DAZE (Sequel to FIRE)
Rating R to NC-17, Angst
Disclaimer: All characters owned by Paramount. I am merely playing with them. No copyright infringement is intended.
Story note: After the events of the 'Observation Lounge'. Chakotay's day is turning from bad to worse. How would he face either Tom or B'Elanna?
Continuation of the FIRE series. This story takes some hints from events that took place in Equinox I & II, makes it's own assumptions and moves on from there in it's own new direction.
Author's note: Thanks again to my dear friend Morticia for her wonderful insight and help with this story. Without her suggestions, this piece would certainly be in tatters. Punctuation has never been my forte'. That said, any and all mistakes are mine.;-)
Feedback is craved for and always welcome at email@example.com! Thanks. :-)
I turn around on my seat when I hear my name called out, and notice Ensign Lang at Tactical, bending down from her console, a Padd in her outstretched hand.
"The schematics you asked for, Sir."
I nod as I take it from her hand, and turn back around. Lowering my eyes to the Padd, I make an attempt to read what is written on it, but the numbers and letters seem to fade in and out of my visual range. I blink my eyes several times to clear the haze from my vision, but it clings to my senses. So taking a deep shuddering breath, I settle it down on my console, close my eyes, and call for the Spirits.
It is no use.
The haze is set not in my vision, but in my mind. And how does one exactly dislodge a haze set in one's mind, in one's thoughts? When your whole sense of reason is shrouded in conflicting thoughts and memories, what is the cure, how do you function?
I open my eyes to look at the chronometer at my console. It's after 1500. I have only another hour to go, more or less. I look up at the viewscreen, and stare at the view of a clear path drawn haphazardly by our course, between millions of star systems strewn around us. My eyes linger on the back of Baytart's head, who is at the helm this shift, and my thoughts inadvertently return to the subject I most want to avoid.
I changed the duty roster early this morning. I realized I couldn't face him just now. Not after last night.
The thought of last night makes me sigh. What the hell happened last night? I am not so sure. All at once, I feel numb, confused, delirious, and lightheaded. A functioning part of my intellect tells me I am in shock, but I feel too conflicted to give credence to that notion. The events of last night have a dream-like quality to them, so much so, that I almost feel like dismissing them as just that - a dream. However, the images that run through the reel of my mental cinema are too vivid, too clear, too real.
That and the evidence on my body as I returned to my quarters after what happened in the Observation Lounge, half-running, half-staggering through the corridors, and peeled my clothes off only to reveal marks of a passionate interlude. There they were, all over me, spurning any arising denial, too real to dismiss.
But even as I had lain down in my bed afterwards, the incredulity of the whole situation kept me tossing and turning the remainder of the night, kept me away from any possibility of sleep.
I just about snort at this. Who am I kidding? Sleep was far from my agenda last night, and my conscious mind won't allow any sleep to come even now, unless I go to the Doctor and take a sleeping aid. Which I suppose I should if I want to stay in any condition to perform my duties as a First Officer, not to mention the fact that I have been awake for more than two days and two nights.
Lying in my bed, I had repeatedly gone over every single thing, only to sink deeper and deeper into my quandary. Then this morning, after I discreetly changed the duty roster to give Tom the day off, and showed up on the bridge, I found the place all to myself. Kathryn showed up once or twice, sitting down for a while to check on routine status reports, but spent most of her day in her Ready Room.
She has been, somewhat, distant since the Equinox incident. I guess admitting in front of me, that she made a mistake in her analysis of the situation, turned out to be a little hard to take in the long run. I am not too concerned about her, though. I trust her ability to put our differences aside and move onto tasks that are more important. The Equinox situation has been difficult for the whole crew, and I am willing to give the Captain a little time to get her wits together. I still feel a pang of regret and anger at how she handled the situation. It could all have gotten out of hand so fast, so easily. We are fortunate that the situation was resolved where it was. I don't think Kathryn could have taken the burden of any more deaths among either of our crews. True that it wasn't her fault, but even the Equinox people were our fellow Starfleet officers. She would have felt responsible regardless of whose fault it was.
In a way, I am glad to have the bridge all to myself. It gives me the freedom to think without any interruption. It is easier to sit on the bridge and consider your situation if your all-too-perceptive Captain is not there to read your face and demeanor. Harry is assigned to Astrometrics today. Tuvok is at his station but as usual, he is not in a very talkative mood, though I wonder if he has noticed my distraction. I hope not. I honestly don't want a touch-telepath to take note of my internal conflict just by observing my facial expressions. However, I doubt the likelihood of that. I don't think I am that obvious.
So here I am on the bridge free to ponder my situation and ponder I have. I have spent the entire day in a daze of sorts, going over each and every excruciating detail, trying to figure out where I faulted, but Spirits, I have never before felt so baffled. This constant loop going through my head has merely succeeded in giving me a terrific headache, nothing more. Nothing at all makes sense. The facts remain. The Hows and Whys simply don't come through.
Did I make love to Tom Paris last night?
Yes, I did!
Why? What was the reason? He is seeing B'Elanna, so why did I let him seduce me in the middle of the Observation Lounge? Why didn't I stop him?
Oh God, who knows.
Sighing in exasperation, I close my eyes again. It is almost like being caught in the middle of a favorite wet dream. What happened last night, the whole event itself, seems a thing of fantasies, but the memories are so vivid that when I think of them I can still feel a blush creeping on my face.
I can't forget the look on her face as she walked in on the two of us. The shock and betrayal she felt was evident on her face. It was bad enough seeing it directed at Tom, but when she turned those hurt eyes to my face, I wanted the floor to split wide open and swallow me whole.
I have cheated on her. She is my closest friend among the Maquis, among everyone on Voyager, and I fucked her boyfriend the first chance I got. I can't imagine how I could have read Tom so wrong. How and where I mistook his confusion over his breakup with B'Elanna for lust directed at me? At what point did I let my sense of reason be jumbled by sensory overload to such an extent that I didn't even stop to think of the consequences?
I am the First Officer on this ship. I have been in command positions both in the Maquis as well as in Star Fleet. I know very well what my responsibilities are. I know that the results of each action I take, whether good or bad, will reflect on my character and position, as well as affect the people around me. Why then did I not stop to consider all this? It is not like me to be blinded by lust so fast, so why did it happen now?
