Here we are, back with the seventh story in the "Sweet Dreams" series. Yes, it is now officially the "Sweet Dreams" series; everyone I heard from seems to like it as a series title, and it has the advantage that I‘ve been using it from the start. (Sorry Sarah!)

The previous six stories in the series are as follows: "Sweet Dreams", "Jitterbug", "Aftershocks", "Rose Garden", "Plush Toy", and "Sleepwalking". If you‘re missing any stories, or pieces thereof, you can get them from the above-listed web site, or you can check the ASC archives, or you can try R‘rain‘s slash page, or DejaNews. If all else fails, you can e-mail me at MaisieRita@aol.comcom and ask for what you‘re missing.

Enough of the administrative details, on to the serious intro for "Jabberwocky":"Jabberwocky", you cry? Why "Jabberwocky"? Several reasons. 1) Ilike short, pithy titles. 2) I don‘t like serious titles for light reading material. 3) I was inspired (same thing with "Jitterbug"). 4) It‘s got "jabber" in it, and to jabber means to talk, which is the main topic of this story, so it seemed somehow appropriate. 5) Using it gave me a good excuse to thumb through "Through the Looking Glass". (Which reminds me how irritated I got when Kira referenced it at the end of the first DS9 Mirror Universe episode ("Crossover," I believe) ... pretty out-of-character for a Bajoran who admittedly knows little, if anything, about non-Bajoran culture to be quoting Lewis Carroll!)

In case you were wondering, this story begins a day or two after "Sleepwalking" left off.

by Margaret Berger (MaisieRita@aol.com)

Copyright 1997

(Voy, C/P, NC-17, 1/8)

DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns everything related to Voyager and its cast. I am borrowing a few of my favorite characters during the summer re-runs, but I‘ll return them in good condition. I promise.

WARNING WARNING WARNING!!! This story is rated NC-17 for explicit descriptions of consensual sex between two men. If that offends you, or you‘re under 18, stop right here. Seriously. I have no wish to traumatize anybody, young or old, so please don‘t read on if you‘ll be traumatized.

Feedback, as always, is warmly welcomed at the above edress.

Chakotay woke up when Tom rolled over, freeing Chakotay‘s hand. It had been trapped under Tom‘s body for the last several hours, and was totally numb. Chakotay braced himself for the awful case of pins and needles he was going to get as the circulation was restored, and lay in bed for a few more minutes, gritting his teeth as the pain washed over him. Ouch. Damn, he hated that.

When the worst of it had passed, and he was able to move his fingers again, he turned to the nightstand and checked the chronometer. 0633. Good morning, Big Man, he sighed to himself. He was up for good, he knew that; no hope of getting back to sleep when the chronometer was set for 0715 anyway. He‘d be up every two minutes, checking the time, waiting in paranoid anticipation for the alarm to ring.

So he was up. He thought about his options. He could lie in bed for the next 45 minutes, watching Tom sleep. Not an unpleasant way to spend the early morning, really. Tom was a restless sleeper, most of the night, and it was only from around 4 to 7 that he‘d lie there, peaceful and calm, face totally smooth. Absolutely beautiful. An angel in the flesh. Chakotay snorted to himself and cut off that train of thought abruptly. Don‘t get carried away mooning over your boyfriend, Chakotay. It‘s embarrassing.

Another option: He could wake Tom up. After Tom bitched and moaned about it for a few minutes, they could fool around. Certainly an attractive choice, but, on the other hand, they hadn‘t gotten a lot of sleep last night. They‘d spent the night in Chakotay‘s quarters, and Tom had been up pacing from 2 to 3:30 before Chakotay dragged him back to bed and had gotten him to sleep the only way that seemed to work. Again. Chakotay mentally shook his head in frustration. They had to get past this. Get past it or spend every night in Tom‘s quarters, because there was just no way he was up to these middle-of-the-night marathons every night, and Tom needed his sleep, too.

Option 3. Get up, get showered, and have breakfast. Let Tom sleep. Probably the best thing to do, all things considered. He gave himself a few more minutes of lying in bed, watching Tom sleep, before picking himself up and struggling into the shower. Spirits, he was achy. Pains in muscles he hadn‘t known he had. Lately, Tom was getting downright adventurous. Last night they‘d made love in that big easy chair in the outer room, in a fairly awkward position, and somewhere in the middle the chair had tipped over, dumping them rather unceremoniously on the floor. Not that they‘d really minded, but somehow, in the ensuing rearrangement, Tom had ended up on top and Chakotay was on the bottom and Tom got really vigorous and now ... Chakotay ached all over. Several bite marks, a few bruises, and a bad case of rug burn to boot.

Chakotay supposed he could report to Sickbay, and have the Doctor fix him up, but, gods, the last time he‘d done that the Doctor had insisted on knowing exactly how he‘d gotten each particular bruise, and Chakotay wasn‘t sure he could handle that much humiliation again. The damn hologram had even taken notes. His face burned again at the memory, and he thrust his head under the water to cool it off.

It wasn‘t until he was toweling himself dry that he realized what day it was, and he could have sworn he felt his stomach drop down through his feet, and into Ensign Carell‘s quarters a deck below. Holy spirits. It was The Day. The three months they‘d agreed upon were over, and it was time for The Talk. Oh gods. Chakotay felt his heart speed up, and when he looked down, he was unsurprised to find his hands trembling as well. Shit. Shit shit shit. Damn. Gods, they‘d discussed this a few days before—they‘d both known The Day was coming fast - - and they‘d agreed to have The Talk over dinner. Tonight. Tom had even made a reference to it last night, but at the time Chakotay hadn‘t been thinking too coherently --- kind of hard with Tom‘s tongue in his ear—and the comment had passed Chakotay by completely.

No wonder Tom had been pacing last night. As nervous as Chakotay was, Tom seemed to be feeling it a hundred times worse. And Chakotay was nervous, no doubt about it, he was damn nervous, nervous about The Talk itself, and even more nervous about what the outcome of The Talk was going to be. It was a distinct possibility, he knew, that he was going to ask Tom for a level of commitment that Tom simply wasn‘t prepared to handle, and that Tom would choose to call the whole thing off rather than risk getting too deeply involved. If that happened, Chakotay knew he just couldn‘t afford to give Tom any more time; there was too much at stake, his feelings for Tom were spiraling dangerously out of control. It was more than just lust, he was in love with Tom and falling in deeper with each passing day. Tom was in love with him, too, Chakotay knew that with unshakable certainty, but Tom hadn‘t come to grips with it yet; every time the subject was raised, Tom got an utterly panicked expression in his eyes. Tom was afraid of it, completely, honestly, deeply afraid of it, and Chakotay was afraid that in a fight between Tom‘s emotions, fear would best love.

Regardless, it had to end tonight. Chakotay couldn‘t take much more of this indefinite limbo into which he‘d voluntarily placed himself, and tonight was the agreed-upon deadline for a serious talk about their relationship. So at the end of the evening, he and Tom would either be together as lovers, true lovers, bodies and souls, hearts and minds, or it would be ... over. Oh gods. A shock of true dread ran through him, chilled him, and for the first time he felt a tiny bit of uncertainty that he‘d have the courage of his convictions, that he‘d really be able to call it off if Tom asked him for more time.

Showered and dressed, he stood in the doorway to the bedroom, watching Tom sleep. Tom had rolled over and had spread out in the middle of the bed, taking up most of it. He was lying on his stomach, and Chakotay could see the bruises covering his back, some new, some old. Gods, Tom marked up easier than any lover he‘d ever had, and for some reason, he didn‘t like to use the regenerator to get rid of the bruises. Chakotay thought, miserably, that if things didn‘t work out, there might be no more bruises ... they‘d never make love again ... Cutting off that thought, he left the room quickly, and headed off to the mess hall.

"Good morning, Commander."

Chakotay looked up from his unidentifiable and unappetizing breakfast to find Megan Delaney standing in front of him, tray in her hands.

"Good morning, Ensign," he said neutrally, a little surprised to see her there.

"Do you mind if I sit down?" she asked. At his querying look, she added, "Only if you‘re not busy, I mean."

"No, no," he said. "I‘m not busy. Have a seat."

Megan sat down gracefully. "Where‘s Tom?" she asked, as she began to investigate the contents of her tray.

"He was still sleeping when I left," Chakotay answered. "He hates getting up early, and I didn‘t want to wake him before the alarm went off, because when I do that, he gets very ... grumpy."

Megan laughed lightly. "*That‘s* an understatement if I‘ve ever heard one. Wake him up 5 minutes before he has to be up, and he‘ll complain about it for days. He can be a real pain-in-the-ass sometimes."

Chakotay had to agree, and added, "Actually, I‘ve noticed that he‘s worse when he hasn‘t had enough sleep the night before. Then he gets really cranky in the morning, no matter how late you let him sleep."

"Why, Commander Chakotay," Megan teased, "are you keeping poor Tom up past his bedtime?"

Chakotay flushed, not sure how to respond to that, when another high-pitched voice chimed in, "Now, Meg, be nice to the Commander. He‘s not used to your warped sense of humor." Jenny Delaney‘s smile was bright and cheerful as she took the empty seat next to her sister.

Megan answered smoothly, "He‘s put up with Tom for this long. He should be immune to teasing by now."

Jenny cocked her head thoughtfully. "You may be right." She took a sip of a pink colored juice and made a pleasantly surprised face. "Mmm, this is pretty good, whatever it is." Another sip of juice, then she said, "Commander, I have to hand it to you. I never thought I‘d see the day when Tom Paris would be involved in even a *semi*-stable relationship. The man spooks easier than an Volarian sand crab."

Megan laughed in agreement, then turned to Chakotay. "Have you gotten him to use the ‚c‘ word yet?"

Chakotay was confused. "The ‚c‘ word?"

"Commitment," Megan and Jenny chimed in unison.

"Who‘s getting committed?" Chakotay turned around to find Sue Nicoletti standing behind him. She pulled out the empty chair next to him and sat down.

Jenny answered Sue‘s question, "Tom."

Sue looked stunned and turned to Chakotay. "Are you telling me you got Paris to talk about commitment?"

"No," Chakotay said, laughing at Sue‘s obvious disbelief.

"Good," Sue said, wiping her brow in mock relief. "I was afraid I‘d fallen into one of those damn alternate universes." She thought about it for a minute, then continued, "Although, come to think of it, maybe I have. Tom‘s been seeing you exclusively since that big blow out last month, right?"

"As far as I know," Chakotay answered.

All three women shook their heads. "I can‘t believe it. You must be doing something right," Sue said.

"Yeah," Jenny agreed. "What do you have that we don‘t?"

"Other than the obvious..." Megan said with a too innocent look on her face.

"Megan!" Jenny said, rolling her eyes. "Behave."

"Relax, Jen," Megan said, laughing. "If Commander Chakotay couldn‘t handle a little sexual innuendo with his omelet, he‘d never have lasted this long with Tom."

Chakotay poked at the formless blob on his plate. "Is this really supposed to be an omelet?"

"So Neelix claims," Megan answered. She leaned forward and lowered her voice a bit, "Seriously, Commander, now that the three month trial period is almost over, what‘s going to happen with you and Tom?"

Chakotay was a little nonplused, and it must have shown in his face, because Megan patted his arm gently and said, "You didn‘t think Tom told anyone what this relationship was all about, did you?"

"Honestly, no," Chakotay said, "except for Harry, and Tom swore him to secrecy."

Megan laughed lightly. "Once your—affair—was public knowledge, Tom thought I had a right to know the whole story, seeing as how I was an unwitting player in this little drama... He came to my quarters one night and told me everything. He let me tell Sue and Jenny, but made us promise to keep it to ourselves, otherwise."

"Oh," Chakotay said, not sure how he felt about this. He still wasn‘t quite comfortable around Megan, or Jenny and Sue, for that matter.

Jenny smiled gently. "We have kept it to ourselves, you know. And that‘s hard for us. What great gossip!" She sighed theatrically. "But Megan‘s right. By our reckoning, the three months is over tonight."

Chakotay looked at the three women carefully as comprehension dawned. "Ah, so that‘s why you‘ve descended on me for breakfast this morning. You want to know what‘s going to happen next."

Megan grinned. "It‘s not that you‘re not good company, Commander, but we don‘t really move in the same circles, do we?"

Chakotay had to agree. Then he frowned. "I wish I had something concrete to tell you, but the truth is, I have no idea what Tom‘s planning. We are going to have a talk tonight, but as to what the outcome of that talk will be, I have no idea."

Megan looked at him speculatively. "Well, what do you want from this relationship? I assume you‘re not completely satisfied with it as it stands now?"

"No, I‘m not. It‘s not that the ... physical ... side isn‘t very satisfying—" Chakotay looked up to see knowing smiles passed around the table, and rolled his eyes, "—but I need something more than that. A stronger commitment."

"Maybe you could get married," Sue suggested jokingly.

Chakotay had to laugh. "Are you kidding? If I even brought it up, Tom would be out of the room so fast he‘d leave warp trails behind him."

"And skid marks down the corridor," Jenny added. "It‘s like I said. A Volarian sand crab."

"It‘s a shame, really," Sue said, taking a delicate bite of her omelet. "I think the two of you make a really cute couple. And god knows I couldn‘t put up with Tom for three solid months. All that teasing ..."

Megan shook her head. "Yeah, but what about the sex, Sue? Surely that would count for something."

Sue nodded her head to concede the point. "Mmm. The sex would count for a lot." Her eyes got a little glazed. "Did I ever tell you about the time we were accidentally locked in the holodeck for three hours?"

"Yes," Megan said, slightly exasperated. "Repeatedly."

"Oh," Sue said dreamily, "but it was so—"

"We know," Jenny said. "Amazing. Unbelievable. We‘ve all heard it before."

Chakotay cleared his throat quietly, and Megan giggled. "Actually, Jen, Commander Chakotay probably hasn‘t heard it. Go on, Commander, ask her. I‘m sure Sue will love to fill you in on all the gory details."

"That‘s quite all right, thank you," Chakotay said, demurring.

"Oh, Commander," Jenny said, laughing, "don‘t tell me you‘re embarrassed by this conversation. It‘s so tame. The stories we could tell you about Tom ..." She trailed off and looked at him thoughtfully.

Megan caught the glance and turned her eyes to Chakotay as well. "Maybe that‘s not a bad idea," she said, mischievously. "We could give you some ideas; a few ways to keep things interesting between you and Tom."

Chakotay was getting decidedly uncomfortable at the turn of the conversation. Much as he enjoyed sex, he wasn‘t particularly comfortable discussing it. Especially not with these particular women. Despite his embarrassment, Megan continued, "For instance, Commander, have you ever noticed how sensitive the spot right beneath Tom‘s left collarbone is?"

Chakotay coughed a little bit. "No," he managed to say, "I can‘t say that I have."

Jenny and Sue leaned in close to the table. Sue brought her voice down to a whisper. "Oh, Commander, you‘ve got to try biting him there. You won‘t believe the reaction you get."

Jenny agreed, nodded her head enthusiastically. "Absolutely wild!

He‘ll be bucking you off the bed. And if you follow that up

immediately with a kiss to the base of his throat—"

"—he lets out this beautiful moan," Sue said, sighing. "Then if you

bite that spot beneath his collarbone again—"

"—he‘ll scream," Megan finished. "Guaranteed."

Chakotay found himself getting interested despite himself. "A hard bite, or a soft one?"

"Oh, soft, definitely," Sue said, and Megan and Jenny nodded their agreement. "If you break the skin, he‘ll get upset, and it will spoil the mood."

Jenny tapped one finger on the table, making a point. "If you do it right," she said, and had the grace to look just a little bit embarrassed, "and he‘s, ummm ... close to ... you know ... well, it‘ll send him right over the edge." Sue and Megan nodded in sage agreement.

Chakotay caught himself making mental notes, and laughed to himself. He had to ask, "Do the three of you sit around comparing notes on all the men on the crew?"

"No," Megan giggled. "Only the good ones."

A cough above them alerted them to Tom‘s presence. He stood there, holding a breakfast tray, Harry at his side. Tom was shaking his head and scowling. "This can‘t be good," he said to Harry.

"Why not?" Harry asked, a grin on his face. "Three of your former lovers having breakfast with your current one? Just imagine what they‘ve been talking about."

Tom frowned. "I don‘t have to imagine it. That‘s the whole problem."

Chakotay offered, "Do you want to sit down? We can pull up some extra chairs."

"No, that‘s o.k.," Tom said, surprising Chakotay a little bit. "Harry and I have some things to discuss. We won‘t interrupt you. I just came by to thank you for not waking me this morning."

Megan looked at Tom with an evil glint in her eye. "He knew you needed your sleep, Tom, after last night..." Her voice was deliberately suggestive, and Tom blushed scarlet.

"You see!" he complained to Harry. "This is exactly what I was afraid of." He turned to Chakotay. "What did you tell her?"

"Nothing," Chakotay said. "I swear!" He glared at Megan, who was trying hard not to laugh.

"Uh huh." Tom didn‘t believe him. "That‘s what you said the other time. Why are you always talking about me in the mess hall when I‘m not around to defend myself?"

"I‘m not. I didn‘t say anything to Megan. She‘s just trying to get under your skin, Tom, and doing a pretty good job of it. I didn‘t say anything the other time, either, by the way."

"Right. Then how did B‘Elanna know to ask about the re-" Tom cut himself off before he finished the word ‚restraints‘, and glanced helplessly at Harry, who was struggling to wipe the grin off his face.

Sue was quick to pick up the trail. "*What* other time? What did B‘Elanna ask about? Some kinky sex toy? Some bizarre sexual position? The bananas?"

"Bananas?" Chakotay couldn‘t help but blurt out.

"Oh gods," Tom groaned, looking around the room in desperation.

"Harry, can‘t we go sit down now?"

"No, I want to hear about the bananas, too." He‘d given up on trying to keep a straight face, and was grinning widely.

"Don‘t you know about them, Harry?" Megan asked, surprised. "I

thought for sure Tom would have told you about the time he and I—"

"Megan!" Tom interrupted. "Shut up."

"But, Tom, it was so much-"

"Do you really want me to post that picture of you from Tarsa IV on the ship‘s net?"

"But," she spluttered, "you swore you‘d get rid of it!"

"I changed my mind," Tom shrugged. "I thought it might come in handy someday."

Megan eyed him speculatively. "I think you‘re lying."

"Maybe," he admitted. "Are you really willing to risk it?"

"Maybe," she echoed. "It‘s such a great story..." Tom glared at her furiously and she subsided. "All right," she said, conceding, "I won‘t tell it. This time."

Tom sighed. "Harry," he pleaded, "can we please go sit down now? I knew I should never have come over here. It‘s too early in the morning for this."

Harry took pity on him and nodded. "There‘s an empty table by the window. Let‘s go. See you later," he said to the table at large, and walked away.

Tom leaned down to the table. "I don‘t think I like you sitting with these three, Teddy. They‘re a bad influence. And you," he said to Megan pointedly, "are the worst of them all."

"I know," she said sweetly. "I‘m just awful. That‘s why you love me." She blew him a kiss, and waved him away. "Now go on. Harry‘s waiting for you."

Tom grunted and walked away. Chakotay tracked him with his eyes, then turned back to the table. He shook his head in admiration. "I‘m way out of my league here, ladies," he said, clapping softly. "I‘ve never seen Tom that flustered before."

"Oh, it‘s easy to get Tom flustered," Jenny said. "He likes to pretend he‘s so worldly, but he‘s really kind of inhibited."

"I don‘t think inhibited is the right word," Sue said. "Repressed, maybe. I mean, he really enjoys sex, but when you want to try something a little ... unusual, he gets kind of freaked out."

"Yeah, but you usually can convince him to try it," Megan said. "I mean, I was able to get him to try the bananas, eventually. He agreed afterwards that it was worth it."

Chakotay couldn‘t help himself. "Try what with the bananas?"

Megan grinned. "Sorry, Commander. I promised Tom I wouldn‘t tell that story today. You‘ll just have to worm it out of him." She stood picked up her tray and stood up to leave, followed in quick order by Jenny and Sue. "Good luck, tonight, Commander."

