Fire and Rain



"Sweet dreams and flying machines/in pieces on the ground."
                                   James Taylor


     I'd always known life wasn't fair, but this was the hardest
thing I'd ever had to face.  Harder than losing father, harder than
leaving Starfleet, harder than adjusting to being 75 years away
from the home I'd left Starfleet to defend.  We had just started
our lives together, my golden man and I, and now it was over, and
I had to face those years, wherever they would be spent, alone.  

====

     I fell in love so slowly I don't know when it began. After New
Earth, Kathryn and I had fallen into an easy friendship, and months
later, she spent her time with a member of the science team, one
who was not in the chain of command.  I was so happy for her, and
glad the conflicts of duty and desire were over.  I was able to let
my feelings towards Tom - beautiful Tom - come to the surface.
      Our old animosity began to disappear as Paris showed himself
to be loyal and competent.  It took time for me to get over over my
anger at the Tlaxian/Kazon scam, when Janeway and Paris lied to me
so that they could find the spy for the Kazons.  I thought about
what it took for Tom to pretend to be so bad.  He'd been happy as
Voyager's top pilot, and at achieving his field rank.  It was as if
he were redeeming himself, and now he had to go through that act
that confirmed every negative feeling I had had for him.
     But that was months and a stint on New Earth ago.  We were
gone from Kazon space, and all I could see was his blond head at
the helm and think about the man who owned it.  Not just about his
physical beauty, but his loyalty and the pain in those blue eyes
that never went away, not even when he flirted with Megan Delaney. 
Could he ever see anything in a middle-aged man?  In a man in
general?  Or had that been taken care of in prison?  Prisons had
come a long way since the horrors of previous generations, but some
things never change.  No one had to tell me that.
     I did have some hope - I noticed him staring at me in the mess
hall, and he seemed to go out of his way to stand close to me.  I
could almost feel a connection - and I became determined to find
out if it truly existed.  I prayed it did.
     I chose a day that was perfectly calm - no alien ships in the
foreground, no equipment breakdowns in the background.  Nothing
that would challenge either of our attentions.  I'd spent the day
trying not to get caught staring at Tom.  As luck would have it, he
and I were alone in the turbolift at shiftchange.  That was almost
too much to bear.  *If not now, when?*
     "Lieutenant?"
     "Yes, commander?"  
     "Do you have plans for the evening?"  Paris looked startled at
first, but then he grinned that grin.
     "Nothing I can't change...sir."
     "Would you join me for dinner .. in my cabin?"  
     Paris' grin changed into a shy smile, and his face turned
deliciously red, but he aimed those sapphire eyes straight into
mine as if they were phasers.  Quickly, just for a moment, he
touched his fingers to my cheek.  It was like an electric shock
through my body.
     He didn't say anything - he just nodded.
     My voice sounded rough to me.  "Two hours, then.  Casual
dress.  No uniforms."


     I was as nervous as a teenager on his first date.  I cleaned
and straightened my cabin over and over again.  I even changed
clothes twice before settling on tan linen trousers and shirt and
a black embroidered vest.  If my hair had been as long as when I
*was* a teenager, I'd have braided and rebraided it.  I grinned at
the memory.  
     Tom knocked on my door right on time.  He was so beautiful in
his soft black sweater, even with the apprehension in those blue
eyes.  I didn't know what he was worried about then.  I held out my
hand in welcome, Tom took it and held it, let me draw him in.  
Once again, that small contact felt like we'd closed a circuit.
     We sat down together on my couch, still holding hands. 
Neither of us wanted to let go, not even to pick up the drinks I
set out on my table.  I began to stroke Tom's hand.  Nothing had
ever felt so right.  Tom put his other hand over mine.
     "I can't believe you feel this way,...Chakotay."  His lips 
caressed my name as much as our hands caressed each other.
     "You are brilliant and competent and loyal and beautiful.  Why
shouldn't I feel this way?"
     "Because you could have had *her*, and because no one has ever
loved me like this."
     "No one?  Ever?"  I was shocked.  Could the universe be that
blind?
     "People have wanted me - men, women, fellow prisoners, fellow
Maquis, fellow classmates, my f.."  Tom stopped short and reached
for his neglected drink.  He nearly knocked it over, but recovered
in time.  
     I didn't know I could ever get that angry.  I couldn't believe
that this had been permitted to happen.  How could I have let it
happen on my ship in the Maqui?  Why didn't the Academy notice? 
And who let him stay in that home?  Did anyone know?
     "Don't get upset, Chakotay.  It doesn't matter.  Whatever they
did to my body didn't matter.  They never got me."  And the mask
came down again, but his eyes never changed.  I'd never seen so
much naked pain.  "Now, you, on the other hand...I think I wouldn't
care what you did."  
     I knew then that until I could make those eyes light up with
joy I would avoid any reminder of past pain.  It would be worth the
wait.
     "Good.  I want to serve you dinner."


