by torch, sometime in 1997 - January 2000

Disclaimer: These characters, appropriated for my own nefarious purposes in this story, belong to Paramount. This is set shortly after Investigations which, yes, was a really long time ago, but never mind that. That's the kind of thing that happens when you let stories languish on your hard drive for a couple of years. Finished for Jan in belated recognition of our birthday. Reader response is warmly welcome. Just don't tell me the pairing is passe, I don't think I could take it. :-) Do not archive this story without permission.

Once more, with feeling

He took a deep breath, and then another one; it didn't make him feel much better, so he gave up all thoughts of trying to brace himself and just hit the door chime and waited. It could have been worse. There had been things in his life that he'd looked forward to even less. Yeah, like my court martial.

The voice that told him to come in was even and controlled. A little too controlled, he thought as he walked inside. Chakotay was standing by the table, scowling at nothing in particular. He looked up, and the scowl found a target. "What do you want?"

"To apologize," Tom said promptly. He might as well get this over with as quickly as possible; all he wanted was to get out of Chakotay's presence again. God, but he hated it when people looked at him that way. Look, I didn't betray you, he wanted to say. Not this time.

"There's no need for that." Chakotay clipped every word, barely pushing the correct amount of syllables out as if he didn't want to grant Tom even that much of himself, did not want to waste any energy on this.

"I think there is, to judge by the look on your face. Either you're really mad at me, or I smell like the bottom of a waste disposal tank." Then he cursed quietly at himself. He was here to apologize, not to provoke.

"We went through all this." Chakotay hadn't moved from his position by the table, and Tom was standing very still just inside the door. "I understand the reasoning behind the deception. You don't have to apologize."

"You don't want me to apologize, do you?" Tom said. "Because then you have to stop being mad at me. Well, I don't care. I never would have done it if the captain hadn't asked me to."

"And you want me to believe you weren't enjoying it?" Chakotay took a step towards him. "It was the perfect opportunity for you to subvert my authority. Can you really claim you only took it as far as you had to and no further?"


"I was acting a part. I didn't have a script. I did the best I could." He tried to smile. "Everyone's a critic."

Folding his arms across his chest, Chakotay stonily stared the little joke to death. Then he said, "Apology accepted. You can leave now."

All right, Tom thought. If Chakotay wanted it this way... "If you want to sulk, go ahead and sulk. Do you think this was easy for me? Do you think I had fun, alienating the whole crew, convincing all my friends I was a complete screw-up after all? Let me tell you something, Chakotay, not even the kick of playing with your mind could make up for that."

"It didn't take much to convince them, did it?"

"If you take better aim, Chakotay, I'm sure you can hit just a little lower."

They stood staring at each other for a while. Tom knew he'd have to back down sooner or later; it was, after all, Chakotay's room he was standing in. But he waited until Chakotay said, "I think you'd better leave, Paris."

Then he nodded as agreeably as he could, before asking something that had popped into his mind when he was aboard the Kazon ship, and wouldn't go away. "You never told Seska, did you." Chakotay froze. "I wasn't totally sure before," Tom went on, "but now, she's so obsessed with you, I think she'd have killed me outright if she knew."

"Get out," Chakotay said quietly. "Now."

Tom took one look at the commander's face, turned around and left. He was through the door and halfway down the corridor before he caught himself up and instinctive reaction turned to annoyance. There was no need to run away from the commander. I did what I had to do, he reminded himself, what I was ordered to do, it's not my fault if he can't deal with it.

He might have been able to ignore the tiny voice in his mind that told him he had actually enjoyed needling Chakotay, if it hadn't been for the last exchange between them. After all, that was the root of the problem, wasn't it?

Trying to imagine Seska's full, malicious fury directed towards him, he felt a chill run down his spine. Tom hit the turbo lift and asked for deck six, determined to take his mind off things by taking a few replicator credits off someone else. Sandrine's was running but the pool table was occupied, so he slouched off to the bar.

