Real Life - a Voyager Interlude
Peter Kamphuis (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Everyone should know the drill by now... STOP right here if you are not of the legal age to read adult material in your state or country! Go play somewhere else if that's the case.
I wonder if anyone reads these things...? Hello? Anyone out there? :)
Something a bit different this time... A 'real life' story of our two favourite Voyager boys. Robert Beltran and Robert (hereafter known as 'Robbie') Duncan McNeill. And, as if that's not enough, I'm going to throw in a little bit of Robert Picardo, too! <evil grin>
The usual disclaimers apply (in addition to those mentioned above). This story does not represent the true sexual orientations of either person. In fact, I know that Robbie is married and has children. That should indicate to you how much this story is a work of fiction. I'm not sure about Robert's marital status, but even if he isn't married, that has little to do with my portrayal of him in this story. In this story neither of the Roberts are married or in relationships. They're single, and very much available! Otherwise, the story doesn't work! :)
Lastly, I'm not making any profit from this piece of fiction, nor is it my intention to damage the reputations of these two fine actors. If you can't deal with this concept, please stop reading RIGHT NOW!
Feedback is always appreciated!
Real Life - a Voyager Interlude
Robert Duncan McNeill, the actor known to millions of viewers worldwide as 'Tom Paris' from the television series 'Star Trek: Voyager', stopped mid-stride and turned around to look at the man who had called out to him.
"Hi, Robert. What's up?" he asked, looking at the dimpling face of Robert Beltran, who played his Commanding Officer, Chakotay, in the same television series.
"Not much," Robert replied, though with a small hint of uncertainty in his voice. He peered down at a large envelope in his hands, then quickly looked back up into Robbie's eyes.
Robbie looked askance at him and frowned slightly. "Are you sure? You sound... odd."
"Umm," Robert replied, uncharacteristically, then looked down both ends of the deserted hallway, as if to check if anyone was about. "Okay, there's no easy way to say this, so I might as well just say it. I got something in the mail last week. It was a script." He held up the envelope and waved it in front of Robbie's face, noticing the confusion still playing across Robbie's features. He could understand why Robbie was still confused. Not because he had gotten the script -- they had all received unsolicited scripts from time to time, even though all scripts should have been addressed to the producers -- but because of the way he was making a big deal out of it...
"And...?" Robbie asked, confirming his suspicions.
"It's... different," Robert said, finishing lamely. He saw the mounting confusion on his companion's face and spoke quickly. "Robbie, this script isn't like any other I've read. It's..." He paused again, suddenly aware that they were too much in the open - too public - to discuss it properly. "Is there some place we can go where we can talk about this? I don't want to discuss it out here, in the open..." He waved a hand around, indicating the hallway.
"Sure," Robbie replied, still sounding, and looking, confused. "How about the dressing room? It should be free."
"Great. Let's go."
They walked off, making small talk, discussing some aspects of the up-coming episode they were taping over the next several days, and asking each other how their weekends had gone. When they reached the dressing room, they sat down on the only couch in the room and turned to face each other.
"Okay. What gives?" asked Robbie, looking at the envelope in Robert's hand for the tenth time since it had been waved in front of his face in the hallway. He was more than a little bit intrigued.
"In this envelope is the script I was telling you about," Robert said unnecessarily, not having failed to notice Robbie's frequent glances. "Now, about the script... It's... different."
"So you've already said."
"Yes, but it's really different," stressed Robert, raising his eyebrows in emphasis.
"Robert, okay, we've established it's different... but why? Why is it different? I'm curious to know, and if you don't tell me right now, I'm gonna take the script off of you and look for myself!"
Robert ignored the half-joking, half-exasperated tone of his friend and looked back into Robbie's flashing blue eyes. "Prepare yourself, Robbie. It's different, because it has..." Again, he ran out of steam, but decided to press on, not enjoying the look of bewilderment and anger starting to cross Robbie's face. "It has two major bridge officers involved in a gay relationship!"
His face flushed hotly as he blurted it out, and he watched as a similar effect occurred on Robbie's face.
