on that damn planet, in that damn war.
It would have been ironic, in a terrible way, if he had died in someone
else's fight, so far from home. He would have died for nothing.
He's bound to have problems dealing with this. His integrity is his shield
against the world. And a barrier to his heart. He won't give it
easily. I have my own war to wage.
I, at least, can get some sleep now. These last few days have been the longest nightmare I can remember, since Caldik. The frustration, the need to DO something. I thought about just taking a shuttle and heading down there myself. Sending Tuvok was logical, of course, but I could hardly bear it. The impotence. The mind-shredding terror that we'd be too late.
I suppose I understand the truth of my feelings now.
Fuck. I love him so much. I knew if I had been there when we got him back, I'd have grabbed him from the transporter pad and held him until...
I didn't dare go and meet him.
My *enthusiasm* for the gung-ho rescue had been noted by the Captain, and I didn't want to embarrass Chakotay with any outbursts. He needs his emotional space. I just need to be in that space with him. Its overwhelming these days. It's all I can do to keep my hands steady on the helm when I know he's behind me. If he knew what I dreamed at night ....
He's going to need help to get through the fallout. I read the initial report. He'll blame himself for being used. He'll doubt himself. He'll rage against the rage, hate the hatred. And then the dreams will come. I've been where he's going. He'll need a friend to bring him home.
The messhall was busy, but quiet, Alpha shift efficiently wading through Neelix' wholesome and unappetising breakfast selection. A few gusts of laughter crossed the room as Tom stood in the doorway, slightly in the shadows. He surveyed the scene carefully, eyes narrowed in concentration. He turned slowly, his body seemingly relaxed in an elegant pose, one shoulder braced against the wall.
It was taking all his strength to maintain the illusion of disinterest and
his eyes flashed as they finally locked onto their target. Chakotay was
sitting with the captain, his dark head inclined slightly as he listened.
Janeway was all business this morning, Tom could see the way her hands moved with the brisk flow of words.
*So that was how she would be dealing with it,* Tom thought, his mouth twisting a little as he recalled a similar conversation long ago. His father had looked a little like Janeway, his manner just a little too brisk, his gestures just a touch too emphatic. Business as Usual.
He cursed softly under his breath, and as he moved from the shadows, a flash of intense emotion lit his face, before it was ruthlessly replaced by a brittle smile.
"Tom! Hey Paris!"
Tom flicked his eyes towards Harry as he called across the tables, raising a friendly hand.
"Later," he mouthed, and waggled his eyebrows at B'Elanna, who was toying disgustedly with something fibrous and pink on her plate. She smiled ruefully.
As Tom neared his goal, The Captain looked up and only he saw the flicker of
relief chase across her features. She wasn't as unconcerned as he had thought.
"Ahhh, Tom, glad you should join us," she clipped smoothly, pulling out a chair.
Tom risked a glance at the silent man beside her, but the commander was intent on his breakfast. Indeed, he seemed fascinated by it.
"So Tom, how are those new flight simulations coming on? Did we agree on a
training schedule for the crew interested in learning how to fly our little
"They're coming on slowly," Tom answered, leaning back in his chair so he could see Chakotay from the corner of his eye.
"The problem for me is making them easy enough for a beginner!! I'm such a natural that I forget most people freeze up at the helm!"
He chuckled at his own insouciance, and the Captain snorted in amusement.
"I know why they call you Flyboy behind your back," she said dryly, shaking her head in wry appreciation of the ego on display in front of her.
Captain and pilot exchanged a suddenly honest smile. Tom knew he didn't really fool Kathryn Janeway with his quick confidence and ready come-backs. He had realised long ago that that was exactly the way he wanted it.
He wondered if she was seeing through Chakotay's little charade as easily.
He suddenly thought of Harry, and smiled grimly to himself. Tom and he had shared a lot during the horror of Akriteria, shared more than Tom had ever wanted his friend to know. It had been nearly impossible to hide himself in the squalid confinement of that place: the clamp had taken him back to that other prison, that other desperate fight for survival. Harry had come far too close to understanding everything, and Tom couldn't allow that. Harry didn't need to know about Tom's dirty little secret. They didn't talk about it anymore. Flyboy and Starfleet suited them both as disguises.
Tom started as he realised the Captain was talking to him.
" ...those flight sims ready as soon as possible, Tom. Some of the junior officers are restless. This will give them something to sink their teeth into."
He was aware of Chakotay sighing beside him. The pilot turned, unable to resist any longer, and drank in the commander's face. The jaw was set firm, jutting a little too far forward. The mouth was a little tense, the full lower lip twisted a fraction, as though biting back a comment. The dark eyes were almost unfocused, until caught with blue, and then the two men exchanged a complicated look. Tom held the older man's gaze, nodding almost imperceptibly as he took in the creased forehead, the tension lines around his mouth and eyes. The commander was doing his best to appear at ease, Tom realised. He wondered if only he and the captain could see the simmering emotions beneath that calm exterior.
"Commander, glad to see you back on board," he said pleasantly.
Chakotay nodded his thanks. "Glad to be here Tom. It wasn't any fun being a chess piece in someone else's dirty war. When I'm fighting, I like to know exactly what I'm fighting for..."
Chakotay's voice trailed off, and for a fraction of a second the two men just looked at each other.
Tom had a sudden, intense memory of the first time he had realised he was in love with his First Officer. They had been chasing rogue Ferengi, astonishingly. Chakotay had been outraged at the exploitation and hardship being endured by the duo's victims. By the end of their away mission, Tom was finding it hard to breathe normally in the commander's presence. The confusion and longing and lust that had been circling for months suddenly and sweetly coalesced into a shockingly intense emotion that sometimes nearly consumed him. It had been hard keeping his feelings a secret, but he had had no expectation that his passion would even be tolerated, let alone reciprocated.
Chakotay broke eye contact and turned to the Captain, leaning in close to look at her PADD.
Tom rose awkwardly, knowing he had been dismissed, but as he turned to walk
away, he reached out and rested his fingers briefly on the broad shoulder
turned towards him. The muscle tensed under his touch. Tom paused a
moment, to ensure his voice and manner wouldn't betray him
"Hey Commander, if you feel the need to relax anywhere near a pool table, I'd be happy to relieve you of some replicator rations in Sandrine's. Just give me a call. Anytime."
The commander turned back towards Tom, his body blocking Janeway. It
was suddenly as though the two men were alone. Tom held his breath.
"Thanks for the offer Tom, but I m fine. No lasting after-effects. The Doctor says I'm fine. Just fine."
Tom smiled carefully.
First Officer's Personal Log: Stardate: 48420.3
It's difficult to come to terms with how I was used by the Vori; difficult
to accept that this hatred I feel is not my own. Spirits, I still can't
find it in myself to feel embarrassed about my reaction to the Kraden ambassador,
Treen. I couldn't even look the man in the eye. The Captain says
the Kraden accuse the Vori of atrocities too -- just as horrible as those the
Vori claim are carried out by the Kraden. I can't say. All I know
is I can't get past the memory of Carria being dragged off for extermination
and how I was completely powerless to prevent it. It doesn't seem to want
to sink in that I was brainwashed, that hardly anything I experienced on that
planet was real.
When I turned away from Treen, unable to say a word to the man, Kathryn had just looked at me and I still can't say just what was in her eyes. Confusion? Sympathy? -- though she can't begin to understand what I've been through. A many layered look, in any case. Hard for me to take because whatever my feelings, I *know* my behaviour was unbecoming of a Starfleet Officer. Her meaning was plain enough when she finally offered to listen to anything I might want to say about the whole experience. But the truth is, I just want it behind me now.
I suppose I can expect a lot of "concern" over the next period. Spirits, it's already started. Breakfast this morning was .... interesting, to say the least. Kathryn and I sat together as we always do if she appears for breakfast. Ship's business seemed to be foremost on her mind. The strategy she's obviously chosen to pursue in dealing with all of this is one of "business as usual." Sensible policy; like our Captain.
I think we were both relieved when Paris appeared, collected his breakfast and without hesitation made his way to our table. I glanced Harry and B'Elanna's way and had to swallow my grimace when I noted that neither seemed surprised at his choice of breakfast companions this morning. He and the Captain made small talk for awhile before he turned those blue eyes on me. Tom Paris, of all people, trying to be concerned without appearing to be concerned. Why in the world would he try the concerned fellow officer routine? As if I couldn't recognise that gambit. He should know:
I'm the master at that particular game.
