by torch 1997
flambeau@strangeplaces.net

Disclaimer: They still belong to Paramount, not to me. This is a non-profit enterprise, and a non-profit Voyager as well. This is an epilogue or postscript of sorts to the playboy series. Title by Will S. again — don't know what I'd do without him. Yes, I know I swore repeatedly on pain of pain that I wouldn't do this. But, well, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds and besides, Tom wouldn't shut up. So here goes.

Reader response is warmly welcome at all times. Do not archive this story without permission.

The lease of my true love

He was flying and he wondered if he was ever going to come down again. Afraid to move, to shatter the world and find it all a dream, and then a warm hand closed around his own and he was tugged forward. "Come on, love. They said we had to walk a bit."

The path ahead was narrow and sandy, and to their left was a steep drop down to the blue, blue sea. The warm sunset light threw a haze over the scene and he narrowed his eyes, trying to see where they were going. Along the bluff and down towards the lighthouse. He could hear the sound of waves breaking against the rocks far below, could smell the sea and the dry sweet soil.

They walked in silence at first; the whole day had been spent in a whirl of noises and words, some more important than others, and it was a relief to let all that fall away. To simply be here, feel the lingering warmth of the sun, feel this closeness. And this almost painful breathlessness. He was flying, or was he falling? So hard to tell sometimes, his mind whispered, so hard.

"Look," Harry said softly, pointing out to sea. "I saw a whale blow." He looked obediently where the setting sun laid a burning metal line across the water. His eyes hurt, mostly from the beauty of it. Just when he was about to give up, he saw the slow roll of a ridged back and then the triumphant wave of a giant tail. It was another soft sting in his heart and he tried to hide his sharply drawn-in breath.

Harry released his hand only to step closer and put an arm around his waist instead. Tom returned that one-armed embrace and rubbed his cheek against Harry's hair. They stood still for a moment, together, while soft bird cries mingled with the muted thunder of the sea and the beating of their hearts. Then they started to move again and had to let go of each other because the path was so narrow.

He watched Harry walk ahead of him, with a feeling of quiet amazement. He'd never had any real sense of the immensity and indifference of the universe before, until now when he walked through the programmed loveliness of the holodeck suddenly aware that everything he wanted was enclosed in that one human body, so frail and short-lived and easy to destroy. That he was here and Harry was here seemed a miracle he was afraid to believe in. Alive and together and in love, and it was so simple, and it was too much, too much...

Tom shuddered. No wonder he had fought this so hard, for so long. Had tried to confine it, diminish it, avoid the true words for his feelings as though that would hide the reality of it from his heart.

Harry was already walking down the battered concrete steps to the small lighthouse, and opening the door. Twilight was here now and it wouldn't last long; Tom followed him inside. They climbed together up a rickety spiral staircase, its iron steps wailing a little under their feet, and came out into a round room lit by candles and a fire burning in the fireplace. Tom smiled a little at that first sign of the programmers' improvements on reality.

In front of the fireplace lay piles of sheepskin rugs and soft cushions; to the right stood a low table laden with food and drink. Everything they could wish for. Harry was turning around, looking approvingly at all of it. "Are you hungry?" Tom asked.

Harry nodded. "I couldn't eat anything all day. I guess I was too nervous," he smiled warmly. They settled down on cushions next to the table and Harry picked up a perfect strawberry and popped it into Tom's mouth.

"They can't have any replicator credits left," Tom said, surveying the table and thinking about Chakotay and B'Elanna and the captain, who'd gifted them with this. There it was again, the tiny sting in his heart. Suddenly he was gasping for air.

A moment later Harry's hand came to rest atop his own, warm and comforting. "Tom, are you all right?" And then, with only the faintest hint of fear, "Are you happy about this?"

"No," he managed to say. "I'm so far beyond happy I worry something will break and I think it might be me." Tom looked up and met Harry's eyes. If this was all going to shatter and leave him in a greyer world it ought to happen round about now.

Harry nodded. "I know," he said simply, and then he reached out and started to unbutton Tom's shirt. Tom looked up in surprise. "I just need to touch you." With the buttons all undone, Tom slipped the thin silk shirt off himself, as Harry pulled off his own shirt. They reached for each other at the same time, embraced carefully, skin against skin, before drawing apart and undressing completely.

