Out of the Ruins
November 1998
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What do I do to make you want me
What have I got to do to be heard
What do I say when it's all over
And sorry seems to be the hardest word

"I'm not your whore!" Tom said hotly.  is voice held a deep wound that Chakotay hadn't heard in months, but when he looked in Tom's eyes, there was nothing there. The blue eyes were devoid of emotion. Tom had already shut Chakotay out.

Chakotay wished he could take the words back he had so inelegantly uttered in exasperated anger just moments ago. There had been a shocked silence from both of them at his words and then Tom had bitten into him with white-hot denial.

"It's amazing, isn't it?" Tom's voice was quieter now, under control, flat and toneless. Not a good sign, Chakotay knew.

"What is?" Chakotay reluctantly asked.

"Us. Together. Off and on for the past year. You still have your own separate life. I have mine. We've been coworkers. Lovers. Even companions at times. But never  friends. We don't share secrets. We don't trust. We don't commit to one another. Our relationship is based on nothing concrete. I'm just a convenient bedwarmer when it suits your needs." Tom leaned in close, near enough that Chakotay had only to lean forward slightly and their lips would brush.

Voice harsh, eyes cold as blue ice, Tom said in a gentle tone that betrayed none of his hurt, "I am not your whore, Chakotay. Enough is enough. Go find a quick fuck somewhere else. We're finished." Quickly grabbing up his few possessions that had managed to find their way to Chakotay's quarters, Tom quietly slipped away.

Chakotay finally found his voice as the door was sliding closed behind the other man's exit. "Tom." It was a broken plea that fell on deaf ears.

It's sad, so sad
It's a sad, sad situation
And it's getting more and more absurd
It's sad, so sad
Why can't we talk it over
Oh it seems to me
That sorry seems to be the hardest word

Paris slipped into the refuge of his quarters and slid down the wall next to the door to crumple into a forlorn heap of misery. Why did he do this to himself? This wasn't the only fight he and Chakotay had struggled through since they had first shared a bed and become lovers but it certainly felt like the last one. Had Chakotay simply been using him all this time? Taking him for pleasure when he felt the need? That wasn't Chakotay's style. Tom knew that. But neither could he forget what Chakotay had said to him in anger this evening. Something had snapped in Tom. He was suddenly tired of playing this game. And so he had struck back.

Tom bowed his head. He had sarcastically thrown the word 'relationship' in Chakotay's face as if the whole thing were a joke. He and Chakotay enjoyed sex together, but was that all it had been? Sex? Was there no love? No caring? No friendship?


No. There had to be more. He'd seen his own shock mirrored in Chakotay's eyes at the words the older man had so thoughtlessly thrown at him. He'd seen that Chakotay wanted to take them back as soon as they were uttered, but for Tom, the fact that Chakotay had even thought the hurtful words in the first place was too much.

For the past year, Chakotay had enjoyed his companionship in private, but it had quickly become clear that Voyager's first officer had no wish to reveal their newfound intimacy to the rest of Voyager's crew. That should have clued Tom in right there and then. But he had been too wrapped up in the blissfulness of their closeness and the fun they had in bed together. It had simply never occurred to him that Chakotay might be using him.

As the months passed, however, Chakotay's continued secretiveness about his relations with Tom had begun to rub Tom the wrong way. Admitting publicly that he and Chakotay shared a bed was, apparently, more of an acknowledgment of their relationship than Chakotay wished to make. Tom's resentfulness had grown with each passing month, week, day. Until today.

No more. Tom tiredly shook his head as he climbed to his feet and wearily made his way toward the bathroom, disrobing as he went. It hurt too much to go on like this. To keep loving Chakotay and pretending it was only sex when it went much deeper than that for him.

He wasn't sure when he had first realized that he loved Chakotay, but love him he did. He loved him deep down in his soul, where nobody else had ever touched. Chakotay had awakened something Tom had thought long dead in himself. And against his better judgment, he had reached back, taking what Chakotay offered and damning the consequences. Well, it seemed like the consequences had finally caught up to him.

