Hello? Anybody remember the "Sweet Dreams" series? I know it's been a while. (All right, it's been a number of months.) I've been working on other things, and RL keeps intruding. Plus, I did warn you that I wanted to take a break from this series for a while. However ... all my sweet listies on the CPSG have been bugging me for the next story in the series, and I kinda sorta promised them I'd have one out by the end of the year, so ... here 'tis! A little late, but essentially on time.
For those of you joining us late, this is the eighth, yes, *eighth* story in an ever-expanding series. The previous seven stories are, in order: "Sweet Dreams", "Jitterbug", "Aftershocks", "Rose Garden", "Plush Toy", "Sleepwalking", and "Jabberwocky".
Infinite thanks to Rachel and Sapphire for their continuing inspiration and guidance.
Hope you enjoy it! On with the show...
by Margaret Berger (MaisieRita@aol.com)
(Voy, C/P, NC-17)
Disclaimer: Bow ye down to the mighty lords of Paramount! Prostrate thyselves before the mighty altar of Trek! Pay no attention to that lady behind the curtain sneaking off with a few of the characters to have her naughty way with them …
WARNING WARNING WARNING!!!! This story contains explicit depictions of consensual sex between two males, and a third guest partner. If that bothers or offends you, stop reading now. No kidding. You've been warned.
Feedback, as always, is warmly welcomed at the above edress.
Early morning. A tentative suggestion. "Sunshine?"
The response was terse, slightly muffled by a mouthful of toothpaste. "No."
"No!" A more vehement denial this time, accompanied by an appropriately disgusted sound effect as Tom spat the toothpaste out of his mouth.
"Not in public, Teddy." Tom rinsed his mouth out and turned away from the sink to face Chakotay, who was leaning casually against the doorway of the bathroom. "You might as well give up, Chakotay. I've already told you you'll never come up with one half as annoying as the one my sisters had for me."
"I don't want it to be annoying. I want it to be affectionate."
"Affectionate?" Tom repeated incredulously. "You suggest 'honeybear' and you want me to believe you're looking for an affectionate nickname?"
"My mother called my father 'honeybear' and he didn't mind."
"Then your father had some serious deep-seated emotional problems." Tom turned back to the sink and ran a hand across his stubbly chin before fishing his razor out of the medicine cabinet. "What's wrong with 'Tom'?"
"That's your name."
Tom raised his eyebrows in the mirror. "I'm aware of that. It's a perfectly good name. I happen to like it, and I like the way you say it." He turned on the shaver and passed it over a cheek, watching intently as the hair disappeared.
Chakotay frowned. "But everyone calls you 'Tom'."
Tom turned his head to the side and ran the shaver across the other cheek. "No they don't. Actually, very few people call me 'Tom'." He lifted his head slightly and ran the shaver across his chin and neck, rendered silent for a minute. When he'd finished, he clicked off the shaver and shoved it back into the medicine cabinet. "You call me 'Tom'," he said, turning around and counting on his fingers. "Harry does, B'Elanna does. The triplets do. Captain Janeway does, occasionally, and so do Neelix and Kes. That's about it. Everyone else calls me 'Paris' or 'Lieutenant'."
Chakotay frowned. "That's still a lot of people who call you 'Tom'. I want a special name for you."
"How about Stud?" Tom suggested with an evil grin, striking a provocative pose.
"I said affectionate, not wildly exaggerated," Chakotay said with a smirk he'd learned from Tom. "But I could call you Studmuffins if you prefer."
Tom threw his wet towel at Chakotay's face as he walked, nude, out of the bathroom and towards the closet, hunting for a clean uniform. "Not on your life. "
Chakotay followed Tom into the bedroom. "I'll come up with something."
"I'm sure you will," Tom said, supportively yet insincerely. He rummaged around in the closet. "I could have sworn I left a clean uniform in here." He delved deeper and deeper into the closet. "Shit, Teddy, you have an awful lot of clothing. Where do you plan on wearing this stuff?" His voice was muffled. "What the hell is *this*?" Tom emerged from the closet holding a garish purple and orange shirt.
Chakotay smiled. "Neelix gave it to me last year for my birthday. He said it would compliment my coloring."
Tom stared at Chakotay in disbelief, then forced his eyes back to the shirt. "This has got to be the ugliest shirt I've ever seen. Are you sure Neelix wasn't joking?"
Chakotay shrugged doubtfully. "I don't think so. He looked serious."
"Gods." Tom stared at the shirt a moment longer. "Well, if I don't have a clean uniform here, I may just have to wear this to the bridge today."
Chakotay couldn't hold back a laugh at the mental image that brought to mind. "Somehow," he chuckled, "I don't think that would go over very well with Captain Janeway."
"You don't think so?" Tom said with a grin. "She's got an odd sense of humor that pops out at the weirdest times. I bet she wouldn't even raise an eyebrow."
"I'm not willing to take that bet," Chakotay said firmly. "You show up on the bridge wearing that shirt and *I'll* be the one who gets called into the ready room for a lecture on appropriate bridge demeanor."
"You think so?" Tom asked, voice muffled once again as he delved back into the closet.
"Yes. She holds me responsible for your behavior."
"That's good to know," Tom answered, a laugh in his voice. "Next time I do something stupid, I'm going to send her directly to you." A short pause, then a triumphant, "Ah ha! I *knew* I left a clean uniform here. How'd it get pushed so far into the closet?"
"You must have left that here a month ago, at least," Chakotay chided.
"Really?" Tom was disinterested in the length of time the uniform had been in Chakotay's quarters. He looked at it with a critical eye and shook it a few times, grinning as the wrinkles disappeared. "The material they use to make these uniforms is amazing."
Chakotay rubbed absently at his neck. "You think so? I think it itches."
Tom nodded. "Hell, yeah. But the uniforms always look like they just came out of the 'fresher, which is more important." He pulled on his clothing in a few swift movements. "Are you coming to breakfast?"
"I don't think so. I've got a few reports to catch up on. You go on ahead."
Tom frowned. "This is the third week in a row, Teddy."
Uh oh. Chakotay let a carefully manufactured expression of confusion cross his face. "What are you talking about?"
"Did you think I wouldn't notice? Every Wednesday morning you've suddenly got reports to do?"
"What?" Shit. Chakotay tried to inject more confusion into his expression.
Tom took a few steps and closed the distance between himself and the older man. He grasped Chakotay's hands in his own and peered seriously into his lover's face. "Is it Harry or B'Elanna?"
Chakotay tried to back away. "I still don't know what you're talking about."
"Look, Big Man, I've been having breakfast with Harry and B'Elanna every Wednesday morning for the past couple of years. For the past couple of months, I've been having breakfast with Harry, B'Elanna, and you. Now you've decided not to come anymore, so I want to know if it's Harry that's the problem, or B'Elanna."
"There isn't any problem. I told you, I've got reports to do. You're being ridiculous." Chakotay tried to sound firm, but failed.
Tom crossed his arms. "And you're lying."
"I am not lying," Chakotay lied, before Tom's skeptical and slightly irritated expression made him give up. "All right. I *am* lying. But there's no problem, per se. I just thought you'd like to have some time with your friends. Wednesday breakfasts were your time alone with them, and I feel like I'm intruding."
"What?" Tom irritated expression faded to one of exasperation. "And you say *I'm* being ridiculous? For gods' sakes, Teddy, how could you possibly be intruding?"
"I don't know," Chakotay said lamely. "I just feel like you're controlling yourselves when I'm around."
"Controlling ourselves?" Tom asked patiently.
"Yes." Chakotay felt unaccountably defensive. "I used to watch the three of you at breakfast, before you and I were seeing each other."
Tom raised an eyebrow and grinned. "Oh yeah?"
"Yes. And you can wipe that smirk off your face right now." Chakotay waited a second before continuing. "Anyway, I used to watch you. Hell, half the mess hall used to watch you. You were awfully loud."
Tom laughed. "We were just kidding around."
"I know. Since I've been joining you, I noticed that you're a lot quieter. I feel like I've somehow ruined your breakfasts. Maybe you feel you have to restrain yourselves around me."
"Why, because you're the First Officer? I can't speak for Harry and B'Elanna, Chakotay, but *I'm* sure as hell not intimidated by your rank."
Chakotay snorted. "That's for damn sure."
Tom looked at him seriously, and pursed his lips. "Then that's not it. Or, at least, that's not all of it."
Chakotay turned away uncomfortably. "Forget about it. You want me to go with you? I'll go."
"No. I want you to tell me what the problem is. It's not just your rank."
Chakotay sank down onto the bed. "It's stupid."
"So I was right! It *is* something else. Tell me, Teddy."
"It's *stupid*, Tom, really. Let's just forget it."
"No. If something's bothering you, I want to know about it. If you don't tell me I'll be agitated and get an upset stomach, and you remember what happened the last time, don't you?"
"Yes. Don't remind me." Chakotay sighed. "Fine. I'll tell you. But you have to promise not to laugh."
Chakotay remained silent for over a minute, then finally said, softly, "I feel too old."
"You feel too old?" A broad grin crept across Tom's face, and he started to laugh, but Chakotay's glare stopped him. "Shit, Big Man, *that's* the problem? I'm a few years younger than you?"
"More than just a few."
"Less than ten."
"Not much less."
"So what? Do you think I really care about that?"
"No," Chakotay said weakly. "Not usually."
"Not *ever*. Why are you even worrying about this?"
"Because," Chakotay said petulantly, "I never notice the difference in our ages except when you're with your friends. When it's just you and me, I can forget about it. But when you're with Harry and B'Elanna … "
"Hell, Teddy, I'm older than both of them and they don't care." Chakotay was silent, and sudden comprehension dawned on Tom's face. "Oh for crying out loud. *That's* the problem. I'm older than them, and you're older than me, so that makes you a *lot* older than them." He shook his head. "That's ridiculous."
"I'm over fifteen years older than Harry."
"You're not fucking Harry," Tom reminded him with a leer.
Chakotay frowned. "I'm trying to be serious, Tom."
"Sorry." Tom let out an exasperated sigh. "It's hard for me to take this seriously. Fuck it, Teddy, who cares how much older you are than Harry or B'Elanna? I'm not involved with them. You don't think I'm comparing you to them, do you?"
Chakotay spoke in a tiny voice. "Maybe."
"Shit. I can *not* believe you. You're my lover. They're my friends. Good friends, but *just* friends. That's all it'll ever be, all right?"
"And you're okay with that?"
"Yes. I never wanted anything more than friendship from them."
Chakotay snorted. "That's not true, and we both know it."
Tom was silent for a minute. "All right. I was attracted to B'Elanna. I used to flirt with B'Elanna. Nothing ever happened. Nothing's going to happen. I'm with you, now, Big Man, and that's that. Okay?"
Chakotay took a deep breath. "Okay."
"Good." Tom stood up, grimacing as his knees creaked. "Shit. You're not the only one getting old around here. Are you coming?"
"No, really, Tom, I actually *do* have reports to finish. I knew I was going to skip breakfast this morning so I didn't finish them last night."
Tom made a face. "Fine. But next week I expect you at that table with us, all right?"
"And you shouldn't skip breakfast. It's not healthy. Promise to replicate something?"
"Something healthy. Not just a cup of coffee."
"All *right*. Don't nag me, Tom. You're not my mother."
Tom grinned. "A good thing, or your spirits might have a problem with the fact that we're sleeping together." He planted a quick kiss on Chakotay's forehead. "See you in the briefing, Big Man."
"See you later." A barely perceptible pause. "Dumpling?"
"NO!" Tom poked his head back into the cabin. "Don't even think about it, Teddy."
Chakotay grinned. "See you later, Tom."
Forty-five minutes later, Chakotay wandered into the briefing room. Janeway was already there, as usual, sipping a cup of coffee, but none of the other officers had made it in yet.
"Good morning," Janeway said, smiling. "You're early, Commander."
"Don't tell Tom," Chakotay said. "You'll get me in trouble."
Janeway frowned for a second, then realized, "It's Wednesday. Shouldn't you be having breakfast with Harry and B'Elanna?"
"Yes. I got out of it. I told Tom I had reports to finish."
"Chakotay, I really think you're overreacting about the age difference. Tom doesn't care about that."
"I know," Chakotay admitted. "We talked about it this morning. He says I'm being ridiculous."
Janeway grinned. "You *are* being ridiculous."
"Thanks for your support, Kathryn."
"Any time." Janeway took a sip of her coffee. "Seriously, Chakotay, you can't really believe that Tom cares if you're a few yours older than he is."
"Why does everyone think it's only a few years? I'm almost ten years older than him, Kathryn. *Ten*."
Janeway waved her hand in dismissal. "So what? My grandfather was fifteen years older than my grandmother, and they had one of the happiest marriages I've ever seen."
"Good for them," Chakotay said crossly. "At any rate, it's not how much older I am than Tom. It's how much older I am than Harry and B'Elanna."
Janeway looked at him in wide-eyed surprise. "If I recall correctly, you used to date B'Elanna."
"I know. But I was younger then, and the difference in our ages didn't seem like such a big deal." Chakotay was quiet for a second, and spoke again before Janeway could. "All right. It's really Harry that's the problem. You should see the way he looks at me sometimes, like I'm a fossil from the Dark Ages. He makes me feel like an old fogy."
Janeway grinned widely. "That's because you *are* an old fogy. But you're our old fogy, so we tolerate you." She was still grinning as the doors to the briefing room opened and Harry, B'Elanna, and Tom walked in, followed closely by Tuvok. "Good morning," Janeway said. "Enjoy your breakfast?"
Tom made a face. "Neelix tried to make pancakes with the Feolian pseudo-wheat. We have *got* to get more power to the replicators."
"Hopefully, we'll be able to," Janeway answered. "Have you finished your analysis of that particle cloud we scanned, Harry?"
"Yes, Captain," Harry answered instantly. "I have a report ready."
"Good," Janeway said. "Then we'll dispense with the formalities and start with your report, Ensign."
Harry nodded. "We've scanned the cloud. As we suspected, it's actually made up of millions of individual energy filaments. If we could harness just a tiny fraction of their power, we'd be able to restore the replicators to almost full capacity. There's only one problem."
B'Elanna started speaking. "The filaments aren't stable, Captain. They're in a constant state of combustion."
Janeway nodded. "Of course. Life would be too easy, otherwise. Any ideas how we could keep the filaments stable temporarily?"
B'Elanna glanced at Harry for a second before answering. "We think a warp field might do the trick for a short time. Long enough to harvest a few of the filaments and place them in a containment field."
"But…?" Janeway said expectantly.
"But we can't take Voyager in there," Harry answered. "She's too big. Any warp field we'd generate would be too large. We'd dampen so many filaments we'd risk destabilizing the whole particle cloud."
"I see," Janeway said. "Well, I don't intend to destroy this phenomenon just to escape from Feolian pseudo-wheat pancakes. How about sending a shuttle in?"
"We've considered that," Harry said. "It seems to be our best option. It could generate a warp field that's at a high enough intensity to keep a small fraction of the filaments stable, while still small enough to prevent any lasting damage to the cloud."
"But…?" Janeway said again.
"We'd have to modify the shuttle's shielding," B'Elanna answered. "Voyager wouldn't have a problem in there, but shuttle shielding is nowhere near as powerful. Without specially modified shielding, a shuttle wouldn't last ten minutes."
Janeway nodded. "I think we could spare a few days to modify the shielding. It would be worth it to get the extra replicator energy."
B'Elanna spoke up again. "We're only going to get one chance at this, Captain. Once we go in there with a shuttle, the dynamics of the cloud are going to be thrown into a state of flux. It might take weeks for the conditions to stabilize again."
"Understood," Janeway said. "So let's make sure we've got everything set perfectly before we send a shuttle in." She thought for a moment, then asked, "Is there any reason we can't send a few shuttles in to different parts of the particle cloud and harvest additional filaments?"
B'Elanna looked down at the table sheepishly. "Theoretically, no. Practically, it's not an option."
B'Elanna was almost blushing. "We've only got one shuttle operational, Captain."
Janeway was silent for a long time. "One shuttle?"
"Yes," B'Elanna said, grimacing. "The Galileo. We've been having a lot of bad luck with shuttles lately, and with the replicators running low on power, we haven't been able to get all the replacement parts we need to repair them. The Galileo is only working because we swiped parts from the Cochrane."
"I see," Janeway said. "Well, I can't say I'm happy to hear that."
"If this mission is successful, we'll be able to repair all the shuttles," Harry offered hopefully.
"Always the optimist," Tom murmured under his breath.
"What was that, Lieutenant?" Janeway inquired mildly.
"Nothing, Captain," Tom answered, looking innocent.
"That's what I thought," Janeway said. "Next time you've got nothing to say, be quieter about it."
"Yes, ma'am," Tom said, and winked at Chakotay.
Much later that night, well after dinner, Chakotay wandered into the resort program. He scanned the room, finding Tom and Harry seated at a small table off to the side of the room. After stopping off at the bar to get a drink, he walked over towards the table. Tom and Harry were seated with their backs to him, looking out at the holographic water, and they didn't hear him as he approached.
"Define better, Harry."
Chakotay could see Harry's shrug. "You know, better. As in, not worse."
"Well, nobody's threatened to break my legs in the past few weeks, if that counts."
"I guess that's an improvement."
"Sure as hell is. But I'm not going to be dancing with any of them at your party."
Harry sipped his drink. "Except for B'Elanna."
"Of course, except for B'Elanna. But she doesn't count."
Harry laughed. "I'll be sure to tell her you said that."
"Trying to get me killed, Har?"
"You bet." There was a short companionable silence, then Harry gestured vaguely to the sun setting over the ocean just as Chakotay walked into their line of sight. "This is a great program."
"I still like Sandrine's better," Tom said grumpily, sipping at his tall purple drink, giving Chakotay a warm smile as he took a seat.
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Tom, you programmed most of this place."
"I know," Tom answered. "But it's so damn cheery." He waved his drink around, coming perilously close to sloshing some of it on the table. "Hologirls with leis and grass skirts. Steel drum music. Deck chairs. It's like a permanent short leave."
"And that would be bad because…?"
Tom frowned. "It's not realistic. It's so sweet it's saccharine."
Chakotay grinned. "You'd like it a lot better if it had a pool table, Tom."
Tom was silent. Finally, he admitted grudgingly, "I suppose so."
Chakotay and Harry laughed, and Tom flushed red. He swallowed the rest of his drink. "Computer, what's the time?"
"The time is 2042," the computer replied neutrally.
"Whoa," Tom said, standing up. "Time to go. I've got the other holodeck reserved in 3 minutes."
"Flight sims?" Harry asked.
"Advanced combat simulations," Tom answered, eyes gleaming with anticipation. "I'm modifying them to include some of the weaponry and flight patterns we've found in the Delta Quadrant. They're going to be great by the time I'm finished with them. Better than anything they've got at the Academy."
"Tom Paris, ever modest," Harry joked.
"It's not arrogance to tell the truth, Harry," Tom said, and slapped him on the shoulder. "Meet you in your quarters at 2200, Big Man?"
"I'll be there," Chakotay answered with a smile. Tom excused himself from the table, and Chakotay found himself sitting alone with Harry. It made him slightly uncomfortable. He and Harry had never been particularly close; in addition to the obvious age difference, Harry seemed to feel the difference in their ranks to be too great an obstacle to friendship. It had only gotten worse when Harry had found out about Tom and Chakotay's relationship. Since then, he'd been even cooler towards Chakotay; at times, almost hostile.
At first, Chakotay had attributed it to jealousy on Harry's part. He'd been waiting, in fact, for Harry to make a move, stake his claim to Tom. It hadn't happened, of course. Harry simply wasn't interested in Tom that way. Finally, Chakotay decided that it was merely protectiveness on Harry's part. Over-protectiveness, really. As if Tom needed Harry's protection from Chakotay!
Chakotay took a sip of his synthale. Spirits, this was awkward. "So..." he said uneasily, wondering if he could devise an exit that wouldn't make his discomfort blatantly obvious. "So," Harry said agreeably. Then he added, surprisingly, "Things seem to be going pretty well with you and Tom."
"Yes," Chakotay agreed cautiously.
"Good," Harry said. He tapped his fingers on the table. "How long has it been now?"
