|As One Door Closes
It was several hours later that Tom partially awoke, finding himself comfortably wound around his C.O.
Chakotay was fast asleep, oblivious to the fact that Tom was draped across his chest and that his own arms were around the Lieutenant's body, holding him securely.
Tom remembered what Chakotay had said earlier, about sometimes needing someone in his arms, regardless of gender, and Tom found he had to agree.
He really needed physical contact right now, and the Commander's body was warm and inviting. He burrowed further into the other man's embrace and, as he did, Chakotay automatically tightened his hold on him.
Tom drifted peacefully back to sleep.
Tom was still in the same position when he awoke the next morning. Except for one slight difference. Chakotay now only had one arm around him.
Tom lay there, warm and relaxed, as Chakotay gently ran his fingers over and through his hair. It felt good, and Tom was in no hurry to move. He lay there, eyes closed, pondering the last time he had felt so content and safe.
His mind drifted back to the days when he was a small boy. His mother had held him close to her, keeping his fears at bay. He loved how good it felt when someone else was looking out for him.
He relished the feeling of relinquished responsibility, and wished, briefly, that it could always be this way. He sometimes got tired of being in charge of his own life, especially when it turned out so badly.
Tom felt Chakotay's hand brush gently over his cheek, it's touch warm and caring, and he opened his eyes. He was met by the soft, gentle gaze of the man in whose arms he lay.
Chakotay smiled warmly at him. "Sleep well?" he enquired.
"Like a baby," Tom answered, smiling back.
He made no attempt at moving away, so Chakotay didn't move either. The older man just lay there, unconsciously petting Tom's hair.
Eventually, reluctantly, Tom came to the conclusion that he had to get up.
"I need the bathroom," he stated, and gently extricated himself from Chakotay's arms. "Perhaps I'll have that shower now as well, if you don't mind."
"I don't mind at all. There's fresh towels just inside the door. Help yourself to whatever you need."
Tom nodded and smiled, then disappeared into the bathroom.
Chakotay lay in bed, listening to the running water. He closed his eyes and thought back to the moment when he'd woken that morning, to find his arms full of a sleeping Tom Paris.
He'd dreamed of that happening, many times, but had concluded it would never happen in reality. Now that it had, he wished it was under different circumstances.
Tom was married, and he'd been hurt badly. Chakotay would not take advantage of him, no matter how good Tom felt in his arms.
He sighed, and wondered why he always had to do the noble thing. There was also, he reminded himself, still one other small factor to take into account. Tom was straight.
Chakotay sighed again.
The bathroom door slid open and Tom stepped, naked, into the bedroom. There was still a trace of water on his back, where the towel had failed to reach.
Chakotay watched, mesmerised, as Tom bent over to rummage in his bag. He sternly tried to remind himself of his noble thoughts of just moments ago, but it was hard.
'Most definitely hard,' he thought, ruefully, as his hand moved under the covers towards his groin. He closed his eyes, to shut out the sight of Tom putting on a clean pair of shorts.
A moment later, Chakotay felt the bed dip. He hastily moved his hand from under the covers, then opened his eyes to find Tom climbing back into bed. Tom noticed the other man's puzzled expression.
"You don't mind, do you?" he asked. "It's just that, when I woke up this morning, I felt really good. I'd like it to last a little longer, if that's okay with you."
Chakotay smiled. "I have no objections. I'm all for anything that feels good."
Tom gave a chuckle and moved closer to Chakotay. He was soon wrapped up in the big man's arms again, with Chakotay's cheek laying gently on top of his head. Tom hoped the Commander was feeling as content as he was.
Finding out that Chakotay was gay had been a surprise, and Tom wondered how difficult it must have been for Chakotay to keep it a secret for so long. And how lonely it must have been, too. But he understood Chakotay's predicament.
There was still a small amount of hostility towards gay men, and being First Officer made it difficult for Chakotay to have any sort of relationship with someone under his command.
