DISCLAIMER: Voyager and her lovely crew belong to Paramount. I'm just letting them out for a bit of fun....

WARNING: This is a C/P NC-17 story. Yes, that's right, Chakotay, Paris, sex....if you are under 18 or your first thought is 'ick' then this is definitely not the place for you.

FEEDBACK: Gratefully received. You don't have to like it, but please be constructive in your criticisms. Hell, let's face it, I'm going to be pathetically happy just to hear you read all the way though to the end. All feedback acknowledged - assuming your addy works.


This is the slightest story in the world but, somehow or other, it's taken me a year to write. And, weirdly enough, during that time it's accrued nearly as much feedback as any of the stories I've actually completed. If you wrote, thank you, this is a public acknowledgement to go with the private one. I hope you like the end result.

Thanks to my beta readers: moondancer who read the first draft, Briony who read the final one and whitecrow who sifted through first, last and every possible varient in between.

And finally. Canon? What Canon? Briony lent me Pathways but I've ignored it.



What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from

T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding


Three am and Chakotay was alone in the gym jogging. Not that he wanted to be there. Hell no, a double shift, followed by a lengthy debriefing session with the captain had left him totally exhausted, longing only for sleep.

Unfortunately, while his body begged for rest his mind had other ideas. All too many of them. And he was too tired to think constructively, merely playing the same scenes uselessly over and over in his head. He tried working through some mental relaxation exercises but couldn't concentrate, so after tossing and turning for a good hour he finally gave in, pulled on some sweats and headed for the exercise room. Maybe a short work-out would relax him.

Like everything else on Voyager, the gym had been fitted out to luxury standards. Mirror decked walls reflected rows of machines, designed to stretch, tone and work the muscles of all Federation-friendly races.

It was, deservedly, one of the most popular locations on the ship. Even now Chakotay was surprised to find it empty. He looked around vaguely before settling on one of the running machines. That should do it.

Two thousand, two hundred and twenty-nine. Two thousand two hundred and thirty. Two thousand two hun -

"Damn!" Chakotay swore softly to himself realising he'd lost count. Not that it mattered, he'd only started counting as a distraction.

Without breaking stride he glanced up at the time and distance counter and saw that he'd run twelve miles in a little over ninety minutes. "OK, three more miles and then we can call it quits."

"Talking to yourself Commander?" enquired a light voice from across the room.

Chakotay turned his head. Tom Paris, also dressed in sweats, a dark blue towel draped around the back of his neck, was leaning against a wall with his arms crossed looking infuriatingly refreshed. Crystal blue eyes stared at him with undisguised amusement as their owner added helpfully, "You should watch that, you know, it's considered the first sign of madness."

Chakotay grunted and continued running. Since the night of their balloon flight and its unexpected aftermath he'd avoided all but the most superficial conversations with Tom. Not that it made a difference. Whether talking to him or not, Tom was constantly on his mind. And not just his mind, memories of kissing Tom, holding him, fucking him, seemed imprinted on his nerve endings, leaving Chakotay with a physical awareness of the other man that seemed to have nothing to do with proximity.

He wondered half resentfully how their single encounter had affected Tom. Probably not at all. Tom's demeanour, when duty forced them into contact, was one of perfect indifference. Damn it, he needed to know what Tom felt. Then he might have some clues as to how he felt himself.

He'd tried speaking to his animal guide but she'd been unable or unwilling to help.

In fact, you had to wonder, mused Chakotay with unaccustomed cynicism, if his personal life wasn't some sort of cosmic joke being perpetrated by the spirits. Let's look at the last two years - who had he been involved with? Seska - traitor. Kathryn - yeah, right, the great nonevent. Tom Paris ...

Coward, traitor, gambler, rogue.

Courageous, loyal, intrepid, professional.

Gold or pyrite. And which Tom flipped upwards seemed as arbitrary as any toss of a coin. It was unsettling. But also alluring. He took refuge in sarcasm, "You're on early shift tomorrow Paris, shouldn't you be in bed? If not your own then someone else's."

Tom widened his eyes at the tone but made no reply. Instead, maddeningly casual, he strolled to Chakotay's machine and peered curiously at the controls, pursing his lips into an appreciative whistle. "Not bad!"

Chakotay ignored him. Tom flashed an underlash glance at his companion, before moving to the next machine along. He stretched once or twice to loosen muscles then peeled off his outer layers, revealing running shorts and a white vest top. Chakotay pretended not to notice but couldn't help following his movements, taking in the way the clothes clung to the lightly muscled frame, the lithe grace of the exposed limbs.

Tom bent to touch his toes and memory assailed Chakotay in a sudden heated flash that shot straight to his groin. The pleasure of sliding his hands possessively along Tom's back and buttocks, spreading his cheeks and thrusting hard into the tight passage. He pushed away the image and passed a tongue over dry lips.