"Wow." Harry looked away again. Still not looking at Chakotay, he said, "I still have trouble believing it at times."
Me too, Chakotay agreed silently. He looked at Harry's profile, the slight crease between the ensign's brows and thought, hell, it's now or never, Big Man. Taking a thoughtful breath, he asked, "Does it still bother you?"
Harry turned towards him, frowning. "I never said it bothered me," he said, slowly.
"No, you didn't," Chakotay said. "You never said that, exactly."
Harry didn't answer, and cast his eyes downwards. His fingers were still drumming nervously on the table. "All right, Commander," he said, quietly, "I'll admit that I haven't been exactly enthusiastic about this relationship--"
"No, you haven't," Chakotay interrupted, then kicked himself, mentally. Gods, yet *another* bad habit he was picking up from Tom.
Harry must have been used to it, because he continued speaking, smoothly, "--but I'm just trying to look out for Tom's best interests."
Chakotay nodded. "And you don't think that seeing me is in Tom's best interests."
"I didn't say that," Harry objected. "I just don't want to see him get hurt."
"I won't hurt him."
"Not on purpose. But your relationship with Tom is so intense, he has trouble handling it sometimes." Harry looked up, met Chakotay's eyes briefly. Chakotay was startled at the genuine concern he saw there. "I'm sorry. I can't help it. I worry about him."
"You're a good friend."
"*He's* a good friend. The best friend I've ever had."
Chakotay smiled. He'd heard those words before. "He feels the same way about you."
Harry smiled back. "Thanks." He looked away for a second, then turned his head back, curiously. "That doesn't bother you?"
"No. Tom and I are lovers, Harry, but my relationship with him shouldn't affect his relationship with you."
"No, it shouldn't," Harry agreed seriously. "I don't know if the two of you are going to last ... maybe this is *it*, you'll be together for the rest of your lives ... or maybe not ... but Tom and me, our friendship, that's *forever*, Commander."
Chakotay saw the raw emotion in Harry's eyes, and smiled to himself. Tom provoked a lot of different feelings in people, but those feelings were always intense. Whether they loved him or hated him, people didn't feel things about Tom halfway. "I think you're probably right, Harry. Don't worry. I won't smother him." He took a sip of his by-now lukewarm synthale. "Harry, do you mind if I ask you another question?"
"No," Harry said, slightly reluctantly.
"Why are you so surprised that Tom and I have lasted this long?"
"Tom's never had a relationship last longer than two weeks, Commander."
"It was bound to happen to him someday."
"I suppose so. I guess I always figured he'd end up with B'Elanna."
Hmmm. This was as perfect an opportunity as Chakotay was likely to get. Harry was best friends with Tom, and almost as close to B'Elanna. They'd both share things with Harry that they'd never tell anyone else. Chakotay nodded his head. "I think everyone thought they'd end up together. Do you have any idea why they didn't?
Harry looked at him cautiously. "You'll have to ask them that question yourself, Commander."
Damn. Well, he should have figured. Harry wasn't much of a gossip, but it had been worth a try. Chakotay waved his hand in negation. "No, it's not that big a deal. I was just curious. For a while, they seemed very ... inevitable, that's all."
"I thought so," Harry said, then clamped his mouth shut firmly. He scanned the room, saw Samantha Wildman enter with Tuvok. Relief flashed across his face, quickly hidden. "Commander, if you'll excuse me, I've got to speak to Ensign Wildman about some tests we'll be running tomorrow."
"Of course," Chakotay said, struggling to keep a straight face. So Harry was uncomfortable, too. It was obscurely reassuring. "Have a good night, Ensign."
"You too, Commander. Would you remind Tom that we're meeting for breakfast at 0730?"
Harry nodded to Chakotay cordially, then made his escape. Chakotay stayed at his seat for a while, finishing off his drink. He checked the time and sighed. Only 2115. Tom wouldn't be done with the flight simulation for another forty-five minutes, at least. Chakotay didn't begrudge Tom the time -- Tom always came back from these sessions flushed and excited, and not the least bit tired - - but it meant that Chakotay had to figure out a way to pass the time.
He gave a quick, rueful shake of the head. Spirits, had it really only been 5 months? What had he done at night *before* Tom? Well, for at least a few months, he'd spent his nights at Sandrine's, watching Tom, lusting after him in silent agony. Before that? He was drawing a complete blank. It was so hard to remember ... hard to remember that there had even *been* a time before Tom.
If nothing else, Chakotay supposed he could spend the night pondering the Tom and B'Elanna issue. The problem was, he didn't have enough information, yet, and he wasn't going to get it from Harry. Maybe he could find another source? Who else ... oh. Of course.
"Computer," he called out. "Location of Ensign Megan Delaney."
"Ensign Delaney is in Observation Lounge 4."
Oh really? That was odd. Megan spent her days in Stellar Cartography; generally the personnel down there, who spent their days staring at the stars, stayed as far away from the observation lounges as possible. Observation lounges were where the moles spent their nights. The unfortunate crew who were stationed in areas with no viewports -- transporter operators, security guards, engineers, and the like -- were the ones who liked to visit the observation lounges at night. Unless they were senior staff, the moles had no windows in their quarters.
Chakotay finished the last of his synthale, and made his way to Observation Lounge 4. Megan was sitting alone at a table in a corner, poking desultorily at a datapadd. She didn't look remotely interested in it, and neither her sister nor Susan Nicoletti were anywhere to be found. Chakotay couldn't for the life of him imagine what Megan was doing there.
He stepped closer to her table. "Ensign Delaney," he said, considering for an instant pretending to be surprised to see her, but changing his mind. She'd figure out soon enough that he'd sought her out specifically.
"Commander?" Megan was surprised to see him.
"Are you busy, Ensign?"
"No, sir. Can I help you with something?"
"Maybe. May I join you?"
"Of course. Have a seat." She indicated the seat across the table.
Chakotay sat down, not missing Megan's quick scan of the room. Looking for someone, perhaps? Not your business, Big Man, he told himself firmly.
Chakotay cleared his throat. Now that he was here, he wasn't sure how to begin. Megan was looking at him expectantly, a look of amusement creeping across her face as the delay went on and on. Finally, she spoke, a pretty smile lighting her face. "Okay, it's obviously about Tom. What do you need to know, Commander?"
Chakotay flushed. "Am I that transparent?"
Megan moved as if to pat him on the arm, but suppressed the motion. "Not really, sir. But, as I've said before, we don't really move in the same circles. So if you come to talk to me after hours, and you don't know how to start ..." She shrugged, gracefully. "Ask me, Commander. The worst that will happen is that I won't be able to tell you what you want to know."
Chakotay smiled. Megan really was charming, when she wasn't being such an obvious flirt. It struck him, suddenly, that her usual ditzy, flirty persona was just as much of a fake as Tom's breezy flyboy persona was. No wonder they got along so well. He cleared his throat again. "It's about Tom and B'Elanna."
Megan's brows creased in confusion. "What about them? There's nothing going on with them, Commander." Her look clearly indicated that he was crazy to think there might be.
Chakotay shook his head. "I know that. There's nothing going on *now*."
Megan shook her head back at him. "There never *was* anything going on between them. They never happened."
"I know that, too."
Chakotay sighed. "Humor me. I know the ship's scuttlebutt as well as the next man, and I'm not blind. They used to flirt like crazy."
Megan pursed her lips prettily. "Tom used to flirt, at any rate. Lieutenant Torres tolerated it."
"For B'Elanna, that was flirting. I just don't know why ... I mean, they were obviously attracted to each other ... and then there was that incident on Sakari ... I don't know why they didn't ... "
Megan quirked an eyebrow. "...get together? Have you asked Tom?"
"He just shrugs, and says it wasn't meant to be."
"That's not it." Megan opened her mouth to continue, when her eyes lit on someone just entering the room. Her face brightened, and her eyes flickered quickly to Chakotay before crossing the room again. Chakotay could see one arm lift, as if to wave, before she forced it back down to her side.
Chakotay was dying to turn around and see who'd walked in, but he couldn't figure out a casual way to do it, so he restrained himself. Luckily, he didn't have long to wonder. "Hi, Megan," a voice said over his shoulder. "Commander Chakotay." Chakotay turned to find Joe Carey standing there. Joe gave him a respectful smile, then turned back to Megan. "How are you?"
"Fine," she said softly, looking, for once, at a loss for words. Ah. A brief bit of memory flashed in Chakotay's brain. Kathryn had said that Megan was interested in Carey. Suddenly, Megan's choice of a reading spot made much more sense. Observation Lounge 4 was the preferred evening hangout for engineers, and sure enough, here was Carey.
Engineers... Carey was B'Elanna's assistant. If Megan was a good source for information on Tom, Carey had to be almost as good a source for information on B'Elanna. Plus, Chakotay would be doing a good deed for Megan...
"Lieutenant," Chakotay said to Carey. "Care to join us?"
Carey's eyebrows raised slightly, but he smiled smoothly and said, "Sure." He took the seat next to Megan; Chakotay didn't miss the blush that pinked Megan's cheeks when Carey's hand accidentally brushed her shoulder. Chakotay remembered feeling like that about Tom, back in the beginning, when every touch was like an electric shock, searing in its intensity ... though, come to think of it, he *still* felt that way about Tom. He'd just gotten used to it ... more or less.
"Commander Chakotay was wondering why Tom and Lieutenant Torres never got together," Megan said, flustered and looking for something to say. Chakotay almost winced, but Carey apparently didn't think it was all that odd a conversational gambit.
"Isn't Lieutenant Paris going to be upset when he finds out you were pumping his ex-girlfriend for information?" Carey asked, directing the question to Chakotay, but looking at Megan.
"Tom and I were never dating," Megan said defensively. Carey looked at her skeptically, and Chakotay saw the color rise even higher in her cheeks. "I'll admit we used to flirt a lot, and everybody on the ship knows we used to ... be together ... sometimes, but it was never serious."
Carey turned back to Chakotay, apparently willing to let the subject drop, and Chakotay could almost hear Megan's mental sigh of relief. "So, Tom said that he and B'Elanna weren't meant to be, but you don't think that's it?" Chakotay asked, getting back to the business at hand.
"If you ask me," Megan said, "Lieutenant Torres said 'no' one too many times. Even Tom has his limits."
Carey nodded. "He was down in Engineering an awful lot for a while, finding excuses to talk to her. She'd always brush him off, but a bunch of us noticed that she'd be in a better mood after he left." He laughed, and whispered conspiratorially, "Once, when Lieutenant Torres was in a really foul mood, Ensign Kaplan made up some excuse to get Lieutenant Paris down to Engineering, just so he could cheer her up, and leave us alone."
"Did it work?" Megan asked, eyes twinkling with humor.
"Like a charm," Carey said with a grin. Then he shrugged. "But, eventually, he stopped coming around."
"Any idea why?" Chakotay asked.
Carey nodded towards Megan. "It's like Megan said, Commander. We figured Lieutenant Torres told him 'no' one too many times. I remember Ken Dalby saying something about how even Tom Paris has some pr-" Carey cut himself off abruptly, and blushed scarlet.
"Even Tom Paris has some pride?" Chakotay finished gently.
Carey nodded hesitantly, then said, uncomfortably, "Dalby's Maquis, Commander. He still doesn't like Lieutenant Paris much, and sometimes he says things... it doesn't mean the rest of the crew feels that way ..."
"It's all right, Lieutenant," Chakotay said, slightly amused. "I'm well aware of how the rest of the crew views Lieutenant Paris. Including the Maquis, and especially Crewman Dalby."
Megan tried to break the slight tension. "Why do you need to know, Commander? Nothing ever happened between them ... " Light slowly dawned. "Oh. You're afraid something *might* happen? They'll attend to unfinished business, as it were?"
"Something like that."
"Don't worry. Tom would never do that to you."
Carey joined in. "Neither would B'Elanna. She really respects you, Commander, and she cares for both of you too much to risk messing up your relationship."
Chakotay frowned. "I know that."
"But?" Megan said, raising an eyebrow.
Chakotay sighed. "But they're always *looking* at each other." He glanced up to see Megan and Carey exchanging a meaningful glance. Carey was valiantly trying to keep a straight face, but Megan was grinning unabashedly.
"Why, Commander Chakotay," she said merrily, "you're jealous."
"No I'm not," Chakotay answered, unconvincingly.
"Yes you are. Don't you think he's jealous, Joe?" Megan asked Carey, flashing him a grin.
Carey nodded. "You do sound a little bit jealous, sir. Honestly, though, I don't think you have any reason to be concerned."
"He's right, Commander," Megan said. "Tom loves you. When we're practicing, he can't wait to finish and get back to you. I practically have to lock the door to my quarters to keep him there."
It almost passed Chakotay by, but he caught it. "Practicing?"
"For our performance at the talent show."
"You're performing at the talent show?"
Megan looked surprised. "You mean he didn't tell you?"
"No." Chakotay heard the peevishness in his voice.
"Huh," Megan said, just the tiniest bit confused. "I was sure he'd have told you." She frowned, and then panic streaked across her face. "Oh no! What if it was supposed to be a surprise, and I ruined it?"
"Don't you think Lieutenant Paris would have told you if he wanted you to keep it a secret?" Carey suggested reasonably.
"I don't know. Maybe. I gave up trying to figure out how Tom's mind works a long time ago." She twisted a finger in her hair. "Speaking of which, did Tom say if we're supposed to bring presents on Saturday?"
Chakotay thought about it. "I don't know. *He's* going to bring a gift, of course, but I don't think everyone else is expected to." "Hmm. I'd better bring something, just to be safe. Besides, it'll be worth the replicator rations just to be at a party. I'm really looking forward to it," Megan said. "It's the first time in ages I'm going to get to dress up."
"Dress up?" Carey asked, crinkling his brow.
Megan turned to him with an impish grin. "Didn't anyone tell you, Joe? It's black-tie."
Carey looked at her suspiciously. "As in … "
"Tuxedos," Chakotay said glumly. "I tried to talk Tom out of it, but he wouldn't listen."
Carey groaned and Megan frowned prettily. "Men. Why do you think of dressing up as some sort of torture?"
"Because it is," Carey said gloomily. "Dress shoes, a cummerbund, a bow tie…"
Chakotay swore under his breath. "Damn it, I forgot about the bow tie."
Megan raised her eyebrows. "Wear a clip-on, Commander, if it bothers you that much." She looked sternly at him, and then at Carey, her face softening a little. "Look, you two, Tom and B'Elanna spent a lot of time planning this party. Harry's going to be 25, you know. It's an important birthday, and Tom wants everything to be perfect. So that means champagne, a jazz band, and men in tuxedos and women in ball gowns. Got it?"
"Yes ma'am," Carey said with a grin.
Megan graced Carey with a grin warm enough to melt duranium alloy, and on seeing Carey's answering smile, Chakotay found himself wondering for the second time that evening how he could gracefully exit a table without causing too much suspicion. "Computer, what's the time?" he asked.
"The time is 2205," the computer responded politely.
"Damn," Chakotay said, standing up hastily, not even having to pretend that he forgot an appointment. "I was supposed to meet Tom five minutes ago."
Megan looked at him, an evil grin creeping across her pretty features. "He keeps you on a pretty short leash, huh, Commander?"
Carey poked her in the side. "Megan!"
"It's okay, Joe," she said merrily. "Commander Chakotay and I are buddies now, right, Commander?"
There was really only one answer to that question. "Right. Good night, Ensign. Lieutenant."
"Good night, Commander," Carey and Megan said in unison. As Chakotay reached the door of the observation lounge, he took a quick glance back over his shoulder and found Megan and Carey already deep in conversation, totally engrossed in each other. Allowing himself a small, self-congratulatory grin, he slipped out the door.
First thing he was going to do when he got back to his quarters was find out about this performance with Megan. The second thing he was going to do would be another sort of performance entirely. Chakotay grinned to himself in anticipation. Mmm. He sped up his pace and hurried down the hall.
The rest of the week passed quickly, and uneventfully. Tom didn't have a lot to do, since Voyager was hovering just out of range of the particle cloud, and he took advantage of the extra free time to clean his cabin and rearrange Chakotay's. Chakotay spent his free time arranging his cabin back to the way it had been. Finally, Saturday evening rolled around. "This is stupid," Chakotay groused, unraveling the crooked knot for the sixth time.
"You're too tense, Teddy," Tom said, walking into the bathroom. He'd been waiting patiently for 15 minutes. "Let me help you. Tying a bow tie is an art form."
"I could have replicated a perfectly good clip-on bow tie."
Tom shuddered. "No lover of mine is wearing a *clip-on*. Good lord."
"No one would know."
"*I'd* know. Alec would know."
"My mom's father. One of many in a long line of diplomats. He bought me my first tux for my sixth birthday and taught me how to tie a bow tie the same day." Tom's hands were moving deftly as he spoke, crossing the silk, creating loops, pulling and straightening and coaxing. "There." He stood back and surveyed his handiwork with satisfaction.
Chakotay looked in the mirror. "How did you *do* that?" The tie was perfect.
"I told you, it's an art form." Tom handed Chakotay his jacket and helped him slip it on, twirling his finger to coax Chakotay to spin around for him. "Very nice," Tom said, eyeing the fit of the tuxedo. "It looks good on you. And that cummerbund does wonders for your waistline." His eyes were twinkling.
"Oh, be quiet," Chakotay said. "I can't help it if I'm not 32 anymore. Anyway, I'm not built like you."
"I didn't say anything!" Tom said merrily, eyebrows arched in offended innocence. "It was a compliment."
"Right." Chakotay snorted skeptically, and brushed invisible dust off his jacket. Satisfied with his appearance, he turned to Tom and checked him out.
Tom's tuxedo fit perfectly, emphasizing his long, lean figure, and the blue of his tie and cummerbund matched his eyes. Hair brushed and gleaming, face clean shaven, smelling faintly of Chakotay's favorite cologne ... he was just about irresistible. Chakotay allowed himself a long proprietary look.
"Uh oh," Tom said, backing out of the bathroom and shaking his head.
"What?" Chakotay followed him out the door.
"You've got that gleam in your eye."
"Which gleam?" Chakotay was following Tom's path around the room.
"That 'I'm going to fuck you' gleam."
"Oh really?" Chakotay closed the distance between them slightly.
"No way!" Tom said, backing up hurriedly and holding Harry's present in front of him as a shield. "B'Elanna will kill us if we're late. Anyway, I just took a shower and spent all this time getting dressed, not to mention having to listen to you complain about wearing a tux for 45 minutes while *you* got dressed, and I refuse to get all undressed and sweaty just because you can't keep your hormones under control."
Chakotay kept closing in. "Then you shouldn't have worn a blue bow tie. You know how I love it when you wear blue..."
"Yes. That's why I wore it." Tom bumped up against the wall. Chakotay stepped in front of him, pinned him to the wall with his eyes. Tom's breath came a little faster. "Come *on*, Teddy," he pleaded desperately, "can't we do this later?" Chakotay nipped at his neck softly, just above the collar of Tom's shirt. Tom whimpered. "*Please*, Chakotay."
Chakotay relented with an evil grin. "Got you going, didn't I? Come on; we're going to be late if we don't hurry." He walked over to the door of his quarters.
Tom was still plastered against the wall, struggling to get his breathing back under control. "I can't believe you did that."
"Payback," Chakotay said, pulling Tom away from the wall and through the door.
"For what?" Tom asked, straightening his tuxedo jacket.
"Yesterday morning? What did I do ... oh. I didn't hear you complaining at the time." They were walking swiftly through the hall, towards the closest turbolift.
Chakotay turned his head slightly to the side to look at Tom. "You almost made me late for my shift."
"I got you there on time, didn't I?"
"Barely." They'd reached the turbolift, and stepped inside, requesting Holodeck 2. "We missed breakfast."
"Sorry. Look, Teddy, *you're* the one who got me hooked on early morning fuck-fests."
Chakotay winced. "Do you mind?"
"What, you don't like that term?"
"Not particularly. It's a little crude."
Tom shrugged. "So am I."
"Not in that tux, you're not."
Tom glanced down at himself and grinned. "I *do* look very suave and debonair, don't I? All right, I'll tell you what I'll do. I promise not to curse for the rest of the evening." Chakotay laughed out loud at that, and Tom looked him, slightly hurt. "You don't think I can do it?"