"Hi, Tom." He made himself smile at Harry, then felt the smile grow more genuine as Harry smiled back. "You look awfully glum for a hero returning in triumph."

Tom shrugged. "Hey, I didn't even get a brass band or a red carpet." He thought about leaving Voyager, with Harry, Kes, and Neelix the only ones there to see him off. He'd done nothing to deserve a friend like Harry Kim, but he'd do anything to keep him. Even talk to him when all he wanted to do was sit in a corner and break things. "I went to see Chakotay."

"Hmmm." Harry considered this. "Maybe you should have given him a little time to cool down."

"He's a brooder," Tom disagreed. "He would have spent the time getting even madder at me. Better to apologize at once."

"I can tell by the look on your face it was an unqualified success." Then Harry immediately looked regretful. "Sorry, Tom. What did he say?"

"He accepted the apology," Tom said. Harry smiled. "In a voice that would have frozen the balls off a polar bear."

"Oh." Harry leaned back against the bar, his eyes growing unfocused. Tom caught Sandrine's eye and raised a finger; she knew all his signals, and moments later set down a beer in front of him, and another behind Harry's back. "Well, at least you tried," Harry said, coming out of his light trance. "And he should have understood, even without the apology."

"I'm sure he understands," Tom said. "He just doesn't like it, and he's going to take it out on me because he doesn't like me anyway." He drank some beer. "It's not that I want him to take it out on the captain, you know? I just want him to acknowledge that I didn't have much of a choice."

"And that you did a damn good job," Harry said softly. Tom turned his head, surprised. "Well, you did. And the fact that he was taken in just proves it. He should be angry at the captain and not at you; it was her decision to keep him in the dark."

"Well," Tom shrugged, "I think he's pretty angry at her, too. I just accidentally reminded him of something else that got him even more angry. Something that happened the last time I worked for him." Then he broke off abruptly and swallowed some more beer.

"Your getting caught by the Federation?" Harry asked. Tom shook his head. "You mean you didn't get along back in the Maquis either?" Tom stared down into his bottle. "Tom?"

"Not exactly, no. Or, well, sometimes we did," Tom couldn't help it, his voice came out a lot sharper than he really intended it to. "I guess that's the problem."

"I can see that," Harry said readily. "If he liked you, and then he thought you betrayed him, that explains how he felt in the beginning. And then he'd just started to like you again and this happens."

"He had not started to like me again," Tom said. He turned around, and leaned against the bar next to Harry. "He'd just managed to forget a few things, and so had I. And I stupidly reminded him tonight, and now he's mad as hell, and I'm mad as hell, on top of this spy business. I think I need another beer."

"What things?" Tom tried to silence Harry with a look, but Harry just smiled. "What things, Tom?"

"Oh, hell." Sighing, Tom drank some more beer. He did want to tell someone, and he did trust Harry. "Well, Chakotay and Seska had this on again-off again relationship even before I joined that group. That was before he'd learned to successfully suppress his emotions." Tom tried to keep the annoyance out of his voice and failed. "They argued and broke up and got back together again. When they broke up, Chakotay would occasionally get drunk, and Seska would prowl the ship and try to find someone else to sleep with, to annoy him."

Harry's eyes widened. "Tom, you didn't."

He shook his head. "No. Wish I had, though, it would probably have been a lot less complicated to deal with."

"Then what was it?" Harry looked about to pick him up and shake him. "Tell me, Tom."

"The first time it happened I was still pretty new to the group," Tom said, speaking half to himself. "We were planetside, at... well, never mind. In a house out in the middle of nowhere, anyway, waiting for some other people to arrive. I was late coming in, I'd done some business at the space port, and when I got there nearly everyone was in bed and I just found an empty room and crashed. I remember hearing someone yell at someone else down the hall and I put my pillow over my head."

"Seska and Chakotay," Harry surmised. Tom nodded. "And then?"

"Then I fell asleep," Tom said.

~~ He'd been buried deep in strange dreams, and half-heard sounds didn't quite wake him. It wasn't until the bed dipped under another weight and something bulky and warm landed next to him that he returned to a semblance of awareness and muttered, "What the hell?"

