Body For As Long As We Live NC-17

"Five hours" Tom muttered to himself "Five whole hours out of my day off!" He picked his way through the throng, and sat down at a table in the corner of the crowded mess hall.

The reception, for the Ilvarekian Ambassador and his entourage, was in full swing. Neelix had outdone himself with the presentation of the food, and with the decorations. A long table had been placed down one side of the room, with elaborate and colourful culinary creations atop a flowing maroon tablecloth, that reached to the floor and beyond. The whole room was decked out with maroon and cream flowers and garlands, the colours being the official ones of the Ambassador.

Drinks were flowing freely, and almost everyone was in high spirits. Tom wasn't. The senior staff had been 'asked' to stay for the entire eight hours that the reception had been scheduled to last, as well as to conduct short tours when required.

Tom sighed. Why did it have to be today? The first time for weeks that his and Chakotay's days off had coincided. And the party was just over half way through. He sighed again, and looked around the room. There was Chakotay, looking on as the Captain engaged the Ambassador in conversation.

Tom recognised the look on Chakotay's face. To anyone else, it would appear that the Commander was fascinated with what was being said, but Tom knew differently. After living with the First Officer for the past five months, Tom could tell that Chakotay was simply acting the part. Acting very well, but that was all.

Tom stood up, and walked to the long table. He helped himself to something orange, that surprisingly tasted very good. A dish at the back caught his eye, but it was awkward to get to from the front of the table, as the ornate flower arrangement there blocked his path to it. There was a gap between the table and the wall, large enough for him to fit in, so he carefully edged his way down to where the enticing food sat. He spooned some into a small bowl, and leaned back against the wall to eat.

As he stood there, consuming the sweet concoction, he became aware that Chakotay was surreptitiously watching him. He smiled to himself, and decided to put on a show. He scooped up a small spoonful, and brought it to his lips, closing his eyes as the spoon slowly entered his mouth, then left. He opened his eyes then, catching and holding Chakotay's gaze, as he ran his tongue sensually over his lips. He repeated the actions, and watched in triumph as Chakotay started to shift uncomfortably.

Tom looked around carefully. No one other than the First Officer was watching him, so he slowly sank down behind the table, beckoning to Chakotay as he did so. Chakotay's curiosity was piqued, and he managed to excuse himself, and made his way to the table.

"Tom" he whispered, as he pretended to inspect the food "Where are you?"

A hand crept out from under the tablecloth, and rubbed at Chakotay's ankle. "Under here, Cha" came a small voice from near the floor.

Chakotay only just managed to conceal his surprise, as he looked down at the fingers now tracing patterns on his foot. "What are you doing under there, Tom?" he asked, quietly.

"Waiting for you" came the soft response, as the hand disappeared back under the cloth.

Chakotay ran his hand across his mouth, as he considered what to do. He looked around, then walked to the end of the table and edged behind it. Once he was satisfied that no eyes were upon him, he bent down quickly. He lifted the tablecloth, and peered under. There was Tom a few feet away, smiling broadly.

"Quick, Cha, come on" he encouraged the older man, as he gestured for Chakotay to join him.

Chakotay shook his head incredulously, then crawled under the table to where Tom sat. "This is crazy, Tom" he grinned, as the younger man reached out to him.

"Not too loud, someone might hear us" Tom warned "Anyway, it's this reception on our day off that's crazy. I wanted to spend the day with you, not half the ship and a bunch of Ilvarekians" he said, as he stroked Chakotay's cheek tenderly.

"Yeah, I know what you mean" the First Officer replied, as he softly kissed Tom's palm. "But wouldn't it have been better if we'd just sneaked out?"

"We'd never have made it past Neelix" Tom said quietly "He's been standing at the door like some kind of sentry"

"Good point" Chakotay murmured, as he slipped his hand behind Tom's head, and threaded his fingers through the soft hair, before pulling him in for a slow, deep kiss. Chakotay felt strong hands gently caressing his back, and he reciprocated in kind. All sense of time and place was forgotten, as the two men kissed on and on, their arousal growing with every passing second.

Chakotay turned his attention to Tom's neck, and nipped softly at the pale skin. He licked his way slowly to Tom's left ear, and nibbled there gently before moving to Tom's chin, and then to the tip of his nose, kissing and nipping as he went. Tom moaned softly, and dropped his roaming hands to Chakotay's groin. He rubbed and massaged the big man's erection through the material of his pants, before undoing the fastenings and setting it free. Chakotay groaned as warm fingers closed around him, and began to pump him slowly. He latched on to Tom's mouth, hungrily, as he stroked his way down Tom's firm chest. His hands stopped at Tom's pants, and quickly undid them, his fingers slipping inside to pull Tom's erection from it's confinement.

