How Tuvok Knew by Polly Bywater
Summary: A sequel to 'The Lodge'. Tom and Chakotay explore their changed relationship, and the 'ripple effect' makes a few waves.
Categories: Chakotay/Paris Fanfiction Characters: None
Genres: Romance
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 21332 Read: 5265 Published: 27/09/03 Updated: 27/09/03

1. none by Polly Bywater

none by Polly Bywater
Pairing: C/P, T/K, (yes, het sex alert!) C/Tu implied

Disclaimer: Paramount owns them and gets all the profits, fortunately, I'm not in this for material gain. ;-D
Archive: ASCEML, Cha_Club, TPDorm

Personal Note: For everybody [like me] who wants to know what happens following "and they lived happily ever after".

WARNING: PMS-Purely Mushy Story! Lots of conversation! About feelings! Hey, it's *fiction*!

Tom transported back up to Voyager in an absolute haze of joy, so absurdly happy that he smiled at everybody he met along the corridors. It was not an expression that his crewmates had ever seen on his face. Not a smirk, not a simple grin, but the kind of nova-bright smile that resulted in hearts shattering like dropped crockery behind his passage. Even Dalby got treated to the full effect when Tom happened to meet up with him on the turbolift, and that surly individual couldn't prevent an answering smile.

"Geez, Paris, what's gotten into you?" He asked roughly, frankly envious.

Tom, who knew precisely what –or rather, who- had gotten into him, merely beamed even brighter... and paid no attention when Dalby put one hand over his eyes as the lift doors opened onto Deck Four. Tom left Dalby bemusedly shaking his head and walked on to his quarters.

He hadn't been there two minutes before Harry bounded in, so Tom knew there must have been a computer alert set to inform Harry he was there.

"Where have you been? I thought you weren't going down to the planet-" then Harry caught sight of Tom's face, and his own grin burst out delightedly. "Oh, you TOLD him, didn't you! And he must have taken it well- BETTER than well- Wow, Tom, this is GREAT!" And Harry seized him in a huge hug and practically danced him around the room. The two of them started laughing, finally collapsing on Tom's couch, still chuckling helplessly.

"So, come on, Paris. What happened?" Harry eventually managed to ask, and was amazed when his friend flushed brick red.

"Harry, Chakotay *loves* me," Tom whispered, still enormously shocked by that fact. The astonished awe in his friend's voice made Harry Kim want to cry. It wasn't right that Tom should be so surprised that somebody could love him. Not for the first time, Harry thought if Voyager ever got back home and he ever got Admiral Paris in ass-kicking range, that son of a bitch would be the second Paris to tour the Delta quadrant... only the Admiral would be doing it courtesy of Harry's foot. But he kept that reaction to himself, and contented himself with squeezing Tom's hands tight.

"How could he not love you?" Harry asked seriously, his gaze steady as he inspected his friend. Tom, skin still pink, sapphire eyes shining with that faintly stunned joy, blonde hair mussed into soft curls, mouth relaxed and just a bit swollen, shadows of love bites on his long pale neck... Harry thought it would be impossible for any sane individual to resist Tom Paris, and he hoped the commander realized how fortunate he was. Harry loved Tom, although he wasn't 'in love' with him. That emotion had directed Harry in a different direction. He and Tom, now- they were closer than brothers. It was a relationship forged in the crucible of a hundred close calls and near death experiences, honed by their unconditional emotional support of each other, and nourished with humor and quiet times of companionship. Harry knew Tom as well as he knew his own mind. He knew Tom believed himself undeserving of love, and he knew the fragile caring heart behind that uncaring flyboy façade. Harry had lost count of the number of times he'd wanted to slap Chakotay into reality, but he'd kept his mouth shut and restrained himself from interfering, because it mattered too much to Tom. And it looked like things had worked out, finally. Now Harry wanted to know *how*, because if there was hope for Tom and Chakotay, maybe there was hope for him and B'Elanna.

"So tell me what happened," he urged, letting Tom's hands go and scooting back into the couch. Tom got up and went to the replicator, fetching a couple of cold drinks before sitting back down.

Tom sucked half his drink down. He was still thirsty from sweating so much in the lodge.

"Chakotay came by here yesterday- Gods, was it only yesterday? and he asked me to meet him on the planet for a ceremony he wanted to perform. An Indian thing. I can't talk about it, it's private... but it was amazing, Har. It... changed something in my head, I can't explain it, but when it was over I felt so—" Tom looked at Harry and shook his head. "I felt so *clean*, Harry. Like I was perfect and new. That doesn't make much sense, I know." Tom shrugged. "I had to tell him. I couldn't *not* tell him."

"I'm glad, Tom. Really glad," Harry said, grinning at his friend, who was returning that expression unreservedly. "And how was it *showing* him?" Harry had to tease, rewarded by Tom's second heavy blush. "You don't have to answer that, buddy. I think I can guess."

They looked at each other and started giggling again, shoulder to shoulder and holding each other up. At length, Tom got a grip on himself.

"I've got to get moving. We're... spending the night together, down on the planet, and I've got to pick up some food and stuff before I transport back down."

"Don't forget the lube." Harry couldn't resist saying, and earned himself a punch in the shoulder.

"Yeah, sweet innocent Harry Kim, my ass," Tom muttered, and instantly regretted his choice of words when his friend started howling with laughter. "Gods, you've got a dirty mind, Har."

"Yeah, I know, and you love me for it," Harry finally stuttered out, holding his stomach.

"Yeah, I do, you dog," Tom admitted, squeezing Harry's upper arm affectionately. "Thanks, Har." Tom didn't think he'd ever be able to explain to his friend how much he valued that cheerful, matter-of-fact acceptance. Harry was *happy* for him, and it meant the world to Tom, who had every expectation that Harry would be the *only* person on Voyager who would feel that way when the news got out.

"Hey, I'll run down to the Mess Hall and pick up some fruit and sandwiches and stuff, save you a trip," Harry volunteered, already thinking of the bottle of champagne he wanted to include in Tom's supplies. "Chakotay's a vegetarian, right?" He asked to Tom's nod. "And the tent that B'Elanna and I used is still in my quarters," and hadn't *that* been hell, sharing a shore-leave tent with the beauteous engineer. Keeping everything so casual. Casual friends, casual fuck-buddies, casual feelings... because that was all B'Elanna was prepared to accept from Harry right now. Harry sighed, his face drooping involuntarily.

"Har?" Tom picked up his chin with one long finger. "It's going to work out. Don't give up. After all, if it can work out for me, it can work out for anybody, right?"

"Right," Harry said, although he wasn't sure he believed it. "Thanks, Tom. I'll meet you in Transporter Room Two in twenty minutes with the tent and the food, okay?"

"Better make it thirty, Har. I'm going to grab a shower while I'm here... and Harry?" Tom waited for his friend to meet his eyes. "I mean this. Thank you."

"You're welcome. You know that," Harry replied, his smile returning at the look on Tom's face, that beautiful, open expression that up until now, he'd been among the rare few privileged to see. "Chakotay's a lucky man. Tell him I'll thrash him if he doesn't treat you right."

"My hero," Tom said, clutching his hands to his heart with an exaggerated swoon. Harry socked him in the shoulder and left chuckling.

- - - - - - - - -

Chakotay was taking the sweat lodge down. There was an order to its deconstruction, as there had been in assembling it, and it was important to him to make sure he did everything as correctly as possible. The lodge had been tremendously healing for both him and Tom. Life-altering, in fact. Tom had met his spirit guide in the lodge, and the experience had given him enough confidence to express his love for Chakotay... and the memory of how Tom had expressed that love still had the power to make Chakotay tremble. Consequently, Chakotay's gratitude to the Spirits was without measure, because he'd dreamed for so long of winning Tom's love. He knew there would still be obstacles to face, chief among them Tom's own insecurities, but Chakotay had already decided he was just going to love those right out of his Tom. He had little doubt that he could do it. His union with Tom was Spirit blessed and meant to be.

Chakotay burned cedar and sage, sang his prayers of thanksgiving, then retrieved the last seven rocks from the fire pit and placed them with the other twenty-eight inside the lodge where they would be buried together. That was tradition. He then rebuilt the sacred fire from the embers of last night's blaze. The fire would be necessary later on. Once Chakotay was satisfied with his efforts there, he removed the blankets from the lodge frame, folding them neatly to be taken back to Voyager.

Tom beamed down then, with a storage box, a duffel bag, and a tent. Chakotay had to laugh at this perfect timing... Tom had managed to avoid the heaviest work, after all.

"Hey, Poocah, 'bout time you showed up," Chakotay teased and held open his arms, not unaware of the faint anxiety in Tom's eyes that cleared with his welcoming gesture. Tom walked into his arms and sighed as Chakotay embraced him, returning the hug with surprising ferocity.

"You're still not convinced this is real, are you?" Chakotay whispered into Tom's ear, enjoying the way his lover shivered in response as much as he enjoyed breathing in the sweet, freshly bathed scent that surrounded him.

"I'm afraid to believe it," Tom admitted in a rare moment of unguarded honesty. He couldn't pretend to Chakotay, couldn't summon a mask or a smart remark. Not any more, not after last night and this morning. He had no defenses against this man, and the realization terrified him; only his love was stronger than his fear. Tom prayed it would always be so, and clung even tighter to that hard, warm strength. Chakotay still wore no more than his khaki shorts, and Tom relished the feel of that smooth, slightly damp bare skin over those firm muscles, enhanced by the smell of sharp, clean sweat. Tom shut his eyes and inhaled deeply, marking that smell in his memory. His Cha.

"One of these days, your thinking is going to change, and you're going to walk into a room and find me there, waiting for you... and it's not going to surprise you. When that day comes, I want you to tell me, baby," Chakotay said, smoothing his hands up and down Tom's back.


"Because that's the day we'll go to Kathryn and ask her for a big, official Starfleet wedding. Until that day, I want you to understand something, Tommy. In my mind and in my heart, we're already married. We were married last night in the lodge, when the Spirits told you this was meant to be, and told me it was going to be all right."

"Cha." Tom moved his hands to hold Chakotay's head, and he kissed him long and deep, finally sliding his mouth to Chakotay's tattoo. He caressed it with his tongue, tracing the dark lines before pressing his lips gently against it. "I love you."

"I know," Chakotay said, delighting in being able to turn Tom's words from this morning back against him. He felt Tom smile as he recognized what Chakotay was doing, then they were kissing again. Sweet, tender, loving... the kind of kiss that promised forever, slowly broken off before the underlying passion could erupt. "I love you, too, baby."

Chakotay backed Tom up and looked at him, pleased to note the fear was gone and the happiness was back, pure and shining out of those beautiful blue eyes.

"So what's in the box, Poocah?"

"I really don't know. Harry put himself in charge of provisions and he packed it, so it will be a surprise to both of us."

"Did you tell him, or did he just look at your face and guess?" Chakotay asked with that double-dimple grin that made Tom want to drop to his knees and demonstrate his love, right then and right there.

"He just looked at my face and guessed," Tom admitted, contenting himself with a single hand to Chakotay's face, stroked gently over cheek and jaw. Chakotay leaned into the simple caress, and Tom felt his heart unraveling all over again.

"How did he take it?" Chakotay wondered curiously, and Tom needed a moment to process what his lover— his husband? was asking him. He shook himself out of his sensual haze and grabbed Chakotay's hand.

"Let's look and see what he put in there. That ought to tell you," Tom said, leading Chakotay to Harry's mystery box. "Go ahead and open it, Cha." He had a feeling his friend was about to clue the commander in to the fact that 'innocent Harry' was as big an act as 'flyboy Tom'.

Chakotay threw him another one of those soul-shattering smiles and unfastened the box lid, lifting it off and giving a startled snort when the first item he pulled out was an ostentatiously large tube of lube. Tom was delighted to see Chakotay was blushing when he turned to meet Tom's eyes.

"I guess he took it pretty well, huh?" By now Tom was laughing out loud, and Chakotay was too pleased at witnessing that carefree happiness to hold on to his embarrassment... although a question did occur to him.

"Poocah. You and Harry—"

"We were never lovers, Cha. Harry's in love with B'Elanna. He's been in love with her since she dragged his ass out of the Ocampan underground."

Chakotay grimaced at that, an expression Tom echoed upon hearing his next remark.

"It must have been pretty hard on Harry when you and B'Elanna were involved a few years ago," Chakotay noted, not bothering to mention how hard that had been on *him*.

Tom noticed anyway.

"That's when I found out how Harry felt about her. B'Elanna and I quit sleeping together after that, but we stayed friends because that's really all we ever were." Tom sighed heavily and rubbed one hand through his hair. This was going to take some explaining, and he wanted to be as truthful as possible in order to reassure Chakotay.

