Conclusions

Conclusions – part one
by VoyWriter

1996/1997

Disclaimer – Paramount owns the rights to StarTrek, the characters and the show.
Permission from the author is required to include this in any anthology or ‘zine or
post it on a web page beyond fanfic archives which are fine. Feel free to distribute
this electronically with all notes and disclaimers included.

I have counted gay men as my best friends since high school and found them to
be just like the rest of us – human. This story is dedicated to all of them, and to
Tom and Gary, two special friends who taught me that two men in love are just
that.

email comments to VoyWriter@aol.com

The door hissed open and Tom Paris stood in the open entry way. The light was
bright behind his back, illuminating the darkened room.

A lone figure sat facing the observation port, silhouetted against the stars and
blackness of the night beyond. His hands rested on the arms of the chair,
revealing a Captain’s stripes along the cuff of his uniform. There was tension
there – and bonelessness. A coiled spring lacking press or power.

Tom watched, gathering his own strength, capturing and releasing his breath.
Preparation. This was not how he wanted it to be. Their reunion. Not the timing.
Not the circumstance. But the vagaries of life – and death – did not grant him the
luxury of choosing the situation – all he could do was press ahead.

He crossed the room and rested a hand on the other man’s broad shoulder,
noticing the salt and pepper familiarity of his short dark hair, the line of his jaw,
the breadth of his strong back. A symphony of memories.

“Chakotay…it’s Tom.” He stepped around in front of Chakotay and crouched
down.

Chakotay flicked his eyes up to meet the clear blue gaze of his friend and former
lover and in that instant the mask which had sustained him these two long weeks
was dropped. And a mirror opened to his soul.

Tom thought he might have never seen a look of such abject grief on any living
being. He pulled the larger man into his arms and felt his hands surround him,
press his back and bone and skin and flesh.

Then a single sound broke from Chakotay’s lips. “Tom.” It was a hush. A whisper.
A curse. A welcome. A step out of and back inside his grief.

Paris felt the racking, choking sobbing before he met the tears against his face,
before he heard the harsh sound of loss against his ear, before the pounding of a
breaking heart beat against his chest.

Chakotay’s weight pressed against him as the older man fell down upon his knees,
sliding from the chair. Tom tensed and drew him tighter, allowing his own grief
to come bear as well. It was not just one man’s loss. It was shared. As all these
years they had shared Chakotay’s love for her with their own love for one another.

She was dead. Kathryn. Gone. An accident aboard her ship. All hands lost. All –
lost. Ten years after returning to the alpha quadrant. Ten years after a hero’s
welcome and reward. Twenty years since their meeting and their pull from
familiar space to areas uncharted. Both space and life among that mix.

And Chakotay had been sent after her. To recover her. To deliver her back home.
A man finding and delivering his own accursed fate and destiny.

Tom leaned away slightly and pressed his hands to either side of Chakotay’s face,
drawing it back to see the grieving there. There were a tightness there, and a
dimness in the eyes, surrounded by dark circles borne of grief and lack of sleep.
Tom touched his lips to Chakotay’s own, warm and soft and wet.

“I’m here. I’ll take care of you now.”

Chakotay leaned into the kiss as a hungry man would devour life and breath,
searching for some connection to the living – a flesh and blood reminder that he
was not dead as well. That all was not lost. That there was one who knew his soul
and called him friend – had called him lover once.

Kathryn. Tom. One gone. One here. Half a life. More than most would have for
60 years.

Tom felt Chakotay’s hands tug against the uniform and he obliged by removing
the jacket and then the turtleneck. First his own. Then Chakotay’s jacket, vest and
shirt. Until their naked chests could meet and their empty arms embrace and find
the other’s love.

The boots, then socks, then pants and briefs were added to the pile.

This was not sex. This was mourning pure and simple. A different kind of love.
Tom felt familiar hands and fingers, lips and mouth against his thighs and he
responded quickly, his own hands and mouth making time against Chakotay’s
golden skin. He spread his legs, brought his lover in, pulsing against the rushing
press and push of the other man’s erection. Felt the power of his orgasm deep
inside, followed by his own without, then the crushing weight of Chakotay lax
upon his chest.

He held him there, upon the floor. In that darkened room. Until the chilling air
and hardness of the deck gave them pause. God how they had all once loved each
other. Not all each other, but each another.

They showered in the spare bathroom adjoining Chakotay’s office and dressed in
silence, handing over clothes, a boot, a sock. Captain’s pips and Captain’s stripes –
Fleet and Patrol. Same rank, different uniform. Same cause now – more or less.

“Have you eaten anything?” Tom asked as he adjusted his uniform jacket and
pressed the front closure together. His blond hair was mixed with silver strands,
but he was still young by modern standards. Nearing 50 – just entering the prime
of middle life.

Chakotay finished dressing as well, his striking face still handsome, strong, still
able to command an audience of women and of men just with a grin. A grin Tom
wondered if he’d ever see again, or when.

“I had some coffee. I’m fine.” Chakotay ran a tired hand through his hair and
across his jaw.

“You should eat something. I wouldn’t mind some soup myself.”

“Tomato. Hot. Plain…” Chakotay’s voice was a whisper, daring the memories to
surface.

Tom squeezed his arm and propelled him toward the other room. “Come on,
Captain. Humor me at least. You owe me that.”

“Hell Tom, I owe you a lot more than that and you know it. What kind of strings
did you have to pull to get away from your training session?”

“I called in a few favors,” Tom admitted, crossing to the replicator and ordering
up two bowls of soup – tomato and corn chowder – and some bread – cornbread,
sourdough. “But it’s no big deal. You know I wouldn’t miss her service either,” he
said soberly, his blue eyes meeting Chakotay’s dark gaze. “My cadets can do
without their flight instructor for a week or two.”

“You’re here for that long?” Mechanically, Chakotay found spoons and napkins
and set them on his desk to double as a table. It was something anyway – activity,
motion, movement – a digression from his grief even for a second.

Tom thought he heard, or maybe wanted to hear, an echo of loneliness in
Chakotay’s question – loneliness for what they once had shared – and left behind.

*It’s too complicated,* both had agreed. Chakotay had agreed. Tom had
acknowledged, dully, with an ache that marked his sadness at the closing of their
relationship.

*I’m still in love with Kathryn. And with you. But you deserve more than half of
me. So does she. Hell Tom, I respect you more than that. I love you more than
that.*

Shortly thereafter Chakotay had resigned the Starfleet commission he had
maintained with their return and joined the combined forces of the border patrol,
near his homeworld, years and lives from Earth. Distance. Distance from them
both.

Tom carried the soup and bread to the desk and they sat opposite each other. A
familiar tableau. From their days on Chakotay’s ship – his first command – and last
– for Starfleet.

Captain and First Officer then. Lovers then. And now. Of a sort. The same yet in a
different way. And before that, on Voyager – enemies first, then begrudging
friends, then, finally, more. That a surprise to them both.

*******

The First Year (six years into Voyager’s journey)

Chakotay melted back into the hot tub, resting his head against the padded rim,
his arms draped across the edges, his eyes closed. He ached. It had been a hell of
a day. He’d spent most of it crawling through the Jeffrey’s tubes, working on
B’Elanna’s list of problems – ever increasing list of problems – with the ship. Six
years out now and the only new parts were never designed for a Federation ship.
It seemed they all had become make-shift engineers.

Tom Paris looked down at the still form. A friend now. A good friend. That had
taken a while. A few away missions where they had to count on one another – and
did. Years of the same experiences, shared lives on Voyager. Odd – what was that
about strange bedfellows – the same might be said about shipmates. Rebels both,
in a way – and now officers in a Fleet each had thought they left for good. They
had that in common, too.

Paris dropped his towel down and stepped out of his deck shoes. “Mind if I join
you?”

Chakotay opened one eye, considered, then responded. “I do, actually.”

“Sorry.” Tom managed a mix of sarcasm and hurt in his reply. It was the voice of
the old Paris, the insecure young man who Janeway brought about her ship those
years back, not the confident Lt. Commander who had proven himself time and
time again and stood before the hot tub now. It didn’t come out often, but it
seemed Chakotay was the one who could make that old Tom reappear. That was
irritating as hell, but it seemed to be beyond his control.

The other dark eye opened. “I’m kidding, Paris. Hell, six years and you can’t even
tell when I’m kidding. I’m just too damned sore and lazy to move.”

This brought a snort. “Is that all? I thought you were sitting there replaying all my
sins and had decided to rescind my rank. Move over then, Commander – I did my
share for B’Elanna’s road gang.”

Chakotay groaned, but shifted. The tub was large – big enough for 5 or 6 – but he
had sprawled. Now he moved into his own defined space and gave Paris his share
of the water and the cushions.

Tom eased in and let the water engulf him, ducking beneath for a moment and
then stretching his own length across from Chakotay, their legs in parallel.

“So did you find the problem in the sensor array?” Chakotay asked the question
without opening his eyes.

Tom watched the other man’s face, saw the slightest bit of relaxation, not much,
but some. This conversation wouldn’t help that. They had found the problem and
it couldn’t be repaired – not without taking the replicators out of public service for
a month – bad news could wait. A lesson from his mother – and life.

“Do you mind if we don’t talk business?”

Chakotay winced. “That bad?”

“That bad. B’Elanna’s in with the Captain now. Hope you didn’t need anything
from the replicators.”

“Damn.” The water roiled as Chakotay started to get up. Tom reached across and
stuck a hand on his shoulder, restraining him. “Let her handle this. You can’t run
interference on every little problem. It makes her seem like she can’t take care of
things on her own.”

“Running interference for the Captain is my job, Paris.”

“Hell, Chakotay, this has nothing to do with the job and you know it. It has to do
with how you feel about her – you personally, not the Commander. Not duty. It’s
protection, pure and simple. And don’t start that Paris shit again. I know you’re
pissed, but someone has to tell you this. Better it’s a friend.”

Chakotay shook off the arm and pulled himself out of the tub. “Leave it alone.”

Tom followed. “No. I won’t. It’s gone on long enough. Six damned years. You run
her so tight she couldn’t begin to have a relationship with anyone – assuming she
wanted one – which I don’t think she does, if that makes you feel any better.”

“It doesn’t.”

“No. I don’t suppose it would. But tell me something, Chakotay, just how long are
you going to wait before you let yourself have a life?”

“Why, you interested?”

The intended taunt had the opposite effect on Tom. His eyes narrowed.
“Maybe.”

Chakotay stopped. “Like hell.”

This brought a snort. “Don’t try to tell me you’ve never looked. There are 150
people on this ship. Most of the ones who have wanted to pair off already have.
Harry with Megan Delaney, B’Elanna with Carey.”

“That surprised the hell out of me,” Chakotay admitted. “Not that it should. They
both live and breathe engineering.” He pressed his hands to his hips. “So what’s
your point?”

“My point is, Chakotay, that there are not a lot of options left. We’re decent
friends. Good friends. You’re never going to get the Captain to change her mind.
I’m never going to pry B’Elanna away from Carey. Not that I even want to
anymore. But I also don’t want to spend the next 70 years alone.”

“That’s twisted logic.”

