"God, I *hate* away missions," Tom muttered under his breath.
He slowly extricated one cold and slimy foot from the putrid ooze that enveloped it, only to have to put it straight back in as he stepped forward. The foul-smelling sludge made a squelching noise as Tom's foot disappeared into it. He grimaced as he felt the mud slide up and over the tops of his boots, filling them with its cold wetness. Cursing silently, he looked up at the man walking steadily ahead of him.
Commander Chakotay pressed on, seemingly unperturbed by the less than hospitable conditions and totally oblivious to the glares that the Lieutenant was sending his way.
They had been sent to collect mineral samples and, as always seemed to happen when they encountered some godforsaken, hellhole of a planet, they hadn't been able to use the transporters. Freak storms that appeared to erupt out of thin air, thus making them impossible to predict, had made the transport option too dangerous. Instead, Tom had skilfully piloted a shuttle through the tempestuous atmosphere. He had landed it as close as he could to their ultimate target; a small tree-and-rock-strewn island in the centre of this fetid mire.
The only way they could reach the place was on foot. They had left the shuttle over an hour ago and were only now within sight of the solid ground that, hopefully, would yield its mineral deposits without too much effort. If Voyager's scans were accurate.
"Nearly there, Lieutenant," Chakotay called back over his shoulder.
The words had barely left his mouth when he suddenly lost his footing.
Tom watched helplessly with a mixture of surprise and humour as the big man went down, sending mud flying in all directions. He tried desperately to control his urge to laugh as his mind replayed the moment; the vision of the Commander stumbling and falling flat on his face, his arms waving wildly as he tried to save himself.
Tom moved quickly towards the struggling First Officer. He had managed to turn himself over and was now lying on his back, breathless. Every part of the older man was covered in the black sludge and Tom gleefully committed the sight to memory. After all, it wasn't everyday that events like this happened.
He stifled a laugh and bent down to carefully slip his arm under the Commander's half-submerged shoulders. Chakotay reached up blindly and grabbed at Tom's other arm, his hand leaving a trail of muddy prints on the Lieutenant's uniform.
"I've got you, Commander," Tom assured him and proceeded to haul his superior officer upright.
Chakotay was silent and his eyes were closed in an attempt to keep the mud out of them. Slippery black mud dripped from his fingers, preventing him from cleaning his face. Tom realised the other man's problem and found a relatively clean part of his own sleeve to wipe Chakotay's eyes and mouth.
"Thank you, Lieutenant," Chakotay said as the slime was removed. "But, if I hear one word of this when we get back to Voyager, you'll find yourself pulling extra duty shifts in sickbay."
"I wouldn't dream of mentioning it, Commander," Tom replied smoothly. "And you're welcome, by the way."
Chakotay nodded and rubbed briskly at his arms. "Let's get moving. It should only take us another five minutes or so now."
"Yes, Sir," Tom answered and they set off for solid ground, side by side this time.
Tom noticed that the older man's pace had slowed considerably since the fall and by the time they finally reached the island, Chakotay was shivering uncontrollably. The cold, wet sludge had completely soaked through his uniform and chilled his body.
"You need to warm up, Commander," Tom said, looking at the shaking man. "Perhaps we should stop over there for a while," he suggested, pointing towards a small group of trees and large boulders.
"I think that's a good idea, Lieutenant," Chakotay managed to reply in between shivers.
He wrapped his arms tightly around himself and allowed Tom to lead him into the more sheltered area, then sat down close to one of the large rocks as Tom headed towards the trees. It wasn't long before the Lieutenant returned, carrying a substantial bundle of dry sticks and leaves.
"I'll get a fire going," Tom said as he dropped the wood and began to arrange it into a neat pile. "I think you should take those wet things off though, you'll never warm up with those on."
"Yes, you're right," Chakotay agreed. "As soon as you've got the fire started, I'll strip off."
Tom put the last of the twigs and leaves on to the pile and began to rummage in his backpack. He pulled out his phaser that, fortunately, was still mud-free and dry. Within seconds, the sticks had burst into life and a warming blaze was spreading its welcome heat in all directions.
