under revision

This story tied 1st Place for
Best Chakotay/Paris
in the VOY section of the 2001
Ascem Golden O Awards


Author: T'Boy (Lynda)
Series: VOY
Pairing: C/P
Rating: PG for a little language and a bit of gore.
Archive: yes please. TPDorm, ChaClub, CPSG, ASCEMLTrekiverse, just let me know please.
Notes: H/C, no sex (again), mild Tommy angst.Squick alert, for those who get squeamish.
Disclaimer: Yeah, Paramount wouldn't want it anyway.No infringement intended.
Thanks to Vanasati for beta. All errors are mine.
April 2001 

Notes:  This story has received a second beta by Datalaur, which would make it much, much better.  One day I'll get around to updating with the new beta!  Until then, thanks to Datalaur for going to all the effort, it's much appreciated.  Please read with the awareness that the story is consequently under revision.

"You know you can't just lie here, don't you?"

The highly stressed young man pressed his lips together thinly, nostrils flaring as he raked his eyes over his silent companion.

He blew out a frustrated sigh then rolled his eyes, throwing himself back against the chill stone wall of the cell.

"Yeah, I know you're the big strong silent type, but this is getting ridiculous." he muttered.

A few beats of quiet then Tom turned back again to gaze solemnly at Chakotay's still form. The commander was breathing shallowly, face clenched in pain, unconscious.

Tom shuffled over to him on his butt, muttering quietly to himself. "C'mon, you can do better than this," he ground out, lifting the thin rag of a blanket higher over Chakotay's shoulders. He peered closer at the older man's face, seeking a sign of consciousness. Finding none, he closed his eyes briefly, and swallowed.

"Shit Chakotay, c'mon. I don't know what else to do for you.' He slumped back against the wall and bowed his head.

"Oh fuck, NO!" he screamed, before the gag was wrapped over his mouth once again. His hands and feet were bound and he lay straining against the bonds, screaming into the rough cloth as the guards bent over the prone form for yet another invasive exploration of the human body.

Tears obscured his vision and he shook his head roughly to clear his sight in time to see the shiny metal blades descend. He groaned, sickened and appalled by the blood pooling beneath the aliens' feet; rich red blood. Chakotay's. 

The incision lines were a stark ugly crimson against the nut-brown skin. The aliens had a form of regenerator that allowed them to seal the deep cuts they'd made, without completely healing them.

Tom wrapped his arms around the other man's slack form, and willed his own body heat to work some magic. His mind replayed over and over the abuse that Chakotayhad suffered, seeing again the flash of silver, the abrupt spurts of blood. A muffled sob escaped him and he tightened his grip on the commander, moving his hands back and forth in sympathetic comfort, trying to coax life back to the man in his arms.

"C'mon, c'mon, it's ok,' he chanted softly. The numbing cold from the floor made him shiver, made him realise there was no way Chakotay was going to warm up like this. With a grunt, he rolled the commander's body over his own, completely separating Chakotay from the unforgiving stone. 

Allowing his own body to serve as mattress and heat source Tom shook and shivered, and prayed for Chakotay to survive.

Tom was sitting with his back against the wall, cradling Chakotay in his arms. He'd placed the older man's head against his shoulder, and drew one hand gently down the short dark hair in a soothing, repetitive motion. His breath misted in front of him as he spoke.

"Then Joey and I raced upstairs to my room and practically flew under the bed before mum even knew we'd been there. We stuffed those pieces of mud cake down so fast I thought we'd choke, trying not to laugh too loud at the same time, y'know?" He grinned weakly. "Should've seen our faces when we finally crawled outa there. Chocolate from top to bottom. Right mess." Another grin. "'Course we got caught later, mum wasn't stupid." Sigh. "But then Joey's family moved away, so that was that. End of story."

He paused in his stroking of Chakotay's hair. 

"You're not much on conversation today commander. I could do with a good laugh right now. Don't you have any stories?" Tom peered down into the unconscious face. "No? Guess not then. Not that you'd be likely to tell me if you could, I s'pose. I don't seem to inspire a warm sense of camaraderie in you, now do I?" He closed his eyes as an expression of pain passed fleetingly over his face. "Well hell Chakotay, I'd be happy just to hear a sarcastic blow-off right now. Do your worst commander, lay it on. Tell me how much you despise me, how I'm just a fuck-up waiting to happen." 

He sighed again, and resumed the soft pats. His hand trailed down the side of the others face, paler than it should have been. "'s'ok. Don't listen to me, shhh, it's ok." He closed his eyes and just concentrated on the face he touched gently, over and over.

There'd been no food for two days. Not much water either. Tom didn't know if *he* could keep going, let alone Chakotay. The older man's skin was cool and greyish, and was starting to texture like crepe paper.

