Lines in the Sand IV, part V
You take an inherent risk when you fall in love.
I, we met at a stuffy reception at Headquarters. We stood on a balcony, enjoying
the chill of the autumn evening, champagne in hand, and comparing the puffed-out
chests of the assembled. We never set out for anything more than the pleasure
of another's company.
It was always the little things that got me; the way his brow would furrow when he was deep in the thought, the way his eyes lit up when he saw me or the way his hair stood up on end in the mornings.
I never really thought much of what I was doing with Mark. And then one morning, I woke up and there was Mark, lying next to me, his arm across his face, the sheets down by his waist, and I drew my knees to my chest and stared at him. I think I sat there for a good ten minutes, just staring at him, and realized that I liked waking up next to him. I realized that I liked knowing that he was there at night when I came home and reveled in the feeling that he was the first person I wanted to tell everything too.
And so, if you term that love, then yes, I did love Mark.
Now, Chakotay, that's another story entirely.
Nothing easy there, nothing at all.
As we walk across the hard ground, Chakotay doesn't look at me at all. In fact, he does his best to avoid speaking at all and I wonder where this sudden coolness comes from.
Damn what I feel for him.
A professor once stood up in front of my class back at the Academy and dropped the profound philosophy of marriage on us; he said, very seriously too, that you should never marry for love.
"One day you'll wake up and the love is gone and all you have is this person," he lectured. "You should have something else, something more than a memory of love to hold you together. Otherwise you will start to feel annoyed with those habits, which tinted by the first blush of love were adorable or endearing. No, listen, you must have something more than love."
And even in those days, I thought like the scientist I wanted desperately to be and could not reconcile myself to an emotion that defied explanation or basic in solid theory. The very thought of a quickening pulse and elevated temperature at the appearance of a particular person did not appeal to me because I could not understand such a response without resorting first to science.
My father once told me that there existed those things that could not be explained and such was love; that particular emotion was a force unending and unbending.
me most about the concept of love was the singularly frightening thought that
could choose whom you loved; you could not choose who would love you back.
I did not mean to fall in love.
I did not want to fall in love.
Damn. Damn. Damn.
Some nights, I would look over at Chakotay and note the way his dark hair flopped over his tattoo. I would dwell on that tiny cleft in his chin, the one that is barely noticeable unless you are eye-level with it. I would run my lips over his cheek, his stubble harsh against my own soft skin, and his eyes would open, almost as if my touch shocked him.
Sometimes, I would trace my fingers over those long, sinewy limbs, dragging my fingertips through the soft tufts of hair on his chest. In the soft candlelight - the slender tapers, which I replicated from hoarded rations - I would focus on the small colorless spot on his lower lip and then I would run my fingers over his cheekbones. Sometimes I would tease him about the way he carefully trimmed his eyebrows and kept them blunted at the edges.
You don't notice these things without reason.
Even when we went toe to toe, I was always so aware of him.
It was impossible, always, to ignore Chakotay, even when I wanted to, even when I knew that I should.
And the way he gets to me... God. I didn't think it possible for someone to stand across the room, not raise his voice, and yet still make me profoundly aware of his presence.
If Chakotay knows, he gives no indication. Rather, he torments me in that rather careless but quiet way of his. The way his eyes glow with an intensity, the way his voice slightly cracks when he thinks I'm wrong - all of these are signs of something, something that neither of us dares to name.
But what damns me most is the simplest of all.
Chakotay has this way of saying my name. Somehow, he manages to round the vowels and soften the syllables. His voice caresses me even though his hands remain resolutely at his side. Sometimes, I'll turn away from the viewscreen, see Chakotay, observe that sly smile of his, and know that he was not looking at the same thing I was.
So you see, it's entirely different.
I am the captain; he is my first officer.
I am Starfleet; he is Maquis.
It shouldn't have been this way.
The first time I truly let him in, right after Kashyk, I should have known better. But I buried my face into the smooth curve of his neck, inhaled deeply, and I couldn't pull away.
Night after night, there he was, in my bed, and promptly, before our shift, he would slip out from under the covers, get dressed and leave.
How no one knew the truth about our relationship remains a mystery to me.
Or maybe out of respect, they - Voyager's crew - remained silent and respectful. Strange, because they never afforded Tom and B'Elanna that same courtesy.
Chakotay's shoulder brushes mine and he looks at me.
"Sorry," he says shortly.