"Here, let me help," Tom suggested as he saw the Commander struggling to take off his boots. Chakotay's hands were shaking too much for him to undo them.
Tom knelt down and quickly removed the man's boots and socks. He placed them as close to the fire as he could without them burning, then did the same with his own soggy footwear.
"I appreciate this, Paris," Chakotay said, still shivering as the Lieutenant helped him to unfasten his filthy and soaking wet uniform.
"Think nothing of it, Commander. You'd do the same for me," Tom replied, easing Chakotay's jacket sleeves down his arms. "It's a good thing we brought a couple of survival blankets with us. You can wrap them around you until your clothes are drier."
"Thank you, Paris, but you'll need one of them. You're pretty wet and cold yourself. You should put your things to dry as well."
"I'll be okay, Commander," Tom answered as he went to the backpacks to get the blankets.
"That wasn't a suggestion, Lieutenant. Get yourself dry and warm. Neither of us will be much use if we're too cold to work. We've got to get those samples and we'll get them quicker if we're not freezing to death," Chakotay stated as he pulled his drenched shirt over his head.
Tom turned around to argue but was stopped in his tracks as his eyes wandered over Chakotay's newly exposed muscular chest. The glow from the fire flickered over the smooth, bronze skin and Tom found himself waiting expectantly for the older man to finish removing the pants that were now undone.
Chakotay glanced up as the usual retort from Tom failed to materialise, and he just caught sight of Tom's admiring gaze before the younger man quickly turned away. Chakotay smiled inwardly. He was pleasantly surprised at the Lieutenant's reaction to him, but he refused to let it show on his face.
Returning his attention to his clothing, Chakotay slowly slid his pants and shorts off, then looked back at Tom. The younger man was standing with a blanket in each hand as he tried to prevent his gaze from wandering over Chakotay's naked body.
"Would you mind spreading these out for me, Paris? I'm a bit too cold to get up just yet," Chakotay said, his features carefully schooled to hide his amusement. "One of those blankets would be nice as well," he added.
"Um, yeah, sure Commander," Tom stuttered as his feet finally listened to his brain and he began walking towards Chakotay.
Tom put one blanket down on the ground, then began to unfold the other one. Shaking it out, he passed the thin material around the older man's shoulders and brought the ends together in front of Chakotay's chest.
"Thank you, Lieutenant," Chakotay said with a hint of a smile. He took the edges of the blanket from Tom's grasp, brushing his fingers over one of Tom's hands as he did so.
Tom caught his breath at the unexpected contact and he quickly bent to gather up the First Officer's discarded clothing. He spread them out near the fire as his mind tried to process his body's reaction to the suddenly attractive Commander. Well, not quite so sudden, his brain reminded him.
On more than one occasion, Tom had noticed Chakotay's dark, good looks but he'd never seen below the surface before. He'd sometimes wondered what the Commander looked like naked but his imagination had definitely not done the man justice, he decided. He was about to take his thoughts further when he was interrupted by a low, quiet voice behind him.
"Paris. Get those wet things off and wrap yourself up."
Tom took a deep breath as he pushed his mental images aside, then turned to face his commanding officer.
"Yes, Sir," he said, as his eyes held Chakotay's for a second. He returned his gaze to the fire, his back to the Commander, as he began to strip off.
Chakotay watched in fascination, arousal beginning to stir his body as more and more of Tom's pale flesh was slowly exposed. He allowed himself a long, slow inspection of the creamy skin as it reflected the light from the fire.
As his eyes roved over the pilot's firm, naked body for a second time, the Commander suddenly looked away. He had completely forgotten that they were still on duty and the sudden realisation of his unprofessional conduct filled him with shame.
Closing his eyes briefly, Chakotay pulled the blanket more tightly around him. When he finally glanced over at Tom again, the younger man had the other blanket around him and was spreading his clothes out to dry.
"Come and sit down, Lieutenant," Chakotay called out as Tom finished his chore and stood up.
Tom turned around, nodding, and made his way to where Chakotay was leaning against the rock, his blanket covering most of his body.
