Claws

Chakotay hurried out of the bridge at shift change.  He took care to
catch no one's eyes as he left - especially Kathryn Janeway's, lest she
find a reason for him to stay longer, or worse, that someone might get
the wrong idea.

Tom Paris, who was chatting with Harry Kim while his relief got set up,
watched him leave.

"I guess *he* has something planned, eh, Har?"

"I wouldn't know."  Kim kept his voice carefully neutral.

"I'll find out sooner or later.  Hey, Harry, want to play some pool?" 
Kim only nodded.

Meanwhile, Chakotay rushed around their cabin, straightening it up after
the storms of that morning.  His clothes were everywhere.  He grimaced
as he picked up the tight, shiny garments.  They were not his taste, but
that didn't matter.  Paris's clothes from the night before were also
scattered about.  Chakotay carefully hung them up - taking more care
than he did with his own garments.

Haste and nerves were a bad combination.   Maybe it was a careless hand,
maybe it was a sleeve or a pants leg, but something knocked over the
tiny vase.  Chakotay stood stock still for a moment, knowing what could
happen if his clumsiness were discovered.  Again.  He didn't know why he
was clumsy all of sudden, but it seemed be getting worse.  Paris would
not be happy.  

Shaking himself out of his panic, Chakotay swiftly cleaned up the
fragments and ran a regenerator over the finger he'd cut in his hurry. 
He moved two other things together.  They were Paris's, too.  All the
things displayed in their cabin were Paris's.  His own were packed away
if they weren't broken.  Maybe Paris wouldn't notice or maybe he
wouldn't care, or maybe if he did everything else right for a change,
Paris would forgive.  He'd done so little right lately, though. 

In a short time, the cabin was spotless and Chakotay was changed into
one of Paris's favorite outfits - tight black satin tights and vest 
which displayed his muscles and an occasional bruise.  He loosened his
newly long hair and struggled to get the snarls out.  He also put dinner
on order on the replicator, to arrive when Paris did.  It was one of
Paris's favorite meals.  Chakotay only hoped he wouldn't have to eat the
meat again.  It made Paris happy when he did, and that should have made
him happy, but he hated the taste of flesh.

Preparations all made, he sat down to do some paperwork as he waited,
ready to jump at the opening of the cabin door.  He didn't think to
wonder why he was doing all this or what had happened to his life.

                          *   *   *

A few months earlier:

"Tom?  May I join you?"

"Sure, Commander."  Paris grinned.  Chakotay was more than welcome at
his table.

"Good.  I hate to eat alone."  Chakotay glanced at Janeway, who was
definitely not by herself.  Paris followed his gaze.

"Looks like the captain is spending an awful lot of time with Seven."

"It's not our business, Lieutenant."

"I don't know about that.  It means *you're* available.  Sir."

Chakotay looked at Paris.  Truly looked at him for the first time since
he'd come aboard.  He knew Paris was bright and he'd long since become
decent company, but Chakotay had been too wrapped up in Janeway to see
anyone else.  

What he saw sitting next to him was a very pretty man with soft golden
hair and bright blue eyes and a sexy smile.  A smile he was turning full
force on Chakotay.

"I thought you weren't available.  Tom."  He answered the smile with one
of his own.

Paris liked the way Chakotay was looking at him.  "B'Elanna and I didn't
work out.  There were compromises she wasn't willing to make."  For a
moment, his voice grew hard.  He shook it off, though. "So...Chakotay
...do you have any plans for the evening?"

"Maybe.  And they might even include you."  Chakotay preferred
relationships, but even just one night with Paris could be a lot of fun
and just what he needed to forget Janeway.  And perhaps Paris might want
something more longterm.

"I have some holodeck time reserved, and a restaurant program I've been
working on for a while.  Like to test it out?"

"Sounds good.  What should I wear?"

"Something..." Paris's eyes flickered up and down the other man's body. 
Chakotay shivered.  "Nice.  Let the ship know I have the handsomest man
on board."  

"Then they'd be wrong.  I've got a prettier one."  Paris frowned
slightly.  "Sexier?"  That brought the smile back.  Chakotay decided
that he'd keep his "pretty's" to himself. "What time?"

"Nineteen hundred hours.  That should give us time to dress properly."  

They continued to smile at each other while they ate lunch and discussed
ship's business.  They barely noticed when Janeway and Seven left,
walking rather close to one another.  The rest of the crew in the mess
hall did, of course.  They also noticed when Chakotay squeezed Paris's
hand and Paris gave him a peck on the cheek.  

Chakotay agonized over his *nice* outfit, but finally put on something
Janeway had approved of in the past - a soft, silky jewel-toned suit 
and a pure white tunic that he knew brought out his eyes and showed off
his shoulders.  That should work in the most formal restaurant Paris
could devise.