It scared him that he had let Chakotay slip in under his defenses so easily. He hadn't let anyone get that close, that deep inside, in years. It left him too vulnerable.

Knowing that Chakotay didn't return his love, Tom had carefully kept the inner joy of the love he held for the other man hidden once he had admitted it to himself. Chakotay had not once shown any indications that he returned Tom's feelings, and Tom had made the decision to stay with Chakotay and take what he could get until the other man finally moved on. Only Chakotay hadn't moved on. But neither had their relationship progressed much since they had first come together. They talked but had no deep self-revealing discussions of the kind new lovers often share when discovering each other. They loved with the same exciting intensity that had been there upon the first coupling but not with the soul-jarring intensity of life mates.

They had not moved forward in their relationship; instead, they had maintained the same intense passion that had been there in the beginning but both still kept their inner selves hidden from the other. Tom couldn't bring himself to bridge that final gap. He was too afraid of having the door slammed shut in his face.

And so it had continued. For over a year. Tom had hung onto what they had together for all that time. For this. This final shattering revelation that Chakotay would never feel more for him than what he felt at this moment. And despite the words he had thrown in Chakotay's face before he had made his abrupt departure, Tom knew the other man didn't think him a whore. He had reacted without thinking to Chakotay's words. Reacted to the memories those words had evoked. Of a time when he had, by definition, been a whore.

Tom stepped into the shower, letting the hot water pour over him, wishing it could wash everything away and knowing that the hurt went too deep to ever be erased. Leaning his forearms against the shower wall, he buried his head in his arms and let the water beat down between his shoulder blades, wishing it were Chakotay's strong hands rubbing his shoulders rather than the water that pounded down upon them. Wrapped up in silent misery, he didn't move for a long time, nor did he notice the tears mingling with the shower water.

What have I got to do to make you love me
What have I got to do to make you care
What do I do when lightning strikes me
And I wake to find that you're not there

Stunned by Tom's abrupt departure not only from his quarters but his life as well apparently, Chakotay wandered aimlessly about his quarters for the rest of the evening, his thoughts and feelings in turmoil. Exhausted, he finally tumbled into bed, only to discover there would be no reprieve there either. The pillow on the other side of the bed smelled of Tom. Chakotay rolled over so his back was to that side of the bed. It didn't help. All that did was intensify his awareness of the missing warm body that was no longer spooned around him. There were no hands caressing him. No warm breath on the back of his neck. Just emptiness, both in the bed and in his heart.

What was it Tom had said in that quiet hurt tone of his with eyes deader than a black hole? We've been coworkers. Lovers. Even companions at times. But never  friends. We don't share secrets. We don't trust. We don't commit to one another. Our relationship is based on nothing important. I'm just a convenient bedwarmer when it suits your needs. Chakotay flipped over on his back and stared sightlessly up at the ceiling through the darkness of his quarters and the darkness of his soul. Was Tom right? Had he treated him no better than a bedwarmer?

Groaning, Chakotay flung an arm over his eyes as if to shut out the hurtful images and voices. He tried to shut out all thoughts of Tom. It didn't work. He could feel Tom's hands sliding over his body. Lips touching his lips. Body sliding over his body. Gentle fingers cradling his scrotum. A tongue slipped between lips to touch his own and lingering, longingly, before moving on to explore. Kisses rained over the planes of his face before moving lower to cover his chest and bite teasingly at his nipples. The lips moved ever lower until a warmth engulfed his hardness. Chakotay's hips lunged upward to meet that warmness only to find . . . emptiness.