Many minutes passed as they kissed passionately, their hands stroking and caressing each other incessantly, before Chakotay pushed Tom to lay down on his side. He turned to lay with his head towards Tom's feet, then swiftly pulled the younger man's pants down to his knees, feeling his own pants tugged down as well. Both men mirrored each other's actions perfectly, as eager mouths descended on hot, hard flesh, and sucked vigorously. Soft moans were masked by the noise level in the room, as tongues travelled to tightening balls, and licked sensually, before making their way up to lap teasingly around the heads of throbbing erections. Fingers worked their way between warm cheeks, and probed gently, before pushing into hot, tight channels. Both men groaned softly, as the invaders slid in and out, matching the increasing urgency of their mouths and tongues. As music started up in the mess hall, Tom and Chakotay thrust hard into each other's mouths, and came simultaneously with violent shudders. They held on tightly to each other's thighs, as they rode out the twin orgasms, before licking and sucking each other clean. Their breathing was still ragged, as they moved to sit up, and they thanked each other with one love-filled kiss after another.

The hushed voices of two Ilvarekians, that were now standing next to the table, finally got their attention.

"In two more hours, our comrades from Galtar will arrive, and this ship will be ours" stated the first low voice.

"Yes, these Starfleet creatures were so easy to fool. They never doubted once, our reasons for wanting such a long reception, and the tours of the ship have been invaluable" the second voice answered quietly.

"But they are not fools. The technology on this ship proves that. Voyager may not be as advanced in some ways as our ships, or the Galtarians', but it is faster, and will be a welcome addition to our fleet" the first Ilvarekian pointed out.

"It's a shame our own ships are so far away, or we could have taken it sooner" the second alien said, before they both moved away.

Under the table, two stunned and incredulous officers quickly pulled up their pants, and desperately rearranged their clothes.

"God, Cha. We've got to stop them!" Tom said, urgently, as he refastened his pants.

"Let's get out of here, and find the Captain" Chakotay said, as he crawled quickly out from under the cloth at the front of the table.

"Commander. Did you lose something?" Janeway asked, as her First Officer appeared at her feet, his face flushed and his clothes dishevelled.

"Not yet" he replied, standing up "But we will if the Ilvarekians have their way"

"We overheard them, Captain" said a rosy-faced Tom Paris, as he too crawled out from under the table, watched by a baffled Janeway, and Tuvok, who stood next to her.

"Mr. Paris? What's going on? Why were you both under the table?" Janeway asked, looking bemused.

"I'll explain later, Captain" Chakotay promised "But first, we have a problem. The Ilvarekians asked for the long reception in order to call up reserves. They plan to take Voyager"

"You're sure of this?"

"Yes, Captain. We overheard two of them talking. They plan to take the ship in two hours time, they said it would be a welcome addition to their fleet" Chakotay confirmed.

"Then I think the reception is over. We'll say we have an emergency situation that requires us to leave this area of space, and ask them to return to their ship" Janeway decided "Tuvok, please arrange for them to be escorted to the transporter room"

"Aye, Captain" Tuvok replied. He left quickly to summon a security team.

"We'd better have the senior staff on the bridge. Let's go, gentlemen"

They made their way quickly out of the mess hall, collecting the other senior officers as they went, and were soon on the bridge.

"Captain" Chakotay said, as he took his seat "They said that Voyager was faster than their ship, if that's so we should be able to leave their space without incident. I don't think that they'll fire on us, as they know they're no match for us in that department"

Janeway nodded "Mr. Kim" she called "Scan their ship, and see if you can confirm the Commander's information about their speed"

"Scanning now, Captain" he replied, looking intently at the readings that were being generated "Scans indicate their probable top speed to be around warp 7"

"Thank you, Mr. Kim" Janeway answered with a smile "What do long range scans show? Are there any other ships in the vicinity?" she asked before being interrupted.

"Tuvok to Janeway"

"Go ahead, Tuvok" she replied to the hail.

"We are ready to return the Ambassador and his group to their ship" Tuvok informed her.

"Understood. Let me know when the transport is complete"

"Aye, Captain" There was silence a moment "Transport complete" Tuvok confirmed "I shall return to the bridge, Tuvok out"

"Anything on long range scans, Mr. Kim?"

"One ship, Captain, approaching on an intercept course at warp 6. They'll be here in approximately one hour forty five minutes"

"Mr. Paris" Janeway called "Get us out of here, warp 8"

"Aye, Captain" Tom replied, as he carried out the command and sent Voyager swiftly on her way.

"Are the Ilvarekians pursuing?" Chakotay asked, looking across at Harry.

