All the Fun of the Fair NC-17
"Wow! Can you believe this place?" Tom turned around, his excitement clear as his senses took in all the sights, sounds and smells that surrounded him, his gaze finally settling on the events to his left. "Oh, Harry, we *have* to try *that*," he said, grabbing the Ensign by the arm and almost marching him towards the attraction that had taken his fancy.
"Are you crazy, Tom? That looks incredibly dangerous to me," Harry protested, trying to break away from Tom's grasp. "Shore leave is supposed to be relaxing, you know; something to ease the stress of our hazardous flight towards home, not a dice with death."
"Don't be so melodramatic, Harry. You can hardly call this life-threatening," Tom remarked, waving his hand towards the thirty foot high red-and-yellow wall in front of them. "I mean, there's kids waiting to go on it, for God's sake. If they can do it, we sure as hell can, too."
"But why would we want to?" Harry asked, watching as an eager young man was helped into a thickly padded suit. "Why would we want to be launched through the air straight into a foam wall? What the hell would we get out of it? Other than possibly a broken neck."
Tom sighed loudly. "Where's your sense of adventure, Harry? Your sense of *fun*?" He shook his head at the nervous look on Harry's face, then continued. "It'd be great. Sort of like flying without the aid of a shuttle, or any other artificial means. Don't you want to experience that?"
"No. I can't say that I do," Harry replied, his eyes going wide as the now suited-up young man, replete with protective helmet, was placed in what looked to be something along the lines of an ancient catapult, then launched towards the wall, the unique material of his suit, and the complimentary material covering the wall, causing him to remain stuck to it on impact. Harry looked shocked, his face pale as he turned towards Tom. "No way, Tom. No way," he declared. "That kid's hanging there upside down. What fun is there in *that*? Let's go do something else instead."
"Don't be such a wimp, Harry," Tom snorted. "We agreed we'd have a go at everything, so don't chicken out now. Come on. Let's give it a go." He went to walk off, wanting to join the small queue of people waiting their turn to be hurled at the wall, but Harry's hand on his arm halted him.
"Look, Tom. Over there," Harry said, pointing towards a crowd of people gathered around one of the colourful stalls that lined the edge of the fairground. "There are the Delaneys. Let's go see what they're up to."
Tom laughed. "Trying to distract me, Harry? Trying to get me to change my mind about the wall?" he asked, grinning.
"Yeah," Harry confessed. He looked hopefully at Tom. "Did it work?"
"Nope. You'll have to do better than that," Tom replied, walking away. He reached the end of the queue, then turned to stare back at Harry.
The Ensign was busy scanning the noisy throng, which was a mixture of all ages and several different species, a smile breaking out as he finally spotted who he'd been looking for. He walked to where Tom was standing, then gestured towards a bright blue kiosk to his right. "The Captain and the Commander look like they're enjoying themselves," he remarked casually, knowing in advance the effect his words would have on the man in front of him.
Tom affected a nonchalant attitude as he followed Harry's gaze. "Yeah, I suppose they are," he muttered, watching the easy way the two people in question were interacting, Janeway gripping Chakotay's arm as she laughed and pointed to the rows of stuffed toys at the back of the stall. Tom was about to look away, but the Captain turned around and caught his eye, then smiled brightly as she waved at him.
"Looks like we're wanted," Harry said as Janeway gestured for them to join her.
"Yeah," Tom agreed, smiling politely in Janeway's direction. "Bet Chakotay'll just be thrilled to death about *that*. He probably wanted to be alone with her; take her someplace special."
"I doubt it, Tom," Harry said quietly as they started walking towards the Captain. "The Commander's never been interested in her romantically. They're just friends."
"Right. Thus says Harry Kim, Voyager's resident expert on affairs of the heart," Tom muttered.
"Mr. Paris, Mr. Kim. How are you enjoying shore leave?" Janeway asked as the two men stopped in front of her, her voice almost drowned out by sudden squeals of delight from a small girl who had just been handed one of the toy animals by the kiosk owner.
"It's great, Captain," Tom replied, his eyes flickering in Chakotay's direction. "This place is very similar to some of the old-fashioned Earth amusement parks. Just the sort of thing I like. And it would seem I'm not the only one who's enjoying it. You two look like you're having a good time, too."
"Yes, you're right," Janeway confirmed. "I've had a wonderful time, and I'm sure Chakotay will enjoy himself too," she added, smiling at the Commander. "Providing someone shows him how, of course."
Chakotay snorted, and shook his head. "If you're *that* worried about me, why don't you extend your leave? I doubt Tuvok will mind retaining command of the ship for a little longer."
"Oh, no. I don't think *that* would be in order. I have to set a good example to the rest of the crew, and I don't think I'll manage that by taking more time off than I've given everyone else. No," Janeway said decisively. "I have to get back to the ship. And besides, you're always telling me that, ideally, the Captain and First Officer shouldn't be planetside at the same time, and I have to concur. I only asked you down early because Minister Raeslek insisted on speaking to both of us, together. In fact, I should've returned to Voyager as soon as the meeting finished. I'd already had my allotted time before we saw him, so I'm running late as it is."
