February 2002

The Luck of the Draw

Valentine's Day nonsense.

"The Mess Hall's quiet tonight," Tom remarked as he and Sam Wildman
stepped through the doors into the room. All the tables were empty, except for the one in the centre where three people were sitting together, talking. "Planning a mutiny or something?" Tom joked, smiling at Neelix, who looked up at them as they approached.

"Oh, Tom, Samantha. How nice to see you," Neelix enthused. "But, no, Tom, we're not planning a mutiny, just what form the Valentine's Day celebrations will take this year. Perhaps you two might have some suggestions for us," he said, reaching towards a couple of empty chairs at the table behind him and dragging them over. "Have a seat."

"Thanks," Tom said as he and Sam took the offered chairs, and sat down. "So, what have you got so far?" he asked.

"Well, some of us would like to keep it traditional and organise a Valentine's Ball, but there's been a few arguments against it," Jenny Delaney said, looking pointedly at her sister, Megan, who was sitting in the chair beside her.

"But it's the same every time," Megan protested. "There's always a mad few days beforehand when all the unattached crew members try to secure dates. Some people *always* get upset because they can't get anyone to go with them, or else there's half a dozen women going after the same guy. It invariably ends in tears."

"So?" Jenny shrugged.

"So, it's a shame," Megan replied. "I just think it'd be nice if *everyone* could have a good time, and not just the popular ones. What do *you* think, Tom?"

Tom leaned back in his seat, looking thoughtful. "I think it's a very nice idea," he answered. "But I don't know how you'd accomplish it."

"How about some sort of draw?" Sam suggested. "That would be fair."

Tom frowned. "How do you mean?" he asked.

"Well, we could put each unattached crew member's name into a hat, then draw them out two at a time," Sam explained.

"And, those who get their names drawn together go to the Ball as a couple?" Neelix queried, looking enthralled by the idea.

"Yes," Sam confirmed. "But it would just be for fun. Nothing serious. Not unless the couples decide so themselves. That way, even us married people can join in."

"It sounds like it might be a laugh," Tom remarked, grinning. "And I'm sure most people will think the same. You can definitely count me in."

"Wonderful!" Neelix said, rubbing his hands together. "Now all we need to decide is where to hold the Ball. Or more precisely, which holodeck program to run," he added. "We'd already decided, before you joined us, that the Mess Hall would be too small for whatever we chose to do," he explained to Tom and Sam.

"Yeah," Tom agreed." It probably wouldn't have the right atmosphere either. So, what sort of place were you thinking of?" he asked, realising that as the best programmer present *he* would be expected to come up with something.

"Somewhere romantic," Megan supplied, looking all dreamy-eyed. "One of those old-fashioned places that's filled with chandeliers and marble statues."

Tom looked thoughtful, then shook his head. "That'd take too long to set up," he said, leaning forward and resting his arms on the table as he tried to think of an alternative suggestion.

"No it wouldn't," Sam stated. "The program already exists."

"It does?" Neelix asked, just beating Tom to the same question.

Sam smiled. "Yes. Don't you remember, Tom?" she asked, turning towards the pilot. "You made it for me last year."

"The hotel?" Tom queried.

Sam nodded her confirmation.

"I thought you wanted to keep that as a special place just for you."

"I did at first," Sam affirmed. "And it will always be special, because every time I go there it reminds me of all the wonderful times my husband and I shared in the real place, but I think it would be nice to let other people use it now. And the ballroom is wonderful. Just the sort of place that Megan would love."

"Well, yeah," Tom nodded. "It's a great looking place, and it would certainly fit the bill as far as a Ball is concerned."

"So we'll hold it there then," Sam said decisively.


The night before the planned Ball, Sandrine's was packed. Virtually all the off-duty crew members had turned up to witness the draw, even the ones who already had partners.

"Welcome!" Neelix called brightly from his position at the front of the expectant crowd. "How wonderful to see so many faces." He pointed to a metal container he'd placed on the bar. "All your names have been written down on individual pieces of paper and put in here. In a moment I shall remove two tickets, and the people named on them will accompany each other to tomorrow night's Ball. I'll continue to draw the tickets two at a time until everyone has been paired up. Is that clear?"

"Yeah, Neelix. Perfectly clear," Harry answered from a nearby table where he was sitting with Tom, B'Elanna and Sam.

"Good," Neelix stated after various other people had either voiced or nodded their understanding. "Then we can begin." He picked up the box and gave it a good shake, being careful to keep the lid on firmly until he'd replaced the container on the bar. "Now," he said, opening it up and reaching inside. "Let's see who our first two lucky people are."

The noise level in the bar rose slightly as a few people giggled nervously, anxiously awaiting the names Neelix would read out. With a flourish, the Talaxian removed his hand from the container, and unfolded the piece of paper he held. "Ah," he said, smiling brightly and scanning the room until his gaze landed on a certain person. "You, Mr. Vorik, have the distinction of being the first name drawn. Now let's see who you'll be going to the Ball with." He dipped his hand back into the box, and brought out another piece of paper and read the name on it. "Captain Janeway," he announced cheerfully.

