Undaunted, Part 1


By Britta

*
"I will *not* give up. I *will* find someone to spend the rest of my life with. I refuse to be alone for however long my life lasts. It's not fair and I'm tired of it. There has to be someone aboard this ship that I can be with. If not, maybe I'll find my soul mate on one of the planets we encounter and I'll ask to be left behind so I can be happy and not have to return to the Alpha Quadrant and spend more time in prison."
*
Lieutenant Tom Paris raked his fingers through his hair and took another hefty swig of his drink, then continued his latest personal log entry.
*
"Is there anyone on this ship that I haven't already fucked who could be my lifemate? I know I'm kind of jumping the phaser here because B'Elanna and I aren't 'officially' through, yet. But I know it's only a matter of time before we are. We've been on the long slide down for a while and I'll admit I only sent her a good-bye message in that last crash just to ease her conscience.
*
"I wouldn't want to die knowing I left someone behind feeling guilty about anything to do with me. End log."
*
Tom stood up and finished his drink in one swallow, still feeling the entire range of emotions that had plagued him for some time. Certain feelings had been there for weeks, others for mere minutes.
*
When you think you're going to die, a lot of things become crystal clear and one of them, for him, was that he didn't love B'Elanna and never would. It was obvious, too, that she didn't love him enough to trust him in her time of need. Fine.
*
He needed a whole lot more than she could ever give. Besides, he thought angrily, who wants to live with a dermal regenerator under their pillow?
*
He needed tenderness, not bestial ferocity from a lover. A little rough stuff every now and then was one thing but drawing blood, *his* blood, every single time and using the regenerator as a part of the afterglow was a bit more than he bargained for. Let her take it out on someone else. He didn't need that kind of pain.
*
So who was left? The Captain was not an option. She felt too much like a parent to get close to in that manner. Wildman was married and had a kid. Seven was as close to ice in human form as you could get. Most of the other available women he'd already slept with, if only once, and what a disappointment most of them had been, not just sexually but emotionally as well.
*
Shit, it was either time to look for a nice planet or time to look at the men again.
*
Not wanting to get into that mental conversation with himself at this point, Tom changed his clothes and decided to go play some pool and forget all about everything for the time being.
*
Sandrine's was the same as it ever was. People milling about and lounging at tables. Tom spied an empty place at the bar and headed in that direction, purposely ignoring everyone around him. He couldn't work up the enthusiasm to chat with or smile at his fellow crew mates. His scowling countenance kept the other members of the crew away from him but he had to tell the fake people to leave him alone. He ordered a drink and sipped it, looking around the room.
*
Gods, he wanted it over and done with. Everything was getting to him. B'Elanna felt like a brick around his neck, dragging him down, towing him under. If she didn't let go of him soon, he'd have to make the move and then he'd be free again. Free to look for the real thing, if it indeed existed. He wasn't certain that it did but anything had to be better than this. There had to be someone, something, that could stir his emotions into a loving frenzy. At least he prayed there was.
*
After all, if you didn't feel, you weren't alive.
*
He slammed his glass down and motioned impatiently for Sandrine to bring him another.
*

********************

*
Chakotay sat at a table in the corner listening to the Captain drone on about the chances they'd taken digging the Delta Flyer out of the rock she'd been buried in.
*
Didn't the woman understand yet? It was obvious to him that there had been a problem with the little ship's sensors. The gas in the atmosphere just hadn't been there. They had also been extremely short of time. Everyone was now home and safe and healthy. Why was she going on and on like a broken transmitter?
*
"Yes, Captain. I understand. It won't happen again." He struggled to get his thoughts in order but was only partially successful.
*
"Very well, Commander. See that it doesn't." The bitch was back, in spades.
*
"Yes, ma'am." He wondered if it was that time of the month.
*
She stood, then walked away while her First Officer breathed a huge sigh of relief.
*
Chakotay thought that she still didn't get it. It was Tom down there. The one person who owned his life. After all these years, it mattered to him more than he wanted to admit to anyone, least of all himself.
*
Before he could get mired in that train of thought, B'Elanna caught his attention as she strode toward the bar, determination evident in her every footstep.
*
Hmm, this looked interesting. Maybe they'd have another spat in public. Watching these two lately had reminded him of things, feelings, long suppressed.
*
She spoke to Tom briefly then spun on her heel and left. Chakotay was mildly disappointed; no fireworks this time. Ah well, he had other things to think about, if he wanted.
*

