It's Been Awhile by Polly Bywater

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Title: It's Been Awhile

Author: Polly Bywater


Pairing: C/P

Rating: NC-17 for language, suicidal imagery, violence, mildly non-

con m/m sex, consensual m/m sex, angst, depression, you name it.

Disclaimer: All things Trek belong to Paramount. I make no money

off this. The song "It's Been Awhile" is from the album "Break the

Cycle" copyrighted 2001 by Staind. I make no money off that either.

Summary: Tom considers suicide after the events of 'Investigations'.

Archive: Cha_Club, ok to TPDorm, too

Personal Note: Yeah, it's a song story... at least, it started off

that way. It's been on my mind for weeks now, and I had to write it,

this song is just so *Tom*. If you haven't heard "It's Been Awhile"

I encourage you to buy the album. The radio version cuts out all

the 'Tom-speak'. I hesitated to post this story; for one, because I

was in a rather grim mood when I started to write it. Also, I know I

have read similar scenarios by other authors, BUT [see shit-eating

grin here] this is my take on this situation and I'm stuck in my

sequel to 'The Lodge'. Un-beta'ed work, all errors mine alone, and

if I inadvertently plagiarized somebody, please try to take it as a

compliment. Pretty please. With chocolate covered cherries on top.

Or whipped cream, if you'd prefer.

It's Been Awhile 1-11-02

Tom let himself into Holodeck One and set a privacy lock, waiting for

the computer to confirm it was in place before he activated

Sandrines. He hadn't been in here in quite some time, and it was

reassuring to see the familiar features of the Marseilles bar take

form around him. It was late, well after midnight. He'd

deliberately chosen the time in order to avoid people, and he didn't

need the generated company the holosim included, either.

"Computer. Delete all holographic characters besides Sandrine. Run

subroutine Paris Alpha Delta Two."

When the room was cleared to his satisfaction, he walked over to the

bar and was greeted by the doppelganger of its owner.

"'Allo, Tomas. It's been awhile."

"Oui, cherie. Un temps tres long. Single malt scotch, straight up.

L'article veritable, s'il vous plait." Tom slid easily into speaking

French, having learned it as a young child from his mother.

"Tres bien, mon ami. As you wish," she said disapprovingly, and

vanished behind the bar for a moment, returning to pour him a healthy

measure of pale amber liquor. Tom took it like medicine, belting it

back in a manner guaranteed to make Sandrine glare at him even

harder. It was not the way to treat 'the genuine article'; a

replicated fine old scotch, not synthehol. Tom figured he'd try to

appreciate the next one more.

"Un second," he ordered, feeling the burn of the alcohol work its way

past his gut and into his bloodstream with satisfying speed.

Sandrine sighed, but refilled his glass anyway.

"Votre coeur est triste, Tomas. Pourquoi?"

"Why is my heart sad? A thousand reasons, cherie," Tom admitted,

staring into his glass before sipping its contents, more slowly this

time. "But they all boil down to one. Amour."

"Ah. Je vois. So you come here, to forget?"

"I wish that was possible, Sandrine. Laissez la bouteille avec moi,

s'il vous plait."

She shook her head, but handed him the bottle. Tom took it with his

glass over to the upright piano in the corner that had appeared when

he'd specified the subroutine. He seated himself on the old bench

and set the glass aside, knocking back another too-large gulp

straight from the fifth. It was easier that way.

In truth, he *did* wish it was possible to forget. Forget the time

he'd spent with Chakotay during his short tenure with the Maquis.

Forget the way that brown skin felt warm under his hands, forget the

taste of those lush lips under his mouth. Forget the joy in

Chakotay's possession, the mind-altering passion as the big man drove

into his body, the quiet times after sex when they'd cuddled together

and talked. If Tom could only manage to forget that much, what was

happening now wouldn't hurt.

It had been several months- "Three months, four days, and an odd

number of hours," Tom's mind insisted on supplying -since Janeway's

scheme to flush out the traitor on Voyager had driven an even deeper

wedge between Tom and Chakotay. Tom had finally accepted that

Chakotay would never forgive him for what his former lover perceived

as another betrayal. Initially, Tom had been as angry as Chakotay.

Angry on so many levels, and insulated by that anger from the soul

deep pain he was feeling now. Why couldn't Chakotay understand the

reasons why he'd done what he'd done? Duty, orders, the captain's

trust. Why had Chakotay been so quick to believe the worst of Tom,

anyway? Believe in the masquerade? Why, his heart had howled since

his anger faded, did Chakotay blame him for everything?

Tom had tried again a few weeks ago to apologize to Chakotay, to

explain. He knew he hadn't sounded sincere when he'd made

his 'public' regrets on Neelix's show. Shit, he'd been so nervous,

he couldn't prevent his typical smart-ass reaction. So he'd waited

for some of the dust to settle, and gone to Chakotay privately, in

his office. He'd tried to tell the big man how sorry he was, how

hard it had been to act the traitor, how much he cared.

Chakotay had practically laughed in his face.

"You don't give a damn about anybody or anything except Tom Paris.

You never cared about me. You're incapable of caring." And that had

been the kindest thing he'd said. Chakotay had listed Tom's numerous

sins, both admitted and imagined. Caldik Prime? Tom was a known

liar. New Zealand? Tom had deliberately set up the Maquis with him

to be captured. That he'd ended up in prison himself was purely

incidental. Voyager? Tom had whored himself to Janeway to get out

of prison, just like he whored himself in Marseilles. Leading the

Starfleet vessel through the Badlands? Proof once again he had no

loyalty to Chakotay, or the Maquis. Hard for him to act the

traitor? Tom Paris didn't have to act. He *was* a traitor, always

had been, always would be. A coward, a mercenary, who constantly

looked out for number one. "An opportunistic piece of scum," had

been the final taunt, if Tom remembered correctly, and unfortunately,

he remembered everything.

Tom had just stood there, silent, taking it all. All of Chakotay's

verbal abuse, all the anger, all the hatred... while some part of his

soul had shriveled up and died. He'd gone back to his quarters and

passed the transporter room, and he didn't know how long he'd stood

in there at the console, mentally calculating the coordinates for

spacing himself into billions of free-floating atoms, before some

tiny shred of sanity had resurrected itself and driven him away.