His eyes shot open and he groaned loudly. A dream. It had all been a dream. Tom was gone. Chakotay tried to puzzle out what had happened earlier. Why had he reacted the way he had? Tom had been teasing him about the reputation they were acquiring aboard Voyager, despite Chakotay's attempts to keep their personal lives private. The Lovers. Tom's eyes had been alight with merriment. That's what they're calling us now, Chakotay.

Chakotay thought he could possibly be excused from his bad response to Tom's remark due to his difficult day. He had lost one of his security personnel on an away mission today and another one lay critically wounded in Sickbay. Even though he knew the death of the man had not been his fault, his conscience refused to let go of it. He had already been on edge. Tom had been trying to get him to relax and had the misfortune to choose the wrong topic.

They'd certainly had arguments before but until this night Chakotay had never before seen that frozen ice-cold expression that had destroyed Tom's usually easygoing manner. Chakotay had seen those eyes become shuttered upon occasion before but nothing like what had happened tonight.

He heard Tom's voice again, not yelling in anger, but speaking with a more terrifying quietness. I am not your whore! Chakotay winced, still not understanding how they had gone from The Lovers to whore. There was more here than met the eye but Chakotay had no idea how to find the missing pieces. Only Tom could tell him and he wasn't sure the younger man would be speaking to him any time soon.

But how could Tom believe that he would think him a whore? He'd certainly never called him that. And why that? Why would that term spring so freely to Tom's lips, unless . . . oh god, no.

Chakotay was aware that there were some parts of Tom's past that were untouchable. He refused to speak about them. Could it be possible that during those dark years after Caldik Prime that at some point he had served in that capacity? That he had serviced others sexually? The mere thought of that caused Chakotay distress that was physically painful. He let out a strangled breath when he was unable to escape the vision of Tom being forced to service others.

Chakotay knew he still had some misgivings about this relationship with Tom. His unwillingness to invest in a deep commitment to the other man by officially establishing themselves as a couple aboard Voyager was obviously not sitting well with Tom. Chakotay had thought what they had was enough for the two of them. And down deep inside he had to admit there was still a flare of doubt that what they had would lead to a lasting commitment. He knew he was playing it safe by not taking their relationship public. That way, if it did end abruptly, he wouldn't have to acknowledge that it had actually ever been.

What a convoluted line of bull! Chakotay chastised himself. You're not even buying that one yourself. Why should Tom buy it? Why would he want to buy it?

He obviously didn't. That should tell you something about how Tom views this relationship. Did Tom love him? In so many ways Tom Paris was still a deep mystery to him.

Why can't you just tell him you love him, Chakotay? Would it be so hard? And you do love him. You know you do.

A big black void opened before Chakotay. All it contained was an empty loneliness. He had never felt it as much as he did now. And he knew with unshakable certainty that only Tom could fill that void. Only Tom could bring the lightness back to his soul. Only Tom could make his heart beat faster in anticipation of . . . Say it! Chakotay angrily told himself. At least admit it to yourself even if you can't say it aloud or even admit it to Tom.

Tom's love. You want Tom to freely give himself to you. No walls. No shields. You need for him to lay himself open to you, vulnerable and exposed. He needed that before he could declare his own tender affections for the other man.

Why couldn't he take the first step? Why did it have to be Tom? Was that fair? No. But the thought of taking that first step himself frightened Chakotay. It was why he had been happy to let their relationship stand as it had for the past year. Yet, there was a part of Chakotay that wanted to overcome his doubts and let it be known that this beautiful man was his and that he loved him more than life itself.

Chakotay sighed, finally facing the fact that while he longed to publicly declare Tom his he wasn't comfortable with Tom doing the same. He didn't want to be known as Tom Paris' possession. But that was hardly fair. Tom had never made him feel like that.

Call it what it really is, Chakotay. You're Tom's lover. You love him. You are The Lovers that everyone on this ship is proclaiming you to be.

But did Tom love him? He had never said so. Gods, what a confusing mess they had made of things. Was there any way at all to overcome the tangled web of their emotions and see clearly what was to become of the two of them? To see if they did have a future together?

