by torch 1997
flambeau@strangeplaces.net

Disclaimer: This is a non-profit piece of fan fiction. Paramount owns the characters. The story itself is mine, which should come as no surprise to anyone considering the contents. :-) This is a sequel to The wilder shores of love and The art of conversation. Dedicated to Susie for her valiant acts of beta reading. Do not archive this story without permission.

The name of the game

Harry woke up. He returned slowly to consciousness, gradually becoming aware of comforts and discomforts, the small details that made up the present. The wonderful warmth that enveloped him, the sensation of smooth skin against his own. His arm was asleep. Tom was lying on it. And that made everything all right, so Harry cheerfully abandoned the land of dreams for another morning aboard Voyager — a morning quite unlike any other he had experienced so far. He slowly started to ease his arm out from underneath Tom's neck, and saw Tom's eyelids flutter, and start to lift, and close again.

"Good morning," Harry said, amused. Tom made a noise, turned over and buried his face in the pillow. Harry resisted the temptation to start kissing the back of Tom's neck and just lay where he was, savoring the moment. He felt good about this, Tom's warm solid presence right next to him, the memory of what they'd done last night.

It had certainly been interesting. Harry snuggled his cheek down against Tom's shoulder, and made a lazy, contented review of what had happened. He had wanted Tom to trust him, had wanted to make Tom feel good. He was pretty sure he'd succeeded. And it had been the most amazing experience. God, yes. The memory of what Tom had looked like with his eyes closed and his clothes undone, giving himself over to pleasure, was thrilling. But even more thrilling was the feeling of complete and utter love and tenderness that had swept through Harry on seeing that. He felt awed by the trust Tom had shown him.

His pillow shifted and made another noise; after a couple of tries, the noise turned into, "What time is it?"

"I don't know," Harry said. "Ask the computer." He smiled as Tom, still sounding like one of the Swarm aliens on a scrambled broadcast, did ask the computer and muttered something incoherent as he got the answer. "See, no rush. It's still two hours till we're due on the bridge."

Tom groaned. "Yeah, and I'm awake and I want to be asl—"

Then he slowly lifted his head and looked at Harry. There was a look in his eyes that Harry couldn't quite identify. After a few moments he had to ask. "Tom, what is it?"

A strange little smile hovered on Tom's lips for a moment, then disappeared. "I can't remember the last time I spent a whole night with someone." He blinked slowly and when he opened his eyes again it seemed his shields had gone up a notch or two. "I didn't dream up all that stuff that happened last night, did I?"

"No." Harry noticed with alarm that now that Tom was waking up properly, he seemed to want to put some kind of distance between them again. But their legs were still tangled up and as Harry shifted a little there was the reassuring caress of naked flesh touching naked flesh. "Are you regretting it?"

"No," Tom said quickly, casually, but then he started to blush. That was quite a sight; Harry was fascinated by how easily Tom's complexion changed color and how clearly it indicated his moods. "Not regretting, exactly. It just feels a bit strange, when I think back, you know?"

Harry put his hand on Tom's back, between his shoulder blades. He stroked it upwards slowly, towards Tom's neck. Still pretty relaxed. And he felt so good to touch. "Hmm. But there's nothing strange about it. You enjoyed it and I enjoyed it, and I think that's all that matters."

Tom gave him one of those narrow-eyed, skeptical, I'm-more-street-wise-than-you-are looks. Harry looked back and after a moment Tom's face relaxed into a softer insecurity. "I'm wondering where you want this to go, Harry, what you're getting out of it. What you want."

"Well, right now I want to kiss you," Harry said and felt a delight so strong it almost made him laugh when he saw the expression of surprise on Tom's face. He moved closer and brushed his lips against Tom's, and found himself being kissed back, hesitantly at first and then with the same enthusiasm and skill Tom had displayed on Zerdea. When they finally broke the kiss, they were pressed close together, arms around each other. That was a lot better. "I want us to have fun together, Tom," Harry said against Tom's lips. "Any way that seems good."

"You mean this is, like, a game to you?"

Harry tried really hard to read the way Tom's voice sounded, but he couldn't. He didn't know what kind of answer would reassure Tom, but decided the truth wuld just have to do. "Depends on how you look at it. Being with you is something that's really important to me. What we do together doesn't matter so much as long as we both enjoy it. And I really enjoyed what we did last night."

"I did, too," Tom said, and Harry was surprised by how much it meant to him to hear that admission. After all, he knew that Tom had enjoyed it. But hearing him say it felt important somehow. "I have to tell you, Harry, you sure have a way with words."

"Thank you," Harry said solemnly, and winked. Tom was smiling at him. Then they kissed again. Through the warm haze of happiness, Harry grew aware that he was getting seriously turned on. He'd woken up so many lonely mornings dreaming about this. He wondered if Tom ever had. "Did you ever think this might happen?" he broke the kiss to ask.

Tom shook his head."Nope." Then he smiled again. "Well, not before Zerdea." Harry smiled, too, and they went back to kissing. A few moments later Tom added, in a muffled voice, "Harry, about last night." Harry made an interrogative noise. "I have to think about that for a while, before, I mean, if we're going to do anything else."

"Mmmmm." Harry reluctantly lifted his mouth from Tom's neck. Oops, he'd left a mark. The high collar was probably going to cover it, though. Probably. "In that case we'd better stop this right now," he said and tried not to sound too disappointed.

But he found that Tom was pulling him in close again. "This isn't what I have to think about," Tom said, shifting his hips so that their erections met. Harry drew his breath in sharply. "Unless this is too vanilla for you."

"I'll take you any way I can get you," Harry said and claimed Tom's lips with his own, and they gave up talking and started to move together rhythmically, bodies pressed against each other. It was nice and lazy, a slow pleasure that seemed to rise out of them as simply and naturally as tides shifting. And when it erupted into its inevitable messy conclusion, they went on kissing, moaning into each other's mouths.

"I'm feeling a lot more awake now," Tom finally said with a grin, and wriggled down and started to lick Harry clean. That was very enjoyable, too, and eventually Harry wound a hand into Tom's hair and tugged his head away.

"Shower," he suggested. "We just don't have the time for another round."

"Too bad," Tom said, looking completely unrepentant. But he did fling the covers back and crawl out of bed. Harry shivered as the cooler air hit his skin, and followed. In the bathroom Tom was looking at himself in the mirror, one finger tracing the mark Harry had left on his neck. He looked a little disturbed, but when he noticed Harry watching, he smiled again and went to turn on the water.

They argued cheerfully about what constituted the optimal shower temperature, and then Tom dried himself quickly and jumped into his clothes. "See you at breakfast in fifteen minutes?"

"Sure." Harry put the towels away as Tom left. He put on his uniform, made the bed and combed his hair, all without paying any real attention to what he was doing. All he could think about was Tom; he was still slightly drunk on the memory of the past twelve hours. When he discovered he'd done nothing but stare at himself in the mirror for five minutes, he put the comb down and went off to have breakfast.

Tom hadn't made it to the mess hall yet. Harry made the best selection he could from what Neelix had to offer, and took a seat next to Samantha Wildman. "Hey, Sam."

She looked at him, and pointedly raised an eyebrow. "What do I have to do to get people to call me Wildman?" she asked plaintively.