Perhaps it was instinct that finally got the First Officer moving: he
did not relish the prospect of being amongst the last to arrive for the day's
staff meeting. He knew how his fellow crew members would look at him -
watchfully, senses tuned for the slightest sign that he was under unusual stress.
Chakotay made his way briskly down the busy corridor. He had been through
worse. All his old crew, the Maquis crew, knew this. It was something
the Starfleet crew was about to learn.
Kathryn was already there when he arrived. He gave her a soft smile which she returned.
"Is there anything you want to add to the agenda, Chakotay?" she asked as he took his place to the right of her.
"No Captain, nothing to add this time."
"Good. This shouldn't take us long this morning."
The sooner we are all back on the bridge, the better, Chakotay translated and watched as the Senior Staff arrived.
Tuvok arrived first looking, as usual, regulation perfect. He nodded briefly at his commanding officers and took his place to Janeway's left.
Tom, Harry and B'Elanna arrived together and while Kim and Torres only briefly acknowledged their superiors, Chakotay caught a fleeting look from Paris that he could not entirely identify. He looked again, closely, hoping to pin the emotion down. But Paris had slipped into a seat at the far end of the table, his face impenetrable.
Janeway called the meeting to order and B'Elanna was already giving the Engineering report. The Chief Engineer had nothing new to report, he mentally sighed. For once, energy and its consumption was not a top concern. Of more immediate concern was the dwindling number of shuttlecraft. It would soon be necessary to pirate parts from the crafts that were in extreme disrepair to put the remaining ones in top condition.
B'Elanna remarked, "There was very little of Chakotay's shuttle to salvage but we did manage to retrieve some key components -- the driver coil assembly and parts of the accelerator generator amongst them. The shuttle Pursuit could do with an overhaul and now we have the parts to give it one."
"It's essential that all personnel realise how serious the shuttle situation is," Tuvok began.
"I think it's a safe bet, Tuvok, that everyone already knows what sort of shape we're in as far as shuttles are concerned," Tom began.
"Nevertheless, Lieutenant Paris, stating uncategorically that shuttles can no longer be risked so cavalierly would go along way in raising the crew's consciousness on this matter."
"Are you suggesting I deliberately crashed that shuttle, Tuvok?"
Four heads jerked in Chakotay's direction, four pairs of eyes wide with surprise. He began to wonder if he'd suddenly grown another head. The ridiculous mental image did nothing to assuage his growing anger.
Only Tuvok was unperturbed. He gave that almost frown at which he was so practised. Janeway's eyes flickered to her Security Chief before fastening upon Chakotay.
But before she could say anything, Tuvok rested his elbows on the table, steepled his hands before him and remarked, "It never occurred to me, Commander, that you would do such a thing. However, the shuttle situation is becoming critical...."
"No one *wants* to lose a shuttle, Tuvok. Sometimes these things just happen. I know it's difficult for you to imagine, but sometimes things just happen and you have no control over them."
"And sometimes it is possible to better prepare for as many eventualities as possible," Tuvok countered. There was an air of lecturing a taciturn child about him. "I believe it is not too much to ask or expect that greater care be taken on missions involving the remaining shuttles."
As Chakotay's face darkened, Janeway watched the situation unfolding, not quite believing what she was hearing, much less what she was seeing. The entire scene had a surreal feel about it, as if it were a dream that had started with one plot, one very recognisable theme only to subtly shift midway through. She became certain that if she reached for either Tuvok or Chakotay, when she finally grasped their hands, instead of their familiar touches, their well-known faces, strangers would stand there holding her hands and staring back at her. She cleared her throat as much to get their attention as to clear her head.
"There's more involved here than what we want to believe," the First Officer sharply continued.
"Perhaps. But unbridled emotionalism has no place in this discussion."
A pin drop could have been heard. Everyone held their breaths and watched with growing trepidation as Chakotay and Tuvok held each other's gaze. Janeway caught the look of warning Torres threw Chakotay. When it failed to get his attention, B'Elanna caught her Captain's eye and through the desperation, Janeway could see the imploring look that begged her to take action before the situation could deteriorate any further.
Before Chakotay lost it completely in front of the entire Senior Staff.
"The crew will be briefed on the shuttlecraft situation, gentlemen," Janeway began quietly. "Emphasis will be placed on taking extreme care in all missions involving shuttles. It goes without saying that any one of us can only do his or her best."
A small part of her was inordinately pleased that she sounded so calm, so unphased by the fact that the two officers upon whom she relied the most, had seemingly nearly come to blows.
Would Tuvok have fought him? She found herself idly wondering as the meeting continued, its undercurrent of hostility running silently for the moment. She wrapped up the proceedings quickly, determined to get everyone to their duty stations and immersed in their work. She gave Chakotay a searching look, thoughts of the Vori/Kraden conflict on her mind, then followed the others from the room.
Chakotay seemed to linger after the meeting. Tom Paris was right behind his captain but hesitated at the door.
He turned to Chakotay.
"Hey. Are you okay?"
The blue eyes held nothing but concern; not a hint of jocularity or the breezy, smart-alec persona Paris often affected. Chakotay sighed deeply. It was an honest question, asked with an honest need to know.
"Yeah, Tom. I'm fine."
"Vulcans can be infuriating sometimes," Paris drawled and the commander smiled in spite of himself.
"Infuriating doesn't begin to cover it. Let's get to the bridge."
Tom turned towards the door, as much to follow the implied order as to hide the brilliant smile Chakotay's own smile had provoked.
Lieutenant Tom Paris: Personal Log: Stardate: 4879.4
So much for Business as Usual! I still can't quite believe what I
saw. Staff meeting, senior officers, we were discussing the shuttle crisis.
I wonder if anyone else could see how *restrained* Chakotay was as he sat in
that chair. I know I'm attuned to him. I watch his every movement
if I can, but surely they could all see the state he was in. Every muscle
tense, like his shoulder yesterday at breakfast. Oh he was so *Chakotay*
then; calm, considered, smooth, unruffled.
It gives me no satisfaction to be right, but he's in trouble. I hope he can let someone in. I hope it can be me. I *know* what he needs. I know what he's feeling.
Maybe after this morning's little episode, the Captain will take some time to talk to him. He was SO close to decking Tuvok. God knows that Vulcan can be infuriating, but he is also usually right.
It must eat Chakotay alive to be surrounded by people who have manipulated him, one way or another. Tuvok, Seska, the Captain and me. Fuck, he was so hurt after the Jonas thing. I could hardly bear to see the pain in those eyes. I think I could only have done it for the Captain. I don't think I could do it again.
Now he 's been tricked again. Tricked into abandoning all that spiritual maturity he's been trying to bury the Warrior with. He must hate himself. I know I did, after Auckland.
When your back is against the wall, when the teeth are bared and the claws are at your throat, sometimes the only way out is killing rage. For a moment in Akriteria, Harry knew that. I live with it every day. Even the Captain understands the impulse. I think Chakotay thought he had left that behind.
The beast is within us all.
Tom whistled tunelessly as he walked down the corridor, his mind already planning the evening ahead. The day had passed uneventfully, with no further tension in the senior ranks.
He had felt a rush of confidence at the end of the shift, that had carried
him to the Chakotay 's office, and then deserted him as he faced the commander's
cool, thoughtful gaze. He had been wrong-footed by Chakotay's immediate
acceptance of an invitation to play pool at such short notice. He
had expected the commander to procrastinate charmingly. His acquiescence
had been charming too, and Tom allowed a small smile to play at the corners
of his mouth as he remembered how hard it had been to appear simply pleased
rather than overwhelmed.
As he neared the Holodeck, he took a steadying breath, and ran through his plans for the evening. Sandrine's, pool, friendly conversation, maybe some sharing of past histories, if a convenient remark led them down that path. Tom was determined to create a setting and a mood that would allow him to offer Chakotay some concrete help, without scaring the man half to death!
A quick scan of the smoky room confirmed Tom's guess that he would be first to arrive. He sat in a fairly exposed corner, legs stretched out in front, languidly nursing a drink. He forced his breathing into a shallow, relaxed pattern, and leaned back in the uncomfortable chair, waiting.
It was an hour before he gave in and commed the commander.
*Take it easy Flyboy. He just thought better of a date with you. He'll be
deep into a crew roster, or performance evaluations. He'll look at you
like you're crazy if you go charging in asking why he didn't show...*
There was no reply.