"Our things shouldn't take too long to dry, that fire's giving out a lot of heat," Tom remarked as he sat a few feet away from the Commander.
"Good. I'd like to get this mission over with as quickly as possible. The sooner we're off this planet, the better," Chakotay replied, throwing a stray stick towards the flames.
"Yeah," Tom agreed. "But I'm not looking forward to trekking back through that mud bath again."
Chakotay snorted and looked at Tom. "I don't know what you're complaining about, I was the one who actually had a mud bath," he said with a laugh. "At least when we get back to the shuttle we'll be able to use the sonic shower, and we'll have clean clothes."
Tom smiled and gestured towards the backpacks. "Do you want something to eat?" he asked. "Neelix packed us a special treat."
"What? Leola root ration bars?"
Tom laughed at the Commander's unexpected comment. "God, no!" he answered. "At least, I hope that's not what he gave us. He did say he was putting in pizza but, come to think of it, that's probably not much better than ration bars, is it?"
"Not the way Neelix makes pizza, no," Chakotay agreed. He waved his hand towards the packs. "Come on, Paris, open them up. The suspense is killing me."
"Well, if that doesn't do it, the food probably will, Commander," Tom muttered.
He reached into his backpack and pulled out two sealed containers, handing one to Chakotay. They both paused for a second, wondering what delights would be revealed when the lids came off, then proceeded to find out. Tom's small snort of surprise made Chakotay look up from his task. His fingers were still slightly numb with cold and he was lagging behind in the container-opening department.
"What is it, Paris?" Chakotay enquired, leaning over to peer into Tom's open box.
"Pizza!" Tom exclaimed, smiling. "And it smells great!"
"Well don't get too excited, Lieutenant. At least, not until you've tasted it. You know how Neelix likes to surprise us sometimes, there could be any number of unknown ingredients in that. Just remember what he did to the Captain's birthday cake before you get too enthusiastic."
"Oh God, yeah," Tom replied, eyeing the pizza suspiciously.
His mind conjured up images from Janeway's party and the shocked look on her face as she'd taken a mouthful of the beautifully iced cake. Looks could definitely be deceiving, as the Captain had unfortunately found out. She'd needed a dozen cups of coffee before she'd been able to speak again.
"What did he put in that cake anyway?" Tom asked, looking from the pizza to the Commander.
"Rumour has it that it was a mixture of leola root and some sort of Tabasco substitute. I was also told he'd thrown in some of those extremely hot spices he picked up on Zelin-3."
"No wonder the Captain looked like she was on fire, then," Tom replied. "You don't really think he's put anything like that in this pizza, do you?"
"Only one way to find out, Lieutenant. Take a bite."
"Is that an order, Commander?"
"Definitely," the older man answered, grinning.
He watched as Tom sighed, then brought the food up to his mouth. The pilot gave one last sniff, then nibbled at the pizza. When the anticipated fiery heat failed to materialise, he took a larger bite.
"This is good!" he enthused. And those were the last words either of them spoke for the next ten minutes as they eagerly devoured their treat, washing it down with cold water from a flask.
When they'd finished, Tom leaned back with his eyes closed, a happy and satisfied smile on his face. Chakotay grinned as he took in the pilot's content and relaxed demeanour. It had come as quite a surprise to the Commander that he and Tom had, so far, got along so well.
As he gazed at the younger man leaning comfortably alongside him, Chakotay thought again of Tom stripping in front of the fire; the orange glow of the flames dancing across the pale skin.
With great reluctance, and a deep breath, he brought his mind back to the present and away from the tantalising images, then stood up and walked towards the crackling blaze to check on the state of their clothes.
Steam was rising from the still damp uniforms as he bent down to pick up his jacket. He found that one sleeve was completely dry but it was stiff with mud. He bent it slightly and clumps of black dirt broke away and fell to the ground. With the mud off, it wasn't too bad; dirty, but wearable when the rest of it dried. Deciding to rearrange all the articles of clothing, Chakotay bent to his task.
