Tom slammed his tray on the table as he sat down across from Chakotay, who glanced up and groaned inwardly. He had a feeling he knew what this was about and that he was likely deserving of much of the wrath Tom was about to throw his way.

"Paris?" Chakotay inwardly cursed himself for sounding so smug.

"Commander," Tom sneered.

Chakotay opened his mouth to inquire what he owed this visit to, but Tom preempted him.

"Next time you decide to wander in on someone else's holoprogram, try to have the decency to play along. We weren't really in the mood to be your entertainment."

"Tom, I'm sorry. I was sincerely interested, but you're right, I -"

"Look, if you have questions about it, ask Harry. It's his program." Tom looked down at his food. "Ugh, why am I even trying to eat this?" he muttered. "If you'll excuse me, Commander." He said as he took his leave.

Chakotay sighed and put his head in his hands. He hadn't seen Tom that angry in a long time. Nor had he found himself so confused by the man in years. While there was still tension between them periodically, Chakotay felt they had been making strides in their working and social relationship, but the tone of today's events mystified him.

Thinking back to last night he understood why Tom would be angry. Walking in on someone else's holoprogram and then sticking around was definitely not good form. That said, Chakotay had been expecting to wander into Sandrine's. When he walked into a dance club instead, he just presumed there was a new program in the group rotation and decided to wander around.

It was Harry he noticed first, presumably dancing in some beat up clothes. Honestly it looked more like a Klingon martial exercise than anything else. Whatever it was Chakotay could understand its value as a stress release, even if it seemed quite incongruous, especially coming from Harry. No one really thought of Harry as anything other than an eager kid. That was a caricature, and an unfair one at that. Even so, this had the predictable aura of Harry trying too hard.

Harry didn't notice him, and Chakotay continued to wander through the club, in an effort to see who else was around and get a handle on just what this place was. He understood it in concept, but the music and theme were unfamiliar to him. He suspected it was something very particular to its creator, just as Sandrine's was a part of Tom's life before Voyager. Well, before a lot of things.

Seeing much of anything was hard between the darkness, smoke and lights. The smoke in particular bothered Chakotay; he felt his throat tighten between people smoking cigarettes (he thought that an odd detail) and the machines that generated it for atmosphere.

He got to the back of the club and leaned up against the bar. The light was slightly better here, but all he saw were holocharacters, in uniformly black garb with intricate face makeup. It was an arresting look, but if he stared at anyone too long they squinted at him and looked away. Chakotay did not feel comfortable here.

It was then that he noticed Tom walking purposely across the club. Chakotay looked over his outfit. Sleek black pants with leather boots, a white billowy shirt with impressive cuffs that looked directly out of one of Kathryn's holonovels worn under a leather topcoat also of similar origin. It looked good, but Chakotay winced for thinking that. Tom and leather were definitely two things he didn't exactly approve of. He chuckled to himself and shook his head, which is when Tom saw him.

Chakotay watched as Tom slowed his pace and turned his head towards him. He could just make out Tom's eyes rimmed in black. For just a second Tom looked unsure of himself, seemed to become younger for a moment, as he bit the corner of his bottom lip as he tried to figure out what to do. Then he squinted, and his lips thinned. He stared pointedly at Chakotay, who realized that had they been closer to each other, he would have seen Tom's eyes change shade. They did that when he was angry, no matter how much he tried to hold the rest of his features in a mask.

Chakotay blinked, and Tom was gone. He thought he glimpsed his hair amongst the crowd dancing but wasn't sure. He started to walk back towards the arch, when he caught sight of B'elanna in a black evening gown, dancing slowly in a corner following her upraised and intricately moving hands around in a circle. Chakotay was surprised when she smiled at him and then followed her gaze towards the dance floor. There was Tom, dancing with both more grace and more ferocity than Harry. Tom knew he was being watched and with his motions, he was speaking. Chakotay lowered his eyes; he knew he shouldn't be there, and left.

Chakotay rubbed his eyes and looked up. Harry had joined him.

"Hi," the ensign said.

Chakotay couldn't help but smile. While Harry was still as nervous around him as ever, he knew how and when to dispense with formality these days. It was something Chakotay appreciated immensely.

"I saw you talking to Tom," Harry continued.

Chakotay nodded. "Could you tell me about it? Your program. I understand why he's angry, but I don't understand why he's this angry."

"That's why I'm here; it's certainly not for this," Harry said, pointing at the iridescent blob on his plate.

Chakotay nodded for him to begin.