He asked the computer to locate Commander Chakotay.
"Commander Chakotay is in his quarters."
The clipped response did nothing to reassure the pilot, and he had to remind himself not to run as he left the Holodeck.
Tom's disquiet grew as he neared Chakotay's quarters. The cold certainty that something was wrong behind the cool, smooth exterior of the door drove him to finally press the chime. No response. He pressed again, moving closer to the door, as if by doing so he might hear what was going on inside.
The decision to override the security code was made in an instant. No painful analysis, or thought of protocol. This ability to act on impulse, using the available evidence spiked with whatever his gut was telling him, was what made Tom Paris an extraordinary pilot. Consequences were for later. Voyager owed her continued survival to this unorthodox approach; the consequences had nearly always been acceptable. The same could not be said about Tom's own life.
As he entered the darkened room he knew instantly he had been right, but the
realisation gave him no pleasure. The air was thick with pain and rage,
and another emotion that coiled about the pilot, twisting in his gut with a
familiar wrench. Fear.
"Commander? Chakotay ..it's Tom. Is everything OK?"
He moved slowly into the room, rapidly scanning the sparsely furnished quarters. He stood still and listened, hearing the short gasping sighs and uncoordinated movements of someone in distress and he advanced on the bed, eyes growing accustomed to the semi-darkness.
"Chakotay. It's Tom, can you hear me?"
Moving to the side of the bed, transfixed by the man in front of him, he breathed in sharply.
Skin. There was so much skin. Sheened with sweat, hair spiky with it, the man shivered and muttered, his strong hands clutching the bed convulsively, the tendons in the arched neck taut with the effort of holding his head up, away from the pillow. The bottomless eyes were wide and unseeing and as he watched, transfixed by the raw emotion in the powerful body before him, Tom felt his own hands curl into fists as he desperately resisted the urge to touch.
Chakotay moaned softly and closed his eyes, curling into himself like a child. Hands reached over his head in a gesture of protection and surrender and Tom felt something inside him break. Kneeling beside the bed, he reached a steady hand out to stroke a trembling shoulder. As his fingers touched the warm, bronze muscle, he remembered the feel of it through cloth. God but it was better without. He just had time to process this thought before the cowering form beneath his hands erupted into a frenzy of furious motion.
Tom found himself thrown to the floor, impossibly strong fingers around his
neck, the weight of the still unconscious commander pressing him into the carpet.
He looked up into unfocused eyes, and realised that Chakotay was trapped in
a nightmare, locked into an endless replay of his recent experience, fighting
the Kraden, hating the Kraden, killing the Kraden.
Tom allowed the unforgivable pleasure of being pinned by the thrashing body of the man he loved to flash through him for an instant, every nerve ending screaming with a combination of terror and desire. Then the iron grip around his neck tightened, and Tom fought for breath. This was no loving embrace. The man was trying to squeeze the life from him.
He prised the cruel fingers from his neck, using all his strength to push Chakotay away from him, gasping for breath and wondering if he was a match for the Maquis warrior. He began to struggle in earnest, feeling Chakotay's ragged breath against his face. As the struggle intensified, Tom felt his control slipping and he thought about calling for help. Tuvok would have a team here in minutes, and Chakotay would...
Suddenly he remembered why it had been so important to come here tonight.
He was trying to be a friend. He was trying to help the commander overcome
the beast within, because no-one had helped him and it had been such a long
and desperate journey back by himself.
Tom went limp in Chakotay 's vicious embrace, feeling the slight hesitation in the taut body that covered his. He reached up a hand to push the hair back from dark, empty eyes as he spoke urgently, knowing he would only have one chance.
"Chakotay wake up...you're having a nightmare. You must wake up ."
Tom pitched his voice to cut through the haze of sleep, and tightened his fingers in the sweat soaked hair, muscles tensed ready for action if he failed to break the dream's hold.
"Chakotay, Chakotay wake up..."
Tom repeated his mantra over and over, lying passive beneath the bucking, twisting
man, staring into the clouded gaze that seemed to be looking through him.
Suddenly the commander blinked and his body went as still as a cat, just before
the killing leap. Tom held his breath, hands still firmly locked around
the dark head only inches from his own.
Black eyes locked onto blue with shocking speed, and Tom shuddered with recognition
at the emotions he read in that instant of eye contact. Then Chakotay
seemed to blaze suddenly and Tom had no time to wonder at the inarticulate groan
that was wrenched from the man lying pressed against him, thigh to thigh, chest
to chest, heart to heart, before he was being kissed so intensely that he almost
lost consciousness. Only the floor beneath him and the agonising pleasure
of hard warm lips against his own kept him from oblivion. Pulling Chakotay
's face closer, Tom gasped for air and gasped again as he felt his mouth pierced
by a hot sweetness. Just as suddenly the kiss ended, and Tom watched,
unable to move, as Chakotay rolled away and stood up carefully, his eyes never
leaving the sprawled figure beneath him.
"Tom?" he asked again, eyes focussed but wary, body controlled but awkward.
Tom drew in a shuddering breath and twisted into a sitting position,
adjusting his uniform, and wiping his hand unselfconsciously across his slightly
"You were late for our pool game. I came to find you. You didn't answer, and when I checked, you were having this nightmare."
Tom let the words cover the confusion of the moment and allowed a hint of amusement
to colour his voice. It covered the longing and Tom desperately needed
time to regain his equilibrium.
Chakotay seemed a little dazed and he looked at Tom with an enigmatic expression.
"Yes...a nightmare..." The commander spoke softly, almost a whisper. "It was the Kraden of course, they seem to be lurking in my sleep, waiting for me in all the wrong places - to finish my training."
There was a strong undercurrent of bitterness as he spoke and Tom allowed the emotion to slide over any other he thought he might have glimpsed in the commander's wild gaze earlier.
"Tom." He paused. "Did I recognise you?"
"I don't think so - although you had a good go at strangling me - so maybe you did." Tom grinned and saw Chakotay relax a fraction.
*So he's not ready to deal with it yet*
The kiss was not mentioned, and Tom locked the memory away.
After a cup of strong black coffee and a hot shower, Chakotay surprised Tom
by suggesting a visit to Sandrine's as originally planned. Tom watched
the dark man for signs of distress as they played pool.
Chakotay was trying hard to appear relaxed. Nevertheless, a couple of times Tom caught the commander staring at his neck, and then at his own hands, with a confused expression hovering around his eyes. Once he thought he saw the strong fingers brush across that delicious mouth, as if searching for something.
Tom allowed himself a wry chuckle. Whatever version Chakotay had decided was *reality* Tom knew what had happened: he had clearly heard the commander whisper his name as he drowned in the sensation of his mouth.
First Officer's Personal Log Stardate 48421.8
The Captain expertly diffused an ugly situation between Tuvok and me at
yesterday's staff meeting. Because of my reaction to some very typically
Tuvok remarks about our dwindling number of shuttlecraft, I nearly ended up
in the brig. I'm still trying to understand just how I allowed myself
to get so close to so completely losing control.
There are moments now when I feel as if I'm coming out of a dream - everything seems completely fine until I'm startled by some unrecognisable feeling or something I can't believe I've said. Yesterday's staff meeting was like that. I was ready to deck Tuvok! That I could get to that point without realising it.... I thought I was past all of that.
And there he was again. Paris. Falling behind as everyone else left. A few words from him, a shared laugh, snickering together, like a couple of schoolboys behind the principal's back and all the stress just vanished. Just what I needed and he seemed to understand that. *How* he does is a mystery to me but right now, I find myself grateful that he's there.
We actually spent an evening playing pool in Sandrine's last night. Don't know what it is, but I can't abide Neelix's damn resort program! Sandrine's suits me for some crazy reason. Maybe it reminds me of every seedy bar I ever saw during my Maquis days. Maybe it's just that when he and I are there, I feel that I'm seeing the real Paris and I like what I see. At that resort, it's too easy for him to hide.
I nearly didn't make it. I wanted to clear up just a few tasks that had been hanging about far too long and before I knew it, I could hardly keep my eyes open. I was going to nap for just ten minutes - or so I told myself. The next thing I knew, I was on the floor, Tom beneath me, and I was doing my best to strangle him. Don't know how he managed to break the hold I had on his neck. I was drenched in sweat, shaking like a leaf and I'd told Tom about the dream almost before I realised what I was doing.