Chakotay groaned at the unfairness of it. He did love Tom. He loved the irrepressible spirit that was Tom Paris. He loved his body. He loved his humor. He loved his soul. He loved him. It was as simple and as complicated as that.

Why couldn't Tom love him back with as much depth? And why was it so hard for either of them to say "I love you" to the other?

Chakotay refused to reach down and relieve the painful hardness of his erection. He was paying penance for his earlier hurtful comments to Tom, however unintentional they might have been. He turned over to face the emptiness of the bed where Tom usually lay. Not conscious of his actions, Chakotay gathered Tom's pillow to him and cradled it against his chest, burying his face in it. He stayed like that for a very long time until finally his weariness overwhelmed him and he fell into a troubled sleep.

What do I do to make you want me
What have I got to do to be heard
What do I say when it's all over
And sorry seems to be the hardest word

Tom, an extra bounce in his walk, exited the shuttlecraft. He and Harry had just returned from what was supposed to have been a routine sensor sweep of a nearby planet. Routine had quickly flown out the window, however, when they had encountered an unexpected gravity well around the planet that hadn't shown up on sensors.

It had taken some fancy flying to get them out of it. Once Tom had been sure he could get them out of it, he had performed some daring flight maneuvers that you wouldn't see your average pilot performing, especially so close to a gravity well. He'd been having a great time cutting loose and blowing off all that excess energy due to the stress of trying to keep himself in one piece emotionally after he had stormed out of Chakotay's quarters nearly two weeks ago. The two men had not spoken to one another since except in the line of duty.

Grinning widely, Harry had put up with his friend's antics, knowing that Tom badly needed the release. He wasn't privy to the exact nature of Tom and Chakotay's disagreement but he knew it was serious this time. Tom's silence told him that.

Tom's fun had abruptly been cut off when Chakotay's voice had come over the comlink, his tone severe. "Knock off the aerobatics, Lieutenant, and stick to the flight plan." The carefree expression on Tom's face had immediately disappeared. His back stiffening, he had snapped back a subdued, "Yes, sir," and flown by the book for the remainder of their mission.

Harry had been dismayed to see Tom retreating back into his shell once more. For one brief moment his laughing carefree friend had been back. Harry found himself thinking dark thoughts about Chakotay, wanting to wring the man's neck for whatever hurt he had caused Tom. Those thoughts were still circling in his head when, upon his exit from the shuttle, he spotted Commander Chakotay entering the shuttle bay.

Tom looked up at Harry's softy uttered, "uh oh," to see a thundercloud called Chakotay moving across the shuttle bay toward them. Bracing himself, he lifted his chin and gave the Commander his best aloof look. He was taken off guard when Chakotay, not uttering a single word, grabbed him by the arm. The Commander's hand closed painfully around Tom's arm just above the elbow and pulled him along toward the exit.

Tom didn't even attempt to dig his heels in; he simply asked, "Where are we going?"

"My quarters."

Tom opened his mouth to respond. Chakotay, correctly reading the sarcastic cast to his face, snapped out, "Not another word until we reach my quarters."

Tom's mouth clamped shut tightly. There was a storm brewing in that voice, and Chakotay was about to unleash the fury of it upon him. Heaving an indifferent sigh, Tom allowed himself to be dragged along until they reached the privacy of Chakotay's quarters. Once there, he jerked his arm out of the other man's grasp.

"You want to tell me what this is all about?" he asked coldly.

Chakotay turned to him, eyes blazing with suppressed anger. "What the hell were you doing out there? Trying to get yourself killed?"

Chakotay's voice washed over Tom in a quiet roar. He shuddered as if buffeted by strong winds. Then his own temper flared. "I was having a little fun, Commander. Nobody was in any danger. Why would you care anyway?"

"I don't!" shot back Chakotay angrily. "You were endangering Harry's life and we certainly can't afford to lose another shuttle."