"It's from the last years of the 20th century. It's not really Tom's thing, he likes the early stuff, sillier, lighter, but you know that. Things weren't okay even in a pretend way, by the 1980s and 90s. Everyone thought about death all the time. There was the nuclear threat," Harry paused, checking for recognition in Chakotay's eyes. "Then diseases. People thought the world would end. The changing of the calendar was making people crazy, and the technology wasn't doing so well either. Space exploration was going nowhere fast. People were frustrated. And hope came in the form of superstition, praying for the end of the world. And everyone who wasn't buying into that, either because they were too smart or too cynical or just too into the really weird nonsense the economy was doing, well they were obsessing on the same themes anyway with satire and rage at everyone who had turned everything upside down. People were bored. Nothing seemed new."

Harry paused, slightly embarrassed by the timbre of his speech.

Chakotay just nodded by way of encouragement.

"What you saw last night, it was called Goth. The look, the clothes you saw us in, the music. It was just Tom and B'elanna and I. Dancing is what I do not to think about things, actually the program as a whole, because if I were there then, I wouldn't be here now, no one really went into space then."

Chakotay nodded.

Harry continued, "And B'elanna with all this fucking chaos around her, just uses it to relax, she gets so serene it's weird, I'm not really sure what's that about; although she's probably just thinking about engineering anyway. I think Tom likes the clothes, or it's something to do at least, some way to disappear, but you'd have to ask him, he just kinda tags along and wanders around, flirts with the holocharacters." Harry shrugged. "That's what it was about then too, these kids dressing up in weird clothes not looking like everyone else, it was so they wouldn't have to participate in the world at large, no one would let them, they'd just make stupid remarks, spit at them, stare. For a while there was even this big scare about the Goths being killers or evil or whatever. Just lonely kids, who liked to dance, and laugh at the things that were terrifying everyone else. Actually, that's probably too deep. You know, something to do. I make too much of it. I don't think there were really very many of them. But it sure is a change of pace from life around here."

Harry smiled and Chakotay smiled back at him, wanting to reassure the young man, who was looking increasingly chagrinned by his rant.

"Thank you, Ensign. Would you tell Tom I'm sorry? I'll apologize to him myself, of course, but I don't know when he'll listen to me. Clearly this had a bit more weight than a game of pool."

"I'd like to think, but it probably didn't. It's an excuse for Tom to get angry. Just because he doesn't as much, anymore, doesn't mean he's not." Harry wondered if he was saying too much, but he didn't think it would hurt for Chakotay to have more information. Tom had always wanted this man's understanding, and yet gone out of his way to make sure he provided no clues to help make that happen. "Look, if you want to come sometime, Commander, please do, we try to get some time for it a couple of times a week. Just don't wear your uniform. Black will do. I'll smooth things over with Tom."

"Thank you, Harry. But I should probably hold off on that until Tom calms down. Plus, I'm not much of a dancer."

Harry couldn't picture the Chakotay dancing either, but stifled the urge to say something flip about it. "I understand." He nodded and rose. "See you on the bridge."

Chakotay smiled wearily and nodded. It was always something.

* * *

"Hey Commander, if you're joining us later you'd better change."

Chakotay looked up to see Tom in his leather and lace again rushing past him, presumably towards the holodeck. Chakotay caught the grin on Tom's face, a bit too sly to really be considered indicative of a good mood and spluttered for something to say. "We'll see about that, Mr. Paris," he called back to him. It was the best he could come up with. Chakotay shrugged and muttered to himself, "Guess, I've been forgiven." Still, he felt uneasy, suspecting this subject's volatility had not yet burned itself out, and realizing that he was now obligated to check in on Harry's program later. He sighed. He just knew Kathryn was going to eventually get a good laugh at his expense out of this. Actually, he wondered if this particular activity had crossed her radar yet. There wasn't any reason she should really care, but she was close to Tom in a way no one else was (or understood, come to think of it) and Chakotay absently wondered if they had discussed it, if only from a costuming point of view. He smiled to himself. Voyager was a strange little family indeed.

As Chakotay finished filling his tray, Kathryn motioned him over to her table.

"How is it?" he asked sitting down and gesturing to her food.

"I think I'd be better off if I just decided to go vegetarian."

Chakotay grimaced at his food and shook his head. "Don't be too sure. This smells like a hot, steaming, soggy plate of," he paused, "licorice. I don't know about you, but it doesn't sound like a good idea to me."