Paris waited for him at the door of the holodeck.  For a moment,
Chakotay couldn't breathe.  Paris was wearing black satin and leather,
with a silver chain around his waist and another wrapped around his
shoulder.  He looked sexy as hell, and equally dangerous.  No, pretty
was not the word to describe this man at this moment.  He didn't look
happy, though.  Was Chakotay dressed wrong?

"I see I'll have to show you what 'nice' means, Chak, but it can wait
and you'll do.  For the moment."  How did Paris expect him to dress?

The restaurant inside was beautiful but cold.  Everything was white or
black or chrome, and the floor to ceiling windows displayed an equally
monochromatic nighttime city.  Even the people were wearing monochromes.

It had to be New York City.  Chakotay had never been there, but Admiral
Paris's son certainly had.  It was still the most self-consciously
sophisticated city in the universe.

A woman in a sheer black gown came to them.

"May I help you gentlemen?"

"I have reservations.  Paris, party of two."  The woman looked at her
padd.

"Of course, Mr. Paris.  Please follow me, gentlemen."  She picked up two
paper menus and led them to a table that gave them both a view of the
window and of the room in general.

"Is this satisfactory, sirs?"

"Oh, yes.  Thank you."

Paris looked less happy.  "If it satisfies you...it's fine."  The woman
seated them and took their drink orders.

"Chakotay, order what you want.  The food will be real and on me."

"You mean on Harry, don't you?"  Paris laughed.

"Actually, the kid's getting pretty good.  No, this is on Carey and
Ayala.  Sky's the limit."

Dinner was wonderful.  Chakotay let himself be guided on the food, since
the recipes all came from Paris's memories of similar restaurants.  This
one seemed to be a fusion of human and non-human cuisines - what Neelix
had been attempting for years.  Of course, *this* was done with skill.

Paris watched Chakotay in that old suit enjoy the foods he ordered.  All
were carefully vegetarian.  He figured his leather pants would be enough
this night.  Chakotay was fun to be with.  They held hands and talked
about places they'd been.  Paris was not surprised that Chakotay's
experiences were more limited than his was.  He'd change that as much as
he could stuck aboard this ship.

Then Paris talked him into dancing.  Chakotay didn't see himself as much
of a dancer, but Paris insisted, said it would be easy.  It was...the
music was slow and gentle, and Paris felt warm and natural in his arms.  
And on his lips.

And it felt equally natural to spend the night in Paris's quarters when
his holodeck reservation was over.  That, too, was perfect.  Paris
proved to be as passionate about sex as he was about flying.  He said
that sex and flying and dancing were the same for him.  Paris made sex
seem like a dance, graceful and elegant with no arguments about who led
when.  Paris was pleased - Chakotay was gentle, experienced and
imaginative in ways he'd never dreamed possible.  They fell asleep in
each other's arms.

They started dating- beginning with once a week, and then more often. 
At first they alternated holodeck programs, but Paris was rather vocal
about the nature walks and camping trips Chakotay preferred, and since
it made Paris happy to go to restaurants and clubs, Chakotay didn't
mind, even if he felt awkward and out of place there.  He wasn't as
happy at Paris's criticism of his clothing styles, but he had to admit
he looked *good* in the outfits Paris picked out for him.  He wasn't
comfortable with the style and the material, but it was a small price to
pay.

Paris loved dancing with Chakotay.  He loved that Chakotay was wearing
those sexy clothes.  He also wondered why the commander never said
anything about his own clothes, or protested when they only did what
Paris wanted.  Didn't he feel the same way?

Finally, Paris came up with the courage to ask.

They were in bed, of course, after one of their usual athletic and
imaginative sessions.  Paris, happily exhausted, was lying in his
lover's arms, reveling in their strength and warmth.

"Chak?"

"Yes, Tommy?"  Paris smiled at the nickname as Chakotay nuzzled him.

"Stop that for a minute.  I'm serious."

"Okay.  Serious.  No tickling."

"Chakotay!  How long have we been doing this?"

"Not long enough.  I love having you right here."

"Two months.  We've been dating and sleeping together two months."

"As I said.  It will never be long enough."  Chakotay became entirely
serious.

"Do you love me, Chakotay?"  

"How can you ask...we've never said it.  Yes, Tom Paris, I love you. 
I'm never as happy as when we're together, and I'll never have enough of
you."  Chakotay could feel Paris relax in his arms.

"Oh, God.  I love you, too.  I want to be with you always.  I just
didn't know.  You never ask me to change anything."  Chakotay looked at
him in confusion.  Change this beautiful, sophisticated, intelligent
man?  

"Why should I?  I love you as you are, and any way you choose to be. 
You're my Tommy and that's all I need."  Paris was overwhelmed by this
statement.  He didn't understand much of it, but he sensed the feeling
behind it.  He clasped Chakotay closer to him, and they said nothing for
a long time.

A month later, Paris moved into Chakotay's quarters.  This was done with
much fanfare and celebration.  Even Janeway and Seven, who had broken
up, managed to attend with smiles and joy.  And if people noticed that
Chakotay was wearing clothes of a style he'd never worn before, no one
said anything.  Not even Harry Kim, who was openly staring.