The room quietened for a moment, then muffled sniggers broke out before they were silenced by the Captain. "Thank you, Mr. Neelix. I'm sure Vorik and I will have a very nice time."

"I will search the database for customs relevant to an occasion such as this," the Vulcan stated seriously as he walked forward to stand next to Janeway.

"Thank you, Vorik, but that really isn't necessary. After all, it's not a formal event," Janeway remarked, softening her words with a smile.

Vorik nodded. "As you wish, Captain."

The crowd settled down again as more and more couples were paired up, until there were very few pieces of paper left in the box. Neelix pulled out one of the remaining tickets and announced the name on it. "Mr. Kim," he said, smiling at the Ensign. "Tomorrow night you will have the pleasure of...." He reached in for another ticket. "Your own right hand." Neelix screwed his face up as he reread the words on the paper, and loud laughter filled Sandrine's. "That can't be right," he muttered, frowning quizzically. "Wherever did *this* come from?"

"You didn't happen to let our dear Mr. Paris anywhere near the draw tickets, did you?" a voice asked.

Neelix turned around, still perplexed. "Why, yes, Commander, I did. Mr. Paris helped me write out the names. But you don't think...." He turned away from Chakotay, and faced the Lieutenant. Tom was doubled over with laughter at the rather alarming shade of red that Harry's face had turned. "Really, Tom!" Neelix exclaimed, his eyebrows raised. He shook his head, then smiled as Tom's infectious laughter became too hard to resist. "I think you deserve a redraw, Mr. Kim," Neelix said, reaching back into the container. "Your *correct* partner for the Valentine's Ball is... Seven."

Tom stared aghast at Harry who was now beaming and looking smug. "You lucky bastard," he remarked. "You actually got who you wanted."

Any further comments were cut off by Neelix's next announcement. "Commander Chakotay. Your partner will be... " He paused as he unfolded yet another piece of paper. "Well, well, well," he said, smiling brightly. "It seems you're paired with Mr. Paris."

"What?" Tom looked horrified. "That can't be right. I demand a redraw!" he declared as Harry pointed at him, and then collapsed in a fit of hysterical giggles.

"Oh, no, Tom. I can't do *that*," Neelix stated seriously, raising his voice to be heard over the peals of laughter that echoed around the crowded room.

"But, *why* not?" Tom spluttered indignantly. "You did it for Harry! And I... I... I mean... Agh!" He gave up trying to speak, and leaned forward to repeatedly bang his head on the table instead.

"Don't worry, Tom. We'll have a *wonderful* evening," Chakotay grinned as he lightly clapped Tom on the shoulder. "Just make sure you dress nicely," he remarked before walking away.

"Yeah, right," Tom muttered, rubbing his forehead. "Dress nicely. Yeah... I'll *dress* nicely."


Tom nervously smoothed his clothes one last time as he stood outside the holodeck. Finally satisfied with his appearance, he stepped forward and the doors swished open, revealing the program he'd originally made for Sam.

He entered, and found himself alone on a narrow, stony path that ran along the edge of a high cliff and overlooked a tranquil bay. During the day, anticipation of the evening's event had been running high throughout the ship, and although most people had arrived early, not wanting to miss a minute of it, they hadn't lingered to admire the scenery. Instead, they had made their way straight to the hotel which stood at the end of the rough track. 

Tom couldn't help but look around the beautiful moonlit setting, though, and for a few moments, he stood admiring his handiwork, remembering Sam's joy when he'd finally finished turning her dream into virtual reality. Then, with a satisfied sigh, and a grin firmly in place, he set off towards the hotel's grand entrance, hoping to make a 'grand entrance' of his own.


The ballroom looked incredible, and Megan Delaney was more than pleased - it was exactly what she'd had in mind; a room adorned with deep red velvet drapes that covered the large windows, beautiful crystal chandeliers that sparkled as they hung from the high ceiling, and fine marble statues standing in various places around the edge of the polished wood floor.

Megan made her way to one of the small tables that were dotted around the room, each covered with a white cotton cloth and set with a silver vase that held a single red rose. She sat down, watching the holographic string quartet assembling in the corner, and was soon joined by Greg Ayala, her date for the evening.

At a table in front of them, Harry Kim was sitting with Seven. The ex-Borg looked stunning in an emerald green dress that Harry couldn't take his eyes off. That was, until Tom arrived.

"What the *hell*?" Harry's jaw dropped open in amazement as the doors opened, and Tom stepped through them. He rubbed his eyes in disbelief, then took a second look at his best friend.

It wasn't so much Tom's new hair length that took Harry's breath away, although the shining blond locks that reached down to the pilot's shoulders *was* a fairly dramatic change, it was more the garment that the Lieutenant was wearing that caused the reaction. Harry shook his head, a smile breaking out on his face as other people became aware of Tom's presence and the room gradually quietened. "Wow, Tom. That shade of blue matches your eyes *perfectly*," Harry snickered as Tom walked past.