"I thought this room was empty." Alcohol-scented breath, and he recognized the voice.

"Yeah, well, it isn't. Get out of my bed. You have a room of your own." Tom had been prepared for hardships when he'd joined the Marquis, but he was never at his best when woken up suddenly, and he really wanted to go back to sleep. The hardships he'd envisioned hadn't included drunken rebel leaders trying to oust him from his bed, either.

Chakotay laughed bitterly. "Seska would — would kill me." Strong hands pulled at the covers; Tom growled. "She," Chakotay enunciated with care, "is not happy." Before Tom knew what was happening, Chakotay had stolen the pillow from under his head, too. "Not — happy — at — all."

And then Chakotay was out like a light. Tom cursed quietly. He considered climbing over the man's prone body to roam the hall and try to find another empty bedroom. Then he wondered how many people he'd manage to wake up, doing that. Besides, suppose he accidentally ran into a furious Seska?

Tom caught at the covers, tugged them over on his side of the bed again, rolled over, pillowed his head on his arm and went back to sleep. It wasn't his problem if Chakotay wanted to look stupid by stumbling out of this room in the morning instead of the one where he was supposed to be. At least the man didn't snore. ~~

Harry frowned. "Seems like a stupid thing to be angry about still," he said. "Okay, so you know he gets dumb when he's drunk, but so does everyone else from the Maquis ship."

"Unfortunately," Tom said, "that's not the end of the story." He looked around to make sure no one was overhearing their conversation. "The next time I woke up he was lying half on top of me, holding me like a kid would hold a teddy bear. I could barely breathe."

Harry snorted with amusement. "Tom, this is the kind of thing that would only happen to you. So he's mad at you because he broke something when he landed on the floor, is that it?"


"You didn't push him out of bed, then?" Tom shook his head. "Why not?"

"Because I'm stupid?" He hadn't meant to go into detail about this. But he could remember it so vividly, just how it had been. "Because I was lonely and horny, and he felt so good to hold, and touch, and..."

~~ Chakotay made a low sleep-sound, and pressed his face against Tom's neck. The hand resting on Tom's chest started to move in slow caresses. Tom froze, and tried to shift out of Chakotay's embrace without waking him up, figuring that would save them both a lot of embarrassment. The hot, hard length of Chakotay's cock was pressing against the back of his thigh. Teeth grazed his neck, and Tom tried to think about something else, and then those strong, blunt-tipped fingers found a nipple and pinched it just a little roughly and he couldn't hold back a moan.

The next evasive maneuver was half-hearted at best, and Chakotay easily caught him and pulled him even closer, stroked with a sleepy sureness of touch that undid him completely, open-mouthed kisses and outright bites on his neck and shoulder making his objections fade like morning mist under the heat of the rising sun. He turned over, and struggled to get closer instead. ~~

"Let's not go into detail about it," Harry suggested, turning around to grab his beer bottle. "I mean, I assume that you two, um."

"Fucked," Tom said to see if Harry would blush.

Harry did blush. "It's kind of hard to imagine," he said; then he looked up sharply and met Tom's too-innocent gaze. "Tom! That is not what I meant! It's just the last thing I would have expected. So what happened the next morning?"

"Nothing. He was gone when I woke up and the next time I saw him we were being briefed for our departure. He did ask if anyone had any questions. I should've asked him if he remembered the night before. I had to wear a high-necked shirt to hide the teeth marks."

Tom was surprised at how hotly his anger still burned. At the way that first night lingered so in his memory. It was the way Chakotay had refused to acknowledge it that made it impossible for Tom to forget a single detail. Every touch, every sigh, it was all there in his mind. How could something that had been so good have meant so little? Tom found himself wishing, not for the first time, that the man had at least had a hellacious hangover the next morning.

"Tom, take it easy," Harry said next to him, and Tom returned to the present. "You were just about grinding your teeth there." Harry was looking quite concerned, but his next remarks showed it wasn't the state of Tom's enamel that bothered him. "It just doesn't sound like Commander Chakotay," he said, then added quickly, "Not that I don't believe you. But it sounds so out of character for him."

