by Mandragora


Many thanks to my betas, arachne, Jane and Smara for their help and insight, plus (and you know who you are) blackmail threats!

Paramount owns everything, but this story is mine.

Warning: This story details a m/m sexual relationship. If you are underage or have problems with the concept of same sex relations, please turn back now.


Chakotay stood in line waiting to board the funnel up to the summit. Hewas surrounded by Diakans, light skinned, short, stocky, people, whomoved with an odd grace none the less. Voyager had stopped off at Diakafor supplies. This part of the Delta Quadrant was sparsely populated by life forms compatible with the Voyager crew, after which Voyager wouldbe traversing an area of space that, according to the reports from the Astrometrics lab was almost devoid of Class M planets. Thus, although the planet was not really an ideal vacation spot, Janeway had allowed those of the crew who wished to take advantage of the local facilities to do so.


Diaka itself was almost, at this time of its long year, whollysnowbound, the planet's position away from the binary suns around which it circled ensured that temperatures were, by Earth standards, distinctly on the chilly side. The Diakan's culture was inextricably bound up with their weather conditions, but they had, nonetheless, managed to develop the warp drive in less than ideal conditions, suggesting that they were a people of some ingenuity. In addition, they had a tradition of great hospitality, essential on a planet where to be left without shelter at the wrong time of the year meant certain death.

They had welcomed Voyager with open arms, delighted by a rare visit by other species, fascinated by Voyager's story.

Chakotay shifted his skis in his arms, flexing his feet in the ski boots he had hired from a local operator. The boots were a miracle of technology, providing the necessary support, but also remarkably flexible, and warm. They were the best ski boots he had ever worn and he was seriously considering purchasing them on his return. He shuffled forward as the funnel car returned from the summit. This time he made it on to the carriage. The Diakan people surrounding him moved aside politely, making room for the tall alien in their midst. He tried not to wince as his eyes were assaulted by a myriad of garish colours; the Diakans seemed to have a thing for colour, coupled with an instinct to put together colours which, to Human eyes at least, clashed. He was grateful for the light refracting glasses he wore, to protect his eyes against snow glare, which also served to dim the bright clothing of the people surrounding him. He grabbed hold of a strap as the car started to move upwards smoothly, whooshing its passengers through a tunnel to the 3,000 plus metres to the summit. In seconds they arrived. He adjusted his glasses, picked up his skis and stepped outside, blinking in the bright sunlight, even with the protective lenses covering his eyes.

He scanned the people milling around at the top of the funnel. He appeared to be the only member of the Voyager crew there. He had hoped that Janeway would meet him here. They had arranged a tentative rendezvous, but she had made no promises, claiming that although skiing was all well and good, she was more likely to try her hand at the 'dog' sled racing, the dogs in this case being six legged furry creatures, looking like a cross between a wolf and a bear.

He bent down to place his skis on the snow, was in the process of putting his feet into the bindings, when he heard a familiar light tenor voice beside him speaking. He stiffened slightly, groaning inwardly.

Shit! Paris.

"I thought maybe trying out this run here," Paris was saying to a Diakan who was wearing the colours of a local guide, in this case a rather virulent green and orange mixture. The woman nodded.

"That should be possible, conditions are good over on that side. Plus the view is spectacular."

"So I'm told."

"But you know about the ... "

"Jump?" Paris interrupted. "Why d'you think I want to try it!" There was a note of enthusiasm in his voice that Chakotay hadn't heard for a while. Of course, he should have remembered that Paris was a skiing aficionado; the Doctor had complained often enough of the injuries suffered by those crew members who accompanied him on one of the holodeck skiing programmes, although the Commander hadn't heard about any injuries incurred by the young lieutenant. And that was surprising, given how accident-prone he was.

Chakotay straightened up, looking into the dismayed blue gaze of Tom Paris, who had removed his glasses in order to clean them.

"Um, Chakotay," he said. "I didn't see you there."

"Nice to see you too, Tom," Chakotay said dryly.

He thought that Paris might have blushed a little, but couldn't be sure. The crystalline gaze opposite his slid away, then returned as he introduced Chakotay to his guide, Renaqu.

She smiled at Chakotay with genuine warmth, crossing her arms across her chest and bowing slightly, in accordance with local custom. He returned the gesture. Then she frowned, the striations on her forehead wrinkling in a charming manner.

"Where is your guide?" she asked.

"I don't have one," Chakotay replied, puzzled by her question. "Why?"

She muttered something under her breath; something that he suspected was uncomplimentary. "They didn't tell you," she sighed. "Of course they didn't tell you."

"Tell me what?"

"That you need a guide to ski up here," Paris replied for her. "Didn't you check out the information below? It's unlike you not to be thorough."

Chakotay gritted his teeth. Paris' tone of voice had been almost neutral, but there was a faint note of amusement he had been unable to suppress. Chakotay had, of course, investigated local requirements, but the man he'd spoken to at the tourist office hadn't mentioned anything about a guide. However, he could picture Paris' glee at the thought that his Commander had slipped up.

The old animosity between them had died down, as familiarity had dulled its edge, but it was still there, ready to erupt at inopportune moments. This was despite the fact that, of necessity, given their respective positions on Voyager, they were thrown into one another's company frequently. It was not unknown for them to play a game of pool together at Sandrines, for example, but there was always an element of competition to their socialising. Even now, somehow, Chakotay always knew when Paris was in the room, even when he couldn't see him. His skin prickled, arousing the almost instinctive sense of ... whatever it was between him and Paris, hostility maybe? This feeling still persisted, even after more than four years together on Voyager.

Renaqu sighed. "We have so few visitors here that the tourist bureau isn't used to dealing with the basics, they forget that you're off- worlders. I'm sorry, but you really can't venture out up here without a guide, it's too dangerous."

"But I don't see that everyone up here has a guide," Chakotay commented, looking at the profusion of Diakans, dressed in various multi-coloured outfits. Restraint, at least when it came to colour, didn't seem to be a feature of the Diakan makeup, Chakotay couldn't help thinking wryly.

'Then again, if I lived in a world almost completely covered in snow, maybe I'd be into colour like they are as well,' he mused. His mind shot off at a tangent as he wondered how they'd discovered all these colours, when the overriding shades of their world were white and blue.

"It's mandatory for off-worlders only," Renaqu explained. "All natives have enough snow-craft to judge changing snow and weather conditions, but off-worlders can't be expected to have the same level of expertise. Plus," and she grinned at him as she spoke, "we hate losing tourists, it's really bad for business, and we get few enough visitors as is."

Chakotay returned her smile. It was hard not to; she evidenced such warmth. "So, there's no way I can go forward then? Not even if I stick to the paths?"

She shook her head. "Uh huh. Natives don't need a guide if they stick to the paths, but even they will normally hire a guide if they go off- path, would be stupid not to."

He sighed, looking at the queue for the funnel back down with distaste. "There's no guide I can hire up here then?"

"No, all hirings are made down at base level. And besides which I know that we're all busy today, there's no one left to hire." She hesitated. "Maybe, if Tom doesn't mind, you could join us?"

Chakotay's gaze flicked over to Paris, whose face was wiped clean of expression. "No, no, it's fine, I'll just ... "

"After all, we're up here anyway and ... " Renaqu cut in.

"But we don't know what level Chakotay skies at," Tom said hastily. "For all we know, he could be much better than me, I could be holding him back." His mouth quirked into what was almost, but not quite, a smirk, which Chakotay saw. 'Damn him,' he thought, irritated by Paris, as was so often the case, no matter how often he tried to subdue that feeling. 'He's positive he's that much better than me.' Chakotay grinned inwardly, Paris just might have to revise that opinion, he knew that he was a pretty good skier, had learned to ski at the Academy and had been told by his instructors that he had a definite talent for it. And his coming along wouldn't please Paris. He felt a sudden imp of perversity raise its head.

"If that's the case," Chakotay said smoothly, "then I'll drop out, go back down to base. After all, as Mr. Paris hired you, not me, it's only fair."

"Very reasonable," Paris said sardonically. Chakotay gritted his teeth and ignored him.

"So, what d'you suggest?" Tom asked Renaqu.

"Take a run down here and see how we do," she said, indicating a sign posted run to her left. "Oh," and she turned to Chakotay, yellow eyes wide, as a sudden thought struck her. "Um, you can ski I assume."

At his nod, she apologised. "I'm sorry, it's just that we all can, you know. So we forget that off-worlders sometimes can't." Her tone was incredulous, as though such a thing was beyond belief, which, for her, it probably was, Chakotay mused. "Very well," she continued. "This way I can gauge what level you ski at. I already know Tom's, he's a competent skier, so ... " She indicated the run once more. "Do you want to lead, Tom, then you Chakotay, and I'll bring up the rear."

Paris nodded wordlessly, and pushed himself forward with his poles, Chakotay doing the same a few seconds later.



A couple of hours later, the two men sat on the balcony of a mountain top restaurant. The view was spectacular, vast vistas of snow covered mountains, their tips edged in brown, formed a jagged skyline in front of them. Over to the left there was a small lake, nestled in amongst a ring of small mountains. It gleamed bright blue, reflecting off the sky, which was completely clear, save for a small cloud that was nestling atop the highest peak, shrouding the top in wreaths of smoke. The double suns threw odd shadows, highlighting the alien nature of the landscape, but where the shadows did not touch, the suns reflected brightly off the crystalline snow, which sparkled like a myriad of individual jewels. Down below them, dotted about like small insects were those Diakans who were able to enjoy the ski resort's delights.

However, Chakotay wasn't concentrating on the view. Rather, he was conscious of a vast annoyance, partly at himself, for not realising in advance that, *of course*, Paris was an expert skier, obviously better than Chakotay, but the greater part of his annoyance was reserved for the man sitting by him. Paris had not given away his amusement by any hint in his demeanour, but Chakotay just knew that it was there none the less. He himself was a good skier, but Paris, he was better than good, almost as good as Renaqu, who was of sufficient ability to be a guide on a world where the natives learned to ski almost as soon as they learned to walk. When they had set off he couldn't help but admire the smooth grace of the man in front of him, a grace which never faltered, not even when traversing the most difficult of slopes. Chakotay knew that his own style was one of power, rather than grace, which was sufficient to cope with most conditions, but no competition for Paris. At no time had Paris ever seemed to falter, no matter how difficult the slope, how icy the conditions.