Tom's throat was so sore and dry he'd stopped talking the day before. He sat with Chakotay's head in his lap, the thin covering of the blanket tucked around the man's body, Tom's shirt over Chakotay's own. He sat and shivered, numb inside and out, resigned to the aching pain of the cold, the growing hopelessness of ever being found by Voyager. But he wasn't ready to give up on the life of the man incarcerated with him, not by a long shot.

A faint rasping sound drew his head up. On the far side of the cell, a small hole in the wall attracted his attention. Acting from past experience, he quickly but gently pushed Chakotay aside, then rushed to grab the small metal bowl that stood under the opening. As he did, a tube extended about four inches from the hole, and water slowly trickled out. Carefully, Tom caught it all, holding it steady as the last few drops hovered at the end of the hose, then fell.

Taking a deep breath, Tom stood and made his way back to where Chakotay lay. He placed the bowl just to the side of the man's head, and gave a small smile.

"Hey, Chakotay. Good news. I've got some water for you. Just lift up a little here, yeah, that's right,' he said softly, kneeling next to Chakotay, and lifting his head slightly with his hands.

Tom bent low, and drew some of the cool, mineral rich water into his mouth. His own throat was pleading for him to swallow it all, ease the incredible thirst he felt. `Not yet, not yet, soon.' he reminded himself, and bent his mouth to Chakotay's. Easing one hand to the other's chin to open the dry lips, he oh-so-slowly dripped the warm life-giving liquid into Chakotay's mouth. The hand then moved to Chakotay's throat and started a gentle massage, easing the muscles and encouraging the man to swallow. 

Another mouthful, and another, then Tom allowed himself to rest. He lowered Chakotay back on to the stone floor and sat back. Picking up the bowl, he looked at it critically. `It's not going to last long, have to be careful rationing this,' he thought, then finally brought the bowl to his own lips, and took two small swallows. There was still more than half of the water left, so after a few minutes Tom returned to Chakotay, and gave him two more mouthfuls. "There you go," he whispered, "you can have more later, I promise. Rest now."

Placing the bowl carefully away from them so it wouldn't be knocked over, Tom returned to Chakotay's side, lay down and rolled the heavier body over his own. After a little while he slept.

Tom finished giving Chakotay the last of the water, then rearranged them both so that once again he sat against the wall, with Chakotay cradled in his arms. Quietly he crooned and rocked the other, comforting himself, trying to communicate to the one he held.

"You have to keep living. Stay with me. Don't give up commander. I know you're strong, you can do this. Just stay with me, I'll get us out of here somehow, I won't stop trying. You can't leave me here alone, Chakotay. I won't let you. I know you hate me babe, but I know a secret. Want to hear it?"

He looked down at the face below him and smiled a sad smile. "No, I know you don't want to hear it. I know. And I'll never tell you, not when you're better. But you can't hear me now, can you? So I'll say it anyway." A pause, a small swallow. "I love you Chakotay. I love you so much." Tom's eyes closed and he breathed deeply. Looking down at the other's face again, he continued. "I won't tell you. I don't want to see the shock on your face, see the loathing. I'm the last person you'd want to have love you. I'm the one you despise. Nothing I do or have done to make up for giving you this opinion will ever be enough, and I know it. And I respect your opinion Chakotay. You're right about me. I will never be good enough for you." 

His eyes clenched shut this time, and a small sob escaped him. He swallowed it down and shook his head roughly.

"It doesn't matter. We'll get out of here somehow, and you'll get help, and when you're better, we'll go back to the way it was. You keeping as far away from me as you can, me... wishing I was a better person, someone you could trust, someone to even like a little, maybe."

Shaking his head at his own foolishness, Tom sighed bitterly. "Yeah, and maybe I'll grow wings."

He gently lay the commander down to the floor, and picked up Chakotay's left leg. He massaged it slowly, returning circulation to muscles growing unused to movement. Gently bending the leg at the knee, then softly turning the ankle, flexing the foot, he finished and began on the other side.

Tom gnawed at his lower lip. He was worried. Not only had Chakotay failed to regain consciousness at all, but another day had passed without water. He didn't think the commander's abused system could take much more. 

There was no one to ask for help. Their captors remained unseen except for the two occasions they'd come in to the cell and sliced into Chakotay. 

Calling out loud for water had gone unanswered, if he'd even been heard. Tom rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet, arms clasped around his knees as his fear grew. 

As a germ of an idea came to him, Tom's eyes widened. It would work. Had to.

He made his way over to the bowl and picked it up, inspecting the edges. `Yeah, it'll do,' he thought.

Sitting a little away from Chakotay, Tom started sliding one edge of the bowl along the floor, back and forth.