She chuckled and smiled at him kindly as he took a bite. "So what's on your agenda tonight?" she asked as she poked at her own food.

"Reports, reports, some other reports. I'm supposed to drop in on Harry and Tom's latest holoprogram fixation too."

Kathryn raised her eyebrows. "Good to see you making nice, Commander," she said with thinly disguised amusement.

Chakotay looked slightly abashed. "Am I really that difficult?"

"Yes," Kathryn said with amused enthusiasm. Then she patted his hand. "At least where Tom is concerned. Well, and where socializing is concerned too. It amazes me that you have siblings. You spend so much time alone, you seem like an only child to me."

"Having siblings is precisely why I spend time alone, Kathryn," he said with a chuckle.

"You miss them don't you?"

"Yeah. This isn't what I ever pictured for a family life. My Maquis ship was family. We had to be, to survive, to do what we had to do. We were bonded by that, more or less, but it was about our natural families too. But this, well, I wouldn't have imagined. But again, we do what we have to," he paused. "Of course, you more than know this."

Kathryn tried to lighten the mood again, but didn't exactly succeed when she said, "Yup, married to my damn ship."

Chakotay realized there was nothing he could do but smile sympathetically at her.

Kathryn waved him off. "Don't worry about it. Why don't you go get ready? Do you know what you're going to wear yet?" She chuckled as she watched the emotions play across Chakotay's face.

"So you do know about this?" he asked with a lot of laughter and a little bit of outrage.

She nodded smugly. "Tom invited me once, knowing my penchant for dress up. I'm not much for dancing though. Or smoke."

Chakotay tried not to look at her sideways, but whenever she mentioned Tom, it was always a bit mysterious to him. They had the strangest relationship and right now he had the distinct impression that she had more information than he did about what he was in store for this evening. "I should go get ready, huh?"

She just smiled and nodded.

"I'm stalling aren't I?"

"Get a move on, Commander," she said in that dryly, bemused way that let him know this conversation was over.

Smiling and shaking his head, he rose to clear his tray and head back to his cabin. He had to have something to wear.

Chakotay was not enjoying his walk to the holodeck. While he wasn't dressed particularly unusually in the scheme of things, he knew he looked intimidating as hell, in his black pants, black turtleneck and knee high boots. He got a couple of glances but he was doing his best to look far too busy to acknowledge them. This was not his usual off duty fare.

He checked to see who was in the holodeck - Tom, Harry and B'elanna again, and on the list of other admitable guests he found himself, and to his amusement, but not surprise, Kathryn. Taking a deep breath, he entered and as the door closed behind him, waited for his eyes to adjust and locate his fellow officers.

Not seeing anyone immediately he decided to take the same route through the program as last time, skirting the dance floor and walking along the side wall to the bar in back. He took his time observing the holocharacters, and noticed he was getting a distinctly different reaction from them this time. Admiration and sidelong glances replaced the squints and sneers he had endured last time. Chakotay suspected that if he stopped at the bar, he would be rapidly engaged in conversation, but he wasn't quite ready for that. Circling towards the back he noticed B'elanna who smiled approvingly and looked him up and down a few times. Funny woman. Must be the boots. She put her hands on her hips and grinned then, and Chakotay realized he should probably go say hi.

"Glad you decided to show up," she said.

"Well, after everything, I could hardly refuse an actual invitation. You look lovely, by the way."

"As do you, and thank you. Now that you've paid your respects go find the boys; I want to dance, and I suspect you don't."

Chakotay chuckled and left her to it before she tried to make him join in. Now to find Harry and T-

He didn't have time to finish the thought as Tom had already found him, grabbed his wrist and was leading him towards some couches in the back of the club.

"Talk time," Tom said in an almost child-like singsong. Chakotay thought it best to just run with it, even if Tom's hand was still clenched around his wrist.

Tom flopped down on the black velvet couch with one of his legs crossed under him and he motioned for Chakotay to do the same. They sat there, Tom draped over most of the couch, and Chakotay leaning back into the other corner, for a moment. Finally Tom started to speak and Chakotay exhaled in relief. He had been afraid that encouraging Tom to start talking even a moment before he was ready would have altered what the man had to say to him, and Chakotay was very curious to see how things stood without his further interference.

It took him a few moments to realize he couldn't hear a goddamn thing Tom was saying because the music was so loud.

"Tom, it's so loud in here, I can't actually hear you."

Tom mumbled something, sat up, scooted closer to Chakotay and pulling one leg up under himself leaned into the back of the sofa and one of the older man's shoulders. Chakotay had thought he'd just turn the music down, he definitely didn't expect to feel the man's breath on his face.

