Susurrations, Part 12


By Britta

*
Breakfast the next morning was an interesting exercise in diplomacy. Tom watched surreptitiously as Chakotay was beckoned over to the Captain's table. He did not envy his lover in the least as the expression on her face was enough to stop a rampaging le'matya at twenty paces.
*
Just as he felt safe enough to relax, Tom was tapped on the shoulder by none other than the Talaxian Ambassador himself. Attempting to radiate good cheer in every direction, he smiled warmly and said, "Good morning, Neelix. How did everything go last night?"
*
Innocently and with all sincerity, Neelix answered, "It was wondrous. We had a grand time. Seven and the Doctor were very helpful companions. They, and the Captain of course, explained everything about the musical instruments and the sounds they made in great detail so that the next time Kathryn and I attend a musical event I won't be so confused."
*
Tom smiled and clapped Neelix on the shoulder. "I'm really glad it went well for you."
*
Neelix beamed at him and replied with a wink, "I couldn't have done it without all your advice and support, Tom."
*
As Neelix filled his tray with a variety of interesting looking comestibles, he sneaked a peek at his lover and winced at the look on Chakotay's face.
*
Neelix patted his arm and placed a padd next to his plate saying, "Don't worry, Tom. I'll take care of her and you won't have to worry about him for long. Just fill out this application and get it back to me when you can."
*
Confused, yet somehow knowing it was important that he not appear that way, Tom smiled again and took his tray over to where Harry sat inhaling his breakfast while he perused a stack of padds.
*
"Uh, Harry? Do you mind if I sit here?" Tom placed his tray next to his friend's and sat down anyway, still somewhat mystified by everything that was occurring around him.
*
Dark, almost impenetrable eyes peered at him. "I don't mind at all. In fact, there are a few things I'd like to discuss with you." Harry took a huge bite of his toasted whatever and chewed.
*
With one last glance across the room to check on how his lover and the Captain were faring, Tom chanced a mouthful of food and replied with a grimace, "Go ahead, Harry. Lay it on me."
*

++++

*
Chakotay sat down next to Janeway fully prepared to apologize for the reactions of both Tom and himself when they'd seen the others the night before. He wasn't disappointed when the first words out of her mouth were, "So, Commander, did you have a good laugh at our expense?"
*
He gauged her tone of voice, watched her sip more coffee and decided that she wasn't about to throw him in the brig after all. Smiling with good intent, he replied, "Yes, Captain. Indeed we did. I will admit though that Seven of Nine and the Doctor played an equal part in our amusement. And before you say anything else, let me tell you that we wish you both all the best."
*
She raised her eyebrows in a manner reminiscent of Tuvok and said, "I see. I take it that you can speak for Tom now?"
*
Sensing the gravity behind her question, Chakotay stated seriously, "In this matter, yes. We do wish you well."
*
Janeway smiled and replied in a relieved tone, "That's good to hear. I'm glad you and Tom don't hold my earlier animosity against me."
*
His mouth full of tea, Chakotay just shook his head.
*
She leaned toward him and confided, "Neelix is a fascinating man. I don't know quite what it is about him, but he has the most amazing effect on me."
*
Chakotay swallowed and asked, "How so?"
*
Shaking her head slowly, she replied as if she were in a daze. "I don't know exactly. But when I'm with him, I feel like I'm the only person in his universe."
*
Grinning, Chakotay ventured, "He pampers you, doesn't he?"
*
Blushing a bit, Janeway sighed, "Yes, he does; dreadfully, too." She took another sip of coffee and lowered her eyes seemingly embarrassed to have admitted that fact.
*
"You deserve to be treated that way, Kathryn," remarked Chakotay as he laid his hand over hers. "With the amount of stress you're under all the time, you need it. I'm glad Neelix is there to take care of you and help you relax."
*
She smiled back at him. "You need an outlet as well. So does Tom. I hope that the two of you are keeping each other in balance."
*
He snorted lightly, "Well, apart from the ordeal with my ribs, I think everything is working out very nicely."
*
"I'm happy to hear that," she squeezed his hand. "I know that Neelix thinks the world of you both...and so do I."
*
With genuine smiles aimed at each other, they clasped hands and felt the resurgence of their friendship coupled with a greater understanding warm the moment. They basked in the peace they had regained until Neelix's voice cut through their shared contentment like a machete slicing through a single blade of grass.
*
"Captain. May I speak with you?"
*