It was just a dream. Remarkable how a little light and distance can so alter your perception. I think I made it sound more terrifying than it really was.
But it seemed so real! I remember the Kraden -- my rage and terror, my determination to strangle the beast if I could -- but then Tom was suddenly there and the Kraden had disappeared. Everything narrowed down to him and, Spirits help me, I kissed him, holding him as if he were my lifeline to reality.....
Then, I woke up.
Well, I should be thankful for that Paris cockiness. Though I'd just done my best to kill the man, there he was looking at me with undisguised humour and using that Paris drawl. We managed a game of pool at Sandrine's and I actually enjoyed his company.
But I kept thinking about that kiss; even in my dream, how his mouth felt, how he tasted. I can't help wondering now what it would be like to really kiss him.
Voyager's corridors were empty and dimly lit. He passed no crew members
as he made his way to the messhall and Chakotay found the silent, winding passages
a little disconcerting. Still, he reasoned, it was late in the evening,
which was why he was headed in this direction. At this time, the messhall
would be nearly empty and that would suit his mood perfectly. Just a few
crewmates for company was exactly what he wanted right now.
He was totally unprepared for what greeted him as the messhall doors swished shut behind him. The messhall was nearly full and all of alpha shift was there. The captain looked up and smiled, waving him over to her table.
It concerned him a little how everyone paused in what they were doing or saying as he passed and Chakotay suddenly knew that he had experienced all of this before. Keeping the growing uncertainty at bay and off his face, he made his way towards Janeway's table. Tuvok, Kim and Torres were there. It was like a punch in the gut: where was Paris?
Just as he was about to greet them all, Neelix appeared from the galley and behind him, swaggering just a little, came Ambassador Treen.
Chakotay opened his mouth to scream but could not make a sound. Certain that his heart would burst from his chest, that the very next breath he took would be his last, he raised his hands in a gesture of protection or denial --- and found them firmly grasping the primitive, deadly Vori weapon.
Janeway rose to her feet, but the captain seemed to struggle, her movements so incongruously languid as if she moved underwater. Chakotay's attention was pulled in her direction and then held as with growing horror, he watched her familiar face transform into the face of a Kraden beast.....
His terror had no voice and he squeezed the trigger of his weapon, determined to empty it on the two beasts before him. Crew members jumped to their feet, taking on the colours of the Kraden as they stood and leapt towards him with those awful teeth barred. He could not nullify them all and would be ripped apart by their bare hands before he could fathom what was happening .....
With a small cry, Chakotay bolted upright in his bed. It should have been a scream to wake the dead and he took note of his pounding heart, his rapid breathing. He called for quarter lights.
After a long drink of water, he knew that sleep would not easily return.
That damn dream again. Always slightly different and yet always the same. The intensity of it never abated, always left him shaking. He shook now, felt the silence of his quarters as his eyes grew accustomed to the dim lighting and the horror retreated to those places the light did not reach. Only with tremendous effort, did he drag his thoughts away from the dream and the despair that his feelings would ever be his own again. Only fleetingly did he think of meditating. He did not think the she-wolf would approach him while he was in this state of mind. He pulled on the first things to come to hand, headed out his door and strode quickly down the empty corridor with a determination in his step he definitely did not feel.
The observation lounge was nearly empty. Two crewmen, a young man and woman, sat close together in a far corner. Their soft murmuring was interrupted as Chakotay entered. The young lovers exchanged looks then stood as one to make their exit. They gave the first officer shy smiles as they passed him and some part of Chakotay was vaguely perturbed that it took a moment to remember their names. But his attention was immediately captured by the stars streaking by as Voyager sped through the cold, dark void.
Like the cold settling about him, creeping into his heart and soul. Bits of him were being frozen every time the dream came, being frozen and made dead.
He settled into a seat, elbows resting on his knees, head in his hands.
* It was only a dream, Chakotay! * he tried to tell himself. * You just need a little time. *
In time, everything would be okay. It was only to be expected that these first
days would be difficult... But to be this difficult! -- to take
every ounce of strength he had and more. The sigh he gave was more like
a sob and for the moment, it was easier to surrender to the hopelessness.
How long he sat like this, still as stone, Chakotay didn't know. He slowly took his head from his hands and stood, stretched, then gazed out the viewport as if he could see the very end of the galaxy. Tom Paris had said if he needed anything just let him know. The commander paused for only minutes to consider the lateness of the hour and the wisdom of his actions. He hit his comm badge and was unsurprised at Paris' sleep slurred reply.
"I'm sorry to wake you, Tom," he began.
Suddenly unable to continue, Chakotay swallowed once and hoped that the panic rising within him would not be heard in his voice.
"Where are you?"
"The Observation Lounge."
"I'm on my way."
He did not know what to do with himself then. Chakotay could not believe he had just commed Paris -- in the middle of the night. What would he say to him? They both would be better off getting the rest they would need to make it through alpha shift. Spirits! He was the senior officer here! Whatever problems he was having, displaying them before a subordinate couldn't be the best way of dealing with them.
And Paris of all people! Would he appear, Flyboy persona firmly in place, ready to take advantage of Chakotay's slightest betrayal of weakness? No. That was unfair. The look on Tom's face when he had made his offer of... support ... had been completely honest.
To stop himself from shaking, he rested his arm on the frame above him, leaning closer to the viewport.
"Hey there," came a soft voice.
Chakotay's head jerked up and he inhaled sharply at the expression in Tom Paris' eyes. They sparkled. Everything about the man positively glowed. The commander's doubts, his hesitancy, vanished and when Paris turned and took a seat, Chakotay followed without thinking. Tom seemed content to sit there quietly. There was nothing about him that suggested he'd just been woken from a sound sleep.
"Wanna tell me about it?" he finally asked.
Still, his voice was soft. Chakotay had the distinct impression that if he did not reply to Tom's question, Paris would just sit there, for as long as necessary, until he did.
Chakotay sighed. He leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes. He felt Tom shift almost imperceptibly closer as he began to relate the dream. It was too tempting to reveal all, sitting there together, Paris' presence through his silence encouraging Chakotay to continue. He knew he should tread softly but was completely undone when he opened his eyes and saw that Tom had shifted his position, leaning on an elbow so closely, Chakotay could feel his every breath.
He paused in his tale, his mouth suddenly dry. He watched Tom's eyes soften with understanding and Paris' hand gently caressed his shoulder.
"It's the loss of control. Like my life isn't mine anymore. I can't do my job on this ship if I don't know if I'm coming or going -- if half the time I'm wondering if this is a dream or if it's reality!"
"The thing *not* to do is bottle it all inside."
It was said with such conviction, Chakotay just stared at Tom for a minute. The younger man had turned his attention to the stars and was obviously, at that moment, light-years away. For a moment, Chakotay wondered where Tom's thoughts lay.
"Aside from Kathryn, there aren't many aboard who I feel comfortable talking to. Comes with the territory, I suppose."
"You can always talk to me and whatever you tell me remains strictly between us. And I can understand that you don't want to tell the Captain a lot of this."
Chakotay looked at Tom sharply. He could not be certain, but in the dim light, Chakotay thought he could detect a blush creeping over Paris' fair features. He chuckled and there was no humour in the sound.
"Well, if you understand it, please explain it to me."
"You never show... vulnerability. Being so centred, knowing yourself -- you know, so many people go most of their lives without figuring out a lot of things about themselves."
Paris ran a hand through his hair and Chakotay was mesmerised by the sight.
Tom smiled and continued, "Right now, you just have to realise that there are people here ... a *person* here that you can lean on. And I'm not talking about Kathryn."
They both laughed, Tom's hand once again on his shoulder and Chakotay found he'd moved a fraction closer to the man. Tom murmured, close to the commander's ear, "Cha, it isn't going to be better in an evening or a day or even a few days. I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. All I'm saying is, you don't have to go through it all alone."
Upon hearing Tom's words, the gratitude and relief that swept through Chakotay threatened to explode his heart. He closed his eyes, to his surprise, fighting tears and he could feel Paris holding himself very still beside him. Finally, he was able to open his eyes and smile his thanks at Tom.
The lieutenant stood, extended his hand.
"Come on, Commander. I'll walk you to your door. If you're lucky, you'll get a good night kiss."
Chakotay's heart skipped a beat as he remembered the kiss from his dream. Paris was waggling his eyebrows suggestively and he could not suppress a grin.