Tom straightened up apparently satisfied with his warm up. He fiddled briefly with the setting on his machine and flicked the power switch on with a flourish. Instantly the belt started turning, quickly building up to a speed that was appreciatively faster than the one Chakotay had set. Tom jumped on and started sprinting, his face closed as if totally absorbed in the exercise.

The fact that he knew Paris had intended the reaction was not enough to prevent irritation flooding through Chakotay. Just ignore him he thought to himself, don't give him a reaction.

He lasted less than five minutes. "You didn't answer my question "

For a second Tom lost his rhythm but his recovery was almost immediate, as was his rejoinder. "No. And you know what Commander, I've got no intention of answering your question. As long as I turn up on the Bridge on time and fit for duty it's none of your damned business what , or come to that, who, I do in my own time."

The words were drawled out but Tom's face was flushed with a colour that had nothing to do with running and his hands were clenched. Chakotay noted the reaction with a kind of perverse satisfaction but barely had time to wonder why he should feel like this, when Tom started speaking again.

"I think you're jealous Chakotay. Is that it? Maybe you want me all to yourself."

"Don't flatter yourself, Paris." Chakotay's own voice was getting heated.

"Why? You think I should leave that to you?"

"Meaning?" asked Chakotay and was suddenly too tired to continue. Gods, he was shattered. Totally drained, way too tired to play word games with Tom. He leaned over and switched off both machines, pausing until the belt had stopped moving completely before stepping off and picking up his towel which he'd left draped on the side. As an afterthought he reached across and grabbed Tom's from where it lay amongst his discarded clothes passing it to the younger man. For a second their hands touched before Chakotay stepped back, sagging against the wall and burying his face in the cool cloth.

"Meaning I need to know where we stand."


"Oh," repeated Tom mockingly. "Very erudite, Commander. Is that an 'Oh' as in 'Didn't you know, sooner or later I fuck all the officers under my command, I just took a little while to get around to you.' Or an 'Oh' as in 'I'm as a confused as hell and that's why I've been avoiding you.' Perhaps you could be a little more specific. Unless that's too much to ask."

Chakotay shrugged, obscurely guilty at the bitterness underlying the other man's voice. "I mean, 'Oh, as in it's the middle of the night and I haven't got the energy or inclination to think about where we stand at the moment."

"Yeah. Well that takes care of tonight, what's your excuse for the remainder of the last two weeks?"

"Gods, Tom." Chakotay balled his towel in exasperation. "What d'you think I am - a mind reader? I haven't spoken to you before because I didn't know what to say. Or even, given our history, if you'd want me to say anything at all. Let's face it, you were dressed and out of that holodeck in minutes. And since then you've looked at me as if I was a complete stranger. For all I knew you might have wanted to forget the whole episode."

"Yeah. Well, Chakotay, sometimes I think you don't know very much." The words were spoken quietly, without emphasis, and it was only later, when he was replaying the conversation in his head, that Chakotay understood the implication.

"I - damnit Tom, can't you just leave it for now? Tomorrow. Definitely, we'll talk then."

"We'd better," said Tom. He looked at Chakotay, taking in the unmistakable signs of fatigue and added in a surprisingly gentle voice, "Go to bed, Chakotay, you look all in."


Alpha shift was over. The Beta team was being briefed by Janeway in her ready room. For the moment Tom and Chakotay were alone on the bridge. Chakotay was still tired. Three hours was nowhere near enough sleep, but he felt better. He'd come to a decision.

"Ok, you win." The Commander sounded hesitant.

Tom's response was a smirk. "I win what? Ten replicator rations, a weekend off duty, a one-way ticket to the Alpha Quadrant?"

Chakotay sighed. Tom wasn't going to make this easy. Chakotay wondered if this was pay-back for the last couple of weeks. Probably not. It was just Tom being Tom.

"You. Me Us." Chakotay faltered a little, unsure of what to say. Unsure on all levels actually. Perhaps he'd misunderstood Tom's meaning. He started again. "I'd like to see you again. Go on another date."

"Fuck like cats in heat."

Chakotay recoiled instinctively. Tom grimaced apologetically.

"Sorry. I didn't mean it to come out like that - can't seem to help it. You bring out the worst in me." He paused. Chakotay made a little movement of acknowledgement but said nothing. He'd made the first move, the ball was in Tom's court. "I'd like that. Very much. "

Chakotay let out a breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding. " Good. We're both off duty on Thursday, how 'bout then?"

The slightest of pauses, then Tom nodded agreement. "D'you have any ideas?"

"Not yet." Chakotay admitted. "I wasn't expecting to be having this conversation."

"You started it," Tom pointed out reasonably. "Does that mean you expected me to say no?"

"Yes...No.. I don't know."

"Yeah right. Now there's a phrase I never thought to hear coming from you" Tom quirked his lips in a lopsided grin. "You know what? You did the all the arranging last time so I think it's my turn to set up a date. Say 20.00 hours outside the holodeck?"