Tom didn't answer with words, he just swiped at Harry with the sequinned purse he was clutching, then continued to make his way to where his date stood open-mouthed and statue-like in the centre of the room, Chakotay's face a strange mixture of disbelief and curiosity as his eyes roamed over the Lieutenant's form, and the long, clinging, blue silk dress he wore.

"Tom? Um... You have a dress on," Chakotay said, stating the obvious as Tom stopped in front of him.

Tom glanced down at himself. "Yes, I have," he responded, returning his gaze to the flustered man in front of him. "You told me to wear a nice dress."

Chakotay shook his head slowly. "No, I told you to dress nicely. There's a difference."

"Oh," Tom said with mock surprise. "I must've misheard you. Sorry."

"Well, now you know you're in error, perhaps you should go and change," Chakotay suggested, still looking Tom up and down.

Tom raised his eyebrows, looking shocked. "Change? Into what?" he asked. "This dress took up most of my replicator rations. I have nothing else to wear," he stated as the assembled crew started murmuring amongst themselves about his appearance.

"Perhaps someone could lend you something."

"No." Tom shook his head emphatically. "That'll take up time and I'll miss the party."

"So you want to continue wearing *that*?" Chakotay queried, gesturing towards the tight fitting dress.

"Well, yes," Tom confirmed. "I mean, it *is* silk, you know. And I think it looks very nice, don't you?"

Chakotay took a deep breath, and admired the view again. "Yes, it's a beautiful dress," he conceded. "And it *does* fit you well...."

"It feels nice too," Tom said softly. "See for yourself."  He took Chakotay's hand in his and placed it on the material covering his hip. "See? Feels good, doesn't it?"

Chakotay blushed as the warmth from Tom's body filtered through the fine silk. "Yes, it does," he answered quietly. "It feels *very* good."

Tom grinned inwardly. It looked as though the evening might be more fun than he'd originally hoped. To say he'd  been dismayed at being drawn with Chakotay would be an understatement, but to make up for it, he'd decided to do everything he could to get a rise out of the older man. If things went as they seemed to be going, Tom thought, he might very well *get* a 'rise' from him. He smiled sweetly. "So, you don't mind if I keep it on then?" he asked.

Chakotay shook his head. "No. If that's all you have, then you'll just have to wear it." He removed his hand from Tom's hip, and gestured towards one of the small tables. "Do you want to sit down and have a drink?" he asked.

"Yeah, sure," Tom answered, smiling, then threading his arm through Chakotay's. "Lead on, my Valentine."

Chakotay sighed, realising that Tom would probably tease him for the rest of the night but that there wasn't really much he could do about it. The rest of the crew were making the most of their arranged dates, so he couldn't complain about his. Although, he didn't actually *want* to complain - not about who he'd drawn, anyway. It was just Tom's attitude towards him that he wished was different. With another small sigh, Chakotay came to a decision. He would ignore Tom's teasing, and try to enjoy what he knew would be the only date he was ever likely to get with the man he'd been attracted to since they'd first met.

Crossing to the table, they sat down, and a smartly dressed holographic waiter appeared with a tray containing glasses of bubbling champagne. It was only synthahol, but it looked good, and didn't taste too bad either. The men sipped at their drinks as music began to play, and the rest of the crew turned their attention away from the two senior officers and back to their own respective partners.

As Tom put his half empty glass on the table, next to his purse, a hand landed lightly on his shoulder, and he looked up into the amused face of Captain Janeway. "Mr. Paris," she addressed him. "You look very fetching tonight. I almost wish I'd drawn you myself. You're a very lucky man, Chakotay," she remarked turning to wink at the Commander. "Have a nice evening." With that she gave a small laugh and walked off, making her way across the dance floor that was beginning to fill, and back to where Vorik was sitting on the opposite side of the room.

"O-kay," Tom murmured, watching the Captain sit down at her table and begin a conversation with her Vulcan date. He turned back to Chakotay, who was still watching her. "I wasn't expecting *that*," he remarked.

"Seems to be an evening for surprises," Chakotay observed. He gave up looking in the Captain's direction, and gave Tom his full attention. "Do you want to dance?" he asked, nodding towards the dance floor.

Tom smiled brightly. "I'd love to, Chakotay," he answered, standing up. and holding out his hand as Chakotay stood, too. "I'll even let you lead," he grinned.

Chakotay snorted and took hold of Tom's proffered hand. "Come on then, Sweetheart. Let's go," he said with a wide smile.

"Sweetheart?" Tom questioned under his breath, but allowed Chakotay to lead him out into the centre of the now crowded dance floor. Once there, Tom decided it was time to tease the Commander a little more. He moved in close, draping his arms around Chakotay's neck and laying his head on the older man's shoulder, snuggling into him.

"Comfortable, Tom?" Chakotay asked, peering sideways at him.

"Very," Tom answered softly, his breath tickling Chakotay's neck. He smiled to himself as he felt the other man shiver slightly. "How about you, Commander? Are *you* comfortable?"

