by torch 1996
flambeau@strangeplaces.net

Disclaimer: Paramount owns them, I like to play with them. I'm not making any money out of this, but I'm definitely having too much fun. This story is not related to my sonnet series of Tom'n'Harry stories; it's just a light-hearted frolic. Written for and dedicated to ari, in the probably vain hope that she won't pester me for another story for at least, oh, a week or so. Do not archive this story without permission.

Stating the obvious: a Voyager farce

"Okay, I guess I can wait for two hours," Harry said, stood up and stretched. "I might try to do a few calculations on my own."

"Getting a head start?" B'Elanna grinned at him. She stood up too, and grabbed her coffee mug; Harry knew that despite regulations and Neelix' protests, she would probably bring it down to Engineering with her.

"I might as well." Harry remembered something. "Tom asked me if I wanted to check out this holodeck program with him, but..."

"Bound to be more entertaining," B'Elanna said.

Harry shrugged. "I don't know." He discovered that he was somewhat wary of what Tom might consider an amusing holodeck program to share with a friend. "I suppose so."

B'Elanna headed for the door, turning her head to look at him. "Go play," she said. "I don't want you to solve the whole problem without me!"

"All right!" Harry smiled and followed her out of the mess hall, nodding a brisk goodbye as she headed off towards the turbo lift. He stood for a few moments longer, debating whether Tom and the holodeck would be more fun than spending the time in solitary computation in his room. Deciding that he needed his head examined, Harry finally headed for the holodeck.

Tom was waiting for him, playing nervously with the commercial disk. "I was starting to think you weren't coming," he said. "Not sure I could be bothered to play this by myself again."

"I still don't know what it is." Harry craned his neck to read the disk label.

"It's an adventure program I picked up on DS9 right before we left. More like a holonovel, actually. There was a trend for, well, twentieth century pulp fiction." Tom tapped the disk. "Or something like that. I don't know, I only tried it once, it wasn't really my kind of thing."

"And now you want to drag me through it? Thanks a lot." But Harry was smiling as he walked ahead of Tom into the holosuite. He was getting tired of all his own programs, and besides, something that didn't appeal to Tom might well appeal to him. Friends they might be, but Harry knew very well that their tastes did not overlap all that often. They'd play pool together, yes, they'd drink synthetholic beer together and crack stupid jokes.

But he wondered if they'd read any of the same books beyond the Starfleet curriculum, listened to the same music, pondered the same adolescent questions at three in the morning. If they had anything at all in common beyond pool, beer, and Voyager. Harry trusted Tom with his life, but that was nothing unusual. It was a Starfleet thing. You had to trust your crewmates and they had to trust you, or you'd all be dead.

He sometimes thought — hoped — he might trust Tom with more than that. With the little details of his life, with his thoughts and opinions. The things they sometimes talked about and then left behind, because it was hard to get Tom to be serious for more than five minutes when he was off duty.

Tom did not like to be serious, Harry thought, and how had he gotten to thinking about this from wondering about a holoprogram? All the same, if there was the remote possibility that he could actually trust Tom with what he really felt...

"You might like it," Tom said and for a moment Harry wondered if Tom's thoughts had followed the same path. "And anyway, it might be more fun to play with someone than alone, I don't know."

"Why did you keep it for two years if you didn't enjoy it the first time?" Harry asked. He wondered if the holonovel by any chance happened to feature some outstandingly beautiful women. That might explain Tom's reluctance to get rid of it.

Tom shrugged. "When I realized we were stuck out here, I thought it might have some trade value eventually. Then I just forgot about it. I prefer to make my own programs, really." Harry wondered idly what Tom's own programs were like, as Tom requested the computer to run the program and provide appropriate clothing. He'd never seen one, except for Sandrine's.

Then he looked at Tom and realized that the program had started and there was something funny going on. "Nice hat, but..."

Tom smiled. "That's the one thing I really liked about this. It's based more on old movies than old novels, so the whole thing's in black and white. I know it feels weird, but you get used to it." He stuck his hands into the pockets of his trenchcoat and hunched his shoulders up against the driving rain.

Harry adjusted his hat before he even thought about it. They stood within a circle of light, right next to a lamp post, and black asphalt gleamed along the wet street. A car drove by and splashed them both; Harry muttered darkly. Tom, of course, was grinning. "You could have warned me," Harry said and then smiled. If nothing else, this was unusual. "Where are we going?"

"From what I know, there's a bar, and an office. I tried the office last time. How about the bar?" Fine drops of water clung to Tom's lashes, rain slid slowly down his face but he didn't seem bothered by it at all. Harry could feel water seeping in under the collar of his coat and trickle down his back. It was cold.

Still, maybe there was more to this program. It couldn't all be standing around in the streets getting rained on, could it? "Bar sounds like a good idea," he said and they started to walk towards the nearest street corner. He could see figures hurrying on the other side of the street, huddled under umbrellas, wrapped in coats. Harry wasn't completely sure which period this was, he thought he recognized elements from more than one early twentieth century era. Perhaps the programmer hadn't been a purist. Or perhaps there was a point to it; the genre could have been long-lived.

The bar was almost empty. A few men around a table in one corner gave them cold looks before returning to a low-voiced conversation. The bartender was in his shirtsleeves, with a cigarette dangling from one corner of his mouth, polishing glasses. It took them a couple of tries to get his attention, and Tom ordered whisky.

A woman came out of a back room. She was young and pretty, blonde, wearing a very tight dress and high heels, and smoking a cigarette as well. She looked at them, at the men in the corner, and seemed about to come over to the bar when the bartender caught her eye and she turned around and went back where she'd come from. Tom's eyes followed her, and Harry smiled to himself.

"Everyone smokes in this program," Tom said wryly. And he was right, clouds of cigar smoke rose from the corner table where the men were still carrying on their solemn discussion. There was no smell, though, and Harry was grateful for that. Then Tom quirked an eyebrow at Harry. "I'm sorry, maybe you don't like to discuss programs while you play them."

Harry shrugged. "That's all right. I was wondering, I mean, nothing seems to happen."

"It will as soon as we do something," Tom said. "Or even if we do nothing for long enough. I just thought you might want a few minutes to get used to it. We can split up if you want to."

"Not really." Harry shook his head. Then he smiled again, and calmly offered, "Of course, if you want to go after that girl..."

That made Tom grin. "She looked interesting enough, but I don't think she's a major plot element." Sipping at his drink, Tom appeared completely at home in this scenario; the hat, the trenchcoat, the suit all looked good on him, and so did the expression on his face, a mix of cynicism and good humor.

"And that would stop you?" Harry teased. Then he started to wonder about it. "Tom?"

"Yeah?"

"Have you ever had sex with a holographic character?" Harry stared down into his glass, appalled at what he'd just said. The perfect line to throw into a casual conversation. But he was curious. "It's none of my business," he said quickly, "forget it. I just wondered."

