HOPE (Sequel to DAZE)
Rating: R, Angst
Disclaimer: All characters owned by Paramount. I am merely playing with them. No copyright infringement is intended.
Story note: This follows the events of FIRE and DAZE. Tom has a lot of thinking to do after the space battle. Would he and Chakotay finally see eye to eye?
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: It seems my grammar is getting worse with each part I post.;-) Just ask my superb beta Morticia. I can't find the words to properly thank her for her endless patience with the grammatical errors of my caliber. ;-) But I'll try anyway: Thanks, Mort, for going over all the 'tense' problems. Your suggestions did wonders, as usual. That said and done, any and all mistakes are mine.;-)
Feedback is craved for and always welcome at email@example.com! Thanks. :-)
It's a weird place, this Delta Quadrant. We are lone explorers on a lone ship, thrown here from a distant part of the galaxy, who somehow tend to step on people's toes more often than anyone else does. As my trademark Paris luck would have it, no matter where we go, what we do, we are always violating some territory or the other. The consequences are dire most of the time.
Unfortunately, this is just the way our luck has evolved over the years.
Keeping that intense record in view, I have to admit that things got pretty much resolved on their own last night. The new aliens that had come to our rescue were the D'Marens. This was their space. While our attackers, the Kerazis, who were their long time enemy, had a habit of setting claim on their territory.
Or so we were told.
Frankly, all I cared for was the fact that the D'Marens saved our asses, and helped us get to safety. They even offered to help us with repairs. With some assistance from our new friends, we had our shields back up and our warp engines running well enough to get us the hell out of their space.
I have no idea who's at the helm right now. I have been in Sickbay for the past seven hours. When the Captain came to check up on Chakotay, I asked her to let me stay by his side. She looked at me a little strangely but didn't ask any questions. She gave me permission to do whatever I wanted until the next Beta shift. I feel eternally grateful to her for her forbearance.
Now all we need to do is wait for Chakotay to wake up.
Sitting on the chair the Doc had pulled up for me, I rub my tired face with my equally weary hands, and draw in a shaky breath. My headache has been taken care of, courtesy of the hypospray the Doc gave me, but I can't get my heart to slow down its frantic beat.
I look at the still form lying on the bio-bed, his breathing short but even, and feel my heart sink as thoughts of despair overwhelm me. If you ignore the readings on the overhead board showing his vitals, for a while, you could almost let yourself believe that he is asleep.
However, I know better.
Chakotay is still in a coma.
The Doc says his vital signs are more or less back to normal. His body is simply still recovering from the shock of the accident and the subsequent surgery he went through. His blood pressure is a little low right now but is within acceptable parameters. Despite the intracranial hematoma he suffered due to the head injury, there is no brain damage. It's just the shock that is keeping him from waking up. The Doc says he could wake up anytime at all.
Or maybe never.
The bleakness of this thought brings me up to my feet and I move closer to him, swallowing hard. I am not going to think any unpleasant thoughts. I need to transfer positive healing energies towards him. He needs to heal. He is going to heal. He is going to be alright.
My eyes linger on this man, this icon of enigmatic strength and quiet integrity, his hidden beauty strangely demystifying at a time like this. He rests through his coma, lying calm and still on the bio-bed, exuding such tranquility even in his unconscious state, that I can't help but feel some of that peacefulness transfer on to me. Wanting to feel more of him, I scoot closer and my hand reaches out to gently touch one broad brown shoulder, as I sigh and close my eyes.
I let my fingers slowly trace his collarbone, lingering over his throat, moving up his neck, careful not to disturb the regenerated tissue, as my other hand reaches out to lightly caress his soft cheek. Like a blind man, I trace his nose, his lips, as if memorizing his features, and lowering my head, I inhale the sweet scent of him. I run my fingertips over his face, his eyebrows, his closed eyes, and sigh, as memories of the previous night cascade over me like a gentle wave.
I think of the slide of his skin, the taste of his sweet lips and the scent of his salty sweat. I remember what it was like to have him in my arms, to have his arms around me. And, remembering all this, I feel my heart constrict with pain, as my eyes suddenly pool with hot tears.
"I am sorry, Cha. I am sorry I hurt you," I say, and then bring my mouth closer to his right ear. "I swear I'll make it up to you. Just give me a chance. Just get better. Please don't hate me."
I don't know if he hears this or not, but taking his hand in mine, I keep talking anyway. "You have to wake up, Chakotay. I'll explain everything. It's going to be alright." I dip my head and softly kiss his forehead. "You're going to be alright."
My lips hover over his face as I whisper softly. "I know it may be hard for you to believe me at this point, Chakotay, but I... love you." The fingers of my left hand tenderly run through his soft dark hair, as I lay a feather-light kiss on the bridge of his nose. "I'll prove it to you. I will not hide from you now that I have found you, Cha."
I hear a sound behind me and come out of my trance. Straightening up, I turn my head to the side to look. It's the Doctor. He has stepped out of his office and is now standing at one of the monitors showing Chakotay's vital signs. I look at him as he frets around the Sickbay. He picks up a tricorder and frowns at it, and then sighs. He then looks at me from the corner of his eyes, frowns and sighs again. I take a deep breath and brace for impact.
"So I gather you were the reason for the Commander's distress last night?" He gives me a strange look; his eyes narrow with something that looks like accusation.
My mouth drops open as I try to digest this statement. Whatever I was waiting for, it surely wasn't this. I feel my throat tighten.
"What do you mean, Doc?"
The hologram inhales sharply and looks pointedly at my right hand, and I realize I still hold Chakotay's hand in mine. Well, I don't care what anyone thinks about this. I suppose the Doc even heard some of what I said to Chakotay just a moment ago. Fine, so be it. I take a long, deep breath, give Chakotay's hand a deliberate squeeze and look straight into the holodoc's eyes, daring him to continue.
"It's just that when the Commander came to me last night, I was quite disconcerted by the condition he was in," He says.
Pieces of puzzle are suddenly falling into place. "Chakotay came to you last night?" I ask the Doctor.