"No. I don't think you could last an hour, much less an entire evening."
"Chicken, Big Man?"
"No. Just still hurting from the last bet."
"I *told* you I could get you to say it to the Captain."
Tom snorted. "You're dreaming. It was only the middle of the week. I don't start cheating until things get desperate."
"You set me up, then."
"Look, we made a bet and you lost. You're just aggravated 'cause I made you give me the rations. At least I spent them on you."
Chakotay rolled his eyes. "I didn't really need a set of satin sheets."
"Everybody needs a set of satin sheets, Teddy. Particularly someone like you."
The turbolift doors opened and deposited them in the corridor a few meters away from the holodeck, preventing Chakotay from asking exactly what Tom had meant by that last remark.. B'Elanna was waiting impatiently for them, dressed in a stunning emerald green dress and tapping her foot. She crossed her arms indignantly across her chest. "I thought you'd never get here."
Tom smiled charmingly. "You could have gone in without us, you know."
B'Elanna wrinkled her nose at him. "You'd have been furious if I went in without you, and you know it."
Tom grinned. "I never get furious, B'Elanna. Ask Teddy."
Chakotay hit Tom lightly. "Don't call me Teddy, Lieutenant."
Tom rolled his eyes. "I don't even know why you bother to pretend, Big Man. You know you love it." He hit a few keys on the touch pad by the holodeck doors, and they swished open. "Let's go!"
Standing off to the side of the room, sipping a cool drink, Chakotay had to admit that the tuxedos had been a good idea. It had been a long time since he'd been to such a formal affair, and it was fun. Tom was dancing with Megan. He'd been on the dance floor with one partner or another practically since the minute they'd walked in the door. No, not quite. First he'd made sure all the details of the program were running right, *then* he'd started dancing, pausing only to give Harry a brotherly hug and hand him his present, which, Chakotay suspected, was something Harry would have no use for, and might not even recognize.
Chakotay took another sip of his drink, let his eyes come to rest again on Tom, and drank in the sight. Gods, but the man was incredibly handsome. Tom knew it, too, but it made the truth no less true. And in a tuxedo -- spirits. It was difficult not to drag Tom forcibly out of the crowd and off into a Jefferies tube.
Musing happily on the possible uses of Jefferies tubes, and wondering how he might be able to get Tom into one, Chakotay drifted off into pleasant daydreams for a few minutes. He came out of it only when a passing crewman jostled his arm, nearly causing him to spill his drink. He searched the dance floor for Tom again, finding him now in B'Elanna's arms.
Chakotay frowned. Of *course* the music had changed. Of *course* it was a slow song, encouraging close embraces and deep looks of longing. Of *course* Tom and B'Elanna were wrapped around each other tighter than two Meritian tree devils in heat. Shit.
Chakotay tried not to seethe. He tried his hardest not to get jealous. But, damn it, Tom was looking at B'Elanna the way he was supposed to look at Chakotay, and damn it more, B'Elanna was looking right back at him! Chakotay felt a familiar jealousy course through him, and gulped the rest of his drink in one angry swallow.
The situation was not helped by the fact that Tom refused to dance with him. Kiss him, yes. Call him 'Teddy', yes. Even hold hands in public. But no dancing. "Sorry," Tom had said, eyes wide, the first time Chakotay suggested it, "I don't think I'm ready to dance with another guy, Big Man." Every time Chakotay asked, the answer was still the same, and it had gotten to the point where Chakotay had stopped asking, just so he wouldn't be disappointed when Tom said no.
He risked another glance at the dance floor. Tom was smiling at B'Elanna now, twirling her around, and she was smiling back at him, looking incredibly feminine and beautiful and nothing like the perpetually irritable half-Klingon lieutenant who ruled Engineering with an iron fist. Shit shit shit! Chakotay couldn't take it. It seemed patently obvious that Tom and B'Elanna were on a collision course, just *waiting* to happen. And why not, Big Man? B'Elanna is intelligent, sexy, obviously attracted to Tom, and don't forget the age factor! Damn it, Chakotay, what the hell are you going to do?
The answer came to him, suddenly. Of course! Chakotay felt like laughing. What an idiot. You should have thought of this a long time ago, Big Man. He nodded surreptitiously to himself, gazing at Tom and B'Elanna with newly thoughtful eyes. It would work. The only tricky part was going to be getting Tom and B'Elanna to agree to it. Chakotay sipped his drink again, pondering the possibilities.
Hours later, the cake had been cut and devoured, Harry had been kissed by most of the female members of the crew, the champagne was disappearing rapidly, and the music had switched from disco to jazz. Chakotay found himself seated at a table with Tom, Megan and Jenny Delaney, and Susan Nicoletti. They were playing a word game, the name of which Chakotay hadn't heard, and the rules of which completely escaped him.
It seemed to be a two-player game. Or rather, multiple people could play a game, but only two players competed in any particular round.
"Admiration," Tom said, in response to something Jenny had suggested.
"Attributes," Jenny replied quickly.
"Offspring," Tom shot back, which for some reason Chakotay couldn't fathom caused Megan and Susan to burst into laughter.
Jenny was temporarily stumped, but she recovered before Tom could claim victory. "Alimony."
"James Kirk." Again, Megan and Susan started laughing. Chakotay supposed that if he understood the rules of the game, he'd understand the joke, too. As it was, the crossfire was so quick, he could barely keep track of whose turn it was. Tom was speaking again, and Chakotay was *sure* Jenny hadn't gone yet, but no one else blinked and for all he knew, Tom was supposed to go twice in a row. Chakotay sighed and looked around the room, feeling too old and out of touch, then saw B'Elanna sitting by herself at a small table, sipping a tall drink.
"If you'll excuse me," he said politely, slightly irritated when nobody even turned towards him as he rose. Shaking it off, he crossed the room to where B'Elanna sit, and motioned to the chair next to her. "Mind if I join you?"
"Not at all," B'Elanna said, glancing quickly at the table where Tom was sitting. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing. Why do you assume something's wrong?"
"Because you just left Tom by himself with the Delaneys and Nicoletti, and he's looking particularly delectable tonight and I know you're *way* too jealous to let them anywhere near him."
Chakotay chuckled. "To tell you the truth, I couldn't keep up with the conversation. They're playing some sort of word game. It's very confusing."
B'Elanna nodded. "Razzle. It's an old Fleet brat game, Chakotay. Captain Janeway joins in sometimes. I can't keep up either. Tom's really good at it though."
"Apparently," Chakotay agreed, glancing back towards the table to see Tom and Megan laughing hysterically while Jenny slapped the table in frustration. He turned back to B'Elanna to find her watching the group, too. "Do you really think he looks delectable?"
B'Elanna shifted her eyes quickly back to Chakotay's face. "Yes. You know he does. I think he does it on purpose. I mean, really, a blue bow tie? He's just trying to make you horny."
Chakotay grinned ruefully. "It's working. You know, he wore a blue shirt on our first date."
B'Elanna narrowed her eyes. "Five months ago, right?"
"Wow." She sipped her drink and said reproachfully, "You never told me about that night."
Chakotay shrugged. "There's not much to tell. He came over, we ate, then we slept together. End of story."
B'Elanna coughed furiously. "What? It took me a *month* to get you in bed, and you slept with him on the first date?"
Chakotay shook his head. "You don't understand. It wasn't really a date. He just came there for sex."
B'Elanna's face was a perfect study of disbelief. "How did he get you to agree to *that*?"
"He didn't have to get me to agree to anything. It was mostly my idea." At B'Elanna's incredulous stare, Chakotay reddened and continued, "He sort of offered it, but he wasn't really serious. Or, he was serious, but he never thought I'd take him up on it."
"Why *did* you take him up on it?"
Chakotay shrugged one shoulder slightly. "I didn't think I'd ever have another chance. He wasn't really interested in men."
B'Elanna was understandably confused. "Then why did he offer to sleep with you?"
"Because he was curious about what it would be like, and he knew I was interested in him."
"So this was just some sort of experiment for him? And you agreed to it?"
"Like I said, I didn't think I'd ever get another chance." Chakotay's eyes lost focus as he remembered that evening. "Even if nothing had come of it, it would have been worth it. It was incredible."
"I can imagine. Jenny Delaney says he's the best lover on the ship."
Chakotay was still remembering that first night. "I don't know about that. But he's the best lover *I've* ever had, by far." Suddenly he came back to himself and realized who he was talking to. "Shit. I'm sorry, B'Elanna. I didn't mean…"
B'Elanna waved it away, laughing. "Don't worry about it. You and I were just a fling. He's the love of your life." She grinned evilly. "And I have to tell you, he's certainly gotten you to loosen up a bit. I can't believe how much you're cursing, now."
Chakotay sighed. "Did I do it again?"
"Damn. Kathryn's noticed, too. I can't help it; Tom curses so often, I don't even hear it anymore. Am I really getting bad?"
B'Elanna was still grinning. "It depends on what you mean by bad. You *never* used to curse. Now you do, occasionally. You still don't compare with Tom."
Chakotay snorted. "No one compares with Tom."
"As I said, that's what Jenny claims."
Chakotay almost smiled. He'd been sitting with B'Elanna for all of five minutes, and that was the third comment she'd made that had to do with Tom and sex. He remembered again the way they'd been dancing, and the occasional furtive looks of longing he caught them throwing at each other, and was again convinced that his earlier idea was a good one. "B'Elanna, do you ever think about the Sakari homeworld?"
B'Elanna's eyes narrowed cautiously. "What about it?"
"You almost slept with Tom."
"I haven't forgotten."
"Do you wish you had?"
There was a long pause, then B'Elanna answered honestly, "Yes."
Chakotay nodded. "I thought so."
B'Elanna patted his arm. "You don't have anything to worry about, Chakotay. I had my chance. I missed it." She shrugged. "That's life."
Chakotay drummed his fingers on the table. "If you had the opportunity to sleep with him now, would you take it?"
B'Elanna raised her eyebrows. "No. Chakotay, he's *your* lover. I would never interfere."
"That's not what I meant," Chakotay said, shaking his head in frustration, annoyed that he'd sounded like he didn't trust B'Elanna.
"Then what *did* you mean?"
Chakotay cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Do you remember that night on Risa? With the nightclub hostess?"
B'Elanna chucked. "How could I forget?" Understanding dawned. "Oh, Chakotay, are you suggesting what I think you're suggesting?"
"If I were, how would you feel about it?"
B'Elanna didn't even stop to think. "I think it would be fun. It was certainly fun on Risa."
"But that was with two women, not two men."
B'Elanna shrugged again. "So? Variety is the spice of life, as they say." Then she paused and frowned. "I don't know, Chakotay. Would you really be okay with it? By the time we went to Risa, you and I were already through. You and Tom are still very much together."
"I know," Chakotay said, with a wan smile. "But the two of you are always looking at each other."
"So I'm jealous. Unbelievably jealous. So jealous I can't stand it when you two look at each other and I know you're wondering what it would be like to be together."
B'Elanna started to laugh. "My god. You want to do this so that Tom and I can get it out of our systems, with you there to supervise!"
Chakotay blushed, but managed a weak nod. Then he added, "I also think it will be fun."
"I'm sure it will."
Chakotay turned serious again. "Are you sure *you'll* be okay with this? I know you had feelings for him, B'Elanna, even if you never told him."
B'Elanna stared at him. "I never said I had feelings for Tom. I just said I lusted after him. It's totally different."
Chakotay fixed her with his gaze and shook his head slightly. "B'Elanna, I was obsessed with him for months. I saw the way he looked at you when he thought no one was looking, and I saw the way you looked at him when *you* thought no one was looking."
B'Elanna sniffed angrily. "Hell. Can't hide anything on a ship this small." She glanced back towards Tom's table to see everyone there laughing. "I'll be fine, Chakotay. It'll be better to have him for one night and know what I'm missing, rather than wondering about it for the rest of my life."
"Good," Chakotay said with relief. "Now I just have to convince Tom."
B'Elanna laughed out loud. "Oh, like that'll be really hard to do."
"It might be," Chakotay said seriously.
"Oh, come on, Chakotay. Tom has probably done a hundred threesomes."
"I don't think so. To tell you the truth, I don't think he's done any." B'Elanna shook her head. "No way can I believe *that*. The man is obsessed with sex."
Chakotay cleared his throat reproachfully. "That's an exaggeration. And I really doubt he's ever done it."
"Well, if that's the case, it ought to be even easier to convince him to try it."
"Convince who to try what?" Chakotay and B'Elanna looked up at the same time to find Tom approaching the table, wearing a self- satisfied grin.
"Nothing," Chakotay said quickly, shooting a warning glance at B'Elanna. "What are you smiling about?"
"What do you think I'm smiling about?"
It didn't look like Tom had accidentally overheard his conversation with B'Elanna, so Chakotay guessed the next most obvious choice. "You won some replicator rations."
Tom raised his eyebrows and grinned at the same time. "Either I'm very predictable or you're getting good at reading me, Teddy."
Chakotay chuckled. "We have yet to see the day when Tom Paris becomes predictable. I'm just getting good at reading you. Who did you win the rations from, and how many did you get?"
"Nicoletti," Tom said happily. "It was only a few days' worth. We don't play Razzle for serious money. Still, it'll be enough to buy us a nice dinner tomorrow night, Big Man. And if I use the rations I'm going to win from you, there will even be enough to get some wine."
B'Elanna looked from Tom to Chakotay and back to Tom. "You got him to agree to another bet?" She flicked her eyes over to Chakotay. "When are you going to learn?"
"I never said I agreed to that bet," Chakotay protested.
B'Elanna kept at it. "What was it, anyway?"
"I bet him that I could make it through the entire evening without cursing," Tom said.
B'Elanna laughed. "Well, that's one bet I could forgive you for taking, Chakotay."
"I didn't take the bet!" Chakotay protested again.
"Sure you did," Tom teased, eyebrows raised. "Don't you remember? Boy, you really *are* getting old."
Chakotay cleared his throat. "Tom," he said distinctly, "shut up."
Tom grinned, and tugged at Chakotay's arm. "Come on, Big Man. Let's go."
Chakotay looked around. The party was still in full swing. "You want to leave now?"
"Yeah." Tom was tugging harder at Chakotay's arm. "Come *on*, already."
"Are you feeling okay?" Chakotay asked, with concern.
"I'm feeling fine. I just want to get out of here."
"Why? What's the rush?"
Tom paused for a second, glancing briefly at B'Elanna. "I just want to go."
"Why?" Chakotay persisted.
Tom sighed. "Because I've been staring at you in that tux all evening, and you look good enough to eat, and I don't think Harry would appreciate it if I started ripping your clothes off in the middle of his birthday party. Okay?"
B'Elanna stifled a chuckle as Chakotay swallowed heavily. "Okay."
"Good. Now give me your hand and come with me." As Chakotay placed his hand in Tom's, the younger man smiled at B'Elanna. "Give Harry a kiss for me, will you B'Elanna? Make it a long, wet, juicy one."
B'Elanna snorted. "Don't tempt me, Paris. I just might do it."
Tom laughed. "I can just imagine his face. See you in the morning."
"See you in the morning," B'Elanna echoed. "Good night, Chakotay."
Back in Chakotay's quarters, Tom headed straight for the bathroom. "I have *got* to wash my face," he said. "I'm coated in lipstick."
"The curse of being desirable," Chakotay commented dryly. "Everybody wants to kiss you."
Tom snorted, and began washing his face. "Not everybody. Just the triplets. You're hardly one to talk. Captain Janeway kissed you."
"On the cheek, Tom."
"Still counts. *And* you got a kiss from B'Elanna, and she never kisses anyone." He sounded melodramatically petulant.
Chakotay didn't suppose a better opportunity was ever going to arise, so he figured he'd better act on it. "Tom," he said, a little bit hesitantly, "are you upset about the way things turned out with B'Elanna?"
Tom looked up from the sink, water dripping off his face. "Upset?" He looked confused, and sounded even more so. "Why would I be upset about it?" He thought for a second, absentmindedly wiping the water out of his eyes. "What do you mean, anyway, 'the way things turned out'? What things?"
"Your relationship," Chakotay said, bravely carrying on.
"B'Elanna and I don't have a 'relationship'," Tom said, still confused. "We're just friends. We went through this the other day, Teddy."
Chakotay nodded. "I know. Nothing ever happened between the two of you."
"Right," Tom said, finally grabbing a towel to dry his face.
Chakotay kept at it. "How do you feel about that?"
Tom rolled his eyes. "I don't know. I never really thought about it."
Chakotay shook his head. "I don't believe you. You used to flirt with her all the time."
"I remember," Tom said, folding his arms and leaning back against the sink. "Nothing ever came of it. I was interested, she wasn't, then you and I started seeing each other and B'Elanna and I became ... irrelevant."
"But you're still attracted to her," Chakotay said.
Tom chuckled. "There is no way I am answering that until I know which response is going to get me into trouble."
"You don't need to answer it, Tom. I know it's true."
Tom sighed in confusion. "What's this all about?" He thought about it for a second, then comprehension dawned on his face. "Don't tell me you're upset about this evening. It was just a dance, Teddy." Tom stepped away from the sink and moved nearer to Chakotay, grabbing him by the hips and pulling him close. "I'd never leave you for her. Don't you know that?"
Chakotay tried valiantly not to get distracted. "I don't think you'll leave me," he said, weakly pushing away Tom's roving hands.
"Then what are you so worried about?"
Tom was nuzzling Chakotay's neck, nipping at an earlobe. Chakotay found it increasingly difficult to think. With a fierce effort of will, he pushed Tom away. "I'm not worried, really. It's just that -- I saw the way the two of you were looking at each other."
"And how were we looking at each other, exactly?" Tom asked patiently, leaning against the sink again.
"Like you wanted to get each other alone. Like you had some unfinished business."
"Unfinished -- -- -- Oh, for gods' sakes, Teddy, you can't be serious." Tom crossed his arms on his chest and looked at Chakotay indignantly. "You really think B'Elanna and I would just slink off in a corner and screw around?"
"No," Chakotay said. "But you can't deny that you're attracted to her."
"So what?" Tom said, exasperated. "She's beautiful. Who wouldn't be attracted to her? It doesn't matter. I'm not going to do anything about it."
Chakotay took a deep breath. Do or die, Big Man. "Maybe you should."
Chakotay was perversely pleased with himself when Tom's mouth dropped open, and Tom stared at him, slack-jawed, for several seconds. Finally, Tom shut his mouth with an audible click of his jaw and said, "What?"
"Maybe you should do something about it. The way you two look at each other ... it makes me crazy sometimes."
Tom was blinking rapidly. "Makes you crazy. That's the only thing you've said tonight that makes any sense. What exactly do you expect B'Elanna and me to do?"
"I think maybe the two of you should sleep together and get it out of your systems."
"Are you *insane*?" Tom stared at Chakotay in consternation. "You get jealous when I *talk* to Megan. Now you want me to *sleep* with B'Elanna? You'll kill me. You'll come after me with Neelix's meat cleaver and they'll find my mutilated corpse in the holodeck!"
Chakotay managed a laugh. "I could hardly kill you for doing something I suggested, Tom."
Tom shook his head firmly. "No way. No *way*. I don't care what you say now. If you know that B'Elanna and I are together in some room somewhere, and we're ... together ... you'll be imagining all sorts of things. You'll go nuts, and I'll end up dead."
Chakotay smiled. "I won't have to imagine anything, Tom. I'll be there to make sure the two of you don't get too out of control."
Disbelief flitted across Tom's face. "Is this some kind of joke, Teddy? Are you trying to get me back for the satin sheets?"
"No joke, Tom."
"You expect me to believe that you want me to sleep with B'Elanna, and you want to *watch*?"
"Not exactly," Chakotay said, facing the last hurdle bravely. "I won't be watching. I'll be participating."
Tom fell silent. He stayed silent for what seemed to Chakotay to be an excessively long time. Eventually, Tom got his voice back, and said, "When you say you want to participate, I take it you mean you want to ... to ... " He fell silent again, apparently unable to voice the chaotic thoughts in his head.
"Yes, Tom," Chakotay said softly, face flaming. Spirits, this was worse than he'd imagined. "I want you and B'Elanna and me to be together. Just once. One night."
"You and me and B'Elanna," Tom said slowly. "Together." His head was shaking of its own accord. "No. I don't think so. Nope."