Since that time, Chakotay had said nothing to him beyond what duty

required. Tom was slowly losing his mind. He passed by that damned

transporter room every day, after all, and thinking of a reason to

live was becoming impossible. It had come to him today at Voyager's

helm that what he needed was some liquid help to forget, and just

maybe, some liquid courage would push him onto that transporter


He took another drink, then set the bottle aside, starting to feel

the alcohol working strongly through his system and hazing the

fringes of his reality. He wanted to play the piano one last time.

He'd been very conscious of feeling like he was at the conn today for

the last time. By the end of his bridge shift, he'd decided to end

his life. He couldn't face another day of sitting there, with

Chakotay behind him, watching him with hate in those beautiful dark

eyes. Tom figured he was dying anyway. He couldn't eat. He

couldn't sleep. Pretty soon he'd be unable to fly, and what use was

he otherwise? No need to drag it out any longer, really.

He'd gotten off shift and recorded goodbye messages for Captain

Janeway and Harry. Just in case he got the nerve to go through with

his plan. He knew they would probably feel bad about his death, so

he wanted to make it clear he didn't blame them. He definitely

didn't want them to blame themselves, and he'd told them so.

Especially Harry. Shit, Janeway knew what a chronic fuckup he was,

it shouldn't come as that much of a shock.

For Chakotay, he left nothing. There was nothing else to say. The

man already believed him to be a coward, a liar, and a traitor. Tom

wished Chakotay would be sorry, at least a little, but he doubted

that he would. In fact, judging from what Chakotay had said to him,

he'd probably be glad to never have to lay eyes on Tom again.

Tom let his fingers play over the keyboard, remembering how it had

been at the real Sandrines, taking requests from the other patrons.

That is, when he'd been between other jobs. The asked-for music had

ranged from classical to jazz to good old rock and roll. He'd

learned hundreds of songs. Drinking and music kept him alive after

Caldik Prime, well, that and sex. He hadn't precisely whored

himself, although he had certainly slept around, and if his partners

fed him a meal or bought him liquor, well, that wasn't exactly

whoring, was it? Music though... music had helped him feel he had

other talents to offer besides his mouth and his ass, or his pilot's

hand-eye coordination. Too bad he hadn't had the guts to end it all

then. It would have saved him a lot of heartache. Just think where

Chakotay might have been if he hadn't walked into Sandrines looking

for a fucking pilot. Lucky Tom. Lucky Chakotay. Shit. Life was a

joke, wasn't it?

For a moment, he couldn't decide what to play, then Sandrine's

greeting came back to him. Yeah, that was perfect. He played the

opening in F-major, slow and bluesy, his foot tapping out two/four

time as the lyrics came back to him, and started singing. This was

*his* song, all right. Always had been.

"'And it's been awhile since I could hold my head up high

And it's been awhile since I first saw you

And it's been awhile since I could stand on my own two feet again

And it's been awhile since I could call you

And everything I can't remember

As fucked up as it all may seem

The consequences that I've rendered

I've stretched myself beyond my means

And it's been awhile since I could say that I wasn't addicted

And it's been awhile since I could say I loved myself as well and

And it's been awhile since I've gone and fucked things up

just like I always do

And it's been awhile but all that shit seems to disappear

when I'm with you

And everything I can't remember

As fucked up as it all may seem

And consequences that I've rendered

I've gone and fucked things up again


He came to the bridge, letting the liquor roughen his voice as he

sang the part of this song that echoed his thoughts so closely,

pounding out the notes hard on the keyboard.

"'Why must I feel this way?

Just make this go away

Just one more peaceful day

And it's been awhile since I could look at myself straight

And it's been awhile since I said "I'm sorry"

And it's been awhile since I've seen the way the candles

light your face

And it's been awhile but I can still remember

Just the way you taste

And everything I can't remember

As fucked up as it all may seem to be

I know it's me

I cannot blame this on my father

He did the best he could for me

And it's been awhile since I could hold my head up high

And it's been awhile since I said "I'm sorry'"

Tom let the notes trail away and put his head in his hands.

"Yeah, I'm so fucking sorry, and it doesn't make any difference.

Being sorry doesn't change anything. People never really forgive,

anyway. They might say they do, they might tell you your past

doesn't matter, but in the end, they're just waiting for you to fuck

up again so they can dump your ass back in the gutter."

"Tomas, what are you going to do?" Sandrine asked him gently, her

hand on his shoulder. It only made his heart hurt worse, knowing she

wasn't real, that she was as big a fake as he was. Before he left

for the transporter room, Tom thought he might delete her program

permanently. No sense in leaving it. If he could, he'd go through

this ship and remove everything that might ever remind somebody that

he'd been here. It was what he wanted. To have never existed at all.

"Je vais m'assurer que j'oublie. Je vais mettre un terme a cette

douleur, Sandrine." I am going to make sure I forget. I am going to

put an end to this pain.

"Tomas, mon pauvre garcon, then you need this," Sandrine cooed

soothingly, handing him the bottle. Tom debated for a moment, then

decided why the hell not, and had another drink. He *was* a poor

boy, wasn't he? Just pitiful, in fact. The holocharacter stood

there for a moment, then said, "Play another song, mon ange triste."

"Sad angel, huh," Tom laughed derisively at that. He was nobody's

angel, not any more, although there had been a time when Chakotay—

Shit. "I loved him, Sandrine." Past tense. Soon it would all be

past tense.

"Le grand homme?"

"Mais oui, le grand homme. Il me deteste maintenant." But yes, the

big man. He hates me now. Tom inspected the bottle of scotch, a

little surprised to find it was half empty, and wondered how much

more he could drink before he would be unable to operate the

transporter controls. It was a hard thing, getting to the point

where he'd be appropriately anesthetized yet not incapable. As

seriously drunk as he felt now, he thought he was probably close to


"How could anyone hate you, Tomas."

"C'est vrai, l'homme est un imbecile." It is true, the man is a

fool. Tom shrugged, that very Gallic gesture that conveyed his

genuine confusion, because somehow, believing that did not seem to


"Merci, Sandrine. Adieu." Tom started to get up, but Sandrine

stopped him.

"S'il vous plait, Tomas. Une plus de chanson."

"No more songs, Sandrine. No more music in me." Tom thought about

that for a minute, took one last big gulp of scotch, and handed her

the bottle before he staggered to his feet. "It's been real," he

threw out as a parting shot, which struck him as a funny thing to say

to a holocharacter. He laughed, but there were tears running down

his face when he called for the arch.

"Computer. Delete holoprogram Sandrines. Delete all holoprograms

tied to this user account. Authorization Paris Omega Zed Zed Seven."

"Please confirm holoprogram deletion." Even the computer sounded

surprised, Tom thought.

