No Regrets - Part 18|
A strange silence follows my confession. B'Elanna looks at me in confusion, as if she doesn't understand what I've just said. I hurry on, before she can react. "It was in the lift. I forgot he was claustrophobic. I took advantage of the situation and of him."
I confess everything to her and she just sits there and listens quietly. Finally, my narrative ends and I wait for the explosion.
I wait in vain. B'Elanna continues to stare at me silently, her expression carefully controlled. "Why are you telling me this now, Chakotay?" she asks, suddenly.
"Because I wanted you to understand why Tom may not have been his usual self these past few days. It wasn't his fault. It was all mine. Although he denies it, what happened affected him."
"I see. And what do you want from me? You want me to absolve you? You want me to say, 'You've done a terrible thing, Chakotay, but I forgive you?' Tom refuses to accept that you're responsible, so you're hoping I will. That's not going to happen, Chakotay."
"I... no. I just don't want you to blame Tom. He's innocent."
"Tom's really been going through hell, B'Elanna."
"Maybe. What exactly did you say to Tom when you finally told him what had really happened?"
"I apologized and asked him if he wanted to press charges. He refused to, believing that it was his fault because he led me on. I told him that wasn't true."
B'Elanna sits forward, her face unreadable. "I need to know *exactly* what was said."
"I can't remember exactly. Does it matter?"
"Of course it matters."
"Well, I don't remember the exact words."
So I tell her as much as I can recall, trying to be as accurate as possible.
"So you told him that it had been so long since you'd been with anybody that you just lost control?"
"I know it sounds weak."
"He was just a convenient rubbing post, is that it? Any body would do?" Her eyes are suddenly ablaze with anger as she jumps up from the couch. I step back a little in surprise. I'm not sure why she's so upset, all of a sudden.
"I'm sorry, B'Elanna. I didn't intend for any of this to happen."
I don't even see her fist coming, but my jaw cracks and then I hit the floor.
B'Elanna steps over me and I hear the doors swish open. "Greg, you'd better get in here. Chakotay accidentally walked into my fist. You'd better help him to sickbay. I think his jaw's broken."
I can see Ayala's face peering down at me. "Can you walk, Commander?"
I nod groggily and let him help me up.
"I think your fist may need some treatment, too," Ayala says to B'Elanna. "The Commander's face appears to have taken the skin off of it."
"It'll be fine."
"Very well. Let's go, Commander." He supports me as we make our way out of the room.
"You did the right thing, Chakotay," he tells me, as we head down the corridor. "It's better that you told her than if she heard it through the rumor mill."
I turn my head quickly to look at him, causing a shooting pain through my jaw. I try to ask him what he means, but it comes out as an indistinguishable murmur.
He seems to understand, anyway. "There's a rumor going around that you did it with Tom in that lift. He was panicking and that was your way of calming him down. I don't believe it, of course, but it's all over the ship unfortunately."
All I can do is groan.
The Doctor gives me a sour look as Ayala helps me to a biobed. "Why am I not surprised?" he says, giving a deep, affected sigh and rolling his eyes towards the ceiling. "Mr. Paris's handiwork?"
Ayala shakes his head. "B'Elanna's."
"Really? I thought she was still confined to quarters."
"She is. He paid her a visit and must have told her."
"That was rather foolhardy."
"This was an accident. She says the commander walked into her fist."
"I see. That was rather careless of him."
I glare at both of them through my pain. Shouldn't *I* be the main focus here, not the gossip? Giving Ayala a warning look, I jerk my head towards the door, sending even more pain through my abused face.
I moan loudly and the Doctor, at last, turns his attention to me. "Hmmn! She certainly packs a punch."
Ayala squeezes my arm. "I hope you're feeling better soon, Chakotay. I've got to get back to my sentry duties."
I wave him away as the Doctor finally gives me something for the pain. Soon the regenerator is running over my face and I'm starting to feel much better.
As he moves away, I hold my hand up to my jaw and experimentally open and shut my mouth. Everything seems to be back in working order. I climb down from the biobed.
"Doctor, why did you think that Tom had done this?" I dread the answer, but have to know.
"When he heard the latest rumor he was understandably upset. He said that he was going to kill somebody and that somebody would probably be you."
"Damn it!" I head quickly for the doors, but before I reach them they swoosh open and Joe Carey hurries in, supporting Vorik, who appears to be slightly dazed, and has green blood splattered all over his uniform.
Joe looks at me and shrugs helplessly. "I warned him."
"Tuvok's taken him to the brig."
"Oh, hell!" I take off at a run.
Kathryn eyes me coldly. "So, you want to spend the night in the brig in Tom's place?"
I nod my head emphatically. "It's only fair."
"Tom's the one that broke Vorik's nose, not you."
"But that was my fault."
"I see. And was it also your fault that B'Elanna broke your jaw?"
"How did you find out about that so soon?"
"B'Elanna commed me and turned herself in."
"Damn! I don't want to press charges. I deserved it."
"I'm inclined to agree. However..."
"I insist," I interrupt.
"On what? Not pressing charges, or taking Tom's place in the brig?"
"Thanks, but no thanks."
We both turn to look at Tom, who's standing next to the barrier of his cell, glaring out at me. "I don't want any favors from you."
Ignoring the Captain completely, I step over in front of him. "This is hardly a favor, Tom. It's justice. I should be the one in that cell, not you."
"Will you stop being such a goddamned, fucking martyr?" he shouts.
I hear Kathryn's sharp intake of breath. "Tom... language," she admonishes.
"Sorry," he says quietly.
"I'm not being a martyr. You shouldn't be in that cell."
"Oh? Where the hell should I be?" he yells once more. "Wandering around the ship listening out for the latest juicy gossip concerning me? I'd rather stay in here. At least I won't have to hear any more of it."
"What the hell's the matter with you? You said you'd fixed it with Vorik. You said he wouldn't say anything."
"I thought I had."
"You're full of shit."
Kathryn clears her throat. "Tom!!!!"
"Tom, I don't know..." I start to say.
"Shut up! I can't believe you told B'Elanna. You did, didn't you? That's why she hit you."
"She would have found out, Tom. Now that it's all over the ship..."
"Shut the fuck up!"
I wince as Tom begins to hurl abuse at me, ignoring Kathryn's quiet rebuke.
"That's enough, Mr. Paris," Kathryn barks out in her best command voice.
It silences Tom immediately.
"I've made my decision. You will go back to your quarters and stay there until morning. I will go and have a little talk with Ensign Vorik. When I'm finished with him, gossip will be the last thing on his mind."
She turns back to face me. "I suggest you go back to your quarters too, Commander. Preferably before I let Tom out of there."
Nodding slightly, I do as I'm told.
I can't believe it! Now everyone knows Chakotay and I did it in that lift. Goddamn it all! Is there no end to this nightmare?
Well, at least I got to do something I've been wanting to do for a very long time now. Smack Vorik in the mouth. Of course, it was a little more than a smack. I broke his nose. Yes!!!
I smile as I pace around my quarters remembering Vorik's look of astonishment as I hit him. No suppressed emotions there. I thought he was going to cry.
My rage builds again as I think about Chakotay. He told B'Elanna. I should have been the one to do that. I can only imagine how upset she is. She broke his jaw and I'm glad. I shiver as I wonder what she's going to do to me.
I hate this ship and I hate everyone on it. I hate the fact that they've got nothing better to do than gossip all the time.
I sink down on my bed, the anger seeping out of me. That's not true. I love Voyager. It's my home. And the people on it are my family. Let's face it. If the gossip had been about anyone else but me, I would have been enjoying every moment of it.
But, it *was* about me and I don't think I can face anyone ever again. I can just imagine what's being said now.
My door chime sounds and I stand up and go over there hesitantly. It's Harry and he looks awkward and a little unsure.
"I heard what happened and wanted to make sure you were all right."
"I'm okay, I guess, all things considered."
"I wasn't sure if you were allowed visitors."
"Well, the Captain didn't say I couldn't. She just said I had to stay in my quarters till morning."
"Can I come in then? Unless, you'd rather be alone. I understand if you do..."
"No, Har," I quickly interrupt. Since when has Harry ever had to ask to come into my quarters? I don't like to see him so uncomfortable around me. I don't like it at all.
I head over to my couch and after hesitating slightly, he joins me.
"So, what are they saying?"
"They're all cheering over what you did to Vorik."
"And the other?"
"Well... you know what the ship's like."
"Just the usual jokes and stuff. It's nothing to worry about." He avoids looking at me.
"I don't think I can face anyone again," I say miserably.
His face is instantly concerned. "It'll all blow over. I know it will."
I bite my lip. "There's just so much to blow over, Har. And what do I do in the meantime? I don't think I can take any more."
"I'll be here for you," he says earnestly.
All of a sudden, I feel like I'm going to cry. A lump forms in my throat. "Thanks," I choke out somehow. "I don't know what I'd do without you, Har."
"That goes both ways," Harry answers softly. It looks like there are tears in Harry's eyes, but that could be because of the tears in my own eyes causing my vision to blur.
He tentatively reaches out and touches my arm and I grab his hand and squeeze it firmly. He really is a wonderful friend.
No Regrets - Part 19
Poor Tom! He's at the end of his endurance. He can't take any more. I have to do something.
I have to stop B'Elanna from upsetting him even more. I can't stand to see him so miserable. The gossip really has got out of hand. I can't let her make things worse.
The Captain had been totally amazed when I'd burst into the mess hall to find her. She'd been having one last relaxing cup of coffee before retiring, and had stared at me in bewilderment as I'd made my garbled request to see B'Elanna.
At first, I didn't think she'd let me. She'd shaken her head and said that whatever it was, it could wait until the morning when she was let out.
I'd argued that it would be too late. I might not be able to speak to her in time. The Captain had gazed at me for a moment before asking if my request had anything to do with Tom.
When I'd nodded my head, she'd sighed and then told me to go ahead, but not to stay too long. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to say to B'Elanna. All I know is, I won't allow her to hurt him.
"What are you doing here, Harry? Does anyone know you're here? What'd you do? Take out Ayala?"
"Ayala's not on duty. Jenkins is."
"Well, that's even harder to imagine."
"It's all right. The Captain gave me permission to see you, just so long as I don't stay too long."
"She did? Why?"
"I had to see you. I have to talk to you about Tom."
"Oh? What about Tom?"
"So am I."
"I know. But Tom's *really* upset. I don't think he can take any more. This last rumor fest has really done him in."
"What are you talking about?"
"It's all over the ship. Everyone knows what really happened in that lift. On top of the rumor *you* started, it's all too much for him."
"How the hell does everyone know about that? And what rumor did I start? I didn't start any rumor."
I tell her everything that's happened, except that I'm truly in love with Tom and am determined to get over it. That's something no one must ever know. Oh, and, of course, that Tom now thinks I'm in love with her. I can't tell her that, either.
"It sounds like Tom's losing the plot. Thinking that you and Chakotay were having an affair?" She shakes her head.
"I know. Now do you see why I'm so worried about him?"
"Harry, why did you come here to tell me all this? Why couldn't this wait until tomorrow?"
I hesitate. "I didn't want you to be mad at him."
"You thought I'd come out fists flying tomorrow morning and break his jaw the way I did Chakotay's, didn't you?"
"I wasn't sure."