His hands shook as he held the sharp metal edge to his arm. Tom's breathing accelerated, and his skin felt hot and clammy at the same time. `Don't be afraid, don't be afraid,' he chanted in his mind, 

`Chakotay needs this.'

As that thought lent him strength, Tom drew the metal over his flesh, wincing as the skin split and blood began to flow. Quickly he threw the bowl down and brought the cut to his lips. The bitter iron taste filled his mouth, and he gagged slightly. Dragging himself across to the prone figure, he pressed his lips against Chakotay's, and dripped the liquid into the waiting mouth. He managed this several times before dizziness overtook him, and he sat back, hand clasped around the cut where the flow was slowing.

Chakotay's lips were coloured an ugly, dangerous shade. The blood-smeared image was frightening. But Tom knew it was an illusion. His blood would save the man's life, and that's what mattered.

Bowing his head, Tom finally gave in to the quiet sobs that racked his slender frame, keening softly until he finally lay on his side, and fell into a fitful sleep.

Chakotay sat up on the biobed as the EMH entered the room.

"Can I be released to my quarters now, doctor?" he asked, chafing to be out of sickbay after so many days of recuperation.

"You may, commander. The final test results show you've recovered sufficiently. Excellent medical treatment, if I may say so." The smug, familiar expression on the hologram's face made Chakotay grin.

"If you rest for the remainder of today, I see no reason why you can't resume your duties on the bridge tomorrow, provided of course that you take it easy. No strenuous work outs for at least three days." 

With the doctor's final pronouncement out of the way, Chakotay jumped down from the biobed and pulled the remainder of his uniform on.

"Thank you doctor. I appreciate all that you've done for me," he stated softly.

"Well, I'm certainly pleased to be appreciated. I wish all my patients were as considerate," the EMH said, none too humbly. "It's true you were in a very bad condition when you were brought here, but thankfully for Mr. Paris, you were alive, though barely. Your thanks are welcome, of course, though not strictly necessary. I'm glad to have them though."

Rolling his eyes and wishing he'd kept his mouth shut, Chakotay turned to the doctor and gave a small bow of his head as he left sickbay.

Tuvok sat across from the captain in her ready room, having just delivered the final report of the rescue mission to her terminal.

"Incredible," Janeway said, shaking her head gently as she looked at the man seated across from her. "That such a relatively technologically simple society could have shielded our officers from ship's sensors for so long."

"Actually captain," the Vulcan replied, "their technology levels are quite disparate between the various sciences. In some areas they are primitive and in others, quite sophisticated. Not being humanoid, it was of relative difficulty to gauge these differences in their culture to ours. It was only an incidental investigation into such anomalies that allowed us to eventually identify the location of our crewmembers. Almost an accident." 

His admission of the failure of his team to find the commander and Mr. Paris made him appear somewhat uncomfortable, to Kathryn's trained eye at least.

"A happy accident Tuvok, and you did well. As the `ver'AK'ah' refused to deal with us, we had very little to go on, and I was beginning to think we'd never have our men back. You performed well, commander, and the mission *was* successful."

The vulcan inclined his head, acknowledging all that had been said, and that hadn't. "I think you will find the tapes most interesting, captain. The `ver'AK'ah' recorded their captives continually. It is apparent that Mr. Paris was not aware of this fact. His actions in saving the commander's life are highly commendable."

"How is he now, Tuvok?" she asked intently.

"Still withdrawn Captain. He was released from sickbay after treatment for severe malnutrition and dehydration, and physically he is back to normal. He has however remained in his quarters since his release, and has not accepted visitors. There are several reasons for the trauma of his experience to still be with him. It is possible that several sessions of counselling may be of some benefit in this case."

"What reasons are they, Tuvok?"

"I believe that watching the `ver'AK'ah' recordings will suffice to explain it to you captain," he replied, and stood to take his leave, letting her watch on her own.

A shocked and saddened woman sat back in her chair, grimly contemplating the enigma that was Tom Paris. She'd watched him over and over again, saw him give Chakotay water, massage his body, keep him warm. Listened to his heartfelt confessions, and felt her own heart constrict at the longing and loneliness she heard in his voice. Saw him ignore his own needs, saw every sacrifice he'd made, watched as he even gave of his own life's blood to keep the commander alive. Dear gods, such strength and selflessness, yet he saw himself so poorly. And apparently, so did Chakotay.

Kathryn sat and mused. She wasn't sure exactly what would be the right thing to do, but one thing she was sure of. She would be paying both men another visit.

"Janeway to Paris."

Tom started as the abrupt call came, the sound loud in the darkened room.

"Paris here, captain."

"Tom, I'd like to come over and see you in your quarters. Would now be a good time?"

A slight pause, then "That's fine captain. See you soon."

"Lights, 100 per cent." Tom looked around his living area with a critical eye. Tidying the few items laying strewn about, the chime of the door interrupted him.