"Just to touch," Tom echoed, lying down on the sheepskins and drawing Harry into his arms. He drew a fingertip along Harry's collarbone. "How can you be small enough for me to hold, when you fill up my entire life?" This time the pain was sharper, so sweet it was like to cut his heart to pieces. "Are you really mine?"

"Yes." The hand stroking his back did not pause. "There's no going back now."

"Never," he said fiercely, "never ever. Harry, I love you so much I think it might kill me."

Harry pulled his head down and kissed him. The kiss tasted of strawberries and the last remnants of the champagne from the wedding toast. Tom shivered and pressed closer. He wanted to drown in this sweetness, this terrifying delight. Was he happy? He was aching with it.

"I'm scared, too," Harry said, answering the unspoken words. Leaning over Tom, Harry traced his face with one fingertip and Tom felt himself grow real at the touch, reassured that he was indeed here and being confirmed in a new identity, someone who was loved and accepted, someone who had been given a gift so precious it passed all understanding.

They kissed again with an urgency that had nothing to do with physical passion, and lay silent in each other's arms while the sky outside the windows grew completely dark and the fire crackled amicably at them. It was warm in here, warm and comfortable. In the light from the fire Harry's skin glowed, and Tom idly ran his fingers along one smooth shoulder, before curling his hand around Harry's arm and closing his eyes.

It was the first moment of perfect stillness in a long and hectic day. He wanted to leave all that behind for now, all except the awareness, all-encompassing, of what they had done. There was no denying that, nor did he want to. Tom still thought it would have been easier to have been branded a hundred times over than to speak those simple words and claim Harry as his own in front of witnesses.

But it was over now. All that needed to be done in public had been done. From now on, it was just the two of them. He held Harry a little closer. Lips pressed against his throat in a kiss and then a soft bite. "I knew you were hungry," Tom said. He raised himself up on one elbow and reached out to the table, snagging something that turned out to be a flaky salmon pastry; a delicate scent of lime and sage reached him as he broke off a corner and started to feed Harry.

"So are you," Harry said when he could speak again. Tom shook his head dismissively. "Just because you can't feel it doesn't mean you're not hungry; now eat. I'm not having you turn cranky on me. Not tonight."

Tom smiled, and took the bowl of strawberries and put between them. He ate a strawberry, took a bite from Harry's pastry, then another strawberry, feigning indifference to Harry's reaction. He liked odd combinations. Pastry, strawberry, kiss.

Then he reached for another bowl, brought it down and dipped a finger into the whipped cream. The look of suspicion on Harry's face was delightful. Tom paused for a thoughtful moment, then drew his fingertip along Harry's lips, slowly and insistently, until a curious tongue slipped outside to lick at the cream. His finger was sucked in and trapped between strong teeth, and he sighed, more comfortable now that their games were growing physical.

"Hear that?" he asked. Harry raised an eyebrow, and did something creative with his tongue; Tom shivered. "It's raining."

It was perfect; strange, but perfect. Harry released Tom's finger and took the cream away from him, putting it back on the table. Then he put the strawberries back as well, and cupped his hand around the side of Tom's face and moved in close, very very close. "Not this time," he said. "We can play with the food later. But I want this time to be just the two of us. Just your skin against my skin, your mouth against my mouth." And Harry kissed him, very sweetly.

That sweetness, and the strength behind it. It was wearing away his rough edges, taking him places he'd never thought he'd go. Tom put his hand on Harry's warm back, wanting them so close nothing could separate them. Wanting them part of each other. "You have to fuck me," he said suddenly, against Harry's lips.

A soft chuckle answered him. "What's your hurry?"

"I just need it," he said. "For us to be connected." They kissed slowly, and then more fiercely, rolling over and over, almost wrestling, but so tenderly that they did not break the kiss. Skin caressed skin, everywhere. When they stilled again Tom was on his back, holding Harry against his chest; he spread his legs so his lover could settle between them, moved his hips in blatant encouragement.

