Yours, Mine, and Ours

By Amirin

Originally from,, and

"Tom, I'm sorry, but I just can't allow it."

Captain Janeway could tell how upset Tom was at ten paces; sitting right in front of her, his anxiety was almost overwhelming.

"I know how worried you are about Harry, we all are, but no one is going down to the planet's surface until we can come up with a way to work around the time distortions."

Tom hadn't exactly been expecting the Captain's response to be the one he had hoped for, but it was still a shock to his system to hear her refusal. Her reasons were all valid, her rationale perfectly sound, but it hurt. It hurt like hell to know he was going to have to deliberately disobey her orders. He had no choice, no options. He had to try to help Harry; there was no way around it.

Captain Janeway was looking at Tom expectantly. She knew how hard this was for him. Harry was his best, and for a time had been his only, friend. Harry was stronger than anyone gave him credit for being, but the Captain worried about him, more so than she did almost anyone else on Voyager. So young, in so many ways, and so... vulnerable. There was just something about him that made people who cared, need to watch out for him. And Tom cared. She knew Tom didn't want to accept this, hated accepting it, in fact. But she was confident that he respected her judgment, and her rank, and that he would find a way to respect her decision, as well.

"Understood, Captain," was all Tom said as he was dismissed. His duty shift was long over. He walked to the turbolift, unaware of all the sympathetic glances being cast his way. He stepped inside and as the lift made its way to his deck, one thought went through his mind, Time for plan 'B' There wasn't time for regretting the course of action he was about to take, Harry didn't have the time. Or, rather, Harry had too much of it. Oh, Damn, Harry he thought.

Tom knew that Harry had been so looking forward to spending some time on the planet's surface... The planet had been discovered with the long range sensors; class 'M', temperate climate, earth-like, nearly. Even if it wasn't a mineralogical storehouse, it was beautiful, certainly suitable for shoreleave, at the least. Harry, Watson in Biology, and Likett from Geological Sciences had been the first to beam down for recon, to scout out shelter areas, explore the terrain, and investigate possible, and welcome, additions to Neelix's pantry. They hadn't been down very long at all, when the comm signal from Voyager disappeared. Harry's tricorder had discovered that an unidentifiable energy was moving, almost like a storm formation, through the area. But, there was no storm. Just the 'currents', really, of energy flowing around them. Watson and Likett went into a nearby cave to investigate it's use as a shelter, if need be, and Harry moved off outside, briefly, to see if he could get a more detailed energy reading on the tricorder. He turned around in time to see Watson and Likett vanish as they were beamed back aboard Voyager, according to the report they gave when they returned. They had been on the planet's surface for about three-and-a-half hours, but they had been gone from Voyager for a matter of seconds. Further attempts to locate Harry failed, leaving Tom frustrated as hell. And worried.

Tom knew he didn't have much time. Tuvok had said that while minutes and hours were passing on Voyager, days and weeks were likely passing for Harry. The energy currents were neither constant nor stable and different areas of the planet were literally in different time zones, with time passing at different rates in each area. Tom knew the Captain had put security lockouts on the shuttles and the transporters but he had every confidence in his ability to crack through them without alerting anyone. He didn't need much time, just a few seconds of diversion and distraction and he would be on his way to the planet's surface with the help of the transporters. He just needed to get things ready.

He went to the shuttle bay, first, to swipe the medkits and the phasers. He didn't think they'd need more than two of each, and more would be difficult to carry. Placing the phasers inside the kits, he made his way to the nearby cargo bay by going through the jefferies tubes; he wasn't about to chance being seen with the kits in the corridors. He left them just inside the tube, went through the empty cargo bay, and took off for engineering.

B'Elanna was working on the tricorders that the two crewmen brought back with them, trying to make some sense of the readings. She left the them at a nearby workstation, all the relevant data having been downloaded into the ship's computer. So intent was she on her task that she never noticed Tom walk by the workstation and take both tricorders. Heading into the corridor and taking a turbolift to his deck, to his quarters, Tom knew time was not on his side; B'Elanna would eventually realize they were gone and report it.

Tom went into his quarters and packed, fast. Datapadds, clothes, wristlights, anything he could think of, including some great camping gear he'd replicated for an earlier shoreleave. Then, down the hall to Harry's. Damn, just as he had left them. Tom shook off the uneasy feeling that was creeping up on him and got to work. More clothes, Harry's music, more datapadds and his clarinet, wrapped in the blankets off the bed, were packed with deliberate speed and care. Who the hell knew how long they'd be stranded down there; the Captain wouldn't let anyone risk coming down after them in a shuttle and the transporters couldn't get a lock-on. It could be a long time.

The shift change would be taking place in a few minutes; Tom knew he had to hurry if he was going to make it back to the cargo bay beforehand. He paused and slowly removed his communicator, placing it on Harry's stripped bed. It might buy him a little more time, if necessary. He took one last look around and seeing nothing else they might need, he left.

Luck was with him. There were not too many people in the corridors and a jaunty grin was enough to keep the questions at bay about the two large satchels slung over his shoulders. He made it to the cargo bay with moments to spare. He needed the imminent changeover, and the comings and goings of the crew, to help mask his intentions. He got the medkits out of the jefferies tube and organized everything around him. It was time.

Tom started the subroutines that were still in place after the Kazon took control of Voyager, subroutines he put there which allowed him to access the security overrides on the transporters. He felt awful, absolutely awful. After all, they had been put in place to leave Voyager a back door, a way to regain control of the ship if it ever again fell into enemy hands. It bothered him greatly that he had, in a sense, become the enemy.

Suddenly, all hell started breaking loose all over Voyager. The transporters had been overridden and people were being randomly beamed all over the ship, into and out of turbolifts, onto and off the bridge, in and out of engineering and the mess hall. The only area not touched was sickbay. Tom wasn't about to have anyone needing medical attention be transported away from the Doctor's care. In all the resulting confusion, it was almost too easy for Tom to transport himself off the ship and onto the planet's surface, to the cave. If they couldn't find Harry, they weren't going to find him.

As soon as Tom left the ship, the chaotic activity ceased. Everyone waited for it to begin again, and when nothing happened, all breathed a sigh of relief. Janeway had a fair idea of the identity of the culprit behind all the trouble and asked the computer for Tom's whereabouts.

"Lieutenant Paris is in the quarters of Ensign Harry Kim." Well, maybe not him, after all.

"Janeway to Paris." Nothing.

"Captain Janeway to Lieutenant Paris." Still nothing. Damn.

"I'm going down to Harry's quarters. Tuvok, you're with me, Commander, you have the bridge."

Janeway stalked off the bridge and into the turbolift, Tuvok following right behind her. He wisely said nothing as she stared straight ahead, glaring at the bulkhead. It had been his impression at the time, that the Lieutenant had given up too easily his desire to rescue the Ensign. With benefit of hindsight, he realized that Lieutenant Paris's resigned behavior had lulled them all into a false sense of security, that the matter had been resolved. The matter, Tuvok now realized, had never been resolved to the Lieutenant's satisfaction. Tuvok did not believe they would find him in the Ensign's quarters and wondered if they would ever find him at all.

Tom looked around, carefully, and with relief. Everything had made it down to the surface with him. With a satchel slung crosswise over each shoulder, he set the medkits down and opened up one of the tricorders. Thank whatever deity was responsible, there was a human lifesign less than a kilometer away. Grabbing the rest of the gear, he headed out.

The planet really is beautiful, he couldn't help thinking. Of all the places to be stuck, this was one of the better ones. Pretty, though odd, pale turquoise-colored sky, blue and gold grasses, some as tall as he was, moving gently in the slight breeze as he walked quickly past. No large predators, nothing registers as toxic to the tricorder, not bad at all. Now, to find Harry, and hope to the gods he's not older than I am.

He looked up ahead and saw that Harry had not been idle. Rough furrows were dug into the soil and several obviously different kinds of plants were growing. At only two or three feet tall, it wasn't possible to tell what they were, yet. Only two or three feet...! And Harry hadn't even been gone more than six hours, in what Tom thought of as Voyager time.

Further along a well-traveled path, he spotted a rock outcropping. As he headed toward it, and Harry, he noticed that... I'll be damned, a log cabin. Built right into the rock face It was really pretty good, and Tom was impressed. The back wall was the flat rock surface, the other three walls made of logs, stacked and notched, just like he'd seen in picts, years ago at the Academy.

The door was propped slightly open and he peered in. Light was coming in from the windows... he's got windows, made from what looked like clear quartz, or something related. Oh, Harry, how long have you been here? Tom slowly pushed the door open and froze. Looking to the left, behind the door, was a thick woven pallet on the floor, and, on it, was Harry, sound asleep, wearing only a pair of shorts. Black shorts, obviously made from the uniform pants. The pillow under his head was covered with fabric as dark as his hair, made from the rest of his former uniform.

He was facing away from the door as Tom quietly put down his load and took in the surroundings. Nice digs, Har Two benches, one under each window, a small table and one lone chair all made of wood and small logs. The lone chair got to Tom. Only one, he didn't think he'd need chairs for two The floor was odd; it gave beneath his feet, obviously wood but almost spongy. It was dark brown on the surface, scorched from a phaser beam.

He walked toward Harry and knelt down beside him. Gods, look at that hair, it's gotta be ten centimeters longer than it was when we had breakfast this morning Tom noted that Harry didn't have facial hair. Interesting that he had kept the hair, but not the beard or moustache he should have had. Could have used the phaser that cut the logs, to shave with, I guess And, he appeared to have put some muscle onto his slender frame. Oh, my.

Tom felt like a voyeur, watching Harry sleep, but he loved looking at him. He couldn't help it; the man was gorgeous. It wasn't like Tom hadn't been paying attention these last couple of years, but he'd never let himself stare openly before. He'd been too afraid someone would notice. Like Harry. That would not have been pretty. There was so much he needed to tell Harry. The timing had always been lousy, before. Now they had plenty of time and maybe, maybe... Oh, hell, maybe later.

Harry looked so peaceful asleep that Tom hated to wake him, but his curiosity was getting the better of him and there were only several hundred questions he was dying to ask.

Gently, he put his hand on Harry's shoulder and barely shook him, then moved the hand to the top of Harry's head and stroked down the back of it along all that inky softness. He caught himself and moved his hand back onto Harry's bare shoulder.

"Harry," he whispered, "wake up. Come on, it's me, Tom."

Harry's eyelids opened slowly, groggily, as he looked up at his friend. It took him a second to realize that this was not one of those 'Harry, wake up, you've got to see what I've cooked up on the holodeck' visits in the middle of the night, that Tom was so famous for. It had been a while since he'd even laid eyes on the man kneeling next to him.

"Oh, God, you're here, you're really here," passed his lips an instant before he launched himself at Tom.

"I'm here, it's okay, Harry... I'm right here," Tom said, catching him and wrapping his arms around him.

"What are you doing here?" Harry asked with wonder, leaning back. "Rescue?" he added hopefully.

"No, roommate," Tom replied wryly.

Harry looked past him to take in all the gear he'd brought with him. "What have you done, now? Where is everyone? And what do you mean, roommate?"

"Everyone else is still on the ship..." Tom began, when Harry interrupted.

"Can't we get back?" he asked, more than a little anxiously.

"No, not yet," Tom sighed.

"Then, what the hell are you doing here? Why did the Captain let you come down here if there's no way...." Harry trailed off and looked at Tom. "Oh, you didn't... you're stuck here with me? What were you thinking?" He looked at Tom, shaking his head, looking annoyed and somewhat angry. "The Captain will never forgive you for this, Tom, I..."

Whatever he had been about to say was cut off as Tom put his hand over Harry's mouth.

"Listen to me," he said softly. "You were stranded here. I couldn't let you go through that alone. Please, Harry don't ask me why, not yet It's possible that by the time Voyager finds a way to bring us back, we'll both be dead of old age. It's only been about six hours since I saw you this morning, for me. Yet, you've obviously been here for weeks, months, even. I couldn't leave you alone here for what may be the rest of your life, Harry. Not without me, no way in hell I asked the Captain to let me come down, but she refused. I didn't have any choice but to disobey her orders. I had to come." Tom looked at him, removed his hand from Harry's mouth, looked into his beautiful, astonished eyes and grinned. "Besides, I live for courtmartials."

"You are a lunatic, I knew it! B'Elanna always said so and she was right. This has got to be the craziest, most irresponsible thing you have ever done." Tom was just sitting there letting him rant, with a slight smile on his face. "And I don't know how to thank you." The slight smile widened into the real thing. "You're out of your mind, you know."

Tom just nodded and stood, giving Harry a hand up. "Show me around?"

Tom couldn't believe it. The cabin, the farm, everything; it was amazing. He had wondered how Harry had managed to build a log cabin all by himself until Harry had picked up a log outside that must have been two meters long. It was a lightweight, cork-like wood, but still... At least, it was until you baked it, as Harry had discovered when he'd tried to use it for firewood.

"It turns into what?" Tom asked in disbelief.

"Hair. Well, sort of. Exposure to heat for any length of time causes the wood fibers to separate. And they're flexible. It's what I filled the pillow and mattress with," Harry explained. "The only problem is that when you pull on them at all, even the slightest bit of tension, they snap. You just can't use them to make cloth. If you had arrived any later, I might have been running around here naked," he laughed.

Tom tried not to think about it. Maybe later, but not right now, not with Harry standing right next to him.

"What did happen to your uniform, anyway?" Tom brought the subject to safer territory. "I've been meaning to ask you."

"It doesn't fit anymore. I can wear the tank, but the turtleneck is hopelessly tight. I had to cut the sleeves off the jacket to make it fit and I'm wearing what's left of the pants."

"Nice legs, Har," Tom laughed. Very nice "I noticed you'd put on some weight; looks good on you." Good, hell, it looked great

"Gee, thanks, Tom, nice to know you care," Harry replied sarcastically.

"Speaking of clothes, I don't think they'll be a problem anymore, I brought plenty, for a while, anyway," Tom told him.

"Har," Tom hesitated to ask, he wanted to know but was almost afraid of the answer.

"What, what is it, Tom?" Harry looked at his friend's suddenly too serious face.

"How long," Tom cleared his throat. "How long have you been here?"

Harry looked off into the distance then pulled his gaze back to Tom. "Four months."

Four months? Aw, shit, Harry "Hell, Harry, you're doing fine. And here I thought I was going to have to help you out. You're the one who's going to have to help me get used to all this." Tom looked into his friend's eyes and saw them looking back at him, incredulously.

"Fine? You think I'm doing fine? Totally alone, bored out of my skull after the first couple of weeks." Harry started pacing in agitation. "No one to talk to, nothing to do, really, anymore, and you think I'm doing fine?" Harry paused.

"You have no idea how happy I am to see you; to finally talk to another human being," Harry admitted. "It makes me feel guilty as hell to know you came down here because I can't take care of myself."

"Oh, Harry, no, that's not what I meant. Hell, look around at all you've accomplished since being here. This is a hell of an achievement. And you are doing fine. You would've gotten along just great without me."

Harry crossed his arms over his chest and looked at Tom with that 'fed up' look he knew so well. "I might be able to take a lot of things," he said, "but I can't take solitude. I can't stand being alone for long; I need people around me. I can't deal with loneliness, I just can't..."

Tom reached out and pulled Harry into his arms. Harry went into them, unresisting. Oh, heaven "Harry, you don't have to. I'm here. I'll be here for you and you'll be here for me and we'll get through this together, okay?" He pulled back to look Harry in the eyes. "Okay?"

Harry's lips were pressed tightly together and his eyes were full of tears. He nodded. "Okay."

"Come on, you've got to see what I brought," Tom grinned knowingly. "You'll love it, I promise."

Harry grinned back and with Tom's arm around his shoulders, they headed back home to the cabin.

It was too funny; Harry was like a kid at Christmas, for crying out loud. They were sitting on the floor by the bed, which Tom was trying not to look at. Harry was going through the satchel his friend had packed for him. The contents of Tom's had already been dumped out unto the floor and he was done unpacking as far as he was concerned. Harry's clothes were gleefully brought out, and the padds; everything exclaimed over until he got to the music. A sad, pensive look came over his face.

"I appreciate the thought, Tom, really I do," he said as he reached back into the satchel. "But I didn't bring my clarinet." And then his fingers found it, how he'd never know, wrapped as it was in the blankets. Maybe the smile on Tom's face had something to do with it, had somehow tipped him off, that his best friend had forgotten nothing.

He brought it out and carefully unwrapped it. He looked at Tom. The tears were back. "Thank you." It was barely a whisper, but Tom heard it clearly.

"You're welcome," he replied, just as softly. "I know you may be a little rusty for a while, but I want to hear you play, eventually."

"You will, I promise." Harry set the clarinet aside and cleared his throat. "So, you hungry?"

"Actually, yeah, now that you mention it. Last meal I had was with you and that was four months ago," Tom said, with his standard smart-ass grin.

Harry laughed, just the response he'd been hoping for.

"Well, then, we'd better get you fed, hadn't we?" Harry hopped up and went to the back right side of the cabin. He pushed lightly on the wooden wall and a door popped open. He started poking around on the shelves.

"Harry, what on Earth is that?" Tom hadn't seen this yet.

"We're not on Earth, Tom," Harry said drily.


"It's the pantry. Not real deep, but enough storage for plenty of food."

"You amaze me; the things you think of. That would never have occurred to me."

"I don't like clutter and I don't like leaving food on the floor."

"So, what's wrong with the table?"

"It's not big enough," said Harry as he opened another door in the wall.

"How much do you have?" Tom asked with evident surprise.

"Plenty. I just didn't like the idea of not having enough. I don't know what the seasons are here, or if there even are any. I go to get fruit or whatever one day and there's lots of it. I go back the next and the plants are dying to the ground. I go back the day after that and there are young plants again. This place is so off kilter, Tom; I can't find any cycles to speak of."

"That's because there really aren't any, Harry. The energy causing the time variations isn't stable and the rate of time keeps changing all over the planet, in dozens of different places."

Harry sighed. "I know. It's so weird; I'll go for a walk for a couple of hours and leave the tricorder on record. I'll come back and two weeks have passed. I'll take the same route a few days later, and arrive back almost immediately after I left."

Tom looked curious. "Harry, are you losing time? Is the tricorder telling you you've aged those two weeks?"

Harry shook his head. "No, I only lose the couple of hours. Time feels the same, here. A day feels like a day, a week, like a week," he glanced away, "and a month, like a month, to me. It's all relative, I guess."

"As Einstein would say," Tom smirked.

Harry looked at him and laughed. "So, Oh Wise One, how do we get off of this science experiment gone berserk?"

Tom suddenly sobered. "I don't know, Harry. Voyager couldn't even find your comm signal under all these energy currents and shuttles can't land here."

Harry looked down, then back up at Tom. "Then how is Voyager going to get us out of here?"

Tom sighed. "They may not be able to, Harry. They may not be able to."

"Well, we'll just have to get along without them," Harry sounded determined, almost cheerful, but his face was grave.

"We'll be all right, Harry. Together, remember?"

Harry nodded and smiled, shakily, but a smile nevertheless. "Together," he replied.