Then there had been that truly spectacular fall he, Chakotay, had taken. He'd slid several hundred metres, past Renaqu, who was in front, down a steep slope, having caught an edge in a turn. When he'd finally slid to a halt, he'd lain there for a moment, winded, trying to collect himself, reassuring himself that he wasn't hurt, as Paris slid to a halt by him, followed moments later by Renaqu. Paris must have gone down the slope hell for leather to overtake Renaqu, probably so he could gloat. Chakotay felt a momentary pang of conscience, OK, Paris had shown no signs of gloating, but he was sure he must have been.

Dammit, why was it, in matters where they both could claim some skill, Paris was better than he, at piloting, skiing and ... No, he wasn't going to go there, he thought to himself, firmly suppressing the memory of something else Paris had once told him he was good at. Hah, for all he knew, Paris was an expert tracker as well. His mouth formed a reluctant grin at the thought of Tom Paris, Indian scout! The man was so obviously a city boy, that, in this, he didn't think that Paris could possibly be competition. Chakotay knew just why Paris still annoyed him so, their disastrous first meeting had set the tone of their relationship ever since. But, surely, after all this time, when they'd worked together well for years, his feelings of hostility should have finally died away. He tried, once more, to exorcise his feelings of annoyance, of antagonism towards Paris, his smile fading into a look of intense concentration as he did so.

By Chakotay's side, Tom stretched out his long legs in front of him, sighing in contentment. He removed his protective glasses for a second, then winced as the light refracting off the snow smote his eyes and hastily replaced them. He stole a glance to the man to his right, noting that Chakotay did not seem to have the same trouble with his dark brown eyes as Tom's blue; Chakotay's glasses lay abandoned on the table to the side of him. The Commander wore a pensive expression. Tom sighed inwardly, if it had been anyone else than Chakotay he would have said that the man was sulking. But the Commander was known for maintaining a usually equable temper, except when it came to him, Tom Paris. But it really wasn't his fault, was it, that he was clearly a superior skier to Chakotay?

Tom brightened momentarily as he noticed that Chakotay was smiling. Maybe Chakotay was coming out of his funk at last. He'd been brooding ever since that tumble he'd taken, but Tom really didn't know why. The slope had been particularly difficult, both steep and narrow, with a plate of sheer ice on its steepest part about a hundred metres long. He'd been, not exactly worried, but cautious about safely traversing it himself, aware that the slightest misstep would most likely lead to a fall. He guessed if it had been anyone but Chakotay he'd have told them so, but he wasn't going to give the Commander that satisfaction. When he'd seen Chakotay start to fall, he'd been conscious of only one thing, that he had to get to him as soon as possible. He couldn't remember getting down the slope, just arriving by Chakotay's side, who was huddled in an ungainly sprawl in the snow, not moving. He'd experienced raw fear at that moment, that the Commander wouldn't be moving again, ever. He hadn't realised that he'd forgotten to breathe, until Chakotay moved slightly, then his breath let out with a whoosh, as he knelt by Chakotay to check his injuries. Thank God that he'd turned out only to be winded. Tom'd exchanged looks of relief with Renaqu, who he'd managed to overtake in his rush to get to Chakotay.

It was all credit to the Commander that he'd picked himself up quickly and skied the rest of the slope. Tom was impressed, not just with Chakotay's skiing ability, which was excellent for someone who had grown up primarily in a jungle area, but also with his determination in picking himself up and carrying on. But then, he reflected to himself, that was the man all over, not one to give up when the going got tough was Chakotay, unlike himself. The man might have a sense of humour bypass, at least when it came to Tom Paris, but he couldn't think of anyone he'd rather have by him in a crisis. Except possibly Janeway that woman had more determination than anyone he'd ever known. There again, Chakotay was probably prettier. He shook his head in annoyance. Where had *that* thought come from? It wasn't as if he even liked the man, after all.

He stole another glance at the Commander and saw that the grin had gone. He sighed. This was meant to be *fun*, forgodssake, why couldn't Chakotay simply accept that. OK, he probably, no, make that definitely, hadn't planned on spending his time with Tom Paris, but as it had happened, why not try and make the best of it? That's what Tom planned to do. Never look back was his motto. All right, so maybe that didn't really work, maybe there were some things he couldn't forget, ever, but at least he was trying to get on with his life, not waste his time in stupid, useless brooding. Then again, maybe there was something in this meditation crap which Chakotay indulged in, it sure seemed to help the Commander cope with life's exigencies, something which Tom Paris so dismally, signally, failed to do. However, forget the meditation, and whether it worked or not, the Commander did have a tendency to brood, of that he was positive. It was just that he seemed to brood more around him than any other crewmember.

Shit, the guy had never lightened up around him, ever since their first meeting, which was, he thought hard, trying to place the date ... five years ago. In fact it was five years ago to ... . Tom snickered to himself. OK, here was a sure-fire way to annoy Chakotay and hell, this was his shoreleave as well. If Chakotay refused to lighten up, make an effort to at least attempt to enjoy himself, persisted in spoiling Tom's enjoyment, he might as well have some fun, even if it was at the Commander's expense. He cleared his throat.

"Hey, Chakotay. Know what day this is?"

The Commander looked at him in puzzlement. "No," he said, shortly.

Tom placed a hand over his heart, in mock anguish. "You wound me," he said dramatically, playing the moment for all it was worth. Chakotay's expression darkened. What was Paris up to now?

"It's our anniversary, of course."

"What anniversary?" Chakotay snapped.

"Of our first meeting, surely you haven't forgotten."

Chakotay scowled at him, blackly. He *would* have to bring that up wouldn't he. Damn the man! His mind unwillingly went back five years to that sleazy bar on Traqus IV, while by his side Paris was replaying the same memories ...


 Chakotay had walked into the bar in a depressed state. He still wasn't over his pain at leaving Starfleet, at the prospect of at the very least having to outwit, elude, people who had been his friends, his colleagues. He tried not to think about the prospect of actually fighting or killing members of Starfleet, told himself that that would never happen, that the Maquis had no intention of hurting Federation citizens, just the Cardassians. However, he was realistic enough to know that what he feared most could happen, although he prayed to the spirits that it never would.

That day he'd run into an old friend, they'd served together six years previously. The man, a Trill called Renin Boc, had at first been welcoming, but he'd quickly realised just what Chakotay was doing in this backwater in civilian clothing. Chakotay had expected him to attempt to turn him in, but the man, with the wisdom of his symbiont's 550 odd years, had merely sighed and then spoken earnestly to Chakotay about fighting for one's convictions, but making certain one chose the right battleground. Chakotay had listened to the lecture with outward patience, but inwardly he couldn't wait to get away; he'd made up his mind, and he was going to stick to it. In any case, it was too late now; he'd not only resigned his commission, but was also the leader of his own cell in the Maquis. No, he'd chosen his course, no matter what. Renin had given Chakotay his word that he wouldn't turn him in, and Chakotay knew that he would keep it. So, he wasn't concerned about having to flee, lest the Federation authorities came after him. But he wanted to forget that he'd ever met Renin again, lose himself, in drink maybe. He could have gone to Seska, she'd made it plain that she would like a relationship with him, but he liked her, and wasn't sure whether, the mood he was in, that he was fit company right now. Plus, it would be selfish of him to use her as a means to forget. If only he could lighten his mood. Maybe a few drinks would lift his spirits, then he could go back and ... talk to her.

He entered the bar, which he knew was a Maquis hang-out, albeit not one he himself frequented often, squinting slightly as he encountered the smoky atmosphere, which, rightly, suggested that drugs were taken here which were not available in reputable bars. Once his eyes had adjusted to the shadowed darkness within, he automatically scanned the bar, looking for anyone he might know, anyone who might be a danger to him.

He looked towards several booths by the wall, which provided some privacy to their occupants, but as the barkeeper was known to him, he trusted that he would have tipped him off if there were anyone who might be a threat. The occupants of the bar were a diverse lot, Humans, Bajorans, Klingons, Bolians, Mzin, Orions and many other species, some of which he didn't recognise. But, for once, no Maquis, or at least none he knew. As his gaze rolled round the interior, it was caught and held by one of the prettiest sights he'd seen in a long time, a tall, fair, slender young man holding court towards one end of the room. He was ... beautiful; there was no other word for it. He approached the barkeeper, Yrsprch, and asked who the man was. The Delian waved a tentacle in the direction of the blond boy:

"Him? Pilot. Good too, so I'm told. Looking for work, I understand."

"Uh huh. He OK?"

"Yes. Not Fleet, if that's what you're wondering."

Chakotay's interest increased at this statement. The Maquis was always on the lookout for pilots and this gave him the perfect excuse to check the young man out, not that he needed an excuse, he admitted to himself with an inward grin. He heard the young man say something to a Bajoran woman standing by his side, who appeared to be hanging onto his every word, then, both laughed. As he did so, the man looked around, and his gaze met Chakotay's.




That bar on Traqus IV, Tom really couldn't remember the details of it well, but then he'd spent so much time in bars back in those days, they tended to blur into one another. But he clearly remembered meeting Chakotay's gaze. He'd been advertising his availability as a pilot to the Maquis, not too discreetly in retrospect, but he'd been desperate to fly, not to mention having debts to pay. Any regular work had dried up, as his reputation was not of the best. His flying ability was undiminished, even though he was drinking regularly, but he seemed to attract trouble, even when he really wasn't looking for it. He had "an attitude problem"; he'd been told that more than once. Attitude, hah! He'd like to see how most of then would cope with being in his shoes. So, his only real pleasures in life were drink, and sex. But the latter had palled somewhat, he'd had one too many meaningless encounters in one too many tatty rooms. It had been a while since he'd seen someone he'd really like to get to know, rather than a quick fuck in a vain attempt to assuage the blackness he carried inside. He'd tried drugs for a while, but had soon realised how stupid he was being, knew that he couldn't afford them, not unless he sold them, which he really didn't want to do. Somehow, he'd managed to stop doing those.