"In that case, why don't you join *us*, Commander?" Harry offered, much to Tom's surprise. "I could do with help in trying to convince Tom to stay away from some of the more dangerous attractions."
"I've told you, Harry, that wall isn't dangerous," Tom insisted, rolling his eyes at the Ensign. "It wouldn't be allowed here if it was."
"Actually, I have to agree with Tom," Chakotay said, addressing Harry. "The Havklans are pretty strict regarding the safety aspects of this park, so I wouldn't think there would be too much risk attached to that activity. And besides," he continued, smiling as he watched someone else sail through the air to collide with the wall, then laughing softly as Harry inadvertently flinched at the resounding splat. "It looks like fun."
"Then, why don't you and Tom give it a try while Mr. Kim escorts me back to the transport site?" Janeway suggested, trying to stifle her own amusement at Harry's reaction. "Would that be okay with you, Ensign?" she asked.
"Of course, Captain," Harry responded readily. "I'll meet up with you later, Tom," he said, turning to face his friend. "And if you hurt yourself on that wall, just remember, I told you so."
"Thanks, Harry. It's nice to know you care," Tom remarked, giving the Ensign a slightly-harder-than-friendly clap on the shoulder.
"Have fun, gentlemen," Janeway instructed with a smile. "I'll see you both tomorrow."
"That was incredible!" Tom enthused. He stepped off the retrieval platform, used to safely pluck people from the enormous padded wall, then stumbled slightly, still a little light-headed from his 'flight'.
"Steady," Chakotay said, his hand reaching out to grab Tom's shoulder. "It takes a few minutes for the dizziness to wear off. Let's sit down over there until you feel okay," he added, nodding towards an empty bench in the small picnic area to their left.
"Thanks, Chakotay," Tom said with a grateful smile. He snorted then. "Good job Harry's not here to see me like this. He'd be contacting the Doc for me, and ordering an emergency beam out to sickbay."
Chakotay laughed. "Yes. Harry does seem a little overcautious at times," he remarked.
"Not like you," Tom stated as they reached the bench and sat down side by side. "When you had your turn at the wall a few moments ago, you looked like you enjoyed yourself as much as I just did."
Chakotay shrugged. "What can I say? I like an adrenaline rush from time to time," he said, smiling broadly. "Although, from the way the Captain talks about me, I don't suppose many people would believe that."
"No," Tom agreed. "You don't really come across as the sort to go in for daredevil antics. In fact, you don't give much away about yourself at all."
"Really?" Chakotay questioned with a grin. "And you're an open book, are you?"
Tom laughed. "I hadn't thought of that," he admitted. "We're quite alike in some ways, aren't we? I don't think *either* of us really show people our true selves too often."
"No, we don't. But if you'd like to rectify the situation, there's a stall near the restaurant that might interest you. Kathryn pointed it out to me on the way here. She went there earlier herself, and insisted I should go, too. In fact, she said I wasn't to return to the ship without visiting it." Chakotay said, looking amused. "From the way she spoke about it, I think she'd have gone again if she'd had time. Apparently, the man who runs it claims to be able to 'see inside you'. The advertisement on the front of the stall promises that 'all will be revealed' by his 'one simple test'. Of course," Chakotay continued. "It's all nonsense; Kathryn assured me of that. But she said it was good for a laugh. Do you want to take a look?"
"I don't know," Tom said, nervously running his fingers through his hair. "What if it *isn't* nonsense? What if it's for real?"
"Oh, come on, Tom. That's hardly likely, is it?" Chakotay responded, standing up. "Or have you got some deep, dark secret you'd rather I didn't know about?" he asked with a grin.
"No, no, of course not," Tom insisted quickly. He stood up, his dizziness gone now. "If *you're* willing to give it a try, I'll do the same. Come on." Appearing braver than he actually felt, Tom smiled, and the men set off to find the stall.
Fifteen minutes later, after wending their way through a variety of brightly coloured tents and stalls, they stood laughing hard outside the one they'd searched for, and had since visited.
"Oh, my God! That was just awful! A test? All he did was take one look at us, then press his fingers to his temples and close his eyes. What the hell did he think he'd find out like that? And I can't believe he gave us a free ticket for 'Hirriban's Test of True Love'," Tom chortled as he looked at the piece of red card in his hand. "Although, if it's as good a laugh as the character profiles we were just given, I won't complain," he added with a snort.
"Tom Paris: a man who likes to keep his feet firmly on the ground," Chakotay snickered. "Ideal occupation: miner!"
"Yeah," Tom laughed. "And what was it he said about you? Oh, yeah, I remember. Chakotay: a timid man who has no inclination for leadership. Would be best employed as a bar tender."
The two men doubled over as a fresh wave of laughter shook them, only straightening up several minutes later as they tried to catch their breath.