She reaches out and pats my hand. "You didn't have to worry. I'm not mad at Tom. Not anymore. I care about him too much, I suppose. I have been a little worried about him, though, and now you've told me this, I'm even more so. I'll try not to make things worse."
I sigh in relief. "Thanks, B'Elanna. I know this must be a bad time for you too..."
"It's all right. I'm fine. I've been thinking things through. You know, it's lovely the way you care about Tom."
"I care about you too," I say quickly.
She pats my hand once more. "I know you do."
I feel so happy. Tom came to get me for breakfast this morning and everything's the same as it always was between us. Nothing's changed. He didn't try to touch me as we walked through the corridors and I'm grateful for that. I'm getting over him a lot easier than I thought I would.
I can now look at him and see him as a friend, not the love of my life. Another few days and I should be over him completely. I thought it would be a little harder than this; I'm so glad that it's not.
A sudden hush falls across the mess hall and I look up at the sudden quiet. "Tom, you'd better be prepared," I say, attempting to keep my voice light. "B'Elanna just came in. She's talking to Neelix."
"Don't worry about it, Har. I'm sure she'll stay right away from me." He doesn't sound too worried, although his face has gone a little pale.
"You'd think so, wouldn't you? But she's heading this way," I warn him.
"Are you sure?"
"Of course, I'm sure. Her eyes are trained firmly on the back of your head." Her face is carefully controlled, giving nothing away. But after our talk last night I'm sure she won't do anything.
"Shit! Is she carrying anything?"
"Just her breakfast tray."
"That could hurt. Get ready to protect me, Har."
Okay, so that proves he's worried. He's trying to joke away the tension he must be feeling. I snicker and say in as carefree a manner as I can. "You're on your own, Buddy."
"I'll remember that the next time someone's about to pulverize *you* into the ground."
I snort but keep my eyes trained on B'Elanna as she approaches, just in case. She may have had a change of heart overnight.
"Hi," I say, pasting a rather sickly smile on my face as she stops directly behind Tom.
"Good morning, Harry."
She moves around to stand at Tom's side and he turns to look up at her.
"B'Elanna," he says softly.
She stares down at him and I gulp. Please B'Elanna, be nice to him. Don't hurt him. Because if you do, I'll... I'll... I don't know what I'll do.
"How are you, Tom?" B'Elanna asks, much to my surprise.
"Um... okay, I guess. How are you?"
"Fine. I didn't hurt you the other day, did I?"
"Hurt me? No... um... well... not much, anyway."
"That's good." She grabs a chair and sits down. "I'm not saying that you didn't deserve it, especially now that I know exactly what's been going on with you, but I shouldn't have lost control like that."
She studies my face closely and I find I can't hold her gaze. I look down at the table instead.
There's an uncomfortable silence and Harry clears his throat. "You two have a lot to talk about, so I'll leave you alone."
Before he can move, my commbadge chirps. "Janeway to Paris."
"Please report to my ready room, Tom."
"I'll be right there," I answer. Turning back to B'Elanna, I give her an apologetic look.
She shrugs. "This probably isn't the best place to have our talk anyway, Tom. Will you have dinner with me tonight?"
I nod, dreading the pending confrontation, then hurry away.
As I reach the doors, I turn around and see B'Elanna and Harry already deep in conversation. They're both leaning forward, their heads almost touching, as they talk quietly together. I smile as I watch them, thinking about what a great couple they'd make and wondering what I can do about it.
Tom scowls darkly as he passes me on his way to the Captain's ready room. I know why she wants to see him, of course. She wants to ensure that Tom is all right about what happened between us. She wants to give him the opportunity to press charges, if that's what he wants.
In some ways, I hope he does. If I could just be punished for what I did, it might help me to overcome some of these feelings I'm having.
I seem to be totally consumed with thoughts of Tom. Night after night, he comes to me in my sleep. I dream of holding him against me as he writhes and moans in pleasure, our erections gliding against one another. I can feel him spasm as his climax hits, covering my groin with his warm juices.
I wake up drenched with sweat and wracked with need, my penis so engorged that it's painful to touch. I have to take deep calming breaths to gain control and then stroke myself to release.
I don't have to be asleep to have lustful thoughts of him, however. Just looking at him is enough to start a stirring in my groin. If I close my eyes I can see him standing before me, naked and glorious.
I know it's wrong. I know I have to stop it. I just don't know how.
Tom comes out of the Captain's ready room and takes his place at the helm, his expression carefully blank. Kathryn asks me to come in instead and so I leave the bridge in Tuvok's capable hands.
Calming myself, I enter and Kathryn indicates the couch for me to sit on.
"You can relax, Chakotay. You're not under arrest," she says with a smile.
"What did he say?"
"Almost exactly what he's already said to you. He says he unintentionally initiated it and although he's very embarrassed about the whole thing, he certainly doesn't blame you. He just wants to let the matter rest."
I swallow. "I hate the way he's blaming himself. If you charged me then it would prove to him that he wasn't at fault."
"I can't do that, Chakotay. According to Tom there are no charges for you to answer to. He says it was completely mutual. He wants me to drop the issue and I'm willing to abide by his wishes. You'll only upset him if you continue with this."
"But I feel so awful about it."
"And so you should. Your behavior was reprehensible. Your lack of control could have reflected on us all. What you do off duty is your business, but on duty I expect you to show better judgment."
"I'm sorry, Captain. You're right, of course. I don't know what I was thinking."
"I don't think you *were* thinking," she says, sighing. "At least, not with the part of you you're supposed to think with."
She sits down on the couch next to me and places her hand on my knee. "So, what are you going to do? You're obviously attracted to him."
"I've caused enough trouble as it is, so I have to leave him alone. B'Elanna's furious with me. I've hurt her terribly and that's the last thing I wanted to do. She talks as if they're over and I feel responsible."
"Tom and B'Elanna have been having serious problems for a long time. You can't blame yourself for their breakup."
"Tell that to my conscience."
I wait nervously for B'Elanna to answer her door chime. I no longer have the right to use her access codes.
She lets me in with a welcoming smile and I can't help feeling a little surprised. Her eyes are warm and friendly and she hugs me tightly for a few seconds before going over to the replicator.
"Everything's ready, I just have to serve up," she says over her shoulder. "Take a seat."
I do as she tells me, but I feel uneasy. She's being way too nice, all things considered. All through the meal I wait for her to lose her temper and hurl abuse at me... or something. She doesn't, and we make polite conversation instead.
It's awkward and stilted and finally I can't take it anymore. I blurt out, "I'm sorry I hurt you. I don't know why I did what I did. You didn't deserve that."
She shakes her head. "No, I didn't, but I don't blame you. As soon as Chakotay told me what happened between the two of you I realized what it meant. You probably weren't even aware of it, but you were looking for something more than I could give you."
"That's not true," I protest.
She ignores me. "You were subconsciously looking for more than our relationship could provide for you."
"No, you're wrong."
"It's okay, Tom; I understand. It's not like you deliberately cheated on me."
"I feel terrible about it anyway."
"And I feel terrible for all the things I've done to you."
"No, Tom. It's time for the truth. I've been hurting you for a long time."
"We've been hurting each other," I say sadly.
"Yes, that's true. We've done nothing but snipe at each other and argue instead of talking about what's wrong in our relationship. Things haven't been right between us for a long time. We were friends long before we were lovers. We should have been able to talk about this."
"I didn't want to admit that there *was* anything wrong," I say quietly. "When things were good between us, they were great. I told myself the problems would go away."
"I told myself the same thing. Only the problems didn't go away, did they? They just got worse."
"Yeah. And somewhere along the way we lost the friendship we once shared. We stopped sharing our lives the way two people in love should and we stopped talking about the things that matter."
"You're right. I think you realized long ago that things weren't working between us, didn't you? My pride wouldn't let me see the truth."
"I tried not to think about it most of the time. I wanted things to work out between us, I really did."
"I know you did, and I know you care about me, but you're not in love with me, Tom. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that I'm not in love with you either."
"I'm sorry," I say miserably. "I never wanted to hurt you."
"There's nothing to be sorry about. We should have talked about this a long time ago."
"Our friendship means a lot to me, B'Elanna. I don't want to lose that."
"It means just as much to me, too. That's why I got so mad at Chakotay."
"I don't understand. You should be just as mad at me."
"I told you, I don't blame you."
"So you blame Chakotay for everything and that's why you broke his jaw? That's not really fair to him."
"That isn't why I broke his jaw."
"Oh? Then why?"
"He told me what he said to you. How he just lost control because of the way you were moving against him and how he'd never regretted anything more in his entire life than what happened between you. He actually had the nerve to tell you that he had no explanation as to why he'd reacted that way to you."
I swallow the lump that's formed in my throat. "Why would that have made you hit him? It was his way of apologizing."
"Because I knew how you would have reacted to that and I was right, wasn't I? Harry's already told me how upset you were. Chakotay made you feel like you were just some convenient rubbing post for him to get his rocks off on. I hated to think that he'd hurt you like that and I just lost it."
I smile, despite the fact that I feel like crying. "Poor Chakotay. He's really been getting it. First Harry and now you. I feel sorry for him."
"Save your sympathy. And what's Harry been doing anyway? I can't imagine him hitting Chakotay."
"Well, he made it pretty obvious he wanted to. You wouldn't believe the looks he's been sending him or how rude he's been to him."
"Harry deliberately rude? Never!"
"You'd be surprised. He's actually got so worked up that he's called him a bastard. More than once."
"I can't believe it."
"Believe it. He's really given Chakotay a hard time."
B'Elanna's eyes narrow a little. "Has he? I know he cares about you, but I'm... surprised at his reaction."
I notice the rather significant pause she makes and my smile fades immediately. I recall exactly why Harry's been so angry. But, of course, I can't tell her the reason. Harry would kill me, and besides, any chance of the two of them getting together would be ruined.
B'Elanna would be too self-conscious to relax around him anymore. She'd probably start avoiding him instead. And he'd be too embarrassed to go near her. I have to be very careful what I say.
"Harry's a good friend."
"I know, but..."
I decide to change the subject before she becomes too suspicious.
"I'm really glad we can talk like this to each other."
"Me, too," she says with a smile. "I thought it might be awkward between us. I'm so pleased it's not. And I don't want it to ever be like that between us. I want you to be happy. I don't want you to have to worry about hurting my feelings. If there's anybody on board that you want to be with, then go for it. If you're happy, then I'll be happy."
"That goes for me too," I say eagerly, thinking of Harry. "Anybody at all. My feelings won't be hurt, either."
She gives a small chuckle. "This would have to be the most civilized break-up I've ever known, if you don't count how I tried to kill you in the mess hall."
I chuckle too. "It's great, isn't it? We should have done this a long time ago."
No Regrets - Part 20
It's been three weeks since Tom and B'Elanna officially broke up. Things are so much better between them now. They're able to relax around one another and just be friends.
We spend a lot of time together, the three of us. I'm very happy. I haven't had to lie. I haven't had to pretend that I'm in love with B'Elanna. I haven't had to do anything about that at all. Other than squeezing my shoulder in sympathy a few times, Tom's let the matter drop.
I've been very grateful for that. I've spent the time concentrating on getting over Tom and I can now say in all honesty, I'm completely over him. It only took a few days, really, which is rather insulting to Tom, I suppose. Lucky he'll never know.
Once I make up my mind to do something, I'm very determined. And I was very determined to stop loving Tom. And I did. Just like that. Now I can be a true friend to him.