Tom swallowed some more whisky, then put his glass down and looked at Harry from underneath the brim of his hat. "Don't get your knickers in a twist," he said and grinned at Harry's bewilderment. "Just an old expression. Anyway, the answer is, once. When I was a horny teenager." Tom shrugged. "I never saw the point of it. It's just a more time-consuming form of masturbation. The whole thought is just, I don't know, embarrassing somehow."

Harry had to admit that he was surprised, and when he met his own eyes in the mirror behind the bar he saw that he looked it, too. He hoped Tom wouldn't be too insulted by that. "Why?" he asked, determined to get more out of Tom since Tom was being so unexpectedly communicative. "I mean, if you're not embarrassed by the idea of masturbating in the first place..." Harry was pleased with himself for saying that without betraying how embarrassed he was. Then another thought snuck into his mind. "Or do you mean that it would make you feel like a failure for not having managed to find a real bedpartner?"

That made Tom straighten up. "Thanks for having such a high opinion of me," he said. "Look, I just don't like the idea of making love to someone who's not a real person. I don't know if that makes me old-fashioned, like the guys back at the Academy used to say, or conceited, like you just said, but that's just the way it is, okay?"

Harry put his glass down in a hurry, and reached out to grab Tom's arm before Tom could stand up. "Wait. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to insult you. Tom, a lot of people do have holosex and I wouldn't condemn them for it. I was just wondering what makes people do it because I never, well."

Tom relaxed a bit, and smiled. "You never saw the point either?" Harry shook his head, and Tom went on, "Maybe we have more in common than I thought." Harry was too surprised at hearing what sounded like a reference to his earlier thoughts to say anything. "Now, having sex in a holoprogram is a different matter. God, the programs I've written hoping that they would get me laid — if I'd spent half that time actually talking to the girls I wanted to make it with, I'd probably have a better track record."

The bartender brought them new drinks although they hadn't ordered any, and Harry looked down on his glass in some surprise. "Tom, is this actually..."

Tom nodded. "It's part of the plot. You're supposed to get drunk for some reason. We'll sober up once we get off the holodeck, of course. In the office, there's actually a bottle of whisky in one of the desk drawers. So do you mean you never even tried holosex?'

"It just seemed..." Harry started in on his second whisky. "You're right. The word for it is embarrassing. If you're with someone who's not real, then it doesn't really matter what you say or what you do and that just feels so wrong. There can never be that agreement, consensus, whatever, between two people, that I think sex should be, two people agreeing to share something with each other."

"Well, I wouldn't insist on that exact number," Tom said with a slow grin. "But yeah, you're right, what's the point in trying to seduce someone who doesn't really exist? Embarrassing." He downed some more whisky. "Then again maybe all sexual fantasies are embarrassing. Maybe the thing about holoprograms is that they're someone else's fantasy and that's why they feel so wrong."

"You could write your own," Harry pointed out. "Would you?"

Tom shook his head. "Nah. I'd rather keep my fantasies inside my head." Then the same wicked grin appeared on his face again. "Until I get a chance to act them out with someone."

When Harry turned his head he noticed that the men around the corner table had huddled even closer to each other and when one of them noticed that he was looking their way, he received the coldest look he'd ever seen. He wondered if they were a major plot element or if this kind of behavior was appropriate for the period in question. They were wreathed in smoke and Harry felt amazed that people had done this to themselves — if the program hadn't screened him from it, he'd be coughing himself blue.

"Maybe you should ask Megan out again," he suggested idly. "Or," he remembered Tom's earlier remark, "Megan and Jenny. They'd probably eat you alive, but you might have fun in the process."

"I may be lonely, I may be horny, but I'm not suicidal," Tom proclaimed. "If those two ever corner me anywhere I will pray to the gods for a chastity belt." He finished the drink, and the bartender came towards them with the bottle again.

"They're not that bad," Harry said, unwilling to speak ill of anyone. He didn't really cherish a grudge against Jenny Delaney for having made him jump out of a gondola into the Canal Grande during a romantic date in a holodeck Venice. And was very grateful that she didn't cherish a grudge against him, because a five foot eleven redhead with a temper like a whisky distillery on fire can inflict some serious damage if she is so inclined. "Are you really?" he asked.

Tom lifted an inquiring eyebrow. "Am I really, what? Horny?"

"Lonely."

Harry thought for a moment the question was going to make Tom close up again; he looked away and didn't speak for a while. Then he said, "Yeah. No. It's no big deal. I mean, I have friends, I'm doing fine." The smile that appeared on Tom's face this time was the one he always sheltered behind when people got too close, the one with no cracks in it, nothing for anyone to get hold of.

"If you're lonely," Harry went on, ignoring this warning sign, "why have you stopped going out with Megan? She was asking me about you the other day, wondered if I knew why. I said I had no idea."

Tom scowled. "Is that what this is leading up to? You're interviewing me on her behalf?"

"No!" Harry shook his head and drank some more whisky to get his thoughts in order. "No, Tom, that's not it at all. I just wondered, I mean I know she likes you, and I thought you liked her, and you said you were lonely."

"I like her," Tom said in measured tones. "But that's pretty much all there is to it." Looking down, Tom drew patterns with one fingertip in some spilled liquid on the bar top. "I like a lot of people, but that's a hell of a reason to screw someone in a holosuite twice a week." Drawing a particularly sweeping line, he jostled his glass and grabbed it just in time. Harry was grateful Tom didn't look up because he was pretty sure he was blushing now. "I just didn't know how to break it off, I mean we were never really a couple. Not a real couple."

"What's a real couple?" Harry asked slowly, although he had a feeling he could probably guess.

Tom looked at him now, raising an eyebrow again. "That's simple, Harry. People who care for each other. Who are in love. You know — like you and Libby."

That made Harry swallow hard, and then he shook his head. "Yeah, like the way we were." He took his hat off and ran a hand through his hair. "I do know what you mean. Don't be offended, but truth to tell, Tom, I never saw you as that much of a romantic."

"Don't tell anyone," Tom said, his voice slightly bitter. "Let me keep my reputation, I worked hard for it. What do you mean, that's the way you were? I mean obviously you're here and she's there, but when Voyager gets back..."

"If we ever do," Harry said, "I hope she hasn't waited for me." Maybe it was the whisky, but it felt good to finally say that to someone. "I can't bear the thought of her clinging to the promises we made, waiting and waiting for me when I might never return at all. I've decided that," he swallowed, "that the only thing I can do is to accept that it's over, and hope that she knows that too. It's just something that I had to let go of."

Tom's jaw dropped. "You're kidding." Harry shook his head. "You had love and you're going to try to forget about it?"

"You were the one who told me I ought to go out with Jenny," Harry reminded him. "Repeatedly."

