Rival Claims
by Calico



February 2000

Disclaimer: <angelic smile> Who, me? Copyright and legal system? Don't know what you mean.

More interesting disclaimer: This one's the darkest so far, I'd say. Not suitable for you if you can't cope with bad language and bad thoughts and bad acts. If you can, why, I shan't detain you any longer.

Posted with sweetest regards to Alexa and thanks to julad.

Calico@76sg.freeserve.co.uk


Harry watched his friend's retreating form, and relinquished the possibility. Time to move on. At one point, his hopes had flickered, but he had to be realistic; these days, the touches from the other man didn't hold anything more than friendship.

A pity, but he had to cut his losses. He scratched Tom from his list of prospects, and then his eyes darkened with approval, as a second face began to coalesce in his mind. No, however appealing, Tom certainly wasn't the only man to catch his attention.

~~~

Perhaps he'd come to the wrong quarters. But no, because the code had worked okay.

Yet as Tom stepped inside, an excuse for being late all ready on the tip of his tongue, he wondered if perhaps the code was a popular one. Maybe he'd actually walked into someone else's apartment. Because this was in no way Harry's room.

Huh. Quite messy, then. Not much floor visible.

Tom had endured an impressively boring day, with more hours of monotony stretched visibly ahead of him. Nothing on the viewscreen had been worth blinking at, and now he just wanted some consistently pleasant time in the company of his friend. This was hardly the first time he'd needed cheering up, and sure not to be the last -- but where was Harry now?

He regarded the disordered room with weary impatience, as if it could answer him. "Hello?"

This was not typical Harry. Apparently, Tom had slid sideways into an alternate existence, somewhere that Harry had undergone a personality transplant-- this disarray certainly didn't look familiar. Basic accessories -- especially coffee cups, he noticed, curious -- had been left lying around all over the place, and a pile of data pads had fallen over on the table. Random clothes were draped carelessly over pretty much everything else.

Harry scattered through, eyes widening as he saw Tom in the doorway. Widening in surprise? Weird. Not a good sign. "Oh, shit," Harry breathed, contrite, "Tom."

"Uh, yes," he replied, bemused but smiling, vaguely trying to let Harry off whatever hook was causing the pained expression. "That would be me. Hi."

"I'm sorry, I meant to call, I got side-tracked," Harry apologised hastily. "I..." he faltered, and looked distractedly at the sock dangling from his hand, "got a date." Then he was moving again, picking up a dark red shirt from a pile on the floor and checking over it briefly, the sock having got lost somewhere along the way.

Oh, right then. So that was why the proverbial whirlwind had come calling. Harry was seeing someone else this evening. Right. Well, fine.

He paused. It wasn't like Harry had deliberately kept it from him, or anything. He hadn't mentioned he'd drop round this evening, he'd just assumed he'd be welcome -- not that he wasn't, just that he'd been, uh, briefly superimposed -- so he didn't know why he felt so surprised. So, while a little disappointed about crushed plans, Tom told himself deliberately to think of someone else for a change, and grinned at his friend's evident discomfort. "Good for you! Hey, but where d'you get off keeping stuff from me anyway?" he demanded, teasing, as Harry dropped the shirt on the back of a chair and stripped off his top.

Skin flashed briefly as, hardly pausing, he skimmed off plain white in exchange for dark red. Buttons obeyed under a fervent touch, and Tom felt mildly envious. Had he been in such a rush, the fastenings would have had far more annoying things on their minds than co-operation. Like, coming loose, for one.

"Um, it's all kind of sudden, I didn't have time to tell you," he managed, disappearing into the bathroom, "I'm sorry --" The words were fainter, and then water drowned them out completely.

Tom waited patiently, mind ticking over the possible women responsible for the panic. He took breath to speak as Harry appeared again -- dashing out and over to the replicator, pausing, considering, and heading back into the bathroom -- and then exhaled, defeated. Yeah, his friend wasn't supposed to have a life, was he? He was supposed to drop everything the moment Tom came round, and be thankful for his gracious presence. Tom smirked.

"Hey, could you pass me that towel," came a muffled voice a moment later, and he frowned.

"Where?"

"Uh... on my bed," Harry hazarded, and Tom went to look.

Well, yeah, maybe it was on the bed. Pity the rest of the room also seemed to have taken up temporary residence there. Eventually locating the towel, he strode back through and knocked on the bathroom door.

"Tom?"

Hmm. Voice definitely not coming from the bathroom. He turned round, disconcerted. "Uh, I brought a towel?"

Harry walked round the table, drying his face and rubbing at his hair, then tossed the towel absently over the nearest piece of furniture. He looked blankly at Tom, then smiled, grateful but apologetic. "Oh, thanks, but I got my own."

"Oh, okay."

"Mm-hm. Aw, damnit-- look, I'll catch you later, okay, and sorry for messing up, just --" that uncertain expression again, "-- this whole thing is really sudden, you know? Um, I think I'm going to be late."

Tom grinned at the anxious tone. "Hey, it's fine, and I'll see you later. Or tomorrow even, maybe," he leered, as Harry shot a guilty look towards the door.

"No, wait a minute, just tell me -- how does this look?" He held his arms out to the sides, submitting the outfit for Tom's appraisal. His hair was still damp, slightly ruffled and very black, contrasting well with the wine-red shirt. Tom looked at him thoughtfully, until Harry laughed, squirming. "Oh, shut up."

"Hey, I didn't say anything," Tom shot back innocently. That wasn't an insultingly triumphant grin, actually, just a little provocative. "I think it's great you're going to so much trouble."

Harry glared at him. "Not so much trouble, actually, Tom. That's what you do when you're trying to get laid, isn't it? Right down to finding out what perfume they're wearing, so your aftershave doesn't clash?"

"Oh, so like you're not dressing with intent?" he teased, and ignored the mention of aftershave. After all, he'd only done that once. It wasn't fair that Harry kept bringing it up.

"Shut up, you. No, wait, tell me if it looks okay first."

Tom frowned slightly, letting his face show exaggerated scrutiny, with eyes wide and head tilted to one side. Harry's hands moved to his black-clad hips, and he sighed loudly. Tom refused to be distracted from his inspection, enjoying the way Harry shifted from foot to foot in resigned embarrassment.

"Very nice," he appraised, eventually. "She's lucky."

Harry lost the defensive stance, looking sheepish and pleased. "Thanks...um, though, they're not exactly--"

The chime sounded in a smooth interruption, and Harry hurried to the door, hastily shuffling a few random pieces of debris out the way, as if that would make a difference to the overall neutron-bomb theme he had going here. "Okay, quick, wait in there," he ushered, pointing Tom into the bathroom again.

Tom raised his eyebrows, but obeyed his friend. "Have fun," he offered, shaking his head, and sidled closely behind the open door. Yes, he knew he should close it, but he'd already forgone his evening with Harry, and he had to have a little entertainment. If eavesdropping was the only option, so be it; he didn't have that many opportunities to listen in on Harry's dates, no offence intended.

Harry answered the door. "Hi," he said shyly. Tom blinked, then smirked. He'd never heard that particular tone of voice before.

"Hello, Harry."

"Uh, shall we go?"

"Sure."

The door slid closed again. Tom stepped out and sat down heavily on a chair, without bothering to push away the towel Harry had left earlier. He didn't even notice as the damp fabric pressed wet patches into his shirt; his brain was too busy struggling to place that voice.

Well no, actually, it was struggling to replace that voice. It had placed that voice as soon as the first syllable bit his ear, and now worked desperately to put a different, more welcome voice-box behind that disturbing recognition.

And then he gave up, acceding that no-one else's words would have activated such a violent reaction in him. But that didn't mean he could like it. It didn't even mean he could understand it. After all, Harry and the commander? No. No way. The idea was just --

###

"-- great! I mean, obviously they're not the first pair you'd put together, but when you think about it, it makes real sense! I mean... oh, stop shaking your head like that, Tom. What's your problem with them being together?" It was a direct, exasperated challenge. He noticed absently that she hadn't even paused for breath, as he looked into the bright eyes of a certain Delaney sister.

Evidently it had only taken a day for the 'secrecy' Harry had mentioned -- in a brief pause in his schedule when he'd managed to fit Tom in -- to disintegrate under the interested scrutiny of Voyager's tireless, intuitive grapevine.

"Uh, I guess, nothing. Um. But don't you think he's a bit old?"

The other women at the table looked from one to the other, but Megan just stared at him blankly. "Old? Who, Chakotay? Nah, he's just mature. Harry's found an experienced man…" She leered, and he looked away, swallowing hard.

It was just so wrong.

"Why, Tom, are you jealous?"

Ah, okay, that's better. She was flirting, he could cope with that. He was comfortable here. "Why would I be jealous of anyone when I've got you?" he drawled, sliding a mock-possessive arm across her shoulder.