My conversation with Jenny Delaney, who I had met in the turbolift after my 'talk' with Chakotay, comes back to me. She had taken one look at my face, halted the lift and had told me about the encounter she had heard Chakotay have with B'Elanna. This was when things had started making sense to me. She told me how the whole of Deck 5 had heard B'Elanna yelling at Chakotay in the corridors, and asked me what the hell had I done now to piss B'Elanna off, and why the hell was she taking that anger out on the Commander?
But something in her eyes told me she knew a little more than this. I wonder who else knew and how much did they know?
This could also mean that Chakotay met B'Elanna on his way to or from the Sickbay, before I went to his quarters.
"Yes," The Doctor replies while punching a few panels on the console. "He needed a sleeping aid and I gave him a dose of Rexlin." He brings up his eyes from the monitors and looks at me. "He seemed to be under a lot of stress; I detected high blood pressure, accelerated pulse rate..."
I swallow hard at this. I remember how I had treated Chakotay last night. I knew it was wrong of me to say what I said to him. I knew even then, standing in his quarters, reading his body language, listening to his words, that something was very wrong with the whole scenario. My brain warned me that something had happened which had forced Chakotay to act in the guarded way he did. But my smart aleck half came busting through the doors, and ran over my reasoning side, spouting off nonsense which no doubt hurt this man to no end.
I look up at the Doc, a forlorn expression on my face, but my brow knits into a small frown as I see the concerned expression on the holodoc's face change into a slightly amused one. "Not to mention..." He continues, "the evidence of a recent sexual interlude between him and another male member of the crew."
Before I can help it, I feel my face flush with embarrassment. Damn, count on the Doc to come up with a counter-punch at every turn of conversation. However, before I can say a word, the expression on his face turns sheepish.
"Don't worry, he seemed quite protective of the incident," he sighs deeply. "He of course didn't say a word to me. It's just that I couldn't help hearing some of your conversation with the Commander just now, and I just hope I never have to see him as upset as he was last night. He is usually as stable as a rock and I am not used to seeing him any other way. It was disturbing, to say the least."
I am speechless. This is the Doctor, a Holographic Medical Program. Yet, his compassion towards Chakotay is leaving me flabbergasted. My heart fills with tenderness for the man lying on the bio-bed, his hand still clasped in mine. I look at the Doc with new eyes. How many times has he been accused of having a not-so-pleasant bedside manner? Hell, I have treated him as nothing more than a nuisance a million times over. But he has evolved so much further than any of us ever expected him to.
"I promise you, Doc, the Commander will never go through the kind of stress he had to endure in the last couple of days." I say to the EMH, meaning every word. "I intend to work everything out with him. You have my word."
For a second I see what seems like relief in the Doc's eyes, and then he puts on his physician's face and turns to me. "Mr. Paris, you know, you really should go back to your quarters and get some rest. You have been sitting here all night."
I fold my arms over my chest. "I am not leaving here until Chakotay wakes up."
"And what if he hasn't woken up until your next duty rolls around?" Ah, Mr. Smug is back. "Would you like to show up on the bridge with the same long face?"
I grit my teeth at the pessimistic words. "He will wake up."
Before the Doctor can say anything else, the sickbay doors slide open and we both watch Harry stride inside. He looks at me with concerned eyes.
"Tom, are you alright?" He asks me.
I sigh and silently thank God for the intrusion. The Doctor's mood swings sometime get on my freaking nerves.
"I am fine, Harry," I reply.
He looks at the unconscious figure of our XO lying on the bio-bed and then at me. "Then why are you in the sickbay since the accident? Did you get hurt?" He asks.
The Doctor sarcastically huffs at this, making a show of himself, turns around, and heads back into his office.
Ignoring the Doc, I turn my attention to my friend. "No, I didn't get hurt," I reply quietly. I walk back to the chair I was previously sitting on, and slide into it. "I am keeping an eye on Chakotay."
Harry looks at Chakotay, concern clear in his eyes. "How is he?"
I close my eyes for a second, trying to clamp down on my earlier fear. "He is stable," I look up at Harry. "But he hasn't woken up yet."
Harry looks back at me with a troubled expression. "Then he will be alright. Why do you have to stay in the sickbay all this time? Did the Captain order you to stay?"
I slowly exhale. "No, I asked the Captain to let me stay."
Now Harry is frowning. "What is going on Tom?" He flails his arms around in an impatient gesture. "You're not making any sense. Why are you talking in riddles?"
"Relax, Harry." I get up from my chair and grabbing it, I place it to the side of the neighboring bio-bed. I then, hop over the bed and beckon at him to sit on the chair in front of me. "Sit down. I have something to tell you." I need to have the seating just right. With what I am about to tell him, I can't have him lounging over me, making me nervous. I have to be sitting slightly above his level and he a little below.
He looks at me suspiciously, stiffly walks to the chair, and slides into it. "What's wrong, Tom?" He looks up at me with his 'go-ahead-and-hit-me-with-whatever-you-got' expression. "Are you in trouble with the Commander?"
I snort. "You don't know the half of it, Harry." When his brow wrinkles even further, I gesture with my hand. "But not in the way you would expect. I am not in any professional trouble with him."
He raises his left eyebrow at me. "So you're telling me, you are in trouble with Chakotay over something personal?"
"That's one way of putting it." I give him a weak grin.
Harry folds his hands over his chest. "Ok, Tom. What have you done?"
I take a deep breath, look him straight in the eyes, and slowly let it out. "I am in love with him, Harry."
If Harry is shocked, he has gotten very good at hiding it, because his face doesn't register any such expression. In fact, his face stays absolutely unreadable. For several long seconds he looks at me, his stare unwavering, and his eyes unblinking. Then the corners of his mouth quirk up into amusement, and I see wrinkles form at the corners of his eyes as he chuckles at me.
"Very funny, Paris. Tell me the next joke."
"I am not joking, Harry. I am in love with Chakotay, and night before last, he and I even had sex." Without thinking, I blurt out and then mentally wince at my words.
He is grinning widely now. "Tom, I can't believe you can come up with these things at this hour. I mean the guy is in a coma, and you are sitting in the same room cracking jokes about having sex with him."
It is kind of funny. Now I knew that Harry would have a difficult time digesting this information but I had no idea he would outright refuse to believe me.
"It happened, Harry." I sigh. "In the Observation Lounge."
