Disclaimer: Paramount owns them and I'm still playing.
Rating: NC-17 Contains graphic scenes of consensual adult M/M sex.
Summary: C/P, J/C, P/T Chapter Eight: Definitions and hard decisions...
Copyright July 2001 Cassatt
The Fantasy of Tom
His first view of Kathryn was the usual one. Already in uniform, cup of coffee in hand, getting up off the couch with a warm smile on her face. The only discernable difference was in her eyes. They looked hooded. The table was set, with muffins and juice and a pot of tea for him. He knew he should be hungry, but the sight of the food made him feel nothing but queasy. Chakotay made a conscious effort to breathe.
"Hi, honey," she said, putting her coffee down and coming quickly to him.
He opened his arms to receive her, both anxious and desperate for the contact. The feel of her made his heart race. Anxiety, fear, trepidation, he couldn't tell why it was happening. He felt his spirits sink. Kathryn pulled back sharply.
"What's wrong?" Her words sounded harsh, tossed at him as an accusation.
He tried to look into her eyes but he couldn't see anything, couldn't find her, or the anchor that held them firmly in place. No words were coming forth, his mind was a haze of images, and thoughts and feelings and he couldn't pull one of them out and say 'this, this is what's wrong, if we fix this then everything will be okay.' He knew she was waiting for an answer, for something to sink her teeth into. A problem to solve. As though she didn't already know what it was.
"I can't answer that question, Kathryn," he heard himself say. Yes, you can, Chakotay, you know what the answer is, don't lie to yourself.
"Chakotay, look, come over here," she said, pulling on his hand, leading him to the couches. They sat. "You can't hide it from me, I know there is something seriously wrong, I've known it since yesterday. We can't do anything unless I know what it is."
If I tell you this then you'll know how to fix it, and maybe I don't want it fixed. "I can't, I just can't, that's all. Don't push me."
"Fine. I won't push. Do you think there will be a time when you might tell me what's going on inside you?"
He felt like screaming. Just letting loose and screaming at the top of his lungs, then taking a shuttle and high-tailing it away for the nearest M-class planet and parking himself there. He got up off the couch and began to pace, willing his fists to relax and his heart to stop racing.
You don't want to hear this, Kathryn.
This will never work, you'll never stand for it.
"Please, just tell me, I can handle it."
Trust me on this, you can't. I love him...
"I promised you I would deal with whatever we needed to, head on, like we've dealt with everything else since we met. Or just back off. I told you that and I meant it. I still do. Do you?"
I love him...
"Do you, Chakotay? Can you let us deal with whatever this is head on?"
I love him. He felt his composure begin to crack, his throat closed so tightly it hurt, tears were welling in his eyes, his breath was becoming more and more shallow. I love him. I love you. I can't have you both. It will never work. Gods help me ... Tom, please... He was only vaguely aware that she had taken his hand once more, he knew he was moving, but he knew more clearly that tears were falling down his cheeks, he could taste their saltiness, could feel the sob that was waiting for release and the pain in his chest that was beginning to kill him. His knees hit the couch and he sat heavily. And he was in her arms, letting go.
"Oh, Chakotay, my love, sh-h-h, it'll be okay...." she murmured all the words he needed to hear, was desperate to hear, even though he knew through the haze that it wouldn't be okay. Not by a long shot. Not for a long time.
"I love him." The words came out unbidden. He knew he'd said them aloud by the mere fact that she stiffened momentarily. But only momentarily. She continued to give him comfort, silent comfort other than her shushes and kisses to his head. When he finally felt he could speak without breaking down, he tried to find words that wouldn't be as hurtful. She didn't let him.
"I promised you that I would back off if we hit a patch that was un-fixable. I would never force you to stay with me just because. We could always work something out if we had to separate. Hold me to that promise, Chakotay," she said, her voice faltering slightly.
He wanted her to throw him out an airlock. He sat up so he could look her in the eye and felt his heart break anew to see what was there. "I don't know what to say to that, Kathryn. I love you. I don't know what is un-fixable and what isn't anymore... I just don't know how to explain it to you..."
"If I make a vow to you, right here, right now, that I will do my best to listen, would you try? We need to talk about it, if we stand a chance in hell...." Tears started to glisten in her eyes.
"Kathryn. Please don't cry, please. I'm so sorry..." He pulled her tightly to him, needing to give her comfort now, needing to feel as though there was something he could do, something concrete, and solid, and real. After some minutes of simply being together, he agreed to talk. She agreed to listen.