"She and I were never in love, Cha. What we had was more in the way of... mutual comfort. Even if we'd been in love, it wouldn't have worked. We're too much alike. Both of us grew up in homes where nothing we ever did was good enough. Neither one of us knows how to be in a real relationship, because we both expect to be rejected. B'Elanna handles it by refusing to get emotionally involved at all. She and Harry have been having an affair for about a year now, and it's killing him to pretend he's not in love with her, because he's afraid she'll drop him like a rock if she finds out how he really feels."

Chakotay was surprised, not merely by the accuracy of Tom's statements, but at the degree of self knowledge they revealed and the painful honesty Tom displayed in making them.

"How do *you* 'handle it', Tom?"

"Well, before last night, I would have told you that I handled it by falling in love with someone who was completely unattainable," Tom said with a wry grin. He decided abruptly to take the biggest leap of faith of his life, and held his heart out in his hands to the only soul he trusted with it.

"Now I'm going to handle it by depending on *you* to handle *me*, Chakotay. I'm asking you to not let me sabotage this. Don't let me push you away or play games. Don't let me ruin things between us, don't let me leave you, just so I can do it before you can leave me. Teach me how to do this right."

Chakotay closed his eyes for a moment and tried to swallow down the huge lump that had somehow come to be lodged in his throat.

"Tom, you're the bravest person I know," he whispered, unable to speak any louder. He reached out and pulled Tom into his arms, holding on tight, while tears slid out of his eyes to trickle down both their faces. Chakotay wished he had the words to express how moved he was by that profound emotional vulnerability, because he recognized how extraordinarily difficult it had been for Tom to have said what he just did. Tom Paris, taught practically since birth to trust in no one's unconditional love, had just flung himself off the edge of a cliff believing Chakotay would catch him.

"Cha." Those warm hands on his face, wiping away the tears; that sweet mouth touching his in a gentle kiss. "I'm not brave. I'm scared to death."

"That's what makes it brave, love," Chakotay said, taking Tom's head in his hands and holding their foreheads together. "With all that I am, I honor you. I will do as you ask."

"I think that makes *you* the brave one, Cha," Tom murmured, his tone absolutely serious, then he was kissing Chakotay again. Harder this time, urgent, hungry, open-mouthed deep kisses. Tom was instantly lost. Having so fully surrendered his heart, his control was equally surrendered, and Tom knew nothing beyond the inferno of desire that was rapidly blazing up between them... the thundering of their hearts, the dark honey of Chakotay's mouth, the hot musky smell of mutual arousal. Reason was submerged in a flood of instinctual need, a primal demand that he take his mate *now*, be inside him, make them one.

Chakotay had just enough presence of mind to grab up the lube and steer Tom over to their blanket before Tom tripped him, twisted them around somehow and maneuvered Chakotay down to land on top. That didn't last long. Tom rolled them over, seizing the dominant position and sliding his hands under Chakotay's ass to grind their erections together. Even through their clothes the sensation made them both gasp and moan, the sounds muffled when Tom captured Chakotay's mouth once more. Tongues slid past open lips and stroked and probed, mimicking the act of love and echoing in the unconscious rhythm of their rocking hips. About the time Chakotay realized he would soon be coming in his shorts, Tom pulled himself away and knelt beside him.

"Cha. Clothes." The words were a guttural order, and Chakotay felt his gut clench at the blind hunger in Tom's face. He yanked Tom's shirt off, suspecting –quite correctly- that if he took off his own shorts without getting Tom stripped first, Tom wouldn't bother with more than pushing his jeans to his knees. He was that far gone.

"Steady, baby. It's going to be okay, just hold on a little bit longer," Chakotay soothed, drawing Tom's jeans down and off, along with his sandals. He kept his voice and actions as smooth and calming as he could. Part of him longed to simply give himself over to the elemental force of his beloved's desire, but Chakotay knew Tom would never forgive himself if he hurt him, however unintentionally. He pushed the lubricant into Tom's hand before removing his own shorts. Tom looked at the tube and blinked, as if he didn't recognize what it was for, then Chakotay watched him take a sobbing breath as sanity came back into his eyes.

"Gods, Cha—" Tom's tone was anguished, the color draining out of his face and leaving him pale as death in the strong sunlight. He dropped the lube like it had burned his fingers, his eyes wide and frightened. "What am I doing? Oh, Gods!" To Chakotay's dismay, Tom spun away and virtually collapsed, curling into a ball with his hands clutching his head.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he muttered again and again, a tormented litany that shredded Chakotay's heart. Chakotay wrapped Tom up in his arms, ignoring Tom's flinching resistance, and held him close, gently rocking them both back and forth.

"Tommy, listen to me. You weren't doing anything I didn't want. I wanted you to fuck me. I *still* want you to fuck me. You didn't hurt me. You didn't hurt me, Tom." Chakotay repeated all this until he was confident Tom was actually listening, repeated it a few more times for good measure, and was greatly relieved when Tom finally relaxed in his arms and hesitantly embraced him. The thrill of skin to skin contact went straight to Chakotay's groin, re-hardening his cock, which had wilted somewhat with Tom's distress.

"I *could* have hurt you, Cha. I would have forced you. I let it get away from me, like some kind of animal—"

"No, baby, that's not true. You stopped yourself when I handed you the lube. If you were the animal you're so worried about being, you wouldn't have stopped then." Chakotay nuzzled Tom's neck and licked a path up to his ear. It was time to get things back on track.

"I love your passion. I love that you were so wild. How do you think it makes me feel, to know that you want me so desperately, that nothing else exists for you besides me? Spirits, Poocah, I've never been so turned on." Chakotay took Tom's hand and placed it on his straining erection, groaning when Tom's fingers curled around it involuntarily. "I love seeing you like that. I love you, baby, and I want you inside me."

Chakotay felt the tremor that ran through Tom at his words, and sent up a silent prayer of gratitude when he realized it was caused by arousal and not fear. In the aftermath of this little episode, it all seemed so clear. Tom was a man of intense emotions, but he was accustomed to containing his emotional reactions. Not to say he suppressed his feelings, just that he stringently managed his behavior so he didn't often act on what he really felt. In this same way he controlled how he allowed other people to see him. Chakotay was willing to bet whenever Tom had slipped his emotional control in the past, it had probably blown up in his face with spectacularly bad results, the Monean incident being a case in point. Tom had ended up in the brig and lost his rank. It had taken him a long time to earn it back. Further, Chakotay doubted that Tom had *ever* lost control of himself sexually as the aggressor, not the way he had a few minutes ago... and any more psychoanalysis could wait, Chakotay decided, when Tom laid him down and covered him.

"Cha. I don't deserve you," Tom said, measuring himself against that strong body and gasping when Chakotay's hands kneaded his ass and moved their weeping cocks slickly together.

"You're right. You deserve some hot young thing like yourself, instead of a broken down old man like me," Chakotay teased, arching his pelvis into Tom and smiling when Tom groaned.

"Hell, Cha, if you were any hotter I'd be dead," Tom mumbled, sliding his hands under Chakotay's shoulders to counterbalance those maddening, flexing hips. "And I promise, nothing feels broken from here."

"Something must be," Chakotay whispered into Tom's ear, licking the outer rim then sucking on that tender spot beneath the lobe, making Tom tremble.

"Why do you say that?" Tom asked with no little difficulty, aware he was rapidly losing the ability to speak, thanks to the sensual assault of Chakotay's mouth, skin, hands, and body.

"Because I feel so empty. It hurts, baby. I need you."

"Chakotay. You're killing me."

"Not yet, but I'm going to, if you don't fuck me now!" Chakotay demanded, flipping them over so he could retrieve the lube. He moved off Tom, placed the tube within reach, then went to knees and elbows, and waited. "Please, baby. You won't hurt me," he reassured, speaking to the fear that he knew was holding his Tom back.

In truth, Tom didn't think he could wait another minute to get his hands on that lovely brown butt, stuck up there in the air and begging for him to touch it. He knelt behind Chakotay and stroked his palms repeatedly over those taut gluteals, running his thumbs down the cleft and teasing over that small opening to the accompaniment of Chakotay's appreciative sounds.

"Cha. You have a beautiful ass, and I want it," he announced roughly, cupping one hand under Chakotay's scrotum to gently lift and rub the precious contents with his fingers while his thumb massaged the perineum. Tom used his other hand for balance while he leaned over Chakotay and planted a series of sucking, stinging, tongue-with-teeth kisses along his back.

"Thank the Spirits," Chakotay gasped out, and Tom had to grin. He opened the lube one-handed and squirted a healthy amount onto the blanket, then thoroughly moistened one finger and slid it carefully into his lover. He took a while loosening the muscle before he added a second finger, loving the way Chakotay responded to this by pushing back onto his hand and groaning.

"More, baby. Please," Chakotay hissed as Tom's fingertips rubbed over his prostate, the resulting jolt of arousal shooting through him like sensual lightning, making his cock jerk and leap against his belly. He'd never been so carefully –and slowly- prepared. It was enough to make him regret anew the loss of that wild, primal passion, because now Tom apparently had an iron grip on his control and he was driving Chakotay insane.

He might have felt better if he could have seen Tom's face. Tom, having heard Chakotay's plea, was biting his lower lip and shaking with need, fighting with himself to ensure his lover's readiness. He worked up to three fingers, pushed in more lube, slicked his erection with his other hand and prayed that Chakotay would keep his mouth shut because he was so nearly undone.

"Now, Tommy, now, damn it!" Chakotay ordered hoarsely, then howled loudly when Tom yanked out his fingers and entered him in one smooth stroke. "Ah, Spirits, so good. So good in me." And it was, having Tom in him balls-deep and quivering, filling him up. So good, hearing Tom's low growl and knowing that control was shot all to hell, because Tom wanted him that much. So good, then Tom started fucking him, and there weren't any words in any language Chakotay knew to describe just how good it was.

Tom had no conscious thoughts at all, will lost again to that purely elemental hunger for his mate, nothing existing for him beyond the hot, wet, incredibly tight clasp of Chakotay's body on his. His hips surged involuntarily into a quick, driving rhythm, while hands, independent of reason, reached underneath for something to hold- one settling around Chakotay's chest while the other wrapped itself around his cock. He pulled Chakotay up against him, craving more of his skin, licking the sweat off his back and biting his shoulders.

Chakotay was caught in a whirlwind, each of Tom's strong thrusts echoed in the movement of his cock through Tom's hand. The dual stimulation was overwhelming, and when Tom started biting him Chakotay's nervous system gave up on climbing toward his climax and pushed him over, hard. He cried out a string of curses, as his balls emptied in pulsating surges of ecstasy and his awareness dimmed... then Tom's orgasm slammed ferociously through them both, transforming Chakotay's aftershocks into an incredible second climax, fueled by Tom's hot seed and wailing pleasure.

They collapsed prone, Chakotay glued to what was now a rather wet blanket and Tom plastered with sweat to his back. Neither moved for a very long time, heartbeats and breathing patterns slowly falling to normal. It wasn't until Tom's softened cock finally slid free of Chakotay's body that either man was reminded there was indeed another reality besides what they brought to each other.

"Oh, Tommy. *Thank* you."


That one little syllable managed to convey so much; 'geez, you don't have to *thank* me, I should be thanking *you*, but you're welcome, you're wonderful, wasn't it fantastic, and I'll love you forever'. Chakotay grinned privately, hearing it all.

Tom slid off Chakotay's back and laid beside him, waiting while Chakotay peeled himself off the blanket and rolled in to Tom's embrace. Tom tucked Chakotay's head under his chin and gathered him close, thinking gratefully that he had all he ever wanted, right here in his arms.

"I think we're going to kill each other in bed, big man," Tom whispered, stroking Chakotay's damp hair and loving the way the short silky strands clung to his fingers.

"Shit, Tom, we haven't even *been* in a bed yet," Chakotay groused gently, nuzzling Tom's chest and enjoying the way Tom laughed against him.

"Yeah, I know. Scary, isn't it?"

Chakotay moved until he could see Tom's eyes, and stared into them steadily, serious now.

"No. I'm not scared. Not even a little bit." He caught the back of Tom's neck in one hand and pulled their mouths together, kissing Tom with all the love in his heart before pulling away to look at him once more. "Are *you* still scared?"

Tom knew what he was asking, and shook his head. No, he was no longer frightened by his passion for Chakotay. That depth of feeling was unlike anything he'd ever experienced before, and so far past mere sex there was no comparison. It was pure power and close to spiritual. He and Chakotay had the ability to turn each other inside out and fly together. It was a sacred gift, deserving of awe, but not fear.

"I love you, Chakotay."

Chakotay nodded, satisfied. It was answer enough.

