Lost and Found NC-17
"Commander. All ready for our foray into the world of crime and intrigue?" Tom asked as he caught up with Voyager's First Officer just outside the transporter room.
The Commander glanced at him and raised an eyebrow. "As ready as I'll ever be," he answered, continuing into the room as Tom followed him.
Tom grinned. "That's usually my line," he commented. He stepped up onto the transporter pad beside the other man, then placed the holdall he'd been carrying at his feet. "I know *I'm* not really looking forward to risking life and limb, but usually, it doesn't seem to bother you," Tom continued, looking across at Chakotay. "Is it my company that's dampening your enthusiasm? Because, I promise you, it *can* be good."
"So I've heard, Paris. But without firsthand experience, I wouldn't know for sure," Chakotay remarked, pulling at the hem of the dark green, loose-fitting shirt he was wearing.
Tom gave an amused snort and went to reply but, as he did, Chakotay nodded at the Ensign in charge of the transporter and they were beamed down to the planet below.
"So, what now, Chakotay?" Tom asked as he looked around the room that they'd materialised in. It was gloomy, just occasional flashes of red or yellow light coming through the high windows, from tiny transport craft that flew silently past outside.
"We keep our voices down and we wait," Chakotay said, gesturing for Tom to follow him across the large, empty room and into one of the corners.
"D'you think Telsesh will show? I mean, he didn't look the sort that could handle the amount of trouble he might find himself in," Tom said, sitting on the wooden floor next to the Commander.
"Looks can be deceiving, Paris. I can vouch for that," Chakotay replied quietly. "And as you know, personal gain often takes precedence over loyalty. Telsesh is obviously more concerned with living the high life that Voyager's generosity will allow, rather than his colleagues' wrath when they find out that he's returned our stolen equipment."
"Yeah, but I'm still surprised," Tom remarked. "He just didn't come across as the type that would double-cross someone like Kenthah."
"Maybe not, but that's what he's agreed to do. And like I said, you can't go on looks. After all, the Captain and Tuvok never suspected, until it was too late, that Kenthah was anything other than the planetary official he purported to be."
"Yeah, I know," Tom stated. "The Captain described him as the most charming villain she's ever met."
"He's probably the most dangerous as well," Chakotay commented, shifting into a more comfortable position on the dusty floor. "He not only has a large following and the most sophisticated weapons, he also possesses almost limitless funds to finance his operations."
"Yeah, no wonder this planet's ruling body refused to intervene. I'm just amazed Kenthah hasn't overthrown them yet."
"I'm sure he would if it would serve his purpose. There must be some advantageous reason for him to leave things as they are."
"You're probably right," Tom said, leaning his head against the rough wall behind him. "And Telsesh must really have some balls to go against a formidable man like that."
"Definitely," Chakotay agreed.
"Which, yet again, makes me wonder just why the hell *we're* expected to take Kenthah on," Tom said, facing the Commander. "I mean, after tonight we're on our own, no back-up. What if we get into trouble? From daybreak tomorrow there'll be no way of leaving this planet or contacting Voyager for the next four days because of the Nahldarians' strange census ideas."
"Strange ideas to us, maybe, but they obviously deem the planet-wide barrier to be necessary while they conduct their population count. Nobody enters and nobody leaves for the duration of the census; at least that means our missing components won't be spirited away without us having the chance to reclaim them."
"Yeah, but God only knows why the Nahldarians need an exact population figure," Tom muttered as another flash of red light briefly illuminated the room. "And what happens when we get asked by some census official to explain our presence? We're not supposed to be here."
"Weren't you paying attention during the briefing, Paris? The Nahldarians know about us; we've already been accounted for. I have all our required documentation. At least the governing body gave us that much help."
"Oh yeah, of course. I'd forgotten about that."
"Well, try not to forget anything else, Lieutenant. We'll need our wits about us if Kenthah gets wind of what we're up to."
"Yeah, sorry. I guess I'm just a bit nervous," Tom apologised. "Telsesh should've been here by now, shouldn't he?"
"Yes, he should have," Chakotay confirmed, checking the time. "He's not very late, though. We'll wait a little longer before we give up on him."