     We spent the elegant Italian-style dinner talking about my
family - how close I'd been to my father, how much my nieces and
nephews meant to me.  I needed to let him know that real loving
families existed.  I spoke about how my best friend had become my
first love, and how I'd realized that I was attracted to both men
and women, but men more.  My feelings for Kathryn had been an
exception, but she was exceptional. And she couldn't compare to
Tom.  
     Tom said very little, but he did talk about his own self-
discovery, and how his father had been so disappointed that his
only son would never give him grandchildren.  And how he'd begun
flirting with girls as a form of protection.  He didn't say what
they would protect him from, but I could guess.  Clever ruse.
     That night ended with me kissing Tom good night by his own
cabin door.  Tom's sweater felt as soft as it looked.  I could feel
the firm body beneath the wool as much as I could feel the passion
in Tom's tongue and my own body, but it wasn't nearly time yet.  I
also felt a hesitation and an unfamiliar awkwardness about the way
he kissed.  I wanted him, but I needed to take this slow - build a
relationship, maybe begin to help heal all those pyschic scars -
before consummating this.  Consummate - like a wedding.  Perhaps
I'd marry Tom first, I'd thought.  Tom would need that commitment,
and I wanted it.  
     I wanted to have him as part of my life, and to be part of
his, when he was ready to accept it.  I cursed the uncaring and
unloving past that made it necessary for me to wait for all of
that, but I could be patient for Tom.
     Just as I'd thought that, Tom broke the kiss.
     "That was wonderful."
     "The kiss?"
     "I've never been kissed before, Chakotay.  I'm glad you were
the first."
     That explained the awkwardness.  It also told me that none of
those people who'd wanted him ever concerned themselves with his
pleasure.  That would change when the time was right.  

     Despite my resolutions, my bed was very lonely that night, and
I suspected Tom's was as well.  But breakfast - that was wonderful
(it was even edible.  Neelix's cooking was starting to get closer
to my tastes.)  
     I spent it staring into pools of blue, and holding Tom's free
hand.  Yes, everyone had noticed, but I didn't care.  We didn't
care.  Also, I knew that if I'd acted the least bit ashamed or
embarrassed, or even discreet off-duty, Tom might take it to heart. 
He was too fragile now for me to risk hurting him in that way, or
in any way.  
     Besides, I'd landed the most elusive fish on board.  Not bad
for an old man.  I felt like showing off my pretty love.  I felt
like shouting it to the universe, but I confined myself to nuzzling
his hand.