The only trouble is, I'm now finding that my attraction to B'Elanna is growing. Don't get me wrong. I'm not in love with her or anything. My feelings for her are nothing like the ones I had for Tom. But, I'm starting to notice what a great body she has. We're doing a lot of things together and seeing her in a swimsuit is pretty amazing. It's rather exciting, too.
Tom looks pretty amazing tonight, too. He's wearing that blue silk shirt that I love so much. It brings out the color of his eyes. He's drawn more than one appreciative look. Even though I'm no longer in love with him, I still notice things like that. It's perfectly natural, I'm sure.
I've noticed the Commander, of course. He's sitting behind us. He was here when we arrived. He's staring, almost transfixed, at Tom. Of course, the way Tom looks at the moment, it's quite understandable.
I feel kind of sorry for him, actually. He obviously hasn't got the willpower I possess. He can't just stop loving Tom the way I can.
My attitude to the Commander has changed over the past few weeks. I'm no longer angry with him, but I *am* embarrassed. He guessed how I felt about Tom. He guessed my secret.
I think he and Tom need to talk. There's a lot of unresolved things going on between them. It's kind of sad, but there's nothing I can do about it. I've tried to get Tom to talk to him, but he refuses to. And Chakotay avoids Tom as much as possible.
Yes, it's definitely sad. I can even see things from Chakotay's point of view a little more now. After all, I know what it's like to be in love with Tom. I'm just so glad I no longer am.
He's watching me; I can feel it. I refuse to look over, however, and lean in towards Harry instead. We're sitting at a table in the revitalized Sandrine's, waiting for B'Elanna.
"Maybe I should go over and talk to him," I say quietly.
Harry sighs. "Maybe you should."
"But you don't think I should."
"It doesn't matter what I think. You don't listen anyway."
"I always listen to you, Har."
He gives a small snort. "That's why you've started your hypnotherapy sessions with the Doc."
"I just need a little more time to prepare myself."
"It's been over three weeks. The Doc's getting impatient. He told me he's going to tell the Captain if you put it off any longer." He squeezes my arm gently. "I know you're worried that some deep, dark, traumatic event may be revealed, but I honestly think you're better off knowing why you react the way you do to enclosed spaces."
"That's easy for you to say."
He grins and leans in to whisper. "I still think it has something to do with your birth."
I can't help smiling in return. "Don't start that again. But I guess you're right. I need to know why I'm claustrophobic and I can't keep putting it off." My expression turns serious. "I don't want to have another panic attack ever again."
Harry pats my arm. "Don't worry, Tom. I'm sure the Doc can help you."
I close my eyes so that I don't have to watch. Turning my head away is just too hard. They're about to kiss. Right here in the middle of Sandrine's. In front of the entire crew. Well, half a dozen of them anyway.
It's only been three weeks since he and B'Elanna parted and it appears that Harry swooped in immediately. I should never have told Tom how Harry felt about him. He'd seemed disbelieving at first and then a little shocked and embarrassed.
Obviously, he's moved past those feelings. My feelings for Tom haven't changed at all. If anything, they've intensified. I now know that I feel a lot more than simple attraction for the pilot. It's more than mere lust. And there's absolutely nothing I can do about it.
I haven't felt this strongly about someone for a very long time. I catch myself watching him all the time. If he's aware of my scrutiny, he doesn't let on. I can't seem to help myself. The only avenue open to me is to avoid him whenever possible.
That doesn't seem to be working. Even here in Sandrine's I can't get away from him. I thought he wouldn't come here. He doesn't like the changes the Doctor's made to the program. So, I was sitting here, brooding quietly, when all of a sudden he walked in with Harry.
I tried not to look at him, but my eyes were drawn like a magnet. Watching them and pretending not to, I thought about leaving. But I just couldn't bring myself to do it. And then he leaned in towards Harry, their heads almost touching, and I couldn't tear my eyes away.
The move seemed so intimate. They've always been close, of course, but I expected some sort of awkwardness after my revelation. Not so. It didn't seem to affect them at all. And then Harry grinned at Tom and leaned in until their faces were almost touching.
Tom's smile was dazzling in return and then his expression turned serious. Very, very serious, as he looked into Harry's eyes. I knew what was about to happen. I couldn't bear it.
My eyes open of their own accord and I prepare myself. I'm surprised to see B'Elanna sitting with them and they're all talking animatedly. How long have I had my eyes shut? How long has she been there? Did she see them kiss? Did she interrupt them, perhaps? She doesn't appear to be upset.
I don't understand the relationship between Tom and B'Elanna these days. They seem closer than ever. She'd been so angry with me that I'd expected her to be at least a little upset with Tom. A little hostile. I know I'd told her not to blame Tom for what happened, but I'd expected her to, to some degree.
For some unexplainable reason, I feel a little upset about it. Why is it all my fault? I know I misinterpreted Tom's reaction, but he knew what was happening at some level of consciousness. He spoke during our encounter. He asked for more. He definitely knew what he was doing when he returned my kiss.
It's one thing to blame myself for what happened, but I can't help feeling slightly resentful that everyone else does too. The Captain's just started speaking to me normally again, and B'Elanna still looks at me as if I'm something she just stepped in. Harry no longer gives me the fish-eye at every turn, thank the stars, but he's still rather stiff and formal around me.
And Tom. He ignores me as much as possible, but when he does have to speak to me, he's also stiff and rather formal. I hate that more than anything.
One good thing has happened, however. The Captain's little talk with Vorik seems to have worked. He's apologized profusely, ship-wide, for the damage his gathering and imparting knowledge has caused his fellow comrades.
He even went so far as to say that the conclusions he had drawn recently were based on false assumptions and were therefore incorrect. He also gave his Vulcan word of honor that he would never indulge in gossip again.
The rumors all fizzled and died after that and most of the crew could be heard declaring rather loudly that they hadn't believed any of it anyway.
All I need now is to rid myself of my obsession with Tom and everything will be perfect. Well, not quite. I would like to restore my friendship with B'Elanna, but I doubt that that will happen anytime soon, either.
I ignore the fact that Chakotay's still watching me and nod my head at Harry. "I hope the Doc can help me. I'm putting all my faith in him."
He regards me seriously. "It'll be all right. I know it will."
A hand comes down on each of our shoulders. "Sorry I'm late. The Doc held me up." B'Elanna pulls up a chair and sits down.
"Nothing's wrong, is it?" Harry asks quickly.
"No. I was just doing his weekly diagnostic. He was in fine form, however."
"Not again," I groan. Last week B'Elanna was treated to a rather lengthy lecture on, 'Fear and its subsequent affects on the human body'. The week before that it was, 'Communication skills within a relationship'. "What was it this week?" I ask.
"The obligations and responsibilities of true friendship."
"Oh? I'm not sure if I see where he's headed with that one."
"It's rather simple, actually. If I was a true friend and really cared about you as much as I say I do then I'd make sure you received help. Those are his words, by the way."
"We're going to have to do something about him, B'Elanna. I've tried telling him to butt out, but he just won't listen."
"I think he's rather sweet. Anyway, he threw down the challenge and I've accepted it."
"Making sure that you receive help, of course. It's up to me to ensure that you start your hypnotherapy sessions."
"That's not much of a challenge," Harry says with a snort. "I've already convinced Tom to talk to the Doc."
B'Elanna's gaze turns to him. "You have? When?"
"Just then. I had to see the Doc today, too. He said he needed a slight adjustment to his matrix, but I couldn't find anything wrong. While I was there, he told me that he'd come to the reluctant decision to involve the Captain in Tom's treatment. He went on for some time about how much he hated to do it and how he wouldn't have to if I, who seem to have so much influence over Tom, could persuade him instead."
"Then what did he bother lecturing me for?" B'Elanna asks, completely ignoring me.
"Maybe he was a little doubtful about just how much influence I *do* have over Tom."
"Now wait just a minute. I don't..."
"Okay, now I'm mad," B'Elanna interrupts me again. "You should have heard what I had to listen to for the past hour. And it wasn't even necessary."
She turns her gaze back to me and glares, as if this is all my fault. "So, when's your first session?"
"I don't know yet. I was only just talking about it with Harry. And I think I resent the implication that I'm influenced..."
"Why don't you do it right now?"
"Now? But we're supposed to be going water skiing."
"This is more important."
"No, it's not. I've waited this long, one more day won't make any difference. I thought I'd talk to the Doc tomorrow and make an appointment..."
"An appointment? I don't think that's a good idea."
"Why not? And will you please stop interrupting..."
"You'll change your mind tomorrow."
"No, I won't."
"Yes, you will. I know you will."
"B'Elanna, I've made my decision. I won't change my mind."
"I know you too well, Tom. You'll make some excuse and put it off again. I say, go now while you still want to." She turns away to look at Harry. "What do you think, Harry? Shouldn't he go now?"
She turns back to face me again. "Harry agrees, so come on."
"What about the holodeck reservations?"
"I'll swap them with someone. Now quit stalling, Helmboy. Let's go. Harry, you take his other arm."
My head's still whirling as we arrive in sickbay. They yanked me out of Sandrine's so fast that I didn't even get a chance to look at Chakotay before we left. And I know he was still watching me.
The Doc looks rather smug as he waits expectantly.
"Tom's here for his first session," Harry tells him.
"Really?" He tries to sound surprised, but fails miserably.
"Oh, come off it, Doc. You set the whole thing up," I say resentfully.
"I have no idea what you mean," he answers, airily. "Now, if you'd like to come this way, I have everything ready."
"What? Just in case I happened by?"
He doesn't bother to answer.
Harry clears his throat. "Would you like us to wait here in case you need us?"
"I'll be fine," I tell him and then I suddenly have an idea. It's too good an opportunity to miss. "Why don't the two of you use those holodeck reservations? You can still go water skiing."
"Well, I wasn't going to go skiing," B'Elanna tells me. "I intended to lie back on the beach and watch the two of you."
Harry laughs. "I was going to do the same thing. I thought I'd just take it easy and soak up the sun."
"Well, you don't have to ski if you don't want to. But I'd feel much better if I knew the two of you were relaxing and enjoying yourselves. You shouldn't miss out because of me."
"It doesn't matter," Harry says quickly.
"It does to me."
"He's right, Starfleet," B'Elanna says suddenly. "And he can join us later, can't you, Tom?"
"Sure," I say, knowing I'll be doing no such thing.
"All right, then. But you *will* call us if you need us, won't you? I mean the Doc may traumatize you or something."
"I can assure you, Mr. Kim, I do not traumatize my patients," the Doc calls from behind me, his tone full of censure.
"That's a matter of opinion," B'Elanna calls out in return.
"If you've quite finished insulting me, the door's that way," he says with a sniff.
With a wink at me, they both leave. I watch them, feeling quite pleased with myself. All they need is some time together. My campaign has begun.
No Regrets - Part 21
The Doc sniffs once more. "I'm waiting, Mr. Paris."
Biting my lip, I turn around to face him. "What do you want me to do?"
"Lie down on the biobed and try to relax."
He sighs. "I want you to try to relax, Mr. Paris."
"I *am* relaxed."
"That is not relaxed, Mr. Paris. That is tense. Believe it or not, I do know the difference."
"Well, what do you expect? Who knows what you're about to do to me."
"I am merely going to jog your memory a little."