"Thanks," he said. "I‘ll need it." After they left, he poked for a few minutes at his now cold and even more unappetizing omelet, then gave up and cleared his tray. Time to get to the morning briefing, and get the day started.

End Part 1

The briefing was strictly routine. Neelix had obtained a star map of the surrounding systems, and one planet in particular boasted a rich and flourishing flora, from which they‘d be able to restock their food supplies, and potentially pick up some valuable mineral ores. Janeway agreed to a restocking mission, and ended the meeting.

Chakotay had almost made it out the door before Janeway called him aside. "Commander," she said briskly, "I‘d like to discuss a few personnel issues with you. It will only take a few minutes."

Chakotay replaced ‚personnel‘ in his mind with its close relative, ‚personal‘, and laughed to himself. He wondered distractedly if anybody else were fooled by Janeway‘s pretense. He doubted it. Attempting to keep a poker face, he said in as business-like a tone as he could muster, "Of course, Captain."

Janeway waited until the rest of the senior staff had filed out of the briefing room before she waved Chakotay back into his seat. "Tonight‘s the big night, right?"

"You too?" Chakotay said, slightly exasperated.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean I was cornered by the Delaney sisters and Sue Nicoletti this morning, wanting to know what was going to happen tonight."

"How did they know about it?"

Chakotay waved his arm around. "Tom!" He shook his head. "I can‘t believe it. The man swears me to silence about this whole arrangement, then he goes and tells Megan Delaney!"

"So? They‘re still friends, Chakotay. Good friends."

"I know." His voice was sullen.

"Don‘t tell me you‘re still jealous of her."

"No," Chakotay said, unconvincingly. "Not really."

"Oh, please, Chakotay. Get over it. Tom‘s not sleeping with her anymore. You know that as well as I do. You have no reason to be jealous."

"I know," Chakotay agreed grudgingly. "It drives me crazy, though, the thought of him going to her cabin ... she definitely has a thing for him, I don‘t care how many times they both deny it ... old habits die hard, Kathryn. She might seduce him."

Janeway stared at him for an instant, and burst out laughing. "I wish you could have heard yourself just now," she said, through the laughter. "No, I wish Tom could have heard you. Good Lord, Chakotay, he‘d never let you live it down. All this time we‘ve worked together, I can‘t believe I never knew you could be so irrational."

"I‘m not being irrational," he protested.

"You most certainly are," she retorted. "Tom goes to Megan‘s cabin to talk about his relationship with you, and somehow, in your fevered imagination, the evening ends up with Megan seducing him?" She laughed at his defensive expression, and spoke again before he could. "Really, Commander, I know you‘re attracted to Tom, and I‘ll admit he‘s very attractive, but he‘s not irresistible. Megan knows how important this relationship is to him; she‘s not going to do anything to jeopardize that." Her voice got low, confiding a secret. "Anyway, I don‘t know why you think she has a thing for Tom. She‘s interested in Joe Carey, but he‘s got a wife and kids back home, so she‘s keeping her distance."

"If she‘s interested in Carey, why was she sleeping with Tom?"

Janeway rolled her eyes. "Because she‘s not as puritanical as you are, Chakotay. The Delaneys are Starfleet brats just like Tom ... they all tend to have a very relaxed attitude towards sex. It‘s part of the lifestyle."

Chakotay raised his eyebrows at her. "*You‘re* a Starfleet brat, too, Kathryn."

Janeway grinned. "Why do you think I understand them so well?" She stood up, walked to the replicator, and ordered herself a cup of coffee. When she sat down again, she said, more seriously, "If the Delaneys and Sue Nicoletti cornered you, then I guess I was right about what day it was. It is today, isn‘t it?"

Chakotay drummed his fingers on the table. "Yes."

"Does Tom know it?"

"At least as well as I do. He mentioned it last night, but I wasn‘t really paying attention ... I didn‘t realize until this morning what day it was."

"So, what‘s going to happen?"

"We‘re going to have a talk tonight, over dinner." He puffed out a breath of air. "I‘m nervous as hell."

Janeway looked at him over the rim of her coffee cup, eyes wide with surprise. "Why? I thought everything was going very smoothly between the two of you."

"It has been, mostly."


"Yes." He looked away for an instant, and spoke to the empty air. "I‘m in love with him, Kathryn. It‘s bad. Really bad. I haven‘t felt this way since ... ... ... actually, I don‘t think I‘ve ever felt this way before."

"Mmm hmm," she encouraged, sipping her coffee.

"He‘s afraid of it. He doesn‘t like me to tell him I love him; you should see the expression in his eyes when I slip up and say it anyway ... he‘s petrified."

"Why?" Janeway was honestly surprised.

"Who the hell knows?" Chakotay was exasperated, and slapped his hand down on the table in frustration. "Damned if I can figure it out, and it‘s fucking impossible to get Tom to talk about it."

Janeway was a little taken aback. "Your language has deteriorated since you‘ve started seeing him, you know," she said gently. "You never used to swear."

Chakotay reddened. "I‘m sorry. You‘re right—he curses all the time; it must be wearing off on me." He chuckled, once. "He claims he started doing it to annoy his father, and now it‘s just habit."

Janeway laughed too. "Tom obviously didn‘t know his father as well as he thought, if he thought cursing would annoy him. Owen had the worst mouth I‘ve ever heard. Absolutely proper and correct on the bridge, but get him in a bar, playing pool ... unbelievable. His favorite was to curse in Romulan. Seems they have some particularly colorful epithets."

Chakotay was laughing along with her. "Tom likes to curse in Romulan too."

"I‘ve told you before that Tom is a lot like his father," she said. She raised one eyebrow speculatively. "They look alike too, you know. You‘d be amazed if you ever met Admiral Paris, Chakotay. Tom looks exactly like him. Exactly."

Chakotay nodded. "I know. Tom showed me a picture of his family, taken the day he entered the Academy."

"Really? How did he look?"

"Young. Skinny. Honestly, the word ‚beanpole‘ came to mind, but I thought it would be tactful not to say it. Tom doesn‘t like it when I talk about his weight. Says he‘s been called too thin his entire life, and he‘s sick of it."

"He‘s just pulling your leg. Men don‘t care about their weight."

"Oh, I don‘t know. Most of us are more concerned about it than women realize. Tom and I almost got into a fight about it—I was nagging him to eat more. He got really angry..." A sudden wave of apprehension washed over him, and he bit his lip.

Janeway sensed it, and placed a hand comfortingly on his arm. "Don‘t worry, Chakotay. I‘m sure the two of you will work it out."

"I hope so," Chakotay said, quietly.

"You love him, Chakotay," Janeway said firmly. "You‘ll work it out."

She patted him on the arm and stood up. "Come on, Commander.

We‘re due on the bridge."

The morning shift dragged on and on. Tom left for lunch at the earliest opportunity, accompanied as usual by Harry. Chakotay would often eat with them, but today, he thought, it would be better not to talk to Tom. Not until dinner, not until it was officially time for The Talk. He just couldn‘t see himself making casual conversation while, with every passing second, The Talk drew closer and closer.

Gods, Big Man, you are getting ridiculous and melodramatic in your old age. It‘s just a conversation. Stop capitalizing the damn thing. He must have been shaking his head, because Janeway tapped him on the arm and asked, "Are you all right?"

"Yes," he said, embarrassed. Gods. This was terrible.

Chakotay waited until Tom and Harry got back to the bridge before he left for lunch himself. He was still hungry from breakfast—he hadn‘t been able to force himself to eat too much of the so-called omelet—so he was pleasantly surprised to find a cold pasta salad for the main course. Sitting down at a small corner table, he began to eat, slowly, trying very hard not to think about the upcoming talk at dinner.

He didn‘t notice B‘Elanna walk into the mess hall and get some food, so he was a little startled when she pulled out the chair across from him and sat down. "Nervous?" she said, without any preamble.

Chakotay put down his fork. "You too?"

"Me too what?"

"You know what today is?"

"Chakotay, the whole ship knows what day it is. There‘s even a betting pool going on the outcome..." B‘Elanna laughed at his horrified expression. "I‘m kidding. Boy, you can‘t take a joke anymore. I don‘t know how you‘ve survived this long with Tom. Who else knows?"

Chakotay heaved a sigh of relief. "Gods, I thought you were serious. Ummm, Kathryn knows. So do Megan and Jenny Delaney. Sue Nicoletti, too."

B‘Elanna added, "And Harry, of course."

"Of course. How did you find out?"

"Harry told me. Then Tom came and talked to me about it yesterday afternoon when his shift ended."

"He talked to you about it?"

B‘Elanna looked a little bit offended. "Yeah. We‘re friends. And he thought I‘d be a good person to talk to, since I had a fling with you in the not-too-distant past. Why are you so surprised?"

"I‘m not surprised," Chakotay said, unconvincingly. B‘Elanna looked at him skeptically, and he sighed. "I guess I am, a little bit. It‘s just that, he never talks to me about our relationship, but he seems to talk to everybody else."

B‘Elanna shook her head. "I don‘t think so. Yesterday was the first time he‘s come to me for advice. I think the only one he‘s spoken to on a regular basis has been Harry, and truthfully, I think that‘s only been this past week. Before then, seems to me he was avoiding the whole issue."

"I don‘t suppose you want to tell me what you talked about."

B‘Elanna shrugged. "I don‘t think it was confidential. We talked about the usual relationship stuff: life, love, happiness. What makes you happy. He‘s pretty stressed about tonight, Chakotay. I‘ve never seen him so ... unhinged."


"Yeah." She took a bite of her pasta. "He was going on and on, not making any sense at all. Half of him is angry at you for putting him in this position, the other half blames himself for it—he said it was his own stupid idea to have this talk in the first place—he was talking about love and lust and sex and getting it all mixed up." She took another bite of pasta, and chewed thoughtfully. "If you ask me, he‘s not ready to have this discussion, yet."

"That‘s no real surprise. When do you think he‘ll be ready?"

"Honestly? Never." B‘Elanna smiled sympathetically. "Remember what I told you last month, after he slept with Megan? Tom‘s got an anti-commitment gene, or something. It frightens him, Chakotay, really frightens him." She frowned. "When we were stuck in the Vidiian prison, he wasn‘t half as scared as he was yesterday, talking to me. If you push him on this, I‘m not sure what he‘ll do. He might break it off."

"I know." He breathed out heavily. "Damn."

"I agree. Tom‘s been talking to Harry a lot, Chakotay, every day, I think, but I‘m not sure it‘s helping." B‘Elanna poked her fork at her plate, but didn‘t eat anything. "Harry‘s only ever been involved in one serious relationship, with this girl Libby from home, and from what he tells me, their relationship was very relaxed. He loved her, but it wasn‘t as ... combustible ... as your relationship with Tom."

"Combustible? That‘s an odd choice of words."

"I think it‘s perfect. The way the two of you look at each other sometimes ... the heat coming off you could set the ship on fire. Hell, the sparks start flying the minute the two of you step into the same room."

"Your point being?"

"I didn‘t say I had one." She waved her fork around in the air as she spoke. "Look, Tom is in love with you, even if he‘s too stupid and stubborn to admit it, but if you try to force him into a commitment he‘s not ready for, he might bolt."

"I understand that. But what other choice do I have?" Chakotay asked miserably.

"What‘s wrong with maintaining the status quo for a while?"

Chakotay shook his head. "I can‘t do it. You said it yourself, Tom may never be ready to discuss this with me. He‘d be entirely willing to let this ... arrangement ... stand forever. It‘s perfect for him, all the sex but none of the ‚messy emotions‘—his words, not mine." He drummed his fingers on the table, and pushed his tray off to the side, clearing a space for his elbows. "I agreed to this deal on the condition that we‘d have a talk after three months. Now, here we are, three months later, and whether or not Tom‘s ready for it, we are going to have a talk. I can‘t stay in this holding pattern forever. If he‘s not willing to invest more of himself in this relationship then ..."

B‘Elanna quirked an eyebrow at him, daring him to say it. He didn‘t, just sank his head in his hands and sighed.

B‘Elanna smiled sympathetically. "Men. I‘ve said it before, but it bears repeating. You‘re such morons." She ticked a few points off on her fingers. "He‘s in love with you. You‘re in love with him. Tom says the sex is the best he‘s ever had, and I gather you feel the same way." B‘Elanna waited for Chakotay‘s nod of confirmation before continuing. "Why are you making this so complicated?"

Chakotay snorted. "That‘s exactly what Tom asked me, the night we agreed to the deal."

"What was your answer?"

"That a lifetime of spiritual meditation gets you into the habit of analyzing everything." He looked away for a minute. "B‘Elanna, the plain and simple truth is that I can‘t continue to be in a relationship with a man who panics every time I tell him I love him. We‘ve either got to get to a point where he acknowledges those feelings, or we‘ve got to end it before it goes any farther. The longer we wait, the harder it will be."

B‘Elanna was silent. Finally, she answered him, saying, "It sounds like you‘re convinced you know what you‘re doing. I just hope you‘re right. I don‘t want you to get hurt, Chakotay, least of all by something you did to yourself."

"I agree. I don‘t want me to get hurt either." He raised his glass of water in a mock toast. "Here‘s hoping I won‘t."

Later that evening, in his cabin, Chakotay checked the time for the tenth time in the past 5 minutes. The computer, infinitely patient, responded, "The time is 1854." All right, Big Man, you can leave in two minutes. He paced nervously up and down a narrow strip of carpet in his bedroom, sure he was going to wear a hole in the rug, but unable to stop himself from doing it. He‘d tried to meditate earlier, but it had been hopeless. Shit, he hadn‘t been this nervous since ... since ... since that first date. Gods. Actually, he‘d probably been less nervous then. He‘d been looking forward to that evening, and he wasn‘t looking forward to this one at all.

"Computer, what‘s the time?"

"The time is 1855."

One more minute. He checked his appearance again in the mirror. Tan slacks, red shirt, collar open. Hair neat. Teeth brushed. Spirits, this was ridiculous. Tom had seen him at his worst; several times, in fact. Gods, they‘d made love often enough right after waking up, morning breath and all ... Tom had never complained about it before. In fact, Tom had never remarked on Chakotay‘s appearance, not once, so it was nothing short of neurotic for Chakotay to be so concerned about it now. Sighing, he ran a brush through his hair again anyway, just in case.

"Computer, what‘s the time?"

"The time is 1857."

Damn. Now he was running a minute behind schedule. He hurried out the door, and made it to Tom‘s quarters precisely at 1900 hours, where he stood, hesitating, outside the door. He‘d had Tom‘s Level I clearance for over a month, and he hadn‘t used the door chime in almost that long. Hell, if Harry could walk in without announcing himself (although he always did, now, ever since that unfortunate early-morning incident), Chakotay figured he could walk in without announcing himself. So he had been, and Tom didn‘t seem to mind ... but somehow, tonight, it seemed more appropriate to ring the chime. Chakotay reached for it, pressed it gently, and waited.

"Come in?" Tom‘s voice was a little hesitant, but his face relaxed when he saw it was Chakotay. Tom was standing just inside the door, impeccably dressed in a casual outfit that was all soft silk and tight denim, deep emerald green against inky black. "Hi," he said, softly. His face was as calm as ever, but Chakotay was getting better at reading the emotions hidden behind the mask. Tom was nervous. So was Chakotay.

Chakotay walked in, stopping uncertainly a few feet inside the door, suddenly unbearably tense, wanting nothing more than for this evening to be over with. But if it goes wrong, a tiny voice screamed at him, Tom will be gone ... Chakotay shivered, and shook the thought off.

"Hungry?" Tom asked, gesturing at the replicator. "I‘ve been saving my rations. I thought you might like some pasta..." his voice trailed off and he stared at the ground uncomfortably.

"With Kildavian olives?" Chakotay joked, trying unsuccessfully to break the tension in the room.

"If you like," Tom answered, then fell abruptly quiet, remembering that first meal together, and the evening afterwards.

Chakotay didn‘t respond, and the room was quiet for a few long minutes.

Finally, Tom drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Fuck. This is impossible."

Chakotay had to laugh a little bit, but when he spoke, his voice was soft, reflective. "You never expected it to last this long, did you? You never thought we‘d actually be having this discussion..."

Tom was quiet, staring at the ground, then he said, softly, "No, I didn‘t." He choked back a snort. "Shit, Chakotay, three months. I never had a relationship last half that long, never. I didn‘t think it was possible. Even if it was only sex."

"But it wasn‘t." A short pause. "Was it?"

Another, very long pause before Tom answered. "No. I don‘t—I don‘t think so."

"Then what was it?" Trick question. Chakotay knew what it was; it was love, plain and simple, but he wanted to hear Tom say it.

Tom didn‘t. He just sighed, and kicked his foot at an imaginary pebble. "I don‘t know what the hell it was. But what I had with Megan ... that was just sex. What I have with you, what we have, it‘s more than that."

Chakotay wandered slowly over to a chair, and leaned on it for support. "Tom, if you can‘t even say the word..."

"Then what?" A flash of anger in Tom‘s voice. "If I can‘t say it, what will you do? Walk out the door? Leave me?" His eyes were furious. "Are you really willing to end it because I can‘t swear that I love you?"

"If necessary," Chakotay said, gripping on to the back of the chair with knuckles that were suddenly white.

"But it‘s not necessary," Tom pleaded. "Why is this such a big issue? You keep saying you don‘t want to force me into something I‘m not ready for, you say it over and over; what if I‘m not ready for this? A little more time-"

"No," Chakotay said firmly, angrily, and took a deep breath to calm himself. When he spoke again, his voice was low. "I don‘t want to force you into something you‘re not ready for. I‘m not asking for a lifetime commitment, Tom. I‘m not asking you to move into my quarters. But I can‘t keep giving you more time, because if I do that, if I give in to you now, it will never end, don‘t you see that? We‘ll stay trapped in this place forever, never moving forward, because you‘re too afraid, and I‘m too weak to end it."

Chakotay self-consciously removed his hands from the chair, and continued. "This isn‘t about me forcing you into a relationship you‘re not ready for, Tom. This is about you being honest with yourself, and with me. Going into this, I didn‘t know what to expect. To be perfectly frank, I don‘t think I expected us to get this far, either. But we are here, and I am completely in love with you, and we have to deal with that, because you‘re in love with me, too."

"But how do you know?" It was almost a wail.

Chakotay crossed the room in three quick strides, and reached his fingers out to cup Tom‘s chin gently in his hand, pull his head down slightly. He stared into Tom‘s eyes. "I know it every time I look at you, when we‘re making love, or playing pool, or sitting across the conference table. I see it in your eyes, Tom, just like you see it in mine."

Tom pulled away. "How do you know that‘s love?" he persisted.

Chakotay shrugged his shoulders slightly. "What else could it be? Lust? No. Gods know I lust after you, Tom. Hell, I want you all the time. Every time I see you, and you flash that flyboy grin at me—it takes all my self-control not to throw you down on the floor and fuck you ‚til you‘re screaming. In the mess hall, in the turbolift, hell, even in the damn morning briefings, I want you. That‘s lust. But—" he moved in close, capturing Tom‘s eyes again, waiting until he saw the surrender there, "*this* is love."

Tom stared at him helplessly for a minute, until the fear that was always lurking in the back of his eyes shot suddenly to the fore, and he jerked away. "Damn it," he said, with a trace of real anger in his voice, "you‘re not playing fair. You want to have a serious discussion? Fine. Let‘s talk. But don‘t go giving me the look like that. You say it‘s love, not lust, but all it does is make me want to fuck you, and I‘m not going to do that right now." He stalked across the room, and sat down on the sofa, glaring pointedly at the opposing chair until Chakotay reluctantly took a seat.

End Part 2

They sat, silently for several more minutes, both calming down and gathering their thoughts, until Tom gestured vaguely and said, "So talk, already."

"What do you want me to say?" Chakotay was determined not to let Tom provoke him.

"Something. Anything. Tell me what you want me to do."

Chakotay took a deep, careful breath. "I want you to be honest with me. Are you happy with us?"