"You could try looking like one," Harry offered. Wildman was wearing her hair in a pretty French twist today, and he wondered if she could talk the captain into trying that, too. "How's the fruit salad?"

"Interesting," she said and Harry took a mouthful, only to hear her continue, "My stomach feels like an acid swamp." Harry sighed, swallowed, and felt his insides start to react in pretty much the same way. "Harry, do you think you could babysit the little terror tonight?"

"Um, I suppose so," he said, put the overly exotic fruit salad aside and broke a piece of bread. "What's up, you have a big date?"

Wildman wrinkled her brows at him in a thoroughly charming way. "Harry, I'm a respectable married woman." Then she smiled. "I'm going mountain climbing on Bethuan Five. With Nicoletti."

"Hey Sammy, you look lovely today." Tom plunked his tray down and took the chair next to Harry's. "Wild holodeck adventures, huh? Need a babysitter?"

"I already conscripted one," she said and nodded at Harry, "but I guess you can help him if you want to. No giving her sweets, though," Wildman looked sternly at both of them. "No spoiling her rotten, no feeding her too much, no tickling her till she throws up—"

"A minor mistake," Tom said. "Trust me, Sammy, I am not doing that again."

Wildman laughed. "I guess you're not, at that." She got to her feet and picked her plate up. "See you on the bridge," she said and walked off. Harry looked after her with an affectionate smile. He was, he found, feeling extremely fond of just about everyone today. When he turned his head and looked at Tom again, the warm feelings of general affection transmuted into a fiery rush of pure love.

"So we have a date tonight?" Harry said with a small smile.

"A really hot date," Tom agreed. "I bring the rattle and the teddy bear, you bring the clean diapers." He gave Harry a thoughtful look. "Maybe once she's asleep we can have a bit of a talk." Tom dug his spoon into his fruit salad, then paused. "Harry, mind if we keep this private for a while?"

"Babysitting?" Harry knew he wasn't being very helpful, but he wanted to know what word Tom would use.

"This, whatever the hell it is. Us. The things we do together." Tom gave him a level look. "And I don't mean babysitting."

"Okay," Harry agreed. "Don't eat that," he added, nodding at the fruit salad. "It's disgusting."

"Yeah, but I need something else for breakfast besides your—" Tom broke off as Tuvok walked past right behind him. Harry grinned, tore his bread in two pieces and offered one to Tom, and they took off for the morning conference.

Harry was in a good mood all day. Not even a malfunctioning sensor got more than a mild frown out of him. All he had to do to cheer himself up was to remember that he and Tom had slept in each other's arms all night; then he had to stop himself from letting his blithe smile show too much.

As he ran another diagnostic on the sensors, he thought about Tom's statement that morning, that Tom could not remember the last time he'd spent the whole night with someone. Harry had made up his mind that Tom was never going to be able to say that again. He looked up briefly and rested his eyes on the back of Tom's head. This could work, he thought. This really could work.

And that was an exhilarating thought. Exhilarating and at the same time reassuring, because Harry could feel himself falling more deeply in love with every passing minute.

He localized the problem, and B'Elanna got to work on it. Things were quiet on the bridge for the rest of the day; Harry and Tom did not get off for lunch at the same time, so Harry shared that meal with B'Elanna, who had reluctantly left Carey and Nicoletti in charge of repairs.

"You want to go shoot some pool tonight?" she asked.

Harry shook his head. "I'm babysitting." He smiled. "I'll probably have to play every lullaby I know."

"Well, rather you than me," B'Elanna said frankly. "If you change your mind, just drop by Sandrine's." Harry nodded non-committally; he had no intention of going past Sandrine's that night. He wanted to be with Tom. Talk to Tom. Maybe just hold him.

Maybe...

Going back to the bridge, Harry thought of a lot of other things he'd like to do, too. He had been taken by surprise last night by his own suggestion: by how Tom had reacted, and by how he himself had reacted. It had been an incredible turn-on to make love to Tom that way. Or whatever one wanted to call it. This morning hadn't been bad, either. Oops, there was that smile again, just as he stepped out of the turbo lift.

The captain got it full in the face, and blinked slightly. As Harry walked to his console, he heard her remark dryly to Chakotay, "Neelix's cooking must have improved immensely today. Maybe I've been wasting my replicator rations."

Repairs proceeded at a steady pace, and by the time Harry's shift was over, all the sensors were back online and functioning perfectly. Despite the smugness in B'Elanna's voice when his diagnostics confirmed everything was all right, he congratulated her. It was a good job quickly done; she was entitled to be pleased with herself.

When he left the bridge he made straight for his quarters and changed his clothes. It felt good to get out of the uniform. Harry paused in the middle of buttoning his shirt, and raised an eyebrow at his own thought. At first he had been so thrilled at finally getting to wear that coveted uniform, he'd almost forgotten civvies existed. These days he tried to draw a clearer line between work and play. Being isolated like this, and so dependent on their ship, meant that a lot of the crew had lost their 'off' setting. They were always on duty. Voyager always came first.

Voyager always would come first. Harry knew that. But he didn't want to be so immersed in his role as officer that he forgot to be Harry Kim from time to time. His comm badge beeped. "Go ahead."

"Harry, Sue and I got an extra hour and a half because Geron decided to play in the Security poker game instead," Wildman said. "I know it's short notice but do you think you could come here now? Dinner's on me, and I'm sure my replicator rations will stretch to Tom as well if he's coming along."

"I'll be right there," Harry said, picking up his clarinet and heading for the door. When he was halfway to the turbo lift he met Tom going the other way, and smiled. "Hey. Sam got some extra time on the holodeck, I'm heading down to her quarters now. She's offering dinner, if you want to come along."

Tom turned around instantly and fell into step beside him. "You said the magic word, Harry Kim."

"That word in your case being dinner, not please. I'm going to have to remember that." They got into the turbo lift. Harry glanced sideways at Tom, to find that Tom was sneaking a sideways glance at him. He grinned. "It's going to sound funny in certain contexts, though."

Tom opened his mouth to say something, then shut it again and blushed faintly. Harry was still fighting an intense desire to caress Tom's face when the lift doors opened again. They had both been to Wildman's quarters before. Nearly everyone aboard Voyager had taken a spell at babysitting, at first to help Wildman out, and then because Washington was just so incredibly cute. Harry wondered what it was going to be like as more babies were born to the crew. It was going to happen, he felt sure of that. Not quite yet, but in a year or two.

Then he felt a small shock at his own thought. Don't I believe we're going to get back, then? He had already started to let go of things, to accept the distance between the life he led here and the life he had had back in the Alpha quadrant. To accept that the things that happened here were more than makeshift solutions; what he was building aboard this ship would have to last. He looked at Tom. You're going to be part of it, he thought.

Wildman met them at the door with a friendly smile. "Well, between the two of you you should be able to keep up with her," she said.

Harry nodded. "Don't fall and break anything on Bethuan Five," he teased. "You're keeping the doctor working overtime." Wildman and Nicoletti had taken up mountain climbing together not too long ago, and so far it had resulted in two broken fingers and one sprained ankle, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves hugely nonetheless.