++++

*
Tom moved faster than warp 9 as he left Harry in mid-question regarding the proper way to escort two women at once to a social function when Harry was their 'Master'.
*
Tom had been watching Janeway and Chakotay out of the corner of his eye the entire time they'd been together. He got a little nervous when they began smiling at each other but then calmed down when all the hand-patting started. It wasn't sexual; he could tell. Then all of the sudden Neelix got flustered. That's when Tom realized that the Talaxian was jealous.
*
God knew what sorts of thoughts were running through that spotted head, especially since he'd allowed the man to think that he and Chakotay were having problems. Stupid idea, that.
*
He rose quickly and raced to catch up with Neelix. He arrived just in time to hear the dreaded question and see Janeway's face turn to stone. She would not appreciate this at all. No one questioned her actions on this level.
*
Fuck. What could he do to diffuse the situation? Chakotay was looking at Neelix like he was a bomb about to go off and the Captain was pulling inside herself again, hiding behind the mantle of rank.
*
Their savior arrived in the form of a tall, blonde, buxom ex-Borg. Seven of Nine approached the group and announced loudly, "Lieutenant Paris, I wish to inform you that your advice worked well. Thank you." She then turned to Janeway and continued, "Captain, I would like to discuss matters that may be better explored among females. May I call on you when you finish your duty shift?"
*
Chakotay eased away from the table and shot Tom a look that meant 'we will talk later' while Neelix fixed his attention on the Captain. Tom hovered and waited until the tension level dropped sufficiently and he could tug Neelix away, saying quietly, "It's not what you think. I promise. I'll explain everything. Okay?"
*
They glanced back at the Captain and Seven only to see Janeway nod and the other woman stride away purposefully. Neelix sighed, "She does look more relaxed now."
*
"She is. Trust me, I know what I'm talking about." Tom gripped Neelix's shoulder and said, "I know you don't understand everything but there's no reason for you to worry. Let's get together at lunch and I'll answer whatever questions you have, okay?"
*
Neelix smiled a bit and nodded then pointed to the table where he and Harry had been sitting. "Better fill out that application, Tom." He bustled over and picked up the padd. "Don't worry about the dishes, I'll take care of them."
*
Tom took the padd from Neelix and said, "Thanks. I've got to get to the bridge now, we'll talk later."
*
Neelix nodded again and turned away then started clearing the table.
*
Rushing out of the mess hall, Tom hardly had time to realize exactly what Seven had said to him. It wasn't until he was in the turbolift that the full meaning of her statement became clear. He smiled as he realized that apparently the direct approach to getting laid worked on sentient holograms as well as pleasure holograms which were programmed to say yes.
*
Then his smile faded a little as he wondered how he would face the Doctor now knowing what he had done. He dropped the padd in his cabin then hurried up to the bridge.
*

++++

*
Chakotay sat at his station on the bridge and took care of matters. He wasn't certain who would show up on time. Ensign Kim was so far the only one of the senior staff in place. Tuvok had the day off and he looked forward to his own break the day after tomorrow. Tom might show up late but he wasn't going to worry about it; after all, he was with the Captain.
*
There were so many things to think about--last night with Tom was only one of them. Still, this morning's events crowded into his mind, but he tried to put everything on the back burner, at least until he knew what the Captain had planned for today.
*
Tom walked onto the bridge and stopped to whisper in Chakotay's ear, "The Captain should be here shortly. I just wanted to let you know that I told Neelix I'd have lunch with him so we could talk."
*
"Okay. I'll have to catch up with you after shift then."
*
Tom nodded and as the turbolift doors opened disgorging the Captain, he relieved Jenkins and slid into his seat smoothly.
*
Chakotay wasn't the least bit surprised at being summoned into her Ready Room before she even sat down. He turned the bridge over to Tom and followed her, ready to listen to whatever she had to say.
*