"Not on the first date, Lieutenant. I wouldn't want you thinking that I was easy."
After that evening in the Observation Lounge, everything seemed to have changed.
It was an exercise in futility trying to tell himself that, really, nothing
had changed, that he was still the same, that Paris was still the same and that
the relationship between them had not altered.
Long ago, that relationship was defined by dislike, distrust and anger. Then, as Chakotay grew into his position as First Officer and grew accustomed to all this implied, it gradually changed. Just as he was not the same man he'd been when they started the journey home to the Alpha Quadrant, Tom Paris wasn't either. Paris had proven himself to be just the opposite of what Chakotay, in his Maquis days, had always believed him to be. Chakotay let the anger and his feelings of betrayal go and the two were able to work well together. Almost without realising it, the men had slid into friendship and now, they seemed to have shifted again -- moved from the hard earned, genuine friendship towards something deeper.
The commander laughed softly as he thought about the past few days. Tom, thank the Spirits, was discreet about it but he had barely let Chakotay out of his sight. He would casually mention that he was spending an evening at Sandrine's or at the Paxau Resort. The last time Chakotay took Tom up on an offer to meet at the resort, he was rewarded with gently ribbing from Paris for preferring the non-alcohol/non-synthehol cocktails. Some things, at least never change! And for that, he was immensely grateful. Paris, unlike so many others right now, saw little need to always handle him with kid gloves.
Chakotay gave the padds on his desk one last look before standing and slowly crossing the room to the viewport. As he watched the stars pass, his thoughts tumbled one over the other.
He couldn't be certain how it happened. He and Tom, at Tom's suggestion, began working together on the flight sims the captain had requested. Ostensibly, Tom wanted Chakotay's input before approaching the captain with the finished product and the commander found himself spending very nearly every spare minute on the holodeck with Paris. They compared notes on the finer points of piloting as well as the finer points of holographic programming. Tom even had a clear picture of which pilots would benefit most from each simulation. Chakotay smiled; as if he had been unobtrusively observing each person with whom he shared Voyager.
Somehow, it just came out one day. There was a pause in the conversation. He and Paris had done the hard work for the evening and the memories spilled out, almost without the commander realising it. They sat on the mock bridge, side by side, Paris in Janeway's chair, and Chakotay looked at Tom and felt a sort of horror that he had so little control. But like floodwaters breaching a dam, he had talked, remembered the rage as Carria, just a child, was taken off to certain death. Even as his rational mind screamed that none of it was real, even as he expected at any moment to see confusion on Tom's face -- or perhaps even disgust at his weakness -- Chakotay could not stem the tide. He was locked in the raging storm that was the Vori/Kraden conflict and there was nothing to be done except to ride it to its finish.
Tom Paris had watched him closely when it was over, an odd expression on his face. He had given a soft smile at Chakotay's questioning look, stood, then had extended his hand. After pulling the commander to his feet, he had announced that he was going to feed him that evening and would brook no argument. The meal had been simple and relaxing and Chakotay's sleep that evening had been completely untroubled.
Remarkable was the only word the commander could put to it, Tom's uncanny ability to say the right thing, do the right thing at precisely the right moment - or not, somehow attuned to Chakotay's every emotional nuance. Extraordinary that it felt so right and so comfortable, not fraught with guilt or feelings of obligation. How could Paris get it so right when people senior to him, including Chakotay himself, still seemed so at a loss about this situation?
The stars were streaks of light here in warped space and Chakotay began to wonder if he could attach a painful, unwanted memory to each as Voyager left each smear of light behind; consign the entire hateful experience to the void. He turned towards his office door. Tom would be in Sandrine's about now.
Lieutenant Tom Paris - Personal Log: Stardate 48427.3
Suddenly life seems precious.
Harry and I are off on a little test flight in one of the shuttles. We've lost so many of them that we have to jerry-rig the ones we have left, using salvaged parts and some modifications from B'Elanna's bag of tricks. Trouble is, I'm not really sure if the hull will withstand the changes.
Harry and I could end up inspecting the damage from the outside!
Normally I'd be licking my lips at the thought of the adrenaline rush, the chance to live up to that old Flyboy image. So why are there knots unravelling in my gut? Why do I want to lie very still in a cool, dark room and let someone else fly the damn thing? Too much to live for, all of a sudden. Too much to hope for.
He called me, in the night. Six days ago. His voice sounded so....lost, so uncertain. It must have been hard, to admit a need, to admit he couldn't cope on his own anymore. Even in my wildest fantasies, I didn't really believe he'd choose me over the Captain. He must feel something. Fuck, the emotional current I'm throwing out would be hard for even a Borg to miss!
Since that first night, he has let me into that quiet place that he surrounds himself with. Just simple things, A drink at Sandrine's, breakfast in the messhall, walking back to quarters after a bridge shift. I have caught him looking at me sometimes, with that deep, focused stare of his. I think he must be wondering what is happening.
I knew I had been right to stay close when he finally let me all the way in last night. We'd been running flight sims on the holodeck, and he just sort of...broke open. Like he had held it in for so long, and then, in the end, there was no reason not to tell someone. No, not *someone*. Me. Right place, right time, exactly as I had hoped.
I remember after Auckland, how desperate I was to share my fear with someone. The terror that I would never know myself again. After such an act of violence, a person has to rebuild himself. Maybe I didn't do such a bad job on my own, but fuck knows I've wished for someone to talk to, even now.
I can't forget the feel of him trembling under my hand, his eyes closed, fighting for control. I wanted to touch his face. To hold him. He was showing me something that I don't think even the Captain has seen. Fear, and a need to share. He wasn't alone. And God help me, neither was I.
That first night, in the Observation Lounge, I dared a joke about a goodnight kiss and I swear he shivered a little! Maybe I should have risked it, but I don't want to scare him. He's beginning to trust me, and there will be another time. Which brings me back to my first point.....
Suddenly life seems precious.
The Shuttle bay was quiet as Tom approached, his off-key whistling wavering
a little as he entered the hangar. Flying a shuttle was a little pleasure
he enjoyed much more than he should; he loved to feel the duranuim humming under
his fingers as he made the little personal adjustments impossible when flying
Voyager. He grinned with anticipation as he bounded up the shuttle ramp,
looking for Harry. His friend was not obvious, and Tom settled himself
at the conn, checking the displays and the course profile. Major modifications
of this scale were unpredictable, and beneath the tingle of excitement Tom could
feel a knot of anxiety that he had been unable to shake.
*Stupid to think he would come and see you off......*.
Tom snorted at his own romantic foolishness, and called for Harry. He was ready for launch, and Harry should have been here five minutes ago. There was a rustle behind him, and he felt soft breath on his neck.
"Hey, where've you been hiding Harry...?" Tom broke off in confusion as Chakotay swung the conn chair slowly round, fixing Tom with eyes that seemed to be concealing something.
"Change of plan, Lieutenant. Harry was needed in Engineering, B'Elanna was very specific as usual! I'm afraid the only replacement at short notice was me."
Tom noted the emotion shifting behind the commander's gaze, a wary excitement tinged with embarrassment. He allowed his own pleasure at the re-arrangement to show openly on his face, and was rewarded by a slow smile from Chakotay.
"Two pilots are better than one...." he joked, and swung his chair back to the conn, as his companion took up position beside him.
Janeway's distinctive tones filled the shuttle cabin, and Tom glanced at her face on the comm screen.
"Is the Commander with you yet Tom? There was a change of plan..."
"Yes thank you ma'am. He's been invaluable so far. Don't know what I would've done without him to tell the truth..."
Janeway allowed herself a tiny smile, and felt her shoulders relax a little. She had been right to insist that Chakotay go on this flight. Maybe the mission would help the commander to put the Kraden incident behind him. Tom would be a good distraction! She had not been unaware of the change in the status of their relationship, and wondered, not for the first time, how the mercurial pilot had managed to reach her stoic First Officer.
"Bridge, we're ready when you are."
Tom flicked his eyes across to his co-pilot, and was startled by the intensity of the stare that he encountered. For a split second Tom felt uncomfortable.
"Tractor beams initialised, opening shuttle bay doors..."
Once clear of Voyager, Tom flew the shuttle with easy assurance, and soon the two men were engrossed in the flight, putting the graceful little ship through her paces. The modifications seemed to be holding up well, the shuttle was 13% more manoeuvrable, energy efficiency was slightly improved, and the shields would withstand more damage than before.