"I haven't enjoyed shore leave this much for a long time," Tom remarked when he could finally speak again. "I can't wait to see what this Hirriban guy has to say."
"Then let's go find out," Chakotay suggested, smiling brightly as he placed his arm around Tom's shoulders to steady himself, the bout of laughter having left him feeling a little drained of energy.
"Yeah," Tom smiled back, copying the Commander's steadying technique as his sparkling eyes locked with Chakotay's. "Although if this guy *here* is anything to go by, we're probably gonna die of laughter when we meet Hirriban. I doubt we'll even be able to stand up afterwards, let alone walk."
"We'd better keep *this* from Harry, too, then," Chakotay grinned. "I don't want him to accuse me of putting you in danger."
Tom snorted, then, both laughing again, they ambled through the crowd, following the directions they'd been given to Hirriban's cabin.
"Welcome, welcome. Oh, such a handsome couple!" Hirriban enthused as he opened his door in response to Chakotay and Tom's knock. "I see my brother, Mevilane, sent you, and it is obvious why," he remarked happily, taking the slightly crumpled card from Tom's hand. "Our assessments are never wrong, my darlings. You will see. I am certain you were *made* for each other."
Although a little taken aback at Hirriban's statement, Chakotay and Tom shared an amused smile as they both came to the conclusion that any information Hirriban gave them would be as incorrect as Mevilane's had been. So, trying hard to keep their humour at the situation under control, they entered the cabin.
Hirriban hugged each man enthusiastically as they stepped through the doorway, then gestured for his visitors to sit on a small, dark-blue couch decorated with red and gold circles, and positioned in the centre of the dimly lit room. "Now, you wish to know the truth, do you not?" he enquired, seating himself on a gold-coloured chair just in front of them.
"Um, yeah," Tom replied with a hint of a smirk as he made himself comfortable on the couch. "We'd *love* to know the *truth*. The *whole* truth."
"Yes. Yes, of course you would, my precious," Hirriban said as he leaned forward to lightly pat the pilot's arm, seemingly oblivious to Tom's sarcasm. "It was silly of me to ask. My brother would not have sent you if it had been otherwise." He smiled brightly. "So, you will take the test of true love, then you will receive the results written in your own language. Is that acceptable to you, my little love bugs?"
"Perfectly acceptable," Chakotay answered, trying desperately to keep a straight face, and only just succeeding, as he wondered what far-fetched things they would be told *this* time.
"Then, let us begin," Hirriban stated happily. He picked up two deep-red, rectangular, hand-sized objects about an inch thick, from a small wooden table to the left of his chair, then handed one each to Chakotay and Tom. "Please place your right hand, palm down, on the Dreegot," he instructed. "Then clear your minds of all thoughts. Nothing else is required."
Both men glanced at each other as they complied, a look of surprise crossing their faces when their hands touched the Dreegots, and a feeling of warmth, accompanied by a gentle tingling sensation, started in their fingertips, then spread rapidly throughout their bodies. A soft orange glow appeared around the objects shortly afterwards, and Hirriban announced that the tests were complete.
"That felt really odd," Tom remarked as Hirriban took back the Dreegots from him and Chakotay. "Was it meant to be like that?" he asked, curious.
"Of course, sweet one," Hirriban confirmed with a nod as he pulled out a small, black, metallic-looking box from underneath the table. He picked it up and opened the lid, then carefully placed the objects he'd retrieved inside, before putting the box on the floor by his feet. "What you felt was just the Dreegot searching through your innermost thoughts and feelings," he continued, smiling at Tom. "He has stored what he found, and is now examining it in more detail. Both Dreegots will convert their respective findings into written words very soon, then you will be able to read and share their insights into how you feel about each other."
Chakotay gave Tom a brief, nervous glance, then shifted uncomfortably as he addressed Hirriban. "What exactly do you mean?" he asked, perplexed. "Just what *is* a Dreegot?"
"Oh, I thought you knew, my dear," Hirriban replied with surprise. "Dreegots are highly evolved life forms indigenous to this planet's third moon. They have allowed Havklans to benefit from their telepathic abilities ever since their home became inhospitable to them, and they were forced to leave it and live amongst us here, on our world."
"Telepathic? Then, that means this test was...." Tom trailed off into shocked silence. Words were impossible to find as he suddenly realised the results were going to be accurate this time, and he found that all he could do was stare pale-faced at the equally stunned man beside him.
"Yes, yes. The test of true love," Hirriban stated, nodding. "Because it is impossible to hide anything from a Dreegot, you will now know for certain how each of you feels about the other." He smiled brightly then as a blue light appeared on top of the box. A whirring noise was heard, and Hirriban once again opened the lid, taking out two pieces of yellow card, each covered with spidery writing. "For you, my darlings," he said, placing a card on each man's lap. "May you no longer live in ignorance."
"Well," Tom began hesitantly as he stood outside Hirriban's cabin, perusing the words on the yellow card. "It looks like the Dreegot got it completely right. Everything on here is one hundred percent correct."
