Back in his quarters, Chakotay retrieved a bottle of Scotch and two glasses. He poured a couple of fingers into each glass and handed one to Tom. He downed half his own drink, glad of the reality of the burning sensation. He smiled with relief when he saw Tom mirror his actions.
“So…” Suddenly he was at a loss for words.
“So, let’s just take one step at a time for now,” said Tom. “I guess quarters are the easiest thing to settle. It’s really just a choice between yours or new ones as mine are smaller than these.”
“Would it bother you to move in here?” asked Chakotay. He felt on edge and the familiar surroundings were soothing.
Tom shook his head. “Here is fine.”
Chakotay noticed Tom’s knuckles were white where he clutched his glass. He wasn’t finding this as easy as he made out. That realization made Chakotay feel better, until he thought of something important.
“Tom, there’s no easy way for me to broach this, so I’ll come right out and ask – are you in a relationship with anyone at the moment?”
“Is there anyone…” Chakotay gestured expressively. “You can’t…now we’re married.”
“Oh, no. No, I won’t have to break up with anyone. I did that about ten weeks ago. Whew, that was lucky. Now if this had taken place before then, you might have been visiting me in Sickbay after I broke the news to Jenny,” Tom joked. “Chakotay, I promise you, I respect our marriage vows, including the ‘forsaking all others’ part. Anyway, I could ask the same of you.”
“No, Tom, I don’t have anyone to break up with either.” I’ve never had anyone to break up with, thought Chakotay. For a moment, he tried to picture the look on Tom’s face if he ever found out the truth, that Chakotay had never had a relationship with anyone, but gave up when Tom began speaking again.
Damn, he’d missed the first bit. He grunted nondescriptly in response, giving ‘names’ a moment to connect.
Tom thankfully elaborated.
“Tom Paris-Chakotay. Tom Chakotay-Paris. Thomas Eugene Paris-Chakotay. Chakotay Paris. Chakotay Paris-Chakotay. Urk! Your having only one name makes things difficult, Chakotay.”
“Let’s just leave that for now. We can decide later, when things have settled down a bit.”
“Do your people have a tradition to follow? You don’t think it would be easier for the crew to accept a name change now? And we should work out what to tell them.”
“We keep our single names. Do you want to change your name?” Chakotay was curious. Terran customs were confusing at best, when it came to marriage.
“Honestly, I don’t know. It’s not something I’ve ever given any thought to. You’re right, it will be better to decide later. Speaking of traditions, umm, do I, you know, need to get at tattoo?”
Chakotay smiled, ridiculously touched that Tom would even think to ask something like that. “Only if you became a member of the tribe, and you don’t have to do that.” He poured them each another drink. “If you ever decide you want to, we can discuss it then.”
Tom nodded his acknowledgement. “Getting back to what we tell the others.”
“I think the simplest thing will be best. We’ve been seeing each other quietly for, say, almost two months now. You said it was ten weeks since you and Jenny parted company. Hopefully, that is enough time not to cause any comment. We decided to get married, without making a fuss.”
“Okay, although I’d like to tell Harry the truth.”
“Not without the captain’s permission.”
“What about you? Do you mind if he knows?”
“I’d prefer the actual circumstances did not become general knowledge among the crew.”
“Agreed, but Harry’s my friend. We don’t have secrets.” Tom chewed his lower lip. “I’ll keep quiet for as long as I can, but I would like to tell him eventually.”
“Fine, but can we talk about it again when the time comes, before you tell him?”
“We can do that.”
“Rings.” Chakotay threw out the single word.
“Rings? Oh, rings. I’d like a ring,” said Tom naively. “Do your people do rings? It strikes me you will have to educate me about your customs or I’m going to be saying that an awful lot. I don’t know that I have enough rations left to replicate you a ring.” He ran a hand through his hair.
Chakotay tapped his communicator.
“Chakotay to Janeway.”
“Janeway. What may I do for you, Commander?”
“I’d like to request enough credits from the discretionary fund to provide Tom and myself with wedding rings.”
“Granted,” came the immediate response.
“Thank-you, Kathryn. I’ll be in contact in a while to advise you of our plans. Chakotay out.”
“Chak - ,” Tom stopped short.
“This is a real wedding, Tom, and the crew need to realize that too. Rings will go a long way to reinforcing our marriage in their eyes. Do you have a preference?”
“I…I…I guess a plain gold band will be fine.”
Chakotay paused and turned before he reached the replicator. He stared searchingly at Tom. “What type of wedding ring do you really want?”