"And then what? We really need to get those parts back or B'Elanna'll kill us," Tom said, running his fingers through his hair.
"That's the least of our problems," Chakotay remarked. "Those components are vital to the ship's ability to travel at warp for sustained periods of time. If we don't get them back it will take us forever to get back to the Alpha Quadrant.
"And, as B'Elanna pointed out at the briefing, we can't replicate the parts very easily," Chakotay continued. "They're too intricate. It would take too long and use up too much power. We either get them back or we have to find the resources to construct replacements by hand."
"Yeah, I know. Neither option'll be easy," Tom commented with a sigh. "But it's too bad we couldn't leave all this cloak and dagger stuff to Tuvok."
"He's got enough on his plate at the moment, initiating new security measures."
Tom snorted softly and shook his head. "Kenthah certainly circumvented the old ones pretty easily," he stated, his voice containing a slight amount of awe.
"Yes, unfortunately he did," Chakotay replied, rising and walking to stand to one side of the nearby window. The broken ledge that ran beneath it came just below his chin and Chakotay cautiously moved his head to peer through the grimy glass to the dark street outside. It was quiet, not even any airborne craft passing by now. Only the appearance of Nahldar's large moon, hanging like a softly glowing light bulb in the deep mauve sky, prevented total darkness. Chakotay sighed and rubbed his hand across his face as he considered what to do.
Telsesh was overdue; either the man had reconsidered his plans or something had happened to him, he decided, but he had no way of knowing which. No matter what the correct scenario was, however, he and Tom couldn't afford to stay where they were for much longer; there was always the chance that Kenthah had found out about the meeting. Chakotay had no doubts that the unscrupulous alien would be expecting some kind of attempt to recover the stolen parts, but if they could keep just a small element of surprise, then maybe they could succeed in their mission. With another soft sigh he turned back towards his companion. "I don't think Telsesh is coming, Tom. We'd better leave."
"Where will we go? The accommodation that Telsesh arranged for us?" Tom queried as he stood up.
"No, I don't think that's a good idea," Chakotay replied, walking away from the window. "If Telsesh has changed his mind, or something untoward has happened to him, Kenthah might know where we were supposed to stay. We'll have to find somewhere else."
"Yeah, you're right. But where? According to the Nahldarian diplomat Captain Janeway spoke to, Kenthah controls most of this area."
"Yes, I know. We'll have to find an out of the way place and hope that none of his minions are there. Or, if they are, that they don't recognise us as coming from Voyager. As to everyone else, we should be okay. As long as we conform to what the Nahldarians regard as normal behaviour we shouldn't draw attention to ourselves."
"Let's hope you're right, Commander, because I don't relish the idea of becoming part of the foundations for Kenthah's next building project."
"That's a bit dramatic, Paris. More of your Twentieth Century way of thinking?"
"It used to happen and I wouldn't put it past Kenthah to follow the Delta Quadrant equivalent," Tom said, brushing the dust from the billowing brown pants that he was wearing and the loose, black tunic that hung over them, almost to his knees.
"Then we'd better keep out of his way," Chakotay remarked.
Following Tom's lead, Chakotay removed the dirt from his own clothes, then headed towards the old, wooden door on the opposite side of the room. He paused, waiting for Tom to join him before he carefully opened it, and after assuring themselves that there was no apparent threats to their safety, they stepped out into the warm night air of Velator, the region's principal tourist and entertainment centre. The two men looked around them, taking in their surroundings before setting off down the deserted road towards the bright, multicoloured lights in the distance.
The sector they were in had been abandoned after suffering a series of devastating fires and was awaiting redevelopment, the catastrophe clearly evident as they walked in the shadows of burnt-out, but still impressive, buildings towards the densely populated area ahead.
It took almost fifteen minutes for them to reach the first noisy bar in a street lined on either side by similar establishments. Having already stopped to contact Voyager and inform the Captain of their situation, the two officers set about the task of determining where they would spend the night.