"It is?" Chakotay questioned, looking up sharply from studying his own card. "Can I see?"
"Oh, I... Um... Well, there's no need really, is there?" Tom said, quickly shoving the card in the top pocket of his shirt. "I mean, you already know what I think of you. You know how I admire your leadership skills and that kind of thing. That's what the Dreegot picked up on, so there's no point showing you. But you can let me see what *yours* says if you like."
Chakotay shook his head, then folded his card in half and pushed it into the back pocket of his pants. "You were right, there's no point. I doubt you'd even find it as interesting as the crew evaluations I've done on you. Let's just forget about this experience, and concentrate on enjoying the rest of our shore leave."
"Yeah, okay," Tom said easily, hiding his curiosity about what was written on Chakotay's card, but deciding that one way or another he would eventually find out. He would just have to be patient and await his chance. "That's a good idea," he remarked, smiling now. "We've still got lots to see, and plenty of things to try. And Harry should be back soon, too."
"Right. But before he gets here, let's have a go at some of the things he's likely to object to," Chakotay suggested with a grin of his own. "How about the roller coaster you pointed out to me on the way here? I'm sure *that* will be on Harry's list of things to avoid."
Tom laughed. "Definitely," he agreed. "Harry'd probably suffer vertigo just looking at it."
"Come on, then," Chakotay said, smiling broadly and tapping Tom on the arm. "Let's have fun."
"Hey, look. You can see the ocean from up here," Tom remarked as they reached the top of the roller coaster's first high climb, and teetered on its crest. "It's beautiful. Just like...." He didn't get to finish the sentence as they suddenly found themselves hurtling downwards at speeds Tom was sure he'd only ever reached before while piloting Voyager, his breath snatched from him as even the thought of speaking became impossible.
The next minute and a half was a disorientating blur of bright lights, confusing sounds, and the feeling of cold air rushing over him as he was pushed back, and held firmly in his seat, by a well-designed safety harness and fluctuating g-forces. It seemed to last a lifetime as both men's senses became jumbled to the point where it was impossible to tell which way up they were, or how far along the ride they'd progressed, and adrenaline pumped rapidly through their bodies in response, continuing even after they'd come to a shuddering stop.
Alighting from the ride red-faced and breathless, they walked unsteadily down the exit ramp, neither man's brain having processed the fact yet that they were once more on solid ground, and they clung to the railing at the bottom until they no longer felt that everything around them was revolving.
"That was a bigger rush than the wall," Tom commented eventually, smiling brightly at Chakotay. "Wanna do it again?"
Chakotay laughed as he used his fingers to push back stray strands of hair that had fallen across his forehead. "Not just yet, Tom. I could do with a drink first," he replied, pointing to a refreshments stall opposite. "Come on. My treat," he offered.
"Thanks," Tom answered, then followed Chakotay as they made their way across the small open space to the kiosk, his gaze caught by a glimpse of yellow card poking out of the top of Chakotay's back pocket. Smiling, he patted the Commander on the shoulder as they reached the counter, leaving his hand there as they ordered two ice-cold beverages and quickly drank them.
"What do you want to do now?" Chakotay asked as he placed his empty cup on the counter alongside Tom's, all the time wondering why Tom was still touching him. Not that he minded at all, he was just curious. As curious as he was to know what the Dreegot had said about Tom's thoughts. Tom's reaction to the card had intrigued him, and ever since then, Chakotay had been wondering if the words on it were anything like the ones on his own card.
Tom shrugged. "How about we just walk for a while?" he suggested. "Take in the atmosphere of the place until something takes our fancy."
"That's fine with me. I like walking. Perhaps we could head for the observation tower in the centre of the park. We'd be able to see just about everything from that."
"Good idea, Chakotay," Tom remarked. "Let's go." He moved aside slightly so that Chakotay could walk next to him as they set off, then moved his hand from Chakotay's shoulder to the small of his back, hoping that the Commander would see it as a friendly gesture, and not object.
Chakotay smiled, but said nothing about Tom's change of hand position, not even when, a few moments later, he felt the hand moving slowly and gently lower, coming to rest a fraction below the waistband of his pants, and Tom's fingers grazed the top of his pants' pocket. That was when Chakotay realised what Tom was up to. He was trying to liberate the card. Grinning, and determined that Tom was not going to succeed with his plan, Chakotay stopped, and turned to face him.
Chakotay's action caught Tom by surprise, and he was left in a position where he was virtually giving the Commander a one-armed hug. Taking a small backwards step, he hastily removed his arm from around the Commander's waist, then looked at him questioningly. "Why'd you stop so suddenly?" he asked. "Have you decided on something you want to do?"
"Yes, Tom. I have," Chakotay replied quietly, gazing intently at Tom's flustered expression as he concluded that Tom's plan had given him the right to have a little fun at the younger man's expense. "It's something I've wanted to do for a long time," he added softly.