That night, as he had no money, he'd been hustling, which was something he'd done on and off, whenever he had to, soon after he'd first been thrown out of Starfleet and fled as far away from Earth as he could get. He'd been selling himself for a while now, always made good on delivery too, kept the customers happy. It wasn't something he was proud of, but he didn't have a choice. It was that, or starve, at least until ... if ... the Maquis came through. There was a woman, a Bajoran, he was setting her up nicely, knew that she was gs system?"

He shrugged. "Pretty well." It was no less than the truth; he'd spent quite a bit of time in this back of beyond location.

"Oh, because I was wondering if you could maybe offer me a tour?"

Tom's gaze swung to meet Chakotay's, and he grinned, as amused by the cheesy chat up line as Chakotay was. He snickered, then muttered, "That's the best you can do?" with a note of incredulity in his voice. The older man shook his head.

"Not by a long shot, but it seemed to fit, you know?"

"Oh ho, so you think I'm ... easy, do you?" he asked, a definite note of innuendo in his voice.

Chakotay shook his head. "No," he said, quite seriously. "Somehow I get the feeling that you're very, very difficult."

Tom acknowledged the truth of that with a dip of his eyelashes. It was true, he'd been told that he was difficult more than once, usually by his father, he thought sourly. Then he banished that unwelcome thought; it was definitely spoiling the mood, just when things were going so promisingly, too.

"Never know till you try," he said. At that, Chakotay, who'd been leaning closer to him anyway, pressing his thigh all the way down the length of Tom's, leaned in still further, and kissed him.


Chakotay remembered sitting opposite Tom in the booth, making small talk, until the right moment arose to discuss what he'd felt sure was on both their minds. He felt uncharacteristically reckless, perhaps the unaccustomed drink was going to his head. But, even not knowing anything about this boy, this young man, he'd already determined that tonight he was going have him. And, in the back of his mind, he was thinking that maybe, just maybe, this would turn out to be more than a one-time thing. Then he pulled himself up short, after all the guy hadn't yet agreed to anything, he couldn't really be certain if he was even interested, even as another part of his brain whispered definitively: 'He's interested'. Then, he asked Tom where he'd trained.

He briefly saw an indecipherable look pass across the young man's face, a look of ... desolation? He felt the strangest impulse to take this man in his arms, tell him it didn't matter. Which was surprising, given that he'd met the boy only minutes earlier and was trying to pick him up, here in this dingy bar on a desolate, backwater planet. OK, he wanted to fuck him. So, why did he also want to protect him? When he said Starfleet Academy, Chakotay was surprised, because, assuming he'd made it all the way through, the boy was very young to have left it all behind. He wasn't Maquis, that Chakotay knew, so he hadn't left Starfleet to fight for his home. Tom said something about being bored, which was so obviously untrue that he didn't pull him up on it, didn't want just now to get into the depth of pain he glimpsed behind the confident exterior. Maybe his first guess was the correct one, and Tom had not made it all the way through the Academy, hardly an uncommon tale. Buthe vowed to himself that one day he'd find out what was the real reason, intrigued by this young man, fascinated already, despite himself.

He changed the subject quickly, said something about touring the system, laughing at himself as he said it. He knew that the young man next to him was also amused from his response, had said something about Tom being difficult, and who'd known then just how true that was. All the time he felt his attraction to Tom increase and, from the delicate flush high on Tom's cheekbones, thought that the boy felt the same. When Tom signalled quite clearly that he wanted to pursue matters further, he was unable to hold off any longer, did what he'd wanted to do since he'd first laid eyes on him, and kissed him.

Chakotay had never been able to forget what happened next, no matter how much he'd tried to, but every second of it was imprinted on his memory.

He remembered that the kiss had started off slowly, gently. He ran his tongue along Tom's lower lip, wordlessly encouraging his lips to part. When they did, he slid his tongue inside, tasting the sweetness within, mingled with the scent of scotch. Their tongues met and tangled together, both duelling for control of the kiss. He slid his arms round the slighter man, feeling the muscles in the long back tense with arousal, even as Tom's hand moved along his thigh, to reach his groin, resting lightly on the bulge of his arousal. His arms tightened possessively at Tom's touch, reaching down to touch his ass. Oh spirits, he thought dizzily, he wanted this man so badly, and could he ever *kiss*!

By unspoken accord, they broke apart, neither having declared victory, nor conceded defeat. Both were panting. Chakotay remembered staring into the huge dark eyes, centimetres away from his.

Tom caught his breath and treated Chakotay to another glimpse of the classic Paris smirk. "Not bad, Cochise," he said. "Maybe a little hesitant but ... "

Chakotay didn't let him finish, responded to Tom's goading immediately. Hesitant indeed! Huh! He grabbed Tom again, but this time there had been nothing gentle about the kiss, he seized the other man's lips bruisingly hard, the kiss was both passionate and brutal. He explored the younger man's mouth thoroughly, taking control forcefully. Tom groaned low in the back of his throat, choosing, at least for now, to surrender. He felt Tom's acquiescence and rejoiced in it, prolonging the kiss, the delicious anticipation. He remembered thinking that he was going to fuck this man so hard he'd feel it for a week.

Finally, he ended the kiss, but didn't release his hold on Tom, pressing kisses along his jaw, inhaling his scent, a mixture of cologne and male arousal, even as his hand slid into the low neckline of Tom's shirt, caressing his chest, feeling the soft chest hair, tweaking a nipple. He sucked hard at the young man's throat, marking him as his, feeling a rising sense of possession. Dimly, he was aware that he should be alarmed at such intense feelings, that this was happening so fast, maybe too soon, but most of his brain had shut down in sheer sensory overload. And they weren't even naked yet. What would it be like to properly caress this man, make him scream, feel that strong body wrapped round his, possess him? He remembered that he couldn't wait to find out. He lifted his mouth away from the younger man's neck at last, looking at his dazed expression, noting with satisfaction that his lips were already swollen from the force of his kisses, but leaving his hand possessively resting on the other man's erection.


 Tom, too, had never been able to forget those moments in the bar. He remembered teasing Chakotay about the first kiss, more as a self-defence mechanism than anything else, unwilling to admit how much the kiss had affected him. And as for that second kiss, even now, five years later, it still had the power to send shivers down his spine, send a jolt of arousal to his groin. He supposed that he must have been kissed like that before, as passionately, as forcefully, but he really couldn't remember when. He'd been unwilling to kiss those people he hustled, and as for his lovers, none had been able to match Chakotay. He was unable to do anything but surrender to the sheer force the other man had exerted, although at that moment he really didn't want to fight for control. He was as much aroused at that moment as he'd ever been in his life, and when Chakotay's mouth slid to his neck, he welcomed the dull pain as he sucked at the tender skin, the pain irretrievably mixed with his arousal, increasing it. God, he thought, if it was this good now, what would it be like when they were alone, how would it be to feel Chakotay taking him, taking him hard, possessing him, then possessing the older man in his turn? He felt a flutter low in his stomach at the thought, even as his groin tightened further.

He recalled that Chakotay had finally ceased his attentions, looking at him with an expression on his face that could be best described as a mixture of passion, possession, and satisfaction. Tom felt dazed, but struggled valiantly to pull himself together, at least a little bit. He'd had numerous lovers, God knows, not to mention all the clients he'd hustled. And he'd pretty much always been in control, no matter what he'd allowed them to do to him. So, why should some guy he'd picked up in a bar, whom he hadn't even got naked with yet, affect him so badly? This vulnerability had frightened him, even as he found the loss of control to be ... exhilarating. But this urge he had, to trust the other man, to let him do what he wanted with him, that was *dangerous* and he really should end this now, but he couldn't, he really couldn't. Not without knowing what it was like to be had by, and have, this man, at least once.

"OK," he remembered saying, when he'd finally caught his breath. "That was better."

The other man grinned at him, obviously knowing how much he'd affected him. "Better, hmm. I didn't know that I was going to be the subject of a critical dissertation."

"Oh, I have very high standards," he responded airily, although he rather thought that his insouciance might have been spoiled by his rampant erection, on which Chakotay's hand was still resting and the obvious signs of his arousal, indicated by his dilated eyes and flushed cheeks.

"So, did I pass?" Chakotay whispered, reaching forward to touch his lips to those of the fair man by him, lightly this time.

"With ... flying colours," Tom said, with some difficulty, as Chakotay deepened the kiss.

When the older man ended it, this time he was the first to speak. "D'you want to go somewhere and ... "

"Fuck? Oh yeah. How about right now?"



Chakotay recalled his reaction to Paris' blunt statement. He felt his arousal, already intense, jump to new heights, making him so hard it hurt. His hand tightened involuntarily round Tom's erection, producing a groan in the young man. He ran through a ritual mantra chant in his mind, calming himself down, getting himself under control.

"Where do you suggest?" he asked.

Tom shrugged. "Either my place or yours," he said.

"That depends on which one is closer," was his response. The younger man grinned at him, a delighted smile that reached his eyes, lit up his whole face. 'Oh spirits,' Chakotay thought, dazed. 'He's so beautiful!'

As he was about to answer, ask Tom where his lodgings were, he heard a throat being cleared meaningfully beside him. He turned towards the source of the sound, protectively shielding Tom with his body, not even aware he was doing it, to encounter, shit! Seska, and Profolig Teim, a Maquis member who was also a merchant. As Teim could travel freely about without arousing suspicion, he was primarily involved in obtaining supplies, but also recruited new members for the Maquis, checking out potential recruits by utilising his many contacts. Seska's expression was a picture in studied neutrality, whilst Teim's showed a hint of surprise.