Chakotay frowned. "What's wrong?"
"I won't do it. It's not right, somehow."
"What's not right about it? If it's mutual on all three sides, what's the problem?"
"The problem is that sex is supposed to be between two people, not three."
This stopped Tom cold for an instant. Then he shrugged, helplessly. "I don't know. It's just not right. Anyway, B'Elanna would never agree to it."
"She already has."
"What? You spoke to her about this already?"
"Tonight. When you came to get me, we were talking about it."
Tom stared at him incredulously. "B'Elanna really said she'd do this?"
"Yes. Why is it so hard to believe? Threesomes can be fun, Tom."
"Oh, now I'm supposed to believe you've done this before?"
Chakotay almost missed it. "Tom, you just cursed!"
"I did? Damn it, I did, didn't I."
Chakotay was gleeful. "I win!"
Tom snorted. "Oh, maybe that's what this whole threesome thing is about. You were just trying to shock me into cursing so I'd lose the bet."
"No, although I confess I'm delighted at the outcome. But I was entirely serious about us and B'Elanna. I'd like to try it. I think it will be good for us."
"How can having sex with B'Elanna possibly be good for us? Other than physically, that is."
"Because you and she probably should have slept together a long time ago."
Tom shrugged. "Maybe in another universe, we did. So what?"
Chakotay sat down on the bed and began to untie his shoes, mainly to give his hands something to do. "So I keep catching the two of you staring at each other, is what. I know you regret never having made love to B'Elanna, and I know she regrets never having made love to you. Frankly, I won't be able to relax until the two of you sleep together and stop wondering what it would be like."
"We don't stare at each other," Tom said automatically. He paused, then, and sat down on the bed next to Chakotay. "B'Elanna said she regrets not sleeping with me?"
"Really. It was a couple of months ago. She said something about it being too late because you're involved with me now." He turned his head slightly to look at Tom. "Can you tell me honestly, really honestly, Tom, that you don't feel the same way?"
Tom opened his mouth to speak, but stopped before any words made it past his lips. He took a deep breath and stared at the floor. "No," he said quietly, then tensed, as if waiting to get punched.
Chakotay placed a gentle hand on Tom's shoulder. "Don't feel bad. I've known it for a long time. You care for her."
"You love her?"
"Yes," Tom admitted, but added quickly, "As a friend. Like Harry." He paused, and said with a lopsided grin, "Well, maybe not *exactly* like Harry."
Chakotay almost chuckled, but kept up his line of questioning. "Are you *in* love with her?"
"No," Tom said, looking up to meet Chakotay's eyes. "I think ... I think I used to be. Or I was trying to convince myself that I was. I don't know, really. I'm not into self-analysis, Teddy."
"My feelings for B'Elanna ... gods, Chakotay, they're not at all like what I feel for you. I think about you constantly. I want to be with you all the time."
Chakotay smiled and brought his mouth to Tom's for a gentle kiss. "I'm glad to hear it. Then things between the three of us are exactly where I thought they were." He turned Tom's head so their eyes met again. "I really think we should do this, Tom."
Tom took a deep breath, then shook his head slowly. "No. I'm sorry, Chakotay, but I don't think I can. Not like this. Sex is ... it's not like playing a game of Pareisis Squares."
"No," Chakotay said curiously, "and I don't believe anyone ever said it was."
"You don't understand. With Megan and Jenny and Sue, it was just for fun. We all knew that. There were never any emotions involved; we just wanted to have a good time, so we did. Even later, when Megan and I got to be good friends ... we kept that out of the bedroom. Sex was just sex for us. Strictly physical." Tom gripped Chakotay's hand. "And with you, it's ... shit, I've never been able to find the right words for it. It's so ... so overwhelming, I can barely stand it sometimes ... I keep thinking it'll kill me one of these days."
Chakotay almost smiled, but Tom was still talking intently. "With B'Elanna ... I mean, she and I ... I've got feelings for her, Chakotay. Not like the ones I have for you, but different from what I've got for Megan. Megan is one of my best friends, but when I slept with her I didn't confuse it with love. B'Elanna and I were so close to ... something ... but we never talked about it, and I don't know *how* I feel about it ... it's just too recent, Teddy. I don't know if I'm over it, and I don't think I could sleep with her and pretend it doesn't mean anything." Tom stopped speaking abruptly and took a deep breath, gnawing at his lip and looking at Chakotay out of lowered eyes.
"I'm not asking you to pretend it doesn't mean anything," Chakotay said softly. "If it didn't mean anything, I'd never ask you to do it. You don't see my offering to share a bed with you and Megan, do you?"
Tom grinned wanly. "No. Although you might be able to convince me to try it with her." He paused. "But I don't think she'd ever agree to it."
Chakotay searched for the right words. "Tom, I want you and B'Elanna to get past this, so you and I can get past this."
Tom shook his head. "No. I'm sorry, Teddy. I'd do almost anything for you, but not this. It feels wrong." He was quiet for a second, then spoke pensively. "B'Elanna really agreed to it?"
Tom frowned. "I don't understand why she would."
"She understands why I'm asking." Chakotay cocked his head to one side. "And she said she'd rather try you out for one night than never know what it would be like."
Tom was silent for a minute, considering. Then, slowly, he shook his head. "No. I can't. I just can't." He sighed. "I'm probably nuts. Most guys would jump at a chance like this but ... I don't think I could go through with it. I'm sorry, Teddy."
Chakotay smiled ruefully. "Stop apologizing. I don't want to force you into anything. If you really don't want to do it, we won't do it."
"You think B'Elanna will be angry?"
"No. Surprised, maybe, but not angry."
"Surprised? Did she expect me to say yes?"
"Yes. She assumes you're an old pro at this sort of thing. I tried to tell her otherwise, but she didn't believe me."
Tom frowned. "Why does everyone on this ship think I'm some sort of sex fiend?"
Chakotay laughed. "Because you are. What's the longest you've ever gone without it?"
Tom answered instantly. "A year."
"A *year*?" Chakotay couldn't keep the shock out of his voice. "When did you ever go without sex for a year?"
Chakotay reddened. He'd forgotten. "Besides that. How long?"
Tom pondered. "I don't know. A week or two, I guess." An 'I- told-you-so' expression crossed Chakotay's face, and Tom flushed. "Well, I like sex. But I don't like it weird."
"And sex with men isn't weird?"
Chakotay was skeptical. "Sex and hot fudge sundaes?"
"Bullshit. You're rationalizing. Tom, you never tried any of those things before you got on this ship."
"So? What can I say? Being on Voyager has broadened my horizons."
"You liked all those things, didn't you?"
"So maybe you'd like this, too."
Tom sighed. "Maybe. But I'm not going to find out because I'm not going to try it." He pouted dramatically. "Aren't I good enough for you, Teddy?"
"Of course you are."
"I don't believe you," Tom said, pretending to be distraught. He inched a bit closer to Chakotay. "Convince me." Almost casually, one hand drifted towards Chakotay's thigh, fingers brushing dangerously close to Chakotay's groin.
Chakotay held back a slight moan.
Tom leaned in close and started nipping at Chakotay's neck. "Prove it to me, Teddy. Show me that I'm good enough for you." His teeth worked their way up to Chakotay's ear, and his tongue started tracing patterns there.
Chakotay groaned. He could *never* resist this. "What do you want," he ground out, "a demonstration?"
"Yes," Tom whispered, expertly flicking his tongue in and out of Chakotay's ear in a simulated fucking motion, "that's exactly what I want. I want you to make love to me, Chakotay. I want you to hear you gasping and screaming out my name." Tom was speaking in a low, throaty, insistent voice. Chakotay knew he was being manipulated -- Tom had used this trick before -- but it didn't change the way it made Chakotay feel. Tom continued, urgently, "I want you to kiss me so hard my lips bleed. I want to feel your cock pulsing against my skin. I want you to fuck me so hard I see stars when I come. I want --"
Chakotay suddenly threw Tom down on the bed, grinding their hips together, then he grasped Tom's wrists and pinned the younger man down. "Tom," Chakotay muttered, "shut up." Without waiting for an answer he thrust his mouth onto Tom's, and kissed him. Hard. Tom writhed purposefully underneath him, and Chakotay could feel Tom's erection grinding into his thigh, through too many layers of cloth. It drove him crazy. He squirmed too, and gasped as his cock made contact with Tom's. Tom's answering groan sent a jolt of warmth coursing through his body. "Gods," Chakotay whispered, all thoughts of B'Elanna temporarily forgotten, "I've been wanting to do this all night."
Chakotay could feel Tom's smile as he spoke. "Me too. Ever since you put that jacket on, I've been wanting to take it off."
Chakotay grinned. "Do you think you could leave the bow-tie on?"
Tom laughed. "No. But I can do another for you any time you want, Big Man." He looked at the tie speculatively. "Although it might be fun to tie it elsewhere on your body…"
With a sound that was somewhere between a growl and a laugh, Chakotay drove his mouth down onto Tom's again. Damned if Tom wasn't laughing through the kiss, but after a half a minute or so, the laughter had stopped. Tom moaned into Chakotay's mouth, and forced his hips upwards so their erections brushed against each other again. "Shit," Tom said softly, "you feel so good against me, Teddy. I can't ever get enough of it." He let out a moan as Chakotay undid a few buttons and nipped at his collar bone. "Gods, I love this."
This was as close as Tom usually came to saying 'I love you,' and it meant he was feeling particularly tender. Chakotay brought his head back up and let himself sink into Tom's eyes. Blue on brown, brown on blue. The two men stared at each other, neither wavering, until Tom finally closed his eyes against the intensity of the gaze. "Damn," he whispered, eyes firmly closed. "When you look at me like that I feel like I could fly the ship without engines."
Chakotay smiled to himself and kissed Tom's eyelids, tracing their outline with his tongue, then letting his tongue wander a moist path towards Tom's ear. He imitated Tom's earlier movements, flicking his tongue in and out in a rapid fucking motion, until Tom was moaning underneath him.
"Please," Tom begged, and thrust his hips upwards again.
Too much clothing. Chakotay's mind processed the fact, dimly, and his hands wandered to remove the excess cloth. Within minutes, both Tom and Chakotay were naked and back on the bed, Chakotay again on Tom, pinning Tom's wrists. "Let me love you," Chakotay asked, and it was like a whispered prayer. "Let me show you how much I love you."
Tom looked back, eyes for once completely serious. "Make me believe it?" It was a plea.
Chakotay was momentarily overcome by the depth of the need in Tom's eyes. No matter how many times he told Tom he loved him, it seemed Tom still couldn't quite accept it. He knew that all of Tom's previous relationships had been based on physical attraction alone, that the women had only wanted him for his looks and his skills in bed; finally, Tom had stopped looking for anything more. Now that he'd found it, he never seemed to trust it was real. Chakotay took a deep breath. No matter how long it took, if it took the rest of his life, he'd convince Tom exactly how real it was.
Chakotay tightened his hold on Tom's wrists. Slowly, carefully, he leaned down and bit gently at a certain spot beneath Tom's left collar bone. Tom gasped and shook a bit. Chakotay smiled to himself, and move deliberately upwards to place a gentle kiss at the base of Tom's neck. Tom moaned. Without pausing, Chakotay moved back down to Tom's collarbone and braced himself, then leaned down for another gentle bite.
Tom cried out and trembled beneath him, his whole body shivering and his cock twitching against Chakotay's thigh. He pulled ineffectually against Chakotay's hold on his wrists, his breathing shallow and rapid. When Tom begged, "More, please," Chakotay made a note in his mind to thank the Delaneys and Sue Nicoletti for passing on that particular sequence of actions.
He looked down at Tom thoughtfully, remembering another conversation he'd had with Sue, when she'd cheerfully suggested he try tonguing the area just beneath Tom's ear: "Either side will work," she'd said, "so long as you lick in a circular pattern." Chakotay hadn't yet had the opportunity to try it out -- lately, Tom hadn't been particularly receptive to being pinned down unless it was with restraints, and on those occasions Chakotay hadn't been patient enough for much foreplay -- but now seemed like a good time.
Chakotay tilted his head to one side and slowly began to trace small circles beneath Tom's right ear. Tom inhaled sharply and bit his lip. Chakotay kept at it, and after a few more wet seconds, Tom began moaning, eyes closed, head thrown back, hips jerking gently. Chakotay kept it up for as long as he could, loving the way Tom's cries grew deeper and harsher, his breathing more erratic. When he stopped, finally, Tom opened his eyes and strained to focus. "Teddy," he whispered, "*please* stop talking to the triplets about me. It's not fair."
"Fair is an extremely relative word," Chakotay said, and leaned down for another pass at Tom's collarbone.
After what seemed like hours of this slow, sensual assault, Tom had apparently lost the capacity for speech, because the only sounds he was making were gasps and moans. Chakotay hadn't let go of his wrists for a second, and Tom had given up struggling. He lay there, instead, helpless as Chakotay's tongue continued its lazy tour of Tom's torso.
A few words escaped Tom's lips, but in no language Chakotay recognized. "Love you," Chakotay whispered back, in between the soft continuous kisses. "Love you ... love you ... love you."
Tom moaned and thrust his hips upwards, seeking to relieve the aching tension in his groin. The flat plane of his stomach pressed against Chakotay's cock, and the older man stifled a groan. Tom hadn't even been able to lay a hand on him, but all this indirect stimulation was very ... stimulating. Tom moved underneath him again, and this time Chakotay *couldn't* stop the moan. Spirits, he was close.
Chakotay stopped kissing Tom, temporarily overwhelmed by the sensations flooding his body, and Tom found his voice again. "Fuck me?" he asked desperately, grinding his hips against Chakotay's.
"No," Chakotay gasped out. "Too late." The time for fucking was past, even the time for blow jobs was past. Nothing else existed except the need to generate sweet, sweet friction. He pushed his body down on Tom's, sticking a thigh between Tom's legs, and tried to merge into one with his lover.
Tom gasped as their uncovered erections glided together. "Oh please," he moaned, "help me, Teddy, I need to feel you …"
Chakotay leaned in to kiss him, and their tongues fought for the privilege of entering the other's mouth. Finally, Chakotay surrendered and Tom drove his tongue in with an urgency that only increased Chakotay's need. Tom was moaning into his mouth now, fighting against the hold on his wrists, bucking upwards in a desperate attempt to get closer to his lover.
Their erections rubbed together again, and Chakotay felt a small dab of moistness where the head of Tom's cock touched his own. A moan escaped his lips at the same time as his cock pulsed frantically, sandwiched between two bodies.
"Spirits," he swore prayerfully, realizing that he was about to come. It was too soon, too damn soon, but at the same time he felt like it couldn't happen fast enough. The need and lust were building, driving out all other thoughts, driving out even the possibility of other thoughts.
Tom groaned. "Against me," he urged. "I want to feel you against me, please Chakotay, please gods, I -- oh shit -- *please*."
Chakotay moaned. Too good, too sweet, too delicious. Tom beneath him, writhing and moaning, his body slick with sweat and saliva, his cock hot and hard and throbbing, and damn, that groaning … it went straight to Chakotay's groin.
"Oh gods, now, please Chakotay, please now …"
"Now?" Chakotay asked, just coherent enough to form the one word question.
"Now, please, come for me, Teddy, please, I want to feel you come on me, all over me, please oh please…"
"Gods … " Instantly, deliriously, the sensation in Chakotay's cock built and surged. "Oh spirits, Tom, I'm going to … shit … oh gods…"
"Wait," Tom whispered suddenly.
Chakotay groaned. "Wait? Tom, you just told me to ..."
"I know, but …please, Chakotay. Please -- damn, that's so … " A breathy moan, then an anguished whimper, "Together."
Chakotay moaned. "I don't think I can … oh damn …" He could barely recognize the hoarse voice as his own. "Tom, if you don't stop moving, I'm not going to be able to wait."
The sensual writhing didn't stop, but Tom gasped out, "Please …"
Chakotay couldn't speak. He was just barely holding himself in check, caught on the precipice and perilously close to slipping over the edge. Warp equations. Think warp equations, Big Man. Think … oh damn, that feels good … stellar cartography … holy shit … leola root stew … double damn. Chakotay moaned again and concentrated fiercely on restraining the surging tide that was threatening to wash over him.
Tom was panting beneath him, cursing under his breath and nipping at his neck. "Gods, so right, it's so damn right. Don't understand how it's always like this ... Love you, gods, I love you … want you …need you with me. Always with me, Chakotay, promise me…"
An easy promise to make, and one that Chakotay had every intention of keeping. "I promise, Tom, I'll never leave you. Never, love, I swear I'll always stay …" He forced his eyes open and found Tom looking up at him with undisguised emotion in his eyes. Their eyes met and locked, and Chakotay found himself, as always, trapped in the brilliant crystal blue he saw beneath him.
The look held, and lasted, for an infinite eternity until, in unspoken agreement, they moved against each other once more. Tom groaned once, sobbed once, then shook violently, cursing as he came.
Chakotay gasped for air. Finally, thank the gods, finally I can … gods yes, oh damn, gods … *yes*." Glorious agony turned to brilliant ecstasy, and Chakotay exploded into orgasm, shuddering and calling Tom's name. His semen mixed with Tom's and made a sticky, fragrant mess all over them and the bed.
For a long while, the only sound in the cabin was their shared panting. Chakotay lay quietly, still collapsed on top of Tom, feeling the younger man's heart beating rapidly against his chest. Suddenly, Tom said, "Yecch."
Well. Ever the romantic. "What's wrong?"
"There's semen all over me. Mine and yours. It's getting cold and sticky." Tom shifted uncomfortably. "Get off me, Teddy, I need a towel."
Chakotay didn't move. "It's on me, too, and you don't hear me complaining."
"That's because you're so damn stoic." Tom struggled to move, again. "Get *off*, Chakotay. This is disgusting."
Chakotay laughed. "There's nothing disgusting about it, Tom. It's a natural body product."
"Yeah? So is shit, but you don't see me rubbing that all over my body."
"Gods." Chakotay moved off of Tom in one swift movement. "That's a truly revolting thought. Anyone ever tell you that you really know how to spoil a mood?"
Tom snorted as he walked towards the bathroom. "Lost count after 200. And it got you off me, didn't it?"
"It's still revolting. Just for that, I'm going to make you give me those rations."
Tom looked innocent as he came out of the bathroom with two moist towels, using one on himself and tossing the other to Chakotay. "What rations?"
"For the bet you lost."
"Hey, you said yourself you never agreed to that bet."
Chakotay spluttered for a minute before he got his voice back. "You told B'Elanna we had a bet!"
Tom shrugged. "And you told her we didn't. Tell you what, Teddy, we can spend them on each other, okay?"
"I'm not getting another set of satin sheets."
"What is it with you and the satin sheets? They're fun, Big Man."
"They're a waste of rations."
"True. But they're *fun*." Tom settled back into the bed, tossing his rumpled tuxedo to the floor. "Chakotay, were you really serious about that thing with B'Elanna?"
Tom nodded. "Thought so. I still don't think I want to do it."
"It's okay, Tom. You don't have to. I'll tell B'Elanna tomorrow."
"All right. Thanks." A short pause. "Good night, Teddy."
"Good night, Sweetpea."
Chakotay chuckled, wrapped himself comfortably around Tom, and fell asleep.
The next morning's briefing was nothing if not uncomfortable. Tom kept glancing at B'Elanna uncomfortably, then looking away. He was fidgeting in his seat, too, and every once in a while, he'd shake his head almost imperceptibly.
B'Elanna noticed after only a short while, and sent several inquisitive glances in Chakotay's direction, but Chakotay ignored them. There was no way he was joining in all the silent communication that was going around the table. He'd talk to B'Elanna later.
"B'Elanna." Janeway's steady voice interrupted Chakotay's musings. "Has your team completed the necessary modifications to the shuttle?"
"Yes, Captain," B'Elanna answered. "The Galileo should be able to navigate the particle cloud." She stood up and turned on the wall display to show an explanatory graphic. "The shuttle will have to remain at low warp the whole time, though. The warp emissions will be the only thing keeping the filaments stable while the shuttle is inside it. Turn off the engines and the filaments will ignite again."
Tom gnawed at his lower lip, and for the first time that morning looked at B'Elanna without blushing. "If I do have to turn off the engines, how long before the filaments ignite?"