Tom looked bewildered. "Sure, I talked you into a few dates, but what's that got to do with anything? Hell, Harry, sometimes I wonder if you're sane."

Putting his glass down, Harry turned to face Tom. "I don't want her to wait for me," he said. "I want her to be free to choose her own life, without dragging the burden of a vanished fiance around with her. And I can't tell her that. The only thing I can do is let go, on my side, and hope that she does the same. I don't have any kind of claim on her any more. Not even the," he searched for the right words, "the passive claim of pretending that everything will be all right when Voyager gets back."

Slowly, Tom nodded. "It makes a kind of sense. Crazy sense," he added and Harry was drunk enough not to laugh, he just nodded as well. "But you still love her, don't you?"

"I think I'll always love her," Harry said honestly. "Just not the same way I loved her then. She was the first person I was ever serious about." He thought about it, remembering her smile, the way her voice had sounded, the things she'd said. The surprise he'd felt at knowing she loved him, and the feeling of calm rightness later when he was convinced he loved her.

"I thought she was the only girl you'd ever gone out with," Tom admitted. "I mean, no offense but I just assumed."

"That I was an inexperienced kid who got engaged to the first woman he ever slept with," Harry said and found that he was more amused than insulted at this. "Nothing wrong with that, Tom. That's not the way it happened, but there would have been nothing wrong with that."

"Although the truth is that you had any number of girlfriends before Libby," Tom teased him. "Hundreds. Thousands."

Harry laughed. "Right." He found that the bartender had filled his glass up again. "I went out with a few other people before her. Not enough to cure me of my shyness." Harry grinned when he thought about it. "Well, they asked me out. I didn't realize until I had to ask Libby what an act of courage that can be."

"Ah, so you dated brave women," Tom said, sounding amused. "Well, good for you."

"They weren't all women," Harry corrected, thinking back to those few brief but, in retrospect, rather sweet relationships. "And I was such a shy kid, I don't think I presented much of a challenge, really."

Tom lifted an eyebrow. "You went out with guys as well? The things I never knew about you, Harry. As I said, maybe we have more in common than I thought." Harry smiled. He felt so strangely comfortable in this monochromatic place with its polished mirror, surly bartender, the smoke that did not hurt his lungs. It seemed that Tom did too. Tilting his hat back to a more rakish angle, Tom asked, "So does this mean you'll be seeing Jenny again, now that you've let go of Libby?"

"No." Harry shifted, and cursed as the bar stool wobbled slightly. "No more than you'll be going out with Megan. Not unless I suddenly fall in love with her." Which, he thought, was highly unlikely.

"No girlfriend and no holosex." Tom grinned at him. "Tell you what, Harry, if you find hair growing on the palms of your hands I'll lend you my old razor."

Harry, in the act of sipping his whisky, choked and coughed. Tom slapped his back until he stopped trying to laugh, drink, and breathe at the same time. "God, you're so considerate," he said. "But yeah, you're right. No lover, no holosex. Only one alternative left." The thought didn't leave him blushing, now.

"Of course it doesn't have to be Jenny," Tom speculated idly. "Maybe there's someone else on board that you could, you know, really care for. Only you haven't discovered it yet."

"Maybe." Harry looked away. "Same goes for you, Tom. It doesn't have to be Megan. Why don't you look around, see if there's anyone you could get serious about?"

"I already did that," Tom said. He sounded suddenly uncomfortable. "Hell, Harry, I think I'm getting old or something. Stupid, maybe. It used to be, all I wanted was someone I liked enough to have sex with, you know? The way it was with Megan. A simple agreement, something to give pleasure to two people. Or however many there happened to be present," he added with a quirky smile.

"And what do you want now?" Harry asked quietly, holding his breath.

Tom scowled. "I want something I can call real," he said. "I want love." He made a face again, as though the word hurt to say out loud. Then he turned slowly to face Harry. "What I really want is someone like, well—"

A hand fell heavily on Tom's shoulder, and they both turned to find a man in a pin-striped suit standing behind them. He had a narrow black mustache, slicked-back black hair and a sarcastic smile. "I heard you were back," he said to Tom, and Harry was startled for a moment before remembering that they were actually running a holonovel. "And you brought a friend, too. I hope he knows what he's letting himself in for. You still owe me, Paris."

Tom's eyes narrowed. "Maybe I do. What do you want?"

The man smiled. "I'll send a messenger later. And you'd better do what you're told if you want that debt canceled. I have a long memory." He turned to go, then looked back over his shoulder. "And keep your eyes open. Carter knows you're back, too. And he doesn't have my forgiving nature."The man left, and as he walked out of the bar Harry saw that someone was waiting for him outside with an umbrella, sheltering him as he walked to a car standing by the curb, engine running. Turning to Tom, Harry asked, "Do you know what's going on?"

"More or less," Tom said. "This is, well, it's a jumble, it incorporates elements from several similar but not identical genres." Tom looked slightly surprised at having managed that sentence, and Harry grinned. "The basic rule is, trust no one." Then Tom looked up abruptly as several men burst in through the door, guns raised. "Shit!"

The group around the corner table said considerably more than that, more guns appeared and the men started shooting at each other. The bar tender had ducked down below the counter and swore as a glass was splintered by a ricochet. Harry slid off his bar stool and so did Tom. They were cut off from the exit. Just when he thought that, the back door opened again and the blond woman appeared, waving at them. "Come here!"

They ran that way and found themselves in a narrow, dark corridor with rooms on both sides; she slammed the door to the bar shut behind them. "Thanks," Harry said, figuring it couldn't hurt to be polite in this program.

"Get out," she said and pointed down the corridor. "Before Carter's men realize who you are. I shouldn't do this, Rick will be mad at me, but..." The blonde sighed. "No matter what I said to you last time, I do remember." She winked at Tom. "Come back and see me if you have the time, honey. Now get going."

Harry grabbed Tom's arm and they both ran towards the door she'd indicated. Harry was smiling to himself. This program might be intended as just a simple holonovel but it obviously had a few opportunities for the frustrated included. When they went through the door they found themselves in a large storage room, floor to ceiling shelves stacked with bottles and kegs, crates and boxes piled in untidy heaps.

Tom looked around disapprovingly. "I knew I should have specified the parameters instead of leaving it at the random setting. I hate these mixed period scenarios." He shrugged. "See any way out of here?"

They started to walk through the room, trying to follow the walls and discover another door. Harry was on the verge of suggesting that the blonde might not have been as friendly as she had seemed, and led them into a dead end, when the door they'd entered through was slammed open and they heard several men walk into the store room.

"In here," Harry hissed and ducked instinctively behind a pile of boxes covered by a tarpaulin. Tom followed him and they stood still, backs pressed against the cold wall. Harry wondered if it was his own heart he could hear beating, or Tom's. At least this program had started to turn interesting, but he would rather have gone on with the conversation.