"No, Sir, and the other ship hasn't changed course either" he reported.

"Good. Keep a track on their positions" Chakotay ordered.

"Aye, Sir"

Janeway looked around as the turbolift door opened, and Tuvok stepped out, moving to take up his position. "Well" she began, turning her attention to her First Officer "At least we're not being followed. Either they've decided it would be a pointless exercise, or we were wrong about them"

"I doubt that we were wrong, Captain" Tuvok interrupted "I observed their behaviour on the way to the transporter room, and they seemed to be anxious and agitated. I believe they did indeed plan to attack Voyager"

"Thank goodness they were overheard, then" Janeway commented, as she looked back to Chakotay.

The First Officer just nodded, and dropped his gaze to the readouts being supplied to him, his face totally unreadable as he scrutinised the data.

---------------

Two hours later, and there was still no sign of pursuit. The Ilvarekian ship was still holding it's original position, while the other had rendezvoused with it. Voyager was well out of harm's way now, and had decreased speed to warp 6. It was decided that they would maintain that speed for the next hour, in order to build on the 'safety cushion' they had already established. As everything seemed to be under control, the senior staff were now off duty.

Chakotay and Tom had almost made it to the turbolift, when they were waylaid by the Captain.

"Commander, Lieutenant. Just a few more minutes of your time, please" Janeway said, as she gestured for the two officers to follow her into the ready room.

Chakotay and Tom traded quick glances, as the door closed behind them.

Janeway smiled. "Well, gentlemen, I'd like to congratulate you for your prompt warning. It's probable that your keen hearing saved us a lot of unnecessary trouble. However," she continued, looking from one man to the other "I'm still curious as to why my First Officer and my Senior Pilot were under a table during the reception. Perhaps one of you would care to enlighten me"

"Actually, Captain" Tom began, his face slightly flushed "It was my fault. Chakotay and I were supposed to have had today off, our first day off together for weeks, and I just really wanted to spend some time alone with him"

"Under the table?!" Janeway laughed, as she leaned back against her desk.

Tom shrugged "Seemed like a good idea at the time. And besides," he grinned cheekily "if we hadn't been under there, we'd never have known what the Ilvarekians had planned"

"No, I suppose not" Janeway agreed, smiling wryly and shaking her head.

"Captain, please accept our apologies for our inappropriate behaviour" Chakotay offered, looking contrite, as he stood next to Tom.

"It's okay, Chakotay" Janeway replied "Considering the outcome of your little tryst, I'll overlook it this time. Just don't make it a habit, though" she warned with a grin. "Anyway, go and enjoy your evening, the pair of you. And take tomorrow morning off, you both deserve it"

"Thank you, Captain" Tom beamed.

"Yes, that's very generous of you" Chakotay agreed.

"You're welcome" Janeway answered "Now, off you go. I'll see you both tomorrow afternoon"

---------------

After showering, and changing out of uniform, Tom and Chakotay headed for the mess hall. It was much the same as it had been earlier in the day. Neelix explained to them that, as the food had already been prepared, but not all the crew had had chance to be at the reception, it would remain that way for the rest of the evening. Even the wine that had been replicated would be available to the crew. The two men filled their plates, and sat in a quiet corner to eat in companionable silence.

"I really enjoyed that" Tom enthused, after he consumed the last mouthful of his meal.

Chakotay smiled, and put his fork down "I did too" he said.

Tom nodded towards a table across the room "There's Harry and B'Elanna. I was watching them at the reception earlier, things looked a little strained between them then"

"Oh?" Chakotay commented "I wonder what's wrong?"

"I don't know for sure, Cha, but I was wondering if it had something to do with the baby. She would have been due about now, if things hadn't gone wrong"

"That's probably what it is then" Chakotay agreed "It must be playing on their minds"

"Yeah. I felt really sorry for them when the poor little thing died. I wish I could have spoken to them then, but with everything that had happened, I just couldn't" Tom said, his face showing his regret..

"Perhaps the time's right, now" Chakotay suggested "Harry looks like he could use a friend. Why don't you go and speak to him? B'Elanna's just on her way to the food table, I'll go and have a chat with her"

"You're right" Tom said, rising "It's about time we all started over. I'll go see Harry now" He walked determinedly across to where Harry was seated.

"Harry" Tom said, as he pulled out a chair and sat down "Can we talk?"

"Yeah. Sure, Tom" Harry replied, nervously "What about?"

"About putting the past behind us, if we can" Tom said, leaning forward, his elbows on the table.

"Really?" Harry asked, hopefully "Do you think we can do that? I mean, how can you want to be friends with me, when I split you and B'Elanna up?"