"Seconds," B'Elanna said. "Maybe a minute. It will be almost instantaneous."
"But the igniting filaments won't interfere with the shuttle?" Tom asked skeptically.
"They shouldn't," B'Elanna answered. "We've run several simulations. The warp field generated by the shuttle is relatively small. If it collapses, or you turn off your engines, only a small number of filaments will actually ignite. It won't be anything your shields can't handle."
Tom frowned. "I've heard that before."
"Lieutenant," Janeway said, "if you're uncomfortable accepting this mission—"
Tom didn't even let her finish. "No. Of course not. If B'Elanna says I'll be fine, I'll be fine. I have great faith in her engineering intuition. And Voyager can't enter the field without the whole thing collapsing, so if we want to get those samples, we've got to send a shuttle in. So I'll go."
"Good," Janeway said. "Then let's get to it. If we're lucky, we'll have extra power to the replicators by tonight." She stood up, indicating the end of the briefing.
Tom was the next to rise. "Steak and baked potatoes for dinner. *That's* something worth taking a few risks for."
Chakotay stood up too, and placed a hand on Tom's arm. "Be careful out there, Tom."
Tom grinned fondly at the older man. "I'm always careful, Teddy."
Chakotay frowned. "Tom--" He'd warned Tom about using 'Teddy' while they were on duty, but it continued to pop up occasionally.
"Sorry," Tom said, twinkling eyes denying any apologetic intent, "Commander." He met Chakotay's gaze, held it for just a fraction too long, long enough to send blood rushing to Chakotay's cheeks and other less noticeable parts of his body. "See you later, Big Man."
It didn't take long for B'Elanna to review the modifications to the shielding with Tom, so within an hour, Tom was in the shuttle, 30,000 kilometers deep within the particle cloud, holding position. B'Elanna anticipated that harvesting the fragments would take about 90 minutes.
Before half that time had elapsed, the turbolift doors on the bridge opened to admit a disheveled and sweaty David Vasicek. "Commander Chakotay!" he said, urgently. "I need to talk to you. It's important."
"What is it, David?" Chakotay asked, more than a little alarmed at Vasicek's tone of voice.
"In private," Vasicek said, glancing nervously at Janeway. "Please, Commander."
Janeway nodded towards her ready room. "Go ahead, Commander."
Chakotay led Vasicek into the room, wondering at the obvious agitation Vasicek was displaying. The doors had barely closed behind him when Vasicek began speaking, breathlessly. "I was just down in the gym, Commander. I overheard some of the other Maquis crew talking. They said they heard a rumor that someone messed around with the Galileo's warp coils to teach Lieutenant Paris a lesson."
"What?" Chakotay was stunned.
"I don't know any more than that. Nobody in the gym knew the specifics." Chakotay looked at Vasicek. He couldn't possibly mean it ... but the young man looked deathly serious. "You have to believe me," Vasicek insisted.
Chakotay kept his voice level with difficulty. "David," he said softly, "you're an engineer. You know as well as I do that the emissions from the warp engines are the only thing keeping that particle cloud stable. If I tell Tom to cut his engines now, the filaments are going to ignite."
Vasicek looked back at him steadily. "I know. But I'm telling you, they messed around with the shuttle, and if Lieutenant Paris stays at warp for too long, something's going to happen. I don't want that on my conscience, Chakotay."
Chakotay read Vasicek's expression and saw real fear there, felt his own body tense with answering dread. He nodded, brusquely, and strode decisively back to the bridge. "Captain, we have to tell Tom to cut his engines, immediately." He glanced at Vasicek. "The shuttle may have been sabotaged."
Janeway nodded, asking no further questions. "Voyager to Paris."
"Mr. Paris, cut your engines immediately."
There was silence over the comm link, then finally, a disbelieving, "Captain?"
"Cut your engines, Mr. Paris. We have reason to believe the shuttle has been sabotaged. It is imperative that you cut your engines, now."
"But Captain, if I cut my engines in the middle of the particle cloud, the filaments are going to catch. We'll lose days of work, and we won't be able to get the energy for the replicators."
"I'm aware of the consequences, Mr. Paris. Cut your engines. That's an order."
"Yes, ma'am," Tom replied. "All stop." He paused. "The shuttle seems to be fine, Captain. I don't know why you think -- wow."
Janeway raised an eyebrow. "'Wow', Lieutenant?"
"The filaments are igniting. It's a shame you can't see it. It's like a fireworks show out here. Just beauti--"
A burst of static cut off the transmission mid-word.
"Mr. Paris?" Janeway said. "Voyager to Paris. Lieutenant, can you hear me?"
Unnatural silence over the comm link. Chakotay felt his stomach knot. Fear clutched at him, made it hard for him to breathe. He glanced at Vasicek, who was staring back at him with hooded, worried eyes.
Harry's fingers were flying over his console. "There was some sort of explosion in the shuttle, Captain. It's hard to cut through the interference from the igniting filaments."
"Is he alive, Ensign?" Chakotay asked, mouth dry, heart pounding so hard, he could almost see it pulse beneath his uniform.
Harry didn't answer for a long second. He punched at his console furiously. "I can't tell, Commander. I can't get an accurate reading."
Janeway tried to hail the shuttle again. "Voyager to shuttlecraft Galileo. Mr. Paris, please respond. "
Chakotay was dizzy with panic. He reached backwards, grabbed blindly at his chair for support, and found himself whispering prayers under his breath.
Janeway hailed the shuttle again, and her voice betrayed none of the nervousness she was feeling. "Voyager to shuttlecraft Galileo. Are you there, Lieutenant?"
A heartbeat later, they heard a shaky, "I'm here, Captain."
Chakotay let out a huge breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. "Are you all right, Tom?"
There was a long pause before Tom spoke again, his voice tight with pain. "I've been better. The pilot's console exploded." He swallowed heavily. "My hands are kind of messed up. I don't suppose you could tractor me out of here?"
Janeway looked at Harry, who shook his head. "He's too deep inside the cloud. The filaments are igniting all around him. He'll need to get closer to the edge before the tractor beam will be able to lock on."
"Figures," Tom said, with just a hint of wryness cutting through the pain. "I don't see how I'm going to pilot the shuttle like this, though."
Janeway called the Doctor to explain the situation, and patched him through to the shuttle. "Mr. Paris, can you describe the nature of the injuries?"
"Ummm, my hands are burned to a crisp?"
"Could you be more specific, Lieutenant? You've had training in burn treatment."
The humor in Tom's voice was forced. "Thanks for reminding me. Extensive third degree burns. It hurts like hell."
"I'm sure. You'll need to dose yourself with some decazene and naproxen."
"I hope someone restocked the med kit after the last mission," Tom replied. "Let me check." The bridge crew heard Tom stumbling around the shuttle, cursing quietly to himself. Finally, he stopped. "Shit," he said, resignedly.
"What's wrong?" Chakotay asked.
"I've got to open the med kit and prepare a hypospray. It's going to be pretty difficult with no skin to speak of. Oh well, what the fuck, I guess I'll just have to go for it..." A sharp gasp followed those words, followed next by a short cry, bit back. "God *damn* it, that hurts ... you might want to turn off the universal translator, Captain, 'cause I'm about to start cursing up a blue streak in Romulan..."
They left the translator running, and were treated to an impressive display of Romulan invective, mixed in with a few heartfelt 'fucks' and 'shits'. Minutes later, they heard the unmistakable hiss of a hypospray, and a sigh over the comm link.
"Much better." Tom's voice was tired, but no longer filled with pain. "Thank the gods for painkillers."
"How are you feeling now, Mr. Paris?" the Doctor inquired.
"Just dandy. I shot so much of this stuff into me, I could sit through an entire Klingon opera and like it. Have you ever heard Kolith's 'Warrior Blood'? B'Elanna made me listen to it. It's not so terrible, really." He started humming.
Janeway shot an amused glance at Chakotay. "Mr. Paris, do you feel up to piloting the shuttle?"
"Hmmm?" The humming stopped. "Sure. Where to?"
"To the edge of the particle cloud, perhaps?"
"Sure." Tom hummed a little more. The shuttle didn't move.
"Would you fly the shuttle to the edge of the particle cloud now?"
"Oh. Sure." Tom started humming again, and the shuttle started moving, slowly.
Tuvok interrupted. "Captain, the shuttle is moving further into the cloud."
Janeway sighed and ran her hands over her eyes. "Tom, you're flying the wrong way."
"Oops. Sorry." The shuttle turned around, and started on the right course. Seconds later Tom said, "Why am I flying so slowly? It'll take me forever to get out of here. I think I'll go to warp --"
"No!" Janeway said firmly. "Impulse is fine. Quarter impulse, actually, Lieutenant. Maintain speed at one quarter impulse."
"You're no fun, Captain," Tom said grumpily, but maintained the low speed. He started humming again, then whistling. Suddenly, off-handedly, he said, "Chakotay, are you there?"
"Yes, Tom, I'm here." Chakotay had collapsed back into his seat once it was obvious that Tom wasn't critically injured.
"Have you talked to B'Elanna yet? Because I think I've changed my mind. Megan's always telling me I have to be open to new experiences, and this would certainly be a new experience. I mean, you and me and--"
"Tom!" Chakotay said sharply, praying the flaming embarrassment he felt was not translating into a blush. Janeway was eyeing him speculatively and he felt the heat rise up his neck. "Concentrate on flying the shuttle, please. We'll have this conversation later."
"Oh. Okay, Teddy, whatever you say. Whoops. I forgot I'm not supposed to call you Teddy when we're on duty." Tom hummed happily to himself for a few more seconds then said conversationally, "This is why I don't get drunk anymore, you know. I'll probably be very embarrassed later on when the drugs wear off ... preferably after the Doc fixes my hands up. You know, I'm leaving bloody fingerprints all over the co-pilot's console. It's pretty disgusting." He didn't sound disgusted. He started whistling again.
"We can lock on to him now, Captain," Harry said.
"Mr. Paris, cut your engines," Janeway ordered.
Janeway sighed. "Because I said to."
"Oh." Pause. "Okay." The shuttle stopped moving.
"Captain, would you like me to beam him directly to Sickbay?"
"Please," Janeway replied. "Come on, Commander. Mr. Tuvok, you have the bridge."
The ride to Sickbay was interminable. Chakotay was doing his best not to pace in the turbolift, but it wasn't easy. When they got out on Deck 5, Chakotay tore down the corridor to Sickbay, and burst in the door.
"How is he?" he demanded, with no preamble.
The Doctor looked up from his instruments. "He'll recover, Commander."
"Teddy!" Tom said happily, swinging his legs over the side of the biobed. "Didja see my hands?" He held out the charred limbs in front of Chakotay's face. "I told you they were pretty disgusting."
Janeway moved to stand by the Doctor. "Is he all right, Doctor?"
"He'll be fine," the Doctor said patiently. "I don't anticipate any problems repairing the damage. Of course, he used an excessive amount of painkillers, but they'll wear off, eventually."
"You try to measure a hypospray with third degree burns and see how accurate *you* are about it!" Tom accused. "I'm lucky I didn't pass out. Then we'd have been in *real* trouble. We've only got the one shuttle working, you know." He swung his legs some more. "I never realized how high these biobeds were off the ground. I feel like a kid in my grandma's rocking chair."
"Mr. Paris," the Doctor interrupted patiently. "If you'll just hold still, I'll begin treating your hands."
"Sure thing, Doc," Tom said with a grin. He held still for about 10 seconds, then started swinging his legs again and whistling.
"Mr. Paris," the Doctor repeated. "*Please* remain still."
"I'm not moving," Tom protested. The Doctor glanced pointedly down at Tom's legs, which were swinging rhythmically beneath the biobed. Tom slowly lowered his eyes to his legs, then looked up in surprise. "Oops. Sorry."
"Tom," Chakotay asked, "what happened on the shuttle?"
"Dunno," Tom said, staring in fascination as the Doctor ran a dermal regenerator over his blackened and blistered hands. "Everything was fine, then the Captain told me to turn off my engines, so I did and all of sudden everything exploded." He frowned and looked at Janeway. "Why'd you tell me to turn off my engines?"
Janeway glanced at Chakotay before answering. "We had a report that the shuttle might have been sabotaged."
"Oh, yeah, that's right," Tom said, nodding sagely. "You told me." He thought for a few seconds. "Maquis, prob'ly." He said it without venom, then smiled at the Doctor, nodding at the regenerator. "Tickles."
Janeway took a step back, and pulled Chakotay back with her. "I thought things had improved with the Maquis, Commander."
Chakotay shrugged helplessly, unable to tear his eyes away from Tom. "I thought they had, too."
"Tom doesn't talk about it anymore, does he?"
Chakotay sighed. "Tom never talked about it to me, Captain. I heard about it from Harry." He remembered the conversation he'd overheard the prior week in the resort, and wondered if things were worse than he'd assumed. "Neither of them have said anything to me about it for a while."
Janeway nodded. "Maybe Tom made Harry promise not to tell you."
"Or maybe Tom stopped telling Harry the worst of it. I don't know." Chakotay frowned. "After I was injured, a lot of the Maquis crew visited me. None of them said a single word about Tom, good *or* bad. I assumed that Katera and Vasicek told them that Tom had saved my life when we were on the planet, and that they had finally accepted him.." Chakotay looked nervously at Tom, who was still grinning stupidly at the Doctor. "I assumed because *I* wasn't getting hassled, Tom wasn't getting hassled either." He exhaled angrily. "If I find out who did this, Captain, I'm going to --"
"You'll do nothing, Commander," Janeway said firmly. "We don't know for sure that the shuttle was sabotaged."
Chakotay shot her an incredulous glance. "If it wasn't sabotage, what caused the explosion?"
"I don't know," Janeway answered. "But until we know for sure, you're not going to do anything except help Tom recover. That's an order, Commander. Understand?"
"Yes," Chakotay said shortly.
"Mr. Paris!" The Doctor's acerbic tones cut into Chakotay's concentration. "Sit still, or I will have to restrain you."
Tom's eyes lit up. "Oh yeah?" His too-bright eyes traveled quickly around the room until they landed on Chakotay. "Ask Teddy for the cuffs with the cotton padding. I like 'em best."
The Doctor raised one eyebrow fractionally. "I'll make a note of that in your medical log."
Janeway barely, just barely, kept a straight face.
Several hours later, after the Doctor had treated and sedated Tom, Chakotay made his way to the shuttle bay. B'Elanna and Harry were examining the shuttle, reviewing the logs and inspecting the wrecked console. When Chakotay walked in, he wasn't quite surprised to see Janeway there too, studying a datapadd.
Harry noticed him first. "Commander! How's Tom?"
"He'll be fine. The Doctor wanted to keep him in Sickbay overnight, but he'll be fit for duty tomorrow." Chakotay tiredly rubbed his hand over his bleary eyes. "Kes said it was fortunate they were able to begin treatment as soon as they did. There won't be any scars or permanent damage."
Janeway walked over to him. "You shouldn't be here, Commander. I thought I said you weren't to do anything other than help Tom recover?"
"The Doctor kicked me out. Said I was hovering. Tom's sleeping, Captain. Megan's there with him. She said she'll comm me if he wakes up." Unconsciously, he ran his hands across his eyes again.
Janeway patted his arm sympathetically. "Chakotay, you're exhausted. Why don't you go get some sleep?"
Chakotay would have liked nothing better, but, "I needed to see if you'd found anything. I won't be able to sleep until we have an explanation, Captain. If this was sabotage--"
Janeway put her hands on her hips. "If it was sabotage, we will find and punish the guilty party, Commander. You can be sure of that."
Chakotay shook his head miserably. "It's my fault."
Janeway frowned skeptically. "Your fault?"
"Yes. If Tom and I weren't together, this wouldn't have happened."
Chakotay ran his fingers through his hair. "Tom had his problems with the Maquis, Captain, for months when we first came on board. They hassled him, tore up his room, made threats … and I let them." He shook his head in frustration. "I was very angry at him, and the Maquis knew it and took advantage of it. They knew I didn't really care what happened to him; so long as they didn't hurt him, I wasn't going to interfere."
Janeway was quiet. "It was a long time ago, Chakotay."
"I know. Tom was so good about it, too. He understood exactly what was going on but he never called me on it, never complained to you. He just put up with it until the Maquis got bored and stopped." He smiled ruefully. "Actually, it was one of the things that made me realize there was more to him than I'd thought."
"I still don't understand how that makes this your fault."
"It had *stopped*, Kathryn." She raised a skeptical eyebrow at him. "All right, so Tom wasn't really friendly with the Maquis, but they left him alone for the most part… until he and I started seeing each other. Then it all started again, and I --" He clenched his hands into fists. "-- didn't stop it."
"You tried, Chakotay."
"Not hard enough. Damn it, he could have been killed, all because I was worried about protocol and appearances."
"I didn't want it to look like I was using my position to protect my lover. Tom never complained about it to me, and I assumed it was because he didn't want me to interfere."
There was a sudden banging in the shuttle, and a unintelligible curse. Harry emerged from the interior, heading backwards down the ramp and holding a datapadd protectively in front of his chest. They heard another banging noise and a distinct, "Shit!"
"What is it, Harry?" Janeway asked, eyebrows raised.
"B'Elanna found the problem," Harry said, checking himself for bruises and finding none. "She's a little upset."
The banging continued, and they heard a few more curses, some in Standard, some in Klingon, and some others which sounded so familiar to Chakotay that he could only assume Tom had taught them to B'Elanna. "What's all the banging, Harry?"
"B'Elanna. Like I said, she's a little upset. It wasn't sabotage, Commander."
Chakotay blinked. "It wasn't?"
"No!" B'Elanna came storming out of the shuttle, throwing an engineering kit angrily to the ground. "It wasn't sabotage. There was nothing wrong with the warp engines."
"Then what happened, Lieutenant?" Janeway asked, eyebrows raised.
B'Elanna was fuming. "The filaments inside the cloud apparently have a slightly different phase variance than the filaments at the edges of the cloud. The shields were modified to match the phase variance at the edge. Inside the cloud, they were only operating at 95% efficiency. When the warp engines were on, the local dampening field protected the shuttle, since none of the nearby filaments were active. But when Tom turned his engines off and the surrounding filaments ignited, one of the them made it through the shields and struck the console." She kicked the outside of the shuttle. "Shit!"
"Calm down, Lieutenant," Janeway ordered. "It sounds like it was bad luck. Even at 95%, the shields should have protected him."
B'Elanna shook her head angrily. "I should have guessed something like this might happen. I should have *known*."
"Was there any reason to suspect the cloud would have differential phasing?"
"No. We ran scans. The phase differences were so minute, we couldn't detect them through the interference."
Harry asked, "So Tom could have stayed at warp?"
B'Elanna cursed again. "Yes. There was *nothing* wrong with those engines. He could have stayed at warp and he'd have been fine, plus we'd have the replicators back to full power already." She turned to Chakotay with flashing eyes. "Who told you the shuttle was sabotaged?"
"David Vasicek. He said he heard a rumor when he was working in the gym."
"I think," Janeway said calmly, "it's time we had a little discussion with Crewman Vasicek."
They found Vasicek in, of all places, Sandrine's. He was sharing a table with Katera Beral and a few other Maquis crewmembers. They were drinking synthale from the looks of it, and talking quietly.
"I didn't think Vasicek and Katera were friends," Janeway said, stopping just inside the doors.
"Neither did I," Chakotay said. He thought for a minute. "Although, come to think of it, I've seen them together a couple of times since K'Mtari II."
Janeway smiled. "I'll have to watch them more carefully. Maybe there's another romance developing."
Chakotay grinned back. "You're terrible, Kathryn."
"Not terrible. Just nosy."
Vasicek glanced up from the table and saw them. He stood up immediately and walked over, followed by Katera. "Commander," Vasicek said, "how is Lieutenant Paris?"
"He'll be all right," Chakotay said. "He's resting."
The look of relief that crossed Vasicek's face was unmistakable, but it was Katera who said, "Thank the prophets. David told me what happened. It's terrible. I can't believe someone would do something so stupid."
Janeway cocked her head to the side. "If I recall, Ms. Katera, you are not one of Mr. Paris's biggest fans."