"Sorry, I forget everyone can't lip read."

Chakotay looked at him quizzically.

"It's a useful skill when you're busy being a troubled teen, trust me." Tom shrugged.

Chakotay smiled. "So you've forgiven me?" Chakotay noticed he distinctly didn't sound charming.

"More or less," Tom shrugged again. "You get points for showing up."

"So you want to tell me about it?"

"I thought you spoke with Harry."

"I did, but that was Harry, not you."

"Are you playing counselor with me?"

"As much as I can in these boots." He shrugged.

Tom let out a low whistle.

Chakotay chuckled.

"Okay, fine," Tom said with a bit of petulance and some literal hand wringing.

Chakotay gave him a look that was almost bemused, but not.

"Harry's such a pain in the ass, you know? He's my best friend but - he gave you some long dreadful speech didn't he?"

"It wasn't that dreadful, but yeah."

"Okay, see it's like this. This is what 1980 something, 1990 something? Okay, now if Harry was in that time, he'd basically do what he does now. He'd be an engineer. Not on stuff like this, sure, but he'd be on that cutting edge. His life, other than being stuck on this damn ship wouldn't be that different. So he makes this program so he can pretend that's the case, invites me along, you know, since I love the fucking 20th century. Sure, why not. Here's the fucking thing though, you want to know what my life would be like then? Nonexistent. Hardly any space travel - something like 20 out of 30,000 who applied annually accepted, and not even all of them get to go up. And then what do they do? They orbit the earth. Oh, that's exciting right? And to be a pilot, well you've got to be military. Me? Right. First I couldn't even be a goddamn test pilot, because, get this, I would have been too tall for the jets then. But let's say I could have done that, you think anything would have happened to me other than I get pissed off over some bullshit and I take off with one of those babies and fly her right into the side of a mountain? Yeah, so this is some great escapism for me. More like acceptable fucking wallowing. Which is why you staring at me like more of a fucking wacko than usual the other day went over oh so well."

"Then why did you want me here now?"

"So maybe you'd get it for a change. I knew you wouldn't figure it out on your own."

And with that the standard Tom was back. No more fidgeting, and clearly no more revelations.

Chakotay had no idea what to do next. "I can be pretty dense sometimes, huh?"

"Yeah, at least when it comes to me." Tom smirked. "You seem to follow instructions pretty well though," he said gesturing towards Chakotay's outfit.

"Ha ha ha, Mr. Paris," Chakotay said with a clearly unamused smile.

"Oooo, I've found a button, interesting. I'll have to ponder this. If you'll excuse me, Commander I'm off to dance."

Chakotay watched the man get up and envied his grace. As he moved off to dance, he thought about what Tom had said. The Paris anger was fully in evidence, but so was a sadness he hadn't really considered before. Was Tom indicating a suicidal streak, or just venting? It was hard for him to tell, but he knew he had to consider it carefully before coming to a conclusion. He sighed. Tom was consistently the most frustrating person he knew, and the more information he had, the more at a loss he was. As much as he didn't want to, and he wasn't sure why that was, he knew he should really ask Kathryn for her insight.

His thought process was interrupted by the ship being jolted and the red alert siren going off. Someone ended the program and he and his fellow officers were all rushing to the turbo lift. Some small part of his brain registered the constant stream of expletives Tom was muttering and B'elanna pausing to rip her dress to an above the knee length so she could take a Jeffries tube to engineering.

As Chakotay and Tom entered the turbo lift and asked for the bridge, Tom turned to the older man and said "You know, I thought Harry was going to have to carry her for a moment."

Chakotay laughed, and glanced at Tom, who was pacing back and forth and reflexively opening and closing his hands. Just as the pilot smiled nervously back at him the ship was hit with another jolt and the turbolift went still and dark.

"Dammit!" Chakotay slammed his fist into the wall.

Tom hissed in response and immediately commed the bridge to let them know of their situation. Chakotay simultaneously commed engineering.

"Chakotay to Engineering."

"Go ahead,"

"Tom and I are stuck in the turbolift."

"As soon as things stop shooting at us, I'll get right on it, Commander."

"Noted, Chakotay out." He paused.

"Well, at least I don't have to show up on the bridge in eyeliner now," Tom joked, although he was clearly disappointed to be missing the action.

"Is that what that display of curse words was about?"

"No, that was about something shooting at us."