She met his gaze knowingly, pointedly shrugging his hand off, then gave him an amused, warning scowl when he used the deflection to trail a finger down her spine. The gesture was a deliberate echo of a not-so-distant evening they'd spent together, and he knew it melted a nerve in her, to pour as a shiver down her back and make her purr. Of course, it didn't always work. Which was a good thing, really, since right now his mind was occupied with other distractions.

"Very true, were that the case. But since you haven't got me, I guess there's room for a little envy, isn't there?" She shot him a sideways glance, smirking. He met her gaze deliberately, interpreting the silent promise: I'll make it up to you later. "But then, if your delusions make you happy, what's so wrong about Harry and Chakotay?"

Uh-oh. She knew him a little too well. Maybe they were spending too much time together. Tom refused to think it was a friendship thing; he'd always valued his privacy. It took a keen eye to breach the Paris charm to where his thoughts were kept, and he liked it that way. He didn't like the way she had apparently seen something he'd not planned on broadcasting. Huh. And his thoughts were growing increasingly erratic. Apparently, he was more unnerved by this whole thing than he thought.

"I... just don't think they're suited, that's all," he said, forcefully checking the tirade that wanted to spill out of him as he let the smallest -- or the largest, depending on how you look at it -- of his complaints slip free. Because incompatibility really was the least of his worries. Whether they wanted each other, well, that was hardly the issue.

The fact was, this was Chakotay. The man was unbearable, he was irritating, and his tragic little pseudo-spiritual rituals were enough to drive anyone out of their mind. It had taken incredible self-restraint, over the last few months, for Tom to pretend their mutual antagonism was a thing of the past. A few sharp words from the captain had made him see that, publicly at least, they had to present a united command staff. That didn't mean he had to like it.

For the good of the crew, she'd said, having conveniently forgotten that Tom was part of that crew and that there was no way sharing a ship with him could be classed as a good thing.

Anyway, it hardly mattered. However civil they were face to face, the fact remained that something -- everything -- about that man made him see red. He was too smug, too enigmatic and far more conceited than should be possible, given his hideously pathetic non-existence. And he was hardly young.

In fact, Tom felt he'd personally strangle the next individual who swapped 'old' for 'mature' in their list of adjectives for the older half of this uncomfortable equation. Or experienced, or skilled, or any of the other tactful, complimentary ways people were avoiding the issue.

It just had to come down to the fact that Chakotay could have quite legitimately been with Harry's mother -- or father, for that matter, considering current weirdo patterns of behaviour -- and all this decades before latching onto this unprotected young man, latching on and clinging like a leech because he knew his time was running out and he hadn't many choices left.

It was disgusting. But Tom would be prepared to let that slide if the mystic warrior had some redeeming features to at least soften this totally incongruous blow. Like, if he wasn't so intensely infuriating, or if he didn't have the social skills normally attributed to a leola or if -- and this was a big one -- he wasn't still sharing glances with the captain that said drop-the-moral-dilemma-and-let-me-show-you-a-good-time.

Though now the phrase could be lengthened by adding, -but-for-now-I'll-try-for-this-ensign-instead-damn-did-I-irrevocably-corrupt-him-how-careless-of-me. Tom smirked slightly, gritting his teeth.

"But when you think about it, the most unlikely pairings get together."

"Give me an example," Tom challenged back, feeling repression stir up the thoughts that were fast raising his blood pressure.

"Kes and Neelix," she shot back promptly. "On the outside they were completely unlikely. But together, they practically invented their own language."

"Another."

"Vorik and Neelix."

Tom smirked. "Why, Neelix does seem to get around, doesn't he," he observed nastily, "but that hardly lasted. It was the rogue end of Ponn Farr; they weren't together for any time at all."

"Well, not involved as such," interjected someone else quickly at Megan's defence, "but they were still close friends for a while. Well, as close as a Vulcan and Talaxian can bear to be," she amended thoughtfully, "but still, closer than any of us expected."

"Well, whatever." He shrugged, angry with the conversation but unwilling to betray his thoughts. This wasn't the right crowd. He'd probably be better off with Dalby, much as that thought made him cringe.

Megan looked at him for a moment. He refused to react, as the analytical gaze tried to find a crack in his shield. Deterred, she shrugged back, then smiled brightly and turned again to the group. "I think," she stated firmly, "that if they're happy then they should have that. We should let them find their own problems, if there's going to be any."

She returned to face him, eyebrows raised in a show of smug defiance, daring him to disagree with the eminent common sense. He shrugged again. "Sure, like I said, whatever."

Megan tossed him a withering look, rolled her eyes to the other women and went to fetch another drink.

Jumping on the pause, Jenny spoke up. Grinning. "Oh, don't be like that, Tom -- it spoils it for the rest of us! Well, the bit they haven't already spoiled, getting together like that, of course."

Tom looked at her in disbelief. She pouted, raising her eyes to his in exaggerated regret. "I mean really," she continued, "I actually thought I was getting somewhere with Harry, he was sending out all the signals," that earned some chuckles from the group, "and now he has to go and throw it all back in my face like that! It's so ungrateful. And taking Chakotay with him too. There again, I guess they make a pretty picture..."

She trailed off dreamily, to the delighted smiles of almost everyone around her. Tom, however, was a notable exception. His lips twisted in disgusted astonishment.

Jenny couldn't be saying Chakotay was worth picturing. Tom repressed a shudder. While the man wasn't ugly, exactly, he was just too…

Well he just exuded this smug offensiveness that took away any benefits of dark eyes or, his mind helpfully called up the previous time he'd heard someone commend the First Officer's looks, a finely chiselled jaw, whatever the fuck that was good for.

Now, Harry he could understand; that man, while not typically handsome, certainly had a kind of charm. With those ridiculously large brown eyes, and that black hair that just called to be tousled. Or stroked.

But not by Chakotay. Ew. Jeez, talk about stomach-churning. Really wasn't a good image. "Yeah, well, whatever," he said, trying to shake the vision from his head.

Megan had returned to hear the last of Jenny's little speech, and glanced up at him again, this time indulgently. "Aw, poor Tom, stuck in a group full of women lusting after a man that isn't him. It's okay, sweetie, Harry and Chak aren't the only eligible men on this ship," she purred, causing amused grins to rise on lips.

Except Tom's. Chak?!

###

"Oh, god, Tom, I'm sorry. Next time I'll remember to cancel."

"He actually said that?" B'Elanna winced in sympathy, and patted Tom's hand across the table.

"He didn't even notice. I mean, he just about noticed me, but he didn't realise what he was saying. I assume," he finished morosely. "I mean, I know he's all happy about this, uh, commander thing." He hoped she hadn't noticed he couldn't say the commander's name. But he just couldn't. It soured his mouth, stained it. "And I know that's great or whatever, but it's been five days, and he's cancelled on me twice. And then the other evenings he's just left me to find his empty quarters and piece together the mystery of where he's disappeared to now. Not that that's a hard task, nowadays."

B'Elanna's eyes narrowed briefly, and for a second Tom's hopes soared, but then her expression softened again. "You poor thing. But just think how happy Harry is. After all the time pining after Libby, and then that holodeck alien -- "

"Miranda," Tom interjected gloomily. He knew where this was going.

" -- Yeah, her. And now, after all this he's finally got himself together, he's enjoying himself. Can't you be happy for him?"

Tom found it easier not to smile. "I just think he's out of order, that's all. I mean, if he could just call and tell me he can't make it? Or not make plans he can't keep in the first place." Or just break up with the fucking lecherous creep, he continued silently, because that would put an end to the entire problem.

"He wants to see you, Tom, obviously he does, but he's all caught up in this. Cut him some slack for a few weeks and it'll blow over when the first dizzy spell starts to wear off." Her tone of authority was tinged with envy.

Tom's stomach cramped angrily as the familiar glaze crept over her eyes. It was impossible. Here he was, sitting comfortably with B'Elanna for the first time in ages -- since that bet with Sue about the bread and the turbolift -- damn but he regretted that -- and now suddenly she wasn't listening to him at all. Just fantasising about his best friend and the man who was screwing him around for a while.

To make things worse, his subconscious was having a hard time keeping sufficient distance.

His mind kept filling with the oh so familiar pictures, the ones that had haunted him for days since this whole thing got blown out of proportion and flicked into people's minds. The ones that had been sparked off by the intricate dreams, the ones that visited him nightly. Plagued him.

And uh-uh, oh no, they weren't those kind of dreams -- even though he hadn't been with anyone since they'd got together, because despite wanting women left right and centre he just couldn't follow through -- no, these were mean dreams, full of Chakotay's smug face, of Harry submitting to those fingers; these were dreams of figures hurtling together with a sickening disregard for gravity.