********************

*
Tom thought, be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.
*
Well, he certainly had.
*
He'd wanted to be free and now he was. He sipped his scotch and wondered why he felt so many conflicting emotions at once. Relief vied with hurt and yet both were overshadowed by sadness that another relationship of his had failed.
*
He stared at the top of the bar and pondered that for a while. Was there something intrinsically wrong with him? Did he choose the wrong partners on purpose?
*
At least, he thought, I let her think this was her decision alone.
*

********************

*
Chakotay sat and watched the emotions play across Tom's face and wondered what B'Elanna had said to cause such a reaction. Tom looked sad and he also looked totally unapproachable.
*
Sighing over the vagaries of people's love lives, he thought of his own, which apparently had been put into stasis for the duration. Perhaps that was why he paid so much attention to what was going on with other people. After all, he had no one of his own to consider.
*
Chakotay the monk. Yes. He could do that. He didn't want to but if there were no other choice then he'd make the best of it. Hell, he hadn't been on such good terms with his right hand since he was a teenager.
*
Giving himself a mental shake, he decided to have a beer then call it a night.
*
Standing at the end of the bar waiting for Sandrine to take his order, his eyes were once again drawn to Paris. Now there was someone who had screwed almost half the ship's complement, if the rumors were true. Still, he didn't look happy and it occurred to Chakotay that Tom never had looked particularly content no matter who he'd been sleeping with.
*
I guess it doesn't matter how much sex you get, he thought, happiness comes from within.
*
He ordered his beer, waited until Sandrine brought it over to him in a frosty mug and turned to go back to his table only to discover it had been appropriated by a small group of rambunctious security personnel.
*
Looking around, he saw there was no place to sit, except next to Tom.
*
He walked over and disregarding the waves of untouchability pouring off the man, he tapped him on the shoulder and asked, "Do you mind if I sit here?"
*
Tom glanced up briefly then looked around the room noting that the Commander had little choice.
*
"No. Not at all. Go ahead. Just don't expect me to be a scintillating conversationalist."
*
"OK. I won't." Chakotay perched on the bar stool and silently drank his beer.
*

********************

*
Tom glanced at him from time to time between sips of scotch and thought it was nice of him to take him at his word.
*
The XO said nothing, obviously as lost in thought as Tom was. Paris wondered about the man. What was he thinking? Why did he feel better now that Chakotay was sitting next to him? Maybe it was all that serenity he exuded. His was a restful presence.
*
Tom sipped more of his drink and peered at his commanding officer beneath lowered lashes. He was kind of like a cat. Very relaxing to be around unless something startled him into action. Then watch out!
*
Shaking his head at his fanciful ideas, Tom finished his drink and smiled. Pushing the glass away, he rose and said, "Good night."
*
Chakotay turned his head and noticed that Tom looked less sad than before and was surprised at how that fact lightened his heart. "Good night. See you tomorrow."
*
Tom nodded and left.
*

********************

*
Chakotay found out by accident that B'Elanna had dumped Tom. He'd overheard Ensign Harry Kim, one of the ship's most active gossips, discussing the situation with one of the Delaney sisters at the resort.
*
Not wanting to hear the details, he left the resort quietly and wandered over to Sandrine's. There were few people there and the only hologram present was Sandrine herself. He was glad. He didn't want to deal with a crowd right then.
*
He got a beer and sat in the corner with his back to the wall as he usually did.
*
Now the thoughts would come. Tom was available again. Shit. Hadn't he done this before? Had the fantasies, the wishes, the dreams?
*
They came unbidden, unwanted and unsettling. Messing with his head and his heart in ways he didn't like. It was so much easier when Tom was busy, engaged in a liaison with someone else; taken for the time being.
*
But when Tom was free, Chakotay's world changed. He wound up thinking of him in ways that guaranteed his right hand would be busier than usual and his sheets would need changing more often. Damn.
*
It would happen all over again, only this time it would be worse than last time, Chakotay acknowledged to himself. As time went by and the years passed, he admitted that Tom had grown up and changed into a man he respected. That made it all the more difficult to put his feelings down to pure lust.
*
Well, he thought, I can only hope he finds someone else to be with and the sooner the better.
*
He didn't like dealing with this part of himself; lost causes were not his forte.
*

********************

*
Tom sat deep in the shadows of Sandrine's. He knew Harry was telling the other gossips what few details he knew. That was fine. It was expected. Tom knew Harry's weakness for chatting with the ladies and gents. He played on that when he needed to. This time he'd spun the tale of 'B'Elanna needed some time to herself'. She wouldn't counter the rumor if anyone dared bring it to her attention.
*
He sipped from his glass of scotch and wondered if he'd be into the habit again before too long. Maybe tomorrow night he'd stick to beer. It wasn't nearly as comforting as the hard stuff but it was cheaper, ration-wise.
*
Looking up, he saw the Commander enter the room, filling it with his aura.
*
Tom watched, speculated, as Chakotay got a beer and went to sit by himself, like he always did.
*
Why is he always alone? No one ever joins him except for the Captain. And lately, when that happens she doesn't stay very long. Hmm, is there trouble brewing? Nah, it's probably nothing. Still, he doesn't look as calm as he usually does.
*
For some reason this disturbed him. Chakotay was a constant and it unnerved him when that constant destabilized enough to threaten turning into a variable.
*