In the middle of the room, two of the men were interrogating a third as to the whereabouts of someone called Scarpetti. Harry wasn't really listening. The plot might be speeding up, but he had a lot of other things on his mind. He felt the chill of the wall behind his back, and Tom's warm presence right next to him. More people entered the room and someone said, "They can't have gone far!"

Tom pushed Harry deeper into hiding, and followed himself. They were in a corner now, pressed closely together to be as invisible as possible behind the crates and boxes; Harry could feel Tom's chest rise and fall with every breath. "I think we're trapped," he said quietly. "Is that part of the basic plotline or did we do something stupid?"

Tom smiled. "I'd given up on the plot, I thought we had a good conversation going." He paused for a moment and then went on in the same low voice, "I was going to tell you what I really want, wasn't I?" Harry nodded, not about to suggest that this might not be the time or the place. He wanted to know. It was a rare enough occurrence that Tom opened up at all; for Tom to actively return to such an intensely personal subject...

Then he lost his train of thought completely as Tom brushed two fingers against his jaw, tilting his head up. Harry was about to say something but he found, looking into Tom's eyes, that he didn't have to. It was right there, and Tom wasn't telling him so much as asking him. Harry knew he couldn't let that question go unanswered.

He moved a hand up, curved his palm around Tom's neck and pulled him into a kiss.

It felt better than he had ever dared to hope that it would. They kissed slowly, tentatively, as though both were expecting the other to pull away at any moment. When that didn't happen they grew bolder, and clung more closely. Heat flared up between them, the quick shock-sparks of a first kiss followed by a steady flame of desire.

Harry could feel all traces of drunkenness burn out of his blood. He wrapped his arms around Tom, held him tight, wondering silently at the fact that he could feel the warmth of Tom's body through all these ridiculous layers of clothing they were swathed in. Tom broke the kiss, gasping for breath, and Harry smiled at him and then laughed as Tom managed to knock over some of the boxes they were hiding behind. Then his laughter was cut short as Tom kissed him again.

"So you boys thought you could hide out here?" a voice drawled. "Well, I have news for you. Sally has been in Carter's pay for months now." A man in a pin-striped suit was standing next to them, gun in hand.

Tom lifted his head briefly. "Go away." Laughter bubbled up in Harry again, at the way Tom's voice sounded, at the expression on the holographic character's face, at the sheer joy he felt. This was too wonderful and too absurd. And Tom's mouth was on his and his knees were going to give way any moment now.

"Don't get smart with me," the man in the pin-stripe began warningly.

Harry managed to pull away for a moment. Amused as he was, he had no wish to compete with a hologram for Tom's attention. "Computer, end program," he said. "Run program Kim 3, subroutine RL." Despite being prepared for it, he blinked when color returned and he could see how blue Tom's eyes were. It was a simple enough program: a beach, a blanket, a picnic basket, late afternoon and birds singing. The sea lapped calmly against the shore and a few white clouds drifted lazily across a sky that seemed far, far away. "Are you sober now?" he asked.

Looking around, Tom shook his head. "Not in the slightest. If I kiss you again, can you please try not to laugh?"

Harry smiled. "I'll be lucky if I remember to breathe."

And it was as though that simple acknowledgment was enough — they both moved towards each other and met with the force of stars colliding, each a fire that would try to consume the other. Harry closed his eyes and traced the planes and angles of Tom's face with his lips, trying to learn it. He licked at the corner of Tom's mouth and then they were kissing. Again. It drove all coherent thought from his mind and left him falling into blind need.

For how long have I wanted this?

The trenchcoats fell into a crumpled heap, one sleeve trailing in the water. Harry gave up arguing with Tom's hands, faster and more experienced; he allowed himself to be undressed, stripped of suit jacket and shirt, and sighed when Tom's hands cupped around his shoulders and caressed his arms before tugging the undershirt free and pulling it over Harry's head. He was left with his arms raised, hands tangled in the cloth, as Tom kissed his neck and shoulders. Harry shivered, and the soft wind that had started to blow had nothing to do with it. Wrenching himself free of the undershirt and tossing it aside, he took a slow step away from Tom and looked at him for a quiet moment.

Then Harry kicked off his shoes and bent down to take his socks off, throwing them to join the rest of the soggy clothing lying half in, half out of the water. He unfastened the pants the computer had provided for him and stepped out of them, and then did the same with his underwear. Harry looked at Tom, who stood watching him silently, fully clothed. He smiled. "Why don't you touch me," he said.

The only warning he had was a flash of blue under half-closed lids before Tom pounced on him and they both fell onto the blanket. The buttons on Tom's clothes dug uncomfortably into Harry's flesh but he barely noticed, because Tom was kissing him again and Tom's hands were everywhere, caressing his shoulders, his back, his chest. Their legs wound together. Harry moaned as Tom's fingers brushed across one of his nipples and teased it into a hard point, as Tom's mouth moved down the side of his neck, licking and nibbling. He tried to work the suit jacket off Tom, remember how to remove the cufflinks from the shirt, but Tom's hands were never still long enough.

Tom breathed in his ear, teasing it with the tip of his tongue. Shuddering, Harry wrapped his arms around Tom and held him hard enough to keep him in place for a moment. He had to do something about this. And if Tom was not inclined to cooperate... "Computer," he managed to say, blinking up at the sky that had darkened with heavy clouds by this time, "remove clothing."

It all vanished, including everything that had been strewn along the beach. Skin against skin — the sudden shock of it was thrilling. Harry ran a hand up Tom's back, loving the smooth perfection of it, the way muscles shifted under his touch. While Tom was still startled, Harry pushed him gently down on his back and kissed him until they were both breathless. He bit Tom's shoulder and heard an indrawn breath, tried it again and felt Tom's erection move against his hip. Slowly, Harry trailed kisses down Tom's chest until his mouth fastened on a nipple and he licked at it, sucked it and finally bit it carefully.

"Oh." Tom arched up against him and then cried out as Harry did it again and pinched the other nipple firmly at the same time. He could feel Tom's whole body respond, and it was making him dizzy. Tom wound a hand into his hair and tugged his head up for a kiss. They moved together, unable to keep still, thrusting against each other. Harry slid a hand down over the smooth curve of Tom's ass, trying to keep him still; he did not want this to be over yet, and the way Tom pressed against him was just driving him over the edge.

Tom ground himself even closer and nibbled at Harry's lower lip. "Fuck me," he whispered and Harry couldn't believe his ears. He thought seriously about asking Tom if he'd heard right, but Tom was kissing him again, and besides, if he did anything Tom really did not want him to by mistake, Tom could always tell him to stop. He went on caressing Tom's ass, letting his fingers just brush across the gorgeous curves at first, and then Tom pushed one leg between Harry's, shifting to give him better access. Harry slid his hand down to stroke the puckered opening, and Tom moaned into his mouth.

