Healing Touch
August 1998
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I've kept it inside much too long
There's no relief
Carry it around just like a stone
Too heavy for me
I had paid the price
Of standing on the outside looking in
It's time to let the healing begin
"Let the Healing Begin" - Joe Cocker

Chakotay stood before the door to Tom Paris' quarters feeling unaccountably nervous. Officially he was here as Voyager's first officer. Having noted a problem with one of the officers under him, he was simply following up on it. At least that's what he kept trying to tell himself. If he were to be honest with himself, there was no official basis for this visit.

Paris had been performing his duties as well as ever. In fact, he had been performing them better than usual, his reports indicating he was paying attention to small details he usually let slide. There had been some recent changes in Paris' personality, however, and not for the better. He seemed to be shutting himself away from the rest of the crew and attempting to become the model Starfleet officer. Not a bad occurrence in most officers but rather alarming when it came to Paris. Overnight, he had retreated into a non-smiling, serious Starfleet officer. His usual witty, and sometimes annoying, banter had completely disappeared.

It was that, more than anything else, that had finally brought Chakotay to Paris' door. He stood there nervously for several moments, not quite ready to brave this confrontation with the other man yet. He had managed to make it through nearly four years in the Delta Quadrant without once delving into Paris' personal territory. Not once in that time had Chakotay been to Paris' quarters. Not once had he forced any personal revelations out of Paris. He had tried on one occasion, only to discover later that Paris had been undercover, on Janeway's orders, to flush out a spy on Voyager.

Chakotay was certain that wasn't what the problem was this time. He knew what the problem was this time. Paris had become reclusive ever since the blowout with B'Elanna two weeks ago, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the aura of silent suffering that surrounded Paris.  No matter what occurred, no matter what was said, Paris continued to wear the same uncommunicative expression that encouraged others to keep their distance.

It surprised Chakotay how much he missed hearing Paris' laughter ringing out across the mess hall or his sarcastic comments uttered on the Bridge with that air of awelessness that only Paris could pull off and still earn a grin from the Captain. In the past two weeks, Tom Paris had retreated behind a closed door and seemed determined to stay there. Chakotay was just as determined to get that door back open. It never occurred to him to question why it was so important for him to do so.

The whole ship knew, of course, the reason for the change in Paris' demeanor. The argument in the mess hall with B'Elanna had been very public. Chakotay hadn't been there to witness it but he had heard about it. Paris had discovered that several weeks ago, when Voyager had retrieved messages from home through the alien array, that his message had come through in its entirety after all.

B'Elanna, who had told Tom she had been unable to download his message before the array was destroyed, had lied. When confronted by Paris, she had admitted that she had, in fact, retrieved his message in its entirety, but after hearing what Admiral Paris had to say to his son, she had come to the decision that it was not something Tom needed to hear and had hidden the message from him.

At least she hadn't destroyed the message, thought Chakotay. Somehow, Paris had happened across the message, discovering B'Elanna's lie in the process. Sources had told Chakotay they had never seen Paris so angry. Many had been shocked to discover that the usually easygoing Tom Paris was capable of that sort of anger. The fight hadn't lasted long. Paris had evidently stormed out of the mess hall after informing B'Elanna they were finished.

When Chakotay heard about the altercation, he figured it would all blow over in a few days. Paris and Torres were known for their lively exchanges. Chakotay hadn't taken it seriously until two weeks passed and Paris and Torres were still avoiding each other. Paris' reclusive behavior was growing worse and Torres was burying herself in Engineering with an air of quiet resignation that was uncommon for the Engineer. That alone spoke of trouble much louder than any outburst could have to Chakotay.

Chakotay had finally been able to get B'Elanna to open up to him for a brief moment when he had slipped under her guard. She had admitted to Chakotay that it had been a mistake to lie to Tom about the message and that she knew she had broken something too fragile to ever be mended. She and Tom would not be getting back together. Chakotay had been shocked at the certainty with which she told him that. His only consolation at that moment had been that B'Elanna did seem to be getting on with her life and some of the old fire was returning to her eyes. She was quieter these days but at least she still mingled with the ship's populace. Tom, on the other hand, was retreating deeper and deeper within himself.

Swallowing his nervousness, Chakotay signaled his presence at Paris' door and a moment later found himself entering the pilot's quarters. He looked around, noting the clothing flung here and there. Datapadds lay scattered across the desk and couch in disorganized piles. Given what B'Elanna had said one time about Tom always picking up after her, and her somewhat rueful comments about Tom being brought up Starfleet, Chakotay had expected neater quarters. The disarray in Paris' quarters seemed indicative of the pilot's current state of mind.

The subject of his thoughts stood in the doorway to the bathroom drying his hands on a towel. He was dressed in off-duty wear of loose T-shirt, shorts and bare feet. Tossing the towel back into the bathroom, Paris leaned in the doorway, arms crossed in a defensive posture which belied the laconic drawl that flowed forth.

"Something I can do for you, Commander?"

Chakotay stared at Paris for a long moment, taking in the long legs and loose-limbed stance. The man was attractive. No getting around that. He was also unobtainable as far as Chakotay was concerned. He had entertained passing thoughts of asking Tom out at one time, only to realize what a fantasy that was. There was simply too much muddy water under the bridge between them. Besides, during those early years on Voyager, Paris had barely tolerated him and Chakotay's return offensive had been a similar intolerance.