"What if I remember something so traumatic that I can't deal with it?"
"I will help you to deal with it. Trust me."
"What if I remember something really embarrassing?"
"Your privacy will be assured at all times."
"Mr. Paris, RELAX."
"You know what, Doc? This is a really bad idea and yelling at me isn't going to help."
"You're right. I apologize. Now, please take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Again."
I do as he says, and feel a little calmer.
"How does that feel?"
"Better. I'm still nervous though. I guess I'm afraid you're going to discover something that happened when I was four years old and once it's out in the open, I'll never be able to get over it."
"What makes you say that?"
"Well, some memories are so vivid..."
"No, I meant what made you mention the age of four?"
"Nothing. I just plucked the number out of the air."
"Are you sure? Perhaps your subconscious was speaking."
"I doubt it."
"Well, we shall see. Now, I want you to take another deep breath and let it out slowly. Just listen to the sound of my voice."
He continues to speak softly and I try to concentrate. Will this work? Will the Doc really be able to hypnotize me? His voice is soothing and I find it strangely compelling. I can feel myself slowly relaxing.
I let my thoughts drift away.
This isn't working. I may be one of those people who can't be hypnotized. The urge to laugh is hard to ignore and I fight to control myself. It's probably nerves. The Doc's not saying anything funny.
I can feel the corners of my mouth turn up and I try to will them back down again. This is ridiculous. There's no way he'll be able to hypnotize me. A snort of laughter escapes me, despite my best efforts to stop it.
"Mr. Paris, please concentrate."
"I'm trying to," I protest.
He starts all over again and this time I burst into loud chuckles almost immediately.
"May I ask what's so funny?" he asks dryly.
"Nothing. I'm sorry."
He sniffs and then sighs loudly. "Cooperation is essential."
"Shall we try again?"
"Sure." I take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
The Doc starts once more, but I can't concentrate. I'm completely focused on trying not to laugh. Unfortunately, I lose the battle and almost choke.
He sighs once more and then helps me to sit up.
"I'm sorry, Doc," I say, quickly. "But this isn't going to work. I don't think I can be hypnotized. Let's forget the whole thing."
"It's a little soon to be giving up."
"It's a waste of time." "If you were willing to cooperate..."
"I *was* cooperating."
The Doc sniffs loudly. "Your definition of cooperating appears to differ from mine considerably. If you would just open yourself up to the possibility, it just may work."
"I did try, Doc."
"You didn't try very hard. Your reasons are understandable, I suppose. You don't trust me."
"I didn't say that. Of course, I trust you."
"Don't try to spare my feelings, Mr. Paris. Although I have saved your life numerous times and patiently taught you all I can, you are wary of my competence. You see me as just another holographic simulation."
"Doc, you know that's not true. How can you even think such a thing? Haven't I always treated you as a person?"
"Well, I always thought so, but I now see I was wrong. Your lack of trust proves otherwise."
"I do trust you, Doc. You know I do."
"I thought you did. I thought we'd formed a friendship."
"That's very kind of you to say, but in reality I'm nothing more than a computer program."
"You're a lot more than that. Listen, why don't we try this again? I was nervous before, but I'm sure it'll work better this time."
"I don't know..."
"Come on, Doc. There's no harm in trying."
"You would have to be willing..."
"I *am* willing. I know it'll work this time."
"Well, if you insist."
"I do. Just so long as you know that I do trust you. Completely."
"That's very nice to know." Although the Doc's tone is still a little forlorn, there's an almost triumphant gleam to his eyes that makes me stare at him suspiciously. Have I just been had?
I replay what just happened, wondering at my complete turn-around from only moments before. The Doc still looks a little hurt, so I tell myself I'm being paranoid. I hate the fact that I hurt his feelings, because I certainly never meant to. I know I tease him a lot, but he teases me too. That's just the way it is between us.
I lie back down on the biobed and take a few deep breaths. This time I can feel the tension slowly draining away as I focus on the Doc's voice. I don't feel like laughing at all and I'm determined to try to cooperate.
The Doc's words are soft and soothing and I let them flow over me.
I make my way back to my quarters, yawning widely. I'm so tired, I can barely keep my eyes open. The Doc said I'd feel sleepy and completely relaxed, but I hadn't expected this level of exhaustion. That may have something to do with the fact that I haven't slept properly for weeks.
At least I have a genuine excuse for not meeting Harry and B'Elanna now. I'm going straight to bed. I just hope they've been having a nice time. They're alike in so many ways. I don't know why I didn't see it before. Their temperaments may be completely opposite, but that's probably a point in their favor. They have so many interests in common and seem to share the same likes and dislikes. I know they'd make a great couple.
I'm surprised, when I turn the corner, to see the objects of my thoughts standing next to my doors.
"Are you all right? How'd it go?" they both say at the same time.
"What are you two doing here?" Damn! Maybe they didn't even go to the holodeck.
"We were worried about you," B'Elanna says. "When you didn't meet us we came here to see if you were all right."
"I'm fine. Just tired. I've only just finished, actually." I key in my access codes and we move inside.
"So? Did it work? Did you remember anything?" Harry asks.
"No. I found it difficult to relax enough, but the Doc thinks I'll do better at my next session. We're going to try again tomorrow evening. I do feel calmer about the whole thing, though. I'm definitely not as worried, so maybe it did help." I begin to yawn again. "I can't believe how tired I am."
"Well, now that we know you're all right, we'll let you get some sleep. I have the early shift in the morning, anyway. Come on, Starfleet."
Harry hesitates. "You go ahead, B'Elanna. I'll just make sure Tom's all right."
"I'm fine. There's no need to stay back with me," I say.
"I don't mind."
B'Elanna shrugs. "Okay. I'll see you both tomorrow." And with a wave, she's gone.
I turn back to Harry in exasperation. He just missed the perfect opportunity. "You should have gone with her. I told you, I'm fine."
"You may be, but I'm not." He flops down on my couch and shakes his head miserably.
"What's wrong?" I try to push the tiredness away as I sit down next to him.
"I made a complete ass of myself tonight."
"I can't tell you. It's too embarrassing."
"Of course you can tell me."
"No, I can't. You'll laugh."
"Harry, I will not laugh. Anyway, whatever it is can't be as bad as what I did."
"Yeah, but you weren't in control of your actions. I was."
"Now you've really got me wondering. Tell me."
"I don't want to talk about it."
I sigh heavily and stand up. "Okay, I won't force you."
"You should have seen what she was wearing," he bursts out. "A bikini. A thong bikini."
"Not the yellow one?"
"I guess so. It was bright yellow... and it was... small... real small." He gulps. "She bent over in front of me. And I was wearing those tight swim trunks."
"Oh, no," I gasp in sympathy. "What'd you do?"
"I rolled over onto my stomach and stayed there. It was really uncomfortable."
"I can imagine," I say, trying to stop my voice from wobbling. I manage to keep a straight face long enough to say, "You should have drilled a little hole in the sand."
"Oh, very funny. I've never been so embarrassed in all my life. I knew you'd laugh."
"I'm not laughing," I gasp out between chuckles. Every time I look at Harry, the indignant expression on his face sets me off once more.
"It's the last time I tell you anything," he says grimly.
I manage to sober enough to apologize. "I'm sorry, Harry. I really am. Do you think she noticed?"
"I don't know. I hope not. But our conversation was fairly strained for the rest of the night."
"What'd you talk about?"
"Nothing much, from what I can remember. The only time we talked normally was when we were discussing you. Wondering how you were going and stuff like that."
"Oh!" I sit down next to him once more. "Well, as you know, I wasn't. I feel a little guilty that I didn't remember anything, actually. I feel like I let the Doc down or something. He's so convinced it's going to work."
"I'm sure it's supposed to take more than one session."
"You're probably right. I just wish it could be all over and done with. I want things to get back to normal."
"They're never going to be normal as long as Chakotay continues to stare at you all the time."
"He doesn't stare. At least... not all the time."
"Well, most of it then. I happen to be able to see him quite clearly from where I stand on the bridge, don't forget. What are you going to do about it?"
"Nothing. I'm sure he'll stop it soon enough."
"You are, are you?
"Of course. He's only doing it because he still feels guilty about what happened."
"It's a lot more than that. He's interested in you."
"Harry, he is not interested in me."
Harry shakes his head. "I began to suspect something a long time ago. That's why he acted the way he did in the lift."
"You're wrong, Har. You know what happened in the lift. He hadn't been with anybody for so long that he was desperate and just lost control. It was nothing personal. I was just a convenient rubbing post, as B'Elanna likes to put it."
"Do you even believe what you're saying?"
I swallow hard. "He regrets what happened, Harry. He told me so. He said that he'd never regretted anything more in his entire life."
"I don't think he meant he regretted what happened between you, Tom. I think he meant he regretted the *way* it happened. The circumstances weren't the best, plus you were still with B'Elanna. By the look in his eyes, I'd say he wants to be with you again."
"For a quick rub up in a lift, with me half out of it? I don't think so. Anyway, you've certainly changed your tune about him. Why are you being so understanding all of a sudden?"
"I don't think I was being very fair to him before. And I don't think he wants a quick rub up in a lift again. I think he wants something a little more permanent than that."
"I see," I say slowly. I try to imagine the two of us in some sort of relationship, but the image refuses to form. I sigh regretfully. It's just not meant to be.
Tilting my head back, I drain the rest of my glass. It's not like me to drink like this, but Tom has me acting completely out of character. All I can see is the two of them together. It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth that I'm unable to wash away.
I wonder how I'm going to go on. I have to get over him and I will. It'll just take time and a lot of determination.
My eyes narrow as I see B'Elanna re-enter the room. She's alone, so where are Tom and Harry? She heads over to a table on the other side of the room and stands talking to a couple of her engineering crew for a few moments.
It isn't long before she's heading out again, calling loudly over her shoulder, "I'll see you both bright and early."
Her gaze locks with mine as she makes her way to the doors and the smile on her face disappears immediately. She seems to hesitate and then with a toss of her head changes course and comes towards me.
Without a word, she picks up the empty glass in front of me and sniffs it suspiciously. "This was real alcohol, wasn't it?"
"What are you doing?"
"I'd saved up a few replicator rations, so thought I'd blow them all in one night."
"It's not like you to drink."
"It's not like me to do a lot of things I seem to be doing lately."
She sighs and sits down in the chair opposite. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"With you? You're still mad at me."
"You're too pathetic at the moment to be mad at. You're not setting a very good example to the rest of the crew. The first officer is supposed to be in control at all times."
I snort loudly. "Well, we all know how much control I have."
She frowns. "Chakotay, what's this all about? Are you brooding over what happened with Tom?"
"Why am I to blame for everything?" I burst out suddenly. "Why was everything my fault? Tom and you seem to be closer than ever and... where is he anyway? I thought you were with him."
"I was, but Harry made it quite clear he wanted to be alone with him, so I left them to it."
The images these words invoke cause me to shut my eyes in pain. "I see," I manage to say, somehow.
B'Elanna sits forward and takes my hand in hers. "You're right. I haven't been fair. I guess I felt a little protective of Tom. He's a lot more vulnerable than he looks."
"I know," I say quietly.
She stands up. "Come on, let me walk you back to your quarters. I think you may need a steadying hand."
"I'll be fine. You don't have to do that."
"I want to. Now, no arguments. Let's go."