"You didn't waste much time captain,' he said, a wry smile on his still thin face. "Please, come in and have a seat," he said, gesturing towards both the dining area and the couch.

Inclining her head in thanks, Janeway chose the couch. Smiling, she watched as he chose a seat opposite her. "Thanks for seeing me at such short notice, Lieutenant. I wanted to see how you are."

"Checking up on me captain?" Tom asked, a feeble attempt at banter.

"Of course. The welfare of my Chief Pilot is always my concern," she replied, smiling to take the formality off her words. "How are you Tom? Really?"

"Fine ma'am," came the soft reply, just as she'd expected.

"You know, I'm very proud of your conduct during this mission, Tom. I wanted to make sure you knew how much. Without you, I understand Chakotay's injuries, combined with the conditions you were held in, would have been proven fatal quite quickly. As it was, it was fortunate the two of you were not there for any longer than you were. The doctor tells me that the commander had almost reached the end of his endurance."

Tom swallowed hard, looking down at the floor between them, saying nothing.


He looked up; eyes hinting at distress, but all he said was "It was my duty captain. To survive until rescue. Nothing that everyone else wouldn't do in the same circumstances."

"Mr. Paris," she admonished gently, "I find your altruism in character, but quite unacceptable. You have a right to feel good about yourself, you know." She reached across and laid a hand over one of his briefly. "Are you upset at the length of time it took for us to find you? I regret that so many days passed Tom, but believe me when I tell you that everyone was doing everything they could, as fast as they could. We didn't want you down there any more than you yourselves."

"No ma'am!" he shot back, startled. "I mean, I'm sure you did everything possible. I'm just grateful you got us back, captain. It was not your fault their screens were so well hidden."

"Then what is it Tom? Something else is troubling you. Is it the mistreatment you received there? I read your report." A report that was nowhere near as detailed as it might have been, she'd discovered after watching his actions for herself. "There's always the ppportunity for you to have counselling Tom, if..."

Tom shook his head quickly, startling her into silence. "Captain..." he began.

She watched as the slight movements over Tom's face gave testament to the warring feelings within him. 

He lifted his eyes to hers, cautiously seeking something in them. He pressed his lips together once, and began again.

"It was not what they did to me. It was watching them torture the commander. I... I still find it hard to think about ma'am. It was awful. So much blood, and I was bound and helpless." He left off, his voice grown from quiet to angry, and he looked away, frustration very evident on his features.

"Yes Tom. I can understand that. I believe it would be quite unnatural not to feel angry under those circumstances. But you understand something too. What they did was not your fault. You were restrained against your will, and they attacked Chakotay against your will. What control they allowed you, you used well. You kept the both of you alive, against difficult odds. That's something I'm very grateful for, Lieutenant," she finished softly.

"Yes ma'am." His voice was quiet, but she believed she'd gotten through to him, at least part way. She wavered for a moment, trying to decide if he should know about the recordings that his captors had made. No, not right now, she concluded.

"Will you be ready to resume your post at the helm tomorrow?" she asked finally.

He shot her a look unmistakable in any time or place. "Absolutely captain,' he said, squaring his shoulders slightly. That hungry gleam in his eyes told her more than words how eager he was to fly her ship again. Satisfied, she nodded and remarked "And we'll be glad to see you there Lieutenant." She stood as if to leave.

"Uh, ma'am?" Tom asked. At her querying look, she saw he almost immediately regretted saying anything more. "Is the commander. I mean, how..." he stopped shyly, and Janeway had little trouble finishing the aborted sentence for him.

"Chakotay is fine, Tom. He's been released from sickbay, and will be back on duty tomorrow." At his relieved expression, she smiled again. "Get some rest Tom. I'll see you on the bridge in the morning."

Yes ma'am. Goodnight," he said after her as the doors closed in her wake.

Janeway pressed the chime on Chakotay's door and smiled at the man who opened it. "Welcome back, commander," she said as he moved back to invite her inside.

"Thank you captain. I understand you visited me several times in sickbay. I thank you, but I'm afraid I don't remember very much," he finished, walking towards the replicator. 

Nodding yes to the offer of coffee, she sat at the table. "You weren't in much of a state to know very much at all Chakotay," she replied glumly. "It was a close call."

"So I understand," he replied, setting the cups on the table before them, and sitting across from her.

"Actually, if it wasn't for Lieutenant Paris, we wouldn't be having any conversation at all," she tried, experimenting a little. 

Chakotay looked slightly uncomfortable and sat further back against his chair. "I'm very grateful to him captain. Yet another time that he's saved my life."

"Somehow you don't look all that pleased. Are you not happy to be alive, or are you upset at feeling indebted to Mr. Paris?" she asked, mouth turning slightly with that cynical expression Chakotay had come to know well.

