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Sequel of sorts to The Hardest Thing and Unbroken. What if Chakotay knew Tom knew?
Shifting. Fidgeting. Admitting. "Yeah."
"You knew for a long time."
"Why the *hell* didn't you tell me?"
"That's my job now, is it? She's your best friend!"
"And she's your lover."
Glancing. Sipping. Reflecting. "Well...you should have noticed before. As busy as you are, as well as she tried to hide it, you should have noticed."
"You're forgetting she had you to help her. How many times did you distract someone so they wouldn't find out? How many times did you cover for her when you knew she was injured? How many times?"
Reflecting. Reflecting. "Once was too many. But I...I kept doing it. Christ...Chakotay, I knew, I just *knew* that if we could stop anyone from finding out that eventually she'd get over it. Eventually she'd be able to talk about it. Eventually she'd-"
"Forget? That never happens, Tom. Not for us."
"I was one of 'us', once."
"No you weren't. Not in the same way."
Embarrassed. Drinking. Swallowing. "No...I guess I wasn't. I'm not sure why I try to convince myself otherwise. I didn't at the time."
"Things change. Things stay the same. Lying, for example-"
Thumping. "Will you just get over yourself, Chakotay?! For Christ's sake...okay. I lied. I admit it. I apologise for it. I was a bad boy."
"How do I know you won't do it again?"
Calming. "This was B'Elanna. I won't make the same mistake twice."
"And what if I'm not? I'm only human, Chakotay. I only have feelings and emotions and hormones to screw around with my mind. Alright, so I can't absolutely guarantee what you want to hear. All I can guarantee is that I don't want to hurt her. I want to do what's best for her. Why are you riding my butt about this?"
"I was dubious, at first. But you've never really given me reason to worry about her."
Implication. Snorting. "Until now, right?"
"Something like that."
"Well if I didn't give you a reason to worry, she should have. You're pissed at me for not telling you; big news, bucko. She didn't tell you either."
"Of course she wouldn't. She was emotionally unstable-"
Honesty. "She wasn't the only one, Chakotay. Can you honestly say that if our situations were reversed-"
"That I wouldn't do the same thing? I can't say, one hundred percent, but I think B'Elanna-"
Amused. Sarcasm. "No, no, no, big guy. Not with B'Elanna. With She-Who-Must-Not-Have-Romantic-Relationships."
"Got it in one."
"This isn't about Kathryn."
Chuckling."It's about women. It's about how they screw with our minds. Personally, I don't see the difference." Drinking. "I know you two aren't quite what you were, but..."
"I don't know. I honestly don't know."
Resignation. "And that's the truth of it, Chakotay. You've known that, somewhere, for a long time. I've known it my whole life."
"If you're such an expert..."
Spitting. "Ha! No expert. Just Thomas Eugene Paris; looking for some fun that doesn't come with its pockets stuffed full of trouble."
"And yet you're in a relationship with B'Elanna..."
Grinning. "I know. Has a nice sense of irony, don't you think?"
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