++++

*
Tom took in the status of the ship from the conn, checked their position and course and made sure there was nothing that he needed to focus all his attention on for the moment. He then sat back, relaxed a bit and thought about all the little melodramas unfolding around him.
*
Harry was shooting him glances every now and then and he realized he owed his best friend some of his undivided attention. Juggling his mental calendar, he thought that between Harry and Neelix and the card mystery, he'd be lucky to spend five minutes with Chakotay between now and late tonight. Damn.
*
He'd promised Chakotay his social obligations would end soon and he thought they had for the most part. Still, it seemed he was a necessary ingredient to the smooth beginning of a few new relationships, not the least of which was his own.
*
Sighing, he checked all the readouts again and waited for Chakotay to return to the bridge. Once he could let go of all the extras that demanded he remain alert on several fronts, he vowed to concentrate on Chakotay and the added depth of emotion they now seemed to share.
*
Chakotay and the Captain returned to the bridge both looking a little happier than they had before. Tom resumed his pilot's status and with some relief, freed a portion of his mind to think about other things.
*
Granted, he knew he'd have to spend significant time talking to Neelix and listening to Harry but he wanted to figure out why last night with his lover seemed so different. Was it because he'd given up control and let Chakotay do what he wanted? Or was it because he got off on letting him do what he wanted?
*
Unwilling to travel farther down that particular road while he was on duty, he turned his thoughts to Seven and the Doctor. He just knew that Chakotay would want an explanation of Seven's statement to him in the mess hall. Grinning to himself, he thought that it might make up for him spending time elsewhere this evening, as he had a feeling that he'd be with Harry for a couple of hours at least.
*

++++

*
Relieved that the Captain was back on an even keel after a short rant on the vagaries of dating aliens, Chakotay sat at his station and checked on the ship's status as the Captain did the same.
*
"Nothing new to report?"
*
They traded smiles. "No. All is as it should be. We're still headed for the Alpha Quadrant."
*
"Good," she replied. "If you want to spend some time in your office and take care of the latest reports, now would be a good time. Besides, the Doctor told me to make you take it easy for a couple of days."
*
Chakotay stifled a snappy comeback, knowing it wouldn't help matters. Nodding, he rose and glanced quickly at Tom before answering her, "You know where to find me if I'm needed."
*
She just smiled at him and turned her attention to the newest set of readouts. He made his way off the bridge and toward his office. Once there, he pulled all the padds into a neat pile on his desk then ignored them. He swivelled his chair away from his work and gazed out at the stars instead.
*
He was sure things would work out after this morning's events. Tom would speak with Neelix and explain things, the Captain would be happy again and he wouldn't have to worry about the Talaxian coming after him with a kitchen knife. Just to be on the safe side, he decided it would be smart to eat lunch here in his office.
*
The mystery of the replicator usage in the unoccupied cabins could wait until he had the chance to tell Tom his theory, though who knew when that would be. He'd seen Ensign Kim staring at Tom on the bridge and surmised that there was another person who needed Tom's attention.
*
Propping his feet up on a small table, he let his mind wander. What had Seven meant when she'd shown up this morning? Shit. Another thing to ask Tom about. It seemed all roads led to his lover these days. Well, this is what you got when you took Mr. Popular into your life, he thought.
*
Into his life, his heart, and his bed. That last image stuck in his mind and he wondered about the night before. Would Tom always enjoy it that much when he took control? He secretly hoped so, because he got off on calling the shots, this he knew and admitted to himself. Still, it was something else to add to the list of things to discuss with Tom.
*
Knowing it would be hours before he saw his lover, he shrugged and turned his attention to the stack of padds on his desk. Time passed and lunch came and went. He kept at it, and by the time dinner rolled around, he was surprised that he'd cleared up almost the entire backlog of things he'd been putting off for the last couple of weeks.
*
Pleased with the results of his efforts, he decided to go find Tom and celebrate a little. Maybe they could go out tonight and play some pool or ping-pong. Perhaps he could convince Tom to go dancing. After being shut up in his office all day, he craved physical activity.
*
Checking with the computer on Tom's location, he wasn't surprised to find him in the mess hall. He shut down his office then and made his way there in record time.
*