"She's handling well. Should be harder to crash this one! That'll please Tuvok!"
The commander was sprawled uncharacteristically in his chair, eyes following the pilot's hands as they danced over the controls in front of him. He seemed relaxed in a way that Tom hadn't seen since the experience with the Vori.
"Hey, Mister Maquis pilot! How about a little REAL flying?"
With an irrepressible grin, Tom flicked the shuttle off-line and gestured to Chakotay's control panel.
"She's all yours hot shot!"
The shuttle lurched alarmingly, and Chakotay cursed as he scanned the data screen, his hands automatically correcting the flight plan even as his brain calculated the figures. It took him a few minutes to get the feel of her, but was soon flying in elegant sweeps, eyes fixed in concentration to the constantly changing readout, fingers following seamlessly. It was exhilarating and frustrating and difficult, and he hadn't had so much fun since...since...
Chakotay smiled his rare smile, and Tom's heart did slow somersaults. This was going well. His instincts had been correct, and Chakotay was definitely distracted.
Tom turned his face away to hide the pleasure that heated his skin. It took the voice of the Captain acidly requesting their return to break the spell.
Tom began to formulate a plan for the evening, involving a bottle of replicated
French wine, a leisurely game of pool and maybe the goodnight kiss he'd been
As he allowed the computer to push the shuttle into a graceful arc towards Voyager, he swivelled the pilots chair towards the suddenly silent man beside him.
Chakotay seemed uneasy, and was staring fixedly at the display in front of him. His eyes, however, were not moving, and his jaw was clenched imperceptibly. A casual observer would have admired the man's concentration, but Tom had stopped being a casual observer where Chakotay was concerned a long time ago.
Not moving his gaze from the panel in front of him, or his hands from the controls, Tom spoke gently, his words carefully neutral.
"Commander, we need to get ready to dock with Voyager. Can you initiate the procedure?"
Chakotay appeared not to have heard him, his shoulders were trembling slightly, and his eyes stared down blankly.
Tom raised his voice slightly, and recognised a note of panic underneath his question. He switched the shuttle entirely over to the computer, and rose slowly, not wanting to startle the man a few meters away. There was something very wrong and Tom had the sensation that he already knew what it was. As he closed the distance between himself and the catatonic Chakotay, he knew that this could only be another Kraden dream.
"You're not alone, I'm here..." Tom whispered, almost to himself as he reached out and tenderly allowed his fingers to stroke Chakotay's hand, where it gripped the console in front of him.
There was no reaction, and Tom knew the dream had taken a firm grip. He would need to be careful.
"Chakotay...Chakotay, you're dreaming again....wake up. Wake up. It's Tom, you need to wake up...."
Tom risked a hand on the commander's shoulder and when he got no response, he raised the other hand to the other shoulder, pulling the First Officer round to face him.
Chakotay was rigid with tension, his face twisted into a harsh, angry mask. The normally expressive, thoughtful eyes were blank, and Tom repressed a shudder.
He reached a hand up and pushed the sweat-soaked hair back from the agonised
face in front of him, and although he was prepared, Chakotay's reaction still
stunned him. With lightning speed, the commander had twisted Tom's arm
viciously between them, eliciting a sharp cry of pain.
"Kraden beast.....you have nullified my friends....." Chakotay's voice was husky with rage, and his hands promised more.
"You have nullified and nullified, and left them upturned. Now is the time for you to tremble, for I will nullify you, and all your kind....."
Chakotay's savage grip intensified, and Tom gasped as he realised that with another twist his arm would break.
"Chakotay..." he pleaded, forcing his body to relax against the oblivious commander. His arm was numb, almost dead.
Chakotay hesitated, and Tom saw a flicker in the empty eyes. His passivity was not anticipated and therefore confusing.
Tom followed his instincts, and using his free arm to draw Chakotay's face close to his, he saw a way to break the dream's hold. Breathing with ragged, uneven breaths he took a second to run his thumb across Chakotay's mouth before kissing him with a bruising passion that surged from his heart.
Chakotay's lips were soft despite his angry words and as he opened them in a little gasp of confusion, Tom took full advantage. He pulled the dark head closer, his long fingers curled around the strong jaw, and thrust his tongue into the unbearable heat, his eyes fixed on the dark gaze, waiting for a spark of reaction. The pilot was relentless. He kissed Chakotay with the frustrated passion of someone who has found something thought lost forever, willing the man to surface from the nightmare and recognise his attacker.
Tom saw the exact moment that Chakotay broke free of the dream. His eyes clouded for an instant, then re-focused and the shock of recognition drew a shudder of reaction from both men. Wincing with pain Tom unlaced the fingers of his uninjured hand from the dark, tangled hair and drew back a fraction, his engorged lips still brushing the other man's mouth as he spoke in short, whispered gasps.
"Chakotay...do you know who I am? You were dreaming about the Kraden, I was trying to..."
The husky rasp of Chakotay's voice, sounding unused and rusty, interrupted Tom's frantic murmur.
"Tom, I know it's you, and I know we're not dreaming. I can taste you and feel you and you're warm and alive. You're the only thing I know is real anymore. Kiss me again, make me know you're real...."
There was real desperation in the commander's voice and Tom was more gentle with his invasion of that delicious mouth. He felt hands pulling him against the hard, tense body that had been trying to kill him moments ago and with a shock of electricity, realised that the commander was desperately aroused, the heat and hardness of him obvious and unhidden.
Tom felt himself being pressed backwards, his steps awkward and stumbling as Chakotay began to kiss him back, the erotic sweetness of the invading tongue driving reason from the pilot's mind. He felt the shuttle hull against his back and the searing heat of Chakotay's mouth against his neck, as teeth grazed the big vein that throbbed erratically there. His arm was burning as the circulation returned, but he was oblivious.
Tom used all his strength to pull the dark head that was devouring him up level with his, so that he could see Chakotay's face. There was barely restrained passion there, lust and tenderness in equal measure. Tom traced the glistening mouth with his finger, and arched his hips forward, so that there was no confusion about the desires on both sides. Chakotay nodded briefly and licked the sweat from Tom's jaw as he insinuated his hands inside the pilot's uniform.
"Share with me Tom. I want you so much. You understand me, you
knew I needed you....and Spirits I do need you. Can you give me this much?"
Chakotay's words were at odds with his actions, the vulnerability of his plea alongside the fingers burning their way across his chest a heady combination.
Tom nodded with a smile that veered from triumphant to terrified in the space of a heartbeat and he slid his leg between the two that braced the commander's taut body against him. His thigh brushed swollen flesh hot even through a uniform and Tom rubbed his leg back and forth, feeling the heat and moisture soaking through the fabric. His own erection was painfully restricted, and he moaned with relief and pleasure as Chakotay snaked a hand between them and released him.
The moans turned to oaths and cries as warm hands encircled him, a thumb spreading the gathering fluid along the exquisitely sensitive ridge, fingernails teasing the underside and fingers twisting in the coarse hair that spilled from the narrow uniform opening.
"Oh fuck, I've been imagining you doing that for weeks.....for God's sake let me touch you... I want to feel how much you want me Cha, I need to feel it..."
Tom felt his hand being dragged across his own body, then pressed against something so hard, so hot, so alive that he almost snatched his hand away. He gasped softly and the breath was stolen from him by a ravenous mouth and he reached again for the incredible heat of Chakotay's cock, wanting to taste the pearly fluid that coated his fingers, wanting to feel the blood pulsing against his tongue, to smell the maleness of him, the musk.
The two men arched and bucked together, almost unable to break the intense
kisses that locked them together, sucking lungfuls of air between caresses,
pausing only to remove more clothing. Both were frantic, panting with
the need for release.
Finally Tom took advantage of his height, and wrapped himself around Chakotay, carefully aligning their painfully engorged erections, hot wet flesh against hot wet flesh. Eyes locked, mouths locked, tongues thrusting in time, the two men scissored precisely against each other, the friction perfect and unbearable, the movement frantic but controlled.
They rode the orgasm together, silent and shuddering. Neither man broke eye contact until the tremors had ceased, then Chakotay lowered his head until it rested on Tom's shoulder.