It had been a long struggle to get to where they currently were, with each having developed a modicum of respect for the other. In Chakotay's case, that respect had grown into an unacknowledged attraction. Then B'Elanna and Tom had become a couple and any fanciful hopes Chakotay might have had about a possible relationship with Tom Paris had remained buried. Now was not the time to resurrect those feelings. Tom was obviously hurting. Chakotay merely wanted to give him someone to talk to, and he realized with dawning sadness that there would most likely never be a time for the two of them, which was unfortunate because Chakotay's intuition told him that the two of them would be extraordinary together. However, it took two to tango and Paris had never expressed an interest of that sort in Chakotay.

Dragging his thoughts back to the here and now, Chakotay met Paris' eyes. "We have a problem, Lieutenant."

"We do?"

"You do," amended Chakotay.

"I do." Paris left his post at the bathroom doorway to wander about his quarters. He picked items up as if straightening his quarters only to lay them down in another location seconds later. Examining a shirt, which suddenly seemed to hold a fascination for him, Paris said, "So enlighten me, Commander. What's my problem?"

"Tom, this isn't an official visit. I have no complaints about how you've been performing your duties. But I couldn't help notice the recent change in your disposition. A change that seems to have occurred since you and B'Elanna parted ways. I'm here to offer to listen if you need someone to talk to. We're concerned." Silently, Chakotay cursed himself. Could he have sounded any more formal and stiff?

"We?" Tom gave a disbelieving laugh. "Funny. You're the first person who has expressed any concern, other than Harry."

"Maybe that has something to do with the tightlipped expression that's been frozen on your face for the past two weeks." Chakotay frowned. That had come out harsher than intended. Trying for a lighter tone, he teased, "Rather reminiscent of Admiral Paris." Too late, Chakotay realized that had been the wrong thing to say as well.

Tom's head shot up, his expression angry. "If you're here to talk about my father, you can leave now!" He angrily began picking up the scattered clothing and tossing it all into one pile.

Sudden insight told Chakotay that it wasn't the breakup with B'Elanna that had Paris in such a state of unsociability -- although he was obviously upset about that too. No, it was the message from his father that had him out of sorts. "Tom, what was in your message from home?" he asked, careful to keep his tone gentle and not raise his voice in reaction to Tom's earlier angry retort. "It's obviously got you upset."

"Nothing," was Tom's sullen reply.

"Nothing? Come on. Your father obviously said something to anger you," ventured Chakotay, ignoring Tom's wish to not talk about his father.

Silence greeted his inquiry.

Trying again, Chakotay said, "Whatever your father said couldn't have been that bad. You're his son. A son he thought dead--"

Tom whirled and was across the room before Chakotay could comprehend he was in motion. Faces centimeters apart, Tom spat out, "You have no idea what you're talking about. My father considers me dead. B'Elanna lied to me. Nobody cares and I--" He cut himself off before he could reveal any more and Chakotay found himself filled with an intense curiosity to know what the other man had been about to say.

Not backing down from Tom's invasion of his personal space, Chakotay stood his ground and said quietly, "I care." Tom's eyes flickered but whatever flashed there was gone before Chakotay could get a grasp on it.

Then Tom was moving again -- away from Chakotay this time. When he spoke, his voice was bitter. "Tell me one I'll believe, Chakotay."


Eyes flashing sparks of blue lightning, Tom whirled to face Chakotay once again. "Don't!" he yelled. "Don't you dare pretend to care! You've never liked me. You're only here because-- because--" Tom struggled for words.

"Because I care."

"NO!" Tom paced the room in short angry strides. "You're just like everyone else. Pretending to be nice. Nobody means it. He certainly never meant it."

Chakotay didn't have to ask who 'he' was. It was obvious from Tom's tone of voice and the glance that flickered toward a datapadd, which Chakotay suspected held the troublesome message from home, that Tom was talking about his father.

"He never thought I was good enough. You're the same way. No matter how hard I try it'll never be right. B'Elanna -- god, I thought I could trust her." Tom's voice stumbled to a harsh whisper. Anger, however, was still reverberating from his tightly strung body. "Sometimes I wonder if he wasn't right. If everyone wouldn't be better off if I had just died in that crash at Caldik."

Chakotay's blood chilled when Tom voiced that thought. A flash of fear mixed with anger surged through him. Not stopping to contemplate his actions, Chakotay reached out to grab Tom by the shoulders. Tom tried to pull away, but Chakotay's fingers bit into his shoulders, holding him in place. Chakotay readjusted his grip by grabbing a fistful of Tom's T-shirt and dragging him closer. When their heads were side by side, Chakotay spoke softly but intently into Tom's ear. "You're wrong, Tom. We're better off out here because you're here. You do make a difference. People do care what happens to you. I care." Chakotay's voice took on a warning note. "And if I ever hear you say again that we'd be better off if you had died at Caldik, I'll belt you into the middle of next year. Is that clear?"

Tom went completely still for all of two seconds before he tried to jerk out of Chakotay's grasp. Chakotay wouldn't allow it. Maintaining his hold on the front of Tom's T-shirt, he pushed the other man back until his thighs came in contact with the desk. Effectively trapping Tom between the desk and his body, Chakotay stared into surprised blue eyes from mere centimeters away and repeated his question. "Is that clear?"

Eyes locked with Chakotay's in a silent duel, Tom's reply was slow in coming.

"Is. That. Clear?" Chakotay's voice had taken on a dangerous tone.

"Yes," Tom finally replied reluctantly. Then, before he could stop his traitorous tongue, he asked, "Why?"

Chakotay pulled back slightly but didn't loosen his hold. "Why what?"

"Why is this so important to you?"

