Life in the Delta Quadrant had been far too dull lately for Tom Paris. Voyager was once again travelling through an almost empty region of space - not quite a void, but close.
There were no M-class planets anywhere near, so there was no chance of shore leave to relieve the tedium of everyday life. There wasn't even any hostile aliens around to break the monotony.
Tom gazed around the dimly lit bar and sighed, Yep, life was dull! He leaned back in his chair, a look of weariness and boredom on his face as he scanned the occupants of Sandrine's.
He stared over at the two women on the opposite side of the room. Janeway sat talking animatedly to Seven, the two so engrossed in whatever their topic of conversation was that they seemed to be in a world of their own.
Tom shifted his attention to the pool table. Harry stood there. Not playing, just flirting shamelessly with the Delaney sisters. He had one arm around Megan's waist as he laughed at a comment from Jenny.
B'Elanna sat at a table directly behind the flirtatious trio, her own attention fixed on the dark Vulcan sitting opposite her. Tom contemplated the pair. They did look comfortable together, he admitted to himself.
It had come as a bit of a shock to Tom when B'Elanna had first told him of her interest in Tuvok. But, after her attentions had been returned, they had slowly become closer. Tuvok's approaching Pon Farr an element in their decision to finally take things further.
Tom sighed, and picked up his glass. He stared down into the golden liquid, noting a bubble rising here and there, before sipping disinterestedly at the beer. He gazed at the table top, not seeing it and not even thinking. He felt as though his mind had shut down; there was just nothing at all that was worthy of thought.
A loud scraping noise, made by the chair next to him being dragged away from the table, broke into his study of the polished surface that his glass now sat on. He looked up out of instinct rather than interest, and found he'd been joined by an equally bored looking First Officer.
"Hi, Tom. You look as dead as I feel, if you don't mind me saying," Chakotay remarked as he put his own glass of beer next to Tom's and shuffled his chair closer to the table.
"Come to cheer me up, have you?" Tom asked, a very slight hint of sarcasm to his voice.
Chakotay snorted lightly and gave Tom a small smile. "I suppose that wasn't the most uplifting comment to start a conversation with, was it?"
"No," Tom replied and took another sip of his beer. "But then again, what is uplifting around here?"
Chakotay shrugged as he took in Tom's lacklustre appearance and attitude. The man looked bored to death, he decided. "I'd have thought you might've joined Harry in his attempted conquests," he said, nodding his head towards the pool table.
"Been there, done that," Tom answered flatly. "Not interested in doing it again"
"Oh." Chakotay wasn't quite sure what to say to that, so he opted for taking a slow drink of his beer.
Tom sat silently for a few moments before turning to look at the equally quiet Commander. "What about you, Chakotay? Don't you ever get bored?" he finally asked.
"Yes, of course I do," Chakotay responded. "Everyone does sometimes. But you look really bored, Tom. More than bored, actually. Is there something wrong?"
"No. Well, not really. I'm just tired of the same old routine. Don't get me wrong, I love flying. It's just everything else I'm fed up with. I would just like to do something different for a change."
"I know what you mean," Chakotay agreed. "But we don't have too many options here. We're stuck in the middle of nowhere with jobs to do and limited recreational pursuits"
"Exactly. But there's got to be something that I haven't tried. There must be at least one thing that I've never done before," Tom stated, his mind frantically attempting to find a previously unthought of possibility.
"How about getting a boyfriend?" Chakotay teased. "I bet you haven't tried that."
"You're right, I haven't," Tom replied, a grin spreading across his face. "That's definitely something I haven't tried. And something I would probably never have thought of myself."
Chakotay studied Tom's smiling face. He'd hoped to get a reaction from the formerly sullen pilot, but this wasn't quite what he'd been expecting. In all their years on Voyager, and before in the Maquis, Tom Paris had always been a ladies man. Only a ladies man.
"Are you actually considering my suggestion?" he asked as Tom fixed his gaze on the ceiling. Chakotay could almost hear the cogs whirring in Tom's brain as the younger man sat sporting a look of intense concentration.
"Yes, I am," Tom answered, his eyes bright and a smile on his lips as he turned towards his Commanding Officer.
Chakotay smiled broadly and shook his head in wonderment at Tom's abrupt change of disposition. "So," he began, one eyebrow raised "Who's going to be the lucky man?"
"I'm not sure," Tom replied "I suppose the first thing I need to find out is which men might welcome my advances and which ones would punch my lights out."
Chakotay laughed. "You'd better be careful who you approach. I don't think the Captain would be too pleased if her senior pilot took up residence in sickbay."
"You're right," Tom agreed, his head tilted to one side in thought. "I need a safe way to find out who might be interested."
"And then what?" Chakotay asked. "You find a man that's interested, but do you know what to do? You know, the mechanics of such a relationship? You've never been with a man, Tom. Have you got the slightest idea what goes where and how?"
"No," Tom said, frowning. "I mean, I sort of know but....." he trailed off before his face brightened again. "I'll have to do some research," he continued. "There must be some information somewhere."
"Perhaps you could hire a tutor," Chakotay suggested, grinning.