That was the one thing he did not need. He'd had enough turbulence in his life to preclude wanting any more. Hell, Chakotay was his rock, his foundation. To imagine him being shaken was tantamount to experiencing an earthquake aboard ship.
*
That thought stopped him cold, in mid-sip. When had he started thinking of Chakotay that way? How long had it been? Why did this concept suddenly become so clear?
*
Tom shook his head and finished his drink quickly. He did not want to delve more deeply into the subject and opted to go home and to his solitary bed without examining his motives more closely.
*

********************

*
Chakotay was surprised to see Tom slink out of one of the darkest corners of the bar and walk quickly out the door. He hadn't even been aware of Tom's presence, the man had been so well hidden.
*
But then...Tom had always been good at hiding.
*

********************

*
Tom tossed in bed. He couldn't seem to get comfortable. His thoughts chased him around the mattress refusing to be stilled. He punched his pillows into unusual shapes but they didn't cooperate and remained lumpy.
*
Eventually, he abandoned the idea of sleep altogether and got up to pace. It wasn't that late. Maybe he should go for a walk. Yeah, that sounded good.
*
He threw on some casual clothes and headed out the door. Avoiding the turbolifts, he used the ladders to go from deck to deck hoping that the extra exercise would release his pent up energy.
*
His thoughts went in circles but always came back to one person: the First Officer. He wished he knew why Chakotay had taken up residence in his brain but the answer to that question continued to elude him.
*
For the better part of an hour he wandered the ship, steering clear of the areas where he'd be sure to run into people. Finally, he entered a tiny, little-used observation lounge and planted himself in front of the viewport, seemingly unaware of the silent figure curled up on a loveseat on the shadowed sidelines.
*

********************

*
Chakotay blinked when the door slid open and couldn't believe who'd walked in. Talk about your thoughts materializing right in front of you!
*
He remained silent when Tom did not acknowledge him. Watching him carefully, he wondered if Tom was all right. He'd been unusually quiet on the bridge today. No doubt he was still upset over the breakup but Chakotay suspected there was more to it than that.
*
Should he make his presence known and offer a sympathetic ear? Or should he feign sleep if Tom noticed him in order to give the man some privacy? He'd have to wait and see.
*
He thought of his last meditation session and wondered if his spirit guide had a warped sense of humor. She'd all but told him to quit lying to himself about his feelings for Tom and to face the fact openly that he wanted him and always had.
*
Yes, he thought, I have always wanted to take Tom to bed. That was as far as he was willing to go in admitting the truth to himself. The rest...well, he didn't know if there could be any more. Not yet.
*
He peered at the blond standing there, gazing out at the starfield and relished the opportunity to observe him without his mask in place. Tom, unconcealed behind his usual expression, was more beautiful than Chakotay had ever seen him. If only he'd shown any interest in men, then Chakotay thought he might not be such a lost cause after all. But in all the years they'd been aboard Voyager, Tom had stuck to the women like glue.
*
This wasn't doing him any good, he realized. It would be better to make his presence known before he slipped into fantasy. He cleared his throat softly and said, "Tom? Are you OK?"
*
"Yeah. I'm fine. I thought you were asleep." He turned to face his CO and frowned.
*
"I didn't know if you knew you weren't alone. I'm sorry I didn't say anything earlier."
*
"It's all right. What are you doing down here anyway?" Tom asked.
*
Chakotay sat up and offered the seat beside him. "I came here to think."
*
Tom sat down next to him and replied wryly, "You, too, huh?"
*
"Yeah, me, too."
*
They sat in silence for long minutes until they both started to speak at the same time. "What were you--"
*
They stopped and grinned at each other then Tom waved his hand in an 'after you' gesture and inclined his head.
*
Chakotay smiled so widely his dimples appeared briefly and he answered, "Thinking about?"
*
"Yeah. What were you thinking about?" Tom responded.
*
"Oh, just things. Life in the Delta Quadrant, work, things like that." The XO didn't sound the least bit convincing yet still he smiled. "Now I'd like to know what you were thinking about. I heard about you and B'Elanna, I'm sorry. If you need to talk, I'm willing to listen."
*
Tom watched the man's expression change from delight to concern and found that he preferred the former. Strange, that. "Well, there's not a whole lot to say on that subject. It's over and I'm OK with it. To tell you the truth, I'm relieved. I don't know how she feels about it because we never have communicated all that well. So now I'm footloose and fancy free."
*
Chakotay grinned, "Ready to beat 'em off with a stick are you? Or are you planning to go on the prowl again?"
*
Tom frowned slightly. "Neither, actually. There's not a whole lot of opportunity around here any more." He shifted unconsciously closer to Chakotay.
*
The Commander noticed but ignored it, saying, "I understand what you mean about the lack of choices available. What are you going to do?"
*
Looking up from the floor he'd been staring at, Tom replied, "I don't know." He peered at Chakotay and asked, "What do you do? How do you handle being alone so much?"
*
"I don't do much of anything except try to concentrate on other things. It becomes easier after a while. You get used to it." Not an out and out lie but he didn't want to get into a discussion about loneliness with Tom.
*
"You don't plan on spending the rest of our time out here alone, do you?" Tom asked seriously, wondering why that thought bothered him as much as it did.
*
Chakotay shook his head. "I hope not. The right opportunity with the right person just hasn't happened for me, yet. I've had my eye on one or two people though."
*
"You mean women, right?" Tom probed.
*
"Not necessarily." Shit. This line of discussion was making him nervous. They were skirting dangerous ground.
*
"What? You go for men? But I thought you liked women! I mean there was Ses--"
*
"Don't even say that name." Chakotay cut him off. He let out a deep breath and thought well, the truth will out. "I do like women. I *also* like men. In fact, my more successful relationships have been with men."
*
Tom just stared at him. "Well, I'll be damned."
*
Deciding it was past time to leave, Chakotay said, "It's late. I'm going home. I'll see you tomorrow." He rose and walked to the door wondering if this would cause problems for them. They still had to work together.
*
He heard Tom's muffled "good night" float after him as the door swished shut.
*