- - - - - - - - - - -

They lazed together for a while, then it occurred to Chakotay that Tom's skin was going to start burning since the sun was getting so high. He tickled Tom out of his post-coital ennui until the younger man was screaming with helpless laughter.

"I'm going to get you for that, Chakotay!" Tom threatened, finally twisting away until he could catch his breath.

"Thought you already did, baby!" Chakotay pointed out with mock surprise, then ruined the effect by snickering when Tom rolled his eyes. He got up and pitched a towel at Tom. "Go wash up, then I'm going to put some sunscreen on you before you fry. That's an order, Lieutenant," he added when Tom opened his mouth to protest.

"You know, Cha, we're going to have a problem if you keep pulling rank on me," Tom grumbled, but he was smiling as he turned to wade into the river. He loved the way Chakotay took care of him. It satisfied something in his soul, fed a need Tom didn't even know he'd had... and he figured it would be balanced by the intense desire *he* felt to take care of Chakotay, in turn. Tom rinsed himself off and floated on his back for a while, until Chakotay appeared out of nowhere, grabbed his ankle and dunked him.

"Sunscreen, now, Mister. I don't intend to miss a moment of tonight with you, and I don't want you too sore to touch," Chakotay informed him when he spluttered to his feet. Tom gave him an unreadable look, started toward the riverbank, then whirled back around and gave Chakotay a mighty shove before fleeing for dry land. He dried himself off quickly and flipped his towel open on the grass. By the time Chakotay managed to flounder out behind him, Tom had seated himself and was holding up the sunscreen as a peace offering.

"Do my back, Cha?"

"Tommy, do you know what they say about paybacks?" Chakotay asked in a severe voice as he sat down a bit gingerly next to Tom. He took the lotion and opened it, however, and gently began smoothing the oily cream onto Tom's shoulders, the nape of his neck, and down his arms.

"Yeah. Paybacks are a virgin... otherwise they'd be easy," Tom promptly replied, startling Chakotay into a snort of laughter.

"You know what's easy, Poocah?" He asked, still smiling as he carefully swiped a line of sunscreen down Tom's nose, stroking it across his cheekbones and forehead. "Loving you, that's easy." And it was. Chakotay had to admit, it was surprising just how easy it was, to be like this with Tom. Falling in love with him had been hard. Well, that wasn't quite accurate. *Admitting to himself* that he had fallen in love with Tom, *that* had been excruciatingly difficult. It had taken Tom's near death in the Akritiria prison to make him see it; but loving Tom seemed to be as effortless as breathing. Chakotay knew the dynamic of their relationship would, of necessity, change somewhat once shore leave was over and they were back on Voyager. Still, their ability to find this joyful companionship in each other reassured him. As amazing and mind-expanding as their lovemaking was, what was between Tom and him was more than sex.

Chakotay rubbed some sunscreen onto Tom's chest, amused by the odd sensation produced by mixing chest hairs and lotion, then handed the bottle to Tom.

"Will you put some on my shoulders, baby? Neither one of us is used to this much sun, and being Indian won't keep me from burning."

"Any excuse to get my hands on you, Cha," Tom said quietly, dropping a quick kiss on the side of his neck before anointing him just as thoroughly with the oily solution.

"I hope you know you don't need an excuse," Chakotay answered just as quietly, and Tom gave him that lovely open smile that never failed to make his heart pound harder.

"What do we need to do to finish taking the lodge down, Cha?" Tom wondered eventually, stashing the remaining sunscreen in his duffel bag.

"First of all, put your jeans and shoes back on. The lodge frame has to go in the fire pit, and I don't want you to get burned."

"I assume that means you'll be putting on some pants and shoes, too?" Tom asked in the kind of tone that said 'you'd better be'. Chakotay made an 'after you' gesture and they dressed, each a bit regretful at seeing the other's nudity half covered, however temporarily.

Chakotay smoked Tom off with sage and cedar, waited while Tom returned the favor, then they walked around the lodge area together and fanned the smoke over it. When they were finished with that, Chakotay showed Tom how to untie the bent young trees that made up the lodge frame, and then place them in the sacred fire to burn. Chakotay said the prayers that thanked the standing ones for their sacrifice, Tom standing at his side in respectful attention.

"When the frame is finished burning, we'll let the fire go out and bury the ashes in the rock pit with the Grandfather rocks. Then we'll cover the scars, that is, fill in both the pits," Chakotay explained.

"I thought you'd put the rocks back where you got them," Tom noted, a little surprised. "I guess I thought you'd want to leave the area looking like we'd never been here."

"That's a good thought, but we leave the rocks in the rock pit like that because traditionally, it tells anybody who comes here after us that this is a sacred place, and that we *have* been here. The burial site will settle over time, but the spirit plane is timeless, Tommy. This area will always be special."

"It *is* special, Cha. I'd like to come back here someday," Tom admitted with a lopsided smile.

"I'd like that, too. Maybe when you figure out how to break warp ten without turning into a lizard, Poocah," Chakotay teased, and Tom blushed. "You hungry? I'm curious to see what else Harry put in that box."

Chakotay stuck the lube in Tom's duffel bag and snapped out their blanket a few times to freshen it before he laid it over a springy patch of grass. Tom retrieved the box of provisions and they sat down to investigate. Bottled water, several pieces of fruit, sandwiches of both the vegetarian and carnivorous varieties, two thermal bottles of soup; one mushroom and one tomato, which prompted Chakotay to look at Tom and remark "He knows us pretty well, doesn't he?" Packed separately at the bottom, thermal containers of vegetable lasagna, a salad, chocolate crème pie, two beautiful crystal wineglasses and a bottle of real champagne. And one other thing.

"There's a card for you," Tom discovered, recognizing Harry's handwriting as he handed the envelope to Chakotay, who opened it and read out loud.

"'Commander Chakotay. Lao Tzu once said, "To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage." May you be as blessed with strength as you have been with courage. Congratulations, Harry'" Chakotay gave Tom a bemused look. "I think that's the classiest warning I've ever gotten."

Tom covered his eyes with one hand and tried to decide whether he'd hug Harry or kick him when he saw him next... a reaction Chakotay saw right through. He reached out and caught Tom's hand.

"It's okay, baby. I'm grateful Harry's such a good friend to you." Chakotay leaned over and gave Tom a reassuring kiss. "How about soup and sandwiches for lunch, then we'll move the blanket over to the shade and sleep for a while before we finish with the lodge area?"

"Sounds perfect, Cha. I'm a little tired."

"Yeah, me too," Chakotay confessed, realizing only then that they'd both been awake now for over twenty-four hours, with only a short nap this morning. Not to mention having been engaged in very strenuous activity... which certainly wasn't limited to the physical consummation of their love. The sweat lodge ceremony and everything that went into arranging it was exhausting by itself. Chakotay sighed. Having admitted to himself how weary he *ought* to be seemed to bring it all crashing in on him, and he was powerless to prevent a huge yawn.

"Stand aside, Commander," Tom ordered, reading the sudden fatigue on that face very well even before the yawn. His Cha had hit the wall, apparently. Tom repacked Harry's box and when Chakotay moved off the blanket, Tom relocated everything near enough to the treeline to be in the shade all afternoon. "Come over here, love," he urged softly, holding out his hand to the owner of his soul.

Chakotay let Tom lead him, and appreciated the sensation of being pampered when Tom served him a cup of soup and a sandwich, but he drew the line at letting Tom hand feed him, much to Tom's aggravation. They ate quickly and stretched out on the blanket together, and although it was still quite warm even in the shade, fell to dreamless sleep wrapped up in each other's arms.

- - - - - - - - -

Title: How Tuvok Knew Part 2/3
Author: Polly Bywater
Pairing: C/P, T/K, C/Tu implied
Rating: NC-17 for sexual content, language
Disclaimer: See Part 1

Harry met B'Elanna in the Mess Hall for a late lunch, since they were still on Beta shift until all the shore leave rotations were finished.
He hadn't seen her since they'd returned to Voyager yesterday, but for once he was untroubled by that absence. Harry was too excited right now for Tom and Chakotay, too cheerfully anxious to find out how his gift –and his message- had been received. Consequently, he paid little attention when B'Elanna slammed her tray down on the table and sat next to him, grumbling something about Seven and Borg modifications and the power allocations to Astrometrics.

"Hey Starfleet! Are you listening to me?" B'Elanna asked rather incredulously, thinking to herself that Harry had spoiled her by usually hanging on her every word. "What's got you so distracted, anyway?" She demanded, curious to know what was putting that anticipatory glow in those beautiful dark eyes... since that expression was usually reserved for her. Should she be *jealous*?

"No, it's not like that, B'Elanna," Harry replied, startling the engineer into realizing she had spoken the last question out loud.

"Well, then. What is it?" She asked again, grateful that her café au lait complexion hid her blush. Kahless, she hadn't meant to ask him *that*!

Harry looked at her, and B'Elanna could practically see the wheels turning in his head as he debated whether or not to tell her.

"It's really not my news to tell," Harry ventured to B'Elanna's snort.

"That's never stopped you before!" She pointed out, and Harry shook his head.

"You know I don't gossip about the really important stuff, Maquis."

"Yeah, I know," B'Elanna said, smiling at him because it was true. Harry might love gossip, and he certainly passed on his fair share of it, but not when it came to relating information that could hurt somebody. Especially his friends... Hmm. "So what's Paris done?"

"Bullseye," she thought when Harry looked down at his tray and made a production out of picking through the leola-root-special-of-the-day.

"Come on, Starfleet. Give. How much trouble is Helmboy in now?"

He met her eyes then, and B'Elanna was surprised to see anger simmering in that level stare. Anger at her.

"You know, B'Elanna, I thought Tom was your friend. Why do you automatically assume he's done something wrong? Because you couldn't be further from the truth." Harry stood, pausing only to grab his tray and dispose of it before departing the Mess Hall. He left B'Elanna Torres wondering just what in the hell was going on. And feeling, maybe, just a little ashamed of herself.

She caught up with him in the turbolift.

"Deck four," she announced at the same time as Harry's "Bridge".

"Restate destination," the computer requested, and B'Elanna put her hand on Harry's arm.

"We still have an hour before our shifts start, Starfleet. Talk to me. Please."

"Deck four," Harry instructed the turbolift, his tone resigned. He could get angry with B'Elanna -and frequently was, in fact, much more than she ever would have guessed- but when she said 'please' he was helpless to deny her. They got off the lift and made the short walk to his quarters in silence, where he waved her inside ahead of him.

"Do you want something else to eat?" B'Elanna asked a bit uncertainly.

"I'm out of replicator rations until next week," Harry informed her, unable to prevent the grin that crossed his face when he remembered what he'd spent his remaining rations on. He wished he could have seen Tom's and Chakotay's faces when they opened that box and found that giant tube of lube. The hope that his friend was putting his gift to good use kept him amused, even when B'Elanna crossed to his replicator and ordered two bowls of kung pao chicken, which she charged to her own account. Harry took a seat at his little dining table.

"Thanks, B'El," Harry said when she handed him his bowl and sat down across from him . B'Elanna waited until they were about halfway through their meal, then asked. Gently.

"*Is* Tom all right?"

"Right now, I bet Tom is better than all right," Harry said without thinking, a huge smile lighting his face.

B'Elanna felt her thighs loosening in response, an entirely involuntary reaction. Damn Harry anyway, when had seeing him happy gotten to be such a turn-on for her? and *what* had he said?

"Who's he with! Damn it, Starfleet! *WHO'S HE WITH*!" Oh, *please* let it be Chakotay, she was thinking. Unfortunately, Harry was no mind reader, and he jumped to a very different conclusion.

"That does it." Harry was livid. He leaned over the table and grabbed B'Elanna by the collar, yanking her up until he was right in her face.

"What FUCKING difference does that make to YOU? Are you still that God-damned hung up on TOM? Well, FUCK YOU, B'Elanna Torres! FUCK YOU, for not being able to see what's right in front of your FACE! *I'M* the one who loves you, damn it!" And Harry dropped her into her chair and stormed out, dodging by pure instinct the half-empty bowl of kung pao chicken that came sailing out of his quarters behind him to smash into the corridor wall. He went to the bridge and relieved Ayala with such a frown on his face that the big tough Maquis practically scuttled off the bridge, and all Harry could think was "Shit, shit, shit. What have I done."

- - - - - - - - - - -

This time, Tom awakened first, and found himself on his side with Chakotay spooned up close behind, one arm across his chest as if to make sure he didn't go anywhere without his Cha knowing. Tom hummed contentedly, luxuriating in feeling so coddled and protected. He couldn't remember having ever felt so adored, and couldn't envision himself ever daring to take this for granted. Maybe in fifty years or so... nah. Not even then. Provided he'd have that long before he screwed it up somehow, Tom thought with a faint sigh.