"Chakotay, Paris," Teim said, inclining his head towards the young man sitting beside Chakotay, who was too concerned with Seska's reaction to pay much attention to the merchant's words. He was cursing himself; not sure why he should care that Seska had found him necking with a stranger in a bar. After all, it was not as though he and Seska were an item. But on the other hand, he considered her to be a friend, didn't wanted to hurt her, knew that she was interested in pursuing a relationship with him.

"Can we have a word with you Chakotay, alone," Seska said, pointedly. He opened his mouth to object, when she'd added, "Business."

He turned to Tom, noting the young man's dishevelled appearance, the tousled hair, flushed cheeks and the mark on his neck he himself had put there. It was only too apparent what he and Tom had been doing; there was no chance of concealing that from Seska and Teim. He sighed inwardly and said, "Excuse me a moment."

"Sure," the young man said graciously, his expression giving nothing away. Chakotay had to admire his poise; he showed no hint of embarrassment in what could only be described as difficult circumstances.


Chakotay took a moment to compose himself, willing his erection tosubside. He rose and the three Maquis moved away, to a booth on theother side of the bar, where they sat down.

"I didn't know you knew our latest potential recruit," Teim said,somewhat sarcastically.

"What recruit?" Chakotay asked, left a little bewildered by the abrupt transition from rampant lust, to Maquis business.

"Him," Teim said, jerking his head in the direction of Tom. "Paris. He's the reason I'm here, came to meet him"

"Oh, I didn't know he was a potential recruit," Chakotay said absently, thinking to himself that there was something about that name ... "Wait a minute," he said, his gaze hardening. "Did you say Paris?" At Teim's nod, he continued, "Of Starfleet?" Another nod. "Hell," he said. "The kid's practically Starfleet royalty. What's he doing in a dump like this?"

Teim snorted. "You don't remember?" he asked. "The scandal, I mean?"

It took Chakotay a moment longer to piece the memory together; adding up what he'd learned about Tom that evening with what Teim had just told him. Then it hit him. Tom Paris, scion of one of the most respected, revered Starfleet families, born to every advantage. Golden boy gone bad, who'd thrown it all away. Chakotay had still been in Starfleet when the news had broken about Paris, that he'd caused the deaths of three fellow officers, then lied about it. But he'd been found out anyway, Chakotay hadn't been sure how, then been cashiered out of the Fleet. And deservedly so. Still, Chakotay's innate sense of fairness struggled not to let his feeling of contempt overwhelm him, not to judge Paris too quickly, too harshly. He remembered that look which had crossed the kid's face when he'd talked about having trained in Starfleet. He'd made a mistake, but it certainly looked as if he was paying for it, reduced from the life of luxury he must have known, to this.

"Yes, I do," he said, slowly. "But I don't know the whole story, so I hink that we oughtn't to make too many assumptions here and ... ."

"Oh, Chakotay, wake up!" Seska interrupted, impatiently. "He's nothing but scum. You must see that. Don't let your ... interest in him blind you to that."

 Chakotay glared at her. "You don't know that, Seska," he said.

"Don't I?" she responded, sceptically. "Face facts. He's indicated he's willing to fly for us, *if* we meet his price. Isn't that right, Profolig?"

The merchant cleared his throat. "Seska's right," he agreed. "He's a damn fine pilot, accident notwithstanding. He'll be the best we've got. But he won't work for free; he's made that plain. He's not, um, committed to the cause, but will join us as a mercenary. I've recommended that we agree to meet his price, because, frankly, we can use him, this upcoming mission especially. He'll be working closely with you on this."

"I ... see," Chakotay said, slowly, his initial warm feelings towards the young man fading, as they were overtaken by a feeling of ambivalence, but not dislike. It didn't seem as if this man was what he'd thought he was, but maybe he had his reasons for needing the credits, give him the benefit of that doubt, at least until he heard the young man's explanation. He sighed. "Well, I guess that he's not ideal Maquis material, but at least let's try and not judge him before we get to know him ... "

But Seska interrupted once more. "No thanks," she said. "I really don't want to get to know him. I know what he is already. A liar, a screw-up, a mercenary and a whore!"

Chakotay's gaze swung to meet hers, shocked by her latter comment. She laughed, unpleasantly. "Oh yes," she said. "He's been hustling for clients, here from this bar for at least several days now. Other places as well, Teim discovered this when he checked him out."

Chakotay looked at Teim inquiringly, who nodded in affirmation.

"Face it, Chakotay, that's what he was doing with you tonight."

At Chakotay's instinctive headshake, she said: "He just hadn't got round to naming his price yet. But if he's willing to fight for money, why not fuck for it too?"

Chakotay's lips thinned, as he pressed them together in a grim line. "Wait here," he ordered the other two. "I'll go and talk to him, then bring him here to talk to you Teim, about the terms of his engagement." He spat the latter words out, turning on his heels abruptly and stalking off towards Paris.

The young man looked up at his approach, a welcoming smile on his face, which faded when he saw Chakotay's expression.

The older man slid into the booth opposite Paris, his face like a thundercloud. "You're Tom Paris," he said.

The last vestiges of Paris' welcoming expression vanished, to be replaced by a blank mask. "That's right," he said, warily.

"I know about you," Chakotay said. "I was in Starfleet when you were discharged."

The blank look didn't waver. "Ah," Paris said, rising as he spoke. "In that case I think I'll be going ... "

Chakotay grabbed hold of one slender wrist, hard enough to hurt. "Sit down," he hissed. "We're not done yet."

"Oh, I think we are," the other man drawled, still standing, although he made no attempt to release his wrist from Chakotay's grip.

"Not if you want to join the Maquis, we're not," Chakotay said.

Paris sat down, abruptly. "What did you want to say," he said.

"I'm told by my Maquis colleagues over there that you're willing to join us, but only if we meet your price," Chakotay said, still gripping Paris' wrist.

The young man nodded. "That's right."

"Why?" Chakotay asked, simply.

"Why what? What do I need the money for?" Chakotay nodded. "Well, that's really none of your business," Paris drawled, affecting his most haughty, arrogant expression. "But if you must know, I need it to pay my bar bills."

Chakotay looked at him disbelievingly. "That's it?" he asked.

"Sad, but true," the young man opposite him said in insouciant tones.

"I happen to like drinking, I have bills to pay, the Maquis need pilots, I'm a pilot. There you have it."

"And you don't care about the reasons why we, the Maquis, are fighting?"

Paris shrugged. "Not especially. Tell you the truth, I'd fly for anyone who'd meet my price." He smirked at Chakotay, the mocking expression, coming on top of what Paris had just admitted, incensing the older man.

"And would you fuck anyone who'd meet your price as well?" he asked in a very soft, very deadly voice. The perfect mask wavered slightly.

"Not quite," Paris responded, in a very level toned voice. "I do insist on a certain level of physical attractiveness first. Have my standards, you know."

Chakotay felt sick. "So, tonight ... what you were doing ... with me ... " he began, haltingingly.

"Was hustling you?" the young man said, brightly. "'Fraid so, sweetheart. But don't worry, I assure you that you come up to my ... minimum ... attractiveness standards." He raised one aristocratic eyebrow, looking Chakotay up and down, insultingly, as he spoke.

"You ... " Chakotay started to say, beyond furious now.

"But rest assured, you'll receive *full* value for money," the soft voice continued on, inexorably. "Provided you can meet my price that is." He batted his eyelashes at Chakotay, shamelessly. "Oh, don't tell me you're not interested any more? But you seemed so ... keen earlier."

"Not with a ... a whore like you," Chakotay managed to choke out, sickened, all his earlier feelings, of lust yes, but mixed with tenderness, with the urge to care for, to protect, this young man, turned to ashes by what Paris had said. While he'd been mooning over this ... this person, actually wondering whether maybe this would turn out to be something special, all he'd been to Paris was a potential source of income. He wasn't able to believe how gullible he'd been, how badly he'd been taken in, by the good looks, the surface charm, all of which just served to conceal what he really was, someone with the soul of a mercenary, a whore.

Paris' expression never changed, not even when Chakotay spit out his last comment with venom in his voice. "Pity," he said. "Now you'll never know that you just missed the best fuck of your life, darling." He drawled that last word in his most provocative manner, caressing every syllable with his tongue.

Chakotay's fury, if possible, increased. He felt an almost irresistible urge to wipe the mocking expression off that ... that ... bastard's face. "Shut up!" he hissed, trying to stay calm, not give in to the urge to hit Paris.

His fingers tightened round Paris' wrist, wringing a cry of pain from the young man. Chakotay released Paris' wrist at last, observing with vindictive satisfaction the finger marks showing clear in white on the fine, delicate skin. There would be bruises there tomorrow.

"Understand this," he grated. "You and I will be working together in the Maquis, on an upcoming mission we need you for. That's the way it is. But outside business, I don't want to talk to you, I don't want to hear from you, and if you cause any trouble, any trouble at all, I'll beat the shit out of you. And don't think I can't do it. We both know who'd win in a fight," he said, eyes contemptuously raking the younger man's more slender physique compared to his own, broader, sturdiness. Paris might be a few inches taller than him, but Chakotay had no real doubt that he was the stronger. "Clear?" he asked, rhetorically.

Paris had been busy rubbing his wrist, eyes downcast, but at Chakotay's last comment, he looked up through golden eyelashes. "Clear," was all he said, quietly, but then he spoiled the effect by smirking impudently. "As crystal," he added.

Chakotay controlled once more his impulse to hit Paris. "Then follow me," was all he said, rising from the booth, preparatory to walking over to join Teim and Seska. As he watched Paris unfurl his long body from the booth, he was conscious of a vast feeling of dismay that, despite all he'd learned about the young man's character, despite the admissions Paris himself had made to him, in spite of the fact that he despised the man, he still wanted him.