"Sure. See you there then." Chakotay turned to go. "Oh Tom. One other thing."


"Did you have any particular species of cat in mind?" Tom's laughter followed him down the hall.


"So I said to myself, 'Torres, the obvious solution is to analyse the data from the last set of spacial anomalies we encountered outside the Decantian System'. Well, we did that and it enabled us to establish a series of experimental operating parameters which .."

And so on. And so on.

B'Elanna was clearly enjoying herself. She'd cornered him in the canteen and had been talking engineering non-stop for at least fifteen minutes. Chakotay shifted to a more comfortable position in his chair and tried to keep pace with the onslaught o "Rock climbing."

Again the negation.

"Swimming with sharks, dancing with Kazons, eating with Talaxians?"

"No and no and no," said Tom, giving him an odd look. "You think I'm trying to outdo you?"

"And you're not?"

The younger man sighed. "You really don't know me very well do you?" For once the aggravating face was devoid of mockery. He turned to Chakotay and stared briefly into his eyes as if looking for something before flicking his gaze away. "No Chakotay, I'm not trying to outdo you. No diving, climbing, swimming, Kazon or Talaxians. At least not this time. This is a genuine no strings event where we just spend some time together and find out if we - er - like each other."

Chakotay chuckled at the unexpected coyness. "So hotshot, give. What have you got planned?"

"Come and see." Tom held out a hand. Chakotay took it and Tom pulled him into the program.


Cold. Grey. Damp.

Chakotay looked around. He was standing on a causeway, long and thin, about a kilometre in length, which traversed an expanse of yellow sand to an island, formed of what seemed to be of some kind of granite, which loomed threateningly over its surroundings. He could see buildings without being able to make them out clearly. The early evening sky was overcast, gulls wheeled in the air, the sea, a greenish grey, sounded in the distance. A slight wind blew, cold on the exposed causeway.

He felt - almost disappointed. No bright lights. No dancing girls. Was this it?

"Where are we?"

Perplexion edged his voice, but Tom was, apparently, too caught up in his surroundings to notice. Chakotay focused away from the view - in truth not much at this moment - and on to his companion. Tom's face was rapt. He stifled the sarcastic remarks that hovered on the edge of his tongue. Wherever this place was it was obviously important to Paris.

"Where are we?" he asked again, and this time Tom responded.

"France." he said, as if the single syllable was enough.

"Oh," said Chakotay, adding after a moment. "Marseilles?"

He'd never been to France. In fact, after his initial schooling at Starfleet, he hadn't spent all that much time on Earth at all, aside from the obligatory stints at the various Federation training establishments.

Tom had put away whatever memories had caught him and was now paying attention. He smiled briefly at Chakotay's words, obviously catching the drift of the Commander's unspoken thoughts. "Nope, not Marseilles, though I can see why you might have thought so. This is Normandy and the island in front of you is Mont. St. Michel."

"It's very...nice," said Chakotay, feeling that some sort of response was called for. Tom turned sharply, a look of surprise at Chakotay's tone chased across his face, followed quickly by one of malicious understanding, but when he spoke his voice was warm.

"It's great," he said seriously. "This is my absolute favourite place. I've set the program to mimic real time, tides and weather to keep it as absolutely authentic as possible. Speaking of which..C'mon," he started walking briskly along the causeway, "the tides here are lethal. They come in faster than a galloping horse and I don't fancy having to swim for the island."

"I thought you said no swimming." Chakotay was only half joking, the sea looked particularly uninviting.

"I said no sharks. The swimming is optional, depending on how fast you move. Just to give you a clue in less then ten minutes all of this will be covered. Stand still and you could be the first recorded case of holographic drowning."

Chakotay turned, without much regret, at his urging and the two men started along the causeway towards the mount. As they walked, Tom began to outline some of the history of the town. By his side Chakotay was silent, content to listen to the steady rise and fall of Tom's voice as he described the generations of pilgrims who had came to this island seeking sanctuary.

They passed a few people on the way, all hurrying to beat the tides; a small party of off-world tourists, a young couple running with hands entwined, attention wholly focused on each other, two men wearing the distinctive hats and jackets of the local gendarme.

Nothing special. Just ordinary people going about their business. But still, Chakotay couldn't help staring, thinking about who the figures might be and what they had meant to Tom that he would transcribe them so meticulously into this program. He risked a sidelong glance at his companion and wondered if he'd ever be able to ask and, if he did, whether Tom would ever give him an honest answer. The aristocratic profile gave nothing away, Tom continued chatting, seemingly oblivious to his observation. Chakotay sighed and looked away, more than a little resentful of the pull of the other man.

And yet...And yet, despite his doubts, Tom had come to him.