++++

*
Tom shuffled the food around his plate and listened to Harry with one ear. Every other sentence Harry spoke was a question, and to each one Tom responded the same way: 'I don't know. Ask Dalby.'
*
Harry didn't seem to notice. He was so caught up in his newest obsession that he didn't even recognize Tom's repeated non-answers. Sipping his water, Tom found his eyes going back to the padd that Neelix had given him at breakfast and which he'd retrieved at lunch, hoping to get a chance to read it. As it was, he was dying to find out what was on it.
*
After listening to Harry describe the joys of having the Delaney twins rub his feet and neck simultaneously for the fourth time, he took another bite of his meal and chewed slowly, wishing Harry would run out of steam sometime soon.
*
Just as he considered that the odds of that happening were nil, Chakotay entered the mess hall. Breathing a major sigh of relief, he said, "Give me a minute, Harry. I'll be right back."
*
Harry looked up and noticed the Commander approaching. "Sure, Tom. But don't take too long--there's a lot more stuff I want to talk to you about."
*
"Okay." Tom moved to intercept Chakotay and led him over to a nearly empty corner near the Captain's private table.
*
Hugging him tight and leaning in for a kiss, he relaxed. God, how could you miss someone so much when you'd only been separated for less than an entire duty shift? That's when it hit him how bad he'd got it. He closed his eyes and rested his head on Chakotay's shoulder. Shit. He was a goner.
*
Chakotay just held him for a minute then said softly, "You all right?"
*
Tom dredged up a smile from somewhere and replied, "Yeah. I'm just a little worn out after today."
*
"So I guess that means going out tonight isn't an option?"
*
Tom stroked his lover's face. "No, not for me. As a matter of fact, I'm going to be busy with Harry until about 2100. I'm sorry I didn't get the chance to tell you earlier but he practically dragged me off the bridge as soon as our shift was over."
*
"I see. Why 2100?"
*
Tom sighed, "The twins are babysitting Naomi Wildman until then. It appears that they love kids."
*
"Oh. So do you have any plans after that?" Chakotay asked.
*
"Nope. Not a one, except to see you, if you're free." He gave his lover a smile full of promises.
*
"Well, I suppose I can find something to do until then. Maybe I'll join Tuvok and B'Elanna for dinner." Chakotay flicked his eyes in their direction.
*
Rubbing Chakotay's shoulders, Tom followed up with, "I wouldn't eat here tonight. The food sucks. Neelix and the Captain are having dinner in her quarters."
*
"Hmm. I guess that means I get to go back to my cabin, replicate a meal and do nothing exciting until you get there," Chakotay mock frowned. "I suppose I could go and work out for awhile though."
*
Tom squeezed Chakotay's hands and said, "That sounds like a great idea but you're supposed to take it easy, aren't you?"
*
Chakotay replied, "The Doctor told me to listen to my body. I can do anything I like as long as I pay attention and don't overdo it. Okay?"
*
Nodding, Tom said, "In that case, I wish I could join you but I promised to spend some time with Harry. Hey, I've got something for you to do after your workout."
*
"What?"
*
He led his lover over to the table where Harry sat waiting impatiently and picked up the padd Neelix had given him at breakfast. Thrusting it into Chakotay's hands, he leaned over and whispered into his ear, "See what's on this--it has something to do with that little plastic card."
*

END OF PART 12

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Susurrations, Part 13