Chakotay wrapped his arms tightly around Tom's waist, pulling him in as close as he could to his own body. "Definitely," he murmured, starting to sway to the slow music that was playing.

Tom frowned. He'd expected Chakotay to pull away from the overtly intimate contact, and he wondered why he hadn't. And then it came to him. Chakotay was teasing *him*, too. That *had* to be the answer. Smirking at this realisation, Tom decided to increase his efforts.

Following the older man's movements, Tom pressed himself forward, provocatively moving every part of his body that came into contact with Chakotay's, but timing it so that his actions fitted in with the music and could be passed off as part of the dance. He grinned into Chakotay's shoulder as the Commander gave an involuntary low groan. "Everything okay?" he asked lightly.

"Yes, fine," Chakotay replied quietly, moving one hand up Tom's back to the younger man's head, then gently running his fingers through Tom's soft blond hair. "I like your hair this length," he commented a moment later, brushing a stray strand from Tom's face and pushing it behind his ear. "You should keep it like this."

Tom closed his eyes as Chakotay's fingers lightly caressed his face, and for a moment he forgot his premise that the older man was just toying with him. The gentle touch, and Chakotay's softly spoken words flooded his body with a feeling of warmth, and he automatically leaned into the Commander's hand, wanting more.

"How did you persuade the Doctor to accelerate the growth for you?" Chakotay asked, glancing at Tom and smiling as he noted the younger man's closed eyes and lightly flushed face.

"Oh," Tom mumbled, snapping out of his reverie and blinking up at Chakotay's gentle smile. "I bribed him," he confessed.

"Really? With what?" Chakotay asked, amused.

"With my spare time for the next week," Tom answered. "To pay for his help, I'm gonna work in sickbay outside of my regular shifts. I've promised to do all the things he doesn't have time for."

"That was very generous of you, Tom," Chakotay remarked, genuinely impressed. "Especially as it was for *my* benefit." He placed a quick kiss on the end of Tom's nose. "It was very considerate of you to go to so much trouble to look good for our date, even though I *know* you weren't happy to draw me."

Tom frowned, confused by the older man's words and actions. Chakotay had sounded as though he'd really meant what he'd said, but that couldn't be right, could it? And what was that kiss about? This was just a game they were playing. Tom shook the thought off, deciding he was imagining things, and continued what he'd originally started - teasing the man.

"It was no trouble, Chakotay. I always like to look my best for special occasions," Tom said, letting his hands run slowly down the other man's back, and enjoying the way Chakotay moaned softly as his hands slid lower. He pushed his hips forward, intending to rub himself against Chakotay's thigh, and that's when he realised he hadn't anticipated his own reaction to what he was doing. The dress felt tight below his waist, and as he glanced down between their bodies he suddenly became aware of how hard he was growing.

"Are you okay, Tom?" Chakotay asked as Tom suddenly stopped dancing and brought them both to a halt. "What's wrong?"

The music continued, and all around them other couples were still moving in time to it, but all Tom could think about was how to get away from Chakotay and leave the dance floor without anyone noticing his predicament. It wouldn't be difficult to do if he had a suit on like Chakotay had, but in the form hugging dress he was wearing, everything stuck out a mile. Not sure how he was going to accomplish his goal, Tom, nevertheless, tried to extricate himself from Chakotay's grasp. "Um... I... I need a drink," he stammered, trying to struggle free.

"Can't you wait until the end of this dance, Tom?" Chakotay asked, not letting go of the younger man. "It's not polite to duck out in the middle, you know," he added.

Tom thought for a moment, but as no other excuse that would allow him to leave came to mind, he decided he might as well stay where he was for now. "Yeah," he muttered reluctantly. "I suppose I *could* wait."

Chakotay smiled. He'd been enjoying the closeness and hadn't wanted it to end so soon. Pleased that it could continue for a little longer, he soon had Tom wrapped up tightly in his arms again. "Thanks, Tommy," he whispered, not intending Tom to hear his comment.

Tom did hear though, and he found himself more puzzled than ever. 'Tommy?' he wondered. And why would Chakotay really care whether they finished the dance or not? Was it because Chakotay wanted to tease him further? Had Chakotay noticed his problem and decided that caressing his body, the way that he was doing now, would be a good way to torture him? Yeah, Tom decided, that was the answer. Chakotay was trying to embarrass him, and that called for an increase in teasing on *his* part.

Chakotay, though, was oblivious to Tom's reasoning and intentions, and was lost in a sensual world of his own. The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have Tom Paris in his arms had made him forget they were only together because of the Valentine's draw, and he was drowning in the extra attention that Tom was now paying him. The younger man's body was pressed closely against his, and Tom's hands were in his hair, gently stroking through the strands at the base of his neck. And it felt wonderful.

Chakotay sighed softly, moving his own hands over Tom's silk covered back, then slowly trailing his fingers around to lightly rub the pilot's hips. The delicate material was warm to the touch, barely concealing the smooth skin beneath, and Chakotay unconsciously began to explore further.