The mood at dinner was lighter with Harry sharing stories of his time on the planet. The wood making up the cabin was definitely different. Harry had noticed that there were hardly any fallen logs in the woods. When he discovered how lightweight the wood was, he was amazed. The planet didn't have storms, apparently, nor harsh winds, or the trees would have littered the ground. There were rain showers, on occasion, but the wood was also waterproof; the rain rolled right off it. If there had been any major wind at all, the cabin would have blown away.

Also interesting were the tales of gathering seeds for the garden, Harry's study of the plants nearby. The Ensign had developed an interest in botany and was delighted with the amount of information on the padds now at his disposal.

Some stories were vaguely unsettling, like the time he had been eating dinner and gone to the nearby river for water, only to find his food rotten upon his return, just a little while later. Now, he always made sure he left nothing behind that would be ruined by the time he got back.

They had talked for hours and Tom was getting tired. Harry had told him that he wasn't on much of schedule, really, he just slept when tired and ate when hungry.

"Har, I'm beat," he yawned.

"Yeah, me too," Harry suddenly looked uncomfortable. "We're, uh, going to have to share the mattress until we make another one. Trust me, you don't want to sleep on the floor."

"Not a problem, Harry." A fantasy come true, but not a problem.

They settled in for the night, Harry pleased to have blankets and something comfortable to sleep in. It was close, almost too close for Tom's comfort. Harry lying beside him, less then an arm's length away, was near torture. Tom could feel the heat radiating off his friend's body and it was driving him to distraction. Fortunately, exhaustion won out before long and sleep claimed him.

Tom woke first the next morning, early, and realized he had curled up behind Harry in his sleep, his arm around the top of Harry's head, bent back, with his fingers wrapped up in that wonderfully long hair. He cursed himself for a fool and carefully managed to untangle himself from Harry. He moved away slowly, hoping he wouldn't wake him up and backed into his part of the bed. Damn. He'd never go back to sleep now. He glanced down at the pants he was sleeping in to see the erection he'd woken up with. That part of him had no interest in sleeping, whatsoever. Tom wanted nothing more than to wrap himself around Harry again and burrow in until he forgot his own name, but he and Harry hadn't had that talk, yet, and he didn't want to think about it right now. Maybe later today. Maybe. Actually, probably not. Coward.

Tom got up, and discovered himself to be in desperate need of a bath. Still half asleep and incredibly distracted, he got a change of clothes together and headed for the closest source of clean water, the river.

He grumbled to himself the whole way there, thinking about what an idiot he was, taking so long to share with Harry the thoughts and feelings that had plagued him for years. Just tell him and get it over with He'd promised himself he would so many times in the past, but the fates had always conspired to snatch the moment from his grasp. It was getting to the point that he believed it just wasn't meant to happen; maybe someone was trying to tell him something. He had reached the water and, getting undressed, waded in. Not too cold, barely enough to wake him up. He ducked under the surface, then rose out of the water and threw his head back, wondering what was for breakfast. He paused for a minute. Something was nagging him. Something about food.

Finally, as his sleep fogged brain completely woke up, he remembered. The story Harry told him. About the river, and time passing. Oh, shit!

Tom jumped out of the water and threw his clothes on. He hadn't been gone for more than 20 minutes, but who knew how long that was on this cursed planet for Harry.

He sprinted back to the cabin and through the door. Oh, hell. There was Harry sitting at the table, leaning on his elbows, with his head in his hands. He looked up when Tom burst into the room.

"Harry? How long...." Tom couldn't finish as he looked at Harry's face. He looked like hell, like he hadn't slept in....

Harry just looked at him, no expression on his face at all. Part of him realized, dimly, that Tom's hair was soaked and his clothes were clinging to his still-wet body. The river....

"Three days." It was a croak.

"Oh, God, Harry...." Tom could barely speak as he approached Harry and fell to his knees next to him. He reached a hand out and cringed inside as Harry flinched and stood up, moving away from him. Tom remained where he was; he couldn't move. Oh stupid, so damn stupid He could do nothing but watch as Harry walked slowly back and forth with his arms now tightly wrapped around himself. "Harry." It was a plea, for what, Tom didn't know. Forgiveness, understanding, something; some kind of reaction from the man who now stood halfway across the room, looking down at the floor.

"Did you think I was kidding?" Harry asked in a voice that Tom could barely hear.

"No. Oh, gods, Harry, no. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry."

Harry sighed heavily and walked slowly back to him and fell more than sat back into the chair. "Then what were you thinking?"

How many times has he asked me that, recently? "I wasn't thinking, Harry, I just didn't realize.... Please, Harry, I am so sorry."

Harry looked at him, his eyes full of pain. He opened his mouth to speak, then shut it and looked at his hands in front of him on the table.

"What?.... Harry, say it. Please, say something," Tom begged. Oh, this was killing him. Harry looked so devastated, so injured. And it was all his fault. He had done this to his best friend, this wonderful, gentle, caring man. Heaven only knew what he had gone through for three days.

"There might have been... a time... when I could have gotten through this... without you," Harry started slowly and painfully. "But that time... has passed." He looked down at Tom. "I need you, now... and I need to know... that I can count on you... to be here for me."

Gods, Harry, you're breaking my heart. Damn, this hurt. Tom knelt there, with tears in his eyes, mirroring the ones he saw in Harry's. All this pain, all this anguish and anger, all his fault.

"I can't do this without you, you know... not anymore," Harry continued. "I need you so much... and I need to know... that I have you... with me..." Harry's voice and control broke about the same time, when Tom reached up and took Harry's hand in his. Harry slid out of the chair and onto the floor in front of Tom, landing on his knees. The tears were falling, now, from two sets of eyes as their arms went around each other.

"You have me, Harry, oh gods, you have me. It's okay," Tom said gently, through tears, holding him as closely as he could. "This will never happen again, do you hear me? I don't care if we have to go through this tied together, this will never happen again, I promise. Oh, Harry, I promise."

"You scared the hell out of me. I didn't know... where you were, or... what had happened to you," Harry sobbed quietly into his shoulder.

"I know... oh, damn, I know... Harry..."

Tom couldn't remember the last time he had cried so much. He couldn't seem to stop. Neither of them could. They were just kneeling there, on the floor, holding onto one another for dear life. How many times have I wanted to hold him? Dreamed about it? But not like this, ever, not with so much hurt in him from something I did.

"I would never hurt you on purpose, Harry, I swear it. Never. I'll never hurt you again. I'm sorry... so sorry," Tom whispered against the side of Harry's neck, feeling the pulse beneath his lips, caressing the long black hair with his hand, running his fingers through it, combing the strands with them. His other hand was slowly going up and down Harry's back, stroking him, soothing him.

Harry was gradually relaxing, sinking into Tom's embrace. Oh, this felt so good. How long since he had been held like this, touched with such care and tenderness? He turned his head into Tom's neck and ,without even giving it a thought, kissed him softly just below the ear.

Tom almost groaned aloud, but caught it in time. Oh, this is not happening, there is no way in hell this is happening. Tom hesitated, for an instant, then moved the dark strands away from Harry's ear and kissed him just in front of it. He moved slowly down Harry's face, kissing the tears away with his lips, brushing them away with gentle fingers.

Harry closed his eyes and leaned into Tom's touch, lips parted slightly, barely breathing. Oh, this was wonderful. Nothing had felt this good in such a long time. He could feel Tom's fingers lightly stroking his face, following his eyebrows, then moving up his forehead and through his hair, to the back of his head and around his neck and back up his face again. He felt one finger trace his lower lip and let his tongue dart out to meet it. He heard Tom's slight gasp and opened his eyes.

Tom was in a state of shock. Harry was actually enjoying this. He let his finger drag back and forth against Harry's tongue and felt his eyes roll back in their sockets when Harry leaned forward, opened his mouth a little more, closed it around Tom's finger, and started sucking gently. The sensation went straight to his cock, taking what seemed to be all the blood in his body along with it. He leaned forward, more from lightheadedness than by design, and found Harry's cheek with his lips. He slowly leaned back and brought his finger out of Harry's mouth.

"Harry," he barely spoke aloud. "What the hell are you thinking?"

Harry's face was flushed and he smiled slightly at Tom's choice of words. "I'm not thinking," he said quietly. "I'm just enjoying."

"Oh, Harry, you don't know what you're doing," Tom's voice still not above a whisper. "You don't know what you're doing to me."

Harry moved his hands to the front of Tom's shirt. One remained behind to undo it while the other traveled further south to find the physical evidence of Tom's arousal. He stroked Tom's cock through the fabric, loving Tom's soft growl and the wild look in his eyes as his hand moved up and down the hard length of it.

"Oh, I think I do," Harry breathed right before his teeth sank gently into Tom's neck. Tom hissed and arched away from Harry, who continued, "I know exactly what I'm doing to you."

He eased his hand away from Tom's erection and moved back to take the still-wet shirt off, sliding it over Tom's shoulders and peeling it off his arms, then tossing it carelessly behind them. He ran his hands over Tom's chest and ribcage, down across his stomach and up, over his nipples, along the collarbone and onto the shoulders, wrapping his hands around them. He looked into Tom's eyes as he slowly leaned in and kissed him on the lips. Oh, that growl.

Tom tried to find a good reason to stop this; he really wanted to have that talk with Harry. But everything he had wanted for years was suddenly in his lap and he couldn't muster the strength to make Harry stop the assault on his senses long enough to have that talk. He brought his own hands to the front of Harry's shirt and began slowly undoing it, taking the time to caress him as Harry turned him inside out with those warm, tantalizing lips of his. Finally, the shirt was off and tossed out of sight. He pulled back and allowed himself to stare, at last, as his hands roamed freely all over Harry's chest.

"You're drooling," Harry said with a smile.

"Can't help it, you're so damned gorgeous," Tom grinned back.

Harry had never seen this grin before on Tom and he'd seen a lot of them. This one was warm and aroused and very sexy. Harry couldn't believe this was happening; it was so incredible. The feel of Tom's hands on his chest was pretty incredible, too, fingers stroking everywhere, and as Tom leaned in to lick his nipples, he let his head fall back and moaned, lacing his fingers through that beautiful golden hair and holding him right where he was. Tom was gently easing him backwards, so he let Tom's weight bear them both to the floor and wrapped his legs around him. Damn, he couldn't get the man close enough.

Tom found himself on the soft, yielding floor, on top of Harry, and had no idea how they had gotten there. He couldn't bring himself to be overly concerned about it, either, not with Harry wrapping his arms and legs around him and kissing him senseless. Okay, kissing him more senseless. Suddenly, Harry shifted and rolled him over and, still being too close to the table, they bumped into it. The slight jolt knocked Tom back to reality.

"Come on, bed," Harry sighed into Tom's mouth as he moved from on top of him and rose to his knees, still kissing Tom.

"Harry... wait a minute... we need to... talk... Harry." Tom tried to move away from him, but it wasn't working with Harry above him, kissing him, so he took hold of the man's shoulders and gently pushed him away.

"What? Come on, the bed's a lot more comfortable."

"Harry, wait, I need to make sure that this is something you really want. I don't want you to feel, tomorrow, that I took advantage of you when you were hurting." Tom hated saying it, but he didn't want any regrets the morning after to ruin what they could have here, what they could be to each other.

"Tom..." Harry was too mind-fried with lust and need and want to think clearly; he just knew he needed Tom, and badly. "Listen to me. I do want this; I want you, I need you, right now, tonight, tomorrow, and the day after that. Now shut up and come to bed."

Tom had to laugh, but laughing apparently wasn't on Harry's agenda, either. He barely had time to be startled as Harry grabbed his hand and starting dragging him across the floor to the bed. He couldn't stop laughing enough to help, but the two of them made it to the bed, eventually, and collapsed onto the mattress.

"Hungry, aren't you, Harry?" Tom chuckled as he leaned up and grabbed the hair at the back of Harry's head and pulled him down on top of him. "We'd better get you fed, then..." He smiled and focused his eyes on Harry's mouth as he zeroed in to kiss him. Harry groaned and leaned on his forearms, braced on either side of Tom's head, and kissed him back with a passion that surprised him. He couldn't get enough of him and, wanting more, began moving slowly, seductively, against Tom.

Tom stroked one hand down Harry's back to his ass and pulled him even harder against him, reveling in the sounds Harry was making. He rolled Harry next to him and his fingers flew to undo Harry's slacks and push them down over his hips.

Harry's hands weren't idle, either, as they moved to get Tom out of the rest of his clothing. Soon, they were touching everywhere, naked against each other and still weren't close enough to satisfy either one of them. Harry felt his skin come alive under Tom's hands as they roamed all over his fevered body. And the feel of Tom's lips against his, heaven. Harry lay on his back under this exquisite assault and thrust up against Tom, needing, wanting so much more.

Tom raised his head and grinned at Harry and proceeded to lick his way slowly down Harry's slick skin, nibbling and tasting as he went. Down his chest, along his sides, then his stomach. Harry's muscles clenched as he raised up under this loving touch, and as Tom's tongue made its way down to his throbbing cock, he fell back onto the mattress and arched his hips up in silent entreaty. Tom licked him all along the length, around the head, and down the underside. He raised up slightly to see the look on Harry's face. Harry was watching him, and as Tom took that wonderful length of cock into his mouth and deep-throated him, Harry threw back his head and screamed. Tom was so absorbed in what he was doing and by Harry's thrashing, completely out of control, that he almost didn't hear him.

"No... not yet... God, I want you... in me... please, Tom... in me..." Harry didn't want to come, not just yet. Gods, it was torture to wait, but he had to have Tom inside him, filling him.

Tom backed off, sat up, and straddled Harry, effectively pinning him to the mattress. He licked the palm of his hand and brought it down to caress his own shaft, never breaking eye contact with Harry. Harry's eyes went wide as he watched Tom touch himself, slowly stroking his cock up and down. Tom moved his hand up to lick the palm again when he heard Harry rasp, "Let me... please." Harry took his hand and, keeping eye contact, kissed the palm, then licked it, and the wrist, and all the way back down to Tom's fingers, taking each one into his hot mouth and sucking them in turn.

"Oh, sweet heaven, Harry," Tom couldn't take too much more of this, or he'd be coming all over Harry's chest. He felt his lover buck up beneath him.

"Let me turn over," Harry said, in a voice even softer than his skin.

"No way in hell," Tom growled back. He grinned inwardly when he saw Harry shiver slightly and leaned forward to lick and nibble at the other man's chest. "I want to see your eyes when I'm fucking you." He was still growling and it was really getting to Harry. "I want to watch your face when I come."

"Dangerous," Harry murmured. "I like that."

He saw Tom throw a hot look up at him through his lashes before his eyes narrowed for a moment. Oh, I am a dead man he thought, as he watched Tom consider what he'd just said. Uh, oh. Another one of those grins he'd never seen before flickered briefly across Tom's face. Oh, this is bad was in the forefront of his mind until Tom's mouth descended on his. The thought quickly turned into Oh, this is fucking terrific as Tom kissed him with heat enough to melt the warp core.

Tom began biting him, gently at first, down his neck, around his ears, along the collarbone and down the middle of his chest. He leaned back briefly to catch Harry's eyes right before his teeth fastened onto his nipple. Harry gasped and went to grasp Tom by the back of the head but he had already moved back up to suck on Harry's neck, nuzzling him around the ears and growling softly. He continued to work on Harry, bathing him with his tongue, everywhere, and paused on occasion to bite him, here and there.

Tom was moving sinuously against him, all over him, stroking and caressing with that beautiful body, never stopping the wonderful things he was doing with his mouth. Harry couldn't take it anymore. Gods, the man was having him for lunch.

"Tom, I need you... need you in me," he groaned.

"You'll have me, Harry," Tom snarled quietly into Harry's ear. "In time."

He saw Harry's eyes widen again; Oh, Tom loved this. The man was so responsive and so ready for him, that he couldn't torment him any longer. He moved down Harry's legs and slid off to the side to spread them open, then moved back in between them at the knees. He bent forward and starting licking his way up Harry's thighs, first one, then the other, long, slow, wet strokes of his tongue along the insides of those wonderfully long legs, continuing the growling that drove Harry crazy. Tom moved up against his ass and slowly began caressing the opening there, looking down at the man beneath him with a wildness that made Harry shiver again. He put one of his fingers into his mouth and pulled it slowly out, in again, slowly, then out. Harry was so insanely turned on, all he could do was moan Tom's name.

The need in his voice, and the arousal, brought a feral gleam to Tom's eyes as he took his finger and gently probed Harry with it. He slid it inside and worked the tight muscle loose, going around in circles within Harry, watching him, until the man was nearly out of his mind. He added another finger, then another, and knew Harry was ready for him. His cock was still wet, thanks to Harry, but he slowly spread the precum around at the tip anyway, with one finger, tantalizingly, just to make the man writhing under him go crazy.

He moved Harry's legs up and around him, bending them gently over his shoulders, and turned his head to bite the inside of Harry's thigh. The reaction he got, as Harry arched his back and gasped, made his cock ache. Neither of them could wait much longer. He positioned himself just outside of Harry and gradually eased himself in. Damn, he was tight. The feeling was unbelievable as Tom moved carefully back and forth inside his lover and Harry rose to meet his gentle thrusts.

Harry's eyes were wild but it was nothing compared to the look in Tom's. They didn't even seem to be completely human. It was eerie, the way Tom looked, so nearly out of control, yet so familiar. Tom threw his head back and snarled, moving faster as the tension built up within him. Harry was mesmerized, watching him. Gods, was this Tom, this beautiful creature, filling him so completely? This wasn't just sex or comfort, lust or need, or anything like that anymore. This was primal, this was... oh, this was so damn good. Harry felt Tom shaking and knew he was close, so close to coming.

"Come, Tom, come in me... that's it... yes... faster, fuck me... yes... oh, gods... like that..." Then Harry couldn't speak; he was too close to climaxing, himself, and he really didn't want to. Not yet. He reached up with his hand and touched the side of Tom's face. Tom turned his mouth into Harry's hand and bit the edge of it, right below the thumb. Harry gasped and brought his other hand to Tom's chest and scratched lightly down his nipples. Tom arched his back and hissed.

Harry never released Tom from eye contact, just watched him as he shook harder, the wild sounds he was making becoming increasingly louder until Tom came with a roar and emptied himself into Harry, his climax shattering him into pieces so small, he'd never find them. He collapsed on top of Harry, who moved his legs off Tom's shoulders and let them fall back onto the mattress.

Harry was exhausted and he hadn't even come, yet. He lay there, gently stroking Tom's hair, the back of his neck, down his broad shoulders as far as he could reach. There was a rumbling sound coming from Tom; Harry could feel it vibrating through his chest. So soft... what was...

"Tom, are you purring?" Harry asked, with stunned delight, a smile breaking across his face.

Tom raised his head and moved up Harry's body, oh, so slowly, skin caressing skin, until they were at eye level.

"Could you blame me?" he asked softly, before sinking his teeth into Harry's shoulder.

Harry arched his back and moaned. "Wha... what are you... doing? You have to... be exhausted... oh, gods, yes..."

Tom raised his head and looked into Harry's eyes. We aren't finished, Harry, not by a damn sight he thought as he stared at him. Hell, he still felt unsated. He gazed down at all the bruises and bites he had left all over Harry's body. He had marked the man, made him his. Now, it was time for Harry to do the same to him.