"What?" Tom asked, frowning, and trying to decide if Chakotay meant what he thought he did, or whether it was just his own wishful thinking putting ideas in his head. "What do you want to do?"
"Can't you guess, Tom?" Chakotay asked, stepping closer and placing his hand on Tom's chest. "It's something I'm very passionate about. Something I've thought of doing ever since we first got stuck in this quadrant."
Tom swallowed heavily, not sure if his dreams were about to come true, and Chakotay was going to kiss him. Deciding to err on the side of caution, though, he shook his head. "I've got no idea, Chakotay. Tell me."
"Well," Chakotay began, slowly moving his fingers in tiny circles on Tom's chest. "You know how much I love to learn about people? How passionate I am about that?" At Tom's puzzled nod, he continued. "Well, I think it's about time I learned more about *you*. Don't you think so? I should get to know *you* better. Much better."
"Um, yeah. I guess," Tom mumbled, his face flushed as Chakotay's words and actions raced straight to his groin, and his pants started to feel a little uncomfortable on him.
"Good. I'm glad you agree," Chakotay murmured, his fingers slipping unnoticed inside Tom's shirt pocket. "You *do* agree, don't you?" he queried softly.
"Yes," Tom said, nodding slowly. "I agree."
"Good. Then, you won't mind me reading *this*, will you?" Chakotay asked, closing his fingers around the card in Tom's pocket.
Before Chakotay could pull it all the way out, though, Tom came to his senses, and grasped the older man's wrist. "Oh, no you don't," he snapped, gripping one edge of the card and plucking it from Chakotay's hand, annoyed that he'd been taken in by the Commander, and frustrated as hell that things hadn't gone the way he'd hoped they would. "That's staying right where it is." He pushed the card back into his pocket, then glared at Chakotay as they stood in the middle of the path, an assortment of people passing them happily by as they made their way to the various attractions.
Chakotay raised his eyebrows as he stared at the indignant man before him. "You can't blame me for trying, Tom," he said with a wry grin. "I was only copying *you*. That *is* what you were trying to do when you had your hand on my back, wasn't it? You were trying to relieve me of my card."
Tom ran the fingers of one hand through his hair, a grudging smile breaking out on his face as he realised he hadn't been too subtle in his attempts. He gave an amused snort, then laughed. "Okay," he relented. "I confess. I was trying to get your card. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have done it." He suddenly stopped laughing, his eyes drawn to a nearby bench where two Havklans were sitting, their arms draped around each other as they kissed tenderly, both oblivious to everything going on around them. "There was no real harm done, though, was there?" Tom continued quietly, watching the couple kiss. "D'you think we could just forget about it?"
"If that's what you want, Tom," Chakotay replied, following the younger man's line of sight, before looking back at Tom and wondering about the wistful look on his face.
"Yeah, that's what I want," Tom answered, nodding. He sighed, then turned back to Chakotay. "Ready for the observation tower now?" he asked. "The view should be pretty spectacular from up there."
Chakotay smiled, then reached out to gently squeeze Tom's arm. "Yes, it should," he agreed. "Come on."
"You were right, Tom. It's wonderful," Chakotay commented. They were standing together in one of thirty small, glass-fronted cabins that hung from cables attached to a circular frame at the top of the high observation tower, the cabins making a slow ascent and steady circuit of the tower as the frame revolved, thus allowing the occupants to eventually see the entire expanse of the park.
"Yeah, it's beautiful," Tom agreed, staring out at the vast array of flashing multicoloured lights that outlined each of the attractions, and watching as Havkla's sun glowed a deep, fiery red before it finally slipped below the distant horizon, the resulting darkness making the lights in the park appear even brighter. "But, for a while there," he continued, glancing at Chakotay. "I wasn't sure you'd noticed. We've been up here for fifteen minutes now, and that's the first time you've spoken. Is something wrong?"
Chakotay gave a soft sigh, then sat down on the bench behind him, his knees almost touching the tiny cabin's window. "Not really," he replied, leaning his head back against the wall. "I've just been thinking about something. I didn't mean to be distant. I'm sorry."
"That's okay," Tom said, sitting down next to the Commander, and turning slightly to face him. "But it's obvious that something's bothering you. D'you want to tell me what it is you've been thinking about?"
Chakotay sat pondering Tom's question for a few moments, then nodded. "Okay," he began, looking thoughtfully at the younger man. "I'm not completely sure if I'm doing the right thing here, but I'll tell you anyway. I've been thinking about Harry."
"Harry?" Tom repeated, surprised. "Why would you be thinking about Harry? Are you worried that he hasn't contacted us yet?"
"No," Chakotay replied, shaking his head. "If there had been any problems, we'd have heard about them. It isn't that."
"Then, what is it?" Tom queried, worried by the slightly apprehensive look on Chakotay's face.
Chakotay took a deep breath, then sighed. "Harry's a good man," he started. "But he's a little bit too cautious at times."
"Well, that's not really a bad thing, is it?" Tom interrupted, frowning.