They reached the lower slopes of the mount safely, in a little under Tom's estimated ten minutes and started along a path that climbed steeply for some 100 metres before merging into stairs that seemed cut into the stone of the island itself. With the threat of the sea removed Tom slackened the pace but still continued to provide tourist information at the same quickfire rate as before. Only as they came to the end of the path did he wind down, turning to his companion with a gamin look. "You're very quiet," he grinned, "even for you that is."

Chakotay shrugged. "Just enthralled by the spiel. I wouldn't have taken you for a history buff."


The shrug was noncommittal and the tone neutral. A casual dismissal of a subject of no further interest, though cynics might have interpreted the next remark as a deliberate attempt to change the subject.

"Look," instructed Tom suddenly, gazing past him along the route they had just taken. He pointed with his finger. Chakotay turned obediently, following the line of his arm and saw that the causeway they had walked along was now nearly covered by swirling water.

He whistled, impressed by the speed and strength of the enroaching mass. "Seems you weren't exaggerating,"

They watched in silence as the last hints of the walkway were obliterated, cutting off the land on which they stood from the mainland still clearly visible as a collection of lights and shapes across the water. Land and sea, timeless in its appeal. Sometimes, Tom had said, and suddenly the polite evasion wasn't enough.

Chakotay brought his gaze back to the man in front of him and reverted to the previous subject, the question coming out with unintended intensity. "So why this sometimes?"

"Why not?"

"That's not an answer. What's so special about this place. It's hardly.." he paused, wondering how he could put it delicately, "..a tropical paradise."

Tom met his eyes briefly, flushed and looked away. "Sandrine."

Chakotay felt himself freeze, all the tentative hopes that had been building as they walked shriveling under the wieght of a quite unjustified jealousy. A lovers haunt. Well, what else did he expect? Tom had never pretended to be a monk.

Something of his thoughts must have shown on his face because Tom, having turned back, flushed again but this time in anger.

"Sandrine," he said again. "Not like you're thinking either."

Chakotay fell back before the vehemence of his voice. "I wasn't thinking anything," he lied, unconvincingly.

"Yeah, right," sneered Tom, "It's written all over your face."

A angry retort hovered on the tip of his tongue but he bit it down, staring at Tom, trying hard, and without much success, to read past the hostile expression. Tom faced him, loose-limbed, the stance at odd with the thinned lips. Eventually the taut mouth slackened. The blue eyes sought and held Chakotay's darker ones as Tom began to speak again, his voice a mixture of resignation and humour.

"Fuck. Are we fighting again?"

"Almost. Not quite." He heard the same mix of emotion in his own voice and twisted his lips in a half smile.

"Shit! What is it with us? Two words and we're practically at each other's throats. That's why it took...why I almost didn't....oh fuck it! This isn't at all how I planned it."

Disarmed, Chakotay found himself responding to the last part of the sentence almost without thinking.

"Oh, what did you have planned then?"

Tom shook his head and smiled, dazzlingly, with one of his lightning switches of mood. "Uh huh. Don't you know what they say about curiosity, Commander."

"Only that it killed the cat."

The look could only be described as wicked. "Yes. Well, let's just say I still have plans for the cat."

Still the same intense stare. Chakotay remembered their conversation on the Bridge and felt his cheeks warm. Tom's face dared him to reply but he let the comment lie. A discussion not ignored, only postponed.

Anger. Amusement. Frustration. Lust. Friendship. Animosity. One thing he could never complain about with Tom was boredom. Unsettling as he was, the younger man had the power to make him feel alive as no one else ever had.

"So, do you want to tell me about how you came here?" he asked, setting the conversational reset button, as if the jagged stop/start of the last few minutes had never been.

"Sandrine showed me this place." A tug of the lips acknowledged the tactic and showed Tom's willingness to play along, at least for the moment.

"You came here together?"

The question was deliberately light, having brought Paris's defenses down so far Chakotay didn't want to undo the progress he'd made, but there was nothing casual about the way he hung on waiting for the response. Restraint was rewarded. Tom answered the question with barely a pause although the smile he flashed at Chakotay was wistful, matching his tone.

"No. She sent me here. I'd just been thrown out of Starfleet. It was flat-out the worst time in my life and she said that when you feel like that it's better to get away, go somewhere completely unconnected, do some thinking and try and put everything in perspective."

Chakotay spoke softly. "So you came here and thought."

The smile was wider now, gently ironic. "No. After two days I thought I'd go crazy with the solitude and joined the Maquis."

"It's beautiful," said Chakotay at last. The comment, seemingly unconnected, signaled both understanding and a revision of his earlier opinion. Tom seemed to accept it. He glanced at Chakotay and made as if to move forward again, one booted foot resting speculatively on the worn steps, before changing his mind and responding.

"No, it's not beautiful," he admitted with painful honesty, "but I thought you'd like it."

"I do." Chakotay assured him, "it just wasn't what I was expecting."

"Yeah I know," Paris said wryly, "What was it you suggested, sky diving, rock climbing, swimming in shark infested waters..."

"I just thought -"

"I know what you thought," said Tom mildly.