That definitely sounded like a yes to Harry, so he reached out blindly with his free hand for the picnic basket, wondering what the hell he'd programmed into it, hoping it was something useful, because he wasn't sure he could even speak, let alone ask the computer for lubricant. When his fingers closed around a small, round metal jar he recognized it immediately and struggled to work the lid off.

Tom started to get noisy when Harry smoothed the cool grease onto him, into him. He cried out, writhed against Harry's stroking fingers, breathed in sharp, uncontrollable gasps. To see Tom so unguarded and so utterly responsive caused a strange melting sensation inside Harry, and at the same time, he was so damn hard, and he wanted Tom so badly. Harry licked at Tom's chest, bit his nipples again, and Tom hissed something between his teeth; it could have been Harry's name, he wasn't sure.

He did know that he was about to die from sheer lust, and when Tom pulled him close and wrapped a hand around his cock to guide him in, Harry just couldn't hold back. He thrust into Tom's body far faster and harder than he had meant to, just as the first flare of lightning lit the sky above them. Oh, God, it felt so good, and what the hell kind of word was 'good' to use about something unbearably wonderful?

Trying to regain some measure of control, he felt Tom's fingers dig into his shoulders and became aware of blue eyes fixed on his, wild with desire. "Don't stop," Tom breathed, and shifted his hips, an unmistakable invitation. Harry started to move slowly, but Tom wouldn't let him, pushing him into a faster pace. Another flash, and the crack of thunder, and rain started to fall on their entwined bodies. Tom's nails raked down Harry's back and Harry knew he couldn't hold back; he bit Tom's shoulder fiercely and Tom cried out.

"Yes, oh, Harry, please, don't stop, harder..." And Harry, lost in the tight heat, the sensory overload, did not really need the encouragement. The way Tom moved against him was enough to drive him out of his head. He thrust faster, harder, pounding into Tom's body as the rain beat down on both of them, until Tom suddenly froze beneath him and let out a full-throated scream, and then shook with rapid convulsions, his ass muscles clenching tight around Harry and sending him over the edge.

Harry came so hard he felt both breathless and strangely empty, content to lie sprawled over Tom's chest for long moments while the rain cooled their sweaty bodies. Then he lifted his head. "Tom. Tom?" No response, and Tom wasn't moving either. Oh, shit. Harry managed to get them untangled and sat up, fingertips against Tom's throat to check his pulse. "Tom!"

Tom's eyelids fluttered and then he opened his eyes with a slow, drowsy, happy smile. "What, you don't like to cuddle?" Then he blinked. "Harry, why the hell is it raining?"

* * *

The rain wasn't really their biggest problem; it was nice, warm rain, although Tom did wonder what it was doing in Harry's picnic program. More interesting was the fact that they were on the holodeck, naked, and the time Tom had booked was up in a few minutes. He hadn't intended to play the game out, just try it for a little while and see, with Harry's help, if there was more to it than he'd thought the first time. "And had anyone booked this holosuite after you?" Harry asked.

"The captain," Tom said with a grin, and asked the computer to restore the clothing they'd originally worn when they'd entered. It felt a bit awkward to suddenly be in uniform again, for more than one reason. He felt sticky, and the clothes stuck uncomfortably to him in several places. "I don't know about you, but I want a shower. My quarters?"

Harry suddenly looked dismayed. "I'm supposed to be in Engineering in two minutes — I promised B'Elanna. I wasn't quite planning on," he gestured vaguely at the two of them, "this. I really have to run."

"Sure," Tom said immediately, or at least he hoped it was immediately. "Of course you do. B'Elanna doesn't take well to being kept waiting." He looked Harry up and down with a quick, dispassionate glance. "You look presentable enough. Comb your hair in the turbo lift and you'll be all right."

Harry nodded with a wry smile. "It will have to do. Tom, we agreed, I mean B'Elanna and I agreed to go to Sandrine's afterwards — we'll probably be done around 1900 hours. Why don't you come along?" He asked the computer for the time again and then started walking towards the door, saying over his shoulder, "I'll see you there!"

Tom remained for a few moments longer, looking at the empty holosuite. His hair was dry now. There was no taste of whisky in his mouth. But when he moved, he could feel that he was quite definitely and unalterably sore. And Captain Janeway would be walking through that door any second now. Tom reclaimed his data disk and walked out slowly, tossing the disk from one hand to the other all the way to his own quarters.

Once inside, he put the disk down and went to sit on his bed, staring at nothing. The shower he had wanted didn't seem quite so tempting right now. Tom frowned, trying to figure out what had just happened. He'd asked Harry if Harry wanted to check out this holoprogram with him, and Harry had said yes, why not. So far, so good. They'd drunk whisky and had a pretty interesting conversation. Nothing wrong with that. Except that towards the end, Tom had been on the verge of telling Harry that he loved him.

Instead they'd somehow ended up kissing, ended up in another program, ended up making love. Well, fucking, anyway. And it had been absolutely fantastic, and then Harry had oh so conveniently remembered a meeting and taken off at warp six.

I'm an idiot, Tom thought. No, I'm a slut. So I like it rough, is that a reason to ask my best friend to fuck me until I pass out? He was distracted by the memory. I never thought Harry would... Tom caught himself before he could drift off into other interesting fantasies. Considering how this encounter had turned out he might be wise not to think too much about Harry.

Hell, I tell him I'm looking for a serious commitment and five minutes later I'm trying to get his pants off.

Tom swore silently and let himself fall back to lie flat on the bed. Well, he'd just screwed up beautifully, hadn't he? He couldn't understand how he'd suddenly found himself in this situation. Tom Paris, pilot, sex maniac, and general fuck-up. Can't tell his best friend he loves him so he rips his clothes off instead.

Yes, and wasn't it nice?

Wait a minute, Tom thought. He stared consideringly up at the ceiling. Blame himself he might, but he really couldn't say that he'd taken advantage of Harry. Harry had not exactly been unwilling; in fact, Harry had given every impression of knowing what he was doing. Tom sighed. Somehow he'd always imagined Harry as a gentle, tender, slightly insecure lover. Now he had bite marks on his shoulder, a sore ass and a date at Sandrine's.

With B'Elanna present. Tom's mind worried at the memory of Harry's quick departure, Harry's casual invitation. Harry had been so easy about the whole thing. Not as if he regretted it, precisely, but as if he'd already put it behind him.

Christ. Tom blinked. Had that been, well, it? Was it just another incident in the life and times of two Starfleet officers?

He got up off the bed and stripped out of his uniform, tossing it into a corner before walking into the bathroom. In the mirror his face was pale and bewildered, and the bright light showed him every mark on his neck, shoulders and chest. Hell, you could make dentures from some of those marks. And he remembered Harry's mouth and Harry's hands and another shiver ran through him before he could stop it. It had been so good.