That wasn't exactly a smile Tom was wearing, now was it? The hunger in his eyes... Harry could feel it pulling his own desire from him, through him. Oh, yes...

"Your turn," Tom whispered, as he began kissing the bruises and licking the spots where his teeth had left marks. "Make me yours, Harry... mate with me... I want you... so deep inside me... that I can taste you... in my mouth... when you come."

Harry's eyes slowly fell shut. His mind was suffering a major overload. He couldn't think anymore; couldn't think to speak, couldn't think to move. Tom's voice was almost a physical touch; he could feel, not just hear, the words running over his body and through his mind. And how he was reacting. The man would bring him to orgasm, if he kept talking like that. He was trying so hard to hang on, to keep the wildness growing inside him under control, to keep himself from attacking Tom. It was rapidly becoming impossible, he realized, as his body began quivering with the effort.

Tom felt Harry tremble and glanced up at him to see his eyes shut tight. He saw his hands clenched into fists at his sides and knew Harry was trying to control himself. He didn't want Harry in control; he wanted him totally out of his mind. He was fighting it so hard, too hard...

"Oh, no, you don't," Tom hissed at him and saw Harry's eyes fly open. "Not with me, you don't. I want you to let go, Harry. I need you to let go. Lose it with me," he growled into Harry's neck, biting him again, none too gently, right below his jaw. "I don't care how wild it gets, I want it. Just let yourself go. Don't hold back with me, ever. I want it all," he ground out, roughly, against Harry's ear. "You won't frighten me, or shock me. I know you think you need to hang on, but you don't, not with me. Never with me. Trust me, Harry."

Harry felt something melt within him at the heat in Tom's voice. Tom watched it go; saw something else flare up in Harry's eyes. He bent his head down to nuzzle Harry with his nose and mouth and felt Harry's hands come up to reach into his hair and grip it, hard. He pulled Tom back by the hair and sank his teeth into his lover's throat.

Tom's head fell back and he groaned. Oh, yes, that's more like it.

"Harry, oh, yeah. Don't stop, please, don't stop..."

Harry quickly hooked a leg around Tom and flipped him over, moving on top of him, pinning him to the mattress. He gazed into Tom's eyes and saw no surprise there at all.

"I want you, Tom... gods, I need you... so much," He groaned out as he kissed Tom, open mouthed, their tongues caressing one another, fast and urgent.

"Prove it, Harry," Tom challenged, softly, kissing him hard, drawing the desire out of him. "Show me... "

Harry saw the mark he'd made on Tom's throat. It was a start. He began kissing him everywhere, his face, his neck, caressing him with soft, warm lips. He faintly heard Tom moan again as he drew his tongue around the man's ear and inside, then continued licking down his neck. He was getting harder by the minute, feeling Tom react so strongly to everything he did. He used his teeth harder along Tom's collarbone and felt him arch up beneath him. Before he came back down on the mattress, Harry moved one hand under him, kneading his ass, stroking along the back of his thigh.

Harry rolled to one side, and threw his leg over Tom, keeping him there on his side, so he could use his hands freely. He stroked Tom's chest with one hand, letting the other wander over the shoulder and down his back to his ass. He carefully moved one finger into the cleft and stopped at the opening. Tom growled again and Harry shivered as the sound went down his spine.

"Do it, Harry. Gods, don't stop now," Tom groaned as he tried to get closer, their cocks teasing and touching each other, both so hard again.

Harry needed easier access so he moved his leg off Tom. Then, taking hold of Tom's leg behind the knee, he brought it up over him and scooted closer, until their cocks were touching again. Now they were in exactly the opposite position that they had been. He flung one arm out to the side, above Tom's head, and reached around behind Tom with the other to caress his ass again, deliberately slipping one finger into the cleft and stroking tenderly.

Tom stretched up to lay his head on Harry's shoulder and the arm behind him came up, supporting him, as he felt Harry's fingers thread through his hair. Harry tilted his head back and kissed him, devouring his mouth with breathtaking intensity as he reached around and took hold of Tom's erection.

He moved one finger gently around the tip, spreading the precum around it and all over his finger. Tom hissed with pleasure. Harry grinned almost evilly. Payback time.

"You thought you were being so clever when you did this to yourself as I watched... driving me out of my mind," Harry whispered into Tom's ear. "How does it feel... to know that I'm doing it to you, now?... feel how wet you are," his voice never above a whisper, low and soft. He took hold of the length and began stroking faster, rougher. "How much you want me... feel how much you want me... inside you, fucking you... how hot and hard your cock is in my hand... do you feel that?"

Tom's entire body was shaking with the force of his desperate need. Harry was jerking him off, expertly, his voice and words and touch rapidly bringing Tom to that cliff's edge of arousal. He was going over, he knew that, and hoped Harry would be there to catch him when he fell.

Tom froze suddenly and threw back his head. Harry fastened his mouth on Tom's neck and sucked, hard, never losing the rhythm his hand had found to bring Tom off. Tom came and came, thrashing, crying out, bucking hard into Harry as his orgasm exploded into his lover's hand.

Tom opened his eyes to find Harry looking at him, slowly licking his fingers, but leaving his hand soaked with his seed. Harry smiled tenderly at him, the tenderness having a slight edge to it that he couldn't place until Harry spoke.

"Thank you," Harry said with a knowing look. "Didn't know what to use for a lubricant." He brought his hand down to his own erection, and began stroking himself, sensuously.

"Son of a..." Tom lost track of what he'd started to say as he watched Harry touch himself, moving his hand over his cock, his eyes locked on Tom's startled gaze.

"Roll over, now," Harry said, softly, but in a tone of voice that Tom had never heard him use before. Tom moved onto his stomach, stretching his long legs out with feline grace and his arms out in front of him, turning his head to the side to watch Harry. Harry started at the top of Tom's spine and slowly traced it with a fingernail, scratching all the way down, leaning forward to kiss his shoulder, then bite into his neck as his finger continued on, oh, so slowly.

He reached Tom's ass and drew lazy figures on his skin, as Tom shivered with heightened awareness. Harry's finger dipped into the cleft again and gently found its way into the opening. He pushed lightly and his finger slid inside. He worked it around carefully, loosening the tight ring of muscle then added a second finger.

Tom groaned and his hands clenched into the mattress. He needed more, wanted more, so badly, but Harry was going to take this at his own pace, no matter what he did.

"You like that, don't you?" he heard Harry whisper. "Feel what I'm doing to you... where I'm touching you..."

Harry slid in another finger and felt Tom tense. He moved his lover's legs apart and knelt between them. He bent forward, biting and licking his way down Tom's back, then up again. Harry reached his arm under Tom's waist and pulled him backwards, bringing him up onto his knees, Tom's hands coming under him to support his own weight.

"Oh, Harry... yes... please... fuck me," he heard himself begging and didn't care when he felt Harry position his cock just outside then slowly slip in. Gods, he was hard again. He wasn't going to be able to walk for days after this. He felt Harry reach around for his cock and stopped his searching hand. "If you make me come, without you, again, I'll kill you, I swear to God I will."

Harry chuckled through the haze that was rapidly clouding his mind and left Tom alone for the moment. He moved easily in and out of Tom, feeling his muscles clench around him, making him gasp out loud. Perfect, absolutely perfect. Damn, he feels so good as he heard Tom growling again, making him harder than he already was.

"Tom... oh, so good... yes... made for me... ohhh... made for me... to be in you... like this..." he ground out between thrusts as Tom started thrusting back against him. His hands were gripping Tom's shoulders, hard, and he leaned forward to sink his teeth into the back of Tom's neck, then his shoulderblade, biting him, marking him, down the entire length of his back as Tom groaned and threw his head back. Harry took advantage of the opportunity and his teeth met the side of Tom's neck, sucking hard. Harry brought one hand under Tom and, starting at his throat, dragged his nails down his chest, over his nipples and his stomach, around to his hip, and dug in.

Tom was moving wildly beneath him, bucking back hard into him. "Gods, Harry, yes... more." They picked up speed and Tom cried out, "Harry... take me... harder... fuck me... yours, oh, yes... always yours... love you... love you, so much..." Tom was going to come again, but this time, by the gods, Harry was coming with him.

Harry dimly heard Tom say he loved him and felt an incredible heat flow through him. "Love... love you... Tom, oh yes," he managed to say before feeling Tom clench tightly around his cock. Gods, he was coming, oh, he was going to come hard, as he heard Tom roar and felt him tremble beneath him.

Tom heard Harry's declaration of love and lost it, totally. He was so damn hot, feeling Harry pumping him, throbbing inside him, his slick body surrounding him, that the words added too much to his already taxed senses and he felt himself coming again. He could feel Harry shaking behind him, inside him, and as he roared and came, he felt Harry explode within him.

Finally, finally... thank whatever deity made this possible... finally Tom thought before Harry collapsed over him, his dead weight bringing them both down to the mattress.

They lay there for a long time, until Harry regained enough strength to move carefully out of Tom and slip off to the side. Tom groaned as he felt Harry leave, then sighed as his arms came around him. He was shaking like a leaf in a hurricane. Tom rolled over and wrapped Harry up in his arms and pulled him close.

"Are you okay?" he heard Harry ask in a small voice.

"Am I okay? Hell, Harry, I'm great." He took a closer look at his lover's face, or tried to until Harry turned away.

"Har, hey, what's wrong?... Look at me, come on, look at me." Harry turned back toward him, his face wet with tears.

"I'm sorry," he said softly.

Tom was totally floored. "Sorry? For what?" he asked in disbelief.

"I hurt you," he answered, looking confused as hell that Tom didn't realize it.

"Harry, Sweetheart, you didn't hurt me, I swear it," Tom replied, stunned that Harry could even think such a thing.

"You're black and blue, covered with bitemarks, and bleeding from at least a dozen scratches, don't tell me I didn't hurt you, Tom!" He bit off, angrily.

"Oh, gods, Harry..." Tom couldn't think of what to do. Harry was in just as bad a shape as Tom was, he just didn't realize it, he couldn't see it. Tom needed a mirror. He thought a minute, and jumped up from the mattress, grabbing Harry's hand and pulling him upright.

"Come on, I'll show you," Tom said as he put an arm around Harry's shoulders and started leading him out the door.

"Tom, wait a minute..."

"No, Harry, I am not going to wait. I have a point to make, and you are coming with me if I have to pick you up and carry you!" Tom stated emphatically.

He hauled him unceremoniously to the river, located a still, quiet part of the water near a good-sized rock and led Harry out onto it.

"Look," Tom said, pointing down.

"Look at what?" Harry asked in confusion.

"Look at you, Har," Tom answered and stepped aside.

Harry glanced down into his reflection in the clear water, intending just to humor Tom, and stopped. "My god, Tom, look at me," he said in stunned disbelief. Harry had bruises all over his throat, and his chest, and his back, with bloody scratches there, too. He knelt down to see better and realized that he had imprints from Tom's teeth all around his neck, as well. He stood back up, still staring into the water, at his reflection, in shock and saw Tom coming up behind him.

Tom walked up and put his arms around Harry, pulling him gently back against him. "See, we marked each other up pretty damn good, didn't we?" he said into his ear, wry amusement in his voice.

He turned Harry around, gently, and took his face in his hands. "Harry, please don't ever be sorry for what happens when we make love to each other. None of it, okay? I loved it when you went wild, like that. I wanted this, remember? All of it, every scratch, every bruise, every last bite. I wouldn't trade them for anything, Love, do you hear me? Do you?"

Harry nodded, awed. "You really love me, don't you?"

"Harry, you were right there when I said it, didn't you believe me?" Tom asked with a grin.

Harry grinned wickedly back. "You never said it, before. Of course, I was never in you so deep you could taste me before, either."

Tom threw back his head and laughed. "So true, Har, so true." Tom stopped laughing but the smile remained. "You have no idea how many times I wanted to, though. No idea." He turned around and sat down on the sun-warmed rock, his legs dangling into the water, disrupting the stillness and their reflection.

"Why didn't you ever tell me, then?" Harry asked, joining him on the rock and letting his legs dangle as well.

Tom grimaced. "Aw, hell, Harry, I tried, so many times. Something always got in the way. There just wasn't ever a good time, you know?" He looked at Harry, hoping for understanding.

Harry just nodded. "We seem to have plenty of time, now," he said quietly.

Tom knew he was thinking about their situation and decided to distract Harry before he depressed the hell out of himself. He reached forward into the water, and brought a handful up and into Harry's astonished face. Tom got to laugh for only an instant before Harry reached in with both hands and retaliated in kind.

The water fight from the rock led them both into the water, splashing and chasing each other like a couple of kids. At least, it provided them with an opportunity to clean off. After a while, they gave up trying to drown each other and just relaxed, floating quietly in the water, swimming laps, and lazing about. It felt wonderful and they didn't get out until they both realized they were starving.

They headed back to the cabin, arms around each other's waists, pausing on the walk back to kiss and touch every so often, just delighting in being together. They had a while to enjoy one another, Tom reasoned, as they stepped inside the door and walked over to the piles of clothes to get dressed.

Harry opened up one of the medkits and held up a dermal regenerator.

"Do you want to?" he asked, hesitantly.

"No way in hell, Harry," Tom said with feeling. "But, if you want to, go ahead."

Harry shook his head and placed it back inside the kit. He stood up and walked into Tom's arms. It felt so right to be there. He looked at Tom.

"I love you, you know," he said softly, caressing Tom's face.

"Oh, I love you, too, Har, I love you," Tom replied.

Harry took Tom's hand in his, and raising it to his lips, kissed the palm, then placed it on his chest, over his heart.

"Yours," he said, eyes bright with unshed tears.

Tom could feel Harry's strong heartbeat as he took Harry's hand, and closing his eyes, kissed the palm, bringing it to his own chest. He placed it over his own heart.

"Yours," he answered, softly, as he stepped toward Harry and kissed him.

"Yours, always."

Life on the planet had settled into a leisurely routine for Tom and Harry. Harry had told Tom the secret of how to have lots of free time while still keeping the pantry full.

"It's easy, you just plant whatever you want, then go for a walk or two. By the time you come back, it's ready for harvest."

Harry had been being sarcastic, but it still worked well at making the time fly between planting and harvesting, so they followed it.

Tom had already seen all the hybridizing work Harry had been keeping himself busy with, before he'd joined him on the planet. Harry had developed a love for botany and agriculture in those four months alone and the planet was the perfect lab for all the work he wanted to do.

They had already worked out crop rotations, decided which plants had promise for domestication, and hybridized strains that would yield the most crop with the least effort. Preserving and drying the fruits and vegetables had been pretty easy and they had ample storage space in the pantry after the suns in orbit around the planet had done their work. No matter how long they were gone on their numerous excursions, according to the tricorder left behind to keep track, they never lost much by the time they returned.

The cabin now had a much larger bed, on a log frame, slatted, with a thicker mattress built to withstand the frequent and enthusiastic use they put it to. More furniture, as well, was a necessity. They made a couple more chairs, some crates for their clothing, and another, longer table for all the rest of their belongings.

With most of the work out of the way, taking the time to just be together was important to both of them. It didn't much matter what they did; they both enjoyed the free time spent in each other's company, walking, reading aloud, swimming, or making love.

Tom was enjoying himself immensely at the moment, just laying on their rock, lazily tracing patterns on Harry's bare foot with his fingertip. Harry's toes flexed, getting his attention, and he raised his eyes to his lover's. He smiled and Harry winked at him, leaned back against the rock behind him, and continued playing his clarinet. Damn Tom thought, he's really good, and rolled over on his back to watch the pink clouds sail by above the trees and listen to the beautiful music, accompanied by the soft roar of the river.

He moved his hair out from under him and let it fall over his hands, clasped behind his head. Harry wouldn't let him cut any of it off. Of course, he wouldn't let Harry cut any of his, either, so it was only fair. Definitely not regulation length, at over a foot long, but who the hell cared? Starfleet regulations certainly had no place with them, anymore. Tom hadn't worn his uniform since he had beamed down to the planet almost ten months ago.

Then, too, he hadn't spent a whole lot of time wearing clothing, period, unless they were out of the cabin. And that had less to do with modesty than with the delight they took in undressing each other, like unwrapping a gift, still so new, so wonderful.

Tom gazed up, through the trees, at a sky in perpetual daylight, thanks to the three suns orbiting the planet. Fortunately, the radiation was slight enough that it didn't fry him. He had a decent, hell, a great, tan, but it was nothing compared to Harry's. That beautiful skin was now bronzed and, to him, Harry looked like a god, sitting there, barechested as Tom was, wearing shorts, that glorious black curtain of hair trailing down his back.

Tom rolled back over onto his stomach, his head propped up on one bent arm, while the other resumed caressing Harry's foot. He shot a devilish look at Harry and brought his mouth down to follow with his tongue the path made by his finger. Harry kept playing, but the tempo of the piece had sped up a little.

Tom grinned. "Bet you can't keep playing, Love."

Tom looked momentarily startled to hear the clarinet sing-song back at him what sounded like "Oh, yes, I can." His eyes shot up to see Harry's twinkling delightedly back at him.

"Prove it," he challenged, smiling. "Show me."

He bent again to the top of Harry's foot and began kissing it from the toes back to the ankle, using his tongue on the instep. He heard the clarinet make what sounded like a sigh and continued around to the heel and up the back of the tendon. He nibbled gently across the ankle again, then went back down to the toes, sucking each one, slowly. He heard the clarinet groan, deep in the lower register, and looked up at Harry. He had his eyes closed, his head back against the rock, resting the instrument against his stomach, his lips still around the mouthpiece, fingers poised, waiting for Tom's next move.

"Talk to me, Harry," Tom whispered. "But don't say a word."

Harry's eyes opened slowly to see Tom begin kissing his way up his legs, gently caressing his calves with those warm lips.

Tom heard the clarinet moan, soft and deep, as he traced Harry's knee with a finger, then followed with his tongue, going around each kneecap in ever larger circles. He slowly slithered his way up the other man's legs, nibbling softly at the insides of his thighs, barely touching the outsides with gentle hands. He reached up to undo Harry's shorts and heard the clarinet gasp. He looked up and, delaying the undoing for a moment, began caressing Harry's other instrument, watching his lover's reaction through narrowed eyes.

Tom took one finger and oh, so slowly, stroked up the side of the clarinet, lightly running his fingertip over the keys Harry wasn't using. Taking his other hand and, using the same movements, he echoed the caresses along Harry's cock. He worked his way patiently to the other side of the clarinet and came back down, doing the same to Harry, softly touching both instruments with gentle hands. He paused to circle the outside of the clarinet's opening with his fingers, and smiled at the groan he heard in the music. Tom moved his fingers slowly inside the instrument and felt the vibration when Harry made it groan again.

He looked up and watched Harry's eyes close as he moved his hand to unfasten the shorts, at last, and pull them down over his lover's hips.

Harry lifted up to help him, the clarinet sounding out one plaintive note, as Tom eased the shorts down the man's legs and tossed them to the side. He lay between Harry's legs, letting his hands travel slowly up his thighs, and reached up to hold onto his waist. Tom bent his head again and teasingly flicked his tongue over Harry's erection, growling at the harsh, needful sound coming from the clarinet.