My thoughts are interrupted as I hear Tuvok's calm voice addressing me.
"Commander," I turn around to look at the dark Vulcan, peering down at me. "It's the shift change. I think it would serve you well to take some rest now." He pauses a second to look into my eyes, his probing dark eyes making me nervous for some reason, and then continues. "It's been a long day."
He patiently waits for my reply as I slowly take in my surroundings, finally noticing the relief crew settling in at their respective stations, and give him a nod. "Thanks, Tuvok." I have no idea where the time went.
He nods in reply, his eyes lingering on my profile for just another second, and returns to his station, gathering together his Padds and other accessories he carries on his person. If I am not mistaken, that was concern I read in the Vulcan's eyes. My bridge crew has apparently not missed my brooding completely, I realize with regret. From the evident slowness with which Tuvok is getting his things together, he is waiting for me to get going as well, likely so that he can join me in the turbolift. Damn. I need to get my act together before I give anyone a real reason to question my abilities to perform my duties.
I pocket the Padd Lang had given me, and get up from my chair. I suppose I would have to look at the schematics she worked on at my own free time. Nodding at the Beta crew, I walk to the turbolift, followed by Tuvok. When the turbolift doors close behind us, I tell the computer to take us to our deck.
There are a few moments of silence and then from the corner of my eye, I notice him looking at me.
"You seem a bit unsettled, Commander."
Damn. He sure is inquisitive, isn't he? I mentally groan. Is he now going to start the third degree about how pre-occupied I seemed on the bridge today, and the ill effects of having pre-occupied Second-In-Commands commanding the ship? Don't be silly, I remind myself, he is simply concerned about my well being because it affects the whole crew.
I take a deep breath to calm my nerves, and when I turn to face the Vulcan, my "Cool and Collected First Officer" mask is right in place.
"I haven't had much sleep, that's all." I reassure him. "It's been a rough few days, you know."
"Perhaps you should report to the Doctor, and ask him to treat you for your insomnia."
"Perhaps I will."
After that brief exchange, he falls into silence and the rest of the trip goes quietly. I thank the Spirits. We both step off at Deck 3 and I watch him turn towards his quarters at the first intersection, as I continue on towards my own. At my doors, I key-in my access code and step inside.
"Computer, lights half illumination."
The lights come on and I stare, in stupor, at the uncharacteristic clutter all around me. The teacup and plates from breakfast still lie on the coffee table in front of the couch. I bend to the floor to pick up my clothes from last night, littered all the way from the main door to the bedroom door. As I move inside, I find the bed unmade as I left it this morning. I grit my teeth at the disarray. I am not used to disorganization. Not even my own. I try my best to keep my things as tidy and organized as possible. My meticulousness can go to such an extent that my disorganization, at whatever blue moons it descends into my life, unnerves even me.
I drop the clothes I picked up off the floor into the refresher, and move back to sit down on the bed. I take my shoes and socks off, and as I am unbuttoning my uniform jacket, I sprawl back down on the bed and my thoughts unwittingly return to Tom.
I think of bleak, tough times of years gone by, in the midst of a desperately fought war against a much-hated enemy. I remember a dark, dank bar on a backwater planet, where I laid my eyes on Tom Paris for the first time, and he crawled under my skin.
Those were hard times and the Maquis were short on good pilots, so we recruited him. I soon found out that he always had an uncanny ability to make me sit up and take notice, and not always for the right things. For some reason, we were always confrontational with one another, neither wanting to give up this clash of attitudes that kept us at each other's throats. Then he was captured on his very first mission for me, and I realized I couldn't stop thinking about him even then.
Finding him on the bridge of Voyager a year later was a most startling experience, to say the least.
With his non-stop bantering in general and provocative non-seriousness towards me in particular, he has always invoked extreme reactions in me. He has always made me want to do something, anything, to just shut him up effectively. But I could never deny, even back in the Maquis, that he was the best pilot I had ever seen, and over the years as I got to know him better, my grudging respect for him grew. As, I suspect, did his for me. We still bantered irreverently but at some point over the years, the nature of our relationship slowly changed. His attitude towards me relaxed somewhat, our famous animosity taking a backseat in the wake of much needed professionalism and I found we could work very well together. There were times when I almost believed we could be friends. Those occasional pool games at Sandrine's, the group workout sessions at the gym, the midnight hoverball matches at the holodeck. Yeah, there were definitely times I thought we could be closer.
Eventually, I realized that I liked closer. I enjoyed working with him. The away missions we went on, those flight simulations we worked over when he wanted my opinion on something as a fellow pilot, brought a peculiar sense of joy to me. All of a sudden, I found myself looking forward to his jokes, the sound of his laughter; found myself noticing his laughing blue eyes, his fingers flying all over the helm, his ingenious flying. Suddenly everything he did made me feel more alive, more complete, and spread this strange warmth in me.
I found myself left uncomfortably mystified by these odd new feelings growing inside. I tried to get a hold on myself. I had to get a hold on myself but I didn't know what to do, didn't know what was happening to me. And there he was, invading my dreams, leaving me absolutely flabbergasted.
Leaving me unsettled.
Why? Because there was B'Elanna to think of. My B'Elanna, who was dating him, whom I thought of as a younger sister, and there was no way that I was ever going to hurt her feelings. Was I?
And then last night happened.
Seeing him in the Observation Lounge, looking so vulnerable and in obvious anguish, I had naturally reached out to him. He looked so upset, so distressed, that something inside me snapped and all I wanted to do was take his hurts away from him. I tried to make him tell me what was bothering him, why he was so upset, but he only got more disturbed. For some reason, I am not sure why, I couldn't bear to see him in pain. For a moment or two I wondered why I felt this sudden protectiveness for him but before I could ponder over it, before I could even begin to fathom the surprise I felt at his distress, Tom went all out and fluttered me with his own actions.
To feel his skin sliding against my skin, to have that lush mouth closing over mine, to catch his hands wandering over my back, to look into those beautiful blue eyes and see them dark with passion, and what happens to me?
I lose control. My brain shuts down. I stop thinking.
Instead of stopping him, and telling him that what he was experiencing was nothing more than a rebound effect of his fight with B'Elanna, I let my body traitorously respond to his touch. Intoxicated by his scent, I let all my forbidden fantasies take over my reality. Tom Paris touches me like that for the first time, and I forget who the hell I am and what I am doing. I forget what my actions could mean to both of us. I forget that he's probably just looking for a diversion and will no doubt hate me when it's all over.