In fact, he felt sure those two had much more fun in his head than in Chakotay's quarters -- that was where they ended up, he'd discovered, on a nightly basis -- because behind his eyes they had the luxury of haunting him day and night. Still, at least the commander didn't know he kept starring in these nocturnal horror flicks. Doubtless the darling Chak would be thrilled to wilted old pieces.

"Oh, sorry," B'Elanna chuckled suddenly, the sound strange after the short silence, as she shook herself out of the trance most of Tom's female company seemed to fall into as they considered this newest of couples.

"What were you thinking?" he asked lightly.

She chuckled again. "Oh, nothing." As if.

His patience was wearing thin with it all. He didn't see the attraction, really didn't, what the hell was with all this interest? "No, come on, tell me," he pressed, masking the irritation, just about.

And she actually blushed. He'd never thought he'd live to see the day when B'Elanna blushed. And hell only knows what she was thinking. Well, hell and about half the ship's population, because these thoughts were fucking contagious. And he didn't want any part in it, although he wasn't sure he had a choice.

"Look, just-- Oh, forget it." He couldn't be bothered.

Leaving a startled half-Klingon -- probably an unwise thing under any circumstances -- with a half-formed insult to stew over, he set off briskly towards his quarters. For another evening in and an early night, since Harry wasn't available, and no one else understood. He wasn't even sure Harry understood, actually. Not anymore, not since he'd changed, abandoning him for a prime position of examining the commander's mattress from his hands and knees.

###

"Are you sure you can come, this time?" he teased, comfortable Harry's guilt would assure the answer to the question. "Nothing come up again?"

Harry winced, apologetic, and Tom revelled in the contrition like a sweet breath of air to parched lungs. Because now, finally, Harry was available to be contrite. Chakotay had gone down planet-side, playing at being a diplomat, so things could go back like they ought to be. At least for a while.

And Tom could get a chance to explain his point of view to his friend, and draw him out of this dazed delusion of... well, it wasn't love. No way. Prolonged illusion, perhaps; Harry'd been coaxed and beguiled into thinking he was happy. Brainwashing. Whatever, it was definitely time for this period to end, fizzle out or something, and be buried in the past with the rest of Voyager's more regrettable relationships.

"No, nothing came up."

"It wouldn't, he's not here."

Harry's face tightened, but he acknowledged the hit. "Yeah."

"Still, that gives us a chance to catch up, doesn't it?" That's it, make him think about the fun they used to have, before this guy messed it up.

Harry smiled, a little sadly, and Tom frowned.

"What's wrong?" he asked cautiously, treading carefully.

"Oh, nothing." Yeah, right. Tom raised an eyebrow, disbelieving but sympathetic. "Honestly, it's nothing, I promise," Harry repeated, eyes wide.

"Mm-hmm?"

"Honestly." His gaze flew to the floor.

"Oh drop it, Harry. This is your best friend here, remember that. I know you. Probably better than yourself. You're all caught up in it, and you're confused, but I can see him clearly, and he's tearing you apart."

Harry glanced at him sharply, anger in his eyes, before suddenly it melted away. "Yeah." The whisper sounded surreal.

"Yeah?" Tom pressed, suddenly sceptical. He'd never usually have relented so quickly -- the commander must have really fucked up his self-confidence.

"Uh-huh. You... you're right. I'm sorry."

For one moment, Tom wished he hadn't even started this conversation. Harry looked so downcast, so deflated. It wasn't fair, the power Chakotay wielded. Even now he'd admitted it, admitted the man was bad news, Harry still wasn't free. That bastard commander had one hell of a lot of things to answer for.

"Listen," he began softly, gently, "I know it will be hard for you, but just concentrate on all the things he's done, his attitude, his age -- "

"-- He beat me up." A whisper so quiet, it promoted Tom's previous sentence to a shout.

"What?!" Tom really, seriously couldn't believe this. This was sick. And now he looked closer at him, Harry was a sight. Tom couldn't believe he hadn't noticed the bruises glowing on the smooth neck before, or the uncomfortable angle Harry was leaning at, or the slight bulging of the skin around his left eye, or the way his left hand was balled into a fist and twisted viciously in his right palm as he talked. Or rather, stuttered.

"He, he hit me, beat me, because, because he wanted me to, to... Oh god. But I couldn't, y'know? It was so bad, I was bad, so he'd hit. Strike out at me"

"Oh my god, Harry, I can't believe you never mentioned this. Oh my god. I mean, you never said, I never guessed, you never said things were this bad. Oh, but it's okay, you'll be okay. I can-- we can have him in the brig for this, it's okay, we can stop it --"

He froze, as Harry's stricken face suddenly melted into a terrifying wide smile, eyes crazed. He shook his head, two jerky, aborted movements, and swayed on his feet. "No," he hissed slowly, one long breath, "no, don't stop it. I like it, I like it so much."

Eyes wide, incredulous and horrified, Tom stumbled backwards until his back suddenly hit the wall. It moved against him, heat and fierce pressure-- no, no wall, just Chakotay, who wasn't there anymore, but standing with Harry, one arm draped over his shoulders, expression of possession dripping from his leering face. Harry leaned back into the arm, rolling his head loosely from side to side against Chakotay's chest, eyes never leaving Tom's. Obscene. Chakotay's smile widened, as he sneered openly, claiming his prize.

"No, really, Harry, you've got to leave him," Tom ground out desperately against the growing pressure on his chest, as a blackness rose up against his eyes, threatening to choke him, blind him.

Chakotay laughed, a low, hollow sound of dementia, and Harry smiled even wider. "Ohh, no, Tom," he breathed, "I can't leave him. You see, we're getting married."

The blackness pushed at him, but he could see clearly as Harry uncurled his left hand and flashed a gold curse on his third finger. Then the dark took him down, and he couldn't see, he was sinking. As he submerged, Chakotay's slick voice whispered sickeningly inside his head. "Will you be our bridesmaid, Tom? Oh, please do, we'd love that..."

He discovered himself waking, cursing, in a twisted array of sheets and expletives, calling lights and shaking his head hard, trying to get that vision away from behind his eyes.

Fucking hell, childhood nightmares were welcome after that. At least with monsters you had an idea of reality lurking in the back of your brain. Damn but that's unpleasant. He shuddered, revulsion welling up inside him, as he saw Harry's twisted smile and glazed eyes reappear before his face. He shut his eyes, then opened them again when the darkness just added more dimensions.

Scrambling out of the damp, tangled bedclothes, he dialled a coffee and paced fast round his quarters as it cooled. Long, rapid strides, as he concentrated on keeping the hot liquid from greeting his fingers. An old trick, taking him back years, though the floors were warmer on Voyager for his bare feet.

What the fuck was his subconscious trying to do to him, anyhow? He took a swallow of steaming coffee, gulping it down, then his legs began to tire, and he slowed next to his bed. Setting the cup down, he shook the twists out the sheets and sat down heavily. Shit. This was not going to feel good in the morning.

He needed sleep; he had an early shift tomorrow which wasn't avoidable. Except if he went and saw the doctor about nightmares, risking that oh-so-sensitive interrogation. He smiled weakly, clinging to the familiarity, and tried to tune his thoughts into a lighter frequency. Yeah, the doctor. Hmm, strangely enough, holographic scrutiny held little appeal.

He stood again, breathing deliberately. Fuck. He started forwards; walked briskly around and around his room, pacing faster as his pulse rate increased and his limbs warmed, before finally returning to bed. He slid beneath cold covers and fell asleep before the dream had a chance to return.

###

Yawning, stretching, he told the computer to stop waking him up. He was awake, albeit not voluntarily. He felt exhausted. And on top of that weight, he had a bad feeling, a sick feeling, and an unhealthy taste in his mouth.

He glanced round the room, and his eyes caught a half-empty cup of cold coffee on the bedside table. He groaned, softly; memories of an unpleasant dream swelled in his mind. No details, however, which he felt somewhat happy about. He didn't want to know what had driven him back to that old habit.

He could bet it was something to do with Chakotay, though. The way he'd woken up with that name bitter at the back of his mouth had been pretty telling. Yeah, that probably said something about the temper of these forgotten pictures.

Christ. They'd been together just over four weeks now, no wonder it was inspiring nightmares. Four weeks of hell, made worse by this totally desolate realm of space they were travelling through. Fuck, and made much worse by the way Tom still hadn't slept with anyone since he'd heard the news.

The damned Harry and Chak thing had invaded every moment. He couldn't even get a blowjob without imagining one of them going down on the other, which didn't leave much room for the pleasure side of things. He was losing his reputation as a flyboy -- and while that was mostly a good thing, this particular male ego didn't take kindly to being crushed so abruptly. Especially by his best friend and worst enemy in bed together and haunting his dreams.

Good thing Megan was resilient, because as soon as those two broke up he was going to apologise for the prolonged celibacy in a few hours of sordid manipulation. He shifted against the mattress, uncomfortably aware that his body remained effectively asleep, even throughout his best attempt at potent visualisation.

