As One Door Closes NC-17
Part On

Tom Paris rushed out of sickbay, his mind in a whirl. He wandered aimlessly, eventually finding himself outside the holodeck. He absently noted that his old Sandrine's program was running. It hadn't been used in awhile.

He entered and made his way to the bar, ordering what would be the first of several drinks that night. As he downed the scotch, he tried to comprehend what he had recently overheard in sickbay.

He had gone there to see the Doc, to have a minor injury treated, and he'd found B'Elanna with him, both of them with their backs to him as he entered. As Tom had been about to announce his presence, the Doctor had started speaking.

"Well, Lieutenant Torres, it would seem your suspicions were correct. The DNA tests confirm that Mr. Kim is indeed the father of your child."

Upon hearing this, Tom had turned and fled, knocking over some instruments in his hurry to leave.

Now, he sat in Sandrine's, lost in his misery.

He ordered another scotch, which disappeared as quickly as the first, two more swiftly following it. He was consuming a fifth, when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

"Are you all right, Tom?" the concerned voice of Voyager's First Officer asked.

"No," Tom replied, finishing his drink and signalling for another one.

"What's the matter, then?" Chakotay questioned as he looked carefully at the obviously upset man.

Tom gulped his drink down, his eyes filling with tears. "It's not mine!" he sobbed.

"What isn't? I don't understand, Tom," Chakotay said softly.

"Neither do I," Tom choked out, slamming the glass down on the counter.

"Tom, I think you've had enough to drink. Let me help you back to your quarters."

"No! I can't!" Tom cried, becoming agitated. "I can't go there!"

"Well, then, come back to my quarters for now. You can't stay here like this," Chakotay told him gently, but firmly.

Tom stood unsteadily and the First Officer took his arm, holding him upright. They slowly made their way out of the holodeck, and headed to Chakotay's cabin. As they entered, Tom started to sob.

"It's not my baby, Chakotay! It's not my baby!" he repeated, unable to say anything else.

Chakotay was shocked, he hadn't expected anything like this. He knew he would get no more details tonight though, Tom was too upset and drunk to explain further. The man needed to sleep, he decided.

Chakotay guided Tom to the bedroom, helping him out of his outer clothes and into bed. As Tom lay back, closing his tear-sore eyes, Chakotay knew that Tom wouldn't want to think too clearly yet. He decided not to sober him up, hoping the alcohol Tom had consumed would dull his senses enough for him to sleep.

Chakotay left him and returned to the other room, deciding to contact the captain.

"Good evening, Commander. What can I do for you?" Janeway asked.

Chakotay sighed. "There's a problem, Captain. Lieutenant Paris and I will need time off tomorrow."

"Why, what's the matter?" she enquired.

"Unfortunately, I can't give you any details right now. All I can tell you is that Tom has a serious personal problem that he's going to need help with. I know you will understand that I can't betray his confidence."

"Of course Chakotay. If it's that serious, take tomorrow off and let me know what you can, when you can," Janeway answered him. "I'll arrange further time off if it's needed."

"Thank you, Kathryn. I think extra time probably will be needed. I'll be in touch tomorrow."

There was a noise from the bedroom as Tom stumbled out of bed and into the bathroom. Chakotay hurried in to find Tom sitting on the floor, hunched over the toilet bowl. He grabbed a damp washcloth and began to wipe Tom's face.

"Do you need to stay in here a little longer, or will you be okay to go back to bed?" Chakotay asked quietly.

Tom sipped some water from a glass that Chakotay handed him, then answered shakily. "I'll be fine now," he said, handing the glass back.

"Come on then," Chakotay said, helping Tom to his feet.

He put the younger man back in bed, then sat watching until he was asleep. After changing into his sleep pants, Chakotay climbed carefully into bed next to the pilot.


When Tom woke up the next morning, he opened his eyes and then wished he hadn't. The lights were only set at 10%, but they were still too bright for him to cope with. His head hurt as well, and he groaned in discomfort.

He turned his head to the side, noticing a hypospray on the cabinet. A painkiller! He used it and sighed with relief as the pain in his head diminished.

He spotted his clothes, all neatly folded on a nearby chair, and he decided he would get dressed after taking a quick shower.


Out in the other room, Chakotay was sitting at the table.

He heard Tom moving about in the bedroom, and ordered two cups of coffee from the replicator, placing them on the low table in front of the couch as he waited for Tom to join him.