Finally, everyone left the two of them snuggled together on the sofa,
Paris's possessions happily sharing space with Chakotay's.

"I thought they'd never leave."  Chakotay nibbled on the back of Paris's
neck.

Paris laughed. "I know.  Right now I only want to be with you.  Maybe we
can find a dimension out there that's just us, forever."

"Well, for a honeymoon, Tommy, but I'd miss our friends here.  I do love
them dearly."  Paris stiffened.

"You love them?  I'll bet you do.  Especially the captain."

"Tommy?  What are you talking about?  Kathryn is my best friend, apart
from you.  She's the finest captain I've ever served with.  But I
haven't felt that way about her for a long time.  Not since before we
stated seeing each other."

"Would you die for her?"   What was Paris talking about?

"Of course I would. She's my captain, and it's my duty.  She's your
captain, too, you know.  Are you saying you wouldn't die for her?  She'd
die for you, for anyone on this ship, and you know it."

Paris didn't answer the question.  "Would you die for me?"

"I'd rather live for you.  You're my life, Tommy.  If you weren't so set
against marriage, we'd be planning a wedding."

"And wear those stupid wedding wreaths of Neelix's?   Don't change the
subject.  I saw you looking at her.  She's free now.  Not like when we
started."

"I wasn't going to ignore her!  What was I supposed to do?  Keep my eyes
down?"

"Isn't that what a good first officer should do?  Defer to his captain? 
You're good at that."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You could have been the captain.  You must like being a first officer."

"I had no choice.  I knew as soon as I met her that she would be the
better one to keep us all alive and get us home."

"How many people have we lost?  How many times as she destroyed the way
home?"

"And do you think I could have done better?"

"I don't know.  But you never question her."

"She's our captain.  She has kept us alive despite Kazon and Hirogen. 
She deserves our respect and loyalty."

"You still want to sleep with her?"

"What?  I'm with you, Tommy.  Not with her.  If I wanted her, I could
have gotten her.  Or I would have waited until her fling with Seven was
over.  I'm not jealous over B'Elanna or Harry, am I?"

"Harry?"  Paris was incredulous.  "What does Harry Kim have to do with
us?"

"He's your best friend.  You spend almost as much off-duty time with him
as you do with me.  Half the crew thinks that you were sleeping with him
before you took up with B'Elanna."

"Harry?  That kid?"

"That 'kid' is not a kid anymore.  And he's almost as good looking as
you are."

"Harry?"

"Yeah.  Oh, I could be jealous so easily of Harry.  But you said you
were only with me, so I don't need to be.  I trust you and I love you,
Tommy."

"C'mere, Chak."  Paris was laughing again.  "Let's consummate this
living-together thing." And so they did, fight almost forgotten.

No one was especially surprised that they were spending more time with
each other than with the rest of the crew.  They were on a honeymoon of
sorts, after all.  

But a few days after they moved in, Paris seemed to go ballistic.

The night before, they'd jumped into bed as soon as they could, tearing
each other's uniform off.  Sometimes spending a shift together on the
bridge was a sore trial to their willpower.  They'd overslept the next
morning, too, so they'd grabbed fresh clothing and ran to the bridge
munching on breakfast bars.

"Look at this place, Chak!"

"What's wrong, Tommy?"

"It's a mess.  Your clothes are everywhere, you have padds on every
surface. How can you stand this?"  Chakotay looked around.  There were
two uniforms in pieces, and two or three padds scattered about.  The bed
was still unmade, too.

"It's not so bad.  We can clean this up in a second."

"It's a sty!  You don't see any of my stuff out like this, do you?" 
This was true.  To Chakotay's surprise, Paris was extremely picky about
his things - uniforms and clothing was always hung up or put in the
refresher, every item had a special place and had to be dust-free.  He
even made the bed every morning.  Chakotay knew that neatness was
important on a starship, but he was more relaxed about it.

"Okay, Tommy.  I'll clean it up, if it will make you happy.  You don't
have to yell."

Paris's face fell.  "I'm sorry, Chak.  It's not so bad.  Here, I'll
help."  He did more than help.  Seconds later, the bed was made with
military precision, the uniforms were hung in the closet and the padds
were neatly filed in Chakotay's desk.  Then, holding hands, they went
off to the mess hall together.

Or a few weeks later:

"What the hell are you wearing, Chakotay?"

"A suit for the party tonight."  It was one of Paris's gifts - dark red
and skin-tight with a blousy wrapped top. 

"That's too sexy and too informal."

"For a party?  I'm not changing, Tommy."

"Do you think I want to be seen with you looking like that?"

"You got me this."

"Not for public viewing.  You look like a slut.  Take it off or I'll
take it off you."

"I'm wearing this."