"Confirm. Delete all holoprograms tied to this user account." Tom

gave his authorization code again, and watched Sandrines vanish into

the yellow and black grid pattern of the holodeck. "Well, that ought

to free up a bunch of memory in the old computer core, shouldn't it,


Tom patted the bulkhead and wavered out into the corridor. Now all

he had to do was remember where that damned transporter room was.

- - - - - - - - - -

Chakotay awakened in a cold sweat, still caught in the grip of a

nightmare that made him moan with nausea. The details of the dream

were all too fresh in his mind. He was in his office, cutting little

pieces out of Tom Paris's skin with a knife, watching the bits of

flesh fall to the floor and float in a pool of blood he could swear

he still smelled... and Tom didn't move, didn't speak. He just stood

there looking at him with a resigned statement on his face that said

he deserved everything Chakotay was doing to him. The dream had

obvious parallels to that scene in his office a few weeks ago,

Chakotay realized, but he cringed at having to admit to himself that

was exactly what he'd done to Tom with words. Cut him to shreds, and

watched him bleed to death right before his eyes.

Remorse slammed into him like a hammer blow, and Chakotay swung his

legs out of the bed to sit on the edge with his head in his hands.

Spirits, he hadn't even meant most of the shit he'd said, he was just

so hurt and angry. He didn't know how to make it right. He did know

he'd have to try, though. He'd been watching Tom these last weeks,

and the younger man was plainly suffering. Tom had looked like a

wraith at the conn today, so pale, losing more weight by the day, and

judging from the dark circles under his eyes, he wasn't sleeping. No

more than Chakotay was. This wasn't his first nightmare, but it was

by far the worst.

He thought about trying to go back to sleep, but some voice in his

head was urging him to find Tom *now*. He argued with himself for a

moment, but the anxiety fueled by his dream had a strong grip.

Chakotay got up and threw on a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt, then

grabbed up his comm badge.

"Computer. Location of Lieutenant Paris."

"Lieutenant Thomas Paris is in his assigned quarters."

"Is he alone?" Chakotay barely heard the computer's affirmative.

Some dark and dreadful suspicion had taken over his thoughts, and

Chakotay felt his heart leap to his throat in sudden terror.

Something was wrong, badly wrong.

"Computer, confirm. Scan for life signs. Is Lieutenant Paris in his


"Negative. There are no life sign readings."

"Site to site transport me to Lieutenant Paris's quarters. Energize."

Chakotay materialized in Tom's cabin to find his comm badge sitting

on his desk with his uniform rank pips, on top of a couple of data

padds. He picked one up just long enough to read the first few lines.

'Dear Harry. By the time you read this I'll be gone. I want you to

know you were the best friend I ever had—'

"No! Oh, no!" Chakotay rushed into Tom's bedroom and found it

empty, as was the bathroom. His hand went to his comm

badge. "Chakotay to Ayala." It was after midnight. Ayala would be

the Gamma shift Ops officer.

"Ayala here. What can I do for you, Captain?" His long time friend

sounded much calmer than Chakotay felt, and Chakotay realized Ayala

must be the senior bridge officer on duty to address him as captain.

He hadn't been Ayala's captain for a nearly two years, now.

"I want you to shut down all the transporter room consoles but

maintain site to site transporters. Do it now. I'll comm you when

they can go back online. Keep this between us, Greg."

"It's done, Captain."

Chakotay terminated that transmission and tried to think. Damn it,

where would Tom go? Sandrines?

"Computer. Site to site transport me to holodeck one. Energize"

He materialized outside the holodeck arch and checked the program

log. A spasm of pure fear struck him when he determined that

Sandrines no longer existed as a program in Voyager's data bank.

None of Tom's programs did. He looked inside just to be sure, but

the holodeck was empty.

"Computer. Is anyone trying to access the transporter controls?" It

was a fact that spacing yourself was the easiest way to commit

suicide in the 24th century.

"Affirmative. A bypass of the transporter room console lockout is

occurring in transporter room two."

"Shit! Transport me there now! Energize!" Boy, he was going to

have some kind of trouble justifying all this transporter use to

Kathryn and Tuvok, provided he could keep Tom out of his report,

Chakotay reflected briefly before he was beamed into the transporter

room to materialize behind a swaying Tom Paris. Apparently drunk,

and thank the Spirits, because if he'd been sober he would have

already completed the lockout bypass. Chakotay's adrenaline rush had

him yanking Tom off the controls and shoving him towards the door.

"What in the hell do you think you're doing, Paris?" He shouted as

Tom ended up sprawled on the floor, not close enough to activate the

door sensor. Tom looked at him, and the unshielded pain in those

blue eyes cut Chakotay to the core.

"Shit, Commander, what do you care? You should be thanking me. Hey,

I'll even let you operate the controls, you can space me yourself. I

know you want to."

"That's not true—"

"The hell it ain't. You made yourself perfectly clear, Commander."

Tom managed to get to his feet, but didn't waste his time trying to

get to the transporter console, not with Chakotay between him and

it. He'd have trouble taking Chakotay on a good day and stone cold

sober. This sure didn't qualify, although he could feel the scotch

wearing off all too fast. It didn't matter. There were other ways

to commit suicide that were just as painless, although spacing

himself did have the virtue of being quite tidy. It's not like Tom

needed Chakotay's permission. Fuck that.

He turned around and started for the door.

"Stop right there, Paris."

"Or what, *Commander*? You'll kill me? That's kind of the point, ya


"Or I'll notify Captain Janeway I just caught her senior pilot trying

to space himself. How long do you think she'll keep you in Sickbay,


"That's fine with me. There are plenty of drugs in Sickbay, and the

doc can't stay on 24/7. You're going to tell her anyway, and I don't

care. I'm done with this shit, Chakotay. I want out."

Chakotay didn't know if Tom was talking about the current

conversation and its locale, or talking about his life. He decided

it made no difference.

"Well guess what, Poocah. You're not done until *I* say you're

done," he growled, grabbing Tom by both arms and practically frog-

marching him out of the transporter room, his nose wrinkling at the

smell of booze.

"Don't call me that, you son of a bitch!" Tom hissed and tried to

kick Chakotay's shins. Although he'd sobered up considerably since

landing on the floor earlier, he still wasn't too coordinated, and

Chakotay managed to dodge his feet without too much difficulty.

"You used to like it when I called you that," he noted mildly,

cramming Tom into a turbolift and ordering it to Deck Three.