"You know I am."

"No, I don‘t know that. Not really."

"Hell, Chakotay, I tell you all the time how I love the way you make me feel."

"Yes, you do. For all I know, it‘s just the sex that you love."

"No. It‘s not. You know that. Shit, you‘re the one who‘s always telling me I‘m that in love with you. You know it‘s more than just the sex."

"Maybe I was wrong. It‘s happened before." Chakotay‘s voice was deliberately bland.

Tom snorted. "I wish I had a recording of that, to play back to you when you‘re being your usual flawless stubborn-assed self." He gave a quick shake of his head, got serious again, and started speaking in a rush. "Look, I do love the sex. It‘s ... unbelievable... when we‘re together, I can‘t even begin to describe what it feels like, I can‘t find the words to explain it, and I‘ve tried, trust me, I‘ve tried to explain it to Harry and I can‘t... it‘s just so ... right, sometimes, hell, all the time, and I keep waiting to get used to it and I don‘t..." He took a breath, and continued, a little more slowly. "I‘ve thought about it, a lot, about why it‘s so good between you and me, and it can‘t just be the way we fit together, ‚cause you‘re a man and so am I."

"I hadn‘t noticed," Chakotay said dryly.

Tom flushed. "That‘s not what I mean. When we‘re together, it‘s great, always, but you‘ve got to admit, it‘s a little more awkward than being with a woman.... you‘ve always got to worry about lubricant and stuff, and I get bruised a lot more with you than I ever did before, with any woman."

Chakotay couldn‘t help but chuckle. "Well, now I know you‘ve never slept with B‘Elanna."

"Fuck you," Tom said amiably, laughing too. "Rub it in my face, why don‘t you?"

"Did you have a point to this?"

"Yes, believe it or not, I did. Which was, I‘ve had a lot of experience with sex, with all sorts of women, in various stages of sobriety and infatuation and lust, and not ever, with a single one of them, was it as intense as it is with you. And hell, Chakotay, you‘ve got to admit it, men‘s bodies were designed by nature to be fucking women‘s bodies."

"I don‘t have to admit anything."

"Fine. You don‘t have to believe it, but I do. And despite that, in spite of a zillion years of evolution and almost twenty years of experience with women, the best sex I‘ve ever had is with you. So it can‘t just be a physical thing, there‘s got to be more to it. I know that."

Chakotay was guardedly optimistic. "So there are emotions involved?"

"Hell, yes." Tom looked away for a second. "The problem is, I‘m not sure I know what those emotions are. I‘m not sure it‘s love, Chakotay."

"I am."

"So you keep saying." Tom paused for a second. "If you‘re so sure I love you, why do you have to rush me on this? Why can‘t you wait a little longer, give me time to work it out on my own?"

"Because you won‘t. Not without pressure, you won‘t. I know you, Tom. I love you, but I know you ... if I give you another month, or another two, or another eight, if I let us go on like this, we‘ll be having this exact same discussion again later, because you won‘t have worked it out at all, no matter how much time you have to do it."

"You‘re not giving me much credit."

"Tom," Chakotay sighed, "can you tell me honestly that you have set aside any time in the past few months to sit down and think about us and our relationship, where it stands and where it‘s headed?"

"I‘ve thought about us," Tom said defensively.

"Really?" Chakotay couldn‘t keep the surprise out of his voice. "About where our relationship stands?"


"And where it‘s going?"

Tom was quiet for too long, and Chakotay said, "I take it that‘s a ‚no‘."

"Hell, Teddy, I‘m too busy trying to figure out where we are now to spend time figuring out where we‘re going later."

"Don‘t start with the ‚Teddy‘ shit now, Tom. This is serious."

Tom sighed. "I know. I‘m sorry. I don‘t do serious real well." His expression was apologetic. He started drumming his fingers nervously on the side of the couch, and spoke again after a few minutes of uneasy silence. "Can we ... put aside the question of love? For a minute?"

"Yes," Chakotay said guardedly.

"What else do you want from us?"

Chakotay sank back in his chair. "I don‘t understand what you mean."

"Is it really just that I can‘t tell you I love you? Is that the only problem we have to work out? Or is there more that you want from this relationship that you‘re not getting?"

"There‘s more," Chakotay agreed. "I want us to be together, Tom. As more than just lovers."

"How do you mean?"

"I want this relationship to exist outside the bedroom."

"It does." Tom‘s voice was earnest. "We eat together, hang out at the resort together, play pool together ..."

"You do all those things with Harry and B‘Elanna."


"So I want us to be more than friends who happen to sleep together."

Tom frowned. "I hope you‘re not telling me you want us to be one of those sappy couples walking around holding hands all the time."

"No." For an instant, Chakotay‘s mind was filled with an absurd image of himself and Tom, walking onto the bridge, hands linked. He forced it away. "No, that‘s not what I mean. I‘m not talking about external appearances, Tom. I don‘t care what the rest of the crew thinks about us." He struggled to find the right words to express his rather intangible thoughts. "I want us to spend an evening where the goal is not to fall into bed together. When I have a tough day, I want to be able to sit and talk to you about it. If you‘re having trouble with the Maquis ... " Chakotay looked pointedly at Tom, "... I want you to tell me, not Harry. Or, at the very least, tell me and Harry."

"Why does it matter if I tell you or Harry?" Tom‘s voice was earnest, honestly confused. "I don‘t want to upset you, especially by talking about the Maquis."

"You won‘t upset me. I need to know that you trust me enough to tell me anything. That I can trust you enough to tell you anything."

"You can tell me anything you want."

"Except that I love you."

Tom stared at him for a minute, then let his eyes slide away. "So it does all come down to love." His voice was resigned.

"I guess it does." Chakotay was resigned too. "I‘m sorry ... I told you from the beginning, I can‘t have sex without love. Not indefinitely." He exhaled noisily. "The thing is, you are in love with me, Tom. I can see it in your eyes. You just have to admit it to yourself."

"I—I want to." Tom was whispering, now, looking at the floor. "It‘s just that, I can‘t ... I can‘t make myself ... ... ... I‘m not sure ..." He looked away. "Shit." He played nervously with his pants leg, then said, very softly, "I‘m afraid."

"Of what?"

Tom shook his head. "I can‘t explain it."

Chakotay let out a little puff of air in exasperation. "Damn it, Tom, I‘m getting tired of hearing you say that. Just try for once. Try to tell me what‘s frightening you."

"I can‘t—" Tom looked away. "I don‘t know."

"You have no idea?" Chakotay didn‘t believe him.

"Not really. Not that I can put into words."

Chakotay was frustrated. "I don‘t know how to deal with this, Tom. We need to find out what you‘re so afraid of. Is it me?"

"No," Tom said. "You‘d never do anything to hurt me. I know that."

"Well, then, it must be you."


"Look, if you‘re not afraid I‘ll hurt you, you must be afraid that you‘ll hurt me."

"No. I don‘t think so. I‘m not like that." Tom tapped his fingers on his legs agitatedly. "I think ... I think I‘m afraid I‘ll screw it up somehow. Not that I‘ll do something to hurt you, but that, somehow, I‘ll make a mess of things. It‘s so hard to explain..."

Chakotay sighed and closed his eyes. He was tired, and frustrated. "Tom, I know you‘ve made some mistakes in your life. So have I. But trust me, you don‘t make a mess of everything."

"I know that." Tom was slightly offended. "Is that what you think, I‘ve got some sort of loser complex? I don‘t. I don‘t think I‘m a total fuck-up. I never did, even when I‘d fucked up everything." He breathed in and out a few times. "I‘m just afraid I‘ll fuck this up, somehow. I‘ll do something wrong..." He made a noise of inarticulate frustration and waved his hand in negation. "No, that‘s not right either."

"Then what?"

"Fuck it. I‘m so bad at this shit." He sighed, and thought about it, finally speaking again a minute later. "I‘m not afraid I‘ll do something wrong. I mean, I screwed around with Megan and you forgave me for that, and that‘s about the worst thing I could do, and anyway I‘m not going to do that again, so there‘s nothing to worry about there." He took a breath. "I think I‘m afraid that I‘ll mess it up just by being me ... that I won‘t be enough for you."

"That‘s ridiculous. What we have together now is wonderful, Tom. Adding more depth to the relationship will only make it better."

"But I don‘t know how to do that. Even if I tried to give you more of me, I don‘t know that there‘s any more to give."

"Why in the world would you say that?"

Tom ran his fingers through his hair. "All those women, Chakotay. I don‘t even remember all of them, there were so many... I tried to have relationships with some of them, you know. More than once, it never worked, never lasted more than two weeks. It was always just sex, and as soon as the novelty wore off, it was over."

"I‘m sorry, Tom. But I don‘t see what that has to do with us."

"All those relationships were purely physical, sex only—maybe it was my fault. Maybe sex is all I have to offer ... that‘s all the women saw in me because that‘s all there is to see... what if you go looking for more and it‘s not there?"


"Shit, Chakotay, when you and I are together it‘s better than it‘s ever been. I don‘t want to risk screwing it up. If you want more from me and I try to give it but I can‘t ... you‘ll get unhappy and you‘ll leave."

"Tom." Chakotay‘s voice was firm. "If sex was all you had to offer, I wouldn‘t have fallen in love with you. And I do love you; I have for a long time now. Before we ever started sleeping together, I loved you. The fact that the sex is so good ... that‘s a reflection of your personality, Tom, and if the women you‘ve slept with were too blind to see that, it‘s their loss."

Tom looked at him, mystified. "What d‘you mean?"

"Tom, when we make love, it‘s not just good for you. It‘s the most amazing, intense experience I‘ve ever felt, and I‘ve had my fair share of lovers, too, both men and women. Every one of them went into it wanting to have a good time, and most of them were concerned that I‘d have a good time too. But you ... it‘s like you care more about the way I feel than the way you feel."

Tom nodded, a little. "I enjoy it more if I know you‘re enjoying it. Plus, it makes it more exciting ... I love to know I can make you scream and moan and come for me." He shrugged. "Kind of a power trip, I guess."

"Of course," Chakotay agreed. "For all of us. But it‘s more than that for you. You‘re the most attentive, considerate, passionate lover I‘ve ever had. The most unselfish lover I‘ve ever had. That‘s just the way you are, and not only in bed. You‘re like that about everything."

Tom looked away. "You‘re delusional. Unselfish is not a word I‘d ever use to describe myself. Hell, Caldik Prime—"

"Was a terrible accident. And you lied about it. Fine, you screwed up. But you‘ve been paying for it ever since ... I can‘t even count the number of times you‘ve risked your life for this ship. Sometimes I think you won‘t be happy until you die for her, as if that would somehow be atonement for the three lives lost in the crash."

Tom‘s eyes filled with bitter amusement. "Is that really what you think? That I‘m running around, trying to atone for those deaths?" He shook his head, and turned to look out the window. "I‘m not. The accident ... was just that. An accident. I forgave myself for that a long time ago." He stopped speaking, and was silent for so long, Chakotay started getting nervous. Finally, as Chakotay was about to say something to break the silence, Tom said quietly, "What I don‘t think I‘ll ever forgive myself for is the way I acted afterwards. Don‘t you think you find out who you really are in times of stress, Big Man?" He turned back from the window and looked Chakotay full in the face. "After the accident, I found out that deep down inside, I‘m ... a coward."

"You‘re not a coward, Tom."

Tom laughed harshly. "Chakotay, you know what would have happened to me if I‘d never lied about it? If I‘d told the truth from the beginning?" He answered his own question. "Nothing. Oh, maybe I would have tarnished the shining Paris name a little, but that would have been it. Conditions were rough, I made a bad call—pilot error, they call it. It happens to everybody, once in a while."

"Then why did you lie about it?" Chakotay was hesitant to ask the question. Tom had never spoken to him about Caldik Prime before; to the best of his knowledge, Tom had never spoken to anybody about Caldik Prime before.

Tom frowned. "Gods, I don‘t even really know. I just—I couldn‘t believe I‘d fucked up like that, I guess. Shit, Chakotay, I flew my first shuttle sim when I was five. I was flying with third-year cadets when I was 14; they put me in Nova Squadron my freshman year at the Academy. Pilot error ... just didn‘t happen. Not to me." He looked down at the ground, and his voice was very quiet. "When I had to prepare the reports, I started writing down what had really happened, but it looked so ... ludicrous, I couldn‘t make myself believe it. I just couldn‘t, Chakotay." He sighed. "So I wrote down something else, some other version, something easier to believe. I sat and stared at the report for a long time, wishing it were true, but knowing it wasn‘t ... finally, I figured I‘d erase it, write down the real story, and I reached out to delete it ... " He frowned again, remembering. "I think I really did mean to delete it, consciously, at any rate, but when I touched the console, I hit the ‚file‘ key instead. Zap. Instant lie."

Chakotay didn‘t say anything. He knew, somehow, that these were memories Tom had never shared with anybody, and he didn‘t want to risk interrupting him, risk breaking the intimacy of the moment.

Tom continued speaking, voice low and intent. "I should have filed a revised report right away, but I hadn‘t even started writing one yet, and I couldn‘t figure out a way to explain why I‘d ever written a false one in the first place ... as the days went on, I started feeling kind of safe. Hell, I almost started believing the fucking reports were the truth. The thing was, nobody suspected a thing. No one. They weren‘t even investigating the accident. If I‘d kept my mouth shut, I don‘t think anyone would have ever found out about it."

"But you confessed anyway?"

Tom nodded, a quick jerk of his head. "I couldn‘t sleep. Everyone was telling me how lucky and brave I was ... what a fucking joke that was. You think I‘ve got insomnia now, Big Man—you should have seen me then; I didn‘t sleep for three days. Spent the whole time thinking about it ... why‘d I do it, what was I thinking, what kind of person was I, you know, all that psychoanalytical shit. Finally made up my mind that if I ever wanted to sleep again, I‘d better tell the truth." His voice got even quieter. "I knew I was going to be screwed when I told ‚em, but there was this tiny part of me that was hoping they wouldn‘t throw me out; that somehow, I could make them understand." Tom snorted. "What a stupid little shit. They cashiered me out of the ‚Fleet so fast, I didn‘t even have time to pack my suitcase." Remembered pain filled his voice, made it harsh. "Things deteriorated pretty quickly after that."

Chakotay couldn‘t think of anything to say, so he simply reached out a hand and placed it gently on Tom‘s arm. Tom looked at him, briefly, and Chakotay was surprised to see tears glistening in the corners of his eyes. Tom shook the mood off violently. "Shit. How did I get started on this, anyway? I thought we were supposed to be talking about us."

"We are. You were trying to explain to me how you‘re selfish and a coward." Chakotay held up a hand before Tom could speak. "Problem is, I don‘t buy it."


"Be quiet. Give your throat a rest for a minute, Tom." Chakotay smiled softly to take any perceived sting out of his words. "You fucked up after Caldik Prime. You shouldn‘t have lied. It doesn‘t mean you‘re a coward. You were scared and confused and three people were dead ... you made a mistake." He squeezed Tom‘s arm. "But you said it yourself, they weren‘t investigating the accident. You could have kept your mouth shut, no one would have ever known. You told the truth anyway."

"Only because I wasn‘t sleeping—"

"—which was because you‘d lied, and because lying was foreign to you, and to everything you believed in ... honesty, loyalty, service to Starfleet. Truth is, you‘ve got the Paris family honor code embedded in your genes."

"You didn‘t think so when you first met me," Tom said quietly. "You thought I was a mercenary and a drunk, that I couldn‘t be trusted."

"I didn‘t-" Chakotay started, then stopped. He couldn‘t deny it; it was the truth, and he‘d been crass enough to say it right to Tom‘s face, when they‘d met. He smiled a little ruefully. "I was wrong. Gods know, Tom, I‘m not infallible. And in case you hadn‘t noticed, I‘m not always the best judge of character. Hell, I had an affair with Seska." He shuddered theatrically, and Tom laughed lightly, his mood brightening for an instant before his face got serious again.

"The rest of the ship still thinks that about me. The Starfleet crew doesn‘t trust me, and the Maquis," he breathed out angrily, "still think I‘m a traitor to the precious fucking cause. In the past few months I‘ve been told, flat out, to my face, that I‘m a coward, a liar, a traitor, and a no-good miserable piece of scum who should have been left to rot and die in the Akritirian prison."

Chakotay was appalled. "I‘m sorry."

"Don‘t be. It‘s not your fault they‘re assholes." Tom thumped his leg with his fist. "It‘s just so frustrating. I try and try, and nothing ever changes; no matter what I do, in their minds I‘m still a double-crossing bum. Sometimes, it‘s easier just to be that guy, you know?"

Chakotay nodded, slowly. "Yes. It‘s easier to live down to their expectations. I know." Tom looked at him intently, and Chakotay sighed. "Someday, Tom, I‘ll tell you about it. For now, believe me when I say I understand what you‘re feeling." He looked at the younger man intently. "That‘s why you act the way you do ... all the drinking, the con jobs, the smartass remarks—"

"Nah, I‘m just a smartass by nature," Tom joked with a grin, and Chakotay couldn‘t help but grin back.

"I can‘t disagree with you there," Chakotay said, trying to keep the mood light. "So you‘re a smartass. But you‘re not a coward, and you‘re not selfish. You‘re a beautiful, wonderful, caring, passionate, sexy, funny, extremely irritating man, and I love you for all of those things, smartass remarks included. You don‘t have to worry about being enough for me, because you‘re all I want." He smiled. "Sometimes, I even think you‘re a little too much for me to handle."

Tom cocked his head at him. "I‘m not sure that‘s a compliment."

"Neither am I." Chakotay grinned. "To tell you the truth, I was first attracted to you because of all those smartass remarks."

"No surprise there, Big Man. I figured that out a long time ago. You love to be teased, no matter how much you claim to hate it."

"I guess I‘ve got no secrets from you. Except one. About tonight." He took a deep breath. "I pretended to be so calm, but, truth is, I didn‘t know how to act. I was so neurotic about it... the only thought that kept running through my head was that I couldn‘t let you leave me."

"You came here tonight thinking I might leave you? Shit, Chakotay, you have no idea, do you?"


"You‘re such an idiot sometimes, Big Man. Gods." Tom‘s voice was anguished. "I‘d do anything for you. When you look at me, I can‘t help myself, I‘ll do anything you ask, anything. You want to know why I was so nervous before?" He was pacing up and down in agitation. "I was afraid of what you were going to ask me for; I knew that no matter what you wanted, I‘d end up giving it to you, because I couldn‘t bear the thought that if I didn‘t, after tonight, you might not touch me again, that we‘d never be together again ... that you‘d never look at me that way again."

Oh spirits. Chakotay saw his hands shaking when he reached out to grasp Tom‘s. "Tom, all day I was trying to convince myself that I‘d be able to walk away if you wouldn‘t commit to me ... I was fooling myself, or maybe just hoping to fool you."

"Then all that talk before about ending it—"

"Was just talk." He shook his head ruefully. "Truth is, I‘d have done anything you wanted, so long as you‘d stay with me. Spirits, we‘re quite a pair."

"Yeah." Tom looked at him, and his eyes were shining. "So does this mean we get to stay together, Teddy?"

"Not if you keep calling me Teddy." Chakotay was almost laughing with relief.

"You don‘t think I‘m going to stop now, do you?" Tom murmured, moving in close, running one hand up and down Chakotay‘s arm in a way that never failed to give the older man the chills. "Now that I know you‘re so hopelessly enthralled by me..."

"Shit," Chakotay cursed softly, shivering. "I‘m just going to have to find an annoying nickname for you, then."

End Part 3

Tom laughed, deep in his throat, and began tracing patterns on Chakotay‘s chest, playing with the buttons on his shirt. "Big Man, there is no way in hell you could ever come up with a nickname even half as annoying as the one my sisters had for me, so don‘t waste your time."

"Now you‘ve got me curious," Chakotay murmured, losing his train of thought a little bit as Tom‘s fingers stopped playing with the buttons and deftly began to open them, one after the other in quick succession.