"Take it off.  And when you change and we get to the party, I better not
see you dance with anyone else."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Two weeks ago, you danced with half the people in the room."

"They asked me.  Is it my fault you taught me to dance so well?"

"I didn't teach you for other people.  Go change."

"No."

"Yes."  And with that, Paris tore the blouse open.  And turned white as
snow.  "Oh, no.  What did I do?"

"Made sure I had to change."

"Oh, Chak.  I'm sorry.  I know you liked this.  Look, I'll get you a new
blouse now.  Just like this - better.  On me."  And he did - moments
later, Paris had replicated a gorgeous shirt, just as sexy, made of
white silk with white embroidery on the collar and cuffs.  It felt
incredibly sensuous on his body.  

"It's perfect."  They were all smiles at the party.  Chakotay turned
down everyone in the room.  It felt good to be so loved.

More recently:

"Look at you!"

"What's wrong?"  Chakotay was lounging in the cabin in a soft robe. 
He'd just come off of a rather grueling mission and he didn't feel like
doing anything else, much less fighting with his lover.

"You look like a slob."

"I'm comfortable.  I don't need to live in my uniform."

"You have a wardrobe full of non-uniforms.  You could wear anything
there."  Paris knew that because he'd gotten most of them himself.  

"I don't feel like wearing anything there."

"So, I have to see you look like a mess."

"There's nothing messy about this robe."

"It's dull.  Why don't you wear the one I got you?  The velvet one?"

"Why should I?  The only one who sees me is you anymore."

"I'm not worth looking good for?  I make an effort with you, you know." 
Paris was wearing one of his sapphire blue outfits.  This one, soft and
sheer, left nothing to Chakotay's imagination.

"I don't ask you to.  I don't care how you dress.  I care about you!"

"I wish you would tell me, sometimes.  I hate guessing.  Do you even
like this?"

"Of course I do.  I like everything you wear.  If I weren't so
exhausted, I'd tear that right off you."

Paris's mood changed abruptly.  That robe would at least be easy to
remove.

"Well, I'm not exhausted.  Let's see what I can do to make you feel
better."  And, indeed, Paris quite happily did all the work in the next
hour or so, until a very sated Chakotay fell asleep in his arms.  He
never wore that robe again.  Not if it made Paris so unhappy.

And only a month or so ago, there was this.

"Chak, let's have roast beef tonight.  I have the rations."

"Must we?"

"Oh, come on.  It wasn't so bad last time.  I'm sick of vegetables."

"I threw up after dinner.  Don't make me eat meat."

"What is your problem?  It's all replicated anyway.  Nothing died for
you.  I know plenty of vegetarians who eat replicated meat.  For God's
sake, look at Yael Sternlicht.  She has all these complicated rules for
fresh food, but she eats *anything* replicated."

"She has religious laws that permit that.  It's not just the dying part,
Tommy.  I *hate* meat.  I hate the texture and I hate the taste.  I
don't care how it originated, I don't care if it's replicated or real,
or if it came from an mammal or a bird or a fish.  It just isn't food
for me.  If you force me, I'll eat it, but it won't be pretty."

That was a shock.  Paris backed down and replicated two meals, and
candles and set a lovely table.  Since then, Paris had not forced meat
on him, but Chakotay was waiting.

Those were the short fights.  They had longer ones, ones that ended with
one or the other sleeping on the couch.

And then things got worse.  Chakotay had spent a week working with
Janeway and Seven.  He and Paris were working different shifts and
didn't see each other at all, until that final day, when Paris walked
into the astrometrics lab.

"So, ladies, when am I going to get my boyfriend back?"  Paris turned
the charm on full force.

"Tonight, Lieutenant Paris."  Seven never could get a joke.

"But he's such fun, Tom.  We're actually done now, if you must take him
away."  Janeway smiled, and gave Chakotay a hug.  Paris could feel the
anger grow within him.  How dare she touch him?  And how dare he let
her?  Chakotay was *his.*  He managed to control himself until they got
home.

"You slut!"

"What are you talking about!"

"I saw you looking at the captain.  What have the three of you been
doing all this time?"

"You're crazy, Tommy!  We've been working.  Nothing more."

"For hours, every day.  With two beautiful women, too.  What, are you
getting tired of me?  You want women, too?"

"I don't know you are talking about."

"No?" Paris pushed him.  And then stood still, waiting.  For what?  For
Chakotay to push him back?  Chakotay would never do that.  He knew he
was stronger than Paris.  Paris pushed him again.  And again, until he
pushed him into a cabin wall.

"Come on.  Be a man, Chakotay.  Fight back!"  Chakotay, shocked and
confused, said nothing.  What did he do to deserve this?  He had to have
done something.  Paris wouldn't just hit for no reason.

"Tommy?  What did I do?"

"You let her hug you."

"Who?"

"The captain."

"She hugs everyone.  She's hugged both of us for years."