Chakotay's breathing changed, and the arm across his chest tightened, so Tom twisted himself around until they were face to face. He put an arm around Chakotay and added a leg, too, for good measure, before planting a slow kiss on those lush, tempting lips.

"Good morning, sleeping beauty," Tom said quietly, and watched his lover's gorgeous eyes fly open in surprise.

"Spirits, Tommy, it's *not* morning, is it?"

"No, Cha, we didn't sleep *that* long. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have teased you... but you are beautiful, you know. I haven't got a clue what time it is, but I'm pretty sure it's the same day."

Chakotay rested one hand against Tom's cheek, loving the way he looked so utterly relaxed and happy. He seemed to be as rested as Chakotay felt, so apparently they *had* been asleep for quite a while.

"Do you have any idea how many times I dreamed of waking up next to you, Tom?" Chakotay asked, caressing that sweet, precious face.

"Probably about half as many times as I did," Tom answered, and suddenly those blue eyes were overbright and spilling tears. "I love you so much, Chakotay. I wish I could show you how much."

"It does show, my baby. I can see it and feel it all around me."

Chakotay kissed him with that exquisite tenderness that simply left Tom undone, then shook him even further by licking the tears off his face. Tom understood then what Chakotay was saying. The love they made in words and gestures was as powerful as its sexual expression. It was as pervasive and palpable as the steam in the sweat lodge last night, as thick as a blanket and just as substantial. It was there, wrapping him up and holding him close, the same as his Cha's arms... and all he'd ever have to do would be allow himself to feel it. He snuggled into Chakotay's embrace and they held each other for a long while.

Eventually, Chakotay had to get up. Certain bodily functions just wouldn't wait.

"I've got to make a trip into the woods, love."

"That's okay, Cha. I'm going to set up the tent." Tom looked at him sideways. "Uh, there's some stuff in my bag if you want it, some ointment for your behind. I can tell you're sore."

"Guess I can't hide anything from you, Poocah... but it's a *good* sore. Don't doubt that," Chakotay reassured, pleased when Tom smiled.
He grabbed up Tom's bag and vanished into the trees.

Tom erected the tent, leaving the door and window flaps open to air it out a little. Apparently, Harry and B'Elanna had had a *very* good time on shore leave, he noted with a laugh as his nose twitched. He took a couple of the lodge blankets and used them to pad the tent floor, appreciating the way the smell of woodsmoke and herbs replaced the lingering aroma of sensual musk inside the little two-man shelter.

He picked up a few scattered rocks and made a fire ring several feet from the tent, noticing idly that sunset was probably about an hour away. Chakotay reappeared then, and Tom was glad to see the big man was walking easily. Despite what Chakotay had said, Tom still felt a pang of remorse at having caused him any pain at all.

"My turn?" Tom asked cheerfully, taking his bag and a quick kiss then disappearing into the trees before Chakotay could say anything.

Chakotay stared after Tom thoughtfully. He judged his Poocah very well, and he wondered why Tom blamed himself so much for Chakotay having what was genuinely minor soreness, when Tom himself had to have been equally sore earlier. Was it possible that part of Tom expected his partner wouldn't care, or worse... did he believe he deserved to be hurt? Well, this was a personality quirk he would work on, Chakotay decided. Just call it another lesson in the re-education of Tom Paris. The notion made him grin.

He began the process of shoveling the ashes from the fire pit and placing them with the Grandfather rocks. When he finished that task, he covered the rocks and ashes with dirt, smoothed over the little mound, and said the appropriate prayers to seal the pit before he turned his attention to filling in the site of the fire. Tom showed up in time for him to burn the last of his sage and cedar mixture, and they stood together as Chakotay said the last prayers that closed out the lodge area.

"Cha? Will you teach me sometime how to speak your native language?"
Tom asked rather diffidently. Chakotay hated hearing that note of uncertainty.

"I'd like to teach you, baby. It makes me happy that you'd ask," Chakotay said, stopping Tom with one hand on his arm and turning him so they faced each other. Chakotay slid his hands up to cup that beloved face, so he could make sure Tom was paying attention to him, and not whatever doubting voice spoke in Tom's mind.

"You can ask me for anything. Any time. Everything that I have is yours. Always. I love you, Tom," he promised, and watched those blue eyes swim with fresh tears. "I'm going to keep telling you, you know. And showing you, until you believe it. Then I'll keep on, just because it's fun," Chakotay added, and watched a beautiful smile wreathe that face, like sunshine breaking through clouds. He pulled Tom nearer and tasted that smile, licking those lips until that mouth opened to him, allowing him to plunder. Chakotay kissed Tom until they were both trembling, both reminded of their first kisses, and what had resulted. Chakotay broke the kiss then, holding Tom hard against him until memories and arousal calmed.

"Cha?" Said a bit breathlessly.

Once again, Chakotay heard everything Tom was thinking, all revealed in that wondering, frustrated, faintly suspicious tone. Chakotay smiled into Tom's hair, a wicked, anticipatory little grin.

"Patience, Lieutenant."

"Oh, you have a *plan*," Tom realized with well-played shock, and both men started laughing.

"And here I thought you liked my plans," Chakotay said with pretended irritation, when he could speak. He squeezed Tom tightly then turned him loose, still smiling.

Tom watched those dimples appear and for a moment could only nod. It came to him that he'd do anything Chakotay required, just for the privilege of seeing that smile. Some tiny voice of self-preservation was whispering at him to not be so dependent on his lover's whims, but Tom knew it was far too late for that warning. Perhaps it always had been, for when Tom loved, he loved with his whole heart and he was incapable of holding back. He'd known what kind of power Chakotay would have over him if by some miracle they ever came together. Maybe that was one of the reasons Tom would ordinarily never have made the first move, but the experience he'd had in the lodge had taken that choice away from him. He'd come out of the sweat lodge feeling purified and worthy, with the words of his spirit guide assuring him Chakotay was meant to be his. That was the voice he needed to keep hearing, not the voice of his self-doubts.

Chakotay saw the reflections of Tom's thoughts moving over his face. Helpless vulnerability and resigned acceptance transmuted into a joyous resolve that mingled with serenity, shining out of those deep blue eyes. Chakotay closed his own eyes, shaken by the realization he'd just witnessed his Tom taking another giant leap of the heart.

Tom leaned forward and kissed Chakotay again, a short, simple, and achingly tender salute.

"I love you, Cha, and I love your plans, too. What's first on the agenda?"

It took Chakotay a moment to answer.

"I thought we'd use what's left of the firewood at our campsite. We'll start a fire, then get out of these clothes and have a wash, then dinner? I have some things I want to tell you, baby." Chakotay reached out and ran his fingers through that blonde hair, loving the way it shimmered in the lowering sun. "Have you considered what tonight is?"

"Aside from being the first night of the rest of our lives together?" Tom asked gently, catching Chakotay's hand and pressing a kiss in the palm before twining their fingers together.

This man is such a romantic, Chakotay thought, wondering how Tom Paris had managed to hide that part of himself so well, for so long. Chakotay was glad, because he knew he was just as hopeless a romantic, and by the time morning came he planned to have demonstrated that to Tom beyond a shadow of a doubt.

"Do you remember what I told you this morning, right after you got back from Voyager? Tonight's our wedding night, love."

Tom blinked.

"You meant that." It wasn't, quite, a question.

"Of course I meant it. When we get back to Voyager, we'll go to Kathryn and inform her of our changed status as a married couple. It's up to us what constitutes the ceremony, you know. I also meant what I said about having another wedding sometime down the road, but make no mistake, Tom Paris, you're already my husband, and I'm not letting you get away."

Tom felt strange. It was as if all the planet's atmosphere had been sucked away, leaving him standing in a vacuum with his ears roaring. He went hot then cold, as excited as he was panicked, overjoyed but paralyzed with shock. There was a feeling of unreality, of standing on the brink of something so important he was afraid to move for fear of shattering, his thoughts fixed totally on the single truth of what he needed... Chakotay. Meant it. Married. To *him*. For *life*.

Tom was silent for so long Chakotay started to get a little worried.

"You don't *want* to get away, do you?"

"Gods, no!" Instantly unfrozen by that anxious tone, Tom wrapped Chakotay up in his arms and spun him around, planting little kisses all over his face and neck, suddenly laughing and crying at the same time. "Cha. I didn't— I want— I wasn't— I do- Oh, shit, Cha! I *love* you!" Tom buried his face in the hollow of Chakotay's throat and started sobbing.

Chakotay held him and thought ruefully that there was good reason for Tom to be so self-contained most of the time, since he'd be an emotional wreck otherwise. Chakotay wanted to kick himself for every time in the past when he'd believed Tom Paris was an unfeeling bastard. Obviously, Tom just needed to feel secure enough to reveal how he felt... and he must be feeling pretty secure with *him*, Chakotay decided, relieved.

Tom finally got a grip on himself. He backed up and wiped his face. It embarrassed him to realize he'd cried more in this one day than he had in the last ten years, in fact, probably since the shuttle accident at Caldik Prime. That was a memory he didn't particularly want to dwell on, so he pushed it away and forced himself to meet Chakotay's eyes.

"I'm sorry, Chakotay. I'm not usually so—" Tom shrugged, not sure what word to use. Raw? Unwrapped? Out of control?

"Spirits, Tom, I know that. Don't worry about it, okay?" Chakotay grinned. "As long as you're not crying at the thought of being married to me."

"Well, I was, but not in a bad way," Tom grinned back, happy to have the moment lightened.

"Good, I think," Chakotay said, and made a face at Tom that had the younger man chuckling. "Come on, let's get this firewood carried over before it gets dark."

"Whatever you say, *husband*."

- - - - - - - - - -

The end of Beta shift was bearing down fast, Harry realized, wondering what his chances were of getting to his quarters in one piece. He was probably worrying for nothing. Chances were B'Elanna wouldn't even bother to speak to him for the next 40,000 light years. He still couldn't believe he'd fucked up his relationship with her so badly. Not only had he manhandled her, cursed at her, and accused her of being hung up on Tom, he'd admitted to her he loved her. Good going, Kim. Any one of those would have finished them, but he had to do them all at once! Tom would say he'd suffered a 'Paris moment', for sure.

Now that he'd had time to calm down, he could see how stupid he'd been to think B'Elanna was jealous because of Tom. Shit, he knew better than anybody that they'd never been in love. B'Elanna had said several times that she wished Tom would settle down with somebody and be happy. She'd even hinted around that she knew a potential candidate, come to think of it. Harry had basically ignored that, because he knew how Tom felt about Chakotay. He'd learned first hand in the bowels of that prison, when Tom, delirious with fever and blood loss, had repeatedly called out the commander's name... begging for his forgiveness and pleading with Chakotay not to hate him any more. Hearing Tom like that had ripped Harry's heart out of his chest, and he'd known afterwards there was no point in trying to fix Tom up with anybody else. The knowledge that Tom was so desperately in love with Chakotay had been the only thing that kept Harry sane when Tom and B'Elanna were screwing around. Not that he'd taken *that* well, nor acted particularly sane. In fact, he'd about scared Tom to death...

// Tom got back to his quarters around 0300. Harry was waiting for him, sitting in the dark, with a nearly empty bottle of genuine whiskey. Harry had been chasing oblivion all night, but he just wasn't there yet, despite his best efforts. He was at that point where he had no control of his mouth, but he wasn't at the point of blacking out. He waited for the door to shut behind Tom, then shouted at him drunkenly.

"Where the fuck ya been, Paris? Oh, I know! Ya been fucking!"

"Holy shit, Har!" Tom clutched his chest and gasped, which Harry thought was just too comical, and he laughed hysterically then started crying, big blubbering sobs.

"Damn you, Tom, whydja have to go after B'El? Beautiful, beautiful B'Ela. Dontcha know how much I love her, Tom? Dontcha?"

"Aw, hell, Harry. I know now." Tom sounded so sad, and it made Harry cry even harder. Tom sat down beside him and put his arms around Harry and just let him cry until he finally passed out. Harry awakened four hours later with a hypospray at his neck. Tom got him sobered up in time to make it to the bridge for his duty shift, but before Harry left Tom's quarters, Tom sat him down and promised him he'd never sleep with B'Elanna again, now that he knew how Harry felt. And he apologized for hurting Harry. //

Harry often wished he'd been too drunk to remember that scene, but Tom had never once referred to it until weeks later when Harry himself had brought it up to apologize for his own behavior. He also wanted to know how B'Elanna had taken it when Tom told her it was over, and Tom told him honestly that she'd broken it off with him before he had a chance to say anything. They'd both agreed the 'better part of valor' included letting B'Elanna think it was her idea. The only thing Tom asked Harry was how long he'd been in love with her. Harry admitted he'd been fighting his feelings for B'Elanna since Ocampa, and Tom had gotten that weird hopeless look on his face, the one Harry knew meant he was thinking about Chakotay.

