Bait and Switch, Part 7


By Britta

Chakotay was only one-quarter of the way through his volunteer task when two identical, weeping women entered Sickbay. As they approached him, the Doctor emerged from his office.
*
Ignoring the holographic physician, Megan and Jenny Delaney threw their arms around Chakotay, and cried. Loudly. Bemused, he put an arm around each woman and let their heads rest on his shoulders.
*
"Oh, Tom, it's so sad," Megan sobbed.
*
Before he could ask for details, the Doctor piped up, "Now, now. All is not lost."
*
Jenny took advantage of the moment to wail melodramatically, "My baby!" and squeezed Chakotay even harder.
*
The Doctor said somewhat anxiously, "Please, ladies, it's not the end of everything as you know it--"
*
Megan unglued herself from Tom's body and interrupted, "It's not? How can you say such a thing?"
*
Chakotay found his arms full of a distraught Jenny, no longer in bird form. Megan brushed the tears from her eyes and advanced on the physician. Chakotay didn't understand what was happening, but assumed it had something to do with Jenny's egg.
*
"Please calm down." The Doctor held up his hands in a nonthreatening gesture. "I know the egg wasn't fertile and the planetary government wanted it returned, but I did manage to salvage something for you."
*
Jenny raised her head from Chakotay's tear-soaked chest, and asked plaintively, "What?" She sniffed a few times then walked over to stand beside her sister.
*
The EMH smiled at them gently and replied, "Wait right here. Don't move a centimeter."
*
Chakotay watched, fascinated by the drama playing out before him. The Doctor ducked into his office for a moment, then returned with his hands cupping an intact ochre eggshell with green speckles.
*
"Ooooh, is it really mine?" Jenny asked breathlessly.
*
"Indeed it is. Commander Tuvok and I spent quite some time negotiating with the Minister of Natural Resources to obtain this for you. Of course, the contents were beamed back to the planet, but they agreed you could keep this much," the Doctor said proudly.
*
Chakotay was both glad that things had worked out as well as they did and curious why he hadn't played a part in it. Had Tom been too busy, or was it a case where his intervention had been unnecessary?
*
Jenny asked excitedly, "Doctor, do you still have my nest?"
*
"Yes, I do." The Doctor moved toward a cupboard and retrieved it. "Here you are."
*
Jenny placed the hollow eggshell into the T-shirt nest and smiled. Tears came to her eyes again and she carefully handed the bundle to her sister saying, "Hold this for a minute."
*
Megan took possession as if it were a priceless objet d'art while Jenny walked over to Chakotay, kissed him on the cheek, and said, "Thanks for being there, Tom."
*
She then moved to the Doctor and kissed him full on the mouth. Megan handed her the nest and did the exact same thing to both men, leaving Chakotay blinking in wonderment as they walked out the door, murmuring about where in their quarters they would put it.
*
Chakotay shook his head and noticed that the Doctor seemed to be stuck. Perhaps being kissed by the Delaney sisters had caused his program to hang or something. Whatever, he thought as he patted his uniform. It was damp from the chest up; gods, those women could cry--when they wanted.
*
Several seconds later, the Doctor turned to him and snapped, "What are you staring at?"
*
"Nothing. Nothing at all." Chakotay hid his amusement, indicated his tear-stained clothing, and went on, "May I go change?"
*
The Doctor scowled at him, then nodded and said, "Make it fast. You have a lot of work to do."

<><><><>

Janeway dismissed Tuvok quickly and gave Tom 'the eye' as she gestured peremptorily for him to sit down.
*
He wondered what it was he had done to bring about her anger. Her lips were set in a thin line, and she paced around him, circling like a vulture over a soon-to-be-dead body. God, why was he always pissing off the most important women in his life?
*
Lost in thought over his general misfortune of late, he was caught by surprise when the captain's voice assaulted his left ear. "What were you thinking when you let Ensign Kim stay the night in Chakotay's cabin? How did you plan to explain his staggering out in full view of the night shift as they made their way back to their quarters?"
*
Oh fuck. He took a deep breath and told the truth, "I'm sorry. I didn't consider the ramifications. Harry came to see me and we had a beer or two. He fell asleep on the couch."
*
"Why did he come to see Chakotay?" she rapped out as she stood away from him, all the better to watch his face.
*
He felt the heat rise, but didn't know if Chakotay's skin would show much of a blush. Lying would only do more harm than good he decided. "Harry knows about the switch," he confessed.
*
"I see."
*
The captain's voice was suffused with disappointment, and Tom felt like shit. Still, he hadn't told anyone and he wasn't about to take the blame for this breach of confidence.
*
She turned away from him and stared out the viewport, her spine rigid. Janeway's anger was bubbling beneath the surface as she said, "I ordered you and Chakotay to keep this information to yourselves."
*
Tom stood up and said, "And we did." He would swear Chakotay hadn't said a word. The man was a human clam.
*
She turned around to face him, a searching look in her eyes.
*
He took a moment to compose himself, then stated, "You told Lieutenant Torres. She told Ensign Kim. I don't know if you told her to keep it quiet or not."
*
The captain blinked a few times, then nodded once. "You are off duty until 1300. Go and speak to Commander Chakotay. Tell him what to expect, and...find out why he hasn't shown up for Bridge duty lately."
*
Somewhat relieved, Tom nodded back. "Yes, ma'am." He peered at her curiously, and wondered why she cared so much about Chakotay's reputation. Was it only professional--or did she have a personal stake in what Chakotay did on his own time? Could she be jealous?