“Don’t laugh. I always wanted a tri-band twist, of white, yellow and rose gold. To me, it symbolized what marriage was all about - one strand for me, one for my spouse and one for our future together, all three endlessly interweaving, bumpy and smooth…”
“I would never laugh at such a beautiful sentiment,” and Chakotay resumed his course to the replicator, surprised but very pleased to learn his new husband had a romantic streak underneath his often-brash exterior.
He deftly programmed the replicator and brought its contents over to where Tom sat on the sofa. Instead of resuming his seat opposite, he sat down next to him.
“We missed this part of the ceremony, but I don’t think we need to worry about any witnesses.” Chakotay handed his ring to Tom, and drew Tom’s left hand toward him. As he slid the twisted band onto his husband’s fourth finger, and using Tom’s words, he spoke softly.
“With this ring, I marry you. Every time I see it I will be reminded of its meaning – one band for you, one band for me, and one for the future we share.”
Chakotay’s heart seemed to turn over in his chest as Tom repeated the same words. All of a sudden, he wanted to share with Tom how he really felt about him, that he’d spent the last few years falling in love with him, but hadn’t been able to approach him. How he hadn’t wanted to admit to being completely inexperienced when it came to conducting a personal relationship, and that he hadn’t worked out how to let someone like Tom Paris know Chakotay was a forty-year old virgin. He decided now was not a good time to spill the beans. He donned the protective mantle of the first officer and issued his recommendations.
“It would be a good time for you to go and see Harry now. His shift will be finished. You may as well bring some things back in an overnight bag. I’ll roster us for the first shore leave rotation tomorrow so we can shift the rest of your things as soon as possible. I’m assuming you won’t want to go back to the planet. I’ll let Kathryn know the details – that you’ll move here, we’ll be keeping our own names and we’re agreed on the explanation for our marriage – that we’ve been seeing each other quietly for two months. I’d rather not eat in the mess hall tonight so I’ll organize dinner. Will twenty hundred hours give you enough time with Harry?”
Chakotay watched with consternation as Tom’s expression seemed to freeze. The flush that had appeared when they exchanged rings faded and he straightened up.
“Twenty hundred hours will be fine.” There was no warmth evident in the formality of Tom’s reply. He rose to his feet and left without as much as a farewell.
Chakotay frowned and mentally replayed his last words. He had encouraged Tom to see Harry alone and the suggestion of the overnight bag was practical. Tom knew he had to report to Kathryn, and he knew the rosters were part of Chakotay’s duties. They’d shared shore leave before. The standard three-day leave pattern had Kathryn, Chakotay and Tuvok taking separate days, although there were exceptions. As for not wanting to go down to the planet again, Chakotay had the impression that C’Reina was conniving enough to plan a kidnapping; she had by no means forgiven Tom for his interference. It was safer for them to remain on board, and he was sure from a security standpoint Tuvok would back him up. As for dinner, he would most likely arrive back in his – their quarters first, so it was logical he should be the one to prepare dinner. Chakotay sighed in resignation. If he wanted to find out what had upset Tom, he was going to have to come right out and ask him, and just hope Tom would actually tell him. He pushed his worries aside and commed the captain.
Tom, still in his uniform and carrying his black gym bag, entered Chakotay’s quarters a few minutes before twenty hundred hours. He couldn’t think of them just yet as his quarters too. He paused at the sight of a beautifully arranged table, set with crystal and tall candles. Chakotay appeared from the bedroom. He was wearing comfortable civvies that did not quite go with the elegance of the table. Tom thought the black-on-black patterned sweater and tan pants looked good on him, although his bare feet provided an incongruous note.
“Put your bag in here, Tom. You’ve plenty of time for a shower before we eat, if you’d like.”
Tom nodded cautiously. He hadn’t been expecting this relaxed Chakotay. A shower sounded good as he suddenly became aware of the day’s stress residing in his back and shoulders.
He placed his bag in the corner of the bedroom. He dug out his toiletries. A pair of folded towels lay on the bed. Tom surmised they were meant for him and thankfully swept them up. He hadn’t thought to pack any of his own, just a clean uniform, a set of casual clothes, underwear and something to sleep in. That gave him pause. There was just one large bed in the bedroom. He did not want to feed the rumor-mill by requesting a single bed be installed and he wasn’t prepared to sleep on the sofa on a long-term basis. It was just something else they would have to discuss.
He opted for a real shower and rotated his shoulders beneath the pounding spray, concentrating on relaxing. Careful not to forget where he was and spend too long under the water, he washed his hair quickly and cleaned his body. He turned off the shower and groped for a towel.
