Fandom/Series: Star Trek Voyager
Title: Centerpiece
Pairing: Tuvok/Paris
Author: Lianne Burwell
Rating: R
Archive: Yes
Series/Sequel: Nope, but who knows?
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Author Email:
Summary: Tom and Tuvok go on an away mission, so of course something goes wrong
Disclaimer: Don‘t own ‚em, wish I did. They‘d certainly have more fun.


by Lianne Burwell

April 2000

"That does it. I am not going on anymore away missions. The Captain can just find herself another shuttle pilot." Tom Paris turned and paced the width of the cell, seven paces exactly. Barely long enough to hold the two cots. The width was even shorter, a mere three paces between those cots. "You are being melodramatic." Tom turned to face the man lying on one of the cots. As usual, the Vulcan‘s face was almost completely expressionless.
"I‘m serious! Every time I go on an away mission something goes wrong."

"You also exaggerate."
"Sure I do. I crash-land, get tossed in prisons, accused of murder. Every single time. Even worse, I drag other people along with me." Tom threw up his arms in disgust. He knew that he was being melodramatic: He didn‘t need Tuvok to point that out. However, it gave him something to do, which kept him from thinking too hard about their situation.

"As I said, you exaggerate. While these events do happen, they do not happen as often as you imply. As well, they occur to away missions which you are not a part of. It is illogical to assume that you are the focus of... bad luck." "How can you be so damned calm?" "There is no point in expending energy in being upset." "Big talk from a man in his skivvies." That got Tuvok‘s attention. His head turned to the side so that he could see Tom and one eyebrow went up in that move so Vulcan that Tom wondered if they deliberately taught their kids how to do it.

"My... skivvies?"
"Yes, your skivvies. Shorts. Underwear. Not a heck of a lot. Aren‘t you cold?"

"The temperature is adequate."
"Then why am I shivering?" Tom said, rubbing his hands over the goosebumps on his arms. Every so often, a shiver ran through his body.

"You appear to be suffering from the symptoms of shock. It would be best if you were to lie down and relax." "Right. Like I‘m going to be able to do that." "Lie down, Ensign." Tom thought about arguing the soft order, if only on principle, then sighed. He sat down on the edge of the cot. Then, when Tuvok looked at him expectantly, he lay down on his back, wishing that their captors had bothered to provide them with pillows. Or blankets, even. "Good. Now take a deep breath and hold it. Now let it out slowly." Tuvok waited until Tom had followed his directions. "Repeat. Again." Lulled into an almost dreamlike state, Tom followed the instructions. With each release of breath, he felt the shivers die down. Slowly, he realized that Tuvok was right: the cell was more than warm enough for them, maybe even a little too warm. No. The temperature was not the problem. "Sorry about that." "Apologies are unnecessary. The cause is sufficient." "Yeah. I just don‘t react well to being locked up." Tom tried to make it sound like a joke, but he wasn‘t surprised when Tuvok heard past that.

"Unsurprising, considering your history. Are you feeling calmer?"

"Yes. So now what?"

"We wait. In seventeen point three six hours, Voyager will reach the rendezvous point. They will likely wait approximately an hour in case we were delayed. Then they will travel to this world in search of us. It would require three-point-two hours at top speed, but they will likely travel at a lower speed so that they can scan for signs of our presence along the route, in case we had difficulty with the Delta Flyer."

"So we hang on for about twenty-four hours until they get here."

"I can do that." It was certainly better than two months on the planet at the bottom of a spatial sinkhole "I never thought otherwise." Tom stared up at the pseudo-plaster ceiling, counting the cracks. And if they were really lucky, they would just be left in their tiny cell until then.

Naaaaah. Not with his luck.


A bang on the cell door woke Tom from a rather pleasant dream. He pulled himself into a sitting position, his heart pounding from the shock of the unexpected noise. He was a little surprised that he‘d actually fallen asleep at some point. Perhaps counting cracks in the ceiling was just as good as counting sheep. On the other cot, Tuvok sat up, apparently completely unconcerned. Tom felt a momentary flash of irritation, wondering what it would take to get a reaction out of the calm Vulcan.

The door opened, and an armed guard beckoned them. For a moment, Tom thought that jumping the guy might be an option. Then he saw the three other guards in the hallway and gave up on that idea. Besides, where the hell would they go? Better to wait for Voyager.