She called Tuvok to take bridge command and they took a few minutes to get comfortable, as though physical comfort would make a difference in the long run. Kathryn changed out of her uniform, they brought the food to the low table by the couches, Chakotay made some hot tea for him and coffee for her. They sat facing each other, nibbling on sustenance and began.
The woods were dark, with dappled sunlight falling through the overhead canopy. His feet made the familiar soft noise of bare skin walking on a thick layer of leaf mold. Birds were singing quietly above him and occasionally he even allowed himself to dream he might be home.
"I don't know when it happened, Kathryn, it wasn't anything specific..."
"Did you always have feelings for him?"
"You mean besides anger?"
He pushed aside the branches and kept moving forward, but it was getting more difficult. Though proud of his holoprogram, he rather thought he could have been a little less realistic as another broken branch scratched his arm.
"I don't understand, Chakotay, how can you think you love us both?"
"It isn't something I think. It's there, that's all I know."
"But if you love him, doesn't that take away from your love for me, for us?"
"No. Not from the love I feel. Maybe the attention, yes..."
Finally reaching his destination, he took a very deep cleansing breath. The scent was particularly powerful in here, where the sunlight could come directly down from the sky and hit the grasses that filled the clearing. He sat down in his usual spot, considered taking out the medicine bundle, but decided to lie down instead. He closed his eyes.
He had to trust that Kathryn was keeping her promise at that moment, was not giving Tom a hard time, but treating him with the respect he deserved. It wasn't his fault that all of this had happened. Tom, what are you thinking right now? His heart ached. After two hours of talking, he had only been able to promise her that he'd make a decision by the end of that day. Her decision was that she'd give him the space and time to do it. She was clear on what she wanted. Him to break things off with Tom immediately. He'd balked, a pure reaction, which had upset her again.
Angry with himself, angry at her for demanding things from him, angry at the whole damned fact that he was stuck here on this ship in this situation, he'd finally relented and agreed to consider the decision carefully. He already knew he really wasn't willing to lose Kathryn. Carrying some small hope that she'd be able to accept things as they were, he held out. He knew it was useless. Deep down in his heart he knew. He'd have to give up any relationship with Tom. Now. He wasn't sure he had the strength, much less the desire.
He sat up and opened the medicine bundle.
"Harry, I told you, not here," Tom hissed at him. They were standing in line, waiting for lunch to be put on their trays. "Wait until we sit down." Tom looked over the room. "See," he added, poking his friend in the shoulder, "we can sit over there, in the corner."
Harry grinned conspiratorially. They reached the counter, greeted Neelix and watched with dismay as something bright blue and gloppy was served. Slightly reassured that the flavor was excellent, they went to sit down. Neelix wasn't too far off, though as usual, it was too spicey to be truly enjoyable.
"Okay, Tom, I want everything. Something happened last night. And today, on the bridge, the Captain is actually being civil to you, but you can barely look at her. I thought you said she apologized to you? Come on, spill it," Harry said, pushing some of the glop to one side of his plate.
"Jesus, I don't know where to start." Tom looked at the room full of people, wondering not for the first time how many of them screwed each other. He knew most of the gossip, but what about those people who were discreet? Who was really with whom? Returning his attention to his friend, he shrugged. "We, um, played basketball for a couple of hours..."
Harry interrupted. "Who won? Or shouldn't I ask? I heard the commander was a killer player when he was at the Academy..." he teased.
Tom glared at him sideways. "Okay, yes, he won. All three games. But he cheated!"
"How can you cheat at one-on-one?"
"You can do things that majorly distract the other player, unfairly." Remembering the feel of Chakotay's mouth on the back of his neck he shivered. "Anyway, we played ball. Then we went back to my quarters. He spent the night. That's it. End of story."
"No way, uh uh, that's not the end of the story. What happened, Tom? Something did, and I have a feeling it is not going to be a good thing...."
Tom picked up his fork and drew patterns on the table with it. He couldn't meet Harry's eye. "No, it's probably not a good thing, though under any other circumstances it would be an extraordinarily great thing. You know how I told you that this was just sex? Well, night before last it was a little different, and yesterday morning something happened which changed things some more, but last night..... Jesus shit, Harry.... last night we were making love. I know it, and I'm pretty sure he knows it. And it's one giant fucking mess..." He finally raised his glance to Harry and was surprised. Only sympathy could be read there.
"I'm sorry, Tom. Really. What can I do?"
"You can keep B'Elanna from ever finding out, for one thing. Knowing Chakotay, it won't be long before he tells the captain this latest twist, and I can imagine what she'll do to me then. Damn it all."
"You're seriously in love with him, aren't you?"
Tom stared daggers at his best friend. Then he closed his eyes and sighed deeply. "I hope to God it's not that obvious."