Chakotay's voice softened. "Because I care." Tom's gaze turned evasive. It was all Chakotay could do not to sigh aloud in frustration. Round Two had apparently started and he still didn't know the rules. "Tell me what's had you upset for the past two weeks." Chakotay already had a very good idea what was disturbing Tom, but he wanted to hear the other man say it -- to admit it.

"It's none of your business."

"Dammit, Paris--" Chakotay stopped himself when he caught Tom giving him a satisfied smile. Damn the man. He was trying to lead him away from what Chakotay wanted to discuss. He could almost admire Tom's tactics if it weren't for the fact that he was on the receiving end. Voice deceptively soft, Chakotay said, "Stop running away."

That lit a fire under Tom. His eyes flared, his hands swept upward to push at Chakotay. When that didn't work, he put his whole body into it, but Chakotay was like an immovable stone statue. He had leverage on his side and wasn't about to let Tom escape until the pilot started talking.

"Let go of me!" Tom hissed.

"Tell me what's so terrible about the message from your father." Chakotay was relentless in his pursuit.

"Mind your own business!"

"I'm making this my business."

With a quick move, Tom nearly got past Chakotay. Chakotay caught him by the shoulder and swung him around. Tom stumbled into Chakotay and they ended up clinging to each other in an attempt to stay on their feet. Sounds of harsh breathing filled the otherwise silent room.

Chakotay's world narrowed down to Tom Paris. He could feel Tom's chest rising and falling against his. Tom's warm breath gently caressed his face. Even his scent was pulling at Chakotay. How had he denied himself this for so long? It felt . . . right. So right.

Chakotay's hands moved as if they had a will of their own to pull Tom's face down to his. And then his mouth was covering lips that had been hovering just out of range -- until now. He ground his mouth against Tom's. The pilot's mouth went slack at the unexpected ambush and Chakotay took full advantage. His tongue had just started to push its way into the sweet unexplored depths when Tom let out a surprised whimper. It was enough to bring Chakotay back to his senses.

Chakotay reluctantly backed away, not even noticing how Tom's lips chased after his in a futile attempt to regain them. He was too lost in his embarrassment and arousal as he attempted to put space between them to notice much of anything for several moments.

When he finally raised wary eyes to gaze upon the flushed features of the man before him, Chakotay found Tom, lips still slightly parted, staring at him with a dumbfounded expression. Chakotay felt dizzy with the need for him. A twitch in his groin only served to confirm his desire but common sense and a growing discomfort over his rash actions of moments ago were enough to help him keep his distance. Still, a part of Chakotay marveled at the fire that had been in that kiss and he couldn't help but think it had been worth it, even if Paris killed him for it in the next few seconds. Good god, it had definitely been worth it. He's absolutely the most beautiful thing I've ever seen or touched.

Wide blue eyes met wide brown ones and for a brief panicked second, Chakotay thought he had spoken aloud. He watched as the expression on Tom's face shifted. The blue eyes narrowed as they roved downward to take in the evidence of Chakotay's arousal. Tom licked his lips and Chakotay felt himself swallowing nervously when he realized that Tom was playing with him. This wasn't what he had intended when he came here. He only wanted to help Tom get past whatever was bothering him. Not seduce him. His focus inward was so intense as he tried to sort out the mass of confusing thoughts that Chakotay completely missed Tom's next move.

His breath hissed out of him in a groan when Chakotay suddenly found himself being slammed up against the wall at his back. He would have rebounded off the wall except that Tom had him pinned to it with his body. Chakotay closed his eyes, stiffening in anticipation of the blow he was certain was coming. He definitely deserved it for the liberties he had just taken.

When the blow landed, Chakotay's surprise was so complete that an involuntary cry escaped him, but the sound of his surprise was quickly smothered by Tom's lips on his. No furious slaps fell upon him. No angry fists pummeled him. Only Tom's lips, hungrily coaxing a reaction out of him.

Every single move between the two men for the next few minutes was a battle.

Tom opened his mouth wider, intent on consuming Chakotay.

Chakotay's tongue darted in to take advantage of the defenseless interior.

Tom shifted position to cover Chakotay's body with his own and press him into the wall.

Chakotay retaliated by shoving a thigh between Tom's legs to nudge Tom's erection.

Tom's hands trapped Chakotay's face. Chakotay's fingers caressed the hairs at the back of Tom's neck. Tom rubbed his groin against Chakotay's in a titillating manner.

Chakotay's hands kneaded Tom's buttocks, pulling him in even closer until they were trapped against each other.

Move and countermove.

Both men groaned in unison, swept along by the wildfire. Their passion flowed moved fast and furious. They were totally consumed by it. Chakotay felt as if he would explode at any moment. Tom felt a white-hot burning that only Chakotay could feed.

Still locked together, Tom pulled Chakotay away from the wall and pressed him down over the desk. One hand swept out behind Chakotay to knock the desk's contents to the floor as he laid Chakotay out over the desk. Mouth still hungrily consuming Chakotay's, Tom shifted to move a leg between Chakotay's legs, urging them apart. His hand slid between them to stroke Chakotay through his uniform. Chakotay groaned into his mouth, begging for more. Tom obliged him.

With shocking suddenness, Chakotay tore his mouth away from Tom's. "No!" he breathed raggedly. It didn't feel right this time. Tom was pursuing him with a hunger that was maniacal in its intensity. Something wasn't right here. A moment of clarity hit and Chakotay knew Tom was pursuing him merely to avoid talking about his troubles. Chakotay caught his breath as Tom's lips continued their relentless pursuit over his jaw and down his neck while his hand stroked his erection through the uniform.