Hmm. Maybe he was ill. Experimentally, he tried a quick fantasy of breaking his XO's nose against his knuckles, and felt a thrill tighten his skin. Oh, that's fucking sick. But hey, at least he knew he'd still be capable of enjoying the finer moments in the Delta quadrant.

With that more optimistic thought in mind he washed and dressed, then hurried to the bridge and endured a shift where every glance at Ops increased his feeling of unease.

At one point, the sensation of Chakotay's gaze burning the back of his head drove him to spin round and fix the First Officer with a vicious stare. Not very subtle, then. Chakotay hadn't responded, because he'd actually been evaluating the food stores in Cargo Bay Two.

As it was, Paris simply turned back round to face the view screen, and, give or take a stare from Tuvok, everyone ignored the incident.

It was pretty bad, though, to imagine he felt a gaze that malicious when the eyes behind it hadn't even been in the room since the beginning of his shift.

As they were released he caught sight of Harry heading quickly towards the turbolift, and decided to take his time. He really, really didn't want to get stuck with those two in an enclosed space, and once the shift was over, he just knew they wouldn't be able to stay apart for long.

It was sickening, unnatural. He prowled around, trying to avoid people, unwilling to slink back to his room like he was the one in the wrong, wondering if he had the credits to treat himself to something bootlegged.

Eventually he found himself in the mess, sitting alone until B'Elanna spotted him and made her way over.

"Hey, how are you? Not seen you around in a while. How come we haven't seen you in Sandrine's lately? She's been asking about you. As much as a holograph can, I think she misses you. Why don't you come down anymore?"

Because that's where Harry takes Chakotay so they can flirt in public and absorb all the gossip while creating more. And he didn't really want to be a part of that, strangely enough.

"Oh, I'm just a bit tired at the moment."

She looked at him sceptically, then frowned. "Have you seen the doctor about a cure for insomnia?"

Shit, another one that knew him too well. And he knew who to blame for that, too. Before the commander came along, stole his best friend and filled his life with distraction, he'd never had trouble with being transparent. The man was turning him into fucking cellophane.

"I sleep -- just not very deeply."

"And bad dreams?"

"No."

She eyed him again, but let the subject lie. "Well, are you tired now?"

He shook his head, wary.

"In that case, why don't you come out this evening?"

"No."

She tilted his head up with firm fingers, forcing him to meet her eye. "They won't be there. I don't know what this grudge is that you've got just now -- I mean, I thought you and Chakotay got over that antagonism thing long ago -- but whatever's up these days, today it doesn't matter. They aren't coming to Sandrine's. And you are. Okay?"

No, they didn't fight officially any more. Officially, they might even like each other. Hah. Yeah, likely.

Reluctantly, he nodded his head. No choice, really. And hey, it might be good to get out for a while. As long as they weren't there, he might even enjoy himself.

End 1/3

But, although not present in physical form, the ghosts lurking in other people's smiles were quite enough to haunt him. They weren't, as Tom had feared, the newest gossip anymore. There were other rumours. And under those other rumours' shadows, Harry and Chakotay slipped away from the spotlight. They were no longer a surprise. People thought they were just another fact of life.

Tom couldn't believe it. People honestly saw them as a normal couple, accepting them and giving them room as if they had a right to their privacy. It disturbed him far more than the fling with fame. As old news, people would actually be surprised when they broke up.

But they had to break up, and soon. Otherwise he would never see his friend again -- Harry would fade away, into a two dimensional figure under the commander's control. Tom gritted his teeth, fuming at the stupidity of the people around him. They were blind, as blind as Harry, all missing that unmistakable gloat in the commander's eyes as he led his... boyfriend back to his room.

It made him shudder. Even after time -- especially after time -- the thought that it could all be the natural path of events tasted sour in his mind.

He took another long drink, barely tasting, and then flinched when a hand touched his shoulder. Harry. With the commander chewing on his collar, no doubt. Fuck, he did not need this right now.

He turned round, and saw the smiling face of a petite, pretty woman, who looked rather taken back at the force of accusation in his face. He focused sharply; Ensign Lyton. Anna. Cute, from Engineering.

"Uh, sorry. Wrong person," she apologised weakly, blushing, before turning and melting away from Tom's stony gaze.

He sighed internally, aware he'd just turned down an offer -- another offer -- without even saying a word. Moodily inspecting the dregs of his glass, he tried to visualise following her, approaching her, apologising briefly, starting up a conversation, flattering her, luring her, then going back to her room. Predictably, his thought broke off.

He didn't have the energy or inclination for fantasies, not at the moment, because his mind was too fickle. Those two had squirmed their way inside him, and infected his imagination. At the smallest loss of concentration he found the figures merging, melding, becoming at once more familiar and estranged. It made him feel like retching -- or something, anything, to drown out that mental aftertaste.

He felt a wave of anger rush through him, and calmly waited it out: controlled expression, grip tense around the innocent glass.

Once he could move again, he pushed the end of his drink away and stood up, feeling muscles protest at the sudden change. Blood flushed back into his knuckles. He felt B'Elanna's curious gaze and ignored it, making his determined way out of the bar.

Good, enough with the socialising. He'd been and done his duty, and now he needed an early night… Although, he discovered, it wasn't as early as he'd assumed. He really had spent hours suffering there, it wasn't just the deluded combination of boredom and fury.

He lay down on the couch, trying to relax, to slip into, at best, a peaceful escape, or at least a doze that would eventually blend into exhausted sleep. Sadly, his pulse was to fast for even that. It drummed against his ears and fingertips, hot and heavy, intruding on every delicate fragment of his precious drowsiness and driving sleep away.

He cursed, shaking his head, and the movement produced a swift jolt of pain at the nape of his neck. Perversely relishing the distraction, he shook his head again. The dart of weight pounded up through the top of his spine, this time stronger, seeping up behind his eyes. Freezing, he listened to the outraged thud of his blood in his ears, until the thrill of pain gradually faded away.

One of many nasty, persistent side-affects of Harry's situation. Another, probably, was the inability to sit down in comfort. Although he wasn't the one with that problem.

He chuckled slightly; oh no, not in his lifetime. No, he just got the stress-related damage. He stretched, tendons cracking. Fuck, he was a mess. Tense all hours of the day, tense even at the conn, and his circulation seemed to be flagging, making him feel cold and unstable.

He padded across the room and replicated some concentrated Antranine, swallowing the tablet with a shot of water, then waited for the slow burn in his stomach. Not a perfect cure, but powerful enough to blast those images out of his mind. He'd used it before, back when pacing was a nightly exercise. It took the edge off his reason, sure, made him a little more agitated, but always did the job when he needed to leave something behind. And tonight, that was worth it.

Abruptly, he had to move. He glared at his bed as he passed, striding from room to room, as gradually the heat rose inside him, spreading through his system in a comforting, peppery wave.

Welcome, yes, but it had sliced clean through any glaze of drowsiness, leaving him relentlessly energetic. Perhaps a bad idea after all.

He felt tendrils of his better mood begin to wilt, felt his jaw begin to cramp again. Fuck but this was bad -- infuriating, that he was so exhausted and couldn't do a thing about it because he was powerless to stop Chakotay molesting his Harry right under his nose.

He laughed out loud, cruelly amused by the way his mind kept returning to the subject, even when he was far from it-- yet he could never get far from it, because it lurked stolid and constant in the back of his mind.

His quarters were too small.

He strode quickly to the door, sliding out again and beginning the pace along the corridors. He was walking to get tired, he told himself, yet wasn't completely surprised when he found Harry's door in front of his hand.

He keyed in the code, passed inside, into the silent darkness that told only of absence. Not bothering to pause, he rounded and emerged again, relief warring with a sickening tone of anticlimax in his throat.

###

"Tom?"

Okay, fine, so Harry was there, now, just as he came out, though actually he'd only been inside for a few seconds. Gotta love that universal irony.

"Yeah?" Damn, hadn't meant to sound so cold. But then he didn't want to sound eager, either. And over-compensation was better than being vulnerable.

"Uh, what do you want?"

Tom checked behind the other man, and felt slightly uneasy when the commander's bulk didn't ruin the view. If he wasn't around yet, he'd turn up pretty soon. Tom didn't feel particularly inclined to be civil just now.

"Nothing."

He made to push past the younger man and leave, but a fast hand caught his wrist, holding it still. Tom's head whipped round, outrage building as he glared first at his hand and then at his friend. Ex-friend. Whatever.

"Oh come on, Tom, I just saw you walk into my quarters and leave again two seconds later. Just on your route? Strange that you come round when I'm not in, but I -- haven't actually seen you in weeks." His voice started out impatient, ran through sarcasm, and faded out on regret. What a volatile young man.