Tom remembered how much he'd wanted Chakotay; he felt like the man's kisses were a drug, one that he was already addicted to, after just one taste. He wanted more. He said something about going somewhere else, was enjoying the banter between them, when he saw two people, whom he later learned were called Teim and Seska, standing there. Neither of them looked particularly friendly, and he was surprised when Teim addressed him by name. He wasn't pleased at the interruption, not when things had been going so well, but, as Chakotay obviously knew these people, sat back to wait Chakotay's return as patiently as he could, which meant not very. He was indulging in a little harmless anticipatory fantasising about what the two of them would, please God, shortly be doing together, when, at last, Chakotay returned. He was pleased to see him, but then his heart sank at Chakotay's expression.

A few minutes ago, the man had been looking at him as if ... as if he mattered, maybe even as if Chakotay cared about him, even if only a little bit. It had been so long since Tom had met someone who looked as if they might give a damn about him, the real Tom, not just an attractive face and body, that he'd forgotten what it felt like. And he'd so liked that feeling. But now, Chakotay looked furious, at him? Then Chakotay sat down, called him by his full name. At that moment he knew that Chakotay realised just who he was. He cursed at himself for a fool. Of course, he should have known that Chakotay was ex-Fleet as well, and it was really too much to ask that the news of his disgrace wouldn't have reached even this backwater. How stupid could he be, to hope he could have something real, even if only for a little while, with someone who, as soon as he found out who he was, would inevitably despise him, for being a coward and a liar. In retrospect he couldn't believe that even he'd been that big a fool, trying to achieve a fleeting moment of happiness. Not when he'd sacrificed that right a long time ago, when he'd caused the deaths of three people and then lied about it.

So, he did what he'd always done, tried to run away. It was what he did best after all, avoid unpleasantness, take the easy way out. But Chakotay stopped him, grabbed hold of him, challenged him. And because he really did need any work the Maquis were prepared to send his way, because he'd been desperate to fly again, no matter what type of craft he was given and because, deep down, perhaps part of him thought that he deserved what was coming next, the opprobrium, the scorn, he stayed to hear what Chakotay had to say.

Looking back, maybe he'd have been better off telling Chakotay the truth, he did need the money to pay off his bar bills, but not just those. There were people who'd actually been kind to him, when he'd really been at rock bottom, shared their meagre possessions with him, when they didn't have to. The last vestiges of his battered sense of honour, self worth, had dictated that he pay his debts. It was all he'd had left. But instead, old habits had kicked in, he resorted to the Paris attitude, which he'd so carefully perfected over the years, to protect himself from harm, from his father's expectations, and those of his class mates. Later, after he had left Starfleet, he tried to project that attitude even harder, because it was something people expected from him. If that's all they thought he was, they wouldn't be tempted to try and probe deeper, reach the real him that he kept buried inside, the person who was and had always been, too easily hurt.

He saw how much he was pissing Chakotay off and that had been like a goad, daring him to go farther, incense Chakotay more. He was wholly unable to prevent himself from completely ruining any chance of even an amicable working relationship with Chakotay, some part of him even rejoicing in it, because while he could concentrate on that, it helped assuage the pain he'd felt inside. Because Chakotay called him a whore and the hell of it was that he was right, he was a whore. He'd known that, of course, but hadn't been prepared for the intense hurt that ripped through him at Chakotay's comment, at the obvious contempt the other man felt for him. Ah, that pain, it still hurt him, even now, so many years later, when he recalled how the tenderness he'd glimpsed in Chakotay's eyes had gone forever, never to be seen again. So, he said some pretty vicious things, struck out in sheer self-defence, set out to annoy Chakotay. And in that he succeeded, because by the time he'd finished the other man hated him. Probably still did.

He remembered that he'd been seriously worried that Chakotay would break his wrist at one point, his grip had been so intense. But the physical pain was as nothing compared to the emotional whirlwind within. One part of his mind, that which was not concentrating on not showing the pain he was feeling, wondered at the amount of passion bottled up within Chakotay's outwardly calm exterior, that he would get so angry over such a brief encounter with someone who had been then, when all was said and done, just a whore, a worthless whore.

But at the end of it all, when Chakotay turned away from him to walk over to where Teim and Seska were sitting, it was all he could do to hold back an impulse to cry, for what could have been if ... If he hadn't been who he was. Which, let's face it, was pretty unrealistic of him. Because he and Chakotay could never have had a chance together, even if he hadn't done his best to ensure that Chakotay would despise him. But the worse of it was, notwithstanding that he knew the guy felt nothing but contempt for him, he wanted him still. He could feel the mark Chakotay had branded him with, claiming him as his own, throbbing on his neck, as his hand involuntarily came up to trace the bruise. The mark would fade, in time, but would his feelings?


 Tom opened his eyes, staring blankly out at the alien, snow covered landscape before him. Fuck! He cursed inwardly, he shouldn't have started this, it brought up memories he'd really rather not recall. God, he could so stupid at times. It really hadn't been worth it, not even for the pleasure of annoying Chakotay, who he still, damn it, wanted, even now, five years later, even though he knew that the guy still despised him, probably always would, in spite of all his efforts to change, to try to fit in. At times he felt that he could still feel that damned mark on his neck, the one that Chakotay had placed on him and *that* was just stupid. He looked quickly at the older man, who was openly scowling. 'OK, Tom,' he thought. 'Bad move, now what?' Then he smiled; at least he now knew that Chakotay hadn't been able to forget their first meeting, any more than he had. He felt an odd sense of triumph, remembering how rattled, how angry, Chakotay had been. He'd only seen him like that a few times since. Jeez, the guy maintained that air of calm at almost all times; he'd even taken the news about Seska's baby with an almost impassive expression, even though Tom knew how much he'd been hurting inside. But he, Thomas Eugene Paris, had always managed to get under the Commander's skin and how many people could say that?

By his side Chakotay noted the smile, which he was sure at his expense, he thought sourly. Well, two could play at this game, time for Tom to experience a taste of his own medicine.

"I haven't forgotten," he said, mildly. "I think you could say that that evening's imprinted on my brain."

Tom drew his eyebrows together in an involuntary frown. Chakotay wasn't reacting as he'd expected. Shit! Don't say the guy was learning to be unpredictable at last. He said nothing.

"Aren't you going to ask why?" Chakotay said. Tom slanted a wary, sideways look towards him. Chakotay's expression gave nothing away.

"Um, OK. Why?" Tom asked, dreading the answer, knowing that he'd left himself wide open for whatever derogatory comment Chakotay cared to make.

"Because ... " as Chakotay spoke he leaned towards Tom. He deliberately kept his voice low, so that Tom had to move closer to him to hear what he was saying. "You looked absolutely gorgeous, stunning, that night."

Tom's jaw dropped open, whatever he'd expected Chakotay to say, it wasn't this. "I did?" he asked, incredulously.

"You did," Chakotay affirmed. "You still do. I wanted to fuck you so badly that night." He smiled sensuously at Paris. "Still do."

Tom gulped. Oh God.

"But, I guess you don't reciprocate my feelings," the older man was saying, regretfully. "Pity. You've missed the best fuck of your life." With that parting volley he got up from his seat, disappearing inside the lodge, while Tom sat outside in frozen astonishment. He shook his head in disbelief, which gave way to a reluctant smile, as he realised that Chakotay had echoed his words of five years ago. Maybe the guy wasn't quite as uptight as he'd thought.

He wasn't naive enough to believe for one second that Chakotay still wanted him. Maybe he still felt some sort of physical attraction, but he knew that, for Chakotay, it was nothing more than that. After all, the guy couldn't stand him. And he knew that mere physical attraction would never be enough for Chakotay; that he would never give in to something as insubstantial as that. 'I mean,' he thought, 'me and *Chakotay*, what a joke!' They'd drive each other nuts within a matter of days. Wouldn't they? He'd finally grown up enough to realise that pure, unadulterated physical attraction wasn't enough to base a relationship on. No matter how strong that attraction was. But he couldn't help wondering wistfully what it'd be like, even if only for a short time, to have the passion, the warmth, the caring he knew Chakotay was capable of, turned towards him, instead of thinly veiled hostility. Then he snorted. Yeah, like *that* was going to happen.

Inside the lodge, Chakotay was still grinning from ear to ear at the dumbfounded look on Paris' face. It had been worth it to see that particular young man reduced almost to speechlessness. That was something that happened so seldom, how could he not enjoy it? Even if he'd had to admit that he still wanted Paris, but then, Tom wasn't stupid, he'd probably realised that anyway. He smiled at Renaqu, who was talking to a couple of other guides at a table near the bar, and sat down on a convenient seat by the window. Like all the furniture on Diaka, it was slightly too small for his height, but by pushing himself away from the table, he could achieve a reasonable level of comfort.

He pondered his troubled relationship with Tom Paris, something that, in retrospect he'd spent an inordinately long time doing over the past few years, even taking into account his duty towards all the Voyager crewmembers in his position as First Officer. He knew that Paris wasn't completely the spoiled brat of an Admiral's son that he'd thought initially. Nor was he the mercenary and whore that he'd tried so hard to make himself out to be. Really, he was an extremely complicated individual, capable of surprising acts of compassion, followed by behaviour which was designed to make the recipients think that he was nothing more than a selfish dilettante. On the other hand, some people he respected, among them Janeway, B'Elanna, Harry Kim, Neelix, thought there was a lot more to Paris than his lightweight image. Which tended to make Chakotay believe that there must be, even if he couldn't, quite, see it.

What he did know was that, on a professional level at least, Tom had earned his respect, and if he was honest, he had to admit that he admired his efforts to turn his life around. If only he and Paris could get past the hostility. But again, if he was honest, he suspected that a great deal of his hostility was rooted in the fact that he still wanted Paris, when he had no reason to suspect that Paris reciprocated that feeling. After all, by his own admission, that night in the bar on Traqus IV all Paris had been doing was hustling him, hadn't he? Not for the first time, Chakotay wondered whether the instinctive attraction he felt for Tom was actually returned. When he'd kissed Paris he could have sworn that the younger man's response was genuine. That night, when he'd thought that Paris had been trying to hustle him, all he'd been able to feel was fury. But now, years later, he wondered. Paris wasn't *that* good an actor, he knew that now, Tom's attempts to dissemble about himself, his feelings, once you got to know him, were possible to interpret, to see beneath. Then he shook his head. So what if Paris had been genuine back then, it really made no difference to their present relationship. No doubt any feelings he might once have entertained towards Chakotay had long since disappeared, destroyed by the unspoken hostility between them. No, what he needed to do was to figure out a way for the two of them to get along. It was part of his duty as First Officer, after all, to maintain cordial relations with all the crew.