"You know you want it," encouraged Tom, his voice velvet.

"No," Chakotay repeated again, more clearly this time. "You're just using this to avoid talking about what's really bothering you." He felt Tom tense and then the other man was off him and moving away. Chakotay was appalled at how bereft he felt.

His erection aching from unfulfilled needs and his heart ringing hollowly, Chakotay slowly rose to his feet. He carefully adjusted his uniform, letting his eyes slide shut while he took several deep breaths in an attempt to get his fevered emotions and body under control. When he opened his eyes, it was to see Tom, a stony expression on his face, watching him. No evidence of Tom's own arousal that had been burning so hotly just moments ago could be seen. The eyes had gone glacial, and his body was frozen in a "don't touch" pose. The arms were once again crossed over his chest in a familiar defensive manner.

Chakotay took another steadying breath. What had passed between them moments ago had been much more than he had ever imagined it might be. Despite his knowledge that Tom had been using the heat of the moment to distract him from discussing Tom's personal troubles, Chakotay knew Tom had enjoyed the steamy interlude as much as he had. There was a spark between them that had never been acknowledged until now. Chakotay badly wanted to see that spark flame into something more. But now wasn't the time.

Praying his voice wouldn't crack when he spoke, Chakotay said, "You can't keep running from this, Tom."

Tom's eyes hardened. "You just don't get it, do you?"

"Why don't you tell me?"

"About what? A father who despises his son so much that he uses the possibly one and only contact he may have with him for the rest of his life to tell him so?"

Chakotay frowned, denial on his lips that Tom's father would have behaved toward him that way. Surely Tom was simply overreacting. He was beginning to have his doubts, however. Why else would B'Elanna have ever chanced withholding the message from Tom unless it was truly as bad as Tom painted it. Still, all Chakotay said was, "I know you and your father don't get along but it couldn't have been that bad."



"You don't believe me?" Tom's cold voice whipped over Chakotay in a painful lash. "Fine. Watch it for yourself and see."

Tom, his movements stiff and angry, approached the desk. He knelt down to sift through the assorted datapadds and other sundry that he had so haphazardly shoved off the desk just minutes ago. Finding what he wanted, he inserted the datapadd into the larger viewer on his desk and stepped away, his back turned to both the viewer and Chakotay.

A voice spoke from the viewer. A voice that was always in command. A voice that demanded it be listened to. Chakotay found his gaze riveted on the viewer, shocked at the amount of hate emanating from those blue eyes that were so like Tom's in every way except for the emotions that shone from them.

Chakotay had never seen that kind of hate shine from Tom's eyes. He'd never seen a parent show such hate for their own child. It was simply not within his realm of reason that a parent would ever show such hate for their own child. Chakotay wondered how many years Tom had been forced to live with that hatred.

How many years had Tom longed for forgiveness from his father? A forgiveness that should have willingly been given due to the simple fact that they were father and son and no matter what your child did, no matter how little you understood it, there should always be forgiveness in your heart for your child.

Chakotay's heart ached for Tom when he realized Tom had been right. This message was worse than he could have ever imagined. No wonder he had been walking around the ship for the past two weeks with that unaccustomed tightlipped expression.

And B'Elanna had kept this from him.

A part of Chakotay could understand B'Elanna's need to shield Tom from this but Chakotay, with a certainty that surprised him, knew he would never have withheld the message from Tom. Tom had a right to see it. No matter how painful.

His eyes raised from the vid message of Owen Paris verbally whipping his son to find the younger Paris' eyes on him, watching his reaction to the message. For a brief moment Chakotay saw hurt, a deep wounding hurt, on Tom's face, but it was quickly covered by an I-told-you-so smirk. Chakotay hadn't imagined the wounded look though. And he now realized that patented Paris smirk covered a plethora of hurts and deep wounds that this man had been covering for years. Knowing there was nothing he could say that would take the pain away, Chakotay kept it simple.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly.

Tom shrugged, his expression revealing nothing.

"Don't you think it would be better if you dealt with this?" Chakotay finally asked. "So you can get beyond it? It's not doing you any good to fixate on it. Your father's not worth the effort. Tom, you're a good man. I've seen that these last three years. If your father can't see that, then it's his problem. Not yours."

Tom was now contemplating the deck beneath his feet. "Just leave it be, Chakotay. You can't fix everything, you know."

"Maybe not. But I'd feel better if I thought you wanted it fixed. Right now, you're wallowing in it. That's not a good place to be."

Tom, his face averted, moved around Chakotay to remove the message from his terminal. It slipped from Tom's fingers to the deck, the noise of impact abnormally loud in the quiet room. Moving slowly, Tom bent to pick it up.

Chakotay's gaze snapped to Tom when he heard the muffled sob. Tom stood with his back to Chakotay, the datapadd clenched tightly in one hand. He held himself as if in pain. Chakotay couldn't take any more of this. Tom was hurting. There had to be something he could do to ease that hurt.

He quietly made his way to where the other man stood still as a statue. A tentative touch to Tom's shoulder caused Tom to tense up. Chakotay didn't let it deter him. He wrapped Tom in his embrace, pulling him back until he rested against his chest. Tom made no verbal protest and after a moment he slowly relaxed into Chakotay's arms and leaned back against the solid wall of support behind him.

Tom let his eyes close. Oh God. It felt so good to be held by someone. Someone who cared. He didn't doubt for a moment that Chakotay cared. Every word, every action, every touch had shown him that in the last few minutes. When Tom finally spoke, it was in a whisper that Chakotay had to strain to hear. "I'm so tired of all the anger and hatred. I want to feel some happiness. Some joy. Do you have any idea how long it's taken me to realize I have a right to feel those things?"