     Janeway gave us a smile when the turbolift doors opened with
us still holding hands.  They let go before entering the bridge. 
That was not subject to negotiation - the captain would expect
proper behavior on duty, and Tom agreed.  Harry did give Tom a
thumb's up.  I was glad to see that - I knew Tom confided in his
friend, and my pretty one needed all the support he could get.
     Even so, that first duty shift had not been easy.  I'd felt
Tom's proximity more now than ever, and when I relunctantly left
the bridge for duties around the ship, I heard the whispers.  As
the cliche' went, only gossip reached Warp 10.
     Some seemed approving, but others did not.  Some were opposed
to homosexuals and/or homosexual relationships - I heard that from
former Maqui, who were shocked that one of "them" had actually
commanded them, or that "they" had been allowed in Starfleet. 
Others saw the disparity in our ages and positions and though we
were using each other - I wanted easy sex from the ship's "slut"
(little did they know he'd never actually done more than flirted
since coming aboard), he wanted to "sleep his way to the top."  The
best of those thought the use was mutual.  There were even bets on
how long the relationship would last.  The longest I heard was a
month.
     The only way to counter these was time.  This would last a
lifetime - I was sure.  At least, *my* lifetime.  That was one
advantage to loving a younger man.  Besides, I didn't like short-
term relationships.  Sooner or later, this one would lose both its
novelty and its shock value.  The crew would adjust to it and then
ignore it.  And if the captain confirmed it with a wedding, that
would help.


     The next few weeks were wonderful and frustrating.  Wonderful
in that my pretty love and I learned about each other.  Slowly, Tom
opened up about his past, discovering that he could trust me and
that nothing he could say would make me love him less.  It took him
so long to realize that.  However, the more he revealed, the more
care I took in advancing our physical relationship, and that was
frustrating as hell.
     My childhood memories have always been a source of joy and
strength for me.  My academy days were full of challenge and
friendships.  Tom's memories were so very different.  My anger at
those who had abused or neglected their responsibility to this rare
and special person grew with each memory that he revealed to me in
that heartbreakingly dull, emotionless voice while his eyes became
dead stone.  It didn't help that *I* was among those people, and
all I could do was hold Tom in my arms.  He was so beautiful, and
that beauty was a curse.
     He'd already learned to use it, use his body, as an item of
trade when he'd arrived at prison.  It enabled him to survive, to
avoid beatings, to get good assignments and special favors.  
     "It didn't matter what I felt, Chakotay.  They would have
gotten me anyway.  At least this way I could get something out of
it.  At least there is one thing I'm good at."
     He'd had some lessons aboard my own ship in the Maquis.  This
is something I should have known about.  He wasn't there a long
time before Starfleet caught him but I would not have permitted any
such abuse and harrassment aboard my ship.  A captain is supposed
to know everything that goes on on his ship, and I failed.  And Tom
paid for my failure.  
     "No one knew but me and ... them.  I'm good at keeping
secrets.  I still am."
     I resolved upon hearing this to find out what was going on
Voyager.  Was there someone on this ship I needed to hurt badly? 
Or, more importantly, protect?  
     "I learned to keep secrets early.  I'd let something slip in
the Academy about my preferences, and that my father would not be
happy.  Some upperclassmen apparently thought that that made me
fair game for blackmail.  I paid, the same way I paid for favors in
the prison, and for my safety in the Maqui.  Secrets, whoredom,
piloting.  That's what I learned in the academy.  I was a good
student - better than my grades would show.  Oh, that made my
father mad.  I should have been best in my class.  I probably could
have been, but he couldn't touch me while I was there.  Middle of
the range suited me just fine, and no one expected better from an
admiral's legacy any way.  Except for piloting.  That was all mine."  
     When Tom spoke about his father, his eyes went from dead stone
to blue fire.  How could that man have been allowed to command a
starship when he couldn't even be trusted with his own son?
     He'd been the first.  When Tom had told him of his
homosexuality, he'd all but gone mad.  He'd dragged Tom to his own
bedroom and taken him, telling Tom he give him what he wanted.  And
this went on night after night until Tom discovered if he pretended
he liked girls, if he flirted with them and dated them, his father
would let him be, but if he so much as looked at another boy his
father would not only rape him, he'd beat him as well.  So he began
to keep secrets and play games.
     Sex to Tom meant pain and humilation, not joy and pleasure. 
Much as I wanted to sleep with him, to touch him, I didn't dare.
Not yet.  I had to content myself with teaching him how to kiss -
at least that brought back no memories of pain.  At least that
belonged to us and not them, or *him.*
     *Him*.  Tom's earliest memories were of his father beating him
because he was "bad".  That's when he'd learned not to cry.  If he
cried, his father would just hit him harder.  He was clumsy, he
said the wrong things, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. 
So he "needed" to be punished.  Especially since it was his fault
his mother left them.  Tom *believed* this.  And he also believed
that he deserved everything bad life gave to him.  And all I could
do was listen to that dead voice.  And tell him that he was loved
and needed and safe on Voyager, safe with me.  I could tell he
didn't believe me, but I could also tell he liked hearing it, so I
kept telling him. I tried to get him to talk to someone, but he
refused.  He wasn't ready to tell anyone else his secrets.