I smile at her affectionately. "Has anyone told you lately that you're bossy?"
She grins in return. "No one still alive, anyway."
No Regrets - Part 22
I look over as Harry throws himself into the chair next to me.
"Sorry I'm late," he says breathlessly.
"That's okay." I lay my head back against the back of the chair and close my eyes. "I've just been enjoying the sun. This beach program's great, even if I do say so myself."
"It's certainly popular enough. Half the crew must be here."
I give a small chuckle. "I wouldn't go that far, but there are quite a few."
"I see you've already been in for a swim."
"Yeah, couldn't help myself. There's nothing like drying off in the warm sun."
A small rustling noise makes me open one eye. Harry's standing up, quickly taking off his shirt and shorts. "I see you like to live dangerously."
"What?" He looks down at me, confusion on his face.
"You're wearing *those* trunks again," I explain, unable to stop the grin.
"Oh! Yeah, well. It's not like B'Elanna would wear that thong thingy here, in front of everyone, is it? Besides, I like to swim in these. They're comfortable."
"They're too tight to be comfortable," I tell him, opening both eyes and staring at his butt as he folds up his clothes neatly. "Way too tight."
He turns around, his face slightly flushed. "Do you think I should change?"
"Only if you want to. As long as you're comfortable..."
"I am. At least, I was. Anyway, your trunks aren't exactly loose either."
"They're a little more forgiving than yours."
He flops down in the chair once more. "B'Elanna's here."
"Great. Wave her over."
"What? What's the matter?" All the color's drained from Harry's face. I whip my head around quickly. "Don't tell me B'Elanna's wearing the thong bikini after all?"
She's standing talking to Neelix, taking off her beach wrap as she does so. She's not wearing the thong bikini. She has on a one-piece suit instead, and she looks fantastic.
The suit is hot pink and leaves little to the imagination. Neelix is looking rather flustered as he talks to her. She really does look stunning.
Harry's sudden movement beside me makes me turn to look at him. He's grabbed his towel and thrown it over his lap, his face a bright and fiery red. I can't help chuckling.
Leaning over towards him, I whisper in his ear. "That towel's not hiding anything, Har. You'd better bunch it up a little bit or something."
He lets out a low, distressed, moan.
"Excuse me for interrupting, but..."
Harry and I both jump at the sound of B'Elanna's rather dry tone, right next to us. Harry suddenly yelps and is out of his chair and running towards the water before I can say anything.
"I'm going for a swim," he yells back at us.
B'Elanna clears her throat and sits down cautiously in the chair Harry's just vacated. "That was a rather abrupt decision," she says mildly.
I struggle to keep my voice steady. "Well, you know Harry. Once he makes up his mind about something, there's no stopping him."
"The two of you seemed to be having a rather cosy chat."
I shrug. "Just the usual. You look sensational, by the way."
"Thank you. You don't look too bad yourself."
It's too good an opening not to pursue. "Harry looks good in those swim trunks of his too, don't you think?"
She looks thoughtfully out at Harry, swimming through the waves. "Now that you mention it, I guess he does."
Yes!!!! All I have to do is get her to notice him a little more. To make her see him in a different light.
"He's really changed over the years. He's no longer the innocent kid he used to be," I continue.
"He hasn't changed that much. I supposed he's matured over the years. Just like we all have."
"The problem is," I say sitting forward and looking at her earnestly. "We pegged Harry as the cute kid brother, right from the start. Someone we had to look after - protect. That's not true anymore. It hasn't been for a long time."
She looks at me steadily for a few moments. "You're probably right."
"I know I am."
"So, what are you saying?"
"Um..." I don't know what to say to that. I don't want to say too much. I just want her to think about it. Think about Harry a little differently. "I just mean that maybe we shouldn't think of Harry as just a cute kid brother."
She smiles and shakes her head. "Well, he *is* cute."
I smile in delight. Yes, B'Elanna! Yes!!!! "There's nothing wrong with being cute."
"Nothing at all," she agrees.
Sighing, we both lean back in our chairs and close our eyes, soaking up the sun.
After a while, I open mine once more. What's taking Harry so long? I'd planned to leave the two of them alone as soon as possible. How the hell can B'Elanna look at him any differently, if he's not even around to look at?
Leaning forward, I search the water for his dark head, but can find no sign of him.
"I don't think Harry can drown out there, Tom," B'Elanna says dryly.
"I know that. I was just wondering where he was. I can't see him anywhere."
"I'm sure he's fine. Relax."
I gaze around the beach. It would be just like Harry to get out of the water, but be too embarrassed to come back here. I'll have to find him.
B'Elanna grabs my arm. "Don't make me hurt you, Tom."
"You have a really bad habit of not listening to me when I speak. I don't feel like rolling around in the sand with you, fighting to the death, so..."
"I'm sorry," I say, instantly contrite.
She sighs and shakes her head. "I was just asking how your session went with the Doc last night."
"Oh! Okay, I guess."
"So? Have you solved anything, yet?"
"I think so."
"Are you ever going to tell me what caused it?"
"There's nothing to tell. It's just something really stupid that happened when I was a little kid. I got stuck in something and couldn't get out."
"What was it?"
"I'd rather not say. It was something really dumb."
"So tell me."
I shake my head stubbornly.
"A cupboard of some sort, I'll bet."
"You didn't climb into anybody's coffin, did you? I had a cousin, who..."
"No! Now can you please stop trying to guess?"
"Well, if you'd just tell me I wouldn't have to guess."
"How about a change of subject?"
"As soon as you've spilled your guts we can talk about whatever you want."
"B'Elanna!" I say in exasperation, but then, luckily, I spot Harry. He's coming out of the water further up the beach and resembles a drowned rat.
"Harry probably needs his towel," I say quickly, grabbing it and hurrying across the beach towards him. "I'll be back in a minute."
B'Elanna yells out something to me in Klingon, but I'm too far away to hear it properly. It's probably a good thing that I didn't.
Damn it! I knew I shouldn't have come here. The temptation was too much, however. The thought of seeing Tom in his swimming trunks was too hard to resist.
As soon as I'd entered the program my eyes had been immediately drawn to him. He was sitting with B'Elanna, talking quietly.
All he had on was a skimpy pair of swimming shorts and even though all I could see was a side profile of him, he looked damned good. And, best of all, there was no Harry in sight.
That didn't last, however. Within minutes of my arrival, Tom had been racing across the beach to greet Harry as he emerged from the water. They were now standing at the water's edge, almost nose-to-nose, having a rather deep, meaningful discussion.
I sigh deeply as I watch them. Somehow, I have to curb these self-torturous impulses I seem to be having lately. I don't need to see them together. My imagination is bad enough.
"Sickening, isn't it?" a voice says in my ear. It's B'Elanna. I hadn't seen her approach.
I clear my throat. "What?"
She indicates the two of them with a nod of her head. "Those two. You've really started something now."
"Me?" I don't know what she means. I don't *want* to know what she means.
"Yes, you." She drags me over to sit down under the shade of some trees, well away from everyone. "That whole business in the lift has awakened something in Tom."
Oh Spirits! I don't want to hear this. I definitely do not want to hear this. But that self-torturous part of me makes me say, "It has?"
She nods. "Don't get me wrong. I'm happy for him, honestly. I'm happy for both of them."
Oh No! So it's true. It's not just my imagination. "So, they're together?" My voice is rather strained, but B'Elanna doesn't seem to notice.
"I don't think they are yet, but it's just a matter of time. Tom still hasn't admitted to himself that he's attracted to Harry. He does nothing but talk about him when we're alone together." She smiles affectionately. "He can be such an idiot, sometimes. Who does he think he's fooling? Only himself, obviously."
The words are like a knife through my heart. B'Elanna doesn't mean to hurt me, of course. She has no idea how I feel about Tom. She's actually asked me a few times in the past weeks if I have any feelings for him. I've denied it each time, not wanting her to know. I've let her believe her rather convenient 'rubbing post' theory.
She still gets a little mad with me about it sometimes, but I'd rather that than for her to know the truth. I could never hurt her like that.
"Doesn't it bother you that Tom's interested in someone else so soon?"
She shakes her head, vehemently. "No. We broke up weeks ago and I told him at the time that I'd be happy if he found someone else."
"But surely it must hurt that he's attracted to someone as close to you as Harry is?"
"Why would it? I just want him to be happy and Harry obviously adores him. It's written all over his face."
I nod my head. That's true enough. I watch as the two of them make their way back to their chairs. Tom stops and looks around the beach, his eyes meeting mine and frowning darkly.
I sigh a little and turn back to B'Elanna. "So you think that Tom's in love with Harry, but hasn't acknowledged it?"
"I'm positive of it." She chuckles slightly. "Poor Harry. Tom has no idea how he affects him."
"Oh?" Considering the fact that I've already told Tom how Harry feels about him, I find that a little hard to believe.
"I interrupted quite a steamy scene between the two of them earlier."
I'm quite certain that I don't want to hear about steamy scenes between Tom and Harry. Some perverse part of me longs to hear more, however.
"It was really rather funny," she continues. "As soon as I arrived, I noticed Tom checking out Harry's butt. Harry acted all embarrassed. You know how he gets."
I nod and swallow. I don't want to hear any more of this. I should go. That's what I should do.
"Anyway, I decided to leave them alone for a few minutes and when I did go over to them, Tom was leaning over and whispering in Harry's ear. Whatever he was saying must have been good, because poor old Harry had a hard-on and actually moaned."
I just stop myself from moaning as well. Great Spirits! Why am I torturing myself like this? I will go now. Just get up, make some excuse and walk away. That's what I'll do. All I have to do is stand up.
"They both jumped more than a little when they realized I was standing there. Then poor Harry ran away. And Tom remarks in that oh-so-careful tone of his, that never fools me for a minute, how great Harry looks in his swim trunks."
She chuckles at the memory and I bite my lip to stop myself from screaming. This is all my fault. If I hadn't awakened Tom's interest in men he wouldn't be thinking how great Harry looks in his swim trunks. He wouldn't be leaning over and whispering in his ear, turning him on.
And now that I look over at him once more, he wouldn't be sitting so close to Harry that their hips are almost touching. Why doesn't he just sit in his lap and be done with it? I'm sure that by the time the night's through, he will have. Or vice versa.
That thought really *is* more than I can bear and I stand up suddenly. "I'm sure they'll be very happy," I find myself saying rather woodenly.
B'Elanna bobs her head up and down. "I know they will be. They're meant for each other. I think Tom just needs a little push in the right direction."
"I'm sure you're right," I answer, willing myself not to cry. I make my excuses and leave as quickly as I can. I need to have a long, calming visit with my spirit guide.
Harry isn't right for Tom. I just know it. It just isn't right.
No Regrets - Part 23
I finally talk Harry into coming back and sitting with B'Elanna and me. I convince him that B'Elanna wouldn't have noticed the state he was in when he ran off.
I told him that B'Elanna didn't have any reason to look in his lap. She would have had to be blind not to notice it, but it wouldn't pay to tell Harry that.
As we head back up the beach, I realize that B'Elanna's no longer sitting where I left her. I gaze around for her and frown when I see she's sitting away from everyone with, of all people, Chakotay.
They seem to be getting along very well, their heads bent close together. Whatever Chakotay says to her makes her smile and she leans in even closer.