He felt a presence near him and looked up to see Renaqu standing by him.

"Ready to go?" she asked.

"Whenever you are," he answered, relieved to be on the move again, sane," he muttered. Then he grinned. "But yes, I reckon I can do it!"

Renaqu beamed at him. "Good. Very well, I'll go first to show you the best route, then you Chakotay, then Tom." Both men nodded their agreement. She adjusted her goggles, positioned her skis and went! The Humans silently watched her near flawless landing, noting how she immediately traversed down the slope for a good two hundred metres, before finally sliding to a halt, turning to look up at them expectantly.

"OK," said Chakotay, inhaling deeply. "Here goes." He tried to subdue the nervous trembling within his stomach. He felt slightly sick, wondered what he was doing, possibly risking his life on a whim. But, he had to do it, now, quickly, before he lost his nerve. He remembered other jumps he'd successfully undertaken in the past. Maybe this was the most daunting yet, but he had never forgotten the immense feeling of satisfaction he'd felt back then and was keen to experience it again.

"Good luck," Tom said, smiling warmly at him, animosity forgotten in this moment.

"You too," he said, returning the smile nervously.

 Chakotay pushed himself to the edge of the cornice, pushed himself off and jumped. His feelings were a strange mixture of exhilaration coupled with outright fear, as he flew through the air, leaning back slightly, to avoid jumping too far. Before he knew it, the ground was rushing to meet him, he bent his knees, landing hard, almost, but not quite falling, slipping, scrabbling to find his balance, conscious of a moment of stark terror when he thought he'd fall, glove touching the snow as he fought for balance, finally standing squarely on his skis as they flew vertically down the slope. His speed was terrifyingly fast; he must be skiing at over 110 kmph already! He edged into a turn, grateful that the snow quality was good, firm, but not icy, then another, and another. He shot past Renaqu, but was slowing himself down all the time until finally he was able to bring himself to a halt. He collapsed onto the snow, panting, every leg muscle trembling. He'd done it!!

Renaqu slid to a halt beside him, crying: "Well done!" She then turned to see Tom standing on the edge of the cornice. Chakotay too turned to look. Tom launched himself off the edge, landing perfectly, sliding smoothly into a turn.

"Ooh, nice!" Renaqu exclaimed.

Tom skied to Chakotay and Renaqu, sliding to a precise halt beside them. He was grinning maniacally; an expression Chakotay thought was likely mirrored on his own face.

"That was beautiful," Renaqu said, admiringly.

Tom shook his head modestly. "Little ragged on the landing there," he said, self deprecatingly.

"Tom, shut up!" Chakotay ordered. "That was perfect, and you know it."

Tom shook his head again and then grinned at Chakotay. "Yours wasn't so bad either."

"Not as in I'm still in one piece, no." He stood up. "Come on, let's go!" And with no further words, he launched himself down the slope, the adrenaline still pumping, making one smooth turn after another. He was skiing well, and he knew it, experiencing that all too rare moment in a skier's life of almost perfection, when skiers reach their nirvana, turning in perfect parallels on a fiendishly difficult off-piste slope, wishing that this moment, this feeling, could last forever. He knew that those moments when all the struggling, the practice, the tuition work together in serendipitous harmony are few and far between, but, once experienced, are never forgotten. For Chakotay, this was sheer bliss. He knew that he would always retain these memories, encased like a fly caught in amber in his mind.

When they were almost halfway down, he heard Paris yelling at him to stop, take a rest. Even as Tom spoke, Chakotay became aware that his thigh and knee muscles were screaming at him. He slid smoothly to a halt, panting. Renaqu and Paris joined him shortly, Tom collapsing to sit on the slope.

"Wow, Chakotay. You're really going for it there," he said. "Skiing wonderfully, too." There was a note of admiration in Paris' voice, which Chakotay noticed, surprised. He couldn't recall hearing Paris sound like that before, not about him at least, not that that was surprising, all things considered.

"Thanks," was all he said, turning his head to smile at the younger man.

Tom stripped off his gloves and fumbled in his backpack, bringing out some water. He tipped the bottle to his lips and drank, Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed. Chakotay watched him, comparing the man sitting beside him to the boy he'd met five years ago. Tom was no longer a boy, hadn't been for some time, but he was still beautiful, as beautiful as he'd been then, maybe more so; he'd seasoned, matured and his looks were richer, bolder now. The eyes were the same though, still the loveliest shade of blue Chakotay had ever seen. He sighed a little, wondering, as he'd done far too often over the past few years, what it would be like to make love to Tom Paris. Would he moan or scream when he came, whisper Chakotay's name, shout it? How would he look in the throes of orgasm, in ecstasy? How would Tom's erection taste, when he ran his tongue up it? Would he ... Chakotay shook his head in an attempt to banish those all too arousing thoughts. There was really no point in dwelling on what would never be, just try and concentrate on this moment when, all too rarely, he and Tom were in accord.

Tom wiped the top of the bottle, noted that Renaqu was already drinking water from her own supplies and offered it to Chakotay, who took it gratefully. The two men sat side by side companionably passing the water bottle back and forth, looking out at the surrounding mountains. Neither of them spoke. Chakotay felt a feeling of peace, of contentment steal over him, which he'd never felt before in the company of Tom Paris. He stole a look at Tom, who felt his gaze on him and smiled, one of his real smiles, which Chakotay realised, he'd seen all too seldom, and never directed at him, at least not since their first meeting.


Tom too was surprised by how much he was enjoying Chakotay's company, especially after their earlier rivalry. He felt wistful when he realised that this was the first time they'd been together off duty without taking pot shots at one another since they'd met. Without conscious thought, his hand instinctively traced the part of his neck that Chakotay had marked. He still wondered what would have happened if Seska and Teim hadn't come across them, what it would have been like to feel Chakotay taking him. How would his skin taste? Would Chakotay whisper to him, hold him tenderly and ... With a start, when he realised what he was doing, his hand fell to his side. He told himself sternly to stop it, he was being stupid. What was past was past. He hastily stored the empty bottle in his backpack and stood up wordlessly, ready to set off again.

Chakotay felt a brief pang of envy at Tom's comparative youth, but he too got to his feet, feeling surprisingly good, all things considered, his body not protesting the punishment it had received anywhere near as much as he'd thought it would.

They pushed off again, this time with Paris in the lead, not stopping until they got near to the end, slowing only when they began to encounter other traffic in the runs back down to the resort. When they were near the bottom, one of the two suns was sliding behind the tops of the surrounding ring of mountains, throwing the landscape into a type of eerie twilight. Renaqu called a halt as they reached a point where run they were on, which led back to the resort encountered a side turning.

"There's a bar on the mountain where some of us meet at the end of the day," she said. "Would you both join me?"

The men exchanged glances. "We'd like that," Chakotay answered for both of them.


The bar took the form of a mountain side lodge, lit up in the half twilight. Music and singing could be heard emanating from the bar, piercing the otherwise silent landscape. Skis were stored outside, protruding from the snow and stacked up in racks near the wall. As Renaqu opened the door, a blast of alcohol scented heat hit the three of them, together with an explosion of sound. The bar was packed, people, all Diakans, sat, stood or lounged everywhere, on tables, chairs, against the wall. The colours of the Diakans' attire were riotous, dazzling. All were singing, a pretty filthy drinking song, according tothe lyrics produced by the universal translator.

Heads turned, looking at the two aliens with interest. Renaqu started to push through the crowd, followed by Chakotay and Tom, both of them towering over the short Diakans. Eventually, she reached a raised dais, where a man and a woman were sitting; playing instruments that looked a little like a guitar and a flute. Renaqu said something to them, to which they nodded. She called for attention, obviously having borrowed the musicians amplification system. The room quietened obediently, the noise dying down to a low hum of conversation. She beckoned Tom and Chakotay up onto the dais with her. Feeling somewhat self-conscious, already aware of just how conspicuous he and Chakotay already were, Tom hopped onto the dais, followed by Chakotay.

"I took these visitors, Chakotay and Tom up the Tsesalet today," Renaqu announced, naming the mountain they had skied that day, indicating which Human was which as she named them. "And we came down ... " Here she paused dramatically. "The Tse'ra!"

There was a moment's silence, then cheers broke out. The Humans looked at one another in bewilderment, as the barkeeper leapt up onto the dais, bearing two steaming mugs in his hand.

"Drink, drink, drink!" the crowd chanted. Tom looked at the mug the barkeeper thrust on him, shrugged, and drank. He almost choked as the fermented brew hit the back of his throat. The drink tasted a little like hot brandy, but more mellow. None the less, he could feel it burning all the way down. He felt the heat warm him from the inside, causing him to pull open his ski suit, shrug out of the jacket, to the good natured applause of the crowd, indicated by slapping their thighs, enthusiastically.

Tom bowed, acknowledging the applause, causing Chakotay to shake his head wryly. Let no one say that Tom Paris didn't know how to behave in any social situation. He took a more cautious sip of his own drink, divested himself of his jacket as a precaution.

The crowd resumed their chant of "Drink, drink," until Tom drained the mug, which was taken off him by the bar keeper, who had been talking with Renaqu, inputting something into a padd he carried with him. The crowd cheered him again, then turned their attentions to Chakotay, chanting, until he, too, emptied the mug, which was taken by the barkeeper, who disappeared.