Tom's mouth opened and closed like a fish suffocating on fresh air. This was about losing shuttles? Of all the -- the goddamn bastard! A fire lit under Tom and he exploded into the room, moving past Chakotay to angrily stalk back and forth.

"You pompous arrogant son of a--"

Chakotay watched Tom stalking back and forth, his arms waving energetically to punctuate an impressive vocalization of obscenities and insults. If Chakotay hadn't been so upset he would have been in awe.

"Merde! Que tu es emmerdant!"


"Puto! Areinnye'n-hnah, y'kllhe!"


"QI'yaH! Fils de pute!"


"Trou du cul!  Goddamned prehistoric gastropod--"



Tom glared.

Chakotay glared.

Neither man backed down.

This was hopeless. Maybe there wasn't anything here to salvage. Chakotay grimaced. "Nothing."



"Are we done?"


Tom's heart broke at the finality in Chakotay's tone. Oh god. It hurt. Schooling his expression, he strode past Chakotay and out the door without a backward glance.

It's sad, so sad
It's a sad, sad situation
And it's getting more and more absurd
It's sad, so sad
Why can't we talk it over
Oh it seems to me
That sorry seems to be the hardest word

Harry, worried when Tom didn't show up in the mess hall for dinner. His worry grew larger when Tom was a no-show for their usual nightly game of pool. When his hails at Tom's door went unanswered, he quietly let himself.

Tom sat at the desk, his head pillowed in his arms, obviously asleep. Harry gently lay a hand on the sleeping man's shoulder, not intending to wake him but only to offer support and reassure himself that Tom was all right. He felt Tom stiffen under his touch and quickly pulled away but it was too late.

Tom's head lifted and he stared blearily at Harry. "What am I gonna do, Harry?" he asked, his expression vulnerable and not quite awake.

Harry knelt down so he was at eye level with Tom. "What do you want to do?"

Sad blue eyes gazed into his for a long silent moment. "I don't know. I can't -- it hurts too much, Harry." Tom's voice caught and he stopped speaking abruptly. The openness that had been in his eyes moments before disappeared as he fully woke up and realized who he was talking to and what he was saying. Hiding his embarrassment under a stretch to loosen stiffened muscles, Tom climbed to his feet and made himself busy elsewhere so he wouldn't have to look Harry in the eye. "What are you doing here, Harry?"

"I was worried when you didn't show up for dinner. And then you didn't show for our pool game."

Silence fell between them. Tom, unwilling to confess anything further and still trying to recover from his embarrassment for his lapse moments ago, carefully kept his gaze averted from Harry's. Harry fell quiet as he tried to find a way to get Tom to open up about the troubles with Chakotay without pushing him too far.

"What'd Chakotay have to say after he dragged you off this afternoon?" Harry finally asked.

A snort was heard from Tom's direction. "He was worried about losing another shuttle. Can you believe that?"

Harry frowned. That didn't sound right. He would have sworn, from the expression on Chakotay's face as he had dragged Tom out of the shuttle bay, that what he had to say to Tom had been personal and not ship's business. Besides, Chakotay knew Tom was their best pilot and would never purposely chance losing a shuttle, let alone endanger other lives. "Tom, what did he say? Exactly?"


Harry nodded. "The first words out of his mouth."

"Well, let me think." Tom pretended to think about it even though he clearly remembered every word Chakotay had uttered. "He said, 'What the hell were you doing out there? Trying to get yourself killed?' in that oh so dictatorial tone of voice of his. I asked him why he cared. He said he didn't and blathered something about endangering your life and losing another shuttle." Tom shrugged. "And things just escalated from there."

Harry's expression turned meditative. "Was he angry when he asked what you were doing?"

"He was yelling, Harry. Yeah, I'd say he was angry." Tom grinned. "At least I can still make him lose his temper."

"Yeah," agreed Harry softly. "He must care about you a lot."