He could only nod, eyebrows still raised, as he watched the differing reactions and emotions that crossed Robbie's features. "Yeah, my reaction too. But... I've got to admit, besides that minor," - his voice caressed the word in a strong sarcastic tone - "detail, it's a brilliant story. In fact, I'd be keen to film it. Except for one little problem..."
Robbie had settled down slightly by this point. "And that would be...?"
"I don't think the storyline will work without 'the relationship'..."
Robbie thought for a moment, and then discarded all the questions buzzing around his head except for the important one.
"Robert, can I ask... who are the two characters involved in this relationship?" Somehow he had a sneaking suspicion that he knew who they would be...
Robert flushed again. It was enough. Robbie guessed, and rightly so, that the relationship involved their characters: Chakotay and Tom Paris.
"But... but that won't work!" he exclaimed in a rush. "Chak and Paris aren't exactly the best of friends! How could they possibly get... together?"
"Robbie," Robert replied, having regained his composure, "it does work. I thought the same thing when I first started reading those scenes. But, it's amazing... it actually does work! Whoever wrote this script knows our characters extremely well. I was utterly convinced that every word, every sentence, every scene and every emotion was... right!" His voice contained a sense of wonder that Robbie had never heard before.
Silence enveloped them as they contemplated their own thoughts. Finally, Robbie turned back to look at Robert and said, "What now?"
Robert understood the cryptic question and pushed his hand out, offering Robbie the envelope. "I think you should read it. I'm not going to pressure you, but I think once you've read it, you'll be as convinced as I am about how well this will work. If we're both in agreement, then we'll discuss whether we want to take it to Jeri and the others..."
Robbie slowly reached out and plucked the envelope from Robert's outstretched hand. He looked down at it, with an inscrutable look on his face, before looking back up, worriedly, at Robert. If Robert was that convinced that it should be filmed - so far as to want to take it to Jeri Taylor and the other producers - then it really must be good.
His only real worry was that he, himself, might become just as convinced as Robert. Not that he had any hang-ups about gays, or gay relationships - hell, he was gay himself! No, the problem was that he didn't know what to do if the script was accepted and they filmed it. The last thing he wanted was for his feelings for Robert to somehow make themselves known through their characters. He sighed inwardly, knowing that he had to give the script the benefit of the doubt, regardless of what it might lead to... good or bad.
He looked back down at the envelope in his lax fingers and silently nodded his assent.
Robert saw the nod, and knew that Robbie was now committed to reading it. He was slightly concerned about whether Robbie would agree with him or not, about using the script, once he'd finished reading it... Maybe he was just letting his own feelings for Robbie cloud his objectivity? Maybe he'd read something into the Chakotay/Paris relationship that just wasn't there, and all because he, himself, felt the same feelings for Robbie - in real life - that his character felt for Robbie's character in the script.
He reached over and placed his hand on Robbie's shoulder and squeezed it. "Thanks for doing this, Robbie. I appreciate it. I know how much I'd like to have the script filmed, but it won't work unless you also agree. After all, if you don't like it, or don't see how it can work, then it won't."
"Yeah, I know," Robbie said, and knew that Robert meant it. The decision was now really his to make. He looked up into Robert's chocolate-brown eyes and smiled a friendly smile, totally missing the effect it had on his companion. "I'll read it tonight and let you know what I think of it tomorrow."
Robert smiled back at him, causing his dimples to show, and said, "Thanks, Robbie." He also totally missed the reaction his smile caused in Robbie. Then, taking one last look into the blue depths of Robbie's eyes, he got up and left, with a parting, "I'll see you later."
"Yeah," mumbled Robbie, once Robert had left the room. "See you later, Robert."
Robbie flopped down on the couch in his living room and picked up the envelope that he had tossed there earlier.
He had been distracted all day, flubbing a couple of easy lines during their dress rehearsal earlier that afternoon - thank God he only had a small part to play in the current episode. He had also been distracted during the drive home, often taking his eyes off the road to stare at the envelope on the passenger seat. And, once he'd reached home, he couldn't stop thinking about it, even during the preparation of dinner.