He snorts. "So you actually let the Commander do you, huh?"
I can feel my face turn hot all of a sudden before I reluctantly reply, "Actually, it was more the other way round, Har." I say, my voice a mere whisper. "I topped him,"
This really sets him off. I settle back on the bio-bed and watch my friend as he clutches his abdomen with both hands and doubles over in laughter. "You..." he snorts, pointing his index finger at me. "... You........ topped Chakotay?!?" Tears stream down his face as he gasps and chortles at my expense.
I let a ghost of a grin linger over my lips and shaking my head at the spectacle in front of me, let the moment pass.
After several more seconds, when he has his breathing under control, he looks up at me with a slight grin. But his grin vanishes at the expression on my face. He looks at me closely with a frown, looks at Chakotay, and then back at me. I watch as his eyes widen with realization.
"You are serious," his tone is one of impending doom.
"I told you I was, Harry," I shrug at him. "I love him, we both had sex the night before, and right now I am in a terrible mess because I screwed up everything with him last night."
"You..." He looks at me with a horrified expression. "... You... had sex with the Commander."
"Yes..." I insist, beginning to wish that I had never confided in him. "...and then B'Elanna walked in on the two of us, and Chakotay thought I only used him to get back at B'Elanna, which couldn't be farther from the truth."
His mouth drops open. "B'Elanna walked in on the two of you?"
I grit my teeth. "Yes Harry! Aren't you listening to what I am saying? Chakotay thinks I used him to get back at B'Elanna and I screwed everything up when I went to talk to him last night."
But it seems the shock is finally crashing down on Harry in huge waves. He is only hearing bits and pieces of what I am telling him. "Tom, how could you have sex with Chakotay like that? You just broke up with B'Elanna four days back. Just four days back. Then you had sex with the Commander. What would B'Elanna think?"
I jump down from the bio-bed. "For God's sake, Harry. I don't give a damn about what B'Elanna thinks anymore." I start to pace behind him, forcing him to turn around. "In case you have forgotten, B'Elanna cheated on me and I broke up with her. We're through."
He looks up at me with troubled eyes. "But don't you wanna give B'Elanna another chance? I mean she made a mistake..."
"NO!" I snap at this. "This is not about B'Elanna. I don't want to have another chance with her. I love Chakotay. I always have. I had one night with him, and I realized how wonderful it could be." I let out a staggering breath. "But I have fucked it up with him. I hurt him terribly and I need you to understand where I am standing right now, Harry."
He still looks at me uncertainly.
"If you really are my best friend then you will support me in whatever decision I make," I say.
"But if you are making the wrong decision..." Harry starts.
"This is the right decision." I interrupt, looking him straight in the eyes. "Harry, I have never felt so sure in my life."
He gives me a look of reluctant acceptance as he grabs my hand and pulls me to the bio-bed. "Okay, Tom... sit down and calm down."
I sigh as I climb atop the bio-bed once more and turn my eyes to him.
He looks at me resignedly. "Tell me what happened."
I take a deep breath. "I said things to him I shouldn't have and which I didn't even mean in the first place."
"Like what?" Harry gives me a suspicious look.
"I told him I only did it with him because he was there in the Observation Lounge that night." I whisper.
Harry looks at me incredulously. "You're kidding, right?"
I just gulp at this and stay quiet, not knowing what to say. His eyes go wide.
"Now let me get it straight." He gestures with both hands parallel in front of his chest, as if reciting a point from his report in front of a class. "First, night before last, you show up in the Observation Lounge only to find Commander Chakotay already there?"
He pauses for my assent. When I nod, he inhales and continues. "Then something happens and one thing leads to the next and somehow the two of you end up having sex with each other, am I right so far?"
I lower my eyes at this. He keeps going. "Then after you two have had sex, B'Elanna walks into the Observation Lounge and sees you there, and the Commander thinks you probably set it all up so that you could get back at B'Elanna for whatever she did to you?"
Now he is not even waiting for my assent. He is on a roll. "And last night when you went to see him, you told him that yes you did use him but only because you were pissed off at life and he happened to be present at the wrong place at the wrong time. Or, should I say, at the right place at the right time? Hmm... now I wonder why the Commander would be upset at you?"
I groan at this. "Yes... I know I screwed up, Harry. But I didn't mean to. I didn't mean to say that to him." I scrunch my face into an expression of helpless misery. "He was acting so weird last night when I went to talk to him. What I didn't know was that he had already had a fight with B'Elanna earlier on, and I have no idea what she said to him. I didn't tell him she had cheated on me. He doesn't know the whole story."
Harry shakes his head at me. "I don't know what to do with you, Tom."
I jut out my lower lip at this. "Just kick my ass the next time I am about to say something stupid to Chakotay."
"Yeah, as if you would ask me first," he sighs. "I thought you didn't even like the Commander very much." He frowns again. "And here you are telling me that you are in love with him?"
"It's a long story, Harry," I run my fingers through my hair. "And get used to it, because I intend to sort it all out with him. I am not going to give him up now."
Suddenly, my ears perk up as I hear a sound from somewhere around the sickbay. I nearly jump as I realize it's the console beside Chakotay's bio-bed. We both look at the monitors and the console beeps again, this time followed by another beep coming from the overhead board that is showing Chakotay's vitals.
I slide off the bed. Something is happening. I look at the Doc as he hurries out of his office.
"He is waking up," The Doc says.
The Doctor's words send a shiver down my spine and I fold my arms over my chest as my fingers rub the sides of my ribcage, trying to stave off some of this chill I feel settling into my bones. I hear a soft groan come from the bed and my heart starts thundering in my chest, as I take a step closer. Despite my confident words to Harry about how I plan to sort everything out with Chakotay, I realize it is hardly going to be that easy. In fact, standing here on the side of the bio-bed, waiting for my First Officer to wake up from his injury-induced coma, I feel very, very nervous.
The doctor presses a hypo to Chakotay's neck. We hear the hiss of the administered medicine and a few seconds later those eyes flutter open. He blinks at the ceiling a few times, then turns his face to his right, where I stand, and I find myself looking straight into those deep brown eyes. I swallow through the lump in my throat.
He is awake. He is out of the coma.