“I just say, let’s try it. Are you happy waking up alone in bed every morning?”

Chakotay was silent. “I’ve looked,” he said finally.

“At me?”

“Let’s just say I’ve looked.”

“And?”

“I’ve had my share of offers.”

“I have, too.”

A snorted laugh escaped Chakotay. “Hell Tom, you’ve probably had most of my
share of offers.”

“You might be surprised. So – what do you think?”

“About what?”

“You want to give this a try?”

“I’m not sure it’s appropriate.”

“Because you’re my commanding officer? Or because of Kathryn?”

“Both, I guess.”

“Then ask her.”

“I don’t think so.”

“I won’t ask again.”

“I know.”

“So you’re saying no?”

Chakotay shook his head. “No. I’m saying yes, Tom. Hell, I’m only human. You
say you’re lonely – I know I am. I have no problem with a male lover. And as far
as looks – you’ll do…” That was a deliberate tease and Tom grinned. “But I make
no promises. And I need some time.”

“It might surprise you, Commander, but I do, too. And I’m not sure about having a
male lover – you may have one up on me. But I’m willing to give it a try.”

They began simply. Mostly just nurturing their friendship. Pool at Sandrines.
Poker. Running laps around the track. Intimacy without sex. But time together.

Tom shared his love of mechanics with the other man and managed to get
Chakotay underneath the old jalopy they had rescued. The restoration project
seemed to mirror the growth of their relationship as bit by bit, parts were
removed, cleaned, shined and replaced – rebuilt by hand and hard work. They
began to appreciate that time alone, that effort, and both made time in their lives
for it, and each other.

“Hand me that spanner.” Chakotay nudged Tom’s leg with his boot. They both lay
beneath the car, on roll boards, wearing standard Fleet issue gold coveralls. They
had been working in companionable silence except for the odd request for a tool
or the sound of the boards scratching against the floor as they rolled slightly to
reach tools or another part of the car.

“Hang on, I just about have this oil pan off.” Tom grunted with the effort of
removing the old pan. The metal creaked and then… “Shit! God damn shit!”

Tom rolled out from under the car and sat up. He was covered in old thick black
oil. The oozing goo ran down his neck and frosted his face. He was trying to blot
it off with an equally dirty rag. It was a losing effort.

Chakotay slid out and watched in bemused silence. “Need a hand?”

“Very funny.”

“Sorry.” He got up and found a clean rag and returned, sponging off Tom’s face
until a bit of pale pink appeared and the eyes, nose and lips were clear. There was
something amazingly sensual in the action that neither understood, but it affected
both all the same.

Tom saw Chakotay’s erection press against the coveralls just as he felt his own
tightening. It was unexpected. Not the attraction so much as the reaction. It hadn’t
happened yet. Till then. But then again, they rarely touched – unless by accident.
They hadn’t reached that stage. Not even a casual caress. It was that slow. They
were that cautious. They were that apprehensive. It was that new to them.

Tom eyed the other man, pointedly looked at Chakotay’s erection, then backed
away a bit. Chakotay met the gaze, and the appraisal, and returned his own. Both
of them were unnerved, though it seemed to Tom that Chakotay was the more so.

“I thought you had a male lover before.” Tom cocked a questioning eyebrow.

“I said I wouldn’t have a problem with one.”

“Do you?”

“As far as I know, I don’t have one yet to judge that.”

“Pretty damned close.”

“Then, I’m not sure. How about you?”

“Well me either. I’m not sure. How I feel about it, I mean.” Then Paris couldn’t
resist the tease. “You look like you’ll measure up though.”

“Never had any complaints.”

“And modest, too. Or is that just vanity?”

“I guess you’ll have to decide for yourself.”

“I guess I will.” Tom stepped back. “Well. I’d better get this cleaned up I guess.
Are you still cooking dinner? Now that replicators are back on line, I’m getting
used to eating well again.”

“Do you have other plans?”

“No. It’s fine. You?”

“I have a meeting with the Captain, but it shouldn’t run late.”

“Fine. Well. Go ahead then. I’ll see you later.”

Chakotay started from the room, then turned back. “Tom…”

The younger man looked up.

“For what it’s worth, you look like you’ll measure up just fine, too.”

Tom greeted the smirking remark with a well aimed toss of the greasy rag. It hit
Chakotay squarely in the back of the head.

The older man turned around, an eyebrow raised. “Payback is hell, Pucah.”

Tom laughed. “Promises, promises, Chief. See you at dinner.”

Tom looked dubiously at the green mixture on his fork. “You sure I’m supposed to
eat this?”

Chakotay laughed and poked his finger in the bowl on the table, then leaned
across and pushed it at Tom’s mouth. “Just taste.”

Tom poked his tongue out tentatively and swiped a bit. “Not bad. What kind of
spices?”

“It’s my mother’s secret recipe. I promised only to pass it along to my wife.”

“Great. So now I have to marry you?”

“That wasn’t an invitation.”

“Good. Because I have no intention of marrying another man.”

“Why not?”

Tom spit his food. “Why not?”

“Why not. Are you afraid or simply that inhibited?”

“You’re forgetting who started all this.”

“I’m not forgetting anything. I’m just asking a question.”

Tom pushed his plate aside and stretched his legs. They were sitting cross-legged
the floor before the low table in Chakotay’s quarters. “Afraid, I guess.” The candid
answer surprised even Tom, and he blushed.

“Of me?”

“I never wanted anything permanent.”

“I remember.” Chakotay pushed his own plate aside.

“Do you? Do you want something permanent, Chakotay?”

“I’m still in love with Kathryn, Tom.”

“Maybe that’s what scares me.”

“No. That’s what scares me.”

“I don’t get it…”

Chakotay leaned across and touched his fingers to Tom’s mouth. His expression
was sad. “This isn’t going to work, Pucah.”

“Nice nickname. I forgot to mention that earlier.”

“Nothing’s happened yet, Tom. We can call this off right now. No harm.”

Tom raised an eyebrow and comprehension slowly dawned. “You never thought
this would work. You never expected to feel anything for me.”

“No.”

“But you do.”

“I do.”

“And you still love her.”

“It’s complicated.”

“Damn right it is. Think we might be worth it?”

“We might. But it wouldn’t be fair to you.”

“No. It wouldn’t be – if I believed someone could only love one person. I just don’t
happen to buy that.”

“I thought you were afraid.”

“I won’t compete. And I want you to tell her.”

“I did.”

“You told her?”

“Two weeks ago.”

“You’re a sonofabitch. When you were you going to tell me?”

“I just did.”

Tom screwed up his face and sighed. “This is not going to be easy.”

“No.”

“And so what did she say.”

“She asked me to be discrete.”

“And?”

Chakotay was silent for a moment. “She’s confused, too, Tom.”

“Meaning she is still in love with you.”

“I don’t know. I guess. Yes.”

“What about you?”

“Hell, Tom. I love you both. I’d put one of you on each side of me in bed at night
if I could.”

“Well, I’m here.”

“Yes.”

“Is that good enough?”

“Better than I deserve, I suspect.”

“I won’t argue the point. Any other secrets?”

Chakotay let a grin tip his lips. “I snore.”

Tom turned in bed and listened to the soft rhythmic sounds of Chakotay’s
breathing. He did snore. There was a comfort there. Just like the solid presence.
No wonder Janeway had nurtured that. Too bad she had missed the physical
connection. That made it stronger. At least it did for Tom.

They had decided to sleep together that night. Not make love. Not necessarily.
But to hold one another and sleep in the same bed. And to kiss. Again.

They had kissed after that conversation. After dinner. Tentative. Unsure. At first.

Chakotay had been cleaning up from dinner and Tom came over to lend a hand.
They worked side by side, just like on the car, easy, companionable. But then they
had worked together on the bridge for 6 years. Dishes were simple compared to
the acrobatics of command.

Both turned at the same moment to push a dish into the recycler. They were the
same height – nearly – close enough. Their faces were at the same level.

Both were startled. Eyes widened. Paris made the first move. Or Chakotay. Both
moved. Lips pressed. Just for a second. Awkward. Like noses and elbows from
the first time either kissed.

Then Chakotay pressed forward, reached a hand behind Tom’s neck and pulled
his face to his. Tom’s hand slid down around Chakotay’s rear. They kissed again.
A bit longer. Savoring the soft compression of the other man’s lips, and the
dusting of evening beard scratching against each other’s faces.

“Damn” One of them groaned. Or both. Like the kiss. It was hard to tell which.

Tom pushed his tongue between Chakotay’s lips, found it’s pair and laved the
edges, stroked the length of it. He felt Chakotay’s erection grind against him and
he deepened his thrusting, and the press of his hand on Chakotay’s rear. It was
matched. The pacing returned. Both were breathless when they finally moved
apart. And embarrassed. A bit. More than a bit.

And then they had decided Tom would stay. This night. Maybe this one only.
They would see. It was a lot of change in so short a time – after so little change.

Building. They had been building. They had a foundation. There was time enough
for the walls, and roof. No hurry. This was too important. Somewhere between
friendship and fraternity, it had become too important.

Now in bed Chakotay shifted and spooned around Tom, sliding his arm about
him, his hand splaying against the other man’s hard, flat stomach. They were
nude. Chakotay always slept that way. Tom had followed suit.

Chakotay rumbled against his ear. “You awake?”

He could feel Chakotay’s erection pressing against his rear, along his thigh. “Your
snoring woke me up. You sound like a damned war party.”

“I just wanted to get your attention, Pucah.”

“Hell, that erection did a better job of that, Chief. Quieter, too.”

Chakotay’s grin smiled against Tom’s back. “Not for long. You sure you’re ready
for this?”

“After that dinner? I owe you.”

Chakotay snorted. “I owe you, remember? The oily rag.”

His hand slipped down from Tom’s stomach and he ran his fingers along the
length of Tom’s erection, stopping near the base and then cupping his testicles
before feathering up again and then pressing the length with a firmer grip. Once.
Twice.

“Jesus.” Tom forced himself to breathe. “You sure I’m your first male lover? You
do that as if you’ve had practice.”

“I’m just showing you a bit of what I like.”

“Would you mind not stopping? It’s been a hell of a long time since it was
anything but my own hand.”

Chakotay chuckled, but complied. “So much for your reputation.”

Tom arched against him, bucking into the motion of Chakotay’s hand as he neared
release and then topping it with his own hand to smooth the motion to the pace he
had grown used to. He came hard, shaking, spurting, a single heartfelt roar
accompanying release. His hand remained on Chakotay’s, caressing it.

“Longer than I thought, I guess.” There was a roughness to Tom’s voice that
matched the pounding of his heart. “Shit. Never had a guy do that to me before.”

“And?” Chakotay’s soft husky voice was against his ear.

“It was fine. Hell it was great. I wouldn’t mind being inside you next time, though.
I miss that, too.”

“Don’t get greedy.”

“Fine. I can live with this. And you should be grateful. At least you don’t have to
tell me you love me.”

The comment was met with silence. It was uncomfortable. For a moment.

Tom slid his hand back to Chakotay’s thigh. “You ready? Same thing ok?”