Tom swung round to stare in shock at his friend. "What?"

"Why else would he get so angry? Think about what he said, Tom. He asked if you were trying to get yourself killed. I'd say he's afraid you're going to do just that."

"Right." Tom scowled. "Then he'd have some explaining to do to Janeway and we wouldn't want that, would we?"

"Stop avoiding it, Tom." Harry's voice was stern. "Listen to what Chakotay said to you. Not his words but how he said them. Was he just angry? Was he just riding you because your relationship ended badly? Or was there something more?"

Tom started to spit out a sarcastic retort but paused when he remembered the flash of fear he'd seen in Chakotay's eyes in that first moment when they had confronted each other in Chakotay's quarters. He didn't even have to say anything. Harry saw the realization in Tom's eyes.

Softly, the younger man asked, "Do you think he loves you, Tom?"

"I don't know." Tom's facade of indifference was crumbling.

"Do you want to know?"

"No! Yes! Hell!" A hand ran distractedly through the blond hair.

Harry pushed a little more. "Do you love him?"

Tom's defenses splintered into fragments. "Yes," he whispered.

"Even if he doesn't love you?"

Stronger. "Yes."

"Because you think he might love you?" Harry was smiling now.

"Yes." Bright eyes met understanding ones. "Damn, Harry. You're good."

They both laughed, Harry with relief and Tom with a great deal of nervous trepidation.

"Go see him, Tom."

"I can't."

Exasperation. "Tom!"

"You didn't hear what I said to him, Harry. Called him half the names in the book and was thinking the rest of them."

"If he loves you, he'll forgive you."

"And if he doesn't?"

Harry walked over to Tom and clasped him on the shoulder. "Then you'll know for sure. It's got to be better than living in this limbo you've been in, doesn't it?"

Tom sighed. "I guess so." His expression held a great deal of doubt, however.

Silence fell between the two men again but this time it was the comfortable silence of friends.

What do I do to make you love me
What have I got to do to be heard
What do I do when lightning strikes me
What have I got to do
What have I got to do
When sorry seems to be the hardest word

Clearing his throat nervously, Tom signaled his presence at Chakotay's door. The door slid open and Tom got a brief look into Chakotay's unguarded eyes. Surprise. Relief. Then fear. But no anger.

"Can I come in?" Tom asked softly.

Chakotay silently stepped aside.

Tom entered, looking around Chakotay's quarters as if he'd never seen them before. It suddenly occurred to Tom that he had spent a great deal of the past year in these quarters without ever really seeing how they reflected the soul of the man who inhabited them. He slowly walked the perimeter of the room, stopping every so often to examine an item.

Chakotay watched him, wondering what was going on. Tom's whole demeanor was changed from their earlier confrontation. He seemed calm, settled, more at ease with himself than Chakotay had seen him in a long time. And the fact that Tom was wearing off-duty clothing consisting of loose black trousers and one of the tight T-shirts that Chakotay liked so well on him wasn't missed by the older man.

"Tom. Why are you here?"

The other man looked up at Chakotay's sober tone. "We need to talk."

Chakotay's expression conveyed doubt. His expression clearly said he was not up for another argument. Tom shook his head. "No, Chakotay. Really talk. About us. About our feelings. About if we have a future. Can we do that?"

Chakotay stared. Who was this man and what had he done with Tom Paris? This man who stood before him was -- Chakotay gulped and suddenly had difficulty breathing. This was the man Chakotay had wanted to see. Tom, being open and vulnerable before him, willing to trust himself to Chakotay. It had been so unexpected that Chakotay almost hadn't recognized it for what it was.

With sudden clarity, Chakotay knew he couldn't allow Tom to take all the risk on his own shoulders. If there was any hope for the two of them at all, he had to risk himself as well. Before he could even comprehend what he had in mind, he was speaking. Eyes steady on the younger man's, chin out proudly, Chakotay spoke in a soft, intimate voice.