     Finally, one night we were in Tom's cabin, eating ice cream
and playing old-fashioned 2-D chess.  
     "This is nice." Tom licked caramel ribbon off his fingers.
     "The chess or the ice cream?"
     "Being with you, Chakotay.  I'm so happy when I'm with you."
     I moved next to Tom and kissed him.
     "I'm so glad.  Your happiness - you - you are the most
important thing in my life."
     "I don't want it to end."
     "It doesn't have to end.  It can be forever.  If I have any
say in the matter, it will be."
     "Of course it will end.  We'll get back and my father will do
something to tear us apart.  Or you'll finally meet someone
better."
     "Tom, there is no one better.  I had a Jewish roommate in the
Academy.  He said that Jews believed everyone has a mate determined
for them when they are born.  It's called *bashert*.  You are meant
for me."
     "But when we get home and you get a real choice...?"
     "I don't want to get home.  I don't need to go home.  I used
to miss blue skies, but I don't anymore."
     "You don't?  The holodeck isn't enough."
     "No. But your eyes are.  I have blue skies whenever I want
them now."  
     Tom began to cry for the first time since he was very, very
small.
     I held him.  I could feel my love's sobs against my chest -
deep, wracking sobs - a lifetime of tears.  I murmured little
reasurring phrases, telling Tom I was there, that I loved him, that
no one was ever going to hurt him.  Inside, though, I was
rejoicing.  Not for his pain, but for the fact that the wall was
crumbling.
     Finally, the sobs stopped, and I guided him to his bed and
undressed him.  Tom asked, no,  *begged* me to stay that night -
and I was not willing to let Tom be alone in that state.  So I got
undressed and climbed in with him, holding him closely.  We fell
asleep that way.  I didn't know what the morning would bring, but
I knew things had changed for the better.

     The next morning, our bodies reacted before we were fully
awake, holding and caressing each other, kissing each other.  Tom
came to consciousness first, and apparently decided it was too nice
to stop.  He'd taken to kissing well - I was a good teacher.  When
I became fully awake, I made the kisses more passionate.

     That morning, I'd begun, with all the patience and gentleness
I could muster, to teach my pretty young lover how to accept
pleasure and how to return it and to show him the difference
between a gift and a theft, and what it means to make love.  The
lessons took time, but by the time the crew stopped whispering
entirely, we knew each other's bodies as we knew each other's minds
- not perfectly, just enough for me to anticipate learning more
throughout the years we'd be together.  

     Our relationship began to change.  Until that point, we spent
all our free time together, as much as duty would permit.  We let
no one else into our closed little world.  As Tom became more
relaxed, we began to socialize as a couple.  And Tom decided he
could and should talk to a counselor.  The best person for that job
was Captain Janeway.  We asked and she was happy to take him on. 
As time passed he began to blossom.  That sarcastic mouth never
quite went away, but he became more open, more ready to accept
affection from his friends.  

