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
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