B'Elanna told me weeks ago that they were friends again, but I hadn't expected to see them this chummy. I make my way back to my chair keeping an eye on them the whole time.
I can't see Chakotay's face properly because he's staring down at the ground, his head bent, but B'Elanna looks happy. Very happy. She's laughing now. I sit down, feeling depressed. I know that B'Elanna had once had a crush on Chakotay and now that she's free, it looks like she might take it further. That isn't supposed to happen.
She's supposed to fall for Harry. It looks like Harry may get a broken heart out of this. That's not to mention me. Not that I'm in love with Chakotay, but I *am* attracted to him and I don't like to think of him with B'Elanna.
I told B'Elanna I wouldn't be hurt when she found somebody else. I'd even stressed to her that it could be anybody, anybody at all. But I didn't mean Chakotay! Damn it all! It was supposed to be Harry - not Chakotay!
I make my way back to my quarters, the image of the two of them, practically plastered over one another, fresh in my mind.
I don't even see the Captain until I almost bump into her.
"Chakotay, what's wrong?"
I suppose my face must be as miserable as I feel. "I'm fine, Kathryn."
"Well, you don't look it."
She walks with me to my quarters and automatically follows me inside. "Would you like to talk about it?"
I shake my head, but say it anyway. "Tom's in love with Harry."
"Are you sure?" she asks softly.
"Maybe she's wrong."
"B'Elanna would know. And she's absolutely certain. Anyway, I've just come from the beach program. He's made it more than obvious."
"I see. I'm so sorry."
I shrug helplessly. "It's all for the best, I'm sure. Now, maybe, I'll be able to get over him."
She pats my arm in comfort. "If you need some time off from your duties..."
"Thanks, but I'd rather keep working."
She nods in understanding and with a final pat leaves me alone.
I look up in surprise as the Captain gazes down at me. "All alone, Mr. Paris?"
I smile and nod. The smile is rather forced and not very convincing and she looks at me in concern. Sitting down next to me she pats my arm. "Is anything wrong?"
I shake my head. How do I even explain what's going on? B'Elanna's just ruined everything. She's going to get on with Chakotay. I just know it. And poor Harry!
I must have said that out loud because the Captain says, "What about Harry?"
"Nothing," I say quickly.
"Oh? Tom, tell me what's wrong. There's obviously something."
"It's all so complicated," I sigh.
"Why don't you try to explain it?" she says gently. I look around to see if Harry or B'Elanna are close by. B'Elanna's now in the water, splashing around and Harry's over talking to Neelix. I'd really like to talk to somebody about this and I can't talk to Harry, or B'Elanna for that matter.
"I can't really tell you anything, Captain. It involves other people, not just me."
"I understand. You don't have to mention any names."
"Well, okay. It's just that I know Ha... I mean, 'somebody' is going to get really hurt and there's nothing I can do about it. He's in love with somebody very close to us, but she's not in love with him. She's interested in somebody else entirely."
"Are you sure she is?" the Captain interrupts me.
"Fairly certain. I don't know if this other guy's interested in her, but knowing him, he'll probably take her up on it if she makes a play for him. And I don't want the first guy to be hurt or the other guy to be interested in her. I want him... well it doesn't matter about that. I just wish everything wasn't such a mess. Why the hell did she have to get interested in Cha... I mean, the other guy in the first place?"
"I see," the Captain says, a little faintly.
"I told you it was complicated," I tell her.
"I don't think I realized just how much, however. My head's still reeling. I'm not quite sure I understand what you just told me."
"That's okay, Captain. It's best if you don't."
"I'm sure it is," she says, shaking her head. She pats my hand and then squeezes my shoulder. "I'm sure it is."
Tuvok follows me into my ready room, his face politely curious. "May I ask if something is the matter, Captain? You appear to be troubled."
"I am, Tuvok. I am," I say, sinking into my chair. "My senior staff have become entangled to such a degree that you're the only one I can rely on anymore."
"I have noticed that both Ensigns Paris and Kim have been acting a little strangely at times. Commander Chakotay has also not been his usual self on more than one occasion."
I sigh and run my hands through my hair. "Who else has noticed I wonder?"
"Seven of Nine has queried me on the matter."
"May I ask what sort of an entanglement you were referring to, Captain?"
"It's an absolute emotional mess. A romantic triangle, although triangle isn't the right word to use here. A rectangle is more apt. And what a rectangle it is."
"My apologies, Captain. I'm not sure I understand your meaning."
I sit forward and lean towards him. "I'm telling you this in strict confidence, Tuvok."
"That goes without saying, Captain."
I nod and continue. "From what I can gather, Commander Chakotay is in love with Tom Paris, who in turn is in love with Harry Kim. Harry, however, is in love with B'Elanna and B'Elanna is in love with Chakotay. And as you know, Chakotay is in love with Tom. Perhaps a circle is a better description. Anyway, the point is that there are no reciprocated feelings among them and it's one hell of a mess."
"I concur. However, I must disagree with you on one point of your... ahem... rectangle. Harry Kim is not in love with Lieutenant Torres. He's in love with Ensign Paris."
"What makes you say that?"
"I have watched them closely over the years. Although I did not realize it to begin with, I have now come to the conclusion that Ensign Kim has been in love with Mr. Paris from the beginning of our journey."
"Are you sure about this?"
"Yes. After careful consideration, I'm certain."
"Why the hell does Tom think Harry's in love with B'Elanna?"
"I have no idea, Captain."
"This collapses my rectangle theory. If Harry's in love with Tom, and Tom's in love with Harry, then at least they could be together."
"I agree, but are you certain that Mr. Paris is in love with Ensign Kim?"
"Chakotay told me he was."
"The Commander is certain?"
"Well, B'Elanna told him and she'd know."
"Has Mr. Paris told her this?"
"I don't think so."
"Then it is not certain. Who told you that Lieutenant Torres was in love with the Commander?"
"And he is certain?"
"He said he was fairly sure."
"Then it is not certain, either. Who told you that the Commander was in love with Mr. Paris?"
"Now that came straight from the horses mouth," I say, feeling a little triumphant. "Chakotay admitted that to me weeks ago."
"Then we can ascertain that as fact. Along with my own keen observations regarding Ensign Kim, we can also ascertain that he is in love with Mr. Paris, too. The rest of it is pure conjecture and can be left out of the equation."
"Damn it! So what have we got? Tom Paris sitting squarely in the middle, with Chakotay on one side of him and Harry on the other. Since we don't know how Tom feels about either one of them, I guess the scales are balanced. I must say, however, that I strongly believe the scales are tipped in Harry's favor. I don't know why, but I just have a feeling that Tom loves Harry, too. You can call it intuition if you want..."
"A most unreliable source," Tuvok interrupts. "There is no basis for that assumption. However," he hurries on, as I open my mouth to argue. "I will concede that your feeling on this matter may have been affected by some unconscious act that led you to believe it. I will allow the scales to be tipped."
"Thank you," I say dryly. I can't help feeling sorry for Chakotay. He would have been perfect for Tom. Much better than Harry. I'm not sure why I feel this way, either. I just do. "So, anyway, where does B'Elanna fit into all of this?"
"It is my considered opinion that she doesn't."
"Oh? Why is that?"
Tuvok hesitates. "I have no basis for that opinion."
"I... I am finding myself hopeful that she doesn't."
"Oh? Why should it matter to you?"
"I humbly report that I must make a confession to you."
"This is a rather delicate matter. I am hoping to speak to you as I would to a... family member."
"Of course. What is it?"
"My... ponn farr... will seize me in a matter of weeks. I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that meditation alone will not be enough to save me. The Doctor's holodeck simulations will also prove fruitless. Therefore, I am hoping to form a liaison with Lieutenant Torres."
"You've chosen B'Elanna to mate with?"
"She is the logical choice, under the circumstances. She is no longer in a committed relationship and is strong enough to withstand my more violent outbursts. It is well known throughout the ship that she prefers her sexual encounters to be rather rough."
"How will this affect your bond with T'Pel?"
"It is uncertain."
"I see. What if B'Elanna doesn't want to do this? We can't order her to, you know?"
"I understand that, Captain. And, unlike Ensign Vorik, I will not force my ponn farr onto anybody that is not willing. I intend to ask Seven of Nine, if Lieutenant Torres refuses."
"Seven? I don't think that's a good idea. Perhaps you should ask one of the men?"
"I am not interested in men, Captain."
"I know that. But we're talking about your ponn farr here, so what does it matter?"
"It matters a great deal, Captain. For me to initiate a bond, there must be some form of attraction there."
"Damn it! Aren't there any men on board that you find in the least bit attractive? What about Ayala? He's a very attractive man. Quiet and unassuming... he's the perfect choice."
"Captain! I am not attracted to Mr. Ayala."
"Okay then, what about Thompson from engineering? Or Jenkins in ships maintenance?"
"I do not think so, Captain."
I frown as I concentrate. There has to be somebody. I don't want Tuvok to ask Seven. Knowing her, she'll probably agree to the whole outrageous idea.
"What about Powell from the science lab? He'd be perfect and I'm sure he'd be willing to help you out. From what I hear, he's rather desperate."
"No. He may be desperate, but I am not."
"Well, it *is* a matter of life and death. I'd say that was desperate."
He shakes his head. "No. I will approach Lieutenant Torres tomorrow with my proposal. She will need time to think about it. Until I have her answer it is pointless to continue with this conjecture."
I sigh. He's right, of course. I now find myself hoping fervently that B'Elanna agrees.
No Regrets - Part 24
I'm not sure what to do about what happened tonight. If this had happened a few weeks ago, I'd have been so happy, but now... I'm just not sure.
My body reacted perfectly normally under the circumstances, I'm sure. Just because I'm no longer in love with Tom doesn't mean I still wouldn't find it exciting to have him eye me the way he did. I mean, you don't have to be in love with someone to notice how attractive they are.
I'd arrived at the holodeck a little late and the first thing I'd seen was Tom, sprawled out in a deck chair, his eyes closed and a happy smile on his face.
All he had on was a brief pair of swimming trunks and all I could see was a lot of bare flesh. He looked fantastic. And I'm not saying this because I'm still in love with him, because as you know, I'm not. I'm saying it because it's true.
Anyway, I found I was breathless when I had to speak. Tom didn't seem to notice, though. All I wanted to do was lie there next to him and soak up the sun, too. So I quickly undressed.
And that's when it happened. He checked out my butt. He wasn't even embarrassed when I turned around and caught him. He commented on how tight my swimming trunks were instead.
Somehow I managed to answer him normally. At least, I think I did. The whole time we spoke, he continued to stare at my trunks or, let's be honest here, my groin. It was very exciting.
Luckily, since I'm no longer in love with him, I was able to control myself, but then B'Elanna came in and she looked incredible. Still feeling rather stimulated from Tom's fixed interest, there was no way I could control myself when I saw B'Elanna.
It was all so embarrassing. Why is B'Elanna affecting me this way all of a sudden? She never used to. Although, to be fair, I've never really looked at her very much before. I only had eyes for Tom. I knew she was attractive and I liked her a lot, but all of my more basic thoughts were directed at Tom.
Am I developing feelings for her, after all? I think about it for quite some time before finally deciding that I don't feel any differently about B'Elanna than I always have. It's just that I've noticed how sexy she is. I'm reacting to her the same way I did to Seven, when she first came on board.