Tom's resolve, to tease Chakotay to a greater extent, faltered as the Commander's gentle hands moved from his hips to his thighs, and then, slowly stroking and caressing, made their way behind him to grasp his cheeks. Tom closed his eyes as he felt warm, soft lips against his neck and tiny kisses being placed on the sensitive skin below his jaw, sending a shiver through his entire body as the incredible sensations raced straight to his groin, making him even harder.

"You feel *so* good, Tommy," Chakotay murmured, unaware that he was speaking aloud. "So, so good. So smooth." He gripped Tom's cheeks harder. "So firm. So beautiful."

With everything his body was experiencing, Tom could hardly think, but Chakotay's quietly uttered words finally filtered through to him just as the music came to an end, and a few couples began to leave the dance floor before the next number began.

"Chakotay?" Tom pulled away from the older man slightly, and was taken aback by the look on the Commander's face. Chakotay was flushed, his eyes closed, and he looked the way Tom would expect a lover to. And although Tom silently congratulated himself on a job well done, he had to admit to himself that Chakotay probably wasn't the only one of them that looked that way.

Chakotay opened his eyes as he felt Tom move, and it registered then that the music had stopped. "I'm sorry, Tom, you want to sit back down, don't you? I didn't realise the dance had ended," Chakotay said softly, his voice tinged with the regret he was feeling now that he no longer had an excuse to hold on to the younger man. "Come on. I'll get you that drink you wanted," he added, smiling slightly as he went to release Tom from his embrace.

Tom panicked. The little problem he'd had earlier was now a huge problem, or at least much bigger than it had been, and there was no way *anyone* would fail to notice it. In desperation, he clung on to Chakotay, struggling to think what to do. "Um... I... I don't want a drink now," he spluttered. "I want to dance again. Yeah, that's it. I want to dance with you again."

"Are you *sure* you want to?" Chakotay queried, wondering why Tom seemed so flustered. "Why don't we sit down for now," he suggested, thinking that might help. "We can dance again later."

"No. No!" Tom held on tightly to Chakotay's arm as the older man tried to disengage himself from the virtual death-grip that Tom had on him. "Please, Chakotay. I don't want to sit down," he pleaded. "Please."

"Tom? What's the matter, Sweetheart? Are you feeling okay?" Chakotay asked worriedly. "Can I get you anything? What is it? What's wrong?"

Tom's face was bright red by this time, and he had no idea what to say, except to tell the truth. "I *can't* sit down," he hissed. "Everyone will see!"

"See what?" Chakotay asked, frowning and pulling Tom in for a hug as music filled the room again. "Please tell me, Tom, because you're really worrying me."

"It's the dress," Tom said, closing his eyes briefly in embarrassment. "I... Look." He gave up trying to explain in words, and pulled back just enough to allow Chakotay to see what was wrong. 

"Ah," Chakotay said, grinning. "I see."

"It's not funny!" Tom insisted, stepping forward again to hide his problem. "You teased me too much," he complained. "Now I can't leave the dance floor."

"*I* teased *you*?" Chakotay asked incredulously. "I don't think *that's* correct. *You* were the one doing the teasing. You've been teasing me since the moment you arrived."

"Well, yeah," Tom agreed reluctantly as he started swaying, urging Chakotay to move to the music so they wouldn't draw attention to themselves. "But *you* retaliated. You touched me, and whispered things to me, to get me aroused. Don't deny it. You called me 'sweetheart' a few times, and 'Tommy'. You even kissed me."

Chakotay looked astonished. "I did? Really? Oh..." He fell silent, and turned away from Tom's gaze. "I'm sorry, Tom," he apologised quietly, not looking at the younger man. "I didn't realise."

"What do you mean, you didn't realise?" Tom queried, taking hold of Chakotay's chin and turning the older man's face towards him. "Are you saying you *weren't* teasing? That you subconsciously did things that you actually meant?"

Chakotay took a deep breath. "I don't think this is the place to discuss that, Tom," he said, loosening the grip he had on Tom's waist. "Perhaps we should go outside, and talk there."

"And how am I supposed to get outside?" Tom enquired, annoyed. "As soon as I step away from you, I'll get stared at. But if I stay close, *this* just isn't gonna go away," he announced, pointing to his still very prominent erection.

"Do I affect you *that* much, then?" Chakotay asked, curious.

Tom only glared at him.

"Sorry," Chakotay apologised again. He pondered the problem for a moment, then nodded towards their table. "Let's work our way over there," he suggested. "We can collect your purse, then, with that strategically placed, we'll head for the exit."

Tom sighed heavily. "Okay," he agreed. "We'll give it a try. Just shield me from prying eyes, all right? I don't want to be a bigger part of tonight's entertainment than I've been already."

Chakotay nodded, and they began to dance their way across to where Tom's purse lay, weaving their way around the other couples until they reached their table. "Now," Tom said, grabbing the purse and holding it in front of him. "Let's go outside and talk."