Tom thought about this, and concluded that Chakotay's choice of a partner would have to come from among the senior staff.
'Well then,' Tom thought, 'that would give him a choice between Tuvok, Harry or me.'
No, Tuvok wasn't an option. Even if Tuvok wasn't married, Tom couldn't quite see Chakotay falling for Tuvok. That left Harry and himself.
Tom flashed back to his conversation with Chakotay the previous morning.
//"The problem is, he's 100% straight and already in a relationship."//
Harry wasn't in a relationship. Well, not an aboveboard one of his own, anyway. So that left Tom.
//"I don't suppose I can ask who it is?"
"You wouldn't want to know."//
And Chakotay had cut the conversation short by swiftly changing the subject.
'Could I be right?' Tom thought. 'Is it me that Chakotay's attracted to?'
He shifted slightly in the other man's grasp and glanced up at his face. Chakotay's eyes were closed and he looked relaxed, a tiny smile playing around his lips.
'Chakotay's a good man,' Tom thought. 'Anyone would be very lucky to have him in their life.'
He felt a sudden rush of emotion pass through him as he realised just how caring Chakotay had been towards him.
'It's not fair for the man to be on his own,' Tom thought, sadly. 'Not when he's got so much love to share.'
His reverie was interrupted by a loud growl from Chakotay's stomach, and gentle shaking as he chuckled.
"I think that was the breakfast alarm. Come on, time for food," Chakotay said as he moved away from Tom and sat up.
Tom watched as Chakotay pulled on the robe that had been on a nearby chair, and smiled at the sight of Chakotay's mussed hair.
'He's certainly a lot different off duty,' Tom mused.
An hour later, breakfast was finished and the two men sat relaxing on the couch, both dressed in comfortable off-duty clothes. Tom sighed suddenly and looked across at Chakotay.
"I think I need to go and see B'Elanna today. The last time I spoke with her was before I saw her in sickbay."
Chakotay nodded and Tom continued. "I think I should go and speak to the Captain as well. She's been great, letting me have time off without knowing what the problem is."
"She thinks very highly of you, Tom. She knows you wouldn't have time off if it wasn't necessary."
"You've had a lot to do with it, Chakotay. You're the one who's been dealing with her for me. You've helped me no end. Thanks."
"My pleasure, Tom," Chakotay answered. "Who will you see first?"
"It's got to be B'Elanna. After all, no matter what she has to say to me, I've already decided what's going to happen. And I'll need to see the Captain then, anyway."
"How do you mean?" Chakotay asked.
"Well, like I said before, I intend to step away. I don't want anything more to do with B'Elanna, Harry or their child. I'm going to tell B'Elanna that I want a divorce." Tom sighed heavily. "The Captain will have to process it, so I'll see her afterwards and get it all out of the way."
"You're really sure about this, Tom?"
"Yes, I am. I've thought about it, and I know it's what has to be done. What I want to do," Tom replied quietly, but confidently.
"Okay. Then, perhaps you should go and see B'Elanna now and have done with it. She isn't on duty today. If you'd like, I can let the Captain know that you'll want to speak to her later," Chakotay offered.
"Yeah, that would help." Tom paused for a moment. "I suppose I should check out the vacant cabins as well, get my own place again."
"You don't need to do that today. Not if you don't want to. There's no rush, you know."
Tom smiled gratefully, then nodded. "Okay. It might be a bit much on top of everything else."
"I think so. I also think you may need some company later. And besides, if you're not here, I'm going to worry about you," Chakotay finished, looking a little sheepish.
Tom felt tears well up in his eyes and he placed his hand on Chakotay's shoulder.
"I don't deserve a friend like you, but I'm really glad you're here. You've kept me from falling apart." he said as he pulled the big man in for a hug "Thank you for everything, Chakotay."
Chakotay hugged him back until Tom eventually pulled away. "Wish me luck?"