"No, it's not, Tom, it's not. Just to me. So that talk of making love versus sex, it's a little more than that, isn't it? Is he in love with you, too?"
"I don't know... no, that's not true. I do know. Yes, I believe he is," Tom said quietly, despondently.
"Oh, my God...," Harry muttered. "What about B'Elanna? Are you still in love with her?!"
"Of course I am, why wouldn't I be? I don't know what I'd do without her. It's just Chakotay, Jesus, I can't stop thinking about him, what he does to me ... fuck, Harry... I am in so much trouble...."
B'Elanna's voice carried from one table away, "So I heard, helm boy..." Tom's head shot up to see his lover standing next to them now, a rueful grin on her face. "What? Do I have Vulcan ears or something?" She pulled a chair out and sat down, leaning into him and wrapping her arm around his shoulders, kissing him soundly on the cheek. His heart clutched breathing in the scent of her.
"What are you doing here? You should be asleep, 'Lanna..." His heart was thudding loudly, he was terrified at what she might have heard. Meeting Harry's eyes over her shoulder, he saw his friend shrug, looking every bit the deer caught in the headlights.
"Kah'les, don't I know it. But this morning was my last gamma rotation, and you were the gossip of the crew, so I woke myself up early to come and see if you're all right, Tom. What the hell is going on?" She looked at him with such concern, he was totally confused. "Why didn't you tell me what happened?," she said quietly.
"What do you mean?"
"The captain? The bridge yesterday? Tactical drills?" She crossed her arms and sat back in her chair. "Everyone was talking about it, sounded like you were about to be thrown in the brig for blowing up the ship, or something."
His mind raced. "Oh, that. It was nothing really, I think people are making it sound worse than it was. I'm fine..."
"Tom Paris, you are so full of it. Always sticking up for her. I'd really like to know why our intrepid captain was out for blood yesterday, and preferably the blood of her best pilot. Then I plan to go have a word with her..."
He interrupted her quickly. "B'Elanna! No, don't. Really, everything is fine..."
"I don't care if it is fine, today. If she's having a hard time, it's not fair for her to take it out on you. Nobody messes with my boyfriend and lives to tell about it," she said.
Tom could see that although she had a slight grin on the edges of her mouth, she was, on some level, serious. His heart ached at the realization. "My protector, eh?" he said, giving her back a slight grin, though his chest was heavy.
She reached over and took his hand in hers, rubbing the back of it with her other one. "Absolutely, Tom. Always." Their eyes locked together and Tom willingly went with it.
"Well, 'Lanna, she apologized to me later. She was just having a hard day. It happens. She was sincere in her apology, and I accepted it." Tom felt his composure beginning to crumble, just a bit. He had people in his corner that he really felt he didn't deserve. Memories of his early morning conversation with Chakotay resurfaced, and this time, his heart simply stopped. The way he looked at him, the smell of him, the feel of him, the sensation of being held like that, so safe.... "You're a good man, Tom, and most of us know that..." His throat was beginning to close. He had to get out of there....
"Where you going?" she asked, startled.
He hadn't realized he stood up. "I ... I have to go for a minute. I'll be back," he said, probably too quickly. Looking at Harry, he implored him to stay and distract B'Elanna. Harry gave a slight nod and without another word, Tom got out of there fast. He was practically stumbling down the corridor, his eyes getting too blurry to work well, when he made out the door to the bathroom. The light indicated it was empty. He hit the access pad with force. As the door swooshed shut behind him, he sank to the deck, dropping his head to his knees, and gave in, the tears spilling over, a deep sob coming from his gut, his heart breaking.
He suddenly knew this thing with Chakotay had taken the turn to the end, and the end would have to come that day. Because this wasn't what they'd planned, or how it was supposed to be. He wasn't supposed to fall for the man, and screw everything up. He wasn't supposed to hurt everyone. He'd vowed not to do that. It had been simple. Lust. Desire. Oh, God, please help me... Why couldn't he have just stayed cocky Tom? When had Chakotay gotten so under his skin? Had he always been there? Chakotay, please... make this okay... you're the good man, you're the one who knows what's right... please, make this okay, I don't want to lose you...
Tom cried until his commbadge called him. It was Harry, telling him there was just ten minutes before they were due back on the bridge. He told him where he was and asked Harry to come. He needed an objective opinion of how he looked; if he could pass without anyone questioning whether he was all right. He didn't think he could handle that. B'Elanna had gone back to bed, with a message that she expected to see him for dinner, sent with love.