Not only did I betray B'Elanna, but also like an idiot, I let myself get seduced by an emotionally disturbed Tom Paris; Tom who was simply recoiling from his breakup with B'Elanna and there I was prodding him with my stupid counselor routine. What the hell was I thinking, going on and on with those pointless questions? Tom had come to the Observation Lounge to be alone and to think over his clearly disturbing situation. And what did I do? I pushed him to confusion and now everything is screwed up.
Voyager's de facto Counselor. What a pathetic joke. Who the hell says I am qualified to counsel my crewmates? I need a fucking shrink myself.
Groaning, I push my weight up on my elbows and sit up on the bed. I have no idea what the hell I am going to do about this mess that I have gotten into? How I will face either of them? Everything is so screwed up and my headache is getting worse by the minute. I get up from the bed. I know I should follow my earlier plan and Tuvok's advice, and contact the Doctor, but first things first.
Peeling my uniform off, I move towards the bathroom, dropping the clothes in the refresher on the way. I step inside the room and move to stand in front of the mirror. I stare at my reflection and nearly wince at my appearance. I look absolutely haggard. The exhaustion of the last few days is clearly etched on my face, and the obvious stress brought upon by the incidents of the previous night hasn't helped any. It wouldn't take the insights of a touch-telepath to know I am stressed out. It's written all over my face.
Taking a deep breath, I step into the shower stall, and turn on the water, the temperature automatically adjusting according to my requirements. Maybe a hot shower would help relieve some of my tension.
As the first jets of steaming water hit me, I sigh and bend my arms over my head, my palms flat on the wall in front of me, and will my muscles to relax. I can't help but groan as rolling my shoulders and neck in the fervent mist causes a throbbing, dull pain, and I loll my head forward until my forehead rests on the cool tiles. After a little while, the tepid water cascading down my body actually feels rather good so I stay in this position, my hands on the wall, my body reclining forward, and relish the sensations as I finally feel the first of the knots start to loosen.
Feeling drenched and somehow exhilarated, I turn around in the torrent, rest my shoulders on the wall and lean my head back. Coaxing myself to release the tension, I run my hands down my torso, my face turned up into the steam, my eyes shut tightly in the misty warmth. As my fingers graze down my length, searching and kneading sore muscles, a vision enters my mind: of long, pale fingers stroking my skin, of strong hands gently stirring my senses, of a wet agile tongue teasingly tracing my hard body; and with a gasp, my eyes fly open. Swallowing hard, I look down my body, my eyes travelling down my abdomen, through the light matting of dark hair covering my groin, to rest on my cock, which is throbbing and lengthening to life before my eyes, and I bite my lower lip with a sigh.
Mesmerized, I watch my right hand slowly travel up my abdomen and rest on my chest, as though of its own will, my fingers reaching out to trace my left nipple, my thumb and index finger closing around the flat brown tip. And suddenly, its Tom's slender fingers around my areola, rolling the nipple around, feeling it harden, and a moan gurgles out of my chest as all the memories hit me again. Tom's lips on my neck, his tongue running down my throat, snaking down my chest, his teeth tugging at my nipples one by one, his hands on my stomach, his fingers raking the insides of my thighs, making me sob with want. I open my legs wider, my hand unwittingly reaching between my thighs as I remember each touch and caress from last night. Tom's foot stroking my calf, Tom murmuring sweet nothings into my ear, Tom nuzzling my neck, Tom's soft lips placing moist kisses on my mouth, my nose, my eyelids, making me shiver in the hot shower.
Like a holovid playing across my mental screen, I see Tom's hot mouth closing around my erection, feel his long tongue teasing my throbbing vein, his soft, pink lips pursed around my velvet head, the tip of his tongue tantalizing my leaking slit, as helpless groans are wrenched from my throat. His arms cradle my waist, his hands clasp my ass, as I feel his fingers lightly brush against the rim of my anus, his mouth sucking me furiously, and I feel a fire start in the pit of my stomach and travel down my belly. His tongue is relentless over my aching hardness, running over and around me in fast, adamant circles, as I arch my back into the cool wall of the shower stall, the sultry curtain of water falling on my upturned face, my mouth open in a long continuous moan.
As his nails rake the insides of my shaking thighs and his fingers tenderly squeeze my balls, I start thrusting into his hot, sweet mouth. My heartbeat thundering in my chest, I can feel the fire move down my groin like molten lava, as he sucks me in deeper, his throat muscles squeezing my shaft deliciously. Then with a roar, I am coming, shooting my hot seed into his eager mouth, and as my knees buckle, I slide down to the floor, thoroughly spent.
When the wave subsides, I open my eyes with a start to find myself sitting on the floor of the shower stall, alone, and stare at my own semen-soaked fingers. The hot water falling from the shower washes the stickiness off my fingers, and for one crazy moment, I have this maddening desire to burst out laughing.
However, the sound that comes out of my throat is more a choke than laughter.
/---Oh Spirits, Tom, what are you doing to me---/
On shaking knees, I pull my frame up from the floor and turn off the water. I grab the towel from the rack and tiredly throwing it over my shoulder, walk out of the bathroom. All of a sudden, I can feel my hilarity mutating into something new. And whatever it is, it has left me feeling far less cheerful than I normally would after such an explosive hand job.
Yep, a hand job that had my thoughts absurdly filled with blue-eyed, golden-haired visions of one Tom Paris. Tom who, last night, took a leap straight from my foolish, fantastical dreams into my stunningly irrevocable and thoroughly undeniable reality, and where the hell that leaves me now? In the bathroom, jacking off to images of Tom giving me a blowjob? Fuck That!
Feeling furious for reasons beyond my grasp, I yank a bathrobe off the clothing rack and pull it on. Distractedly, I pull a pair of jeans and a shirt out of my closet and throw them out on the bed, not caring what color they are, or what do they look like. None of it matters. All I can think of is Tom. Tom's flushed face contorted with pleasure. Tom's sea-blue eyes meeting mine in the haze of passion. Tom making small, involuntary sounds in the throes of ecstasy. And Tom saying.