"Obviously, the larger places are out," Tom commented as they stood surveying the bustling area around them. The noise coming from some of the clubs was almost deafening, loud pounding music combined with squeals of laughter and shouts from their raucous clientele spilling out into the road.
"I think everywhere on this street is out, Tom," Chakotay replied, looking from one rowdy multipurpose premise to another. "We need somewhere a little more low-key."
"Not too low-key though, or we could stick out like sore thumbs," Tom remarked as a pair of seemingly drunk individuals staggered past them and entered a nearby club. "Maybe we should check out the places down the side roads."
"I was thinking the same thing. Come on, we'll start over there," Chakotay said, pointing across the road to the corner of a brightly-lit thoroughfare.
Tom nodded, and together they picked their way through the throng of diverse revellers that crowded their path, to begin the search for suitable accommodation.
It took almost an hour of strolling along, weighing up the pros and cons of various large hotels and smaller guest-houses, before they finally decided on a place that was fairly quiet in comparison to many of the others that they'd seen. It was a modest-sized building set back from the road, a paved area in front filled with tables and chairs where an interesting assortment of customers sat drinking and eating as they listened to music from the resident band. A few of the guests were singing along, their voices sweet and melodic despite the fact that they were clearly intoxicated. Tom smiled at them, then followed Chakotay through the main door and up to the reception desk.
"Good evening, friends. Do you require a room?" the tall Nahldarian there asked as the two men approached him.
"Yes, we do," Chakotay replied, nodding. "Do you have a vacancy?"
"For how many nights?" the receptionist queried as he accessed the hotel's accommodation data on the computer terminal in front of him.
"At least five, possibly more," Chakotay answered, leaning on the polished-wood desk, while Tom stood beside him, looking on.
The Nahldarian smiled. "We have a room available," he said. "But I will need your documentation. The census requires that I keep a complete record of all our visitors."
"I understand," Chakotay replied, removing a small disk from his pocket and handing it to the man. "Do you need anything else?"
"No, everything I require should be here. I will transfer the necessary amount of credits from your funds, then, when you have verified it, you will sign the register and I will return the disk."
Chakotay nodded and, just a few minutes later, the formalities complete, the officers were shown to a bright, airy room on the second floor.
"Well, this is pretty nice," Tom remarked as he put his bag on the floor and gazed around at the lavish furnishings. "Although there is one problem. There's only one bed."
"What did you expect, Paris? Did you forget that this whole area is designated for couples only?" Chakotay asked as he crossed to the window and looked out. "And the Nahldarians expect couples to sleep in the same bed, nothing else is acceptable to them," he added, watching the happy people in the street below.
"Right," Tom muttered. "So who gets the couch?"
Chakotay turned around and smiled. "You do, if you don't trust me to behave myself," he said with a laugh.
Tom snorted, then frowned. "Can't we just take turns? Or are you pulling rank on me?"
"No, I'm not pulling rank. But I do intend to sleep in that bed. I have no problems with the arrangement. If you do, and want to spend the night on the couch, that's up to you. Go right ahead. But don't expect me to give up my comfort just because you don't want to share."
"It's not that," Tom stated quietly. "I don't mind sleeping in the same bed as you, but after tonight you'll be the one wanting the couch."
"Why? What's the problem? Do you snore or something?" Chakotay asked, puzzled.
"I don't snore. At least I don't think I do," Tom said, walking over to the bed and sitting down. "It's worse than that."
"What could be worse than that?" Chakotay enquired, staring at the obviously embarrassed man.
Tom sighed, then reluctantly admitted, "I cuddle."
"You cuddle?" Chakotay laughed. "Involuntarily? In your sleep?"
"Yeah," Tom replied sheepishly. "I can't help it. When I was dating B'Elanna it used to really piss her off. She hated waking up to find me hanging on to her like she was some kind of giant teddy bear. But at least she was my girlfriend, physical contact was expected. The trouble is, I can't control it. And if *you* woke up to find me wrapped around you, you'd probably kill me."
Chakotay laughed again, then sat down on the bed next to Tom. "I wouldn't kill you, Tom," he said, still chuckling. "I admit, if you hadn't told me about this I would have been surprised, but I don't see cuddling as a valid reason to kill someone. Even you."