The guards were typical of the Taplec—tall, nearly a foot taller than either him or Tuvok. Their skin was a strange coppery color, unlike any that occurred in humans, and their hair hung in long braids, straight and black. They almost looked like the old stereotype of an American Indian. Each carried what looked like a spear, except that the weapons were made entirely of metal and had a series of buttons embedded in their surfaces.

After a second, more irritated gesture, Tuvok got to his feet and headed for the door. Tom decided to follow his example, since Tuvok was in charge of the away-mission, such as it was.

Tom looked around curiously as they walked down the hallway. He hadn‘t gotten a look at their surroundings when they‘d come in, since they‘d been gassed in their guest quarters the night before. They‘d woken up in their cell with pounding headaches.

Well, he‘d had a headache. He wasn‘t so sure about Tuvok. And the only reason they even knew how much time had passed was because Tuvok, like most Vulcans, seemed to have come with a built-in alarm clock.

The hallway they were walking down was fairly nondescript. Just plain white walls, made of the same pseudo-plaster as the walls and ceiling of their cell, lined on both sides by doors, and each door had a small view-screen, showing the occupant or occupants. Most of them appeared to be empty, though, and Tom wondered why. Was this some sort of prison, either for criminals or the mentally ill? Or did it have some other purpose?

The hallway took a sharp turn suddenly, and they found themselves in an open area. Before Tom could get an idea of the size of the room, a hard shove in the back for each of them and they were thrust into the middle of the space. Tom squinted, blinded by the bright lights shining down on them.

"I‘ve got a bad feeling about this," he muttered to Tuvok, glancing around for a clue as to what was going on. The lights kept him from seeing anything useful. "I‘m afraid I must concur," Tuvok replied levelly. A voice rang out, sounding depressingly like an auctioneer. Tom wished again that their communicators hadn‘t been taken along with their uniforms, since the devices also held universal translators. Without them, they didn‘t have a clue what their captors were saying.

Voices were calling out in rapid succession. They all had the faintly artificial tone of voices being transmitted. Suddenly, one of the guards stepped forward and gestured with his weapon.

"What?" Tom said.

The guard gestured again at about waist level. "I believe he wishes for us to drop our... skivvies," Tuvok said.

"Well he can forget it!" Tom snarled, stepping back from the guard and crossing his arms over his chest. The guard immediately stepped closer and gestured again. This time the tip of the spear-like device glowed a bright blue. "I suggest that we cooperate," Tuvok said, already pushing down his Starfleet standard briefs. "Our only goal is to remain together, and alive, until Voyager arrives.

Embarrassment is irrelevant."

"You sound just like seven," Tom muttered. He eyed the guard for a moment, then sighed. "I think I‘m going to regret this," he said to himself, then slipped his own briefs down to his ankles. He resisted the typical male urge to check out Tuvok‘s equipment.

Once they had stepped out of their underwear, the guard gestured for them to turn in place. "Great," he drawled to Tuvok. "I feel like a piece of meat at market." "That comparison appears to be quite apt." Finally, the bidding slowed until there was just two voices, then one. There was a pinging sound that seemed to indicate the end of the auction.

The guard gestured for them to put their briefs back on and they followed him to the door opposite the one they‘d entered through. On the other side, a new group of guards waited, all female this time, dressed in some sort of fancy uniform.

Tom looked at the shackles that the newcomers were holding and sighed. "How much longer?" he asked Tuvok, just a little plaintively.

"Eighteen-point-six hours," was the impassive reply.

"Great," Tom said, holding out his wrists. "I can do this, I can do this," he muttered as the cold metal closed around them. "I hope."


Tom was starting to get a little pissed at Tuvok. During the long drive to one of the estates outside of the capital, the man hadn‘t said a word. They still didn‘t even know who was behind their kidnapping or why. On the other hand, the why could probably be guessed. By why them? They‘d arrived on Taplec almost a week earlier to negotiate trade and passage through Taplec space for Voyager. In fact, everything had gone just dandy. They‘d worked out an agreement for Voyager to trade information on the space adjoining Taplec territory that they‘d traveled through for edibles and raw materials for the replicators. Passage was granted without a second thought. They‘d been invited to party after party, no doubt because of their status as exotic foreigners. Everything was perfect. Or it had been perfect until they‘d gone back to their rooms to get a good night‘s sleep before taking off in the morning to rendezvous with Voyager only to wake up hours later in a cramped cell, stripped to their briefs and with pounding headaches.