"Whatever." Tom held himself in check, feeling the low antranine burn melt into a different type of heat, the type of slow-burning fury that emerged whenever Chakotay's name was mentioned. Of course, it hadn't been, but it was obvious; he was the cause, he was why Harry hadn't seen him, not since their unsuitable fucking affair began.

"Oh, Tom," Harry -- well, not whined, but close. A touch of exasperation, his name emphasised in distress.

Tom irritably shook his wrist free, and once again made to push past. He had to get away. Harry was fresh from Chakotay, he knew that, and Tom didn't want to look at him.

"Hey." Angry, pulling his eyes back to Harry's with an almost audible snap, eyes that flashed black and furious.

Well, Tom could do furious too. He ignored the thrill, of a response from the stoic man's lover if not the man himself, and glared back. "What."

"Will you just get over whatever it is that's tormenting you, and be my friend. Or give me a decent reason why not. Just don't keep messing me around like this--"

"Me mess you around?!"

Harry flinched at the hiss, but stood his ground. "Yeah. What's with avoiding me close on six weeks, no explanation -- what have I done?"

Bent over and grabbed your ankles, Tom spat, but kept the words internal. Luckily, because they were suddenly the focus of a pair of feminine eyes: intrigued eyes, at seeing the two friends glaring at each other, and at seeing the two friends together at all what with the rumours of estrangement flying about the ship. Her gaze roved over them, idly appraising, then scattered away at the force of a combined dark glare.

"Look, can we take this inside?" Tom asked, as he watched yet another clean blowjob walk quickly away, because he'd just scared her off.

Harry's eyes widened briefly as Tom nodded his head towards Harry's door. "No -- not there."

"Why?"

"Uh, Chak-- the commander's sleeping in there."

Tom shut his mouth with a quiet snap. Oh. A vagrant strand of humour writhed through his mind, at the averted possibility of himself and the sleepy first officer having a sparring match in the darkness of Harry's room.

Still, at least they hadn't been in there together. The thought of catching the commander and his cabin boy in their particular nasty act made his teeth itch. He gritted them.

"Where, then?"

"Uh… well, we could go to yours, or his."

Tom kept his face impassive. Go to the commander's room. Really. Take his best -- ex -- friend, into his enemy's -- Harry's lover's -- quarters, to have an argument. The irony of the situation hit him, and he unfroze enough to twist a sardonic smile.

"Sure. His. Why not."

Harry blinked at the harsh tone -- what, wasn't he used to it yet? -- then just turned and stalked off down the corridor.

Tom followed leisurely, making no attempt to catch up. He didn't really want to fight, he thought vaguely' he wanted to convince. To talk. To win Harry back, away from him, back so they could be friends again.

A small voice suggested he could share, and Tom laughed it down. Heartily. Him to be Harry's friend, while the commander was taking him. No. Just, no. The two were mutually exclusive. Either-or. One and not the other.

He increased his stride a little until he was just a few steps behind Harry, then let his pace match that of the man in front. His thoughts drifted. He felt strangely neutral, the absurdity of the situation vying with an anger that glowed low and thick inside.

That Harry should know the code to the first officer's quarters, Tom felt, was just yet another thing wrong with the Delta quadrant. What a great place to be.

He wondered if Harry could forget the code with some distraction. He felt a wry smile try to creep onto his lips: the perfect time for some sort of alien intervention, and the skies were clear. Space was just space was just space. Unless, his mind toyed facetiously, this was some sort of invasion, and gradually all the main personnel were getting taken over, manipulated into unlikely feelings and unpleasant acts.

It was dark in the commander's quarters. Too cold. There again, darling Chakotay hadn't planned on sleeping here tonight, had he? And when he did want to use his room, surely Harry could be used briefly as a bed warmer, before tiring the old man out enough to fall asleep.

"Computer, lights," Tom said automatically, and the room stayed dark.

"Computer, lights," Harry repeated, and the room brightened. Harry flashed an apologetic glance, which dissolved into frustration as Tom steadily refrained from reply. Yes, so Harry had authority in an apartment that was numb to his commands. Fine. Whatever. "Tom…" Just a whisper, agonised and pleading. "This man is my friend…"

Oh, Harry Kim, that's stooping low even for you. Quote old nostalgia and forgive and forget? Fall into each other's arms in brotherly devotion? Pity life doesn't work like that.

A low fury sparked, that Harry would even try to manipulate him. It was outrageous, insulting-- yet even as he felt his eyes narrow, a ribbon of memory flowed to soften his glare. They had, it chided him, been such good friends.

He looked away, gaze sliding slowly around the room, giving it a scornful once over -- derisive comments on random objects flicked through his mind, before finally he looked Harry up and down as well. Keeping the same contempt in his eyes, he let his gaze rove deliberately over his friend, ice and disdain. "Nice place he's got here."

A part of him flinched -- this was low, he shouldn't treat a loyal friend with that kind of derision, like am inferior, like some fucking lower life-form -- but then, a loyal friend wouldn't have insulted him by slinking smiling into his enemy's arms. So. Fair's fair.

Harry coloured at the words, and the contrite, shocked part of Tom blushed alongside. He swallowed. He hated to feel shame.

"Harry --" he began, and the word stuck in his throat, while the apology itself stayed trapped somewhere in the region of his lungs. No, he couldn't say it.

But evidently his companion was clutching at straws. "Yeah?" Hopeful. Hurt, but more by the weeks of silence than a few caustic comments and a mocking appraisal. "Yeah, Tom?"

Okay. Guilt. And hope. Perhaps, he could find a way to Harry's understanding through a different chink in this proverbial armour--

He sighed quietly, swallowed, and licked his lips. "Har, I…"

Good. Harry jumped right ahead, interrupting him before he had to face forming an apology.

"That's -- I know you're angry even if I don't know why."

"Yeah, well. You -- It's been kindof hard, with you, um…"

"I'm sorry, Tom, for being like that. It was just --"

"-- That you were all caught up in this, uh, fling, and couldn't find the time. Yeah, Harry, I know." He shrugged gently, conscious that he might jeopardise his argument if he just ended up antagonising his friend all the time.

"Yeah." Harry paused, looking at him steadily. Then he said, abruptly, "It's not just a fling, though. This isn't just… trivial."

Tom snorted, thinking that nothing to do with the commander could be called trivial. To his face, anyway.

"Okay Harry, sure, if you like. Not trivial."

"No, really Tom, I feel like this could be more than… well… anything I've felt before. Oh, god, don't look like that," he pleaded, and Tom rectified his expression with a sigh.

"Yeah, whatever."

"Tom! Listen to me. I know I've been --"

"A bad friend," Tom cut in angrily, his patience suddenly snapping as he took in the beloved face of an estranged best friend defending his worst, worst enemy. The beloved face fell, and Harry looked defeated at the floor.

"Yeah." Said quietly, almost a whisper. Resigned.

"And he made you," Tom continued, cold certainty flooding his voice. The words hung in the air, and Harry's head snapped up angrily to meets Tom's gaze.

"It's not Chakotay's fault."

"Because of course," Tom sneered, "before he came along you were always cancelling and messing me about, weren't you? Forgetting to cancel. Yeah, really sounds familiar to me."

"Tom!"

"Sorry, Har, but can't you see what he's doing? He's, he's manipulating you. Tying you down. Using you, because he's scared, because he's worried he's about growing old without anyone to slave over him. He's just trying to get your sympathy. Or something."

"That's not…" He trailed off -- yes, that was doubt, finally.

Tom pressed the advantage. "Harry, think about this. Think about him. It's Chakotay for god's sake, remember? Remember how he treated me? Do you?"

Harry stared at him, eyes crowded, then let out a short, bitter laugh. "Remember. Remember how he treated you. That's what you're thinking about. Tom, aren't you happy for me?"

Tom smirked. "Happy that you're with him? Are you kidding?"

Harry glared at him a moment, and then his face fell. "You don't get this, do you? At all. Tom, while you've been running around, I haven't had one serious relationship since we got out here. Chakotay, look, he's stayed away from me until now, because he thought people would react badly, that I would react badly. But no, even the most unlikely people accepted us -- it's my best friend who's causing all the trouble, pouting at the sidelines."

Tom rolled his eyes. "Harry, you know you're biased. You're all dizzy -- I'm the only one round here who can see clearly."

"You're not against me going for men, are you, Tom?"

Tom blinked at him, taken aback. "No. 'Course not. I'm just 'against' you going for him, that's all. For god's sake, Har. Just because I don't see the attraction myself doesn't mean I'm 'phobic--"

"No?"

"No! But, if you're talking about choice, what made you go for him? What's he got that no other man on this ship can give you?"

Harry took breath to speak, then paused. "No. If I even start to tell you, you'll just get mad. Look, Tom, I think you'd better go. I can't think of anything else to say. We'll talk in the morning?"

Tom almost obeyed, then remembered whose quarters he was being ordered out of. Deliberately, he leaned back against the wall. Harry gave him a prompting look, which he ignored.