"Yeah, take care, Sammy," Tom chimed in, kissing her cheek with unselfconscious affection. "Without you on the bridge, a few other people might actually have to work."

She smiled at them both. "I've programmed the replicator to charge all requests to my account. Have a nice dinner. Oh, there are clean diapers and baby powder next to her bed."

"We've been here before, remember?" Harry said, put a hand on her arm and gave her a gentle push. "Get going before Sue comes looking for you." Wildman set off towards the turbo lift and they walked into her rooms. There were clear signs of a child's presence: toys scattered here and there, a teddy bear lying face down, half underneath the couch. Tom took three steps and slipped on a toy animal on wheels.

"And to think I turned down a beautiful woman for this."

"You did?" Harry said. Tom had spoken in his usual flippant tone, with no sign of real regret. Now he was picking the toy up to see whether it was broken.

"B'Elanna asked me to play pool and I told her I was babysitting. I've never seen her laugh so much," Tom said crossly, turning the wheels this way and that.

"Maybe because I told her the exact same thing at lunch," Harry said.

"Oh." Tom looked at Harry, then down at the toy for a moment, then back at Harry again. "I guess she thinks she's figured something out, then."

"Well, she has figured something out," Harry said reasonably. "I mean, here we are." He looked at Tom, and could not stop that absolutely irresistible tenderness rising within him again, that strange melting feeling. "Let's go play with the baby."

Washington Wildman bounced up and down in her crib as they entered the bedroom, and squealed with delight as Harry picked her up. That joyous welcome warmed him. Every time he picked her up and held her, Harry was reminded of the first time he'd done that, carrying her as a newborn out of one reality and into another. He wondered if Wildman would ever decide to tell her daughter about that.

In any case, it made Harry feel close to Washington, though he would have liked her anyway. She was incredibly sweet-tempered; he'd never been around a child who cried less, or laughed more. Although she was half Katarian, she was growing at about the same rate as a fully-human child, and was just learning to walk. When Harry put her down on the floor, she proceeded to demonstrate.

She crawled across the carpet, laughing, to sit down on Tom's foot, then used his leg to pull herself upright. Harry had to smile at the way Tom stood there and kept giving her encouragement in a steady stream of words that didn't falter even when she fell against his calf over and over and the spikes on her forehead dug in through the uniform. Harry, who knew from experience how sharp those spikes were, was touched by Tom's endurance and patience. "You like kids,don't you," he said.

Tom gave him a brief look, and shrugged. Then he glanced down at Washington and his face softened. "Yeah," he said. "I don't mind them too much."

That made Harry smile even more. "Mind? She's got you wrapped around her finger."

Tom wasn't smiling, he still looked thoughtful. "It's a shame she doesn't have her father," he said, "but she has a whole ship full of people who love her and play with her and care for her. There's always going to be someone there for her."

Harry waited, but Tom wasn't saying anything else, just looking down at Washington, who had managed to pull herself upright yet again and was smiling hugely at her own success. Tom took her hands and coaxed her to take one step, and then another step, before her knees folded and she sat down; then he sat down next to her, telling her what a clever girl she was. She seemed to agree.

Leaving Tom to play with the kid, Harry went to get the teddy bear and checked the feeding instructions Wildman had left on a padd. It seemed simple enough; he got the right things replicated, and fed Washington as she sat on Tom's knee. Not for the first time, Harry wondered what Tom's childhood had been like. Tom kept talking to Washington — not baby talk, nothing silly, just a steady stream of gentle words, of praise.

"Do you have any younger sisters or brothers?" Harry asked finally.

Tom shook his head, wiping a trail of mashed banana from Washington's chin. "No. There's just me. Hey, sweetheart, no biting the hand that feeds you, now."

Harry nodded. "Just wondered. You seem pretty good at this."

That earned him a quick blue glance before Tom returned his attention to Washington again. "It's pretty simple," Tom said. "I know exactly what not to do. Is there any grain mush left?"

After she'd eaten, Washington quieted down and started nodding off where she sat. They put her to bed and dimmed the lights, and Harry played a few soft lullabies for her; then they sat in silence and waited by the side of the cot as she dozed off. Once Washington was asleep, Tom turned the lights down even more, and they returned to the other room. There was still plenty of time before Wildman was going to be back.

Tom sat down on the floor and leaned against the couch, tipping his head back in mock exhaustion. Harry hesitated for a moment. Then he lay down on the couch, on his stomach, and reached out and stroked Tom's hair. "Tired?"

"Worn out," Tom said. "She may be small, but she's very persistent." He turned his head and their eyes met. "Harry, I've been thinking."

"Yeah?" Harry encouraged. The look in Tom's eyes was making him a bit nervous. Tom couldn't be backing out again, changing his mind again. Harry wanted to kiss him until all the doubt had vanished from his face. Instead, he waited.

"I'm not sure about this. I'm not sure I'm ready for this." Tom closed his eyes and leaned his head back into the palm of Harry's hand. "I don't want to be pushed into anything."

"Is that how you feel?" Harry asked softly. "Like you're being pushed?"

Tom shook his head. "No. I feel like I'm falling. And that bothers the hell out of me."

"Because it scares you to be out of control."

"Yes!" Tom snapped. "Yes, it damn well does. It scares the hell out of me to realize that I can give myself up to someone like that, so completely. More than before. Back then, back when... before, it was just my body, and my mind went away, and that was the whole point. But I can't separate it like that, with you. I'm there, when it happens, and..." Abruptly he rose up on his knees and twisted around, leaning his elbows on the couch and staring intently at Harry. "What do you want out of this? What do you want from me, Harry?"

Harry looked back, meeting that look with a quiet determination of his own. "I don't want anything from you," he said. "I want you. I want to make you happy. I want to love you so much you're drunk on it. I want us to make love at night and wake up together in the morning. I want to kiss you and see you smile at me, I want us to hold hands in cheesy holodeck programs. That's what I want."

Tom sat back on his heels and stared at Harry, looking mildly shocked. "But—" He shook his head and restarted the sentence. "But you want to play games with me. You want me to," his lashes dipped and rose again, "to submit to you. Like last night."

"When you want to," Harry said. "Because you enjoy it. Because it's what you want sometimes. One thing you want." Then he made himself go on, "But Tom, it's okay. If you don't want this, if you don't want me, just say so. It's your choice."

Tom looked oddly disconcerted. His lips pressed together and parted again, and he seemed on the verge of saying something, several times. Finally he got to his feet. "I have to think about this some more," he said. "I have to — oh, hell." He turned around, and before Harry could say anything to stop him, walked out.

Harry slowly pushed himself up into a sitting position on the couch. He wondered what was going on. Tom seemed to make everything so complicated. Then Harry shook his head. For Tom, it was complicated. He'd have to accept that. Tom was struggling with something, and all Harry could tell him was the truth. He didn't know what it would take to make Tom feel comfortable, but he sure as hell hoped that Tom would figure it out.

He replicated himself some food, and ate it sitting there on the couch, trying not to think about Tom and what Tom might decide. It wasn't going very well and when Wildman came back from the holodeck, she took one look at him and the smile slid off her face. "Harry, what's wrong?"

"Hopefully nothing," he told her. "Washington's asleep, she ate everything she was supposed to for dinner and we didn't tickle her."