Well, all they had to do was hang on for another twenty hours until Rambo Janeway came storming to the rescue. She was very good at that. It gave her an excuse to pull out that giant phaser rifle she liked so much. Still, it would be easier if he knew what was going to happen to them in that timeframe. He‘d tried discussing the possibilities with Tuvok, but the guards had growled and all Tuvok would say was that speculating without facts served no purpose.

If he didn‘t like the man so much, he‘d really hate him. Unfortunately, Tuvok was a hard man to hate, even when he was at his most annoying, since there was never any ill- intent behind his behavior.

Finally, after a little over an hour, they pulled to a stop in front of a large building, first in a series of single- story buildings up on stilt-like bases, connected by breeze-ways that made up the majority of upper-class estates on Taplec. They‘d been to several during their stay and Tom had been impressed with the simplicity of the designs, perfect for the hot, tropical world. They climbed out of the vehicle and a man who was obviously the estate‘s majordomo led them through a dizzying maze of hallways and breezeways until they reached what was probably the servants‘ quarters. There, they were shown to a small room only slightly better than their last cell. This one did had a window to let in fresh air and natural light, though, even if it was too high and too small to allow escape.

And then they were left alone, the door locked behind them. "Here we go again," Tom griped, then tossed himself onto one of the beds—well, cot. At least this one had pillows and sheets. In this heat, blankets weren‘t really necessary.


Tom was beginning to think that maybe they were going to stay in the small room until Voyager arrived. They were fed, but otherwise left alone. He‘d tried to nap, but the combination of the heat and the stress had kept him awake, so he and Tuvok ended up playing mental chess to pass the time. His memory was very good, but the exercise was taking all his concentration. It was a good thing, though—it kept him distracted.

He‘d just lost his third game in a row, although he‘d made his roommate work for the last victory and had gotten a nod of approval at the end. Tom almost beamed at the silent compliment. If he had to be stuck in this sort of situation, Tuvok was just the sort of companion he‘d want. Harry was a little too hyper, Seven too dull, Janeway too scary and Chakotay... well, there was something about the first officer that made him want to get up the man‘s nose. And B‘Elanna... Well, they‘d been on the outs lately. The two of them together in a room under these circumstances would at best result in a shouting fight and at worst, bloodshed. He still liked B‘Elanna, although he wondered if he‘d ever really loved her, but they were like fire and gasoline: an explosive but inevitably destructive combination.

By the start of the fourth game, the light through the window was starting to fade. They were four moves into the game when the door opened. The majordomo stood there, gesturing to them to follow, saying something that they couldn‘t understand.

As they trailed after the fussy little man, Tom said to Tuvok in an undertone, "I swear, as soon as we get home, I‘m getting a sub-dermal translator. This is ridiculous." Tuvok didn‘t reply, but he looked sympathetic. Sub-dermal translators weren‘t used often, since the materials used could be irritating to many people, but they were nearly impossible to remove—a definite plus in situations such as these. They could also be used as locators for the ship‘s scanners. Voyager was going to have to do a lot of scanning to find them when the ship arrived, Tom thought grimly.

They were led into a large room with a small pool in the middle. The majordomo turned to them and indicated that they should remove their briefs and wash themselves. Tom glanced over at Tuvok and found the man already following the order. Tom shrugged and dropped his own briefs. In the last twenty-four hours, more people had seen him naked than in the last year, and other than Tuvok, they were all strangers. Not one of his kinks.

The water was pleasantly cool and Tom sighed happily as his coating of sweat was washed away. Unscented soap and rough sponges were handed to him and one of the bath attendants even scrubbed his back for him. For a moment, he could almost imagine that he was at some sort of exclusive spa, being pampered.

Then they got out of the bath and saw the clothing—assuming it could be called that—waiting for them. The illusion vanished.

Thongs, and not the type you wore on your feet. Very tiny thongs. Silver for Tuvok and gold for Tom. The scraps of fabric didn‘t cover, they emphasized.

But since their briefs were gone, it was that or stay naked, so they pulled on the embarrassing little things, as well as the jewelry they were handed. Nothing too weird, Tom was pleased to note. At least, nothing that involved making holes in his body.. When they were done, the attendants carefully spread oil over them and brushed them with gold and silver dust until they almost glowed. Then the majordomo clapped his hands and led them away.

"I have got a really bad feeling about this," Tom moaned.

This time, even Tuvok looked grim.


The room they were led to next turned out to be some sort of large banquet hall. Long tables were set in a square around the center of the room with the corners left open for servant to pass through. In the exact center of the room was a large table. The utensils set out said that it was going to be a serving table.