"Tom?"

"No, go on, Harry, tell me what's so special about him." He leant back harder, pressing into the wall to sustain the careless nonchalance he needed to tone down the words. A morbid curiosity had, for the moment, overtaken everything else. Well, not quite everything. His fists were clenched. He wished his nails were shorter; they were digging into his palms.

Harry looked at him warily. "No, really. Go. You wouldn't see it."

Tom sighed expansively. "You see, Harry, how am I supposed to adjust to my best friend's relationship with my" enemy "first officer, when he refuses to talk about it," he chastised, as if talking to a child. Almost cheerfully.

The confusion in the dark gaze increased, and Harry frowned. "Tom, you're --"

"You are stalling," Tom insisted, hoping that the way he was gritting his teeth wasn't obvious to his companion. "C'mon, Har, I want to know. Aren't you happy I'm interested?"

Harry appeared shocked. Yeah, feasible, Tom decided, since he'd been blowing hot and cold this entire conversation. For a moment Harry seemed to be about to relax, then he frowned quickly. "No, Tom, really. I don't want to talk about it."

Tom looked at him coldly, almost threatening. "You know, Harry, I really don't understand you. One minute you want me to be interested, the next you want me out the door."

He started forwards, keeping his eyes fixed on Harry's face, keeping his expression impassive and his muscles taut. "I think you're being a little mean to me," he drawled softly, noticing with detached amusement that the other man had started backing away, face alight with uncertainty.

"In fact," he continued, letting his voice drop into a more dangerous range, "I'm beginning to question all sorts of things about you. Harry. Don't you have anything to say?" he challenged, measuring his steps to match the other's slow retreat, watching impassively as Harry's heel crushed against the wall.

He stopped, too close, intimidating. Harry shifted uneasily, pressing backwards into the uncompromising surface.

"Tom --"

Ohh, the poor little boy. Harry sounded frightened. How amusing, that here he was, pinning the commander's boyfriend against the commander's wall, while the man himself slept peacefully a few minutes away.

"That's no answer," Tom breathed, crowding him, looking down into black eyes wide with fear and-- oh, really? How interesting. So, something about this situation was bringing off a kink, huh? Apparently the commander liked his toys to get hot in sick situations. Like anything they'd do could be regarded as 'healthy'.

In fact, now he thought about it, there was no reason for Harry's breath to come so shallow, it wasn't like there was a lack of oxygen or something.

"Please, Tom --"

"Please what?"

He almost laughed. There were two very different ways Harry could answer that question.

"Please-- go." Oh, good choice, Ensign. Happy to hear you chose morals over desire. Happy you chose him over me.

"That's not what you want." And now, Tom was beginning to wish the owner of these quarters could be here to see this.

"What?"

"Harry." Purred, persuasively, with a slight edge of warning. He watched dark lashes dip briefly, as Harry's gaze darted to his mouth and back again.

"Yeah?" Oh. So, turning up the flirt, now, is he? His stomach cramped. Fuck, that's, well, that's pretty effective.

Tom felt suddenly aware of the other man's body, which had relaxed visibly into the wall, head slightly tilted and lips parted. Strands of hair falling over wide, deep eyes. Abruptly tempting. Available.

He flicked his suddenly dry lips with his tongue, noticing that the movement once again drew Harry's eyes.

"You," he briefly lost the end of his sentence, but then continued with quiet, malicious confidence, "were just telling me to go, Harry. And I said you didn't want that. And I'm right, aren't I. So, what do you want?"

"Oh, god," Harry whispered, resting his head back against the wall, baring his throat and teeth, breath coming shallow through clenched jaw.

"Who?"

"You."

Tom realised absently, with a slight smirk, that while he'd been asking who Harry wanted, it was possible the other man had just awarded him deity status with that barely-there whisper of a word.

"Oh, really," he breathed, dropping his gaze to focus on that surprisingly appealing mouth, with its shadow of teeth locked behind parted lips, then looked back up at Harry's eyes. They were closed, and a frown creased the skin between them, as if Harry was actually in pain.

Oh, yes. Anticipation hurts, sometimes, doesn't it, Harry. Longing for a kiss you know it's wrong to pursue.

He waited, watching as lips and eyelids twitched uncertainly, waiting for Harry to ask.

"T--"

Enough. He crushed his mouth down on the whispered invitation, prying open suddenly pliant teeth and tasting the soft heat that lay behind. His left hand reached between them, fingers closing confidently around Harry's erection, wrenching a gasp from the mouth he was exploring.

Fuck, he'd never expected… fuck. Chakotay was on to a good thing here, he thought viciously, or else he'd been training Harry well. This was, well, hot. Rich. Deep, and overwhelming; even though he was doing the invading, Harry's response was somehow intoxicating. These shivers weren't just from the fact he had someone helpless and wanton pressing into him; Harry was good at this.

He broke off sharply, opening his eyes to lean in and whisper to the golden curl of ear, "Who did you say, again?"

He couldn't help it, it was a rush, hearing his name on the lips of Chakotay's boyfriend. Heady and intoxicating, Harry's voice gave him what he needed, "You." A single word, breathed into his neck, a gorgeous thing.

"Just me?" Oh, but this could be sweet. If Harry -- but, no, there was hesitation, the other man was thinking, that was risky. Possibly regretting?

Tom's right hand moved to cup Harry's other ear, fingers carding through cold, silken hair to the heat beneath. He tilted the head smoothly towards him and pressed another bruising kiss into Harry's mouth.

He felt the flesh in his left hand grow, and noticed absently that it didn't really bother him. He squeezed again, harder, eating the moan with sudden delight. A picture occurred to him, firing his imagination. Harry, on his knees; Tom's fingers in his hair. He felt his cock react, the jolt of lust pressing him closer into the other man, and he heard a groan slip from his mouth into the tireless heat.

He drew back, sliding both hands to the buttons on Harry's shirt, pushing him back into the wall as he found his way to the skin beneath. He touched strong, smooth shoulders, muscles flexing silkily under his palms, nipples firming from the lightest of teases. His hands moved round behind, tugging the shirt from the waistband and running his fingers up Harry's spine.

The man was beautifully responsive. With his head rolled back and eyes closed, his face betrayed all sorts of emotions. Tom almost smiled -- he felt a wicked urge to try and coax love into that expression of glazed desire.

He smoothed his hands up Harry's back, one palm coming to rest cupping his head, bringing him into another kiss, to employ that beautiful mouth for better things than gasping for air.

His previous question lit in his mind, and he drew back again, sliding the shirt away as he did so. Small nips of teeth brought him back to Harry's ear, amidst an encouraging hiss of low-voiced approval.

"Harry," he murmured, flicking his tongue around the tender details of skin and neck. He grinned into the warmth as Harry's hands came up to hold him in place, shaky but determined.

"Y-- yeah?" But even overwhelmed, Harry's fingers could still do some pretty impressive things, Tom discovered. Shivers began to thread down his spine, while others played along his neck to tangle in his hair.

He'd been saying something. And then he was being distracted.

"Tell me," he searched his memory for the end of the phrase, then found it with full force, "tell me, what has your boyfriend has got that I haven't? I'm eager to know."

###

Harry stiffened, and his breathing paused. Tom, having vaguely anticipated some sort of protest, smoothed one hand down again to reach accurately for the other man's cock. He squeezed hard through Harry's pants, perversely delighted by the sharp, hitched gasp as response.

"C'mon, Harry, tell me. I'm interested and I want to know."

Tom started to back off, uncurling his fingers by merciless degrees and stepping backwards through the weak boundary of trembling hands.

"No, Tom…"

Harry looked delicious, Tom had to admit, with bare chest and that pleading, agonised expression. Lips slightly parted, slightly swollen. Maybe this was what the commander saw.

Tom stroked his thumb slowly across Harry's bottom lip, allowing himself a grin as dark eyes fell closed again and the tip of a pink tongue swept after his fingertip. He gently pushed the other man back into the wall, left hand grabbing Harry's wrist and pinning it above his head, while the fingers of the right settled gently against Harry's throat.

Not a threat, but not exactly a promise either. He leaned in until their mouths were almost touching, until his shirt brushed Harry's skin as their shallow breathing collided, then let his tongue flick out to moisten Harry's lips.

"Tell me," he purred breathlessly, whispering the words almost into the other's mouth, "what does he do to you?"

He felt Harry's throat move in a nervous, confused swallow beneath his palm, and bit the inside of his cheek, fighting against sudden laughter.

Then he leant inwards, pressing their hips together and feeling the tight fabric heat singe against his cock. His fingers tensed, reinforcing the obscure threat, before stroking around to bring Harry's head into another searing kiss.

Harry's free hand slid around to his waist, keeping them together, as the younger man started swaying slightly into the friction.