"You‘re just going to have to stay curious, Big Man, because I‘m not going to tell you what it was." The words were teasing, but Tom‘s voice was sultry. He finished unbuttoning the shirt, and pulled it off in one swift motion, hands flying down immediately afterwards to work on the older man‘s pants.

Chakotay was breathing in the heady aroma of Tom‘s scent, and felt his body come alive under Tom‘s sure touch. "What‘s your rush?" he asked, trying unsuccessfully to stay the motion of Tom‘s hands, slow things down a little. "We have all night, unless ... are you playing pool with Harry later?"

"No," Tom whispered, moving in to nuzzle Chakotay‘s neck, not even taking the time to joke in response. "If I don‘t fuck you right now, though, I think I might explode. I was so nervous about tonight ... I thought I was going to screw it up and lose you ... I have to fuck you so I know you‘re really here."

"I‘m really here," Chakotay whispered back, and grasped Tom‘s hands, pinned them to his side. He looked at Tom‘s face, beautifully flushed and aroused, and then focused on those blue, blue eyes. ‚The look‘, Tom called it, as if Chakotay did it intentionally. He didn‘t, not really; he looked into Tom‘s eyes as often as he did because Tom‘s face was such a perfect mask, it was only by looking into his eyes that Chakotay could see the real Tom underneath ... he couldn‘t help it that once he started looking, he wasn‘t able to stop. He couldn‘t stop, because the real Tom was so beautiful, inside and out, he couldn‘t quite believe how lucky he was to have him.

Chakotay held that gaze for a long instant, and it deepened as it always did into something more intense, but this time, as it lengthened, there was no trace of fear in Tom‘s eyes, only lust and longing and ...

"Shit, Chakotay," Tom whispered, "I tried so hard to fight this, but I can‘t do it anymore ... I do love you. I can‘t help it."

Chakotay smiled. "It‘s o.k., Tom. I forgive you. I love you too."

"Oh gods, help me..." Tom whispered, prayerfully, reaching out to trace the planes of Chakotay‘s face with his hands. "Don‘t leave me, Chakotay. Please. If I let myself do this ... I have to know you won‘t leave... I won‘t survive it, Big Man, I won‘t..."

"Don‘t worry. I won‘t leave you. I promise." Chakotay gripped Tom‘s hands, brought them to his mouth, and kissed them gently. He stared again into Tom‘s eyes, saw the spark of arousal flare in them, turn the bright blue eyes dark with desire.

Chakotay kissed one fingertip, and Tom gasped, and suddenly, Tom‘s hands were everywhere, probing, touching, caressing, stroking. Chakotay had barely enough presence of mind to strip Tom of his clothes, and was hardly able to stumble with Tom into the bedroom, where they fell onto the bed, a tangled mess of arms and legs.

"I need you to fuck me, Chakotay," Tom said in an urgent whisper. "I need to feel you in me, right now." His fingers were moving as he spoke, moving down to roughly stroke Chakotay‘s straining erection.

Chakotay gasped. Spirits, it was always intense with Tom, but tonight, knowing they were still together, that The Talk had come and gone and they were still here, stronger than before ... every touch set his skin on fire. Tom‘s fingers squeezed softly and Chakotay moaned.

"Fuck me," Tom was murmuring, over and over, "fuck me now, Chakotay, please, gods, fuck me, I need you, I need you in me, I need ... oh gods yes." Chakotay had slipped one moistened finger into Tom‘s ass, and Tom strained against it. "Shit," Tom swore, "gods that‘s good, but it‘s not ... not enough, please gods, I need more, I need you..."

This was Tom at his most beautiful, his most vulnerable, skin flushed, brow sweaty, voice open and pleading and needful. And still his fingers were moving, one hand stroking Chakotay‘s cock steadily, the other moving all over his body, twisting a nipple, scratching his back lightly, teasing pleasure out of all the different parts of Chakotay‘s body, one at a time and all at once.

Spirits, this was happening incredibly fast, Chakotay was hard as hell and aching for Tom; they‘d just finished talking a few minutes ago, and here they were in bed together and Tom was gasping and moaning, thrusting urgently under him ... Chakotay felt reality wavering a little bit, wondered if he‘d lost all sense of time, that maybe they‘d been here for hours already, touching and sighing and loving.

"Please, Chakotay, please," Tom was moaning, "I want ... I want you ... I ... oh gods, please don‘t stop..." Chakotay had just slipped his fingers out, and Tom wailed in desperation. "Please, please, oh gods, please..." His breathing was heavy and frantic, and he gripped Chakotay‘s body more than hard enough to bruise.

Lubricant? Hell. They needed it—they‘d tried it dry once and that had been a big mistake—but Chakotay couldn‘t see any. "Tom," he ground out, "where‘s the lube?"

"Oh shit," Tom swore, "I left it in the bathroom. Harry was here; I didn‘t want to leave it out, so I stuck it in the medicine cabinet."

"I‘m going to get it," Chakotay said, but Tom locked his legs around him.

"No you‘re not!" he said desperately. "Don‘t go, not now."

"But we need it," Chakotay said, trying to be rational. It was difficult;

Tom had his erection sandwiched between his hands, and was rubbing firmly.

"No," Tom said, "we‘ll be o.k." He brought one hand to his mouth, licked it sensually, then brought it back down to rub over Chakotay‘s cock. Saliva wasn‘t the best, not by a long shot, but if Tom was willing to risk it, spirits, so was he. How could he argue? Tom was practically milking him, and one finger was tracing circles around the head of his cock, spreading the pre-ejaculate around the tip.

"Now," Tom ordered, "fuck me now." He threw his legs around Chakotay‘s shoulders and raised his ass, and there was no way Chakotay could refuse the offering. He gripped Tom‘s legs firmly, and with one swift stroke, slid fully inside.

"Gods yes," Tom gasped, eyes tightly shut. "Oh gods, fuck me, Chakotay, fuck me hard." He thrust himself deeper onto Chakotay‘s cock and Chakotay shoved back hard in return. In and out, a familiar frantic rhythm. Chakotay heard himself moaning, loudly, and remembered when Tom had first encouraged him to be a little more vocal, how he‘d protested. What an idiot he‘d been; it was more exciting, to hear himself moan along with Tom; the sounds of lovemaking made the act all the more erotic. This is us, Chakotay thought to himself, all these groans and gasps and curses, that‘s us, and moaned a little louder as another jolt of pleasure tore through him.

Each stroke pushed him in deeper, and Tom was sobbing and gripping the sheets in desperation. Chakotay was close, damn he was close, he was going to come and hard; Tom was moaning too, and his cock was throbbing, trapped beneath Chakotay‘s stomach. A burst of inspiration hit the older man, and he leaned down, placed a gentle bite just beneath Tom‘s left collarbone.

"Oh fuck," Tom gasped. His back arched and his body shook furiously beneath Chakotay‘s, nearly dislodging him. Breathing heavily, Tom ran his nails down Chakotay‘s back. "Please, Chakotay," he gasped out, immediately before Chakotay moved his head slightly to the side, and kissed the base of Tom‘s throat. Tom moaned, eyes closed, face filled with ecstasy, "Oh gods, please..."

Chakotay‘s hips were still moving, and he felt Tom‘s cock hot and hard on his skin. Spirits, it was perfect, like always ... he was seconds away from coming, just enough time to do this ... he moved back to the side and bit the spot beneath Tom‘s collarbone again. Tom‘s entire body stiffened, and his nails dug into Chakotay‘s back so hard they drew blood. "Gods yes" he shouted, and screamed, a full-throated scream that echoed in Chakotay‘s ear. Pulsing warm wetness on his stomach - - Tom was coming and still screaming and scratching, and his ass muscles clenched tightly around Chakotay‘s cock. Chakotay‘s orgasm slammed into him so fast, he felt he‘d gone to warp, and he came furiously inside Tom, screaming too.

A familiar blackness threatened at the edges of his vision, but he struggled hard to stay awake, and somehow managed it, though he couldn‘t stop himself from collapsing on top of Tom, completely drained. Tom was silent for a long time, and Chakotay took a quick peek, saw Tom‘s eyes open but cloudy, filled with a haze of contentment. After a few minutes, Tom stretched sensuously beneath him, pushed Chakotay off to the side, and got up to go to the bathroom. He came back a few minutes later, wiping himself off with a damp towel, and tossed a half-empty tube of lubricant onto the night stand.

Tom snuggled back into the bed, pulled Chakotay to him and held him close. "Fuck," he said, his voice light and teasing. "I knew it was bad when I saw you sitting with those three at breakfast. They told you?"

"They told me," Chakotay agreed pleasantly. "I‘ll have to remember to thank them."

"They triple-teamed me, you know. Megan found that spot beneath my collarbone, and she told Sue, who‘d already known about my neck ... after they‘d gotten the two-step procedure down, Jenny got the bright idea of going back for a second bite. First time she did it, I flipped so hard I fell off the bed." He paused for a minute and considered, then spoke again, his voice suspicious. "Shit. What else did they tell you?"

"Nothing," Chakotay said sorrowfully. "You interrupted us. But they did tell me to listen for the moan. Sue was right. It was beautiful."

"Goddammit," Tom swore, reddening slightly. "And you wouldn‘t let me talk to B‘Elanna about you? Fuck that ... I‘m having lunch with her tomorrow, Teddy. I‘m going to find out all your favorite things..."

"But .... " Chakotay said, then stopped, realizing it was hopeless, now. He changed the topic. "Tom, do you realize you cursed ... " he paused to count, "four times in the past minute?"

"Yeah? So? I told you, it‘s just a bad habit."

"To annoy your father. I know. Kathryn said his mouth was worse than yours."

"What? Owen? Come on, when the man took a shit he had decorum coming out his ass."

"Not according to Kathryn. She‘s says you‘re a lot like him."


"No, no shit. He especially liked cursing in Romulan."

"Really?" Tom‘s voice was amused.


"Hmm! How ‚bout that. Bet he never fucked his gorgeous male commanding officers, though."

"Maybe he did."

Tom laughed. "No. Dad was so hetero you could have used him as a straightedge. No bets on how many of his female colleagues he seduced, though." His voice grew suddenly speculative. "Hey, you don‘t think he and Captain Janeway ever slept together, do you?"

"I have no idea," Chakotay said. "I‘m not about to ask her, either, so don‘t get any ideas." He thought for a minute, remembering an offhand comment Kathryn had made a few months before. "She did once tell me he was an excellent kisser."

"Uck!" Tom said, covering his face with his hands. "She kissed him?

Shit. Maybe they did sleep together. Gods, that‘s too weird."

"Why? It‘s not like you‘ve ever slept with her ..." Chakotay paused.

"Have you?"

"No!" Tom said hotly, then subsided. "Not really."

"What do you mean, ‚not really‘?"

"Nothing. I just used to—you know..."

"Don‘t tell me you used to jerk off thinking about her."

"No. Shit, Chakotay, you‘ve got a filthy mind." Tom poked Chakotay in the side. "I just used to ... well ... dream about her sometimes." He blushed furiously. "When we first got here, before I got involved with the Delaney triplets."

"Excuse me?"

Tom laughed. "Oh, I like to include Sue Nicoletti in the family, too.

A Delaney sister in spirit, if not by blood."

"You‘re really twisted, Tom. Anyway, I think having erotic fantasies about your captain is probably a violation of Starfleet protocol."

"*You‘re* a fine one to talk. You fucked the woman."

"No, I didn‘t."

"You didn‘t?" Tom was openly disbelieving. "All that time you spent mooning around after her, you never got her into bed?" Chakotay shook his head. "Even on New Earth? Come on, Teddy, you can‘t expect me to believe you were stuck down there for all that time and you never once slept together."

"Believe it. We never slept together."

"Shit. That‘s really pathetic." Tom chuckled. "Your arm must have been getting quite a workout." A crude hand gesture accompanied his words.

"Shut up, Tom. We are not continuing this conversation."

Tom was silent, necessarily so, since Chakotay‘s hand was covering his mouth. His blue eyes glinted with humor. Chakotay kept his hand in place. "What happens next?"

Tom pushed Chakotay‘s hand away from his mouth. "Well," he said thoughtfully, rolling over on top of Chakotay, "I think I‘m going to fuck you."

"That‘s not what I meant, Tom, and you know—oh, gods, mmmm." Tom was nuzzling his neck. Chakotay focused his thoughts deliberately. "We‘re a couple now. Officially, and—oh spirits, please..."

Tom removed his tongue from Chakotay‘s ear and said, "What happens now is that you‘re my boyfriend and you bring me wine and chocolates every day so I know how much you love me." His tongue traced the outline of Chakotay‘s ear, and his teeth played gently with the earlobe. "We hold hands in the mess hall, and we kiss in the observation lounge, and we fuck on the table in the conference room." One hand moved down to stroke Chakotay‘s cock, fondle his balls. "You comm me just to tell me that you love me, I sit on your lap when you‘ve got the bridge, and I get to call you ‚sweetheart‘ in public."

Tom shifted his body down, began to trace circles around Chakotay‘s nipples. "We show up for duty ten minutes late, unshowered and smelling of sex, and we come to Sandrine‘s after dinner wearing each other‘s clothing. I make lewd, suggestive remarks every time you pick up a pool cue, and you get me back by spanking me on the pool table." One hand was now working deliberately on Chakotay‘s ass, fingers sliding in and out slowly, torturously. Chakotay was biting his cheek to keep from crying out.

"We hook the comm system up to your quarters and have wild, animalistic sex over an open line, so the whole ship can hear, and when I come I scream out that I love you and then you tell me I‘m the best fuck on the ship, and you‘ve never loved anyone like you love me." Three fingers were moving inside Chakotay now, while Tom was coating his own erection with lubricant. Fingers withdrawn, he maneuvered Chakotay over so he was on his hands and knees. Chakotay spread his legs and moaned, "Please, Tom."

Tom thrust in slowly, groaning, holding on to Chakotay‘s back with trembling fingers. As he began to move inside the older man‘s body, he continued his narrative with a shaking voice. "The Maquis come after me and I finally—shit, yes -- I finally lose my temper and break someone‘s nose. I get thrown in the brig and you—oh gods - - you come down to see me and tie me down and—damn, I love this, I love this—you fuck me for my punishment, then tell me that you love me anyway." His motions grew a little more frenzied, and he stopped speaking with a gasp.

Chakotay was too far beyond speech to continue the story himself, he was reduced to gasping and moaning, thrusting back against Tom in a desperate attempt to drive him in deeper. Gods, he needed more, needed it harder and faster and deeper, oh spirits it felt so damn good...

Tom‘s hand came around his body and grabbed Chakotay‘s erection. Chakotay gasped and jerked in Tom‘s hand, ass muscles clenching involuntarily, and Tom‘s body froze for an instant. Then, suddenly, Tom forced himself in up to the hilt and whispered desperately, "Gods, I love you." His body shook, his breath was hot on Chakotay‘s back, and he came, explosively and thoroughly, sobbing with the pleasure of it.

Chakotay‘s mind was stuck in a loop, hearing Tom‘s voice saying that he loved him, over and over and over. Spirits, it was going to be all right, they were together and Tom loved him ... emotion and physical sensation melted together, sent lightning flaring through his system ... he gasped and screamed, then came all over Tom‘s hand in one ecstatic burst.

They collapsed on the bed together, Tom lying heavily on Chakotay‘s back, both too drained to do anything more energetic than breathing. Finally, Tom groaned and rolled off to one side. "Shit, I‘m going to be sore tomorrow," he said, rubbing at his side where bruises in the shape of finger-marks were already starting to form.

"You and me both," Chakotay agreed. His skin was much darker than Tom‘s, so it didn‘t show the marks as readily, but he‘d certainly have welts on his back where Tom had scratched him.

"Tell me, Teddy—" Tom began.

"Don‘t call me that," Chakotay said, trying to hide his grin. He was growing more used to the nickname by the day, and got a definite kick out of it now, but continued (when he remembered) to put up a mock show of defiance when Tom used it.

Tom ignored him. "Is it going to be this intense every time we fuck now, or just when we have big emotionally draining scenes immediately beforehand?" He was lying on the bed, not moving, not even bothering to grab the towel at the side of the bed to clean himself up.

"I don‘t know about you, but I don‘t plan on having any more big emotionally draining scenes," Chakotay said, softly. "I think we‘ve just about covered everything." He rolled over to get the towel, groaning. "Anyway, the sex was always this intense."

"Ah, but that was when we were just fucking," Tom said, playfully grabbing the towel out of Chakotay‘s hands before the older man was done with it. "Now we‘re in love, making love. It‘s going to be so special." His voice held nothing but humor.

"Shit," Chakotay cursed, grabbing the towel back from Tom and poking him for good measure. "Is everything a joke to you?"

"Pretty much," Tom said, yawning. "Live with it, Teddy."

"Tom," Chakotay said, rolling the towel up and aiming carefully for Tom‘s ass, "don‘t call me Teddy." He flicked the towel sharply and was rewarded with a satisfying ‚smack‘ and an even more satisfying yelp from Tom. A short, violent wrestling match ensued, which ended up with Tom on the floor, pinned underneath Chakotay.

"Shit," Tom laughed, struggling in vain to throw Chakotay off of him, "now I know why they call you ‚Big Man‘. You weigh a ton, Teddy."

"I just told you not to call me Teddy. Now I have to punish you," Chakotay said, trying to be serious and failing. He gripped both of Tom‘s wrists in one hand, and tickled him relentlessly until Tom begged for mercy, laughing so hard he started hiccuping. Chakotay released him, and Tom stood up, massaging his neck. He pulled on shorts and a t-shirt, and walked over to the replicator.

"I don‘t know about you, but I‘m starving." He hiccuped. "Fuck, I‘m going to be doing this for the next half an hour. Thanks a lot, Big Man."

"Any time," Chakotay said. He moved to stand beside Tom in front of the replicator. "I‘ll order. Pasta o.k.?"

"Fine." Hiccup. "Shit."

"Kildavian olives?"

"Of course." Hiccup. "Shit!"

"You want a paper bag to breathe into?"

"No." Hiccup. "Doesn‘t help." Hiccup. "Gods, they‘re getting worse."

"You want to go to the Doctor? I‘m sure he can give you something."

"Right. That‘s all I need." Hiccup. "I‘ll be all right in a while. Order some wine."

"Yes, sir." Chakotay punched the order into the replicator, and pulled on some clothes while he waited for the food to materialize. He watched Tom set the table, his body convulsing involuntarily every once in a while. "Tom, you‘re really cute when you jerk around that way."

Hiccup. "Fuck you."

"You already did."

"So I did." Tom pulled Theodore T. Bear off his dresser where‘d he‘d spent the evening (face turned discreetly to the wall), and placed him on the table, so he could join them for dinner. Tom adjusted the bear‘s tiny red shirt, smoothed the fur on the top of his head, and carefully replaced the miniature tennis racket in his hands with a miniature padd.

Chakotay felt a rush of affection tear through him. "Tom?"

Hiccup. "Yes?"

"I love you."

Tom grinned. "I know."

Well, Big Man, Chakotay thought to himself, he didn‘t say it back, but at least he didn‘t run screaming out the door. It‘s a start.

End Part 4

The next morning, when the alarm went off, Chakotay and Tom both groaned. Tom struggled to sit up, wincing.

Chakotay took one look at Tom‘s body and drew in his breath.

"Spirits, Tom, you‘re bruised all over."

"As if I couldn‘t tell," Tom said sarcastically. "Shit. I‘m really sore. No more wrestling matches after sex, Big Man." He tried to get out of bed, but fell back, groaning. "Fuck. What the hell did you do, pound me with a baseball bat while I was sleeping?"

Chakotay didn‘t answer. He was starting to get a little concerned. Hell, the sex hadn‘t been that rough, and he thought he‘d been pretty restrained while they were wrestling ... but Tom was black and blue everywhere, and Chakotay was pretty sure he wasn‘t faking the pain.

"Where‘s your tricorder, Tom?"

"Top drawer of my desk." Tom had given up on trying to get out of bed, and was just lying there, rubbing his neck.

Chakotay got out of bed, and Tom started laughing. "What is it?"

Chakotay said, stretching slightly.