A few moments later, Tom emerged, still looking battered from the previous night's shock. He slumped down on the couch, next to the First Officer, then sat staring at the coffee in front of him. Chakotay waited patiently for Tom to speak.

"I went to sickbay last night," Tom began. "B'Elanna was there. She didn't see me at first, nor did the Doc. He was telling her the results of a DNA test he'd done on the baby."

Tom paused. He looked at Chakotay with a pained expression, then continued. "The baby isn't mine. It's Harry's."

Chakotay was stunned, but stayed silent as Tom continued to speak.

"I thought she loved me. I thought Harry was my best friend. I thought I was going to be a father. But none of it was real. How could they do this to me?"

Tom swallowed hard. "I've got nothing left, Chakotay. Nothing! No home, no family. Nothing!"

Chakotay could see that Tom was fighting to hold back his tears. "Let it out, Tom. If this isn't worth crying over, then I don't know what is," he said gently. "Come here."

He pulled Tom close, holding him as the dam finally burst and heartbreaking sobs wracked the pilot's body. It was quite awhile before Tom calmed enough to pull away, then he sat back, looking embarrassed.

"There's nothing wrong with showing your feelings, Tom," Chakotay assured him. "So don't worry about it. Besides, there's only us here and I won't be revealing anything. Trust me."

Tom nodded. " Thanks, Chakotay."

He looked down at the floor and sighed. "I really thought I'd got my life sorted out this time. I should've known it was too good to be true." He sat up suddenly. "My duty shift! The Captain's gonna kill me!"

"It's okay. You're not on duty today. I spoke with the Captain last night and she agreed to give you as much time off as you need. She doesn't know what's happened, just that you have a tough personal problem to deal with. She also gave me time off, so if you need my help I'll be here."

Tom ran his hand through his hair. "I just don't know what to do. I feel so dead inside. Empty. I don't want to be on my own again, I don't think I'll be able to cope."

He looked carefully at his commanding officer. "How do you do it, Chakotay?" he asked. "How do you manage on your own?"

Chakotay shrugged. "I just do, Tom. I don't have much choice."

"The Captain's too stubborn to give in, you mean," Tom said with a slight smile.

"Actually, no. That has nothing to do with it. I've never been interested in Kathryn that way, despite what people may thin,." Chakotay answered.

Tom looked puzzled. "But what about all the flirting you two do? What's that about?"

"It's just fun, something to pass the time when the day gets boring. It's part of our friendship. And friendship is all I've ever wanted from Kathryn."

"So, you've *never* been attracted to her?" Tom pressed.

"Not romantically, no," Chakotay replied, honestly.

"Is there anyone else then? I mean, you don't intend to spend the rest of this journey alone, do you?"

Chakotay sighed. "I'll probably have to," he said, resignation in his voice.

Tom looked thoughtful, his mind distracted from his own problems for the moment. "If you don't mind me asking, what did Seska have that Janeway doesn't?"

Chakotay studied the floor awhile, then looked up. "A purpose," he said.

"What do you mean by that?" Tom asked, puzzled.

Chakotay shifted uncomfortably in his seat, unsure whether to answer. He took a deep breath, then decided to tell Tom what he wanted to know.
"She was useful to me. I believe she thought that I was too, because she used me just as much as I used her."

"I don't understand. How did you use each other?"

Chakotay tried to explain. "Seska liked power, if you hadn't noticed, and she used me to get that power on my ship. She liked to think that she had some control, and I allowed her to keep that illusion." He paused. "I don't think she realised that I was using her at the time, though."

"How *did* you use her then? What did you get out of the relationship?" Tom persisted.

Chakotay looked directly at Tom and answered matter of factly. "A way to cover up the fact that I'm gay."

Tom was momentarily stunned by Chakotay's revelation, and sat speechless until he recovered enough to speak again. "But you've been involved with other women."

"A few, yes," the First Officer agreed. "But not with anyone who wanted a serious relationship. And it was always through necessity rather than choice. Sometimes, I just got so lonely that it was nice to hold someone, anyone, in my arms, regardless of gender."

"I can understand that," Tom nodded. "I hate feeling lonely, myself."

He looked quizzically at his C.O. "So, Chakotay, are there any men on this ship that you're interested in?" he asked with an impish grin.

Chakotay smiled. "Yes," he answered. "There is someone I've been attracted to for a very long time. But it's never going to happen."

"What's the problem, then? His rank not high enough?"

"No, it's not that. If that was the problem, I'd probably just recommend him for promotion," Chakotay replied with a grin. "No, the problem is, he's 100% straight and already in a relationship. I don't stand a chance," he sighed.