/---B'Elanna is not an issue, Cha. She never was---/
What did that mean? Why did he say that? If he was so out of his mind, if he was so damn confused, what did these words mean to him then? Did he say them only to get me to stop thinking about B'Elanna? Or was there another reason?
Amidst the jumble of my confused thoughts, my growling stomach reminds me that the last meal I had was at breakfast - a hastily devoured toasted slice of brown bread and a cup of strong tea - and I am starving now. I walk out into the living room to the replicator, and order a bowl of mushroom soup and a glass of apple juice. While it is materializing, I clear the coffee table off the left over dishes and empty them into the recycler. That done, I set my food on a serving tray, walk to the dining table and sit down to eat.
I am in the middle of my dinner when the comm. line becomes active.
"Sickbay to Commander Chakotay."
I reach for my computer terminal and press the comm. panel. "Chakotay here."
"Commander, I am expecting you in Sickbay for your medical exam."
Huh? "Doctor, I was just about to contact you myself. What medical exam are you talking about?"
"I believe you are suffering from insomnia."
Now, what the hell is going on here? "Yes and I was going to ask you to program a mild sedative for me so that I could get some sleep. I don't need to come for a medical exam for that."
"Commander Tuvok informed me that you were slightly restless on the bridge today. He suggested a personal examination."
Now, I'll be damned. "Tuvok?" That contemptuous Vulcan tight-ass! I told him I would contact the doc myself. Who the hell does he think he is, going behind my back, telling the doctor that I need medical treatment?
I feel sudden dark, smoldering rage simmering inside me.
"Yes, Tuvok. The last few days have been rough on the whole crew, Commander," Yeah, tell me something new, Doc. "I have been dealing with requests for mild downers everyday. And if I recall clearly, you are one of the few people who have not contacted me at all up until now. I think its time you get a check-up done."
That's what you think. I am fine. I am alright. I have no fucking intentions of getting a check-up done. Tuvok can go to hell. This is beyond frustrating. This is getting me pissed off. "You can inform Mr. Tuvok that I am fine and I assure you I don't need a medical check-up done." I take a deep breath. It's no use getting upset at the EMH. He's just following instructions. "All I need is a hypo filled with a mild sedative that will give me a few hours sleep. Would you please program a dose for me and transfer the data to my replicator account?"
"Yes, I can do that, but I still need to get a check-up done."
"Captain Janeway is the other person who suggested I do a medical check-up on you. I can make this a direct order, Commander. In case you have forgotten, I am the Chief Medical Officer." The Doctor states smugly.
Captain Janeway? I groan inwardly. So much for the observant Captain sitting her day out in her Ready Room and not noticing my distraction. She probably has hidden cameras on the bridge. To think of it, it was probably Tuvok who told her as well. I grit my teeth in contempt.
"But I am fine. I just need some sleep, Doctor."
"If you have a problem coming to the sickbay, I can always make a house call, Commander."
Yeah right. Then, they really will think I am sick. The Doctor making a house call to the First Officer. Wonder what he came down with, eh?
"Forget it." I exhale through my gritted teeth. "You win, Doctor. I'll be there in twenty minutes." /---And while I am there, I will decompile a contemptuous sub-routine or two from your holo-matrix as well---/ "Chakotay out." With a growl, I close the link.
I have this sudden urge to pick, throw and break something. I feel led down somehow. Here I am trying my damnedest to do my job the best way I can, and what do I get in return? My fellow senior officers asking the CMO to perform fucking medical tests on me, without letting me know about it, doubting my abilities, treating me as if I am some kind of a bloody nincompoop.
Yeah Chakotay, that's what you really are, aren't you? Calm and collected First Officer? Mystic Warrior? Bullshit. You're nothing but a total fucking idiot.
I sit simmering at the table for a few minutes trying to get my breathing under control. It works, my breathing calms, yet my anger is not dissipating. I am going to have to talk to Tuvok about his irritating behavior real soon.
I get up and dispose off my half-eaten dinner into the recycler. My appetite is gone all of a sudden. In its place, I feel the dead molten weight of pure pissed off anger settling. Melting into my senses. Making it that much harder for me to maintain my stoic facade in place. Damnit. This is not supposed to happen. I am not that easily frayed. I am not supposed to lose my characteristic calmness. People look up to me. I am supposed to be together and collected if for no other reason than to keep things normal aboard this ship. After all the chaos this crew has been through in the last few days, now is the time for me to be there for them in one piece. Just in case they require my assistance. As a First Officer. As a Counselor.
Yes. The First Officer who fucked his Helmsman last night. At 0230 in the Observation Lounge and got caught by the Chief Engineer.
/---B'Elanna is not an issue, Cha. She never was---/
Yes. The Counselor who obviously needs a shrink himself.
Feeling exasperated, I walk back into the bedroom, pulling the robe off and use the same to rub my hair dry. I, then, put on the clothes that I had laid down earlier. Hastily, I brush my hair and slapping my combadge to my shirt, I stride out of my quarters.
I ignore the cautious looks I get from the crewmembers I encounter on my way. They all take a look at my face and draw back towards the farthest wall, probably noticing my set jaw and flaring nostrils. Hell, I probably have a dark cloud hovering over my head. I know I don't make a pretty picture angry.
I take the turbolift to Deck 5, and step out. Just as I am turning into the corridor that will take me to Sickbay, I bump into someone coming from the other side.
An exasperated "Oh, for heaven's sake." A double take. Then a Klingon swear.
"There you are." Seems like she has been practicing growling her sentences. "I was on my way to your quarters, Chakotay."
I lock my eyes into hers and can see the fires burning inside her through her irises. Her eyes are definitely aflame. Her color is high, her breath short. She is mad. No question about it. But right now, I really don't have time for this.
"Later, B'Elanna." I try to walk past her, but she grabs my right arm in her claws and prevents me from moving away from her.
"I wanna talk to you right now, Chakotay."
I yank my arm from her grip and look down into her face. "Not right now. I said later." I take a deep breath. "I have an appointment to keep. I'll talk to you afterwards."
"An appointment?" She snorts dramatically. "With whom? My boyfriend?"
"Not here, B'Elanna!" I say, keeping my volume down, but to my dismay her volume is increasing with every syllable and she apparently doesn't give a damn that she can be heard, very clearly, by anyone passing by.