Now, when he couldn't possibly put it off any longer, he wasn't sure he had enough strength to go through with it.
Sighing in frustration with his dithering, he turned the envelope over and opened the flap. He reached in and pulled out the script, noticing for the first time that his hands were shaking. 'This is crazy,' he thought to himself, admonishing himself for feeling so nervous about a simple script.
He tossed the empty envelope onto the coffee table and stared blankly at the cover page which was staring back at him from his lap.
"Shit," he said aloud. "Stop acting so stupid."
As if his words were a beacon of reason, he lifted the script and turned over the cover page, staring at the lines of text that filled the second page. 'I wonder what the title means?' he thought absently, still puzzling out what 'Real Life' could mean, before finally settling himself down to read.
He stared at the final word, on the last page of the script, for an unknown amount of time; his mind numb at what he had just read. Slowly, so slowly that he didn't notice it at first, his eyes started filling with tears. Only when a large teardrop hit the page, just beneath the last line of text, did he come round to his senses.
"Oh my God," he whispered.
He clutched the script to his chest as if it was a lifeline to stop him drowning - which he was convinced he was doing. He was drowning in a sea of emotions which was endless and bottomless.
He closed his eyes in remembered pain as he let his head fall back to rest on the back of his couch. How could something so beautiful be so heart-wrenching? How could the beauty and purity of the love he had just witnessed be so overpoweringly strong as to make his heart clench in pain?
He didn't know. He didn't think he'd ever know. He had never been fortunate enough to experience a love so strong... So pure... So magical.
He curled up on the couch and continued clutching the script in an embrace that promised never to be broken. He didn't let go of it even once during the night that followed. Not during the whole time he cried bittersweet tears in silence, nor during the restless, dream-filled sleep that claimed him in exhaustion; haunting him with images that both terrified him, and thrilled him.
A hush fell in the makeup room as Robbie walked in.
He finally seemed to register that he was the cause of it and turned to look at everyone curiously. They were all there: his co-stars... Kate Mulgrew, both his Robert and Robert Picardo, Tim Russ, Ethan Phillips, Garrett Wang, Jeri Ryan and Roxann Dawson.
They were all staring at him: even the make up artists who were in the process of applying Roxann's forehead ridges...
"What?" he asked peevishly. "Why are you all looking at me like that?"
"Robbie, have you seen how you look this morning?" Tim asked in concern, his dark eyes echoing the worry they were all feeling.
Robbie turned to face the wall of mirrors in front of the makeup chairs and looked at his reflection. He wasn't surprised to see that they had good reason to stare at him so strangely. He looked like a complete mess! Granted, he had had to leave the house without grabbing a shower (as he had overslept) so he didn't look especially fresh... But, at the same time, he also looked like a nervous wreck who hadn't slept for days.
Seeing the state of his face and bloodshot eyes brought back the ache to his lower back from having tossed and turned all night on the couch. "Yeah, I can see what you mean..." he replied absently to no one in particular.
"Robbie, can I have a word with you in private?" asked Robert, coming to stand behind him and squeezing his shoulder in support.
"Sure," Robbie replied, dragging his eyes away from his reflection and turning to smile at Robert.
"Okay, let's go to the conference room," suggested Robert, leading the way out of the makeup room.
Robert kept stealing glances across at Robbie as they walked over to the studio's conference room. He couldn't quite hide the dismay he felt at his friend's condition. He absolutely didn't like what he saw...
He recalled the panic he had felt when Robbie had walked into the makeup room several minutes earlier. He had never been so scared, as at the instant he had looked up and seen the dishevelled condition that his colleague was in. Or when he had seen the bloodshot eyes and bone-weary expression...
Approaching the conference room at last, he stepped up to the door and held it open, allowing Robbie to enter. He followed Robbie in, sliding the sign on the door from 'vacant' to 'occupied', and closed the door behind him.
He walked over to where Robbie had taken a seat, and sat down next to him, ignoring all the other empty leather chairs surrounding the huge, solid teak, oval table. He couldn't take his eyes off his friend's face, and didn't notice that Robbie had turned to stare back at him in confusion.