They really did move then. Up and up the old stone stairs, watching their footing for centuries of use had left the threads broken and uneven in places, polished as smooth as glass in others. The climb took them inwards and the sea was soon left behind in sight and sound as the more prosaic noises of town life came to prominence. They didn't talk much and what conversation there was tended to be of the simple question and answer type. Chakotay sensed that Tom would rather lighten the mood after the earlier discussion, while he himself was still working through the implications of what Tom had told him. In fact, he hardly noticed the silence, his senses occupied by the disparate architecture of the buildings and, he admitted, the sight of Tom's long legs and firm ass molded by the faded blue jeans, as he led them through the narrow streets.

Eventually the terrain leveled off and they found themselves in the centre of the town. Village, really, amended Chakotay to himself, since the actual centre was really only a handful of crisscrossed streets built around the massive Cathedral that dominated the area. The buildings were a strange mixture of old and new, delicate gothic arches melting into perspex and brionalite doorways, most of them devoted to tourism. Chakotay, whose own religious beliefs were both deep and intensely private, felt that it should have offended him but found it didn't. God and Mammon had come to some kind of compromise. The area, for all its occasional tackiness, retained the serenity of ages.

They stopped at a cafe for drinks. A typical tourist establishment with plain metal tables and matching folding chairs scattered haphazardly outside, but near the doorway as if the proprietor was unprepared for sunshine and had left them ready for quick withdrawal should the weather demand. Tom steered Chakotay towards a table and sat down stretching his legs in front of him and leaning back on his chair.

The place was apparently popular with both locals and visitors. A party of Ferengi was grouped around one table, while at another, an old man, head bent in comtemplation of a padd, sat drinking coffee. Inside the sound of a vidcast could be discerned mingling with conversation.

Tom ordered for them both. Beer for Chakotay and a pastis for himself. It arrived quickly, brought to them by a slight dark girl, who smiled invitingly as she placed their drinks and a plate of olives on the table. Chakotay glanced across ironically to find Tom staring back pensively. He raised an inquiring eyebrow and his companion had the grace to blush.

"It was memory, OK. I did it from memory." Although he hadn't asked.

Tom picked up his glass and swirled the liquid round, it was thick, adhering slightly to the sides. He added water from a jug and instantly the colour changed from clear to cloudy white. Chakotay watched fascinated.

Tom took a sip and smacked his lips appreciatively.

"Salut!" He said, raising his glass.

"Salut," responded Chakotay automatically, taking a swallow of his beer.

Light and cold, it kicked slightly, making him suspect that the attendant alcoholic buzz he felt was real. Tom must have won a wager recently if he had replicator rations to burn. He took a second swallow and leaned back against the cold metal, consciously relaxing muscles aching from the climb. But it was a good ache - the slight pull of muscles used rather than strained.

Strain was, in fact, conspicuously and surprisingly absent from the encounter. At least right now. And for that Chakotay was surprised. After the early hostility, the unexpected passion of their last encounter had almost entirely been dulled by the mutual suspicion that followed. This tentative rapprochement had started off with the same unease but now largely, seemed to have been left behind at edge of the causeway.

Sanctuary. A place to think. Perhaps Sandrine's instinct had been the right one after all.

Tom shifted, running a hand through his hair to brush it away from his forehead, the movement drawing Chakotay back to his surroundings. "Strip of latinum for 'em?" he offered idly.

"Not worth it," said Chatokay shaking his head and bringing his attention back to the present "Just chasing ghosts."

Tom laughed, the blue eyes dancing a familiar challenge. "Bad metaphor, Chakotay. Don't you know, you don't chase ghosts, you have to bust them or lay 'em."

"Ghost thoughts," elaborated Chakotay. "And you lay doubts, not ghosts. But whatever, it doesn't really matter, they weren't worth your latinum."

"You mean they were immaterial?" asked Tom slyly.

Incorrigible. Chakotay shook his head acknowledging the hit and content, at least now, to let his companion walk away with the verbal honours. Tom gave a brilliant smile and raised his glass to his lips. Chakotay watched him, ridiculously pleased that somehow, despite the initial missteps, he'd recovered the initial optimism which he'd brought with him to the holodeck.

"That good?" asked Chakotay eyeing the other man's drink curiously.

"Wanna try?"

Chakotay nodded. He had expected Tom to pass the glass but instead the younger man took another sip and leant towards him pressing warm lips upon his. An expert flick of the tongue and Chakotay's lips parted whereupon Tom shot the liquid into his mouth. The fiery taste of aniseed hit him. He swallowed with difficulty, half choking and felt the expert swirl of Tom's tongue exploring his mouth. Collecting himself, he moved forward into the kiss only to find that Tom, perversely, drew back.

"Like it?" he questioned impudently

The smirk was a classic Paris. An expression that would once have had his fingers itching to punch it off Tom's face. The impulse to remove it was still there. But, somewhere along the line, the motivation had changed. As had his preferred method.