"I saw that look in her eyes.  She wants you."  Had he led Janeway on? 
They were still flirting a little bit out of habit.  She wasn't with
Seven anymore.  Oh, God.  Maybe Paris was right.

"I don't want her.  I only want you.  I'm sorry. I won't let this happen
again."

Paris, meanwhile, had collapsed on the couch.  "Oh, God.  Chak, I'm
sorry.  I shouldn't be so jealous.  I know you wouldn't betray me.  Did
I hurt you, lover?"

"You could never hurt me, Tommy.  I'm sorry."  He never touched Janeway
again.



Paris began to spend more time with Harry.  He stayed faithful to
Chakotay.  He loved Chakotay, he knew he loved Chakotay, and he didn't
want anyone else.  He just wanted Chakotay to be perfect.  And so he
hung around with Harry.

Then, one night, Paris came home to find his lover asleep.

"You couldn't even wait for me, Chak?"

"Wha...Tommy?  What time is it?  2AM?  I was exhausted, and I had no
idea when you'd come in."

"I've waited for you when you're stuck on duty for extra hours."

"That's my job, and I always tell you.  You're just playing around with
Harry."

"Are you accusing me..."

"No, of course not.  Just come to bed.  We'll talk this over in the
morning, lover."

"No!  I want to talk about it now."

"Fine."  Chakotay sat up in bed, wrapping the blanket around his bare
shoulders.  Paris had tossed out all of Chakotay's nightclothes because
it was "a shame to cover up that body."  But the cabin was kept cool to
save life-support energy.

"What is wrong with me being out with Harry?"

"Nothing.  I'm glad you spend time with him.  Maybe the three of us, or
four if you want to invite B'Elanna or Kathryn, could do something."

"You don't want me to spend all my time with you?"

"Of course I do.  But you obviously need some time away."

"And what do you do with the time away?  Spend it with your girlfriend?"

Chakotay could only stare.

"Who is she, Chakotay? Janeway?  Torres?  Or maybe it's some guy - Ayala,
maybe, or Tuvok?"

"There is no one but you, Tommy.  I keep telling you that.  Yeah, I
spent some time tonight with Kathryn.  You weren't around and we needed
to talk about ship's business.  She's my friend just as much as Harry is
your's."

"I knew it!"  Paris swung at Chakotay, who ducked.  "I knew it!  You're
still in love with that woman.  She turned you into this weak man.  I
knew it!"  This time, his fist landed right on Chakotay's shoulder. 
Chakotay could only stare in shock.

"Look what you made me do!  Oh, God.  I hit you!  Oh, God!  Chak, I'm
sorry!  I'm sorry.  I'll never do it again!  I'm sorry!"

Chakotay gathered his weeping lover into his arms and held him, mindless
of the growing bruise.

"It's okay, Tommy.  It's all my fault.  It won't happen again.  You can
stay out as long as you like, I'll wait for you right here."

"Promise?"

"Promise.  Now, come to bed.  It's cold."  And Chakotay proceeded to
warm his lover.

But it wasn't the last time it happened.  Paris began throwing things -
always Chakotay's things.  So, he put those away and the cabin became
Paris's.  Paris was jealous, so Chakotay began to confine his
interactions to ship's business and nothing else, unless he was with
Paris. Paris, of course, continued to play pool with Kim and Torres. And
the regenerator helped to remove most of Chakotay's bruises, although
Paris seemed to like leaving one or two just for show.

                          *   *   *

Present time.


Paris looked at his chronometer.   

"Hey, Harry, we've been playing for a few hours now.  Want to get some
dinner?"

"Yeah.  Tom, we need to talk.  There's something seriously wrong with
you and the commander."

Paris looked wary.  "It's not your business, Harry.  But he is waiting
for me.  I'll get those rations back another time."

Paris opened their cabin door.  Good, he'd cleaned it properly.  But
where was Chakotay?  There.  Asleep.  He looked so cute when he was
asleep.  Even so, that wasn't right.

He went to his lover and began to stroke his hair.  Oh, it felt so nice
long like this, but maybe Chakotay should do something about that gray. 
He looked good in that vest, too.  Chakotay stirred but didn't wake. 
Not good.  Paris took a handful and pulled.

"What?  Oh, Tommy.  I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to fall asleep.  I'm
sorry."

"Cabin looks good, Chak.  So do you."  Paris was smiling.  

"I have steak waiting in the replicator.  Let me get it."

"I'll set the table."

A few weeks ago, they'd purchased a set of china at a trading post.  It
was beautiful - off-white with a gold band and a rim textured with a
vine.  So, they'd splurged and replicated a set of flatware and glasses
and began to really lay the table when they had dinner in their cabin.

Dinner went quietly.  Paris made no effort to force Chakotay to eat the
replicated meat for a change.  This was another good sign.  They
discussed the current area of space and the pool game and the current
ship's gossip - Kim was sort of trying to maybe get Seven to see him for
a meal someday, which both men thought was hilarious.