"Yeah, well, I used to like whoring myself in Marseilles, too, but I

guess it got old," Tom snapped back, his tone so bitterly sarcastic

Chakotay felt his throat tighten in sympathy. The turbolift opened

up onto Chakotay's deck, and he shoved Tom ahead of him into his

quarters then ordered the computer to soundproof the room and lock

out any exit, entry, or communications with the computer except by

him. He still didn't turn Tom loose, though, dragging him over to

the replicator and requesting a set of security manacles.

"Shit! What the *hell* do you think *you're* doing, Chakotay?" Tom

yelled, doing his damnedest to get out of Chakotay's grasp, but that

wasn't happening. Chakotay shoved Tom face down on the table and

yanked his hands behind his back, snapping the cuffs on him with a

strength born of desperation before he pushed Tom into his bedroom

and onto the bed.

"Just stay there for a fucking minute and shut up!" Chakotay ordered

grimly, and leaned back against the wall to catch his breath. Fuck,

he was shaking. That had been so close, *too* close. If he hadn't

had that nightmare. If he had just turned over and gone back to

sleep. If he hadn't gotten Greg Ayala to lock out the transporter

controls in time. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Too close to losing Tom

forever, and the shock of that realization was running through his

veins like ice water and rearranging all Chakotay's priorities.

The first thing he had to do was keep Tom from killing himself. In

the short term, that would be easy. Chakotay would chain him to the

bed and sit on him, if he had to. Sweet hell, what a visual, Tom

Paris chained to his bed. Chakotay shook his head and tried to shove

that image out. The hard part would be convincing Tom he wanted to


"I don't know what you hope to gain from this, Commander," Tom said,

as if he'd read Chakotay's thoughts. "I've made up my mind. You may

be able to stop me tonight, but there's always tomorrow."

"Pretty stupid thing to say from somebody bent on killing himself,"

Chakotay said sharply, and Tom turned his face away to stare out the

viewport. Chakotay rubbed his hand over his head, suddenly very

tired. He walked into the outer room, keeping one eye on Tom through

the open door, and hit his comm badge.

"Chakotay to Ayala."

"Ayala here."

"You can put the transporter room consoles back on line now, Greg,

and thank you."

Chakotay could almost hear Ayala's eyebrows lifting, but the only

thing he said was a brief acknowledgement. Good man, Ayala. There

was another comm he needed to make, but not without getting something

settled with Tom first. He walked back into the bedroom, got

something out of his dresser, and sat down on the edge of the bed.

Tom didn't bother to look at him.

"I want you to give me a chance to change your mind. I want you to

give me your word you won't try this again."

"Fuck you, Chakotay. I'm not giving you shit... and besides that, my

word's no good, remember?" That searing bitterness again. It made

Chakotay's heart ache. *He'd* done this, and he knew it. He had to

fix it, and not just because he felt guilty, either. He needed Tom

to be happy, and healthy. Hell, he just *needed* Tom, and he hadn't

even realized it. Chakotay definitely realized it now.

"*You* just remember this was your choice, Poocah," Chakotay said a

bit sadly, and when Tom turned his head around to blast him for the

use of that old nickname, Chakotay shoved a rolled up sock well back

in his mouth. Tom's eyes got big as saucers, and judging from the

muffled sounds he was making he was busily calling Chakotay

everything but a white man, but Chakotay didn't care.

"Hey, it's a clean sock. Consider yourself lucky," he told Tom with

a faint grin, and reckoned he could see Tom's blood pressure shoot up

accordingly. He took the bedsheet and tied it around Tom's legs,

making sure the younger man wasn't going to go anywhere for a few


"I'm going to go comm Kathryn, and tell her you and I are on vacation

for a few days. We *will* work on your suicidal tendencies,

Lieutenant... although that's not what I'm going to tell her.

Captains don't like suicidal pilots, you know, and you're going to

want to go back to the conn eventually."

Tom gave up trying to speak and just shook his head, his eyes looking

daggers into Chakotay, who merely shrugged.

"Believe it, Poocah," he promised, and went back into the other

room. As before, he took a position that put Tom in his line of

sight. No reason to get overconfident.

"Chakotay to Janeway." It took a moment for the captain to respond.

"Janeway here," and after a beat, "Christ, Chakotay, do you know what

time it is? What's wrong?"

"I know it's late. I'm sorry, Kathryn. I need a favor, and it's


"Yes, I assumed that much. What is it, Commander?"

"I'm placing Lieutenant Paris and myself on administrative leave for

a few days, beginning immediately. The situation between us has come

to a head, and we need some time to resolve things. Together."

A long silence, then. Chakotay could almost hear the captain


"I've noticed how strained Tom has been, Chakotay. I guess it was a

matter of time." A faint question there.

"You could say that," he replied evenly, thinking to himself how very

nearly out of time he'd been, he *and* Tom. "I need you to make it

clear to the senior staff that we are not to be disturbed."

"Chakotay. Do you know what you're doing?" A little more doubt

slipped out with that question. Chakotay could tell Tom was

listening hard by the way that blonde head was tilted.

"I promise I won't hurt him, Kathryn." Any more than I already have,

at least. "Please trust me to handle this."

"Of course. Is there anything I can do to help?"

Chakotay smirked, a genuine Paris-style smirk at that, and it was

fortunate for the captain's peace of mind that she couldn't see it.

"Not right now, Kathryn, thank you. I'll let you know if there is,"

Chakotay said, keeping his tone level with some difficulty. He ended

the conversation and watched Tom throw his head back on the pillow to

stare up at the ceiling. Chakotay went to the replicator then, and

requested a set of four-point restraints. Medical quality, with

padded cuffs and long canvas ties for securing a patient's wrists and

ankles to the bed frame. Chakotay became aware he once again had

Tom's undivided attention, those blue eyes wide.

"Well, Lieutenant, since you asked so nicely, I'm going to tie you to

the bed while I go down to your quarters and retrieve a few things.

We don't want poor Harry to find your suicide note in the morning, do

we? By the way, you might be interested to learn that Kathryn knows

we were lovers in the Maquis." Carefully avoiding Tom's teeth,

Chakotay plucked the gag out of his mouth then fastened his feet

together at the foot of the bed.

Tom licked his dry lips.

"You're fucking nuts, Chakotay," he said when he could speak,

helpless to prevent the commander from forcibly restraining his

hands, one at a time, to the upper corners of the bed. Chakotay made

certain the restraints were tight enough so that Tom couldn't get his

hands together, or get them close to his mouth, although they were

loose enough for him to tilt himself over on his side if necessary.