Chakotay reached out for Tom's glass and picked it up. Tom's eyes followed the movement, widening slightly as, instead of taking it to his mouth, he put it down in front of the pilot and wrapped the younger man's hands around the tall container. The smirk wavered, but held.

"Again?" asked Tom,uncertainly.


This time Chakotay was prepared and when Tom shot the liquid into his mouth he caught and held the invading tongue. Again, the sharp taste of aniseed hit him, an unexpected fire burning down his throat, past his stomach and lodging in his groin. Tom's lips stayed on his, tongue exploring the contours of his mouth lazily. Desire shot through Chakotay, it was only a kiss, but it was one of the most erotic things that Chakotay had ever felt.

Unbidden his arms went round Tom, gathering the other man closer, running a hand up along his a thigh and coming to rest on his groin. Half-aware and half-instinctively he began stroking the firm flesh until the rising heat under his hand assured him that Tom was as nowhere near in control as he wanted him to think.

Chakotay pressed closer, leaning into the pliant mouth and angling his body so that that his chest was nearly in alignment with Tom's. He reached for younger man's shirt intending to pull it away, wanting to reach in and touch the bare skin of Tom's waist and chest but found his hand blocked.

"What?" he asked, breathing heavily, confused, he couldn't have misread Tom's initial response "Is something the matter?"

The reply was delayed as Tom fought for a moment to get his own breathing under control.

"No I-" He stopped, bit his lip and started again, staring at Chakotay with an expression that tried and failed to match the flippancy of the words. "All those doubts, Chakotay. Don't you think you'd better lay some of them first, before trying to lay the pilot."

Not as drastic as a cold shower but the effect was much the same. Chakotay reached for his drink, taking a long swallow and wondering what on earth he could possibly say to that. Payback time.

"I don't see you - this - as some kind of cheap fuck fest on the holodeck." he managed at last.

Tom quirked a grin at his phrasing but it was quickly gone as he responded. "I know. But all that time, Chakotay, two weeks and you never came near me. It doesn't take a genius to work out that you were wondering if I was worth it."

Chakotay raised his hands tiredly, not even trying to deny the point. And here they were again. Stalemate. "What do you want from me?" he asked at last.

"What the hell d?you think?" asked Tom, moodily. "Champagne and flowers, unlimited replicator rations, or, maybe, just a little consideration for my feelings. You say this isn't a fuck -fest but as far as I can see fucking me's the only thing you don't have problem with."

Chakotay sighed. "Look, you're right, I wasn't sure. I'm still not. And, like you say, it's not because I don't want you because I do. But doubts go both ways and I don't believe for one minute that you're any more certain about getting involved than I am. It's taken so long for us to get this far I would be a fool if I didn't think twice about jeopardising a good working relationship. "

"Noooo," agreed Tom. "But-"

"But we?re both trying,? said Chakotay firmly closing the subject and reaching again for his drink. .

"Some of us more than others," muttered Tom and drained his glass.

They ordered refills talking idly. Paris, having apparently decided that enough was enough for the moment, directed the conversation with the ease of a trained diplomat until Chakotay suggested that he'd like to do some more sight seeing. So they strolled through the streets, Tom once again falling into his role of guide pointing out various buildings and other objects of interest.

The rain started when they were on the top of the mount. The church lay behind them - casting its shadow over the ledge on which they stood. They hadn't gone in. Tom hadn't suggested it and for that Chakotay was grateful. Far below the sea fretted at the rocks tossing white waves as if trying to break through the stone. It had a certain hypnotic quality to it, although this far up the sound was muted, as if someone had turned the volume down.

Tom, by his side, was silent, staring at the view but obviously not seeing it. Seeing what? wondered Chakotay and was surprised, again, by the sudden sharp flare of jealousy the thought caused. Why then was it so difficult for him to admit to Tom that he mattered?

The storm caught both by surprise. No warning but suddenly the sky was dark and rain started hissing down around them. The drops were cold and stung as they hit his skin. Almost immediately they were both soaked. Tom grabbed his hand and pulled Chakotay back into the comparative shelter of the buildings. "Follow me, " he said and was moving away even as Chakotay nodded affirmation. He followed without question, Tom appeared to have a destination in mind. And it seemed he was right, for after a few minutes Tom stopped by a nondescript wooden door. He fished for a key in his pocket, with fingers made awkward by cold and damp, eventually retreiving it and fitting it into the large old-fashioned lock.

The apartment was two floors up. The door opened into a spacious room that seemed to serve the function of lounge/dining room and bedroom. Chakotay tried not to let his glance linger on the wrought iron bed pushed against the far wall, neatly covered with white cotton. There were no pillows but a bolster stretched across the entire width of the mattress. Two closed doors led out to other rooms presumably a bathroom and probably, he guessed, some kind of kitchen.