"I don't suppose I can ask who it is?"

"You wouldn't want to know," Chakotay said, getting up quickly and moving towards the replicator. "I'm hungry, how about you? Can I interest you in some breakfast?"

"No, I don't think I can eat yet," Tom answered. "You go ahead, though."

Chakotay ordered himself a sandwich. "How about another coffee?" he called across to Tom.

"Yeah, thanks, that'd be good."

Chakotay brought the drinks and his sandwich back over to the couch, then sat down again.

"Chakotay, I don't know what to do about my quarters. I don't want to go back there. Do you think you could arrange somewhere else for me to stay?" Tom asked.

"I'll do what I can. I'm afraid it won't be much, though. Unfortunately the only quarters currently vacant are the ones normally assigned to ordinary crewmen. They're a bit small, they weren't meant to be used for the length of time that you might need it, but you can take your pick of what there is.

"In the meantime, though," Chakotay continued, "if you want company, you're more than welcome to stay here with me. I wouldn't mind having someone to talk to," he said sincerely.

Tom smiled gratefully. "That's really kind of you, Chakotay. And if you're sure you really mean it, then I think I'll take you up on it for a couple of days."

"I really mean it, Tom. Stay as long as you want."

"Thanks. Once I'm sure I won't run into B'Elanna or Harry, I'll go and get some of my clothes and things. I don't think I can handle seeing either of them just yet," Tom stated, sighing.

"There's no rush to confront them," Chakotay advised. "Wait until you feel ready, Tom."

"Yeah, I will," he agreed. "I don't really *want* to know the details of what's been going on, but I have to know. Right now, though, I'm just too angry."

"That's perfectly understandable. You have every right to be angry."

"I'm glad I've got you to talk to," Tom said gratefully. "I don't think I can get through this on my own."

"We're friends, Tom, you're not on your own," Chakotay assured him. "I'll help you for as long as you need me to."

"Thanks, Chakotay," Tom smiled. "I wish there was something I could do to help you."

"Well, you could make the bed," the First Officer said, grinning.

Tom laughed. "You're pretty easy to please."

Chakotay stood up and removed the empty cups from the table. "I'm going to check in with the Captain and pick up some work," he said, walking towards the door. "I'll be about an hour."

"Okay. I'll keep myself busy until you get back. See you later."


Chakotay made his way across the bridge, ignoring the glances Harry was sending his way.

"Good morning, Captain. I thought I'd collect those reports you mentioned yesterday," he said brightly.

"Ah yes, Commander. Come to my ready room. Tuvok, you have the bridge," she called out as they walked off.

"Yes, Captain," the Vulcan acknowledged.

"Would you like a cup of coffee?" Janeway asked once they were inside the room.

"No, thank you," her First Officer replied. "I've already exceeded my coffee quota for the day."

Janeway smiled as she carried her own drink to her desk.

"Have a seat. Here are the reports, if you could get them back to me by the morning. Now, Chakotay," she said, sitting down. "What can you tell me about the situation with Tom? You mentioned that it was serious."

"Yes, it is, Kathryn, but unless Tom decides to tell you, I'm afraid that I will have to keep the details to myself," Chakotay replied.

"I understand, but is there anything that you *can* say? Is there anything I can do to help?" Janeway asked.

"All I can say is that I found Tom in Sandrine's last night. He'd had more than enough to drink, and he was very upset. I didn't get all the details from him until this morning. What he knows anyway. Suffice it to say, he's very shaken up. I'm not sure when he'll be ready for duty, but once he is, I may put him on a different shift for awhile."

"Another shift? Why?"

"I'm sorry, I can't say yet," Chakotay apologised.

"Where's Tom at the moment?"

"He's in my quarters. He's going to be staying with me for a few days until things are more settled."

Janeway looked concerned. "But what about B'Elanna? She's pregnant, why isn't he there with her?" she asked.

"Captain, please. I really can't say anything else," Chakotay insisted.

Janeway sighed. "I'm sorry. Just keep me informed as much as you can, okay?"

"I will, Kathryn," Chakotay promised, getting up. "I'll get these reports back to you later."


After stopping off at his office for awhile, Chakotay arrived back at his quarters. Tom was sitting on the couch in the now spotless living area.

"Wow!" Chakotay enthused, looking around. "You've been very busy. It hasn't been this clean for a long time. Thank you."