Paris even helped clean up after dinner, to Chakotay's relief.  He was
so strict on the treatment of china.  This was going to be a wonderful
night.

They settled down on the couch with glasses of wine to listen to some
music.  To his mild surprise, Chakotay found that he was enjoying it,
that he was getting a taste for the violin quartets and waltzes Paris
preferred.  He snuggled closer to Paris, who kissed him on the head.

"Everything was great tonight, Chak.  And you look best of all.  I
should have brought flowers.  There are some pretty ones in the
airponics bay that would look perfect in that blue vase...Chakotay,
where's my vase?"

"Vase?"

"The little blue one, the one I found a few months ago.  Where is it?"

"Tommy, I'm sorry.  I broke it cleaning up.  I ..."

"Why didn't you tell me?"  

"I was afraid you'd...be angry.  Maybe you wouldn't notice."

"Well, I did notice.  And I am angry!  You idiot!  That was special to
me, and you clumsy oaf, you broke it."  He slapped Chakotay.

"It was an accident, Tommy.  I swear!"

"Liar!  You lied to me!  I can't believe you."  Paris's fists, honed by
training and strengthened by anger, flew.  Chakotay couldn't protect
himself without hurting Paris, and he couldn't bring himself to do that.
He loved the man too much, even now.

"Tommy, stop!  Please, you're hurting me!  Tommy!  It's only a vase. 
I'll get you a new one.  It was an accident!  Tommy!"

"I can't believe you!  Have you ever told me the truth?  It's all been a
lie, hasn't it?"

"No!  Tommy!  I love you!  Please, stop!"  Paris couldn't stop now.  He
had to really hurt Chakotay now.  He didn't want to, he hated himself,
but he had to.

"Tom!  What's going on in there!  Commander!"  Kim's voice at the door. 
The door was locked.  The beating continued, but Chakotay was silent. 
He couldn't let anyone know.  They might...make Paris angrier.  He
didn't know that his silence was doing just that.

Outside, Kim was frantic.  He couldn't get the door open.  Finally, he
called for help.

"Commander Tuvok, there's a problem in Commander Chakotay's quarters.  I
think it's serious."

"On my way, Ensign."

"Hurry, please."  Seconds later, Tuvok materialized next to him.  He
listened at the door for a moment.  It sounded like someone was being
assaulted, but that was not logical.  Mister Chakotay only fought with
provocation and Mister Paris was physically smaller than the commander,
plus they had the human love-bond.

"Commander Chakotay and Lt. Paris.  This is Tuvok.  Open the door."  He
was ignored.  

"Computer.  This is Commander Tuvok.  Override the lock."  The door
opened.

Paris was lying on top of Chakotay, pummeling his face as Chakotay tried
to cover it.  Tuvok pulled Paris off while Kim knelt to care for
Chakotay.  He had bruises up and down his exposed arms, his nose was
bleeding and one eye was swollen shut.

"Yeah, now you're not so pretty, Chak.  You'll have to stay with me
because no one will want you."  Chakotay couldn't help it.  Despite his
efforts, tears rolled down his face.  Kim carefully draped an arm around
Chakotay's shoulders.

"Be quiet, Lieutenant.  Are you aware you were striking a superior
officer?"

"Superior?  Hah!"

"Do you want assistance, commander?"

"I'll be all right."  

Kim looked at him.  "Sir, with all due respect, I disagree.  Let me take
you to sickbay.  Now.  You need attention immediately."  

Paris took a close look at Chakotay's face.  His entire demeanor
changed.  "Oh, my God.  Oh, Chak!  I'm so sorry, lover!  You made me do
it, but I'm sorry.  Harry, take care of him, please."

"Okay, Harry.  Tuvok, don't hurt him."  Chakotay let himself be helped
off the floor.

"He will not be injured.  Ensign Kim, please have the commander beamed
directly to sickbay."

"Yes, sir."

The Doctor was already attending to a patient when Kim and Chakotay
arrived. 

"Very well, Lieutenant.  Next time, wear kneepads when you roller
skate."

"Yes, Doctor."

"Doc?"

"Oh, my goodness.  Commander Chakotay, what happened to you?"

"Tom happened to him, Doctor."  They got Chakotay over to a biobed. 

Janeway walked in just as The Doctor had completed repair work on
Chakotay's face.  She was fuming.

"How long has this been going on, Mr. Chakotay?"  How could Chakotay let
Paris do that to him?  And how could she not have known?  They seemed so
perfect, so happy together.

"What do you mean, Kathryn?"

"Captain?  I should have said something earlier, but I think that
relationship has been leading this way for a long time."  Kim looked
embarrassed and ashamed.

"Explain."

"Yes, Harry. Explain how you know about my business."  Chakotay could
not believe that Kim was prying into *his* life.