"Rob?" Robbie asked. "Hello, Robert?"
Robert forced his attention back to the present. "Sorry. I was miles away."
"So I noticed," Robbie said, smiling sardonically.
"I was just... worried about you," Robert said carefully. "You don't look like you've had any sleep. And if I didn't know any better, I'd swear you must have been drinking last night, to look that bad." He knew, as did all his colleagues, that Robbie was a tee-totaller. Robbie hated alcohol with a passion. There wasn't any way that he'd take a drink - not even under extreme duress. He even baulked every time his character, Tom Paris, was required to drink something on-screen...
"Gee, thanks!" Robbie said sarcastically, though his smile was anything but. "I don't drink. You know that. The reason I look so bad is because I slept on the couch last night. Or rather, I should say that I attempted to sleep on the couch. I tossed and turned a great deal of the night, and then dropped off into a deeper sleep almost at dawn. Bad move, of course. That's why I look like this now. I woke up late and didn't have time to shower or change, or to grab any breakfast."
Robert smiled. "A-ha. That does explain why you look so rough this morning. But why did you sleep on the couch? Why not in your bed?"
Robbie grimaced, not keen to get into that right at the moment. He didn't want to have to explain how much the script had affected him.
"I just fell asleep there," he replied evasively. "And though I tossed and turned a great deal, it wasn't because I was uncomfortable. Not really. I just dreamt a lot last night. The dreams kept waking me up every once in a while." He blushed, definitely not wanting to get into that, either! His dreams had been extremely... 'interesting'. Robert would most likely have a heart attack if he found out that he had been the 'star' of Robbie's dreams. "Thanks for worrying about me, though."
"That's okay, Robbie. We care for you a great deal, you know that. We were quite shocked to see you looking like this, this morning..."
Robbie hid a grimace. 'We care...'. Robert was doing this for (and on behalf of) the others... 'Oh well,' he sighed to himself, 'it's not as if I don't know that we don't stand a chance in hell of getting together.'
"Are you sure you're okay?" Robert asked him suddenly, picking up on the infinitesimal change in Robbie's demeanour.
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"Okay, if you're sure...?" Robert replied, hoping that Robbie would change his mind and tell him what was wrong. He saw Robbie nod and smile, and gave up. Robbie would tell him - hopefully - when he was good and ready. "So," he said, changing topics suddenly, "did you read the script?" He was careful to keep his voice neutral, aware that the script may have had some bearing on Robbie's condition that morning.
"Uh huh," Robbie replied. "Yeah, I read it last night."
"And what did you think of it?" Once again, he kept his voice as neutral as he possibly could, though he was excited at the thought of Robbie having read it. Excited at the thought that Robbie had read the same scenes that he had read, detailing the growing relationship of their characters...
Robbie blushed again, then abruptly stood, heading over to the side table to get himself a cup of coffee. He arched an eyebrow as he looked back at Robert, and turned back to the coffeepot once Robert indicated 'no' with a shake of his head.
In the meantime, Robert glanced dejectedly at Robbie's back, feeling his hopes plummeting. The reaction from Robbie had been... disappointing, to say the least. He silently sighed as he realised that his private wish to get their characters together was about to be dashed. He knew that he didn't stand a chance with Robbie in real life, but he had hoped that he'd at leave have a relationship with him 'on-screen' -- no matter how much he wished for the real thing. Oh well, it was a good dream while it lasted.
Robbie walked back to the table, at that point, and sat down, staring at his steaming cup of coffee for several long minutes. He was thankful that Robert was not pressuring him for an answer. Finally, he looked up, ignoring his untouched drink and gently nodded. "I... I think it will work," he said softly.
Robert almost pulled back in surprise. He had been so certain that he was going to be told to 'forget it'. "Are you sure, Robbie? You don't really sound convinced, or excited, about it. I'll understand if you don't want to go through with it. After all, this relationship will involve both of us - umm, I mean, both of our characters. So if you're not comfortable with making it work, there's no point."