No way was Chakotay going to tie flat a man who'd been drinking the

apparent quantities Tom had.

"I won't argue sanity with *you*, Tom. Now, do you want a drink of

water before I go? I won't be gone long."

Tom shook his head, and Chakotay, figuring he might as well add some

more to the list, asked the computer for a site to site transport to

Tom's quarters.

- - - - - - - - -

"Shit." Tom looked up at the ceiling. The bed felt like it was

spinning, and he dearly hoped he wasn't going to be sick. On the

other hand, it would serve Chakotay right to have to clean it up,

since he'd left Tom like this. It occurred to Tom that he could

probably kill himself quite effectively by puking while flat on his

back, but he didn't think he could bring himself to do it that way.

Give it a few days, though, and that option might look more

attractive. Chakotay was fucking unbelievable, wasn't he? Tom was

under no illusions that the big man actually cared about him. He

knew the lengths to which Chakotay would let guilt motivate him, and

he was quite sure Chakotay had decided that he would spare himself

any possible guilt where Tom was concerned. If that meant 'saving

his life' then that's what Chakotay would do. It would make them

even, right? Hell, he was probably already writing up his

commendation for it.

Well, that was a little unfair. All the commander had had to do was

call Janeway and report him, and Tom would be lying in Sickbay in

four point restraints instead of in Chakotay's bed. Of course, a few

hours tied down in Sickbay with the holodoc would practically

guarantee his eventual suicide.

Tom snorted, and was horrified to abruptly realize he didn't feel

quite so determined to kill himself. Oh, this was bad, this was

worse than bad. He couldn't tolerate having his hopes raised, not

when he knew how it would turn out. He'd end up alone again, because

Chakotay wasn't going to declare sudden undying love for him. He

wasn't going to want to keep Tom with him forever. Chakotay wasn't

in this because he cared, and Tom had to keep reminding himself of

that... but Chakotay was the single person in the universe with the

power to turn Tom's soul inside out, and he was willing to bet

Chakotay knew it, especially now. How was he going to defend

himself, not against Chakotay, but against his own foolish, yearning


He turned his head far enough to look out of the viewport, ignoring

the tears that trickled down his face while he watched the passing

stars and wondered why he couldn't have made it out there with them.

"Soon," he whispered, and let the scotch soothe him to sleep.

- - - - - - - - -

Chakotay had picked up Tom's comm badge, a couple of pairs of

sweatpants, T-shirts, and some toiletries before he got up enough

nerve to pick up those damning little data padds. He couldn't

prevent himself from reading the sad missives they contained. He

looked at the one to the captain first.

'Kathryn, I always wanted to call you that. A beautiful name for a

beautiful woman. I want to thank you for the opportunity you gave me

when you got me out of New Zealand. I loved flying Voyager. Please

don't take what I've done as a reflection on you or your leadership

skills. You've been a wonderful captain. I wish I had your

strength. I know you'll get Voyager home someday. Thank you for

everything. Tom'

Chakotay sighed heavily, and stuck that padd in a duffel bag with

Tom's clothes before he sat down to read Tom's letter to Harry, part

of which he'd already seen.

'Dear Harry. By the time you read this I'll be gone. I want you to

know you were the best friend I ever had. I know you're going to

say "if we were such good friends, how could you do this without

talking to me first" , and I know you tried your best to get me to

talk, but the truth is, I just can't. I can't talk about why this

has happened. I can't live with myself any more, Har. It hurts too

much. You know I've only been holding on by my fingernails for years

now, anyway. I want you to know that I didn't make this decision on

the spur of the moment, or because of anything you said or didn't

say, or did or didn't do. Shit, I hope that makes sense. I just

don't want you to blame yourself, because it isn't your fault. I

love you like a brother, Har. Please try not to hate me too much for

this. Tom'

Chakotay set the padd in the duffel and buried his face in his hands,

his shoulders heaving as he tried to get a grip on his emotions. The

heartache he felt was so crushingly huge he almost couldn't breathe.

So much pain in those words, and what Tom didn't say was as

condemning as what he admitted. Not a word about Chakotay, or what

he'd done to Tom. Had Tom succeeded in ending his life, nobody but

Chakotay would have had a clue as to why.

Chakotay tried to imagine how it would have been, if he'd gotten up

in the morning and reported for the usual pre-shift briefing, only to

be informed that Tom had spaced himself in the night. How devastated

Harry, Kathryn, B'Elanna, and even Tuvok would have been. How they

would have grieved, how the whole crew would have sorrowed, Neelix

and Kes blaming themselves, too. How it would have been, dragging on

to the Alpha quadrant with that bright light gone, no Tom to make

those stupid jokes and steer them safely homeward... and how Chakotay

would have felt. An enormous chasm of loneliness opened up inside

him as his mind recognized what his heart had always known. He loved

Tom, loved his wit and his courage and his sweet spirit, even loved

his smart mouth and his careless, carefree attitude. Chakotay loved

him, had loved him for years, and this was what he'd done to him.

This was what Chakotay had let pride, self-deception, anger, and his

own hurt feelings bring about. He had to wonder how long he would

have lasted before duplicating Tom's action.

He let himself cry for a couple of minutes, trying without much

success to bleed off some of the anguish he felt, then thanked the

Spirits for giving him a chance to turn this around. He'd do

whatever it took to make sure Tom Paris didn't have a reason to ever

try this again, not just to save Tom's life, but to save his own.

He got up, washed his face, retrieved the duffel bag and asked the

computer to transport him back to his quarters. Tom was apparently

asleep, or passed out, but he was breathing easily. Chakotay froze

at seeing the evidence of tears on that pale face, but he pushed his

pain away and considered how he was going to handle this. One thing

was certain. Tom would not easily accept that Chakotay loved him,

and Chakotay understood why Tom would feel that way. However, he had

the advantage, because he did know that Tom loved *him*. Now that

the scales had fallen from his eyes, Chakotay could see that fact

quite clearly. It wasn't vanity or guilt that told him why Tom had

felt driven to suicide. Tom loved him, had built himself a tolerable

life at the fringes of Chakotay's world, and whether it was

subconscious or not, he'd kept hoping for Chakotay's acceptance.

