When they first met on-board Voyager Chakotay had wanted Tom Paris for all the wrong reasons.
Paris had come from a privileged family, his father was a Starfleet Admiral, his mother a doctor. He had been given everything he wanted all his life, including a free ride to Starfleet Academy according to gossip. Admittedly Admiral Paris might have pulled some strings to get his son into the Academy but these years on Voyager had shown Tom Paris was Starfleet material, and one hell of a pilot. Yet he was also everything most people hated, all wrapped up in a handsome package of blond hair and sky blue eyes, so a lot of people took dubious pleasure on seeing his fall from grace. Paris was kicked out of Starfleet after covering up his part in the death of a fellow pilot, making a confession long after the investigation had put it down as an accident. He could have walked away scot free if he'd simply kept his mouth shut so Chakotay had to give Paris some credit for stepping up and taking responsibility for his actions, even though it invariably led him into further trouble.
Chakotay had not known him at the Academy. By the time Paris started his first year Chakotay was already working his way up the promotion ladder, assigned to a starship. He only learned of Paris's dishonorable discharge after Paris turned up in a bar in the demilitarized zone looking for anyone willing to take him on as a pilot. The Maquis were in desperate need after the Federation ceded several of their colony worlds to the Cardassians to prevent a war. One of those colonies was Chakotay's home world, and when Starfleet refused to intercede on behalf of those colonists who had refused to leave their homes and who were being brutalized by the Cardassians, Chakotay had resigned his commission and had joined the Maquis.
Chakotay already had a crew and was out on a mission when Paris turned up, but one of the other captains took him on... and Paris got them all captured on his very first supply run. The crew were sent to a penal colony but once more Admiral Paris had pulled strings and had his son assigned to a cushy prison on Earth. Seeing Paris on-board Voyager had made Chakotay and the rest of his Maquis crew see red. Rumors spread through the Maquis that Paris had surrendered too easily, not willing to sacrifice himself for the cause, and seeing him now could mean only one thing - Paris had betrayed them for his freedom, or for a reduced sentence at least.
None of them expected to find themselves in the Delta Quadrant, seventy-five years away from the Federation at maximum warp, and Chakotay never expected to owe Paris anything.
Though he refuted it at the time, his people held a similar belief that if someone saves your life then you are beholden to watch over theirs in turn, and Tom Paris had saved his life on that first day in the Delta Quadrant. Without his assistance Chakotay would have never reached the surface of the Ocampa home world before the last entrance was sealed. He would have died when the stairs collapsed, falling hundreds of feet to his death. It rankled, and not because he owed Tom Paris a debt of gratitude, but because Paris had no reason to come back for him. The Thomas Eugene Paris talked of by the Maquis would have carried on up to the surface unharmed, putting his own skin first. That Paris would not have gone back for someone who had made it clear there was no love lost between them, that he was considered a traitor, untrustworthy.
Cowards didn't risk their lives saving others.
So Chakotay watched over him, eyes often straying to the back of the blond head at the helm control, mesmerized by the agile fingers that danced across the controls as if playing a symphony, with each touch perfect as he deftly maneuvered the ship through space or into orbit around new worlds.
In the early days he had wanted Paris just so he could teach him a lesson, just so he could show him how little his privileged upbringing mattered out here on the far edge of the galaxy. Over time he began to see through the immature persona to the true man hidden beneath a brittle shell; a man who would walk into fire to save those he cared about. He saw beauty that was more than skin deep. Loyalty, generosity, all the things he had once thought Paris incapable of having, let alone revealing.
He still wanted Tom Paris but now the reasons had changed. He no longer saw the rich kid with important parents buying him whatever he wanted, but a man who had fought to stand on his own feet and prove he belonged as part of the crew. He no longer saw the undisciplined hotshot pilot who joined the Maquis simply because he wanted to fly. Instead he saw a brilliant pilot who had managed to save Voyager and its crew time and again using his innate skills. He saw a man who gave away his food rations to order a birthday treat for a friend; a man who gave up his free time to create a holographic setting that all the crew could enjoy, which was where Chakotay found himself now.
Most former Starfleet academy students knew of Sandrine's and Paris had captured it perfectly with an eye for detail that maybe Chakotay should have expected from a talented pilot. But he had also captured the atmosphere of the place, the warm breeze and the heady scent of flowers mingling with the aroma of both exotic and Earth drinks.
Chakotay could see Paris standing at the bar talking and laughing with the holographic bartender but otherwise quite alone. It was unusual as Paris had found friends among the former Federation and Maquis crews. Without the distraction of others Paris turned, eyes casting around the bar and immediately capturing Chakotay's. Slight puzzlement gave way to something warmer and welcoming, and though Chakotay should have nodded politely and turned away he found himself moving towards Paris.
No one of Chakotay's rank was ever truly off duty but he downed several more potent drinks, knowing he had a concoction from the Doctor that would sober him up in seconds in an emergency. He let the alcohol lower his inhibitions, allowed Paris to guide him out of the bar and through the corridors to Chakotay's personal quarters - the privileges of rank. When Paris kissed him, soft and needy, Chakotay knew he should have sobered up and taken a step back, aware of the fraternization rules that put Paris's consent into question. As First Officer Chakotay was in his chain of command, able to give him orders, and this was abusing the trust between officer and subordinate. Yet he could not stop himself from tangling a hand in Paris's blond hair, from deepening the kiss as they slowly undressed each other, or from falling into bed beside Tom, aware they were making love rather than having sex because there had been too much between them over the years. Too many life and death moments, too much laughter and pain.
Later, sobered by the truth of his actions, Chakotay lay in the bed staring up at the ceiling, feeling the warmth of Tom's body beside him. He thought Tom was asleep until Tom moved, leaning up over him on one elbow.
"You are not an exception to the relaxation of the fraternization rules," Tom admonished. "There's no issue of dubious consent here. I chose you back on the Ocampa world." He smiled mischievously. "I've kind of been waiting for you to catch up."
"Is that right?"
Tom smiled, dropping back down to rest against Chakotay, blond head pillowed on Chakotay's shoulder. Chakotay could still feel his smile and the huff of warm air as he laughed quietly. Perhaps Chakotay had wanted Tom Paris for all the wrong reasons when they first met on Voyager, but he wanted him for all the right reasons now.