"I'll get some towels, you get out of those wet things." Tom instructed, shedding his shirt as he spoke and disappearing through the door nearest to him. Chakotay began unfastening his own shirt. He worked slowly, methodically, he was wet but no longer cold and was still unbuttoning the final ties when Tom returned.

Paris was bare chested holding a collection of large towels. Chakotay stared. He couldn't help it. Forget the doubts, faced with the reality of Tom, standing before him half-naked and wholly beautiful, they seemed rather less substantial than the light particles that formed their surroundings

"Your jeans are damp." He spoke with difficulty, throat suddenly constricted.

"Yeah," said Tom softly. "So are yours." "Take them off."

Wry look. "That an order?"


Tom nodded, slightly. "Later," he promised and went to the window. Chakotay finished taking off his own shirt and dropped it by the bed before moving back towards Tom. The pilot was leaning against the sill watching the early evening strollers on the street below. From where he stood, slightly to one side, he could see more or less the

same view, filtered through the gold strands of Tom's hair. The rain had stopped now and faint rays of sunshine struggled through the clouds.

"Did you sleep with Sandrine?" It wasn't what he had intended to say and he cursed the question as soon as it was out.

"Did you sleep with the Captain?" Tom fenced a reply not bothering to turn..

"That's not an answer."

Tom's face was unreadable. The reply was weary rather than angry. "Jeez, what d'you want? What's it matter to you? Yes. I slept with Sandrine. I- uh - I," he paused staring through the glass. "Every godamned thing in my life had fallen apart. She was the one person who wasn't pointing a finger and saying fuck-up or murderer at me. So I slept with her." He shifted around again, leaning against the window and facing the Commander squarely. "But only a couple of times." He grinned, genuinely this time with a touch of regret. "She said she liked me too much. That answer your question?"

"More than." He moved behind Tom, put his hands on the other man's shoulders, feeling the play of muscles as Tom tensed then gradually relaxed under his hands. For a few minutes they stood still, staring out of the windows at the pigeons drying themselves on the tiled roofs. Chakotay breathed in, the air still slightly damp from the earlier storm and the sea, smelling faintly of bread from the boulangerie down the across the square, the distant clang of church bells. A timeless moment.

"It's beautiful," he said, as he had back on the causeway.

"Yeah." Tom leaned back slightly, resting some of his weight against Chakotay. An unconscious gesture. Chakotay felt weak with desire. "You didn't think so, two hours ago."

"I -did." He lied. "I was a little surprised. It just wasn't what I was expecting."

"We've done that conversation. It's your turn to answer a question."


"That's not fair." Said belligerently.

"That was your answer. No, I didn't sleep with the captain."

"But you wanted to."

"Yes." Bitterness laced his tones. "Yes, I wanted to."

"Sorry." It was sincere. Chakotay couldn't stop a grunt of surprise. Tom laughed acknowledging his reaction. "I know how you feel about her."


"If you say so."

"I say so."

"Why did you bring me here."

"You already asked me that."

"You didn't answer."

Tom shrugged and turned to face Chakotay before answering. "I wanted to." "And you always do what you want."

"If at all possible."

Chakotay met his eyes. "And what do you want to do now?"

"I want to make love to you."

Silence. Outside the Cathedral bells still chimed, a siren call, summoning the faithful. Tom was watching him waiting patiently for his answer. He let his actions speak for him, reaching out and pulling the younger man towards him. This time when his arms slid round Tom's waist there was no resistance, no withdrawal.

"No doubts?" murmured Tom as their lips met. Chakotay didn't reply. He was too busy reacquainting his mouth and his hands with the body in front of him. Tom's jeans were soon disposed of. His own quickly followed. Naked, they pressed together, hip grinding against hip, twin erections sliding.

"You smell of the sea," said Tom pressing kisses along his throat.

Chakotay moaned. "And you taste of rain." Tom was at his chest, biting his nipples hard enough to sting but not really to hurt. The words, spoken against his skin, slid through to his nerve endings burning into his mind. "I want to taste all of you, every part of you." The warm mouth arrived at his cock, already hard and straining. Tom's tongue, clever as any cat, reached out sliding around the tip and lapping delicately at the drop of liquid that trembled there. The words stopped then but Chakotay was in no condition to notice. Firm hands gripped his thighs, his hands clenched on Tom's shoulders for support tightening even further as the first finger slipped into his ass and started stretching him.

No lube, he thought, remembering their last encounter when both had produced tubes. He hadn't brought any this time - it had seemed so obvious. He tensed slightly at the thought then relaxed as the finger stilled and Tom repositioned himself behind him

"I'll be gentle," whispered a soft voice at his ear, as if he was a frightened virgin.

"No you won't. I don't want you to be," he countered as the teasing finger resumed its task and a firm hand wrapped itself around his cock.