Chakotay felt tears pricking at his eyes at Tom's words. This man. He hurt so deeply. How had he kept all that hurt buried? Or had he, Chakotay, just never cared enough to look for it? Or had he been to frightened to look for it, knowing what admissions he would have to make?

"You have every right, Tom."

Tom's hands came up to cover Chakotay's where they where clasped across his chest. He leaned his head back against Chakotay's shoulder. "Make love to me, Chakotay. Please. Give me some happiness. Give me something to feel, something I won't regret."

Chakotay thought his heart would burst in that moment with love for this man. He knew Tom didn't love him. He wasn't even certain what class of love his feelings for the other man fell under, but in that moment, for that moment, Chakotay knew he would do anything for Tom just to bring some joy to his life.

He began slowly. A nip here. A kiss there. A tongue caressing an ear. A kiss that trailed along a jawline. Tom practically wilted into him, letting Chakotay set the pace. This was not the frenzied lovemaking of minutes ago but a slow loving caress that was healing and touched both men's souls.

Slowly, Tom turned in Chakotay's arms and their mouths met. No fiery passion this time. Instead, they met in a slow gentle exploration of each other that tasted of newness that had not yet been trampled by life's miseries. Their touch was fresh. Untouched. Both reveled in the virgin taste of lovers first coming together, knowing it could never be like this again.

Tom's tongue slipped between Chakotay's lips in offering. Chakotay sucked on his tongue, tasting a sweetness that blossomed like sunlight. His hands moved beneath Tom's T-shirt to explore the flat plains of his abdomen before moving around to trail his hands in sensual patterns over Tom's back.

Tom reciprocated by undoing the front closure of Chakotay's uniform and pushing the underlying tunic up to bare Chakotay's chest. He ground his groin against Chakotay's, a smile turning up his mouth at Chakotay's needful moan.

"Chakotay," breathed Tom against his mouth. "Bed."


Chakotay blindly followed where the other man led as Tom slowly walked him backward toward the sleeping quarters, never breaking their embrace. Both men's mouths remained busy exploring each other. By the time they reached the bed, Tom had Chakotay's uniform down to his waist and the tunic completely off, abandoned to the floor somewhere along the way. Tom's T-shirt had met a similar fate.

As if by mutual agreement, both men pulled away and finished disrobing quickly. Chakotay wasn't surprised to discover that Tom had nothing on underneath the shorts. He'd suspected as much earlier.

They fell onto the bed, a tangle of naked limbs. Chakotay pinned Tom to the bed and Tom surrendered willingly when Chakotay began a slow exploration of the body underneath his. His lips and hands didn't miss an exposed expanse of skin except for the growing erection. Chakotay came teasingly close but never allowed his touch to quite come in contact with it. Tom's hips lifted in supplication and Chakotay finally bowed to the unspoken request.

A heated warmth engulfed his erection and Tom nearly came off the bed at the overwhelming sensations that flooded through him as Chakotay's mouth caressed him. His hips began thrusting and he was lost in what he could only describe as heavenly bliss. Tom wanted to shout with the joy of it but couldn't find the breath to do so.

His hooded eyes peered down his body to see Chakotay, mouth wrapped about him. Tom nearly came from the sight of that alone. But he needed more. He needed for Chakotay to consume him. To make him forget. His fingers ran a sensual trail through Chakotay's hair before coming to rest on his face. Their eyes met.

"In me, Chakotay," Tom gasped. "I need to feel you in me."

The warmth of Chakotay's mouth moved up Tom's body in a fiery path to latch onto his lips. Tom gladly let Chakotay plunder his mouth until he could no longer avoid the need for Chakotay to take him.

Sliding from beneath Chakotay, Tom fumbled in the bedside drawer for a moment until he found what he was looking for. Popping the lid off the tube, Tom squeezed the oil out into his hands that warmed instantly upon contact with air. Leaning in to kiss Chakotay, Tom took the other man's erection between his hands and slowly worked the oil over it, delighting in the tremors he could feel coursing through Chakotay's body.

Still stroking Chakotay, Tom dipped down to bite at one of the pebbled nipples. Chakotay gasped, his whole body surging forward into Tom's. Tom's mouth was suddenly everywhere. Chakotay felt as if he were on fire. He slowly became aware that Tom was speaking. Chanting something, actually. Chakotay tried to concentrate long enough to catch what it was.


Chakotay's hands captured Tom's face between them. He gently touched his lips to Tom's. "You have me."

They both stilled for a long moment, foreheads resting together, their bodies gently rocking in tandem. It was a moment full of unspoken truths. Chakotay felt like rejoicing and crying at the same time. Before the moment could get any deeper, Tom pulled away. He lay face down on the bed, a pillow placed beneath him to elevate his rear end. His legs spread invitingly. It was an invitation Chakotay couldn't ignore.

Grabbing the tube of oil from where Tom had abandoned it, Chakotay liberally greased his hands. Sitting astride Tom, he gently but forcefully kneaded the oil into Tom's shoulders, slowly working his way down his backside.

Chakotay's big hands gently caressed Tom's rounded buttocks. Tom wiggled encouragingly and Chakotay pulled the twin mounds apart to dip a finger in to tease at the rosy puckered opening. It quivered at Chakotay's touch. He slowly worked a finger into the spasming opening. Tom's fingers clenched at the bedclothes as he gasped.