     Six months after that ride in the turbo lift, we moved into
larger quarters together.  I got our circle of friends to help us
organize files and pack belongings into boxes.  Then Be'lanna
beamed everything into the new cabin.  
     As I began to unpack, I noticed something.
     "Tom?  Where are all your things?  Most of the boxes here are
mine."
     "Mine are right here."  He pointed to two or three plastic
crates labeled "Paris."  "How come you have so much?  You had
nothing when you came aboard Voyager."
     "Things help to make a place home.  I replicated some things
and others I got from many of the planets and cultures we've seen. 
This way I have memories."
     "Who wants memories?"  He grinned wryly.  "Nothing but trouble
if you ask me.  Actually, that entire box is filled with holos and
holodeck programs of all those places.  As for home - that's you,
big guy, not a place."
     "I feel the same way, pretty one, now."  I had been going to
wait until dinner and champagne, but I had a better idea.  He was
on the floor unpacking some books.  I sat down next to him and took
his hands in mine.  The electric current was gone, but the warm
feeling that took its place was infinitely better.  Tom's grin
widened and he began to breathe rapidly.
     "Thomas Eugene Paris, I love you.  I want to spend the rest of
my life with you, where ever it is.  Will you marry me?"
     "You mean it, don't you?"  I nodded.  "Yes.  I love you, and
I don't ever want to be without you.  I will marry you, Chakotay." 
Then he fell into my arms and we began to celebrate.

     We consulted with Kathryn and Neelix and the maps and picked
a date that, we hoped would be free of conflicts.  The whole crew
helped us plan the celebration.  *This* time the only whispers I
heard were expressions of approval.

     A few days before that date, we found a promising planet for
resupply.  Tom volunteered to pilot the shuttlecraft for the
foraging crews.  There'd been some bad weather in the offing, but
they would have time to fill a hold or two.  The transporters were
offline for minor repairs, so Tom spent several hours ferrying
people and supplies.  Since some of that food would be used in
*our* wedding reception, he was happy to do it (not to mention to
show off his piloting ability.)  He'd told me it felt like dancing
to him.
     That day was amazingly fun.  The air was warm in the early
fall part of that planet, and there were streams of clean water, so
the crew splashed and played as we gathered strange fruits that
grew in those streams - Neelix had never heard of them, but they
were safe to eat and quite delicious.  There were newly ripened and
almost ripe nuts and fruits on the trees, long sweet roots, savory
leaves - even a grass that looked like it would make a nice grain
if we could only wait.  We couldn't but Kes took samples of
everything so she could try to grow them.  Occasionally, a non-
sentient native lifeform would come by and skitter away in fear and
confusion.  And couples, not just Tom and me, would find moments to
sneak away from the rest of the crowd.  Even Captain Janeway
disappeared with her friend Jack "to collect samples for the botany
lab."

     It took several trips to ferry all the food back up, but we
wanted as much as we could get.  It then took several more to get
all the people on board.  Finally, it was the last trip to pick up
any remaining produce and equipment that might have been left
behind - something Tom could do on his own.  The weather was
beginning to get dicey, but my betrothed thought he'd be fine. 
Everyone thought he'd be fine - after all, Tom was the best.  He'd
even spent the trip down chatting.
     "Captain?"
     "Yes, Tom?"
     "I'm about to hit atmosphere.  What's the weather like down
there?"
     "It's getting a little choppy, Tom.  You sure you don't want
to wait until the weather clears?"
     "You'll get all wet, Tom."
     "I'll be okay, Harry.  I'm the best.  And Chakotay will dry me
off."
     "I'll meet you with hot tomato soup and a warm blanky, pretty
one."
     "Yes, sir!  Speaking of pretty - why don't we hold the wedding
right where we were today?"
     "Because I can only perform weddings on board ship, Tom."  The
captain smiled.  "You do want this legal, don't you?"
     "Of course I do.  I want the big guy's pension."
     "What pension?  I gave that up when I quit.  You'll have to
marry me for love."
     "Good thing I love you, then.  Oh, wait a minute.  There's
somethi..."  And the screen went blank and silent.
     