With the second towel knotted at his hips, Tom peered at himself in the mirror. He ran his hand along his jaw. While blond stubble was not as noticeable as dark, when he thought about the elegant table that was waiting he felt scruffy and decided a few extra minutes to shave would be well spent. With no choice of outfit, he dressed in his jeans, a white tee shirt and a coffee-colored sweatshirt. Following Chakotay’s example, he also eschewed footwear. He ran a comb through his damp hair but did not worry about styling it further and then wandered out to join his husband.
Chakotay rose from his seat on the sofa and handed Tom a glass of wine. He raised his glass and said cheerfully, “To the future.”
“The future,” Tom echoed. They touched glasses and drank.
“Most nights it won’t be like this, you know, but tonight is special and we should make it something to remember.”
Chakotay showed Tom to the table and lit the candles.
“I hope you’ll enjoy everything.”
“I’m sure I will, Chakotay.” Tom grinned as he heard the first order given to the replicator for hot, plain tomato soup, followed by one mushroom soup. A little comfort food would go a long way to easing the strains of the day.
Chakotay steered the conversation in the direction of Voyager’s repairs, and Tom backed him up. The plan was obviously to save the more serious stuff for later.
The main course was quite different to what Tom expected. Chakotay pulled a small table up beside the larger one. On it was a portable wok and utensils. He brought over some containers of prepared fresh vegetables, including some they had obtained in trade that day, and proceeded to cook a medley of colorful stir-fried vegetables. He got the rice from the replicator, and then dished healthy sized servings to each of them.
“Tom, would you like me to add any meat to yours? It will be no trouble to get you some chicken or fish, or whatever you like.”
“This is fine for now, thanks anyway.”
“You’ll be pleased to know I left all the leola root with Neelix.”
They finished the wine with the vegetables and chatted about Chakotay’s interest in cooking, Neelix’s culinary experiments and food in general. Tom mentally filed away a list of food Chakotay mentioned liking or not and thought he could work around the vegetarian issue. There was always the mess hall.
The dessert was apple pie a la replicator. Replete, they sat back in companionable silence for a few minutes, until Chakotay groaned and slowly began to clear the table. Tom insisted on helping and firmly overruled Chakotay’s protestations.
“It’s not like this is a date or anything. I live here now and I’ll pull my weight. You can use the time to show me where everything is kept. Besides, it will be easier on ourselves to try and keep any arguments over the next few weeks for bigger things while we get ourselves sorted out.” He gave Chakotay a wry smile. “We’ve locked horns before, we’ll do it again.”
They retired to the living area and settled themselves ready to talk some more.
“How did Harry take the news?” asked Chakotay, not beating around the bush.
“B'Elanna was with him, so she knows too, and it was probably for the best as he didn't get a chance to ask anything too deep. It gives me a bit of time.” Tom wrapped his hands around his coffee mug.
“Are they okay with it?”
“B'Elanna thinks it was rather sudden, but seems to think I'll liven you up if you give me a chance and don't throttle me too soon. Harry was more hurt that I hadn't told him about us sooner. I'm afraid I used your position as First Officer as part of the reason why we kept our relationship under wraps until now. Neither of them could see why we couldn't wait until we were back on Voyager so everyone could attend the wedding. I said it was a spur of the moment thing and that we had discussed a having a private ceremony. I think we will find a reception of some sort will be organized in the not too distant future.”
“So it wasn't too bad.”
“I guess not. How did you go with the captain?”
“She agreed we should have tomorrow off and she'll make the announcement to the senior staff at the morning briefing. She thinks it will be easier if we are not there, although as B'Elanna already knows it won't be as difficult as she anticipated.” Chakotay placed his mug on the table and clasped his hands over his knees. “Tom, I need to ask you something without you getting mad.”
“What did I say earlier that upset you? When you left to see Harry.”
Tom put down his mug as well and took a deep breath. “You really don't know?”
“I wouldn't be asking if I did.”
Tom heard the exasperation that Chakotay tried unsuccessfully to mask. He looked consideringly at his husband.
“Chakotay, I did not marry the First Officer. Well, I did, but I only expect to deal with him when we're on duty. You gave me a bunch of orders in the tone of voice I hear on the bridge. Go see Harry. Pack an overnight bag. We won't go back to the planet. We'll eat here. Look, none of those things were unreasonable in themselves, it was just how you said it. I didn't like it, but I didn't want to argue with you right then. It was easier for me to bite my tongue and leave.”
“Would you have said anything to me about it tonight?”