When Chakotay had made it so harmfully apparent that wasn't going to

happen, Tom's life became hopeless. Chakotay closed his eyes against

a fresh surge of self-recrimination, then pushed that aside, as

well. It would have been healthier for Tom if Tom could have just

hated him, but he was grateful to his soul that it wasn't in Tom to


Well, he was entirely too tired to figure out what he was going to do

next. It was almost 0400, and Chakotay was exhausted. He got a

basin and a damp cloth and set it on the bedside table, figuring Tom

would be sick in the morning. He untied Tom's left hand and fastened

it to his own left wrist with the security manacles, then Chakotay

climbed into the bed next to him. Tom didn't move, so Chakotay

shoved him over onto his right side and cuddled up behind him,

putting both their left arms over Tom's chest, so he could feel him

breathing. Precious, wonderful breath. Tom Paris didn't know it

yet, but this was how they were going to sleep for the rest of their

lives... although Chakotay hoped the handcuffs wouldn't always be

necessary. By the end of these few days, Chakotay intended to

demonstrate to Tom that neither one of them could live without the


- - - - - - - - - -

Tom woke up slowly, gradually escaping from the mists of a lovely,

lovely dream, in which Chakotay was holding him and his world was

perfect... Reality crashed in about the same time his stomach

started to roll. He'd gotten drunk and tried to kill himself last

night. Shit, he *was* lying in Chakotay's arms, still tied to the

damned bed, and he was fixing to puke everywhere. Tom started

heaving, his mouth clamping shut as he tried to hold it back. He

felt Chakotay awaken with a start and then a basin was shoved under

his face.

"Go ahead, baby," and Tom couldn't help it, he emptied his guts even

while he was thinking "God damn it, don't call me *that*, either!"

Then a cool cloth was being wiped over his forehead and mouth, and

Tom flushed with humiliation.

"Please tell me I'm dead and this is hell," he mumbled, and felt

Chakotay laugh as much as heard him.

"Sorry, Poocah. It may feel like hell, but you're very much alive,

thank the Spirits." Chakotay didn't hang around to see how Tom was

going to react to that. He unfastened the security manacles then got

up and emptied out the rather malodorous basin into the toilet.

While he was in there he relieved his bladder and took a quick minute

to collect all the sharp objects in the bathroom. Tom was probably

going to kill *him* if he couldn't get in here pretty soon himself.

By the time he'd gotten back into the bedroom, Tom had freed his

other hand and was working on his feet.

"Want a shower?" Chakotay asked casually, and won himself a

disbelieving, suspicious glare.

"I want to go to my own quarters," Tom snapped.

"That's not happening. It's here or nowhere."

"Shit." Tom got his feet loose and swung his legs off the bed,

stretching his neck and shoulders. "Aren't you worried I'll drown

myself in the damned shower?" He asked sarcastically, and Chakotay,

much to his surprise, found that amusing.

"You can try, I guess. I think I can yank you out in time to

resuscitate you, though."

Tom shook his head and stood up, still swaying just a bit. He winced

and ducked a little, and Chakotay figured he had a whopping headache

to go along with everything else.

"Go shower, Tom. I'll get you something for your head, and some

coffee. You can keep yourself alive long enough for that, can't you?'

"Fuck you, Chakotay," Tom announced, not for the first time, and

stalked off towards the bathroom.

"Leave the bathroom door open," Chakotay ordered, and listened with a

grin as Tom went through a string of curses that would have given a

Klingon pause. Chakotay allowed himself to feel hopeful. As

depressed as Tom undoubtedly was, he couldn't prevent himself from

responding to Chakotay, and as long as Chakotay could reach him there

was a chance.

He waited until he heard the shower come on then went to the

replicator and got Tom a hypospray for his hangover. He removed

Tom's comm badge and the data padds from his bag and stuck the

hypospray and the bag in the bathroom, knowing the younger man would

want fresh clothes and his personal care items. He was proud of

himself for not standing there and ogling that slim pale body through

the translucent shower door. Tom stayed in the shower quite a while,

prompting Chakotay to check on him a couple of times. When the

shower finally shut off and Tom emerged from the bathroom, dressed

like Chakotay in T-shirt and sweats, Chakotay made sure he was

sitting at the table with toast and fresh coffee.

Tom practically collapsed into the other chair, reaching with shaky

hands for the coffee mug and sipping from it carefully. He drank

half the cup before he said anything.

"How'd you find out, anyway?"

"I think the Spirits were guiding me," Chakotay answered seriously,

knowing it was true. "I had a nightmare," and he described it to

Tom, watching what little color there was in Tom's face drain away as

he related the details of that dreadful dream. "When I woke up, I

was so scared I had to find you. The computer said there were no

life signs in your quarters, so I transported there. That's when I

found your suicide notes," he added to Tom's wince.

"I had Ayala put a lockout on the transporter room consoles, and when

the computer told me someone was attempting a bypass I figured it was

you." Chakotay decided to omit the whole issue of Sandrines, waiting

to see what Tom would say next.

Tom finished his coffee and picked at a piece of toast before he


"Five more minutes and I would have had it. The scotch slowed me

down some."

"I know."

"Guess I'll have to do it sober next time," Tom remarked, and

Chakotay felt his own face go pale.

"There's not going to be a next time, Tom," he said roughly, reaching

across the table and grabbing Tom's hand in a painfully hard

grip. "I won't let there be."

Tom took a deep breath and tried to ignore that warm, strong hand on

his, forcing himself to put a smirk on his face. He was unaware it

did nothing to hide the sudden agony in his eyes.

"Whatever, Commander. You just tell yourself that. You can't keep

me here forever," he said mockingly, and if Chakotay had been a less

perceptive individual he might have gotten away with it.

"You could be wrong about that, too, Poocah," Chakotay said,

releasing Tom's hand to stroke his fingers across it, instead. Tom

pulled his hand away like it had been burned, pushing out of his

chair so fast it fell over.

Tom felt like he was suffocating. He had to get some distance. He

moved into the living area as far as he could get, his back to


"Don't fucking touch me," he warned, horrified to hear his voice


"Why not, Tom? You didn't object to me holding you last night, in

fact, you snuggled right into me."

"I was drunk! I didn't even know what was going on! Besides, you

said it yourself. I'm a whore. Any warm body would have done!" Tom

said viciously, his tone as cutting and hostile as he could make it.

"I didn't mean that," Chakotay said evenly, keeping his own voice

calm in a marked contrast to Tom's. "I said a lot of things I didn't

mean, because I was angry."