Chakotay couldn't help but chuckle. There wasn't much else he could do from here, after all, other than continue pacing.

"Commander, sit down, you're making me nervous."

"You're sure that's not whatever's shooting at us," Chakotay said taking a seat.

"See, you are good at following instructions."

Chakotay sighed and leaned his head against his knees.

Tom kept silent.

Chakotay got up and started pacing again.

"Can you please not do that?"

"Why?" Chakotay was starting to get snappish.

"Because it reminds me that we're stuck in here, and I can only deal with this by not being reminded of that."

"Claustrophobic?" Chakotay asked with a smirk.

"Yes, actually." Tom bit off.

"Oh. Sorry."

"Yeah well.."

"How come?"

"You don't want to know any more than I want to talk about it."

Chakotay stopped in his tracks.

Tom was thankful for the dark.

"Tom - "

"No, not now - "

"Tom - " Chakotay tried to sound gentle.

"NO! We may be stuck in here, but Voyager is the priority. Pry into my fucking shit later, Commander. This is not the time."

Chakotay leaned his head against the turbo lift door. "Alright, Mr. Paris." Chakotay sighed. Damn, Tom was frustrating.

* * *

They'd been stuck in the turbo lift for over two hours before B'Elanna

came to rescue them and provide a lengthy lecture on the virtue of

Jeffries tubes. By then Voyager was out of danger from what Kathryn later

described as heavily armed mosquitoes. The incident had shaken the crew

none the less and no one was happy about the resultant repairs now

required. Tom was upset he hadn't been at the helm and was clearly sullen

about the strange course the evening's events had wound up taking.

Chakotay, for all his increasing curiosity had to put the matter out of

his mind for the immediate. No one would be spending much time on the

holodeck for several days. He figured that by then Tom would cool off

from whatever had transpired in that turbolift. If that cooling off would

give him an opportunity to ask him about it later and actually receive an

answer, he wasn't sure. And while he wasn't convinced he was up to the

responsablity of getting an answer, he couldn't not ask; it was in his

nature. It was also clear to him, even if it wasn't to Tom, that Tom wanted to be asked.

As their duty shift ended, Chakotay approached Kathryn.

"Captain, may I speak with you for a moment?"

"I was just heading to the mess hall, care to join me?"

"Certainly, but I need a moment in private first."

They both caught Tom looking at them as they walked to Kathryn's ready

room and he dissapeared into the turbolift.

Kathryn gestures for her first officer to sit down, as she leaned against

her desk.

"What can I do for you Chakotay?"

"Um, this might seem a little odd. Captain, is Tom, claustrophobic?"

Kathryn paused, cocked her head and narrowed her eyes. She was clearly


"That sounds like one for the Doctor."

"It's an unofficial query, Captain. I know you're close. We had," he

paused, "we had an interesting conversation, during the attack the other

day, that I wanted to follow up on, but, well, I thought it would be best

if I had more information."

Kathryn walked to the couch and sat down next to him. She looked at him

for a long moment, hoping he'd make eye contact with her. When she

realized he wasn't going to, she asked quietly "what happened in the


Chakotay ran his hands over his face. "When we got stuck, I started

pacing. He asked me to stop, which I did, briefly, but then I went back

to it. I asked him why it bothered him so much. He said he needed not to

think about our being stuck to deal with it. I made a dumb joke that

didn't go over too well. When I tried to get more information, he lashed

out. You know, old Tom. But," he sighed. "I don't know Kathryn, it was

strange. It was the second time that night he got really vulnerable and

almost confessional around me, and then it just snapped off. And I don't

know what that means or what it's about or what I'm supposed to do next,

but it's clear he wants me to do something." He looked at Kathryn then,

who was almost smiling and yet seemed sad.

"Tom would be pleased to know he stumped the counselor."

"Kathryn -- " Chakotay stood up and started pacing. "Just tell me if I

should be worried about him."

She shook her head sadly. "Just be his friend."

Chakotay sighed. "Alright. I'm sorry, by the way, to put you in this


"What position?"

"Well, I know you're -- "

"Yes, we're close Chakotay. I've known Tom a long time. Since he was a

boy, really. He's a good man, and so are you." She got up, walked

over to him and patted his arm. "I know he makes us both crazy sometimes,

but don't look for a plot in this. Trust me."

Chakotay nodded, then looked up and smiled. "Dinner?"

"To the mess hall," Kathryn said, taking the lead.

Tom waived them over to his table. Chakotay pointedly tried not to look

at Kathryn as they headed over there, but he caught a smile on her face.