Physically, we have never been closer. If I dared, I could reach up and run my fingertips down his pink cheek and trace the strong curve of his jaw. I could smooth hair mussed by the chilly wind in one smooth gesture; yet for all of that, I have never felt more distant from this man.
I think it's true what my professor said all those years ago.
I never thought it would apply to me.
exhausted by her illness, sleeps while the EMH remains offline. I haven't seen
Captain in hours, so I take the opportunity to search Janeway out.
Outside, I find Tuvok, on his way to the Delta Flyer.
"Have you seen the Captain?" I ask.
"They are in there," he points to the meeting hall.
Jessup doesn't look at me as I enter the meeting hall. In fact, he does his damndest to stay the hell away. It doesn't matter; I'm not into making friends today. I see Janeway and Chakotay and make a beeline for them.
"Tom, how's B'Elanna feeling?" the captain asks. Chakotay does not look up. The Captain shrugs.
"She's awake," I say. "And looks like she'll be just fine."
"That's good to hear."
They both have food on their plates, but neither appears to be eating.
"Join us," Chakotay says.
"Please," Janeway indicates the chair next to her.
I eye them both warily.
"What's going on?" I ask.
"Chakotay has been filling me in on some background," Janeway says evenly. "Putting the pieces together, if you will."
I sit down next Janeway and look across the table at Chakotay. Chakotay and I have always had a tumultuous relationship, ranging from pure dislike to cool neutrality. Some days, we actually managed to have a conversation, but other days we could barely stand to look at each other.
Back during my short, lamented stint with the Maquis, Chakotay looked at me with narrowed eyes; for the most part though, I was grateful that he did not bestow me with the same dislike the other Maquis, including B'Elanna, reserved especially for me. I think, even then, Chakotay saw something redeemable in an arrogant young pilot and when I surrendered to Starfleet, I thought with a pang that I would never truly know what prompted Chakotay to take a chance on me.
During all of our time on Voyager, I never asked Chakotay about the Maquis. The lines were drawn so clearly, the boundaries of what we could and could not talk about, and the Maquis was one of those.
Once, during a late night in Sandrine's, I looked across the table at Chakotay, who seemed completely fixated on the Captain and I said very softly, "I'm sorry."
I don't know if the former Maquis leader heard me because he did not acknowledge me at all. In fact, even if he heard me, my time on Voyager had given me plenty to apologize for.
"Anything I'd be interested in?" I ask easily.
"Quite a bit, actually," Chakotay says. Janeway looks over at me and gently runs her fingers over the curve of my jawbone.
"You've been hurt," she says very softly.
Chakotay raises an eyebrow but says nothing. Janeway breathes deeply.
"What's going on?" I ask.
"It's about your father," the Captain says.
I look across the room at the former Maquis who are laughing about something. Back when I was one of them - and I use that phrase very loosely - the Maquis fighters seemed to possess a special camaraderie and in some ways, I envied their ease with each other and their openness. A part of me wanted to reach out and ask - no, beg - for friendship, but instead, it was much easier to turn to a bottle of alcohol and turn into the charming Tom Paris, quick with a joke and suave with the ladies.
No wonder they hated me.
I hated me too.
"What about him?" I ask.
"I don't like to speak ill of the dead-" Janeway begins, but then she pauses as Tuvok approaches us.
"Voyager will arrive in a few hours," Tuvok addresses the Captain. "They had already set a course when they received B'Elanna's message. Starfleet Headquarters is anticipating our arrival."
"We're going to San Francisco?" I ask.
"Yes," Janeway nods. "I need to clear some things up and I can't do it from here."
"What about your posting on the Dauntless?" I ask.
Janeway shakes her head.
"Not important," she says. "I've turned it down."
Chakotay looks surprised.
"You didn't tell me that, Kathryn."
"I had Tuvok rely the message for me," the Captain says. "Chakotay, we've got to figure this out, okay? If I accept the posting on the Dauntless, who will fight for you?"
"We're quite capable of fighting our own battles."
"I know." Janeway reaches across the table to cover Chakotay's hand with her own. "But please, indulge me on this one. I need to see it through."
"In the meantime, I think we Maquis need to stay here."
are you talking about?" Janeway seems genuinely shocked by Chakotay's statement.
"I know you wanted to stay here permanently, but I thought you would come
to San Francisco with me to
find out what's going on."
Chakotay shakes his head. "According to the others, the political climate for the Maquis back on Earth is nothing short of homicidal. It may be best for all involved if you negotiate without the constant reminder of... our activities. I think our presence would only make it more difficult for you."