"Harry." Tom smiled a little. "Harry, there's a lot more to Chakotay than you see on the bridge. Yeah, I wouldn't expect Commander Chakotay to act like that. But back in the Maquis? Things were rough, and he held a lot of difficult people together by being stronger, meaner, and tougher than any one of them. He was not a saint, Harry, even when he was imposing his own morals and principles on us all."

Harry still had a slightly doubting look on his face, but he nodded, and drank some more beer. After a little while he asked, "So what are you going to do now?"

"Get drunk," Tom said calmly. "Forget all about it. Celebrate being back." He slammed down half his beer in one long gulp. Synthetol, of course, but something in the gesture itself was satisfying. Getting drunk could be a state of mind, after all, as much as a process. "Want to play pool?"

"Sure," Harry said, and they moved over to the pool table and took the cues from Geron and O'Donnell, who had just finished their game, and Tom started to think about how best to line up his shots, and whether Harry would ever overcome his habit of holding the cue too tightly, and put everything to do with Chakotay, and everything to do with the last few weeks and the last couple of days, out of his mind.

It would have been easier if people hadn't kept coming up to him to mention it, though. There were congratulations, and idle talk, and a few near-apologies. Neelix stood at Tom's elbow and talked for twenty solid minutes about how happy he was that everything had turned out for the best, until Harry, bless him, politely asked him to move away to make room for a difficult shot. Dalby came up and loomed for a while, and said, "Bet you enjoyed putting one over on Chakotay like that."

"Captain's orders," Tom said curtly, and moved away before Dalby could say anything about that. He wasn't sure what annoyed him more at this point, being treated as the hero returning home in triumph, or being seen as just the same old looking out for number one Paris as always despite it all.

The game went badly. He couldn't concentrate on what he was doing, particularly not when he had to stand with his back to the door. Tom kept expecting Chakotay to appear behind him, radiating anger like heat through the smoky air. Despite his best efforts to put the whole thing out of his mind, he kept coming up with stray phrases, lines he might have spoken, either back then, or in Chakotay's quarters just a little while ago. Not that it helped him now, this ésprit de turbolift. All it did was ruin his aim.

"Tom." Harry tapped his arm to get his attention, and gestured at the pool table. "Either I'm getting better at this, or you're getting worse."

"You're not getting that much better," Tom said, pulled himself together, and made the next shot. He won the game, but only barely, and didn't protest when Harry suggested giving the cues up to a new pair of players. It was really too much — he'd gone on a dangerous mission and pulled it off successfully, and not only was the first officer angry at him, it was screwing up his pool game.

He settled down at a table and stretched his legs out, trying to relax and get rid of the last of the adrenaline jitters that had been plaguing him ever since he got back to Voyager, and smiled appreciatively when Harry brought him another beer. There was something just slightly off about synthetol beer, just as there was always something just slightly off about replicated tomato soup, but having the bottle to toy with gave him something to do with his hands.

"I'll beat you next time," Harry said, raising his own bottle as though the words were a toast, and they both drank. Tom watched the new players, Chell and some ensign from Stellar Cartography, and shook his head a little as the ensign chose the wrong angle for a clean and simple shot. Some people just couldn't see what was right in front of them.

Some people just plain refused to see it. Like Chakotay, stubbornly treating Tom like scum even though all he'd done was his duty. He'd done the right thing, he had succeeded at doing the right thing, and still Chakotay looked at him like that. Thinking back, Tom tried to come up with times when Chakotay had looked at him with anything other than exasperation or disappointment, and the only moments he came up with made him scowl himself.

"That wasn't the only time, either," he said, looking up to see a momentary look of startlement on Harry's face. "It happened the next time they had a fight, too. And then one time when they hadn't had a fight. And then..." Tom shook his head in disgust. "You might not think it to look at me, Harry, but I got really good at being the other woman."