“I don't know. Probably not. I guess I would have let you get away with it a few more times then really blown up at you when I couldn't stand it anymore. But I probably would not have been able to explain myself very clearly while I was angry,” added Tom candidly.
“I'm sorry, Tom. I had no idea. I suppose it's just habit. I've never shared these quarters with anyone so there's never been any need worry about whether the 'First Officer' came home with me as well. You should let me know if I do it here again and I’ll try not to lose my temper when you do.”
Tom heard the subtle emphasis on the ‘here’ but was satisfied the demarcation between their professional and personal lives had been drawn where it should. He nodded his acceptance and decided the next delicate subject was his to bring up.
“Okay. Umm, we need to discuss our…umm…sleeping arrangements.” The last came out in a rush. He hadn’t thought it would be quite so difficult. Tom was looking straight at Chakotay when he spoke. He stared a little harder, and then blinked. He decided what he had seen must be a trick of the light. There was no way Chakotay would have blushed. He waited anxiously to hear his response.
“What are your thoughts on the matter?” asked Chakotay just as Tom felt like he wanted to scream.
Now was the time when Tom could have done with the presence of the First Officer. A ready-made solution would have suited him just fine. For some reason Tom could not identify, it was much harder to discuss this with his new husband than with all his previous partners. Maybe the fact that he’d never actually lived with any of them had something to do with it.
“Just spit it out. I really want to know what you think. I promise not to lose my temper.”
The last was said with a smile, and Tom took heart.
“Okay. I think we have to share the bed. Getting another bed installed won’t gel with the sudden wedding, and neither of us, or me in particular, are going to be comfortable on the sofa long term. It’s a big bed. There’s plenty of space for two. I’m told I don’t snore. How about you?”
“Only when I’m over-tired. Which side of the bed do you prefer?”
“The right, usually. Is that going to be a problem for you? It is your bed.”
“We’ll know by morning, and it’s our bed now,” Chakotay added gently. “I hope you brought pyjamas with you.”
“Of course.” Dammit, thought Tom. They were simply skating around the subject. He took a breath. Chakotay had promised not to get mad. He spoke quickly, “Given the circumstances, I think we should keep things simple between us and not complicate things further. We’ll share the bed, but that’s all. It will be best to keep things platonic, you know.”
“That’s fine by me. If you think about it, the bed is bigger than the tents used on away missions so there shouldn’t be any problems. I agree, simple is best.”
Chakotay was babbling, Tom thought. Anyone would think he was relieved to hear Tom’s suggestion. Maybe it was an Indian thing. He would definitely have to find out more about Chakotay’s traditions. It couldn’t be they didn’t approve of same sex unions or Chakotay would never have thrown away his one chance of marriage to be with Tom. He could have said he was engaged to Kathryn. Now that would have led to major complications. Tom was of the opinion if Chakotay and the captain had been meant to be together, they would have done so ages ago. Perhaps he really did just want the company.
He caught Chakotay looking quizzically at him and grasped for a lighter topic of conversation. “So, what shall we do tomorrow on our day off? I have to move my stuff, but that won’t take all day. The holodecks are off-line until the repairs are completed, and you said we’re not going down to the planet.”
“I’m sorry. Did you want to go back down there?”
Tom shook his head. “Not likely. I wouldn’t put it past that little bitch to try and add you to her harem any way she could get you.”
“My thoughts exactly. So let’s just take it as it happens.”
They talked a little longer, until Tom was unable to hide the yawn that threatened to split his face in two.
“Well, I think I’ll go to bed.”
“I’ll be along shortly.”
Tom pulled his pyjamas from the gym bag and slipped into the bathroom where he changed quickly. He stood with his discarded clothing over his arm as he debated what to do with it. He felt like a guest. He supposed he could call out to Chakotay and ask, but this was now his home too and he would have to get used to it. He ended up folding it and placing the stack on top of his bag. He decided he could forgo his exercise routine for once, as he wouldn’t be at the helm the next day and got into bed. He lay on his left side, and then curled onto his right, before flopping onto his stomach. The light cover twisted around his body. He rolled reluctantly onto his back and straightened it out before stretching out with his hands behind his head and ankles crossed. He stared at the ceiling, sighing deeply as he tried to think of nothing.
Chakotay entered the room just as Tom’s sigh blew out. “Oh, yeah,” he said, and then took his turn changing in the bathroom. He climbed carefully into bed and arranged himself on his side, facing away from Tom.
“Goodnight, Tom,” he said softly.
“Goodnight, Chakotay,” replied Tom, and he turned his back on his husband and closed his eyes.
to part 3
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