Chakotay grasped the hand. “I’m fine. Get some sleep, Pucah.”

“Sacred, Chief? Might like it better than the real thing?”

This was met with a laugh. “Hell no.” He shifted and Tom could feel the wetness
against his back and buttocks as the air met the skin.

“You were awfully damned quiet.”

“I shared a room with two brothers.”

“Cheaters never prosper, Chakotay.”

“Next time you can make me howl.”

“Assuming there is one.”

“There will be.”

“How can you be sure? It does take two.”

“I’m going to sleep.”

“Fine.”

Chakotay slid a hand around Tom’s face and down the curve of his jaw. “I do love
you. Even if you don’t want to hear it. I want to say it.”

“Shit.”

“Wrong thing to say?”

“Hell no. The problem is, I love you, too. Somehow it doesn’t seem right.”

“Because we’re men.”

“Damned straight.”

There was silence, and then, softly. “I know. Goodnight, Tom.”

Tom had been awake for an hour, maybe more by the time he felt Chakotay stir.
He was wondering. Wondering what he’d feel in the light of day. Wondering what
they would say to one another. Wondering if he had done what he thought he had
– what he knew he had – the night before. Wondering which of them would be the
most embarrassed.

He felt Chakotay shift against him, stretch, and Tom turned to meet his face.
Might as well.

“Good morning.” That part was easy.

“Good morning.”

“I guess we did it.”

“Is it a problem for you?” Chakotay edged onto one side, crooking his arm and
resting his head against his palm.

“I think it might be. Yes. A little.”

“We agreed to try this. One night. There’s no obligation, Tom.”

“Hell, Chakotay, you had me in your hand last night, made me come, told me you
loved me – no obligation? What the hell does it take for you to feel obligated?”

“I didn’t say I didn’t feel obligated. Just that you don’t have to. And you don’t.”

There was silence, and then. “I liked it. I like it now. It was fine, I mean. How
come you’re so damned casual anyway?”

“Maybe I just like to see you squirm.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning I feel as uncomfortable about this as you do. I’m not used to waking up
next to another man. Why do you think I haven’t moved from this bed?”

Tom pulled the sheet aside and glanced down Chakotay’s length, stopping at what
he knew to be a typical morning’s erection. A hazard of being a man – or a
blessing. A convenience or an inconvenience. He began to laugh.

Chakotay did some looking of his own. “Guess you’ve been awake a while.”

“A little while. Well. Who’s first for the shower?”

“Considering my condition, I’d say I’d better be. Unless of course…”

Tom raised an eyebrow. “How about I shower and you take care of your own
business. I’m not sure I’m quite ready for an encore performance.”

“Fair enough.”

“You’re really going to?”

“A bit of privacy would be preferred.”

Silence. “Oh hell.” Tom pushed the other man onto his back and then reached his
hand down, covering Chakotay’s erection. He felt him quiver, a bit.

“I may not be too good at this.”

Chakotay’s breath was ragged, just from the touch. “You’re doing fine.” His
tongue tipped across his lips and Tom bent over him, took a deep breath, and
slipped his own tongue past Chakotay’s lips. “Might as well get a full ride, Chief.”

Tom deepened the kiss as he deepened the motion on Chakotay’s erection. Not so
much faster, as tauter, using the fluid already coming from the end to make the
gliding smoother. Chakotay rose and fell against the bed, raising his hips and
lowering them as Tom continued the insistent effort.

“Let it go, Chief,” Tom whispered against Chakotay’s ear. “Just pretend there is a
pretty mouth wrapped around it.”

Chakotay yelled his release, pulsing against Tom’s hand, shaking, his breath
shallow, harsh. His eyes closed and Tom slipped his hand away, but lay there next
to him, waiting until the other man had gathered himself.

After a moment, Tom spoke. “Guess my visuals did the trick.”

“Hell Tom, your damn tongue down my throat did the trick.”

“Well so much for the morning after. Do you still respect me?” The last was
offered in a drawl so typically Paris that Chakotay began to chuckle.

“I’m going to recommend you for promotion.”

“Oh really?”

“Of course I need to be sure you are qualified.”

Tom snorted. “In your dreams. This is messy as hell and not nearly as fun as being
inside.”

“So?”

“I thought you weren’t ready for that.”

“I might have changed my mind.”

“Isn’t that a woman’s prerogative?”

“That was cold, Pucah.”

“So are you, Chakotay. At least I looked at you when I did it. Made a little eye
contact.”

“So you want eye contact? Hell, yesterday you didn’t even want a man to kiss
you.”

“I might have changed my mind.”

In an instant Tom found himself flipped and on the floor, Chakotay on top of him.
Tom neatly turned him back, so he was on top and Chakotay against the floor.
“No way I’m on the bottom, Chief.”

Chakotay resisted a moment and then was still. “Let me up.”

“Fat chance.”

“Let me up, Tom.”

“You started this.”

“I know. It was a mistake. I don’t like violence. Force. Not even in jest.”

Tom stopped, let go of Chakotay’s shoulders and backed off, grabbing the blanket
from the bed and wrapping it around his own shoulders as he stood.

“What’s going on here?”

Chakotay rose, found his robe and slipped it on. “Nothing’s going on. This just
might not have been such a good idea. Let’s just chalk it up to experience and
leave it at that.”

Tom touched his arm. “I’m not sure I can do that at this point. Or that I want to. I
do know I have a friend that’s hurting and I want to help. You going to tell me
what happened there?”

Chakotay met his gaze and then looked away, tightening the tie on his robe. He
didn’t answer. That told Tom more than if he had.

“Hell, Chakotay, you weren’t…you were never…even in the prison they didn’t rape
people anymore.”

“I wasn’t raped.”

“No?”

“No.”

“So what did happen? Something in the Cardassian prisons?”

“Just drop it.”

“You saw things.”

There was a moment’s silence, maybe more. Tom watched the play of emotions
across Chakotay’s face and realized that despite their friendship, despite their
years serving together, despite what had happened between them that morning
and the night before, there was still so much more to know about the man.

Chakotay finally spoke, his voice a whisper. “I saw things. They made me watch
things.”

“Jesus.” Tom reached across what seemed like a very vast distance and touched
the other man on the shoulder. “I’m sorry. And I’m sorry I didn’t know about it. I
should have. Maybe we took this a bit too fast.”

“I’m not sure we can slow it down now. Even if we wanted to…”

“And you don’t?”

“No. I don’t.”

“Then we’ll just have to figure it out as we go along…improvise. You must have
learned how to improvise in the Maquis. Hell, all we do around here anymore is
improvise.”

Chakotay stood quietly, considering Tom’s words. “How about if we meet after
shift at Sandrine’s?”

“I take it you don’t mean just for pool.”

“No.”

“You ready for that?”

“I’m not sure. And I don’t intend to make a big statement about it. I just think that
after what’s happened, we do need to make a point.”

“Okay. I can handle that. No kissing or anything? I mean, in here, is fine, but…”

“I agree. Our private life is private. I have no desire to put either of us on display.”

“All right. One thing though…where are we going to live? If this is going to be a
regular thing, it’s kind of absurd to be playing musical beds.”

“My quarters are bigger.”

“I’m not some minion to move into the big man’s cabin.”

“I guess it could look like that. Any suggestions?”

“How about if we see if Harry and Megan want your quarters and we take theirs?
They could use the space, and it would give us neutral territory.”

“Are you sure you want to give up the space? And your cabin?”

“I figure it this way. Either we’re doing this or we’re not. If not, then we end it
now. If we are, then let’s not shit around about it.”

Chakotay nodded slowly. “All right, then. I’ll talk to the Captain. See what I can
arrange.”

“You ok talking to her about this?”

“I’m not sure. It won’t be easy, no.”

“Awkward, I guess. Sorry. Want me to come with you?”

“No. I don’t. She doesn’t need you pushed in her face.”

“No. I guess not.”

“She likes you Tom. Genuinely likes you. You know that. And I think it might be
easier because of that – and that it’s you – not some other woman. It would be for
me – if the situation were reversed.”

“This is damned strange.”

“You seem to keep saying that.”

“It seems to keep being appropriate.”

“I might start to take it personally.”

“Don’t. I just need to get used to it all. To you. To me. To the us part of it.”

“We can wait on Sandrine’s.”

“No. I don’t think we can. This is a small place, Chakotay. Everyone’s going to
know we finally spent the night together.”

“You ashamed of it, Pucah?”

“Hell no. That’s my point. It’s better that we take control rather than let the
grapevine run things.”

By the time they reached Sandrine’s it was apparent the grapevine had taken
control anyway. There was an unusually large gathering and a fair amount of
chatter. Janeway there already, having coffee at the bar, chatting with a couple of
science types, all three fresh from a meeting. And B’Elanna and Carey had taken a
few minutes to check out the fuss, although Torres had talked to both Paris and
Chakotay earlier in the day and wished them both well.

Tom stopped outside the holodeck arch, his hand on Chakotay’s arm. “You know,
we’ve gone in to play pool a million times in the past six years, but I am nervous
as hell. You’d think I was getting married or something. Just what is it we’re
supposed to do anyway?”

“You could stick your tongue down my throat again.”

Tom snorted. “Like hell I will.”

“Then I suggest a game of pool.” Chakotay stabbed in the keycode and the door
slid open.

The voices inside stopped, for a moment, and then the chatter started up again.

Tom saw Janeway at the bar and noticed the slight tip of her head as she gestured
toward a nearby table and invited them to join her. He realized she was going to
give them her approval, in public, so there would be no question as to where she
stood on their relationship, personally and as Captain. They were both bridge
officers, there could be complications from that – and Chakotay was Tom’s
superior – another opportunity for complications. And then there was Janeway’s
own history with Chakotay. And present. And maybe future. It was a gracious and
significant gesture. And, Tom suspected, a costly one for her emotionally. Lots of
implications here. For them all. They crossed over to where she waited and took
the chairs she offered.

Chakotay nodded his greeting.

Tom spoke. “Captain.”

“Tom. Chakotay. Looks like you two drew a crowd.”

Paris shrugged and glanced about the room. No one was particularly watching
them, but everyone was. “I guess so. But if they wanted some grand gesture,
they’re going to be disappointed.”

“No Paris grandstanding?”

“Not this time.”

“They’re already taking bets on if you two stay together.”

“And what did you wager?”

“I wagered you would. You going to disappoint me?”

Tom looked over at Chakotay who had been listening to the conversation with an
expression that was at once bemused and serious. Tom turned back to Janeway.
“No Captain. I don’t think we’re going to disappoint you.”

Janeway smiled. “Good, because I bet a month’s worth of coffee and I would hate
to lose.” She leaned forward. “I suspect this is as uncomfortable for both of you as
it is for me, but we’re all going to have to get used to it. And I hope you know
you’re up for a bit of teasing, Tom. Both of you – but you more than Chakotay
because he is XO and that and his rank give him more protection. I told him that
earlier today and I’m telling you now. And it’s not acceptable. I want you to know
that, too.”

“Teasing – you mean because we’re both men?”