"Oh, you like that, don't you... feeling my mouth on your cock... tasting you... licking you... you're so hard for me... love you, Harry... I love you, so damn much..." Tom heard the clarinet moan a low chord then sharply hit a keening wail as his mouth closed over Harry and sank down to the root, devouring him. He pulled up quickly and plunged down again, feeling the legs beneath him tense and quiver, as Harry arched upward in desperate arousal.

Harry was having trouble breathing, let alone playing, as he raised up into his lover's hot, wet mouth. He braced his back against the rock behind him, bent his knees and planted his feet firmly, to give himself more leverage. As he looked down to see Tom's head moving up and down on him, hard and urgent, he let the clarinet give voice to his need, letting it gasp and moan and plead for him.

Tom heard it and glanced up at him through slitted eyes. He snarled low in the back of his throat and moved faster and rougher, feeling Harry tighten up like a spring before the clarinet howled, loud and long, as Harry came, filling his mouth again and again.

"Oh, Harry, I love you," Tom said softly, as he licked his lover clean with long, slow strokes of his tongue, surprised when Harry's voice, not his clarinet, responded in kind.

"I love you, too, Tom." He sighed, contentedly, then raised his eyebrows and smiled gently at Tom's surprise. "There are some things I need to say to you, as often as possible. And that's one of them."

He set the clarinet aside, resting it on the shorts he'd been wearing until just recently, and reached for his lover. Tom came into his arms instantly, rested his head against that wonderful chest, and listened to the quieting heartbeat. How he loved this, holding Harry and being held so tenderly by him. He could happily do this for the rest of his life.

Harry felt Tom settle into his embrace and kissed the top of his head, stroking back the long, golden hair he loved so much. He looked at it falling through his fingers, slightly wavy, a little wild, and utterly gorgeous. He felt Tom making that familiar rumbling purr, echoing as it was in his chest, and chuckled.

"You're doing it, again."

Tom looked up at him. "I am?"

"Well, you were," Harry teased as he looked at man he loved more than anything.

Tom leaned up to nuzzle Harry's neck, nipping softly at the tender flesh below his ear.

"I don't realize I'm doing it until you tell me so," he sighed, then smiled. "Something about you just brings out the animal in me, I guess," he finished, glancing up at Harry again, resting his head on the other man's shoulder as Harry ran his fingers through his hair and gazed into his eyes.

"You know, you have the most beautiful blue eyes I have ever seen..."

Tom smiled slightly and leaned up as Harry trailed off, looking somewhat confused. "What is it?" he asked, curiously.

"I don't know, this just felt... odd, for a moment, like I've... It's reminding me of something..."

"What, Harry?" Tom queried with growing concern.

Harry looked deeply into Tom's eyes. Something about them was so familiar to him... but not here and now... another time and place. Then it hit him. Where he had seen eyes like that before, seen what Tom so reminded him of.

Tom saw realization flash across Harry's face and sat up.

"Harry, what is it? You're starting to worry me, here."

Harry just stared at him wonderingly. "My God, I don't believe it. Right in front of me the whole time and I never even... "

"Harry, tell me!" Tom was adamant, now. Harry was looking at him like he'd never seen him before in his life and it was starting to scare the hell out of him.

"When I was a kid, nine or ten, my parents took me to Golhedra, to visit some friends of theirs," Harry began, in a faraway voice, staring at Tom. "Kind of a primitive place, but so beautiful, green and wild... They were all talking outside one of the shelters and I wandered off, bored with all the grownup stuff. I saw a low fence heading off, so I followed it, figuring I couldn't get lost, or in trouble, if I just followed the fence. I heard a couple of men talking inside another shelter, about their prize out back. I went around to see and... there he was, in a cage, just lying there, so still. I stepped over the fence and got closer, as quietly as I could, but he heard me and got up. He was huge, maybe eight feet long, not counting the tail. He started pacing, back and forth, growling softly and looking at me all the while... It was like he was telling me his life's story. I went closer and he stuck his head up against the bars. When I reached out to touch him, his head snapped around. I thought I was going to lose my arm, but he just licked me." Harry chuckled, "Damn near took the skin off, but didn't hurt much. I started scratching behind his ears and his eyes closed."

"Harry," Tom interrupted in a soft voice. "What was he?"

Harry grinned. "A Golhedran cougar."

Tom looked at him in horror. "Harry, those things are man-eaters, what the hell were you thinking?"

Harry smiled. "Only that he was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen in my life. I scratched his head and ran my fingers through that golden fur and he started making a noise somewhere between a purr and thunder. Gods, it was so loud. He looked up at me... he had the most amazing blue eyes," Harry smiled into Tom's. "They just went right through me. I remember thinking that anything that damn beautiful and wild didn't belong in a cage. It was just so wrong. I started talking to him, telling him he had to get out of there, to do whatever was necessary, that he didn't belong there. He just kept nuzzling my hands and licking me, but I really wanted to believe he heard me, understood me. One of the men heard me, unfortunately, and came behind the shelter. That cat looked at him with such loathing that I hated him. He started yelling at me and I ran, all the way back to my parents." Harry's smile was somewhat sadder, now, wistful.

"What happened to him?" Tom asked, quietly.

"I heard later the next day that he had killed that man and escaped the night before. He had attacked and killed a couple of the villagers a week earlier; that's why they set a trap for him in the first place. They were going to kill him, the skin was worth a small fortune offworld; he didn't deserve that," Harry sighed. "I guess maybe he understood me, after all."

He pulled Tom back into his arms and held him, kissed him softly on the top of his head, and resumed stroking that golden hair. "I couldn't believe he had ever hurt anyone; I didn't want to believe it. Not after him being so gentle with me."

Tom looked up at him, "Harry, he could have mauled you if he had gotten out and come after you... "

Harry shook his head. "No, I don't believe that. I don't think he would have hurt me, ever, not deliberately."

Tom grinned fondly at him, shaking his head. "And I remind you of him?"

Harry smiled back at him. "Yeah, in a lot of ways, now that I think about it. You would never hurt me, either, not on purpose. You're misunderstood, like he was. Him, and the villagers; you, and Caldik Prime." Harry hugged Tom tighter when he felt him tense slightly. "Him, in a cage; you, in New Zealand... neither one of you deserved that. Wild and beautiful, both of you..."

Tom looked at Harry incredulously. Harry smiled. "Yes, you. You are the most beautiful thing I have seen since the day I saw him. And about the wild part, do I really need to convince you of that?"

Tom laughed. "No, I guess I'll take your word for it."

Harry leaned down to kiss him, softly. "Hmmm... my blue-eyed Cougar," he murmured. "My love."

Tom snuggled into his arms and gazed at him, fondly. "I'm stuck with that, now, am I? A nickname?"

Harry smiled at him. "What, Cougar? Do you mind?"

Tom smiled, tolerantly, then laughed out loud. "I've had worse," he admitted. "Although, I think I can live up to the comparison," he said with his usual cocky grin.

"Prove it," Harry said softly, with a wicked gleam in his eyes. "Maul me."

Tom just stared at him for a moment. Suddenly, he was on his feet, hauling Harry up with one hand and grabbing his shorts and clarinet with the other. He handed them to Harry, with an absolutely evil grin on his face. "Race you to the cabin," he said.

Harry looked at him, startled, but delighted, as he stepped into his shorts. "What do I get if I win?"

"Me?" Tom asked hopefully.

Harry laughed. "What do you get if you win?"

"You... " Tom growled.

Harry shivered, his eyes shining. "You want a head start?"

Something had to be done about B'Elanna. In her zeal to bring Tom and Harry home, she was quickly getting on the last nerve of damn near everyone around her. The entire engineering crew was pulling double shifts and she hadn't slept since Tom left, herself.

He'd been gone less than twenty hours, but she didn't want to think about how long that translated into on the planet. As soon as the Captain had discovered him missing after the transporters had gone berserk, B'Elanna had retraced his steps to find out how he had done it. How he had gone from the shuttle bays, to get medkits and phasers, to engineering, so he could snatch the tricorders, to his and Harry's quarters, in order to get clothing and personal items, and then to the cargo bay, to create enough confusion so he could slip away.... and all without raising any suspicion. It had been brilliant, damn him, anyway B'Elanna thought. He had even been so bold as to swipe the tricorders practically from right underneath her nose.

As much as it angered her, it also made her feel guilty as hell. Like if she had noticed what he was up to, she might have been able to talk him out of it. Now, both of them were gone, just gone, and time was not on her side when it came to bringing them back.

She had been spending so much time reviewing the information gathered by the tricorders, she could nearly recite it, verbatim. Something interesting had been found in the strata of the rock formation in the cave: a most unusual element, crystalline in structure. She was trying to figure out if it had something to do with their being able to beam Watson and Likett off the planet, or if it was somehow creating interference that prevented them from being able to lock-on to Harry and Tom. Even though Tom didn't have his comm badge anymore, having left it on Harry's bed, the sensors should have been able to find him, find both of them. But it was almost as if they didn't even exist down there, for all the help the sensors were. Sometimes they were able to locate something they classified as a human lifeform, only to have it disappear an instant later.

The energy flow on the planet's surface was yet another problem. It seemed to move without reason, randomly, varying in intensity and stability.

The only areas it seems to be less dense in, are those near the rock formations thought B'Elanna. Time seemed to be at a constant rate in those areas. She rubbed her forehead, tiredly. Great, so how does that help us?

"Time for a break, Torres?" She looked up into the concerned eyes of the first officer.

"No, Chakotay, I don't have time. That's the problem."

"You need to rest, B'Elanna."

"I can't...."

"I could always rephrase it as an order, Lieutenant..."

B'Elanna scowled. "Fine, Commander," she growled, stalking out of engineering without a backward glance.

Chakotay looked around at the rest of the crew.

"You might want to take advantage of the Chief Engineer's absence to get some rest, as well."

Most sighed in relief. On their way out the door, a few stopped to thank him and tell him he didn't need to rephrase that as an order.

They ran back to the cabin in a dead heat, Tom going through the door just an instant ahead of Harry. They never let themselves get too far away from one another; the 'race' was just a game. At first, staying close was out of necessity, later, it was simply out of habit. They couldn't bear to be apart, anyway, not after finally finding each other.

Harry laughed breathlessly as he placed the clarinet carefully on the table along the wall. Tom rounded on him swiftly, and pounced, knocking him to the soft floor, smothering him with kisses. They had been rather restrained with each other recently, no blood drawn, no marks that took days to go away. The quiet and gentle lovemaking certainly had its place and they both loved all of it. There was just something about this, this frenzied, powerful, glorious mating they sometimes engaged in, that made them feel as if they were bonded forever, inseparable.

Harry groaned under Tom's assault, wrapping the man up in his arms and legs, kissing him back just as feverishly. Tom paused briefly to breathe and looked with wild eyes into Harry's flushed face.

"Bed?" he asked halfheartedly, panting.

"Here," Harry whispered, insistently, tangling his fingers in Tom's hair and bringing his mouth roughly down to his. "I can't wait that long."

Tom growled and, pulling his mouth away from Harry's, latched on to his lover's neck and sucked hard, as though he was trying to draw blood through the skin.

Harry inhaled sharply. "Damn, you're hungry."

"Starving," Tom snarled, as his teeth fastened onto the other side of Harry's throat.

Harry groaned and thrust up into him. "We'd... oh, yes... we'd better get you fed... then," he replied, knowing that it would be his last completely coherent sentence for a while.

Tom worked down Harry's chest, biting his nipples, first one than the other, then surged up to kiss him, hot and open-mouthed, devouring him. Tom's hands worked quickly to get him out of his shorts, which went flying across the room as soon as his legs were out of them. Harry brought his hands down from the deathgrip they had on Tom's shoulders, to find his lover had already undone, and was most of the way out of, his own. They sailed through the air to join Harry's on the floor by the bed.

Tom briefly eased off of Harry, just long enough to take him by the arm and roll him over onto his stomach. He gripped Harry's hands and stretched his arms out in front of him, then bit his way back from the elbow to the shoulder, sinking his teeth into that wonderful place between shoulder and neck. Harry's head came back and he groaned. Tom grabbed him by the hair and, moving forward, kissed him urgently, forcing his lover's lips apart with his tongue to explore the hot interior. He tore his mouth away from Harry's and bit into his neck once more.

Harry's eyes flew open with a sharp gasp, but Tom had already moved behind him again, gnawing his shoulderblades and lightly clawing his way down Harry's sides. Harry couldn't see the man, but he could sure as hell hear him. Tom's growl seemed to shoot right through him, ending at his cock, which was hard enough to drill a hole through the floor.

Tom worked his way quickly down Harry's back, marking him with intent, leaving his lover no opportunity to anticipate where the assault was going to come from next. He slid down Harry's ass, nipping it, then continued along the back of each leg, holding them down at the ankles, so the man wouldn't reflexively kick him. He moved Harry's legs apart and paused. Gods, he looked beautiful, lying there naked, beneath him.

"Oh, Harry..." he whispered roughly, as he stroked himself with one hand, lubricating his cock with his own precum and Harry with the other, readying him. "I'm going to fuck you... so hard and fast... you won't be able to move tomorrow... I'm going to be inside you... so far... you'll think we're sharing one skin."

"Tom," Harry moaned, but had to keep the game going. "Prove it," he grated through clenched teeth. "Take me."

"Yes," Tom hissed as he entered him, the swift thrust taking their breath away. "Harry, yes... Oh, I love being in you," he gasped. "Love it." He reached forward and grabbed Harry's hands, tight, threading his fingers through them and, squeezing hard, brought their joined hands back toward their joined bodies.

"I'll never... have enough of you," he groaned, head thrown back, thrusting hard into Harry. "However much... I have... it'll never be enough... I want... all of you... Harry... body, mind and soul."

"More, Tom... don't hold back... please... more... oh, yes," Harry cried out as he felt Tom move faster within him, felt the hard shaking begin, and knew how close his lover was to coming.

Tom could feel the climax surging up within him and bent quickly to sink his teeth into Harry's shoulder, hard enough to break the skin and dimly heard Harry cry out. He could taste blood, now, and moved even faster, taking Harry furiously. It's never been like this, before he thought faintly, as he reared back, shuddering with the force of the explosion inside him, desperately needing it to release him before it destroyed him. He could barely hear Harry through the pounding in his ears.

"Now... Cougar, oh, yes... come in me," as Harry thrashed beneath him. Tom felt himself blow apart as the orgasm ripped through him and roared with the release, loud enough to make the windows rattle, as he came and came and came.

There wasn't enough of his strength left to keep him conscious, as he fell away into darkness and came crashing down on top of Harry. Damn, he was right thought Harry, his ears ringing I can't move. I have got to learn to be more careful what I ask for; he's so damn good at giving it to me.

It took a few seconds and a serious act of will to slide out from under Tom's body. Harry had to check just to make sure he was still breathing. He was, but he was also shaking all over, and freezing cold. Harry crawled over to the bed and grabbed the blankets, knowing he could move them to Tom a lot easier than he could move Tom onto the bed. He came back and wrapped his lover up in them, with him inside as well, making him as warm as possible.

Where the hell did that come from? he wondered, thunderstruck, as he rubbed Tom's back and spoke softly to him, no louder than a whisper. He couldn't believe Tom had been holding back on him all this time; it just wasn't possible. But, whatever had happened, it had been so intense, that it had damn near thrown Tom into shock. Harry just held on as his lover gradually came back to himself and the quaking of his spent body eased.

Harry looked at Tom's face to see his eyelids flutter slowly open. He kept stroking him, gently, kissing his face and murmuring softly to him and watched as Tom's eyes eventually brought him into focus.

"You, okay?" Tom said, on a ghost of a whisper, licking his lips.

"I'm fine, really," Harry was quick to reassure him. "A little stunned, but fine," he finished and kissed Tom.

"I didn't... scare you?"

"No," Harry said simply. "Were you trying to?"

"No, oh, Harry, no... never."

"I have never been afraid of you, ever, Tom," Harry said softly, not releasing Tom from eye contact. "You couldn't make me afraid of you, if you tried. Afraid for you, yes. But, never of you." He held Tom tighter within the warm, safe haven of his arms. "I love you, more than anything."

Tom kissed him on the neck, with deliberate gentleness, and pulled Harry even closer. "I love you, too. Oh, Harry, you'll never know how much."

"You could tell me, you know," Harry smiled at him, partly meaning it. Tom had often said that there were so many things he wanted to tell Harry, that he needed him to know, but they still hadn't gotten around to it, yet. Harry didn't want to push, and Tom, not understanding how badly Harry needed to hear it all, had never volunteered anything. Maybe, someday...

"I will, Har, but there's just so much. Not right now, okay?"

Obviously, not today. Harry just smiled and stroked Tom's hair, letting it go, for the moment.


They lay quietly together, holding one another, and let their hearts gradually stop racing. Harry bent his head to kiss Tom and sighed.

"Love?" Tom asked, softly.

"Yes, Cougar?" Harry murmured, half asleep.

"Consider yourself mauled."


B'Elanna came into engineering like a shot, just a few hours after Chakotay's ordered rest break, and came to an abrupt halt. Damn, where the hell is everyone? She glowered at the almost empty room.

She'd had an idea that had rocked her out of an admittedly restless sleep. She needed a core sample from one of the rock formations, the cave, she thought. They had nearly the exact coordinates. Oh, well, she could do it herself.

"Torres to bridge."

"Chakotay here, B'Elanna, why aren't you sleeping?"

B'Elanna groaned. "I had an idea and it can't wait. I need to get a core sample from the cave. I think it may hold the answer as to why our transporters can't lock on to Tom and Harry."

Chakotay looked at Janeway for approval. She nodded, bemused and curious as to what the Chief Engineer had come up with this time. B'Elanna's dead-of-night brainstorms had always been interesting to say the least.

"Go ahead, B'Elanna. Keep us informed."

"Acknowledged," she said with enthusiasm. "All right, then, let's get going," she barked to the two unfortunate Ensigns who happened to be stuck in engineering with her. "Here's what we need to do..."

What amounted to the second rainy season, for lack of anything better to call it, had passed without incident, marking their twentieth month together on the planet. Harry couldn't believe he had been there for two years. The first four months, the ones without Tom, had been endless. The last twenty had flown by. They had been there for so long, it was almost impossible to imagine their lives any other way.

The farm was thriving, producing more food than they could possibly eat, even preserving a lot of it, as they were. Most of the hybrids they were developing now were bred for lack of anything else to do. The vineyard had been Tom's idea, although Harry had to admit the prospect was starting to excite him, too, now. The hybrid grape-like fruits were sweet and almost like small balloons of juice, very little flesh, and only one, tiny seed. They had picked several wooden bucketfuls, earlier, and were outside finishing the vat for extracting the juice when Tom encountered a slight problem.

Harry heard the soft popping sounds but, distracted with putting the last touches on the new vat, didn't turn around until he heard Tom.

"Uh, Sweetheart... "

Harry looked up from what he was doing to see Tom standing there, shirtless, dripping with dark red juice from neck to knees.

"Oh, dear gods, what did you do?" Harry managed to say before the laughter hit him.

"I didn't do anything!" Tom answered indignantly. "I just put my hand into one of the buckets and the damn 'grapes' exploded!"

Harry just stood there, laughing helplessly. Tom looked down at himself and started smiling evilly.

"I don't think I missed a spot," he said, grinning, as he walked slowly toward Harry. "On me, that is."