********************

*
Tom was floored. It would never have occurred to him that the reserved, stoic, ex-rebel Captain swung both ways. Gods, this did not help his mental chaos at all. The concept of Chakotay being with another man immediately brought all sorts of graphic mental images to Tom's mind.
*
Worse yet, those pretty pictures gave him a raging hard-on in no time flat. He could just see Chakotay sucking his cock or even better, fucking him. Damn! This was the last thing he needed. Something else to complicate the reasons why he kept thinking about the man.
*
Ordering his cock to behave, he set about driving his thoughts into nice, neat compartments. First of all, he remembered thinking vaguely about trying out the men aboard ship since he'd run through the women who had, at one time or another, held his interest. Now that the Commander had joined the ranks of the possibles, Tom moved him to the top of the list.
*
The more he thought about it, the better the idea seemed. Chakotay was no flake. He was absolutely loaded with good points, not to mention gorgeous as all hell. They'd moved past their old hostilities over the years and so that wasn't a problem. So what was to prevent him from finding out if they'd be good together?
*
Not a damned thing as far as he could tell. Ah, but Chakotay was one of those that would require some special handling. This would be a challenge. It was just the ticket to get his mind off the past and B'Elanna. OK, what first? Well, he didn't know but decided that some research was called for. Perhaps a little reconnaissance was in order.
*
His cock having resumed its soft state, he felt able to leave the lounge and walk through the corridors where home and bed awaited him.
*