"That's a great idea. You're full of them tonight." Tom remarked. He picked up his glass and finished his warm beer. "So, Chakotay, since you *are* so full of suggestions, can you suggest a suitable instructor?"
"Tom, I was joking. If you're really serious about getting a boyfriend, then I'm sure he'll be all the coach you'll need. Providing, of course, he's not as in the dark as you are."
"So I'm back to square one again, then." Tom said glumly.
He looked around Sandrine's and noticed that there were only a few crew members left. Harry had long since departed, a Delaney on each arm and Tom hadn't seen him go. B'Elanna and Tuvok were still talking. And there were a couple of people in one shadowed corner, but that was all.
Chakotay looked at the sad expression on Tom's face. He didn't like seeing Tom look like that. It didn't suit him, he decided.
"Tom? What sort of man would you be interested in? Perhaps I could point you in the right direction if you told me your requirements."
"My requirements?" Tom mused, his face thoughtful again. "Well..... It would have to be someone who could take control because, as we've already established, I don't have a clue. Which means he would also have to be patient. And gentle, too; I don't want any rough stuff."
"Anything else?" Chakotay asked seriously. "Does it matter about looks for instance?"
"No, not really. I mean, I'd prefer it if he didn't look like the back end of a targ, but as long as he's a decent, caring guy I won't be too bothered about his appearance. He would need to be told the truth, though, that I'm just looking for a bit of fun. I don't want to hurt anyone."
"Okay, then I might know someone who would go out with you," Chakotay said, smiling.
"Really? Who?" Tom asked eagerly, his gaze locked on Chakotay's face.
"I'm not going to tell you right now," the older man replied as he stood up. "You give this idea some more thought tonight, first. If, by the morning, you're still keen on having a boyfriend, then expect a visitor to your quarters at 20.00 hrs."
"You'll set it all up?"
"If you decide you want to go through with this, then yes."
"Thank you, Chakotay, that's really kind of you. You're a good friend," Tom replied sincerely, as he too stood. "I'll do what you said, and give this more thought, but I'm almost positive I won't change my mind."
"Well, let me know your decision by lunchtime, and we'll go from there."
"Okay, I will," Tom replied happily. He really hadn't expected Chakotay to be so helpful. "I'd better go and get my beauty sleep," he quipped. "Got to look my best for this mystery man of yours."
Chakotay smiled, and gestured towards the door. "Come on, then. I'll walk you home."
Once Tom was alone in his quarters he shed his clothes and sat down on the edge of his bed, contemplating the evening's events. Chakotay was going to set him up on a date. With a man. He hadn't expected such a suggestion from the normally reserved Commander. He decided there must be more to the man than he'd previously thought.
But what about the date? Did he want to go through with it? Tom climbed under the covers and got comfortable as his mind pondered the question. Himself, with a man. It was certainly a scenario he'd never envisaged before but, he decided, it might be a lot of fun. He was never one to back away from the chance of trying something new and he wouldn't this time.
He would go on the date.
His mind made up, he drifted into sleep. Tomorrow he would tell Chakotay his decision.
Tom checked the time and found it was already 19.55hrs. He picked up the comb and tidied his hair for the fifth time in as many minutes.
'Why am I so nervous?' he thought as he checked his appearance in the long mirror in his bedroom. 'It's only for fun, after all'
He smoothed down his dark blue shirt and brushed at a speck of dust on his black pants. He was about to run the comb through his hair again, when the door chime sounded.
Tom took a deep breath and walked out to the living area, stopping in front of the door as the chime sounded again. He stepped forward and the door opened to reveal the Commander dressed in off-duty clothes.
"Oh, it's you," Tom addressed the older man. "I thought my date was here." He peered around his C.O. into the corridor, then returned his attention to the man in front of him. "He is coming, isn't he?" he asked, a worried look making a brief appearance on his face.
"Well actually, Tom, he's already here," Chakotay replied, a hint of nervousness in his voice.
"Where?" Tom demanded, looking back out into the deserted corridor. "There's no-one else out there. Is he invisible or something?"
"No. He's standing right in front of you," Chakotay replied.
Tom's eyes widened, and then he laughed. "You almost had me there, you sounded really serious."
He continued to laugh, not noticing how embarrassed Chakotay was looking, until the older man spoke again.
"I'm sorry, Tom. This was a bad idea. I'd better go. I'll see you in the morning," Chakotay said as he took a step back into the corridor.
"No, wait." Tom reached out and gripped the other man's arm. "You were serious, weren't you?" he realised as he noted Chakotay's flushed cheeks and downcast eyes.
"Yes, I was," the First Officer replied quietly. "But it doesn't matter, Tom. I'm sorry for ruining your evening. I'll go now."
"Please don't," Tom responded quickly "Come in for a while, let's talk. Okay?"
Chakotay shifted uncomfortably but finally nodded. "Okay," he agreed and followed Tom into his cabin.
"I'm the one who should be sorry, Chakotay," Tom said as the two men seated themselves on the couch. "I didn't mean to laugh, you just took me by surprise that's all. I mean, you said you'd set me up with someone who would know all the ins and outs as it were. And you don't really meet that requirement, do you?"