"What about B'Elanna?" I ask. After our recent misadventures, I have no intention of leaving B'Elanna behind; left to her own devices, I have no doubt she'll run off and join another Collective.
"B'Elanna included," Chakotay says flatly. His expression dares me to fight him, but I know that this is one battle I cannot win; unfortunately, when it comes to choosing between Chakotay and me, B'Elanna will always go with Chakotay. I can't explain how I know this - or even how much it hurts me - but there it is: the plain, unvarnished truth. And can I help it if I'm a little greedy? A little quality time with the wife isn't too much to ask, considering I'm a newly married man. But of course, given Janeway and Chakotay - and their complete lack of perception when it comes to anything mildly romantic - I have a feeling that my honeymoon with B'Elanna is going to have to wait a bit longer.
"I can't change your mind?" Janeway's voice is low, throaty, and uncomfortably seductive. I squirm a bit in my chair. Chakotay shakes his head. Janeway inhales deeply and then stabs a piece of vegetable with her fork.
"Maybe it's not as bad as you think it is," I put in. Chakotay glances at me.
"I'd like to be optimistic, Tom, but I also have to be realistic. We're better off staying here."
Janeway breathes in deeply again and then puts her fork down.
"The Doctor will remain here also, just in case," Janeway says. "Tom, I know you're disappointed; we'll come back for B'Elanna. Soon, I promise."
Her own tone drips with disappointment and not for the first time, I wonder if there is something more between the captain and her first officer.
I bite my lip. I understand what they are saying in theory, but in practicality, I don't know how I can leave B'Elanna. But then, I've always been real good at running away, so maybe this could be yet another opportunity to do what I excel at.
"If that's how you feel," I say. "If that's what would be best for everyone involved..."
"That's how I feel," Chakotay says defiantly.
"You do what you think best," Janeway says in that tone that says she's not finished with Chakotay yet; he knows it too but looks defiantly back at his former captain. It's amazing; reconciling the utterly calm Chakotay with his crazy outlaw friends has brought a bit of defiance and spark back to his demeanor. I like Chakotay this way; somehow, he looks more... alive.
I clear my throat.
"Did you have something to tell me?" I ask.
Janeway and Chakotay exchange a look, one more deep and telling than any of the million suggestive looks that passed between them over the past few years. I'd always wondered about those non-verbal communications of theirs. There were times too, when B'Elanna and I were at odds with each other, I envied the natural closeness between the Captain and her first officer; it was a relationship of mutual respect, deference and maybe, something more.
"About my father?" I persist. "You said you had something to tell me."
"Tom," the Captain leans forward, her hand moving off of Chakotay's and onto mine; now I know I'm in trouble. The Captain, always inclined to tactility, is even more touchy-feely when she's about to drop a bombshell. "Tom, I've got something to tell you."
I look at her, thinking maybe there is joke hidden beneath this uncharacteristic redundancy of hers.
"You don't have to protect me," I tell her. "It's worse if you try to sugarcoat whatever it is you're trying to tell me."
"Right," she says. And then for the third time, she says, "Tom, I've got something to tell you."
Tom listens carefully as I detail his father's betrayals; I use "betrayals," even though it's a rather harsh word and Tom noticeably winces when I say the word.
When I finish, Tom droops, his shoulders slumping, his head hanging down.
"Tom?" I ask softly. Next to me, Chakotay stirs uncomfortably in his chair.
"I'm sorry," Chakotay says.
"I know this is a shock to you. I was stunned by the revelation also," I say.
More silence. Tom simply sits; it's almost like he's deflated, all of the energy squeezed out of his body. I get up and cross the short distance between us. I put my hand on his shoulder and squeeze gently, but Tom shrugs off my touch.
"I don't need your comfort," he tells me shortly.
"Look, I know you've had some difficulty dealing with your father's death and this-"
"How would you know?" he challenges. "How would you know if I had difficulty and why would you care?"
"Tom," I say. "You know I care. I don't know why you would question that."
"I'm not questioning it; I'm only saying that you and Chakotay and everyone else, you all have kind words, appropriate words, but none of you truly know or understand what I feel. So don't say that you care because I don't know what you're caring about."
"That's not fair," Chakotay interjects.
"Aw, hell," Tom gets to his feet. "Who said anything was fair? If life had been fair, I wouldn't have had to cheat on an exam. If life were fair, no one would have died at Caldik Prime and most of all, if life had been fair, there would have been no Maquis. Am I right, Commander?"
"Okay, then, you're right," Chakotay says. "Life is not fair, but that's no reason for you to lash out at the Captain."