The door closed behind them, and the two men stood on the hotel's paved terrace, neither one of them knowing what to say. The stillness of the holographic evening seemed to add to the awkward silence, and it was only after several minutes of staring out across the calm sea that Tom finally found his voice. "So," he began, turning to look at the quiet man beside him. "Tell me, Chakotay. What exactly did you mean in there? Were you teasing me or not?"

Chakotay sighed, and looked down at his feet, idly kicking at a scattering of shingle that had strayed onto the terrace from the surrounding flower beds. What was he supposed to say? That he had fallen for the man the first time he'd seen him? Should he tell Tom the truth after so many years of keeping his feelings hidden? Was there any other choice?


Tom's voice interrupted Chakotay's thoughts, and he lifted his head. He had to tell Tom the truth, he decided, and opened his mouth to speak. A noise behind him stopped him in his tracks, though.

Tom looked round as the terrace door opened, and several people came out, making their way to the bench seats a few yards away. He gave a small sigh, then turned back to Chakotay and gestured towards the path that ran from the hotel to the beach below. "Why don't we take a walk?" he suggested. "We'll have more privacy down there."

Chakotay nodded, grateful for a few more moments in which to gather his thoughts, and they crossed to where the path was no longer level, but began its downward slope towards the sea.

"It might be best to take our shoes off," Tom advised. "The path is fairly steep, and gets covered in a layer of fine sand. It can be pretty slippery if you've got shoes on. It's much easier to walk in bare feet."

"Sam wanted the program to be as authentic as possible, then," Chakotay surmised as he undid his shoes and placed them, and his socks, on the low wall that edged the path.

"Yeah," Tom confirmed, placing the elegant blue shoes he'd been wearing alongside Chakotay's. "She even insisted there had to be sea-urchins and crabs in the rock pools."

"Well, she chose the right person for the job, Tom," Chakotay said sincerely. "What I've seen so far is very good. And I'm sure the rest of it is, too."

Tom was pleased with Chakotay's unexpected compliment. "Thanks," he said, smiling. "I *did* put a lot of work into it."

"It shows, Tom," Chakotay remarked. He turned to look down the path. "Shall we head off now?" he asked. 

Tom nodded, and they began walking.

The stone path was as Tom had said; steep, and still a little slippery in places, even without shoes. They followed it down to where it finished, and found large granite boulders jutting up out of the fine white sand, the only way forward, to climb over them.

"I'd forgotten about those," Tom said, frowning as he looked at the craggy obstacles. "I'm not sure I'm gonna get over them with this dress on."

"Do you want to stop here, then?" Chakotay asked. "It's quiet enough."

Tom shook his head. "No, we're still too close to the hotel. It's quiet *now*, but we'd probably get visitors before long. I'd rather go a bit further, if we can."

"Then, I'll help you across the rocks," Chakotay offered. He clambered up on top of the first boulder. "Give me your hand," he instructed, reaching towards Tom.

Tom passed Chakotay the purse he still held, then hitched the long dress up above his knees, and took Chakotay's proffered hand, allowing the older man to haul him up on to the rock. A few minutes later, having dealt with the other boulders in a similar manner, the men found themselves on the beach, the white sand soft beneath their feet.

"Where now, Tom?" Chakotay asked, looking around.

"That way," Tom answered, pointing to what looked to be a solid wall of rock, about fifty feet high, at the very edge of the beach. "It's deceptive," he stated when Chakotay frowned at his choice of direction. "You'll see," he added. "Come on."

They set off, heading for a part of the wall that was close to the sea, their bare feet registering the changing texture of the sand as it went from warm, dry and powdery near the top of the deserted beach, to water-laden and colder as they moved further down.

It was a quiet walk, both men keeping their thoughts to themselves as they strolled along. But as they drew closer to their destination, Chakotay noticed that what, from a distance, had seemed to be one expanse of rock, was actually many rocks that stood close together, some taller and tucked behind others, overlapping to give an illusion of a solid wall. "Amazing," he murmured.

"Through here," Tom said, pointing to a narrow gap between two of the smaller rocks. He squeezed through, Chakotay following him, and they stepped out on to a totally secluded area of sand bordered on three sides by granite, with the sea making up the final edge of the almost square space. "I doubt we'll be interrupted here," Tom commented.

"No, we probably won't be," Chakotay agreed, leaning against the rock closest to him.

Tom moved to stand in front of the older man, their feet almost touching. "Now we're alone, be honest with me, Chakotay," he requested. "Explain what happened on the dance floor. I really need to know. *Were* you teasing me, or was it something else?"

Chakotay dug at the sand with his toes for a moment, and watched the way the holes filled up with water that seemed to appear from nowhere. He looked up then, and caught Tom's eye. "It was something else," he confessed. "I wasn't deliberately teasing you." He dropped his gaze to the sand again. "I'm sorry, Tom," he apologised softly "I just wasn't aware of my actions."

"So what was it, then, if it wasn't teasing?" Tom asked, gently placing a hand on Chakotay's shoulder. "Are you attracted to me? Is that it?" he questioned, stepping closer.