Tom drew back briefly, tilting his head in the other direction to whisper, "Tell me," before driving in again to feel that mouth melting into his touch. He stroked both hands down Harry's back, finding his ass and pulling them harder together, almost gasping into the kiss.

He pulled back and sucked Harry's bottom lip into his mouth, holding it with his teeth and biting down lightly. Nose to nose, he murmured through the prize between his teeth, "Talk to me."

Then he took a last quick kiss and started making his way down Harry's neck in short, wet bites, ticking off the red petals in his mind as they rose to mark his trail. Harry moaned, panting as Tom edged lower, as he drifted down to taste a musky salt that had risen to taint the smooth, clean chest. His hands explored firmly, feeling the muscles of ass and back and thighs tense beneath warm material, and Tom grinned into the hot skin, relishing the moans that greeted every move. The boy was addictive.

He tried to dip lower but his legs began to ache from supporting him. Bed, then. He stood straight again, took Harry's hand firmly and strode into the bedroom.

The commander's bedroom. He pulled hard on Harry's hand, turning to catch the stumble in his arms, kissing him. "Lights," he prompted eventually, "half."

"Lights fi-- fifty percent," Harry gasped, as Tom turned them until Harry's back was to the bed, then pushed him down and slunk on top.

"Less."

"L-- thirty," he pleaded, and Tom sat back, satisfied with the dishevelled, willing man laid out beneath him. Harry looked so good in this dark golden light: hair tousled, silky black strands clinging to his forehead; lips almost bruised, parted; breathing rough and fast. Eyes closed, head back in unconscious submission. His neck, with its fresh, rosebud stains of blood outraged below flushed skin, tempted Tom's mouth. His teeth itched to bring yet more tiny dark flowers to the surface.

Instead, he held himself in check, admiring the definition of broad shoulders and the small dark points of nipples firmed without attention, then trailed his gaze lower, where his mouth had not yet explored.

Harry watched him, dark and breathless and silent. Carefully, Tom rose onto his hands and knees, either side of Harry's hips, and began to edge down the bed. As his fingers found the fastenings of black pants, first smoothing firmly over the warm, straining fabric, he felt a sudden rush of possessive lust; here he was, then, with the commander's lover hard in his hand. Moaning his name. While Chakotay slept in an ensign's bed. Fuck, that's potent.

He slid the pants and boxers down quickly, regarding the erection before his eyes with frank admiration. Like his own, a little smaller perhaps, skin tight and smooth. It was the same dark golden sheen as the rest of this smooth body, gorgeous and waiting in the half-light. He pattered his fingers carelessly up the shaft, baring his teeth in an absent grin at Harry's gasp, and watched as it swelled further beneath his teasing.

No, he must be fully hard now. Or not.

Impulsively, he leant forwards and ran his tongue lightly along a heavy vein. The hot skin tightened and jumped, and Harry moaned. Then he retreated and blew, directing the air along the glistening path his tongue had just explored.

"Tom--"

He looked up and grinned, abandoning the cock for a moment to feast his eyes on the copper-toned body that was… begging him. To suck him.

He leant forwards again and took the head between his lips -- firm mouthful of slick flesh, pervading strong taste, expletive from Harry -- and a picture flashed into his head. Pretty boy submissive on his hands and knees, to suck on the commander's boyfriend's cock.

He backed away and wiped his mouth, realising suddenly that these walls had seen Harry on his knees, with the first officer's hands on either side of his head. Fuck. No. This wasn't his place, never would be.

A query flickered into his mind and dissolved again, and the answer followed suit: Four weeks ago. When Harry had changed sides.

On the other hand, seeking pleasure was still a high priority. And this man definitely gave him pleasure; his body was a testimony to that.

He moved back up to sit astride Harry's thighs, regarding the man's mouth. His lips were parted in a half-formed moan of protest; it looked like a deliberate invitation.

However, he couldn't enjoy this until a certain area of inequality had been rectified. He slid off the bed, quickly skinning his clothes and leaving them carelessly on the floor. No doubt this room didn't see much disorder, but Tom was damned if he was following this host's rules right now. It wasn't like the commander was there to scold him for cluttering his quarters.

Naked, he moved back to the bed and stood, looking at the splayed man in front of him. The figure was wanton, alluring -- then Harry opened his eyes, and the gleaming black gaze fixed his muscles in place. Fuck, so intense.

Harry stretched, luxuriously, then reached up to coax him down. Oh, so successfully. Tom felt part of himself melt while another area solidified further, as Harry writhed beneath him, hot and welcoming. Then he was rolled over, and kisses trailed in slow, languorous patterns down his face and neck.

Fire started sparking under his skin, thin paths of liquid heat burning where Harry's lips trailed. He struggled back, propping himself up against the pillows to watch the restless torture, glazing, but taking reassurance from his evident control.

And then as Harry began teasing, toying around his nipples, Tom's hands flew to capture the sliding mouth. His fingers clamped down, pulling the silky head against his chest.

Oh, fuck. Hot, wicked tongue sliding over and over, one moment pointed and darting, the next a soft, mobile heat. Shivers began coursing down his back, flowing into his cock and lodging there, as he watched the dark head rock gently between his hands.

Fucking hell. That's one way a man could get out of an interrogation.

As his erection started demanding attention again, he gave Harry's head a vague pressure in that direction. It wasn't the subtlest of hints. But Harry just looked up and grinned, brief and blinding, then started a new journey down his torso. A trail of smarting skin rose to follow that mouth, protesting the cold.

Tom shifted his legs, hands resting loosely on Harry's head, as the other man began drawing on his stomach and hips with a sharp flame; darting streaks and shivers radiating out from a white-burning centre.

Teeth clenched, he bore it for a few moments, then increased the hint as Harry's cheek brushed like velvet against his cock. Another lightning smile, then finally that wet heat was put to real advantage. Harry's weight came down on his hips, stopping him from bucking up, and Tom writhed against the control.

Fuck, why couldn't women get that kind of hunger? His thoughts tumbled, panicked, through a thickening haze of pleasure. Harry's head moved in his stunned grip, hair tangling in forgotten fingers. He decided wryly that greed was the best of those mythical seven sins.

He had a question, he was sure, something -- yes, what did the command -- no, he couldn't remember. But the undercurrent lingered and caught him and twisted, pushing him higher; he was ascending on some hot wave of possession and spite.

Harry drew back, glanced up and smouldered, exhaled slowly, then bore down on him hard.

"Fuck--!" Tom gasped, but didn't hear himself, as the world was now made up of suction and wet lightning flickering through his veins.

He felt himself ascend, relentless heat sliding through him like a knife, and nearly screamed when Harry broke his trembling hold and slid back up his chest.

"No, p-- fuck, no, pl--" He caught himself, just.

For a few seconds, Tom could only feel a warm hiss of air against his ear, offset by the weight of Harry's body sliding against his cock. Then his mind kicked into gear and he heard the phrase clearly.

"I'm sorry, but I want you inside me, please, Tom, please, now…"

The words curled through his head, dangerous and exciting. Visions swept through him, of Harry whispering those same words perhaps a night before, maybe just a few hours ago, sighing them, begging someone else. But now Harry needed him.

"Sure," he breathed, lost in a dark, satisfied vindictiveness. Harry rolled off him onto the bed, face down, arms stretched up in mute surrender. "In the drawer."

Tom didn't respond to the muffled words. Instead, he let his eyes roam over the body beside him. Beneath him. Offering himself, yes, betraying his lover and offering himself like a slut, giving himself up for possession. A moment passed, then Harry turned his head, peeping out from below his arm. "Tom?"

Tom blinked, finding his hand lightly fingering himself, eyes still riveted to the other's body. Harry's gaze flicked to Tom's groin and back, returning to convey a glittering desire he could almost taste.

"The stuff's in the drawer," he repeated hoarsely, nodding his head over to the small bedside table. Yeah, of course. On close hand, for whenever occasion arose. As it were.

He reached over, finding the half empty tube and passing it over. Images swept over him. No. He wanted to go there, but better to have someone else pave the way-- although, of course, someone else already had. Probably just a couple of hours away. The thought drew a smile onto his lips as he spoke: "Prepare yourself."

Harry's eyes widened, then relaxed back into a sensuous smile of enjoyment. "Sure," he purred, pulling into a sitting position and squeezing some of the clear gel into his fingers. Tom watched, breathing hard, appreciating the play of muscles under dark golden skin, and relished the situation. Chakotay's boyfriend was testifying that he needed him, so bad, so much that he'd willingly submit to this level of humiliation.

Although, for Harry, it didn't look like humiliation. He squirmed deeper on his fingers, arching his back, while his cock stayed hard. Tom realised abruptly that the commander must force this kind of thing onto Harry daily, so that now he was turned on by the shame. Harry really shouldn't be with that man; it was bad for his health. Then again, he thought, hot delight rushing through him, today, Harry wasn't.