"Welcome back, Commander." The Doctor, standing on the other side of the bed, smiles down at his patient. Chakotay blinks a few times at me, a slight frown of puzzlement appearing on his brow, and turns his head to look at him.
"Doctor?" His voice is a little weak, slightly raspy, but clear.
"You were injured. You were in a coma for eight hours. But you are alright now." The Doctor explains.
Chakotay blinks a few more times, wetting his dry lips with his tongue as he tries to digest this information "The aliens?"
I take a deep breath and my hand moves, as if it has a will of its own, and touches the same bare shoulder. "They have been taken care of. We got help from the people who came to our rescue," I speak to him softly. "They helped us get out of their space."
He turns his head to look back at me. His eyes are amazingly clear, the irises large and black as a starless night, his stare unfathomably deep, and I find my restless soul drinking into the sight of those beautiful eyes. All of a sudden, I feel elated as my heart fills with boundless joy. He is alright. He is even coherent. He obviously remembers the battle. He is going to be just fine. I can make everything work with him.
However, I feel my breath catch in my throat as he stares into my eyes with an unreadable expression on his face. He says nothing back, doesn't acknowledge my words, and doesn't even act as if he can feel my hand on his shoulder. Then with his head still turned to my side, he closes his eyes.
"How long do I have to stay here, Doctor?" He sounds tired, as if he has fought wars on fronts both physical and emotional. I feel my heart constrict in pain. I have hurt him in so many ways. How would I ever be able to explain anything to him?
I let my hand fall back to my side.
"I would like to keep you in sickbay for at least another twenty-four hours for observation," The Doctor states. "You had very serious internal injuries, but thanks to my timely and ingenious surgical treatment, there aren't likely going to be any lasting side-effects."
I watch Harry roll his eyes at this, and I give him a small grin.
The Doctor continues on smugly. "All you require now is some rest. Consider yourself off duty for the next seventy-two hours." His tone turns even more arrogant, if possible. "Well, Commander, it seems you have no choice but to take my earlier advice and actually take it easy this time."
I sigh at the holodoc. There's no winning with him. He can evolve more than any of us perhaps, but his attitude will never change.
Chakotay opens his eyes, but carefully keeps his gaze averted from mine, and turns his head back to the holodoc. "Thank you, Doctor," he says and closes his eyes again.
The holodoc turns to me. "Well, Mr. Paris, now that the Commander is awake, perhaps, you should go back to your quarters and get some rest."
"You said yourself that you will stay here only until the Commander wakes up." The Doc says authoritatively. "He is awake now. Go back to your quarters. Like I said before, you have been sitting here all night. Get some rest."
I look at Chakotay. His eyes remain closed, his face expressionless. I feel my throat tighten.
"The Doctor is right, Tom..." It's Harry. "It's almost lunch time now and I am famished. Let's get some lunch and get you to your quarters."
The Doctor, satisfied now that Harry has taken over my fate, happily turns around. "Sickbay to the Captain."
As Harry grabs my arm and leads me out of the sickbay, I hear the Captain asking the holodoc over the comm. line if she can come to see Chakotay. Before I can hear the Doctor's reply, the door closes behind us.
I pull my arm out of Harry's grip. "Slow down, Harry," I say, frowning at him as I deliberately slow down my gait.
Harry just looks at me and shakes his head slightly, but slows down to match my steps.
"Messhall?" He asks.
"No." I sigh. "I think I'll just go to my quarters and change." I have a lot on my mind, and there is a visit I have to make as well.
We reach the turbolift and get inside. Harry tells the computer to take us to my deck.
"When are you going to talk to B'Elanna?" He stares at me.
I look at Harry and wonder when he started reading minds.
"After I've had lunch, Harry."
"What are you going to say to her?" He seems concerned.
"I am going to put her in her place, once and for all." I press my lips together.
I feel him stiffen next to me. The next few seconds pass in silence. Then Harry turns back to me. I hold my breath. "Tom, have you considered the possibility that perhaps the Commander will not return your feelings?"
/---Oh, believe me, Harry. I think of it constantly ---/
"What if he doesn't want to have a relationship with you?" Harry continues, exasperated. "What if it was just a one-night thing for him?"
/---But, I am not about to admit that in front of anyone yet---/
"Well, I am the one who experienced the whole thing, Harry. I know what it feels like now. It wasn't a fling." I slowly exhale, making an attempt to keep my voice under control. "And do you really think Chakotay is a one-night-stand kind of guy? I thought you would give him more respect than that."
"Well, the fact that he took advantage of you when you were still recovering from your breakup with B'Elanna," he scowls, "brings down my respect for him a notch or two."
I swing around on my feet and look at my best friend in astonishment.
"Computer, halt lift," I bark.
Harry looks at me with a tired expression on his face. I stare him down, nose to nose, my teeth bare in a near-snarl.
"Get this through your thick skull, Harry," I begin. "And keep it there, because this is the only time I will say this. Chakotay did not take advantage of me. I was the one who started it. He tried to brush me off, but by that time I was thinking with my dick, not my brain, and couldn't be stopped."
With that, I turn back around. "Computer, resume."
Another few seconds of silence, and then he says, "See, this could very well mean it was a heat-of-the-moment thing for Chakotay. He probably won't return your feelings."
Feeling exasperated, I inhale sharply. I don't know why Harry is being so mean to me, but I suspect it has something to do with B'Elanna. My resolve to settle things with her becomes stronger with each passing second. I grit my teeth as the lift slows and, as the doors open, am out of it in a blink.
Harry hurries after me. "Tom, listen to me..."
However, I am really mad at him right now, so I don't slow down. Even though at the back of my mind I know, as always, he is simply being over-protective of me, his attitude still pisses me off. Heck the Doctor was more considerate than he is being.
I reach my door and punch in my code and a moment later my doors open. I stride inside.
"Tom," Harry says, as he reaches my door and puts a foot inside to prevent it from closing, but doesn't step inside. "I am sorry. I just don't want you to get hurt."
I turn around to look at him. He does seem repentant if that expression means anything. I take long, deep breaths, trying to slow down my heart. There is no use blowing my top in front of Harry.
On the other hand, if I get in a really bad mood, then my encounter with B'Elanna will be that much more stellar.