     "Captain, the signal from the shuttlecraft is gone."  Tuvok
sounded just a hair off calm.  I ran to the security station and
began pressing controls.
     "It's no use, Commander.  There is no signal."
     Just then, Kim spoke up.  He sounded like he was holding back
a sob.  "Captain, Commander...I've found the shuttlecraft.  It
seems to have crashed near the gathering site.  There are ... no
signs of human life in or near it."  I watched as Harry dissolved
into tears.  It couldn't be true.  Tears ran down Janeway's face as
she went to comfort the ensign.  
     Torres chose that moment to burst onto the bridge - she'd been
monitoring the chat from engineering. 
     "Captain, request permission to take a shuttlecraft and rescue
Tom."
     "There will be no rescue, B'elanna.  Tom isn't there anymore." 
The words tore my throat as I said them.  I could feel my heart
break.  My golden man was lying in pieces on the planet along with
all the plans we'd made.
     "That's impossible.  Tom's the best.  He's alive down there. 
I know it."  She looked like she wanted to throw something. 
"You're supposed to be in love with him, Chakotay.  Why aren't you
letting me get him?"
     "Because I don't want to mourn you as well.  Check the sensor
readings yourself."  I sat in my chair and buried my face in my
hands, but no tears came.  I heard B'elanna's harsh sobs as the
truth could no longer be denied, and I heard Harry comfort her
through his own tears.  
     The next few hours passed in a blur of grief.  By the time the
weather had cleared, the rest of the crew, even those on sleep
shift, had learned the news.  There was an impromtu honor guard
waiting when I carried his burned and broken body home in my arms. 
He'd died on impact, for which I was grateful.  At least Tom hadn't
suffered at the end of his life.

     The funeral was the next day.  Kes dressed Tom in what would
have been his wedding clothes, saying that they had meant more to
him than his uniform ever did.  Janeway had offered to let me lead
the services, but I declined.  I would say my own prayers in
private.  So she stood by the capsule, Jack from sciences standing
silently by her side.  
     The standard service was brief.  She added a few words about
how much she'd enjoyed have Tom as part of her crew, and how much
she would miss him.  Then she called the assembled crew to
attention and gave me the flag that had draped the capsule.  
     I just stood there like a statue, staring at the still face
behind the port.  I could see the Tlaxian wedding wreath Kes put on
his forehead.  We were both going to wear one at the wedding. 
Invisible was Tom's wedding ring.  I put that on myself, grim
parody though it was.
     The capsule was shot into space to sound of Taps.
     Janeway, voice still steady, announced that there was going to
be a memorial wake in the holodeck, and that she was going to get
as drunk as she could.
     Softer, she added, "Will you join us, Chakotay?"
     I shook my head. "I need to do my own mourning practices."
     "I understand.  You are off-duty for the next week.  I wish I
could do more."  I nodded at that.

     The cabin was empty.  Tom's stuff was still there, but *he*
was gone.  I wandered around the familiar rooms.  There was a chip
on the desk I knew I hadn't put there.  Something made me look at
it.
     I was sorry I did.  There was Tom, alive and happy and too
beautiful to bear.  For the first time since the accident, I felt
tears rising.
     "Hi, big guy.  I don't know how to tell you this, but I'm
leaving you.   Just until the wedding.  I'm taking Harry up on his
offer.  It wouldn't be right to wake up next to your bridegroom on
your wedding day.  I'll come by after ferry duty is over and get a
few things so I can sleep on Harry's couch.  
     "I am going to miss you, lover.  So it's a good thing we're
getting married so this won't happen again.  I'm so happy we found
each other.  Even these few months have been the best of my life,
and now I have years (I began to sob.  Oh, my Tom, my pretty one!)
to look forward to.  I am so bad at this love stuff.  Big guy,
Chakotay, you are the best thing that ever happened to me.  You
made me feel like a worthwhile human being.  You, and the captain
and Harry and B'elanna, but you most of all.  You started the
healing of my past and gave me a future.  I bless the day the
Caretaker took us to the Delta Quadrant, and gave me a family and
a home and you.  I love you, and I'll love you as long as I live,
and beyond."
     At those words, the sound stopped, and so did my tears.  Tom
wasn't gone.  His spirit was dancing in the stars, where it
belonged, and it was whole and healed.  And there were friends on
this ship who would help me heal, too.  I looked at my medicine
bundle on my nighttable, and left it there.  I'd pray later.
     I changed into the clothes I wore on our first dinner, brushed
my hair and went to the holodeck to join my friends.  My family; as
warm and loving as the one I'd left behind. The years weren't quite
so empty after all.
     
copyright 1997 Debra Fran Baker and NightRoads Associates

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