<><><><>

Chakotay strolled down the corridor toward Tom's quarters with a smile on his face. The Delaney twins seemed to be happy, and his life was far less complicated than it usually was--of course, there was still the matter of Tom Paris.
*
So far he had managed to avoid discussing the hot topic of who lusted after whom, and what they might do about it, if anything. Yes, he still wanted Tom, but then he always had, so that was nothing new. If only he could keep that knowledge from the younger man, and stay away from him for a while, he could enjoy what was rapidly becoming a vacation from heavy responsibility.
*
Let Tom deal with it; hell, let anyone deal with it. He could easily spend his time cleaning medical equipment and hiding out at Tom's place. Plus, he had the younger man's body all to himself. What could he do with it? His thoughts meandered from hiking to swimming, considering only the most solitary of sports as a matter of course.
*
He squashed his feelings of loneliness beneath his feet as he walked. Then he touched the dampness on his chest, and pondered the differences between people.
*
Tom managed to be kissed by women, although under a variety of conditions, but he wasn't kissed by anyone at all. He wondered why so many people wanted to be with Tom, or to be near him. But then, some of those people wanted to do Tom more harm than good. As for himself, people just kept their distance.
*
Shaking off the negative thoughts brought about by this morning's experience in the Mess Hall, he admitted to himself that he and Tom needed to talk. There were issues to be resolved. The crew who still harassed Paris was only one of them. His steps slowed as his duty caught up with him, and the guilt for trying to evade it ruined his few moments of freedom.
*
Gods, would he ever again have a chance to make a life of his own? All he'd experienced so far just brought home the realization that he was going nowhere fast. It also bothered him that he seemed destined to do all his traveling alone. He walked around the corner and saw his body walking straight towards him.
*
Tom drew close to him, looked around cautiously, then said, "Chakotay, we need to talk."
*
"Not now." Chakotay tried to brush by him but was grabbed, hard. He tried to wriggle free, saying, "I have to change clothes and get back to Sickbay. The Doctor is expecting me."
*
Tom held on and said, "Captain's orders. If you don't believe me, comm her."
*
Chakotay frowned and replied in a low voice, "I will. Once we're someplace private." He shook off Tom's hand, and stalked down the hall.
*
He walked as fast as he could, cursing his luck every step of the way. Why was it, that every single time he thought he'd get a break, it wasn't to be? They moved into the nearest turbolift, and he glared at Paris, daring him to remain silent.
*
Chakotay's anger surfaced again when Tom obeyed his unspoken command and then refused to act like the asshole he was supposed to be. Damn. He wanted an excuse, any excuse, to let loose his frustrations. His hands balled into fists, but suddenly he was reminded of how B'Elanna had hit the both of them. Why had Tom put up with it? As he exhaled, his anger left as quickly as it had arisen.
*
Who was he really angry with? And why?
*
The 'lift let them out on the proper deck and Chakotay moved a little more slowly toward Tom's quarters. It was obvious Tom wouldn't be leaving him alone anytime soon.
*
Tom said nothing until they got inside and he had a chance to take a look around. "Where's all my stuff?" he asked.
*
"I put it away." Chakotay pulled off the top half of his uniform, and shoved it into the 'fresher. He saw Tom staring at his quarters as if they belonged to someone else, and he began to worry about how he'd feel when he got back to his own.
*
While the clothes were being cleaned, he turned to the enigma that had been living in his body for the last few days and demanded, "What's going on? Do I really need to comm the captain?"
*
Before Tom could answer, the Doctor commed him. "Lieutenant Paris, you are off duty until after lunch. Captain's orders. You will resume your work in Sickbay at that time. Is that understood?"
*
"Yes, sir," Chakotay replied. He reached for his badge automatically, but found his chest bare, then remembered who he was and why he was standing there half-naked. The hairs under his fingers shocked him yet again, reminding him of his secret desires, and he felt the heat rise in his face as Tom stared at him.