"More, Chakotay!"

Chakotay fulfilled Tom's request by plunging his finger all the way in, his finger grazing Tom's prostrate. Only Chakotay's weight atop Tom's legs kept him down. Before Tom had time to recover, Chakotay added a second penetrating finger. He carefully stretched Tom, who lay gasping inarticulately beneath him. The third finger slid easily in and Tom pulled himself up to all fours, pushing himself back against Chakotay.

Chakotay would have preferred to take him from the front so he could watch Tom but the other man seemed to want it this way so Chakotay obliged. The tip of his erection pushed at Tom's opening. Chakotay held Tom's hips to control his impatient backward thrusts.

Tom's head drooped between his shoulders as he struggled for control, his breath panting in uneven gasps now. Chakotay pushed, sliding past the outer ring of resistance. With a sudden shift of his hips, Chakotay plunged his full length into Tom. Tom's back arched, his hips moving back to meet Chakotay's thrust.

Chakotay stilled for a moment to allow Tom to adjust. He leaned over Tom's back, planting kisses across it. Tom began rocking back and forth, his need evident. Chakotay matched his movements to Tom's, his thrusts at first gentle but the pace quickly picking up.

Chakotay thrust hard and deep, one particularly energetic thrust driving Tom's arms out from underneath him. Chakotay wrapped an arm around Tom's chest and pulled him to a kneeling position so that Tom's back was to his chest. His other hand wrapped around Tom's erection and began pumping in time to his thrusts. Tom's hands moved back to grasp Chakotay's hips, encouraging him to thrust even harder. Both men were breathing heavily, their cries mingling until it was difficult to tell who was who.

Just before an eruption of volcanic proportions hit, Chakotay felt Tom tense and then his juices were shooting out over Chakotay's hand, which was still clasped around Tom's erection. Chakotay's lips gently touched to Tom's neck as the other man shook from the intense orgasm. Then Chakotay felt Tom tightening around him. He uttered a hoarse cry and with one final thrust released into Tom.

They both teetered on the edge of the abyss for long moment before falling, tumbling down together mutual release.

Chakotay felt Tom move beneath him. He was completely drained but it was the sort of flushed feeling you get after a really good bout of lovemaking. He didn't move from where he had collapsed atop Tom when they had both fallen forward. He figured Tom would be wriggling more energetically if he was in danger of suffocating. Finally, a quiet voice spoke from beneath him.



"That was . . ."



"Oh." Chakotay couldn't help the disappointment that entered his voice.

"It was . . . impressive. Amazing. Too good for words. And . . ."

Now Chakotay could hear the smile in Tom's voice and the hint of mischievousness. Grinning into Tom's neck and planting a kiss there, he prompted, "And?"

"I'm having trouble breathing."

Laughing, Chakotay rolled them to the side until he was spooned up against Tom's back. "Better?"

"Um hmm." Tom's voice was getting drowsy.

"You gonna go to sleep on me?"

"I think so. Stay for a while?" Tom's hand crept to where one of Chakotay's rested against his chest. Their fingers twined together in a clasp.

"I'm not going anywhere," Chakotay reassured him.

He held Tom until the other man fell asleep, only disengaging from their embrace then to get a towel from the bathroom to wipe them both down, then he slid back into bed, pulling Tom to him. Tom fell back into his embrace willingly, head resting on Chakotay's chest and a leg thrown over Chakotay's. Both men fell into a peaceful sleep.

When Chakotay awoke the next morning, Tom was gone. Chakotay was disappointed. Although last night's lovemaking session had been wonderful, it still hadn't resolved any issues for Tom and Chakotay had to admit to some confused feelings as to where it left the two of them in relation to each other.

Were they embarking upon an intimate relationship or had last night simply been a one-time event? Chakotay knew he wanted more. Now that he gotten his longed for intimate taste of Tom he wasn't willing to settle for something less. If he wasn't in love with the man already he knew he was well on his way to being there.

There was a major obstacle in his way, however. He had no idea how Tom felt. Had last night simply been a case of  a lonely man needing to be close to someone? Had Chakotay caught Tom on the rebound from his broken relationship with B'Elanna? Or did Tom actually harbor some feelings for him? Chakotay hoped for the latter. He knew though that whatever the case might be, this had the makings for a messy situation if it wasn't handled right. He wanted it handled right. He wanted Tom in his life.

Sitting up, Chakotay spied the datapadd propped up on the nightstand that was encased in one of his socks and blinking a flashing message at him. A grin escaped Chakotay. Leave it to Tom to be original. Swinging his feet over the side of the bed, Chakotay plucked the padd from the nightstand and called up the message.

Thanks for last night. Thanks for staying. Sorry to run out on you like this. We probably needed to discuss a few things this morning, but  I already had an early morning workout and breakfast scheduled with Harry. I've come to a decision about the message from my father. You were right. I need to leave that behind me. I'm not sure I'm ready to do that yet but I'd like to give it a try. I've got some plans for a certain message from home after I get off duty tonight. If you're interested, I'd really like to have you here. 2100, my quarters? 
Chakotay ran a hand across the back of his neck. It was good that Tom seemed to be coming to terms with the disappointing message from his father and Chakotay was pleased that Tom wanted to include him in whatever plans he had for that message. However, he was disappointed that Tom hadn't said much about what had happened between the two of them last night.

Chakotay wasn't sure what to make of that. He knew, despite Tom's low-key reaction the night before, that it had been good for him. That it had been more than good. And he seemed to want Chakotay's continued company if this invitation was anything to go by. But why hadn't he woke Chakotay up when he left this morning?