"I love you."

He saw Tom rock back on his feet as if absorbing a blow. All the color drained out of Tom's face and then came back in a rush that left him flushed and breathing hard.

"W-what?" Tom stuttered, his calm demeanor shattered.

A calmness invaded Chakotay's being. Steady as a rock, Chakotay repeated his declaration. "I love you, Tom." He almost smiled at how good it felt to say those three not-so-simple words. He waited patiently, feeling at peace for the first time in ages, for Tom's response.

"Harry--" Tom stuttered to a stop, obviously at a loss for words.

Chakotay's eyebrows rose inquiringly. "What about Harry?" he asked placidly.

"He-he said--" Good god, Tom, get yourself under control. You're stuttering like a schoolboy. Tom closed his eyes, blocking out everything for a moment but his own breathing and the constant replay of Chakotay's words in his head. I love you. I love you, Tom. I love you . . . . When he reopened his eyes he was under better control. "Harry said you weren't angry with me after you pulled me off the shuttle. He thought it sounded like you were scared. For me."

Chakotay let his eyes show the truth of his feelings. Tom's eyes widened. "Oh my god," the younger man breathed. "Harry was right."

It was too much for Tom. All the ecstasy and agony from the past year mixed together into a hurricane of emotions. The recent break between them. The discord and fear and unhappiness. The hurt. All of it obliterated in one moment by Chakotay's profession of love. It was too much too soon. He stumbled over to Chakotay's couch and collapsed on it, head in his hands, face hidden. He felt the couch dip and then Chakotay's warmth was at his side.

"Tom?" Concern but no regret in the older man's voice. Tom wanted to shout his euphoria. Chakotay loved him! Instead, he slowly raised his head and let his joy shine forth from his eyes.

"Tom?" Uncertainly laced with hopefulness rested in Chakotay's voice now.

Tom slowly reached out to caress the side of Chakotay's face. The other man leaned into his touch. Tom shifted around so he was facing Chakotay. His other hand came up and he gently cupped Chakotay's face in an affectionate touch. "Do you have any idea," Tom began slowly, softly, carefully, "just how much I love you?"

Chakotay's eyes glinted with a hint of tears, but it was the spark of mischievousness that finally swam to the surface. "Prove it."

Tom's expression remained solemn as he slowly leaned in and touched his lips to Chakotay's. Their lips met in a gentle whispered caress. Hearts touched in a soundless cry of joy. Two lost souls found each other and came home to be forever joined.

Tom pulled back far enough to break the kiss but their foreheads met and touched, their breaths still mingling. Chakotay's hand came up and his thumb gently caressed Tom's lower lip.

"Tom . . ."

"It's okay, Chakotay. I know."

"Do you?"


Silence. Then both men spoke softly at the same time.

"I'm sorry."

The moment was quiet, filled with everything that was in their hearts. Neither Tom nor Chakotay moved for fear of breaking the moment. Words so hard to say yet so different:  I'm sorry; I love you. But both having the power to heal.

Tom pulled Chakotay into a kiss that quickly deepened as both poured all their passion, all their love, into it. It was just the beginning and both men knew one thing with certainty. Nothing had ever felt more right.

What did I do to make you love me
What did I do to be heard
What did I do when lightning struck me
And I saw that you were still there
Sorry no longer seems to be the hardest word

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Translation of terms

Merde!:  [French]  Shit! 

Que tu es emmerdant!:  [French] You really piss me off! 

Puto!:  [Spanish]  Dickhead!  Asshole! 

Areinnye'n-hnah, y'kllhe!:  [Romulan] Go to hell, you worm! 

QI'yaH!:  [Klingon] Vulgar expression.  One of the strongest, most foul Klingon expressions.  It defies translation. 

Fils de pute!:  [French] Son of a bitch! 

Trou du cul!:  [French] Asshole!

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