"No, not generally," Chakotay answered, glancing down at his hands that were tightly clasped together on his lap. "But there are times when I think it pays to take risks. And I've been wondering if today was such a time."
"I'm not really sure I understand. Are you interested in Harry romantically, or something?" Tom asked quietly. "Is that it?"
"No, Tom," Chakotay said with a small smile. "I'm not interested in Harry like that. It's just that his attitude got me thinking about how cautious *I've* been. And I've decided it's time to stop being cautious, and to take what will probably end up being the biggest risk of my life."
"That sounds serious," Tom commented as he carefully studied the older man. "What are you going to do?"
"This," Chakotay said decisively, and reached into his back pocket, pulling out the yellow card, then holding it out to Tom. "I want you to read it, Tom. I don't know if you meant what you said earlier, about everything on your card being correct, but I can assure you that what's written on mine is completely accurate."
Tom stared at the card in Chakotay's hand, but made no attempt to take it from him. "I thought we decided to forget about the cards?" he said, glancing up worriedly.
"It's okay, Tom. You don't have to show me yours if you don't want to," Chakotay said soothingly. "But the time's right for *me* to finally let you know exactly what I think about *you*. I've put it off for far too long as it is." He looked down briefly at the folded card. "You don't have to read it right this minute," he said quietly as the cabin came to a halt, then started its downward journey. "Wait until we get out of here, then we'll split up for half an hour or so. You'll be able to read it in private then."
Tom sat silently for a few moments, then nodded slowly, removing the card from Chakotay's grasp. "Okay. I'll read it," he finally responded. "Then, I'll meet you in the park's educational section. We'll probably need to talk afterwards, and it looks quieter there."
"Okay. How about outside the 'Ocean Discovery' ride?" Chakotay asked, pointing out the window to a structure that sported a representation of a giant wave; blue, green and white lights flashing on and off in sequence to make it appear as if it was moving.
"I'll see you there," Tom agreed.
Tom stared at the card in his hand for the hundredth time, then peered through the window of the cafe, studying the man who stood alone at the spot where they'd agreed to meet.
Chakotay was leaning on the entrance gate, his head bowed, and seemingly lost in thought. Tom had noticed him arrive five minutes earlier, but had been too stunned by what he'd read to be able to move then. Now, though, he got up from the table and made his way to the door, stepping out into the relative quiet of the fairground's educational sector, then quickly crossing to Chakotay's side, the well-read card clutched tightly in his hand.
Chakotay turned round to find that Tom had joined him, and he looked questioningly at the younger man. "So?" he asked. "Did you read it?"
Tom nodded towards a row of boats bobbing one behind the other in a narrow, water-filled channel at the ride's entrance "That looks like it could be interesting. And there's no queue," he remarked. "Let's give it a go. We can talk there."
"Okay," Chakotay replied, and they went through the gate to the payment kiosk that stood just inside, handed over the required tokens, then seated themselves side by side in the first boat as they waited for the ride to commence.
After a couple of minutes, the boat slowly began to move, helped along by an unseen power source that created a current strong enough to propel them forward at a sedate pace. The darkness of the Havklan night was left behind as the boat pushed through a pair of flimsy doors that led into the ride's interior, and the soft glow of concealed lighting illuminated the tunnel that the men found themselves in, their surroundings continuously transforming in colour from pale turquoise through every shade to deepest blue, then back again. A shimmering light suddenly appeared below their feet, and looking down, it was then that they noticed the material the boat was constructed from.
Outside, where it had waited patiently for passengers, the small, basic vessel had seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary; just a black craft similar in design to a rowing boat. But now, as their eyes adjusted to the new light level, the men could see that it was actually made of a strong transparent material that made the boat appear virtually invisible and gave the illusion that they were floating, without support, in the water below it. And, as the boat continued slowly forward, they noticed something else.
The channel they were being taken along was a tube made of the same material as the boat, and it was becoming smaller and narrower the further they went. The more diminutive stature of the Havklans meant that they had no difficulty in the diminished space, but Chakotay and Tom quickly discovered that the only way they could proceed without the tops of their heads scraping the tube above them was to shift forward in their seats, then lay back with their heads resting on the rear of the boat.
"This is amazing," Chakotay commented as he gazed around, and realised that the tube was not only half filled with water, but was surrounded by it as well, giving the illusion that the tube they knew was there did not exist. "It's as though we're actually under the ocean," he added, smiling as a shoal of small rainbow-coloured fish darted first above them, then swam quickly down to disappear under a craggy rock that the boat was passing over.
"Yeah. Amazing," Tom said softly, ignoring the garish pink fish that was staring at him as though *he* was one of the exhibits, and focussing his attention on Chakotay instead. "And so was your card, Chakotay," he added.
Chakotay turned to face Tom, his eyes drawn to the bright blue ones looking intently at him. "You read it, then," he stated quietly.
Tom nodded. "Yeah. I read it," he confirmed. "And you were right. You *were* taking a very big risk."