"It's okay," I tell Chakotay. "Tom, look, you've gone through a lot. I want to help you through it."
"Look who's talking," Tom says to Chakotay. "This is a woman who allowed herself to get assimilated by the Borg and when she returned, she did not even blink; she did not even think of the consequences of her actions."
"Why do you keep bringing it up?" I ask.
"You talk about helping me; you can't even help yourself." Disgust drips from Tom's voice and I shiver at the coldness in his blue eyes. "You don't even know the first thing about empathy."
"That's no way to talk to your captain," Chakotay says. My former first officer gets to his feet.
"Is she even still a captain? There seems to be some doubt about that," Tom retorts icily.
"That's enough!" Chakotay and Tom are now standing mere centimeters from each other, both of them looking as infuriated as I've ever seen them.
"I'm not done," Tom says.
"Oh yes you are," Chakotay answers.
I say quietly. My voice shakes, but I try to appear confident to them. Both
look at me. "Commander, if I could have a minute with Tom?"
"I'll be outside," Chakotay answers.
Tom and I stand in silence as Chakotay leaves. I take a deep breath, count to ten and then I speak.
"You have every right to be angry," I tell Tom. "With me, your father, with anyone you choose. You don't have the right to vent that anger in an unproductive manner."
"How do you suggest I vent that anger? Counseling sessions? Maybe I ought to lie on a couch and talk about my ambivalence for authority and my incorrigible nature brought on by a fierce need for attention from a distant and cold father. How does that sound? In fact, you could even sit right there and listen. I bet you'd like that. I bet you'd like to take your personal reclamation project one step further and eradicate my demons, real or imagined. How does that sound? You could even take the credit for the new, improved Tom Paris. I bet you'd like that."
"Sounds like you have a lot of anger," I say stupidly. You know, they don't really teach this kind of thing back in Starfleet Academy; it's definitely an on-the-job developed skill, and even after seven years of command, I still don't know how to reach out to Tom or B'Elanna or any of the others. Even Chakotay, whom I feel closest to, accuses me of remoteness.
I don't mean to be cold; I want to be fair. That's all I've ever wanted - to be a fair and good captain. Admittedly, I've had the loyalty of my crew for the last seven years, but whether I earned it or they gave it to me blindly - because that's the Starfleet way - I don't know.
I suppose there are questions you'll never know the answers to.
Maybe it's better that way.
"Tom?" I venture cautiously. "I'm sorry you feel that way."
"Yeah, you're sorry, I'm sorry, we're all sorry. Who even cares?"
"Don't use anger to push me away. Not now."
"How can you possibly understand what I'm going through?"
I admired your father. It shocked me when Chakotay told me what happened all
ago. I would never have guessed that Admiral Paris could be capable of doing such things."
"Well, I don't believe it," Tom says.
"Are you accusing Chakotay of lying?"
"I'm saying I'm not letting my father off that easily."
"I don't understand."
"All of my life, my father has been a shining paragon of virtue and duty. He never even had dust on his shoes, not even when he walked up the path to our front door. Even dirt stood in formation for Owen Paris. No, he would never do what you're accusing him of. Making a covert deal with the DMZ colonists against Starfleet's specific orders, no, that's too easy."
easy because it gives you a way to knock him down a few notches?" my tone
cruel, but Tom doesn't seem to notice.
"Yeah," he says softly. "I resented my father because he was so perfect. Perfect in every way and he wanted me to be just like him. I - Captain, I just wanted to be me. I know that sounds silly and maybe even somewhat juvenile, but I never really wanted a career in Starfleet. I don't even know that I wanted a career. Maybe all I wanted to do was drink synthale and shoot pool. What the hell is that matter with that?"
Tom holds up a hand.
"I know what the matter was," he says. "I'm Owen Paris' son. Owen Paris' son was going to be someone whether he wanted to be or not. So you see, I'm not letting Dad off that easy."
"You're going to have to, Tom."
"No - there's something more here."
"What do you intend to do?"
Tom looks at me. "I'll ask my mother."
There is something curiously appealing about a thirty-something Starfleet lieutenant looking for maternal reassurance even as his belief of what was dissolves into a blurry what is. You've got to seek your comfort somewhere and hell, in lieu of Chakotay, I'd go for my mother. But in Tom's case, I'm not sure that his mother is the best source of information or even comfort.
