Easier

Debra Fran Baker

dfbaker@panix.com


"Get away from me!"

"I love you!"

"Tom, please. Just go." Chakotay buried his head in his hands.

"Why won't you let me see you?" Tom stood by the cabin door, oblivious to the people passing by.

"You *know* why."

"I never wanted to hurt you." Tom sat down on the couch next to him.

"You did. I have the scars to prove it. Go away. It's bad enough I have to see you on the bridge every day."

"Is that an order, Commander?"

"This is wrong. This is very, very wrong." He pulled Tom into his arms and buried his face in his shoulder.

* * *

The other side of the bed had been empty and cold. "Tom? Pretty one? Where are you?"

"In here." He was in the sitting area. His voice sounded odd.

"Come back to bed. We have hours before we're on shift." Silence. And then another sound. "Tom? Are you all right?"

"Just...go back to sleep, Chak. I'll...I'll see you on duty."

What was wrong? He got out of bed and opened the door. Tom, who never left their bed unless he were dragged, was sitting on the couch fully dressed, his arms wrapped around his knees. His eyes were red. Chakotay sat beside him and touched his cheek. It was wet. "Tom?"

"I can't do this anymore." He turned his face away."You can't do what?"

"Two of you. I can't do two of you. There isn't enough of me."

Chakotay felt a chill down his back. "Two of us? Who?" Why did he bother asking?

"B'Elanna."

"Do...do you love her?"Tom turned around. "I don't know. I think...maybe. She's so beautiful and so brilliant and...she needs me."

"You told me you loved me."

"I do. God knows I do. But..."

"So why?"

"I have to...Please, Chak, try to understand."

"Understand that you're leaving because she needs you? I need you, too, Tom. I love you."

"You don't need me. You're strong and centered and you have the captain. Maybe I'm tired of sharing you. B'Elanna - she acts so tough but she's fragile. She needs someone to lean on."

"And who will you lean on?"

"Me? I don't lean on anyone. Chakotay, I can't hurt her."

"You can hurt me. Maybe you do love her more." Tom looked stunned. "I don't know."

"How long? How long have you been..."

"A couple of months now. Since...the Day of Honor. She said those words to me, while we were drifting out there. I thought she'd...forget them when we got back safely, but she didn't."

"What did you say to her, Tom?"

"I...didn't. I was stunned and scared and thinking that I never got a chance to say goodbye to you. I was going to die out there. I said nothing. At least then. Oh, God, Chakotay, I'm so tired. Tired of lying to her, of lying to you, of hiding the two most wonderful things that ever happened to me from everyone. Please, understand. I had to pick one."

"Why her?" Chakotay tried hard to remember that he liked B'Elanna and that he was proud of her accomplishments on this ship. Right now, all he could see was his Tom in her arms.

"It's...easier. We're the same