"Good luck, Tom. I'll be here when you get back."
Tom smiled his thanks and headed out of the cabin.
He made his way, pensively, to the quarters that he and B'Elanna had shared since their wedding, six months earlier.
Six months! And B'Elanna was four months pregnant!
How quickly she'd been involved with Harry, hadn't sunk in before.
Within two months of being married to Tom, she was pregnant with Harry's child. How long had they been seeing each other? Since the wedding, or before, even? Had it been just a one-time thing?
Tom didn't know yet. He still wasn't sure if he wanted to.
He stopped outside their quarters, hesitated a second, then pressed the chime. He didn't want to walk straight in as he no longer felt it was his home.
B'Elanna's voice called out for him to enter and he stepped inside.
B'Elanna was sitting at the table and her face clearly registered her shock at seeing Tom.
"Hello, B'Elanna. I thought it was about time we talked," Tom said, moving across to the table and pulling out another chair. "I've come to tell you I want a divorce."
Forty five minutes later, Tom emerged from his old quarters. He still couldn't believe how calmly he'd reacted as B'Elanna had told him about her and Harry.
She'd decided, almost immediately after, that her marriage to Tom had been a mistake, and had turned to Harry for advice. Advice that had quickly turned to physical comfort.
When she'd become pregnant, she hadn't been sure whose baby she carried.
She had told Harry about the baby, and he'd said he would stand by her, so B'Elanna had agreed to Tom's request for a divorce.
He wasn't sure why, but after the sadness, anger and hopelessness he'd previously felt about the situation, Tom now felt relieved in a way. He wouldn't have to face B'Elanna again. It was done. He would collect the rest of his things when she wasn't there, then they would continue their lives. Separately.
Tom paused in the corridor and contacted the Captain. She was free and could see him now. Chakotay had already told her that Tom wanted to see her, so she had kept her schedule clear.
Tom stepped out of the turbolift and onto the bridge.
He could feel Harry's eyes on him as he crossed to the ready room, but he had no wish to look in Harry's direction. Tom pressed the chime and Janeway called for him to enter, then motioned for him to sit.
"How are you, Tom?" she asked.
"To be honest, Captain, I'm not quite at my best at the moment," Tom replied.
"Do you want to tell me what's happened?" she asked softly.
"I'm not sure I want to go into too many details, but what it boils down to is that B'Elanna and I have agreed to a divorce," he said calmly.
"A divorce!" Janeway sat stunned for a moment. "Chakotay said it was serious, but I never guessed it would be this bad." She shifted forward in her seat and looked sadly at him. "What about the baby, Tom?" she asked gently.
Tom gave a soft snort. "Well, there's the crux of the matter. The baby isn't mine."
"Good God!" Janeway exclaimed, sitting back in shock. "No wonder you're not at your best." She sat regarding him silently for a few minutes. "Is there anything I can do for you, Tom? Can I help in any way?" she finally asked.
"I'd be grateful if you could process the divorce as quickly as possible, Captain. Other than that, I don't think there's much you can do. Thank you, anyway."
"You *are* sure about the divorce?"
Tom nodded. "Very sure."
"Well, then, I'll sort it out immediately. But, if you need someone to talk to, I will always be available."
Tom smiled. "Thank you, Captain, but I'll be okay. Besides, I've got Chakotay looking after me and he's already seen me at my worst. I don't feel as embarrassed with him as I might with someone else." he answered honestly.
"I'm glad you're talking to someone, Tom. This is too much to go through on your own. Chakotay's a good man, I know he'll help you as much as he can."
"He's been great, so far," Tom confirmed. "I would have fallen apart without him."
"Do you think you would be able to return to duty in, say, three days time? Or is that too soon?"
"No, that's fine, Captain. I'll make sure I'm there." Tom stated.
"Good. In the meantime, get your living arrangements sorted out and I'll take care of the other business."