"Hello, Tom," she said warmly.

"Tom," Chakotay said quietly.

Tom shot him a puzzled look and then nodded to both of them.

"So Captain, you are going to join us on the holodeck eventually, right?

I mean, I even talked the Commander here into it."

Kathryn looked from one man to the other, smiling at both of them. "Maybe

the next one. Any idea what your future projects are going to be?"

"Don't know, anything you want me to cook up?"

"Better food?" Chakotay deadpanned.

"Sorry, not my department." Tom shrugged and smiled.

"I know -- " she began.

Chakotay watched the grin spread over Kathryn's face.

"Two ideas, in fact. First, we need some sort of formal setting, for

celebrations -- holidays and such nonsense. People like dressing up."

Tom grimaced. "That's why I have the club."

Kathryn just raised her eyebrow in a very Tuvok-like gesture. "Mr. Paris, I know your father dragged you to enough such functions that you can do a

splendid job on something a little more... accessible."

He rolled his eyes and nodded.

"And the other idea," Chakotay prompted.

"Early space travel. I know more than a few people around here who would

be absolutely rivetted." She winked at Chakotay then.

"Trying to keep him out of trouble, Captain?" Tom asked.

"Something like that," she said getting up and clearing her tray. "I'll

see you gentlemen later."

"Reports?" Chakotay asked.

"Reports, reports and some other reports," she said as she left, smirking

all the way.

"Are you two planning a mutiny?"

Tom and Chakotay looked up from their padds and conspirational discussion

and smiled at B'Elanna.

"What are you guys doing?"

"Working on ideas for a new holoprogram," Tom said, going back to his


"The captain suggested a few constructive projects for the pilot here,"

Chakotay said as Tom shot him a pointed look.

"Actually, B'Elanna, I think the captain is trying to keep her first

officer here out of trouble."

"By working with you?" B'Elanna asked Tom incredulously as she took a seat

next to Chakotay.

"Well, mother knows best," Tom said obnoxiously, not looking up.

Chakotay shot him a warning look as B'Elanna stifled a giggle.

"What is it?" she asked around a mouthful of food.

"A series of early space travel related simms. She figured lots of people

around here would get a kick out of it," Chakotay said.

"And be inspired," Tom said, still face first in his padd.

"So she still doesn't want to go dancing with us, huh?"

"More or less," Tom mumbled and then passed the padd to Chakotay.

He glanced over it, smiled, added some notes and handed it back, turning

once again to B'Elanna.

"We're actually going to head to the holodeck soon to work on it, if you'd

care to join us."

Tom shot B'Elanna a quick puppydog look.

"Sorry, don't think so. Voyager's the only woman I need."

Tom muttered something about Seven's breasts. B'Elanna kicked him under

the table, hard. Chakotay just raised his eyebrows and looked back and

forth between the two of them.

"From an engineering standpoint, they're interesting," B'Elanna said,

making an unceremonious exit.

Chakotay bit the inside of his cheek until she left and then

started laughing uncontrollably.

"Easy there, big man. I do not want the captain holding me responsible

for any harm that may befall you during this project."

Chakotay paused and looked at Tom. They'd just killed about two hours

talking about the new program and laughing. He thought now might be a

good time to bring up the turbolift incident.

As if seeing these thoughts play across his commander's face, Tom rose and

announced it was time to bring their planning to the holodeck.

Chakotay rubbed his face as he followed Tom out of the mess hall, knowing

some sort of confrontation was inevitable this evening.

Chakotay lay on his back in the middle of the holodeck with his arm flung

over his face. Tom was working on perfecting various minutiae of the

insides of an early prototype Mars transport.

"Tom, is this why you're always the last one to arrive in the mornings?"

"If you're tired Commander, I'm more than happy to keep at this on my own.

I'm on a roll."

"Where on earth do you get so much energy?" Chakotay asked sitting up.

Tom shrugged.

"Were you like this as a kid?" Chakotay asked, thinking he saw and


"Sorta," he mumbled, playing around with a flight control console.

Chakotay decided to try something. "I'm waiting," he said with mock

annoyance and a sly grin.

Tom looked up at him and smiled. Chakotay in turn wondered how many times

Tom had bestowed that look on someone and gotten exactly what he wanted.

Tom's charm was as irrefutable as both his brilliance and his status as

the biggest pain in the ass on the ship.