He turned dark eyes on her, and growled softly "Not fair Kathryn."

"Chakotay." She shook her head and looked down at her cup. Did she really think she didn't know him that well? "Talk to me, my friend."

He took a gulp of sweetened tea, and turned her request over in his mind. Spirits, this woman was going to gnaw away at him until he gave in, he just knew it. He sighed, and placed the cup back down on the table.

"I'm not sure why I'm uncomfortable Kathryn. You know I have difficulty where Tom is concerned. I've tried to work around my... feelings for him, and I think I'm fairly successful, mostly. We work well together. Our efficiency isn't impaired when we're teamed together. I can handle just about anything that duty can throw in our laps, I think, but this was, well, just a little too close. Almost too personal."

"Remind me again, what exactly is wrong with getting `personal' with Tom?" she asked, daring him with her shrewd eyes to reveal more. 

Chakotay spluttered and looked lost. "It wouldn't work. You know that. He doesn't like me very much, that much is obvious. The best I can do, the best I can do for you and the ship, is to keep my distance. You don't need disharmony amongst the senior staff, and I certainly don't want to be the cause of any." He finished and sat back again, looking a little exhausted after his defence.

Kathryn shook her head and sat back too, thinking quickly. "I can't fault the performance of either one of you, Chakotay. You're both exemplary members of my command staff. You have indeed worked well together. And I admit, I agreed with you when you told me how you felt about Tom, that it was probably best to leave it alone." She paused. "But I think that's about to change, if you don't know the truth soon."

"Truth?" he queried, blinking. Something churned a little inside him.

"Chakotay, it isn't true that Tom dislikes you. And I know that he also believes that you dislike him."

Disbelief was clearly written on his face. "How would you know such a thing?"

Janeway hesitated. If her instincts were wrong in this, she may cause far more damage than she was trying to heal. She decided to play an open hand.

"This isn't easy for me to tell you, my friend. Please wait and hear me out, and if you want me to stop then, I will. Will you listen?" she asked quietly.

Chakotay wasn't sure what was worse, the suspense of not knowing whatever information she held, or the fear of knowing things too painful to stand. Obviously whatever news Kathryn had was sensitive, at least. Licking suddenly dry lips he nodded at her to continue.

"You were unconscious your entire incarceration. Tom was left to care for you, the `ver'AK'ah' had no interest in you beyond a few medical investigations, it seems. How they indulged in them however was through torture, and Tom witnessed everything. He was bound and gagged, and forced to watch while they performed vivisection."

She stopped as Chakotay turned pale. "Chakotay. Are you alright?"

He blinked, and made an effort to breathe normally. 

"Yeah," he managed. "Gods. That must have been..."

"Terrifying," she finished. "Absolutely. And in spite of his experience, Tom continued to care for you in truly heroic ways Chakotay. He never lost his resolve, never faltered."

Chakotay looked down at the table and swallowed hard, trying to imagine how it must have been. Then a thought crossed his mind.

"How do you know this? Was it in his report?"

"Not exactly," she replied, with a touch of irony in her face. "His report contained many things, but down played his own efforts. We had another source of information."

At the ensuing silence, Chakotay's eyebrow rose. "Are you going to tell me?"

"We... found a recording. The `ver'AK'ah' continuously taped the activities within your cell. Tuvok located it and brought it back to Voyager."

Chakotay's stunned expression dismayed her, though she'd been expecting it. "Chakotay, it contains graphic detail of your torture. I'm not sure if it's right for you to witness it, but..."

"I want to see it Kathryn."


"Yes, I know, it will be... hard to take. I know. But I have to do this. You do understand." It wasn't a question.

She nodded slowly. "Yes, I agree," she replied, breathing out softly. "But what is important for you to see is Tom, Chakotay. What he does, and... what he says. He doesn't know about the tape. Doesn't know that you will watch it."

She turned suddenly uncertain eyes to him. "You're a strong person my friend. If you can sit through this, I think the end might be good for both of you. I certainly hope so."

Chakotay brought both his hands around to clasp hers. "I'll take your advice Kathryn. I'll watch, and I'll be... careful. I promise. I'd like to prepare myself first though."

"Of course Chakotay," she answered, relieved that he was going to take his time, meditate first to pave the way for the shocks to come. "I'll leave you now," she finished, standing up and retrieving the data disk from her jacket. She lay it down on the table.

"Thank you Kathryn," Chakotay quietly said, and stood as she left the room.

He stared a few more moments at the innocent looking disk, then turned to gather his medicine bundle.