Wildman nodded. "Where's Tom?"

"He had to go." Harry got to his feet, walked over and relieved Wildman of some of the equipment she was carrying. "Nothing broken?"

"No." She gripped his chin in one small, strong hand and looked into his eyes. "Harry, something is wrong. Did you and Tom have a fight?"

"No, Sammy, we didn't. Hey," Harry smiled, "we're nice boys, we wouldn't fight in front of your baby." Wildman gave him a look that said she wasn't entirely convinced of that. "Honestly. We just talked about something."

"Okay." With a shrug, she released him. "I hope you had a good dinner, anyway."

When Harry walked away from Wildman's quarters he was feeling a lot better. She'd made him stay for tea and cake, and told him every detail of the climb, including all the funny stories that Nicoletti had told about her Maquis days. Harry had started out by smiling in the appropriate places and ended up laughing outright. The remains of that laughter still warmed him from within as he went back to his own quarters.

It wasn't really all that late, but he decided he might as well go to bed. There wasn't anything else he wanted to do: he couldn't raise any enthusiasm for reading, or playing a game, or practising his music. In fact, he realized, he'd left his clarinet in Wildman's living room. Harry sighed at this unexpected absentmindedness and shrugged out of his clothes. He took a shower before going to bed, and regretted it when he curled up between the sheets and the scent of soap overpowered any lingering trace of Tom's presence there the night before.

Harry rolled over on his back, and thought about Zerdea. Just your average M-class planet, with friendly inhabitants and a pleasant climate. What had Tom wanted out of that shore leave? Harry knew damn well that Tom's plans hadn't included what had happened. But, Harry acknowledged with a tiny shrug, it would have happened sooner or later. It hadn't been the romantic moonlight or the warm tropical night that had pushed Harry to confront Tom with how he felt. If it hadn't happened on Zerdea, it would have happened somewhere else.

But he still didn't know how Tom felt about him. That Tom would cheerfully have sex with him, yes, he knew that. That Tom trusted him enough to let Harry give him something he secretly craved, yes, that too. Sometimes, Harry added with a wry smile. Perhaps that was all. Trust and attraction. A nice combination, Harry thought. Too bad he wanted more.

He didn't know if he had truly fallen asleep or just drifted for a while, alone with his thoughts. It was a soft sound that brought him back to wakefulness, the sound of a door closing. Footsteps, a rustle of cloth in the darkness. And then hands tugged at the covers and a warm body slid into bed next to him.

"Mmm," Harry said, wrapping an arm around Tom's waist, burrowing in close to press his face against Tom's neck. "Hi." Tom held him tight and they lay like that for a few minutes, slowly relaxing into each other's presence. Harry felt his heart skip a beat from sheer happiness. Tom felt so good.

Warm breath against his ear and a softly whispered question, "Do you want to sleep? Or..."

"Or," Harry said. "Definitely 'or'." The mouth at his ear started to nibble, and he sighed. He didn't know why this was happening, but Tom was here, naked in his bed, in his arms, sucking at his ear lobe, and Harry decided questions could wait until quite a bit later. He stroked Tom's back, the lovely curves of his ass, his thighs. Tom was licking his throat now, and Harry tilted his head back and shivered pleasurably.

Then Tom's mouth moved lower and started in on his nipples. Oh yes. Harry scratched his nails slowly down Tom's spine, arching his back, feeling the heat. When teeth grazed him he hissed and sighed, and pulled Tom's head up, and kissed him. "Did I hurt you?" Tom asked into his mouth; Harry just shook his head. He teased Tom's nipples with his fingertips and then with his nails, getting his revenge as Tom moaned and Harry felt wetness where Tom's erection pressed into his stomach.

Tom shifted again, letting his mouth trace a path down Harry's body, butterfly kisses and teasing tongue flicks, until he reached his goal and slowly sucked Harry's cock into his mouth. The blinding rush that went through Harry's mind drowned out every thought except the dizzy reflection that it was nice to have a lover with an oral fixation.

God, but he was good at this. Harry almost whimpered when Tom let him go again and he found himself being turned over and bitten, quite gently, while Tom's hands pushed his legs apart and spread his ass cheeks. "Oh, yes," Harry whispered, his breath catching as Tom's mouth descended on him again. "Oh, that feels so good."

He abandoned himself to sensation, as the heat and tension grew and grew. Harry wasn't sure when fingers had joined lips and tongue but after a while he became aware of the added pressure, pleasure, and reached out blindly to dig out the lubricant from the drawer in the bedside table. The tube was taken out of his hand, and moments later he drew his breath in as fingertips slippery with cool gel teased his hot, sensitive skin. Slid inside.

Harry arched up, breathing hard, pushing against the fingers that thrust deeper into his ass. He'd wondered — his mind zoned out for a moment and he moaned as that insistent caress rubbed across his prostate — oh, right, he'd wondered how Tom felt about taking the initiative, and how Tom would feel about being on top. Now the only thing he wondered was how long it would be before—

The fingers withdrew and Harry only had time for a brief thank god as Tom shifted, and then, ohhh, the blunt pressure of Toms' cock, the brief discomfort and then the long heated rush of pleasure. Tom was lying down on top of him, covering him with warmth all along his body, and then Tom shifted and pressed in deeper and the heat flared.

"Harry," Tom said softly. "Harry." The blood was pounding in his ears. He pressed up against Tom; he wanted it, dear sweet god, how he wanted it, and at the same time he wanted them to stay like this forever, so close, and with Tom's voice sounding so tender.

"Yes," he panted. "Yes, Tom." And Tom's hips shifted, and Harry spread his legs wider as Tom withdrew and then thrust back in, once, twice, again, oh God. They found a rhythm, a nice steady pace that had Harry whimpering, and Tom's breath coming faster and faster against his neck. He wasn't going to last long, all it would take was, was, yes, oh, like that, please, now... "Tom!"

And Harry felt, through the shudders that gripped him, Tom's body gathering itself together and then the explosion and the clear cry of joy and delight.

Eventually there was a peaceful silence, and a room around them again, and time resumed its ordinary pace. Harry made the slightest motion, and Tom immediately moved, withdrawing, sliding down to one side. Moving had made Harry aware that he was lying in a very wet spot and he nudged at Tom, snuggling in close, until they were both comfortable.

"Can I stay here tonight?" Tom asked.

Harry paused with his lips pressed against Tom's throat. He thought for a few moments, then said, "I think we have to get a couple of things straight first, Tom." At those words Tom started to withdraw but Harry kept hold of him, wouldn't let him go. "You asked me what I wanted before," he went on, letting his lips brush Tom's skin as he spoke. "And I told you. But Tom, what do you want?" Tom was silent. "A quick fix, a quick fuck? Someone you can go to bed with when it pleases you?"

Maybe his voice had grown sharper than he'd intended, because now Tom was tense again. "I thought you wanted this. You sure didn't hesitate." Tom swallowed. "Hey, you were the one who started this, Harry. Now you're saying you don't want to have sex with me?"

"No, that's not what I'm saying." Harry loosened his grip, letting Tom decide for himself whether to stay close or roll away. "What I'm saying is..." He smiled. "That you're the only person I want to have sex with. But I don't want us to sneak around each other's quarters in the middle of the night, pretending nothing is going on. I'm in love with you, Tom."