"Yeah, I was. Ran around, knocked balls through neighbors' windows, fell

out of trees. You know, the usual. Admiral's son and what not. All

around athlete, prodigy and annoying little shit was sorta a basic

requirement." Tom chuckled.

"Was it hard?" Chakotay's voice was soft.

"Of course it was hard." Tom's voice had a sight edge and impatience to

it, as if Chakotay was some sort of moron. "Childhood is hard. I wanted

to kill Kathryn," Tom caught himself, "uh, the Captain, for needling me

about those damn Star Fleet formal events earlier."

Chakotay tried not to let his surprise show in his face. "For me,

childhood was only as hard as I made it on myself," Chakotay said calmly.

Tom flinched and knocked a padd off the console. Bending down to get it,

he banged his head on the corner as he got up.

"Ow! fuck!"

Chakotay was on his feet instantly. "Are you okay?"

"Fine," Tom managed through clenched teeth. "Just let me breathe through


Tom sat down on the floor with his head resting against his knees and his

hand holding the right side of his head just above the neck.

"Tom, let me take a look," Chakotay murmurred as he dropped to his knees

beside him.

"It's nothing, just give me a minute."

"Tom, please --"

"No, Commander --"

Chakotay felt his breath catch in his throat as Tom looked up at him. It

was clear the pilot didn't want to be seen like this.

"Tom, just let me take a look, make sure it's not bleeding," Chakotay

said, reaching out to pull Tom's hand away from the injury. He hissed.

"You are bleeding, quite a bit, we need to go to sick bay. Are you okay

walking or do you want to beam there?"

"I'll walk," Tom said, covering the wound again with his already bloody


Halfway down the hallway, Tom bobbled and then leaned against the wall for

support. When his eyelids fluttered for a moment, Chakotay requested a

direct beam for them to sick bay. A head wound, after all, was a head


"Will he be alright?"

"Yes, Commander, although I'll want him to spend the night here as a precaution. Between the late hour and the injury, he's not going anywhere anyway."

"Thank you Doctor."

"Mr. Paris is an absurdly accident prone young man. I would appreciate you keeping a more careful eye on him when you're off duty together."

Chakotay nodded and filed that away, with the other scraps he had gleaned about Tom this evening. When he was less exhausted he would put it in order and make sense of it. Right now, he just wanted to sleep.

Casting a glance at the unconscious Tom and shaking his head, he left sick bay.

Chakotay lay awake in bed musing. Until the accident it had been a surprisingly nice evening. Both of them absorbed in a mutual obsession, leaving little room for arguing about their past animosities. It puzzled Chakotay that Tom should suddenly be in his path during so much of his off duty time. It was certainly not something he would ever have predicted or wanted. Their growing friendship was something else Chakotay would have to make time to consider. It, and navigating the maze that was Tom, had kept him preoccupied lately.

"Ugh. I am never going to get any sleep," he said sitting up and throwing the covers off. "Computer, time."

"The time is 03:27."

Chakotay moaned. He had to get some sleep before his next duty shift.

Having walked into sick bay to get a sedative, he was startled to see Kathryn sitting on Tom's biobed. Tom's head was in her lap, and she was stroking his hair gently. Chakotay was frozen in place. He couldn't leave; he knew he shouldn't stay, and he had no idea if he should say anything at all.

"Chakotay," she almost whispered to him.

"Kathryn," he said still not moving.

She nodded for him to come closer. He was relieved to see Tom was still asleep.

"I take it you heard about the accident," he said thinking that sounded incredibly stupid.

She nodded. "This must seem very strange."

"It's not my business."

"No, but you're my friend. And increasingly, you're his." She sighed and looked at the sleeping man again. Easing his head off her lap, she stood up, turning from Chakotay for a moment to make sure Tom was comfortable. He moaned softly in his sleep, and she headed towards the Doctor's office.

"Doctor, may we borrow your office for a moment?"

"Of course, Captain."

The Doctor shut himself off and Chakotay and Kathryn entered. She nodded towards the chair. "Sit." Chakotay did, absently wondering if this was some sort of bizarre dream.

"I've known Tom since he was about eight, maybe a little younger. I knew his father, who, I must confess, I got along with quite well. He was something of a role model to me. At least I wanted him to be. I saw Tom at various 'fleet functions, and at the house, the few times I was there." She sighed and paused. "I really don't feel good about telling you this. I was hoping he'd tell you himself."