Tom wanted a real shower, with water that would wash away the memory of the sweet rain that had fallen on him as he'd lain in Harry's arms. He adjusted the controls and stepped in under the spray, letting the heat of the water soothe him. There was no point in agonizing about the whole thing until he saw Harry again and found out what was going on. But his mind wouldn't listen to reason.

Only a few hours ago he'd been wondering if he'd ever find the courage to tell Harry how he felt, if they had any chance of building a relationship. What he'd almost but not quite told Harry he wanted, someone he could trust, someone he felt inexplicably but reassuringly close to, someone he could share things with. He knew he loved Harry, he'd known that for a long time, and had all but convinced himself that because he felt so comfortable with that thought it had to be a friendship kind of love.

Tom didn't know how long he might have continued with that little self-deception. He did remember exactly when things had changed. When Harry had fallen out of the chute, dazed and confused, and the other prisoners had started to close in on him. The instinct to claim what he felt should be his had slammed into him with overriding force. This one is mine.

Oh, God. Tom sighed. This was a fine mess. For a moment his mind threw defenses at him, telling him he could always pretend it hadn't meant anything to him either, could always put on a casual face and flirt with B'Elanna and let the whole thing go.

But how could he forget that he had for one moment been given everything he wanted?

Nearly everything. As he soaped himself his body stirred out of its pleasured daze and started to make suggestions. Tom shook his head resolutely. Ignore it. If this had all been just a game to Harry, it was more than possible that Harry wouldn't object if it all happened again. But that wasn't what Tom wanted. In fact, he could imagine few worse things than being to Harry what Megan had been to him, someone to screw in a holoprogram a couple of times a week. No one should do that to anyone else.

It's love or nothing, you idiot, he told himself and tilted his head back to rinse the shampoo out of his hair. Which meant, probably, nothing. Tom spent the rest of the time until 1900 hours trying to read, playing a game on his computer console, trying to read some more, combing his hair, folding and putting away his clothes, trying to read, making the bed, staring at the ceiling, trying to read, playing another game, deciding what to wear, combing his hair, messing the bed up again, changing his mind about what to wear, trying to read, walking up and down the room, stumbling on his uniform, changing his mind about what to wear, and trying to read.

He finally walked out of his quarters with two minutes to get himself to Sandrine's, doing his best not to hurry. No way was he going to rush to Harry's side like an infatuated teenager. He walked along the corridor wondering if he still looked the way he always had, suddenly wondering about the expression on his face, trying to remember if this was the way he always put his feet down. Or did everything about him scream LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO ME to everyone he met?

"Tom! Haven't seen you in a while."

Turning around slowly, he was met with a brilliant, friendly smile that could have sold a thousand tubes of toothpaste. "Hi, Megan. How are you?"

"Oh, fine," she said and stepped closer, giving him a brief hug. "Just really, really busy. Those new star charts we picked up are a challenge to decode, I'll tell you. And then Zai sprained his wrist and Jenny's just been no help," Megan rolled her eyes. "I feel I've been working round the clock for a week. Tom..."

"Yeah?" he said uneasily.

"Don't take this the wrong way, but I really don't know when I'll have the time to see you again. I mean, I've just been really really busy and, well." She shrugged, a gesture that had always been particularly suited to showing off the beauty and strength of her body. Megan really was lovely, Tom thought dispassionately. "We haven't seen each other that much lately anyway. Maybe we should just be friends," she suggested.

"Maybe you're right," Tom said, thinking his stellar calendar must be faulty; he'd had no idea that this was the universal dump-Tom-Paris day. He smiled at her. "It's okay, Megan. Any time you want someone to beat you at pool, though..."

"Oh, right!" She socked his arm playfully and he tried not to wince as she hit a bruise. "Well, I'm glad you're not upset. See you later, Tom." Megan leaned in and kissed his cheek lightly, then strode off. Tom looked after her with a half-smile. I'm not upset about that, he thought. There's only so much you can be upset about at one time.

Then he finally got to the turbo lift and spent the short ride running his hands through his hair and straightening his uniform and telling himself he was being ridiculous. At least he was in uniform. That always helped clear his thoughts and give him a more businesslike mindset. Tom thought he might need it.

He walked into Sandrine's so determined to be unconcerned that it was a miracle he didn't stumble over his own feet. And the place was packed, absolutely packed, as though everyone had decided to come watch the show. Dalby and Henley arguing by the pool table, Chakotay, Tuvok and the captain deep in consultation around a table, the doctor fending off the attentions of Sandrine herself. Tom smothered a laugh. He saw Wildman challenge Henley to a game and wondered who was babysitting.

Harry and B'Elanna were standing over by the bar and Tom walked that way. It felt like walking through water, slow and awkward, and he was suddenly more nervous than he'd ever been in his life. Get a grip, he told himself, watching B'Elanna's decisive gestures and Harry's nodding concentration. You're too old to act like this.

He was only two steps away when Harry finally caught sight of him over B'Elanna's shoulder. "Tom!" B'Elanna turned around, smiling, and Tom smiled back. Then he dared a glance at Harry and found that Harry had reached out and taken his arm in a firm grip and was pulling him closer, and closer still, and Tom only had time to think that B'Elanna was in for a shock, and then Harry kissed him.

I love you, Tom thought, wrapping his arms around Harry's waist. I don't know what the hell is going on, but I love you. And Harry's lips were so soft, and Harry tasted like daybreak and rainbows, and Tom could have kissed him forever. But the kiss ended and Harry was smiling sunnily at him. Tom wondered if Harry was going to keep surprising him like this every few hours from now on. He wouldn't mind at all.

Then he turned his head to find that the room had gone unaccountably quiet and every single person in Sandrine's was looking at them. Tom felt himself start to blush, and everyone quickly looked away again and pretended to be absorbed in their own conversation — everyone except the doctor, who was never embarrassed at being caught staring, and B'Elanna, who socked his arm in exactly the same spot Megan had managed to hit. Tom winced.

"It's about time," B'Elanna said. "If you two had kept up the oblivious act I would have shut you inside a Jeffries tube for a few hours." She gave first him and then Harry a quick, hard hug. "Drinks are on me."

Talk hummed around them and someone had started up one of the music subroutines. Tom started to relax again, able to think now that Harry had let go of him. There was Bateheart, and Ayala, and Chell dragging a reluctant Geron along. Sandrine was delighted. She'd always loved a full house, Tom thought. And Harry had just made the most public statement possible about their relationship.

He really wants me, Tom thought, amazed. He's not ashamed of me. And it wasn't until the words had taken shape in his head that he realized that was what had been worrying him all along. Harry could not have made it more clear that he did not care who knew about this.