Harry looked as if he didn't know what to say, and settled for a vague, "Really."

"Yeah. Really. I was quiet, I was discreet, I never made any demands. Hell, I never even talked." He set the bottle down on the table with slightly more force than necessary. "I never talked, I just opened my arms, opened my mouth, spread my legs—"

"Tom!" Harry shushed him, wide-eyed and slightly flushed.

"Well, it's true, even if I'm embarrassing you."

"I'm your friend. You can embarrass me. I just didn't think you wanted to tell everyone in Sandrine's. And besides..." Harry leaned forward and looked at him seriously. "Tom, it's not that I'm not willing to listen, but I don't really think I'm the one you're talking to any more. Or the one you really need to talk to."

"I guess not." Tom tried to peel the label off his beer bottle. It was stuck tight, and his nails were too short. He shifted back in his chair. "Hell, Harry, what would I say? That I'm just as mad at him as he is at me?"

"It would be a start," Harry said. "If you could talk things out—"

"Talk things out?" Tom snorted. "What, like a therapy session back in Auckland? I can just see Chakotay go for that." He got a corner of the label free and jerked on it, and the bottle fell over and foamed beer all over the tabletop and Tom's left thigh. Cool beer soaked through his uniform pants, and he swore.

Harry, annoyingly, looked amused. "Tom, you're a mess. If you don't want to go talk to Chakotay, at least go change your uniform."

Standing up, Tom tried childishly to dip his fingers in the beer and splash it at Harry, but most of it had already trickled down on his side of the table, and all that happened was that his fingertips got wet. He barely stopped himself from running his hand through his hair. "When I come back," he informed Harry, "I'm going to take every single replicator credit you have off you."

"Sure, Tom." Now Harry didn't even look as though he believed that. Tom sighed and turned away, making his way through Sandrine's and dodging everyone who had a comment for him until he made it out of the holodeck.

At least he didn't meet anyone on the way to his quarters. He suspected he'd left behind a faint aroma of beer in the turbolift. Tom stripped out of the damp uniform pants and tossed them aside, then after a moment's thought took off the rest of his clothes as well and headed for the bathroom for a quick sonic shower.

Talk things out. What a typical Harry idea. It would never work; if apologizing hadn't worked, why should an invitation to an improvised encounter session do the trick? He and Chakotay had never talked, had never managed to talk to each other.

~~ Moaning softly, Tom arched up against the weight that held him down, relishing the heaviness, the sheer solidity of Chakotay's body. That, at least, was proof that this was real, that this man really did come to him in the dark to touch him intimately. Chakotay's teeth were grazing his collarbone, but they wouldn't leave marks.

Not like the marks he could feel under his fingertips, the marks that Seska's nails had left on Chakotay's back.

Tracing those marks, slowly, Tom felt a chill replace the heat of arousal in him. That relationship wasn't invisible. Everyone saw it. Everyone heard it. The passion between Chakotay and Seska was tangible enough to join the Maquis in its own right, Tom thought wryly.

So why was it that Chakotay was with him now, again, without even the excuse of a fight this time? And why was it that Tom said yes, wordlessly, every time Chakotay turned up without even asking? It wasn't as if they got along, outside of the darkness, away from the slow wrestling, the spurious closeness, of sex. Only that morning Chakotay had been outlining a mission, and Tom had given running commentary on the outline, and he'd gotten more and more sarcastic until Chakotay had told him fine, if he hated this mission so much, he could have it. And they'd been glaring, like men sizing each other up before a fight.

And then there was this. Whatever it was. Tom became aware that he'd stopped moving. He was lying completely still beneath Chakotay, who had also grown still, and their breathing seemed loud in the dark room. Ah, hell. "What is going on here, anyway?" he said and his voice sounded all wrong. "Computer, li—"

Chakotay's hand was on his face, two fingers over his mouth. Stopping the words. Tom began to draw breath again to speak, to say what was on his mind, that he didn't know what was going on and he didn't need this, but instead of sucking in air he sucked in those fingers, tasted sweat and salt and his own precum and the heat came back, rising up along his spine, taking the words away. ~~

In the morning he'd gone off on that mission, grumbling from the moment he left to the moment he got caught.