Chakotay took a deep breath, then nodded. "Yes, Tom," he answered quietly. "I'm attracted to you. I have been for a long time. Since I first met you, in fact. But I knew you would never be interested in me, so...."

Tom shook his head slowly. "Unbelievable," he remarked.

"Yeah," Chakotay said, sighing heavily. "I suppose it is." There was a soft thud, then a hand appeared on his other shoulder, and he looked up. Tom had dropped the purse on the sand, and was staring at him, the younger man's fingers gripping him tightly. "Go ahead," Chakotay urged him. "Hit me. I deserve it."

"Okay," Tom murmured, and he leaned forward, gently pressing his lips to Chakotay's.

The older man was stunned. He'd been expecting Tom's fist in his face, not the pilot's warm, soft lips kissing him so tenderly. He pulled away, confused. "Why, Tom? Why are you still teasing me?" he asked sadly. "Do you hate me that much?"

Tom straightened up, sighing. "I don't hate you at all, Chakotay," he said, looking into the man's puzzled eyes. "I've never hated you. Even if it sometimes *seemed* like I did. It was all an act." He took hold of Chakotay's arms and squeezed them. "I've only ever teased you because it was a way to hide my true feelings. I believed I would never have a chance with you, Chakotay, and that hurt. It hurt so much that I took it out on *you*."


"I want you," Tom admitted, bending forward and lightly kissing the tip of Chakotay's nose. "That's why you managed to get me so worked up in the ballroom." He let go of the Commander's arms, and grabbed his waist instead, pulling him close. "But I wasn't expecting it," he added with a gentle kiss to Chakotay's chin. "You took me by surprise."

Chakotay brought his hands up, running them over the material that clung to Tom's hips, and enjoying the sensual feel of the silk as his fingers slipped easily over it. "I wasn't expecting it either," he said, smiling and leaning forward. He touched his lips to Tom's, and what began as a tentative kiss soon grew to be far more as he poured all his long-suppressed desire into it, Tom's eager response easily matching his own fervour.

The kiss stretched on, deepening as both men gave themselves over to sensation, and everything else was forgotten. No more questions; no more hidden attraction; no more teasing - just an urgent need to finally show the other how they really felt.

Tom moaned; the feel of Chakotay's strong hands gently caressing him was so much better than he'd ever imagined. The older man was making his skin tingle everywhere his hands touched, and he couldn't get enough of it. He pressed closer, taking hold of Chakotay's jacket and easing it down his arms, and off, acutely missing the contact of the other man's hands on him as he did so, even though it was only for a fleeting moment. He threw the jacket to one side, pressing his hands to Chakotay's chest, feeling the warmth of the older man's body as it seeped through the white shirt he wore, and he knew then that the shirt just had to go; he had to feel Chakotay's bare flesh.

Chakotay closed his eyes, completely absorbed in the way Tom's body trembled under his constantly moving hands. No matter what he did, Tom responded as though small jolts of electricity were passing through him, and it thrilled the older man, making him want to explore every inch of Tom's body, to stimulate him even further. He clutched at Tom's back, aware now of Tom's hands on his chest, and the younger man's fingers quickly working to undo the buttons on his shirt, and sighing as he felt the material eased apart and his skin exposed to the night air.

Tom pulled away from Chakotay's lips, and bent to lick at the man's smooth chest, tasting the warm skin as hands travelled slowly up and down his back, trailed over his hips, then slowly insinuated themselves between their bodies, making him gasp as gentle fingers found his erection and fondled it through the silk. "Oh, yes. Oh...." Tom groaned and pushed his hips forward, forcing Chakotay to grip him harder. "That feels so good," he moaned, lunging for Chakotay's neck and biting him hard, marking him.

Chakotay gasped as Tom's teeth stung his skin. "I want you, Tom," he whispered. "I need you. Please."

"The purse," Tom breathed. "Get the purse."

Chakotay pulled away, quickly bending down to pick up the sand-covered purse, then frowned as Tom opened it and rummaged through the contents. The younger man smiled when he found what he'd been looking for. "Here," Tom said quietly, offering Chakotay a small, white tube. "Use this."

Chakotay took the tube from Tom's hand, and read the label. He snorted. "Lube, Tom? Why were you carrying this?" he queried, amused. "And, 'cherry flavour'?"

Tom gave an embarrassed laugh, and moved close to Chakotay. "It was just something else I was gonna tease you with, if I got the chance," he admitted, grinning as he pressed himself against the older man, rubbing himself against the hardness in Chakotay's pants.

Chakotay moaned softly, copying Tom's movements as he pulled the pilot closer. "Always prepared, hey?" he murmured, slowly licking a trail from Tom's ear to his neck, then lightly nipping at his throat.

"Yeah," Tom sighed, loving the attention his sensitive skin was receiving. "I'm a regular little boy scout."