And now I know what the problem is. I've put a stop to my nightly fantasies regarding Tom. It's not right, now that I no longer love him. I haven't fantasized about him for weeks, except in my dreams. They don't count, of course, because they're not conscious thoughts.
I did the same thing around the time that Seven first joined us because Tom and B'Elanna had just officially started dating. It didn't feel right anymore to close my eyes and pretend that it was Tom holding me, stroking me, bringing me to release.
Now the same thing's happened again. Only this time it's B'Elanna instead of Seven that I'm focusing on. I just wish I knew what exactly was going on with Tom tonight.
Is it my imagination or is he becoming interested in me? Did I decide just a little too soon to stop loving Tom? If only he'd checked me out like that back when I was still in love with him. I would have been so happy. Now it's too late.
Maybe I should suggest we go to the beach program again tomorrow night and I'll see if he checks me out once more. I'll have to ensure that B'Elanna doesn't come along. I don't want to embarrass myself again.
Just to be safe, maybe I shouldn't wear those tight little swim trunks, but if I don't then Tom won't be able to check me out properly. I have to recreate everything the way it was, otherwise I'll never know for sure.
Everything's going as planned. B'Elanna won't be here. She told me that Tuvok wants to see her, for some reason.
Tom is firmly entrenched in his chair, enjoying the warm sun and I've turned my back to him and slowly taken my shirt and shorts off.
"I didn't think you'd be caught dead in those trunks again," Tom says dryly. Yes! He'd noticed! I turn around and look as innocent as I can.
"B'Elanna's not going to be here tonight."
"I know, but there are plenty of other beautiful women around."
"I'm sure I'll be fine," I say, calmly dropping my shoe right in front of him.
As casually as possible, I bend over and take my time to pick it up.
I hear Tom suck in his breath and my heart begins to thump a little louder.
"Geez, Har, will you hurry up and get your butt out of the way? You're blocking the view."
I stand up hurriedly. "View?"
"Take a look. Seven in a swimsuit."
I sit down in my chair with a bump. I'm not interested in ogling Seven. Well, it wouldn't hurt to look, I suppose. I guess it's lucky I'm no longer in love with the insensitive jerk or I think I'd probably be feeling a little hurt now.
Wow! As if my butt could ever compete with Seven parading around like that, anyway. Is it really necessary to sway her hips like that with every step? And what the hell has she got on her feet? High heels? On a beach?
And now she's spoilt my chance to find out if Tom was really checking me out, or if it was just my imagination.
Greg Ayala walks past. "Hi, Tom. Hello there, Harry."
"Yeah, hi, Greg." Tom's gaze never leaves Seven's strutting figure.
"Hi, Greg," I say with a smile.
Okay, so now I really *am* imagining things, because it looked like Greg winked at me. And Greg would never wink at me. Maybe he had some sand in his eye or something.
Tom suddenly clears his throat. "I think Seven may need a hand. She's finding it difficult to walk around in those shoes."
"Why doesn't she just take them off?" I mutter darkly.
"Yeah, I'll go and suggest that to her. Back in a minute." He's gone before I can speak.
I watch miserably as he helps her to sit down and actually takes her shoes off for her. What's that all about? The woman can take her own shoes off, surely? Why does Tom always have to be so damned... helpful all the time?
There! I knew it! She's smiling at him again. So what? He helped you take off your shoes. Big deal! That's no reason to flash him such a brilliant smile that you could light the whole holodeck with it.
And what the hell's he doing? Smiling back at her? What do the two of them think they're doing? Putting on a show for the enjoyment of the crew? I've never seen anything quite so blatant as the way she's coming on to Tom. And Tom! Why does he have to flirt like that all the time?
Thankfully, the Captain now joins them and it isn't long before Tom's heading back over here. "Do you want to go for a swim now, Har?" he calls out, his eyes sparkling as he smiles at me.
"No," I say crossly. Does he think I'm just going to sit around waiting for him or something?
Tom stares down at me in surprise. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing. I just don't feel like swimming." I squint back up at him.
I almost gasp as Tom's eyes leave my face and slowly travel down to my groin, before looking back up again. Oh my God!!
"Okay, I'll guess I'll leave you to your sun baking."
"Wait!" My dark mood lifts immediately. He checked me out. He looked at me... there! "I've changed my mind. Let's go."
I race him to the water.
I stand against the view port in one of our observation lounges, watching the stars as we pass them by and sigh serenely. All I have to do is center myself. Try not to think of the two of them together. Everything will be fine. No more self-torture. I will remain calm and in control at all times.
"Chakotay!" I turn around in surprise. B'Elanna sounds rather strange. "I'm not disturbing you am I?"
I shake my head. "Of course not. What's wrong? You look a little... disheveled."
"I am. I need to talk to someone."
"Well, you know I'll always listen."
She nods and sits down on one of the seats and I sit down next to her. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong, exactly. I've just come from a rather unusual discussion with Tuvok."
"He said I could talk about this with anyone I wish. He trusts in my discretion. I think I need someone else's opinion. I don't want to rush my decision."
"Yes. I have a decision to make. You're probably not aware of this, but Tuvok's ponn farr is due in a matter of weeks. He's asked me to bond with him."
"You? Why you?"
"It's perfectly logical actually." She smiles and shakes her head. "He's thought the whole thing through, and I must say his logic is impeccable. I'm no longer involved with anyone. I'm strong enough to match him, and quite frankly, I like it a little rough."
"He said that?"
"Not in those words, but that's what he meant. But more important than all of that, at least to me, is that he's attracted to me."
"I'm sure that's very flattering, but what happens afterwards?"
"That's the problem. He doesn't know. We may be bonded for good. That's why I have to think it over so carefully. If it was just a matter of helping him through his ponn farr, I wouldn't hesitate. I care about him far too much to see him suffer, and he may even die. But do I want to be bonded to him permanently? That's the question."
"I understand. You don't know whether you will be, though."
"I know, but it's a strong possibility. He says he will respect my privacy at all times and will do all he can to ensure the bond is as minimal as possible. But there's always an unknown factor involved and I have to take that into consideration."
"Then I guess you have to decide how you really feel about him."
She nods. "I like him very much. He's a gentle man, kind and considerate. I know he'd never deliberately hurt me, and I trust him completely. And physically he's very attractive. He has a strong, wiry body, which I like, and..."
"It sounds like you've already made up your mind," I interrupt.
She looks at me in surprise and then gives a small laugh. "You know, you're right. I have. I guess I just need you to tell me I'm not out of my mind."
"This is a decision only you can make, B'Elanna."
"I know, but before I say yes to Tuvok, I need to explain to Tom. I know he won't be hurt, but I owe it to him to tell him. And I think I'll give him that little push towards Harry that he needs too."
I gulp at her words. "Is that necessary?"
She nods. "It's the least I can do."
Okay, I hate to say this, but I think Harry needs his psyche evaluation brought forward. There's something definitely wrong with him. His mood swings are extreme. I'm starting to really worry about him. I don't know what the matter was before, but it seems to have passed.
I'd thought he might not want to go in for a swim because he'd become a little too enthusiastic over Seven and didn't dare stand up. That wasn't the problem, though. I checked.
I don't know what the problem was. He seems fine now. He'd dived in under the waves before I'd even reached the water, and after our swim had been his usual bright and eager self.
My problem is that I'm the chief medical assistant. I wonder if I should bring Harry's strange behavior to Doc's attention. It's a little hard to explain. And knowing how much everyone hates their psyche tests, I feel like the biggest heel alive. Sort of like I'm betraying Harry or something. Besides, Harry's behavior isn't that strange; just a little different than usual. I'll just keep an eye on him.
"Is everything okay, Tom?" We're heading back to our respective quarters and I've been deep in thought. I guess I haven't said a word the whole way. "Do you want to go back to the beach again tomorrow night?"
"If you want to."
"Yeah." He bobs his head up and down enthusiastically.
I start in surprise as, up ahead of us, B'Elanna and Chakotay step out of a small observation lounge, their heads bent close together. B'Elanna leans forward and kisses Chakotay on the cheek and then he steps back into the lounge. B'Elanna strides away purposefully.
Harry grabs my arm and I realize I must have stopped dead. I'm finding it difficult to breathe. Harry must be as devastated as I am. I turn to him, placing a fake smile on my face, the type that Harry can see straight through.
He doesn't say anything. Just looks at me and back at B'Elanna's retreating figure and then back at me again.
"Come on," I say hurriedly. It obviously hasn't hit him yet.
As soon as we reach my quarters I drag him inside and get us both a drink. "It may not have been what it looked like," I say desperately, not sure who I'm trying to convince. Him or me. "They've always been very close."
"I've never seen her kiss him before," Harry says quietly.
Damn it! That's exactly right. I quickly drain my glass. "I'm sorry, Har. I know how hurt you must feel."
"Me?" His eyes widen a little and then he flushes. "Oh! Well... it's okay. I'm not... I mean... I'm over her now."
"Quite a few weeks ago, actually." He looks a little sheepish.
"Quite a few weeks ago?" I repeat. "How can that be?"
He shrugs. "I simply told myself to stop loving her... and I did."
"Just like that?"
"Sure. It hurt for a few days, but I'm fine now."
"A few days? Harry, surely you're not serious?"
He hesitates and then nods. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"Because it's just not possible to get over somebody you've loved the way you did B'Elanna in such a short time."
"Of course it is. I just told you I did."
"You're lying to yourself."
"I'm doing no such thing. You know how it is when I make up my mind about something. I have a lot of willpower. I told myself to stop loving..." He chokes a little, but then continues. "Anyway, I did."
"You can't just tell yourself to stop loving someone. It doesn't work that way. I don't think you're being honest with yourself, Harry."
"Do you think I made this decision lightly?" he suddenly yells at me. "I don't want to be in love anymore, so I'm not."
"Oh, Harry," I say sadly. "If only it were that easy, but it isn't. No matter how determined you are to get over somebody, it still takes time. Certainly more than a few days. And considering how long you loved her and how deeply, it's going to take you more than a few weeks."
He shakes his head stubbornly. "I know how I feel."
I sigh in defeat. "Just so long as you're not deluding yourself, Har."
He smiles and pats my hand. "Don't worry about me, Tom. I'm fine."
No Regrets - Part 25
How did I make it back to my quarters? I don't remember. I hope I didn't meet anybody on the way. I couldn't keep the pretense up with Tom any longer. I made my excuses and got out of there.
How could I have been so stupid? So blind? So totally self-deluded? I'd argued with Tom, telling him he was wrong. I knew how I felt. I *knew* I was no longer in love.
The truth had hit me as I'd looked into Tom's concerned eyes. I was still in love with him. Totally and completely. I hadn't stopped for a moment. Everything he'd been saying was true. I couldn't just stop loving him by telling myself to.
Why hadn't I realized sooner? I've been such a fool. So, what happens now? I continue to secretly love Tom? Is this my destiny? If so, I don't like it much. But what else can I do? Nothing has changed. Tom's friendship is still too important to me to ruin with a sudden declaration of love.
Tom still has feelings for Chakotay, if the look on his face when he saw B'Elanna kiss the Commander is anything to go by. And I'm sure that Chakotay has feelings for Tom. I'm not sure how B'Elanna fits into all of this.
I sigh unhappily and decide to go to bed. At least now that I've admitted to myself that I'm still in love with Tom, I won't have to force myself not to have those fantasies regarding him. I can just relax and indulge myself. My favorite one is when I pretend that it's me, not Chakotay, trapped in that lift with him.