"Oh." Chakotay sighed, and stared at a large grey and green turtle-like creature that was resting on the tube above them, seemingly asleep, its stubby fins twitching every now and again. He sat unmoving, berating himself for his decision to disclose his innermost thoughts to the other man, until a hand gently touched his arm.
"I'm glad you gave the card to me, Chakotay," Tom whispered, his slightly trembling fingers inching their way up to the older man's shoulder. "You're much braver than I am."
Chakotay frowned, his eyes travelling to the hand that was now tentatively squeezing his shoulder. "Does this mean you're okay with what it said?" he asked softly. "Or am I reading more into your actions than I should?"
Before Tom could answer, the boat was engulfed by a sudden flash of bioluminescence emanating from an enormous black fish to his right, and which bathed both men in a golden glow for several seconds. As the unexpected light faded, Tom smiled, then reached out with his free hand to grasp Chakotay's other shoulder, moving in close as he did so. "I've wanted you for just as long as your card says you've wanted me, Chakotay," he murmured before leaning forward and touching his lips to those of the man lying alongside him. "So I'm sure you're reading me correctly," he added softly, then turned his mouth's hesitant touch into a gentle kiss.
Chakotay closed his eyes and pulled Tom closer, equally relieved and amazed that Tom was in his arms. It felt so good, and he deepened the kiss as he gently manoeuvred Tom to lie on top of him, enjoying the increased contact as the boat bobbed and rocked, continuing its pre-programmed journey through the transparent tube. There was another bright flash of light, but neither man cared where it came from this time, both too absorbed by the arousal coursing through their bodies to bother about anything else. The beautiful and spectacular creatures swimming around them went unnoticed as the kiss stretched on, and the men's soft moans of pleasure filled the tube.
"I've wanted this for so long," Tom whispered when they eventually parted. He moved his lips to Chakotay's neck and licked at the soft, slightly damp skin, his fingers gently running through the older man's dark hair, and his hips mimicking the movement of the boat as he moved steadily against Chakotay. "I suppose it's too soon to say this, really, but I love you, Chakotay. I've loved you since the day we first met."
Chakotay grasped Tom's head, and pulled him up so that he could look into the younger man's eyes. "I love you too, Tom," he responded softly. "I always have and I always will. And to hear you say that you love *me*, is something I've dreamed about for as long as I can remember. Thank you." He brought Tom down for another kiss, his hands moving slowly across Tom's back as Tom continued to rock against him. Around them, the ever-changing colours of the lighting revealed a myriad of tiny silver fish, their glittering scales reflecting the soft hues as they swam past, unobserved.
"I want to touch you, Cha," Tom whispered as his hand crept between their bodies and began to gently rub the hardness that he encountered.
Chakotay moaned softly, and pushed himself up to increase the welcome friction. "Please, Tom," he murmured, gripping Tom's hips as he gazed into the younger man's aroused eyes. "And let me feel you, too," he requested. "Let me feel your skin against mine."
"Mmm, that'd be good," Tom breathed, his fingers already undoing Chakotay's pants.
Chakotay closed his eyes as Tom eased his pants and shorts down to his knees, then, a moment later, groaned loudly as he felt Tom lower himself on top of him, the pilot's own now-bared flesh feeling incredibly hot to his excited senses. Tom moaned softly, and resumed his movements, the light sheen of sweat that now covered their bodies allowing him to slide easily over Chakotay as he rubbed his erection insistently against its counterpart. He buried his head in Chakotay's neck, his gasping breaths tickling and teasing the older man's sensitive skin and making him squirm and groan with pleasure, both of them lost now in a haze of sensation. Without conscious thought, Tom began to move faster. His lips met Chakotay's again, and as they kissed, and he felt Chakotay matching his movements, an overwhelming rush of emotion and desire flooded him until he could no longer contain his inevitable climax. He reached between their bodies again, and wrapped his hand around their erections, holding them tightly together as he stroked them both to an almost immediate completion.
Both breathing heavily, they lay together afterwards, savouring the moment that they'd both wanted but had never expected, the boat taking them steadily onwards, towards the exit. Tom smiled down at the man beneath him, Chakotay's face soft and relaxed as he gazed back. "I love you, Chakotay," he reaffirmed. "And when we get back to Voyager, I want to show you properly. I want you to know just how much you mean to me."
"I think I already know, Tom," Chakotay said, nipping at Tom's throat. "But if you want to show me again, I won't complain." He smiled, then rolled to his side, taking Tom with him. "I love you," he said seriously. "And I intend to show *you* just how much, for as long as you want me."
"Then you'll be showing me for a very long time," Tom stated, giving Chakotay a tender kiss before reaching down to fumble in the pocket of his pants. He pulled out a scrumpled up piece of tissue that he'd picked up in the cafe, and began to gently clean his lover. "Now that I've finally got you, I don't ever want to let you go, Cha," he continued, wiping him carefully before starting on himself. "I hope you don't mind, but I'm afraid you're well and truly stuck with me."