She nodded. “Partly. There are still enough prejudices about that to go around, but
also because it could appear he is taking advantage of you due to his rank and
position on the ship. I wanted everyone to know that isn’t so. I figured the best
way was to make my views known publicly on the whole matter.” She paused and
then spoke with unusual hesitation, her voice hushed. “And too, some people
might feel you stole him from me.”

“Did I?”

She cocked an eyebrow and glanced over at Chakotay, her face and expression
softening. Tom could see the love there, and he saw it returned in Chakotay’s
gaze, and then he saw Chakotay’s gaze turn to him, and saw that same love and
affection mirrored there, and something else, something more.

A bit of music started up in the back of the bar. Tom held out his hand. “Dance,
Captain?”

Janeway took the hand. “All right, Tom.”

She was soft and pliant in his arms and moved surprisingly well to the music.
They moved well in tandem. He realized that in all the years they had served
together, he had never before danced with her to a slow romantic tune. It was a
bit intoxicating.

“You know I might fall in love with you myself, Captain.”

She leaned against him and her voice was a fierce whisper when she spoke. “You
take care of him for me, Tom. He looks strong on the outside, but he’s got one
hell of a soft soul. And don’t think for one minute you’re second choice, he’d never
use you that way.”

Tom tightened his arms just a bit and nuzzled against her ear. “I love him, too,
Captain. And I promise you, he’ll be just fine. I’ll be there for him as long as he
needs me. Forever – if it goes that long. But, there is one thing…”

She looked up expectantly and he could see her eyes were a bit teary. They
matched his own. “I don’t expect him to stop loving you, but I also don’t intend to
give him back. He’s mine now – at least as much as one person can belong to
another.”

Janeway smiled then, a sweet, soft smile that Tom suspected she reserved only
for a special few, maybe only for Chakotay. “I know, Tom. That’s what I’m
counting on.” Then she pulled away. “Now, how about if I buy the house a round
of champagne. We all could use a bit of celebrating.”

Tom offered his arm and drew her hand through it. “Yes, ma’am. And how about
if you dance with your XO and I try to get B’Elanna away from Carey. That
oughta start them all talking.”

She shook her head. “How about if you dance with my XO?”

“Me? I don’t think I’m quite ready for that. Besides, who would lead?”

“That, my dear Mr. Paris, is something both of you are going to have to figure out
on your own.”

Tom followed Chakotay into the cabin and called for the lights to come up to half
bright. He yawned and started to open the deep blue shirt he’d worn to Sandrine’s,
but then settled for pulling of his boots and socks.

“Tea?” Chakotay stood at the replicator, his own boots and socks hitting the floor.
They both preferred to be barefoot. An odd connection.

Tom nodded for the tea. “Sure. I could do with a bit of unwinding. Mind if I play
some music?”

“Go ahead.”

While Chakotay got the tea, Tom selected a bit of blues from the ship’s library
and dimmed the lights a half setting more as the music started to play.

“Thanks.” He accepted the tea and slouched onto the couch. He noticed Chakotay
had not gotten anything for himself. “You’re not drinking?”

“There’s something I wanted to do all evening.”

“So who’s stopping you?”

Chakotay held out his hand. “Dance with me, Tom.”

Tom set the tea aside and stood. “You too, huh. I didn’t figure it was appropriate
for Sandrine’s. But then, I guess I don’t know the rules for this.”

“We may just have to define some things for ourselves.”

They moved a bit awkwardly into one other’s arms, unsure of where to put hands
or hips or heads. They finally settled on a pose similar to the one they first used
when kissing – Chakotay’s hand pulling Tom’s face next to his, Tom’s hand against
Chakotay’s rear – and they moved in rhythm to the music, without either of them
leading, some instinctual, ancient movement, soft and hard. Men dancing. Lovers
dancing.

Their erections pressed together, straining against fabric. Chakotay finished
opening the buttons on Tom’s shirt, sloughed it from his shoulders. Tom pulled
Chakotay’s tunic over his head and tossed it aside. Now their chests touched.
Naked. Like their souls. Open. Reaching.

Chakotay unfastened his own pants, pushed them from his hips. Then Tom’s.
They stood, danced, pressed, in briefs. Pale and dark. Two lost hearts, found.

Slowly, Chakotay slid his hands down Tom’s sides, his thumbs hooking Tom’s
briefs and tugging them off. Tom returned the favor and now they were nude.
Still dancing. Swaying. Intoxicated beyond the champagne and evening.

Tom slipped a finger down the crack in Chakotay’s rear. He felt the other man
stop dancing, spread his legs. It was an invitation answered.

They led each other to the bed, pushed the covers aside. Chakotay sat on the edge,
Tom knelt down before him. His blond head moved between Chakotay’s legs.

The other man stopped him.

Tom looked up. “You first, Chief. Because then I’m going to go so far inside you,
I’ll think I’ve found my way home.” He touched Chakotay’s erection with his
tongue, laved the tip, tasted him, tasted the bit of fluid that leaked from the end.

“Want to taste yourself? It’s strange. Not what I would have expected.”

Chakotay had leaned back, his arms taut, supporting himself against the bed. Tom
pulled his head down, pushed his tongue against the soft lips, parted them.
Chakotay sucked Tom’s tongue inside with a fierceness that was startling, his
hands moving to either side of Tom’s face as he kissed him hard.

Tom pulled away and then leaned into it again. His hand moved to his own
erection, keeping time with the kissing, the pressure of the tongue, the fluid
motion in and out. Chakotay had done the same. He came with a roar and Tom
followed a moment later. They collapsed into the bed, tugging the covers up. The
act had been somehow alienating, yet somehow so intensely passionate as to
overwhelm them both.

Chakotay’s hand slid across the short distance between them and Tom felt it
entwine with his own, a man’s fingers, a man’s grasp, a man’s roughed palm – a
lover’s fingers, a lover’s grasp, a lover’s roughened palm. They had a such very
long distance to go – maybe farther than the trip home, but both had come a
greater distance than that already – had marked and been marked by the other, had
claimed, and loved, and offered and given – and accepted.

finis part one
Voy (C/P) rated NC-17 for m/m sex

Conclusions – part two
Transitions

by VoyWriter

1996/1997

Disclaimer – Paramount owns the rights to StarTrek, the characters and the show.
Permission from the author is required to include this in any anthology or ‘zine or
post it on a web page beyond fanfic archives which are fine. Feel free to distribute
this electronically with all notes and disclaimers included.

I have counted gay men as my best friends since high school and found them to
be just like the rest of us – human. This story is dedicated to all of them, and to
Tom and Gary, two special friends who taught me that two men in love are just
that.

email comments to VoyWriter@aol.com

Transitions
year six of Voyager’s journey
year one of Chakotay and Tom’s relationship-three months later

The door to Chakotay’s office hissed open. A singular sound in the late night quiet
of third shift. It startled him. Just a bit. He’d been concentrating. Working on crew
evaluations. They were never an easy matter. Especially now not. Now that he
counted one of the crew as a lover. As his lover.

How did you make judgments about someone you woke up next to every
morning? Had woken up next to the past three months. Had made love with. And
lust. Knew with an intimacy you never expected – physically – and more.

Unexpected.

Everything about Tom Paris. Nearly everything.

Starting with the suggestion three months before that they become lovers, to his
uncompromising generosity as a lover and friend. Chakotay had thought he knew
him. Before. Six years to get to know him. And he had. In a way.

Now he knew more. That Tom slept on his stomach with one hand curled at his
side and one leg slightly bent. That he spent his off time tutoring a class of junior
crewmen who aspired to becoming pilots as good as Tom. That he preferred to
shave in the shower. That he could be an irritatingly meticulous housekeeper.
And was a lousy cook. And that the feel of Tom’s lips and blond scrub of beard
against his thigh was exquisite.

A second self. Almost. Certainly a piece of himself he had not realized was
lacking. Until it was there.

So how did you judge that? And weigh it all against duty. Against performance of
duty. Seek out the minutia and call attention to it. Liked it mattered. And it did.
Just in a different way. Business versus pleasure. Pleasure versus business.

And Tom did his job. Better than most. Among the best on the ship anymore. He
took initiative. Handled his subordinates well. Was a competent bridge officer.
An outstanding pilot. Had excellent intuition. He had settled in. Settled down.
Grown up. Found some new piece of himself on Voyager – and with Chakotay. It
was hard to criticize enthusiasm, honor, aptitude, accommodation.

So then there was favoritism. Or what smacked of it. Crew ratings were public.
Although the details were not. Chakotay had been wrestling the problem for a
good hour – maybe longer. And then the door opened. It was Tom.

Chakotay’s tired face softened.

“Hey, Chief.” Tom’s lazy drawl was affectionate and a bit teasing. He stood
framed in the doorway, the light from the corridor spilling in behind him, golden
against his boyish blondness.

“Hey yourself. A bit late isn’t it?”

Tom stepped in and let the door hiss shut. “Talk about late…who is it that’s still
working?” He crossed over to the desk, behind Chakotay and rested his hands on
the other man’s shoulders.

Chakotay tipped his head back, pressing it against Tom’s flat belly. It still felt odd
at times. Or unexpected. After more than 20 years with women. To feel a man.
The hardness of another man’s body. The bunching of his muscle. They talked
about it. Sometimes. Not often. And then mostly in bed. After making love.
Curled together in the darkness of intimacy where secrets could be shared – man
to man, lover to lover.

The night before. Breathing finally equalized. The tingling of flesh and bone
returned to normal sensation. Or more normal. Chakotay was spooned inside of
Tom’s embrace, their fingers folded together, Tom’s heart beating against his
back. His own keeping time. Tom’s quiet breath against his ear.

“You ever think about women anymore, Chakotay. About making love to them?”

“I might.”

“It’s different being inside a woman.”

“I remember.”

“And?”

“And nothing.”

“So what do you miss most?

“I don’t think about it.”

“Did you sleep with her? I never asked. Not directly.”

“With Kathryn?”

“Yes.”

“Would it matter?”

“I’m just curious.”

There was a moment’s silence.

“Yes. I slept with her.”

“Damn.” Soft. Swallowing.

“You asked, Tom.”

“I meant that for you, Chief.”

Chakotay felt Tom’s arms tighten around him. Offering comfort. Hard, angular,
strong, masculine arms. And a man’s heart. Not so different. Generous. Giving. A
gift.

Chakotay closed, then opened his eyes. Returned himself to the office. Felt Tom
behind him. His hands on his shoulders. Chakotay breathed the musky scent of
him and reached up to grip his lover’s hands.

“You’re out late.”

“I was running some flight sims. Lost track of time. You eat?” Tom slipped his
hands away and perched on the corner of the work station, swinging one leg.

Chakotay shrugged his response. “I had something a while back.”

“Well I’m starving. I’m going to poke around the mess and see what Neelix has
left from dinner. How much more are you going to be at it? It’s nearly three.”

“I shouldn’t be too much longer. Why don’t you check out the mess and I’ll finish
up and meet you back at our quarters.”

“Fifteen minutes?”

“That should do it.”

“You want anything? Maybe some…Abserian creme cake?” Tom drawled the
question as if propositioning him.

“Don’t tempt me.”

Tom grinned. “Afraid you’ll gain a pound, Chief? Loose your girlish figure?” He
reached over and playfully patted Chakotay’s flat stomach.