Chakotay missed that morning after brush of contact. This was too abrupt of an ending to last night's passion. He frowned. Could this be Tom's way of telling Chakotay that he wanted to forget about it? Put it down as a one-time occurrence and just be friends? That thought didn't sit well with Chakotay as he got dressed and discreetly left Tom's quarters for his own.

Harry wore a pleased smile as he and Tom settled down at a table in the mess hall for breakfast. Tom seemed to be back to his exuberant self. He was smiling again and the old familiar Paris wisecracks had already made several showings this morning. And talk about being full of energy! Harry had been hard put to keep up with Tom during their workout. He wasn't sure what had happened to bring back the Tom of old but Harry wasn't about to question it. He was just happy to see that Tom had bounced back.

Peering across the table at his friend, Harry saw that Tom's gaze was intently focused elsewhere. He turned slightly to follow Tom's line of sight and found Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay having breakfast together. Harry was further surprised when Chakotay's eyes rose to meet Tom's across the room.

He watched the Commander's expression change from professional detachment to a warming of the eyes until they were crinkling at the corners. Chakotay's face blossomed into one of his rare full-blown smiles and, with a start of surprise, Harry realized that smile was directed at Tom.

Not sure what to make of what he was seeing, Harry turned back to look at Tom. The pilot's eyes were alight with an unexpected warmth that was directed toward Chakotay. Crossing his arms in a very Tom Paris gesture, Harry leaned back in his seat to silently observe the two men.

Tom had been discreetly watching Chakotay ever since he had entered the mess hall. He wasn't quite prepared for the devastating effect those dark eyes had upon him when the other man's gaze finally latched onto his. They spent what felt like forever simply staring at each other, although Tom was certain it was actually only a matter of seconds. Then Tom saw Chakotay's eyes turn even darker if possible with a smoldering emotion that told him the other man was remembering the two of them, together, last night. That moment right before they had climaxed when they had been as close as two lovers can get. It had felt so right. Chakotay had felt so right. It had never felt that way with someone before.

Tom thought it had been right with B'Elanna. And it had been, but not in the all-consuming way it was with Chakotay. He had actually felt near tears when they made love last night. That had certainly never happened before. Their intimacy had touched him. Deeply. And he knew it had awakened something within Chakotay as well.

Whatever this was between them was too powerful to be ignored. Yet, a strong instinct for survival was causing Tom to shy away from a continued intimate relationship with Chakotay. The recent hurts caused by the breakup of his and B'Elanna's relationship were still too fresh. He had been so sure that had been the real thing. What if he was wrong about Chakotay too?

An inner voice he hadn't been listening to much lately chose that moment to make itself known with an insistence he could no longer ignore. You'll never know if you don't try. What if Chakotay is the one? Think what you'll miss out on if you don't give it a chance -- if you don't give him a chance.

A smile slipped out as Tom realized he really didn't have a choice. It was already too late to back out of what he and Chakotay had started last night. He turned up the wattage of his smile and redirected it, full intensity, at Chakotay, following it up with a heated gaze full of impatient frustration. Whatever the fates had in store for them, it would have to wait until they were off duty this evening.

Chakotay's reply was a wide grin of understanding. Even though he had kept his face carefully blank as he examined his feelings, Tom knew that Chakotay had read him like a book. He's the one, a voice whispered. He's what you've been looking for all your life.

Tonight? Tom mouthed silently.

Chakotay gave a slight inclination of his head, indicating he would be taking Tom up on the invitation extended in the note earlier this morning. Tom delivered a bright smile that quickened Chakotay's breath.


Startled, Tom's gaze flew to his tablemate. Harry was watching him, a strange combination of confusion, astonishment, and comprehension on his face. Tom watched as Harry tossed away what he had at first thought he comprehended, took a second look at Tom, and realized he had been right the first time. At Tom's inquiring look, Harry simply shook his head. "I'm not even going to ask." Grinning, Harry added, "Besides, you'll tell me about it sooner or later."

Tom's gaze floated back to Chakotay's to find him once again engrossed in conversation with the Captain. Chakotay evidently felt his gaze though and his eyes lifted to meet Tom's once more before refocusing on Janeway. With an internal sigh of contentment, Tom turned his attention back to Harry.

The two friends quickly finished off their breakfast, and reported to the Bridge for duty shortly thereafter.

Chakotay watched as Tom and Harry left the mess hall. He couldn't help it. His gaze seemed to narrow in on the way Tom's uniform fit around the trim buttocks and another memory of the feel of Tom's body beneath his washed over him. You've got it bad, he told himself and quickly wiped the foolish grin off his face before it occurred to someone to ask him if he was all right.

Voyager's first officer simply didn't smile all that often; it was sure to arouse suspicion. What would he tell them? I'm fine. I'm on top of the world. I made love to Tom Paris last night and it was indescribably one of the best things to ever happen to me. Chakotay, a contented smile lifting the corners of his mouth once again, turned his attention back to the Captain and ship's business. He couldn't remember having smiled this much in ages.

Tom was waiting just inside the door to his quarters when it slid open. Chakotay stepped inside and held out his hand. "You requested this?"

Tom took the phaser from Chakotay. "Thanks. You have any trouble requisitioning it?"

"Tuvok was his usual efficient self," Chakotay responded dryly. "Tom--"

Tom looked up at the uncertain tone in the other man's voice. There was a wealth of questions in those eyes and Tom didn't pretend to not understand. "Can we talk about it . . . later?" he asked quietly.

"Do we have something to talk about?"