"You should see your back, Teddy."


"You could say that."

"You need to trim your nails."


Chakotay returned to the bedroom with the tricorder, and pointed it at Tom. He heaved a small sigh of relief. "No major damage, Tom. It‘s all surface bruising. I can heal it with the regenerator."

"Do you have to?" Tom pouted. He really liked to keep the bruises.

"Yes. There‘s no way you‘ll be able to sit through your shift. If you don‘t want me to do it, you go to Sickbay, and the Doctor can heal them..."

"No way. He‘s still doing that damn study on mating rituals. I refuse to allow my sex life to be fodder for some ridiculous anthropological study. Go ahead and regenerate me. When you‘re done, I‘ll get rid of those scratches on your back."


By the time they‘d gotten each other patched up, and had gotten showered, shaved, and dressed, it was too late to go to breakfast. Instead, they headed straight to the bridge. While they were in the turbolift, Tom commented conversationally, "Megan‘s going to kill us."


"Because we didn‘t show up in the mess hall this morning, so she‘ll have to wait until lunch to find out what happened."

Chakotay chuckled. "Oh gods. I hadn‘t thought about that. Kathryn‘s going to be all over us, asking for details."

Tom nodded. "Harry and B‘Elanna too. Maybe we should make a ship-wide announcement, get everyone off our backs." He grinned. "I bet Captain Janeway would do it if we asked."

"Don‘t be ridiculous," Chakotay said, shaking his head, as the doors to the turbolift opened and they were deposited on the bridge. They made their way directly to the briefing room, where Janeway was sitting, reading a report on the planet they were due to visit the next day.

She looked up as they entered, and a slow smile spread across her face. "Good morning, gentlemen," she said, a twinkle in her eye. "I looked for you at breakfast."

"We weren‘t there," Chakotay answered placidly.

"Uh huh," she said, encouragingly, looking from one to the other.

After a few seconds, she tapped her foot impatiently. "Well???"

"Well, what, Captain?" Tom asked.

"Are you going to tell me what happened?"

Tom let a look of confusion cross his face. "I‘m sorry?" He turned to Chakotay, wearing an expression of beatific innocence. "Commander, can you think of anything we should be telling the Captain?"

"No, Lieutenant," Chakotay said, maintaining a serious expression with some difficulty. Gods, Tom was good at this sort of game, but he‘d never been able to master the art, himself.

Janeway frowned at Tom. "Don‘t kid around with me, Mr. Paris. I‘ve been waiting on pins and needles for the two of you to walk in here this morning and I refuse to allow—" She paused. "Good morning, Tuvok."

"Good morning, Captain. Commander. Lieutenant." Tuvok took his seat. Janeway twisted her mouth in disapproval at Chakotay, but kept quiet.

Seconds later, Harry and B‘Elanna walked in, whispering to each other. They stopped when they saw Tom and Chakotay. B‘Elanna bit her lip, and glanced at Harry. Harry looked back and forth from Tom to Chakotay, then shrugged back at B‘Elanna. The room was silent for a few seconds until B‘Elanna burst out, "Well???"

"There‘s that question again, Chakotay," Tom said, speculatively.

"You‘d think we had some news to report or something."

"You‘d think," Chakotay said. A weak response. Tom shook his head in mock despair and took his seat.

B‘Elanna sat down next to Chakotay and nudged him in the ribs. "So, what happened?" she stage-whispered.

Chakotay glanced sideways at her, then turned helplessly to Tom, who was maintaining a poker face with ease. "Boy," he remarked to no one in particular. "Some people on this ship sure are nosy. Maybe you could give them lessons in maintaining proper decorum, Tuvok."

Tuvok raised an eyebrow and considered the suggestion thoughtfully. "I have tried, on occasion," he said calmly, "to instill a sense of what does and does not constitute proper behavior aboard a starship. Unfortunately, it seems that most of the crew are uninterested in learning such a lesson ... yourself included, Mr. Paris."

Tom raised an eyebrow back. "I think I was just insulted by a Vulcan."

"Vulcans do not insult others, Lieutenant. We merely state ... facts."

Tom turned to Harry. "He did it again. Can you believe this guy? I‘m still recovering from a staggeringly emotional evening, and he‘s insulting me."

"If you are referring to the outcome of your talk with Commander Chakotay," Tuvok said placidly, "it is obvious that the two of you have resolved your issues. Therefore, I doubt you are suffering from any severe emotional difficulties that would leave you especially vulnerable to insults."

Tom opened his mouth and closed it several times before he could bring himself to speak. Finally, he spluttered, "Who told you?"

"Who told me what, Lieutenant?"

"Who told you we were having a talk?"

"No one told me," Tuvok replied calmly. "It has been apparent over the past few days that you and Commander Chakotay were under a great deal of stress. You have both been distracted, and your performance efficiency has been reduced. Further, you have been talking to Mr. Kim approximately twice as often as usual, in a manner that suggested you were asking his advice. Yesterday, Commander Chakotay avoided going to lunch until you had returned, despite the fact that you typically eat lunch together, therefore he was avoiding you; however, I passed him in the hallway at dinner time and he was heading for your cabin. Additionally, since the relationship between yourself and the Commander has until this point been exclusively sexual, and it is obvious that Commander Chakotay would not be satisfied with such a relationship, it was logical to assume that the two of you would eventually discuss it. Given your agitated emotional state yesterday, it was an obvious deduction that the discussion was to take place last night."

Tom gaped at him, then shook his head violently to clear it.

"Inspector Tuvok returns. Shit. You don‘t miss anything, do you?"

"Very little." Tuvok raised an eyebrow. "I would also point out that the use of profanity while on duty is an example of the inappropriate behavior I am attempting to discourage."

Tom snorted, and Janeway made a belated attempt to bring the briefing to order. "Gentlemen, please. We do have some business to discuss. Mr. Neelix has informed me that there is a colony of traders in close proximity to the planet we‘ll be visiting. He thinks we might be able to arrange to purchase some medical supplies the Doctor has been requesting." She took a quick look at the padd in front of her. "Commander Chakotay. I‘d like you to lead an away-team on a quick reconnaissance mission to K‘mtari II, and map out the best plan of attack for our supply mission."

Chakotay nodded. Janeway continued. "Harry, you mentioned that long-range scans showed something unusual about the planet‘s atmosphere?"

Harry nodded. "Yes. There‘s a lot of ionic interference. It should have no effect on plant or animal life, but it will make it impossible to beam directly down to the planet. It will also make tricorder and sensor readings unreliable except at very short distances." He gestured towards Chakotay. "They‘ll be doing a lot of recon by foot."

Janeway nodded decisively. "I don‘t see any problem with that. There are no signs of large animal life—I imagine this will be an entirely non-hazardous mission, except perhaps for the atmospheric descent. Lieutenant Paris, I‘d like you to pilot the shuttle."

"Of course, Captain," Tom said, grinning. Chakotay smiled to himself. Tom loved piloting Voyager, but still, he‘d confessed to Chakotay that his true love was flying smaller spacecraft. There was much more skill and finesse involved, or so he claimed. Starships, Tom was fond of remarking, practically flew themselves.

"Commander," Janeway said, "I‘d like to step up the pace of our training of the Maquis crewmembers. Most of them have not yet been on away missions. This seems like a perfect opportunity to give a few of them that experience." She glanced at the padd again. "I was considering Katera Beral—if you have no objections Mr. Tuvok."

"None at all, Captain," Tuvok replied. "Crewman Katera has proven to be an excellent asset to the security team, and I believe she would benefit from some away-team experience."

"Excellent," Janeway said. "I was also considering David Vasicek, if you can spare him for a few hours, B‘Elanna? You told me you thought he was getting itchy, staying in Engineering all day."

B‘Elanna nodded. "He‘s still adjusting to life on a Starfleet ship, Captain. I think this sort of mission would do him good, give him a chance to see there‘s more to life than the engine room." Tom and Harry gave her identical, incredulous glances, and she blushed.

"Well, then," Janeway said, "unless there‘s other business to discuss, let‘s adjourn." Everyone stood up, and milled around for a bit. Tuvok was the first out the door. Janeway pulled Chakotay to the side. "I expect full disclosure, Chakotay, although Tuvok has apparently determined that the end result was favorable..."

Chakotay nodded, smiling. "You could say that. You could definitely say that." He looked across the room at Tom, and smiled.

B‘Elanna and Harry were talking to Tom, and although Chakotay missed Harry‘s comment, he could hear Tom‘s response perfectly. "Gosh, Harry, good thing for you I made a vid recording of the whole evening. I even marked the good spots, so you can skip over all the boring talk and get right to the sex..."

Poor Harry blushed beet red, and hurried out to the bridge. Tom laughed at his back, and pulled B‘Elanna back a step before she followed Harry. "Hey, B‘Elanna, you want to have lunch today? I need to get some dirt on Chakotay."

Chakotay was about to intervene, but B‘Elanna‘s answer was quick and satisfactorily negative. "No way, Paris. I already told you, I‘m not trading sex stories with you. I like Chakotay."

"But he got Megan, Jenny, and Sue to tell him stories about me," Tom whined. "It‘s not fair ... "

B‘Elanna looked thoughtful for a minute, and Chakotay started getting nervous. Then B‘Elanna shook her head. "Nah. Suffer. You want to know how to make him crazy, Tom, you‘re just going to have to figure it out yourself."

Tom smiled an evil smile. "Oh, I already know how to make him crazy."

"Then what do you need my help for?"

Tom looked thoughtful. "I guess I don‘t. Ah well. If you ever change your mind, B‘Elanna, you know where to find me."

B‘Elanna laughed. "Yeah. Kneeling at Chakotay‘s feet."

"B‘Elanna!" Tom said, shocked. "You have a filthy mind."

She shook her head. "No I don‘t. I didn‘t mean anything by it. You‘re the one with the filthy mind." She headed towards the bridge. "I‘ll see you later, Tom. I‘m heading down to Engineering."

Tom followed her out the door, and Chakotay watched him go. Janeway tapped him on the arm. "Eavesdropping is generally not considered polite, Commander."

"I wasn‘t eavesdropping," he said defensively. "Anyway, they were talking about me."

"Uh huh," she said skeptically. She gave him a warm smile. "So everything worked out o.k.?"

"Yes," Chakotay said. "I think so."

"Congratulations," she said with a grin, and gave him a peck on the cheek. "I hope you‘ll be very happy together."

"We will be, Kathryn. We‘ve made it through the rough part. Now we‘ll be able to relax and enjoy each other‘s company for a while."

Janeway nodded, and led Chakotay to the door, to get back to the bridge. "I wasn‘t kidding," she reminded him as the doors opened. "I expect full disclosure."

Chakotay laughed. "Kathryn, the thought of giving you less than the full truth never even crossed my mind."

Lunchtime. Chakotay and Tom went to the mess hall together, found something edible among the various offerings, and sat down to a quiet meal. They‘d barely taken their first two bites before Megan and Jenny Delaney arrived, followed closely by Sue Nicoletti.

From his vantage point, Chakotay could see Megan point and gesture in their direction. He poked Tom with his fork. "We‘re about to overrun by a horde of females," he said.

"A horde?" Tom said, curiously.

"Well, ‚horde‘ may be a bit of an exaggeration. The Delaneys and Sue Nicoletti just walked in."

"Can we escape?"

"No. They‘ve already seen us."

"Oh. Brace for impact."

Chakotay grinned fondly at him in the few seconds they had before Megan, Jenny, and Sue sat down, all at once.

"Good afternoon, ladies," Tom said pleasantly.

"Good afternoon," Megan said. She looked back and forth at the two of them. "Well, you‘re eating together, and you‘re smiling at each other, so this is either the continuation of the longest relationship discussion on record, or you worked it out last night."

Tom and Chakotay‘s eyes met, briefly. "I guess you could say we worked it out," Tom said with a grin. "We‘re still together, if that‘s what you mean."

Megan‘s face broke out into a beautiful smile. "Oh, that‘s great!" She kissed Tom gently on the cheek. "I‘m so happy for you."

Jenny grinned also. "I‘m happy for you too. I can hardly believe it, but it‘s really wonderful."

Sue smiled sweetly. "How long did it take to decide?"

"How long?" Tom repeated, puzzled. "I don‘t know. We weren‘t timing it."

"You must have some idea," Sue persisted.

"I really don‘t know. About an hour, I guess," Tom said, shrugging. "Why do you care?" His eyes widened as he looked at Sue. "Don‘t tell me you were betting on it!"

Embarrassed looks all around. "Just a little bet. A few rations. We would have bet on the outcome of the talk," Megan said sheepishly, "but we all agreed you‘d end up together."

Chakotay didn‘t know whether to be amused or offended, but Tom had rather quickly decided on amused. "So," he asked, laughing, "who won the pool?"

"I think I did," Jenny said happily. "I guessed the discussion would take 45 minutes."

Sue giggled. "I guessed fifteen minutes."

"Fifteen minutes???" Tom was astounded. "What did you think we were going to do, declare our undying love for each other and jump into bed?"

"Pretty much," Sue said, unperturbed. "Heck, every time you look at each other the lust alarms go off ... I didn‘t think you‘d be able to last more than a quarter hour without tearing off each other‘s clothes."

Tom snorted and turned to Megan. "And you, Miss Delaney? How long did you bet it would take?"

Megan looked down at the table. "Three hours."

Tom was dumbfounded, and even Chakotay was shocked. "What did you possibly think we had to say that would take three hours?"

"There are a lot of issues in a relationship," Megan said defensively. "Tom‘s never done this before ... I thought it would take a while to work everything out."

"Fine," Tom said, "but three hours? Hell, the Volnar-Cardassian peace treaty was settled in less time than that."

Megan folded her arms. "I stand behind my estimate. Either both of you are faster talkers than I‘d realized, or you didn‘t discuss everything you should have ..." Her voice trailed off, and she blushed uncomfortably.

Tom‘s suddenly serious eyes met Megan‘s for a long second, before they both looked away. Tom cleared his throat and changed the topic, and Chakotay made a mental note to ask Tom later what the hell that was all about.

Megan, Jenny, and Sue finished their meals and then politely excused themselves. Tom smiled at them as they left, then turned his attention back to Chakotay, who was looking at him thoughtfully. "What?" he asked, suspiciously.

"Nothing," Chakotay said. He opted at the last minute not to discuss that odd moment with Megan. "It‘s just funny."

"What‘s funny?"

"You‘re so relaxed with them."

Tom looked at him curiously. "Why shouldn‘t I be relaxed with them?

We‘re friends."

"You‘re not that relaxed with Harry and B‘Elanna."

"Sure I am. That‘s ridiculous. You‘re imagining things." His eyes closed briefly, then snapped open. "Oh no. Don‘t tell me you‘re still jealous. We‘re just friends, Teddy."

Chakotay laughed. "For once, I‘m feeling secure enough not to be jealous. It‘s not that. I‘ve just noticed that you‘re more ... yourself ... with them than with anybody else."

Tom reflected on this carefully. "Maybe," he said, at last. "I guess I don‘t have anything to prove to them. With Harry, sometimes, I have to watch how I act, or what I do, because if I say something wrong, he gives me this look, like, ‚Tom, you‘re the son of an admiral, how could you say that?‘. Every once in a while, I feel like I have to put on a show for him, so I don‘t disappoint him." He paused. "But don‘t get me wrong, Chakotay. Harry‘s the best friend I‘ve ever had. Ever."

"Why?" Chakotay asked, genuinely curious.

Tom smiled. "Because he‘s Harry," as if that explained everything, and maybe, Chakotay reflected, to Tom, it did. Tom continued, "Because he heard everything bad there was to hear about me, and decided to give me a chance anyway. Also," he said, lowering his voice a bit, "he‘s a guy, so there was never any of that awkward sexual tension thing."

Chakotay raised an eyebrow at him and Tom laughed. "Yeah, well, that was in my other lifetime." A slightly evil expression crossed his face. "Hey, Big Man, maybe it‘s not the triplets you should be worried about. Maybe it‘s Harry. Have you ever noticed how cute he is when he‘s pouting, and his lower lips puffs out?"

An absolutely stricken expression crossed Chakotay‘s face, and Tom shook his head. "Oh, for the love of ... ... calm down, Big Man. I was kidding. I am not remotely interested in Harry Kim in that way. Or any other men on the ship. Or any other women on the ship. O.k.? I‘m yours, all right? 100% yours." He patted Chakotay‘s hand gently, and raised it to his lips for a soft kiss.

Chakotay‘s heart was suddenly pounding. Tom had kissed him in public before, more than once, but it had always been obviously erotic, a sort of public foreplay, and had never really implied anything other than a sexual relationship between them. This kiss though, a soft little touch of hand to mouth, was private and personal and incredibly intimate, and the fact that Tom would do it in public spoke volumes.

Chakotay couldn‘t speak for a minute, then he managed to whisper, "Thank you."

Tom was puzzled. "For what?" He was still holding Chakotay‘s hand in his own.

"For that kiss." Chakotay smiled. "It‘s what I was talking about last night. It‘s what we were missing."

Tom looked at him blankly for a minute, then smiled softly as understanding filled him. "You‘re so easy to please, Teddy," he said, voice teasing but eyes serious.

The emotion built up suddenly. Chakotay felt his heart begin to pound again, but it was lunchtime, and they had to go back to the bridge. He had to break the tension, somehow. There was one sure way to do it ... "Tom," he said, extricating his hand from Tom‘s loose grip, "don‘t call me Teddy."

End Part 5

K‘mtari II was a beautiful planet. Two suns, lush foliage, friendly fauna, and rich in stunning pastoral vistas and natural rock formations. Chakotay was wandering around, quite happily. It had been three days since The Talk, and Chakotay didn‘t think he‘d ever been this happy in his entire life. The days were wonderful, the nights were ... unbelievable ... and if Tom was still waking up in the middle of the night, well, it was hardly enough to get upset about when everything else was so perfect.

The shuttle trip to the planet had been a bit tense; Tom was uncomfortably aware of Vasicek and Katera‘s barely disguised hostility, which was held in check only by Chakotay‘s immediate presence. Tom still wouldn‘t talk to Chakotay about the Maquis, but Chakotay could pick up enough information from other sources to know that the situation had gotten only marginally better than from its low point the month before.

On the other hand, the ionic interference Harry had mentioned had made for an interesting ride down to the planet‘s surface. Apparently at no point had they been in any real danger, but Chakotay was pretty sure he‘d left his stomach somewhere back in the upper atmosphere. Tom had remained calm and pleasantly cheerful the whole way down ... at one point, he‘d actually been whistling.

They split up once they‘d landed and pinpointed their location. Each of them had a specific area to cover, and specific items to search for. Tom and David Vasicek set off to locate possible edible foodstuffs, while Katera and Chakotay were looking for mineral deposits. Damn, Chakotay swore to himself, peering at his tricorder, Harry hadn‘t been kidding when he said the readings would be difficult to read.

Wait, there, maybe that was something ... no, now it was gone ... wait, there it was again...

Chakotay wandered off course slightly, following the elusive readings on his tricorder. He squinted at the display, as if that would somehow cut through the ionic interference. Not watching where he was going, he didn‘t see the natural pit hidden by some low bushes and leaves. Before his brain could even process the stomach-turning sensation of falling, he hit the ground, hard.

Ow. Gods. What just happened? His brain was moving slowly. You fell, Big Man. Shit. Ow. His head hurt. Probably a concussion. He tried to reach for his communicator, was mildly surprised when he couldn‘t move either arm to do it. Damn, that‘s bad. He should have been upset, but somehow, he wasn‘t. He was calm, actually. Peaceful. It was sort of pleasant, lying here. His head didn‘t even hurt any more. Nothing hurt. Actually, he couldn‘t feel anything. Oh. Broken back, probably.

Am I dying? he wondered, calmly. This isn‘t so bad. Strange, though. It can happen so fast, one minute you‘re walking along on a routine away mission, then the next ... bam, you‘re dead.