Clean again, Tom passed by the mirror with no more than a glare, getting a glimpse of tousled hair and his own angry eyes. He went out into the room and stood for a while by the bed, naked and indecisive. Although he'd said he was going back to Sandrine's after he'd changed, he knew Harry would forgive him if he just stayed here, went to bed early, got a good night's sleep.

He could probably use it. The problem was, he didn't feel tired. He could go back to Sandrine's again, tackle the crowd again, play a few more games with Harry as he'd said he would. The other half of the problem was, he didn't feel like doing that, either. Tom went over to the closet and pulled out some clothing, plain white long-sleeved t-shirt and dull brown pants, and got dressed, which seemed like a confirmation that at least he wasn't going to go to bed just yet. He pulled the comm badge off his crumpled uniform jacket and slapped it on to the t-shirt, and headed for the door.

The ship hummed around him as he walked towards the turbolift. It was a soothing sound, the constant thrum of engines and electricity. The sound made him feel connected to Voyager, as if he were listening to the ship's heartbeat. Tom stretched out his arm and brushed his fingertips lightly against the nearest wall, then selfconsciously let his hand drop again. Petting the ship was a step closer to weirdness than he really wanted to go. But ever since he'd returned he'd wanted to reconnect, to feel that he was part of Voyager again — it would happen the next time he sat at the conn, he knew that. At least he hadn't dropped down and kissed the carpeting when he was beamed in.

Tom got in the lift and let it take him to deck six, stepped out and walked towards the holodeck, then past it. He stopped and turned around. Chell came out, heading towards the lift without seeing Tom.

Well, was he going to go in, or wasn't he? Pool table, Harry, beer, the comfortable atmosphere of one of his favorite places in the universe, even if it happened to be half a universe away from its original location — it was all there waiting for him. He was a hero. He'd done a good job. He was entitled to a night off. For once, he could drink beer and play pool and feel that he'd earned it.

Tom took a step, two, and then kept walking up to the holodeck door, and past it, and back to the turbolift. He got in, growled out his request, and leaned back against the wall as the lift rose. Okay, so it seemed that he wasn't going to go back to Sandrine's tonight. Probably just as well. He jammed his hands in his pockets, slouched down a little further only to straighten up almost at once as the lift stopped and he had to get out.

He could still go back to his own quarters.

He could just walk around for a while and do nothing.

Since when did he take Harry's advice, anyway?

The door chime beeped in the same impersonal way as all the other door chimes on Voyager, and then the door opened and he was back inside again. The lights were dimmed now, casting soft shadows all around the room, and Chakotay stood with his back to the door, looking down at something. Tom came to a halt, unsure of whether he should speak or not, watching the line of Chakotay's shoulders, the stocky body, wondering how long it would take for the easy life to put a layer of fat over the muscles. Wondering if there would ever be an easy life aboard Voyager. Wondering what Chakotay was looking at.

Then Chakotay turned around. "No," he said.

Tom blinked. "No, what?" He got no clues from Chakotay's impassive face. "Do you think I'm trying to sell you a used shuttle?"

Chakotay's mouth tightened for a moment. "No, I never told her. There would have been no point to—"

"Oh, absolutely," Tom agreed at once. "No point whatsoever, I mean, why would you want to let the person you're in a relationship with know that you're screwing around with someone else? It's not as though it meant anything."

"That's not what I was going to say."

"Then it's a good thing I said it for you, isn't it?" Looking at Chakotay's still face, at the room that had been so quiet and peaceful before he came in, Tom felt his anger as a huge and clumsy thing, blundering into the space between them, ready to rip delicate silences and trample fragile understandings underfoot. "I always thought you set me up, sending me on that mission. That you wanted me to get caught and be out of your way."