"I watched it.  I saw you change, Commander.  I saw you flinch from
Tom's touch even as you kissed him.  I saw you start dressing like
this."  He indicated the tight, skimpy clothing.  "Tom tried to get me
to dress like that, but I refused.  A friend of mine in the Academy had
a relationship like this.  She actually dropped out because her lover
made her.  I couldn't help her."

"Why didn't you say anything to me, Harry?"  Janeway wasn't angry, she
was worried.

"Because it wouldn't have helped.  I tried talking to Tom, but he
wouldn't listen, and Mr. Chakotay hasn't been talking to anyone lately. 
Remember, Commander?  I wanted to have dinner with you one day when Tom
was working late, and you wouldn't?"

"Is that why you and he spent so much time together?"  Chakotay began
putting pieces together.

"Yeah.  He couldn't hurt you when he wasn't there.  That failed, didn't
it?"

"Thank you, ensign.  We'll talk later.  Dismissed."

Kim left, but he wasn't happy about it.

"As for you, Chakotay... how?"  Janeway wasn't sure how she felt. 
Anger, yes, both at herself and at Paris - with some left over for
Chakotay for keeping this to himself.  But she was also worried about
both men.

"I don't know.  It just sort of happened."

"And what will you do now?"

"Oh, spirits help me!  I don't know.  I love him, Captain.  I really do.
I don't want to live without him."

"He's killing you.  If what Kim says is right, he's already halfway
done.  I knew something was wrong, but why couldn't I see?"

"Where is he now?"

"You are not going to see him, Chakotay."

"He's in the brig."

"Yes."

"Oh, my poor Tommy.  He's in prison again, and it's my fault."

Janeway was speechless.  Somehow, she had to get her first officer back
from this place.

Meanwhile, Paris permitted Tuvok to take him to the brig.  All of his
anger was gone.  It was replaced with something else - black despair. 
He sat unmoving in the cell until Kim walked in.

"Tom?  Are you there?"

"Harry?  Why are you here?"

"For you."

"How...how is he?"

"Doc says he'll be fine."  Kim's voice was flat, as if he were keeping
something in.

"He has to hate me.  You all have to hate me."

"He doesn't.  He loves you.  He told me when the Doc was treating him."

"Oh, God.  I don't deserve him.  How could I do that to him?"  Tom began
to cry.

"I don't know.  I don't know why people do things."

"You think he's a fool."

"Yeah.  Well."

"What am I going to do, Harry?  Help me!"

"I'll help both of you if I can.  We all will.  If we can ever get you
out of there."

"Maybe I should just walk out of here.  Someone will kill me, and I'll
deserve it.  Oh, God, Harry.  I almost killed Chakotay.  I love him more
than life, and I almost killed him!"

"Tom, do you really?  Love him that much?"

"I don't know.  I think so.  I can't be without him.  I know I hurt him.
I have this need to do something and it comes out like that.  This the
worst.  I don't know why.  I do love him."

"Yeah.  Tom, it's late.  Get some sleep.  We'll talk in the morning.  I
don't know how to say anything now."  

"Are you still my friend?"

"Yes.  I hate what you did, and whatever made you do this, but I'll
always be your friend.  And I will help you if I can.  Good night, Tom."

"Yeah.  See'ya, Harry.  Tell Chak I love him, even if he never wants to
see me again."

Kim left his best friend in the brig.  He went to his cabin, but he knew
he wouldn't sleep that night.  The fact that a fuming Torres was pacing
in front of it didn't help.  Just as well, since he would have called
her anyway.  They walked in together.  Torres didn't waste time.

"Harry, what happened?  I heard that Chakotay tried to kill Tom
tonight."

That was too much.  He collapsed on the bed, alternating laughing and
crying.  Torres did not have a clue as to what to do.  She patted and
offered water and synthehol and talked and screamed and finally hit on
the right thing - sat there with her arms around him until he calmed.

"Harry?"

"I'm okay, B'Elanna.  You have it just opposite."

"*Tom* tried to kill Chakotay?  Those two never even fight."

"Yes, they do.  And they will need us."  Kim told her what he saw and
what they'd told him.  And then she let him restrain her from charging
down to the brig and killing Paris.  She really wasn't surprised,
though.  Paris had tried to do something like that with her, but she
refused, and that had killed their relationship.  She just never
suspected that *Chakotay* would let such a thing happen.

They spent the rest of the night trying to figure out what to do, but
gave up.  It would have been easy if the two men had hated each other. 
They decided that they'd let wiser heads take over.

Janeway spent a similar night with Tuvok and The Doctor.  Both men were
vital to the ship, both men were dear to her, and both men would be
miserable apart.  After what she heard Chakotay say in sickbay, she knew
that with all that was between them, there was also love.  Somehow,
Paris hadn't killed it.  She didn't understand, though.  She would have
thrown Paris out on his ass as soon as he tried anything violent.

"Mandatory therapy, Captain.  It's the only way.  I can modify my
engrams again."

"For whom?"