Katera flushed. "I know I haven't always been very nice to him, Captain, but that was before. Before K'Mtari, I mean. Now I know he's not so bad. He doesn't deserve this."
The comment was out before Chakotay could stop it. "But he deserved the rest of it? The nasty remarks, the threats, having his room torn up?"
Katera flushed again. "No. We just --"
"He didn't do anything about it, Commander," Vasicek interrupted. "He just took it." He looked down at the floor. "It's easy to pick on someone when they don't fight back."
Chakotay sighed, deflating. "I know."
Janeway directed her next question at Vasicek. "Crewman, who told you they thought the shuttle was sabotaged?"
Vasicek thought for a second. "I heard it from Chell, but he and the others were already talking about it when they walked into the gym."
Katera added, "I heard it from Henley, Captain, in the Mess Hall, after you'd already gotten the shuttle back. I think it spread around the ship in a couple of hours."
Chakotay frowned. The quicker and more completely the rumor had spread, the harder it would be to trace it back to its source.
Vasicek looked uneasy. "What exactly did they do to the engines, Commander? I should have contacted you over the comm system instead of wasting time coming to the bridge. Maybe if Lieutenant Paris had shut down his engines sooner, he wouldn't have been hurt."
Janeway shook her head. "No. The shuttle wasn't sabotaged, Mr. Vasicek."
"What?" Vasicek stared blankly at her. "But the helm exploded."
"It was a problem with the shields."
"But it happened right after he turned off his engines."
"Yes. The console exploded when it was struck by an igniting filament that made it through the shields. It was a nasty piece of bad luck, but it wasn't sabotage. Lieutenant Torres has checked the shuttle, and confirmed that it wasn't tampered with in any way."
Vasicek looked at Janeway and Chakotay, aghast. "So if I hadn't said anything, Lieutenant Paris wouldn't have been hurt? This is my fault?"
Chakotay was quick to soothe him. "No. Whoever started the rumor is to blame. David, if you hadn't said anything and the shuttle *had* been sabotaged, Tom could have been killed. You did the right thing by coming to me."
"Commander Chakotay is right, Crewman," Janeway added. "You have nothing to feel guilty about. Unfortunately, we lost our chance to collect any energy from the cloud." She frowned. "No real crime was committed here, but I would still very much like to know who started that rumor. I don't think an official investigation is the best way to find that out, however."
"I agree, Captain," Chakotay said. He looked at Vasicek and Katera. "Do you think you two could discretely try to find out where the rumor started?"
Katera and Vasicek nodded. "Of course, Commander," Katera said. "I'm sorry this happened."
"It wasn't your fault either."
"I know," she said, not meeting his eyes. "But I wish I hadn't been so nasty to Lieutenant Paris for so long. It was childish of me. I'm sorry."
Chakotay looked at the tall Bajoran thoughtfully. "I'll let him know that, Beral. Thank you." Vasicek and Katera sat back down at their table, and Chakotay turned to Janeway. "I never thought I'd hear that from her lips. She holds grudges for longer than anyone else I know."
Janeway patted him on the arm and smiled. "The universe is full of wonders, Chakotay. Come on, I'll buy you a drink before I order you to bed."
Chakotay picked Tom up from Sickbay the next morning, relieved to see that his hands looked fine and he wasn't feeling any pain or discomfort.
"I'm fine, Teddy," Tom said in exasperation, after Chakotay had asked for the third time in as many minutes if Tom was *sure* he was okay. He flexed his fingers. "See?" They walked down the hall together. "Now tell me again what happened to the shuttle. It wasn't sabotaged?"
"No." They'd reached the turbolift. "Do you want breakfast?"
"Hell, yes. I haven't eaten anything since lunch yesterday." They entered the turbolift and directed it to the mess hall. "So if the shuttle wasn't sabotaged, why'd it explode?"
"I told you, the shielding was not as effective as we thought it would be."
"And a filament just slipped through?"
"Yes." The turbolift deposited them a few feet away from the mess hall, and they walked in and headed straight for the food. Chakotay was surprised at the number of crew members who came to see how Tom was feeling, several Maquis among them, including some who'd been openly hostile to Tom when they'd found out about his affair with Chakotay. It seemed, Chakotay thought, that threatening violence was acceptable, but actually bringing it to pass was not. Whether or not the Maquis would have been so quick to approach Tom had they known there was no actual sabotage was an entirely different question, but Janeway had decided to keep that fact quiet for a little bit longer, saying the cause of the accident was still under investigation.
All the attention, especially from people he didn't usually speak to, made Tom a bit uncomfortable, and filled his tray quickly and tugged Chakotay to a table in the corner where they could eat in relative peace. "Okay," Tom said, munching on a piece of toast. "You said a filament just slipped through the specially modified shielding?"
"Yes. Like a bolt of lightning, B'Elanna said. The filaments were slightly out of phase with those at the edge of the cloud."
"Uh huh." Tom ate a few forkfuls of scrambled eggs then waved the fork around. "So all of B'Elanna's careful preparations didn't work." He grinned evilly. "I'm going to have to give her a *lot* of grief over this one." His eyes grew distant for a second and he scrunched them up, concentrating. "Teddy, I seem to remember telling you I'd changed my mind about the thing with B'Elanna."
Chakotay nodded, but waved it away. "You did. It's okay, though, you were--"
"Stoned? Yeah, I know, but 'In vino veritas' and all that."
Chakotay shook his head. "I don't think you meant it. It was the narcotics talking, Tom. You were really adamant about not doing it the other night."
Tom shrugged. "Yeah. But now I think I'm probably being too uptight about the whole thing. I mean, you're right, I did enjoy the sundaes and the restraints are a hell of a lot of fun, so if you say I'll enjoy this too, I probably will."
Chakotay frowned. "Tom, if you're not sure about this, you shouldn't do it."
"No, Tom, I'm serious. You shouldn't change your mind about something like this on a whim."
"What's with you?" Tom looked at him in consternation. "Why are you fighting me on this? I thought you *wanted* me to try it!"
Chakotay opened his mouth to speak, then shut it abruptly when he realized Tom was right. "You've got a point," he said, and Tom started laughing so hard he almost choked on his eggs.
"What's so funny?" Chakotay and Tom looked up at the same time to find Harry and B'Elanna standing there, trays in hand, looking at them curiously.
"Nothing," Tom gasped out, and Chakotay slapped him good- naturedly on the back. "We were just talking about some trouble with the helm controls."
Harry and B'Elanna looked at them skeptically, but sat down, Harry across from Tom and B'Elanna next to him. After a short silence, B'Elanna burst out with, "Tom, I'm so sorry! It's my fault; I modified the shuttle's shields, I should have guessed there might be a phase differential within the cloud!"
Tom grinned at her. "If you want to accept responsibility, I'm not going to argue with you."
B'Elanna stared at him, eyes wide with surprise and a little bit of indignation. "What?"
Tom shrugged. "If you want to feel guilty, go ahead. I figure I can drag this out for *years*. You'll give me favors, replicator rations, home-cooked gakh … the possibilities are endless." He paused, and looked at B'Elanna speculatively, a devilish gleam sparkling in his eyes. "In fact, are you free tonight? You can start making it up to me by tucking me into bed and reading me a story."
"Why you … " B'Elanna spluttered for an instant, before realization set in. She glanced at Chakotay for confirmation, then grinned slowly when he nodded at her and gave her a surreptitious thumbs up. "Actually," she said, in a much calmer tone of voice, "I was planning on getting some reports done tonight. But I might be able to stop by, just to make sure you get to bed all right."
"Please do," Tom said creamily. "Chakotay and I really want you to come." He almost kept the innuendo out of his voice.
Harry narrowed his eyes and looked suspiciously from Tom to B'Elanna and back again. "Something going on I should know about?"
"No," Tom said innocently. "Nothing you need to know about, Harry." He finished his coffee and stood up smoothly. "Come on, Teddy. Let's get to the bridge. I can't wait to get this day over with."
At 2050 hours, Tom walked into Chakotay's quarters. "Hey," he said, immediately beginning to pace nervously around the room.
"Are you all right, Tom?"
"Fine," Tom said shortly, running his fingers through his hair. "Just great."
"You look nervous."
"Nervous? Why would I be nervous? Nothing to be nervous about."
"Uh huh," Chakotay said skeptically. "You're wearing a hole in my rug and you're doing that thing you do with your fingers." Tom started and looked at his fingers guiltily. Chakotay sighed and sat down on the couch, pulling Tom down next to him. "We don't have to go through with this, you know, Tom. You can still change your mind."
"No," Tom said, shaking his head vigorously. "I'll be fine once we get started, Teddy, really. I want to do it, but it feels a little weird, that's all. You see me naked all the time, and I don't mind it, obviously, but thinking that I'll be naked with B'Elanna, and you'll be here too … it's kind of weird."
"I'll be naked also, Tom," Chakotay said with a grin. "That's kind of the whole point."
"I guess so," Tom said doubtfully. "Don't you find this just the tiniest bit strange?"
"Not really," Chakotay said with a shrug. "But then, I've done it before." He patted Tom's shoulders, frowning when he felt the tension there. "Spirits, you're all knotted up." He started massaging Tom's shoulders, gently kneading and working the tight muscles, and felt an almost irresistible urge to kiss the nape of Tom's neck. He struggled against the impulse for a little while until he decided it would be easier just to give in. Accordingly, he leaned over and kissed the spot just at the bottom of the hairline.
Tom sighed happily. "I surrender. Anything you want, Teddy, it's yours."
Chakotay kissed his neck again. "I already have everything I want." He pushed Tom down so he was lying face-down on the couch, and continued kneading Tom's back for another few minutes. Tom was sighing happily into the sofa, and Chakotay was enjoying himself immensely, reveling in the kind of non-sexual moment of pure intimacy that he so rarely experienced with Tom.
The ring of the door chime was something of a rude awakening. Chakotay had actually forgotten that B'Elanna was due at 2100, and it took another ring before he was able to process the thought that he ought to get the door. Without moving from his position on Tom's back, he said "Come in," loudly enough to activate the door's sensors.
B'Elanna walked in, saw the two of them on the couch, and raised her eyebrows. "Started without me?" she said dryly, arms crossed on her chest.
"Nah," Tom said, humor appearing out of nowhere in his voice. "Just getting limbered up for the coming festivities." His voice was light, but it cracked a bit on the final syllable and he coughed to cover it. "So," he said, looking around the room as if he'd never seen it or its two other occupants before, "what do we do now?"
B'Elanna laughed, apparently assuming Tom was making a joke. "How do you usually get ready for sex, Tom?"
"Uh, I get undressed?"
"Good. So we'll get undressed. Preferably in a room with a bed." She shook her head with exaggerated exasperation, and walked into the bedroom. "Coming?"
"Yeah," Tom said uncertainly, glancing at Chakotay for support and following him into the bedroom when the older man walked that way.
Chakotay motioned Tom to the bed where B'Elanna was sitting, and took a seat in a comfortable chair. "You two go ahead," he suggested. "I'll stay here for a while."
Tom narrowed his eyes. "You want us to just … start?"
"Yes. This is for the two of you to get over your hormones, remember? I'll join in later."
"All right," Tom said dubiously, and started reaching for the closures on his shirt.
"Paris," B'Elanna said, hands on her hips. "Where's the smooth sexual technique I've heard so much about? Why don't you try taking off *my* shirt first?"
Tom frowned at her, but managed to say flippantly, "All right, if it means so much to you…" He kneeled before her, and reached out for her buttons. The first one took him a long time to undo, and the second one seemed beyond his capabilities entirely.
B'Elanna looked at Tom with no little amusement. "What is *with* you?" she asked, laughing at his discomfiture. "It's like you've never done this before."
"I haven't," Tom said, defensively, dropping his hands from her blouse briefly, before bringing them back up to attack the buttons again. B'Elanna's eyebrow arched up to the tip of her forehead, and Tom blushed. "That's not what I meant. I've done *this* before, obviously. Just not like this."
"What, because we're doing this just for fun? I thought before Chakotay, that's what all your affairs were about."
Tom exhaled with frustration. The buttons on B'Elanna's shirt were still confounding his fumbling fingers. "That's not what I meant either. I've just never done it with two other people." His face was bright scarlet, and he gave up on her blouse entirely, standing up and collapsing onto on the bed next to her.
B'Elanna stared incredulously at Tom. She turned her gaze to Chakotay for an instant; Chakotay shrugged. He'd warned her. It wasn't his fault that she'd chosen not to believe him.
B'Elanna finally found her voice. "What do you *mean*, you've never done it with two other people? All the stories about you, all the things you're supposed to have done, and you've never done a trio before? What about with Megan and Jenny?"
Tom looked at her, not comprehending for a second, then his face clouded over and he turned a little green. "What, you mean, *together*? B'Elanna, they're *sisters*!"
"So??? That's like *incest*, or something!" Tom was shaking his head furiously.
B'Elanna sat down next to him, grinning. "Galactic playboy, my ass. Chakotay, you could have warned me he was so naive."
"I tried. You didn't believe me."
B'Elanna patted Tom's arm. "Okay. Forget about the Delaneys. Let's concentrate on us." Tom was biting his lip and looking down at the floor, tapping his foot nervously. B'Elanna hooked one finger under his chin, turned his head around to face her. Tom looked into her eyes. From over Tom's shoulder, Chakotay could see the mischief alight in them. "Let's just pretend this is a regular one-on-one, okay?"
"Okay," Tom answered slowly.
"So," B'Elanna said, softly, bringing her own hands up to undo her buttons, slowly, one at a time in a sensual display, "want to fuck me, Lieutenant? I'm a busy woman ... I've got places to go."
"Oh really?" Tom said, gazing at her consideringly. "And that would be ..."
"Engineering, for a start," B'Elanna responded. "I love to go watch the warp core at night, all that power, pulsing and throbbing and pounding ..." She reached one hand down, towards his groin, stroking him through the fabric of his pants. Tom was staring at her in fascination, reaching a now steady hand out to help her with the remaining buttons on her blouse.
"The warp core," he murmured. "I'd never considered it to be particularly erotic."
"Oh, it is, Tom," B'Elanna answered with a sultry, slow smile. "The power coils, standing up straight, the warp plasma, thrusting through the containment field, pulsing harder and faster as we speed towards warp ... " B'Elanna was squeezing Tom through his pants now, and Chakotay could see Tom's chest beginning to heave in a familiar manner. Blue eyes were turning a slightly glazed gray, as B'Elanna slipped her shirt off, and wriggled gracefully out of her bra.
Chakotay had to catch his own breath. He'd forgotten how breathtakingly lovely B'Elanna was. Breasts small but firm, her torso slimming down to a tiny waist, not an ounce of excess fat on her toned, tanned body. Tom was staring at her wonderingly, stupidly, and B'Elanna waved a hand in front of his face. "You in there, Helmboy?"
Tom looked up at her face, eyes widening slightly. He spoke, softly, in awe, "You're so beautiful, B'Elanna."
B'Elanna's gaze turned suddenly serious. Damn. Chakotay felt his heart constrict, just a little, as B'Elanna stared back into Tom's eyes, read some emotion there, gulped a deep breath. Gods. Chakotay didn't think he could stand it. This was a mistake. What had he been thinking, putting the two of them together? It wasn't going to help, it was going to make things worse; they were going to make love and it would be so perfect they'd fall in love and leave him and he'd have ruined the best thing he'd ever had ...
B'Elanna blinked, suddenly, then smiled. "You almost had me there, Paris. Damn, you're good."
Tom grinned. "Shit. I must be losing my touch. You're supposed to be a quivering heap of jelly by now."
And then B'Elanna threw him down on the bed, and they were kissing, but they were laughing, too, and Tom was tickling B'Elanna, and she was giggling and trying to pull his hands off, even while they were kissing. Finally, B'Elanna had Tom pinned down, arms held up over his head, and she was nipping at his neck.
Tom's muffled laughs slowly gave way to heavy breaths, which slowly gave way to moans as B'Elanna worked her hands down into his pants, unzipped them and pulled them off. One hand held Tom's arms down, the other was working his cock through his underwear, and soon Tom was gasping.
Chakotay couldn't stand watching from the sidelines any longer, and he moved over to the bed, removing his shirt swiftly. He lay down on the bed, and leaned over to take a nibble at Tom's neck.
Tom jumped. "What the hell are you doing?"
Chakotay pulled back. "Joining you."
"What, now?" Tom was flustered, and B'Elanna laughed.
"Tom, what did you think we were going to do?" she said, giggling. "A menage a trois is three people having sex together."
"I know. I just figured it would be one after the other, not all at the same time."
B'Elanna snorted. "I can *not* believe I'm hearing this."
"I warned you," Chakotay said.
"I thought you were kidding," she said, shaking her head with amusement.
Tom lay still on the bed, and from the way his jaw was starting to set, Chakotay could tell he was getting annoyed. Annoyance was certainly not the emotion Chakotay was aiming for, so he volunteered, "Look, Tom, if you want, I'll leave you two alone for a while. I don't want to make you uncomfortable."
Tom was quiet for a minute, then he said, "No," sheepishly. "I said I wanted to do this, and I guess I do. I just -- shit, this is really embarrassing -- it's kind of hard to concentrate on B'Elanna with you at my neck. It's a little … distracting."
Chakotay nodded, remembering the first threesome he'd participated in and how completely overwhelming it had been. As much as he'd enjoyed his first time, he'd forgotten about the initial awkwardness, which was obviously affecting Tom more strongly than it had affected him. He stood up. "Look, I'll sit over here for a little while longer. You two can get started, get comfortable, and then I'll join in, okay? Or I can even leave…" It was a good thing that Tom shook his head 'no' at that, because Chakotay had no intention of leaving, not now that he'd seen Tom and B'Elanna together, saw the heat they generated.
Tom gnawed at his lip, then nodded, glancing at B'Elanna as if for confirmation. She was looking back at him, a slightly incredulous expression plastered across her face, but her eyes were tender. "Whatever you want to do, Tom. It's fine with me. We don't have to do this at all if it makes you that uncomfortable."
Tom grinned, suddenly. "You think you're getting out of this room before I fuck you? I've been waiting years for this, you know." He moved in close to her, letting a seductive smile slip across his face as his tongue slipped out to taste her neck.
"Years?" B'Elanna said, a bit startled at Tom's abrupt change in demeanor now that Chakotay had left the bed.
"Yes, years," Tom murmured. "Ever since I saw you. But you, alas, were not won over by my devastating charms."
"And you moved on."
"To greener pastures. Yes." Tom's voice was ridiculously serious, but he was biting B'Elanna's shoulder lightly and running his fingers roughly over her breast. "But I still hold a torch for you, B'Elanna, an unexpressed passion that can be rekindled by the simplest touch of your -- mmmph!"
Tom's speech was abruptly cut off by B'Elanna's mouth descending on his, and he started laughing, but through it all, his hands kept moving on her body, smoothly removing what was left of her clothing. Now Tom's hands were slowly trailing down her stomach, touching hard enough so it wouldn't tickle, but soft enough to torment, and B'Elanna let a small moan escape her lips.
She brought her hands around his body to clutch at Tom's ass, and Tom moaned softly into her mouth. Their movements became a little more frantic and urgent. They were attacking each other's lips, biting more than kissing, and they were starting to grind against each other. With a small groan, Tom tore himself away from B'Elanna's mouth, and began licking a path down her body. He stopped when he reached her breasts, tracing circles around each nipple and even using his teeth, biting harder when he heard B'Elanna's responsive moans.
Chakotay was fascinated watching all this, almost able to forget his increasingly large erection. He'd often rhapsodized that making love to Tom was like having a symphony played on his body, but he was usually in no shape to take note of the fine details: the way Tom's hands never stopped moving, the way he would sneak in kisses so quickly that his lover wouldn't even notice his mouth had moved, the way he seemed to take instinctive note of which actions provided the greatest stimulation and pleasure, and would repeat and enhance them.
B'Elanna was a responsive lover -- all Klingons were, even half- Klingons -- but Chakotay knew that when he'd made love to her, she'd never moaned quite this much, and she'd never gasped in quite this particular fashion. He supposed he should feel jealous, but watching Tom in action made him appreciate all over again how lucky he was to have the man to himself every night. And damn, it was incredibly erotic to watch his current and former lover in his bed together.