Oh no. Tom. For the first time, panic set in. Not for himself—

Chakotay had no fear of death, it was a natural part of life, and he was comfortable that his soul would rejoin the spirits of his ancestors—but for Tom. He had to stay alive long enough to say good-bye to Tom. His death would be hard enough for the younger man, but if they could at least talk once more before it happened, it might be easier. He tried to call out, but no sound emerged from his throat. He couldn‘t speak, couldn‘t move, could only lie still and wait and hope they‘d find him before the end.

Time passed, not too long, but it was very difficult to tell. He was floating in and out of consciousness, preparing himself for the next stage of existence, saying good-bye in his mind to the people he was going to leave behind. Then , vaguely, he heard a voice calling him. Tiny, tinny. Coming from his comm badge.

"Paris to Chakotay." A pause. Chakotay waited. "Paris to Chakotay. Commander?" Silence again for a while, the his comm badge chirped another time. "Paris to Chakotay. Chakotay, can you hear me?" The voice held a tinge of panic. Chakotay ached to acknowledge the hail, but he couldn‘t move, couldn‘t talk ... hell, he could barely think.

More time passed. They tried to hail him every few minutes. Tom and Vasicek and Katera. Voices alternating, all getting progressively more and more concerned when he didn‘t answer. The world was becoming a little fuzzy around the edges. It didn‘t upset him. He heard his own breathing—it was getting ragged. Hard to make his lungs work. That didn‘t upset him either.

The sun moved a bit across the sky. Chakotay estimated he‘d been lying on the ground for over an hour. Dying was taking a long time. He was holding on to say good-bye to Tom, but if they didn‘t find him soon, he wouldn‘t get the chance. A rustling in the distance alerted him to movement. Voices, muffled by distance, moved closer, became clearer.

Vasicek was speaking. "This is taking too long. I say we go back to the shuttle."

"And do what?" Tom was talking, angrily. "The shuttle sensors won‘t work any better than our tricorders, and the readings are so erratic we could fly right over him and never know it."

"We could contact Voyager, get some help," Vasicek suggested sullenly.

Tom‘s voice was firm in negation. "They‘re not even in this system.

It‘ll take hours. No. We‘re staying until we find him."

"Beral and I can stay and look for him. You can fly the shuttle back."

"You seriously expect me to leave him here?"

"Oh, come off it, Paris. It‘s just me and Beral, here. You don‘t have to put on such a big show for us, pretending you really care about Chakotay. We know you‘re just fucking him to get a promotion."

Chakotay could hear the cold fury in Tom‘s voice. "Fuck you. You don‘t know shit about it, Vasicek. You and your little self-righteous Maquis friends, always claiming you‘re looking out for Chakotay‘s best interests, when all you‘re really looking to do is bully me around like a pack of kids in a school yard. I‘m not interested in playing your stupid little games, all right? I don‘t have to defend myself to you."

Chakotay closed his eyes as a wave of dizziness passed over him. He could hear Tom still speaking, drawing nearer. "You don‘t like me. You know what? I don‘t like you, either, but that‘s personal, and it stays out of this mission. I outrank both of you and we are staying here until we find him, so shut up and pull out your tricorders and scan until you find something. That‘s a direct order. Disobey it and I‘ll see that you rot in the brig for insubordination for the next six months."

Tom‘s voice had become forcefully assertive. Chakotay had heard Tom speak in fun, in anger, and in the throes of passion, but he‘d never before heard Tom sound this confident, this powerful and compelling. It was a command voice, Chakotay realized, impossible to disobey, the distilled product of seven generations of Parises in the highest ranks of Starfleet.

Shocked silence above him for a few seconds, before both Katera and Vasicek responded quietly, "Yes, sir." Quiet electronic beeping, three tricorders scanning the area, soft footsteps crushing dried foliage underfoot.

Katera‘s soft soprano disturbed the quiet, a few moments later. "Lieutenant?" Her tone was respectful. "I think I might have something, but it‘s very hard to read through the interference." Chakotay heard footsteps as Tom and Vasicek joined Katera. "See, sir? I can‘t read any lifesigns, but I think that‘s his comm badge. I can‘t locate it precisely."

"Chakotay!" Tom called, having given up on the comm badge. Chakotay wanted to answer, tried so hard to answer, but lacked the strength. "Fuck it," he heard Tom swear. "Where the hell is he?" More beeps, then Tom said, "He‘s below us. About 6 meters.

Chakotay, where are you?"

Chakotay heard branches being pushed aside, leaves being moved, then Vasicek‘s voice called out, "Lieutenant Paris, over here. There‘s some sort of hole in the ground. He may have fallen in."

Chakotay struggled to open his eyes, look up at the sky. He could make out, just barely, a familiar silhouette, covered in shadow, peering at him from a long distance. "Shit," he heard Tom curse. "God damn mother fucking shit." He was already moving towards the entrance, swinging his lean body down over the side. "Katera, give me the med kit," he ordered, and fastened it to his belt. Chakotay had closed his eyes again, but he heard Tom order, "I want the two of you to get back to the shuttle as fast as you can, and fly it over here. The transporters won‘t work unless you‘re in very close range. Send a distress call to Voyager; maybe they can meet us halfway out."

Vasicek spoke, but his voice was quiet, and for once, not hostile. "Sir, you‘re the better pilot, maybe you should get the shuttle?"

"No." Tom was already several feet down the side of the pit. "I‘ll fly us out of here, but I have to see ... I have to see if he‘s still alive." His voice was strangled. "I have to. Get to the shuttle. That‘s an order."

Footsteps moving away, only one pair. Chakotay could hear Tom swearing under his breath as he moved slowly down the side of the pit. Katera called down to him, softly. "You care for Commander Chakotay a lot, don‘t you? I didn‘t really believe it until now." She paused. "Chakotay told me you weren‘t such a bad guy. Maybe he was right."

Chakotay heard Tom‘s sharply indrawn breath, but all the younger man said was, "Get to the shuttle, Katera. Please."

Chakotay was finding it increasingly hard to concentrate. His mind kept wandering, and he knew his breathing was shallow, his heartbeat dangerously erratic. Just a few more minutes, Big Man, he promised himself, and Tom will be here, then you can tell him...

Suddenly, or so it seemed, Tom was at his side. "Shit," he cursed, desperately, "please be alive, Chakotay. Please..." He pulled out a medical tricorder, ran it over Chakotay‘s motionless body. With a great effort of will, Chakotay opened his eyes, saw Tom, white-faced with panic, crouched over him.

"Thank the gods," Tom prayed. "I thought you were gone."

Chakotay took a too-shallow breath, concentrated ferociously, and managed to croak out, "Not yet. Soon."

Tom shook his head. "Not if I‘ve got anything to say about it, Big Man. Come on, you‘re too stubborn to die." He was searching in the med kit, preparing a hypospray, which he quickly injected at Chakotay‘s neck. Chakotay felt the pressure in his chest ease up a bit.

"Tom," he whispered, "I have to tell you—"

"You‘ll have plenty of time to tell me whatever you want, Big Man," Tom said, preparing another hypospray. "I‘m busy trying to save your life right now, so if you don‘t mind, I‘d appreciate a little quiet so I can concentrate."

Chakotay waited until Tom had injected the second hypo before trying to speak again. He felt the tiniest bit stronger. Strong enough to say what he had to. "Listen," he said, weakly, "I have to tell you, it‘s important—"

Tom shook his head again. "No! Save your breath, Chakotay; I don‘t want you dying while delivering some melodramatic speech about how much you love me. You love me, then stay alive, goddammit!" His voice was shaking. "Damn, where the fuck are they with the shuttle?" He ran the tricorder over Chakotay‘s torso, blanching at the display. "Come on, Teddy, hold on, just a little bit longer, Katera and Vasicek will be back soon; we‘ll get you to Voyager, the Doc will fix you right up." He ran a cool antiseptic cloth over the cuts on Chakotay‘s face.

"No," Chakotay said, "...injuries are too bad. Broken back..."

"Hell, Big Man, I was practically dead when the Captain rescued me from Akritiria, and the Doc fixed me up in no time. You just have to stay alive until then, o.k.? For me, Chakotay, stay alive for me. You promised you wouldn‘t leave me, remember? You said you‘d never leave..." His voice broke and he turned away, swiping angrily at some tears. The roar of a shuttle broke into Chakotay‘s fading consciousness the instant before the cool sparkle of the transporter took them away.

The rematerialization disoriented Chakotay. He heard, vaguely, Vasicek talking to Tom. "I sent the signal to Voyager, Lieutenant. If they got it, they should be able to meet us about an hour outside of the planet‘s atmosphere."

"Good work," Tom said. "Katera, I need you to keep watch on Commander Chakotay. Have you ever used a hypospray?" He paused. "Good. This solution should keep his heart steady. The ascent‘s going to be rough, but we can‘t let him get jostled around too much; his back is broken in two places."

"Lieutenant," Katera said, softly, "I don‘t think it will matter. He‘s bleeding internally, his pulse is dropping rapidly ... he‘s dying, sir."

Suddenly, Chakotay was aware of Tom hovering over him, forcing his eyes open. "Look at me, Chakotay." Chakotay forced his eyes to focus, but it was so hard, he was so tired, and the spirits of his tribe were calling to him ... "Damn it, don‘t do this to me, Big Man!" Tom‘s voice was low and intent, furiously commanding. "You can‘t die, Chakotay. You made me fall in love with you; don‘t you fucking die on me now! You hear me? That‘s an order!"

Chakotay was tired, and confused, and someone was ordering him around, and he couldn‘t disobey that voice, it carried the cold weight of authority, so he forced himself to say, "Yes, sir." He heard the hiss of a hypospray at his neck, felt soothing warmth flow through him, relaxing him. His eyes closed without his consent, and the world went black...

... He came back to himself slowly. Hearing was the first and only sense to return. He heard voices, some low, some urgent, one in particular strident and almost hysterical. He concentrated, and began to understand the words.

"His blood pressure is still dropping, Doctor."

"I don‘t understand it. I‘ve healed all the internal hemorrhages; his blood pressure should be stabilizing. Prepare another dose of hydroloxin." Pause. "Mr. Paris, if you don‘t sit down I‘ll have to remove you from Sickbay."

"He can‘t die. You‘ve got to save him." Tom‘s voice was filled with panic.

"I‘m doing my best. Please sit down." Beeping and hissing and touches of cool metal against his skin. An exasperated sigh. "Mr. Paris. I have warned you repeatedly. If you do not sit down I will call Security and have you removed."

"No, Doc, I have to be here, I need to see him. Don‘t make me leave."

"Lieutenant, I understand you are worried, but you have been hovering around my Sickbay for the past 12 hours. You are tired, hungry, and on the verge of becoming hysterical." A few beeps. "You require rest."

"I can‘t sleep, not while he‘s here..."

"Very well. Then I‘m forced to sedate you for your own good."

"No, don‘t, I can‘t—" A thump, as of a body collapsing to the floor. "Ensign Kim, Lieutenant Torres, perhaps you could place Mr. Paris on an empty biobed?"

"Doctor?" Kes‘s voice. "Commander Chakotay‘s blood pressure has stabilized. That last dose of hydroloxin seemed to do the trick."

"Excellent. Let‘s prepare for the next stage of surgery." Another hypospray, and Chakotay‘s world faded again.

Chakotay woke again, and this time, his hearing returned instantaneously. Hearing nothing but the soft hum of Sickbay, he risked opening one eye. Light flooded in, blinding him, but in a few minutes, he was able to open both eyes, take a look around. He was lying in a biobed. Tom was sitting next to him, hunched in a chair, knees drawn up to his chest, head down on folded arms. Chakotay sat up and coughed softly, and Tom‘s head flew up, eyes open wide.

They stared at each other for a few long seconds, then Chakotay said hoarsely, "Hi."

"Hi," Tom said. His face was impenetrable. He looked away. "You almost died."

Chakotay nodded, gratified that he could. "I know. I‘m sorry."

Tom said, insistently, "You were all prepared to go. You tried to tell me good-bye."

"I thought it was my time. I wanted to tell you I loved you."

"I had to order you to stay alive for me."

"It worked."

Tom was breathing deep, heaving breaths. "Fuck. I knew something like this would happen. I knew it." He stood up, and Chakotay saw with some alarm that Tom was swaying on his feet. "I can‘t do this, Big Man," Tom said, softly, wrapping his arms around himself. "I‘m not strong enough for this. I tried to do it, for you, but I can‘t do it. It‘s too hard."

Chakotay stared at Tom, feeling panic well up in his chest. "What do you mean, you can‘t do it?"

Tom wouldn‘t look at him. "I couldn‘t figure it out, before, but I know, now. All those women, Chakotay... we never had anything more than sex, and I didn‘t know why, but I do, now. It‘s me, my fault. I can‘t handle it." He sank to his knees beside the biobed, grasped Chakotay‘s hand with his own. "I‘m not strong enough for this, Big Man. I can‘t do it. I can‘t. When I saw you, down in that pit, all broken and twisted and covered in blood ... when I thought you were dead ... I thought my heart was going to explode, I couldn‘t breathe, I couldn‘t see ... I‘ve never been so frightened in my entire life. If we stay together it‘s only going to get worse, and I can‘t risk that."

"Tom, please," Chakotay asked urgently. "You‘re upset. You‘re frightened. Don‘t do this to us now. Give yourself some time to recover. Don‘t make any rash decisions."

Tom choked back a sob. "Shit, Teddy, rash decisions are the only kind I know how to make." He clutched Chakotay‘s hand a little harder. "I‘m sorry. I knew this would never work. I knew something like this would happen." He let go of Chakotay‘s hand, and collapsed back down into the chair. "I should never have let it go on this long."

Chakotay‘s heart was pounding. Funny, he thought abstractedly to himself, you weren‘t afraid of dying, Big Man, but now you‘re terrified of losing this man. "Tom," he said, pleading, "I know it was frightening for you. I‘m sorry. I‘m so sorry. Don‘t—"

The Doctor‘s acerbic tones interrupted him. "I see you‘re awake. How are you feeling, Commander?"

"Fine," Chakotay answered shortly. "Lieutenant Paris and I were in the middle of a talk-"

"You can finish it later," the Doctor said smoothly. "I need to run some more tests now that you‘ve regained consciousness. You very nearly died, Commander. If not for some excellent medical care, you would have." He turned to Tom. "I must compliment you, Mr. Paris, for your treatment of Commander Chakotay on the planet. I see your field medic training is paying off."

"Yeah, I guess it is," Tom responded dully. The Doctor was running a medical tricorder across Chakotay‘s body. Tom was silent, back in the chair, and Chakotay didn‘t want to continue their discussion with the Doctor standing right there, eavesdropping on every word.

Janeway walked into Sickbay just as the Doctor was finishing his exam. "How‘s the patient, Doctor?" she asked, cheered to see Chakotay sitting up.

"Fine," the Doctor replied, snapping the tricorder shut. "I‘ll be releasing him in the morning. Try to get some sleep, Commander," he said, then deactivated his program.

"Seems like you got lucky again, Commander," Janeway said, squeezing his hand.

"Yes," Chakotay said, looking at Tom.

Janeway noticed Tom sitting silently in the chair for the first time. "Tom, you don‘t look very well," she said, concerned. "Are you all right?"

Tom visibly roused himself, and said, "I‘m fine, Captain. Just tired. I‘m going to go grab some food, then hit the sack." He stood up and said, to both of them, "See you later."

Janeway watched him go, a little startled at his detached manner.

"Chakotay, what happened?" she asked.

Chakotay tried to keep himself calm. It wasn‘t easy. "I think he just broke up with me."

"What? Why?"

"He says he can‘t handle this. Us." Chakotay gestured vaguely. "He thought I was going to die. He‘s panicked. He wants to call the whole thing off." His voice caught, and he took a deep breath to steady himself.

Janeway looked at him seriously. "Chakotay, he‘s just upset. You‘ve been in here for over 18 hours. Tom was here the whole time. He hasn‘t eaten, he didn‘t sleep, the Doctor had to sedate him twice to calm him down ... he was practically hysterical when they brought you back. I‘ve never seen him that frightened. He loves you."

"I know that," Chakotay replied. "*He* knows that. I think that‘s the problem. He‘s feeling vulnerable, and he blames me for it." He sighed heavily. "B‘Elanna warned me—she told me that Tom wasn‘t ready for this. Gods, Tom told me he wasn‘t ready for this. I didn‘t listen, damn stubborn fool that I am, and now..."

"Give him a chance, Chakotay. Let him get some food, and some sleep. I‘m sure he‘ll feel differently in the morning."

Chakotay shook his head slowly. "I don‘t think so. You didn‘t see his eyes, Kathryn. He looked ... haunted."

"You‘ll work it out," Janeway insisted. "You love him. He loves you."

"That may not be enough."

Chakotay was quiet for a few minutes, collecting his thoughts. Janeway finally broke the uncomfortable silence, asking, "What happened down on the planet, Commander?"

Chakotay shrugged. "I don‘t really know. I was walking, trying to find the deposits of ore, but there was a lot of interference, and the tricorder was acting up. I wasn‘t looking where I was going, and I think I fell into a hole in the ground. A deep hole."

"It was over 6 meters," Janeway said. "You‘re lucky it wasn‘t any deeper. Another meter or two, you‘d probably have died when you hit the ground."

"I heard him above me," Chakotay said.

"You heard who?"

"Tom. When I was lying there. I was sort of in and out of consciousness, and I heard Tom talking to Vasicek and Katera. It was weird, Kathryn. One minute, he was Tom, then the next ... it was like he was someone else. Someone older. His voice got really firm. Commanding."

Janeway chuckled. "Ah, yes. The Paris command voice. I know it well. You couldn‘t disobey it if you wanted to. I didn‘t know Tom could use it." She nodded to herself. "That explains a lot."

Chakotay was curious. "What does it explain?"

"When they brought the shuttle back, you were beamed directly to Sickbay as soon as you were in range. Tom piloted the shuttle back to the ship. I met him in the shuttle bay. Tom was ordering Katera and Vasicek to take care of the samples they‘d collected, and to write the reports ... they were downright respectful to him. Vasicek even called him ‚sir‘."

"He kept his head down there. Kept Vasicek and Katera in line, didn‘t panic, even when he found me, saw what kind of shape I was in ... he‘s a good officer, Kathryn."

"I know that," Janeway said with a smile. "I‘ve known that from the beginning. It just took you a little while to realize it."

"Damn. I worked with him for almost a month in the Maquis, and thought he was an arrogant jerk, who‘d have never gotten anywhere if it weren‘t for his family connections. How‘d you see through that during a fifteen minute meeting in a Federation penal colony?"

"Oh, I didn‘t. When I said I knew from the beginning, I didn‘t mean the beginning. When I met him in New Zealand, I saw exactly what he wanted me to see: a self-centered, conceited, mercenary turncoat who‘d sell himself out to the highest bidder, so long as it furthered his own interests."

"What changed your mind?"

"The way he handled himself after the Caretaker brought us out here.

The way he went after Harry, when he didn‘t even really know him. The way he went after you, even though you‘d made your feelings for him perfectly, painfully clear." Janeway looked at Chakotay thoughtfully. "He risked his life for a man who hated him, who‘d publicly humiliated him in front of a bridge full of people who didn‘t like him or trust him in the first place ... I figured if he‘d do that, put himself on the line for you after all that, he couldn‘t be as self-centered as he‘d have us believe." She smiled. "Plus, he was telling the truth when he told me he was the best pilot I could have."

Janeway looked at Chakotay and smiled softly. "If anyone had told me then that I‘d be sitting here now, trying to convince you you‘ll get back together with him, because the two of you are so damn perfect together ... well, I‘d have laughed myself silly and had him checked out for psychiatric health." She stood up. "It‘s late. Get some sleep. Talk to Tom tomorrow, Chakotay."

"I will," he promised. Janeway kissed him softly on the forehead, then left him to his dreams.

True to his word, the Doctor released Chakotay from Sickbay the next morning. He went back to his quarters, showered, changed, and went looking for Tom. He saw Tom in the mess hall, eating with Megan, but as soon as Chakotay walked in, Tom stood up, bussed his tray, and left the room.