"Do you do this for him?" he drawled softly, watching as the words sank in and Harry paused, "You look practised. Do you loosen yourself so he can fuck you?"

Harry's eyes widened and he faltered, but Tom pulled him confidently into a deep, hard kiss. He didn't need an answer. He already knew the truth.

The other man struggled momentarily, then relaxed, melting into him. His tongue was sucked into a desperate, hungry place, quick submission, and Tom grinned, open-mouthed.

His hands moved down to probe between Harry's legs, and Tom laughed softly as Harry cursed. His finger slid in easily, and he wondered if Harry really had been taken already that night. After all, why else would the ensign's bed be occupied by such a heavily sleeping man?

The thrill almost scalded him, as he imagined the commander's bulk driving into the body now open to him. Chakotay, sleeping sound -- does he dream of this? Does his subconscious know that everything he does Tom can do better?

That Tom can take anything from him, if he wants.

He broke the kiss and withdrew, pulling Harry up onto his hands and knees. Harry's head fell forwards and his body heaved with the effort of breathing. His skin glistened with sweat, dull shine in the dank light.

Tom ran a proprietary hand down his back, enjoying the way Harry arched under his touch. He stroked himself a couple of times, staring at the dark crinkle drawing his full attention. He stroked it, a fingertip trailing briefly over the small hole, and Harry hissed. His ass flexed, inviting him. Their breath rasped in tandem, loud in the quiet room, and Tom found himself swallowing.

He knelt forwards carefully and put the head of his cock in place, both hands on Harry's back to steady himself. Cautiously, he started to push forwards, rocking against the small hole, and the stern resistance melted into a slow, hot welcome. Oh, fuck--

He let out a low moan as Harry pushed back, as the head of his cock slipped past the ring of muscle and he started pushing deeper. Christ, so tight. More than a woman, much more.

"Tom-- please," Harry gasped, rocking back on him, and Tom slid his hands down to Harry's hips, pressing himself in further, hoping desperately that Harry could take him all the way down.

The blowjob he'd forfeited for this experience paled in comparison until it was just another brief moment of foreplay. Nothing could measure up to this, this hot, squeezing grip of one body by another. His, gripped by Harry's.

"You won't hurt me, Tom, please, just do it."

Tom looked down, saw himself disappearing into the sweet, accommodating body, and groaned. He was the player, not the played. Christ. Almost involuntarily, he pushed forwards hard, and swore under his breath as his hips came up against Harry's ass.

Fucking heat, so very fucking good.

He started to pull out, couldn't bear it, and contented himself to short, hard jerks deep inside. Harry's head fell back and he started moaning; low, breathy sounds, eventually forming words. "Please, more, harder--"

Tom took a short breath and withdrew almost completely, then drove back. Harry voiced his approval, and Tom didn't hear, because he was caught up in a web of lightning. It seared inexorably inwards towards his cock, fusing every available nerve in its path.

Harry's body blurred and swayed beneath him. It was just streaks of flesh packaging a hot fist that imprisoned him. Pretty, yeah, very fucking attractive.

And he wasn't the only one to know this view.

His mind split, one side gorgeous, pounding sensation, the other fast, angry words. "Is this what… he does," he ground out, under his breath, through the smoke of this fire that was smarting in his eyes. "Is this, this how he fucks you?"

Harry didn't answer, didn't even respond through his own chanting moans. Tom glared down, as the back rocking in front of him twisted from view, replaced by the commander's absurdly placid expression.

"I'm screwing your lover," Tom whispered viciously, slamming forwards and knocking Harry from his arms to his elbows, tightening his fingers on his hips. "Taking him. You can't keep… anything from me." The words were fierce, molten diamonds, sizzling through his mind. "You're too old, too weak. He wants, wants, me. He's begging me, while you -- fucking hell, christ -- while you sleep. Oh, christ--"

He felt a climax ripping through him, malicious and so hot, and he reached over, fingers closing around glistening flesh, and jerked Harry off. "Your boyfriend's coming in my hand."

Harry screamed, bucking beneath him; screamed Tom's name. You beautiful fucking boy, that's right, yeah, that's it. You know who's best.

Then he softened, his whole body relaxing into the bed. As he eased himself out Harry hissed, then wriggled blindly to wrap around him.

"God, Tom, that's so--"

Tom smothered his mouth with a kiss, long and deep if dutiful, until Harry shifted in his arms.

"Better shower," he prompted, and Harry looked at him suggestively. Tom chuckled. "Uh-uh, I'm exhausted," he lied easily, kissing the soft mouth again in the pause. Harry returned the touch, then slid off the bed. Tom noticed the wince with satisfaction.

Harry turned around and pouted. "You sure you don't want to... help?" he purred, blinking luxuriously and stretching.

Tom grinned, but shook his head. Lazily, he watched Harry slink off into the bathroom, then heard the noise of a shower. He briefly contemplated following him, surprising him, exploring further while he had the chance, but realised he couldn't be bothered.

He was actually tired. Weird -- he wasn't usually tired after sex. There again, it had been the first he'd attained in weeks, a circumstance he already couldn't comprehend. How'd he managed?

He laughed. Shallow, yes, but it was definitely satisfying, this life he led.

But now, well, he'd just fucked someone and lasted pretty well, considering, so it was understandable to feel worn out.

And, after all, it was late. And while Harry was fit, he wasn't that gorgeous. Maybe in the heat of the moment, but he wasn't day-to-day, head-turning, glaze-over-at-a-pout type gorgeous.

Any desire he had for him was burnt out. More important, however, was the humour. That would last. The irony. He'd fucked Chakotay's lover in Chakotay's bed. How amusing, that Harry'd turned out to be such a slut -- or that Harry had always wanted him and had been forced to settle for Chakotay. Second best, Commander, and due to stay there.

He grinned and stretched, feeling warm and comfortable. Sliding off the bed, avoiding the heavy wet patch, he sorted his clothes from the tangled pile.

Checking his reflection for marks, his mind brought up the picture of Harry as he turned to offer himself in the shower: patently fucked.

Tom grinned. He saw the trail of unmistakable bites down the golden throat and chest, the scratches he hadn't noticed scoring on his back, the pale bruises on his hips, where Tom's fingers had gripped so hard. Your boyfriend's been marked up by a traitor, Chakotay.

Was always that tight? Or even, impossibly, tighter? For a second, he imagined what Harry would have felt like the first time -- and realised it was probably what he'd feel like now. Virgin strength. He felt his muscles tense automatically. No way was any man getting there, not while he was in control. He wasn't anyone's toy.

He fastened his pants, took a last glance around, and walked through to the main room. There, against the wall. He picked up the shirt and shrugged it on, fingers working on the buttons as he moved towards the door.

And tomorrow was going to be interesting, with the commander still imagining he was in a devoted relationship. Well, Tom didn't care if he saw them together now. He knew he wasn't missing anything.

Well, okay, he was missing a whole new fantastic genre of sex. But he'd live. And he couldn't imagine that it'd be as good between those two as between him and Harry. Or him and anyone, for that matter. There was a vital element required for good action, and he didn't think Chakotay had it in him.

Moving silently into the corridor and getting his bearings -- yeah, of course, the first officer's room -- he whipped around to see a familiar figure walking down towards him.

Particularly familiar? Oh, yes.

He smiled at the petite, pretty woman he'd frightened previously, in the bar. "Anna… Hi."

She looked momentarily taken aback, then flashed him a sudden, alluring grin. "Where are you going?"

He moved over to her. "Well, I'd been thinking of getting an early night," he drawled, blinking at her with practised dark eyes.

Yes, this was right. Harry may be a fantastic lay, but really, this was sexy. He hoped briefly that she'd consider giving him his denied blowjob, then decided he was actually up for much more. He hadn't had a woman in way too long. Wondering hungrily if she had any accommodating friends -- wondering if he could get a shower first -- he slipped an arm around her waist and they walked down the corridor together. He didn't feel tired any more.

~~~

Harry stared at the well-fucked man in the mirror. God, what a night. Finally with Tom. At last, and the first of many, if the enthusiasm shown was anything to go by. Actually, a well-fucked dripping man. A chill danced over his arm, and he rubbed it absently, looking around for a towel. Um. No, wait, they were heaped by the bed.

The owner of that bed appeared in his mind, and Harry felt abruptly ashamed. He fought deliberately, aware he couldn't concentrate yet, everything was too fresh. He'd just secured himself a lot to think about-- but later.

Almost before he was ready, the figure blended into his new lover, his best friend. A giddiness swelled through him, involuntary but irrepressible. At last, god, and as wonderful as the reality of a long-term fantasy exploring itself.

Chakotay was unbearably special to him, but no-one could successfully compete with Tom. The ease with which he admitted that solidified the claim. Best friend, a synonym for life-partner.

He raised his voice to call through the door. "Tom, could you pass me a towel?"


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