Tom had moved completely down B'Elanna's body, now, and he took a tentative lick between her legs, waiting to see if she'd tense up or relax. With a growl, B'Elanna wrapped her legs around his head and arched her back, and Chakotay couldn't help but smile to himself. *This*, he remembered. Tom was busy, now, head bobbing up and down occasionally, fingers moving too in the same small area, and B'Elanna was moaning continuously, cursing in Klingon and pleading in Spanish.
Chakotay's cock jumped. Gods. He needed to do something, soon, or he was going to have to take matters into his own hands. Literally.
B'Elanna panted and sobbed a few times then reached down and yanked Tom up. "Fuck me," she growled, clasping his erection in her fist and pumping it a few times. "Now."
Tom didn't respond, but he leaned down to kiss her and Chakotay was surprised to see that she didn't flinch when their tongues met. She'd never liked kissing following oral sex before, but hell, all bets were apparently off with Tom in the bed. Tom hadn't moved his body yet, so B'Elanna continued to massage his erection while, with her other hand, she reached behind him and started to stroke his cleft. She poked an inquisitive finger into his ass, smiling with delight at Tom's immediate moan. "Thought you'd like that," she said, continuing with her explorations.
"Smart lady," Tom gasped back, then positioned himself so he was lying between her legs. Slowly, gently, he pushed into her, until he was completely buried inside her and she'd wrapped her legs around him.
"Gods!" she said, they *both* said, and Chakotay could see their chests heaving together. Tom bent down to give B'Elanna another kiss, and one hand reached gently down to stroke her clitoris, pulling away when B'Elanna screamed into his mouth in response. They started moving together, and Chakotay saw Tom close his eyes in delight.
Chakotay could not possibly wait one instant longer. He was so hard he thought he might explode on the spot, and there was no way he was going to do that when Tom and B'Elanna were right over there on the bed. He stripped off the rest of his clothing and was over to them an instant later, patting Tom's back slowly, and was relieved when Tom did nothing more than moan happily at his touch.
Chakotay caressed Tom's ass gently. B'Elanna had, intentionally or not, already loosened Tom up a bit, and it didn't take long to get some lubricant and finish the job. Damn, it was incredibly erotic … Tom moaned every time Chakotay touched him and B'Elanna was moaning too. Chakotay wasn't quite sure this would work; he didn't see how he could fuck Tom without indirectly crushing B'Elanna, so he sat back for a minute, pulling his fingers out and thinking.
Tom groaned and said, "Don't stop, Teddy," and grabbed B'Elanna and rolled her onto her side. Now they were all lying on their sides, and it was as easy as breathing for Chakotay to slip into Tom's body. "Shit!" Tom cursed, going motionless for a minute, until B'Elanna started moving on him and Chakotay started moving in him and he was helpless to do anything but move with them both.
They were all close; Tom was gasping under his breath, too far gone to even curse creatively, B'Elanna was growling and clawing at Tom's back, leaving red welts all the way down, and Chakotay wasn't quite sure what *he* was saying but he thought it was probably a prayer. He nipped at Tom's neck, kissing the same spot he'd kissed earlier in the evening, and brought one hand around to stroke B'Elanna's breast, while bringing the other around and down to gently caress Tom's balls
Tom sobbed and grabbed fiercely at B'Elanna. She growled as Tom's hands tightened on her hips, and she ground her pelvis harder onto his. A low keening wail started deep in her throat. Chakotay remembered that cry, and knew that B'Elanna was rapidly approaching orgasm. And if that was the case, then Tom was in for a shock right about … now.
"Shit!" Tom gasped, eyes flying open. "What the fuck is *that*?" His breathing was coming in low, ragged gasps and his whole body was trembling.
Chakotay chuckled even as he continued his unrelenting assault from the rear. "Pretty incredible, isn't it?"
"Holy *shit*," Tom panted. "I can't believe -- oh *fuck* -- gods, it's unbelievable -- I can't -- oh shit…" He trailed off as his speech degenerated again into incomprehensible babble.
Chakotay could feel Tom clenching around him, and knew that he was close to coming. It was a good thing; Chakotay didn't think he could hold out much longer. He thrust deeply into Tom, pulling the younger man onto him then pushing him off so he could drive into him again. A few more thrusts and Tom was thrashing beside him, groaning and growling in the way that drove Chakotay wild, yet somehow managing to maintain his own constant thrusting into B'Elanna.
Gods, so hot and tight and the way Tom was moaning… Chakotay was nearly out of his mind with lust, and then B'Elanna screamed and arched her back and sank her teeth into Tom's shoulder. Chakotay knew from experience that at this instant B'Elanna's vaginal muscles were clenching around Tom with incredible force, so it was the perfect moment to bring this to a fantastic close. Chakotay thrust himself fully into Tom, gripping his lover's hips tight enough to bruise.
Tom let out a brief, inarticulate sob and screamed. His entire body shook, his ass muscles spasmed around Chakotay's cock, and Chakotay had had it. Gods, oh gods, oh gods oh spirits *yes*! Chakotay burst into orgasm only an instant after Tom and B'Elanna, feeling the pleasure tear through his body in one glorious, infinite instant.
They all collapsed, panting, rolling over so that they were lying on their backs, side by side. After a few seconds, Tom languidly raised one hand to his chest and let it lie there, feeling his heartbeat. Chakotay could see the pulse hammering at the base of Tom's neck. B'Elanna was lying bonelessly beside him, panting prettily. Chakotay smiled, feeling rather proud of himself.
"Like it?" he asked, expectantly.
Tom didn't answer. He just lay there, drawing in one quick, rapid breath after another.
B'Elanna grinned and stretched, lazily. "He's speechless, Chakotay. Guess it was good for him."
Tom still didn't answer. His breathing was rapid and shallow. The flush in his face was fading very slowly, and his hair clung damply to his forehead.
"Tom?" Chakotay asked, slightly less amused but not too concerned. "Are you okay?"
Tom panted to himself for a few more seconds. Chakotay thought he could hear a wheeze in Tom's chest. Finally, Tom spoke, in a dreamy whisper. "Give a guy a break," he said, eyes still closed. "I need a couple of minutes to recover. That was the most *intense* thing I've ever felt." He breathed in and out and few more times, and Chakotay could definitely hear him wheezing.
"You're breathing funny," Chakotay said, now getting a little bit worried.
Tom nodded. "I know. Asthma. Kicks in every once in while, when I've over-exerted myself. I think it's time for my booster. I'll be fine in a minute." He breathed again, too shallowly.
Chakotay frowned. "Should I be insulted that you never had an asthma attack with me?"
Tom laughed. "Don't be ridiculous. It doesn't mean anything, Teddy, except that I'm a little late getting my..." His eyes flew open wide. "...booster? Oh shit!" A look of panic flitted across his face, and he turned towards B'Elanna, hesitantly. "B'Elanna, are you ... ummm ... up-to-date?" Tom squeezed his eyes shut, almost afraid to hear the answer.
B'Elanna rolled her eyes and patted Tom comfortingly on the shoulder. "Don't worry, flyboy. I'm in Sickbay every three months like clockwork." Tom breathed a huge sigh of relief and B'Elanna laughed. "I'm surprised, Paris. I'd have thought you'd schedule your appointments weeks in advance."
Tom flushed. "I used to. It's just that ... well, I've been with Chakotay for months now, and I haven't needed to worry about ... you know."
"Knocking him up?" B'Elanna finished.
"Right," Tom answered, grinning, relaxing finally. "So I figured, why waste the rations on unnecessary medication?"
If Chakotay had needed any proof of Tom's faithfulness, which he hadn't, that was it right there. He was stupidly cheered by the remark, and couldn't stop the goofy grin that spread across his face.
B'Elanna frowned at him and hit him on the arm. "Stop it, Chakotay, before you embarrass yourself."
"Stop looking like you just found a wormhole to the Alpha Quadrant. You're grinning like an idiot."
Chakotay glanced at Tom again, and shrugged helplessly. "I can't help it."
B'Elanna wrinkled her nose in distaste. "Ugh." She turned to Tom. "Is he always this bad?"
"Usually he's worse," Tom said confidentially. He stretched, and the movement elicited a cough and a struggle to get his breathing back under control. "Damn. I really need my booster."
Chakotay was worried, again. "Do you want me to call the Doctor?"
"Nah. I've got an extra inhaler in your bathroom for emergencies." Tom levered himself up off the bed. "Be back in a minute. Play nice."
Chakotay watched him go, admiring, not for the first time, the smooth lines of Tom's body. Then he looked at B'Elanna, who was watching him watch Tom. She blushed when she caught herself being observed and said, "You really love him."
"Didn't you know?"
B'Elanna shook her head slowly. "Intellectually, yes. But seeing you together, here, like this … the way you look at him, the way he looks at you … I *know* it now. Here." She tapped her heart for emphasis.
"Are you all right with it?"
"Of course I am. I'm fine."
"It's just that, I know how you feel about him…"
"Felt, Chakotay. Past tense. If I had any lingering feelings for him, they're gone. He loves you. Really loves you, deep down inside. I wouldn't stand a chance." She moved closer to Chakotay, grinning. "And who wouldn't feel fine after making love to the two cutest guys on the ship?"
Chakotay laughed. "Kathryn said the same thing."
B'Elanna's eyes nearly popped out of her head. "What?"
"I mean that Tom and I were the two cutest guys on the ship. All these compliments are giving me a swelled head."
B'Elanna snorted a laugh. "It couldn't possibly swell any bigger, Chakotay." She looked at him fondly, and smiled. "Thanks for inviting me here. You were right. I do feel better about things, now."
Chakotay didn't answer, but instead leaned in to place a gentle kiss on B'Elanna's lips, one that just barely hinted at the love they'd once felt for each other, and the affection they still maintained.
Tom walked out of the bathroom while they were kissing. Chakotay could see Tom's frown from the corner of his eye. He pulled away, and asked, "You all right, Tom?"
Tom looked away for a second. "Yeah." It was extremely unconvincing.
"You're not all right. What's wrong?" Chakotay stretched, and B'Elanna rolled over to the side of the bed, looking at Tom in concern.
"It's stupid." Now Tom was embarrassed.
Tom stared down at his fingers, twisted them nervously around each other. He took a deep breath, then exhaled noisily. "It's just that, watching you two kiss ... I think I'm ... ... jealous. I'm a little jealous, all right?"
"Of who?" B'Elanna asked with a grin.
Tom bit his lip. "Of you. I don't think I like watching you kiss him, B'Elanna." Tom paused. "He's *mine*. "
Chakotay heard the defensive possessiveness in Tom's voice, felt the world go a little dim around the edges. He didn't remember getting up from the bed, and he didn't remember walking across the room, but he suddenly found himself wrapped in Tom's arms and they were kissing like they'd never done it before and might never have another chance.
Oh, but he loved this. Tom was, without exception, the best kisser Chakotay had had the privilege to kiss. Tom threw his heart and soul into it, not to mention his lips and tongue and teeth, and there had been times when kisses alone were enough to bring Chakotay to orgasm. If he hadn't just had a mind-blowing climax, this might have been one of those times. As it was, Chakotay felt the first tentative stirrings of renewed desire, and moaned into Tom's mouth.
A loud clearing of a feminine throat distracted them. Chakotay felt Tom's arms loosen around him, and they split apart, blinking. B'Elanna was sitting on the bed, knees up and arms wrapped around her legs. "You want me to leave?" she asked, only half- joking.
Tom grinned. "No. Just making sure Teddy didn't forget me while I was gone."
"You were gone for two minutes, Paris."
"Long enough for him to start kissing you."
B'Elanna rolled her eyes. "Now I know how the two of you have lasted so long. You're a perfect match. Both insanely jealous."
"I resent that," Tom said indignantly. "I'm not insane."
B'Elanna's eyes gleamed. "But you *are* jealous. I'll tell you what, since you caught me kissing Chakotay, it's only fair that I kiss you for a while." With an artful and surprisingly quick twist of her body, she pulled him down onto the bed and flipped him over so she was lying on top of him. "Got you right where I want you, Paris." B'Elanna leaned down and started kissing Tom, thrusting her tongue inside his mouth, holding his arms down when he instinctively tried to hold her.
Chakotay backed away slightly, watching the two of them kiss, reassuring himself that this whole thing had been his idea in the first place and if it was the last time Tom and B'Elanna were ever going to kiss, they might as well enjoy it. Surprisingly, it seemed to work, because he wasn't feeling jealous. He was feeling, well, horny; yes, that's the word he'd have to use if asked, definitely horny. Again.
Too bad, Big Man. This time, you're going to wait. Yes. Wait. Right. It seemed like a good idea to let Tom and B'Elanna have one final go at each other without his interference. Keep thinking that, Big Man, and you might start to believe it.
Chakotay could see Tom getting hard, and unfortunately, he was getting hard too, just sitting there watching, and he wondered if he'd be able to stay away. Suddenly, Tom pulled his mouth away from B'Elanna's and gasped out, "Come on, Teddy, you're missing all the fun."
Chakotay shook his head. "No, you two go ahead. I'll watch for a while."
B'Elanna cracked up, but Tom was shaking his head firmly. "This isn't a spectator sport. You pay, you play. Get over here, Big Man. We can -- oh shit, *please*." B'Elanna had not been idle during Tom's little speech; she'd turned her body around and had just sucked him into her mouth. "Hrghthmph," Tom gasped, and Chakotay couldn't tell if that was intended to be any sort of word or not.
B'Elanna lifted her head for a second. "Chakotay," she said, continuing to stroke Tom so that he wasn't able to do anything other than moan, "Get over here and fuck me, all right? I'm going to make the two of you come in me at the same time."
Chakotay complied and B'Elanna was as good as her word. When they were finished, and had screamed themselves hoarse, B'Elanna rolled over and hugged Tom for an instant. "Thanks," she said.
Tom stared at her blankly. "You're thanking *me*? After what you just did to me, I should be thanking you."
"Not for that," she said, hitting Tom on the arm hard enough to make him wince. "For having me here. I know it wasn't easy for you."
Tom looked at her reproachfully. "Don't go away thinking this was some kind of torture for me, B'Elanna. I had a wonderful time. Chakotay was right, again. As usual."
Chakotay snorted with supreme self-deprecation, an art he'd learned from Tom. "That's me. Mr. Perfect. Never makes a bad decision."
B'Elanna hit him too, for good measure, and Chakotay bit his lip to keep from saying 'ouch'. "Thank you too, Chakotay."
Chakotay waved it away. "It was nothing."
"No," B'Elanna said seriously. "It was a lot. And I appreciate it. But now…" She rose from the bed and grabbed for her clothing. "I think I'll take a shower and get out of here."
"You can stay, B'Elanna," Chakotay invited, patting the bed. "Plenty of room here for the three of us to sleep comfortably."
"No," B'Elanna said with a smile, shaking her head. "You wanted Tom and me to get over our hormones. I think we have." She looked to Tom for confirmation and he nodded back with a grin. "But I'm not going to spend the night with you two. It wouldn't feel right." She wandered off to the bathroom. "Anyway, I really *do* want to go down to Engineering. I've got a few system checks I left running…"
Tom threw his shoe at the bathroom door just as B'Elanna closed it. He sank back into the bed. "Thanks, Chakotay." He pulled the older man close for a deep, intimate kiss. "I don't know what I did to deserve someone like you."
Chakotay kissed him back. "You were born." He lay back on the bed. "Did you have a good time?"
"You know I did," Tom said sleepily. "You knew I would before we even started." He yawned. "It's times like these when I think you know me better than *I* know me."
"Maybe I do," Chakotay said, feeling unaccountably pleased at the thought.
"And now," Tom added fuzzily, "I can stop wondering what it would be like to get B'Elanna in bed."
"Good," Chakotay answered, thinking, Mission accomplished, Big Man!
"But you know what, Teddy?"
"As much as I liked what we did tonight, I'd still rather be alone with you."
Chakotay didn't trust himself to answer that, so he wrapped his arms a little tighter around Tom, and hugged him until they both fell asleep. Neither of them noticed B'Elanna shaking her head fondly at them as she slipped past them on her way to the door.
The talent show took place two nights later. Tom and Chakotay entered together to find a large group of crewmen already gathered in the mess hall. Tom was nervous. "I can't believe I'm going to do this," he said. "I swore when I was a kid I'd never do this sort of thing."
Chakotay patted his arm soothingly. "You'll be fine. All you have to remember is to -- oof!" He grunted as someone bumped into him from behind.
"I'm sorry, sir. I wasn't watching where I was going."
Tom and Chakotay turned around to find David Vasicek standing there with a small group of friends. "It's all right, David," Chakotay said. "It's very crowded in here. We shouldn't have been blocking the aisle."
"Still, I should have been looking where I was going." Vasicek's eyes flickered once to Tom. "I'm glad to see you're all right, Lieutenant."
Tom answered automatically. "I'm fine. Thank you." He paused for a second to search Vasicek's face, then took a deep breath. "Thank you for everything, Crewman. Chakotay told me you were the one who let him know about the shuttle."
Vasicek nodded. "Yes. But it wasn't even sabotaged."
"You didn't know that. I appreciate what you did. Thank you."
Now Vasicek looked uncomfortable. "Don't thank me, Lieutenant. I -- I felt I owed it to you."
"Owed it to me?" Tom repeated, with just a hint of a curious inflection at the end.
"Yes. For what I did after you got your commission."
Tom nodded. "You mean tearing up my room? Don't worry about it. It wasn't like you were in there alone."
Vasicek gaped at him, and Chakotay shot Tom almost equally incredulous glance. "You knew?" Vasicek asked. "You knew all along I did it?"
Tom shrugged. "Wasn't too hard to figure out who it was. I also know you only went along the first couple of times."
"But ... if you knew ... why didn't you say anything?"
"To get you in trouble?" At Vasicek's nod, Tom continued, "I didn't see the point. It wasn't going to make you hate me any less, and frankly, I thought it would probably make things worse with the rest of the Maquis."
"But you could have gotten us to stop."
Tom shrugged again. "If it wasn't you, it would have been someone else. To tell you the truth, when we first got stuck out here I kind of felt like I deserved it."
Vasicek frowned. "And later?"
"Later I felt like ..." Tom paused, searching for the right words. "Look, you have to realize that before we came here I'd fucked up my life about as badly as I could have. Then all of a sudden we were here, and I was *flying* again, and I had friends again... and then there was Chakotay ... " Tom's eyes rested on Chakotay for a brief instant, and they were filled with warmth. "Nothing comes for free, and if the price I had to pay to get my life back was taking some shit from the Maquis ... well, I figured it was worth it."
Vasicek looked decidedly uncomfortable, and shifted position on his feet. The other Maquis standing beside him looked confused, as if, Chakotay thought to himself, they couldn't quite believe they were hearing this conversation. Frankly, he was having trouble believing it himself. Vasicek finally cleared his throat and spoke, thoughtfully, "You're not at all like they said you were."
There was only a hint of the old bitterness in Tom's voice when he spoke. "Who?"
Vasicek let his eyes take in the whole room. "People. They said you were … " He shut his mouth, looking at Tom and then, more seriously, at Chakotay. "It doesn't matter what they said. I shouldn't have listened to them. It was wrong of me. I'm sorry."
Tom's voice was light again. "It's all right, Crewman. I think you made it up to me."
Vasicek was silent for an instant, then he said hesitantly, "We're not on duty, Lieutenant. You can call me David."
Tom blinked, and Chakotay could see that he had no idea how to respond to that. Before he could come up with something intelligible, a pair of arms wrapped around his waist. "Ready, Tom?"
Tom sighed and switched gears smoothly. "No." He pulled Megan around from behind him. "Do I really have to do this?"
"Yes!" Megan said firmly. "You promised."
Tom sounded aggrieved. "You forced me."
"I did not," Megan said, offended.
"Oh no? So it would be all right with you if I changed my mind?"
"Of course. You don't have to do anything you don't want to do." There was a carefully timed pause before Megan added, off- handedly, "I'll just have to think before I recycle those vids from our last shore leave." "Uh huh," Tom said resignedly. "This is extortion, that's what it is." He let his eyes wander around the room nervously. "Shit. Gods, Megan, look at all these people!"
"I see them," Megan said cheerfully, glancing around. "Isn't it great?"
"No," Tom said mournfully. "Do we really have to go on first?"