`Oh Spirits, dear god, spirits, oh...' Chakotay rocked back and forth, watching in fascinated horror, as he was sliced open, guts laid bare. He quelled the nausea rising within him, and turned his attention to the hysterically screaming figure in the corner of the frame. Tears slid down his face as he watched Tom twist and writhe, cry uncontrollably, and scream through the gag until his voice was hoarse. The pain in the young man's face was alive, it burned across Chakotay's vision, and he in turn cried openly into his hand. Dear gods, what did we do...? He watched some more.

An exhausted Chakotay stumbled up from sleep to fumble the blankets away from his face. "Alarm," he croaked, and the computer went mercifully silent.

He lay there as memory crowded in. After viewing the tape, he'd cried himself to exhaustion, but the tension wouldn't leave him enough to sleep. He'd commed the doctor, and the hypospray that appeared in his replicator moments later soon put him under. 

The doctor had also prescribed further bed rest, letting his patient know that the captain would be informed that the commander would appear for the second half of his shift only. Chakotay looked at the chronometer, and headed for the shower. He had to be on the bridge in less than an hour.

Chakotay let the warm jets of water run over his body, easing the tired muscles. After a good, long relaxing time, he turned the water off and stepped out to grab a towel. Playing the soft fabric against his skin, he thought about the amazing, no, incredible scenes he'd witnessed the night before.

There were no words to describe the level of sacrifice Tom had made. Chakotay's breath caught every time he replayed each event in his mind. Tom had let his body be used to shield Chakotay from the floor, giving him water from his own mouth, even blood from his own body! He'd been fretted over, and petted and soothed, talked to and held, cried to and touched with such gentleness.

Spirits. Chakotay's eyes welled again, and he dashed the tears from his face as he dressed, and walked to the replicator to order breakfast.

Sitting down with the warm seeded bread roll and fruit, a steaming cup of herbal tea wafting its soothing fragrance to his face, he closed his eyes and listened again.

`I love you Chakotay. I love you so much.'

He didn't think he'd ever stop hearing those words, said with such anguish.

A short while later, the breakfast dishes were returned to the recycler and Chakotay turned to sit on the couch. There was still time before his shift to sit and think.

What was he feeling right now? He shook his head as he tried to sort through the emotions racing through him. He was too confused, had to stop and order his thoughts before facing anyone, before facing Tom on the bridge.

OK. Breathe. What am I feeling? Love? Yes, that was there, oh spirits, it had never left. He'd loved Tom for so long, and for all that time, thought it unreciprocated. Confessing one night to Kathryn, over a long and soulful dinner, had only left him resolved to continue keeping his distance from the man. Kathryn hadn't seen any proof his feelings were returned, and stopped arguing for him to attempt to talk to Tom after he'd worn himself out defending his position.

Shame? Guilt? Oh yes, they were there too, in abundance. Shame that he'd misread the man so much, so incredibly much! Hadn't seen through the pilot's own cockiness to the defence it now clearly was. He'd encouraged the formality, the wariness.

Guilt that he'd never in a million years guessed how deeply Tom felt, how much pain he'd had to endure on his own. Chakotay could see now (oh, cursed hindsight) how lonely the young man was. All the flippancy, the casual liaisons, then the few deeply held friendships.

Chakotay groaned, letting his head fall back against the wall. So stupid! Blind! So very very wrong.

Chakotay's eyes opened, and he checked the chronometer again. Time to be on his way. He stood and adjusted his uniform. Looked at the door. And made a decision.

Tom discreetly caressed the helm controls, revelling in his return to this place he loved. 

His hesitant entrance from the turbolift before he saw that he'd arrived before Chakotay wasn't missed by the captain, but he didn't notice her attention. After a brief flash of a smile and a thumbs up to 

Harry, he moved smartly to the conn.

Immersing himself into flying the craft he loved was such a relief. This was one of the few places where he knew he was truly happy, and he spent a few moments communing with the ship, getting the feelof her again. His lady.

Only a little while though, and he realised Chakotay hadn't appeared for his shift. He fidgeted nervously, and tried to watch the turbolift without seeming to.

`The strain on his necks gonna hurt some,' Janeway thought wryly, as she watched her pilot try his nonchalant best to blend in with the efficient bridge scenery.

Deciding to spare his neck muscles, and his feelings, she put him out of his misery. Turning to address tactical, she said "Mr. Tuvok, you have the bridge. I'll be in my ready room for at least an hour. Commander Chakotay is on half shift, please see that he is not disturbed until then."

"Yes Captain," the vulcan replied, as she stood and exited the bridge.

The lift door opened, and Chakotay made his way to his seat. Kathryn was giving him a critical eye, as well as a warm smile. He gave a small but reassuring smile back as he sat and scrolled through the current status reports, quickly catching up on ship's business. Good, all was quiet, he summarised, and sat back to finally relax. The captain glanced his way meaningfully.

"All well Commander?" she asked quietly.