Harry started backing away from him.

"Oh, no, you don't," he said, laughing breathlessly. "You stay away from me."

"Unh uh, you think this is so damn funny; let's see how funny it is when the juice is on you."

"Make you a deal," Harry offered, reasonably, grinning from ear to ear. "We'll go to the river and I'll help clean you off."

"So, what's in it for me that'd be more fun than soaking you with this stuff?" Tom asked, really hoping he already knew the answer.

"I could clean you off with my tongue," Harry suggested, grinning.

Yep, he'd known the answer.

"Deal. Let's go," Tom responded quickly, moving to take Harry's hand.

"Don't touch me, you're all sticky."

"I could always clean you off, too," Tom said persuasively.

"Take my hand. Come on, Tom, let's go."

"Bridge, we're all set down here," B'Elanna said impatiently over her comm badge.

"Whenever you're ready, Torres," Chakotay responded.

"Energize," she barked. As the transporter beam activated, and the sample began to form in front of her, Tuvok's voice came over the comm.

"Captain, sensors indicate a major disturbance within the energy field, readings are off the scale."

Janeway whirled around to face him. "What's causing it, Tuvok?"

"It's the transporter beam, Captain, I knew it!" B'Elanna's voice sounded almost gleeful.

"Explain that to me, B'Elanna," the Captain said, intrigued.

"I'm on my way to the bridge, Captain, you are not going to believe this!"

"Acknowledged," the Captain replied and looked askance at Chakotay, who shrugged.

"Don't ask me, Captain," he sighed.

Tom felt wonderful. At least, as far as Harry was concerned. He was busy using the shorts that Tom had been wearing, to clean off his legs. Dunking them in the river's crystal clear water, he was thoroughly enjoying bathing his lover, hearing Tom gasp and groan at every stroke of the soaked clothing.

Tom's eyes were closed, his lean body stretched out on the rock, faintly quivering under Harry's ministrations. The legs were pretty much juice-free, by now, but Harry wasn't about to quit, yet. Kneeling next to Tom, he slowly brought the wet cloth up Tom's thighs, gently moving it over his hardening cock.

"Funny, I didn't think I'd managed to splatter myself there," Tom said with a breathless grin.

"Just thought I'd make certain, while I was in the area."

"Oh, I do like the way you think."

Harry leaned forward slowly and began licking along Tom's collarbone, up his neck, around under his chin, and back down the other side. Delicious. Fortunately, the juice wasn't very thick, just a hint, really, of that sweet, tangy taste on his tongue, as he moved closer to get on with the delightful task at hand.

Tom sighed. This was so nice. He reached out for Harry, and was somewhat surprised when his lover took his hands and brought them back down to rest at his sides again.

"Oh, no. Don't move. Not so much as a whisker, Cougar. Just lay there and let me enjoy you," Harry whispered, right by his ear, giving it a lick.

Tom grinned. He could do that. Maybe. Okay, probably not. But it could be fun, trying to follow Harry's directions.

"And keep your eyes closed, I just want you to feel what I'm doing to you."

"I think I can do that," Tom murmured in a shadow of his usual put-on cockiness.

"Prove it," Harry said, delightedly. "Let me."

Tom tried to be quiet as he felt Harry's tongue swipe gently at the inside of his ear. He felt the soft pull of Harry's lips on the lobe, then the broad strokes on his neck, moving slowly down his chest. Quiet was impossible.

"You can moan all you want, Lover, just don't move," he heard Harry say softly and could hear the smile in his voice.

Damn, the man has talent he thought as his lover went back up his chest, swirling his tongue around his nipples, and nibbling along his ribs. Harry moved down to his navel, long slow strokes around it, then quick little darts right in. Tom groaned and started to squirm, then remembered he wasn't supposed to. The tension from restraining himself was adding to the growing intensity of the sensations that were flooding through him.

Harry had moved over him, lying between his legs, his weight on his hands, as he leaned forward over Tom and licked his way slowly back up his chest, sucking on the nipples until they were almost as hard as Tom's cock. His neck was nearly clean, but Harry returned to suck gently first on one side then the other, smiling as the moaning increased in volume and urgency. He placed hot, hungry kisses all over Tom's chest, moving down to his stomach, loving the quick gasps as he gently bit and licked around Tom's waist. He could feel the tension in the other man, like a string about to snap, as he slowly moved downward and took that gorgeous cock into his mouth. Tom's head went back as his spine arched, his hands pressed flat against the rock, his toes curling.

"You are so... damn good... at that," he groaned, feeling Harry's mouth begin moving slowly up and down, that wonderful wet heat making him lose his mind. He could feel Harry chuckle in response, the vibration echoing along his entire length.

"You're moving," Harry said, reprovingly.

"So, shoot me," Tom replied, gasping.

"You first," Harry smirked, and bent over Tom again, stroking his cock, the gentle touch of his hand threatening to short-circuit his lover's wiring.

"Harder, Love, please," Tom moaned, then cried out as Harry sped up, his head coming down to take the other man's erection into his mouth again. Tom felt Harry's tongue swirling around the head of his cock so fast it was making him dizzy, licking up and down the sides, tasting him. He damn near screamed when Harry deep-throated him.

The tension had reached unbearable levels and there was only one release Harry wanted him to have. Tom felt the climax build up within him, felt himself spiraling, just as Harry put a wet finger between his legs and caressed the small opening. Tom's legs opened further, giving Harry all the room he needed, instructions not to move, be damned.

Harry gently pushed his finger inside his lover's body, saying nothing as he noticed Tom draw his legs up, bending the knees. He quickly added a second finger and saw Tom's upper body spasm, bringing him up from the rock before he forced himself to lay back down, moaning incoherently with need. Harry kept sucking the hard cock in his mouth, circling his tongue over the head, while his fingers kept readying Tom. The stimulation was too much for his lover, who bucked upward into Harry's mouth and began coming with a wailing roar. Harry backed off and caught as much of Tom's ejaculate in his hand as he could, milking him dry, then lubricated his own cock with it and moved forward to raise his lover's body. With one swift and gentle thrust, he entered Tom.

Tom felt Harry come all the way inside him in a single thrust and cried out. He hadn't been expecting that at all, but oh, God, the feeling was glorious. He moved his hands up slightly, resting them on Harry's legs as those long, gentle thrusts continued.

Harry loved the emotions playing across Tom's beautiful face. He would've been willing to bet those blue eyes were rolling back in their sockets, as Tom's mouth opened slightly and he heard him growl.

"There you are," panted Harry. "I was wondering... where my Cougar'd gone."

"Straight to heaven and back," groaned Tom. "This time, I'm taking you with me." He deliberately tightened his muscles and growled again when he heard Harry moan and felt him move faster inside him.

"That's it... yes, love... come for me," he whispered, opening his eyes to see Harry throw his head back, feeling his lover's hands gripping his hips, hard. He loved to watch Harry come, there was nothing more beautiful in the universe.

Harry felt Tom's eyes on him and looked down. He thrust even faster, and feeling Tom's nails dragging down his thighs, not too hard, cried out.

"Harry, yes... come... please... fill me... Yes," Tom grated between clenched teeth, feeling his lover shaking, knowing how close he was.

A couple more hard, fast thrusts and Harry was screaming, one more and he was coming so hard, he thought his heart would burst. He froze above Tom for a moment, then collapsed onto his chest, feeling those strong arms come around him, holding him close. He slowly pulled out of Tom and heard him groan.

"That's the only part I don't love," he heard Tom whisper into his hair as he moved even deeper into his lover's warm embrace. "That moment when you're no longer a part of me."

"I'll always be a part of you, no matter where I am," Harry said softly, kissing Tom's chest over his heart. "I love you."

"I love you, Harry" Tom answered, bringing Harry's chin up and passionately claiming his lover's mouth with his own. "Mine," he growled playfully, feeling Harry's smile beneath his lips.

"For as long you want me," Harry smiled up at him. "Mine," he said, as he slowly brought his mouth to Tom's.

"Forever, Harry," Tom replied to both statements, as he kissed Harry again. "Forever."

The senior staff gathered around the table in the Captain's ready room, with two notable exceptions, to hear B'Elanna's explanation.

"The energy field originally existed in a uniform layer over the entire surface of the planet, its density and strength so slight that the sensors didn't even detect it," she explained as she paced. "Until we came along, that is." She looked at the faces around the table and saw only confusion.

"Don't you see? We caused the energy field to change, or rather, the transporters did. The transporter beams reacted to the energy field like a piece of red-hot metal being thrown into a bucket of water. They caused the energy field to become more dense, stronger and unstable, disrupting its natural state completely." She paused and looked around the table, seeing comprehension, now.

Tuvok spoke up. "Then why did the energy field react so strongly to the transporter beam this time, as opposed to when the away team and Lieutenant Paris beamed down?"

All eyes turned to B'Elanna. "This time, we hit the rock!" she exclaimed, excitedly. "There's a crystalline element in the rock formations that magnifies the effects of the transporter beam," she went on. "That's how we were able to bring Watson and Likett back, and not Harry. He was outside the cave at the time, too far away, and in the energy flow." She continued. "The element also seems to create a natural dampening field. Time is remaining relatively constant near the rock formations on the planet."

"Captain, we may be able to use the element, and the sensors, to find Tom and Harry. The crystal increases the sensor capabilities, as well. If I can find enough of it, in large enough quantities, we can filter the sensors through it. It should block out the chaotic readings we're getting, due to the energy field's influence, and maybe screen out enough interference that we can get a lock-on." She looked at the Captain, expectantly.

"Do it," Janeway said, firmly. "I want those two back home before they're old enough to retire. Dismissed."

Harry woke from a perfectly sound sleep to feel a warm breath tickling his ear. He smiled when he felt Tom start nuzzling him with his nose, placing soft kisses all over his face. It was a wonderful way to wake up and he couldn't believe he had ever gotten along with it. He'd love to stay in bed all day.

Today, however, was one of those rare days that they actually had a schedule of things to do. After several attempts, and some dismal failures, the most recent batch of wine was ready to be tested. It had taken months to finally get it all right and they were both looking forward to the results.

Tom had discovered, after the juice disaster eight months ago, that he was allergic to the stuff. Drinking it wasn't a problem, wearing it, was. Fortunately, the medkits had a stock of antihistamines to halt the reaction. They also realized, upon returning from cleaning up at the river, that after the 'grapes' were picked, the chemical composition of the skin changed. Tom's warm hand had literally shattered the cool fruit when he'd reached into the bucket for a handful. They could still eat them right off the vines, though, it took awhile for the change to occur.

Harry knew they should get to work, but he just didn't feel like moving, not yet. He opened his eyes and looked up, right into Tom's.

"You look too wide awake for someone who just woke up," he said softly, wrapping his arms around his lover, caressing the smooth, strong back.

"I've been awake for a little while," Tom admitted, stroking Harry's long hair out of the way, behind his head, and leaning down to kiss him.

"Whatcha been doing?" Harry asked into the kiss, reaching up to hold Tom's face in his hands.

"Watching you sleep," Tom mumbled against Harry's soft lips.


"Every chance I get."

"I've noticed you do that a lot," Harry teased gently.

"Only because I've wanted to for so long, I just can't believe, sometimes, that I've finally got the chance," Tom replied, kissing his way down his lover's neck, before finally returning to that incredible mouth. Harry's lips opened under his, meeting his tongue with his own. Tom groaned into Harry's mouth. He couldn't believe how good it all still was; it never ceased to amaze the hell out of him. Harry had a knack for being able to turn him on, like a switch, often with just a look; the man didn't even have to lay a finger on him to make him hard as a rock. And he loved it.

Harry felt Tom moving slowly on top of him, his lover's erection teasing his own. He heard Tom's groan change timber and become that needful, aroused growl that still made him crazy, even after two and a half years.

Harry groaned. "We really need to get at it, you know," he said breathlessly, into Tom's ear.

"I am getting at it, Love, honest."

"No, I meant getting up, getting to work," he chuckled back.

"I am up, and rather hurt that you couldn't tell," Tom mock-pouted.

"Smart-ass," Harry laughed.

"It's all yours, Harry... so's the rest of me."

"You're not going to give up on this until you've fucked me senseless, are you?"


"Fine," Harry yawned widely. "Go ahead, if you must."

Tom looked down at him, smirking at his lover's affected indifference.

"Oh, you are going to get it," he growled softly into Harry's ear, trying not to be too pleased with himself when he felt the man shiver deliciously beneath him.

"Promises, promises," Harry tried not to gasp in reply.

Tom wondered how far he could push Harry before he took control of the situation away from him. It could be absolutely... Tom sighed at the thought. Harry needed to go nuts every once in a while but seemed to find it difficult, sometimes, letting go, even now. The temptation to torment the man until he lost it was overwhelming and Tom could resist damn near anything but temptation.

"I've never broken a promise to you yet, my Love, and I am not about to start now," he whispered gently into Harry's ear, before tracing the outline with his tongue. He moved over Harry to continue kissing his face, along the eyebrows, down the nose, up over the cheekbones and around the jaw.

Harry sighed in total contentment. He felt Tom moving lower, kissing and nibbling his neck, gently caressing his chest with his fingertips, rubbing slowly over the nipples in small circles until they hardened. When Tom flicked his tongue over one, then settled onto it to suck gently, Harry groaned and reached up to tangle his fingers in that glorious golden mane.

Tom's fingers were now busy following the plane of Harry's stomach, drawing lines around his navel with a gentle fingernail, then falling away to stroke his thighs. It took Harry a minute to realize that Tom hadn't even touched him where he so wanted to be touched, but this gradual build-up felt wonderful. He had nothing to complain about, not really.

Tom moved slowly back up to kiss Harry and noticed his lover was breathing like he'd just run the four-minute mile. Tom smiled, careful not to let Harry see it, and continued kissing his way down the other man's neck, stopping on occasion to bite into it and suck on it, gently. He moved around enough so that the bruises wouldn't be too large, just numerous. He could feel Harry shuddering beneath him and began thrusting slowly against him. Oh, how he loved that moan.

The gradual build-up still felt wonderful, although there was now an element of torture, there, as well. Harry's desire was rapidly moving from wanting slow and gentle lovemaking to needing something considerably more earth-shattering. He felt Tom's growl vibrate against his neck, sending shivers of delicious pleasure down his body. When Tom licked behind his ear and bit into the lobe, he arched up into him, hard, his response completely out of his control. He started to move his clenched fingers out of his lover's hair, to clutch at the blanket beneath him, when he heard Tom's voice.

"Oh, no, you keep them right were they are," he whispered roughly into Harry's ear, nibbling the lobe.

"I... don't want to... hurt you," Harry rasped, feeling like he was trying to breathe through water.

"You never have and you never will," Tom growled before biting into Harry's shoulder.

Harry moved one hand to grab onto Tom's shoulderblade, digging in with his nails, as his other hand tightened its grip on the other man's hair, bringing that beautiful face down to his for another soul-searing kiss. Harry couldn't stop the sounds he was making; every breath in was a gasp, every one out was a groan. It reached some far recess of his mind that he really didn't want to be on the bottom, so he grabbed Tom, none too gently, and quickly rolled them over. He'd been waiting for an opportunity like this for a while, here it was, and, by God, he was taking it.

Here we go, yes thought Tom, as Harry looked at him with that intense passion he so craved, Oh, this is going to be... Further coherent thinking blew away as he hissed aloud, feeling Harry bite into his neck, making not the slightest attempt at gentleness. He felt Harry move away from him and heard him inhale sharply. Tom opened his eyes to see Harry looking at his neck with concern, faint traces of blood on his lower lip.

Go, Harry passed with delight through Tom's mind, as he fastened his own teeth into Harry's neck, in several places.

"Don't worry about it," he paused long enough to say. "And don't even think of stopping."

"Tom..." Harry barely whispered, looking at him somewhat guiltily.

"Harry, you have never done anything I didn't absolutely love or didn't want you to do, okay? Trust yourself, I do. Love, please believe me."

"I do, it's just that..."

"Prove, it, then," Tom interrupted, grinning, starting the game again. "Ravish me."

That seemed to be all Harry needed to hear, as he bent his head again, licking Tom's neck clean of blood. The slight wounds had already stopped bleeding, but the bruise was going to be truly impressive, later. Odd, metallic taste, there, he noted as he moved his mouth to his lover's and kissed him, letting his hands follow the contours of Tom's arms down to his wrists. He gradually pushed his lover's arms over his head, so slowly that the man didn't even notice. He kissed the undersides of those long, tanned limbs and moved Tom's wrists apart, going back to enjoy those wonderful lips, keeping the man distracted.

He stretched his lover's arms out above him on the mattress, so that the wrists hung off the head of the bed. He never stopped kissing Tom and nearly got distracted himself when he felt the other man's body arch up beneath him. He left his own arms stretched out along the lengths of Tom's, his hands deftly searching for what he'd carefully hidden, as he untucked the lower blanket just above their heads. There, found them. He began moving slowly against his lover, caressing the incredible body beneath him with his own, until Tom's growls of pleasure and arousal were almost continuous.

He really wanted to see the other man's face, the moment when Tom realized, so he backed off slightly, smiling when his lover's eyes opened to meet his own. He took hold of Tom's wrists, one in each of his hands, and put them exactly where he wanted them. Then, he quickly slid the loops of cloth over both wrists and pulled slightly, effectively cinching them, not too tightly, around the man's wrists. The other ends were already fastened around the two posts at the top of the bed. Tom was going nowhere.

Harry looked down at him with a look Tom didn't think he'd ever seen before. He looked up over his head and saw his wrists noosed, separately, above his head, the blue restraints tied to the posts above him. Wait a minute, blue?

"Harry, where'd you get these?" he asked breathlessly.

"I made 'em from that shirt you shredded a few months back, on the thorns of that vine near the river," Harry answered, with a dangerous calm, stroking the man's chest.

"I always liked that shirt," Tom gasped, trying to figure out what the expression on his lover's face was.

"I always liked you in that shirt, but I gotta admit, I really love the way you're wearing it now," Harry whispered harshly, moving in slowly to kiss him, loving how those blue eyes dilated with need and anticipation.

"Mine," he ground out the instant before his lips came crushing down on Tom's. He could feel the man try to move his arms and felt him tense when he realized he couldn't. Harry leaned back slightly and studied the look on that beautiful face.

Wonder, awe, and stunned delight were doing battle inside Tom. "Oh, dear God, Harry," he breathed softly. "Yes! Yours, always yours."

Harry saw no apprehension, or worse, fear, in his lover's wide open eyes.

"No problems?" he asked gently, just to make sure.

"Hell, no, Love, none at all," Tom answered quickly, panting. "This has been one of my favorite fantasies for the last five years."

Harry grinned darkly at him. "Then I guess I've got you right where you've always wanted me." He continued softly, "If it gets to be too much, tell me, and I'll stop."

Tom looked at him in humorous disbelief. "You think there's anything you can do to me that'll be too much for me to handle?" he asked with a glimmer of his cock-sure attitude.

Harry looked deadly serious. He reached under Tom's head and grabbed a fistful of hair, heard the other man gasp. "I need to be sure, Cougar," he grated slowly, in a dangerous voice, looking into his lover's astonished eyes. "You have no idea what the thought of you, lying here helplessly, strapped to our bed, is doing to me."