"What's the matter, Chakotay?" She says. "Didn't you get enough of Tom last night?"
"Enough, Lieutenant!" I snarl at her, keeping my eyes resolutely fixed on her face, ignoring the people passing through yet again.
"I have been waiting for your shift to end all day, Commander." She spits out my rank at me. "And I wanna talk to you right here, right now. I don't care who you have an appointment with. You will talk to me whether you like it or not."
For a minute, I stare at her going on and on, creating a scene, right in the middle of the corridor. I can't believe that just an hour ago I was contemplating being overtaken by debilitating guilt upon facing B'Elanna. As of this moment, her annoyingly whining attitude is getting on my nerves, nothing more. I grab her arm in the middle of her tirade and drag her through the doors of the first lounge I find.
Observation Lounge 2.
Damn. All of a sudden, it all hits me again. The same room. The same place. The viewport we had foreplay against. The couch we made love on. With my back to B'Elanna, I gape at my surroundings, suddenly unnerved.
"How could you do this, Chakotay?" Her tone is pure accusation. And how can I blame her? She has every right. But standing in this very room, assaulted by all the memories with that much more intensity, I can't help but wonder if it was really just about me or whether there were other factors involved.
Slowly, I turn around to face her. She is too dear to me, this woman. We have faced so much together over the years. She came to me raw, wounded. I helped pick up her pieces and make her whole again. She is like family to me.
"I didn't plan it, B'Elanna." I try to keep my voice low and my tone conciliatory. There has to be a better way to deal with this situation other than an all out public brawl.
"How long have you had your eyes on him, Chakotay?" She grits her teeth. "Were you aching to get your hands on him sitting on the bridge behind him all these years? So much so that the first chance you got, you just had to have him, didn't you?"
So much for a better way.
"That's not the way it happened, B'Elanna." My anger is flaring up again. Her words are hitting way too fucking close to home. Still, that's not the way it happened. It's not.
"You two broke up." I blurt out.
"That's it, isn't it?" She clenches her teeth and wheezes. "That's what you were waiting for. A fight, a fucking lover's brawl, and you just had to jump on the golden opportunity."
"I was not looking for a fight, B'Elanna." I inhale sharply. "I didn't even know you two had a fight."
"Then what?" She snaps. "You came to this lounge last night, just to find him sitting here, and the next thing you knew, both of you were naked and having sex on the couch?"
/---No, I was here first. He was the one who came in afterwards---/
"I..." I clench my hands. Is it any use telling her what happened? Do I even have a right to tell her? What the hell happened last night, by the way? Have I even figured it out myself? I take a shuddering breath, trying to somehow calm my nerves. "I don't know what and how happened, B'Elanna? I just know one thing and that is, I had no intentions of hurting your feelings."
"But you did exactly that." She yells at me. I wince at her volume and wish I had engaged soundproofing before coming here. With the way she is going, the whole ship will know some convoluted version of what happened here last night. "You found out me and Tom had an argument and decided to break us up for good. Were you that desperate to fuck him, Chakotay?"
/---B'Elanna is not an issue---/ Oh Spirits.
"Just an argument? That's not what Tom said." I can't seem to keep the touch of gibe out of my tone.
"You found Tom in an emotionally delicate state and turned up your Maquis rogue charms to full."
Oh, fuck. I was half-asleep when Tom came in here. Alright, so I do admit to sort of prodding Tom with my Counselor routine, but I had no idea how he will react. I certainly didn't expect him to come on to me like that. I know my defense mechanism has come on at peak efficiency, and I can't help it. "That's not how it happened, B'Elanna." I repeat. There is no time to explain anything else. She simply isn't in the mood to listen.
"Tom was confused and unsure of our relationship, and you realized this was a chance of a lifetime, didn't you?"
I wasn't the one who started this. "No, I am telling you, I didn't plan any of this."
"Why did you do this, Chakotay? Why did you take advantage of Tom?"
I feel my stomach drop at these words. "What are you talking about? I ... I didn't take advantage of Tom." Is this how this will be seen? What's next? A court-martial for me, for sexually harassing my helmsman?
"You found him disturbed and upset and vulnerable, and decided this was your chance to seduce him, didn't you?" Her volume has come down a notch but I don't care who hears this anymore. I can't believe what I am hearing. "You took advantage of an emotionally unstable man. "
"Why don't you go and ask your boyfriend what happened here." I chew out each word. "May be he can enlighten you since I am doing such a poor job."
"Oh, don't worry, I am headed there next. He can't hide from me forever." She glares at me. "And don't think I will go down without a fight, Chakotay. I will not give up Tom that easily."
Oh, give me a fucking break. "You know what?" I grit my teeth. "You can have Tom." I attempt to steady my shaking voice. Why is it shaking, I have no idea. "Last night was a mistake, nothing more. I don't think he meant anything by it." Saying that, I stride past her and just as I am about to walk out of the lounge, she spins around and says.
"Chakotay..." It's the half-growl I have gotten used to hearing from her in the last fifteen minutes.
My heart hammering inside my chest, which for some unfathomable reason has become too tight all of a sudden, I pause for a second or two. I don't turn around. I don't need to. I just say four words.
"And neither did I."
And with that, I walk out of Observation Lounge 2. A part of my brain that has survived the shock of the past ten minutes tells me that I am late for my Sickbay appointment. My feet automatically move in that direction. Within seconds, I find myself facing the EMH.
"Ah Commander." The Doctor greets me with his characteristic smugness. "I was about to comm you. You are three minutes late."
"My apologies, Doctor." I draw a stifling breath.
The hologram looks at me closely, undoubtedly seeing something interesting on my face. I try to mould my features into an expressionless mask of apathy. His right eyebrow lifts in obvious puzzlement and he murmurs something under his holographic breath, which I can't hear. Not that I want to. Or care to. All I want to do is get this ordeal over with, so that I can go back to the other ordeals in my life.
"Shall we begin?" For some reason the EMH is undecided about me. He is usually quite brisk and comes right to the point.
"Yes, Doctor." I suppose I'll have to come right to the point if he doesn't. "Please make it quick. I have a lot of reports that I have to finish tonight." It's not a complete lie. I do have the schematics Ensign Lang gave me to go through.
