January 1998
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Chakotay wasn't sure what had drawn him to the holodeck tonight. A restlessness he couldn't pinpoint demanded he do something. So here he sat in Sandrine's, nursing a drink, thoughts wandering aimlessly.

Well, that wasn't exactly true. His thoughts kept coming back to the same subject like a repeating loop. Tom Paris. Tom Paris, son of a Starfleet admiral, member of a family whose Starfleet roots went back several generations. Tom Paris, ex-Starfleet, one-time Maquis, ex-resident of the Auckland Penal Colony. Tom Paris, Lieutenant j.g. -- Starfleet, Voyager's chief helmsman. Tom Paris, quirky sarcastic sense of humor, handsome, sensual--



That was the root of his problems tonight. His restlessness. The long buried attraction for Tom Paris that had at one time disguised itself as intense dislike. It was all Tom's fault, Chakotay's mind reasoned. He had the audacity to turn himself around, get his life back under his control, and make something of himself. That newfound satisfaction with himself showed in Tom's demeanor and that was when Chakotay had been forced to sit up and pay attention. Forced to acknowledge that he was no longer Paris the traitor but Tom the -- what?

Lover, his traitorous mind whispered. 'Fess up, Chakotay. You want to take the man for your lover. You wonder what it would feel like to have his body under yours, to have his body covering yours, to have those lips trailing fiery trails over your body . . .

Chakotay shook himself. This was doing him no good. It would never happen. Too much water under the bridge.  Even if he could find the nerve to admit his feelings to Tom, the other man would never reciprocate.

Dragging himself away from his thoughts, he let his gaze wander the room. He spotted the Delaney sisters at a table, heads close together in whispered conversation, both their gazes on the pool table. Chakotay let his eyes travel in that direction to see what the Delaneys found so fascinating at the pool table tonight.

Tom and Harry. Should have known. Chakotay grinned as he lifted the drink to sip at it. Tom, leaning on his cue stick, stood off to one side giving Harry a bad time while Harry tried to concentrate on lining up a shot. Still talking to Harry, Tom's eyes suddenly raised to meet Chakotay's, almost as if he had been aware of the dark gaze focused on him.

The hand lifting the drink to Chakotay's lips faltered, hanging in midair forgotten. Chakotay felt himself sucked in by that gaze. An unspoken question lurked in those blue depths. Treading carefully, Chakotay probed at the question, letting those eyes draw him in. He couldn't break away. He couldn't breathe. He was suffocating under the essence that was Tom Paris. It engulfed him, surrounded him, embraced him. He fought to breathe.

Chakotay nervously flicked his tongue out to lick suddenly dry lips. The blue gaze flicked to Chakotay's lips, focusing there intently for a long moment. Tom's throat moved in a convulsive swallow.

Chakotay's eyes widened. It wasn't only him. There was a mutual attraction here. How had he missed that? And how long had it been there unacknowledged, demanding to be let out so it could breathe?

Then the moment was past as Harry and the pool game once more reclaimed Tom's attention. Chakotay, thoughts in turmoil, gulped the rest of his drink down in one swallow before quickly exiting Sandrine's.

Two days later:

"Give me your hand."

Tom looked up in surprise when he heard the voice overhead. During the surprise attack by the local natives, Tom had found himself tumbling into a pit that was obviously used to snare large animals. He'd seen one of the native's spears pierce Ensign Jalada's chest in what had to be a mortal blow just as he himself had jumped back to avoid a native spear similarly aimed and had found himself falling into the deep pit. Shortly after that, he'd heard a phaser beam and hoped Chakotay had arrived and managed to gain control of the situation.

Obviously he had. Tom looked up to see Chakotay peering down at him. He was down on one knee with his hand extended for Tom to take. Finding the hand- and footholds difficult to maintain in the loose dirt and rock of the pit walls, Tom gratefully reached out to grasp the other man's hand and let himself be pulled up.

He tried to ignore the feel of the other man's hand in his. Ever since that moment in Sandrine's a couple of nights ago, his thoughts had been going places they had no business visiting. Being in close proximity with the subject of those thoughts on this away mission had only heightened his senses to the other man's presence.

To say he had been shocked by what he had seen in Chakotay's eyes that night in Sandrine's would be an understatement. He'd never really thought about Chakotay as a possible love interest before. Not consciously anyway. He was just beginning to realize that he actually missed Chakotay's presence when he wasn't on the Bridge. And his voice. He loved Chakotay's voice. It rippled across his skin in a sensual whisper. Not to mention those eyes, dark pools of mystery that Tom longed to unwrap.