Tom didn‘t show up on the bridge until the minute before his duty shift started, and he stayed on the bridge until Chakotay, still tired and achy, left to go to bed. Alone.

Day two. Chakotay finally managed to corner Tom at Sandrine‘s in the evening. "Tom," he pleaded, "will you just talk to me for a minute?"

Tom looked at him with pain-filled eyes. "I can‘t," he whispered. "I can‘t talk to you. I can‘t. Not yet." He looked around the room desperately, his eyes widening with relief at the sight of someone he spotted over Chakotay‘s shoulder. Chakotay turned around to find Megan Delaney walking up to them.

Her voice was light and friendly, but her eyes were troubled. "Tom, you promised to help me move some furniture tonight, remember?" Out of the corner of his eye, Chakotay could see Tom mouthing a wordless "thank-you" in her direction.

"Gods, I‘m sorry," Tom said, "I forgot." He turned back to Chakotay, facing him, but not looking at him. "I have to go, Commander... I promised I‘d do this." Tom left, dragging a reluctant Megan Delaney out of the bar.

Day three was worse than day two. No luck. Chakotay was nervous and depressed, and even Kathryn admitted that perhaps Tom was taking the accident harder than she‘d expected. "I‘m sorry, Chakotay," she said softly, in her ready-room over a cup of tea. "I really thought he‘d get over it by now. Maybe he just needs some more time."

Chakotay sighed. "I hope so." He couldn‘t bring himself to be very optimistic.

End Part 6

Four days. Four days and four nights, and still Tom wouldn‘t talk to him. Chakotay was getting extremely frustrated. B‘Elanna reminded him, none too sympathetically, that when Tom had been trying to talk to him, after the Megan Delaney fiasco, Chakotay had avoided him like the plague. Perhaps, she suggested archly, Chakotay should consider this just desserts.

Chakotay dropped his head into his hands. "You‘re not being very helpful."

B‘Elanna sipped at her coffee and raised an eyebrow. "I warned you, Chakotay. I told you Tom wasn‘t ready for this kind of a relationship. You should have listened to me in the first place, then you wouldn‘t be in this mess."

"We talked it out, B‘Elanna. He said he loved me."

"He does love you. I don‘t think there‘s any question of that. But now he can‘t hide from it." She finished her coffee, started picking at his dessert. "You want the opinion of a relatively unbiased observer?"

"Yes," he said uncertainly.

"O.k. What happened was, he wasn‘t ready for this, but he didn‘t want to lose you, so when you pushed him on it, he caved. You forced him to admit to himself he was in love with you, and when you almost died, he freaked out. Now he‘s a total basket case, and so are you. Satisfied? If you‘d left things alone, he‘d be falling all over himself to help you recover, and you wouldn‘t be sleeping alone tonight." She popped the rest of his doughnut into her mouth.

Chakotay stared at her silently for a minute, then said, with some acidity, "Well, yes, in retrospect, that might have been a better plan. Twenty-twenty hindsight, B‘Elanna, doesn‘t help me now."

"Oh, so now you‘ll take my advice." B‘Elanna shook her head. "You‘re lucky I‘ve got a soft spot for you, Chakotay. O.k. Here‘s what I suggest." She leaned in closer to the table. "Leave him alone for a few days. Give him some time to get over the shock. You didn‘t see him in Sickbay, Chakotay. He was out of control, yelling at the Doctor, arguing with Kes ... I‘ve never seen him like that."

A shadow fell over the table. They looked up to find Harry standing there, looking drained. "Mind if I sit down?" he asked, tiredly.

"Gods, Harry, you look awful," B‘Elanna said, not sounding too terribly concerned.

"Thanks, B‘Elanna," he said sarcastically, slumping into a seat. "I‘m just tired."

"Tom kept you up last night again?"

"Yeah," he said, glancing inscrutably at Chakotay. "He showed up at 2 o‘clock, and didn‘t leave until 4:30. It was the third night in a row. If this keeps up, I‘m going to fall asleep on the bridge." He looked at Chakotay directly for the first time. "That‘s really why I came over here. Commander, I don‘t want to interfere in your relationship with Tom, but ... maybe you should lay off for a couple of days. Every time I think I‘m making a little progress with him, you try to talk to him, and he completely freaks out all over again."

Chakotay was abashed. "I didn‘t realize this was so hard on him."

"He‘s a basket case, Commander."

B‘Elanna laughed. "My exact words, Harry."

Harry continued. "He‘s totally confused; he doesn‘t know what he wants any more."

Chakotay said sadly, "I only want to talk to him."

Harry shook his head. "I think you should wait. If you ask me, if you keep pushing him, he‘s going to think he has to prove to you that it‘s over. You‘re going to send him right into Megan‘s arms." He tapped his fingers on the table. "I don‘t think she‘ll take him up on it if he offers, but if he starts looking around, someone‘s going to say yes. Then you‘ll really be in trouble."

Chakotay nodded, slowly. "All right. The two of you have seen much more of Tom this week than I have ... I‘ll trust your judgment. I‘ll leave him alone for a few days. After that, though, I‘m going to talk to him whether he likes it or not." B‘Elanna started to interrupt, and Chakotay cut her off. "No. Look, I know this is difficult for him, but it‘s hard for me too. I need to talk to him, and I can‘t wait too much longer. All right?"

They nodded agreement. "Three days, Commander," Harry said firmly.

"Three days, Ensign." An unsettling trend, Chakotay noted dimly; he kept taking orders from junior officers. First Tom, now Harry. If he wasn‘t careful he‘d be ‚yes-sir‘ing Neelix, next, and he wasn‘t even an officer.

In fact, Chakotay waited four days before deciding he couldn‘t wait any longer. He was sitting in Sandrine‘s, with Janeway, watching Tom shoot a game of pool with Harry. Tom lost, by one ball, and Harry started crowing victoriously.

"That‘s 3 of the last 5 games, Paris."

Tom scowled. "You don‘t need to shout it out, Harry."

Harry looked at him. "You know, you still owe me rations from two weeks ago."

"What are you talking about?"

"Those rations you took from me."

Tom made a face. "I won them, Harry. I don‘t owe them back to you."

"Yes, you do. Bet me again."

Tom shook his head. "No. You know I play better when it counts. I‘ll only beat you again. Besides, I‘m getting sick of penny-ante bets. I‘d rather just play for fun."

"How about a bigger bet? A month‘s worth of rations?"

Tom coughed. "Harry, you‘re insane. I‘m not going to do it. You‘re not good enough yet."

"Paris, I just beat you twice in a row. I think you‘re afraid to play me, because you think you might lose."

"Reverse psychology has been proven to be ineffective on all Paris males, Harry."

"I‘m a big boy, Tom. I know I might lose. But ... I think I have a pretty good chance at winning. Come on, Paris. You‘re not chicken, are you?"

Tom slapped down his pool cue with exasperation. "Fine. You asked for it. One month‘s worth of rations. Rack ‚em up, Harry. I‘ll break."

Harry started gathering the pool balls as Tom chalked his cue. Chakotay turned to Janeway, eyes wide. "I can‘t believe it. He‘s been building up to this for months. You‘d think Harry would know better."

Janeway shook her head. "Tom‘s very good at this sort of thing, Chakotay, and Harry is very .... innocent." She sipped her drink. "Besides, I think Harry has a legitimate chance of winning."

Chakotay snorted. "No way. Tom couldn‘t afford to lose a month‘s worth of rations. He‘d never have taken the bet if he thought there was the slightest chance he‘d lose. Trust me; he‘s been playing down for so long, you‘ve forgotten how good he really is."

"Maybe," Janeway said, considering it. "We‘ll find out."

And they did. Harry put up a valiant effort, but, in the end, he was hopelessly outclassed. The kind of pool Tom was playing was several levels above where he‘d been playing for the past few months. After a particularly expert shot sank the 8-ball, he turned to Harry with a grin. "Sorry, Harry. You lose."

Harry was still staring at the table, stunned.

"I don‘t ... how did ... I was beating you, Tom. A lot. How did you get so much better all of a sudden?"

Tom looked down at him. "Oh, Harry, haven‘t you figured it out yet?"

Harry stared at him, unpleasant comprehension dawning on his face.

"You conned me?"

Tom nodded, struggling to keep the corners of his mouth from turning up.

"I can‘t believe it!" Harry was gesturing wildly with the pool cue. You mean this whole thing was a set-up?"

"Something like that," Tom said. "Pay up, Harry."

"Tom, I thought I was your best friend! How could you do this to me?"

"You are my best friend," Tom said, slapping him on the back. "That‘s got nothing to do with it. Besides, don‘t think of it as a con job. Think of it as ... an exchange."

"An exchange?"

"Sure. You give me a month‘s worth of rations, and I give you—"

"What? A new nickname? Harry the sucker? Harry the mark?"

"No. Harry the pool player." Tom grinned. "Hell, Harry, you‘re a hundred times better than you were four months ago. You don‘t think I‘d teach just anybody how to play pool a la Paris, do you? Besides, I put a lot of time and effort into this. I‘m entitled to be fairly compensated."

"But I didn‘t want to learn how to play pool ‚a la Paris‘!"

"A technicality, Harry." Tom took a sip of syntheale and raised his eyebrows over the glass. "Anyway, it was a fair bet. I would have paid you, if I‘d lost."

"Right. You probably don‘t even have a month‘s worth of rations."

Tom waved it away. "Another technicality. You have to learn to see the big picture, Harry."

"Which is?"

"That you should never bet against me. I only bet when I know I‘m going to win." He clapped Harry on the shoulder. "Come on, let‘s sit down. I‘ll buy you a beer. A real one."

"With my rations," Harry groused.

Tom raised an eyebrow. "Don‘t you mean my rations?" He led Harry over to a table, and, true to his word, ordered Harry a real beer. B‘Elanna joined them, patting Harry sympathetically on the arm, but laughing with Tom about it.

"Well?" Janeway said, gesturing towards the table. "Are you going to talk to him?"

"He‘s not alone."

"Chakotay, he‘s never alone lately."

"I know." He sighed. "Shit. I don‘t want to screw it up."

"You won‘t. Have some faith in yourself. You love him, remember?"

"Right." Chakotay downed the rest of his drink in one gulp, and stood up. "Here goes nothing." He made his way determinedly over to Tom‘s table, silently pulling out a chair and sitting down without being invited. "Hi," he said.

Harry peered at him sideways. "Good evening, Commander."

Tom swallowed his mouthful of syntheale. "What are you doing here, Chakotay?"

"We need to talk."

"I said I don‘t want to talk to you."

"Too bad."

"You‘re not making this any easier, you know."

"I know."

"Shit." Tom looked away, out at the pool table. "And the evening was going so well, too."

Harry‘s eyes were flicking back and forth between the two men, and he cleared his throat, loudly. "So, B‘Elanna, what do you say we play some pool? Tom says I‘m a hundred times better than I used to be. Would you care to confirm that?"

"Sounds wonderful, Harry," she said, standing up. "Suddenly, I find I‘m really in the mood for a game." Harry and B‘Elanna left, and finally, for the first time in a week, Chakotay was alone with Tom. ‚Alone‘ being a relative term, Big Man. You‘re in a bar full of people.

"Soooo," he said slowly, hands flat on the table, "how have you been?"

"Fine," Tom said shortly. "Never better." He finished his drink. "I‘m tired. I think I‘ll go to bed now." He started to stand up, but Chakotay caught his wrist and pulled him back down.

"No, you don‘t. Damn it, Tom, whether or not you really want to break up with me, I think I deserve a chance to talk with you about it." He looked around the room. "It‘s too crowded here. Let‘s go back to my quarters. We can talk in private there."

"No." Tom shook his head. "I‘m not going anywhere with you. Shit, Chakotay, this is hard enough already. Last thing I need is to go back to your quarters with you. You‘ll give me the look and we‘ll end up in bed, and I‘ll agree to anything you say. No fucking way."

"I don‘t want to fuck you, Tom," Chakotay said, angrily, bringing his hand down on the table with a bang of exasperation. "I just want to talk." He was vaguely aware of some heads swiveling in their direction.

Tom looked self-consciously around before turning back to Chakotay.

"How many times do I have to say this? I don‘t want to talk to you."

"Tom, you can‘t end a relationship all of a sudden like this."

"Why not? I wanted it to be over, so I ended it."

Chakotay shook his head, annoyed. "After three months, that‘s it, you unilaterally decide we‘re finished? I don‘t get a say in it?"

Tom crossed his arms. "No."

Chakotay lost his temper for a second. "I can‘t believe you‘re being so damn selfish."

"What, are you surprised?" Tom said angrily. "I turned out to be the asshole everybody thinks I am. They all knew it, Chakotay. They all tried to warn you away from me. But you knew better .... you wouldn‘t listen to them. It‘s your own damn fault you‘re hurting."

Chakotay took a deep breath. "Nice routine, Tom. It might even have worked with someone else. You‘re forgetting something. I know you. I know you‘re just playing a part. You‘ve done it before."

"It‘s not an act, Chakotay. That whole time we were fucking, that was the act. It was a game, Big Man. That‘s all it ever was." His voice was mocking.

"Bullshit." Chakotay looked away, controlled his temper. Getting angry with Tom served no purpose. "You‘re just trying to hurt me, so I‘ll stay away from you. It won‘t work." He turned back to Tom, captured the blue eyes with his own, and stared into them until Tom‘s facade cracked.

"Shit," Tom said, desperately. "Why won‘t you just leave me alone?"

"Because I love you, damn it! Haven‘t you figured that out yet? We were meant to be together. I can‘t leave you alone."

"I never asked for this," Tom said, backing away. "I never asked you to fall in love with me. It‘s not my fault."

Chakotay shook his head. "It‘s love, Tom. It‘s not something you assign blame for. It‘s something you thank the spirits for when you‘re lucky enough to experience it." He reached out, grabbed Tom‘s hand. "Don‘t tell me you don‘t feel something when I touch you. Don‘t pretend you don‘t feel the connection between us."

"I can‘t ... " Tom whispered. "I can‘t do this, Chakotay. Please don‘t make me..." He made a futile attempt to free his hand, but Chakotay held it tight.

"I know you‘re frightened, Tom. So am I. I‘m sorry I fell. I‘m sorry I almost died. If I could, I‘d promise you it won‘t happen again, but I can‘t promise that. You know that." He gripped Tom‘s hand. "You think you‘re the only one who‘s frightened? Hell, every time you take a shuttle out to try some other damn fool stunt, I‘m afraid you‘re not going to make it back. But that fear is part of love, Tom, and it‘s worth it."

Tom shook his head slowly. "I don‘t think so. You don‘t know what it was like, when I saw you lying there ... nothing‘s worth that, Chakotay. Not the best sex in the quadrant, not love, not anything." Tom looked at him with fear in his eyes. "What if something happens to you, you get hurt again? I couldn‘t take that, Chakotay. I know myself, I know what I can take, and if you ... die ... I won‘t be able to handle it. I won‘t."

Chakotay breathed out, slowly. For the first time in a week, he felt collected, in control. "Tell me something, Tom," he said calmly, "tell me honestly, if something happens to me tomorrow, or next week, or next month ... are you going to feel any better about it than you felt last week? If I‘m dead, are you going to be happy we spent this time apart—if we wasted the time we could have had?"

Tom looked at him, and the blue of his eyes was cloudy with confusion. "No," he whispered, "not happy. How could I be happy if you ... if you‘re ..."

"Dead, Tom. If I die. I will, you know. Someday. Hopefully later rather than sooner. But we all do die, eventually. That‘s why it‘s so important to make the most of the time we have." He shook his head, and stared off into space for a minute, then looked at Tom challengingly. "What ever happened to the hotshot daredevil you boasted about being, back in the Maquis?"

"What?" Tom was confused, thrown a little off-balance by the seemingly abrupt change in subject.

"When I first met you, you swore up and down you were the best pilot I‘d ever see in my lifetime. You said you were the best because you weren‘t afraid to take the risks that other people would shrink from. I said you were being stupidly arrogant and overconfident. You said—and I‘ll never forget this—you said it wasn‘t arrogance to tell the truth."

Tom was silent, his jaw set in a firm line.

"Piloting to you is like breathing to everybody else, Tom. You do it without thinking about it. It‘s no great show of courage to take risks doing something like that. The real challenge is taking risks when you‘re not sure of the outcome. You say you‘re such a hotshot. Prove it."

Tom glared at him, a sparkle of defiance in his eyes. "You‘re trying to provoke me, make me take a dare."

"Hell, at this point, I‘ll try anything."

"I won‘t do it, Chakotay."

Chakotay sighed. "I‘ll tell you what. If you can kiss me, right now, and tell me you don‘t still want me, I‘ll leave you alone. You win."

A flash of humor lit Tom‘s eyes for a brief second before being firmly squashed. "Sounds like you‘re offering me a bet, Big Man."

"I am."

"You leave me alone if I win?"


"What do you get if you win?"


Tom considered it for a second, then shook his head. "No. I don‘t think it‘s a good idea."

"It‘s the only way you‘ll get me off your back," Chakotay offered.

"Otherwise, I keep harassing you. I can be very persistent."

"I‘d noticed." His eyes traveled around the room. "Hell, Big Man, we‘re in the middle of Sandrine‘s. Everybody‘s here ... " he looked around the room again, "... and they‘re all watching us."

Chakotay shrugged. "So? Are you ashamed to kiss me in public?"

"No." A half a smile at the familiar line.

"They‘ll be your witnesses if you win, Tom. I‘m swearing in public to leave you alone if you win the bet."

Tom stared at him for a long minute before backing away, shaking his head slowly. "I still don‘t think it‘s a good idea..."

Chakotay looked at him, and a little voice ran through his mind, saying, ‚What the hell, let the consequences be damned...‘ He moved in close to Tom, grabbed him by the shoulders.

Tom tried to pull back. "What the hell are you doing?"

"Being unpredictable," Chakotay answered, and brought his hand up to pull Tom‘s head down to his own. He forced their lips to meet. For an instant, Tom struggled to pull away, but then ... instinct took over. Chakotay flicked his tongue out and Tom‘s lips parted, letting Chakotay in his mouth. Their tongues tangled and twisted around each other, and Chakotay was lost, enjoying Tom‘s familiar and longed-for taste and scent.

The kiss went on and on; Chakotay wasn‘t sure how they were breathing, maybe they were breathing for each other ... their tongues were still fencing, and now Tom was trying to take control of the kiss, all thought of the watching crew forgotten, for both of them. Chakotay wouldn‘t let Tom take over, this kiss was too important; he brought his free hand down and pushed their hips into alignment, ran the other hand through the short curls at the base of Tom‘s neck.

Chakotay increased the suction of the kiss, pulled Tom‘s tongue into his mouth and sucked on it. Tom moaned softly in response, and Chakotay let go and pulled back, put some space between them.

Tom opened his eyes and stared at Chakotay, breathing heavily. His eyes were dilated with arousal and his skin was flushed. "You don‘t play fair, Big Man," he panted, trying visibly to control his breathing. Chakotay didn‘t answer, just stared at Tom for a little while longer, capturing his eyes, waiting for the look to work its magic; hell, if he wasn‘t going to play fair, he might as well go all out. "Shit," Tom finally said, weakly. He took a deep breath of air. "You win." He looked down at the floor, and when he raised his head back up, the look in his eyes caused Chakotay‘s heart to skip a beat. The usual lust was there, in full measure, but this time it was tempered with awareness and understanding.

Chakotay‘s voice caught in his throat. "You mean-"

"I mean you win." Tom looked at him gently. "You‘ve got me."

Chakotay‘s brow creased. Tom was capitulating? He hadn‘t expected

it, and he couldn‘t quite believe it. "Tom, I don‘t—"

"Shut up, Teddy, and take me to bed."

End Part 7

They barely made it back to Chakotay‘s quarters. They‘d been necking in the turbolift, and hadn‘t realized it had stopped on Chakotay‘s deck until it beeped a warning at them. They were already fairly disheveled, and didn‘t even bother to take the time to straighten up before bolting for Chakotay‘s quarters.