"You just said exactly what you've been thinking of me for years,

Chakotay. I know it, you know it. Don't try to deny it now because

you feel guilty," Tom's voice broke on the last word, and he threw

himself onto the sofa and huddled into the corner. "Please don't do

this to me. Please let me go," he closed his eyes and whispered,

unable to speak any louder because of the tears he was trying to

fight. Oh, God, it felt like his insides were ripping apart.

"I can't let you go, Tom. I never will again," Chakotay promised,

that shattered little whisper slicing scars into his soul. He

watched Tom react to his words as if he'd been struck, covering his

head with his hands and shuddering, and Chakotay couldn't stand it

any more. He rose soundlessly and retrieved those security manacles

and had them slapped on Tom before the younger man knew what hit

him. Tom jumped off the sofa and stared at his handcuffed hands in

shocked disbelief.

"What the fuck—"

"You and I are going back to bed, Poocah, and I'm going to prove to

you that you can't leave me," Chakotay said grimly, grabbing Tom by

the shoulders and propelling him towards the bedroom.

"The hell we are!" Tom tried to twist out of his grasp, shoving back

against him hard, but Chakotay slid his hands inside Tom's elbows and

pulled his arms backward, effectively immobilizing him. Tom

collapsed his weight, but Chakotay just hauled him up again, half-

dragging, half-wrestling him through the bedroom door. Chakotay

didn't release him until they were at the bed, and Tom found himself

pushed onto his back with Chakotay straddling him. Both men were

panting with exertion, flushed and hot, and Chakotay had a look on

his face of pure implacability.

"No! No! I don't want to do this, Chakotay!" Tom wailed, genuine

fear in his voice now. Chakotay steeled his resolve, yanking Tom's

arms over his head and tying the end of one of the restraints around

the handcuffs.

"It's not about what you want any more, Tom. It's about what *I*

*don't* want. I *don't* want to find any more suicide notes. I

*don't* want to wake up some morning to find out that you spaced

yourself in the night! *I don't want lose you*!"

Chakotay yanked Tom's shirt over his head and left it hanging around

his wrists. Tom bucked and kicked to no avail, and watched with

despairing fascination as Chakotay removed his own shirt before

closing his eyes and turning his head away from the sight of all that

smooth brown skin... the smell of him so familiar, so well beloved.

Tom started to tremble. He couldn't do this. He couldn't. And he

kept telling himself that while Chakotay stretched himself out half

on top of him, one leg flung over his own, rubbing their chests

together. Oh, God, it felt so good he wanted to cry. Tom made one

last bid for sanity.

"I'm saying no, Chakotay. Are you so far out of your fucking mind

that you're going to rape me?"

"I'm not going to rape you, baby. I'm going to make love to you

until you scream. It's what I should have done when I saw you

standing on the bridge, after the Caretaker pulled Voyager into the

Delta. I let my stupid pride get in the way. I won't make that

mistake again." And Chakotay put his hands under Tom's head, drew

him around and kissed him.

That mouth, so warm and lush, tongue licking along his lips. Tom

tried to keep his mouth shut, he really did, but he could no more

deny Chakotay than he could will his heart to stop. He opened his

mouth with an audible moan, helpless to prevent Chakotay's tongue

from taking possession of his, curling and stroking and tasting him

until Tom wished he could die right now, with this sweetness all

around him, filling his senses. Arousal hit him like a bolt of

lightning and brought him painfully, fully erect, a reaction he felt

echoed in the press of Chakotay's groin against his hip. Tom sobbed

into that open, plundering mouth, knowing he was lost, and still

Chakotay kept kissing him, sucking on his tongue and slanting their

lips together for a timeless, endless moment... then that hot mouth

slid across his jaw to feast on his neck. Tom groaned.

"Please don't make me do this. Don't make me feel this. I can't,

it's too much, Chakotay, don't. Please." Hands running up his arms

to stroke the tender skin over his triceps, lingering on the creases

of his elbows and back down again, combing through the fine hair at

his underarms, thumbs coming around to brush over his nipples. "Oh,

no, I don't want to feel this. I can't stand it, please stop." And

Tom's hips started to move involuntarily, seeking, straining,

*wanting*, while Chakotay's mouth followed his hands to Tom's chest.

A not so gentle bite over one nipple, tongue scraping, teasing...

mouth tightening to suckle insistently while fingers played

unhurriedly across his skin to find and pinch the other side, then

the sensations reversing, then one hand going lower still.

"No, no, don't make me, oh *God!*" Chakotay's hand in full

possession, under his pants and stroking him, stroking his cock,

thumb rubbing weeping fluid over the crown, pressing gently into the

slit. "So good, it's so damned good," and Tom's pants were abruptly

pushed down his legs, those hot hands gripped his hips, and Chakotay

took him into his mouth. Tom wailed, a high thin sound, the pleasure

of his defeat thundering through his body and leaving him weak with

urgent hunger.

"Cha! Oh, God, Cha! Don't stop. Don't stop. Don't stop," and

Chakotay, who gave a mental sigh of relief, didn't. Couldn't. Had

to taste Tom. Had to have that evidence of life in his mouth and

hands, had to trace his tongue slowly along that rigid, needy length

and circle the crown with sucking kisses, had to take it into his

throat and worship long and well... until his promise was made truth

and Tom screamed with rapture, hot salty fluid pulsing into his mouth

and gratefully accepted.

Chakotay laid his head down on Tom's trembling stomach and wept.

"Please, baby, don't leave me. Please forgive me. I'm so sorry I

said those things to you. I promise I'll never hurt you like that

again. Please, Tom. Give me another chance. Let me show you how I

really feel."

"Oh, Cha." Tom's head was spinning, all the conclusions and

convictions of his reality tossed around to fall into new,

unbelievable patterns. Guilt might motivate a lot of things, but it

wouldn't make a proud man beg, nor so completely surrender his

emotional control to bare his soul. Guilt wouldn't make Chakotay cry

over him like this, unguarded and unashamed. Not guilt, but

something much stronger.

Tom felt his heart leap with almost painful hope, some odd pressure

in his chest breaking apart to leave his own breath hitching into

involuntary sobs. His arms ached to be free, ached to embrace this

man and shelter him.

"Turn me loose, Chakotay." he whispered harshly, his own tears

falling unnoticed when Chakotay raised his head. Their wet eyes met,

and held, each one looking for what he needed to see in the other's

gaze, and finding, for the first time, possibilities.


"I have to hold you."