Chakotay felt a warm, fuzzy glow envelop him. He swayed gently; glancing at Tom, noting that the fairer man's complexion was flushed and his eyes slightly glazed. The people in the crowd were now talking amongst themselves, but their attention was obviously still centred on the dais. They looked like they were waiting for something. Then the barkeeper pushed his way back to the dais, the people in his way squeezing back to let him through. He jumped onto the dais, raising a hand for silence. The crowd hushed.

The barkeeper turned to the Humans, holding out an empty tankard in each hand. "It's been a long time since off-worlders have dared the Tse'ra," he said. "Twenty-three turns, to be precise. So, in honour of this occasion, and as mementoes of your experience, as is traditional, I'd like to present you with these." He held the tankards out with a flourish; they'd been engraved with a message in the Diakan's spidery script. "Your names have been engraved, together with: dared the Tse'ra and won. In the year 1467 of the Commonwealth," he explained solemnly. He presented them to Chakotay and Paris, to more applause and cheers, and cries of "Speech!"

Tom looked at Chakotay and shrugged. He indicated to the older man that he should step forward, but Chakotay declined, shoving Tom forward, to a glare from Paris.

"I'm not quite sure what to say, except thank you, for this, um, honour?" he said, questioningly to Renaqu, who had moved off the dais, and now stood just in front of it. "Wait a minute!" he exclaimed. "Did I just hear that no off-worlder has done that jump for twenty-three *years*!" There was general laughter amongst the crowd.

"That's right," someone yelled out from the crowd. "We've been waiting a long time for this."

"You didn't tell me it was *that* dangerous!" Tom said accusingly to Renaqu, to more general laughter.


She shrugged. "It's only dangerous to those who don't know how to dare." She lifted her glass. "A toast," she offered. "To Tom and Chakotay, who ski like Diakans!"


The rest of the bar followed suit, echoing the toast, after which the musicians struck up a lively tune. Tom turned to Chakotay. "I swear," he said, fervently. "I had no idea that it was that dangerous."

Chakotay, who was feeling remarkably mellow, grinned at him. "Don't worry about it. At the end of the day, I'm glad I did it."

"Oh. Well, so'm I."

"Must be a first," Chakotay remarked, dryly. "The two of us are in accord."

"Yeah well, don't get too used to it. There's no way I'm making it a habit!"

As Tom spoke, Renaqu stopped in front of the dais, grabbed hold of their hands, and pulled them onto the ground, saying as she did so: "It's traditional at this time to dance. Come on," pulling them towards the dance floor as she spoke. The two men laughingly acquiesced, although Chakotay was protesting half heartedly even as he moved forward.


 Several hours later, Chakotay stood outside, watching the heat streaming off his body in a cloud of steam. He still felt warm, even stripped down to his vest, which left his arms bare. He couldn't remember the last time he'd danced so hard, or drunk so hard, at least with a group of strangers. It seemed that the Diakans were determined to celebrate that two off-worlders had jumped the Tse'ra, although Chakotay suspected that they required little excuse for a party. Maybe it was as a result of their harsh environment, but they seemed determined to wring every last drop of joy out of life that they could. Chakotay tended to approve of this attitude; it struck him as not dissimilar in some ways to that of his ancestors. He felt a little light headed from all the drink, but definitely not drunk.

As he stood there, the door opened, striking him with a blast of sweat and alcohol scented heat. A tall silhouette stepped through the door, limned by the dull light inside.

"Shut the door if you're coming out will you, Tom," Chakotay said, immediately recognising the familiar shape. Paris closed the door and stepped to the side of Chakotay. He was panting slightly, and in the light from the three of Diaka's four moons that were visible, Chakotay could see that he was flushed. He too was wearing only a vest on his upper torso, leaving his arms and upper chest bare, revealing a dusting of golden fuzz.

"Boy, they don't let up, do they?" Paris asked, rhetorically. "I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted!"

"Yes, me too," Chakotay admitted.

"But it's been ... fun, hasn't it,"

Chakotay stole a glance at Tom, who was gazing out at the night sky, a small smile on his face. "Yes, it has," he admitted, quietly. He realised that it really had been, at that. It wasn't just the skiing, great though that had been, or the thrill of jumping the Tse'ra, but also he'd actually enjoyed being in the company of Tom Paris. True, he'd got under his skin more than once today, as normal, but there'd also been moments of quiet companionship, something he'd never have thought before today he'd ever experience with Tom Paris. And there'd been laughter too, for once he'd actually enjoyed Tom's banter, but then, this evening at least, none of it had been aimed at him.

Tom felt Chakotay's gaze on him, and met his eyes. "Bet you never thought you'd say that to me," he said, an impudent smile on his lips.

"Oh, I don't know about that. After all, Tom Paris is known as being fun to be with."

"Yeah, that's me," Tom agreed, with a cynical, slightly bitter note in his voice. "Want a good time, see Paris."

"That's not what I meant!"

Paris shook his head. "Yes, I know. I'm sorry."

"I should hope so, you're spoiling the mood."

Tom raised his eyebrows. "The mood?"

Chakotay gestured expansively. "The mountains, the fresh air."

"Well, fresh out here anyway," Tom muttered.

Chakotay laughed. "I'm glad that we had this time together, hope it'll improve our relationship."

Tom choked. "I wasn't aware we had one."

Chakotay glared at him. "Our working relationship," he said pointedly.

"Oh, of course, our *working* relationship. I should have known. Jeez, Chakotay, do you always have to be so ... so predictable!"

"And what's *that* supposed to mean?!" Chakotay said, annoyed.

"You're so predictable, you know that. Always the First Officer, concerned about crew relations above all else, huh! Even when you have a little fun, you have to turn it into ... into some sort of crew training exercise! Don't you ever just cut loose!" Tom stopped his tirade, aware that a look almost of hurt, swiftly transmuting into anger was visible on Chakotay's face. "I'm sorry," he said, more quietly. "I, um, sometimes I talk too much, I know that."

"Is that really what you think?" Chakotay asked. "That I'm some kind of humourless automaton who's incapable of enjoying himself?"

"Shit, no, not at all," Tom said, hastily. "No, I know that you've got a lot on your shoulders, with being First Officer and all. It's just that sometimes ... " he hesitated.


"Well, you could maybe lighten up a little, try to forget that you've got all these responsibilities and just enjoy yourself. I'm probably the wrong person to be saying this, given that I'm not exactly Mr. Responsible, but you know, given that we're stranded here in the Delta Quadrant, I figure we should grab what opportunities we can."

Chakotay's eyes narrowed dangerously. "I wasn't aware that I wasn't 'lightening up' as you put it. Spirits, you make me sound like Tuvok!"

"God forbid! You're not as bad as that."

"Just that I lack spontaneity?" Chakotay took a step towards him, scowling.

Tom squirmed uncomfortably. "Well, not that exactly."

"But I'm predictable?" Another step. Tom's eyes widened as he involuntarily took a step backwards. Uh oh, was Chakotay going to deck him?

"Um ... " Closer yet. Another step back.

"Boring? Stuck in a routine?" And closer. Two steps back.

"Well, no, not exactly," Tom said, beginning to babble as his back hit the wall. "It's just that you could be a little bit more ... "

"Shut up, Tom," Chakotay said, for the second time that day, grabbing the younger man and ... kissing him. For a moment Tom was frozen in astonishment, whatever he'd expected Chakotay to do it wasn't *this*. Then the heat and urgency of the kiss hit him; he parted his lips at Chakotay's wordless urging, allowing the other man access within.

Chakotay, for his part, was initially conscious only of a vast feeling of satisfaction. Boring, was he? Predictable was he? He'd show him! Then he too, became caught up in the kiss; feelings sublimated for five long years rising up to claim him. It was even sweeter than he remembered, kissing Tom Paris. He felt a rising tide of arousal consume him, sliding his hands down to cup the younger man's ass, pulling him closer to him, pressing him to his groin, letting him feel his erection.

He broke the kiss, panting, staring into eyes of dilated blue. He ran a finger along Tom's moist lower lip, slightly swollen from the force of the kiss. "So ... " he began to say, stopped, caught his breath. "So," he started again. "Unpredictable enough for you?"

"I ... uh, yeah," the other man said, still bewildered by this turn of events.

"Good," Chakotay said, huskily, running his finger along the line of one of Tom's high cheekbones. Great Spirit, he was so beautiful. He kissed him again, passionately, deeply, possessively, rejoicing in Tom's response, knowing that the younger man was as affected by this feeling, this passion between them as he. Why had he waited so long, let his anger carry him for all this time, when he could have experienced this sweetness before now?

This time, Tom was the one who broke the kiss, taking a moment to catch his breath, saying: "But, I ... don't understand."

"What don't you understand, Tom?" Chakotay asked, reaching up to cup his face gently in his hands.

"Why you're doing this." Chakotay touched his lips gently to Tom's as he spoke.

"It isn't obvious?" Chakotay whispered, against Tom's mouth.

"I thought at first that you kissed me only to ... to prove a point. I mean you hate me. Don't you?" he asked, uncertainly.

"Does this look like hatred, feel like hatred?"

"Nooo. But ... "

"I don't hate you, Tom. I've never hated you. I've disliked you, been annoyed by you, but I never hated you. Just like I've never stopped wanting you. Surely you knew that?"

"I didn't. But, I do now."

Chakotay kissed him again, but stopped, when he felt Tom's hesitant response.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

Tom initially said nothing. Part of him wanted nothing more than to lose himself in Chakotay's arms, his kisses, but the hard won experience of that past few years dictated caution. He pulled away slightly, in response to which Chakotay released him from his embrace, leaving Tom feeling suddenly bereft, which was ridiculous, when you considered that he'd only been there for a few minutes. Wasn't it?

"What is it?" Chakotay asked again, quietly, awaiting Tom's response with far more trepidation that he'd like to admit. He couldn't quite understand just why what Tom said next mattered so much to him; he'd only kissed the guy after all. If Tom wanted to leave it at that, it was no big deal. Except that it was, he realised suddenly. He wanted Tom, not just to fuck him, although he definitely wanted that, but also to experience again the fun, the joy, the companionship he'd enjoyed today, with Tom. He wanted to get to know him, properly, find out his innermost thoughts, his hopes, his fears. He'd kissed Tom initially to make a point, but that didn't make his feelings any less real. He'd thought maybe he'd imagined it; that his memories of the time he'd met Tom five years ago were playing him false. But they weren't. Kissing Tom was like nothing else he'd experienced, that sense of connection he thought he'd felt was real.