Chakotay batted his hand away. “I’m just trying to keep up with you, Pucah. I’m
an old man. I have to work harder.”

“Hell Chakotay, you just might be the vainest man I’ve ever met. And the
prettiest.”

“Shit.”

Tom laughed. It was a joke between them. Who was the prettiest. The vainest.
Women’s terms. Man’s game. Human game. Human relations.

“How about I promise I’ll work it off you before bed?”

Chakotay snorted. “I should have known you had an angle, Pucah.”

“So, split a piece?”

“Get out of here.”

Tom slipped off the desk and headed toward the door, still amused. “One piece,
two forks,” were his parting words.

Chakotay watched the door slide shut, shaking his head, chuckling. How had this
happened? This man. In his life. This new life. This joy.

He wondered sometimes what would be the price to pay. As if he owed some
debt. As if the scales would someday balance all this happiness against some
future grief.

He was a superstitious man in many ways. He knew the spirits always demanded
payment – his body, heart or soul. He had said the same to Tom several nights
before, and Tom had smirked.

*Well, now, I figure those three are mine, Chief – at least the body part is. The
spirits will just have to find their own because I don’t intend to give you up
without a fight.”

The recollection made Chakotay grin, and shake his head. Joy. Unexpected. And
joy.

The crew ratings were posted the next week on the ship’s vid com, just after first
shift, before dinner. For the most part, people were satisfied. Any significant
issues or problems had been brought to their attention by their department head,
or Chakotay, or the Captain herself, during the actual reviews. Still, it was not all
good news. Not everyone did their job well. Not everyone wanted the others to
know that. As if they didn’t know already.

Tom stopped on his way out of the mess and peered at the screen. He knew where
he stood – among the top ranks of the crew. Very nearly the top – save for a few.
He was a member of an elite group. Select. He just wanted to see it displayed.
Savor the feeling. The sense of accomplishment.

Janeway. And Chakotay. But her, mostly. Her trust. Her faith. And his own hard
work. He knew that, too. There was neither false pride nor false modesty. He
knew himself. Knew his worth. Counted his value. Some of that from Chakotay
as well.

He glanced through the rest of the list, checking for a couple of other names,
looking up some of the students in his piloting class. Most were doing well. They
were a good lot.

He turned to leave.

“Hello, Paris.” The voice was dripping with attitude.

“Kimes.”

“Nice score.”

“Thanks.”

“Guess all your hard work paid off.”

“I guess it did.”

“Maybe I’ll have to give it a try. Find me a real man.” His point was obvious and
there was a bit of laughter. Just a bit. Then some shushing. More of that than the
other. And then silence.

Tom did not speak. Then he snorted and grinned. “Hell Kimes, for what? You
wouldn’t know what to do with one.”

Someone choked out a laugh and then there was silence.

Paris could smell alcohol on the man’s breath. Not synthehol. The real stuff.
There was a still. Somewhere. He used to know where. Obviously Kimes had
been at it. There was no point in taking this further with a drunk. Tom started to
leave.

“Paris.”

Kimes was not done.

“Something else, Kimes?”

“Watch your pretty back.”

Tom raised an eyebrow. “Threatening me, Kimes?” He kept his voice deliberately
mild, no hint of antagonism, a bit of amusement in the tone.

“Just friendly advice, Paris.”

“Well now I appreciate that, Kimes. And I’ll take your advice.” He stepped aside
and extended his arm. “You first, Mr. Kimes.”

Class had gone well. Tom’s eight students were bright, enthusiastic, eager to
please and had the right combination of vanity and ego to be good pilots – perhaps
even great. A couple of them at least. Who seemed to have intuition about flying.
It was more than innate skill.

Hard to believe this had come from an informal meeting over beers in the
holodeck. That it had carried through by sheer enthusiasm to encompass formal
classes and coursework, the training approved and lauded by both the Captain and
XO. It was something to give back, to give, to Voyager, and to her crew. An
offering. Peace offering.

Tom shut off the training sim and stepped out of the holodeck, heading down the
corridor toward the cabin he shared with Chakotay. Their home, he supposed. Did
that make them a family? Could two men be a family? Wasn’t that reserved for a
man and a woman – for parents and kids. Did that privilege extend to a man and a
man? To two lovers? Two men? Who defined it? Who set all the rules?

Significant other. There was a term. And companion. Dancing around the reality
of it. He had. Before. But now what were the options? Boyfriend had the
pubescent sound of youth to it. It lacked commitment. It lacked experience.
Husband meant married. Spouses. Husband and wife. Husband and husband. So it
was lover. They were lovers. And friends.

Friends who shared a life. Lovers who shared a bed. Two men who shared a cabin
– and called it home. It was circular.

He remembered the move. Chakotay lived sparsely – except for his clothes. God
that was a surprise.

The man liked clothes. He loved them, in fact. Nothing flashy. Half of his things
looked the same. All basic colors anyway – blacks and tans and the colors of
earth. That was nice. Still, you’d think someone who wore a uniform ten hours a
day wouldn’t care. But he did.

Tom chuckled aloud. His own wardrobe consisted of a few pairs of casual pants,
a couple of dressier things and some t shirts and sweats. He preferred comfort.
And it was a good thing. He only got half of a closet from the deal.

Still it was fair. Most of the main cabin was filled with his stuff. Music. Lots of
music. He was eclectic in his tastes and loved the experimental, but it was jazz
that had him cornered. What they used to call blues on old Earth – back in the
days when music was put onto plastic and played on a stereo or in the car. When
it couldn’t be accessed over the link lines. When you could taste the feeling of the
session in your ears.

Chakotay liked quiet – now there was transition – for them both. A little music
with dinner, or before – but otherwise quiet. Or the music so low it might as well
not be there at all. It became part of the hum of the ship and the sounds of the
cabin.

Tom was changing that, gradually. He’d started with something soft and classical
while they did the dishes and cleaned up after meals. Now he could play jazz in
the evenings. Or sometimes edgier blues. And they would dance or make love or
simply talk with it in the background. It was nice. Comfortable. Surprising how
they had become comfortable. Sometimes he pictured them as old men. And he
wondered if they would live out their lives with each other. Or what he would do
if they didn’t. You expect love to be there when it has been. But it isn’t. Not
always.

A hand clamped on his shoulder. Tom started.

“Hey it’s just me.”

It was Harry.

“Shit Harry, you could give a guy a heart attack.”

“Yeah, well if you weren’t walking around mooning about a certain First
Officer…” Harry grinned.

“I wasn’t mooning. And like you don’t walk around with Megan on your mind all
the time.”

Harry shrugged. “So you hear about Kimes and the still?”

Tom’s eyes widened then narrowed. “Tell me.”

“I guess Chakotay finally got tired of it. He confiscated it tonight. And gave
Kimes a good dressing down. Apparently Kimes is on clean-up detail for a while –
a long while.”

“Shit.” Tom uttered the curve with soft ferocity. “Dammit.”

“Tom? What’s the big deal. I didn’t think you even liked Kimes.”

“I don’t. That’s not the point, Harry. That’s not the damned point.”

Tom slammed into their quarters and exploded the moment the door slid shut.

“Sonofabitch.”

Chakotay looked up from the desk. “What’s your problem?”

“You. You are my problem, Commander. Goddammit! Stay out of my business!”

“I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”

“No you wouldn’t be.” Tom raked his hand through his hair angrily.

“Then tell me.”

“Kimes. You talked to Kimes. Goddammit!”

“Yes. I talked to Kimes.”

“I can take care of myself. I’m not your damned girlfriend. I don’t need you to run
off and fight my battles for me. Make me look like a goddammed weakling. Shit.
I am pissed.”

He paced from one end of the room and back again, stopping as far away from
Chakotay as the cabin length allowed.

“Tom, Kime’s comments were uncalled for and inappropriate. They were brought
to my attention as was the still. I would have done the same for any crew
member.”

“I don’t believe that.”

“I can’t help that.”

“Shit!”

“What would you have had me do?”

“Nothing. Hell. Lock yourself in the bathroom and scream. Go find your spirit
guide and trance for an hour. I don’t know. You made it worse. A hell of a lot
worse.”

“I’m sorry. That wasn’t my intent. Are you going to calm down? Or at least stop
pacing?”

“Screw you.”

“Screw you. I don’t need that attitude. What the hell do you expect from me? I’m
sorry. You want me to get on shipwide com and say it? You want me to fight you
bare-chested on the bridge so you can prove you’re a man? Order all the males to
drop their pants in the mess and see who has the biggest balls? You think that’s all
that matters? You think that matters to me?”

Tom’s voice grew very quiet. “It matters to me, Chakotay. I’m not some dark
Maquis warrior who flew his ship into a Kazon fighter and made himself a
legend. I don’t have that history, that image, to protect me. What I have, I’ve built
for myself here. And it was goddamned hard. And in one night you’ve put me
nearly back to ground zero.”

“Do you honestly believe that?”

“Hell. I don’t know. Maybe. No. Shit, you can piss me off!”

Chakotay rose and went to stand before Tom. “Tell me what you want from me. I
can’t just do this halfway. If you want rules, I need to know them.”

Tom scrubbed a hand through his hair and then threw both hands up in
frustration. “How the hell should I know. I’ve never had a boyfriend before.
Damn, this is confusing.”

And it was. How to act. How not to. What to do. What not to. And not just the
bodies together. In bed. Or not. But how to feel. And how to show those feelings.
He understood Chakotay’s need to protect him, his desire to keep him safe, to
keep the bogey man away. But right across that line was overprotection,
mothering, fathering. It could so easily become demeaning. Smack of favoritism.
Hint at a lack of confidence. Reflect poorly on them both. Maybe Chakotay more
than him. Tom hadn’t even considered that.

“Aren’t you worried about how people will take this? That they’ll think you used
your position and rank to protect your lover?”

“That’s not the case.”

“Isn’t it?”

Chakotay rubbed a hand along the back of his neck. The muscles ached from
work and tension. He needed to meditate. Relax. “No. It wasn’t. The complaint
came to the Captain. She brought it to my attention.”

He’d been working. Finishing up a couple of reports she had asked for. She had
come to his office, leaned on the desk and told him about the incident.

“I just got a complaint about Kimes.”

“Another?”

“You’ve been lenient with him. And I tended to agree he needed a break. But it’s
time, Chakotay. I want the still gone and I want the point made – he needs to get
along. Period. No options. And you can tell him that came from me. Make sure he
understands that I’m not happy.”

“Are you sure I’m the right person to do this?”

“Doubting yourself?”

“Just questioning the wisdom.”

“You’re still the First Officer last time I looked – unless you’re planning on
resigning your commission in the next 5 minutes.”

“No.”

“Well then. Ship’s discipline is your job, Commander. Nothing’s changed. If I
don’t have you do this it will appear I question your judgment when it comes to
matters involving Tom. In my opinion that would be more dangerous and could
do more damage than having you handle this. Either way, it won’t be easy – and
I’m sorry. You knew this could happen. It was bound to come up one way or
another.”