"You're very welcome," Tom said, smiling and standing up. "I was going to have an early lunch as I missed breakfast. Do you want anything?"

"Another sandwich would be good. Cheese, I think."


Tom ordered their lunch from the replicator, deducting it from his own account, then carried the plates across to the table.

"There you go. Enjoy," he said, sitting down. He looked across at Chakotay. "I'm gonna get my things after this."

"Do you need any help?" Chakotay asked.

"No, I'll be all right, I think. Although, I might need a friendly ear afterwards."

"I'll be here," Chakotay assured him, reaching over and squeezing Tom's shoulder. "I'm going to try and get these reports out of the way. Do you fancy an hour or two on the holodeck later?"

"Doing what?" Tom enquired.

"I don't know yet. I thought I'd book the time and decide on a program later. If you want to go, that is."

"Yeah, sure," Tom answered. "I'll probably only mope around otherwise. It'll be a good distraction."

Chakotay walked across to the computer terminal to make enquiries. "How's 1700 hrs. sound?" he called over his shoulder.

"That's fine with me."

"I'll reserve it for a couple of hours, then," Chakotay stated.

Tom finished his lunch, then cleared the dishes away. "I'm off to get my stuff now," he said as he walked towards the door.

He stopped then, and looked at the First Officer who had reseated himself at the table.

"I really appreciate you letting me stay here, Chakotay. I don't think anyone else would put up with me. You're a really good friend. Thank you."

Chakotay smiled warmly at him. "Go get your things, Tom," he instructed. "And think about what program we can run on the holodeck later."

"Will do, Commander. See you later."


Chakotay sighed and picked up his work. He wanted to get the reports finished as quickly as he could, so soon became deeply engrossed in them. He didn't look up until the door chime interrupted him, almost two hours later, when he was just putting the finishing touches to the penultimate report.

"Enter," he called out.

Tom walked slowly through the door, carrying a large holdall. Chakotay got up and took the bag from him, then carried it into the bedroom. When he returned to the living area, Tom was slouched down on the couch with a forlorn look on his face. Chakotay sat next to him, placing a comforting hand on Tom's arm. "What happened, Tom? Was B'Elanna there?" he asked softly.

"No," Tom sighed. "But it was awful, Chakotay. Really awful. I kept looking around our quarters, and all I could imagine was her and Harry together. I kept wondering where it had happened. Did they use our bed? The couch? Everywhere I looked, I could see them. I could hear them laughing at me." He started to become distressed, then. "Why did they do it? Why wasn't she satisfied with me? What did I do wrong?"

Tears spilled down Tom's cheeks, and Chakotay pulled him close. "You didn't do anything wrong, Tom. Don't blame yourself for their acts. They're the ones in the wrong, not you."

"I must have done something!" Tom insisted. "I always do!"

"No, Tom," Chakotay said, quietly, but forcefully, as he wrapped his arms tightly around the younger man. "You don't deserve this. You're a good man, so don't put yourself down."

They sat together, Chakotay rubbing Tom's back gently until he relaxed.

"What am I going to do? I don't know what to do," Tom mumbled into the First Officer's shoulder, eventually pulling away and sitting back against the arm of the couch, dejected.

"What do you want to do Tom? Do you think you can work this out with B'Elanna? Do you think that's possible?"

Tom stared at the floor. "I don't think I can forgive her for this," he said sullenly. "I mean, I loved her, but how can I even look at her now, knowing the baby she's carrying isn't mine?" He shifted slightly and sighed. "When it's born, it's going to be a constant reminder of her betrayal."

He looked at Chakotay with such sorrow on his face that the big man felt tears sting his eyes.

"I can't do it, Chakotay. I don't want to take responsibility for another man's child. I don't see why I should! I'm going to step away and let B'Elanna and Harry sort out their own mess."

Chakotay nodded slowly. "I can understand that, Tom. I think I would do the same thing in your situation."

"You don't think I'm being heartless or anything, then?"

"No, I don't. I don't know why this happened exactly, but B'Elanna and Harry are both adults and they should accept the consequences of their actions," Chakotay said seriously.

"I always thought Harry was my best friend. For him to do this, hurts more than if B'Elanna was pregnant by my worst enemy. I want to ask him why he did it. I also want to hit him. But most of all, I never want to see him again!" Tom shrugged. "I make a lot of sense, don't I?" He closed his eyes and rested his head against the back of the chair.

"Actually, Tom, you do make sense. This has been a terrible shock for you, and you're bound to have conflicting emotions, but they all make sense.