"Gee, thanks for your tolerance, Chakotay," Tom replied sarcastically.
"You're welcome, Tom. Now if that's settled, I'm going to bed. You do what you want, but bear in mind that we'll need to be alert tomorrow when we start our search for Telsesh. A night on the couch might not be the best idea in the circumstances, I doubt you'll sleep too well there."
"Yeah, you're right," Tom conceded. "I'll share the bed. But just remember that you've been warned. I won't accept any responsibility or punishment for whatever position we wake up in tomorrow morning."
"Very well, Lieutenant, your right to impunity is duly noted. Now let's get to sleep. We're going to need our rest, we'll probably have a lot of walking to do tomorrow."
"Yes, Sir," Tom replied, then picked up his bag and strolled to the bathroom.
Sunlight streaming through the large window, along with bursts of laughter from the street below, woke Tom the next day. He lay still, listening to the cheerful sounds of a Nahldarian morning, awareness of his waking position gradually creeping over him.
He was being held, strong arms enveloping him as he lay on his right side, his head pressing against Chakotay's neck. His left arm was draped over the other man's warm body, their legs entangled and their morning erections touching lightly through the thin material of their sleep pants.
The Commander slept on, his soft breath tickling Tom's skin and sending a small shiver down Tom's spine, but the younger man was in no hurry to move. He felt relaxed and content in their embrace, savouring the smoothness of Chakotay's skin as he gently caressed the older man's back. Tom closed his eyes and snuggled in closer and it wasn't until many minutes later that he reluctantly decided he could no longer stay where he was. He'd warned Chakotay about his tendency to cuddle and, no matter how much he really wanted to stay in Chakotay's arms, he wasn't going to risk embarrassing the man by letting him wake that way,
He ran his hand over Chakotay's back one last time, then, after leaving a gentle kiss on the soft skin beneath his lips, Tom carefully pulled away from the Commander and slipped out of bed. He stretched, feeling the warmth of the Nahldarian sun as it poured into the room, bathing his bare chest, before he quietly headed for the bathroom.
Chakotay waited until he heard the click of the bathroom door before he opened his eyes. It had taken all his self-control to stay still, the temptation to return what he believed were Tom's unconscious attentions had been almost impossible to resist. But, with the exception of the embrace that had started while he'd been asleep and continued after he'd woken, he *had* resisted. Just.
He was glad Tom had explained to him what might happen, otherwise he was sure he would have made a fool of himself, believing Tom's longed for touches were not involuntary but had been meant. But, having been forewarned, and deciding his feigned ignorance of Tom's actions would prevent embarrassment for the younger man, Chakotay had kept his eyes closed and waited for Tom to move away.
Now, Chakotay lay still, trying to push away the thought of how good it had felt to have Tom in his arms, even for such a short time, and he wondered if every morning on this planet would start the same way. Sighing, he sat up, determined to get his mind back on the mission and away from the one person he'd always wanted, but believed he could never have.
Tom stepped out of the shower and grabbed a towel from the nearby rail, his thoughts again centred on the man in the other room.
He hadn't lied to Chakotay the night before, but he hadn't told the Commander the complete truth either. He *did* unknowingly cuddle in his sleep, although it hadn't just been Chakotay's reaction to that fact that had concerned him. He'd been worried about his own reaction, too. And now, after this morning, Tom was more worried than ever.
It had felt too good, waking up with the man that had lived in his dreams since the first time they'd met. Tom wasn't sure if he'd be able to control himself if they woke up like that again. He'd almost gone too far *this* time, touching and stroking Chakotay as the older man slept, unable to resist the allure of his soft skin.
Tom rubbed at his hair with the thick towel and gazed into the large, oval mirror that was on the wall above the wash-basin. He decided that he would have to show more restraint in future. He couldn't afford to let Chakotay know how he felt about him, especially as he was certain there was no chance of those feelings being reciprocated.
After wrapping another towel around his waist, Tom took a deep breath and opened the door to the bedroom. He was determined he would hide his desire for Chakotay, and keep everything between them as professional as possible.
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