It wasn't until long after that, when Harry and B'Elanna had started sleeping together, that he and Tom started really talking about their feelings toward the two elusive Maquis. Neither Harry nor Tom had thought there was a hope in hell of anything ever working out...

Well, at least one good thing had come out of today. Kind of funny, when you thought about it. Tom and Chakotay were at the very beginning of their relationship, while his and B'Elanna's had gone down in flames.

Harry sighed. Oh, yeah. Funny like a warp core breach or a Borg cube.

- - - - - - - - - -

B'Elanna stalked around Engineering and terrorized her Beta shift crew –several of whom were on shore leave, luckily for them- with muttered Klingon expletives and sub-vocal growls until her initial fury at Harry had decreased to a simmer. A deadly, 'where's-my-bat'leth-you-petaQ' kind of simmer. Then she went to her office and tore through a stack of reports... she found she could really knock those out if she was in a foul enough mood, and the mood she was in certainly qualified. It wasn't until her shift was nearly done that her head cleared enough to start analyzing what Harry had said.

First things first, the issue of Tom Paris. She asked the computer for the locations of Commander Chakotay and Lieutenant Paris, only to be told neither man was on Voyager. She then asked for a roster of all crew currently off the ship for shore leave, and found nobody on that list that Tom was remotely interested in. At least as far as she knew, and she knew pretty far when it came to the flyboy, because they really *were* friends. Of course, she hadn't been aware he was romantically interested in her former captain, either, but only a fool could overlook the way Tom had recently been behaving around Chakotay. B'Elanna Torres was not a fool, and after giving it some consideration, thought things looked promising. Nobody, but *nobody* got the kind of reactions out of Tom that Chakotay did merely by breathing, and B'Elanna knew Tom well enough to know that he would only act so uncaring if he really *did* care.

As for Chakotay, she'd known him for over a third of her life, and had figured out real quick how he felt about Tom back when she and Tom had had their little fling. She'd met Tom in the Mess Hall for breakfast one morning, after a night of hot monkey sex –and damn, the man was good at it, almost as good as- NO, we aren't going THERE, remember? At any rate, Chakotay had been in the Mess Hall and she'd caught him staring at Tom. The look in his eyes had caused her to suck in her breath. Grief, anger, regret, *longing*, all there for the tiniest instant then so quickly banished she might have thought she imagined it, except she'd confronted Chakotay about it later that day. And of course, Chakotay couldn't hide anything from her. The memory of that conversation still made her smile...

// B'Elanna barged right into Chakotay's office after making sure he was in there alone. He looked up from the PADD in his hands and met her eyes, and she would have sworn he flinched, then that impassive mask dropped over his face and she could read nothing but polite interest.

"Can I help you, B'Elanna? Some personnel problem in Engineering?"

"More like a personal problem right here, Chakotay. How long have you wanted him?" She practically snarled it at him.

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Oh yes you do, but we can play it that way. You should have told me. I never would have made a move on him if I'd known how you felt."

"B'Elanna—" Chakotay was shaking his head, but she didn't let him continue, throwing herself down in the chair in front of his desk.

"He's not in love with me, Chakotay," she announced abruptly, and watched his belatedly hidden reaction; shock, relief, and a dawning anger that took her by surprise until she realized it was on *her* behalf. She knew Chakotay cared about her, thought of her as a little sister, but it wasn't until that moment, when she realized he was furious with the man *he* wanted for not loving *her*, that B'Elanna fully appreciated how deeply Chakotay felt for her.

"You should have told me," she said again, leaving his office before he could say anything else. //

With Tom later that evening, the memory of that look in Chakotay's eyes wouldn't leave her. She had told Tom she thought they were better off just being friends, and he'd agreed with rather insulting alacrity. He had seemed relieved, too, B'Elanna remembered now. She and Tom had both been so damned lonely. Coming together as lovers had happened almost accidentally, following one of those near-death crisis situations that seemed to come along in the Delta on a weekly basis. She'd told Tom she loved him, mainly because she didn't want to die without saying it to somebody at least once in her life... but what she'd felt for Tom wasn't anything like what she felt for—

"Oh, shit." B'Elanna put her hands over her eyes and groaned as that thought refused to go away. It wasn't anything like what she felt for Harry Kim. Bloody hell, she'd fooled around and fallen in love after all. "Shit, shit, shit."

Well, enough of that. It wasn't in B'Elanna Torres to lie to herself. So, she loved him. All she had to do now was decide how she was going to handle it. She wasn't the same person she'd been a year ago, or even six months ago, and the idea of being 'in love' didn't scare her as much as it used to. Of course, it helped knowing that Harry loved her, too. Whatever happened, they'd be in it together, and she had learned a few things about Harry Kim over the years. He was a man of honor. He was loyal. He was faithful. He had courage. He was honest. If he said he loved her, she could believe him. He was afraid she was still hung up on Tom, huh? She figured she could disabuse him of that notion...

A small, self-satisfied grin crossed the engineer's lovely face, as she recalled Harry screaming *he* was the one who loved her. So much passion! Maybe it was time to surprise Mister Kim, and see if she couldn't make him scream for another reason.

B'Elanna left her office and walked through Engineering with the kind of predatory smile on her face that made her crew avoid her eyes and concentrate assiduously on their posts. She didn't even notice.

If she hurried, she could be in Harry's quarters when he left the bridge.

- - - - - - - - - -

"So, Chakotay. You have something to tell me? Like how practically the entire senior staff already knows that you're in love with me?" Tom prodded teasingly from where he sat, leaning back against Chakotay's chest and feeling very sheltered, wrapped up as he was in the big man's arms. It had been a lovely, relaxing evening. Chakotay had started a small campfire, mostly for atmosphere since there was no need for heat. Together they had then pulled over a good-sized log and padded it with folded lodge blankets for a backrest, and followed that with bathing the sweat and soot off each other in the river- an effort aided by the bar of biodegradable soap Tom had produced from his duffel bag.

Agreeing, like Tom had said much earlier, that changing clothes was going to be a waste of time, they'd elected to remain nude, enjoyed the wonderful supper Harry had so thoughtfully provided, and were currently lazing together finishing off the champagne and the chocolate crème pie. Both men were buzzing a little, whether from the champagne or each other neither could tell, and neither much cared.

Dark had fallen hard on this moonless planet, and the heat of the day had given way to a mild, humid night, leavened with an occasional gusty breeze. Chakotay had drawn to Tom's attention that there were clouds gathering on the western horizon -the sunset had been spectacular- but the chance of rain later didn't detract from the peaceful contentment that hung over their campsite... or from a hovering, shimmering sensuality that whispered teasing hints of pleasures to come.

"Mmm. I did promise you the story, didn't I," Chakotay murmured, feeding Tom another bite of pie then stealing a quick chocolate-flavored kiss. "That tastes so good on you," he remarked with a smile.

Tom chuckled softly.

"You said that about the lasagna, the salad, and the champagne, too."

"And it was all true, baby. Everything tastes better on you." Another kiss, as if testing the theory, and they both laughed when Chakotay added "but especially chocolate."

"My Cha, the closet chocolate fiend."

"Out of the closet now, Tommy," Chakotay said comfortably, pouring the last of the champagne into Tom's glass and handing it to him.

"In more ways than one, love, which brings us back to your story." Tom indicated his wineglass. "Think I'm going to need this when I hear it?"

"Oh, I'm hoping you won't overreact *too* much," Chakotay replied, just seriously enough to let Tom know he meant it.

Tom sipped his champagne, then lifted the glass to Chakotay's lips, to be fair. Harry had outdone himself, and it was a fine vintage, light and dry... and it tasted even better from his husband's mouth, Tom decided, when Chakotay kissed him again and shared it.

"Nice," Tom sighed with satisfaction. "I'll try to stay calm, Cha. Who are you going to start with? I'm assuming you didn't announce it in the morning briefing on my day off," he teased, winning himself a devastating smile.

"I should have. Might have saved a lot of time," Chakotay pointed out to Tom's answering smile, and bent his head for one more kiss. "You want to hear something funny, baby? I didn't tell a single person. Every one of them figured it out for themselves," and he proceeded to tell Tom about B'Elanna coming to him in his office and that whole, subsequent weird conversation.

"Well, that explains a lot," Tom said with a wry grin. "That must have been the same day I found out about Harry's feelings for B'Elanna. She broke it off with me while I was trying to think of a way to break it off with her. I can't tell you how relieved I was. I was expecting to end up in Sickbay."

"You almost did anyway," Chakotay confessed, remembering how angry he'd been on B'Elanna's behalf. "I was glad when she told me you weren't in love with her, but at the same time, I—"

"I understand, Cha. You were afraid I was going to hurt her. It's okay," Tom grimaced. "I knew you were upset with me."

"I'm—" Chakotay started to apologize, and Tom put a hand over his mouth.

"It really *is* okay, love," Tom reassured, and Chakotay kissed his palm before he lowered his hand.

"Yeah, everything's okay *now*," Chakotay agreed. "I'm surprised she didn't tell you how I felt, though," he added with faint curiosity.

"She probably thought she was protecting you, Cha," Tom hesitated, resisted the temptation to gulp down the last of the champagne, and reached inside for the faith he needed to explain to Chakotay what he meant.

"B'Elanna had good reason to think I would never be interested in a sexual relationship with a man. I had some... bad experiences in New Zealand, and I have nightmares about it sometimes. She was with me one night when I had one, and she figured out what caused it." Tom winced, realizing Chakotay had gone completely still behind him. "Cha, it's different with you, please believe me. Nothing about you reminds me of what happened there... although, I think that's why I got so freaked out earlier when- well, you know. I guess I got confused for a minute and thought I was treating you like—"

Tom shifted around until he could see Chakotay's face square on, not surprised by the terrible anguish he could read in those dark, expressive eyes.

"Chakotay, please. It was a long time ago. It's past. Dust in the wind. It doesn't matter. I don't think I could have said that before the sweat lodge, but my spirit guide helped me understand that *where I am now* is what's important."

"Tom." Chakotay held him close, marveling at his husband's gentle perceptiveness, because Tom had said the only thing that could induce Chakotay into letting that sad confession go. "I'm so sorry that happened to you, and I'm really proud of you for understanding what your spirit guide was telling you about your seventh direction. You really do get it, don't you."

"I'm trying to, love."

Chakotay was a little amazed, actually, as well as feeling gratified by and grateful for Tom's spiritual growth. The concept of the 'seventh direction' was a difficult one. It meant recognizing your place in creation and your connectedness to everything and everybody else, but it also meant acknowledging the ever-changing, fluidic nature of time and existence. When you lived in your seventh direction, you operated from a place where every minute you did your best, caused harm to none, and accepted whatever came your way with grace and honesty. You didn't do wrong things and then expect to be automatically forgiven, and you didn't return bad with worse, because you knew that what you put out into the universe was returned to you four-fold. It was 'living in the moment' in its most literal sense, with serenity, self-awareness, and humor. It wasn't easy, particularly for people who saw time as purely linear and themselves as purely singular individuals.

He cuddled Tom in for a kiss, and they both relaxed with the sense that they'd crossed another hurdle. The last of the champagne was shared before Chakotay felt sufficiently at ease to go on.

"Kathryn figured out how I felt about the same time I did."

"You mean, right after Akritiria?" Tom thought about that for a moment. "What happened?"

"Well, let me backtrack a little, first. You remember when she and I were left behind on that planet because of that virus."

"Oh, Gods, do I. I wanted to kill myself," Tom said, shivering in spite of the balmy temperature and the warmth of Chakotay's arms. Tom recalled the first two years Voyager spent in the Delta as an exercise in hell. Chakotay's anger at him for having been on Voyager, almost losing the big man in the Ocampan underground, Harry's brushes with mortality, Seska, the Kazon, and his own pretended betrayals relating to finding the traitor on board... and none of it had been as horrible for him as leaving Chakotay marooned with the captain and believing he would never see him again.

"You haven't asked whether or not Kathryn and I were ever lovers," Chakotay noted, suppressing his own shudder at the idea of Tom committing suicide.

"I know you're not lovers now, and whatever happened between you in the past is your business, Cha," Tom replied, meaning it. He didn't subscribe to the notion that one's entire past should come up for inspection under the light of a new relationship. There was too much crap in his own past for him to feel comfortable with that idea.

"Thank you for that, baby, but we weren't. When we were on that planet, we talked about it, but it never happened. It just never seemed right. She was still in love with Mark, and I had all these unresolved feelings for somebody else." Chakotay smiled at Tom. "Maybe things would have been different if Voyager hadn't come back when it did, I don't know. We ended up being close friends."