Tom offered him a smile. "I hope so." They continued to stare at each other silently for a long moment until Tom finally hefted the phaser in his hand. "I have permission to fire this in my quarters tonight?"

Chakotay nodded. "As long as you keep it on low beam."

"That'll work," agreed Tom. "Join me?" he asked, nodding toward the other side of his quarters.

Chakotay followed Tom over to the viewport. The datapadd that Chakotay suspected contained the message from the senior Paris lay on a phaser retardant drop cloth on the ledge beneath the viewport. It was backlit by the vastness of the Delta Quadrant warping by on the other side of the port. Somehow it seemed fitting.

Tom fingered the datapadd but didn't pick it up. "I listened to it one more time before you got here."

"There was no need for you to do that, Tom," replied a concerned Chakotay. "None of what your father said was true." Chakotay paused, staring at Tom thoughtfully. Tom no longer seemed tense. Somewhere between last night and this evening he had evidently come to terms with his father, or at least had reached a place where he didn't flinch whenever Admiral Paris was mentioned. Deciding to test the waters, Chakotay said, "Actually, I feel sorry for your father."

Tom shot him a confused look that had the beginnings of a hurt expression wrapped around it. "Sorry? For him?"

Chakotay nodded. "He's consumed by so much hate. It must be a miserable existence for him. Don't ever let hate consume you like that, Tom. You're a better man than he is."

Tom's eyes widened dramatically, the confusion replaced by wonder. "You honestly believe that?" he whispered.

Chakotay couldn't help himself. This man, who by turns seemed to be hardened by life one moment and vulnerable to the slightest movement the next, stirred emotions in Chakotay that touched him to his deepest depths. He reached out a gentle hand, trailing fingers down the side of Tom's face. "Yes, I do." He didn't miss how Tom's breathing changed significantly at his touch. His pupils dilated until they nearly covered the blue irises and a look of hungry arousal crossed his face.

Tom's hand lifted to cover Chakotay's. When Chakotay moved in closer, Tom knew the other man was about to lean in for a kiss. He gave Chakotay's hand an affectionate squeeze that promised they would take this up later before he stepped away. He needed to finish with his father's message and close the chapter on that part of his life before he moved forward with Chakotay.

Adjusting the phaser's settings, Tom sighted down it at the datapadd. He felt like he should say something, but he had no idea what. In the end, he kept it simple. "Goodbye," he whispered, hitting the fire button on the phaser.

The phaser beam shot out, connecting with the datapadd. It took several seconds before the padd began to show the effects of the constant barrage of the low-beam intensity phaser fire on it. The padd began to slowly melt. Soon it would be nothing.

Images washed through Tom's mind. Himself as a youth. His father. A deep baritone laugh mixed with childish giggles. Later years when he hit his teens and the laughter didn't come as frequently. Recriminations from his father. The feeling that no matter how hard he tried he could never please his father. Stern blue eyes staring at him, full of disappointment. The hurtful words.

Chakotay watched Tom. His face had gone blank when he fired the phaser but now a multitude of emotions were washing over it. Then Tom's hand began to shake. Chakotay could see the struggle Tom was undergoing as he fought with old demons. He refused to let Tom face those demons alone again.

Silently, he placed himself at Tom's back. One hand reached around Tom to cover the hand gripping the phaser. He steadied Tom, offering his support. Chakotay heard the soft exhalation of gratitude from the other man as Tom leaned back into him, soaking up his rock-solid strength. The hand stopped shaking and Tom and Chakotay stood as one watching the phaser fire melt the datapadd into nothingness.

Tom released the fire button on the phaser but otherwise remained frozen in place. Chakotay gently removed the phaser from Tom's grasp and set it aside. He wrapped both arms around Tom and held him. Both men stared out at the passing Delta Quadrant until Chakotay realized their reflections could be seen in the viewport and that Tom was watching their reflection. No, Chakotay amended, Tom was watching him. Their eyes met in the reflection.

"You would have never kept my father's message from me, would you?" Tom sounded very sure that he already knew the answer to the question but there was still a fear of betrayal lurking in his eyes.

Chakotay cursed B'Elanna for putting that fear there. His arms tightened around Tom in an unconscious gesture that spoke of never letting go. His throat clogged with emotions, Chakotay voice was a hoarse whisper of its normal deep tones. "No. I wouldn't have."

His embrace told Tom more. His hold told Tom that Chakotay believed he was strong enough to handle whatever came his way and that when Tom's strength failed him, Chakotay wanted to be there for him to lean on. It was the expression in Chakotay's eyes, however, that caught Tom's attention. Chakotay's heart was there in his eyes and he was offering it to Tom, entrusting it to him. Tom's hands came up to tightly hold the forearms that crossed his chest and pulled him back to be cradled in a tender embrace.

Neither man spoke. They stood quietly in each other's arms, maintaining a vigil over their newfound intimacy. Neither was willing to let the rest of the universe intrude just yet. Two pairs of eyes focused outward on the space warping by on the other side of the viewport, ready for whatever might come their way. Ready to face it together.

Didn't we break the silence
Didn't we fear the storm
Didn't we move the earth
Didn't we shoot for the sky
Didn't we catch the spirits
Didn't we fall together . . .

Days on the run
Nights in hiding
Hoping that you were
The healing inside me

Breathe in the sweet fire of love
I'm not afraid anymore
Sweet, sweet fire
I'm not alone
Breathe in the sweet fire of love
I'm not the same anymore
The sweet fire of love
"Sweet Fire Of Love" - Robbie Robertson

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