"Don't I get to tease you?" Harry breathed in his ear, tongue flicking out to trace wet warmth around its edges.

"Later," Tom said, running his nails down Harry's back. "You want me, you know you do."

"Always," Harry said. Teeth nipped at Tom's neck. "Always, love." It was spoken so softly, yet the word had the weight of an oath, another reminder of what was real here, what had been promised. That it would be the two of them, for as much of forever as they were granted. Tom shivered again and tightened his arms around Harry, trying to melt their bodies together. Harry pressed his face against Tom's neck and bit him harder, then looked up. "Do you think they programmed any—"

"Use the cream," Tom suggested, too impatient to search the room for lubricant. The tip of Harry's tongue traced the line where his lips met, then suddenly thrust inside his mouth, and he moaned. "Damn it."

His lover shifted and reached up for something out of Tom's line of vision, then shifted again as he brought his hand back down. Tom felt slick pressure and a faint chill, this stuff was cold; a finger slipped inside him and suddenly heat flared, burning speech and thought. Weighed down by Harry's body, he tried to move, tried to fuck himself on Harry's fingers as they probed and stretched him. Sudden withdrawal made him whimper, and then he was being teased again, more cool cream stroked into him, and a fingertip rubbing against his prostate in the smallest of movements.

Panting, he made himself concentrate and look at his lover, and found Harry wearing a look of serious concentration Tom knew well; anticipation fluttered through him. When those clever fingers left him again he almost wailed, but bit it back and waited, heart pounding, as Harry quickly readied himself. Hands on his thighs, shifting them up and apart; a pillow pushed under his hips; then finally the touch he craved, the pressure of Harry's cock, pushing just inside, withdrawing a little, rocking deeper. It went on for what seemed like forever in slow teasing shifts, every deeper touch followed by a retreat while Tom clenched his hands into the soft sheepskins and tried not to scream, until his lover was all the way inside him and he struggled for breath.

He had no defenses against this. When they played at being rough, he could lose himself in fucking and being fucked, but this gentle possession of all his senses left him shaking and vulnerable and inescapably here, laid open to whatever his lover wanted to do to him. Whatever he wanted his lover to do to him. He shifted upwards, driving Harry in a little deeper, the small movement setting off a shock that echoed all through his nervous system.

"My love," Harry whispered, "my beautiful love," as he withdrew almost completely and then entered Tom again in a slow controlled stroke, a lazy slick slippery joining, again and again. God, so slow. Tom thought he'd tear the sheepskins apart. Part of him wanted to be teased like this, wanted the unbearable ecstasy of it, and part of him wanted Harry to pound into him now, fuck him good and hard, fuck him into oblivion.

He whimpered, unable to put even half of that into words. Harry continued his unrelentingly careful assault, holding Tom's legs up and back with a steady grip just below the knees, sliding easily deep into his ass and then pulling back with the same ease. Tom didn't know when he'd closed his eyes, but he made them open again, and caught Harry's dark gaze. He worked the fingers of one hand free of the fleecy curls they'd been gripping, licked at his fingertips, then used them to stroke his right nipple. Tom saw an echo of his own moan in Harry's eyes and he knew his muscles had tightened around Harry's cock.

He sucked his fingertips again, reached out and dragged them across Harry's nipple instead. The grip around his legs tightened and the next thrust was harder, faster, shooting wilder sparks of pleasure through his body. The word more hovered just out of reach of his mind, and he pinched the nipple under his fingers and was rewarded with another hard thrust. He made a sound deep in his throat, wanting everything, now.

When he heard Harry's soft answering growl he barely had time for a heartbeat's scary joy before his legs were pushed almost into his chest and the hard pleasure that was Harry's cock in him pushed in deep and fast, over and over; there was no time now for the nerve-scraping delight of it to dissipate between strokes, it just built and built, filling him until he had to scream, or go mad. This, he wanted it always, Harry fucking him, and it was so good he couldn't stand it, more, oh please, more, take me, take everything...

And the pleasure was too much, the tension was too much, there was only so much the substance of his self could take. Delicate as a feather stroke, the first hairline fracture, and he trembled like crystal ringing and then shattered, coming and coming apart.