That hit home; he saw shock and anger flare to life in Chakotay's eyes. "No!" Chakotay took a step closer, then checked himself, and put the object he'd been holding down on the table. A holo of Seska, Bajoran-nosed Seska, caught in a moment of sharp laughter. Tom glared at it. "No," Chakotay said again, a little more controlled. "You know that's not true. But if that's what you've been telling yourself, I'm not surprised you took the chance to get back at me."

"That's not what I was doing."

"Yes, it was." Chakotay walked up to him, stopping just within arm's reach. "Don't lie to me, Paris."

"Why not?" Tom snapped. "It's okay for you to lie to others, but not for others to lie to you?" The anger-beast snapped its leash, broke free of his control. "What the hell were you doing, Chakotay? Just explain that to me. What do you think you were doing, crawling into my bed behind her back? How did you explain it to yourself? Did you even try? How could you even look her in the face — how could you look me in the face the day after like nothing had happened?"

"It was wrong of me," Chakotay said. "I admit that. Are all the scruples and principles supposed to have been on my side? You're not complaining about your own morals. It's not as if you ever said no."

Tom drew breath for another burst of fury, but it was as though he drew in memory along with air, he was suddenly there again, in a bunk somewhere with Chakotay touching him silently just where he liked to be touched, and he moved greedily against those strong hands, and ah, hell, who was he fooling, anyway? He might be a hero just for tonight, but that didn't make him a better person. "No, I didn't," he said, his voice oddly quiet now, and turned around to head for the door.

He'd taken maybe half a step when he was grabbed from behind and turned around, pushed up against the wall. "And how do you think I felt?" Chakotay snarled. "You just came cruising along, like a fucking tourist, you didn't believe in anything, you didn't care about anything, you thought you could question everything I said and find fault with everything I did and I'd have no choice but to accept you," Chakotay sucked in a quick angry breath, "because of your piloting skills. And you were right."

"I never — what? I was what?"

"You were right. We did need you badly enough that I'd put up with that. So there you were, in my face the whole time." Chakotay glared, in Tom's face, just inches away. "And I wanted you. This rich spoiled arrogant kid."

Tom snorted. Chakotay's fingers were putting bruises on his arms. "So I wasn't good enough to talk to, but I was good enough to fuck when you were bored and lonely? I know you don't respect me, but I thought you respected yourself more than that." He started to wrench himself out of Chakotay's grip. "Just let me get out of here, and we can forget that it ever happened."

But he couldn't work himself free, and Chakotay slammed him back against the wall again. "We haven't done a very good job of forgetting it so far."

"And this is your solution?" Tom banged his head back against the wall for emphasis. "We beat it out of each other?"

Chakotay's eyes were so dark, like a starless night, like empty space, like a gravity well, sucking him in. "This is my solution," and Chakotay's mouth was on his and Tom thought it would be hard but it was soft, so soft.

Anything else he could have resisted, but this gentle kiss went straight through his shields. His hands came up, one grabbing at Chakotay's shoulder, the other curling around the back of Chakotay's neck. The kiss went on, soft as silk, and the hard grip on Tom's arms eased up, grew loose and moved over him, holding here, stroking there.

They stood there for a long time, still but for the slow shifting of weight, mouths barely parting only to meet again. And again. It was better than beer. It was almost as good as flying. Tom could feel his mind melting and his anger draining away, and when he tried to pull back to say something Chakotay followed him and the wall was at his back and there was nowhere to go but back into the kiss.

He ran his hand down from Chakotay's shoulder, along his back, grabbed at his hips to pull him close and grind them together. Tom pressed back with his whole body, but not too hard, not exactly trying to push Chakotay away any more. It felt good to have his shoulders kneaded, his t-shirt pulled free so that Chakotay could touch his sides — that almost tickled. Then Chakotay unfastened Tom's pants and slipped his hand inside to touch Tom's cock, wrapping around it with easy familiarity, and that felt even better. A surge of pleasure shot through Tom, and with it came warning bells. He managed to wrench his mouth away from Chakotay's.

"This isn't a solution," he said, wishing his voice was a little less rough, "and you know it. We fuck, we don't talk, tomorrow we're back to square one." Tom closed his hand around Chakotay's wrist. "It's a bad idea."