"Show me... please," Tom whispered softly, licking his suddenly dry lips. "I trust you, Love. Do whatever you want with me."

Harry relaxed the tight hold he had on his lover's hair, running his fingers through it gently, now. Something about all this was bothering him, immensely. He just sat there, quietly stroking Tom, caressing his face, until he fully realized what it was.

"Sometimes, you worry the hell out of me," he said with quiet intensity.

"Why?" Tom whispered, wondering at the change in his lover's mood.

"I think I could come after you with a whip and a hot branding iron and, I swear, you'd just let me," Harry said softly, with an pained look on his face.

Now, Tom understood what the problem was; he trusted Harry more than Harry did.

"What would you do to me, with them?" he asked gently, never taking his eyes off the man's face.

Harry smiled, ever so slightly, and shook his head ruefully.

"Nothing that would ever hurt you," he sighed.

"I know," Tom said simply. "That's why I'd let you."

Harry ran his hands over his face and back through his hair.

"I can't seem to shake this inordinate amount of faith you have in me," he said huskily.

"And you never will," Tom replied with certainty. "So, stop trying."

Harry looked at him lovingly, not quite believing how damned lucky he was. He reached down and touched the open, nakedly-trusting face of the man he adored.

"What did I do to deserve you?" he asked, softly, shaking his head.

Tom turned his head to trap Harry's hand between his face and shoulder, kissing the wrist.

"You loved me," he whispered.

Harry sighed, smiling a little.

"Beautiful, loving, dangerous, wonderful man. How could I not love you?" he murmured before lowering his head to ravish Tom's mouth. The kisses were being returned with such passion, he felt himself harden again almost immediately. He heard a moan and it took him a minute to realize it wasn't his. He backed off and could barely hear Tom's voice over the roaring in his ears.

"I need to feel more of you, please, Harry. If I can't touch you, I need you to be touching me, everywhere," he groaned, pleading.

Harry stretched himself out over Tom like a human blanket, covering him, his arms sliding under Tom's, bringing them off the mattress to rest on his own. He felt the man rise up into him, wrapping his long legs around him. He sighed his pleasure and buried his mouth in the other man's throat, one hand tangled in his hair.

Tom moaned as the suction increased, then arched up, hard, when he felt Harry's teeth all but meet in his neck. He had to have drawn blood with that one he thought, dimly, as he felt the other man's body move sensuously over his own.

"If you're... turning vampire... on me... you picked a... hell of a... planet... to do it on," he growled as he felt Harry bite into him, again. "Three suns... perpetual daylight... lousy timing, Love."

He felt Harry chuckling. "You're just trying to distract me from the task at hand, Cougar. It won't work. I've waited too long for this," Harry whispered roughly into Tom's ear.

"Waited too long... for what?" Tom gasped.

"Waited too long to have you in my complete control, when I lost it," he answered with relish, thinking That ought to put some fear into him. He looked at Tom's eyes. Nope, no fear. Some small amount of shock, yes, but... What was that Tom whispered?

"Finally," he said in a voice no louder than a sigh, a smile ghosting across his features. "You think you've been waiting a long time for this? Ha! I've been waiting for this for five years, Sweetheart. Do your worst," he finished, softly, smiling at Harry's startled look.

"The wait is over..." Harry whispered, his surprise melting into delight. He began licking his way around Tom's neck, again, once more tasting the blood he'd drawn out of the gorgeous skin. He kissed and bit down near the ear, drawing his tongue down to trace the tendon to the shoulder. He drew a circle with it, there, then nibbled roughly along the collarbone, deliberately scraping his teeth against it. He lowered his head and licked Tom around both nipples before biting into one and sucking hard. He felt the man arch up into him and brought one hand down his back to his ass, scratching him all the way, knowing he was leaving welts on that soft, beautiful skin.

Tom had felt Harry do these things to him, dozens of times, but there was a harshness to them, now, that had never been there before. Harry wasn't being careful, making sure he didn't hurt him, anymore, he realized, with a thrill that gave his goosebumps, goosebumps. The kid gloves had finally come off. It was about goddamned time.

Harry felt the wildness growing inside him and instead of backing off or clamping a tight control around it, he let it go, hoping it wouldn't be more than they could both handle. His eyes met Tom's, he saw the need there, the want, the hunger.

Tom saw that dark hardness clouding Harry's features; he shivered, knowing it meant the safeties had been turned off. He raised his head, quickly, and sank his teeth into Harry's throat, hard, just to show him that he knew they were playing by new rules, now. To his amazement, Harry didn't even try to pull away, he actually moved closer, allowing him to bring his head back onto the mattress, as he worried Harry's neck with his teeth, growling softly. He heard an echo of his own growl. That gave him pause; it was coming from Harry. He didn't have more time to think about it before his lover moved his head slightly and sank his teeth into Tom, just below the ear. The sensation rocked him and he groaned, loudly, releasing Harry.

It had definitely flipped a switch or two in his lover; Harry was all over him, anything he could do with that wonderful mouth of his, he did. Tom closed his eyes, feeling hands touching him everywhere, it seemed, lips kissing, teeth biting, it was happening so fast. Then he felt Harry drop further, slithering roughly down his body, moving his hands under Tom's thighs. Tom let his legs fall off, open, on either side of his lover, just as Harry bit the inside of one. He hissed, and his body tightened, causing him to raise up off the mattress. The restraints didn't let him get far and he came crashing back down just as Harry's mouth devoured his cock.

Tom felt something explode behind his eyes, with shock and delight, as Harry kept up an insistent, relentless, rhythm. The man couldn't have been much harder or rougher without taking the bloody thing off. Then, just as suddenly, it all stopped. Tom opened dazed eyes to see his lover straddling him, facing him. No, he couldn't possibly... was all that made it through his mind before Harry brought himself downward, hard, and impaled himself on Tom.

The cries torn from their throats meshed as perfectly as their bodies, as Harry started moving slowly above him. Tom began thrusting upward, into him, finding Harry's rhythm easily. He was already so close, he knew, as Harry sped up considerably, moving faster, taking him even deeper. He let his head fall back, grabbing the restraints with his hands, using them for support as well as something to hold onto. His eyes fell shut only to hear his lover's immediate objection.

"Look at me, Cougar," Harry grated in a voice harder than Tom's cock. "I want to see your eyes when you come in me."

Tom eyes snapped open with a start, the look in Harry's taking his breath away. He nodded, knowing he couldn't speak through all the moans coming out of him. He lay there as Harry actually sped up a little more, watching him move forward slightly, to rake his nails down his own chest, playing roughly with his own nipples, scratching them. Tom groaned, an almost agonized sound, even though he wasn't the one being clawed.

Harry saw Tom's eyes go dark, watching him, felt him tense again, pulling on the restraints. He felt that shudder begin to work its way through the man's body, knew he was close. Harry growled, softly. That definitely got Tom's attention. He tightened his muscles and heard him gasp aloud, crying out his name. He drew one hand down Tom's chest, raking it, and felt him tense sharply, then explode within him, saw his lover's eyes roll back as he screamed his release.

Harry gave him no time to recover; he swiftly came off Tom, his hand coming down to the other man's cock to milk him dry, then to his own, drenching himself in his lover's fluid. He moved quickly to position himself between Tom's legs and lifted them at the knees, dead weight. He brought each one over his shoulders, noting Tom had recovered enough to open his eyes, even though they didn't seem to be focusing, yet.

He moved forward, stopping just outside the opening, wondering if he should take some time to prepare him.

"No," Tom rasped as though he'd heard him. "Straight in... just like you did."

Harry held Tom's eyes as he slid into him, one smooth, long thrust, right to the core. He saw his lover's back arch up sharply, wondering that it didn't snap, as he heard that needful, low growl and felt the man's legs tighten and tremble over his shoulders. He turned his head and kissed one long, golden thigh, then began stroking in and out of Tom, who was shaking his head. Harry slowed, thinking it a sign for stop.

"No," Tom ground out harshly between clenched teeth. "Harder, Harry... dammit, fuck me harder."

Harry felt he should have known better, as he shook his head wryly, increasing the strength and speed of his thrusts into the incredibly responsive body beneath his.

Tom met every one, watching Harry through hooded eyes. This was so unreal, like seeing him for the first time. Tom knew that of the two of them, only he was under any kind of control at all, the control tied around both wrists. He abruptly stopped thinking when he felt Harry slam into him ferociously.

"Just wanted to get your attention; thought I felt you wandering," Harry said harshly, watching as his lover's body came back onto the mattress.

"Harry?" Tom asked in barely a whisper, licking his lips, slightly shaken by the intensity of that last, powerful thrust.

"Hmmm?" Harry replied through narrowed eyes, wondering if he'd gone too far.

"Would you, please... get my attention again?"

Harry just stared at him. Unbelievable.

"I love you," he said softly before roughly slamming into Tom again, and again, the gentleness of his words a polar opposite to the roughness of his actions.

Tom's back was damn near bent double, he felt, as Harry's continued thrusts each found their way home. God, he'd wanted Harry to take him like this for years, now. He knew this wasn't exactly lovemaking, lovemating, maybe, but he still needed this, they both did. Everything they did, they did in love, even the conquering and being conquered. He didn't doubt how much Harry loved him, not for an instant; if anything, this proved it. Harry knowing how much he needed this, and giving it to him, proved it. Tom knew that Harry was getting more out of this than the obvious. Maybe by trusting in Tom's faith in him, he could finally learn to trust himself. Tom was pulled roughly back to the present by his hair, clenched around Harry's fingers.

Harry had never stopped thrusting, but had gone back to the steady rhythm, when he felt Tom zone out on him again. He thought he knew a way to keep the man's mind here, where it belonged. He brought his hand out of that golden tangle and down to the lower one, wrapping it around Tom's hardening cock.

"Oh, Love, I can't," the other man gasped. "There's nothing left."

Uh huh, sure. Harry said nothing, just kept up the steady strokes on Tom's cock along with those of his own. He sped up, slightly, doing both, and heard his lover's gasp, and groan. He could feel the tightening begin to coil inside him, felt his legs start trembling, slightly. He felt Tom's thighs clench over his shoulders and turned his head to bite one, hard, heard the man moan, harshly.

"Harry, I love you," Tom ground out just before he came with a roar in his lover's hand. Harry felt Tom's muscles clench around him, hard, in orgasm, and that was all he needed. He heard himself howling, dimly, as he came, again and again, the coil finally snapping altogether inside him. He pitched forward, his momentum only halting when his head came into contact with Tom's chest, the other man's legs slipping off his shoulders to rest at his sides.

He lay there, for a moment, then slowly pulled out of Tom, hearing him groan. He fell onto his side, next to his lover pulling his arms around him, holding him, both of them shaking.

"Harry, release me, please," Tom whispered. "I need to hold you, too."

Harry reached up and slipped the restraints off Tom's wrists, noting, and frowning at, the marks they left, kissing each one gently. Tom came into his arms, and lay his head on his lover's chest, as Harry reached down and threw the blanket over them. They burrowed into each other and drifted off to sleep.

B'Elanna was working at top speed, using the sensors to find large deposits of the crystal, but it was still taking far too long to search the entire planet's surface. Looking through the readings coming in, she paused. "Wait a minute, that can't be right, that's impossible..." as she read on, a huge smile broke out across her face.

"Yes!" she crowed, as heads turned to look at the Chief Engineer, who was laughing with near hysteria. "Gotcha!"

B'Elanna came running onto the bridge at top speed, causing everyone except Tuvok to look at her in amazement.

"Captain, look at this," she exclaimed excitedly, waving a padd at Janeway.

"Torres, what on earth..." Chakotay started to say, stopping abruptly when B'Elanna cut him off with the glare she usually reserved for Paris.

"I found something interesting in the sensor readings of the crystal deposits," she tried to say nonchalantly, but failed miserably to contain her enthusiasm.

"Out with it, B'Elanna," cut in the Captain.

"There," she pointed victoriously at the padd. "Look at that."

Janeway took it from her, gingerly, and studied the readings. She was faintly puzzled until she found it. "Two small deposits, about twenty feet from each other. The crystal is in four sections forming a perfect square, each section measuring one foot square, about a quarter of an inch thick, in both deposits." She looked up at B'Elanna with barely disguised wonder.

"Windows?" she asked, delightedly.

The Chief Engineer grinned back at her. "Windows! We've found them!"

Tom and Harry woke to find themselves in pretty much the same shape as the first time they done this, restraints and all, all those months ago. Tom looked ruefully at the marks on Harry's wrists. Damn, even padding them hadn't helped much. They were going to have to find something else, another way.

Harry interrupted his train of thought by taking hold of his neck, gently, and bringing him down for a kiss. "I still don't care," he said, looking into his lover's beautiful blue eyes.

"I know," Tom sighed. "Just like I don't care when they're on my wrists, I know."

"We'll come up with another solution, we always do," Harry said reasonably.

"One of these days, we'll run out of solutions," Tom tried to grouse, but couldn't help laughing, as Harry's fingers found his ticklish spots.

They rolled around on the bed for a while, teasing and play-fighting like children, neither getting the upper hand, then gave up, snuggling back down under the covers. Harry had his head on Tom's shoulder, the other man's fingers combing through his long black hair. He looked up at Tom.

"Think I should get it cut?" he asked, honestly not trying to start another argument.

"Not on your life," Tom answered softly. "I love it like this." Harry's hair reached the lower part of his back, now, after three years, eight months on the planet. That was even with the occasional trimming which Tom sternly supervised, just to make sure he didn't get carried away.

Tom's was shorter, coming down a couple inches below his shoulderblades. He couldn't stand it any longer and Harry was sympathetic, fortunately. Tom's wild mane was beyond his control, he never had figured out just where all those waves had come from. Not major ones, but his hair had always been as straight as Harry's Before. Before, with a capital 'B'. He sighed, wondering how much time had passed on Voyager, whether they had given up, whether everyone was all right, everything.

Harry missed nothing. He spoke up. "Do you think Voyager is still out there looking for us?"

The surprise on Tom's face told him he had hit the nail on the head.

"I don't know, Sweetheart, maybe."

They couldn't even use the tricorders to see; the only ones still working were the medical tricorders in the medkits, and those wouldn't tell them if Voyager was still in orbit, if there were any traces of her.

"I miss B'Elanna," Harry said softly. "I miss the Captain..."

"I miss Kes," added Tom. "Hell, I think I miss damn near everybody except Chakotay."

Harry stared at him, puzzled. "Why not him, too?"

"The man loathes me, Har, absolutely loathes me."

"He owes you his life, though..." Harry began when Tom interrupted.

"Doesn't matter a damn bit," Tom said with an expression Harry had seen before, yet still didn't understand. Every once and again, he would get this look on his face, this wistful kind of 'I gotta secret' look that Harry just couldn't figure out. Oh, well, maybe someday.

"How do you know he loathes you?" Harry asked reasonably.

"Harry, I hear it in his voice every time he opens his damn mouth to speak to me. The resentment, the total contempt, the disrespect, all of it."

"I've never heard that," Harry said softly.

"I hope you never do," Tom replied, dryly.

"It's early yet," Harry started, wisely changing the subject. "Bath in the river, or back to sleep?"

Tom didn't say anything for a moment then, "I think it's raining, Love."

Harry snuggled in deeper, wrapping his arms and legs around Tom, who just looked at him lovingly, sighed, and began arranging himself around Harry. It was still light in the cabin, but to their internal clocks, it was way too early in the morning. They nestled close, and watched each other fall asleep.

"It's working, Captain, I think the sensors have them," B'Elanna exclaimed with delight and relief that soon, maybe, this nightmare would be over for them.

"Confirmed, Captain," Tuvok intoned. "Sensors have picked up two human lifeforms, in close proximity, within the boundaries set by Lieutenant Torres."

B'Elanna, after figuring out those two small crystal deposits were windows, proceeded to estimate how large the dwelling would be, then reset the sensors to scan only that small area. Even so, the crew knew that Harry and Tom would have to be in the same place for quite a while for the sensors to locate them, several hours in their time, at least. Those several hours would be mere seconds to Voyager and the sensors, so timing would be critical.

"Transporters, lock on to those two lifeforms and beam them directly to Sickbay," Janeway commanded, keeping her fingers crossed.

"Captain, transport was successful," the Doctor whispered over the comm.

"Doctor, why are you whispering?" Janeway asked, ignoring the triumphant and relieved whoops of delight all around her.

"Captain, they appear to be sound asleep and have obviously been gone quite a while; I don't want to shock them into their new surroundings," the Doctor explained.

"Understood, Doctor, I'm on my way."

"Captain, I would advise keeping the number of crew members accompanying you to Sickbay at a minimum, you'll understand when you arrive."

Janeway heard the protests and groans coming from all around her. She held up a hand and quiet descended.

"We don't know how long they've been gone, or what they've been through," she said gently, but firmly. "They are going to need some time to readjust to all of us, again. They last thing they need is a crowd, however well-intentioned, descending on them right now."

She headed to the lift. "I promise to let you know how they are as soon as I do," she assured her crew as she entered the lift.

"Sickbay," she ordered, leaning back against the wall, relieved she was alone. Relief, she was definitely feeling relief to have them both home, but the anger she felt toward Tom was just below the surface. She'd put it aside for the last couple of days, ever since he'd left, but it was still there, still raw. She'd never thought he'd disobey her, yet he had. What she was going to do with him, now, she really didn't know.

The lift doors opened and she stepped out, noticing a crowd around Sickbay. She pasted an understanding smile on her lips and strode forward.

"Back to duty stations, people, give them some time. You'll be kept informed, I promise you," she patiently explained until she had shooed everyone away from the doors and the corridor was clear. She took a deep breath, squared her shoulders and entered Sickbay.

Janeway walked into Sickbay with her usual purposeful stride, and stopped short. There, on the floor in the middle of the room, were Tom and Harry, wrapped up together in a blanket and, apparently, little else. They were so tangled up around each other, she couldn't tell, for the life of her, where one ended and the other began. Oh, my.

Maybe this was the reason Tom had left Voyager, deliberately disobeying her orders? If they had been involved before Harry went down to the planet, there was no way in hell Tom would have left him alone down there. Could they have possibly managed to hide their relationship that well? Janeway knew Harry could be the soul of discretion, but Tom... She just wasn't sure. Certainly he could have told her, for heaven's sake. Unless... Harry had made him promise not to. Tom would never have broken that kind of promise, she was sure, even if it had meant swaying her decision.

She took a closer look at them, finally seeing the long hair both were sporting. Good lord, how long had they been gone? Harry's hair was twice as long as her own, Tom's roughly the same length. And they had obviously been outdoors a great deal; both of them were tanned, Harry, even darker than Chakotay. Not much else was visible, thankfully, given their evident state of undress. They were covered to their shoulders, in one of the blankets Tom took from Harry's bed before he left, she surmised.

Lost in thought, she didn't notice the Doctor trying to get her attention until she heard him softly clear his throat from the other side of the room. Giving the two men asleep on the floor a wide berth, she went over to the Doctor.

"How are they?" she asked quietly.

"They both appear to be in excellent physical health, Captain. Probably in even better condition then when they left," he replied in a soft voice.

"Can you tell me how long they've been gone, Doctor?"