Tom's foot slipped and he started to slide back down to the bottom of the pit. Only Chakotay's firm hold of his hand kept him from falling.

Whoa, Tom, he cautioned himself. Get your mind back on what you're doing or there will be no exploring those dark pools of mystery. He almost choked on his thoughts. Even if he hadn't decided, evidently his subconscious had already made up his mind. He was going after Chakotay. He couldn't wait to see the stir this would create on the ship, especially since he was fairly sure now that Chakotay wanted to be chased after.

There was a sudden shifting in the pit wall. Before Tom had time to react, the walls were caving in on him. He felt himself being quickly buried in the dirt, unable to evade it, unable to move. Panic began to set in when he realized he would soon be unable to breathe. As the blackness started to overtake him, he became dimly aware of a warm hand still tightly closed over his, still holding on. I'm gonna die, was his last coherent thought.

Chakotay stared in horror, helpless to do anything when the dirt walls suddenly crumpled, burying Tom. He watched in dismay when the other man's head disappeared under the dirt as it swallowed him alive. Chakotay tightened his grip on Tom's hand, refusing to let go and found himself in a quandary. How to attempt to dig Tom out when he didn't dare release his hold on him? He could feel each precious second ticking by. Tom's hand was still tight around his, not having gone slack yet. A good sign, but Chakotay knew it was only a matter of minutes before the man was smothered to death in the dirt grave.

He frantically glanced around for anything to help and saw nothing. Not fair! his mind screamed. Just this morning he was walking beside you through the woods of this planet. Both their gazes had kept sliding sideways to eye the other but quickly looking away when they realized the other knew they were watching. At the time, Chakotay had a mad desire to take Tom's hand in his, leave the rest of the away team behind, and take a stroll through the woods with Tom. Then Tom had made a crack about this being the perfect place for a lover's stroll, almost as if reading his thoughts. They had both gone silent after that.

Chakotay quickly tapped his commbadge with his free hand, putting out an all call for help to the rest of the away team and to Voyager. Kim had quickly vetoed the idea of beaming Tom out of the pit. The dirt burying him in a premature grave had a mineral in it that made it impossible to get a reading for safe transport.

Tuvok and several security were beamed down immediately. They quickly set to work digging Tom out.

Only a minute had passed but to Chakotay it seemed a minute too long already. Was he only now to realize his attraction, and possibly something more, for Tom, to have it taken away? He felt Tom's fingers loosening.

"Hurry up!" he told Tuvok's team. "We're losing him."

Then Chakotay felt the dirt give way. He gave an experimental tug and suddenly Tom's head popped free of the dirt. He gulped in huge breaths of air, coughing as he fought for breath.

He's alive! He's alive! Chakotay's mind chanted. Putting all his weight into it, he pulled again. Tom's shoulders appeared as did his other hand. Tuvok quickly grasped it and together Chakotay and Tuvok pulled Tom from what had nearly become his grave.

When the pit suddenly decided to release its victim, Chakotay felt Tom's body spring toward him. Unable to compensate, he toppled over backwards, Tom landing atop him. They lay there like that for several long moments, both panting heavily.

Tom finally lifted his head from Chakotay's chest. His breath still wheezing, he said, "You didn't let go."


Tom stared into Chakotay's eyes, those dark depths suddenly not so inscrutable. A slow smile lit up his face.

Chakotay stared up at the face, now dirt encrusted but still as lovely as ever. He watched the slow smile transform the other man's face. Not the cocky smile he usually wore but a warm only-for-you smile and felt his heart melt. There would be no holding back now. He lay there, completely under the spell of that smile, not even realizing Tom's lips had targeted his until he felt them upon his own.

It was a moment of overwhelming warmth and bliss and a promise of things to come.

Tuvok's dry voice broke the spell. "Apparently Mr. Paris is still lightheaded from near asphyxiation. Shall I have you both beamed to Sickbay, Commander?"

Tom buried his head in Chakotay's neck, planting love bites there. Trying to regain his breath, Chakotay, eyes twinkling with suppressed amusement and relief, stared up at the Vulcan security officer while ignoring the shocked looks from the rest of the away team. "I think Mr. Paris knows exactly what he's doing, Tuvok, but Sickbay might not be a bad idea. I'm feeling in danger of suffocating."

Tom's lips reclaimed his at that moment. Chakotay dimly heard the transport order, then gladly gave himself up to Tom. After all,  there were worse things than being suffocated by kisses from Tom Paris.

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