Tom crossed to behind Chakotay and slipped his hands onto the other man’s
shoulders, rubbing across the tired muscles.

“I’m sorry. I forgot there are two of us here. So we’ll get through it. Come on and
I’ll give you a back rub. And I’m sorry I got so pissed. Damn but you can make me
mad.”

Chakotay turned into him, slid his hands around Tom’s neck and rested his
forehead against Tom’s forehead.

“I love you, Tom Paris.”

“I know, Chief.”

Tom’s arms wrapped about Chakotay’s waist and they stood that way, silent,
holding on to one another until Tom leaned back and reached over to tip
Chakotay’s mouth up to his.

Lips met lips with a brush of evening beard against soft cheeks. Their bodies
pressed forward to find one another, savoring the hardness of the flesh and bone
and muscle – chest touching chest, thighs and hips making contact.

They kissed softly, gently. Testing. Drawing back and returning for again for
more, sharing more.

Chakotay pressed himself further into Tom – tongue and rising erection –
surrendering to passion, love and lust.

One undressed the other. Or both. At the same time. The clothes fell to the floor
and they stepped beyond them into the bedroom and onto the bed. There they
caressed and met, flesh to flesh – Tom’s hands on Chakotay’s powerful shoulders
and hips, Chakotay hands on Tom’s strong back and tensed thighs.

They made love face to face so their eyes could meet and mouths could touch.
The lights were on. The only sounds were from their passion – quickening breath
and small involuntary moans from deep within their souls.

Tom’s hands touched them both as Chakotay cradled them, rocking them in
unison – matched rhythm – and their fluids mixed and melded with their cries and
hearts. One sound, one sex, one man from two for that moment.

They lay together afterward, panting breathing coming back to normal, that along
with sensation. Chakotay traced his finger down Tom’s chest – stopping at a mole,
circling a scar from childhood – recalling all the details and the nuances of his
lover’s body.

Fine blond hairs covered legs and thighs and arms – these he slid his fingers
through. And then there were Tom’s hands – hands that danced across the helm
and made the ship sing against the stars – these Chakotay drew up to his lips,
tasting every finger – and the palm and the wrist – giving those small kisses,
fluttering of tongue to flesh.

Beauty. He saw beauty. Odd that he had never been aware of the grace of another
man before. That he had thought the delicacy of women was the better choice –
perhaps the only choice.

The hair beneath Tom’s arms was light and fine – it reminded him of cornsilk –
and his eyes were such a penetrating blue they carried earth’s summer sky into
space with them.

Chakotay’s tongue wandered down a path to the erection rising once again
between Tom’s legs and he lay his head against Tom’s belly to take him in his
mouth, soft and wet and warm around the hard and pulsing length. Strength and
strength, each of a separate kind.

A woman tasted different. A different musk. A different texture to the tongue.
Even a different urgency from this. He had never tasted Tom before – not had him
in his mouth and brought his passion to steep climax. It was the one act he had
held back – the one he wasn’t sure he could accept – or recover from. And he’d
been right. He never would recover from this, knowing that he brought Tom to
this point – and now offered him release as he felt and drank and swallowed him.
It was the last unlocking and now he would be bound forever to this lover. Heart
and soul. From his own.

Afterward, Tom held Chakotay’s face cradled in his hands and he kissed his eyes
and cheeks and mouth, tasting himself on his lover’s tongue and in his every
breath. And then they slept a top the covers on the bed, one fair head against a
strong dark chest.

The next day was a free day – a day from duty – such as it was. On a starship there
was really no off-duty time, just some time you called your own and hoped it
worked that way.

Tom stretched, smelling coffee, and something it took him a minute to identify as
hot biscuits. He tugged on a t-shirt and sweat pants and padded barefoot into the
other room, stepping over the pile of discarded clothes Chakotay had shifted from
the floor of the main cabin into the bedroom. With a few exceptions, that was
about the extent of Chakotay’s contribution to clean-up. Still, it was a fair
distribution of work – one of them cooking, one of them cleaning.

Chakotay was unloading a tray onto the table – coffee, biscuits and some sliced
fruit – green, soft skinned, but otherwise unidentifiable. Something new from the
hydroponics gardens. Fresh at least.

“Morning.” Tom stretched again, twisting his back from side to side to loosen it
up a bit and then raking a hand through his blond hair while stifling a yawn.

The graceful movement caught his lover’s attention and Chakotay smiled to see
him.

“I was just going to wake you.”

“You did – or that did. God it smells great.”

Filching a biscuit, Tom swung a chair around and straddled it, draping across its
back. He took in Chakotay’s loose pants, open-necked tunic and moccasins as the
other man sat down across from him. Chakotay looked relaxed, content, strong. It
was the way Tom liked to think of him – here with his command demeanor shed –
a lazy morning, just the two of them at breakfast.

Chakotay served himself some coffee and pushed the carafe across the table to
Tom who filled his own cup and took a sip before speaking.

“So you’re up early, Chief. And breakfast, too. I’m impressed. Tell me – was it
painful to get up before me?” Tom’s voice was a teasing drawl. He had learned
quickly that Chakotay was not an early riser and he liked to prod him about it.

The response was an arched eyebrow from Chakotay. “Cute, Pucah.”

“I am, aren’t I.” Tom grinned a bit insolently.

“I can get up early. I simply prefer not to.”

“You mean you don’t like to stand naked on a bluff and watch the sun rise over
the plains? I thought you Indians had to do that stuff – some sort of rule or ritual
something.”

Chakotay met the remark with his own brand of dry wit. “You mean like skinning
buffalo and scalping white men?”

“Something like that.”

“Wrong tribe.”

“You keep using that excuse. I’m beginning to get suspicious.”

“You could try learning my customs.”

“As long as I don’t get scalped.”

Chakotay grinned. “Not scalped, Pucah. Just buffaloed.”

Tom snorted. “So what were you up to?”

“I was mediating. You could try it.”

“You and Janeway already have all the good animal guides.”

‘What do you know about our guides?”

“I just figure that rank has it’s privileges.”

“You might be able to find a weasel that’s not taken yet.”

“Hmmmpt.” Tom popped the rest of the biscuit into his mouth and took a swallow
of black coffee.

“Seriously, Tom…”

Paris held up his hand. “It’s my day, off, remember.”

“You’re off duty, not off the hook.”

“But not today…I don’t want to have a discussion about religion today.”

“It’s important to me, Tom.”

“What, you think my soul is in danger?”

“I might.”

“I’m not a heathen, Chakotay. I just take a broader view than you. I don’t like
containment and I don’t like my beliefs compartmentalized. Organized religion
was always too rigid in its views – it hemmed me in, or tried to.”

“I won’t disagree with that assessment, but religious beliefs can also be an outlet
for personal exploration and spiritual growth. That’s one thing that meditation
offers me.”

Tom leaned forward intently, “You know when I push this ship to warp 8 through
a field of stars, it’s damned close to that.”

“Some kind of catharsis?”

“Maybe. Or maybe just a purgative, a rite of passage or purification or something.
Hell you’re the expert. You tell me.”

“There’s no reason that Voyager can’t function for you in the same way my animal
guide helps me. It’s simply a vehicle for self-examination.”

“So do you feel better now?”

“I felt fine before.”

“But you don’t think I take things seriously enough.”

“I don’t think you’re the hedonist you pretend to be.”

“Is that what you first thought of me?”

“Isn’t that the image you cultivated?”

“It was easier that way.” Tom reached across and filled his cup and pulled another
biscuit out of the basket. “There were fewer questions, fewer explanations…”

“Fewer expectations.”

“That, too. You get damned tired of not measuring up.”

“I know.”

“You know? The prodigal son?”

That drew a laugh. “Not even close.”

“No?”

“No. We’re not that different, Pucah. We both ran away from home, joined the
circus, tried to escape our lives rather than live them.”

“Is that what you did?”

Chakotay sighed and turned to look out the viewport, his hands cupping the
coffee mug.

“My father used to tell me I needed to be more interested in the journey and less
in the destination. I was always so anxious to get somewhere, I missed what was
happening along the way.”

“And now?”

Chakotay turned back to face Tom, his expression reflective, intense.

“I’ve learned that the trip is the whole point of it all.”

“Does that mean you don’t care if we get home again?”

“I’d like to see the alpha quadrant again one day, but I’m content to make my
home here – on Voyager – with you.”

“And with Janeway.”

“I’m curious why you bring her up.”

“Because you won’t.”

“I’m happy with you, Tom.”

“I know you are. Hell I wouldn’t be here if we weren’t both happy with this. She
doesn’t have to be a forbidden topic, that’s all.”

Chakotay was silent, then nodded. “Alright. I’ll remember that.”

Tom took sip of coffee and then glanced over at Chakotay, a mischievous grin on
his face. “So you up for a bit of hang-gliding today?”

“I thought it was parachuting?”

“Too cerebral.”

Chakotay snorted. “You could just try leaping from a 100 foot cliff.”

“Actually I thought of that, like those divers in South America.”

“Rio de Janeiro.”

“Right. But I’d rather fly.”

“I was thinking of some white-water rafting.”

“Were you? Hell Chakotay, sometimes I think you’re a worse thrill seeker than I
am.”

“Just trying to keep up.”

The bantering was interrupted by the door chime.

“It’s Kathryn Janeway.” Her disembodied voice sounded through the cabin’s
comm system.

Tom raised an eyebrow and grinned. “Probably smelled the coffee… I’ll get her,
you get a cup.” He rose, crossing to the door while Chakotay stood to pull another
mug off the shelf of their small galley.

Janeway was a regular enough visitor to their quarters – dinner now and then,
poker when they hosted the senior officer’s game – and sometimes she would just
drop by to socialize – usually with Tom. Alone. She would drink coffee and they
would chat – about Chakotay. Mostly about Chakotay. Two people who loved
him. Two people who were loved by him. That gave them a connection of a sort.
At least it connected them.

Not that there was any particular tension between she and Chakotay. There
wasn’t. Tom was simply her measuring stick – a way to see how Chakotay was
doing. A barometer to gauge Chakotay’s happiness. And he was. And that was
enough.

The door slid open and she stepped in. She was in uniform – it was a working day
for her. Generally she and Chakotay tried to avoid having the same off-times,
otherwise both ended up working.

“Gentlemen – I know it’s your day off. I hope I’m not interrupting.”

Tom walked her in. “Not at all. We were just having breakfast. Care to join us?
Coffee. Biscuits. Unidentified fruit….”

That brought a grin. “With that recommendation, I think I’ll pass on the fruit,
Tom, but coffee would be lovely. Thank you.”

She glanced about their quarters, familiar now, but still of interest. Chakotay’s
sand paintings on the wall. Tom’s music disks stacked neatly about the room. The
remains of their breakfast on the table. And through the open bedroom door, a
pile of clothing on the floor, obviously both of theirs. And the bed – unmade –
rumpled from a night together. They were a couple. Everything but man and wife.
Maybe more.

Chakotay handed her a full mug of steaming coffee. “Is this business or pleasure,
Captain?”

She thanked him and sniffed the brew appreciatively before taking a sip. “The
coffee is pleasure. The visit, business, I’m afraid.”

He gestured toward the table. “Please.”