"Are you sorry?" Tom had to ask.

"Spirits, no. Kathryn is good friend material, but anybody who gets into a relationship with her is going to have to be willing to come second best, and that's not me."

"Hmm. So you're going to enjoy being the center of my universe, huh?" Tom teased, nuzzling the side of Chakotay's neck and breathing in the warm fragrance of his skin.

"You bet I am, and if you don't stop doing that you're never going to hear the rest of this."

Tom subsided with an exaggerated, exasperated sigh, resuming his position against Chakotay's chest and resting his head on that strong shoulder.

"Okay, big man. Get on with it."

"I spent some time in Sickbay when you were unconscious, after Kathryn got you and Harry out of the prison. She caught me watching over you."
The memory came back very clearly...

// Chakotay stood in the darkened exam room beside the biobed and couldn't stop the hand that reached out to touch that blond hair, feeling the way the curls clung to his fingers. Like something alive, more alive than the still form it was attached to. Beyond conscious thought, his hand moved automatically to stroke the ivory pale skin of Tom's cheek, wondering how long it would be before he saw those sapphire eyes open and snapping at him; that too-vulnerable mouth framing some smart remark. He barely noticed Kes making a quiet round to check her patients, knowing Kes kept more secrets than anybody on board and not caring what she thought about him being here. He *had* to be here. Somewhere during the last few days of hell, Chakotay had suffered a revelation of self. He missed Tom. Missed his smile and his humor and his loose-limbed walk, missed the sound of his voice, missed watching the play of his hands over the conn. Missed something as simple and as basic as his smell, the warmth of his long body standing near. It occurred to Chakotay he was tired of pretending to himself that he didn't feel these things, tired of telling himself it was only lust, tired of arguing with his better judgement. It would probably damn him to a lifetime of torment, but he was in love with Tom Paris, and now that he'd admitted it to himself, Chakotay realized he'd felt that way for a while.

Kes brought him a chair and a pat on the back, and Chakotay sat down, curling the fingers of one hand unselfconsciously into Tom's, his other hand still playing along that high cheekbone and narrow nose. Part of him was convinced this was fated to end in disaster. He'd never seen any evidence that Tom was interested in him, or in men at all, for that matter... but part of him was caught, like matter within the event horizon of a black hole, in the sheer 'rightness' of his being here, beside Tom, keeping watch.

A shape stepped out of the shadows, and Chakotay looked up to meet his captain's eyes. Her expression was unsurprised, maybe even a bit amused.

"You love him, don't you," Kathryn said quietly. "I should have known."

"How could you, when I only just found out myself?" Chakotay asked, and she stepped around to stand beside him, one hand on his shoulder squeezing gently.

"He's going to be okay, Chakotay."

"I don't know if I will," he admitted with a sigh, and Kathryn gave him a half smile.

"Don't stay up too late," she said, and left him there to watch Tom sleep. Chakotay didn't leave, though, and it was along toward morning when the holodoc had appeared and his secret was outed again. //

"Kathryn took one look at me and told me I loved you. That was about two minutes after I had admitted it to myself," he told Tom. "I stayed with you after she left, and I ended up falling asleep with my head on the edge of the biobed. The doc woke me up about an hour before Alpha shift was supposed to start, and it was the same thing all over again."

// "Commander Chakotay!" Chakotay awakened to a hand shaking his arm. He was acutely disoriented, with his neck in a fiery spasm and his legs completely numb.

"What the hell is it?" He demanded shortly, blinking the sleep out of his eyes and trying to focus, the pain in his neck further confusing him.

"Shhh, Commander. Don't wake the patients, please."

"Patients? Tom?" Chakotay looked at that motionless figure in front of him then up at the biobed readings, just awake enough to be panicked. The hand on his arm turned into an awkwardly reassuring pat, he recognized the presence of the EMH, and became halfway alert.

"Lieutenant Paris is sleeping normally, Commander, as you certainly should have been, in your bed. Your duty shift will begin in fifty-seven minutes. I recommend you return to your quarters for breakfast and a shower before then. As well as a fresh uniform," the holodoc added in a near whisper.

"How is Mister Kim?" Chakotay finally gained the presence of mind to ask, keeping his voice equally low.

"Mister Kim is also sleeping normally. I anticipate both men will be discharged from Sickbay later this morning."

Chakotay discovered he could not turn his head.

"Doctor, can you give me something for my neck?" Instead of slapping him with a hypospray, however, the doctor had started rubbing the spasm out of Chakotay's neck. Chakotay was so startled he almost fell off his chair.

"Please relax, Commander. I have been programmed with multiple techniques in therapeutic massage, and you need not concern yourself that I am expressing an inappropriate romantic interest in you. It is quite apparent where your attentions lie!"

"I don't suppose it would do any good to deny that," Chakotay remarked, having to laugh at himself and the inanity of the situation. So much for the inscrutable 'Mystic Warrior'!

"No, I don't suppose it would," the doctor retorted, giving Chakotay's neck a final rub. "There you are. I believe you will find the spasm is relieved. If you suffer further discomfort feel free to return to Sickbay for an analgesic."

"Thanks, doctor," Chakotay got up then and met the holodoc's eyes for the first time, and the sympathetic amusement in the AI's face had taken him aback. "Ah, doctor—"

"Commander Chakotay, may I remind you. As you are my patient, I am bound by doctor-patient confidentiality to keep your... little secret," the doctor commented in an astonishingly gentle tone of voice. More surprised than he let on, Chakotay merely nodded, leaving Sickbay after one last long look at Tom. //

"After he told me how apparent my feelings for you were, he told me it fell under doctor-patient confidentiality and he'd keep it a secret. I went back to my quarters and looked in the mirror. The pattern from the surface of the biobed was engraved on my forehead, and it didn't fade until after noon," Chakotay said with a faint smile, and Tom stroked his forehead.

"Oh, Cha. Did the captain or the doc ever bring it up with you again?" Tom wondered curiously, thinking to himself how difficult that must have been for Chakotay to have his private life emblazoned across his face like a neon sign.

"The doctor makes it a point to keep me informed when you get injured, but he doesn't say anything directly. Kathryn, on the other hand, rarely lets a week go by without saying something, baby. Especially lately, since you've been so tense around me. She knows you pretty well. She's been telling me it's not as hopeless as I thought," Chakotay murmured into that silky blond hair, happily anticipating telling Kathryn she'd been right.

"She's a smart lady," Tom said a bit breathlessly, bending his head to bare the nape of his neck in silent invitation. It was an opportunity Chakotay wasn't going to pass up.

He brushed his mouth across that satin smooth skin and felt Tom shiver in his arms... put one caressing hand to trace around the front of that long throat, and watched arousal hit his husband like a blow, instantly hardening and lengthening Tom's cock.

"Cha." Barely whispered, as Chakotay licked across the bump of Tom's spine then tested his teeth on the ligaments that ran parallel, aware the shivers had become trembling.

"Do you know what it does to me, to touch you like this and see you change for me?" Chakotay asked, biting into the tender flesh beneath and behind Tom's ear. "Wizards must feel like this when they turn lead into gold, like they're creating a miracle." He let his hands play across Tom's chest, sliding his fingers through the fine hairs, catching and tugging some at random. Tom's breath was hitching unevenly, a low moan escaping when Chakotay's palms teased over nipples that were already stiff. Desire coiled and tightened in Chakotay's guts, bringing him achingly erect, every muscle in his body taut with hunger.

"Turn around baby, and straddle me," he ordered, voice hoarse, barely able to release Tom long enough to move. Tom no sooner got his legs folded up alongside Chakotay's hips than Chakotay grabbed his ass and pulled him closer still, bringing their erections together in a dance of raw need.

"Oh, Gods," Tom whimpered helplessly, his body on fire, turned on so fast and so hard his head was spinning.

"Kiss me," Chakotay demanded, and Tom held his face and took possession of his mouth with a groan, the kiss hot and deep and wild. Chakotay rubbed his hands over their cocks, slicking them with weeping pre-cum, feeling Tom's back arch high as his hips rocked forward convulsively. The pleasure was almost too intense, overwhelming every nerve, sapping every conscious thought besides a silent wish for more.

"Please, please," Tom begged, sobbing against his mouth, and Chakotay wrapped his fingers around them both, stroking repeatedly, roughly, wrenching a fast and violent climax out of them that made both men roar with the furious rush of ecstasy. Tom sagged against him and they shook with reaction, aftershocks rumbling through overstimulated flesh.

"Cha. If I had known it was going to be like this, I'd have kidnapped you the first time I saw you and hidden us away somewhere."

"I know, Tommy. I don't know how we're ever going to get any work done, when this is the only thing I can think about every time I look at you."

Gentler kisses then, soothing and tender, easing nerves and hearts back to sanity before they could bring themselves to separate. Tom used bottled water to wet a towel and cleaned away the results of their passion.

"Well, now that you've taken the edge off, are you ready to tell me about Tuvok?"

- - - - - - - - - -

Title: How Tuvok Knew Part 3/3
Author: Polly Bywater
Pairing: C/P, T/K, C/Tu implied
Rating: NC-17 for sexual content, language
Disclaimer: See Part 1
Summary: A sequel to 'The Lodge'. Tom and Chakotay explore their changed relationship, and the 'ripple effect' makes a few waves.

Harry made a beeline for his quarters, pausing only long enough to realize that the kung pao chicken had been cleaned off the corridor wall. He blushed a little, wondering who had gotten stuck with that particular duty, since it was unlikely B'Elanna herself had hung around long enough to do it.

He walked through his door and called automatically for a privacy lock, and in the dim, one-quarter lighting it took him a moment to notice there were several things out of place in the room. On the table –the site of Harry Kim's last stand, his mind wryly supplied- there was a huge bouquet of red roses, fragrant and lush. Over the back of the couch a uniform had been draped haphazardly, a uniform too small to be his. There on the floor, outside the closed bedroom door, laid a pair of silky panties that Harry recognized. He'd replicated them for B'Elanna a couple of months ago, to replace some he'd torn off her during an especially passionate encounter.

Unable to help himself, he picked up the panties and brought them to his nose, inhaling the rich smell of B'Elanna's sensual musk. His cock hardened involuntarily, and Harry groaned.

The door slid open then, and B'Elanna stood before him, dressed in one of his white, button down shirts, the tails striking her at mid-thigh, the collar loose to mid-chest. Her hair was tousled and her dark eyes inspected him with slumbrous, unmistakable intent, taking in the fact that he still held her panties to his face. Behind her the bedroom was lit with candlelight, small flames casting dancing shadows around the room.

Harry was speechless. B'Elanna plucked the underwear out of his grasp and took his hand, leading him into the bedroom.

"Wouldn't you rather smell the real thing, Starfleet?" She asked him huskily as the door hissed shut behind him. Harry closed his eyes and groaned again, thinking a bit wildly that he had to be dreaming this, dreaming *her*... then B'Elanna started undressing him. Small, busy hands loosened his tunic and pushed it off his shoulders, then pulled his turtleneck over his head, pausing to play in his hair and stroke teasingly across his ears and along his jaw.

"Harry. Open your eyes," B'Elanna murmured, and watched those silky black eyelashes lift slowly, hesitantly, every emotion betrayed in the liquid dark gaze they uncovered. Disbelief, anxiety, hope, arousal, and behind all that, a fire fully focused on her, the kind of desperate and passionate longing B'Elanna realized she'd been waiting all her life to see. A low growl tore its way out of her throat, and she felt her head fall back to offer her surrender, a wholly instinctive reaction.

Harry responded beyond reason. He wound his hands around the fabric of his shirt and jerked B'Elanna to him, lowered his mouth to her jaw and bit, hard, his own growl escaping as he tasted her blood. His cock suddenly felt like it was made out of duranium, twitching and throbbing painfully in his pants, as the scent of B'Elanna's juices rose up around them and she cried out her own need.

"Now," she rasped, hands tugging his pants open then down, freeing his straining flesh. Harry spun them around, backing B'Elanna into the bulkhead and pushing her thighs apart, hands on her ass hoisting her up until he could position himself at her entrance. She hissed as he lowered her onto him, not stopping until he was seated to the hilt, filling her up.

"Fuck," Harry gasped, blind with the pleasure of having her hot inner muscles clenching and milking his erection. Keeping B'Elanna braced against the wall, he freed one hand and reached between them. Using thumb and forefinger to open her folds and bare her swollen clit, he adjusted them both until her sensitive nub was pressed firmly against his body. Then Harry started to move, driving himself into her.

B'Elanna shrieked, lost in the flames that shot through her with each thrust, dimly aware of Harry hooking his hands under her thighs and pulling them even farther apart. She was caught between the unforgiving bulkhead and the strong pounding of his body, the tension drawing tighter in her body with relentless force, every hard stroke taking her higher and higher. Her hands clutched his shoulders in a grip that would leave bruises, and she pulled Harry even closer, until she could fasten her teeth on his jaw.