This silence was very different from the one before. Finally Tom said, in a small voice, "Oh. Yes." Harry waited, patience and nerves alike telling him to shut up and see what would happen. Tom drew breath to speak again. "I know that's pretty much what you said, before. It's just that, well." Although it was dark, Harry could picture the look on Tom's face very clearly, that oh-it's-not-important look that meant something had touched the depths in him. "That's never been part of it before."

"Part of what?" Harry asked softly.

Tom lay back, but stayed close, resting his head on Harry's arm. "When I was younger, I used to think I was in love at least once a week. Took me years to realize it was hormones, not the real thing, that funny feeling I got whenever a nice set of curves walked past. Took me years to realize what a kick it is for some people to sleep with an admiral's son, too."

"Well, I don't give a damn whose son you are," Harry pointed out, feeling his heart twist at what Tom was saying. Had Tom gone on ever since then believing that all the 'funny feelings' had to be hormones and not love?

That made Tom chuckle. "Didn't think you did. That wasn't what I mean to talk about really. But this stuff, like last night, that whole weird game..."

"That was never about love?" Harry asked when Tom's voice trailed off. He took a deep breath. "Tom, it's the other way around for me. I would never do something like that with someone I didn't love. It's because I love you that I want to..."

"Want to what?" Tom whispered. "Possess me? Make me submit to you?"

"No. No," Harry shook his head. "I told you, I want to give you pleasure, I want to make you feel good. I want you to." This wasn't going to go over well but he said it anyway. "To stop feeling guilty for wanting it."

"Oh, fuck," Tom said. He sat up, and Harry didn't try to stop him. "Harry, if you're feeling sorry for me, if you're going to be all nice to me and mend my broken wing—"

"Feeling sorry for you?" Harry wrenched himself up too, leaning forward on one arm. "Goddamnit, Tom, you make my heart beat faster and my breath catch. I can't think of anyone else but you. I love you. If anyone's a charity case here it's me. I mean, for all I know you're here fucking me because your hormones are acting up and you knew I wouldn't say no." Tom started to say something, but Harry went on, "Tell me, now. Tom. What do you want?"

Tom was silent for a long tense moment. Then he let himself fall back, the way he'd fallen back into the water on Zerdea. Harry waited. Now that the sudden flare of anger had passed, his muscles were turning to water, but he didn't want to lie down just yet.

"I never thought I was in love with Megan," Tom said unexpectedly. "And I always knew that I would never in a million years get to sleep with Kes." Harry opened his mouth to ask what on earth Tom was talking about, then shut it again as he started to get a glimmer of understanding. "I meant what I said on the beach, that we could expand on the concept of friendship. Friendship and sex, that's a cool combination, you know? Fuck buddies. Perfectly normal."

"Perfectly," Harry said dryly. "And then you changed your mind?"

"Well, it was you," Tom said. "And it was that. What I wanted. I couldn't want that with you. But I did. I do. I just want everything else as well and it's confusing the hell out of me." He sighed. "Maybe this is love. Maybe it's just that I trust you .I've never trusted anyone the way I trust you." Tom tried for a laugh. "I'll even tell you what I feel like, for god's sake."

Harry felt the sudden hot sting of tears and had to swallow hard. "Tom," he whispered. "Tom." His arm folded almost of its own accord and he sank down, resting against Tom's chest. After a moment, Tom's arms came up to hold him.

"So what do we do now," Tom asked into the darkness, "announce our engagement?"

* * *

His shift had never seemed so long before. And he had never had such trouble concentrating, either. It wasn't just due to lack of sleep. Harry frowned as he turned to check another monitor. The easy optimism of yesterday was swept away and he was left wondering at himself for believing everything would be so easy. Relationships were never easy. Turning back again, he found himself looking at the back of Tom's head, just like yesterday. As if feeling that look Tom spun around and their eyes met.

Last night, Harry thought, last night we made love, and we argued, and we fell asleep kissing each other. And this morning we woke up together and he smiled at me, all sleepy and tousled and dazed, and it was the most beautiful sight I've ever seen.

Harry sighed. Easy or not, this was what he wanted. Tom dropped his eyes, and there was that faint flush again, the one that never failed to make Harry want him. Harry looked down at his screens and thought about sensor-range extensions and shield harmonics. This wasn't the right place to get a hard-on. When he felt composed enough to look up again, Tom was intent on the conn, and the captain was giving him a thoughtful glance. Harry met it innocently.

She shook her head slightly, but didn't call him on it. He could feel that she had sensed his slight lapse in concentration, though, so he did his best to drive all thoughts of Tom out of his mind for the rest of the day. One hour before the end of his shift, the sensors started acting up again. Harry very carefully did not swear as he consulted B'Elanna and they discussed what might be wrong. When they'd argued over the comm channel for ten minutes, the captain told Harry to get down to engineering instead.

He went down, B'Elanna met him right outside the turbo lift doors with a challenging look, and it took a full two hours before they exchanged a comment on any other subject than sensor malfunctions. "So," she finally said, trying to wrestle the hatch to the Jeffries tube back into place, "did you have fun babysitting last night?"

"Yeah." Harry smiled. "Washington's really a nice kid."

"And did Tom have fun babysitting, too?"

Well, he'd been prepared for that question. "I think so. He's really good with kids, you know? At least, he's really good with Washington," Harry amended, since he'd never seen Tom with any other child.

B'Elanna looked honestly surprised. "You mean you two did sit with Wildman's little bundle of trouble last night?" At Harry's nod she said, "I figured that was just an excuse for the two of you to get up to some hanky-panky in one of the holosuites."

Harry laughed. "Hanky-panky? I haven't heard anyone use that expression since my grandfather died."

She shrugged. "I'm an old-fashioned kind of girl." Harry laughed even harder. B'Elanna straightened up and brushed his chin with her knuckles. "You know, you have a really interesting mark on your neck."

"That crown-shaped birthmark? Well, we're a long way from Ruritania." Harry met her eyes. "I can't tell you about that right now, B'Elanna."

"All right," she said, and then her eyes glinted. "Can I speculate wildly?"

"You always do that." They went back to work. After another half an hour, Harry lifted his head and added, "Only not out loud, please, B'Elanna?"

When they were finally finished, B'Elanna wanted to drag him to the mess hall, but Harry begged off. He thought about going to sickbay and getting rid of that incriminating hickey, but then he decided he didn't want to. He was just too tired. And with the way Tom was in and out of his life, not to mention his bed, lately, he'd take any evidence he could get. Instead he went to his quarters and walked in, already tugging on the uniform fastener. He'd pushed the top half of the uniform off when he stepped into the bedroom and found Tom sleeping, sprawled on his back, fully dressed.

Harry raised an eyebrow, then shrugged, kicked his boots off and got out of the uniform. He curled up next to Tom and dragged the covers over them, and was asleep in minutes.

When he woke up again it was to a light touch against his lips, a fleeting brush of warmth. Harry blinked and found Tom leaning over him, smiling slightly. "You're cute when you sleep, you know that?"