"I think you've already started to accept what's happened though, and now I think you need to take some time to think about your future. You don't want to rush into doing something that you might regret later," Chakotay advised.

"Yeah, you're right. But I can't honestly see my marriage surviving this. How can it?" Tom sighed, wearily.

"You look worn out, Tom. Why don't you go and lay down for awhile? We've got about an hour and a half until our holodeck time, That is, if you still want to go."

"I still want to go," Tom affirmed. "But I think I *will* have a nap first. Thanks for listening to me, Chakotay. And for your advice and support. It means a lot."

"You're welcome, Tom. Now go and rest. I'll wake you up later."

"Thanks," Tom said, and made his way to the bedroom. He stretched out on top of the bed but, even before he fell asleep, he felt as though he was in a dream world. Nothing seemed real anymore.

He wondered how his life could fall apart the way it had. How could B'Elanna and Harry betray him? His wife and his so-called best friend! He could hardly believe it.

And, just as surprising, but very welcome, was Chakotay's attitude towards him. Tom knew he'd be a wreck by now, if not for his C.O.'s help.

With effort, Tom put his thoughts aside and drifted off to sleep.


In the other room, Chakotay worked on his last report, his mind occupied with Tom's troubles and the additional distraction of which holodeck program to run.

It took him an hour to finish his work, then he stacked it with the rest, deciding to go and check on Tom. However, as he pushed his chair away from the table, a bleary-eyed Tom appeared in the doorway.

"Hey. Feel any better?" Chakotay asked.

"Yeah, I do. I needed that. What time is it?"

"About 1630 hrs. We're due on the holodeck in half an hour, but I'm still not sure about a program. Do you want something relaxing or invigorating?" 

"I don't mind. Although if I'm honest, I'm probably slightly more in favour of the invigorating option," Tom answered.

"How about canoeing then?"

"Sounds good. I'll go get changed."

"Okay, I'm just going to drop these reports off quickly. I won't be long."


Two and a half hours later, the two men left the holodeck.

Tom felt exhilarated. He'd managed to forget his problems for a short time and just throw himself into Chakotay's rather demanding canoeing program. It had been a very welcome distraction.

"That was great, Chakotay! I wouldn't mind doing that again sometime."

"You did really well, Tom. I think we could run it at a higher level next time."

"You mean it gets harder?"

They discussed the program all the way back to the First Officer's quarters, where they changed to get ready for dinner in the Mess hall.

"Are you sure you want to brave the Mess hall? Because we can eat here if you'd rather," Chakotay offered.

"No, that's okay, Chakotay, I need to go. I'm not gonna let B'Elanna and Harry take away any more of my life than they already have," Tom stated.

"Good for you, Tom. But, if it does get too much, just say so and we'll come back."


When they got to the Mess hall, it was fairly quiet. Neelix was preoccupied and had his back towards them, so they managed to escape with their meals to a table in the corner. They sat side by side in companionable silence, alternating between picking at their food and staring out of the view port.

Neither of them saw Harry Kim enter.

He crossed the room, to their table, and spoke quietly, taking both men by surprise. "Tom, I need to talk to you."

Tom looked up, into the face of the man he had always regarded as his only true friend. "What could you possibly have to say to me that I'd want to hear?" he asked calmly.

"Look, Tom, I'm sorry. I need to explain," Harry tried again.

"You're sorry! You get my wife pregnant, and you're sorry!" Tom slammed his fork down on the table. "What is there to explain, Harry? " he asked, glaring at him. "What can you possibly say, or do, that will give me my life back?"

Chakotay put his hand on Tom's arm. "You don't need a scene here, Tom," he advised gently.

Chakotay turned then, and looked at Harry. "I suggest, Ensign, that you continue this discussion somewhere more appropriate. If Mr. Paris wishes to, that is." 

Chakotay shifted his gaze back to Tom. "Do you want to talk to Ensign Kim?" he asked.

"No, Chakotay, I don't. Not now, not ever!" Tom answered emphatically.

"In that case, Mr. Kim, I suggest you leave the Lieutenant alone," the First Officer said, turning once again to Harry. "Incidentally, I'd like to let you know that it's quite possible you may be working a different shift shortly. I'll let you know the details in due course. Dismissed, Ensign."

Harry looked at Chakotay and then at Tom.

Tom turned away, his face pale and eyes blurred with unshed tears as Harry exited the Mess hall, and Tom's life.

"I thought you needed to know, Tom?" Chakotay asked softly.