"No, of course not. You have about as much experience with men as I do. Namely, none."
"And how do you know that, Tom?" Chakotay asked as he turned to face the younger man. "Do you know who I've dated on this ship?"
"I don't remember you dating anyone, actually," Tom answered, frowning. "I know the Captain was interested in you early on, but I don't think you did anything about it."
"I didn't, Tom. Do you know why?"
"Because I was involved with someone else at the time," Chakotay stated, leaning towards Tom. "Someone from my ship. A man. We'd been together for about six months when the Captain started flirting with me."
Tom sat back, stunned. This couldn't be right, could it? He looked at Chakotay and noticed how serious he was, although Tom could still see a trace of hurt in the older man's eyes. He really wished he hadn't been the cause of that. He decided he would try and make amends.
"Well, Chakotay, I'm surprised that you're my mystery date, but I'm definitely not going to complain."
"You're not?" Chakotay asked, puzzled. He'd been sure that Tom's reaction had meant he wouldn't want to continue with his plans.
"No, I'm not. How could I, when I'm gonna go out with the best looking guy on the ship?" he replied with a grin. "So, Chakotay, what did you have in mind for this evening?"
"Well, I have the holodeck booked. We can run a program of your choice," the Commander answered, a smile creeping across his face.
Tom noted Chakotay's happier expression and he felt a wave of relief flood him. He touched the older man on the knee and nodded towards the door. "Let's go then" he said, standing.
He paused, and smiled at the First Officer. "I'll tell you something, Chakotay. I'm not bored any more. It's been an interesting evening already."
"Let's see if we can't make it even more interesting," Chakotay replied softly, as he stood up and walked towards Tom.
Tom glanced down as Chakotay took hold of his hand. The warm, brown fingers closed around his pale ones and he looked up into equally warm, and smiling, brown eyes.
"Let's have fun, Tom," Chakotay said and led Tom out of his cabin.
"The gossips are gonna have a field day with this," Tom remarked with amusement as they were given a curious look from another surprised crew member. They were now outside the holodeck, having strolled all the way there with their hands firmly entwined.
"Does that bother you at all?" Chakotay asked with concern. He looked carefully at Tom's face but found nothing but humour written there.
"Nah. They need something new to talk about. A lot of them are just as bored as I was. Perhaps speculating about you and me'll brighten them up a bit."
"Okay," Chakotay grinned, relieved that there was no problem. "Now, Tom, what program shall we run?" he asked as they stepped towards the control panel.
Tom keyed in the sequence. "It's a beach program," he said as the doors opened. "Is that okay? I fancy a little sun and sand."
"That's fine with me," Chakotay replied and he followed Tom in.
He gazed around appreciatively at the beautiful scenery. It was a real tropical paradise, he decided. The vast expanse of fine, white sand stretched down to the crystal blue calmness of the sea. There were groups of palm trees dotted here and there and, every so often, the call of a bird could be heard nearby. Near the water's edge, a giant turtle was dragging itself up the beach while another was swimming close to the shore.
"This is wonderful, Tom. Is it based on a real place?" Chakotay asked as a brightly coloured bird flew past and landed in the tree behind them.
"No, not really. There's elements from different places I've been to, but it's not one location in particular," Tom answered, pleased that Chakotay approved of his program. "Let's go for a walk," he suggested. "There's a place further up where dolphins swim."
They left their shoes and socks at the entrance and set off up the beach. As they ambled along they seemed to just naturally graduate from holding hands. By the time they reached the small bay where the dolphins were playing happily, Chakotay had his arm wound around Tom's waist. The younger man had his arm draped over Chakotay's shoulders and they both felt completely at ease with one another.
They sat down on the sand to watch the spectacle in the water, Tom resting his head on Chakotay's shoulder as he gazed out at the sea. Tom's mind was filled with wonder as he realised he felt as though this was where he truly belonged. With Chakotay.
Chakotay turned his head and smiled down at Tom, then lovingly placed a soft kiss on the pilot's blond hair. He was rewarded with a dazzling smile and blue eyes, as bright as the sky, gazing up at him. He gently stroked Tom's cheek and smiled again.
"I'm so glad you were bored last night, Tom," Chakotay murmured. "I haven't felt this relaxed and happy in ages."
"Neither have I," Tom answered quietly.
He moved to lie down and pulled the other man with him on to the soft sand. They embraced as Chakotay claimed Tom's lips with his own and they kissed tenderly under the warm sun. Time held no meaning as they slowly explored each other's mouths, their beautiful surroundings forgotten as well.
After a long while, Tom pulled away and gazed into the handsome face of the man he now wanted to get to know much better.
"This may have started out with me being bored and wanting a bit of fun, Chakotay, but I really think this could develop into much more," he said as he ran his fingers through Chakotay's dark hair.
"I hope so, Tom. I really do," Chakotay replied softly.
Their mouths met again and they continued to kiss. And, even after the last rays of the setting sun no longer illuminated the new lovers, they lay entwined on the quiet beach.
When the sunrise came, it would signal a new day for them in more ways than one.