The cold water splashing on his face almost made him believe that he was alive. The sting of it in his eyes. He made it colder and colder until his hands were feeling numb. He studied them, wondering how he'd ever thought they could do anything worthwhile.
"Mr. Paris," Janeway's voice cut into his haze. Fuck. "Did you hear me?"
He took a breath. "No, ma'am, I apologize. Was that a course change you wanted?"
"Yes, adjust to the coordinates Harry just sent you," she said calmly.
"Yes, Captain," he answered. He sighed to himself. Willed his hands to stop shaking, looked at the new coordinates and put them in. Then double and triple checked them to be sure he didn't make a mistake. Three more hours of duty. God, help me. He wiped his damp palms on his thighs, hopefully surreptitiously. The console beeped.
"T - hang in there. Buster Kincaid."
He smiled deeply. Love you, too, Har. He sent a thanks. The console beeped again.
"Tom - I need to talk to you tonight, can you stop by after your shift? After dinner? I'm in my quarters this afternoon. Chakotay."
His heart came to a crashing halt. His throat started to close again and he willed it open, trying to breathe past the lump that was forming rapidly. Fuck. Calm down, Tom, you're on the bridge, everyone can see you... In almost slow motion his hand keyed in an answer. He'd stop by after shift. He couldn't imagine waiting any longer, having to try and eat, waiting for the time he'd go and see him, and talk to him, tell him... He continued to breathe deeply and slowly. But he was losing it, the battle of wills between his head and his heart. In desperation, he did the only thing he could think to do. He turned and faced his commanding officer.
"Captain," he said, knowing his voice was shaking but powerless to make it stop, "may I speak to you in private?"
She looked at him intently, but he could see no overt hostility evident. "Of course, Tom." She got up, ordered Sarah to take over the helm and motioned Tom to follow her into the ready room. His heart was pounding.
Janeway went directly to sit behind her desk, waving him to sit in front of her, which he did, gratefully, as his legs were weaker than any man would wish. He jumped right in quickly, before he lost his nerve.
"I would like to please be relieved of duty for the remainder of the shift. I would be happy to make it up by filling in for someone either during gamma or beta tomorrow." He sighed with relief that he'd managed two entire sentences. The lump was returning and once more he willed it away.
"Are you sick, Tom?"
"No, ma'am, I'm just not fit for duty. I can't guarantee the safety of the ship. I'm sorry, Captain," he said, kicking himself as his eyes were beginning to fill. He breathed. And swallowed hard.
"I see." She studied him again. "I'm assuming this is for personal reasons? Your lack of fitness?"
He felt anger for the first time. It actually felt good, a relief of sorts. "Yes, Captain. For personal reasons, my concentration is shot to hell, and I am coming to you for the good of the entire crew asking you to relieve me of duty, so I don't do something that will put this ship in danger. Ma'am."
It was her turn to take a deep breath. "I appreciate that, Tom. Does this have anything to do with what happened between the two of us yesterday?"
He sighed. "No, Captain, it doesn't."
"Thank you for that. I'd hoped you accepted my apology. Does this have to do with Chakotay?"
She said it so guilelessly, he couldn't believe he heard it. He realized he really shouldn't have done this, he couldn't handle it, his composure was crumbling and he would die before letting her see that. "Excuse me, Captain," he said, swallowing again, "but I really don't see that the reason I need to leave is any of your business. Now, are you going to grant my request?"
She was watching him again, and he couldn't meet her eyes. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Just let me the hell out of here before I begin to cry in front of you. Of course it has to do with Chakotay, and I bet you know that...
"Tom, I apologize again. You're right, and particularly in this case, my interests are hardly entirely professional. However, I can see that you are very upset, and I'm concerned..."
He interrupted her. He felt the tears begin to fill his eyes. "Captain - your concern is not something I can deal with right now. What do you want from me? Do you want me to tell you what a screw up I am? How I messed everything up, again? Do you want me to beg you not to make my life a living hell? You can throw me in the brig, I don't care. Demote me, I don't care. Take away my priveleges, I don't care, do you understand?" He clamped his mouth shut, as tears fell out of the corners of his eyes. He closed them tightly and tried to breathe. His chest moved shallowly.
"Tom," she said quietly.
That did it. He stood up and tore his pips off. He'd save her the trouble. He opened his fist over her desk and the silver disks rolled across the surface. Then he turned and left the ready room without being dismissed, continued off the bridge, walking as rapidly as he could without running. Once inside his quarters, he ripped off his uniform and threw it in the corner of his bedroom. Putting on whatever he found, leaving his commbadge on the dresser, he headed to the holodeck to start the old Sandrine's. The only thing he thought he had ever done right.
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