He was dimly aware of a hot, sweaty body collapsing on top of him, dimly grateful for that, as it trapped him and held him where he was and kept the fragments of himself from floating free. Tom sucked in a slow breath, then another. He moved his lips against his lover's shoulder. "Love you," he whispered, very, very quietly. It did grow easier, with time. The rain pattered on the roof, perfect counterpoint to the beating of their hearts.

When Harry lifted his head and looked at him, Tom was ready for it; he could meet that look with a faint smile. And Harry's soft smile in return said that he saw through it, but didn't care. He knew. Well, they both knew. Tom sighed, and caught those smiling lips in a kiss.

Harry was too considerate; he moved to one side so Tom wouldn't have to bear his full weight, despite Tom's sound of protest. They traded a few more slow kisses and snuggled close until Tom made a face over the cold sticky puddle on his stomach. Harry raised himself up on one elbow and looked around. And looked around. "There's no place to wash," he said finally. "I don't believe it."

He was right, there was no door here, just this one round room, and nothing downstairs either. Then Tom suddenly laughed. "That's what the rain is for," he said. Harry raised an eyebrow; Tom shrugged. "Has to be. I hope it's warm." He moved slowly, twisting sideways, trying to keep the cushions and sheepskins reasonably clean. Sitting back on his knees, he looked at Harry. "Come on."

Harry got to his feet and Tom did as well, and they walked naked down those creaky iron stairs and out into a wet night. The rain poured down on them, and Tom tilted his head back and smiled into it. It felt great. He went up the concrete stairs, wanting earth under his feet, and then just stood there and let himself be washed clean. Harry walked farther, following the other narrow path for a few steps before returning to report, "There's an outhouse down there."

Tom grinned; he wondered if it really was an outhouse or something slightly more high-tech. Then he reached out for Harry, whose hair was falling into his eyes. Rain-wet skin felt wonderful under his hands. It was dark enough now that he barely could make out the edge of the cliff, and the sound of the rain drowned out the waves. The only light came from the windows above them.

"Let's go back in," he said finally. "We can try to eat something again." He winked at his lover. "You know how I get when I don't eat. I might do something terrible to you with the whipped cream."

The sound of Harry's laughter guided him as they went back in through the door. A pile of towels on a shelf confirmed Tom's suspicions even as he took one and dried himself roughly. Harry's hair was an utter mess and he looked just adorable. He started up the stairs and Tom followed, running his hand appreciatively over that gorgeous ass in front of him. Harry asked him to stop. Tom did it again. Harry told him to stop. Tom pinched him. Harry turned around and told him to stop or else. Tom wrapped an arm around Harry's hips and leaned close and ran his tongue along Harry's cock, feeling it harden as he tasted it.

"Tom." Harry shifted backwards, gripped Tom's shoulder, and started to drag him up the stairs. Tom smiled and followed. Back inside the upper room again, the warmth from the fire was welcome and he stretched slowly, a little sore and loving it. They both headed over to the table and started to survey the food once more, picking at the delicacies.

"Harry?" Tom's hand hovered over a plate. His lover raised an eyebrow. "If I eat a whole pastry, do I get to fuck you?"

The handful of whipped cream caught him full in the face. He growled and reached out for Harry and wrestled him down blindly into the cushions, holding him there until Harry started to lick him clean. It was a slow job and sometime in the middle they stopped giggling. When Tom could finally look into Harry's eyes, they were serious.

"You can do anything you want to me," Harry said. "You know that, don't you."

And it was back again, that feeling deep inside. He looked at Harry and his throat closed up; he could not have spoken even had he found words for it. Nothing would ever look the same again, and time would never be long enough again, there would never be enough of anything to measure the depth of what he felt. And he would grow to cherish that desperation, that fierce wish for forever, because of what it meant.

Tom bent his head and touched his lips to Harry's, as gently as he could. He had everything now, what he wanted, and what he had not even known that he wanted. And this fear of losing it was sweet, too, if it was the price he had to pay. He had given himself away and in return he had been granted his heart's desire. The wonderful pain of it was something he had to learn to live with.

"I know," he whispered at long last. "I know."

* * *

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