And in the middle of the table was what looked to be some sort of anti-grav unit.

"What the hell? Are we the main course or something?" "Calm yourself, Ensign. I doubt they intend to eat us." "Really? Well, if they aren‘t going to eat us, I‘m not sure I want to know what they intend." They were herded up steps placed in front of a sturdy table, the majordomo close behind them. When they arrived at the large circle that marked the edges of the anti-grav unit, the majordomo he stopped and stared at them for a moment, frowning as if he were considering a puzzle. Then he pointed to Tom, then the center of the circle. Not sure what to expect, he obeyed. There, with light touches and incomprehensible orders, he was maneuvered into a supine position.

Then Tuvok was positioned on top of him, and their limbs were manipulated until they were in a position... Tom blushed. It was a position all right. They looked as if they were having sex. Tuvok was almost kneeling over him, one knee pressed tight against Tom‘s groin. One of Tom‘s legs curled around the back of Tuvok‘s thighs and Tuvok‘s arms pulled their chests together. Tom left/right arm was wrapped around Tuvok‘s waist, his hand cupping the base of Tuvok‘s head as if drawing him down for a kiss. Once the majordomo was satisfied with their placing, but before their muscles could start to tire from the demanding positioning, the anti-grav was turned on, lifting them up and taking the strain off their limbs, locking them in position.

"Great," Tom mumbled, the field allowing them just enough range of motion so that they could breathe and shift slightly, but not make big moves. "What are we?" "I believe we are intended to be a... centerpiece," Tuvok replied softly.

"A what? Sheesh, what‘s wrong with flowers?" As they hovered in mid-air, servants moved in and out of the room, carrying dishes that were placed on the table below them, as well as flowers, Tom saw. Why couldn‘t they have settled for just flowers? Soft lights were lit, and fake torches gave a flickering effect. The silver dusting on Tuvok‘s face glistened appealingly in the soft light and Tom wondered what they looked like to spectators. Unfortunately, the range of movement didn‘t allow him to turn his head to get a better idea.

Then someone must have pressed a control, since they started to slowly revolve in place. The guests had started to arrive and were being seated. But the combination of the strange food earlier, the tension, the movement, and the effect of anti-grav was having a different sort of effect on Tom.

"Yes, Ensign?"
"I‘m going to be sick." It wasn‘t just the vertigo, it was also the stress of being so thoroughly restrained. Tom had never liked being tied up and this was far beyond the sort of bondage games that B‘Elanna had once suggested. She‘d thrown a brief tantrum before accepting that he wasn‘t going to change his mind.

"Now would not be a good time," Tuvok said, breaking into his mental ramblings.

"No shit. But my stomach doesn‘t seem to care about that." Silence. Tom was beginning to wonder how gold dust looked against green when Tuvok finally spoke again. "I believe I can help with your nausea." "Oh really?" Tom said sarcastically. "And how do you plan on doing that?" "Vulcan bio-feedback techniques can control the nausea without difficulty." "That‘s nice. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to learn those techniques." "A mind-meld would allow me to teach you them." "Doesn‘t a mind-meld usually require you to be able to touch the pressure points? In case you haven‘t noticed, we can‘t move." Tom could hear a slight edge of panic in his own voice and his stomach lurched again.

"Normally, that would be true. However, as we have melded in the past, simple physical contact should suffice." "Well, we‘ve certainly got that," Tom said wryly. With their lack of clothing and intimate position, physical contact was something they had plenty of.

By this point, the tables around them had filled with elegantly dressed diners. Servants were setting out the opening courses and filling glasses while the guests looked up at the display and nodded approvingly, carrying on conversations that Tom could barely hear. Not that that mattered, since he couldn‘t understand the words. It was all very embarrassing, and yet at the same time it was faintly arousing. The position and the exposure, combined with the uncertainty of their fate were acting like a powerful aphrodisiac.

Or it might have if he weren‘t about to hurl.

And then there was a pressure, both elusive and familiar. Tom closed his eyes and concentrated on that pressure, trying to open up to it. Even this was almost sexual, like relaxing his body for physical penetration. And strangely enough, that mental image helped. All at once, he could feel Tuvok inside his mind, comfortable and completely at home.
~ Thomas ~

~ I hear you ~

~ Allow me ~
~ If it keeps me from upchucking all over you, go for it ~ He felt a feeling suspiciously like amusement from Tuvok, then a sensation almost like... stroking? Yes, that was as good a description as any. It was like Tuvok was stroking him from the inside, calming the churning in his stomach. After a moment, Tom opened his eyes and was surprised to find that the slowly spinning motion wasn‘t bothering him anymore. His panic had receded. In fact, he was perfectly calm.
~ Tuvok? ~ he queried.