"Kathryn, I -"

She held her hand up, silencing him, and continued. "I knew Tom's father was brutal on him. But it wasn't really my business. I was young. He was an admiral, and I'd be lying if I said Tom wasn't a difficult child. I don't know what I thought. That it was merely a matter of discipline? Rules? Just a couple of screaming matches. Nothing great, but nothing impossible. Tom was brilliant. The type of child you'd accidentally talk to as an adult, and then realize how strange that seemed. So I'm at the house one day, some garden party 'fleet function. I don't see Tom anywhere, which is unusual, as Owen would always trot him out at these things. Then I realize I don't see Owen either. Maybe he's attending to some business in the house. I'm wandering around, I couldn't even tell you why now, and I hear low voices, arguing. And then I hear a whine, muffled, like a wounded animal. I come up along one side of the house, and I see Owen -" She paused and put a hand to her lips. "I see Owen, leaning over Tom, yelling at him for god only knows what. And he's twisted Tom's arm behind his back, and his other hand is over Tom's mouth, and -" Another pause. "I saw him break Tom's arm."

All the breath left Chakotay's body as if he'd been kicked.

"He was ten."

"What did you do?"

"Well, Owen just left him there, walked away. Tom was dead silent, arm hanging strangely. I went over to him and started to speak. He made a gesture for me to be quiet. He said. he said, if I told, I'd have to go away. I must have spluttered a billion things, how I could help him, his father, take him away from there, I don't know. But he just stopped me. 'My father's an admiral. Help me by not leaving.' And he smiled at me then, in a cold icy way. You know the smile. Anyway, I brought Tom inside, to his mother, and said he fell out of a tree, and helped her knit the bone so it would hold through the party. So I lied, to protect Tom's father, because it was the only way I could protect this smart little boy. His mother, bless her heart, knew I had lied, and I surmise, understood why. When I was in San Francisco, and Owen was away, she'd invite me to the house. I was, for what I still consider a cowardly act, an ally. So I watched Tom grow up from time to time, and corresponded with him at the Academy. When Caldik Prime happened, I blamed Owen and I blamed myself for Owen. Tom disappeared. He wouldn't return my letters, and I'm sure now, from what he's told me, few of them ever reached him. After he was arrested, I actually let myself wonder if maybe Owen was somehow right, I was so angry and horrified. That did nothing to assuage my guilt either. Neither did getting him out of Aukland. But I owed him that much. When he came on board, we met in my ready room, and he tried to be tough and angry as we discussed why he was here, and then he just cried and cried. I have failed him so many times, Chakotay. The best thing that's ever happened to him is getting stuck out here, and that's my fault, in every horrible way."

"Kathryn -"

"If I do anything right in this life, Chakotay, it should be for him. What's ironic, is getting us home, what I think about day and night, what I know we could not do without him, will be terrible for him. That I'm so hard on him when he's a fuckup, I don't even know what that is. But I am responsible to him like my own, and he lets me, because I'm the only one here who knows."

She had tears rolling down her face now. Chakotay got up and held her, making quiet, calming noises.

"You did the only things you could. The only things you knew how. Don't underestimate the value of your loyalty. I know how much it means to me. I can only imagine what it means to Tom."

She smiled weakly and stepped away from him.

"I've been trying to get him to tell you. Being close to you is important to him."

"I know, I'm beginning to understand that, although I feel like I'm missing a great deal of information there. I'm also realizing, he's been trying to tell me. I promise I'll wait for him to. Alright?"

She nodded. "I'm going to go check on him."

"Alright. I'll see you on the bridge tomorrow."

Chakotay left sickbay, his sedative forgotten. He'd never seen Kathryn like that, and had never imagined things were that bad between Tom and his father. It made him heartsick for all of them.

Chakotay ran his hands over his face for what was probably the 200th time that shift. Where he got the habit, he wasn't sure, but if he was stressed or tired, or as in this case, both, he knew it was something he could and would do endlessly. He cast a glance over to Kathryn to see if she noticed. No, of course not, They were both expending lots of energy on looking at the back of Tom's head, rather than having to meet each others eyes.

As the shift ended, Chakotay found himself virtually leaping out of his seat to catch Tom before he got in the turbolift. Tom raised half and eyebrow and almost looked annoyed.

"I was wondering if you wanted to join me for dinner later," Chakotay asked.

"Still want to hang out after that little spectacle last night?" Tom asked.

Great, Chakotay thought, we're back to the same old nonsense. "I was hoping for more entertainment," he countered.

Tom snorted. "Not dinner. Dancing, later."

Chakotay nodded. Katherine had told Tom something, he was sure of it.