"It wasn't all you, Harry" Tom stated "B'Elanna and I just weren't meant to be. I couldn't see that at the time, but I know it now. B'Elanna realised it as soon as we were married, though, but we never talked" He sat back in his chair, and shrugged "To tell you the truth, I knew things weren't right, but I ignored the signs. I just thought everything would sort itself out"

"B'Elanna came to me because she needed to talk to someone. I wanted to help her, and you, I didn't plan on what happened, Tom" Harry said, looking down at the table.

"It's okay, Harry, I know what happened. I spoke to B'Elanna the day before the divorce, so let's not go into it, okay. It's over, let's start afresh. If you want to, that is"

"Yeah, Tom, I want to" Harry replied, with a relieved smile "I've missed your friendship. B'Elanna and I both have"

"So, how are things with you two? I was really sorry about the baby, you know. I wanted to talk to you then, but I just felt too awkward" Tom said, remorsefully.

"Yeah, I don't think any of us would have known what to say. B'Elanna and I are okay, though. It's gonna take a long time to come to terms with what happened, but we'll do it" Harry replied with conviction.

"You're staying together, then?" Tom asked, smiling.

"I hope so. Although, we're not thinking of marriage anytime soon. We don't want to rush into anything. If we did decide to get married, we'd want to be sure it was for the right reasons, and not just because we're both upset about losing our baby"

"That sounds sensible, Harry. I hope everything works out well for you" Tom said sincerely.

"Here comes B'Elanna and Chakotay" Harry said, standing up.

Tom stood as well, and looked at B'Elanna as she approached.

"Tom" she said quietly, returning his gaze.

Tom stepped forward, and gently pulled her in for a hug. B'Elanna hugged him back, and they stood together for a few minutes in a silent embrace. Chakotay put his hand on Harry's shoulder, as they watched the pair take their first step back to friendship.

"Anyone for a drink?" Chakotay enquired, as Tom and B'Elanna parted.

"Yeah, Cha" Tom grinned "It's free, might as well make the most of it"

Chakotay grinned back, then turned his attention to the others. "Harry? B'Elanna?" he questioned, as the three sat down at the table. At their nods, he went off, returning a few moments later with a tray containing four glasses of white wine.

Chakotay took the chair next to Tom, and raised his glass. "To new beginnings" he said, looking around. The sentiment was echoed as their glasses touched.

"Talking of new beginnings" Harry said tentatively, looking at Tom "Can I ask how you two got together? I mean, I didn't even know either of you had any interest in men, let alone each other"

Chakotay smiled broadly "I was interested, Tom wasn't" he said.

"So what happened, then?" B'Elanna asked, puzzled.

"Well" Chakotay began "We'd had a bit to drink one night" he said, smiling at Tom. "Tom gave me this amazing good night kiss, and I sort of got a little carried away by it"

"Yeah" Tom chuckled "It was such an amazing kiss, that I forgot I was straight!"

"I forgot he was as well" Chakotay laughed "Until afterwards, anyway. But Tom had already decided he was okay with it"

"More than okay with it" Tom interjected, looking fondly at Chakotay.

"Yes, I remember" Chakotay chuckled, as he thought back to the shower they'd shared the following morning.

"So you decided to get together after that?" B'Elanna asked, looking from one man to the other.

"Yeah, but for more reasons than just the physical one" Tom said seriously "The more time we spent together, the more we enjoyed each other's company. We have a lot of fun. And I'm totally in love with Chakotay"

Chakotay smiled, and put his arm around Tom's shoulders "I'd been attracted to Tom for years" he confessed "But I never thought I'd have a chance with him. He's everything I've always wanted"

Tom smiled, and Chakotay leaned over to gently kiss him, before chuckling, and pulling Tom in for a crushing bear hug.

"He gets a bit possessive at times" Tom grinned against Chakotay's neck, before the big man released him.

"You'd better believe it!" Chakotay quietly stated, looking intensely at Tom "You're mine, and I don't ever intend to let you go"

"Good. I don't want you to" Tom replied softly, as he gazed lovingly into Chakotay's dark eyes.

The sound of Harry's glass being placed on the table broke the moment, and Tom and Chakotay turned to the others, smiling.

"Sorry" Tom apologised "We get a bit carried away sometimes"

"That's okay" Harry grinned "We sort of found out how much Chakotay cares for you when you went missing"

"What d'you mean?" Tom asked, his curiosity aroused.

Harry looked quizzically across at Chakotay "You didn't tell him?"

"Tell me what?" Tom asked, looking from Harry to Chakotay.

Chakotay sighed "I had a slight disagreement with the Captain" he stated quietly.

"Slight?!" B'Elanna snorted "From what I heard about it, you were lucky you didn't end up in the brig!"