"Very well. Please have a seat." He offers me a bio-bed and I hop on top. He snaps open a tricorder and starts scanning me. A few seconds later,
"You have very high blood pressure, Commander." He is frowning. "One Sixty by One Ten. Your heart rate is three points faster than normal, your heartbeat and breathing erratic, and I am detecting elevated levels of epinephrine released by your hypothalamus."
"In Standard, Doctor." I say wearily.
"You're stressed, Commander." The EMH replies. "I am afraid you'll have to let go off those reports for tonight. You need complete rest for at least one night."
I slide off the bio-bed. "Very good, Doctor. So I take it you will be forwarding the medicinal dose to my replicator account." I take a step towards the door with the mock-intention of exiting the Sickbay and as predicted am stopped by the EMH.
"Wait a second. Where do you think you are going?" He sounds exasperated "I am not done with you yet."
Well, it was worth a try. I turn my tight, taut self back to face the Doctor. "Well, get it over with then." And before I know it, he is pressing a hypospray onto the side of my neck. I only realize what he has done when I feel the slight tingle of the administered medicine. I jerk away from him. "What the heck was that? I thought you were going to send the dose to my replicator..."
"I changed my mind." He cuts in the middle of my protest. "It's Rexlin. It's just a relaxant. It would merely get the edge off your mental and physical strain a bit, and you will be able to fall asleep naturally." He explains as calmly as his subroutines allow. "I don't want to give you any strong drugs unless I have to."
Alright. Whatever. "Don't worry, you won't have to." I sigh. "How long before I naturally fall asleep?"
"Twenty... Twenty Five minutes."
"Fine. Are you done?"
He raises his left eyebrow at this. "Not quite." He snaps open the tricorder again and points it at me. "I am getting some... rather... interesting readings." He pauses for dramatic effect before continuing. "I can detect mild aggravation in your rectum, a few burst capillaries and some rectal bruising."
"Were you in an.... altercation, Commander?"
Wonderful. I mentally kick myself for not thinking about this aspect of the medical exam. One would think that after the hard fucking I got last night, and the squirming-on-my-seat I had to go through the whole day on the bridge today, I would think of perhaps putting some ointment on my bruised flesh. I honestly had no desire to be reminded of last night, but here we go again. I roll my eyes.
"No, there was no altercation." I can feel the heat rising up my neck and take a deep breath trying to quell my embarrassment before it reaches my face. "You have nothing to worry about." Would I ever be able to live this incident down?
"Are you sure?" The Doctor continues on smugly. "I must say the image I get when I think of you getting sexually involved, Commander, normally does not include rectal bruising."
That pompous, irritating, obnoxious....
I stop myself before I erupt. It seems everyone is after me today. I clench my fists and direct a glare at him that is enough to bring him down a notch or two from his holographic high-hat. "That should be none of your concern." I say in my coldest snarl.
The EMH has the good grace to look appropriately abashed. "Of course." He shrugs as he averts his eyes from mine. "If you'd hurry, you can get to your quarters a good fifteen minutes before you start to feel relaxed enough to sleep."
Relaxed? You have gotta be kidding. "I thought you'd never say that." I move towards the exit.
"Just take it easy. No stressful activities for the next forty-eight hours."
"I'll keep that in mind, Doctor. Thanks." And with that, I walk out of the Sickbay.
The looks I am getting from the crew as I walk down the corridors are more than a little curious. Would this night never end? It seems everyone has some business to be somewhere along my path. But no one dares say a word. My five years as their XO has gained me that much respect and right to privacy that, despite the fact that so many of them heard my Chief Engineer hollering at me through the not-so-thick walls of Observation Lounge 2 just ten minutes ago, they can't risk provoking me. I may be normally known as the calm-and-collected First Officer, but my former mean Maquis reputation is enough to keep them all quiet.
I ride the turbo-life back to my deck and within minutes, am inside my quarters again.
I don't want to think about last night. I don't want to think about tonight. I don't want to think, period. Please God, let me be at peace. At least for a little while. Don't let anyone disturb me for the rest of the night. What was it the Doctor said? Complete rest for at least one night? Imperative for my mental and physical well being? Were those a bunch of counselor sub-routines I noticed running through his twitching eyebrows? Please don't let my mind wander. I don't want to think.
/--- Why did you take advantage of Tom---/
But, I didn't. That's not how it happened. Oh Spirits. I don't want to think.
/--- I will not give up Tom that easily---/
That's ridiculous. There's no fight. No competition. Tom couldn't have meant anything by last night.
/---B'Elanna is not an issue, Cha---/
Then why did he say that? What did he mean? And why the fuck did I go along with the whole thing in the first place? If I had wanted to end it, Tom couldn't have been able to stop me. Then, why didn't I? And am I willing to fight for Tom?
My head spins at that thought. That's impossible. I've been nearly humiliated by B'Elanna in front of the crew, and yet I dare to tread where I wouldn't ever think of going if I was in my right mind. Yes, that's it. I have lost my mind. If I can take that hologram's sniggering, I really must have gone utterly mad.
The door chimes.
I groan. Oh no. What now? I turn back from the viewport to look at the door. Who is here to walk all over me this time?
The door slides open. I watch as, after a moment's hesitation, Tom walks inside. The door closes behind him.
"Chakotay?" He is wearing a light green shirt and black pants that look oh so good on him. My breath catches in my throat. What am I thinking? Why am I thinking like this? I don't want to talk to him right now. Oh, please God, not right now.
"What do you want, Tom?" I fold my arms on my chest. Yes, give him the nonchalant treatment. Make him leave. It's for his own good. My heart starts thumping against my rib cage, as if protesting against that idea. But what does my heart know? I need to think with my brain, not my heart.
"We need to talk." He seems nervous, his bright blue eyes wide, his breathing a tad fast. /---Oh Tom, leave. Leave before I lose myself in those eyes again---/
"Yes." He takes a step forward. "Why did you change my duty roster this morning, Chakotay?"
For your own good. "You needed some time off." And for mine. " I gave it to you."
He tries to look at me closely, but I have the lights dimmed and he can't clearly see my features. "Is that what the reason was?" He takes another small step forward. Inadvertently, I take one back. It's so small that it's almost unnoticeable. Almost. "I needed to see you, Chakotay, to talk to you."
"You needed some time away from me, Tom. Especially after what happened last night."
There is a slight shift in his expression, but its unreadable. "Yes, last night. That's what I want to talk to you about."