She looked thoughtful. "It might be best if Chakotay has the next few days off, as well. I'll let him know."
"Thank you, Captain, I'll see you in three days, then," Tom said, standing up and turning to leave.
"Take care, Tom," Janeway said as he walked to the door.
"I will, thanks."
After Tom had left his cabin, Chakotay decided to meditate. He wanted to be in the right frame of mind to continue helping Tom.
He instructed the computer to open the doors on Tom's arrival, in case he was still otherwise engaged. That done, he sat cross-legged on his rug, wearing only a pair of loose pants, and started his meditation session.
As it turned out, his forward planning with the doors proved necessary.
Tom approached Chakotay's quarters and was momentarily taken aback as the doors automatically opened for him.
He entered to find the First Officer sitting on the floor, looking extremely calm and relaxed. Chakotay's eyes were closed and he was smiling. Tom looked at him and smiled himself.
He'd seen a different side of Chakotay the last couple of days, a private side, one that wasn't normally on show.
'This is another facet of his personality,' Tom thought.
As Tom watched him, Chakotay opened his eyes. He spotted Tom immediately. "You okay?" he asked. "How did it go?"
"I'm fine," Tom answered, then proceeded to tell Chakotay everything that had happened, including Janeway's pronouncement that Chakotay should have the next couple of days off.
It was at this point that Chakotay noticed the message indicator blinking on his computer terminal. He rose and crossed to it. Turning it on, he found confirmation of his leave. "Well," he said, turning to Tom with a smile. "We seem to have some free time on our hands. Got anything planned?"
Tom grinned back, then became a little more serious. "Actually, I think I should get a few things sorted out first, then relax later."
"What sort of things?" Chakotay asked, moving towards the replicator. "Coffee?" he enquired.
"Yeah, thanks," Tom replied, sitting on the couch. "I need to sort out a cabin, tomorrow," he said, in answer to Chakotay's original question. "I need somewhere to put all my stuff. I can't leave it with B'Elanna much longer."
Chakotay sat down next to him and placed the coffee on the low table in front of them. He looked carefully at Tom. "Will you be all right on your own?"
"Well, actually," Tom started. "I'm not sure. I was going to get the new place ready, but ask you if you'd mind me sleeping here until we go back on duty."
Tom's face was slightly flushed and Chakotay knew he was embarrassed. "That's fine with me, Tom. I've already told you, I'm here as long as you need me to be. You're welcome to stay as long as you want."
"Thanks, Chakotay. I don't want to be on my own just yet."
"Then you won't be," Chakotay stated. "Anything else?"
"Not at the moment."
Tom sighed. "One thing I'm not looking forward to is the gossip. I just know who'll be cast as the villain."
"You know the truth, Tom. That's all that matters."
"Yeah. Sure." Tom wasn't convinced but he gave the other man a grateful smile.
They drank their coffee in silence, then Tom looked Chakotay up and down. "My old Sandrine's program is running again, you know. You fancy getting dressed and going?" he asked. "Or are you gonna sit around half-naked for the rest of the day?"
Chakotay laughed. "Perhaps I could compromise," he suggested. "And go to Sandrine's like this."
"No way!" Tom declared. "You do that and someone's gonna take a fancy to you, then I'll be left with my own company all night!"
"I guess I better get dressed then," Chakotay grinned as he headed for the bedroom. "You know," he called out from the door. "We haven't had dinner yet. Perhaps we should call in at the Mess hall on the way."
"Okay," Tom agreed. "Sandrine's and pool. *If* we survive our meals."
As it turned out, dinner was not only edible but enjoyable as well. So, feeling full and happy, Tom and Chakotay strolled to the holodeck.
Sandrine's was already running and, although there was a fair crowd, the pool table was free. Tom staked his claim to it, while Chakotay ordered a couple of beers.
They'd already played several competitive games when the captain arrived. She spotted the two men seating themselves at a corner table, drinks in hand.