I shiver with anticipation and barely have time to strip off and throw myself in under the covers before my imagination takes over.
I don't know why I agreed to come here again tonight. I'm not in the mood for a leisurely swim followed by a quiet, relaxing sunbathe. I want to get up and do something.
I've already gone for a not so leisurely swim, churning up and down in the water until I was so tired I could hardly drag myself back up the beach. As soon as I recovered, I set up a volleyball game that became so enthusiastic that everyone finally fell to the ground in complete exhaustion, including me.
Harry is sprawled in the chair next to me, completely relaxed. He's more relaxed than I've seen him for weeks and I'm happy for him. But I don't understand it. I thought he would have been more upset about B'Elanna. I can't believe he could just stop loving her like that, no matter how determined he is.
I guess I should be pleased that he's not heart-broken, but it's a little unsettling that he didn't react the way I thought he would. It's not the first time, of course. Sometimes, when I look at Harry, I find myself wondering if *I'm* the na´ve, innocent, young Ensign and not him at all.
Now that I'm fully rested I begin to think about what other sort of game I can organize on the beach. I'm still making plans when Greg Ayala walks past. That would have to be about the fifth time in the past hour. He smiles warmly, but keeps walking. You know, if he does it again, I think I should suggest he moves his chair up closer to wherever the hell it is that he keeps going.
I turn my head towards Harry to say what I'm thinking and I'm surprised to see him watching Greg's retreating figure with a small smile on his face.
He turns to look at me, a deep flush crossing his features. "What?"
He blushes even more. "I think he probably has some sand in his eye or something."
"I'm sure he's not really winking at me."
"Greg Ayala's been winking at you?"
"That's what I just said. I'm sure he's not."
"I see," I say a little faintly. "Would it bother you if he had been?"
"No, why should it? He's very attractive."
"I... I suppose he is. Harry, are you feeling all right?"
"What makes you ask that?"
"I was just wondering." I lean forward a little. "Ayala's a guy, Har."
"Very funny. You know what I mean."
Harry suddenly turns away. "Yeah, I know *exactly* what you mean," he says in a small, sad voice.
I've upset him again. He turns around once more and there's a determined glint in his eye. "Would it surprise you that much to know I think Greg's very good-looking?"
I don't know what to say to that. "Do you?"
Harry watches me closely, leaning forward a little as he answers. "Yes, I do. And from what I can see he has a nice body. Have I shocked you?"
"Shocked is a rather strong word. Surprised... yes. This isn't some sort of reaction to B'Elanna is it?"
"No. Listen, forget I mentioned it."
Yeah right, Harry. I'll just forget the whole thing. "I didn't think you were interested in guys," I say.
"Well, then, you were wrong."
"Obviously. Are you sure you are?"
Harry's eyes narrow. "Of course, I'm sure. And, if you must know, I've had a lot more experience with guys than I have with girls."
"That's all right. I don't have to know that," I say quickly. "I don't understand. I've known you for six years and never once in all that time have you gone out with a guy."
"Yes, I have."
"But... I'd know if you had," I protest.
"You probably weren't paying any attention."
I'm not sure if I like the sound of that. "It almost sounds as if you think I don't take any notice of you."
"I didn't mean to imply that. It's just that you..."
"It's just that I don't think you know me as well as you think you do," he says hesitantly.
"Well, you do, but there are some things you don't."
Harry leans back in his chair, flushed a bright red. I don't know whether it's in annoyance or embarrassment.
I decide to lean back too and not say anything. I don't want to make matters worse.
A shadow falls over me and I squint up to see B'Elanna standing looking down at me. "Hi! Tom, can I talk to you for a moment?"
"I'll leave you two alone," Harry says quickly, before I can answer her. He seems very keen to get away and I suppose I can't really blame him.
Standing up, he quickly pulls on a shirt. "I'll catch you later."
"You don't have to go," B'Elanna protests.
"No, that's okay. I'm kind of tired." He's gone in seconds.
B'Elanna watches him go. "Is he all right? He seemed a little upset."
"I don't know. I think I should check on him afterwards. What did you want to see me about?"
I can't believe that Tom didn't realize I was interested in guys as well as girls. I've never kept that a secret. I haven't dated many men on board over the years, I know, but I honestly wasn't trying to hide anything. It's just that none of them interest me the way Tom does.
And, anyway, I *have* dated some men over the years. Tom knew about it, too. What did he think I was doing? Having a quiet dinner with a pal and then going back to talk in my quarters?
I stop suddenly. That's *exactly* what he thought. Why wouldn't he? That's exactly what *we* always do together. I shake my head at his naivety. And he thinks I'm na´ve?
I make my way back to my quarters and step in quickly. No wonder he found it so easy to believe I wasn't in love with him, never wondering about some of my actions over the years. But I couldn't let him continue to believe that misconception about me. There's been too many lies as it is.
The look on his face when I told him that I had a lot more experience with guys than with girls. It would have been funny if the whole thing hadn't been so damned awful.
Shaking my head, I quickly undress and dive under the covers. Tom had looked wonderfully... hot, tonight. After the first few volleyball games, I'd sat back and watched him as he jumped, ran and dove all over the temporary court.
I close my eyes and remember how the sweat had trickled down his broad, freckled shoulders and the hairs on his chest had curled up in the heat. He'd looked fantastic. I sigh with contentment and let my imagination take over.
B'Elanna looks a little nervous. "I know we said when we broke up that we would be happy for one another when we started another relationship..."
Oh Damn! Oh Damn! She's going to pursue Chakotay.
"Well, anyway, something's happened. I've had a... um... proposal put forward to me and I'm seriously considering it."
"Proposal?" I squeak.
"Not that sort of proposal," she says, hitting me lightly on the arm. My heart starts beating again. "At least, I suppose it could turn out that way after all. I never really thought about it like that." She has a far away look in her eyes.
"B'Elanna, what are you talking about?"
She focuses back on me. "Sorry. I just mean that at the moment it's solely a matter of fulfilling a mutual need. If a bond forms after we've mated, then so be it."
"I don't believe I'm hearing this. Did he suggest this?"
"He was very embarrassed about it, actually."
"I'll just bet he was."
"Hang on a minute. You don't even know who I'm talking about."
"As a matter of fact, I do."
"You do? Oh, of course, you do. I suppose the Doc's discussed this with you, just in case."
The Doc? He knows about this? And he never said anything? I was with him this morning and he didn't even hint about it. That's not like him.
"You *are* his medical assistant, after all," B'Elanna continues.
What the hell does that have to do with anything? What does she think happened? Does she think Chakotay came racing into sickbay, declaring that it's been so long since he's been with anybody, and he couldn't help noticing that B'Elanna seemed interested, so would there be any medical reason why he couldn't proposition her? I shake my head at the thought.
"I just sort of guessed."
"Of course you did. Well, anyway, you understand why this is all rather rushed, don't you? He's desperate, but I don't have to tell you that, do I?"
I bite my lip at her words. "Thank you for reminding me." I try to keep my voice steady.
"You're upset, aren't you? Chakotay didn't seem to think it was necessary for me to talk to you about this, but I knew it was. Tell me what bothers you the most about it all. I really do care about him, you know. I couldn't do this otherwise."
"I realize that. I guess I'm a little worried that you're going to get hurt."
"He's assured me that won't happen. I trust him completely. If we do things properly everything will be fine."
"Of course. We need to familiarize ourselves with one another. We're going to get together a few times over the next few weeks. I'm not going to just strip off and throw myself on him, no matter how much he needs me."
"Shit, B'Elanna. You make it sound like all it's about is sex."
"Well, it is, isn't it? I told you, though, if a bond forms, I'm prepared to accept it."
"I can't believe you can be so callous about the whole thing."
"I'm not being callous, I'm being practical. Somebody has to do it and I'm really touched that he asked me. You're really not happy about this, are you?"
"How can I be? The thought of the two of you together..." I break off, unable to speak. How can she do this? How can she expect me to be happy about it? After what happened between us in that lift, how can she possibly think I'd be pleased to hear that she's now going to get it on with him? And in such a calculated way?
"I'm sorry you feel that way," B'Elanna says rather stiffly. "I still don't see what your exact objection is. Is it because he's a lot older than me?"
"Of course not."
"Are you sure? Now that I think about it, he is rather old."
"He's not old," I protest quickly. "He's in his prime."
"Compared to me, he's old."
"He is *not" old," I defend grimly. "And anyway, age has got nothing to do with it. Geez, you make it sound like he's some old grandfather or something."
"If you really cared about him you wouldn't care how old he is," I say, feeling myself getting rather hot under the collar.
"Kahless, Tom. I didn't realize age was such a touchy subject with you."
"It's not. It's just that..." What? How can I explain my sudden defense? "Age shouldn't come into it," I finish rather lamely.
"That's the way I feel, too. So what's the problem?"
What am I supposed to say? I don't want you to have him, because I want him? That's basically what the problem is, I suddenly realize. I guess a very important point in this whole equation is, who does he want? The answer's sitting right next to me.
I take a deep breath and place my hand over hers. "This is what you really want?"
"Yes. I know it sounds weird, but it is."
"Then, I hope things work out for you."
"Thanks. I want things to work out for you too. I think it's time you examined your feelings. It's time to be honest with yourself."
"What do you mean?" I ask, genuinely puzzled. The only feelings I have are in regards to Chakotay and I don't know how I can be more honest with myself than I already am. And what the hell's the point, anyway?
"How do you feel about Harry?"
"Don't think about your answer, just say the first thing that comes in your mind."
"Harry's great. He's the best friend I've ever had, and am ever likely to have, too. He's loyal, generous..."
"Very attractive," she interrupts. "And all that eager enthusiasm is a huge turn-on, isn't it?"
"What?" I say, feeling more than a little annoyed with her. If she feels like that, what's she doing with Chakotay?
"Oh, come on, Tom. Admit it. You're in love with him."
I shake my head in confusion. "Who?"
She slaps my arm. "Stop it! It's time to face up to the truth, Tom. You're in love with Harry. I think it's wonderful, by the way."
"Harry?" My voice rises a little. "Don't be ridiculous. I'm not in love with Harry."
Her eyes narrow. "Of course you are. You've done nothing but talk about him for weeks. You're fooling no one but yourself."
"But that was for you. I was trying to get you to notice him."
"Why? What are you talking about? Anyway, I don't believe you. Your feelings for one another are obvious. Even Chakotay..."
"Chakotay?" I interrupt furiously. "What the hell's he been saying to you?"
"Nothing. It's just that he thought the two of you were together, so it's not just me..."
"That bastard! What the hell's he playing at? First he tells me that Harry's in love with me and then he tells you that we're on together." I stand up on shaky legs. "That's what it's all been about all along. He's wanted you for himself."
"Tom, what are you talking about? You're talking crazy."
"No. It all makes sense. He made sure we broke up..."
"Tom, Chakotay had nothing to do with our breakup."
I ignore her. "He wanted you to think that Harry and I were together so that you wouldn't look at him and you'd turn to him instead. And you did."
"What?" She grabs my arm. "I think you'd better sit down."
I pull free and head for the holodeck doors as fast as I can.
"Tom! Come back!"
I take no notice and step out into the corridor. "Computer, please state the location of Commander Chakotay."