"Cha, please, what happened?" Tom pleaded.

Chakotay sighed again, and looked at Tom "We'd tried everything to find you, and we were out of options" he said "The Captain decided it was no longer practical to continue investigating your disappearance. Not because she didn't want to, but because there didn't seem to be anything else we could do. I couldn't accept her decision though, and I told her so"

"But why would that get you thrown in the brig?" Tom asked, puzzled.

"Because I told her on the bridge, in front of the crew, and when she raised her voice to me, I snapped" Chakotay said, and looked sheepishly at the table.

"What did you say to her?" Tom asked, and then addressed his question to Harry when Chakotay stayed silent.

Harry looked nervously at the quiet Commander, before B'Elanna spoke up instead. "Apparently, Mr. Serene here, looked at the Captain and shouted 'Fuck you', before storming off the bridge" she supplied.

"Cha?" Tom questioned, looking at his lover in astonishment.

Chakotay looked up into wide blue eyes "I love you, Tom" he explained simply.

Tom shook his head in wonderment, and a smile crept over his face as he realised the extent of Chakotay's feelings for him. He moved towards the older man, taking hold of his hand and kissing it softly. "I've said it before, and I'll say it again, you are a revelation, Chakotay" Tom grinned "You're full of surprises"

"Yes? Well, after today, I'd have to say you are as well" Chakotay said, laughing, and looking meaningfully across at the maroon-covered table "We're lucky the Captain didn't ask for a full report"

"You mean a blow by blow account?" Tom grinned.

Harry and B'Elanna looked on, baffled, as their friends dissolved into a fit of laughter.

"What's with you two?" B'Elanna asked, once they'd calmed down.

"It's nothing really" Chakotay chuckled "Just something we'd prefer to keep to ourselves"

"Well, it's nice to see you both so happy" Harry said sincerely "And I'm really glad we're all friends again, too"

"Yeah, same here" Tom agreed, patting Harry on the shoulder. "Let's keep it this way now"

"Actually, I think this is how it was meant to be" B'Elanna said quietly "You and I would never have been as happy as you and Chakotay obviously are, Tom"

"You're right, B'Elanna, you and I weren't suited" Tom agreed "You and Harry have a much better chance of making things work. As for me and Cha, well, I think we'll be together for as long as we live" he said, smiling warmly at the older man.

"Definitely" Chakotay affirmed "Death is the only thing that could separate us permanently"

"It's that serious between you two?" Harry asked, with awe in his voice.

"Yes, Harry. It is" Tom stated, his gaze still on Chakotay "It couldn't be more serious"

"Then things really have worked out for the best" B'Elanna said, smiling "Now who's going to get me another drink?"

---------------------

After talking and catching up with B'Elanna and Harry for another hour and a half, Tom and Chakotay finally returned to their quarters. Both men were exhausted, and after a quick shower they climbed wearily into bed, the day's events having taken their toll on them.

"God, I'm shattered" Tom complained, as he struggled to pull the covers over them.

"It's been a long day" Chakotay observed, as he wrapped his body around Tom's, and nuzzled his neck.

Tom sighed happily, and snuggled sleepily into Chakotay's embrace. "Mmm" he agreed "But I'm glad we sorted things out with Harry and B'Elanna. It was a nice evening"

"A very nice evening" Chakotay said quietly, before gently kissing Tom's lips. "Let's hope that one day they'll be as happy as we are"

"No one could be as happy as we are" Tom answered softly, as his fingers caressed Chakotay's cheek.

"I think you're right, angel" Chakotay murmured, as they held each other tightly, before drifting off to sleep.

--------------------

Tom woke the next morning to the insistent aroma of coffee. He slowly opened his eyes, to be greeted by the sight of a naked, grinning, Commander kneeling next to the bed, coffee cup in hand.

"Morning" Chakotay smiled "I thought the smell of coffee might rouse you"

Tom looked lovingly at the man before him, as Chakotay placed the cup on the small table next to the bed.

"You spoil me, you know" Tom remarked, as the older man climbed back under the covers, and settled down.

"No I don't. I just give you what you deserve" Chakotay replied, as he gazed fondly at Tom.

Tom leaned over, and brushed his lips over Chakotay's, before kissing him gently. "I love you, Cha, and I love the way you take care of me" he said softly "No one's ever treated me this well before. With women, I was always expected to be the stronger one, to be the one in control, but with you I don't have to be, and it feels great. I know you don't think I'm weak, or anything, though"

"You're anything but weak, Tom" Chakotay agreed "But you're right, I do like to take charge a little more than you like to. We compliment each other well, that's one of the reasons we're so good together"

"We're very good together. Do you know, Chakotay" Tom said, looking thoughtful "We've been together five months now, and we haven't argued once"

"Yes we have" Chakotay stated seriously, as he looked at Tom reclining next to him.