Tom and Chakotay retook their seats and Kathryn sat between them, setting her
cup on the table top and folding her hands around its curved surface.

“Kimes has filed a complaint.”

“Oh really?” This from Tom.

“Hackles down, Mr. Paris.” An order, but tempered – just a bit.

“What’s this about, Captain?” Chakotay’s soft calm voice was a balm – the sound
of reason. It was one of the things that made him an excellent leader and XO.

Janeway met his gaze evenly. “Mostly you, Commander, but it comes from the
business last night. Kimes is claiming you used your rank to settle a personal
score.”

“That’s crap. Anyone who knows Chakotay knows that’s just crap.”

“Tom you’re here as a courtesy – ” Janeway’s voice was a touch cool, her eyes and
voice warning him.

Chakotay merely raised an eyebrow.

Tom took a deep breath and pulled himself back as Chakotay spoke again.

“May I ask what you intend to do? I assume he’s filed a formal complaint…”

Janeway nodded at Chakotay. “He has. So where I might simply dismiss the
whole matter as the spiteful act of a disgruntled crewman…”

“You can’t.”

“No. And frankly, I don’t think I want to. This needs to be resolved. Once and for
all. I can’t have this undermine your authority, Chakotay – and I won’t have each
of your decisions challenged. And the crew needs to understand you can have a
relationship with Tom and still function as my XO – without prejudice.”

“Then wouldn’t you make your point better by not pursuing it?” This from Tom
who leaned forward again, resting his forearms on the edge of the table.

Janeway shook her head. “According to regulation, a formal complaint requires I
convene a board of inquiry. I’m obligated to proceed with a hearing.”

“Rules or not, I agree with the Captain that this is the right course of action,
Tom.” Chakotay looked from Janeway to Paris. “I won’t be able to do my job if
this isn’t settled.”

“After 6 years? Hell, you think they’d have figured out by now that you don’t play
favorites. In fact, as I recall, I was one of your main targets in the early days. And
as far as I know, you never put Maquis interests first.”

“All good points, Tom.” Janeway took a sip of her coffee and nodded. “If you
weren’t so involved I’d ask you to function as Chakotay’s counsel.”

“Do I really need counsel?” Chakotay sat back, pulling his mug with him, cupping
it in both hands.

Janeway raised an eyebrow. “Officially, you have the right to the counsel of your
choice. Kimes, too. But I would prefer this is not taken to that level – and I don’t
think it will be necessary.”

Tom snorted. “The whole thing’s unnecessary. So who’s on the inquiry board?”

“Normally it would be the Captain, the First Officer and the Chief of Security.”

“So then it’s just you and Tuvok?”

Janeway was silent a moment, sipping her coffee before glancing at Chakotay and
then meeting Tom’s frank gaze. “I have decided to step down from the board.
Chakotay was following my orders when he disciplined Mr. Kimes. And frankly,
I’m not sure I can or care to be impartial in this case. It touches way too close to
home.”

Janeway’s words lay a moment on the table, warming all of them. Tom finally
broke the silence.

“So I guess that just leaves Tuvok – on the panel.”

Janeway shook her head. “The inquiry board is to be made of up of at least two
officers. In the such cases as this, it’s the Captain’s discretion to fill the panel. I’ve
decided to appoint the Doctor. He has no particular connection to either Chakotay
or Kimes, and for all intents and purposes, he is a command level officer, if in
station only.”

Tom raised an eyebrow and met it with a shrug. “A Vulcan and a hologram – at
least no one can argue they’re not impartial.”

“My thinking exactly, Tom.” Janeway nodded. “I want this to be completely
above board. Of course that means that whatever decision these two arrive at will
be official. In the event that they find Chakotay did act with prejudice, it is within
their right to recommend action. That could range from a reprimand to a rank
reduction. It’s all within their purview.”

“When?” Chakotay pushed his mug away and leaned back in his chair, his face
impassive. Or so it seemed.

Tom had seen that look before. There was steel behind it, and faith. And odd
combination. Like the man – contradictions that made up the whole. So much
more to learn about him. Exploration. Examination. Here was the religion both
practiced. Organized by the heart. Science and mysticism. Relationship and love.
Unconfining. Life-affirming. Tom offered a wry grin, and a wink. Chakotay’s face
relaxed, subtly, but it was a change nonetheless. An acknowledgment of Tom’s
affect upon him – heart and soul.

Janeway watched the silent by-play. They were good together. Good for each
other. It was easy to feel easy around them – their comfort level extended on to
others. With a reluctant sigh she took one last sip of coffee and stood to answer
Chakotay’s question. It was time she got back to duty and the bridge.

“The panel convenes tomorrow at 0900. We had thirty-six hours to respond
within the limits of due process for Kimes. You’ll receive an official notification,
but I wanted to forewarn you. It’s dirty business by Kimes and I don’t appreciate
it.”

Both Tom and Chakotay rose along with her, walking her to the door where she
paused before activating the slide.

“You know, you two have set a shining example for the entire ship with this
relationship – it’s what a union should be – the merging of the best of two people,
an even partnership, filled with love and respect. I’m not happy that Kimes is
trying to tarnish that. Considering what we’ve all been through together, and the
very reason the Federation exists, I’m taking it a bit personally.” She looked from
Tom to Chakotay. “And considering how I feel about both of you, I’m having a
hard time keeping those feelings at bay. Frankly, it’s damned infuriating. I can’t
muster any sympathy for his tactics or his parochial views. Prejudice is prejudice
– pure and simple. Don’t let this spoil your day off. Give us another good example
and don’t let Kimes win this round.”

They were telling comments – telling more than the surface of the words.
Implying love and acceptance – and favoritism of her own, or partiality. Of a sort.
Not a compromise of principles, nor breach of ethics, but recognition of the
loyalty that friends deserve from other friends. The responsibility of love. And
that knowledge that what people shared between them deserved a special kind of
honor and respect.

Was there a word for something more than friendship? Kinship. Community.
Family. None of those were right. Intimacy. Maybe that was it. There was an
intimacy between these three that transcended basic friendship and came from
sharing hearts was well as lives. Two were lovers – all three loved.

Chakotay’s expression was soft, his emotions very near the surface. Tom reached
over and rested a hand against his lover’s shoulder, sliding it down his back.
Steadying, supporting, connecting. “We’ll be fine, Captain. Tuvok and the Doc are
reasonable people. They’ll see through Kimes as fast as you did.”

“Good enough.” Janeway nodded and stepped forward to activate the door. “We’re
still on for poker tomorrow night – regardless?”

“Your replicator rations are still good here.” Tom’s lazy drawl brought a grin to
Janeway’s face.

“Opportunist. We’ll see.” She glanced over at Chakotay. This had shaken him –
angered him certainly, hurt him a bit – maybe more than a bit. Pressing a hand
against his chest, she looked up into his eyes saw both the expected hurt and
anger. “You ok?”

Chakotay nodded. “Fine.”

Janeway tapped his chest with her hand and then drew it back. “Like hell you are,
but your poker face is improving. Take him in hand, Tom. Force him to have a
good time today. And that’s an order.”

Tom snorted and looked affectionately at his stubborn mate. “We’ll be fine.”

“I know you will. I wonder though, what motivates a man like Kimes.”

“Kimes? He’s just jealous.” Tom’s voice was calm, but had an edge. “I heard
Rosela rebuffed him again. He doesn’t want to see anyone else happy if he can’t
be.”

“And Chakotay was an easy mark…” Janeway nodded and stepped into the
hallway. “An order, remember…” The door slid shut behind her.

Tom turned to Chakotay, his hand still on his back. He could feel the tightening
muscles beneath his hand – the tension there was palpable.

“Dammit.” Chakotay expelled the word.

“Don’t. You get mad and he wins.”

Chakotay drew in his breath.

“I mean it.” Tom’s tone brooked no argument. “Is anything he said even remotely
true? It was Janeway’s order, you simply carried it out. And I presume you didn’t
threaten him physically or otherwise – not that your presence can’t be damned
intimidating for the uninitiated.”

There was a silence a moment and then Chakotay let out his breath. “I enjoyed it,
Tom.”

“Is that what’s bothering you? Hell Chief, you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t get
a little pleasure out of knocking down a shit like Kimes. I don’t remember
anything in the rule books about that.”

“I need my objectivity if I’m going to do my job. And frankly, I can’t be objective
anymore when it comes to you.”

“Would that change if I were a woman?”

“Hell no. What does that have to do with it?”

“It’s just the nature of relationships – the same way you wanted to protect me
against Kimes then, I want to protect you now. It wouldn’t say much about us if
we didn’t feel that way. As long as you play within the rules, you’re doing your
job. He can complain that he doesn’t like the rules, but if the treatment is fair, he’s
fighting a losing battle. I presume you wouldn’t have treated someone else
differently, under different circumstances?”

Chakotay shrugged. “I might have. I might have tried to…”

“To what? Disobey Janeway’s order? I doubt that. And don’t start second guessing
yourself – that’ll do more damage than anything Kimes says.”

A grin began to tip at Chakotay’s mouth and he shook his head. “You might be
getting to know me too well, Pucah.”

“Yeah, well I’m a damned shrink now.” Tom scuffed over to the table and
reclaimed his mug, filling it with the last of the coffee. “So… which is it – rafting
or hang-gliding?”

Chakotay smiled. “Too cerebral. I’m in the mood for something a bit more
dangerous.”

“Such as?”

“B’Elanna’s set up a maneuvers sim. She wanted me to have a look at it.”

Tom winced. “Klingon hand to hand?”

“Afraid you’ll ruin that pretty face, Pucah?”

“Might was well jump from a starship at warp speed.”

“So?”

A slow grin spread across Tom’s face and he arched a blond brow. “What the hell.
I’m in the mood to be a little reckless. But I’m curious…”

“About?”

“What do I get when I beat the pants off you?”

Chakotay eyed him blandly and then crossed the room, slipping Tom’s coffee
from his hand and setting it on the table as he backed his lover against the wall.
“Me in skivvies, Pucah.”

Tom reached around and cupped Chakotay’s rear, pulling him in. “Oh really?”

Chakotay pressed Tom against the wall, balancing a hand on either side of Tom’s
head. He leaned against him, matching length to length. Tongues and lips met and
danced. Softly. Without greed or haste. They kissed. Once. Again. And then
moved apart. Chakotay grinned. “Of course, that’s assuming that you beat me.”

Reaching over, Tom twitched the cord that held Chakotay’s pants and with his
thumbs, slid the loose slacks off Chakotay’s hips. The pants pooled to the floor,
revealing the straining length of Chakotay’s erection against his briefs. Tom
raised a brow.

“Looks like I’ve beaten you already, Chief.”

The stiff press of his lover’s erection greeted Tom as Chakotay moved against
him. Chakotay’s voice was rough with emotion, rife with lust, a coupling of mind
and body, heart and soul. “In that case, Pucah, I concede.”

It was night. Late. Chakotay stood motionless before the long slim window that
cut space into the main living area of their quarters. One dim light shone from the
galley, silhouetting him against the pinpoints of brightness in the sky that marked
their passage through this sector of the delta quadrant. Unfamiliar territory – more
than the space around them. This life was unfamiliar now. Nothing he expected.
Nothing he was prepared for.