There's something about Anya Paris that makes me wonder if she knows anything about her husband's extracurricular activities. I have a faint memory of a reed-thin blond with large, round blue eyes and nervous hands. She spoke in low, carefully modulated tones; I doubt she ever raised her voice. Anya capably hosted the gatherings at the Paris home with quiet elegance, always carefully and conservatively dressed in black, a string of pearls - no doubt real - around her neck. Yet, for all of her efficiency, in our few meetings, I rarely got a feel for the woman; in some ways, she didn't really exist or if she did, she kept her real personality subservient to that artificiality so exalted in the high ranks of Starfleet admiralty.
"You think she'll know?" I ask very softly. Tom shrugs.
"I'm ready to go home," he says, carefully side-stepping the question. "It's been a long time."
He sighs. "You think it's true, Captain?"
"About your father? Yes. Chakotay has no reason to lie."
"Is that why he hated me?"
I look at him in surprise.
of my father?" Tom continues. His face takes on a pensive expression. "Chakotay
never liked me. That's not saying much either, since the Maquis, including B'Elanna,
hated me from the moment I showed up. Chakotay at least tried. I could still
feel his dislike, no matter how
he tried to suppress it and I thought, maybe if I could just prove myself... just once, maybe that would make all of the difference."
"Is that why you took that mission? The one when you surrendered?"
Tom looks at me in surprise; we have talked about many things in the past - Tom's short-lived career as an outlaw and his subsequent capture and incarceration, now those are topics we haven't touched. I suppose there are things you just don't mention out of consideration and maybe, he thought I didn't really know or remember what happened prior to his Voyager days.
"Maybe," he answers guardedly. "Doesn't matter. The deck was stacked against me anyway; my father made sure of that. No matter what he did, he made sure there'd always be some kind of block in my way. The Paris name is a curse."
"That's not true."
"And how would you know?"
"I wish you'd stop fighting me, Tom."
He looks at me, almost sadly.
"Yeah," he says. "Me too."
"Have you told B'Elanna?"
"No, not yet. I will."
I take a deep breath. "I am sorry, Tom."
"Not as sorry as I am," he says. "I still don't believe it. My father wouldn't go back on his word; it would be out of character for him."
"Something must have happened to him," Tom says stubbornly.
"Possibly," I agree.
"Or there's a mistake."
"There's that option also."
"Yeah," Tom says. "If you'll excuse me, Captain, I'd like to say good-bye to B'Elanna."
I nod and watch him leave. I sit down on the couch and breathe deeply, not even looking up when Chakotay reenters.
"I saw Tom," Chakotay says.
"Did it go all right once I was gone?"
"Fairly. He's angry. Really angry."
"That's to be expected."
Chakotay kneels in front of me, intertwining his fingers with mine.
"Are you angry with me?" he asks very softly.
"No. If anything, I'm angry at myself."
"Want to talk about it?"
"One day you're going to have to talk."
"Now you sound like me when I talk to Tom."
quirks a smile. "Ironic, isn't that? Maybe you should take your own advice
"Reconsider," I tell him. "Don't stay here. Come with me."
"You know I can't do that."
"Can't or won't?"
"My life is here."
"I need you."
Chakotay releases my hands. "You've never needed me, Kathryn. You only pretended to."
"That's not true. How many times do I have to apologize? I swear, all I've done since we've gotten home is apologize. I'm tired of it."
"So stop," Chakotay says calmly. "Stop apologizing. Do what you mean to do and do it with confidence, not regret."
"Easier said than done."
He puts his cool hands against my cheek and draws me in closer so that our foreheads touch; his skin is cold against mine.
"You take care of you," he says very quietly. "I can't do that for you. I've tried, Kathryn. So many times, I've tried-"
"So this is it?"
"Depends what you mean by that."
"Means you're putting a pretty big stamp of finality on us."
"That's where you're wrong," Chakotay releases my face and stands up. He takes a few steps and then turns to look back at me.
"There never was an us, Kathryn. Only you existed. Everyone else was convenient to you."
"That's not fair.
"But you don't deny it either."
I twist my hands together. "I do regret that. It's a hard lesson to learn, Chakotay."
"I know," he crouches in front of me. "But you're going to have to learn this one without me. I - I can't help you, no matter how much I want to."
I grip his shoulders tightly, but he doesn't react. After a few minutes, he disentangles himself gently from my desperate embrace.
"I'm going to check on the Delta Flyer. I need to check on something with Tuvok," he says. "Take your time."
And as he leaves, I'm so tempted to ask, so tempted, but dignity holds me back; the truth wounds and the last thing I need to know now is that Chakotay never cared.
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