He howled, the sharp sweet shock of pain pushing him into his orgasm, and she followed screaming right after, the flood of sensation obliterating thought and reality until there was nothing left...

- - - - - - - - - -

Harry opened his eyes to find himself kneeling on the floor with his head on B'Elanna's shoulder. B'Elanna was still pressed between him and the wall, and he was still pressed into B'Elanna. He lifted his head and shook it, the motion bringing B'Elanna back from oblivion as well.

"Wow, Starfleet," she half-whispered, her hand touching his face and lightly tracing her mark of possession.

"Yeah, Maquis," he said in the same tone, kissing her for the first time that day, sliding his tongue into her mouth to savor the taste of his blood and the flavor that was hers alone. "I guess this means you're not mad at me?"

"I made an amazing discovery in Engineering this evening," she said, and kissed him back, slowly, sucking his tongue for a moment. "I'm in love with you, Harry Kim."

"Oh, B'Ela," he sighed, leaning his forehead into hers, relishing the way her ridges felt pressing into his skin. "That's good, because I'm crazy in love with you."

"Yeah, I kind of got that." She tightened her arms around him. "So, what do you want to do about it?"

"As soon as I can walk, I want to take you to bed and smell you," Harry teased gently, feeling her smile. "Then I want to marry you."



"Definitely, yeah." And they kissed again then started laughing, joy rising up all around.

- - - - - - - - - -

Chakotay stared at Tom, catching something in his tone that struck a chord of apprehension. Tom noticed, of course, and reached out to stroke his face.

"It's all right, Cha. I already know."

"You know?" Chakotay's mouth went dry. "What do you know?"

"I know it doesn't take a mathematician to figure out we've been stuck here in the Delta way too long for Tuvok's safety. I know he went through his time about eight months ago. I know it was life or death for him, and I know you went through it with him. I *know*, Cha."

Tom moved until he could take Chakotay in his arms and held him, feeling the tension drain out of those strong shoulders.

"You never cease to amaze me, Poocah," Chakotay mumbled against his neck, appreciating the reassurance and comfort that flowed through Tom's embrace. "I was afraid you'd be upset."

"No, I'm not upset, love," Tom said with a self-deprecating grin that Chakotay couldn't see. It was true, he wasn't upset now, but eight months ago...

// "Un-fucking-believable!" Tom shouted to the walls of his quarters, wild with jealousy and grief. He went to the replicator and ordered himself a bottle of scotch, drinking it straight and not bothering with a glass. "Shit! Damn them both to hell!" He couldn't stop seeing it, the holodoc's dry notations on the medical records driving a stake through Tom's heart. "Lieutenant Commander Tuvok has entered the Vulcan mating cycle pon farr" followed by a lot of gobbledy-gook about Tuvok's vital signs and hormone levels and "the potential for life-threatening complications unless he is able to form a temporary bond and mate" and he had to choose *Chakotay*? Why Chakotay? And there wasn't a fucking thing Tom could do about it, not any of it, when he wasn't supposed to have accessed those records at all, wasn't supposed to be aware of what was happening one deck over his head- but he'd been worried about Tuvok as well as Chakotay, missing them on the bridge and wondering what was wrong. Tom knocked back another big slug, then sat down on his couch and cried, trying to turn off his mind so it wouldn't keep playing pictures for him. Tuvok's hands on *his* Chakotay, touching him, making love to him, fucking him, mind-melding with him. "No, no, *no*! Cha!" //

Tom had drunk himself to sleep every night for a week, staying holed up in his quarters when he was off duty. Scaring Harry half to death, because he wouldn't say what was wrong. The only thing that had saved him was the fact that when Tuvok's period of seclusion was over, Tom had been unable to detect any change in the way Tuvok and Chakotay treated each other, making him conclude -correctly, as it turned out- that Chakotay's involvement *had* been only temporary. Tom managed to get himself under control, and had even maintained his usual attitude towards both Tuvok and Chakotay at first.

As time had gone by, however, he found himself increasingly unable to tolerate being in Chakotay's presence... more because of his own desire for Chakotay than because he resented him for helping Tuvok. It had been hard for Tom to live with knowing that Chakotay would voluntarily have sex with the Vulcan tactical officer when Chakotay had never given any indication of wanting men, and with Tom so desperately wanting *him*. Still, there was no need for his husband to find out what a jealous idiot he'd been, Tom decided.

"Tuvok saw in my mind, how I felt— feel about you," Chakotay gently volunteered, nowhere near as unaware as Tom thought. "Just like I saw in his mind, how he feels about his wife. He wouldn't call it love, but that's what it is. He didn't want anything to disrupt his bond with T'Pel."

Tom understood what Chakotay was trying to say. What he and Tuvok had done was as close to being purely physical as a Vulcan could get, and it must have been horribly difficult for Tuvok.

"Was it— did he hurt you?"

"Not much," Chakotay admitted softly, knowing who needed the reassurances now. "But I'll be honest with you, baby, it wasn't easy."

And that was probably an understatement, Chakotay thought, remembering how it had all come about.

// Chakotay heard the door chime and got up with a sigh. His meditation hadn't gone well. His spirit guide had issued an odd warning, about trials and sacrifices and eventual rewards, all couched in the vague terms the Spirits seemed to prefer. He thought rather irritably that Spirits were like doctors and Starfleet admirals, never telling you the complete truth, so you'd be surprised by whatever happened, good or bad.

He was startled to find Tuvok at his door. In all these years he could only remember a handful of times the Vulcan had visited him in his quarters. Tuvok didn't look particularly well, hadn't for a week or so, Chakotay realized. He seemed unusually distracted, and there was a fine tremor to be seen in his hands when he thought nobody was paying attention.

"Commander Chakotay. Am I disturbing you?"

"No, Tuvok. Come in, please." The door closed behind the Vulcan, and Chakotay motioned him towards the couch. "Can I get you anything? A cup of tea, perhaps? I'm going to have one."

"Yes, thank you, Commander," Tuvok said absently, his affect somehow distant as he seated himself.

Chakotay replicated two cups of herbal tea, and set Tuvok's on the small table in front of the couch before he sat down. Tuvok picked his cup up with the kind of restrained care that spoke of overcontrolling, and he wouldn't meet Chakotay's eyes.

"Tuvok," Chakotay began, then hesitated, and the Vulcan set the tea down and jumped to his feet, actually *pacing*. It abruptly came to Chakotay what the problem was. "It's your time, isn't it."

Tuvok glared at him then, ebony eyes bright and hot. Chakotay watched him visibly rein in his emotions and drop his gaze.

"I had... hoped... Voyager would have returned to the Alpha Quadrant before..." Tuvok's words uncharacteristically trailed away, and Chakotay knew that was as close to a confirmation as he was going to get.

"What do you want from me?" Probably not the most diplomatic way of putting it, but Chakotay was tired.

"It is apparent that if I am to... survive I must form a temporary bond with a member of the crew. I find that I do... wish to survive, Commander. I require your assistance in determining the appropriate—"
Tuvok's nerve failed him completely at this point, but Chakotay had heard enough to figure out where he was going with this.

"You need me to help you decide who to approach?" He asked, and witnessed a rare thing; the Vulcan nodded his head.

"It is not my wish to form an alliance that will disrupt my marriage bond with she who is my wife," Tuvok noted in a voice like ground glass, seating himself again and picking up his tea. "It is also unlikely that a human female would possess the required stamina to endure the process in the absence of a true mating bond, as it is the mental link between bondmates that ensures..." And Tuvok's words escaped him once again.

"I understand," Chakotay assured him. It was the mental link between bondmates that ensured the female's safety in the face of the male's blood fever. Chakotay couldn't help but wonder how in the universe this system had come to be perpetrated on the Vulcan race, but he supposed that was immaterial. "What about the non-human female members of the crew?"

"Given Lieutenant Torres' experience with Vorik, I do not believe she will be amenable to assisting me," Tuvok remarked rather dryly, and Chakotay had to muffle a snort of laughter.

"And Seven? She would have the, ah, required stamina."

"Seven is neither emotionally nor socially mature enough to make an informed choice." Tuvok sighed, startling Chakotay once again when he went on. "I have no philosophical nor moral objections to same-sex couplings, and it would be preferable to select someone among the senior staff. I have considered Lieutenant Paris—"

"No," Chakotay blurted out before he could stop himself, then suffered Tuvok's arching eyebrow when he blushed. "Look, Tuvok. If you have no objections, why not let me assist you?" And that eyebrow arched even higher.

"You, Commander?"

"I think under the circumstances you can call me Chakotay," he said wryly. "I am not unfamiliar with... same-sex coupling, I have my own... emotional ties I don't wish to disrupt, and I don't find the idea of... coupling with you unattractive."

"You present a logical argument, Comman- Chakotay. Additionally, you have a well-ordered mind," Tuvok admitted, his own surprise apparent.

"High praise, from a Vulcan," Chakotay said with a faint grin. "When will you require my, ah, services?"

Tuvok looked away, and Chakotay could tell he was embarrassed.

"According to the doctor, my hormonal activity is approaching dangerous levels. I anticipate that within the week I will be incapable of rational behavior. It would be prudent to form the temporary link as soon as possible."

"Agreed. I'll arrange the duty schedules to permit us the necessary time off. Will a week be sufficient?" //

Tuvok had agreed, and Chakotay had informed Kathryn that very night, taking himself and Tuvok off duty right away. He was well aware the longer they waited, the rougher it was likely to be, so he'd gone to Tuvok's quarters the next morning, after doing everything he could to physically prepare himself. Tuvok had mind-melded with him first...

// Inhumanly hot fingers on his face, the words hypnotic and low. "My mind to your mind, my thoughts to your thoughts," and it was surprisingly easy, Tuvok slipping into his mind, carrying fire with him that Chakotay felt along every nerve. Will submerged beyond the ability to form words, mental pictures carried along a river of flame. Slender T'Pel, so sensuously dark and lovely, a shining center in Tuvok's mind, like a sun around which he orbited with the lives of their children, their marriage bond a silvery thread Chakotay could sense stretching away into the distance. Tuvok touched on the images Chakotay carried in his own heart, his parents, his brothers and sisters, and at his core, Tom... Tom, blinding with a light all his own, and so many pictures. The first time Chakotay had seen him, sitting in some grimy bar like a fallen angel, all blue and gold. Standing on Voyager's bridge. Saving Chakotay's life in the Ocampan underground. Tom, hands of a virtuoso playing over the conn and saving them all. Tom, lying unconscious on the biobed in Sickbay. //

The temporary bond had been set, and the passions that raged between them had been equally shared, and if both Tuvok and Chakotay felt others present or cried out names that belonged to neither man, they never spoke of it afterward. Four days later, Tuvok broke the link, thanked Chakotay with grave sincerity, and Chakotay had ordered himself a site-to-site transport to his quarters. It had taken him three days to recover... three days to be able to sit down without pain. But Tuvok lived.

Chakotay came back to the present, and caught Tom watching him with a worried look on his face.

"It was intense, Tom, and I'm not sorry it happened, but what you and I have is on a different level entirely. Tuvok didn't change the way I see my life. You do. Tuvok didn't touch my soul. You do. You're the one Tuvok saw living in my heart. Just you, Tommy."

Tom closed his eyes, irritated to find himself near tears again, and he held Chakotay in a desperately strong embrace as he fought to get a grip on his emotions. As he so often did, he covered his reaction with a quip.

"Cha. Forgive me if I hope we're in the Alpha before another six years goes by."

Chakotay heard the tremor under the words, though, and rubbed his hands across Tom's back, thinking how much he cherished this man and how grateful he was to the Spirits. He really had ended up being rewarded, he realized.

"If we're not, Tuvok's going to have to find himself another stand-in besides me, baby." An evil grin crossed Chakotay's face, and he couldn't resist the temptation. "You were his first choice."

Tom sat back and goggled at him.

"You're joking."

"Actually, I'm not."

Tom shook his head and blinked.

"Shit." Then Tom shrugged. "You know, I would have done it, too, to save his life."

"I know." Chakotay had never doubted that.

"Chakotay. You didn't volunteer yourself just to keep him from asking me?" Tom asked, and it was Chakotay's turn to close his eyes and wince. He should have seen that coming.

"Can we just say that wasn't my only reason and leave it at that?"

"Whatever you want, Cha," and Tom was in his lap again, kissing all over his face while those long fingers danced along his ribs. Chakotay roared with startled laughter, grabbing Tom's hands and flipping them over so he was lying between his husband's legs.

"Uh-huh, the truth is out, you *are* as ticklish as I am," Tom gasped out, laughing. "Told you I was gonna get you."