She stood contemplating them for awhile, noticing how much more relaxed Tom seemed in Chakotay's company than he had been in her office earlier. He was smiling broadly, and so was her First Officer.
She debated whether she ought to interrupt, but decided Tom needed to hear her news. She picked her way through the crowd and stopped at their table. "Good evening, gentlemen. Would you mind if I joined you for a moment?"
Chakotay stood, pulling out a chair for her. "Have a seat, Captain," he said.
She smiled, then looked at Tom. "I need to talk to you, Tom. Is it all right if I speak in front of the Commander? Or would you prefer to talk in private?"
"That's okay, Captain. Chakotay knows everything, anyway, and I'd rather he was here," Tom replied, glancing across at his C.O.
"Very well. I just thought you should know that B'Elanna came to see me earlier. She verified her agreement to the divorce. I've completed the paperwork, and it will be officially notified in the computer system tomorrow." She gave Tom a sympathetic smile. "I'm sorry, but that's when it will become public knowledge."
"I understand, Captain. Thank you for letting me know tonight. I'll be more prepared for it now."
"Good, but remember there are people here to help. Don't suffer alone," she warned gently.
"He won't be alone, Kathryn," Chakotay chipped in. "I'll be keeping an eye on him."
Tom smiled gratefully at Chakotay, who gave him a warm smile back.
"Would you like a drink, Captain?" Tom asked, shifting his gaze back to Janeway.
"No, thank you, I can't stay," she said, rising "A captain's work is never done." With that she bid them 'good night', and left.
"Another drink, Tom?" Chakotay asked.
"Yeah, thanks. I'll have a scotch."
Chakotay rose and went to the bar, returning a few minutes later with two glasses of scotch.
"You on the hard stuff as well?"
"Can't let you drink on your own, can I?" Chakotay explained, grinning.
"So, how come people think you don't drink? All you seem to need is a good enough excuse," Tom observed.
"Most people don't know me, Tom," Chakotay stated seriously. "I don't give out information to all and sundry. I keep a lot of things to myself. But, if people want to talk about me, then as far as I'm concerned they can say what they like. I'm not bothered as long as I know the truth."
"You said something like that to me earlier. I might have to remember it over the next few days," Tom said, gulping his scotch down.
"I'll be around to remind you," Chakotay said sincerely.
Tom yawned. "I think I need to sleep," he stated.
"You've had an emotionally exhausting day, I'm not surprised you're tired. Do you want to head home?"
Tom was quiet for a moment, absorbing what Chakotay had just said. The man was happy to let Tom regard his own quarters as home.
Tom nodded. "Yeah," he said. "I want to head home."
By the time they reached the First Officer's quarters, Tom was almost dead on his feet. He stumbled as they entered, and would have fallen if Chakotay hadn't caught him around the waist, just managing to keep him upright.
"Come on, you," Chakotay said. "Bed." He carefully guided Tom to the bedroom and Tom collapsed on the bed. He lay sprawled on top of the covers, all his energy spent. Chakotay tugged off Tom's shoes and socks, then moved further up to tackle his shirt. "I need your help here, Tom," he whispered as he tried to remove it.
Tom wearily opened his eyes, then managed to roll enough for Chakotay to free his arms from the shirt sleeves. Tom fumbled hopelessly at the fastenings to his pants. "Can't do it," he muttered.
Chakotay took over and soon had Tom stripped down to his shorts. He managed to get Tom under the covers, then set about removing his own clothes before he climbed into bed and called the lights down.
As he got comfortable, he felt Tom's hand on his chest. The rest of him soon followed as Tom arranged himself the same way that he'd been when he'd woken up that morning.
Chakotay looked at Tom. His eyes were closed and he already seemed to be asleep. Chakotay smiled and snorted softly, then wrapped his arms around the pilot in a loving embrace. He kissed Tom, softly, on the top of his head, then slipped into a peaceful sleep.
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