"Yes," Megan answered firmly. She spoke soothingly, "Trust me Tom; it'll be easier this way. We'll just go up there and get it over with, and then you can enjoy the rest of the show."
"Uh huh." Tom was unconvinced. "Would you believe me if I said my hands were still bothering me from the burns?"
Just then, Neelix appeared on the stage and coughed politely, then spoke in his usual cheerful voice. "Welcome, everyone! It looks we've got a full house tonight, and we're going to get started right on time. First up are Lieutenant Tom Paris and Ensign Megan Delaney. These two have kept the particulars of their performance very hush-hush, so I can't tell you what it's going to be." Neelix winked at the audience. "I'm sure it will be something very special, though, so let's give them a warm Voyager welcome!"
Polite applause filled the room and Tom sighed. He turned to Chakotay with resignation in his eyes and said, "I guess this is it. See you later, Teddy. You'll be sitting with Harry and B'Elanna?"
"Yes," Chakotay said, pointing out their table. "Come join us when you're done."
Tom snorted. "Make sure you've got a big, cold drink waiting for me."
"Of course," Chakotay said, and gave Tom a chaste kiss on the cheek. "Good luck."
"I'll need it."
Chakotay made his way across to the room to sit with Harry and B'Elanna, not sure what to expect. Tom had been unusually evasive about this evening, and if he'd heard any of the coarser rumors that were flying around about his performance with Megan -- and Chakotay was sure Tom had heard them -- he'd ignored them.
Megan stepped up to the front of the room, trailing an obviously reluctant Tom behind her. Tom picked up a guitar case from the side of the stage, and Chakotay was surprised to see him take out the guitar and start to tune it. He'd had no idea Tom could play. Another surprise. He wondered how many more Tom had left.
Megan and Tom sat down on some stools, getting comfortable as Tom plucked a few experimental chords. His eyes were firmly fixed on the floor. Stage fright, Chakotay would realize later. Tom had never performed in front of an audience, and he wasn't too happy about doing it now. Megan cleared her throat, then announced, "This is sort of a surprise birthday present for Jenny. She wrote a really beautiful poem a few months ago, and it was so great I just had to let you all hear it. I persuaded Tom to write music for it," -- Megan gave Tom a soft smile -- "and then I blackmailed him into agreeing to perform it with me." Tom frowned at Megan, and she giggled. "At any rate, this is for you, Jenny. Hope you enjoy it." Megan nodded to Tom, and he started playing the guitar.
The melody was soft and haunting, poignant in the way that guitar solos often are, and Chakotay realized with a start that Tom was an excellent guitar player. After a few minutes, Megan started singing along, and her voice was pure and sweet and lovely. The words were filled with loneliness and love, and Chakotay found himself drawn completely into the music. He didn't even notice when Tom started singing, but suddenly he realized he was hearing two voices, and they were twisting around each other, trading soft vocal caresses, the notes almost tangible in the air.
Chakotay had heard Tom sing before, but it was always in the shower, where his voice was muffled by water and distorted by the small enclosed space. Here, in the open, in sweet harmony with Megan's exquisite soprano, Tom's tenor rang out clean and clear.
It was astonishingly beautiful. The room had fallen completely silent, and Tom and Megan's voices grew louder to fill the void. Together in perfect harmony, with the guitar a muted counterpoint, Tom and Megan sang to each other, seemingly unaware that there was an audience hanging on every note, every syllable.
Something twisted in Chakotay's gut at the sight of Tom and Megan together on stage, and it wasn't jealousy, exactly. It was closer to sorrow -- sorrow that Tom hadn't felt he could share this side of himself with Chakotay, but he'd felt able to share it with Megan. Chakotay wasn't sure why this bothered him so much; after all, there were things about Tom that Harry knew that Chakotay would probably never know, and Chakotay was able to accept that. Still, Tom and Harry had never been lovers, while Tom and Megan *had* been lovers, repeatedly, frequently, and according to rumor, explosively.
But they were just friends, Tom always insisted. They'd never been anything other than friends. Same with Jenny and Sue. Friends who slept together. Close friends. But *only* friends. The funny thing was, Chakotay believed him. He'd never had the experience of platonic sex -- no matter that the sex on that first date with Tom was supposed to be strictly casual, Chakotay was already in love with him at that point so it didn't count as platonic - - but he was easily able to believe that Tom had plenty of experience with it. As a matter of fact, until he'd started dating Chakotay, Tom swore he'd had nothing *but* platonic sex.
Still ... the way Tom and Megan were singing together ... Chakotay would have been hard pressed to describe it as anything other than sensual. And although the two hadn't been lovers for over three months now -- and if Chakotay ignored that already forgiven incident, it had been five months -- they still *looked* like lovers. Seeing the two of them up on stage together, Chakotay didn't find it hard to picture the two of them in bed, bodies blending together as completely and easily as their voices were blending together now...
Whoa. Okay, Big Man, you've completely wandered from the point. Chakotay dragged himself back to his original train of thought, which was …? Oh, right, the thought that Tom hadn't felt able to share this piece of himself with Chakotay. Somehow, Chakotay felt this was indicative of something lacking in his relationship with Tom. If Tom really loved him as much as he -- infrequently -- claimed, why wouldn't he share this side of himself with Chakotay?
Chakotay had worked himself into the beginnings of a pretty good funk when his subconscious noted that something was different about the music. He let his eyes focus on the stage again and realized that Tom and Megan were singing unaccompanied by the guitar. Their voices were pure and absolutely beautiful. At that moment, Tom's eyes shifted away from Megan's, and locked with Chakotay's.
Suddenly, Chakotay found it hard to breathe. Tom's eyes were burning into him, pinning him to his chair, forcing the air out of his lungs. The rest of the room faded out of Chakotay's perception. He was alone with Tom, and Tom was singing to him and for him, and he couldn't imagine why he'd ever been jealous of Megan or B'Elanna. It was so clear, now, that Tom loved him and no one else, that there would never be anyone else …
Then, with a blink, Tom shifted his eyes back to Megan and the spell was broken. Chakotay cleared his throat and breathed in deeply. After a few more notes, Tom stopped singing, leaving Megan to finish the last verse as she had started the song, alone with the guitar.
The listening audience sat immobile and silent, and remained so for long seconds after the final chord of the melody had faded into the air. Then, as if on cue, the room exploded in thunderous applause. B'Elanna leaned over to Chakotay and said, "If I'd known he could sing like that, I might not have given him up so easily." Chakotay looked at her in alarm until he saw the humor in her eyes.
Harry was looking completely dumbfounded. "Did you know Tom could play guitar?"
"No," Chakotay admitted, comforted by the fact that Harry hadn't known either.
Megan and Tom were making their way off stage, getting congratulations and smiles from everyone they passed, Starfleet and Maquis alike. By the time Tom made it back to the table, his face was bright red. He sank down into a chair and put his head down on the table. "Drink, Teddy. Where's my drink?"
"Here." Chakotay pushed a glass in front of him, amused that Tom didn't stop long enough to see what was in it before he gulped it down.
"Tom," Harry said accusingly. "How come you never told me you played guitar?"
"You never asked, Harry," Tom answered, raising his eyebrows.
"Very nice, Lieutenant," came a soft voice from above. Tom looked up to see Janeway there, smiling, hands on her hips. "You have a lovely voice. And I didn't know you could play guitar."
"Neither did anyone else, Captain," B'Elanna said. "Not even Chakotay."
"Megan knew," Chakotay said, in mock accusation.
Tom sighed. "It's her guitar, Big Man. She had it in her room and I played it for her one night. It wasn't supposed to be a big secret or anything. It just never came up." He frowned at Chakotay's pout. "I wasn't trying to hide anything from you."
"Shh!" B'Elanna said, suddenly. "The next act is starting."
After the show was over, the party moved to Sandrine's. Chakotay got hopelessly enmeshed in a conversation with Neelix regarding alternate uses for leola root, and lost all track of Tom. By the time Chakotay had finally escaped from Neelix, Tom was nowhere to be found. He scanned the crowd for him, unsuccessfully.
"Are you looking for Lieutenant Paris?" Tuvok appeared out of the crowd as if by magic. "I believe I saw him enter the back room with Crewman Vasicek and a few other members of the crew."
"I have no idea," Tuvok said. "Are you concerned for his safety?"
"Not really," Chakotay said, already walking towards the back of the bar. "Not much." As he reached the entry to the back room, he heard furious voices inside. Katera, he thought, and maybe Chell and Henley.
"But why start that kind of a rumor?" This was Tom's voice, tense and angry.
"To rattle you." Chakotay peered into the room. Kenneth Dalby. He should have guessed. "I figured someone would tell Torres, and she'd tell you. I knew you'd never cancel the experiment, so you'd spend the whole trip being afraid. 'Course, if I'd had the time, I'd have really done something, 'stead of just starting a rumor."
Chakotay had seen Tom get angry before. He'd even had that anger directed at him. Still, he'd never seen Tom get angry quite this violently, quite this quickly. In a heartbeat, the forced but pleasant expression on Tom's face was replaced by one of rage.
"You little shit," he forced out, staring murderously at Dalby, who had didn't have the sense to back down. "What did I ever do to you?"
"You betrayed us," Dalby spat back, eyes flashing.
The muscles in Tom's cheeks moved tensely as he ground his teeth together. "Old news, Dalby. Get over it."
"I *can't*," Dalby replied. "You shouldn't be wearing that uniform and you shouldn't be flying this ship, and if you weren't fucking the First Officer, you probably wouldn't be." He grinned, nastily. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised. The Delaney sluts won't shut up about how good you are in bed; do you fuck the Commander the way you fuck the women, Paris? Or do you lie down and take it like a man?"
Tom remained still and silent for an instant, then he exploded into action, shoving Dalby, hard, against the wall. "Shut your fucking mouth," he threatened, "before I shut it for you."
Dalby sneered at him. "I'm shaking in my boots, *Lieutenant*. You're the one with the 'fucking' mouth. Every night, down on your knees, sucking off Chakotay like the cheap whore you are..."
Tom slammed Dalby into the wall again. Tuvok made motions as if to move in to the room, but Chakotay placed a restraining hand on his arm. "I'll deal with this," he said, softly, and moved out of the shadows.
Dalby was still talking. Chakotay had missed some of the last comments, but he heard Dalby say venomously, "Fuck off, you Starfleet whore."
Tom pulled his arm back, and clenched his fist. Chakotay moved quickly to stand beside him. "Don't do it, Tom. Let us handle him."
Tom didn't move. One arm was braced against Dalby's throat, and the other was still poised to throw a punch. His eyes flicked briefly to the side to find Chakotay's face. "Is that an order, Commander?"
"A suggestion, Lieutenant."
Tom stood tense and silent for a long instant, then said, "Well, so long as it wasn't an order..." Without further warning, he smashed his fist into Dalby's face. Dalby crashed to the ground and Tom stood over him, shaking out his bloodied knuckles.
Dalby looked up at him from the ground, hand covering his face, blood seeping between his fingers. "You broke my nose!"
"Good." Tom knelt down and stared into Dalby's bloody face. "Stay the fuck away from me. Next time, I'm not going to be so understanding. Got that?"
"Fuck you," Dalby said. "Next time I'm going to--"
"Ken," Vasicek said, staring down at his friend. "Shut up. You're not impressing anybody."
"Yeah," Katera said, looking at Dalby on the floor and shaking her head in disgust. "You deserve to have your nose broken, after that stunt you pulled. We could have had unlimited replicator rations for months, if it weren't for you."
"Wasn't my fault," Dalby said, glaring at Vasicek. "*He's* the one who ran to the bridge."
"For which," Chakotay said coldly, "he will receive a commendation. And you -- " He frowned fiercely. "I don't know what the hell we're going to do with you. Tuvok, take him to Sickbay then confine him to quarters."
"Yes, sir," Tuvok said levelly. "Mr. Dalby, if you would follow me?"
Later that evening, Chakotay paced the hallway outside of Tom's quarters. He wasn't sure what kind of mood Tom would be in, and it was just barely possible Tom wanted to spend the rest of the night alone.
Well, if he wants to be alone, all he has to do is tell you, Big Man, right? He's done it before. He'll do it again, if he wants. But you need to see him, and maybe he needs to see you, too. Thus mentally fortified, Chakotay punched in the code and entered Tom's quarters. "Tom?" he said, pausing just inside the doorway, not seeing the younger man anywhere in the outer room.
"In here," Tom called back, and Chakotay followed the sound of Tom's voice to the bathroom. Tom was fumbling around in his medicine cabinet, looking for something.
"How are you?" Chakotay asked cautiously.
"Fine. Have you seen my medkit? I thought for sure I left it here."
Chakotay thought about it. "Last I remember, you left it on your nightstand, after we tried the new cuffs."
Tom nodded. "They marked up my wrists something awful. You're right." He stepped out of the bathroom and searched the small table by the bed. "Don't see 'em, but maybe they got kicked under the bed." He crouched, searching under the bed, suddenly saying in delight, "Theodore!"
Tom emerged from under the dust ruffle, holding a slightly dusty and rumpled looking Theodore T. Bear. "I've been looking for him for a week. I thought you kidnapped him 'cause you didn't like the leather outfit."
Chakotay looked disapprovingly at the miniature leather pants and jacket that the stuffed bear was wearing, accompanied by a whip and some chains. "I don't want anyone to see that and get the wrong idea about my sexual tastes."
Tom grinned. "You do like to tie me up, though."
"But I don't use whips, Tom."
"Thank the gods. I'm not sure I could handle that." Tom gently cleaned the accumulated dust of the bear. "I'll make him a new outfit. One that won't offend your delicate sensibilities." He knelt down again and dug under the bed, muttering, "Damn kit has got to be here somewhere." A few minutes later he got up, cursing. "Shit. No, it's not there."
"Why do you need a med kit, anyway?"
Tom held out his right hand. "Bruised my knuckles when I hit Dalby."
"Can't you just go see the Doctor?"
"I suppose, but it's not serious, and I'm supposed to be a trained field medic. I ought to be able to handle bruised knuckles." He looked around the room, distracted. "And I could, if I could find the damn med kit."
Chakotay searched the room too, then said, "Maybe it fell between the bed and the wall. If I recall, we got a bit … sidetracked … last time we used it."
Tom grinned. "Speak for yourself. I knew exactly where I was going on that particular away mission." He sat down on the bed and reached down behind the mattress, feeling around and then emerging triumphantly with the kit. "You're a genius, Teddy. Come on, sit with me on the couch while I take care of this."
Chakotay followed Tom obediently into the living room, waiting silently and patiently as Tom ran the low-powered regenerator over the cuts. When he was done, Tom flexed his fingers. "Remind me to be more careful next time I hit someone. It *hurts*."
Chakotay looked at him thoughtfully. "Can I ask you a question?"
"When you were about to punch Dalby…"
"And I suggested that you didn't?"
"What if I had said it was an order?"
"I'd have punched him anyway and spent the night in the brig." Tom shrugged. "The guy's a prick, Teddy."
"I know." Chakotay was quiet again, uncomfortable.
Tom was still sitting on the couch. "Look, Big Man, you're my lover and my commanding officer, but don't start thinking you can control me. You can't. I get angry, I punch. Especially if I'm off duty."
"You haven't punched anyone else in three years."
"I punched you."
"Besides me. Anyway, that was on Captain's orders."
Tom cleared his throat. "Not exactly. I was pretty much improvising at that point."
"Well, you were being so obnoxious to me -- admit it, Teddy, you loved riding me like that -- and I figured it was the last chance I'd get to take a swing at you before …"
"Before the Kazon killed me." Tom frowned for a minute. "I can't believe I agreed to go through with that. It was almost guaranteed to be a suicide mission, you know."
"I know," Chakotay said, getting the chills in retrospect.
Tom was silent for a minute. "I don't think I'd do it now."
"No. Back then, when Captain Janeway asked me to do it, I knew I'd be a hero if I came out of it alive. And the Captain promised that if I *didn't* come out of it alive, if the Kazon killed me, after you found the traitor she'd tell everyone the truth, so they'd know I wasn't such a creep after all." Tom looked at Chakotay seriously. "I didn't have much to lose, really."
"Just your life."
"Wasn't worth much to me at the time." Tom smiled softly and reached for Chakotay's hand. "I find myself valuing it much more highly these days."
A warm rush flooded through him, and Chakotay smiled back, squeezing Tom's fingers tightly. "Glad to hear it." He studied his lover's face for an instant, then said, "You're not the only one who thinks Dalby's a prick."
Tom leaned back in the couch, releasing Chakotay's hand. "Yeah. I heard Vasicek and Katera go at him. I thought Vasicek and Dalby were friends."
"Not any more, I think. David's annoyed about losing the replicator rations."
Tom nodded. "So is everyone else." Amusement flitted across his face. "You know what? Right now, people hate Dalby more than they hate me!" He grinned, evilly. "Maybe I'll go round up a gang to trash his quarters."
It was only because Chakotay had gotten so practiced at reading Tom's emotions that he heard the edge to Tom's words when he voiced the suggestion. "I'm sorry, Tom."
"For everything. For the way the Maquis treated you, for Dalby especially, for all the shit you had to put up with ..."
Tom shook his head and chuckled. "Not your fault, Big Man. And this is somewhere around the 50th time you've apologized for the Maquis, so you can feel free to stop now. I never blamed you for it, anyway."
"Why'd you hit Dalby tonight?"
"Why? Because he's a prick, and if it weren't for him, we'd be eating real food for the next few months instead of Neelix's pseudo-pancakes and pseudo-eggs and pseudo-steaks."
Chakotay nodded. "Yes, I know. But why tonight? Dalby was the one who gathered people together to trash your quarters, and you've known about that for years, yet you never punched him before."
Tom sank deeper into the sofa, rubbing his hands across his eyes. "I don't know. Just blew a fuse, I guess. Or maybe I knew that, for once, most of the crew would be on my side. Shit, I don't know, and I don't really care. It's over. Can we get past it?"
"I guess so. If we can get past B'Elanna, we should be able to get past Dalby."
Tom looked sideways at Chakotay. "You know, I still can't believe you suggested we have that night with her."
Chakotay snorted. "I didn't know what else to do. After I saw the way you two were dancing at Harry's party, I knew I had to do something."
"Speaking of which," Tom said, rising to his feet with a soft smile on his face, "Computer, play musical selection Paris-7." Soft jazz filled the room and Tom held out his hand to Chakotay. "Dance with me?"
Chakotay didn't move. "I wasn't trying to make you feel guilty, Tom."
"I know you weren't. You didn't. I've wanted to do this for a while."
Chakotay frowned. "You have a funny way of showing it."
Tom stared into his eyes. "Listen. Maybe someday, maybe soon, I'll do this with you in pubic, Chakotay. But not yet." He lowered his eyes then raised them again, a soft smile playing on his lips. "Besides, some things are private, and I think our first dance should be one of them. Don't you?" Tom stood there, unmoving, hand still outstretched, and Chakotay took a deep breath before standing up and reaching out to take it.
They danced in silence for a few minutes, neither speaking, barely moving. Chakotay was almost overcome by the feeling of closeness and warmth that swept through him. It was funny; Tom, who had such difficulty believing in love, could on rare occasions be the most romantic person Chakotay had ever known.
They swayed together in reverent silence until Tom took a half a step back, inserting just enough distance between them to be able to look down at Chakotay's face. He spoke softly, in a voice barely louder than a whisper. "You're the scariest thing that's ever happened to me." Chakotay looked into Tom's eyes and opened his mouth to protest before Tom silenced him with a kiss. "But you're the best thing, too."
Chakotay caught his breath and leaned forward for another kiss. "Would it help if I said I feel the same way?"
Tom nodded. "Yes. At least I'd know I'm not the only one."
"Oh, but you *are* the only one, Tom. The only one I'll ever need."
"Pumpkin?" Tom was silent until Chakotay corrected, "Tom?"
"If I ask you very nicely, do you think you might take me to bed?"
"Yes … if you ask me very nicely. But first," Chakotay said, leaning in for another kiss, "let's finish this dance."
Tom grinned. "Is that an order or a suggestion, Commander?"
Chakotay thought about it. "An order, Lieutenant."
"Shut up and dance, Tom."
"Yes, sir." A gentle kiss and a gentler tease. "Whatever you say, sir."
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