"You don't look like one in this dress, Tommy," Chakotay whispered, grasping the material in his free hand and gradually pulling it upwards, revealing the smooth skin of Tom's right thigh. He raised an eyebrow then. "I thought as much," he said softly as he lifted the dress higher. "No underwear."

"No," Tom mumbled, burying his head in Chakotay's shoulder. "That would've shown through the silk and spoilt the look of the dress."

Chakotay gave a soft laugh, then became silent as he ran his hand up the back of Tom's thigh, beneath the silk and upwards to his bare cheeks, slipping his fingers between them to gently probe, while his lips found Tom's again for another passionate kiss.

"Oh, God." Tom sighed as warm, slick fingers entered him, and he pressed back, the sweet smell of cherry drifting up as Chakotay squeezed some of the tube's contents against his opening, then pushed it inside, stretching him until he was panting and moaning almost constantly, and he just couldn't wait any longer. "Now, Chakotay," he begged, finding the zipper on the older man's pants and opening them. He reached inside as Chakotay groaned loudly, freeing the man's erection, then grabbed the tube from his hand and coated the hardness with the cool gel. "Take me," he whispered. "Now."

Chakotay swallowed hard as he gazed at the look of unrestrained desire on Tom's face, the younger man's eyes shining brightly with reflected moonlight.  He stepped forward, and looked closer. There was love in the blue eyes, too. Reaching up, he took Tom's face in his hands, then slowly kissed him, showing Tom with the tender kiss that he felt the same way. And that he would always feel that way.

When the kiss ended, minutes later, Chakotay gestured towards a large, gently sloping rock nearby. "Over there, Tommy," he said softly, taking Tom's hand.

Tom allowed himself to be led to the rock, then he lay back against its smooth, angled face as Chakotay bent over him, pushing his long hair to one side, then kissing his neck, his chin, his cheeks, everywhere. He felt the dress being slowly hitched upwards until the soft material was bunched around his waist, and then arms went beneath his thighs, lifting him as Chakotay pressed against his opening, then slowly slid inside, the older man not stopping until he could go no deeper.

Tom groaned loudly, his moans echoed by his lover as they moved together, his hand wrapped around his own erection as he stroked it, matching Chakotay's deep, slow thrusts inside him, his other hand grasping at Chakotay's open shirt and pushing it aside, then caressing the older man's smooth, bronze chest with his fingers, playing with the hard nipples.

Tom gasped as Chakotay nipped his throat again, then increased the pace of his thrusts, the dark-eyed man panting heavily above him as sweat beaded his flushed face, the sight and sound increasing Tom's arousal until he was panting himself. "Oh, God, Chakotay. I'm so close. Come with me," he begged. "I can't last." He pushed the dress higher up his body. "Please, Chakotay. I need to come."

"Then come, Tom. Come for me. Let me see you," Chakotay instructed, moving faster, pushing deeper. He let one of Tom's legs go, holding the other high as he spoke, then grabbed Tom's erection with his free hand "Come *now*, Tom. Now!"

Tom had no choice but to obey, his body instantly reacting to Chakotay's words and touch, and he cried out loudly as he came, covering Chakotay's chest as well as his own, his eyes riveted on the man still moving inside him. 

"Tommy!" Chakotay thrust hard as Tom tightened around him, climaxing deep inside his lover's body, his movements not ceasing until every drop had left him. He fell forward then, releasing Tom's leg as he pressed his heaving body against his lover's, and buried his face in Tom's neck.

They lay in silence until their breathing had calmed, and then for a few moments longer. Finally, when their heartbeats no longer drowned out the sound of the waves lapping at the beach, Chakotay lifted his head. "Unbelievable," he murmured, echoing Tom's earlier statement.

Tom smiled, and ran his fingers through Chakotay's damp hair, "Yeah," he agreed. "Unbelievable. And to think that I wasn't happy when Neelix announced you as my Valentine's date." He laughed, then placed a small kiss on Chakotay's lips. "It couldn't have worked out any better for me. I finally got the one person I've always wanted."

"I did, too," Chakotay said softly, sliding from the rock and on to the sand, then pulling Tom down to sit on his lap. "You're the only person I want, and the only person I will *ever* want." He gently kissed Tom's cheek. "I love you, Tom," he whispered. "I always have."

"Good, because I love you, too, Chakotay," Tom stated before they shared another long kiss. He smiled when they finally parted. "We should go and thank Neelix," he suggested. "Our being together is all down to him."

"Well, it's not *all* down to him," Chakotay responded, pushing Tom on to his back on the damp sand, then lying on top of him. "All Neelix did was take the tickets from the box. He didn't look at them first to see whose names were on them, so our being drawn together was just luck really."

"Yeah," Tom grinned as Chakotay began to move against him. "It was luck. The luck of the draw."

"Hmm, something like that," Chakotay murmured. "But whatever it was, I want it to continue for a long time to come."

"Yeah, so do I."

"Happy Valentine's Day, Tommy," Chakotay whispered, kissing his neck.

Tom sighed, then smiled. "Happy Valentine's Day, Chakotay. The first of many," he said softly.

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