Robbie could hear the disappointment in Robert's voice, and felt his insides plummet. "No!" he said hurriedly. "No, you don't understand. I really do want to do this. After reading that script, there's no way in the world I can think of not doing it. It was just so..." He ran out of steam, his eyes starting to water as his heart clenched in remembered pain.
Robert quickly pulled him into an embrace and caressed his back, murmuring, "I know what you mean, Robbie. It affected me too. I cried myself to sleep the night I read it. It was just so beautiful. I couldn't stop myself from crying..." He continued to caress his friend's back as Robbie sniffled into his shoulder, feeling so alive to be holding the man he loved in his arms.
"Thanks," Robbie said softly, still with his face buried in Robert's shoulder.
"You're more than welcome, 'Slim'," Robert said in reply, using Tom Paris's nickname from the script.
Robbie laughed and pulled away from Robert's embrace, before replying, "That's good to know, 'Kotay'." He ignored the feeling of loss that rose up in his heart at leaving Robert's embrace, not knowing that Robert was feeling the same thing.
His use of Chakotay's nickname was not lost on Robert. "So, I take it that we both want to go ahead with this?"
"Yeah, count me in," Robbie replied, smiling blindingly at his friend.
'Oh my God, he's so beautiful,' thought Robert, fighting to control his reaction from becoming visible in his eyes or expression. Finally composed again, he said, "Okay. Let's head back. You need to have a shower and then get into costume and makeup. And I need to think about how we're going to approach Jeri and Mark about this. Oh, before I forget, did you bring the script in with you?"
Robbie's apologetic grimace was answer enough, but Robbie spoke up anyway. "No, sorry, Robert. Because I slept in, I had to rush to get here. I forgot all about it."
"That's okay," Robert said, feeling slightly disappointed, but knowing that it couldn't be helped.
"Umm... if you really need it back tonight, why don't you come on over to my place after the shoot? I can make us dinner as well, if we're both feeling hungry by then..." Robbie smiled hesitantly, as he glanced over hopefully at Robert.
Robert barely had to think for a second before he found himself smiling in return. "Sure, that'd be good."
"Great. It's a date, then."
Both sets of eyes locked on each other, and both of them blushed at Robbie's words.
"Uh... we'd better get back," Robert said into the silence, rising and going to open the door.
Robbie stood and carried his untouched cup of coffee to the side table, not knowing where else to put it. He then walked past Robert into the hallway, avoiding looking at his friend in embarrassment at his slip up.
"Robbie's gone to take a shower. He won't be long," Robert told the others, as he entered the makeup room and sat down on the couch next to Ethan. Then, feeling sublimely happy, though not knowing the reason why, he started to hum happily to himself as he stared vacantly at the ceiling; a smile etched on his lips.
Seven pairs of eyes turned to regard him, and then each other. Seven faces broke out into wide, quickly suppressed, grins. 'Operation: Real Life' seemed to have been an unqualified success.
Robert Picardo, looking slightly more smug than the others, sighed happily. It looked like the script he had written, at the urging of his colleagues, had had the desired effect on Robbie and Robert. He smiled happily, oblivious to the loving and understanding looks from his friends, as he thought of his role in bringing his namesakes together...
Even if they fought their attraction for each other off-screen, once they started filming the script he had written, it would be a foregone conclusion that they'd end up together. He was just glad that Jeri and Mark had already seen the script and had approved it, even before knowing who had written it, or the reasons behind it...
It was odd, he reflected, not for the first time, how everyone else around Robert and Robbie could see their attraction for one another, but the two of them couldn't... In any case, he felt that that was all about to change.
'And about time, too!' he thought to himself, happily.
Additional notes: I have absolutely no idea if Robbie is a tee-totaller (and for those of you who don't know what that means, it means a person who doesn't drink alcohol at all - even at official functions). It just worked out that way in the story... and I'm hoping that he's the same way in real life, especially since he's a proud daddy. :)
Feedback: If you liked this story, please let me know. Besides my 'boy band' story (Kevin and Justin), I haven't received a great deal of email about my other stories. I'd like to hear from you if you enjoyed this story, and/or 'Remembrance' too.