Then again, a public statement was one thing, and Tom had kissed Megan in this very bar and no one had exactly thought that that meant they were going to get married. Or, well, whatever. Another wave of insecurity flooded him as B'Elanna pushed a drink into his hand and went back to explaining to Harry why his subspace displacement theory was wrong.

Someone tapped his shoulder and he turned around to find Kes beaming up at him. "Oh, Tom, I'm so happy for you!" She hugged him too, more gently than B'Elanna had. "I never suspected anything," she added with a mischievous smile, "I even told Neelix I thought he was mistaken when he hinted about it, but I'm so glad I was wrong!"

Neelix? Tom thought blankly. He tried to imagine Neelix telling Kes, oh sweetie, don't you think Tom and Harry would make a wonderful couple? That idea was enough to make him suspect that the whole crew of Voyager was playing an elaborate practical joke on him. In that case, who should he kill first?

"Um, thank you," he said awkwardly to Kes since she seemed to expect him to say something. "I didn't know Neelix was interested in my love life."

"A good morale officer has to keep his finger on the pulse of all aspects of the crew's business," Kes intoned solemnly and then winked at him. "I have to go, I promised to help him out with a few things. I'll see you later, Tom."

Wanting nothing more than to lean back against the bar and try to get his thoughts straightened out, Tom found that as soon as Kes had walked away, Chell pounced on him with a hearty back slap and handshake. "Good work!" Chell said heartily and Tom wondered what the hell he was on about. Lowering his voice, Chell went on, "You just won me a week's worth of replicator rations. Dalby was betting on Megan, the poor sap."

Tom's jaw dropped. "What?" he said weakly.

"He's a bit slow," Chell explained. "I mean, anyone could see the way you and Kim were heading. Anyone except Dalby," and Chell laughed heartily. "Then again, he's had his eye on Jenny for a long time, so he'll be just as pleased."

This time Tom didn't even bother saying 'what?', he just blinked as Chell waved cheerfully at Dalby, nodding as Henley yelled, "It's your turn!" and brandished a pool cue towards him.

"Got to go," Chell said with another backslap and walked away. Tom closed his eyes and wondered if he'd accidentally hit his head on something and was really in sick bay suffering from unusually vivid hallucinations. He pinched his arm. It hurt. He pinched it again, and heard a discreet cough. When he opened his eyes the captain was standing in front of him.

"Tom, are you all right?" she said. "You look a bit pale." Then she smiled warmly. The sheer affection in her eyes stunned Tom. Kes had looked at him that way, too. And in a much less pronounced way, so had Chell. "No wonder, with everyone staring at you. I hope I can still trust the two of you to behave yourselves on the bridge," she teased.

"Absolutely," Tom managed to say. "Why, captain, I'm shocked to think you'd suspect me of improper behavior at any time."

Kathryn Janeway raised an eyebrow, and grinned, there was no other word for it. "On the contrary, Tom, I was hoping that you'd set a good example for the rest of the bridge crew." He was still puzzling over that when she patted his arm, more gently than anyone else had so far. "We'll be doing accommodation reviews in a while — just giving you advance warning, in case you and Harry want to share quarters in the future."

With another smile, she was gone. Tom didn't think he could take much more. He turned back to Harry and B'Elanna. "Excuse me," he said, interrupting B'Elanna in the middle of a sentence. "Sorry and everything, but Harry, I really have to talk to you, all right?"

"Of course," Harry said, and B'Elanna nodded with another grin that seemed a little too knowing. "Do you want to see if we can get a table, or—"

"No, I want to get out of here," Tom said frankly, and grabbed Harry's wrist, dragging him away from the bar. It wasn't until they were halfway to the door and he heard the first wolf whistle that he realized what this was going to look like, but by then he didn't care. Not that much, anyway. They got out into the corridor and Tom stopped for a deep breath.

"Tom, your ears are pink," Harry said.

"It's a fashion statement." Tom headed for the turbo lift. Harry followed him and once inside, put an arm around Tom and kissed his cheek, his neck, nibbled at his ear. Tom had meant to say something, but he found that language seemed to have deserted him temporarily. He sighed and turned his head, capturing Harry's mouth with his own. They kissed slowly, tenderly, sucking at each other's lips. And then lightning struck again without warning and they never even heard the lift doors open.

"Excuse me!" The sound of a foot tapping impatiently recalled Tom to his surroundings. "Go neck somewhere else, guys. Harry, does this mean we're through?" Jenny Delaney, dressed to kill, hands on hips, head tilted to one side and a ferocious smile on her face.

Tom couldn't help it, he started to laugh. He laughed harder and harder until he had to lean against the lift wall for support. Gasping for breath, he heard Harry say, "Yes. Or it would if we hadn't broken up weeks ago, Jenny." Harry wrapped one arm around Tom's waist and started hauling him out of the lift. "Stop giggling, damn it," and then Harry started laughing too.

This was all too much, Tom decided as he stumbled out of the lift and Jenny got in, pinching his butt just before the lift doors closed. They walked down the hall and into Harry's quarters. Tom stopped, and took a few deep breaths, and straightened his back. "Harry, listen, we really need to talk."

"All right," Harry said equably. "What do we need to talk about?"

Tom tried to sort his thoughts out. "Everyone in Sandrine's kept saying it was so wonderful that you and I finally got together and they thought it was just great that we had a relationship now."

"And?" Harry came closer again and put his arms around Tom. "I think it's wonderful, too."

"Does that mean we have a relationship?" Tom blurted out.

Harry leaned back and looked Tom in the eyes. "Well, I thought so. I mean — Tom, do you mean that you don't want—"

"No!" Tom said quickly. "I mean yes, or, God, Harry, I want you more than anything. I just wasn't sure what you meant, I mean do you want a relationship relationship, or just, um."

"I think the word you're looking for is sex," Harry said.

Tom nodded. "I told you that I felt lonely and horny. I wouldn't blame you if you decided to, well, take advantage of that and mmph—" In the middle of the kiss, Harry bit Tom's lip, hard enough to draw blood. "Ow!"

Harry pulled him along to the bed and pushed him down on it, sitting down next to him. "Tom, I'm serious about this. And if you're not, then — then I don't think we should take it any further." Tom reached out and pulled Harry into his arms. He couldn't stand not touching him.

"I'm serious," he whispered, lips against Harry's neck. "I'm more serious than I've ever been. It just really, really annoys me that everyone else seems to have noticed before I did. Do you realize Chell had bet Dalby a week's worth of replicator rations that we'd get together?"

That made Harry start to chuckle. "You don't even want to know what B'Elanna said to me. And maybe I was assuming too much, but when you said you wanted something real, something permanent, I didn't think you would have even kissed me if you weren't, if you didn't mean it." Harry brushed his fingertips across Tom's face slowly. "You're beautiful, you know that?"