<><><><>

"So, Chakotay, it seems I'm supposed to spend some time talking to you, like it or not." Tom was curious as well as nervous. He had a lot of things he needed to say, even if he didn't want to. Still, orders were orders.
*
He watched as his face began to turn red. Why was Chakotay blushing? It wasn't like he hadn't seen his own chest before.
*
"Mind if I get something to drink?" Tom gestured at the replicator.
*
"It's a little early, don't you think?"
*
"All I want is ice water," Tom snapped. "Does that meet with your approval?"
*
Chakotay nodded, then slipped into the bedroom.
*
Tom took his glass and sat on the sofa, then stared at what used to be his quarters. Where was all his junk? The place was too neat and empty for him to feel comfortable. He sipped his water and waited for Chakotay to return.
*
Why had the captain made him do this? He and Chakotay were getting along pretty well, so long as they didn't spend any time together. Shit. He had hoped to avoid all this by working another shift, but it seemed that because B'Elanna had said things to various and sundry people, he was stuck with this situation.
*
Chakotay emerged, dressed in a clean uniform. He stopped in front of Tom, and said, "Tell me what you've been ordered to say, then you can leave."
*
Pissed off by Chakotay's manner, Tom slugged down more water, and replied in a nasty tone of voice, "The captain seems to think that I've damaged your reputation by letting Harry sleep on your couch last night."
*
An odd expression crossed Chakotay's current face, and Tom took note of it. He wanted to know what it meant, but couldn't recall ever seeing himself look like that.
*
He watched as the older man paced, taking a long look at him. Then Chakotay inquired, "So did I have sex with him first?"
*
"What!"
*
"Just answer the question, Tom. Are you using my body as if it were your very own?" Chakotay stopped pacing and stood still, in front of him, peering down with an intense gaze.
*
"NO! I just--we had a couple of beers..." Tom stood up to face Chakotay, who, despite being in his own body, still managed to intimidate him.
*
"Who's 'we', Tom?" Chakotay took a step backward and turned to face the viewport.
*
"Shit. Just listen to me for a minute, will you?" He reached out and clapped a hand on his own shoulder.
*
Chakotay flinched, then nodded. "All right. Go ahead."
*
Tom exhaled through his nose loudly, then explained, "Harry knows about the switch. B'Elanna told him."
*
"Does that mean the news is all over the ship?" Chakotay turned around appearing more curious than angry.
*
"I doubt it, but I don't know for sure. Why?"
*
"Everyone knows how much Mr. Kim likes to gossip." Relieved that the news of Harry's public departure from his cabin hadn't yet made it to the commander's attention, Tom let out a small sigh as Chakotay continued, "Besides, based on what B'Elanna told me about you, I wanted to know if I had a new lover."
*
Tom thought Chakotay sounded amused, but it was hard to tell. He wasn't used to hearing his own voice, especially with someone else's emotions behind it. The expression on his face was the one he wore when playing poker. Great. Another dead end. He couldn't tell exactly what Chakotay was feeling right now.
*
He sat down on the couch, hard. He reached for his glass of water and drained it. Fuck. He knew this would come up somehow. What was he going to do about it? As he stared silently at the floor, he became aware of Chakotay hovering near the replicator in the corner of the room.
*
He glanced up quickly, only to find the man's back to him. He looked up again and saw the flush of anger crawling up the back of his neck. But was it really anger? Could it be something else? Embarrassment maybe? Chakotay hadn't seemed to be outraged at the possibility that he and Harry had slept together. Why was that?
*
A whole new concept exploded in his mind, and he wondered if he might be courting insanity by entertaining it. What if Chakotay wasn't nearly as straight as he pretended to be? What if his sniffing around the captain, the ultimate in unattainable women, was just a smokescreen? What if....
*
Hell. Tom shook his head at his fancies, berating himself for trying to avoid facing the unpleasantness ahead. Might as well get it over with, he thought.
*
Taking a deep breath, he rose, straightened his uniform, and walked over to Chakotay.

END OF PART 7

Comments? Suggestions?
E-mail me at Britta

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Bait and Switch, Part 8