Chakotay looked at him with hot eyes. "Tell me you don't want this." The words were followed by a subtle finger movement that almost made Tom's eyes roll back in his head.

"It's not that simple," he managed to say. He pulled Chakotay's hand away. "You're still angry, and so am I." Except that he wasn't, really, any more, and that was the real danger. One kiss and his brain trickled out his ears. He ought to be ashamed of himself. "Tell me you're not going to wake up tomorrow and regret this."

Chakotay put his hand around the side of Tom's neck instead, and tugged his head forward so that their foreheads touched, and for a moment Tom thought that Chakotay wasn't going to try to answer that and he could feel, disastrously, his mouth yearning for Chakotay's again, so close. He'd managed to forget, over time, how much he liked this, how good it could be.

Then Chakotay said, "I can try," and his voice was just as hoarse as Tom's. He tipped his head to one side and there it was, a kiss, the same kiss, burning and perfect. Hot and sweet. Tom struggled. He wanted this. He wanted it badly. Wanted to tear Chakotay's clothes off and fall into bed with him and find all those special places again, inside and out. The touches and the way they made him feel.


Tom clenched his hands and opened them again, put them on Chakotay's shoulders and shoved. They weren't fighting any more, and there was no resistance. Chakotay staggered back. Tom shook his head, and began to fasten his uniform pants again, feeling like an idiot. "No," he said, and the word barely sounded recognizable to his ears. "No."

They faced each other, and the short distance between them grew. The raw look of desire died out of Chakotay's eyes, to be replaced by something guarded. "You don't trust me."

Tom shook his head. "You don't trust me." He stepped away from the wall, went towards the door. Staying any longer would only make things worse; he just hoped he wasn't going to run into anyone outside who'd see him like this. When he looked back over his shoulder, Chakotay hadn't moved. "Would you go down to breakfast with me? Would you ask me out?" He paused just in front of the door. "Would you talk to me?"

There was only silence, and so he left, hearing the door slide shut behind him. The corridor outside seemed cold. Tom wandered off randomly, wishing the ship were large enough to get lost on. He entered a turbolift and went down a few decks, roamed the halls there, opened an access hatch and crawled through a Jefferies tube, climbed a ladder, came out somewhere else. Every time he heard a voice he turned to go in the other direction.

Of all the damn times to find your self-respect, Paris, he muttered to himself. You could be in Chakotay's bed right now. Standing in the middle of one of the cargo bays, he spread his arms wide in a mocking gesture. Ladies and gentlemen, we are proud to present Tom Paris, the idiot. The sexually frustrated idiot. Living proof that doing the right thing does not get you laid.

On the other hand, getting laid is not always the right thing, either, he added as he jogged down a deserted hallway.

He'd been through all the quiet places on the ship by the time he'd worked off the energy that flared through him. A little more relaxed, at least physically, he headed for the nearest turbolift and only nodded a greeting when he found himself sharing it with a couple of others. As long as he didn't have to talk to them, he didn't mind the company any more, and listened with half an ear to tales of the third shift's adventures until it was time for him to get out.

Tom paused for a moment outside his door. Could he sleep now? He hoped so. His mind had stopped weaving imaginary arguments for him, and he was tired. Opening the door, he went in and called up the lights at fifty percent. The beerstained uniform was lying on the floor, and he shook his head at his own tendency towards sloppiness.

Going over to pick it up, he noticed that the message light on his comm console was blinking. Once. Just one message. Tom put the soiled uniform away and went to take a look. When he saw that the message was from Chakotay, his finger hovered over the delete button. He didn't need that, not now.

On the other hand, it could be important. Or interesting. Something got the better of him, he didn't know if it was curiosity or responsibility, and he called the message up.

It was written, not recorded, and it was short. Very short. Extremely short. A single word, and Tom stared at it for a while before he understood what it said.


Then he began, very slowly, to smile.

* * *

star trek: voyager || e‑mail