Chakotay released Tom's hands then, shivering when those long arms

wrapped around him and held him tight. So warm, when Chakotay's soul

had felt so cold with fright. He'd come so near losing this, he'd

been a damned careless fool, and that knowledge clawed relentlessly

at the back of his mind. Tom's heartbeat was pounding at the base of

that long, lovely neck, and Chakotay laid his mouth against that

rapid, regular throb, still shaken, still unable to stop crying.


"It's all right, Cha," Tom murmured, praying this wasn't some dream

he was going to awaken from, his palms smoothing over that strong

back. The back he'd almost broken, out of self-pity and stupidity,

and he hadn't even known. "I won't leave you. Je promets que je ne

vous laisserai jamai," he swore unsteadily, not even aware he'd said

it in French until Chakotay lifted his head and looked at him. Fear

and hope swirled in that beautiful, fathomless gaze, and Tom felt his

heart stutter once again.

"Say it again, in Standard, baby. Please."

"I said, I promise I will never leave you," and while the words were

a solemn oath, they didn't disguise the apprehensions that clouded

those blue, blue eyes. Tom wasn't at all certain that Chakotay

really wanted to hear this from him. Chakotay wondered how long it

would take to completely banish those doubts, and thanked the Spirits

that he'd been given the chance to try.

He lowered his mouth to Tom's, lips parting to taste that sweetness,

the mingling of their tears only adding to the flavor. Chakotay

groaned, his deferred arousal reawakening in an explosion of heat,

his cock heavy and hard, and even his loose sweatpants were an

unbearable constriction.

"Tom. Make love to me. I need to feel you inside me. I need you,

baby," he whispered into Tom's mouth, stroking that long body with

his hands.

"Cha?" Tom knew he sounded shocked. During that too-brief time he'd

been Chakotay's lover in the Maquis, Chakotay had never once

indicated a desire to have Tom take him. Tom hadn't cared much, too

ridiculously happy at having Chakotay any way he could get him, but

part of him had noticed the inequality in their relationship. What

did it mean, that Chakotay would ask this of him now? Then Chakotay

rolled them over and pulled Tom on top, warm hands on his naked ass

pulling his groin against Chakotay's erection, and Tom whimpered as

he felt his own hunger return. Did it matter why, if this was what

Chakotay wanted? Especially when it was what he wanted, too, with a

desperation that was increasing by the second.

Tom put one hand on Chakotay's face, curving it around his jaw to

draw their eyes together, drinking in the vision of Chakotay, lost in

passion... pupils hugely dilated, color high, nostrils flared, mouth

swollen and flushed. Damn, Chakotay was a beautiful man. Tom

decided to tell him so, electing to speak French. It was, after all,

the best possible use for that language. It had the added benefit of

freeing Tom to say everything he'd ever wanted to say, as well as

distracting him enough to not cause Chakotay any pain. He lowered

his mouth to nuzzle at Chakotay's ear, licking the tender skin

beneath the lobe.

"Vous etes un bel homme. Vous etes si beau, je suis aveugle par

vous." You are so beautiful, I am blinded by you.

Chakotay arched his pelvis and groaned, prompting Tom to scoot down

far enough to remove his pants and kick his own off his ankles.

Beautiful, indeed, Tom thought, stroking the straining proof of

Chakotay's desire for him. A work of art, and he told him so.

"Vous etes une oeuvre d'art, mon grand homme," Tom murmured


"Tom, please—" Chakotay managed to protest, hardly able to speak

past the overwhelming torment of his need. Tom's touch, his scent,

that maddening liquid voice... Chakotay was losing his mind, dimly

thinking he'd kill Tom if he didn't hurry up, and too far gone to

notice the irony in that.

Aware it would be unkind to make him wait, Tom slid a pillow under

Chakotay's ass and leaned over to look in his bedside table, relieved

to find lubricant. He moved to kneel between Chakotay's legs,

spreading those strong thighs wide before generously slicking his

fingers. Tom was unable to resist the opportunity to taste his lover

as he carefully loosened that small opening, rewarded with Chakotay's

low cry and jerking, seeking hips. If he was lucky enough to be

granted a next time, he planned to kiss every inch of that perfect,

smooth skin, Tom reflected as he worked, not too slowly, from one

finger to three.

Chakotay moaned and pushed against his hand, and Tom knew neither one

of them could hold out much longer. He removed his fingers and lubed

his erection, raised Chakotay's legs to rest on his shoulders, then

eased his way into that tight hole.

Chakotay didn't want easy. He placed his hands at the head of the

bed and shoved, fully impaling himself on Tom and crying out.

Agonizingly wonderful, being completed, possessed, taken; that

initial burning pain quickly transmuting into wild and relentless

pleasure. So good, so good, every fantasy he'd ever had brought to

life... then Tom began to move within him, and that desperate, aching

hunger was all Chakotay knew, each thrust bringing him closer to

screaming as he moved his legs to wrap them around Tom's waist and

pull him closer still.

"Dieu! Je t'aime, mon bel ange. Je vous adore. Vous avez

sauvegarde ma vie, ma ame. Je promets de vous aimer tous mes

jours." Tom's conscious thoughts were overtaken by the pure physical

thrill of repeatedly sheathing himself in the hot depths of

Chakotay's body. Tom poured out his heart, barely aware of what he

was saying, declaring his love and adoration for his beautiful angel

who saved his life and his soul, promising his love for all his

days. Tom wrapped his still slick fingers around Chakotay's cock and

stroked hard, inside and out, and the intensity crashed over them

both in timeless waves of searing, roaring ecstasy.

Tom practically fell into Chakotay's arms, and they held one another

for long minutes, both rocked to the core by what they'd created

together. They shared the same little whimper when Tom's spent cock

slid free of Chakotay, pushing them to cling even tighter.

Eventually, Chakotay turned his head enough to whisper in Tom's ear.

"I love you too, you know."

Tom stiffened, so afraid to believe that, and so afraid not to.

Chakotay felt his reaction and sighed, taking Tom's face in his hands.

"I know I haven't given you many reasons to believe me, baby, but I

promise you, I will never lie to you again."

Tom looked into Chakotay's shining dark eyes, warm and unreserved,

and made a conscious decision to accept him at his word. Maybe

someday he would sense Chakotay's love instinctively, feel it on a

cellular level, part of him. Until then, he had more now than he'd

ever had in his life. It was enough, and he nodded. He could live

with it.

"Vous etes le soleil en mon ciel, plus tres que ma propre vie," Tom

said softly, the words translating in his mind. You are the sun in

my sky, more important than my own life. It was the only truth he

needed, and he lowered his head to kiss his beautiful angel.

The End.