"I don't think I can get any more hurt than I already am, Harry," I say. "The way I see it, things can only get better from now on."
Well, how's that for Tom Paris' optimistic outlook on his love life?
"Will I see you at dinner before your shift starts?" he asks, attempting to go back to neutral ground.
"Unlikely Harry. I have a lot of things to take care of." I can't make it that easy for him. "Maybe later."
Harry looks at me for a second, and then he nods once, moves out of the doorway and the door closes.
I take a deep breath and taking two steps back, collapse on the couch. I feel exhausted but rejuvenated at the same time. It's a strange feeling. There are so many emotions running through me. Happiness. Regret. Anger. Guilt. Hope. Fear.
I am happy that Chakotay is awake. He is alive. He will get better. He will soon be back on duty. There is relief in that thought unlike any I have ever felt before.
I regret hurting him, making him go through the last two days without explaining everything to him. When Chakotay had left the Observation Lounge with the impression that he had been used as some sort of a revenge tactic against B'Elanna, I was supposed to have come clean with him about everything. But when I went to see him last night and saw how he refused to talk to me about anything, I did the one thing I always do when I get defensive.
I turned snide
I realized my mistake immediately. I realized, because my turning snide and cold didn't make me feel any better. He had schooled his face back into a non-expression, turned away from me, and told me to get out of his quarters.
But not before I had seen those deep brown eyes.
No matter what Chakotay does, no matter how serious he is, how stoic he acts, how serene he appears outwardly, his eyes always give him away. Those expressive eyes can laugh; joke and smile at you, and you wouldn't even notice a twitch on his face.
And I realized last night that when he's hurt, they could cry as well. Without having to shed a single tear.
My breath caught in my throat, I had wanted to take him in my arms, kiss him hard on his lips, and drop to my knees, begging for his forgiveness. But the tension in that room was so palpable, so thick, that you could cut it with a knife. I found my feet take one step after another, finding their way out of his quarters until the door closed behind me, as I decided it was too late.
One would think that I would learn from my mistakes, right? Wrong. Hence, the regret still reigns in my heart.
I feel mad at B'Elanna for ignoring me for two days and then after I had been with Chakotay, taking it upon herself to screw things in his head. I feel mad at Harry for doubting Chakotay. I feel mad at myself for not clearing everything with Chakotay myself. How can I put all the blame on B'Elanna, or Harry, or anyone else when I have apparently kept things from the Commander myself.
Most of all, I feel guilty for putting Chakotay through all this doubt; all this unnecessary pain. I feel guilty for letting him get hurt last night. I could have gotten him out of harm's way. I should have.
It took so many hails from the Captain before Chakotay answered on the bridge; I had almost thought something had happened to him. I was tempted to leave the bridge and go looking for him. Except that is kind of hard to do, when you've got three alien ships majorly kicking your ass and you're the one pilot who can evade that enemy fire better than anyone else. We tried to keep up with the aliens, but they had superior firepower and were absolutely relentless in their attack
When Chakotay finally arrived, I had felt my shoulders sag with relief. Where his strong presence can distract me in peaceful times, it also has the ability to calm me in tense situations. He's my anchor, my beacon out of gloom. Even though, at the back of my mind, I kept thinking of how I had screwed everything up with him on a personal level, that didn't abate the sense of composure his proximity gave me. I could do anything with him at my back.
If I did things right, if I got Voyager out of the line of fire, then maybe, just maybe, I could work everything out with Chakotay as well. Maybe, if I didn't screw anything else up, and got Voyager to a safe location, he wouldn't hate me anymore.
But of course, I was too fucking slow to do even that. I failed to go to warp when I should have, and as a consequence, Chakotay got hurt. I was sitting right next to him when that console exploded, but I didn't get even a single scratch on me, while he lay on that deck, burnt and bleeding.
It was entirely my fault.
So there's still this fear, this dread that he would never feel for me what I feel for him. That perhaps Harry will be proven right. Perhaps Chakotay would never return my feelings the way I want him to. Maybe he would never forgive me. I am not even sure whether I am worthy of him or not.
Yet my adrenaline still flows. Simply knowing that Chakotay is going to be alright now gives me a whole new sense of purpose. I can feel the thrumming in my veins.
Checking the chronometer, which tells me its 1224 hours, I get up from the couch. Time to freshen up. Walking into my bedroom, I peel off my clothes and head straight to the bathroom. A quick shower and a change of clothes later, I am back in the living room, replicating a meal for myself. I haven't eaten anything since last night and I am starving now.
I finish my lunch without interruption, and after recycling the scraps and dishes, I take a moment to get my bearings right. I, then, place my combadge on my shirt and step out of my quarters.
As I ride the lift to Engineering, I mentally go through the conversations I had with Jenny and Harry. One leaves me frustrated, the other furious. I can't believe B'Elanna went on her own and said whatever the hell she did to Chakotay. I honestly hadn't thought of the possibility of something like that happening. I feel like kicking myself for being so stupid and for letting the doubts take roots in Chakotay's mind in the first place.
Then there's Harry. His attitude is literally pissing me off. All I know is that he is simply taking B'Elanna's side, and I am upset that he does that, even after knowing everything he does.
The lift stops at Deck 11 and stepping out, I walk into Engineering. I look around the area, my eyes searching for the Chief Engineer but she's nowhere to be seen on the lower level. Engineering is once again filled with repair teams. It's almost as if the repair work we did after the Equinox fiasco never happened. Engineering crew are working all over the place, repair tools in hands, crawling under consoles, checking and correcting the delicately precise details of the sturdy engine that runs this ship. The only thing missing is the cussing Lieutenant in charge.
I spot Ensign Wildman bent over a console and walk over to her. "Hey Sam..."
She turns around and a smile breaks on her features. "Hey Tom, what's up?"
I smile back at her. "Do you know where I could find B'Elanna?"
"Lieutenant Torres is in her office," Samantha points to the upper level with a tilt of her head.
"Thanks a lot." I nod at her and walk to the lift that operates between the two levels of Engineering.
The lift takes me to the upper level that houses the Chief's office and other administrative cubicles. I walk towards B'Elanna's office and notice her through the see-through walls. She is working on a console, her back to the door. I don't press the chime. I just barge in. She hears the swishing of the doors opening and turns around, as I get ready to chew her out.