"How long they've been gone and how much they have aged are not necessarily the same thing, Captain. They have only been gone for two and a half days, in Ensign Kim's case, and two days, six hours, in the Lieutenant's. However, they seem to have aged three and half years, and three years, two months, respectively," he answered.

Janeway closed her eyes and put her hand over her mouth. Three and a half years? She opened her eyes, reluctantly, and sighed heavily.

"Damn," she muttered.

"I would say that about sums it up, Captain," the Doctor responded, with acerbic humor.

They paused, noting Tom seemed to be stirring, and moved closer.

Tom vaguely heard voices in the distance and gradually came to wakefulness. He opened his eyes, slowly, and saw himself looking up at the ceiling in Sickbay. It might have been years, but he remembered it well. Oh, well he thought It was glorious while it lasted.

Janeway saw his eyes open and knew when Tom realized where he was. No emotion there at all, just a vague resignation came over his features as he turned his head to Harry, still asleep in his arms.

"Sweetheart," he whispered, in a voice roughened by sleep. "You're not going to believe where we are."

"Hmmm?" Harry mumbled.

"Well, I'm not sure, Toto, but I don't think we're in Kansas anymore," he answered with a wry chuckle.

Harry peeled one eye open and woke up immediately, looking up at Tom, then past him, at the familiar ceiling. Sickbay.

"Well, shit," he muttered, causing Tom to laugh even harder.

"We knew it was too good to last forever, didn't we?" he asked the man in his arms lovingly, before turning his head to kiss him with a slow-burning passion.

Harry groaned and kissed him back, hard, completely oblivious to the presence of the other two people in the room.

The Doctor seemed to be taking it all in stride, rocking on his heels, waiting for them to finish, but Janeway was floored. Damn, hook these two up to the warp core and we'll be home tomorrow she thought, not knowing how to subtly break them apart. Just then the Doctor cleared his throat again, rather loudly, this time, causing the two lovers on the floor to look over and see them for the first time. Janeway thought it might be a good idea to let them have some time alone together, but not too much, she thought wryly.

"Gentlemen, why don't you spend a few minutes getting yourselves together and report to my ready room in twenty minutes?"

"Yes, Captain," they answered simultaneously.

Janeway went to leave, feeling their eyes watching her walk to the door, and she turned.

"Tom, Harry, it's good to have you both home, again," she said softly, sincerely.

"Thank you, Captain," they answered, again at the same time.

She smiled and went through the door, heading to the lift. Not until she was halfway to the bridge, did she remember that neither one had said it was good to be home. She sighed. Damn, again.

Tom spoke up. "Doc, could we borrow some clothes until we get to our quarters? I don't think the blanket will cover it."

The Doctor snorted. "Pun intended, Mr. Paris? Right over here," he motioned opening a drawer of those wonderful blue Sickbay pajamas. Ugh.

"I took the liberty of healing your injuries, nothing too serious, as I'm sure you're aware. Just a few minor lacerations, abrasions and contusions. I'll leave you both some privacy, now, but I would appreciate it if you could report back to me, at your earliest convenience. I'd like to run a few tests."

They both sighed. "Sure, Doc," Harry said, Tom nodding in agreement, albeit without much enthusiasm.

"Splendid. Computer end EMH program," he finished before fading out of sight.

They sighed and tossed off the blanket, standing up slowly, working the kinks out. The floor was not the comfortable bed they had fallen asleep on, not by a long shot. Tom looked at Harry with an evil grin.

"Oh, no, you don't, don't even think about it," Harry hissed at him, smiling. "We are not doing it in Sickbay."

Tom heaved a martyr's sigh and moved to gently take his lover into his arms.

"Spoilsport," He whispered, lovingly, into his ear, kissing him on the neck and letting him go.

"Maybe so, but we only have twenty minutes to get to our quarters, change, and report to the Captain," Harry answered, grinning slightly, at Tom's insatiable, lovable, wonderful nature.

"It would only take ten, Love," he started, moving toward Harry again with that familiar gleam in his eyes.

Harry laughed, picturing Tom chasing him around the biobeds, finally getting what he wanted.

"Later," he said, softly.

"Like we'll ever have this opportunity, again," Tom grumbled.

Harry just smiled tolerantly, slipping the blue clothing on. Definitely not his color, but not too bad at all on Tom. Needed to be a bit darker, though. Harry shook himself out of it. Tom walked over to the blanket, picked it up, and folded it across his arm.

"It is yours, after all, might as well return it to your quarters," he responded to Harry's look of inquiry.

Harry took Tom's other hand in his and kissed the palm.

"You okay, Cougar?" he asked gently.

"I don't know, yet, Love," Tom answered. "You?"

Harry shook his head. "I don't know, either," he sighed.

"Whatever happens, we'll be okay. I love you," he whispered softly, kissing Harry.

Harry wrapped his arms around him, kissing him back. "I know," he said, wishing he could be more certain that everything would be okay.

"Let's go?" Tom asked.

Harry nodded, and they left Sickbay together. Fortunately, there was no one lurking around the outer corridor, and they headed for the lift. Tom leaned back, seemingly nonchalant, against the wall, looking at his lover. Harry saw that evil grin come over his face again and burst out laughing.

"No, we are not stopping the lift, either," he warned, still laughing. "Damn, you're hungry."

Tom mock-pouted. "I haven't eaten anything in hours," he complained.

"We'll feed you later. You'll live!" Harry exclaimed, as the doors opened near their quarters, and they exited, heading for his, first.

"Without you? Not long," Tom replied, smiling, yet serious.

Harry smiled back at him and they walked hand in hand through his door. Tom tossed the blanket on the bed and looked at Harry, one eyebrow quirked. Harry groaned in not-so-mock- exasperation and started looking through his clothes. Pretty soon he was dressed from the waist down, but nothing fit from the waist up. It didn't even occur to him to try on his spare uniform, not that it would've fit, anyway.

"You can wear something of mine," Tom offered. "I prefer looser clothing, something's bound to fit you."

Harry nodded his thanks, wondering if he was going to need to replicate an entire wardrobe. He hoped not. They headed out again, going down the corridor to Tom's quarters. Just as he had left them, a total mess. Harry sighed fondly. Not much had changed, there.

Tom walked over to the closet and started rummaging, finding a dark, gunmetal gray shirt to go with Harry's lighter gray slacks. Harry tossed it on over his head. Tom whistled.

"It's yours," he said in admiration. "It never looked that good on me."

Harry grinned. "Thanks. Got anything in there in blue?" he asked, looking at his lover innocently.

Tom groaned, tempted to bang his head on the wall a few times.

"Harry, don't do this to me, not in a room with a bed in it," he moaned.

Harry laughed. "Sorry," he said, completely unapologetic.

Tom found a dark blue shirt in a muted pattern with a pair of slacks to match and hurriedly tossed them on, before he started something they wouldn't have time to finish. Running a brush through his hair, he sighed, then gave up, handing it to Harry, who ran it quickly through his own, forgetting to do so in his quarters. Finished at last, they headed to the bridge.

It was only when they entered the Captain's ready room, that uniforms even occurred to them. Everyone was there, the Captain and Commander at the end, Neelix, Kes and Tuvok on the far side, and B'Elanna on this side, with two empty seats. All of them looked stunned at their appearance, with Janeway and Tuvok the exceptions. After all the handshaking with Neelix and hugs from Torres and Kes, with nods to Tuvok and Chakotay, they settled down and took their seats.

"How long?" B'Elanna jumped in. "I've got to know."

They looked at each other and smiled, Harry answering, "About three and a half years."

"Four months less than that for me, " Tom amended, softly.

Shocked silence greeted the answer. B'Elanna shook her head. "Oh, guys, I am so sorry," she choked out.

Tom and Harry looked at her in astonishment, jumping in quickly.

"B'Elanna, it's okay, really, it's not your fault," started Harry while Tom cut in with, "B'Elanna, we're both fine, we had each other down there."

More silence, as B'Elanna arched one delicate eyebrow at them. They looked at each other and smiled, Harry taking Tom's hand in his own, lacing his fingers through his lover's.

"Yeah, we had each other," he confirmed, softly.

B'Elanna started in, enthusiastically, with, "Oh, Tom, Harry, I am so happy..." before Chakotay cut her off.

"Be that as it may," he started, glowering at Tom. "That still gives you no excuse in disobeying the Captain's direct orders not to leave this ship, Paris... " And with that, he was off and running, launching into his tirade about respect, and responsibility, and Tom's duty to the ship and Captain and on, and on.

Neelix and Kes looked at each other awkwardly, B'Elanna stared at Chakotay in shock, even the Captain was stunned as she put her hand on his forearm and tried to halt what he was saying.

Tom said nothing. Harry was watching him, not believing he could just sit there and listen to this rant the Commander was dumping on him. Then Harry really started listening, and, oh, god... He put his hand on Tom's arm and squeezed until his lover looked at him.

"What?" Tom said softly, completely ignoring Chakotay and everyone else, his eyes only for Harry.

"I hear it, now," Harry said, just as softly back, though he was having difficulty controlling his anger. "I hear everything you hear, everything."

Chakotay had stopped in midstream, aware they weren't even listening to him any more, only to each other.

Tom looked at Harry sadly. "Oh, Sweetheart, I'm sorry," he whispered, real regret in his voice, knowing Harry respected the man.

Harry shook his head, trying not to blow up, failing.

"How in the hell did you put up with that for two and a half years?" he said, loudly, in the now-silent room, pointing an accusing finger at Chakotay. "How did you stand it? What the hell kept you from slamming him into the nearest fucking bulkhead?" he finished in a roar, bringing his fist down onto the table with a bang.

Several pairs of stunned eyes turned from Harry to Tom.

"You did," Tom answered gently, turning to and looking at Harry with eyes filled with open adoration. "You did, Love."

As Harry tried to speak, Tom placed one hand over his lover's clenched fist, the other on his cheek, and continued, softly. "Anytime, every time, it all got to be too much, when I couldn't bear it anymore, when the fuse became so short, I'd thought I'd blow apart, I'd come to you, Harry. You'd talk to me, joke with me," he smiled. "Laugh with me, play for me, be there for me. You helped me seal the cracks before I broke completely. You kept me whole and sane. You were the only thing I had to keep mind and spirit together. You were my salvation, Harry. You not only saved my life, you saved my soul. You healed me... more times than you will ever know." Tom paused, looking into Harry's eyes, completely unaware of anything else. "As much as I loved you then, I needed you even more. I never would've made it this far, without you."

Harry looked at Tom and turned his face toward the hand gently touching it, kissing the wrist.

Tom pulled him closer, leaning his forehead on his lover's strong shoulder, feeling those wonderful, warm arms come around him to hold him, tight.

"Sweetheart, I don't think I can do this anymore; I don't think I can take all the crap, not just from him," he said quietly as he waved vaguely in Chakotay's direction, "but from everyone. And I don't think I want to. I just realized sitting here, listening to him, I've got no guard to put up, anymore, no defenses, no shields, nothing. Those walls you climbed to get close to me aren't even there, any longer. I haven't needed them with you, in our Eden, for years," he paused, taking a shaky breath. "I have never been this... open, this vulnerable, before in my life and you are the only one I can trust. You're the only one I've trusted, for so long, I can't remember any other way." He straightened up, looking at his lover's eyes again. "And I am not going to let him turn me back into the man I was Before; I didn't like that me too much and I'm not going back."

Harry kept holding him, looking at him, one hand gently stroking the golden hair. "Oh, damn," he said softly, regretfully. "I've declawed my Cougar." He felt Tom's arms come around him, felt his lover's lips softly touch his neck.

"It's not your fault, Sweetheart. It's to your credit, that you rid me of years worth of baggage, shit I've been carrying around with me all my life. I am finally free of it and I wouldn't have it otherwise. I don't need it anymore, not with you. I love you and you are all I need," Tom finished, softly, startling more than one person around them.

"I can't ask you to go back to that. I wouldn't do that to my worst enemy, certainly not to the man I love, more than anything," Harry replied, to the continued startlement of many at the table.

"Are you... thinking what I'm thinking?" Tom asked, even his whisper carrying clearly to everyone else at the table.

"What, fuck this, let's resign our commissions and go home?" Harry asked, pulling away from Tom to look into his eyes.

Tom nodded, looking at Harry. "It's hard for me to think about this objectively with Chakotay sitting four feet away, glowering at me," he said, slightly sarcastic, slightly angry, but still quietly.

Harry nodded, saying, "We need time to talk about this; we need time to think about this... " he stopped, thinking. "Captain," he said, finally acknowledging her presence. "Give us five minutes, in Voyager time. If B'Elanna can find us easily again, give us five minutes. It'll be three, maybe four days for us to work this through, please."

B'Elanna interjected, "Captain, I can find them again easily, as long as they stay in one place for a few hours, their time, so I can get a fix."

"We'll be at the cabin, same as last time," Harry assured her.

Janeway was in a quandary, but saw no other solution. "No one thought to ask you if you wanted to come back," she said gently. "You deserve the right to make that decision for yourselves, both of you. Go ahead, get whatever you need, you have your five minutes."

Tom and Harry looked at each other, smiling, and stood.

"Everything we need is on the planet," Tom said. "Thank you, Captain."

Harry echoed his thanks and Janeway nodded. As the two of them left together, she heard herself mulling over Tom's words, and sincerely hoped that not everything they needed was on the planet. She ran her hands over her face, and sighed. She turned to look at Chakotay, shaking her head. He looked like someone had parked a shuttle on top of him, stunned, dismayed, ashamed. Good. If they ever came back, there had better not be another outburst like the one like started all this. She knew it wasn't fair to blame him, solely. If it hadn't been this, something else might have been the trigger.

She was amazed at the changes, so evident, now, in both of them. Harry's outrage, like nothing she had ever seen before. Tom's calm and woundedness; gods, she hurt for him. She couldn't get over it, any of it. A quick look around the table, still in the pall cast over it, told her she was not the only one. Everyone seemed stunned, except Tuvok, who looked thoughtful, even pensive. B'Elanna looked livid, angry enough to grind glass with her teeth, as she glared at Chakotay. Kes simply sat waiting, patiently, and Neelix fidgeted. Finally, he spoke.

"I... I'm sure... they'll be back... surely," he stammered, looking from one face to the next for reassurance.

Janeway sighed again, drawing his attention to her. "We can only wait, Neelix, and hope for the best," she said carefully. He sighed, and sat back, arms crossed over his chest. She was right. All they could do was wait.

Tom and Harry just looked at one another after returning to the planet's surface. Tom, being the sentimentalist he was, had both blankets from his own bed slung over his arm, to "christen" here, in the only home they had known as lovers. Harry, being the practical one, had a trio of devices to help boost the transporter signal over a larger area; there were a lot of things they'd be taking back with them, if they returned. He placed them on the table and went over to Tom. Taking the blankets off his arm, he tossed them onto the end of the mattress. He reached for both of his lover's hands and together they walked the few steps to their bed and paused, just to look at each other. Tom started to slowly undo the dark gray shirt of his that Harry looked so damn good in, and glanced down at his hands to grimace.

"What's wrong?" Harry asked him, softly.

"This is so ridiculous," Tom fumed. "My hands are shaking, like they've never undressed you before. Like this was our first time, again," he finished, looking at Harry, a sad, wry grin on his face.

"So, let it be our first time, again," Harry answered. "I feel nervous, too; I don't know why, I don't care. Make love with me, Cougar. For the first time, all over again, please, make love with me," he ended in a whisper, moving closer to his lover.

He reached out a careful hand and touched Tom, on the chest, right over his heart. Tom inhaled sharply, as though that gentle touch had burned him. It was burning him; he could feel the heat in Harry's hand through the shirt he wore, searing the heart he didn't think could beat without Harry's to show it how. He closed his eyes, swaying slightly in the still cabin. He reached out with shaking fingers to touch Harry, just the fingertips making contact, as he caressed that long throat, and moved to the 'V' of the shirt. He began to undo it, taking his time, watching Harry watch him, the beautiful dark eyes slightly closed, his full, warm lips parted. Tom ran his thumb over the bottom one and gasped again to feel Harry's tongue greet it and run along it, once, twice.

Tom's eyes were nearly as dark as his shirt and slightly glazed, his breath coming quickly, unevenly. Harry loved to see him like this, loving even more that no one else ever got to see him like this. Harry looked him in the eye, leaned down slightly, opened his mouth just a little more, and closed it around Tom's finger, sucking gently, nibbling lightly with his teeth.

Tom had known it was coming, but the knowledge didn't keep Harry's response from rocking him to his core. He felt his knees weaken and knew he'd be falling to them, soon, if they didn't sit down.

Harry took Tom's hand and, releasing the thumb, began running his tongue around the other fingers, pulling each one into his mouth, sucking it before moving on to the next. He kissed the palm, and brought it to his own chest, placing it over his heart.

"Yours, still," he whispered softly, seeing those beautiful blue eyes fill with tears.

Tom took Harry's hand in his own and kissed the back of it, the wrist, and finally the palm, placing it on his chest, over his own rapidly beating heart.

"Yours, Love," he whispered huskily. "Still, always, and forever."

Harry felt his own eyes filling, as he moved closer to his lover and put his arms around him, holding him, cherishing him. He heard Tom sob, once, and felt him begin to slide down to his knees. He went with him, not letting go for an instant. He felt Tom's arms come around him, holding him tightly, and felt his lover's body shake with emotion, heard another sob torn from his lips, and moved one hand up to hold the back of the golden head. He felt his own tears begin, softly, not bothering to hide them from his lover, as they leaned against the bed, held each other, and cried.

They pulled apart at last, gently brushing tears from each other's faces. Home didn't quite feel the same, anymore, and they both knew it. It felt as though they were hiding from their lives, now, not starting a new one, together. They looked at each other and smiled, sadly.

"I know you're thinking the same thing I am," Harry said. "You're good at that."

"Yeah," Tom sighed. "We have to go back, but damned if I know what I'm going to do when we return. The only thing I've flown for these last few years, is you."

Harry laughed. "I know," he said, also sighing. "I can barely remember Ops. I don't know if I want to do that, anymore."

"So don't," Tom replied, trying not to panic at the thought of a bridge without Harry; he might not be back at the conn, himself. "Try botany, if you want to; get together with Kes and grow new and wonderful things from all the seeds and cuttings we'll be bringing back with us. Do whatever makes you happy; the Captain will be bending over backwards to be flexible for us, you know she will."

Harry nodded, smiling, then frowned. "So, what are you going to do? You can't tell me you've forgotten how to be the pilot you are, I won't buy it. You're too damn good, you are," he emphasized as Tom shook his head. "You'll be back at the helm in a couple of weeks after some sims on the holodeck, I know you."

Tom was still shaking his head. "The bridge will be a very different place without you. Harry, I haven't let you out of my sight in more than three years. I don't know how it's going to be, looking back at Ops and not seeing you there. We'll see," he finished, noticing his lover's concern. "We'll just have to wait and see."

He begin where he had left off, undoing Harry's shirt, as Harry's fingers came to make short work of his own. They shrugged them both off, tossing them onto the floor in front of them, then kicked off the shoes and socks. They helped each other stand and finished undressing one another. Tom took a large lock of his lover's long black hair and, holding the ends in his fingertips like a paintbrush, began caressing Harry's chest with it. Tom smiled as the man sighed and closed his eyes.