"Damn," Tom laughed, as Chakotay dragged him into the bedroom and started pulling off his clothes. "Miss me?"

Chakotay didn‘t answer, just kept undressing him; Tom‘s shirt was long gone, shoes and socks were going, pants next, and briefs last. It only took a few seconds, then Tom was lying naked on the bed and Chakotay was lying naked next to him.

They kissed passionately for a few minutes. Chakotay could feel Tom‘s erection pushing into his leg already, and he reached a hand down to stroke it. Gods, it had only been a week, but he‘d missed this so much, it was painfully wonderful to have Tom here, again. Too much joy, he thought he might die from it, and it would be a fine way to go.

Tom gasped as Chakotay‘s fingers encircled him, squeezed gently. "Wait a minute, Chakotay," he forced out, "I want ... oh damn ... stop for a minute, or I won‘t be able to tell you ..."

"It can wait."

"No, it can‘t." Tom gasped and bit back a moan as Chakotay played with the head of his cock. "Gods, that‘s so .... please, stop for a second."

Chakotay stopped, obligingly. "What do you want to tell me?"

Tom looked at him, sweet honesty mixed with heady arousal in his eyes. "I‘m sorry I put you through all that shit." Chakotay tried to wave it away, but Tom wouldn‘t let him. "No. Let me apologize. You were hurt, I should have been there for you. Instead, you‘re not even out of Sickbay and I‘m breaking up with you ..."

Chakotay nodded. "You‘re timing could have been better, I‘ll grant you that."

"It‘s just that—shit, Chakotay, I was so frightened. Hell, I told you, I‘ve never been in love before, I wasn‘t prepared to feel so ... defenseless. When I thought you were going to die, I thought I wanted to die too, and then you didn‘t die, and I didn‘t know what I wanted. I wanted to be with you, but not if it was going to make me hurt like that." He shook his head ruefully. "Gods, I‘m such an idiot. I can‘t believe I thought breaking up with you was going to make me feel better."

"It didn‘t?"

"Fuck no. This was the worst week, ever. Every time I saw you, I wanted you so badly I thought I was going to scream. I kept waiting for it to get better and it didn‘t, it was getting worse ... I thought if I waited long enough, if I stayed away from you, I‘d get over it."

Chakotay had to laugh. "Love doesn‘t work like that. You can‘t just turn it on and off."

"Well, now I know. Luckily, you didn‘t give up on me."

"Tom, it would take a hell of a lot longer than a week for me to give up on you. I may never give up on you. I love you."

Tom stared at him, eyes wide open and seductive, drawing Chakotay into their blue depths. Hell, Chakotay thought, he‘s starting it this time, he‘s making me do it ... that knowledge didn‘t help him; he couldn‘t stop himself from sinking into Tom‘s eyes, into his arms. Their bodies touched, skin on skin, the heat of it almost overwhelming.

Tom whimpered softly, a little moan of lust and longing, and whispered back, "I love you too. Now fuck me before I explode."

Chakotay grinned. "Since you asked so nicely..." He wrapped his arms and legs around Tom, pulled him into an even tighter embrace. He rolled over so he was lying on top of Tom, and he reached his head down for a kiss. The kiss was short, full of sweetness and desire, and was followed by a second, then a third, then another. Soon Chakotay had lost all count, he couldn‘t seem to stop kissing Tom, he‘d come up for air and then fall back down again.

Tom was moaning underneath him, shifting his body, grinding his erection into Chakotay‘s hips. He tore his head away to gasp for breath. "Shit, Chakotay, it‘s only been a week ... why do I feel like we‘ve been apart for a year?"

Chakotay chuckled. "It was a very long week. Now be quiet." He thrust his mouth back down on Tom‘s, and kissed him some more. Chakotay loved the taste of him, loved to nibble on his lips, sometimes drawing the tiniest bit of blood, salty and metallic in his mouth.

With one hand, he pulled Tom‘s arms up over his head, held them there. Chakotay loved this; it was somehow more erotic than using the restraints. Tom could break Chakotay‘s hold easily; the fact that he didn‘t meant that his surrender was total and voluntary. Chakotay used his free hand to caress Tom‘s body, stroking and caressing, moving down and around Tom‘s groin but never touching Tom‘s cock, dragging it out for long minute after long minute.

This kind of extended foreplay drove Tom crazy, left him pleading and begging in a desperate whisper that Chakotay found unbelievably arousing. Tom‘s moans started growing more frantic as Chakotay began to rub their bodies against each other. Their erections touched, briefly, and Tom drew in his breath in a sudden sharp gasp. "Gods, please, Chakotay, please..."

"Please what?"

"Do something, please, I need ... something, please!"

Chakotay chuckled softly, deep in his throat, and began kissing wet trails down Tom‘s torso. He had to let go of Tom‘s arms, unfortunately, but it was worth it to feel Tom trembling and shuddering beneath him, to feel Tom‘s heart beating a rapid staccato rhythm under his ear.

He shifted down some more and felt Tom tense beneath him, muscles coiling in anticipation. Chakotay took a long, loving taste of him, and Tom breathed out raggedly. "Gods, yes, please..." Chakotay continued his ministrations, now and then fingering Tom‘s ass carefully, with just enough pressure to make Tom moan and beg for more. He was going to fuck him, certainly, but first he was going to make him come once. They hadn‘t slept together for a week, and Chakotay had it on good authority that Tom hadn‘t been with anyone else during that time ... well, a week was a long time for Tom to go without. Most likely, the first one was going to be fast, and Chakotay wasn‘t in the mood for a fast fuck; no, he wanted it slow and drawn out and mind-blowing. His own cock was throbbing just thinking about it. He used his teeth, gently, in precisely the right fashion to make Tom moan ...

"Gods, please!"

Chakotay smiled to himself, and kept at it. No need to deep throat, tonight, Tom was already close to coming and it would only take a few more sucks, "Oh shit," a lick here, "Please, Chakotay!," a kiss there, "Oh, gods, gods don‘t stop," and a strategically placed finger or two, pushing in just the slightest bit harder, and then... "Oh GODS yes!"

Tom wailed and exploded into Chakotay‘s mouth. Chakotay swallowed contentedly, pleased with himself. Tom was so proud of his ability to suck Chakotay off, but Chakotay thought he could give a pretty damn good blow job too. Hell, he‘d been doing it a lot longer, after all.

Tom was lying limply on the bed. "You‘re too damn good at that. I couldn‘t hold back if I wanted to."

"I didn‘t want you to."

"I could tell. You were doing all the right things, one after the other." Tom pulled Chakotay into his arms, and placed a gentle kiss on his forehead. "I do love you, you know. I‘m sorry I freaked out."

"Just don‘t do it again." Chakotay allowed a touch of petulance to enter his voice.

Tom shook his head. "I can‘t promise that. But ... I‘ll try."

Chakotay frowned a little. "I suppose I‘ll have to settle for that."

"You don‘t want me to lie to you, do you? I can, if it will make you feel better ... look, I‘m not planning on freaking out again, but hell, my mind works in strange and wondrous ways, Teddy. You never know what‘s going to happen with me from one minute to the next."

Chakotay was silent for a minute. "Actually, I have a pretty good idea of what‘s going to happen to you in the next minute."

"Oh? And that would be...?"

Chakotay grabbed him, and rolled him over onto his stomach. "I‘m going to fuck you until you scream for me."

Tom shivered. "Oh. O.k. I think I can deal with that."

"I hope so," Chakotay said in a low voice, running his hands gently up and down Tom‘s back, kneading at the knots he found there. "Spirits," he swore, "your back is a mess."

"Yeah, well ... oof ... I haven‘t been ... urmmm ... sleeping well lately;

I‘ve been ... mmm ... doing a lot of tossing and turning. Ouch! Hey, take it easy!"

"Sorry," Chakotay murmured, leaning down to place a tender kiss on the sore spot. He began massaging Tom‘s back again, a little more gently, working carefully at the worst knots, taking his time. Tom was practically purring beneath him, sighing into the pillow as tension drained from his shoulders and upper back, then his middle back, then his lower back.

It would have been hard for Chakotay to say precisely when the massage turned into something more intimate, when the firm strokes turned into tender caresses, but he gradually became aware that Tom‘s sighs were now gasps, and that Tom‘s fingers were clutching at the sheets. Chakotay had been so caught up in the simple pleasure of giving his lover a massage, he hadn‘t realized that his fingers had, of their own accord, worked their way down to Tom‘s ass. He‘d been stroking Tom‘s cheeks softly, even occasionally slipping a finger between them, without being the least bit conscious of it. He chuckled silently to himself as Tom moaned softly into his pillow.

Chakotay had lost track of how much time had passed since he‘d started the massage; it had been a good long while—he hadn‘t been in any rush—and Tom was usually pretty quick to recuperate, so ... he reached one inquisitive hand around Tom‘s hips, stroked gently at Tom‘s cock. Tom drew in his breath sharply as his cock jumped in response, and Chakotay smiled with satisfaction. Perfect.

A tube of lubricant, almost empty, was lying on the night table. Chakotay took it, squeezed a generous amount on his fingers, and returned to the business at hand. Slowly, he worked a greasy finger into Tom, feeling Tom tense, then relax beneath him. He stroked in and out smoothly, listening for the moans that meant Tom was ready for more. Another finger joined the first and Tom began to push back against his hand, raising himself up to his hands and knees.

"Please..." he said softly, groaning.

"Slowly, Tom," Chakotay said, "I want to take it slowly." He heard Tom swear under his breath in frustration, then moan when a third finger joined the first two. Chakotay was caught by surprise by the powerful pulse that ran through his cock at the sound. It was going to be hard to wait.

He continued finger-fucking Tom for several minutes, and Tom was moaning almost continuously and pushing back against Chakotay‘s fingers. "Gods," he swore, finally, "I can‘t take this ... I need you... please, Chakotay ... please..."

"I don‘t want to rush tonight, Tom," Chakotay said, relatively calmly.

"Shit," Tom gasped, "you‘re killing me ... my heart‘s pounding so fast I think it‘s going to explode ... and you want to wait??? Gods, I‘m going to die right here, right now, if you don‘t fuck me, I swear it ... I‘m going to have a heart attack or something if you don‘t—" He gasped again as Chakotay rubbed a gentle finger across his prostate.

"You‘re an evil, evil man," Tom forced out when he could talk again. "What more do you want from me? I‘m already begging ... on my knees ...... oh dear*gods*, what the hell are you ... holy shit ... please..." Chakotay thought he‘d see if he could fit four fingers in, and, to his surprise, he could. Tom threw his head back and arched his body, gasping for air. "Please," he moaned, pleasepleasepleaseplease..."

Chakotay couldn‘t hold off any longer. He was hard as hell and afraid that if he waited any longer, he‘d come just from watching Tom, listening to him moan. He removed his fingers carefully and positioned himself, then slid swiftly inside. Tom had been well-prepared; Chakotay was able to go in all the way on the first stroke. He gasped as the feeling hit him, and Tom moaned underneath him.

"Shit, yes," Tom swore, "it‘s about goddamn time." He thrust backwards impatiently, and Chakotay had to push him away slightly to slow him down.

"Slowly," Chakotay ground out, thrusting in and out slightly.

Tom sobbed once, then said softly, "*Gods*, you‘re torturing me.

Please, Teddy, fuck me before I go insane."

"My way," Chakotay said firmly, "you made me go a week without you, and ... oh spirits ... we‘re doing this my way tonight." He continued his slow and steady assault, feeling the pressure build up behind his eyes and in his cock. Tom didn‘t say another word, just gasped and groaned and trembled beneath him, and very soon, Chakotay was gasping and groaning and trembling with him.

"So beautiful..." he whispered, "you‘re so beautiful, Tom, everything about you, your body and your soul ..." His hips jerked involuntarily, forcefully, and he moaned.

"Gods yes," Tom said, in response, straining to push back harder against Chakotay‘s too gentle assault, hampered by Chakotay‘s hands on his hips, holding him steady. "Please," he moaned, when Chakotay forced himself to slow down again, "please fuck me, Chakotay, gods, please."

Chakotay didn‘t answer right away, he thrust in and out once more, then gasped out, "All right ... if you insist..." He relaxed his control on his body, found himself instantly pounding into Tom, hard, faster than he‘d have thought possible. His hands moved to Tom‘s back, gripped there so hard, he could practically see the bruises form beneath his fingers.

Tom grunted in stunned surprise; he‘d been begging for so long, he‘d given up hope. After a second, Tom recovered and started thrusting backwards, meeting Chakotay‘s every lunge, and it was hot and wild and loud and spirits, so damn perfect ...

Chakotay couldn‘t hear for the roaring in his ears, couldn‘t see for the sweat in his eyes, could only feel the pleasure flood every pore of his body. Blindly, he reached around for Tom‘s erection, gripped it firmly, felt Tom convulse spasmodically beneath him, felt rather than heard Tom‘s scream as he came. Tom bucked backwards as his body was caught in the throes of orgasm, and Chakotay felt the pleasure tear through him, launch him into orbit, into space with the stars and the darkness ...

... he woke up when Tom struggled out from underneath him. "My throat hurts," Tom complained.

"Good," Chakotay said faintly. "I told you that you were going to scream for me."

Tom chuckled softly, then bit back a curse as he rolled into the wet spot. "Yuck. Where‘s the towel?"

"I don‘t know," Chakotay said, rubbing his eyes, "You haven‘t been here in a week. I haven‘t needed one."

"All right, all right. I know, I‘m an idiot." Tom lifted himself out of the bed and stumbled into the bathroom, coming back out with a towel. He cleaned the bed as best he could, cleaned himself off, then gently began to clean Chakotay, too. "You know," he said, conversationally, as he dabbed and wiped, "you said we weren‘t going to have any more big emotional scenes."

Chakotay thought about it. "If I recall, what I said was that I wasn‘t planning on having any more big emotional scenes. This one wasn‘t planned."

"Well," Tom said, throwing the towel carelessly into the corner merely to annoy Chakotay, "on the bright side, the sex was really intense. Maybe we should break up every once in a while, so we can make up again."

"Don‘t even joke about it, Tom," Chakotay said seriously, pulling Tom into his arms.

"Sorry," Tom said, honestly contrite. He snuggled against Chakotay‘s body, getting comfortable. Chakotay would never have guessed, a few months before, that Tom would turn out to be such a big cuddler. "Teddy?" Tom said, voice getting heavy.


"I knew I was going to lose that bet before I took it."

Chakotay smiled in the dark. "So did I."

"I do love you, you know," Tom said in a small, sleepy voice, "even if it scares the shit out of me."

"I know, Tom." Chakotay patted his back, and continued until Tom‘s breathing became quiet and regular, then whispered, "I love you too."

Chakotay woke up slowly the next morning, and stretched contentedly. The chronometer at the side of the bed said it was 0634. Tom was lying on his stomach, still asleep, one hand under his pillow, the other draped possessively over Chakotay‘s chest. His hair was tousled, and his early morning beard glinted red-blonde in the reflected starlight.

They‘d slept through the night, Chakotay realized suddenly. He‘d gotten very attuned to Tom‘s sleeping and waking patterns; if Tom had woken up in the middle of the night, Chakotay would have known it, even if Tom hadn‘t gotten out of bed. So Tom had slept through the night in Chakotay‘s bed. Chakotay wasn‘t sure what that meant, if anything, but he took it as a good sign.

Chakotay sighed happily and looked around his quarters. What a mess. There were clothes all over the floor, left haphazardly where they‘d been thrown after being so hastily removed. Maybe he‘d get out of bed and straighten up a little bit. He rolled to his left, towards the edge of the bed, and Tom rolled with him.

"Where you goin‘, Teddy?" he asked sleepily.

"Nowhere, now," Chakotay said, settling back down in the bed. "Since you‘re awake, I think I‘ll stay here a while."

"Good idea," Tom murmured. They lay in bed for a long while, not talking, simply enjoying the intimacy of physical contact. Tom‘s breathing evened out, and Chakotay had just about convinced himself the younger man had fallen back asleep, when Tom yawned and stretched.

"Chakotay," he said quietly, "I want to apologize for last night."

"Apologize?" Chakotay was confused. Hell, he‘d had a great time the night before. "For what?"

"For that scene in Sandrine‘s. I‘m sorry. I know you don‘t like your private life on display like that."

"You seem to have forgotten that I was the one who started it, Tom. I came to your table. Remember?"

"Yeah. But if I‘d come back to your quarters with you when you‘d asked, the whole crew wouldn‘t have heard us."

Chakotay shrugged it off. "It doesn‘t matter. To be honest, I don‘t give a flying fuck what the crew thinks. I just care what you think."

Tom was silent. His body started to tremble against Chakotay‘s.

"Tom," Chakotay said, with some alarm, "are you upset about this?"

Tom‘s body kept shaking, and he didn‘t answer for a few long seconds.

"Tom?" Chakotay was getting nervous. Oh no, not again...

Finally, Tom raised his head, and Chakotay was relieved to see laughter, not tears, hiding behind Tom‘s eyes. "Did you really just say ‚flying fuck‘, Big Man?" A chuckle escaped his lips. "I mean, did you really just say ‚flying fuck‘?"

Chakotay relaxed. "I guess I did."

"Shit," Tom said with a wide grin. "I‘ve totally corrupted you. I bet I can get you to say it to Captain Janeway before the week‘s up."

"Not a chance."

"I‘ll bet you..."

"What, you‘re done with Harry, so now you need a new mark?"

"Something like that."

"You‘ll find I‘m not as easy to manipulate as poor Ensign Kim."

Tom laughed. "Hell, Teddy, you‘re much easier to manipulate than he is. A nibble here, a squeeze there—I can have you at my mercy in minutes." He looked at the chronometer. "Hey, it‘s not even 0700. We still have time to get breakfast before we have to be on the bridge.

Let‘s take a shower."

Chakotay raised an eyebrow. "Just a shower?"

"Just a shower. Honest. I‘m still sore from last night." He raised himself out of bed. "I‘ll tell you what. I‘ll go first. By myself. You can clean up the floor."

"Fine." Chakotay got out of bed, and started picking up the strewn clothing. "Wait, Tom, before you get into the shower, I have got to ask you a question. It‘s been bugging me for a week and a half."

"Sure," Tom said, curiously. "What?"

"What exactly did you and Megan do with the bananas?"

Tom blushed. "No way am I telling you that story. No way in hell. Uh uh." He ducked into the bathroom, then poked his head out the door. "But I‘ll give you a hint. Think hot fudge and ice cream." He ducked back into the bathroom quickly, and in a minute, Chakotay heard the water running.

Chakotay sat down heavily on the bed, his mind suddenly assaulted by images of delicious new diversions. Hot fudge? Ice cream? Oh my. My oh my oh my. He stood up, stretched, and walked into the bathroom to brush his teeth.

He looked at the closed shower door. Tom was singing to himself in the shower. He had a very nice voice, although he‘d never sing in public. Chakotay looked at his tired, happy face in the mirror, then back at the closed shower door. You shouldn‘t, Big Man, he scolded himself. You really shouldn‘t. You said you wouldn‘t. He‘s tired. He‘s sore. He‘s ... naked in your shower. Oh spirits.

Giving in to his baser instincts with a sigh, Chakotay opened the door to the shower stall. Tom turned to face him with a grin on his face. "I knew you wouldn‘t be able to stay away for long."

"Mmm," Chakotay agreed, pulling Tom close for a kiss. "So tell me," he murmured, as Tom sagged happily against him. "How do you feel about caramel and whipped cream?"

Tom chuckled softly. "I love caramel and whipped cream, Teddy."


"I know, I know. Don‘t call you Teddy."

"That‘s not what I was going to say."

"Oh no?"

"No. I was wondering. How many ice cream sundaes do you think you can replicate with a month‘s worth of rations?"

"Lots, Teddy. Lots and lots." Tom was nuzzling his ear.

A pause. "Tom."

"What now?"

"*Don‘t* call me Teddy."

The End.

I really, really mean it this time! I have about 5 unfinished stories clamoring for my attention, and I am going to give the "Sweet Dreams" universe a rest for a while. Hope you don‘t mind, too much.