"Tom, how is Chakotay?" is the first thing that comes out of B'Elanna's mouth as she looks up at me.
I stop in my tracks and look closely at her. Hmm, now I had wanted to start my conversation here with something like "What the fuck did you say to Chakotay?" but she has floundered me slightly with this opening. Is that concern I see pooling in her eyes? There is her patent frown wrinkling her brows but there is something else in those eyes, something that looks suspiciously like worry. How do I bitch at someone who wants to know how Chakotay is doing after the accident?
I narrow my eyes as my mouth makes that decision for me. "What the hell do you care about Chakotay?"
Her features harden as she scowls at me. "What the hell are you talking about? Of course I care about Chakotay."
I frown at her. "If you did, why didn't you come to see him in the sickbay? He'd been lying in a coma for the past eight hours."
"I've been busy, Tom," she frowns back. "In case you've forgotten we just went through a battle. There was a lot of damage done to the ship and I've been in charge of all the repair work here."
I snort. "As if you couldn't spare two minutes to drop by Sickbay and find out whether the Commander was alive or not."
"Well, I knew you were sitting there looking out for the Commander," she says, gritting her teeth. "And besides someone has to do the work around here. Not everyone can hide in the sickbay on the pretense of looking after the First Officer."
The way she says his rank pulls contradictory reactions in me. At the same time, I feel upset at her scornful tone and yet I can't help grinning at her clearly envious demeanor.
"So that's what it's about," I shake my head at her. "You couldn't stand the fact that it was me who was sitting and watching Chakotay. Or is it because it was him that I was watching?"
Her eyes narrow down to mere slits. "You're such a bastard, Paris. I thought you had more honor than this. I thought you were through being a slut for the hierarchy."
"WHAT?" I growl, incredulous. "You are calling me a slut? You are talking about honor? You are the one who fucked me over, B'Elanna." I can no longer keep my volume down. "Or have you forgotten Max Burke already?"
"I haven't forgotten Max for a second," she yells back at me. "I have remembered him all these years. But he doesn't MEAN ANYTHING." She continues. "It was just one old thread from my old life that I had to tie up. I couldn't move on until I did that."
"What?" She is leaving me dumbfounded here. "Tie up an old thread?" I say, feeling exasperated. "Did that mean you had to sleep with him?"
"It was just one night!" she says, as though that makes a difference.
"One night. One hour. What difference does that make?" I helplessly shake my head. Something tells me I should have had this conversation much earlier. "The fact is you cheated on me."
"It didn't mean a thing to me, Tom." She looks exasperated, as if I am being the impossible one here. I wonder if I really am nuts.
"It does to me, B'Elanna. I don't share. But I didn't come here to talk about this," I look hard into her eyes and this time say what I had come here for in the first place. "All I wanna know is, what the fuck did you say to Chakotay?"
Her expression changes as she replies. "I said exactly what he needed to hear."
"What did you say to him?" I repeat, keeping my voice icy.
She stares at me for several long moments before snarling; "I told him he had no right to touch you while you belonged to me. I told him the mistake he made by fucking me over."
"You are the one who made a mistake, B'Elanna." I can't believe she has the audacity to talk this way. "First of all, you are the one who fucked me over and I had already broken up with you, so you had no reason to feel betrayed." I can't help it as my volume increases by several decibels. "Second, I DO NOT belong to you. I never did." I spit out each word for emphasis. "Third, I am IN LOVE with Chakotay. I have been for as long as I remember, and I am gonna keep him."
"LOVE?" She seems stunned. "Well, that's big, isn't it?" I can see she is absolutely pissed off. "Tell you what, Paris? Don't raise your hopes too much, because from what Chakotay said to me last night, your Observation Lounge rendezvous meant nothing to him."
My heart lurches at that. I have been too busy worrying about what she might have said to Chakotay. Now for the first time I wonder what Chakotay's response to her might have been. What did he say? How did he feel? His reaction to me in the sickbay after waking up... was indifferent to say the least. At the time, I had chalked it up to his confusion after the long delirium. Besides, I do deserve a slight cold shoulder from the Commander anyway. Could what B'Elanna is saying be right? Was Harry right? Am I the only one who is wrong in this?
Then I remember the look I saw in Chakotay's eyes last night in his quarters and mentally shake my head. No way, I know that look. He was hurt at my words. He was probably upset with B'Elanna as well. That night did mean something to him.
For the first time, I feel raw, unhindered rage boiling inside me.
"Shut up, B'Elanna!" I spit out at her. "I am through with your pathetic attempts at misleading me. Keep this in your mind: It's over between us." I give her an ugly look. "And from now on I want you to stay the fuck away from Chakotay!"
She clenches her fists. "Why the hell should I listen to you? He's my friend!"
"Friend?" I give a short laugh. "If you are his friend then act like one," I yell. "And stop messing with our heads, for Godsake!"
Saying that I turn around, intending to walk out of her office, but pause at her next words.
"You never loved me." She sounds resigned in a way only a Klingon can, growl and snarl mingled with sadness.
I look back at her, my blue eyes boring into her dark ones. "And neither did you," I say. "Because if you had, you would never have slept with him."
She doesn't reply, just stares at me with the same hatred mingling with frustration and disdain.
"Stay away from Chakotay," I repeat, and walk out of the small office and take the lift down to the lower level. Oblivious to the rest of the crew, I make my way towards my quarters, B'Elanna's words ringing in my ears.
/---Your Observation Lounge rendezvous meant nothing to him---/
I know she said it only to put me off but I can't help but feel this sense of trepidation in my heart. I also know I hurt Chakotay with my attitude but do I have any idea what he really wants? What does he want? How does he feel about me? All these years, he never showed any indication that he may be interested in me as anything more than a fellow crewmember, or at best a good acquaintance, an almost-friend.
Yet, what we did that night went far beyond anything almost-friends usually do. Why did he do it? Was it only a heat-of-the-moment thing for him, as Harry said?
I am inclined to make a detour and stop by the sickbay again, all of a sudden having this urge to see Chakotay, to touch him, to speak to him. However, since the Doctor literally ordered me out of there an hour ago, he won't be pleased to see me back so quickly.