Harry rubbed at his eyes and scowled helplessly. "You think I've ever looked at myself when I'm asleep?" Cute? Oh, fuck it. "Did you have dinner?" Tom shook his head. "Me either. Let's replicate something."

"Whatever," Tom said agreeably, and sat up. "I want tomato soup. You buying?"

"You're the one who wins replicator credits playing pool, not me. You can get your own dinner."

"You're a lousy date, Harry Kim." Harry turned his head to find Tom looking at him, eyes sparkling.

"Oh, shut up," he said crossly, reached out and caught Tom around the neck and pulled him down for a kiss. "You are the most obnoxious—" Tom kissed him again. "Irritating—" And again. "Annoying—" And again. "Brat!" Harry finally finished.

Tom was still grinning at him. "I see. I guess it's no use asking you to consider giving this relationship a chance, then."

Harry opened his mouth for another flippant remark, then stopped himself just in time. "You're serious, aren't you." He stared into Tom's eyes, seeing past the smile, past the cheery surface.

"Yeah, I'm serious. I thought I told you last night but maybe you didn't believe me. If serious is what it takes, I'll be serious, Harry. I'm not sure what the hell I feel, but there's, I don't know, something happens inside me when you're around. And I want that." Tom looked uncertain. "I don't know if it's love. But it's not just hormones."

Nodding slowly, Harry was about to kiss Tom again. Then he changed his mind. "Does that mean you want all of it, Tom? Will you let me give you what you want, or are you going to pretend you don't want it?"

"I had a feeling we'd get around to that," Tom said. And he was flushing again. Like that. Harry felt the first faint sparks inside. Well, they were going to have an interesting time of it if Harry kept reacting like this every time Tom changed color. "I just don't, I mean, you say it's okay, and... but I don't quite understand. Why."

Harry sighed, and smiled. "Because it turns you on and that turns me on. Because I like making you feel good. Because—" He winked at Tom. "Because it's fun. And I'll still respect you in the morning."

Tom looked at him. "That's what you say now." Then he smiled too, an uncertain but beautiful smile. "I don't understand why I want it, either. It's just the whole idea of." A small shudder ran through him. "Of letting go. It's like wanting to jump off a cliff."

Harry thought about that. Then he said, with complete certainty, "But you need it."

The look Tom shot him was half resentful, half full of a wild and wordless passion. "Maybe I do. I could live without it, Harry."

"Sure you could. But you don't have to. I won't push you off that cliff, but you know I want to be there to catch you."

Tom's eyes glittered. "You have to do both, Harry." There was something about the curve of his mouth right then, something about the intensity building inside him. "You have to do both. And I have to trust you to do it."

Now Harry couldn't resist any longer, he reached out and drew his fingertip down Tom's cheek, feeling the hot blood that rushed to the surface of the skin. A new idea took hold of him. "You can trust me," he said. "And I trust you." Tom looked a question at him. "Turnabout's fair play. Do you trust yourself enough to play that game with me?"

"You're kidding." Tom looked incredulous.

Harry shook his head. "No. I mean it. You call the shots this time. I'll do anything you say. Anything you want." For a moment he thought that this wouldn't work, that it would somehow disrupt the fragile balance they had established. Tom's eyes dropped, lifted again.

"Okay, then." Tom's voice was husky now, tense with sudden excitement, almost rough; Harry could hear various different emotions struggling for supremacy, and when he met Tom's look, it was electric. "Anything I want?" Harry nodded. "In that case I want you to," Tom swallowed before going on, "blindfold me. Touch me. Make love to me. Do anything you want, but make me come."

Harry almost felt his jaw drop. That wasn't what he had been expecting at all. But hearing it made his mouth go dry and started a deep burning heat in the pit of his stomach. Maybe he should have known that Tom would find a way to get what he really wanted. And what a way. He met Tom's bright eyes again and read both shyness and challenge there. And there was only one thing to do with a challenge like this.

Accept it.

He nodded, and got off the bed and walked out to the replicator. The realization of what was about to happen smoldered in him, charged every breath. His voice and hands had never been so steady as he asked for what he wanted and went back into the bedroom again. Tom was undressing, casually shrugging out of shirt and pants and letting them fall by the side of the bed. He looked up as though feeling Harry's eyes on him. It couldn't have been clearer if he'd said it out loud. And then that blush again, the one that undid Harry completely.

Anything you want, he thought, anything. He sat down across from Tom and showed him the long strip of raw silk he had replicated. Black, of course. Tom nodded. Harry smiled faintly, and kept holding it out to him. After a moment Tom met his eyes, and then reached out and took the blindfold, and adjusted it carefully across his eyes before tying it at the back of his head.

It changed him. His face softened somehow, at first, and then took on the clean purity of something carved in marble. And Harry, seeing that, knew that he had to draw out the need and the passion inside, had to make those lips quiver, see the fair skin flush with desire, and eventually with fulfillment.

Now that Tom couldn't see him, Harry let his eyes fall for a moment, and breathed slowly, concentrating on his own heartbeat. Then he looked up again. He had never been given anything like this before. Harry reached out and touched the tip of his index finger to the soft spot right under Tom's ear, brushed it gently, then moved down along the throat. He followed the collar bone, wandered out along the shoulder and then curved down across the chest. Along the stomach, looping over the hip, tripping on the hip bone. Down the long thigh, circling the knee, following the back of the calf, achilles tendon, heel.

Harry sighed, and smiled. So much to play with. "Beautiful," he said quietly, and looked up to see Tom with his head tilted slightly back, the black silk standing out sharply against his pale skin. "You're so beautiful."

He sat back and pulled the rest of his clothes off, adding the shirt and underwear to the pile Tom had created. Then he moved up behind Tom on the bed and kissed the back of his neck. "Lie down on your stomach," he said, keeping his voice soft and gentle. Tom complied, but Harry thought he could see a shade of the wrong kind of tension in the way he moved. "Relax." He propped himself up on his elbow to one side of Tom, and ran his fingertip down Tom's spine, halting at his tailbone, then tracing the same route up, this time scraping lightly with his nail. "Just concentrate on this, on me touching you, the way it feels."

Up and down, up and down until he could see Tom move under his touch, almost imperceptibly shift against it, arching into it. "That's right," Harry said softly. "Don't fight it. Feel it."

Then he traced slow spiralling patterns across Tom's back, with one fingertip, two, three. This simple touch was mildly sensual rather than overtly sexual, but it was growing more and more charged, something building in the small hot space where their flesh met, the fleeting nature of the caress making it all the more intense. Harry leaned forward and placed a kiss in the small of Tom's back, then another between his shoulder blades.

When he drew back again he laid his fingertips against the back of Tom's knee, and drew them slowly up along the leg. Once more, a little further in. Once more, and now he was stroking the sensitive inside of the thigh, and he could feel the slight vibrations of tension here, Tom wanting to move his legs further apart. Harry smiled and moved to the other leg, repeating the same caress there.

It was light and gentle, this, but it was not casual. On the contrary, these soft brushes of fingertips against skin were so shockingly intimate. Harry sighed, learning again and again the shape and feel of Tom's body, and the subtle reactions that nevertheless said so much about how Tom was feeling. More than anything else he wanted to do this right.