"I'm in love, that's what I am." Tom kissed Harry fiercely, ignoring the pain in his lip. "I was going to tell you, right when that guy showed up. And then I just got distracted."

"Horny."

"No, I was horny all along, remember?" The only thing was that it was mildly confusing to try to kiss someone and laugh at the same time. Tom trailed kisses along Harry's jaw, and then nipped at the tender skin beneath his ear. "Speaking of which..."

Harry was already working on unfastening Tom's uniform. For a moment Tom wished they were still on the holodeck and could just order their clothes to vanish. But then undressing someone had a certain charm and he enjoyed the determined way Harry was stripping him, pushing the uniform down, cursing the boots. Naked, Tom wound himself around the still-dressed Harry, pinned him down and kissed him over and over. Harry got one hand free and stroked Tom's back.

"Beautiful," Harry insisted. Then his hand paused and he pressed a soft kiss against Tom's shoulder. "Oh hell, Tom, you have bruises everywhere!"

"Well, you bit me," Tom said, amused. "Among other things." He sucked at Harry's ear lobe, nibbled it gently. Harry sighed.

"I didn't mean to really hurt you. You just seemed to like it." Harry's fingers scratched along Tom's spine. "I won't do it again—"

"Oh yes, you will," Tom said. He tugged at Harry's uniform, and Harry sat up and started to take it off. Tom moved up behind him and kissed the back of his neck, then pulled Harry's turtleneck off and started to kiss his back, pausing now and then to bite him very carefully.

Naked, Harry turned around and pulled Tom close. With an effort, Tom made himself sit still for a few moments, savoring the sensation of Harry's skin against his own, the rhythm of their breathing. Anticipation is a pleasure in itself, he reminded himself, and then brushed his lips against Harry's shoulder, flicking his tongue here and there to find out if Harry tasted as good as he smelled. Harry leaned back, supporting himself on his hands, and Tom took the hint and trailed kisses down Harry's smooth chest.

He kissed one nipple, then the other, light teasing kisses until Harry growled at him. Then he opened his mouth and ran his tongue around one nipple, teasing it into a hard point and sucking it into his mouth, grazing it gently with his teeth. "Don't bite," Harry breathed, and Tom smiled; he wasn't going to be anywhere near as rough with Harry as he was going to persuade Harry to be with him one day.

Instead he went on licking and sucking Harry's nipples until Harry's arms started to tremble and he sank backwards, unable to support himself any longer. Tom went on placing kisses down Harry's chest and belly and then stopped for a moment before curving a hand around Harry's cock. They were going too fast again, just like the first time. But then, they could always do it again. And again. Tom grinned to himself and wet his lips, then leaned in and sucked Harry slowly into his mouth.

Wonderful to learn the taste of him, the way he felt, the thick solid heat of him. Tom remembered how Harry's cock had felt inside him and another shiver ran through him just as he heard Harry moan. Yes, he thought, give it to me. That's how I want to make you feel. And although he'd meant to pull away and tease Harry some more, he found he couldn't bring himself to do it. Instead he listened to Harry's breathing, and stroked Harry's balls with one hand as he deep-throated his lover. Harry made a strangled sound.

Tom eased up for a moment, long enough to wet two of his own fingers. Then he slid his hand under Harry's ass and gently pushed a finger into him as he went down on him again. "Oh, God," Harry gasped and Tom couldn't help feeling rather pleased with himself. Harry's hand closed around his shoulder, Harry's fingers were digging into his skin — that would make another set of bruises right there. And he didn't care.

Sucking harder, Tom felt the first fine tremors run through Harry and he added his second finger, sliding both fingers in and out to make Harry cry out in just that incoherent way, and Harry's nails were probably drawing blood now, and then Harry was coming in quick, hard thrusts and Tom swallowed. I always knew you'd taste good, he thought.

Finally he pulled away and kissed his lover's belly and chest and throat and chin. Harry opened his eyes and smiled, and they kissed. It came as no real surprise to Tom that Harry made no objection to tasting his own come in Tom's mouth. There was so much he didn't know about Harry, but he was coming to expect the unexpected, if that wasn't a contradiction in terms.

Tom smiled. "I want to tell you two things," he said softly and pushed his fingers deeper inside Harry, eliciting another slight gasp. "I'm just trying to figure out the right order to say them."

Harry chuckled breathlessly, and flicked his tongue out to lick at Tom's lips. "Why don't you fuck me while you think about it," he suggested and Tom swallowed hard. Hearing Harry say those words had started a full meltdown in his brain.

"That's one of the things I wanted to say taken care of," he whispered hoarsely. He looked around. Lubricant, did Harry even have any lubricant? When he turned back to his lover Harry was presenting him with a small tube. Tom had to smile, and kiss the tip of Harry's nose. "You're so practical."

"I try," Harry said primly and then moaned as Tom slid lubricated fingers into him, stroking him in all the right places. Tom tried to be slow and careful, fighting his own frantic desire, but then he just couldn't wait any longer, and Harry was smiling at him in a way he couldn't misunderstand.

Pulling away from Tom's hands, Harry rolled up on his hands and knees and Tom got behind him, stroking the smooth back and cupping his hands around Harry's gorgeous ass. Harry tossed his head. "What are you waiting for, an engraved invitation?"

Tom had never realized he could be so turned on he could hardly breathe, and desperately want to laugh at the same time. This was so easy; it felt so right, being with Harry. And as he pushed into Harry's body and felt Harry push back against him, he groaned. Perfect. "I love you," he said and closed his eyes. He stroked Harry's body blindly, wanting to touch him all over. One of Tom's roaming hands found Harry's cock, and Harry was hard again, sighing with pleasure at Tom's touch.

They started to move together then, driving each other towards ecstasy. Tom could feel it waiting for him like a pressure of silver lightning behind his eyes, sparks flickering along his arms and legs, lighting every part of his body. But he wanted to wait for Harry and he listened to Harry's rising moans, stroking him faster and faster, fucking him hard, until Harry threw his head back and howled. Tom let go and the silver sparks shot through him, wiped him clean.

Sprawled together in a sweaty tangle of arms and legs, they lay in silent contentment, breathing in the same rhythm. Harry managed to move a hand and brush it across Tom's arm. "You're so noisy," he said, his voice light and teasing.

"I'm noisy? You were the one who screamed." Tom lifted his head and kissed Harry's throat. "I was expecting the neighbors to bang on the walls."

"Maybe they did." Harry turned leisurely and snuggled in close. "Then again, they probably weren't too surprised, since everyone's been waiting for this forever." Soft lips brushed against Tom's skin. "I know I have. Tom?"

"Mm?" Putting a whole sentence together was too much trouble. He was high on happiness, more content than he could ever remember being. Tom didn't think things could get any better.

"I love you too."

He was wrong.

* * *

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