"Yes Captain, all systems report normal," he replied, playing the game, knowing she heard.

"Thank you Commander." She sat back and watched the next play begin.

Her pilot had tensed, oh so slightly, as he realised Chakotay had arrived. She could swear his ears had grown half an inch trying to catch everything that was quietly said behind him. 

Suppressing a small chuckle, she watched her first from the corner of her eye.

Chakotay was likewise doing a very good imitation of not paying attention to the area immediately in front of him. Every few seconds though, his glance swept over the blonde head, paused fractionally, then kept on scanning the room.

`Oh this was going to be quite a half shift,' she thought.

Shift's end, and the crew stood as their replacements filed onto the bridge to take control. Bodies turned towards the turbolift as each made their way towards their quarters, or the mess hall.

Tom's progress was suddenly halted by a figure which appeared in front of him. Schooling his features, he tried "Commander?"

"Lieutenant," Chakotay countered, "I wonder if I may speak with you please?"

"Ahh..." gods, Chakotay looked about as awkward as Tom felt. What was this? "Sure commander."

Chakotay shuffled one foot nervously. That was... different.

"Perhaps, dinner first. The mess hall?" Chakotay said awkwardly, giving Tom the strangest, weirdest feeling.

"Um, yeah, that's where I was going," he replied.

Both turned again to the turbolift and soon began the descent. Neither said anything on the short journey, and nothing was said while they selected a meal each (orange things, with green things. Nothing that wriggled).

Eventually sitting across from each other at a corner table, Tom noticed Harry and B'Elanna giving him their `what's this?' shrug, and he shrugged back, none too sure.

The commander cleared his throat, and Tom's attention was drawn back to the man in front of him.

"Mr. Paris. Um. Tom." Chakotay breathed deeply and appeared to start again. "I want to thank you for bringing me out alive. I understand it was your actions alone that helped me survive. I appreciate what you did very much."




"We're off duty Tom. You can call me by my name you know."

"O-kaaay. Chakotay." He licked his lips. "I was doing my duty. You'd have done the same for me, so would Harry, so would, well, anyone," he finished lightly.

The bronze skinned man across from him turned solemn eyes to him. "Tom, I just want you to know that it means a great deal to me."

Tom swallowed heavily. This was not a conversation he wanted to be having.

"It's ok, really. Thanks for saying it. It's over now though, right? Your safe, I'm safe, all back to normal, so no big deal."

"So you say."

"What? What do you mean?"

Chakotay looked back down at his plate. "Let's finish our meals, then talk some more, okay?"

Tom stared at him a beat or two, then picked up the utensils and slowly resumed eating dinner. 

Chakotay ate industriously, hardly looking up again from his plate.

Seated nervously on the commander's couch, Tom watched while the man walked back and forth in front of him. 

Suddenly seeming to realise his actions, Chakotay turned to the replicator and ordered a bottle of wine and some glasses.

Tom's eyebrows rose sky high in astonishment. `I'm gonna sit here and share some wine with Chakotay? Yeah, and when did the targs grow wings?' he thought, astonishment evident on his face.

Chakotay came to the couch and sat down, settling the glasses and bottle on the table. He proceeded to pour both a glass, and handed one to Tom.

"Thanks comm... Chakotay," 

A small smile played over Chakotay's mouth. 

"You're welcome," he said, and took a sip.

"So," Tom said after taking his own mouthful, "what's on your mind?"

"It's not an easy thing to tell you actually, Tom. I almost decided not to, and I'm not at all sure what you're reaction is going to be. It could be bad."

"Bad?" Tom echoed.

"Very bad," Chakotay agreed, and took another swallow.

Tom sat and thought. "Ok. So we agreed it could be bad. Why do you want to tell me then?"

"Because it's important Tom. Maybe the most important thing we could ever talk to each other about."

"We *don't* talk to each other, about anything," Tom noted ascerbically.

"I know. That appears to be part of the problem."

He let Tom digest that a moment, then the pilot turned to face him.

"Ok, so we don't talk, and now you want to. What about, exactly?"

`Spirits,' thought Chakotay, `don't back out now, this is it, this is...'



"Us?" An incredulous squeak.

"Yes. Specifically, you and me, and what we think about each other. I'll start."

"Oh, please do," groaned Tom, rolling eyes and definitely *not* believing his ears. This wasn't happening. Was it?

The commander's face turned a deeper shade of bronze, and Tom watched fascinated as the man struggled to find a way to begin.

"I've never told you before, and I've kept it pretty well hidden I think. Too well, I suppose," he said with a slight grimace to himself. "The truth is Tom, I have... feelings for you." He stopped briefly at the shock entrenching itself firmly on the face before him. "Tom, I know it's out of the blue, but I care about you. I always have but I never told you because I didn't think you might feel the same way."