He let his fingers move up over the curve of Tom's ass and found that he was licking his lips. He wanted so much and so much. Tracing the crack with one fingertip he heard the first small sound wrenched from Tom's throat, the first suppressed gasp. Harry shifted upwards, breathed against Tom's ear, licked at his earlobe. "Don't try to be quiet," he whispered. "If it feels good, I want to know."

Harry kissed the back of Tom's neck again, and then planted slow kisses all the way down his spine. He could feel Tom hold himself still, could feel the concentration in every muscle, the awareness of every touch. Small sparks seemed to fly every time Harry made contact with Tom's skin, with fingers or lips. Reaching the tailbone, he teased it with his tongue, then drew a line down, perhaps an inch, and stopped.

He sat up on his knees, moved down and straddled one of Tom's legs, then bent and licked the soft fold at the back of the knee. To his surprise, that brought on another gasp, so he did it again, carefully, and then went on to the other leg. Harry wondered if Tom was just one big erogenous zone, or if these touches under these circumstances were so charged, he had no choice but to become aroused by them.

Perhaps he shouldn't be surprised, Harry thought, as these touches were working on him in an unprecedented way. God, but it was hot in here, wasn't it? Soft kisses up along the back of the thigh, and he could feel against his lips how muscles shifted in anticipation. The other leg again. And then he retraced the same path, not so gently now, sucking at the skin, and Tom moaned. Harry shivered at the sound. He pushed Tom's legs apart and lay down between them and started to lick the tender insides of his thighs, slow strokes of his tongue on one leg, then the other, moving upwards and inwards.

When he stopped, Tom was perfectly still under his hands, and Harry could feel him wanting, wishing, silencing himself with an effort. He ran his thumbs up and down the crack of Tom's ass and then bent closer and breathed hot air on the sensitive skin. That drew a quick tense gasp and so he did it again. Harry became aware that he was pressing himself against the bed, and his breath was coming short. He kissed the puckered opening, circled it with his tongue, and now Tom was really getting noisy.

Oh, you like this, Harry thought, licking and then blowing on the moist skin, warm wetness, then a sudden chill, and listened approvingly to the soft gasps that went with every change back and forth. He traced a path down to Tom's balls and back again. When Tom's breaths started to sound like sobs, he drew back. Tom was pushing himself into the bedclothes, too, and Harry pinched his ass lightly. "Stop that," he said. "Roll over."

Tom did, and Harry's breath caught in his throat. Oh dear god. The blood pounded in his ears as he looked at his lover. Too beautiful, too utterly desirable. He ran a finger over Tom's soft lips, pushed it inside, and Tom sucked eagerly at it. Harry felt the small shocks all through his body as the tip of Tom's tongue flicked this way and that.

He used his other hand to brush over Tom's nipples, feeling them harden under his fingers and draw into sensitive points that could be pinched lightly to make Tom shudder. Harry could feel his own focus wavering, his spine changed into a spiral of fire and ice. He should have taken a cold shower before starting anything like this. Then he smiled as the simple solution came to him.

"Get on your hands and knees," Harry said softly. He sat back, leaning against the head of the bed. Tom had to know that Harry was watching him, but still the simple grace in the way he moved seemed completely natural and unaffected. "Come closer. Come here." He cupped one hand around Tom's cheek and brushed his thumb across the lips, and gently drew Tom's head down until those lips were resting against the head of Harry's cock. "Open your mouth, Tom. Go on and suck it. And don't stop until I've come and you've swallowed. Don't stop no matter what."

He saw Tom's lower lip quiver slightly before that beautiful mouth opened and then, oh then... Harry blanked out for a moment. It was a good thing Tom started out gently. Recovering, he ran his fingers down Tom's spine, made him shift closer and turn with the lightest of touches until Harry could easily reach to caress the curves of his ass. The lubricant was still on the bedside table and he coated his fingers with it, gasping as Tom's tongue played havoc with his nervous system.

"God, you're wonderful," he sighed, and pushed one finger into Tom's ass. Tom moaned, and so did Harry, feeling the vibrations in Tom's mouth and throat. He rotated his finger carefully and then added a second, and felt Tom's instinctive response, back dipping, hips lifting and pushing back, the mouth sucking harder and more eagerly.

After the third finger, Tom was moaning continuously, and Harry thought he was going to die any moment. He went on finger-fucking Tom, pushing deeper, more intensely, until Tom reciprocated by deep-throating him, and Harry's eyes fell abruptly closed, the wave of sensation almost sweeping him away there and then. Sweet heaven. He forced himself to look again, and then the sight of Tom, blindfolded, going down on him, was enough to send a second wave through him that left him closer still.

He had no reason to hold back, really, except that it was hard not to want to prolong this incredible pleasure. Harry clenched at the sheets with his free hand, felt the gentle scrape of teeth and found himself thrusting up into that wet heat and groaning as he came in a final wave that swept away everything in its path, sending all thoughts tumbling with its crashing force. Tom's mouth stayed on him through it all, until Harry recovered enough to bring his hand up and raise Tom's head. He could breathe again, and his heartbeat slowed gradually.

"That was perfect," he said, sliding a fingertip across Tom's lower lip, feeling it slick with saliva and semen. "Perfect." Then he worked the fingers of his other hand deeper into Tom's ass and saw that lower lip tremble again, heard a new moan. "You like this, don't you."

"Yes," Tom whispered helplessly, deeply flushed now, pushing his hips back against Harry's hand.

"Good." Harry traced the outline of Tom's mouth again. "I want to make you feel good." Then he smiled, glad that Tom couldn't see that evil grin and misinterpret it, and pulled his fingers out. Tom's protest was mostly silent, a shift of the spine, the neck curved just so, one little sound of disappointment. "Lie down again, Tom, on your back, like before."

Tom did. He was flushed all over, the blood that moved under the fine skin speaking eloquently of his desire. Harry, back in control now, settled down next to him and stroked his chest, his sides, his legs. He moved closer and flicked the tip of his tongue over the delicate whorls of Tom's ear, and heard an answering gasp. Then he fastened his mouth onto the side of Tom's neck and sucked hard, before moving down and repeating the process.

Slowing down had quieted Tom a little, and Harry wasn't having any of that. "Concentrate," he whispered into the curve of Tom's neck, before biting him. "You can't see, you're not allowed to move except on command, you don't know what the next touch will be. You have to feel every single one flare through you; the merest breath against your skin is enough to make you shiver."

It was, too, as Harry breathed hotly against Tom's nipple and then sucked air in to create a chill. Then he flicked his tongue out and teased the small erect nub, licking and sucking and then grazing it with his teeth. That really made Tom shudder, wave after wave as Harry went on to work the other nipple over just as thoroughly. Oh, this was perfect, this was incredible. He found himself silently amazed that he could do these things to Tom, that Tom would respond so beautifully and completely. There was no doubt here, they were beyond that, there was only the giving and receiving of pleasure.

Love, he thought, my beautiful love, I want to make you feel so good.

He kissed a slow trail down Tom's chest and stomach, dipped his tongue into the navel and heard Tom bite back a whimper. Harry smiled to himself. Ticklish, or just over-sensitive? He tried it again and Tom's whole body arched up, his breath coming short. "Do you like it or do you hate it?" Harry asked with his lips against Tom's skin.