Tom felt a moment of panic as he felt the wetness of tears against his skin. He suddenly realised that this was going to be his Rubicon, once crossed, never to return. He spared a last thought for the lonely, hate filled, terrified young man he had been so many years ago and then he opened his heart to a new emotion, one that would allow forgiveness. He let it flow through him, and as he slid to the floor with the man who needed him, who wanted him, who would love him back. He laughed softly.
He was still laughing as he heard the Captain's irritated bark.
"Lieutenant, Commander....what is taking you so long, that's the second pass you've made. Is there a problem? What's happened to visual? Gentlemen, report please."
"We're OK Captain.....slight problem with navigation, visual comm link seems to be down. We're coming in now."
Tom felt strong fingers gratefully caress his shoulder as he pulled himself into the pilot's chair and leaned imperceptibly back against the warm, trembling body that he sensed behind him.
"We're OK," the soft voice in his ear echoed. "We're OK."
First Officer's Personal Log Stardate 48427.7
Last minute problems in Engineering meant that it was me who went with Tom
on the test flight of the modified shuttle, Pursuit. B'Elanna had been
so insistent that only Harry would do and the Captain had not hesitated a minute
assigning me to take Harry's place.
I must confess. The idea of getting in that shuttle, flying a craft that size again made my heart race. A chance to get off Voyager, to step away from being first officer for awhile.... I guess the excitement showed on my face because Kathryn gave me one of those knowing, indulgent smiles as I left the bridge. Spirits! I couldn't get to the damn hangar deck fast enough.
Nothing happens without a reason. I so often forget that, surrounded as I am by this technology, beautiful and orderly in its own way as it keeps us all alive out here. It's easy to forget the simple things, the old things -- until something happens that pulls you up short.
He looked as if he would never belong anywhere else, seated at Pursuit's controls, checking and double checking all the readouts and he couldn't hide the fact that he was ridiculously pleased to see me as I took the copilot's seat. But he was all business as he expertly took us out. It's an amazing thing to actually say out loud, but being that close to Tom as he did what he does best was an experience I'm not certain how to describe.
A part of me knows it was more than a chance to do some fancy flying that made me race from the bridge.
Whenever I'm with him now, I begin to think that maybe, just maybe I can beat this thing. He dealt with the dream again. This time it came out of nowhere, a waking dream. Terrifying. Terrifying for so many reasons.... I could have seriously hurt Tom; could have killed him. Could have killed us both! And what if this dream should hit me out of the blue while I'm on duty or temporarily in command? The possibility paralyses me with fear. I have to tell myself it won't happen, that I can't *let* it happen and hope like hell I'm strong enough....
Hope like hell he'll catch me. Like he always seems to do these days. Never in a million years did I ever think I'd see this side of Tom -- despite the enormous changes in our relationship since being stranded here. Under that flippant exterior he's so used to showing, runs a quiet strength that I can only describe as something special and comforting - and mine.
I couldn't help it. The dream always leaves such tension and energy in my gut. When I came to my senses, holding him so close, I was kissing him almost before I realised what I was doing. I can't describe the relief that washed over me when he kissed me back. I needed so much more and I needed it right then. He didn't hesitate; didn't appear to think about it at all. As if it were perfectly reasonable for the first officer to lose it and beg the conn officer to fuck him, as if we were the only two human beings left in the Delta Quadrant, he made love to me and let me make love to him. I remember vividly the feel of him in my hand, hot and hard; the reality of the taste of him; how right it felt to hold him, how he looked when he came. I want him like I've never wanted anyone before and it scares the hell out of me. I don't know how much of this is real and how much of it is just fear that I will not make it through this hell to the other side. Whichever it is, the longing to have him in my bed, the desire to twine my body around his each and every night, to lose myself in the solace of his arms, is just as strong.
Chakotay leaned into the sofa, shifted a little to make himself comfortable
and fought the nearly overwhelming desire to delete his most recent personal
log entry. He could not remember a time when he felt so exposed, so raw.
He finally decided not to act in haste. If tomorrow he still felt this
entry was inappropriate, he could delete it then. Right now, he wanted
merely to sit and think about nothing.
It was too early for bed but the commander was not in the mood for company this evening. He thought about music and a little light supper and it was so incongruous with how he felt at that exact moment, his head swam. He swallowed once, twice and tried to get his hammering heart under control. It was imperative that the panic be kept at bay.
Docking Pursuit seemed to take an eternity this afternoon. Through it all, Chakotay turned over in his mind exactly what he would say in his report to Janeway. He hadn't dared to ask Tom what he planned to report. He had been, he realised with a start, too afraid of the answer he might have gotten.
As if Tom Paris would put Voyager at risk.
In the end, both officers made the only report they could, modifying Tom's solution to Chakotay's nightmare somewhat, which satisfied the captain but did not fool her for a minute. However, the result was still the same. He was off-duty for now and had been ordered to attend regular sessions with the Doctor. In the dimness of his quarters, Chakotay smiled a tight smile. About the only one certain to benefit from these sessions would undoubtedly be the Doctor as he enhanced various subroutines. Who tended the ship's unofficial counsellor when that counsellor needed help?
The exertions of the day were finally catching up with him. Chakotay felt his body beginning to relax and stealing upon him with the haze of sleep was the memory of Tom's long hands almost caressing Pursuit's console, the blue eyes dancing with that particular fire of excitement only flying could build there. He had found out that flying wasn't the only thing at which Tom Paris excelled and suddenly, the aching in his groin was nearly too much to bear. With a sigh, Chakotay leaned back and closed his eyes. He rested his hands on top of his thighs, drifted deeper into the memories of the events of just a few hours ago and felt the stirring of his cock. Arousal was slowly, deliciously building and he idly wondered where Tom was, what he was doing at this precise moment. Probably with Harry and B'Elanna, all of them enjoying some well earned relaxation time. The little prick of jealousy he felt surprised him - as if Tom should spend every waking moment with him. But why not? In a world suddenly gone crazy, Paris seemed the only rational constant.
A faint buzzing was barely audible, the sound reaching him as it came from a great distance. Chakotay's eyes flew open in time to see his door slide open and a familiar form filling the doorway.
"Shit, Cha. I didn't mean to wake you. When you didn't answer....."
"Come in, Tom. I didn't even realise I'd fallen asleep."
Tom entered the immaculate quarters and Chakotay hid his small smile as Paris smoothed the panic from his face.
"No date with Harry or B'Elanna tonight?"
"Naw. Whenever they spend any amount of time doing something in Engineering, it always spills over into off duty time. There's only so much shop talk I can take these days."
He gave the big man a long, searching look, then asked, "Have you eaten anything this evening?"
Paris sighed. "I know, I know. I'll try to lighten up." A mischievous light suddenly lit the very blue eyes. "It's a tough job, Commander, but someone has to do it...."
Uh-oh, Chakotay thought. But he couldn't resist. "What's that?"
"Looking after you, of course. Now answer the question. Have you eaten?"
Paris was already moving towards the replicator in anticipation of Chakotay's reply. Watching him, Chakotay began to feel a little lost, a little desperate and he could only stand there staring stupidly. Tom smiled and turned to the device.
"Don't Tom. I've got rations of my own..."
"Save them. Mushroom soup. Brown bread. You look wiped out, if you don't mind my saying so. I think we should get something down you and then get you tucked up in bed."
With you wrapped around me, Chakotay nearly said aloud.
Oh Spirits! The blood rushed to his face and he wondered if Tom could see the blush despite his dark complexion. He fumbled for something to do and finally decided to sit at the small table. Tom was right behind him, soup and bread in his hands. He placed them before the silent man. Tom moved behind him to watch him eat and laid his hands possessively on the broad shoulders. He nearly jumped back with shock at the tension he felt there.
"Chakotay." It was barely a whisper, more like a breath.
All thought of food left Chakotay in a rush, even as he tried to hang on to the last shreds of calm. Tom's hands tightened on him, then suddenly, soft lips brushed the nape of the commander's neck. Chakotay gave a small cry and leaned against the table unable to sort out exactly what it was he was feeling.
Paris wasted no time. Chakotay found himself on his feet, in Tom's arms, Tom's mouth moving against his, kissing him deeply, thoroughly. When their tongues met, fire leapt in every part of his body and Chakotay crushed Tom to him, as if he would never get enough of him.
Tom, eyes closed, sighed and lazily nuzzled an ear. He murmured, "Come on, Commander. Let's get you into bed."
"Is that an order, Lieutenant?" Chakotay had enough presence of mind to inquire.