"No, we haven't" Tom disagreed firmly, as he moved to sit up.

"We have" Chakotay insisted, the corners of his mouth starting to twitch suspiciously.

"No...." The light dawned, and Tom swatted the older man playfully on the arm, as they both laughed.

"I love you, Tom" Chakotay said quietly, as the laughter stopped. His gaze roved slowly over Tom's body. "I want you......." he began, as he leaned over to brush his cheek against Tom's.

"Yes?" Tom said softly, as the covers showed a noticeable bulge forming around his groin area.

Chakotay placed his lips close to Tom's ear "....to drink your coffee before it gets cold" he whispered.

It took a second before Tom realised what Chakotay had said, and then he launched himself at the laughing man next to him. A mini wrestling match ensued, which ended with the coffee cup, and its contents, landing on the floor. They peered apprehensively over the side of the bed, to survey the damage, before Tom got up and fetched a cloth from the bathroom.

"Good job I won't have to show anyone around our quarters today" Chakotay mused, as he watched Tom soaking up the spilled coffee.

"Have you shown anyone around our quarters, then?" Tom asked, as he placed the cup back on the table.

"Yes, two of the Ilvarekians. They wanted to see all sorts of things, including our cabin, so I showed them. They seemed really interested, wandered from room to room for ages"

"Probably checking it out for when they could move in" Tom snorted.

"Probably" Chakotay agreed, as Tom walked to the bathroom to get rid of the cloth. He returned a few moments later, and climbed lazily back into bed.

"Would you like another cup of coffee?" Chakotay asked, as Tom snuggled cosily up against him.

"No thanks, Cha. I'll wait awhile" Tom answered quietly.

"I take it you don't want to get up yet, either" Chakotay smiled, as the younger man moved even closer.

"I don't want to get out of bed, no" Tom murmured against Chakotay's neck. "But," he continued, as he rubbed his groin insistently against the older man's hip "I'm getting up now"

"So you are" Chakotay noted, as he gently manoeuvred Tom to lay full length on top of him, his own growing erection nestled next to Tom's.

Their mouths met, and they kissed leisurely, bathed in the soft glow of unknown stars that shone endlessly through the viewport. Many minutes passed as they kissed on. Tom's hands tenderly caressed Chakotay's shoulders as the older man lightly ran his fingers up and down Tom's sides and back. Tom gave a small moan, as he felt a hand venture lower, inquisitive fingers probing gently between his cheeks. He broke away from Chakotay's lips, and sucked lightly on the soft skin of his neck.

"I love you, Chakotay" Tom whispered. He sat up then, and reached across to the cabinet drawer. His searching fingers found the lubricant, and he offered it to Chakotay.

Chakotay pulled himself further up the bed, propping himself up slightly against the pillows. He took the lubricant, and positioned Tom so that the pilot was straddling him. Covering his fingers with the clear gel, he reached beneath his own bent legs, and began to prepare himself. Tom was unaware of Chakotay's actions, as his mind was firmly elsewhere. Chakotay's tongue was circling the glistening head of Tom's penis, as the older man savoured the first drops of his lover's essence. Tom closed his eyes, and moaned loudly, as Chakotay's mouth closed around him, and he pushed deep into the welcoming warmth. He thrust slowly in and out, as Chakotay lovingly sucked and licked him. He felt warm fingers playing gently with his balls, and he looked down at Chakotay's face. The First Officer's eyes were closed, his tongue now slowly running up and down the length of Tom's erection. Tom ran his fingers through Chakotay's soft, dark hair as he gazed at the sight that never failed to arouse him further.

Chakotay's eyes opened then, and he looked directly into Tom's. The older man brought both hands, and the lubricant, up in front of him. He released Tom from his mouth as he began to sensually coat the pilot's erection with the gel. A faint look of surprise, and then humour, crossed Tom's face.

"What's the special occasion?" he teased softly.

Chakotay pulled himself to sit up, with Tom settled across his lap. "I love you, Tom" he whispered into Tom's ear "And I want you to marry me"

"Are you serious?" Tom asked quietly, as he moved to gaze steadily into Chakotay's love-filled eyes.

"Yes, I'm very serious. I love you, and I want to give myself to you, body and soul. I want us to be married" he answered softly. "Will you marry me, Tom Paris?"

Tom wound his arms around Chakotay's neck as he rested his forehead against his lover's. "Of course I'll marry you, Cha" he said, a bright smile lighting his face. Their lips met for a long, passionate kiss, as they sealed the agreement wordlessly.