"That's fine with me, Tom," Chakotay smiled as he pulled up his shorts and pants. He settled back down then, and pulled Tom into his arms, kissing him again. "Because you're well and truly stuck with me," he added as the tunnel began to widen, the ride coming to an end. They shared one last lingering kiss before sitting back up as the boat edged its way towards the doors in front of them.
"Hi, Tom, Commander." Harry was waiting for them near the ride's exit, and greeted the two men as they stepped out of the boat and into the cool night air of the Havklan fairground. "Did you have a good time?" he asked.
"Yeah, Harry. The best," Tom replied. He and Chakotay stopped in front of the smiling Ensign. "But where did *you* get to?" Tom queried. "Did the Captain find you something else to do after you'd escorted her to the transport site?"
Harry nodded. "Something like that. And I've still got one more errand to run for her before I resume shore leave." He gave Tom an apologetic look. "I hope you don't mind, but I probably won't see you any more tonight; I've promised to meet up with Jenny Delaney."
"That's okay, Harry," Tom replied, glancing at Chakotay and smiling. "The Commander and I have a bit more exploring to do yet, so don't worry about leaving us on our own," he grinned.
"Okay, I won't," Harry responded. He frowned as something caught his eye. There was a man waving to him from the kiosk that was situated behind the two other officers. "I think someone's trying to get our attention," he commented. "I'll go and see what he wants." He left the others, and approached the Havklan.
The man held a large, white envelope, and something else. "For your friends," he stated, giving the items to Harry. "A souvenir." He gave a small bow, then disappeared inside the kiosk and closed the window.
Harry looked at what he'd been given, and raised his eyebrows, then, with a grin, opened the envelope and put the other item inside. Tom and Chakotay joined him a moment later, and Harry smiled broadly at them. "Looks like you've got a little memento to take back to Voyager, Commander," he said, handing the envelope to Chakotay. He turned to Tom, then. "I'll see you tomorrow, Tom. Enjoy the rest of your leave."
"I will. Thanks,"
Harry walked off quickly, leaving the two men to examine their souvenir in private.
"What is it?" Tom asked as Chakotay pulled a thin piece of card from the envelope. The side facing them was blank, so Chakotay turned it over, and they stared in surprise at what was on the other side. "So *that's* what that other flash of light was," Tom said with a laugh.
Chakotay's arm slipped around Tom's waist, and his warm lips gently kissed the younger man's cheek. "I hope you don't mind our relationship becoming public so soon, because now that Harry's seen *this*," Chakotay remarked, waving the photo he held - the two of them kissing passionately while lying in the bottom of the boat. "There's no way we're going to keep things to ourselves."
Tom turned to face Chakotay, and wrapped his arms around the Commander's neck. "I don't mind *who* knows, Cha. I'm just pleased we now *have* a relationship, because even in my wildest dreams, I never thought it would ever happen." He leaned forward and gave Chakotay a soft kiss. "Thank God for Hirriban, Dreegots and the fact that you had the courage to let me see what was on your card."
Chakotay smiled, and hugged Tom tightly. "Let's get back to the ship, Tom," he suggested in a whisper. "I think it's time to continue those explorations that you mentioned to Harry."
Tom laughed and nodded. "Good idea," he agreed, and together they set off for the transport site.
In a dark and secluded alleyway nearby, Harry was busy conversing with the Captain via his comm badge. "I still have to speak with Hirriban and let him know how things turned out, but I've been to visit Mevilane and thanked him for the fake profiles he gave Tom and the Commander," he informed her.
"That's good," Janeway replied, a smile in her voice. "Mevilane's unbelievable comments were an essential part of the plan. Without those, and the free ticket he gave them afterwards, our two frustrated friends would *never* have thought to approach Hirriban and take his 'Test of True Love'. If Mevilane had given them a true character reading, then both of them would have definitely refused to visit his brother."
"Yeah," Harry laughed, a smile forming on his face as he watched his best friend stroll past his concealed position, Tom's arm around Chakotay's shoulders. "But as things stand, Captain," Harry continued, allowing himself a small contented sigh. "I'm happy to report that it all worked out fine. Mission accomplished."
"That's wonderful news, Harry," Janeway responded happily. "Now let's just hope they stay together after all our hard work," she added. "I don't think I could stand another minute of those two dancing around each other; they were driving me crazy. I'm so pleased we found a way to put an end to their suffering, and ours," she continued. "Although we'll talk more about the details of it tomorrow. For now, go and enjoy the remainder of your shore leave," she instructed. "You more than deserve it. I'll see you as soon as you return. Janeway out."
In the silence that ensued, Harry stood still a moment, watching as Chakotay and Tom ambled further away from him, the light from two of Havkla's three moons bathing the men in a soft, silvery glow as they continued their walk, both happy with their new relationship and totally oblivious to the conversation that had centred on them. And, as the men disappeared from view, Harry whispered his thoughts into the night. "Good luck, guys," he called softly, then turned quickly away and hurried off to speak with Hirriban.