~ I am afraid I took liberties ~

~ Don‘t worry about it. Now what? ~
There was a fleeting sense of resignation and maybe a touch of annoyance. ~ We continue to wait ~ was all Tuvok said. Or maybe thought was a better word for it. ~ Okay. So... How ‚bout we continue our chess game? ~ ~ It would be a good way to pass the time ~ Tom closed his eyes again and pictured his mental chessboard. It took a moment before he remembered what their moves had been, then he set the mental chess pieces in place. ~ Your move ~ He felt a surprised approval from Tuvok. Then one of the pieces in his mind shifted. He was a little shocked. He was expecting Tuvok to just tell him what his move was, like before, not change his own imagery. On the other hand, since they were now able to do this mind-to-mind, why not? Going with Tuvok‘s lead, he just moved a piece instead of calling his move.

~ An interesting chess set ~ Tuvok commented, surprising Tom. He hadn‘t expected small-talk from the man. He shrugged, although the field they were caught in muted the move until it was barely more than a twitch. ~ It‘s an antique wooden Spanish set, based on the story of Don Quixote. It sat in my father‘s study for as long as I can remember. I learnt to play chess with it ~ He smiled at the memory. His father wasn‘t the most patient of men, but he‘d spent hours explaining the moves that each piece was able to make to a five-year-old who didn‘t understand why he couldn‘t just move them the way he wanted to. And as the years went by, he taught his son the classic strategies in chess. He claimed it was because a future admiral needed to understand chess as preparation for strategic long-term thinking, but Tom knew that he just enjoyed playing.

Then his father had been captured by the Cardassians. When he‘d returned to Earth, the chess games never resumed. And while Tom understood—intellectually, at least—he still resented the loss of the man who‘d sat across that chess board from him.

~ It is appropriate to grieve, Thomas ~

Tom stiffened. He hadn‘t realized that he was thinking so loud. ~ Sorry ~

~ There is no need to apologize. Under the circumstances, shielding intense thoughts is difficult. I will endeavor to block them, if you would prefer ~

~ Nah, that‘s alright. I‘ll just avoid thinking of anything I don‘t want you to know about ~

That earned him an amused smile; mentally at least. ~ Do not think of an elephant ~

Immediately, the image popped into his mind of a dancing pink pachyderm in a tutu from an old television cartoon. He snorted. ~ Point taken ~

~ Indeed. An interesting elephant, I might add ~

~ Isn‘t it ~

They went back to their chess game.

Tom lost the next game, but the game after that, he won, much to his surprise. Tuvok‘s strategy had almost been an open book as far as he was concerned. ~ Tuvok? ~ There was a mental frown. ~ I shall have to work harder at keeping us separated ~ he said.

~ Well, my stomach is settled. Perhaps you should just break the meld ~

~ A good idea ~
Tom waited. For a moment he could feel their minds separating. Then a searing pain went through him and if he‘d been able to draw a deep enough breath, he would have screamed.

Immediately, the tearing stopped. He panted shallowly as he recovered from the strain. ~ Okay, that wasn‘t a good idea.

What happened? ~

~ I... do not know. I have never had a meld react that way~
~ Maybe it‘s because we‘re still in skin-to-skin contact with each other ~

~ Perhaps ~

~ Okay, so we wait until they take us down. Once we aren‘t touching, the meld should dissolve on its own, right? ~

~ Perhaps ~

Tom frowned. ~ What do you mean, perhaps? ~

There was no response for a moment. ~ Some trace of the meld may remain. It is not unheard off if a meld continues for an extended period of time ~

~ Oh. Okay ~
~ As well, there may be subconscious instincts in play ~ ~ What sort of instincts? ~ Tom asked suspiciously. There was a pause before Tuvok responded. ~ Pon Farr ~ ~ What, now? ~ Tom‘s eyes widened and he stared up into Tuvok‘s face. He didn‘t know much about the physical condition that hit Vulcans every seven years. Even after what happened with Vorik and B‘Elanna, it still required a command level password or the order of the Chief Medical Officer to get anything more than rumor out of the computers. Privacy laws.