"I, I—" Tom gasped. "I don't know, I — ohh," he broke off into incoherent moans as Harry did it a third time. Tom's fingers were clenching and unclenching spasmodically. Harry decided that he probably liked it. He watched the way Tom's chest heaved for a moment, then drew his tongue slowly and deliberately along his cock from root to crown. "Oh god."

Then Harry sucked it in and ran his tongue all over it carefully, finally getting to taste his lover again. He loved the way Tom's cock felt in his mouth, the head smooth and slick and ripe to bursting, the shaft taut with the promise of explosion. Tom couldn't keep quiet at all any more, and Harry eased up again, because Tom wasn't going to come yet. Instead of sucking he kissed the shaft and swirled his tongue around the tip, learning the taste of Tom, the taste of love.

When next he lifted his head to look, Tom was lying with his head arched back, breathing in open-mouthed gasps. Harry stroked the inside of Tom's thighs with the back of his hand and nudged them up and apart before sliding his still lubricated fingers back inside Tom again. He stayed propped up on his elbow, watching Tom's face, seeing each slow stroke mirrored in the way Tom's lips quivered, the way the pulse at his throat beat faster. Biting his own lip, Harry realized he was hard again just from seeing and hearing Tom abandon himself to sensation.

"Relax," he whispered, finding his voice slightly hoarse from renewed desire. "Give yourself over to it. Don't push. Just feel."

Tom was still shuddering, over and over, but gradually as Harry went on with the slow relentless stimulation, the shudders changed from choppy and frantic to long and regular, like heavy waves breaking. Every breath was a moan, but there was nothing imploring about the sound any more, Tom wasn't begging, he was just moaning because he couldn't help it. Harry felt overwhelmed. He tucked his free hand in under Tom's neck and bent forward to kiss him. Tom kissed him back for all he was worth, still moaning into the kiss.

Harry came up gasping for breath. He rolled back and reached for the lubricant again, and managed one-handed to squeeze it out of the tube and smear it all over his erection. Slowly and carefully he pushed Tom over onto his side, withdrew his fingers and guided his cock inside. Tom wailed. Harry wrapped one arm around Tom's chest and put the other hand on Tom's hip and drew him slightly back, taking most of his weight, holding him immobile, before thrusting into him.

Held like this, Tom couldn't push back, only accept what Harry was doing to him. Harry prayed silently, with each thrust into that exquisite tight heat, that Tom wasn't going to freak out over that. It seemed that Tom was concentrating on breathing; then his hands moved, seeking support somewhere. Harry caught them both, held them loosely, then pulled Tom's arms up above his head. Tom sucked his breath in.

"Don't be afraid," Harry said softly in his ear. "Don't think. Just let go," and he pushed himself deep inside Tom's body again and Tom's released breath turned into a sound, a whimpered 'oh!' and then another as Harry thrust into him again and again.

It was so beautiful to see and hear that Harry almost forgot how painfully close he was himself. Tom was moaning in time with Harry's movements, "Oh, oh, oh, ohhh," the sounds rising into a helpless wail. Harry kept his strokes slow and steady, digging his fingers into Tom's hip, and Tom's hands were clutching at his own now.

They hung suspended together in agonizing pleasure, a tight world of flesh against flesh and Tom's voice crying out, and then that wail was broken off short for a moment and Harry felt how the body in his arms tightened and quivered and gathered itself together, breath and muscle, and Tom screamed, and fell, taking Harry with him.

He must have blacked out for a moment. It had been so intense, Harry would have been willing to swear all his higher brain functions had shut down for a few moments. When he opened his eyes his face was pressed against the back of Tom's neck, and Tom was lying so utterly still that Harry had to check that he was breathing. Then he lay there feeling his own thundering heartbeat, and Tom's as well. There were words in his mind, but all of them sounded pretty much like I love you.

After a while, he moved, separating their bodies; Tom rolled bonelessly with gravity and Harry's hand to lie on his back, and Harry propped himself up to look at him. Finding that it was possible to move again, he brought up a hand and worked the blindfold off Tom's head. Tom opened his eyes and then closed them quickly again. "Am I still alive?"

"Looks that way," Harry said. He kissed Tom's eyelid, his cheekbone, the corner of his mouth. "Was that, are you okay?"

Tom didn't open his eyes, but he smiled. "No. No, I don't think okay is the right word for how I feel right now." He turned his head and caught Harry's lips in a soft kiss. Then he opened his eyes, and Harry was caught again, in an open vulnerable look that made all his joints go weak; the love he felt left him breathless. "Harry, I want, oh, I don't know what I want. I can't say what I want to say."

Brushing his lips against Tom's, Harry whispered, "I love you."

"That could be it," Tom said into his mouth and they kissed again. "I feel like someone took me apart and put me back together again. The things you do to me, Harry. I never would have believed... god, I'm light-headed."

"Well, we never had dinner," Harry said practically. Tom just looked at him, and started to laugh, and after a moment Harry did too. Laughter helped him regain his balance and it seemed to work the same way on Tom. After a while Harry felt himself grounded again, and he stretched leisurely and scooted to the edge of the bed, sitting up. "Stay where you are," he suggested to Tom as he rose and walked out to the replicator.

Harry had no idea how much time had passed since he had last stood here asking for black silk. He thought about finding out, but then he didn't really want to. What they'd just done together couldn't be measured by the tidy minutes and hours of ordinary time anyway.

He went back with the steaming bowls in his hands and Tom, sitting up now, raised an eyebrow. "Soup?"

"You wanted tomato soup, you're getting tomato soup." Harry handed him one of the bowls. "If you've changed your mind, go get yourself something else." He sat down cross-legged on the bed and tried a spoonful and scalded his tongue. "Ow." Tom was watching him over the rim of his bowl, eyes sparkling with amusement. "What's so funny?"

"You're cute when you frown."

Harry sighed. "I'm cute when I sleep, I'm cute when I frown — you know something, Tom? I really hate to be called cute."

Tom smiled and reached out and brushed his fingertips across Harry's eyebrow, down his temple. "Sorry," he said unrepentantly. "How about, I like the way you look? I like to look at you. And touch you, and kiss you, and talk to you, and..." Tom's voice trailed off and he suddenly looked appalled. "Oh, fuck. It's love, isn't it."

"How should I know?" Harry said, and went on eating his soup, as his heart started to sing.

When they'd both finished eating they stacked the bowls next to the bed, feeling too lazy to go out to the replicator again. Harry made a half-hearted effort at fluffing the pillows up, and Tom pulled the covers over both of them. They settled gradually into a comfortable position and traded a few slow kisses before remembering to ask the computer to turn the lights off. Harry felt warm, and happy; when Tom snuggled closer he found himself wanting to say it over and over again, I love you I love you I love you, but decided not to push.

"Harry?"

"Mm?"

"I take it back."

"Take what back?"

There was laughter in Tom's voice again. "You're not a lousy date." Then the laughter faded but the sweetness remained. "You're just unbelievable, Harry." Tom settled into sleep, his breathing slowing down and growing heavy and regular, but Harry lay awake for a few moments longer. Yeah, let's announce our engagement, he thought. I'm not letting you go.

* * *

The declaration of independence

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