Tom's mouth gaped open, and he looked at Chakotay stupidly for a few more moments. "Feelings...?"


My god. Jesus Christ and all the Saints. Buddha incarnate. Angels on high. Tom's babbling mind jerked back to the present as Chakotay abruptly stood up, too agitated to sit still any longer.

"Chakotay, I..." He paused and swallowed. "Chakotay, umm, you're just displacing your feelings of gratitude, or something, aren't you? You don't mean this."

"I do mean it, Tom, and I should have told you sooner," declared the tension filled man now leaning heavily against the table. Chakotay turned back around and faced him, resolve firming his features.

"Tell me, do you feel the same way?"

More shocked silence, as Tom tried to process everything he'd heard, not really allowing himself to believe any of it. Self protection kicked in, and he knew what to say.

"I'm sorry Chakotay. I don't know where these feelings of yours came from, but they're news to me, and frankly I find it hard to kinda believe. You don't love me, you don't even like me. That's been obvious for... forever!"

"Tom, I'll tell you as many times as it takes, until you do believe me. It is true. I won't continue to lie to you any more, it isn't right. Tom, I love you." There. It was said. Couldn't take it back.

The younger man sat very still and looked at the fascinating carpet beneath his feet.

"And what makes you think I'd be even slightly interested in you or your love, Chakotay?" he drawled cruelly, but the older man was waiting.

"This is the hard part Tom."

"*NOW* is the hard part?"

"Yeah." A few moments more, then he ventured again. "Don't get upset. Try, OK?"

At a cautious nod from the man on the couch, Chakotay drew his fists together and pounded them very softly, knuckle to knuckle.

"There's something important you don't know yet. When we were imprisoned on the planet, our captors made, made recordings of us. Of us in the cell. Of everything."

Tom's temperature plummeted as his heart seemed to stop beating and his mind froze. Oh dear god no.

Chakotay was on his knees, rubbing his hands, calling his name. 

"Tom, Tom, it's ok Tom, listen to me, it's alright." Frightened by the unmoving, stunned posture and the white face, Chakotay moved closer, taking the rigid body into his arms. "It's ok, Tom." he repeated as he rubbed the younger mans arms and back, touched his face.

A low moan started out from Tom, a deep cry, a refusal. The sound escalated, then "NO!" he yelled, standing and throwing Chakotay backwards on the floor. He just stared as Chakotay scrambled back upright and slowly approached the distraught man.


"No, Chakotay. They didn't... You didn't see..." He couldn't finish, and turned away, but Chakotay moved fast, and held him tight. "Shhh," Chakotay crooned, as the stiff form slowly dissolved, and Tom sobbed brokenly on the older man's shoulder.

Loud, heartbreaking wails were wrenched from him, but slowly, so slowly he calmed. Coming back to himself, found he was still held by warm strong arms. A few choked back sobs, and he eased himself away, and sat again on the couch.

Exhausted, he looked up tiredly at the concerned expression on Chakotay.

The commander went to the replicator and brought back a large glass of water, holding it to his mouth until Tom found the strength to take it from him. Eventually he finished and held the glass loosely at his side, feeling just as empty.

Chakotay sat back down beside him and looked at him quietly.

"You ok now?"

"I guess."

Chakotay placed the glass on the low table, and took Tom's hand in his own, rubbing it gently.

"It's over now Tom. And we'll help each other. I won't let you deal with these memories alone, I promise."

Tom just looked at him for a while.

"You watched all of the tape then?" he asked eventually.

"Most of it," Chakotay confirmed. "I played through the bits where you slept, or sat still for any length of time. But I saw everything Tom."

"And you... heard?"

"Yeah. I did."

"So. I guess you know the answer then, huh?" Tired eyes looked out of a drawn, pale face.

"Yeah. You love me too." Very quietly said.

A long pause and then "Yeah. I do."

Tom sighed. He was almost too tired to keep his eyes open any more.

"Tom? I'm going to get you to lie down on my bed now."

A seriously questioning eyebrow shot up.

Chakotay's mouth smirked slightly. "For sleep. You need to sleep. We can... talk more later."

"Later," Tom echoed, as he allowed himself to be pulled to his feet and shuffled towards the bedroom. He stared numbly at the bed as Chakotay disrobed him, trying to help a bit but nearly falling over.

"Shh, let me," said the older man, as he gently removed each garment, sitting Tom on the bed to deal with socks and shoes.

Before he knew it, Tom was sliding under cool sheets and a warm blanket was being tucked around his neck. He was almost under when he felt a light kiss on his forehead as Chakotay turned to go.

Tom reached out a hand and brushed over Chakotay's fingers.

"Later," he said again.

"Yes," agreed Chakotay, smiling down at him, then turning to close the door and softly call for lights out.



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