Tuvok‘s amusement was clear. ~ No, not now. I would estimate that it will be eight months from now ~ ~ Estimate? ~ Tom teased, relaxing. ~ I would have thought that you‘d have it pinned down to the minute ~ ~ Biological conditions are not so easily timed ~ ~ True. Ask any human female about their cycles ~ ~ I would prefer not to ~ ~ Good idea. So, getting back to the subject... ~ ~ Indeed. As I said, my Pon Farr will occur in approximately eight months. I am uncertain as to how our experiences with various temporal anomalies will affect the timing ~ ~ So, what does that have to do with stubborn melds? ~ ~ It is unlikely that we will return to the Alpha Quadrant in that period of time. As a result, I will not be able to reach my wife. It is not unheard of for a Vulcan in this position to form a bond with an acceptable replacement, sometimes unconsciously ~ ~ Really? This has happened before? When? Whoops, never mind. That was a nosy question ~ Tuvok didn‘t answer, but an image formed briefly in his mind. Ambassador Spock as a young man and Admiral James T Kirk, during his original captaincy on the Enterprise.
~ Oops. You know, there was a lot of speculation about those two ~

~ It was partially correct. Their original bond formed during Ambassador Spock‘s Pon Farr. Afterwards, they severed most of the link. It was not until nearly a decade later that they formalized their bonding ~

~ I wonder why... Never mind, it doesn‘t really matter, does it? ~

~ No ~

~ So back to you. What happens when your Pon Farr comes?~
~ There are several choices. Meditation ~

~ Fat lot of good that did Vorik ~

~ I am older with more experience. He did not know what to expect, therefore could not control the instincts ~

~ Right. Next option? ~

~ Forming a temporary bond with a substitute. It might leave the marriage bond unaffected, although that is uncertain ~

~ Okay ~
~ The last option would be to sever the marriage bond and form a new permanent bonding ~ ~ In other words, divorce your wife and remarry ~ ~ Essentially ~ ~ So what are you planning on doing, if you don‘t mind me asking ~ ~ My intention was to attempt to control it through meditation. If that did not work, the Captain has offered to form a temporary bonding ~ Tom winced. ~ Somehow, I don‘t think that would be a good idea ~ Above him, he could see Tuvok‘s eyebrows go up. ~ How so? ~ ~ Well, you, the Captain and Chakotay have built a stable relationship, so to speak, with each other. However, Chakotay has been courting the Captain for a while, and if you were to... you know, it might bring out the alpha male in him. The two of you butting heads wouldn‘t be good for the ship. Plus, the Captain is your commanding officer. There is a reason why they discourage crew in the same chain of command for becoming involved, and it isn‘t just tradition. It‘s the main reason that she and Chakotay are still dancing after all these years ~ He could feel the surprise from Tuvok. ~ Well thought out. It also matches my thoughts. What would you suggest, then?~

~ Someone unattached that doesn‘t report directly to you. Someone in Science or Engineering, perhaps. Have you considered Seven? She would probably agree ~ Tom felt a flash of unease at the thought.

From Tuvok, he felt distaste at the idea. ~ She is still too emotionally immature. It would not be appropriate ~ It was true. Seven had grown a lot since joining the crew, but it many ways she was still an innocent. ~ Plus Mama Janeway might object to you fooling around with her little girl ~ Again, he could feel amusement from Tuvok. Who ever said that Vulcan‘s didn‘t have a sense of humor? ~ So ~ he finally said. ~ You‘ve obviously been thinking about this for a while, so who do you have in mind? ~ Tuvok fell silent long enough for Tom to notice their surroundings again. The meal had been cleared and the guests were now...

His eyes widened in shock. The party was turning into an orgy, he suddenly realized with a blush. It certainly made an interesting backdrop to their conversation.

~ You ~

~ What? ~ Tom turned his attention back to Tuvok, not quite sure what the man was saying.
~ You inquired as to who I had in mind. You ~

~ Me? ~ If he‘d been speaking out loud, he would have squeaked. Then his eyes narrowed. ~ You know, Tuvok, no matter what anyone says, I have not slept with half the crew. I am not an easy lay ~

~ I did not consider you because of your reputation. I do not consider you to simply be an ‚easy lay.‘ I made a list of crew that is not directly under my command. Then I eliminated anyone who is currently involved in a committed relationship. Then I eliminated anyone I have not spent enough time with to be... comfortable with. Finally, I eliminated anyone I considered likely to react negatively to the suggestion ~

~ And what, I was the only person left? ~
~ No. There were actually seven names left. Then I considered... personal preferences ~ ~ Of the people on the list? ~ Tom asked, wondering who the other six might have been.