Besides Chakotay is probably resting per the Doc's instructions. I should let him rest. Maybe I should check on him after my shift ends. At least, with B'Elanna's problem out of the way of my conscience, I have a somewhat freer mind and I know I can focus on other things, like my work.
With that decision made, I head back to my quarters to sleep until my next shift.
I hate beta shifts.
Junior crew to handle, which means no familiar faces to look at.
Despite being demoted to Ensign a few months back, I am still treated as a senior officer on the ship. I still claim the command chair on these odd shifts when I have the bridge to myself. The truth is, I take no pleasure in being on these late shifts.
I miss the alpha crowd. I don't like not being able to hear the familiar voices, not being able to look at the people I watch everyday.
Between the spew of green Fleet ensigns and less than eager Maquis crewmembers, beta shifts give me the creeps. No matter what the popularity polls on Voyager may tell you, I am still distrusted by Chakotay's former crew. They still haven't forgotten the Jonas incident, even though I am pretty sure Chakotay has.
Oh, maybe he hasn't completely forgotten about it, but he surely doesn't keep it against me anymore. I am quite certain of that.
Gamma shifts are even worse. I can't imagine how Harry handles it. On top of that, to hear him rave about 'how the Captain's chair is oh so comfortable he could fall asleep in it' is too much to take.
I hate not being able to see Chakotay on the bridge. I want to talk to him so badly.
I squirm in my seat for the zillionth time and check the chronometer yet again. It's 2348 hours. Ah, twelve more minutes to go. Then I can get off this bridge and head Chakotay's way. Will he be asleep? Probably. He needs the rest. I wonder if the Doctor is keeping him sedated. I doubt it. I think he would let Chakotay sleep naturally.
I'll just go and check on him, that's all. Perhaps I'll sit down for a few minutes and look at him sleeping peacefully.
Perhaps I'll sit down for a few hours. I wonder if the Doc would let me sleep on the chair. It'll be on my own time.
Or perhaps I wouldn't sleep. Who wants to sleep when I can watch Chakotay? Besides, I've had enough sleep for one night. I slept like a baby for four straight hours this afternoon. That's a good record for me.
Yes, that's decided then. I'll just go sit down and watch Chakotay sleep. Watching that man getting his required quota of rest would be an exercise in relaxation itself. I can always talk to him in the morning when he's fresh and well rested.
The lift doors open and, one by one, I watch the replacement crew enter the bridge.
I get up and gather my stuff together and greeting the green crowd, I walk into the turbolift.
The lift moves to its destination four decks down. I take deep breaths, needing to calm myself, purging my mind of my muddled musings. The lift drops me at Deck 5 and I step out, heading towards sickbay.
I know just taking one look at Chakotay would help me tremendously. Even if he's mad at me, I still know I can work it out.
I walk through the doors of the sickbay, expecting to see Chakotay on the bio-bed closest to the Doc's office, and stop in my tracks. The bio-bed is empty. I look around the sickbay in bewilderment, but he's nowhere to be seen. The sickbay is empty. The Doc is offline. What the hell?
"Computer, initiate Emergency Medical Hologram."
There is a familiar flickering of the holo-image before the Doctor becomes completely visible.
"Please state the nature...." He stops in mid-sentence, and looks at me. "Ah, Mr. Paris, what brings you here?"
"Where's Chakotay?" I ask him impatiently.
He looks at me equally impatiently. "He's in his quarters, of course."
"I thought you were going to keep him here for twenty-four hours under observation." I ask.
The hologram rolls his eyes. "I had planned to do so, but obviously being the Chief Medical Officer, I don't know what's best for my patients," he continues prissily. "They make all their medical decisions themselves. The Commander somehow convinced himself that he would recuperate better in his own quarters. I can't believe he of all people would disagree with my opinion, being ship's counselor and all. No doubt an eccentric Maquis trait we missed in his evaluation," he snorts and I grit my teeth. "I don't know how this ship and its crew continue to function. In the alpha quadrant, another Doctor would most certainly receive high accolades for putting up with such unprofessional behavior."
He's ranting now. I don't have time for this.
"Thanks Doc," I mumble, turning around, and head towards the door.
"Ensign!" he calls out. I halt and turn around to look at him. "I would strongly suggest you leave the Commander alone for tonight." I frown at the Doctor's words. He continues. "He promised me that he will take complete rest tonight. I think he would do that better if he didn't have to face any additional stress," he looks straight into my eyes and I find myself turning red at the last words.
Of course, the Doc is right. Chakotay does need rest. If I go to him right now, he won't be able to relax, won't be able to rest. He needs to rest. I don't want to upset him anymore.
I swallow hard and look at the hologram. "Aye Sir," I nod at him. Then I just turn around and walk out of the sickbay.
The ride back to my quarters is uneventful. I walk through my doors, and stop in the middle of the living room, looking out the viewport. The stars spin by my view at Warp speed and I feel like I am rooted to the ground, unable to move, watching events take place around me at the same fast pace as the stars movement. I walk through the bedroom doors and shucking my uniform, climb onto the bed and lay down.
I look up at the ceiling, wanting to clear my thoughts, to open my mind, and sigh as all my doubts, which I had been keeping at bay until now, come crashing through.
What if Chakotay still doesn't want to talk to me when I go to him in the morning? What if he doesn't believe me when I tell him everything? What if what B'Elanna said was the truth?
I feel helpless. So far, I have only been able to mess things up with the Commander. What makes me think I can work it out at all?
I close my eyes, wanting to shut out these negative thoughts. I take a deep breath and make two decisions.
First, I am not going to worry about anything right now. Second, I am going to get some sleep so that I can be fresh in the morning when I finally go and have that talk with Chakotay.
As I pull up the covers over my naked body and settle down in my bed, I know I am wrong on both accounts.
Standing in front of Chakotay's quarters, I say a little prayer and press the chime. I took a long hot shower this morning and got into clean off-duty clothes and I think I look presentable enough. I hope that the shadows under my eyes won't show much and he won't notice my fatigue. As expected, I didn't get any sleep last night. It's 1100 hours now.
I hope he's awake and that I am not disturbing him from his sleep.