"If it has to be."
He allowed Tom to lead him to his bed. Tom undressed him quickly and efficiently and Chakotay fell back onto the mattress and watched as Tom quickly shed his own clothing. He went to the foot of Chakotay's bed, then climbed in, hands and knees on either side of the commander's prone form. Even before Tom covered Chakotay's body with his own, the big man's cock had sprung to life.
There was only the sensation of Tom's tongue in the hollow at the base of his throat; the feel of skin, like rough silk, beneath his hands; the feel of Tom's chest hair, so golden in the soft light of the bedroom, against Chakotay's own smooth, brown chest. Paris shifted, brought hard cocks, pearly fluid leaking from each tip, into alignment. Slowly, he rubbed against Chakotay, bent and softly licked a nipple. Gentle lapping became sucking before Tom bit the tiny nub.
The desire to have Tom in his hand, to feel every inch of him was suddenly overwhelming and with a grunt, Chakotay rolled and pinned the leaner man beneath him. Everything in the universe narrowed down to this point; to the feel of Tom under him, writhing with abandon, murmuring his name. Chakotay kissed his mouth, his eyes, fastened onto his neck and sucked hard, needing to leave his mark there; rubbed his face in those golden chest hairs as he travelled further down. His tongue dipped into Tom's navel and Chakotay paused there, revelling in the smell and taste of him.
Tom began to thrust his hips in anticipation, seeking to rub his throbbing hardness against any part of Chakotay he could. When Chakotay felt a push on his shoulders, he smiled. He caressed the slender hips, the inside of Tom's thighs, then nuzzled and licked Tom's balls before trailing his tongue up the long thick cock. Paris whimpered and Chakotay licked him again, spreading moisture up Tom's shaft and around the blunt tip. When he finally took him in his mouth completely, Tom immediately began to move and Chakotay sucked harder, knowing Tom wouldn't last long. Humming became a low keening and he clenched his teeth and came. Chakotay did not release him until the last of Tom's spasms died and Paris lay still, except for his pounding heart, his breath that came in gasps.
Chakotay ran his hands down the strong legs, then up along Tom's sides, out to his arms. He held him there, bent to kiss him and lost himself in blue eyes gone dark with passion. They held only one request and the dark warrior could refuse this man, made of sunlight and silk, nothing.
Tom moved to take Chakotay into his mouth, licked the twitching brown cock, trailing saliva down the shaft. Chakotay groaned as he found himself perilously close to the edge. He moved away from the warm wet mouth around him and Tom, without a sound, fell back onto the pillows and drew his legs up to his chest. Chakotay did not hesitate but pressed his cock against Tom and though he felt that any delay would surely kill him, pushed slowly towards the centre of that much desired heat.
Paris grunted with the sudden pain, gasped with the sensation of being slowly filled and stretched his legs over the bigger man's shoulders. Soon they were lost in the ancient rhythm, the beat of lust and passion. Chakotay, eyes closed, thrust hard and fast as if by merely wishing it, he and Tom could become one. There was an ache in his belly that spread through him like wildfire and he exploded, thrusting deep into the much loved body, compliant beneath him.
Carefully, Tom lowered his legs and drew Chakotay to him. Heart beat against heart, breathing returned to normal, hands caressed slightly damp skin and mouths lazily sought each other. Someone sighed and Chakotay did not know if it was himself or Tom who made the small sound. He could feel sleep returning, could feel Tom surrendering to slumber. He rolled off the younger man and settled comfortably against him.
"How do you always know, Tom?" he carefully asked, uncertain he would get a reply.
"What do you mean?"
"You know. Of all of us, you're handling this the best. You seem to know just what to do, just what *not* to do."
He felt then struggled to hang onto Tom's subtle emotional shift. Tom pressed his nose against his neck and Chakotay felt him release a long sigh. Just as he was about to put his arms around him, Tom rolled onto his back, placed his arms behind his head and stared at the ceiling. One look at his face, a face the commander had finally grown used to seeing open and unguarded, told him the answer to his question was one he had never suspected. Chakotay reminded himself to breath.
"No one should have to go through what you're going through alone...."
Like an electric current coursing through him, understanding hit and Chakotay's heart began to slam against his ribs. He didn't think he could utter a single word.
"It seems so long ago now. It's behind me and I've dealt with it. Seeing you struggle with this stuff...."
"Can you tell me what happened?"
Another sigh and the sound wrenched Chakotay's soul.
"I've kept it to myself so long now. I haven't even thought about it until recently. I accepted long ago that what happened wasn't really my fault. But it was hell getting to that point." Tom paused. "People think that Federation prisons are pretty enlightened places and I suppose for the most part they are -- if your name isn't Paris, your family not a Starfleet dynasty. Shit. I was always fighting -- fought for every morsel of respect, every inch of ground. The administration stopped things getting too out of hand when they could but I knew I couldn't depend on the guards, couldn't go hiding behind the authorities. Besides, I could see that a lot of them were far from upset that the Admiral's brat was having that silver spoon shoved down his throat."
Tom laughed and Chakotay felt indignation rising.
"So things came to a head one day when I was out having a walk. I used to try to get out and away when I could -- clear my head, try to get myself in a place where I wasn't always on guard, wondering when the next fight was going to happen. This guy named Ryan stepped out of nowhere. To this day, I wonder that he could take me by surprise like that.... He was a big guy and the look on his face, in his eyes; pure, undisguised hatred and something else that scared the shit out of me. I knew I was in *big* trouble."
Tom swallowed. Chakotay could not move.
"I thought about running for a nanosecond and knew I couldn't do it. I fought with everything I had -- fought for my life. There was no thinking involved, Cha, just acting and reacting and I have no idea how I got hold of this piece of tree -- only that when I could think again, Ryan was on the ground and I was beating the shit out of him.
"I was in pretty bad shape. Ryan was rolling around and moaning and at that moment, I wished the bastard dead. I headed back, made it to the Infirmary and told them who attacked me. I was so angry. I think I went out looking for the next fight. I don't know. Something just snapped then and I think everyone in the place recognised it. I was given a wide berth.
"Ryan was at dinner that evening, looking a little rough but well enough to give me a look that only meant more trouble. I remember smirking at him."
Tom's hand sought Chakotay's and squeezed hard when they made contact.
"At breakfast the next day, I noticed a few people giving me looks -- different from the usual looks but I just ignored them. Someone came up to me -- this guy who, when he was in the right mood, was actually civil to me -- and he told me Ryan had died in the night. I found out later it was a brain haemorrhage.
"Hell, Cha. He'd been to the Infirmary. They checked him out. They'd released him after seeing to the worse from that beating I gave him...."
Tom's eyes were unfocussed as he stared back into the past and Chakotay found himself wondering about the terrified, angry, bewildered young man Tom must have been -- the consequences of his rage, the violence that had exploded out of him, must have been almost too devastating for one person to bear.
"Finally I could walk alone at night without looking over my shoulder. Let me tell you .... the price was too high. I had dreams too, Cha. I'd wake up sweating, *feeling* all that rage, still seeing the look of terror on Ryan's face, still hearing the sounds that branch made as I beat him....."
Tom must have made a sound, because Chakotay flinched, and reached out a hand to caress the expressionless face that stared inwards.
"They notified my father and amazingly, he came. His first and only visit to Auckland. Shit! I really thought he'd understand; really thought he'd know that I needed him to say what had happened was self defence. I just needed to hear the words.
"He didn't even mention it. He just came and talked at me about family stuff. Then, he left. Never came again and never mentioned that visit again. Later I found out he'd fixed the inquest into Ryan's death, kept the sacred Paris name off the record."
Tom's eyes closed in a moment of remembered pain.
"No one ever talked to me about Ryan. It was like it never happened. People looked at me out of the corner of their eyes, and they looked scared. But no-one helped me. I learned to live with the guilt eventually. It was a lonely journey."
"I wish I could have been there for you." Chakotay pulled him into his arms, held him close.
But the words were meaningless, meant to try to soothe an ache from a scar that was long healed, however badly. Those sapphire eyes fastened onto Chakotay as Tom sank into the embrace.
"Just let me be here for you."
Chakotay rubbed his cheek against the blond waves and made a small sound of affirmation. His spirit soared even as a calm he thought was gone forever descended upon him. Softly he kissed the quiet man in his arms then called to extinguish the lights.
Mazzy-Sue and T'lyr