Eventually, Chakotay pulled back slightly, his arms still wrapped possessively around Tom's shoulders. "We'll go and see the Captain after our shift" he smiled "Perhaps she could marry us tonight"

"That soon?" Tom grinned.

"Why not?" Chakotay grinned back. "But right now, Lieutenant" he continued, as he kissed the tip of Tom's nose "I want you to make love to me"

---------------------------------

"Hey, Tom!" Harry called to the pilot who was walking ahead of him down the corridor.

Tom turned around and stopped. "Hi, Harry" he greeted him cheerfully.

"Where's Chakotay?" Harry asked, as they walked towards the turbolift.

"He had to drop something off at his office" Tom replied smiling. They stepped through the lift doors, and Tom called for the bridge.

"You seem pretty happy today" Harry observed "Have a good morning?"

"The best, Harry" Tom stated, a wide smile on his face.

"Are you gonna tell me about it?" Harry asked, grinning at his friend.

Tom nodded, his eyes sparkling. "Chakotay asked me to marry him. We're going to speak to the Captain about it after our shift" he said, just as the lift arrived at the bridge. "Cha wants to get married tonight, if we can" he added quietly, as they stepped out.

"Wow, Tom, that's great!" Harry replied sincerely, as he clapped Tom on the back.

"It is, isn't it?" Tom beamed before he walked down to the helm. He grinned at B'Elanna as he passed, then sat smiling as he checked their course.

The Captain arrived on the bridge, from her ready room, a few moments later, and Chakotay emerged from the lift just afterwards. Janeway stood looking across at her First Officer as he took his seat, and noticed how cheerful he seemed.

"Enjoy your morning off, Commander?" she asked with a slight smile, and a raised eyebrow.

"Definitely" Chakotay replied, grinning "In fact, I'll need to speak to you about part of it later, if you have time"

"I'm sure I can make time" Janeway replied, as Tom turned around in his seat to smile warmly at her.

"Thank you, Captain" Chakotay said, smiling broadly, as he walked across to Tom.

And that was when the unthinkable happened.

It was over in an instant. An instant that seemed to last an horrific eternity, as it passed, seemingly, in slow motion.

There was a bright, shimmering white light. Two humanoid aliens, both wielding unknown weapons, suddenly appeared directly in front of the viewscreen. A split second before Tuvok could fire his phaser, one of the aliens had targeted Chakotay. The First Officer stood next to the helm, one hand resting on Tom's shoulder, and a blast of energy flashed in his direction. As Tuvok's phaser fire was somehow deflected harmlessly away from the intruders, Chakotay fell to the floor, his eyes staring sightlessly upwards. A smouldering hole in his uniform showed he'd been hit in the stomach, as the pungent smell of charred flesh pervaded the bridge.

As Chakotay's hand was ripped forcefully from Tom's shoulder, the anguished pilot opened his mouth to shout. Any sound he would have made was lost though, as he too was mercilessly struck down. His pale face contorted in shock and pain as he fell in a crumpled heap across the lifeless body of his lover.

Phaser fire streaked across the bridge, as Tuvok and Harry fired shot after shot from their stations, but with no effect. As the traumatised bridge crew looked helplessly on, the aliens once more fired their weapons at the two officers laying unmoving on the floor. In a pulsating energy blast, the men's bodies began to dissipate, and were gone.. Then, as quickly as the unknown assailants had arrived, they promptly vanished.

Silence.

Total and utter horror, and disbelief, permeated every fibre of the grief-stricken crew members, before Janeway managed to regain her ability to think and she called for shields. She sank down heavily into her chair, her mind numb, as she shouted commands - her brain acting entirely on 'auto pilot'.

B'Elanna continued to stare numbly at the terminal in front of her. As soon as Chakotay had been hit, she'd commanded the computer to check his condition. And again when Tom fell. Her eyes blurred with tears as she reread the words on the screen; Commander Chakotay - no life signs. Lieutenant Thomas Eugene Paris - no life signs. Without conscious thought she automatically transferred the information to the Captain's console.

The turbolift door opened, and the replacement pilot, summoned by Janeway, stepped out. He moved to take up his post, totally unaware of the tragedy that had just occurred.

"Get us out of here, warp 8" Janeway ordered, her voice shaky as she tried desperately to maintain her composure. As Voyager flew rapidly on her way, Janeway's gaze fell on Harry. He stood working professionally, but his distress was clearly evident, as tears streamed unashamedly down his face. Janeway closed her eyes briefly, as she tried to make sense of what had happened. Tuvok's voice broke through her thoughts.

"Captain. I believe we were followed from Ilvarekian space by a cloaked ship."