"Um, I guess I'm still a little confused," Tom admitted, running a hand distractedly through his hair. "I mean, just this morning you really weren't too keen on even spending some time in my company, but now ... "

"And you were? Keen to spend time with me, that is?" Chakotay interrupted.

"Well, no. See, that's what I mean, we go from ... from sniping at one another to making out!"

Chakotay shrugged. "Ever hear of opposites attract, that kind of thing?"

"Yes, of course, but ... I don't think they usually don't get along for five years and suddenly ... "

"When we first met, what did you think?" Chakotay interrupted, again.

"What do you mean?" Tom asked, warily.

"You told me you were trying to hustle me. Were you really?"

Tom blushed, deeply. "I ... er ... "

"Were you?" Chakotay insisted.

"No," Tom mumbled. "Not really."

"What's that mean, not really?"

"I thought about it, OK!" Tom snapped. "But when you ... when you ... "

"Kissed you?"

"No, before that. When we were talking, you know, I decided then that I wasn't going to, um, do it for money, but because ... " His voice trailedoff into silence.

"Because you wanted to?" Chakotay prompted gently.

Tom bit his lip. "Yeah."

"So when we first met, I wanted you, you wanted me. And it looks like we still do."

"Maybe so. But I don't want to do that whole casual thing any more y'know."

Chakotay looked at him intently; the moonlight shone silver on Tom's face, bleaching it of colour, throwing shadows under his cheekbones. Tom's expression was almost painfully earnest. "Who says this is casual?" he said quietly.

Tom looked dumbfounded. "But you ... I mean ... you can't ... "


"After a couple of kisses, you're making out like you want to make a lifetime commitment. To me! That's just ... just ridiculous!"

"I think it's a little soon to be talking of lifetime commitments," Chakotay said, dryly. "But, you must know me well enough by now to know that I don't go in for casual encounters."

"Well, yeah. That's why ... " Tom realised what he was about to say, and clamped his lips shut.

"That's why I can't possibly want to be with you? Is that it?"

Tom blushed again, painfully, visible even in the moonlight. "Yeah," he said, almost inaudibly.

"But I do. I may be stubborn, it may have taken me all this time to realise it, but I do. We had fun together today, I'm pretty certain that we'll be good together in bed ... " Chakotay watched, delighted, as Tom looked away in embarrassment. Who'd have guessed Mr hotshot, flirtatious Tom Paris would be so easily embarrassed? When he wasn't trying to be obnoxious, he blushed so easily, and he looked so pretty when doing it as well. Chakotay made a silent vow to try and embarrass Tom as much as possible in future, then sobered abruptly. Assuming there was a future, that is. "I think we could maybe have something together," he said. "I'd like to find out."

Tom looked back at him, remaining silent for a while, his mind awhirl. The way the older man was looking at him, it was ... it was ... well, he didn't know what it was, a mixture of anticipation, tenderness and lust maybe. All he knew was that that expression on Chakotay's face, it made his stomach clench, and his throat ache. He didn't think anyone had ever looked at him like that, and it scared him, but he wanted to see it again, and again. This was all too confusing. OK, he'd never stopped wanting Chakotay, but he'd known that the other man didn't, couldn't possibly, reciprocate his feelings. That had been one of the reasons Tom had so delighted in needling him, getting under his skin. But now, it seemed that he'd been wrong, that Chakotay wanted him after all. And not just casually either, as so many people had wanted him, for his face, his body, in times past for his name, his Starfleet connections. But could he risk it, dare he risk it, open himself up, and risk getting hurt?

He knew that Chakotay was an honourable man, didn't say things he didn't mean. But what would happen when he really got to know him, the real him, the person hidden within, the man only those closest to him got even glimpses of. Harry, B'Elanna, the Captain, Neelix on occasion. Dare he add Chakotay to that list? And not just as a friend, but a lover. God knows, he wanted Chakotay, always had, but once the novelty of fucking him wore off, once Chakotay inevitably got bored, what then? But could he live with himself, if he didn't take the risk, knowing that his own cowardice had prevented him from experiencing something wonderful, if only for a little while? He felt as if he stood on the edge of a precipice, one far deeper than the couloir into which he'd jumped today. If he took Chakotay up on his invitation, everything could change, hopefully for the better, but, ultimately, it could end up being for the worst. Oh God, what should he do?

He tried to maintain his careful mask while he was thinking, unaware that flashes of his emotions crossed his face. But Chakotay watched, fascinated by the younger man's inner struggle. He saw that Tom had finally reached some sort of decision, and drew on his reserve of inner calm, so hard won by his meditation sessions. He found that his heart was beating quickly, heavily as he waited to hear what Tom had to say. He wasn't quite sure why it suddenly mattered so to him, but it did, it did.

Tom gathered his courage in both hands ... and jumped. "I'd like that," he said.

Chakotay let out a breath he didn't even know he'd been holding. "Good," he said, simply.

Tom smiled at him, making Chakotay's heart flip absurdly. He felt like he'd sell his soul for another of those smiles. This time, Tom initiated the kiss, with touching gentleness. Spirits, Chakotay thought, this was sweet, so sweet. Tom put his whole self into his kisses, holding nothing back. He deepened the kiss, sliding his arms round the older man, fingers curling in the crisp hair at the nape of his neck. He released Chakotay's lips, kissing his ear, then down his cheek, nibbling lightly at his neck, then licking along his collar bone, shoving the strap of the vest top impatiently out of the way. He worked his way down the flesh bared by his action, pressing kisses and tiny nibbles on the bronze flesh. Chakotay found himself spellbound by the magic the younger man was working on his body. He moaned as Tom's lips fastened on a nipple, sucking gently. Suddenly, Tom bit at the nipple. Chakotay felt a jolt of erotic pain, which went straight to his cock, increasing his arousal. The younger man then laved at the bite with his tongue, sending tremors of excitement coursing through Chakotay's body. He was panting by now, unable to control his breathing. This was even better than he remembered it from five years ago. He was tempted to beg Tom to take him, here, right now, but, stirring dimly at the back of his mind was the conviction that this would be the wrong thing to do, at this stage in their relationship. He knew that he wouldn't be able to control himself for much longer, groaned as he felt Tom's hand grasp his erection, through the material of his trousers, and slide slowly up and down the shaft.

Tom, uh, Tom," he moaned. The younger man ignored him, not ceasing his attentions in the slightest. "I think ... uh ... please. I think that we ... ought to ... "

Tom smothered his words with a kiss, kissing him passionately. Great Spirit! This was so good, but he had to ... he really had to stop this now. Chakotay drew on every particle of self-control he possessed, and, reluctantly, broke the kiss, releasing Tom, drawing back from him, to stand apart, panting.

Tom stared at him, bewildered by the sudden cessation. Didn't Chakotay want him after all? Because if Chakotay didn't want to have sex with him, what else had he to offer? Maybe ... maybe Chakotay had come to his senses, realised that he really didn't want to be with Tom Paris after all. He felt a lump rise in his throat, as he fought to speak, to not give away his feelings. "What it is?" he asked. "What's wrong? Why'd you stop? I thought ... I thought you wanted me."

Despite Tom's best efforts, he was unable to keep the hurt he was feeling from showing in his demeanour, his voice. Chakotay stared at him; Tom looked so vulnerable now. For the first time, he felt that he was finally seeing the real Tom, the person hidden beneath the layers of attitude, the carefully cultivated persona. This was someone who looked as if he could be all too easily hurt, a sensitive soul, belied by the outwardly cocky exterior.

"I do, oh I do," he said fervently.

Tom heard the note of sincerity in his voice and frowned, puzzled. "So you do want to ... to ... "

"Make love to you?" Tom blushed, at Chakotay's use of the word love. "Definitely. Make no mistake Tom, I want you." He looked at him hungrily. "But, I think maybe we ought not to rush things, get to know one another a bit first, as friends this time, rather than as sniping partners, or colleagues. This is important to me Tom, *you're* important to me, you must believe that. But, we've been at loggerheads for so long, that I think we just need to take it slowly. This matters too much to screw things up now. Do we have a deal?"

Tom stared at him for a long moment, trying to subdue his arousal enough to think coherently. He believed Chakotay meant what he said, he realised. He should have known that Chakotay wouldn't have told him earlier anything he didn't mean, wouldn't change his mind, just like that. The older man was totally sincere in what he'd just said, he believed that implicitly. And really, what Chakotay was saying was in accordance with his, Tom's, earlier comments about no longer entering into things in a casual manner. So, as much as his body was clamouring at him for immediate gratification, for sex, now, with Chakotay, this relationship was too important to him also, to rush matters. He nodded, slowly, reluctantly. "Deal."

Chakotay held out his hand to Tom, who took it. "Then let's go inside, rejoin the party." He shivered suddenly, aware, as his body cooled, of just how cold it was here outside the lodge. "I don't know about you, but I'm freezing!" he said.

"In a moment," Tom said, pulling Chakotay to him, trapping him in his embrace, and kissing him again for a long moment. When he finally broke the kiss, he grinned at him. "You look all warmed up to me, Commander," he said impudently, eyes sparkling.

Chakotay shook his head, amused by the younger man's mercurial change in mood. Looked like the smart-ass was back, but this time, he was actually enjoying seeing his reappearance. "Maybe, but I could do with a drink anyway, all that kissing is thirsty work."

"So, there's conclusive proof. You think kissing me is hard work!"



"Shut up!" said for the third time that day.

Tom saluted. "Aye aye, sir!"

Chakotay took his hand again, opened the door to the bar. "Tom?"


"Five years to the day, huh?"


"Happy anniversary!"