Tom had opened his eyes as the Commander had moved away from him and he now sat with his gaze firmly fixed on the older man. The thin, silver blanket draped around Chakotay's shoulders barely reached down to his thighs and, as he bent forward, Tom was treated to a glimpse of what had lain hidden above. It was enough to send a surge of blood away from his brain to another interested part of his anatomy.
As he admired the older man's muscular physique, Tom's hand dropped unconsciously to his groin and he began to lightly stroke himself. He was so engrossed with his study of the Commander's smooth-looking skin that it didn't register with him how aroused he was until it was almost too late. It was only when he heard himself moaning softly as his hand moved faster and faster, that he suddenly realised what he was doing.
Chakotay turned around as Tom stood abruptly, his hand gripping his blanket so tightly his knuckles were white.
"Are you okay, Paris?" Chakotay asked with concern. He could see that the other man's face was flushed and his hair was slightly damp with sweat.
"Um, yeah, Commander. I just need to pee," Tom replied, then rushed off into the trees.
Chakotay frowned at the pilot's swift departure and decided to follow after him. Paris didn't look well, he thought, and it would be best to check up on him. Perhaps the pizza had disagreed with him after all. Or maybe there was something in the mud that was making him ill.
Chakotay quietly followed the path that the pilot had taken, stopping as he heard noises coming from behind a group of rocks. He didn't really want to invade the younger man's privacy but, he decided, he would just take a quick peek to assure himself that Paris was all right.
Chakotay edged closer and peered around the largest boulder just as the Lieutenant cried out and came, his semen shooting out to splatter down to the dusty ground below.
The sight had an instant effect on the Commander and he stepped back quickly, his hand gripped tightly around his own hardening erection. He moved swiftly away from the rocks and concealed himself behind some nearby bushes and, as he followed the Lieutenant's example and relieved himself, the exciting moment of Tom's climax replayed over and over in his mind.
When Chakotay returned to their fire, Tom was already there and he looked up as he heard the Commander approach.
"I didn't know where you were," Tom commented as Chakotay picked up his uniform.
"I had the same problem that you did, Lieutenant," he answered, then started to dress.
"Oh, you needed to pee as well," Tom remarked as he remembered his excuse to leave.
"Yes, Lieutenant. We're all slaves to our body's needs," Chakotay replied gently.
"I take it our clothes are dry," Tom said, changing the subject. He'd felt a faint flush starting at the Commander's tone and knew the older man would notice if it got any worse.
"Yes, they are. So get dressed, Paris, and we'll start scanning for minerals," Chakotay answered, then threw the Lieutenant's shorts and pants to him.
"Thanks," Tom said gratefully.
Three hours later, the minerals had been located and collected and the two men were almost back at the shuttle. The time had passed in a purely professional manner as they had both tried hard to hide their growing interest in each other.
"Nearly there, Commander," Tom grinned. "So don't fall over this time."
"Thank you for your advice, Lieutenant," Chakotay replied as he adjusted his now heavy backpack. They had collected a fairly large amount of the mineral for further investigation. If it turned out to be as good as they hoped, another team would be sent down to collect more.
The two men picked their way carefully through the mire, and when they once again stood on firm ground, they both heaved a sigh of relief. As they reached the shuttle, Tom looked down at his mud-covered legs. As much as he really didn't want to suggest it, he knew what they would have to do.
"We're gonna have to strip off out here, aren't we?" he said quietly.
Although he was keen to see the Commander's beautiful, naked body again, he was afraid that his own would betray him.
Chakotay was having similar thoughts and he knew that this was neither the time nor the place to take things further. If indeed things were ever to go further.
"You strip off and shower first, Tom, I'm going to scan this area just in case we missed anything. When you've finished, call me. You can start the pre-flight checks while I have my turn."
"Yes, Commander," the younger man replied, relieved.
It was only as Chakotay was walking away that the Lieutenant realised he'd been addressed as 'Tom'. Something that the Commander usually never did on duty.
'And,' Tom thought, 'Chakotay looked almost as uncomfortable as I felt. Perhaps this isn't just one-sided. Perhaps when we get back to Voyager it might be worth following up.'
He stripped off and entered the shower, his mind filled with all kinds of possibilities.