"The other two ships were just decoys, you mean?" she asked, turning round to face him.

"Partly. I believe we would have come under attack from all three ships if not for our expedient departure. As they could not attack, however, I believe they then decided on another course of action. They deliberately left their two visible ships at our previous co-ordinates, and followed with the cloaked ship. They gradually closed on our position as we reduced speed."

"But why kill two of my officers? What did they gain from that?" Janeway asked angrily "Why not try and take the ship?"

"I do not know, Captain" Tuvok replied "Perhaps they just wished to make a statement"

Janeway shook her head at the futility of trying to understand the aliens' actions. She looked again at Harry, and decided to call up temporary replacements for him and B'Elanna. When they arrived, she handed the bridge over to Tuvok.

"Come to my ready room" she said gently to Harry. "You too, B'Elanna"

Once there, Janeway gestured for Harry and B'Elanna to sit on the couch. "Would you like a drink?" she enquired softly, as she studied the two devastated members of her senior staff.

"No thanks" B'Elanna mumbled. Harry just shook his head, unable to speak as his tears continued to fall.

Janeway sighed, and rubbed at her own moist eyes. "This is so difficult" she began. "I'd like to give you both time off, but I just can't. Not yet, anyway. I need my senior officers available in case of more trouble" She leaned forward in her chair, and looked at the pair compassionately. "This must be so hard for both of you. I know how close you once were to Tom and Chakotay, and for them to die without you being able to resolve your problems, well...." she trailed off.

"We did resolve things" B'Elanna sobbed "Last night, in the mess hall"

"You did?"

B'Elanna nodded, and took a deep breath. "Yes. We had a great evening with Tom and Chakotay. We talked for ages, they were so happy together" she said, before her emotions got the better of her again, and she buried her head in her hands.

"They wanted to see you, Captain, after their shift" Harry choked out.

"Yes, Chakotay asked to speak to me. Do you know what it was about?"

Harry nodded, and swallowed hard. "Tom was really happy" he said through his tears. He paused a moment and wiped at his reddened eyes. "I spoke with him on the way to the bridge" he sobbed, as he glanced across at B'Elanna then back to Janeway. "Chakotay had asked Tom to marry him" Tears ran freely down his cheeks as he continued. "Tom said that Chakotay wanted to get married tonight, if they could. But now they're dead!" he exclaimed, angrily. "They loved each other so much. It's just not fair!"

B'Elanna wrapped her arms around Harry as they sat and cried together. Janeway looked on, tears leaving wet tracks down her cheeks as she thought back to how happy, and full of life, her First Officer had been just twenty short minutes ago. Tom's smiling face flashed before her, and she closed her eyes and sank back in her chair. She remembered how stunned she had been when Chakotay had first told her that he and Tom were lovers. She recalled how protective he'd been towards the younger man, and how obviously in love the two men were. Now to find out that they had wanted to be married, and that it could never be...... She sighed heavily, and opened her eyes, visions of her two officers lying dead in front of her, drifting through her mind.

"We'll hold a memorial service as soon as we're in friendlier space" she stated quietly. "And I'll officially record their intention to marry. It's right that their families should know of their love for each other"

Harry nodded. "Thank you, Captain. I think they'd have both wanted that"

B'Elanna looked sadly at Harry "Do you remember what Tom said last night?" she asked softly.

Harry frowned, and shook his head.

"He said that he and Chakotay would be together for as long as they lived. It seems he was right"

Harry closed his eyes as he recalled the conversation. "I remember" he said "But Chakotay was wrong. He said death was the only thing that could separate him and Tom permanently. It hasn't. I just know they're still together" he stated emphatically. "I know it!"

-----------------------------------

The next day, B'Elanna accompanied the Captain to Chakotay's office in search of an engineering report he'd had.

They stepped sombrely into the quiet room, and walked slowly towards the First Officer's desk. A picture of Tom and Chakotay caught their eyes first, and B'Elanna picked it up. The two men were smiling lovingly at each other, their hands clasped tightly together, oblivious it seemed to everyone else around them.

A tear rolled down B'Elanna's cheek, as she gently placed the photo back. She reached over as she spotted a dark blue velvet box, sitting on top of the padds at one corner of the desk. She held the small box in her hands, as she gazed questioningly at Janeway. The Captain nodded, and B'Elanna slowly opened it up.

Inside, laying side by side, were two plain gold bands. B'Elanna took them out carefully, and held them in the palm of her hand. She noticed an inscription on the inside of each ring, and held them up to read the words. Her eyes filled with tears again, as she handed the rings to the Captain. Janeway looked closely at them, and read the same inscription on each:

'For as long as we live'.

The end (until the next story)