"There's nothing to say, Tom," And just what exactly could you say that could fix anything in the first place? As far as I am concerned, everyone whose opinion has ever meant anything to me is looking down at me after last night. What are you here for, Tom? Are you here to pass your judgement on me as well? "I've had enough of last night to deal with for one whole day. I don't want to talk about last night anymore."
"But..." He looks stunned. "But... I thought..." Is that confusion I see on his face? My eyes linger on his fluttering eyelashes. For a second, I wonder what is going through his mind? Could all this... could it have meant something? Anything at all? God, I feel like a drowning man who has been thrown a lifeline but who can't decide whether to grab it or let myself drown? For some reason, drowning seems more appealing after today.
"No," I tear my eyes away from his. I can't let myself fall for this now. Not again. "I don't want to discuss this anymore, Tom." Fine, I'll drown. At least, I'll drown alone. At least, he'll be safe.
"Why, Chakotay?" His voice is rising, his face suddenly hard, his eyes accusatory. My headache is back. It's more than I can take. "What was last night to you? What did it mean to you? Why did you do it, Chakotay?"
"Why did I do it?" So you're here for the same reason after all, aren't you Tom? "I am sick of everyone questioning me, questioning my motives. I just have one question for you, Tom. WHY ME? Tell me, Tom. WHY DID YOU DO IT TO ME?"
He stays frozen, rooted to the spot, for several seconds, and then I see a transformation. It's so instantaneous that if I didn't have my eyes locked onto his face, I would've missed it. His hardened features loosen up. His open lips close in a thin line, and slightly quirk up in a faint sneer. That's the only word I can think of. It's too harsh to be called a smile. Besides, his eyes are far from smiling. They are glazed over and yet are so cold that just looking into them I almost feel a shiver run up my body.
"Because you were there, Commander."
I feel like I've been slapped.
"That was the only reason. It could've been anyone, Harry, Neelix." He continues on, drawling, his each word clipped and dripping with disdain, and I can all but feel water filling my lungs, millimeter by millimeter. "It doesn't really make any difference, y'know. You just happened to get in the way, too fucking bad."
My vision suddenly blurring, I stare at him a second and then blinking my eyes, I turn away from that icy stare. My heart says that I made him say all this, that I pushed him to it. But his words burn me, wound me. My heart says that I made him turn away from me. My brain calls me a fool. And a fool I am. Used like a piece of meat. Nothing more.
"Get the hell out of here." I keep my eyes on the viewport, my voice steady. It has to be steady. It has to remain calm. Nonchalant was the word, right? Can't drop that front in his presence. There is a slight shuffle of his feet as he takes in my demeanor, and then he's gone. Out of my quarters.
Out of my life.
I feel tired to the bone all of a sudden. Drained. Worn out. With him gone, there's no need to keep up appearances. I stumble towards the couch, my eyes burning, and collapse on top. I don't know where my headache ends and where my heartache starts. Everything hurts.
With all this internal clutter to sift through, I don't think I'll ever be able to go to sleep again. But my eyes are closing. I wonder what the Doc mixed in that hypo. Whatever it was, I doubt it could cure this pain in my heart. I don't think there is anything that can cure this. My eyelids are heavy with fatigue and just before I fall into a lethargic, drug-induced sleep, I wonder, for a moment, why my face is wet all of a sudden. It must be all the exhaustion of the last few days. Yes. Or perhaps something in the hypo. It couldn't be tears. It simply couldn't. Because I never, ever cry. No, it couldn't be tears.
However, I sink into the groveling, slimy quicksand of thick, suffocating sleep before I can contemplate this any further.
I am dreaming that Voyager is under attack. Battle klaxons are blaring. The ship is shuddering through incessant enemy fire. People are screaming everywhere. I can even hear the Captain's voice through the comm. channel. /---ALL HANDS. BATTLE STATIONS---/ Damn, why the hell am I having deafening, violent dreams about Voyager in battle? /---COMMANDER CHAKOTAY, REPORT TO THE BRIDGE---/ Oh Doc, what the heck did you mix in that hypo?
There is a big jolt and suddenly waking up I find myself on the carpeted floor of my quarters. Blinking wildly, I look around. I am in my lounge. It's dark. I don't remember turning off the lights. Why is it so dark?
Another jolt and with that I hear the unholy wail of Red Alert sirens.
What the fuck!?!
"COMMANDER CHAKOTAY! REPORT TO THE BRIDGE!" It's the Captain through the comm. line.
Oh, shit. This is no dream. We are under attack.
I scramble to my feet, and look around for my combadge, but it's hard to do so in the dark, even though, I finally notice, the ominous red hues of Red Alert are blinking throughout my quarters. In the dim lights, I see the chronometer on the wall. It's 0243 hrs. Then it occurs to me, I went to sleep wearing my shirt with the combadge attached.
"COMMANDER CHAKOTAY! THIS IS RED ALERT. REPORT TO THE BRIDGE!"
I punch the combadge. "I AM ON MY WAY, CAPTAIN!" and rush to the door. Another jolt hits the ship and I am thrown against the wall adjacent to the door. Damn. My head. It's pounding. A voice inside me insists that I should probably be contacting the Doctor about the Rexlin he gave me, and how fast would I be able to snap out of it's effects. But it's a Red Alert. No one prepares for these situations. There's no time to go to the Doctor. I'll just have to manage on my own.
Even if it's damned near impossible to do so, I think to myself as I try to make my way towards the bridge. I realize, as soon as I get out of the door and into the corridors, how difficult it is to walk through a drug-induced stupor, no matter how light the drug was, in the middle of a Red Alert. With the ship lurching from side to side, my stomach matching the ship's course, my head feeling as if it would explode any minute, I feel nauseous and just about ready to throw up everything I ever ate in my entire life. But I have to get to the bridge. I just have to.
Being whirled around the corridor left and right, I somehow clamber to the turbolift and as it opens, find myself facing several other crewmen who are trying to get to their various stations all over the ship. I get inside and order the computer to take me to the Bridge. It's one really bad ride. Being tossed around inside close, confined spaces while you are feeling nauseated and hung over is definitely no fun. This was no mere relaxant the EMH gave me. This is strong stuff that was meant to have kept me asleep until the morning. I can barely hold myself up. I seethe internally, as I feel the dull, throbbing pain in my temple return and another pang of nausea hits me. But there's no time for this. The lift doors open at Deck 1, and I stagger out and take in my surroundings.