"I thought I did, but I'm not ready yet. I'm not sure, now, if I'll ever be ready. The only thing I'm certain about is that Harry Kim is no longer my friend. If he ever was." A stray tear escaped, running down Tom's cheek, and he brushed it away quickly. "Would you mind if I went back to your quarters now? I'm not hungry any more."

"I'll go with you, Tom. Come on." Chakotay got up and took Tom's arm, helping him to his feet.

They walked quickly, and quietly, back to the cabin.

Once inside, Tom's control of his emotions vanished. He slumped onto the couch, his previously unshed tears cascading unashamedly down his face. He no longer had the strength, nor the inclination, to hold them at bay.

Chakotay stood, tears in his own eyes, and silently cursed B'Elanna and Harry for doing this to Tom.

Chakotay moved to the couch and once again took Tom into his arms. Tom held onto him as though his life depended on it, and he sobbed until his tears ran dry. "It hurts so much," he whispered plaintively.

Chakotay rubbed Tom's back soothingly, and sighed. Nothing he could say would take Tom's pain away. Time would normally be the answer, but Tom's assessment that the baby would be a constant reminder would probably prove correct, Chakotay thought.

He sighed again and pulled Tom even closer. This physical act of compassion was all he could offer the younger man right now, and it seemed to be needed. Tom snuggled deeper into Chakotay's embrace, any earlier reticence he may have had completely forgotten.

Tom's mind was numb as he sat wrapped up in the big man's arms, and he found himself becoming sleepy. Chakotay noticed, and decided Tom would be better off in bed. "Come on, Tom. I think you'd better make your way to the bedroom before I end up having to carry you. I'm not sure I could manage that."

Tom gave him a small smile and stood up shakily. Chakotay took his arm and led him to the bedroom, then Tom sat wearily on the bed while Chakotay got the holdall out.

"Do you have sleep wear in here, Tom?"

Tom nodded. "Yeah, there's a pair of old shorts just inside, on the top."

Chakotay retrieved the shorts and passed them to Tom. "I'm just going to have a quick shower, unless you want to go first."

"No that's okay, I'm too tired right now. I'll wait until morning," Tom said, slowly pulling off his shoes.

Chakotay disappeared into the bathroom, returning ten minutes later with a towel around his waist, and his dark hair plastered to his forehead.

Tom lay staring at the ceiling, until Chakotay dropped the comb he'd been using and it bounced off the cabinet with a clatter. Tom jumped.

"Sorry," Chakotay apologised. "I didn't mean to startle you. I'm getting clumsy in my old age."

Tom smiled, then watched as Chakotay found a pair of sleep pants in the drawer. He dropped the towel from around his waist, unconsciously giving the pilot a momentary glimpse of a less than old-looking, naked Commander, before he pulled on the pants and tightened the drawstring. He moved to the bed then, picking up one of the pillows, and Tom looked at him quizzically.

"What are you doing?" Tom asked.

"I thought you might like the bed to yourself tonight," Chakotay answered.

"Why would you think that? I don't mind sharing, you know. And besides, it's your bed."

"I wasn't sure if you'd be comfortable with me here, after what I told you this morning," Chakotay said quietly.

"You mean the fact that you're gay?" Tom asked gently.

"Yes. Some people do have problems with facts like that, you know. I usually keep that one to myself." He paused slightly. "You're the only person on this ship who knows, Tom."

"I'm glad you trusted me enough to tell me, Chakotay, but it doesn't bother me. Not in the slightest. So put your pillow back and get in bed. That's an order!"

Chakotay grinned. "Yes, Sir, Lieutenant!" He climbed into bed and ordered the lights out.

They lay side by side, each occupied with his own thoughts, until Tom broke the silence. "Chakotay, I want to thank you. You've done so much for me. I don't know how I'll ever be able to repay you."

"You don't need to repay me, Tom. I'm happy to help. I just wish I could do more," Chakotay replied, and Tom could hear the sincerity in his voice.

"All I can do is say 'thank you', but it seems so inadequate," Tom said, looking at Chakotay in the light from the passing stars.

Chakotay looked back and smiled. "Believe me Tom, 'thank you' is plenty," he said. "Now get some rest."

Tom sighed. "Goodnight, Chakotay."

"Goodnight, Tom,"  the older man replied.

He placed a quick kiss on Tom's forehead, then rolled to face away from him and Tom smiled into the darkness.

Both men quickly succumbed to a much needed sleep.

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