~ My own ~
That threw Tom off balance, mentally speaking. ~ Your own personal preferences? ~

~ Correct ~

~ What do you mean? ~
~ We work well together. We have melded before. Our personal hobbies overlap. I consider you a friend. We are compatible. Since your relationship with Lieutenant Torres had ended, it was my intention to approach you in the near future ~ Tom was speechless. While being chosen by process of elimination might sound a little cold, he found himself both embarrassed and pleased by the Vulcan-style compliment.
~ Tuvok? ~

~ Yes, Thomas? ~

~ Did you just proposition me? ~
But before Tuvok could answer, there was a shimmer of light and the room was suddenly full of Voyager security, led by Rambo Janeway, carrying that ridiculously over-sized phaser she was so attached to.

"Nobody move!" she bellowed.

Then her eyes went wide as she took in the scene in front of her. The natives were writhing in groups of two, three and more. In fact, in one corner was a complicated knot that looked to involve six individuals along with some toys that Tom didn‘t want to consider too closely. One thing for sure, none of the parties they‘d been invited to during the negotiations had been like this.

Then she caught sight of Tom and Tuvok in their rotating position and the tough expression disappeared, replaced with the strained expression of someone trying not to laugh. She strode over, checked the controls on the anti- grav device, then just blasted it.

Instantly, the field was gone and they dropped four feet to the table surface. Tom hit first, then Tuvok landed on him, driving all the air out of his lungs.

He lay there gasping, trying to re-inflate his lungs. After a moment, Tuvok shifted off of him. ~ My apologies ~ ~ No problem ~ he replied automatically. Then he realized that they were still linked, even though they weren‘t touching anymore. The intensity had faded, though. Oh well, it was better than the earlier pain when Tuvok had tried to separate them.

He opened his mouth to say something, but the Captain beat him to it. "Ready to leave, gentlemen?" "Leaving is good," Tom managed to say.

A moment later, the transporter effect surrounded them, whisking them home.


"So anyway, we arrived at the rendezvous point and you weren‘t in scanning distance. I had a hunch, so we came straight here, instead of conducting a search along the way. When we arrived, we found the Flyer still in its landing spot and the local government in a panic over your disappearance. After that, it was just a matter of scanning for your communicator signals." "But we weren‘t wearing them," Tom pointed out, confused. He felt a lot better now that he‘d washed off the glitter and oil and put on a proper uniform. He had a feeling that he wasn‘t going to be able to live this one down. Of course, if the tale of him in gold got around, at least Tuvok would be sharing the same sort of... exposure. "No, but the procurers hadn‘t disposed of them. The signals led us to their headquarters—and the government was very pleased to have the chance to break up that criminal outfit, I might add. The slavers were... convinced to tell us who they sold you to and where to find that buyer. We were a little worried about what might have happened to you. We weren‘t exactly expecting...." She trailed off, chewing on her lip to keep from laughing.

"Yeah, well if they had plans for us, they hadn‘t gotten to them yet." The Captain quickly sobered up. "Apparently that was supposed to be the grand finale to the party." "Oh." Tom glanced over at Tuvok, but the man had his stone face on. Tom wasn‘t exactly sure what that ‚grand finale‘ would have involved, but he figured that he was better off not knowing. "Well, I‘m glad that you didn‘t take the scenic route." The smile was back. "My pleasure, Mr. Paris. Now, I suggest that the two of you go get some sleep. We‘ll be breaking orbit as soon as the supplies you bargained for are loaded. In fact, the government is throwing in some extras in apology." "If you will pardon me, Captain," Tuvok broke in. "I should debrief the security team first." "Surely the evaluation can wait until tomorrow." He shook his head. "It is better done while the information is fresh in their minds." "Well, if you insist. I‘ll see the two of you later." As they left the ready room, Tom glanced over at Tuvok, but the man was already heading off at a determined pace. Tom wanted to continue their conversation from earlier, but it looked like that wasn‘t going to happen. At least, not yet. Later, then.