He’d tossed and turned in bed, refusing any comfort – physical or otherwise – and
finally after hearing Tom’s even breathing, slipped away from Tom’s side and
come into this other room. Now a light came on from the bedroom and Tom
padded out, pulling a robe over his nude form and tugging the tie tight around his
waist.

“Chakotay?”

“Go back to bed.”

“You won’t be any good if you don’t get some sleep.”

“I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“Flopping like a fish caught on a line isn’t supposed to wake me?” Tom walked to
his lover’s side and rested a hand on his shoulder. Chakotay stepped back,
deliberately, and Tom’s hand fell to his side.

“So now you’re going to close me out?”

“I just need to work through this.”

“I thought you worked through it all on the holodeck.”

Silence.

“Don’t pull that damned stoic Indian crap on me. Shit I’m exhausted. You are, too.
We spent the day in hand to hand combat with Klingons. So just tell me what the
problem is.”

Tom dropped onto the couch, tossing his hands into his lap. He had tried to keep
the weariness out of his voice, but without success. Chakotay could be damned
trying. This was one of those times.

There was more silence – a moment or so – and then Chakotay’s voice broke the
quiet. “I understand why Kathryn didn’t want me as a lover.”

“Where the hell is that coming from? And I thought you said you slept together.”

“Hear me out.”

Tom pressed a hand through his sleep tousled hair. “It’s three in the morning. You
just threw in a curve from left field. I’m listening the best I can.”

“It’s all about risk, Tom.”

“Someone who flew straight into a Kazon warship is worried about risk?”

“I was only risking myself then.

“I don’t need you to take my punches for me.”

“Not even if I’m the reason you’re getting hit with them?”

“Seems to me that you’re the one getting tackled here – not me.”

“I don’t like my integrity questioned.”

“Shit.” Tom made no attempt to hide his disgust.

“I need to be able to do my job.”

“Hell, the only thing wrong with you is that your feelings are hurt. Well, Chief, it’s
time to grow up. Life is not kind out there. The wolf is always at the door. The
difference is, I’m here now, behind it. You’re not alone any more.”

Tom rose and walked over to Chakotay’s side, reading the emotion in his lover’s
obsidian gaze. He spoke softly, his tone matching the tenderness in Chakotay’s
eyes.

“It’s time to shift your burden, Chief. There are two sets of shoulders now – mine
are pretty broad and I’ll tell you when things get too heavy. I figure that the two of
us together stand a lot better chance of holding off whatever might come after
us.”

Chakotay pressed his hands to either side of the viewport, dropping his head a
moment, collecting himself. When he finally looked up there was both love and
gratitude written on his face.

This man was good for him, knew how to soothe and smooth, when to press,
when to leave it go. Knew his moods – maybe too well – and how to deal with
them. Even his mother hadn’t figured that one out. His father had seldom tried.
Sometimes you can’t ease a hurt, you just have to put out your hands and offer up
yourself.

“Thanks, Tom.”

Paris demurred. “Shit. If we’re not worth the risk, there’s no point to any of it, is
there? Now I’m taking my tired ass to bed. My body feels like it was bounced
around a holodeck all day by a pissed off Klingon. I suggest you do the same.
Tomorrow’s already here and the morning’s coming on fast.” He reached across
and ruffled his fingers through Chakotay’s short hair. “Besides, it wouldn’t do for
you to show up with circles underneath your pretty eyes. You need your beauty
rest.”

The hearing was convened on schedule the next morning, in private, in the
briefing room just off the bridge. Only the principles were in attendance –
Chakotay, the doctor, Janeway, Tuvok, Kimes.

Tom was on duty at the helm. Waiting. The hard job. Pretending the starfield had
an interest for him as it would have any other day, as it had his whole life except
for this moment.

He was tired. Three hours of sleep hadn’t been enough. It was that part of a
relationship that comes under the heading of comfort, or sympathy – or at least
sympathetic unrest. Now nerves, or adrenaline or whatever, kept him going
through this wait.

He shifted in his seat. His thighs were tight and there was an ache along his spine
from where one of the characters in the holodeck simulation had tossed him to
the ground.

They had spent the day before as planned, working through B’Elanna’s maneuvers
simulation. It was tough – set up for a Klingon, half-Klingon. They reached level 4
of the regime just after lunch time and called it quits, noting a few changes and
suggestions in the sims log before switching the program off. They were left
alone in the black and gold grid of the holodeck.

Tom grunted, leaning over, hands on knees, trying to catch his breath. “Well what
now?”

Chakotay slid down the wall and swiped at his forehead with his arm. Hot.
Sweaty. Used. And abused – to some extent. He was panting, too. It had been
hard. They had punched it hard.

In the process, Chakotay had spent his anger – at least some of it. Tom knew the
well was deep. A dam held back by a will more furious than the storm itself. It
might have been frightening – to see that depth. Except that passion came from
the same place. Drank from the same pool. It was another complexity of a man
who appeared simple on the surface – calm and stoic, perfectly at ease. There was
truth to that, some anyway, but there was more. That was what intrigued him,
drew him, caught him – all that passion sharing space with anger.

Of course, some mistook Paris just the same. Didn’t really know him. Considered
him a fool or flyboy pilot. Helmboy. Playboy. It could be hard to take him
seriously when he seemed to try so hard to look at life with irreverent eyes. Those
were a mask for his own passions, his own anger, his own hurts.

Now Tom dropped before the other man on the spare holodeck, wiped his own
face with his sodden t-shirt. “I’m starving. You up for a picnic and swim?”

“You buying?”

“Damn, you’re cheap.”

“I figure you’ll support me in my old age.”

“Do you plan on losing your current source of income?”

“It’s a risk.”

Paris snorted. “Not much of one. Even this cynic can see that. How about you buy
– a show of faith – put your money where your mouth is about this spiritualism
stuff.”

Chakotay raised an eyebrow, considering debating. It was a test – of faith – of
other things…friendship, regulation, values, maybe. But it was not a test Tom
needed to take, nor Chakotay needed to press on him. So he nodded. “Alright. No
meat.”

“Shit, Chakotay. It’s replicated food. There’s not a cow or pig or chicken near the
stuff.”

“It’s the principle.” And it was. Always with Chakotay. Tom had learned that early
on and accepted it. It was part of the other man’s strength. Part of what made him
remarkable, even though it could be damned annoying. Paris tried for a
compromise. “Egg salad?”

Chakotay raised an eyebrow. They had had the ‘where do eggs come from?’
discussion several times.

Seeing the expression of distaste, Tom kicked a foot out, his boot knocking
against his Chakotay’s booted foot. “I’m not eating tortillas the rest of my life,
Chief. Even your ancestors ate meat. Hell for all I know they ate each other.”

This drew a snort. “I’d like to think we’ve evolved in 500 years.”

Evolution. Life. Relationships. Turning points. Making it past turning points.
That’s what it was all about. And this was one. This trial. It wasn’t just a test of
Chakotay’s ability to command. It was a test of their relationship. Its strength.
Their determination.

Tom drew back to the present, the solid feeling of the helm controls beneath his
hands, the steady hum and thrum of the engines of the ship.

The door to the briefing room slid open. Heads turned. Kimes came out first,
followed by Tuvok. The Doc had been on vid. Kimes glanced around the bridge,
eyes raised and then lowered, and quickly stepped into the turbolift. He was out
of place there, anyway. It was an elite society. Invitation only. He was not a
welcome guest. It might not have been right, but it was a reality, nonetheless.

The briefing room door slid closed. Chakotay and Janeway were still inside.

Tom raised a questioning brow at Tuvok. Well?

“Do you have an inquiry, Lieutenant?”

“I think you know the answer to that.”

“You are interested in the outcome of the hearing no doubt.” The Security Chief
took a breath and Tom held his own. It was at moments like this that Tom
questioned anyone who said Vulcans had no sense of humor, no flair for the
dramatic. Tuvok knew how to work a crowd, to get attention, to make his point.

“Surely, Mr. Paris, you are aware that I am not at liberty to discuss the
proceedings. If the Commander wishes to share the details with you, he may, of
course. That is his prerogative.”

Tom sighed, or snorted, or made some other appropriately rude sound, and
miraculously, Tuvok continued.

“However…I do not feel it improper to indicate that the Board found no indication
of wrong doing in the Commander’s actions. And I would also like to say from a
personal perspective, that such prejudices as exhibited by Mr. Kimes are not only
illogical and inappropriate, but damaging to society as a whole. In my opinion,
they are simply an indication of an uneducated mind and should be considered as
such. Sexual preference is not a matter for public debate or comment. I have
shared these views with the Captain and Commander, as well as with Mr. Kimes
in my formal findings. The Doctor was of the same opinion.”

Tom was silent and then nodded. “Thank you, Tuvok.”

“No thanks are required, but the sentiment is noted.”

Janeway raked the pile of poker chips toward her, stacking them into tidy
columns on the green surface of the table covering, counting as she stacked.
B’Elanna and Harry had left an hour before, discouraged. Now Janeway was alone
with her XO and Tom. She rose, tally padd in hand.

“Well gentlemen, it appears I’ve had a good night.” She was grinning broadly, a
bit too self-satisfied, piquing both of them. “I think it’s time to say goodnight
before my luck changes.”

Tom threw down his cards in disgust and pushed away from the table. “Hell
Captain, you won the pot every hand but one. I’ll say you had a good night. I’ll be
a vegetarian by the time I get enough replicator rations to eat meat again.””

Janeway chuckled and waved him off, heading for the door. “Stay. I know my
way out. We’ve all had a long day and I for one, want a hot bath and a few hours
of hard sleep.”

As she reached the doorway, she turned and paused. “I remember initiation at the
Academy. Even though they had outlawed it, it still happened. Hazing isn’t pretty.
That’s what I think this was – just on a grander scale. There’s always someone who
thinks they can take advantage of a situation. Maybe Kimes figured you two
would give it up. That the risk to your careers – at least to Chakotay’s career – was
greater than the rewards of your relationship. I’m glad you could show him that’s
not the case.” She stepped forward to active the slide and waved the padd over
one shoulder as she left. “Thanks, guys. I had a good time.”

Tom stretched and began to methodically pack up the chips, setting them back in
their case. Chakotay’s hand covered his, stopping him. His expression was calm
and imperturbable once again. “I’ll give you some of mine.”

“Your what?”

“My replicator rations.”

Tom’s blue eyes widened in surprise and then narrowed again in disbelief. “For
meat? Since when?”

The XO merely shrugged.

“Don’t you risk the spirits coming down and cursing you or something?”

Chakotay slowly shook his head. “I don’t see it as a risk. I think it’s more a show
of faith.” He spoke deliberately, his dark eyes capturing the other man’s and
holding them within.

Paris was silent a moment and then twined his fingers through his lover’s. Strong
white hands pressed against bronzed blunt tipped fingers, found and sent strength
and love and commitment, one man to the other. Tom smiled softly. “What the
hell, Chief. It won’t hurt me to eat meatless for a while.”

finis

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