If I thought the turbolift was bad, this is hell.
It's a pandemonium on the bridge. The viewscreen is active and I can see at least two alien ships at the starboard. Firing at us. At regular intervals. Another torpedo hits our shields and I feel the whole ship shudder as I grab hold of Tuvok's console to steady myself. Too fucking regular for my liking.
"Shields down to Seventy Six percent." Harry yells from his console on my left.
"Commander." Tuvok acknowledges my presence. I nod in return as I hurriedly make my way down to my seat, keeping one foot in front of the other, and praying to the Spirits not to let me go careening into the wall the next time the ship is hit. Damn, I feel queasy enough as it is.
"Who the hell are they?" I ask the Captain as, sitting down on my chair, I check the readings on my console.
"Tuvok," She turns to the Vulcan and barks. "Fire phasers!"
"Came out of nowhere." Kathryn says impatiently, turning to me. "No response to our hails other than these weapons fires." She looks weary, which is no surprise. "Just when we thought we had had enough trouble with hostile aliens."
Another torpedo attack, and there is a huge jolt which almost has me out of my seat. My stomach somersaults. For a second or two, I see stars. I grip the edge of my seat and take deep breaths to get a hold on myself. When I open my eyes, I see the Captain had been thrown off her seat.
"Captain..." I reach out for her but she doesn't seem to be too concerned about herself. And before I can get up and give her a hand, she has already brushed herself up and is sitting down again.
However, she does look at me closely. Very.
"You alright?" She keeps her voice low, as if to keep this exchange among ourselves. Her eyes probe me concernedly. I am curious as to what exactly she sees on my face.
"I am fine." I assure her. But she doesn't seem assured.
"Direct hit. Hull breach on Deck Seven." Tuvok reports.
"Losing life support on that deck." Harry follows.
So, her attention snaps away from me. I am almost grateful. I silently curse myself. I wish I hadn't gone to the Doc. I wish I hadn't taken any sleeping aids.
"Rerouting power from secondary systems." I hear myself say as my fingers automatically tap through a familiar scenario that has been grated into me by years of intense Starfleet training and command experience. There is no drug that can rip that away from me. Not without a fight, at least.
"Our weapons are having no effect on their shields, Captain." Tuvok says.
Tuvok acknowledges. "Firing torpedoes." I watch the viewscreen as two torpedoes in succession are fired from Voyager. They hit both the ships one by one. "No effect." Tuvok reports.
"Tom, get us out of here. Warp Six." Kathryn yells.
My head snaps up at that. I feel the deck move under my feet.
My eyes linger on his back. It's as if I am seeing him for the first time, and perhaps I am. At least for the first time since I stepped on to the bridge. My delirium clears a bit as I relive the whole conversation of several hours before in a matter of seconds, but my headache goes up another level. His shoulders tense up slightly, as if he can feel the heat of my gaze on his limber form.
Another torpedo hit. The ship lurches.
"Warp Drive's offline," Tom's replies nervously.
"B'Elanna!" The Captain bellows.
"I am trying, Captain."
This time my head swings to the right as B'Elanna's tense reply comes from... wait a minute... not Engineering, but from the Engineering section on the bridge. She is right here, at the Engineering console outside the Captain's Ready Room. And of course, I didn't notice her either. So much for my clearing delirium.
"It's not working." She furiously taps on her panels. "There is some kind of a dampening field around the Warp drive."
"Can you disrupt it?"
"I am trying." More tapping and then a furious "It's not working."
A beeping on my console catches my attention. "There's a power drain from the phaser banks," I read the report from my console. This is bad. Very fucking bad.
"There's a dampening field around all major weapons systems, Captain," Tuvok's report confirms the severity of the situation.
"B'Elanna," Captain Janeway growls. "I need those Warp Engines. Now."
"I am going to try to disrupt it with a power surge to the energy conduits," B'Elanna replies.
Another hit, and this time several consoles around the bridge sizzle and smoke fills the bridge.
"Losing structural integrity," Tom yells.
I jump to my feet. When B'Elanna disrupts the dampening field and the Warp Drive is online, Tom will try to go to Warp. At that point, if structural integrity is compromised, the ship could be badly damaged, even destroyed.
"Captain, three more alien vessels approaching," Harry reports, his voice shaking. "Their weapons are online."
There is no time. Someone has to help Tom with the navigational controls while he takes Voyager to warp. I look at Kathryn and she nods at me in assent. I run to the navigational control console besides the helm. From the corner of my eye I notice him steal a look up at my face as I stand next to him, but I shake myself out of it. There's no time for this.
"B'Elanna." I look to my right, waiting for her mark.
She doesn't look up from her console. "Initiating power surge." There's a slight shudder as we all wait for the outcome and then she looks back at Kathryn. "Warp Drive is online."
"Tom, get us out of here." Janeway orders as I tap onto my console, staying on top of the navigational readings.
"Aye Captain." Tom's fingers fly over the helm. "Warp Six." He taps in the speed and heading, just as instinct tells me to look up at the viewscreen.
One of the two original ships is charging weapons again. Nothing new there. But this time there is something else at work. Right this moment; it occurs to me that the new ships have neither the same make, nor a similar appearance. I watch transfixed as one of the new ships fire two torpedoes at the old ship. Just as the torpedoes from the new ship leave their launchers, the old ship fires two sets of torpedoes at us. For a moment, I am frozen. We all are. It's a spectacular view. The new ship's torpedoes hit the old ship and it explodes right in front of us into a gigantic ball of fire. And a moment later, the two torpedoes the old ship had fired at us hit Voyager.
One after the other.
The impact results in a huge jolt. I grab the navigational console to keep myself from flying off my feet.
That is my mistake.
The console is overloading. I hear the sizzling of the energy conduits, and the smell of burning circuitry hits my senses at the same time as I hear Tom's frantic warning into my ear,
"CHAKOTAY! WATCH OUT!"
But it's too late.
The console explodes in my face and I am lifted off my feet and thrown back on the deck, hard.
The last thing I remember is the excruciating heat spreading through my body and the painful impact I make with the deck.
Then everything turns dark.
To be continued in HOPE