"Come." The clear velvet of his voice rings through the door. The doors open. I take a deep breath and step inside. The doors close behind me. The lights are on quarter illumination. Chakotay is standing in front of the viewport of his living room, his back to me, at just about the same place he was the night before when I paid him a visit. I feel my heart thud as memories of that night come rushing back.
No, I am not going to think negative thoughts. I am going to stay calm.
"Chakotay," I swallow hard. "How are you?"
He turns around and looks at me. He is wearing a bathrobe and I feel instant relief pour over my senses as I take in his appearance. His face, neck and part of the shoulder that is visible through his robe seem healed. The regenerated skin, which was slightly pink yesterday, is almost back to the healthy brown of his normal skin. As predicted, there are no visible scars on him. In fact, he looks rested, relaxed.
"I am fine, Tom." His face registers no expression. I feel the beating of my heart get louder in my ears. I take a step forward, and it happens again. He takes a small step backward, just as he did the other night. I feel my heart skip a beat.
"Chakotay," I bite my lower lip. "There's no easy way to say this..."
"Say what, Tom?" His voice is devoid of any emotion.
"I am..." I wet my lips. "...I am sorry for what I said that night. I didn't mean it, Chakotay."
He raises his left eyebrow. "Oh?"
"Yes," I take another step closer. "I don't know what B'Elanna said to you that night." A shadow of something I can't recognize passes through his features but is gone before I can figure out what it was. I continue. "The truth is... I broke up with B'Elanna because she cheated on me. I had told her it was over between us but she didn't seem to get the message through. It's not her place to bullshit with me anymore. And she certainly has no right to say anything to you about it."
"No?" Again, he answers in a monosyllable. God, why is he doing this? I knew it would be difficult to talk to him, but with him not saying anything more than 'Oh' and 'No', this is getting damn near impossible.
"That's right." I insist. /---Please, understand. Please hear me out---/ "She will not be bothering you anymore. I had a talk with her yesterday."
"But Tom..." He appears untroubled. "I have known B'Elanna a very long time. She's one of my oldest friends. She can come talk to me anytime she feels like."
I feel like I have been punched in the gut. "But... but... I thought you had a fight with B'Elanna," I stammer.
"Didn't B'Elanna tell you what we talked about?" He seems amused.
I bite my lower lip as my conversation with B'Elanna comes back to me.
/---Your Observation Lounge rendezvous meant nothing to him---/
It couldn't be. She was lying. She only said it to discourage me from pursuing Chakotay. He couldn't have said anything like that. He couldn't have.
"I didn't come here to talk about B'Elanna," I swallow. "I came here to apologize to you for my behavior."
"Are you done?" His eyes are cold but his face is still expressionless. I feel my heart sink.
"No," I came here to tell him everything and I won't leave until I have done exactly that. "I want you to know that... I didn't use you for sex. What we shared that night was very special to me. I have wanted you ever since the first time I saw you, Chakotay," My voice falters but I continue anyway. "I love you and I didn't ever mean to hurt you."
There is silence in the room as the words sink in. A minute passes and then he turns those unfeeling eyes back to me.
"Is that all, Ensign?"
I feel stunned. This couldn't be happening.
"Is that all you can say?" I demand sharply. "I just told you I am in love with you and that is all you can say to me?"
There is a change in his expression, as a frown appears on his face, the first indication of an emotion. "What do you expect me to do, Tom?" He inhales. "Three days back, you showed up in the Observation Lounge and God knows what the hell happened, but we both ended up having sex right there in a public lounge."
His voice trembles. "After that was over, B'Elanna shows up there, breaking through your personal privacy lock and you act like you were real happy to let her see us that way. Then, day before yesterday, she chews me out in front of half the crew, telling me that I took advantage of her boyfriend."
He looks disgusted. "And later that night you came here and told me that you only did it with me because I just happened to be there and that if it hadn't been me, it could have been Neelix."
He grits his teeth. "And now you are telling me that you didn't mean to say that and in fact you have always been in love with me all these years?"
"I am in love with you!" I cry out.
"You expect me to believe that, Tom?" He snorts. "My whole life has turned upside down and you think you can just come here and say all these things and I will believe it?"
/---Yes, I did think you would. I thought I could come here and be honest and that would be all that would matter. I thought that would be enough---/
I stand there, stunned, as my world crashes down over me. I can't bring myself to look into those eyes anymore. I don't have the strength to face that coldness again. It's over. All my doubts have been proven right. I was wrong.
Bruised and defeated, I turn around and walk out of his quarters.
I don't remember getting into the turbolift. I don't know how I reach my quarters. Everything feels so dead.
I wonder whether Chakotay felt as terrible, as I do right now, that night when I said all that to him. I wonder if he hurt this much. I wonder.
I deserve what I got. Of course I was crazy to think I could go over to Chakotay and tell him all this and expect him to believe it that easily. I deserve it all.
Maybe this is for the better. Even if I have fucked up royally, maybe it'll be alright somehow. Even if I can't win his heart, at least he is alive. Sometimes that is the only thing that matters. Perhaps, to have him here working by my side again will be worth even the heartache of losing his respect.
But, God, it hurts. It hurts so damn much.
I don't remember how and when I dug the bottle of whiskey out. It's the real stuff, no synthehol. Something I replicated a long time back and had stacked somewhere at the bottom of my closet many years ago.
I remember the glass I took off the shelf and I remember staggering onto the couch in my living room with the bottle.
The first sip I take burns all the way from my throat down to my belly, but I take another one, and then another, and another.
Maybe the fire burning in my gut will lessen the pain somehow.
Maybe if I get drunk enough, I will stop thinking about what I have done, about what I have lost.
For the umpteenth time that day, I am proven dead wrong.
I don't stop thinking at all.
Not when my head starts pounding and feels like it weighs a ton. Not when I start to feel nauseous and the soothing hum of the ship turns into a torturous, screeching roar.
Even as the room tilts at a strange angle and I get up from the couch with the intention of making it to my bed, and instead find myself collapsing to the floor, I still don't stop thinking.
As the liquor finally does its job, amid the piercing headache that leaves me panting for breath, and I find myself stumbling into blessed oblivion, the last thing I think of is the taste of Chakotay's lips.
And then I don't think anything else.
To be continued in SEEK