"Both, first apart and then, if they *both* want it, together.  I'm more
worried about Lt. Paris, of course, but Cmdr. Chakotay needs to recover
his own self-esteem."

"Perhaps the commander could meditate."  Tuvok glanced at The Doctor.

"I assumed he would."

"I hope we can persuade them.  I want them back as men.  The
relationship is secondary."

Tuvok nodded.  "I concur.  They are valuable apart, but together seems
difficult."  

"I disagree with both of you, but it's up to the two of them.  Right
now, Mr. Paris is all but suicidal and Mr. Chakotay is in sickbay
refusing sedation.  This is not going to be easy, but we can't decide
for them."

"Chakotay is the heart of my ship, Doctor.  I need him whole again."

Chakotay sat in sickbay with his medicine bundle.  He'd asked Neelix to
bring it to him.  It felt strange in his hands.  He realized he hadn't
used it in months - not since Paris had taken over his life.  Paris
never said anything about it, nor had he ever touched the bag without
Chakotay's permission.  Chakotay just never got around to meditating.

He took out the items he needed and said the ritual phrase.  There he
was, in the forest he used to love so much.  His wolf was there.  She
looked ill.  He could see her ribs through her patchy fur and her eyes
were dull.  He knew what that meant.  He didn't *feel* sick, though.

"Is it Tommy?" The wolf just sat there.

"Is it my relationship with Tommy?"  She moved closer to him.  His heart
grew cold.  "I can't give him up."  She stayed where she was.  At least
she moved no further.

What was wrong?  He had all the time he needed in this place of his.  He
was safe here.  He could see into his heart.

What he saw frightened him.  He'd never allowed anyone to take control
of his life the way he'd allowed Paris.  It had happened so gradually,
though.  How had he missed the signs?  What did Paris need that he
wasn't giving him?  And how could he give it to him?  How could he even
stay with him?

"You are growing wise, my son."  Kolochek stood beside him.

"Father?  Father, I've been a fool for a pretty face."

"You were not the first man, nor will you be the last.  What do you feel
for this man?"

"I love him.  And I hate him."

His father nodded.  "No more than he hates himself.  My son, I taught
you that love meant accepting the other as he is."

"You taught me wisely."

"Perhaps others are taught differently?"

Chakotay thought about his life with Paris.  Paris didn't accept.  He
tried to change.  And he was such a perfectionist in private.  What was
he taught and who taught him?  

Then it came to him.  Paris was an admiral's son.  An admiral who taught
that perfection was not just a goal, it was a requirement.  Such a man
would accept nothing less from his own son.  He had a sudden vision of a
boy forced to conform to his father's wishes, a boy taught that he was
only punished because he was loved, and shown love only in that way.

Paris wanted *him* to change him.  Wanted to be told how to dress, who
to be with, what to do outside of the bridge.  He'd been so good on the
bridge since they'd been together - never questioning orders, no smart
mouth, no problems. He wanted Chakotay to be strong, not gentle.  He was
pushing *him.*   

But Chakotay couldn't love in that way.  And he couldn't leave him that
way, either.  He loved him.  Something had to be done, something that
would leave Paris still Paris but let him accept that he was good enough
the way he was.

And Chakotay had to relearn that lesson for himself.  He had his wolf
and his father.  Could he be there for his Tommy?  If the spirits so
willed, he could.  His father beamed at him, and the wolf was now at his
feet, approving.  He could do this.  *They* could do this.  

He needed to talk to Paris.

He went down to the brig.  The crewman on duty looked startled when
Chakotay appeared in his sickbay robe, but let him in.

Paris was asleep.  Chakotay stared at him for long time.

"Tommy.  My pretty Tommy."

Paris opened his eyes.  "Chak! What are you doing here?"

"I needed to see you.  To talk to you."

"How can you stand to look at me after what I did?"

"I love you.  I need you."

"Oh, God."

"And tomorrow morning, I'm moving your stuff back to your cabin and
taking mine out of storage.  And we will see about therapy for both of
us.  You're sick, Tommy.  I think I know why, but you're sick, and you
made me sick."

"I'm sorry."  It came out as a sob.

"It's not your fault, but we need to get well.  I need you well.  We
will get you well and then we will start over as friends and maybe
lovers.  I spoke to the spirits tonight and they told me you were strong
and could get well if you wanted to."

"Do you believe it?"

"You're strong, Tommy.  I believe it.  And I also believe that I'll get
you to wear those stupid Talaxian wedding wreaths.  And it will be
hard."

"I can do hard."

"I know.  And until we can, we will be apart, and if we find someone
else..."

"NO!!"

"If we do, we will know that we did the right thing.  I'll miss you,
Tommy."

"Good-bye, Chak.  I love you."

The door closed behind Chakotay.  As it did, both men had the same
thought.  "We'll do it."

copyright 1998 Debra Fran Baker and NightRoads Associates

Back to Voyager Page

Back to Fan Fiction Page
Back to Main Page