"Oh, you've got me, all right. Wrapped right around your little finger," Chakotay told him affectionately, loving that bright smile.

"I've got you where I want you right now, anyway," Tom pointed out, and pulled Chakotay's head down for a kiss that started out simple and ended up with both of them gasping for breath.

Breaking the kiss, they stared at each other for a moment, still surprised by how *much* they felt... and it started to rain. A steady, gentle drizzle, what Chakotay's people would have called a 'female' rain, the kind that soaked gradually into the ground and nourished the soil. It wasn't cold at all, and Chakotay turned his face up to catch the moisture in his mouth, his tongue coming out to taste that pure, clean liquid.

Tom sucked in his breath, stunned by the sight; Chakotay's face reflected in the light of the not-yet-extinguished fire, water beading and trickling along that finely grained brown skin, spiking his eyelashes and sparking diamond flashes in his black hair, and that pink tongue, stroking across that full bottom lip. The ache Tom knew then was powerful and deep, a visceral need steeped inside bone and nerve, as if he'd never had Chakotay and never would again. Arousal was almost an afterthought, although he was painfully erect, and Tom had to force himself to exhale.

"You are so beautiful, Chakotay," he murmured, fingertips smoothing the rain off one silky eyebrow, drawing Chakotay's night dark gaze to meet his.

Chakotay felt Tom's throbbing erection, knew it echoed in his, but was caught by his own vision. Tom, glittering in raindrops and firelight, his pupils so dilated his eyes were black with desire, lips red and swollen from kissing... and Tom thought *he* was beautiful? Chakotay shook his head slightly in disbelief.

"It's true," Tom said faintly, running his fingers along that well-defined jaw, teasing the spot where a dimple hid, slowly trailing his touch over Chakotay's mouth and hissing involuntarily when Chakotay's tongue darted out to lick over his fingertips. "I want you. Here, in the rain."

"Yes." Chakotay's own voice was a sibilant whisper, throat closing with leaping hunger. He let Tom turn him over, let Tom tenderly arrange him where he'd been, reclining against the padded backrest. The blankets were damp and cool against his heated skin, and as he saw Tom get up to retrieve the lube, he vaguely wondered why the rain didn't sizzle as it touched him. It seemed it should be evaporating against his cock, he was that hard, that hot.

What happened after that, Chakotay would remember all his days, even when he and Tom were very old men, living on Dorvan as respected elders. The memories were etched into his brain, engraved beyond even his own name, brought back full force every time it rained.

...Tom, telling him to hold out his hands for a dollop of lube, dark commands voiced roughly, the tone alone making Chakotay shiver and ache.

"Watch me, Cha." Tom, slicking his own fingers and preparing himself, holding Chakotay's mesmerized gaze on those long fingers as they disappeared from view. "Touch yourself, love," and Tom, watching him, as he pumped his erection in his greasy fist and groaned, burning under his husband's eyes. Tom, using his other hand to stroke himself as his head fell back and his eyelids drooped, cock weeping pale tears.

"Baby, please." Chakotay begging, so close to coming from the visual stimulation alone, thinking dimly that he hadn't known what erotic was, before Tom. Crying out, when Tom settled over him and took him inside, biting his lip to withhold his climax as Tom possessed him fully, seating him deep in that tight, heated channel. Tom, back arched and facing the clouds, trembling, that immense self-control holding them motionless until they could both step back from the edge.

And the rain kept falling, sweet drops licked off skin and shared in kisses, mouths clinging together, any distance too much and unbearable, then the need for oxygen growing too great. Tom, finally moving, the long muscles in his thighs lifting him almost too far, then down again, rhythm agonizingly slow to start and driving Chakotay far past reason. Tom fucking himself, fucking Chakotay... throwing his head back and screaming with unashamed rapture when Chakotay wrapped one large hand around his cock and pleasured him. Restraint becoming a distant memory as they loved, throwing each other headlong into an abyss of total joy, coming together, consciousness fading in fire...

Chakotay awakened with the rain in his face, Tom still out cold and motionless against him.

"Tommy. Baby, wake up," he urged in a near whisper, smoothing his hands up Tom's spine and not surprised when they shook. Tom grunted.

"Do I have to?"

"Yeah. I'm going to drown," Chakotay pointed out weakly, and Tom lifted his head with an obvious effort.

"Cha. Are you sure we're not already dead?" Tom mumbled, but managed to move his forehead to Chakotay's, figuring that was the best he could do for now.

Chakotay had to laugh, and the movement sent shock waves through Tom that made him whimper, since Chakotay was still buried inside him, albeit less firmly.

"Oh, shit, Cha. Don't do that."

"Come on, baby." Chakotay put his hands on Tom's hips and lifted him off, moaning with Tom as their bodies disconnected. "Time to move this into the tent," but it took them several minutes to gather the strength to rise. In the end, Chakotay had to help a wobbly Tom make it inside, where the younger man essentially collapsed. Thankful he'd had the foresight to move their belongings into the tent earlier, Chakotay dug out a towel and dried them both off, cleaning Tom gently before he laid down next to him. He pulled Tom into his arms and drew a dry blanket over top of them, and fell asleep to the sound of the rain, thinking his wedding night plans had surely exceeded his wildest expectations.

- - - - - - - - - -

In the Kim quarters, around nine in the morning, a beautiful woman awakened in the embrace of her handsome fiancé, abruptly remembered something she'd forgotten to ask him, and wasted no time in waking him up as well.


"Mmm. Yes, sweetheart?"

"If you call me that in public, I'm going to have to kill you."

"Whatever you say, angel."

A hard pinch and much giggling, groping, heavy breathing, and subsequent hot and satisfying sex later, B'Elanna at last managed to find out what she'd been dying to know.

"Are Tom and Chakotay together?"

"How would you feel about that?"

"Shit, you sound like a counselor, Starfleet. Trust me, I'd be glad."

"Start smiling, Maquis," Harry said, and grinned when that very expression lit up B'Elanna's lovely face. "Tom told me yesterday."

"That's good news. Chakotay's wanted him for years," B'Elanna confided, and watched Harry's jaw drop. "What?"

"Do you have any idea how long Tom's been in love with Chakotay? As long as I've been in love with you, B'Ela," and since Harry had confessed during the night just when he'd fallen for her, it was B'Elanna's turn to look surprised.

"That long, huh." She shook her head. "Well. Any other secrets you want to tell me?"

"Nope. You?"

"Captain Janeway smells aroused when she's near Seven."

"Oh my *God*!"

- - - - - - - - - -

Tom woke up screaming for his deities for another reason altogether- Chakotay was sucking the life right out of him, taking him from sleep to orgasm so fast he couldn't string together a coherent sentence afterward.

Chakotay tried not to laugh at his dazed husband, who was sprawled on his back and gasping for breath, eyes squeezed shut.

"Good morning, Poocah."


"It's a beautiful day."


"Did you sleep all right?"


"You always this talkative in the morning or is it the company you're keeping?"

One eye slitted open to glare at him, and Chakotay wrapped Tom up in his arms and started chuckling.

"Spirits, I love you, Tom."

"Love you, Cha," Tom said, snuggling into that hard warmth and wishing he could just go back to sleep. His hand wandered down Chakotay's body with a vague notion of returning the favor. "Cha?"

"Already took care of it, baby, when I was taking care of you. Just couldn't resist the temptation," Chakotay admitted, withholding the fact that he'd been awake for over an hour already. He'd said his prayers, been out to the woods, then into the river for a wash. He hadn't wanted to rush Tom. Chakotay realized Tom was not a morning person, and he wanted his husband to enjoy sleeping in on their last day of shore leave... but coming back into the tent and catching Tom asleep with an erection really had been too tempting to pass up.

"Next time," Tom sighed, and drifted off again. Chakotay gave him another fifteen minutes, then kissed him awake, and got the pleasure of watching those gorgeous blue eyes finally drift open.

"Hi, husband," Tom told him and smiled, so much love and joy revealed there that Chakotay felt his heart skip a beat.

"Hi, yourself. Ready to face the day?"

"Nah, but don't let that stop you."

"Got a lot to do, Poocah. Strike camp, transport to Voyager, see the Captain, move your stuff... is it going to bother you, moving into my quarters? We could ask for new ones, I guess, but—" and Chakotay was interrupted when Tom pulled his head down for another kiss.

"Your quarters are bigger. I'm fine with it, Cha. It's not going to bother me." Tom hesitated, thinking he wasn't being entirely truthful. There was one thing about living with Chakotay that troubled him. "Are you sure about this? I don't want anybody to give you a hard time."

"Like who? The crew?" Chakotay snorted. "Us moving in together and announcing we're married may be a –what's it called, a nine days' wonder?- but they'll get over it. A lot faster than I would if you changed your mind and *didn't* move in, Tom."

"I'm not changing my mind, love," Tom assured him, although he still wasn't convinced it was going to be as simple as Chakotay apparently did. While it was true that Maquis/Starfleet tensions had eased dramatically over the years, Tom had never felt too popular with either faction. At least he had the comfort of knowing the senior staff wasn't going to be too surprised, although it didn't necessary follow that they'd approve.

"It'll be okay, baby. Trust me on this, please," Chakotay said softly, and Tom gave him a wry look.

"Is this one of those situations where you're 'handling me'?" He asked, thinking back to yesterday when he'd practically put Chakotay in charge of making sure he didn't screw their relationship up. The big man smiled irresistibly. Just like that, Tom let his reservations go and smiled back.

"Hmm," Chakotay considered. "Could be. How am I doing?"

"Pretty damn good. You know that smile just shorts out my brain."

"Yeah? Makes us even, then." Chakotay kissed him again, and Tom wondered confusedly how many of his neurons were going to fry over that one. Chakotay didn't let it go too far, though. He really did want to get them back on Voyager and Tom moved in with him before any more second thoughts could emerge. "Oh, Tom. I meant to tell you. Some idiot scheduled me for Alpha shift and you for Beta shift until the last of the shore leave rotations are over."

"Some idiot, huh," and Tom started laughing, quite aware of who was in charge of scheduling the duty roster. He knew why Chakotay had done it that way. The captain and Tuvok would be taking shore leave next, and he and Chakotay would be the senior bridge officers for the next three days. "We'll manage, Cha. We'll have your lunch breaks, and my dinner breaks, and nights to be together. And the rest of today, and tonight. Guess we *do* need to get moving!" He kissed the end of Chakotay's nose and wiggled out of his arms, up and out of the tent before Chakotay could react.

Chakotay laid there for a minute, listening to Tom's cheerful whistle trailing him into the woods, and smiled to himself. Life was good.

- - - - - - - - - -

An hour's passing saw them packed up, regretfully dressed, and ready to transport, but Chakotay and Tom were reluctant to go. Their time on this world had so fundamentally altered their reality that it almost seemed as if Voyager was a dream. It was hard to leave this place behind.

"Cha. Give me a minute."

Tom walked over to the place where the Grandfather rocks were buried and knelt, one hand on the raised mound of dirt, automatically facing eastward. It felt right to him to do it, and there was nothing he was embarrassed to do in front of his husband's loving eyes... and Chakotay knew he'd never been more proud of Tom than when he heard that husky voice offer up thanks to the Spirits for everything that had happened.

- - - - - - - - - -


Sandrines was jumping, with no room to spare for holocharacters. Kathryn Janeway climbed up on a chair and waved for silence.

"It's my privilege tonight to make a couple of announcements. First of all, please join me in giving best wishes to B'Elanna Torres and Harry Kim, who informed me today they are engaged to be married." Cheers and whoops greeted this news, the bride- and groom-to-be the recipients of hugs and pats all around, and no one was crass enough to remark on the matching bite wounds they each bore. The captain waited for some of the noise to die down, and went on.

"It gives me a great deal of pleasure to make this second announcement. Some of us have been waiting for this day for a very long time," and the smile on her face clearly expressed her genuine happiness. "Please join me in congratulating Tom and Chakotay on their marriage!"

A stunned silence then, that lasted about two seconds, then the room erupted in even louder cheers, mingled, amazingly enough, with actual applause. Tom was so surprised he started to cry, and Sandrine had to hand him a bar towel to wipe his eyes, which resulted in increasing the racket.

So many people came up to him and Chakotay to offer their sincere congratulations –interspersed with numerous 'what took you so long's and 'it's about time's- that Tom lost track of who said what until Ken Dalby walked up. The room got a little quiet, and Tom felt Chakotay tense at his side, but the most incredible smile crossed Dalby's face as he regarded Tom.

"Guess I know what got into you, huh, Paris?" And Ken punched Tom lightly in the shoulder while they stood there grinning at each other.

And the party went on... although the four guests of honor snuck out early.

The End
This story archived at