********************

*
Over the course of the next several days, Tom watched Chakotay with a completely different mindset. It turned out to be quite an experience. He felt like he'd been blind before. Why had he never noticed how sexy the man was? Even during the morning briefings, he simply radiated a sensual heat that Tom had a hard time dealing with in such close proximity.
*
Still, he hesitated in taking action. He didn't know quite how to do this. Chakotay wasn't just another pretty face. Tom's emotional state was at war with his physical one and this caused him to behave a little erratically at times. He wasn't aware of it for the most part but other people were. A fact that his friend Harry brought home to him during dinner one night.
*
"OK, Tom. What's going on? You're acting like something's going to jump up and bite you when you least expect it. Are you still flipping out over B'Elanna?"
*
Tom reached absently for his water glass and took a long swallow, washing down whatever it was he'd just eaten. "Harry, I don't know what you're talking about. There's nothing wrong with me. As far as B'Elanna goes, I think I was over her long before she dumped me."
*
Harry ran a hand through his thick, dark hair in exasperation. "Then what's up? You keep giving the Commander these weird looks and it's like you can't concentrate on anything lately. Is he on your case again for some reason?"
*
"What? No. He's not bugging me, well...not exactly." Tom wondered if he should tell Harry about what Chakotay had said. No, probably not a good idea.
*
Harry frowned, his dark eyes locking onto Tom's blue ones and asked, "And just what is that supposed to mean?"
*
Shit. He had to say something. He peered around the room and lowered his voice, "Uh, have you ever noticed how sexy he is?"
*
Harry just stared at Tom, his voice having deserted him temporarily.
*
Tom took his silence as agreement and plowed on, "I mean, those eyes of his, those lips and that tattoo?"
*
Harry remained speechless, his mouth slightly open. His best friend, the biggest ladies' man on Voyager was oblivious to his shock and continued cataloguing their First Officer's assets.
*
"Gods, have you ever taken a good look at his butt? Not to mention the rest of him." Tom sighed melodramatically with longing. "Harry, the man is sex incarnate. I'm going nuts just thinking about him. But I'm afraid to ask him out. He *does* outrank me. What do you think I should do?" Tom looked at his friend hopefully.
*
Harry's jaws snapped shut and he closed his eyes for a moment. This could not be happening. They had obviously hit another silent but deadly spatial anomaly and the man in front of him had to be from another universe entirely. Because Harry knew something about other universes, having traveled to and from them on more than one occasion, it seemed the best explanation.
*
Tom waited for Harry to say something, anything. He felt like he was playing out of his league with the Commander and any advice at all would be more than welcome. It spoke volumes about his state of mind that he didn't take into account the fact that he'd never told Harry or anyone else on the ship that he'd been with men before.
*
Letting out a huge sigh, Harry decided to test his anomaly theory. "Tom, what did we do last night?"
*
"What? What's that got to do with anything?"
*
"Just answer the question." Harry was implacable.
*
Tom gazed at him, a puzzled expression on his face. "We went to the resort and watched the girls go by. Why?"
*
Shit. He was right. His theory went out the airlock in a heartbeat. Not knowing what else to do, he asked, "Tom, what brought this on? Did B'Elanna hurt you so much that you've given up on women? Maybe you should talk to the Doctor or something."
*
"Talk to the Doc? What for?"
*
Harry sighed, "It's just that when you have a sudden change in sexual orientation, I gotta wonder whether you're OK. Make sense now?"
*
Tom shifted mental gears and realized that of course if Harry didn't know, who else would? "Uh, Har? It's not a sudden shift." He reached for his glass of water again and finished it quickly.
*
"It's not?" Harry looked flabbergasted all over again.
*
This time, Tom noticed and replied gently, "No. It's not. I just haven't let that side of me out to play in a long, long time. Harry, are you OK with this?"
*
Harry blinked confusedly. "Yeah. I can handle it but I really have to go right now, OK?"
*
Tom sighed and nodded. "Sure. Go. I'll see you tomorrow." He wondered belatedly how close this Harry was to the one they'd lost a couple of years ago. He didn't think his original buddy would have been so freaked out by a confession of this sort but he smiled anyway as reassuringly as he could.
*
Harry just grabbed his tray and made a fast exit.
*
Tom slowly stood and collected his dinner dishes, then walked to the mess hall recycler and dumped them. Deep in thought, he turned toward the door, oblivious to his surroundings, and ran right smack into the object of his desires.
*
Bouncing off Chakotay's well-muscled chest, he felt strong arms reach out to grab him before he could fall. "Excuse me, Lieutenant. Are you all right?"
*
Deep, dark brown eyes looked at him with concern but all he could manage was a nod. The large hands on his arms seemed to sear through his uniform and Tom felt out of his league yet again. He gulped. "Yes, Commander, I'm fine. Sorry! I just wasn't looking where I was going."
*
"It's OK." Chakotay released him, albeit reluctantly.
*
Tom fled to the safety of his quarters. He needed to think.
*

********************

*
What was the matter with Tom? Chakotay retrieved something to eat and sat alone at a little table in the corner.
*
All week long, since the night he'd admitted he found men attractive, Tom had been giving him funny looks. Chakotay had avoided him when off duty and kept to the most professional demeanor the rest of the time. If the man was so unnerved by his confession, he wanted to do everything he could to ease the situation.
*
At least, he thought, now I know. After years of wondering and wanting, he could let go of the possibility. Even though it had driven him insane at times, he was still saddened by knowing the truth.
*
As his sweetest fantasies evaporated into nothingness, he decided to turn his attention elsewhere and concentrated on eating whatever was in front of him. As if he wasn't depressed enough, the food tasted awful. He dutifully ate it anyway as a form of penance. He should have just kept his mouth shut.
*

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END OF PART ONE

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Undaunted, Part 2