He forced himself to relax as Tom entered him, maddeningly slowly, his entry a fusion of pain and pleasure as tight muscles gave way unwillingly. Then the thrusting started and the pain burned itself into pleasure which finally blurred into ecstasy. He came with a shout, loud enough to startle the nearby pigeons into flight, body thrusting and clenching against the impalement of Tom's body and into the confinement of his hand. Tom followed a movement later, his orgasm a hot burst against Chakotay's inner organs. It was just another weight of unbearable pleasure as he trembled from the aftermath of his own release.

Sated, Tom rested his head against his back, the soft hair brushing lightly against damp skin. Struggling to control his own breathing, Chakotay could feel the short sharp breaths gradually deepening as Tom regained control of his lungs. He brought his hands up to clasp the arms folded tightly around him.

From the street below a man looked up and gave them a thumbs up sign. Chakotay blushed, embarrassed even though it was only a simulation.

Tom chuckled sleepily. "Bed," he murmured.

"Bed," Chakotay agreed. Clean-ups would have to wait. He had barely enough energy to stagger across to the room. Sleep came instantly for them both.

He awoke with Tom in his arms.

Sometime the weather had changed, brightening as the day wore on. Now the late evening sun was slanting in the windows throwing golden shadows across the room, gilding the hairs on Tom's arms and chest. A pigeon settled on the windowsill, picking up its feet fussily and smoothing ruffled feathers with its beak, before settling down.

By his side Tom slumbered, face peaceful in repose, limbs spread with a careless grace. Chakotay ghosted a hand along the sleeping face, brushing the line from shoulder to neck. Tom turned in his arms. All at once his feelings coalesced. Love. Hate. Like or dislike. It didn't matter any more. Good or bad, he wanted, needed, this man. He lay quietly, poised on the precipice, prepared now to go forward but not quite willing to do so yet.

Fate, or more accurately Kathryn Janeway, gave him the necessary push.

*Bridge to Commander Chakotay.*

The tone was brisk, unemotional. Chakotay responded at once, duty ingrained within him, slipping out of the bed and across the room to where his comm badge lay amongst his discarded clothes.

"Chakotay here."

"Commander." A simple acknowledgment, but knowing Janeway as he did Chakotay read both apology and regret in the even voice. "I'm sorry to break into your off-duty time but the long distance scanners have picked up some anomalous readings. I'd like you to come and have a look. "

"On my way."

"I can give you fifteen minutes," she qualified and, again, his friendship with her allowed him to hear a subtext that would be invisible to the rest of the Bridge crew. "Oh, and Commander, I'd be grateful if you could contact Mr. Paris and alert him that his presence will also be necessary. "

Kathryn's version of tact.

"I'll pass the message on," he said and signed out, wondering as he did so, who had told her and how many people were aware of this...liaison...between Tom and himself.

Tom had woken up and was lying propped on one elbow watching him. "You get that?"

"More or less."


"Why? It's hardly your fault."

"No but..."

"Save it, Chakotay, some other time when we're not due on the Bridge.

At the moment I figure we've just 'bout got time to wash and get dressed before the Captain sends out search parties."

True. Chakotay didn't waste time arguing. He went through to the tiny bathroom and quickly slooshed himself under the inadequate shower. The water cold ran cold, a fact he remarked upon on returning to the main room. He was naked, having not wanted to waste time when Tom still needed to wash.

Tom's grinned. "Yeah, I know. It never did work properly."

Chakotay scowled, his flesh still tingling from its unwelcome contact with the icy water. "There's such a thing as carrying verisimilitude too far."

His companion only laughed and disappeared for his own chilly wash.

Clean, dressed and ready go.

"Finished? asked Tom

At Chakotay's affirmative nod, he called the program to end. "Illusion over," he waved his arms, a magician tucking his tricks back in the box.

Chakotay met Tom's gaze, veiled now, and was suddenly thrown back to the conclusion of their first meeting here, in the grey-steeled confines of the holodeck, when they made love, dressed and parted so awkwardly. Kathryn had called, they had to go but he couldn't bear to just leave like that again. Nothing sorted, nothing said.

"And was that all it was. Just an illusion?"

"Only if it you think of it that way."

"And you do?"

Tom sighed, uncertainty clearly visible on his face, before he answered carefully. "Jeeze, Chakotay, what are you looking for? Some kind of certificate of authenticity? Nothing in life comes with a guarantee. Trust me. Everything you saw or felt today, all that was based on reality. If you don't understand that by now nothing I can say or do is gonna make any difference. "

They had to go. Kathryn was waiting but he needed to make certain, needed to know for sure where he stood with this man once and for all. "All of it?"

Tom's face softened. "All of it."

That was enough. A muted declaration but he, of all people, had some idea of what it had cost Tom to make it. No guarantees but it was a start. He ran a light finger across Tom's cheekbone, drawing his head down for a brief intense kiss, a promise of things to come. Then he reached for Tom's hand pulling him out of the shadows and along bright corridors leading to the Bridge.


Sept 1998