Tom sighed and settled back on the sofa in his quarters. He‘d had a large meal with all his favorite foods, deciding to splurge some replicator credits. He‘d only had one meal in the last twenty-four hours, and he‘d been too nervous to eat much. Now he was pleasantly relaxed and half-asleep. The door signal pinged and he ignored it, just like he‘d ignored it the last three times. He wasn‘t interested in conversation at the moment, especially not with anyone amused by the stories of what had happened which were no doubt all over the ship by now. He‘d see Harry and B‘Elanna and the others tomorrow.
~ Thomas ~ It was faint, but the link was still there.

Tom sat up. ~ Yes? ~

~ May I come in? We should talk ~
~ Sure ~ He turned off the privacy locks, allowing the door to open for the man. Once Tuvok was inside, he reactivated the locks.

"So," he said, fidgeting a little under the dark-eyed stare.

"I hope that my words earlier did not upset you." "We were linked. You know very well that they didn‘t." Far from it, in fact. He had the disturbing thought that if it hadn‘t been for the combination of the field they‘d been trapped in and Tuvok‘s soothing his body, the Captain would have found them not only wrapped around each other, but Tom would have been sporting a woody as well.


They stood in silence for a while until Tom was wondering if something was wrong. "And?" he prompted.

"Yes, what?"

"I am propositioning you."

Tom leaned back against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest. "For what?"

"Are you looking for just a one-night stand? Or something a little more long term?" Tuvok‘s expression didn‘t change, but Tom could feel the uncertainty through their link.

"I do not know," Tuvok finally admitted.

"Well, at least that‘s honest," Tom said, staring at the floor while he thought. The carpeting was a little shabby after the years, he noticed idly.

"All right," he said after thinking it through. "Let‘s start with this. I will help you through the Pon Farr. After that, we‘ll see if we‘re both interested in continuing in a proper relationship. Sound good?" "Very sensible." "So, now what happens? We go our separate ways until then? By the way, you can sit down if you like."

"Thank you," Tuvok said, taking a seat on the sofa. Tom moved over to sit at the opposite end.

"Pon Farr is caused by the release of a hormone that causes Vulcans to become fertile," Tuvok explained, dropping into a lecture mode. "This hormone builds up in the system until it is released. This is done most effectively by mating." "Or fighting," Tom said, remembering Vorik. "But how would meditation work?" "Meditation channels the violent urges into other pathways.
It is most effective when the person recognizes the earliest signs and begins immediately."

"And since it was Vorik‘s first time, by the time anyone realized what was happening, it was too late."


Tom nodded. "So what happens? When you start feeling the urges, you come see me?"

Tuvok hesitated again. In fact, he seemed almost embarrassed. "There is another alternative."


"The type of Pon Farr that involves violence is one in which the hormones build to high levels. During a Vulcan‘s first Pon Farr, this is allowed to happen. The marriage is then consummated at the height of the cycle. It is considered a test of the bonding."

"In other words, if they survive that, they can survive anything?"

"Essentially. After the first time, however, the hormones are not allowed to build to those levels."

Tom thought about it for a moment. "So, you can start bleeding off the hormone early, before it starts to cause violent behavior. Like starting the meditation at the earliest stages."


"And this is usually done through sex."


"And at what point does that start?"
There was a flash of embarrassment through the link again. If it weren‘t for Tuvok‘s dark complexion, he‘d probably be blushing bright green by that point. "Approximately one year before the Pon Farr." Tom stared at him. "It‘s already started?" Tuvok nodded.

"You haven‘t acted..."

"The hormone release is very low at them moment. It will be several months before it builds to significant levels." "But it‘s better to start bleeding it off now." "Correct." "Boy, Chakotay would have really loved it if you taken the Captain up on her offer," Tom muttered to himself. Then he grinned.

Then he got to his feet and held out a hand to Tuvok. "Well, in that case, how about we give it a test drive?" Tuvok raised one eyebrow. "A test drive?" "Right," Tom said, his grin getting broader by the moment. "Let‘s see just how compatible we are. And if it doesn‘t work out, we‘ll look at the alternatives." Tuvok stood up. "Mr. Paris, are you propositioning me?" he asked, echoing Tom‘s comment on the planet below. "It seems the appropriate thing to do," Tom said wickedly.


The next thing that Tom knew, he was pressed up against Tuvok again, a hard thigh pressed against his rapidly swelling groin, only this time there was no director picking the position. Tom groaned, only to have the sound swallowed by a mouth claiming his.

~ A test drive would be most appropriate ~

As Tuvok maneuvered him towards the bedroom, Tom thought to himself that compatibility in bed was not going to be a problem if that kiss was any indication.

Then he abandoned thought altogether.