"I am going to miss this," he said softly, caressing the hair. Harry opened his eyes, looking startled.

"Don't tell me the hair is a consideration," he said in disbelief.

"All right, I won't," Tom replied, smiling at the incredulity on Harry's face.

"I don't believe you," Harry said, shaking his head slowly. "The things you think about." He stopped, and smiled. "I'll miss yours, too, Cougar," he said, softly, running a hand over it. "I'll miss yours, too. Maybe the Captain will let us keep it," he concluded, hopefully.

Tom snorted and Harry sighed. "Come on," Tom whispered softly, pulling Harry down onto the bed with him. "Lay with me. I want to love you, I need to love you, Harry." Tom met his lover's lips with his own, arms going around each other again. They were a perfect fit, the perfect size for one another, the perfect match, made in heaven.

Harry groaned into Tom's mouth, moved on top of him, his arms resting on either side of his lover's head. These weren't the usual half-starved searing kisses that normally rocked his insides for him, these were the long, soft, slow ones that rearranged his gray matter. He felt Tom's hands splay onto his back, one going into his hair, to tangle in it, the other caressing his back lightly, from neck to ass, until he shivered. He could do this for hours and had, before, spent long nights just kissing, breathing each other's breath, bodies wrapped around one another. It was wonderful, but he needed more, now.

Right about the time he began moving slowly on Tom, his lover moved his head to kiss and nuzzle his neck, stopping at that spot right below his ear, the one that always made his breathing quicken. He felt his lover's tongue move slowly around his ear, felt the gentle teeth nibble on the lobe, felt Tom's body rise to meet and move against his own. Felt those sure hands running all over him, coaxing response after response out of him, groan upon groan. He opened his eyes to see Tom looking up at him, those eyes so dark with quiet, intense, arousal, felt Tom moving his knees up, felt their erections touch each other.

He moaned softly when he heard Tom's voice, in a whisper, invite him inside. That was an invitation he would never turn down. He moved up slightly, saw Tom reach under the pillow they still shared, bring out a small tube. He smiled, looking at the man below him with love in his eyes.

"Just stopped to get the blankets, huh?" he teased, leaning down to kiss Tom. "Genius."

Tom shrugged. "Thought it might come in handy," he said in a low voice. "No, let me," he halted Harry when he reached for it, flipping the top up and squeezing some out onto his fingertips. He gently caressed his lover's hard cock, slicking the entire length of it, loved hearing Harry gasp and moan under his fingers.

"Enough," Harry sighed. As Tom tossed the tube aside, Harry placed himself carefully outside the opening, bringing his lover's long legs over his shoulders, running his hands along the thighs, before he pushed forward, easily thrusting into Tom. He saw the man's back arch to take him even further inside and he pulled out part way, then slid in again.

"Oh, I love this," he groaned, thrusting steadily into the beautiful body rising to meet his own. "I will never get enough of this."

"I know," Tom answered, breathlessly, groaning. "I won't either, ever."

Harry reached down to take his lover's cock in his hand, began slowly caressing and pumping the length of it, feeling it throb beneath his fingers.

Tom threw his head back and growled, sending a tingle through Harry as he heard it.

"That's it, there's my Cougar," he whispered roughly, speeding up his thrusts, going a little deeper with each one.

"Yesss," Tom ground out, feeling the increase in tempo and strength, clenching himself around Harry, who moaned, loudly, feeling it all the way along his cock.

Tom ran his hand up the arm braced next to his side, feeling Harry tremble, so nearly there. "Yes, Love, like that... take me there, please... come in me," he groaned, hearing Harry moaning, continuously, now, so close to the end.

"I love you, Cougar... I love you... so much," Harry barely finished saying before he felt himself let go, heard the cry torn from his throat as he emptied himself into Tom, collapsing onto his chest.

He felt Tom's legs slide off of him and come to rest on either side of him, felt his lover's still-hard cock pulsing beneath him. He looked up at Tom and found his eyes still on him, felt one hand move up to caress his hair, as his lover sighed and smiled. He smiled back and moved down slightly to lick Tom's length, hearing him gasp his name. He took the man's cock into his mouth, swirling around the head with his tongue, feeling Tom jump and twitch and moan under him.

"Harry," Tom groaned out the word, not believing his love was going down on him so soon after his own orgasm, totally helpless to try and stop him. Gods, that mouth. What it was going to him was probably illegal on a dozen different worlds. And if it wasn't, it should be. He felt Harry's hand tighten around him, felt his mouth speed up, oh, it wasn't going to take long. He glanced down to see his lover watching him react, eyes glowing.

"Yes, Love, yes," he moaned, feeling his eyes close, knowing Harry was still watching him, wanting him to come. He felt the pace pick up a little more, then felt his head explode and, arching his back, came hard into Harry's mouth with a roar, then came again, right on the heels of the first one. He opened his eyes upon returning to find Harry in his arms, grinning at him. He grinned weakly back and kissed him, tasting himself on his lover's tongue. Harry reached down and grabbed the two new blankets, tossing them over both of them, as they snuggled into the haven of each other's arms, and fell asleep.

To say that B'Elanna was angry was a major understatement, she was so far beyond livid, she didn't know if she could find her way back to being just angry. She glared at Chakotay, who wouldn't meet her eyes.

"Coward," she hissed at him, drawing several startled looks, as he flinched from the truth of it. "You waited all of, what? An hour? Before reaming that man a new orifice?" She leapt up and began pacing in front of the door, stopping to bring both fists down onto the table, making everyone except Tuvok jump. "I am amazed you managed to wait that long. Why didn't you just go down to Sickbay and let him have it then? Huh?" She resumed pacing in the confined area, wrapping her arms around herself, tightly. "You drove Harry to language I have never heard him use, and did you see the look in his eyes? DID YOU?" she roared across the table at Chakotay. "How could you do that to him, he respected you, idolized you..."

"Paris..." Chakotay choked out, when B'Elanna rounded on him, again.

"Tom was his friend, his best friend, you were his hero, you idiot. He watched you, constantly, observing, learning. He told me, once, how much he admired you, your calm, your strength, your dignity, everything. How could you? What the hell did Tom Paris ever do to you, besides save your miserable neck?" B'Elanna paused. "Or is that why you ran him off the ship, you can't stand the thought that you owe him your life?" she finished in a shout, before Janeway raised her hand, trying to calm B'Elanna.

"This isn't helping, B'Elanna," she started gently, firmly, when Torres rounded on her.

"Captain, how could you just let him do that?" she asked, pleadingly. "How could you let him do that to Tom? Do you realize that our best chance at getting home, the best pilot any of us has ever seen, is now on the surface of a planet he'll be dead of old age on in a few months? He may not come back, why the hell would he want to? He called it Eden, for Kahles' sake, it is home to them, paradise. Why would either one of them want to come back?" she ended, so disgusted with her First Officer, she couldn't even look at him.

"Torres," Chakotay started softly, not wanting her to get going again, no matter how much he deserved it, "Paris may not be the pilot he was, it's been years..."

"BULLSHIT," B'Elanna roared. Janeway started to cut her off, to say that this had gone on long enough, but a hand on her arm halted her. Chakotay's. Very well, if he wanted to hear more of this or, in penance, needed to, she wouldn't interrupt the Chief Engineer.

"That man flies like the rest of us walk and breathe, Chakotay, and you know it; it's second nature to him, he doesn't even have to think about it. How many times have you seen it, the way he practically hooks himself up to the ship, becomes an extension of Voyager, flinches when she's hit, like he can feel the blows impact. It's because he can, it's what he does, he's a pilot, and we cannot get home without him." She finally ran out of steam, and rage, and fell into her seat, spent. Quiet descended around the table, not much longer to wait, now, regardless.

Harry and Tom had made love in every place they could think of, where they had ever done it. They knew they were saying goodbye to the planet, their first home together, but not their last. Voyager would be home, now, for both of them, likely for the rest of their lives.

They were packing up finally, reloading the satchels that Tom had brought so long ago, making sure the cuttings of various plants, that wouldn't breed true from seed, didn't get damaged; stashing small parcels of seeds for their favorite plants, in amongst the clothing. They grabbed the medkits and took a last, long look around, tears in both their eyes, saying goodbye to this place that had nurtured them as they had nurtured one another and kept them warm, and safe, and happy.

Harry turned on the beacons and they stood with all they possessed, waiting for Voyager. Tom leaned down to kiss Harry, mindful of the clarinet in his hand. They felt the transporter bring them back aboard the ship as their arms came around each other. Tom knew they were back on board, but he couldn't seem to stop, Harry either. Finally, when they came up for air and parted, they saw a rather crowded transporter room, and looked at one another and laughed, wiping tears away, again.

B'Elanna ran forward, to throw her arms around them both and hug them until they were breathless. She stepped back to see the eyes full of tears and knew how hard it was for them to leave. "Oh, you had me scared, talk about the longest five minutes of my life. I'm so glad you decided to come back to us, we all are," she finished, motioning vaguely behind her with one hand. The Captain stood there, with Kes, and Neelix, and Tuvok. The Commander was nowhere in sight.

"So," she said, clearing past the lump in her throat, with a wicked gleam in her eyes. "Whose quarters does all this stuff go in?"

Harry and Tom looked at one another, pointed to the other, and said, "His." Everyone, except Tuvok, laughed. "You have the larger quarters," Harry protested, to Tom's reply of, "Yes, but you have the bigger bed." Again, everyone laughed, as Harry reasoned, "So, we move my bed into your quarters."

"Ours," breathed Tom, leaning in again to kiss Harry, regulations be damned. "Ours," answered Harry, breathlessly, laughing. Tom handed the two medkits to Tuvok, who said he would see them safely back to where they belonged and took custody of the three phasers, as well, the one that Harry had beamed down with, originally, and the two that Tom brought, later. Harry gave Kes one of the crates filled with dirt and small plants and indicated the other four around them.

"Boy, are you going to be awfully busy." he said into her glowing face, as she laughed delightedly. "We have seeds, too, to a few dozen others; we'll get them out when we unpack everything."

"Take your time," Kes said, in her unusual soft voice. "These will keep me very busy for awhile." She and Neelix headed down to the aeroponics bay, after she took a second crate and Neelix got the other three.

That left just B'Elanna and the Captain. Tom motioned Harry on, so he and Torres grabbed his satchel, clarinet, and the three tricorders, and headed out, chattering excitedly about everything under the sun. Tom paused and looked at the Captain.

"I know what I did was so wrong, there aren't words enough to apologize. I'm sorry I had to disobey you, if there had been any other way..." Tom trailed off seeing the Captain looking at him with understanding and compassion in her eyes. "I just couldn't leave him down there, Captain. I loved him so much, I just couldn't make myself do that to him."

Janeway felt the tears gathering in her own eyes as she watched Tom's fill. She understood. She had to and she couldn't really blame him, not really. "I know, Tom," she said in a husky voice. "I know. Gods, three and a half years. I don't even want to think of him being all alone for that amount of time; it scares the hell out of me. And what you did was wrong, but I can't find it in me to fault your decision, or your compassion," she finished as she cleared her throat.

"I will accept, gladly, whatever punishment you see fit to give me," he promised as she shook her head.

"Nothing comes to mind, Tom. You two have been through so much, I can't even begin to imagine. You're not going to be on the bridge, anyway, for a while, you or Harry, until you get back into the routine. Let me just take you off active duty for a couple of weeks, that will give you both the time you need to settle in, get reacquainted with everything and everyone. Find out what you both want to do." She paused, then said with a firm smile, "Make no mistake, I need you back at the helm, flying my ship. But, take the time you need, find out if you want to be back there. Please, think carefully," she finished, wryly.

"It will take some time, Captain, I don't know if I'm still the hotshot I was three years ago," he laughed with her. "But I will find out, I promise you," he concluded with determination.

Good enough for her and she nodded. "I've got to get back to the bridge. Tom," she paused on her way out of the transporter room, "Chakotay may find his way to you, in the next few days, to apologize, perhaps, or talk. Try to be... forgiving, if you can." And with that, she decisively left the room.

Tom sighed. Forgiving. Oh, well, he'd see how it went, first, see if Chakotay would come to him, hat in hand, to apologize, or, failing that, explain. He'd just have to wait and see. Squaring his shoulders, he set off with the remaining satchel, heading to his quarters, his and Harry's quarters, he amended, and the start of a new life together.

Harry was headed to the holodeck, anyway, to find Tom, when B'Elanna's voice came over his comm badge.

"Torres to Kim," she barked.

"Kim here, what's the matter, B'Elanna?"

"Harry, Tom has locked himself onto the holodeck, into some battle simulation, and I can't get him out. His security system just keeps running around itself, in an infinite loop, and I can't stop it, or shut down the holodeck. Harry, he's disengaged the safeties," B'Elanna finished, worriedly, as Harry barked he was on his way. Damn the man raged B'Elanna, as she kicked the door to the holodeck. She looked up to see the Captain, Commander, and Tuvok coming from one direction, while she heard what she knew to be Harry's running footsteps, from the other. They all got to her at about the same time.

"Status, Torres," Janeway barked.

B'Elanna sighed, "He's still in there, Captain, and I can't get him out. He's not answering his comm badge."

"What program is the Lieutenant currently running?" Tuvok inquired, heading for the panel by the door.

"Something called 'KCVR-7'," Torres replied. "He started at 'KCVR-4' if that means anything to you." She looked around to see the others shaking their heads. Chakotay ordered the computer to unlock the holodeck, giving his authorization, but the computer denied him access. He turned around to see Janeway with her eyebrows almost to her hair line. He shrugged.

"Seems that Paris's computer security skills are still in top shape," he muttered, wryly.

"Let me try," Harry offered, stepping up to the panel. He barked a command at the computer, followed by Tom's sixty-six character personal security code, and the doors opened. Everybody stared at him and he grinned, "Took me weeks to memorize that bloody thing."

Even Chakotay chuckled at that, as they all stepped through the doors, which seemed to heading out of the Captain's ready room onto the bridge. They stopped in their tracks and stared. The bridge was a war zone, smoke everywhere and debris littering the floor. On the viewscreen they saw three ships, one Vidiian, one Kazon, and... Romulan, for crying out loud? The holographic Captain was barking out orders, with the rest of the holographic crew struggling to follow her commands. All of them were injured, but only Tom's wounds were real and he was a bloody mess. Cuts and scrapes all over his face, uniform sleeve torn, with an obviously broken arm leaning on the console, one deep gash, following his ribs, that went from his backbone to underneath his arm, and one leg, twisted in such a way that everyone looking knew it had to be broken, as well.

Janeway looked at him horrified, one hand covering her mouth, as she met Harry's eyes, saw him flinch as he looked at the man he loved. Tom didn't realize that members of the bridge crew had just become redundant, he was still flying, swooping up tight, beneath the Kazon ship, giving Tuvok an opportunity to fire. The holographic Vulcan missed, while the real one's lips compressed together slightly.

"Come on, Tuvok, try it again," Tom barked, as he moved Voyager into position again, taking another hit from the Vidiian ship. "Ouch, you bastards," he roared at the screen, not noticing the real Tuvok step from behind Chakotay and make his way to his station, quietly deleting his character and replacing him. B'Elanna and Harry bounded to their posts and also deleted their counterparts, taking over their normal duties, as Tuvok fired and the Kazon ship exploded into fragments.

Janeway looked at Chakotay and shrugged, whispering, "We could all use the practice," as she headed for her chair. Chakotay grabbed her arm, halting her. "Captain, he's turned the safeties off," he started, as Janeway nodded and, removing her arm from the Commander's grasp, took her seat, deleting her holographic counterpart. Chakotay sighed, glared at Paris's back and made his way carefully around the debris to his own post. He was slightly amazed that the 'First Officer' was still alive, as he replaced him, thinking uncharitably that Paris probably would have had him killed off first.

Tom banked around the front of the Romulan ship, cutting off abruptly when the Vidiians fired again, missing Voyager altogether, and hitting the Romulans a blow to their warp core. He then flew the ship around the exploding Romulan ship, using it for cover as he came up again to give Tuvok time to fire on the Vidiians. With a direct hit, the last enemy ship scattered into fragments and everyone breathed a sigh of relief, until Paris barked out, "Level 8," and they were off again. My god thought Janeway Cardassians?. Sure enough, two Cardassians, with two each of the Kazon, Vidiians, and Romulans, began firing on Voyager the instant the 'bridge' had 'repaired' itself from the last attack.

"Red alert. Status," she barked to Torres, sensor reports streaming in on the eight enemy ships. As Torres reported to Janeway, Chakotay watched Tom. He didn't seem to be aware of his own injuries, at all, and Chakotay was willing to bet the rasping sounds he heard were courtesy of a punctured lung. He hands flew over the console, as the ship took another hit, and he heard Paris groan, cursing. Damn, he felt that Chakotay thought wonderingly, as he saw the console next to Tom explode, knocking him out of his chair. Chakotay moved forward to help him back into it, but Tom was already on his way, looking up at Chakotay through narrowed eyes.

"I've got it, Commander," he ground out before Voyager was hit again and his attention returned to flying. Tuvok got off a couple of great shots, wiping out one of the Vidiian ships, whose wreckage flew into one of the Cardassians, damaging it, as Tuvok sent another shot after it and it exploded. Two down, six to go.

Tom came up hard underneath the Kazon ships, using them for cover as Tuvok got off a couple more shots, destroying one. Tom gasped again when Voyager got hit by the remaining Cardassian ship, and Tuvok sent off a volley, damaging it, badly, as well as one of the Romulan ships. Paris went below the Cardassian ship, flying upside down as Tuvok sent off a shot, setting a chain reaction in motion that exploded it above them as he pulled up hard and turned sharply, avoiding the remaining Vidiian ship that was firing on them, watching as the shot hit home on the Romulan ship. Five down, three to go.

Chakotay wondered what the hell was keeping Tom vertical, this was only their second foray, it was his fifth. He also knew that if he interfered, Paris would resent the hell out of him for it, so he held his seat, and his tongue, and continued to watch the man in action. Tom had Voyager twisting and turning in ways that seemingly defied the laws of physics, Tuvok firing on the Kazon and Romulan ships, as the Vidiian got off another shot that hit Voyager, causing Tom to slam into his console, gasping. Chakotay cringed; that had to have hurt like hell.

"Captain, we're venting plasma," B'Elanna began, but before Janeway could say anything, Paris barked out an order to vent barconite as well. B'Elanna looked to Janeway, who ordered her to do it, and Torres' fingers flew to make it so. Tom headed right for the Vidiian ship, then banked off towards the Kazon, telling Tuvok not to fire yet and for B'Elanna to end the barconite emission. He yelled for phaser fire and Tuvok complied, watching as the phasers ignited the barconite and torched the Kazon ship, frying its circuitry, and the Vidiian ship, overloading their weapons banks. As the Romulan ship flew through the unavoidable cloud of fiery plasma, Tuvok's aim was once again true, destroying both the Vidiians and the Kazon with another shot each. One more shot to the Romulans, and the sky was clear.

Chakotay wondered if Paris would give up yet, when Harry came down the ramp at full speed before Tom could say a word, still slumped over the console.

"Oh, no, you don't," he whispered, kneeling next to Tom. "No more for you, not today. Damn," he groaned, "what the hell were you thinking?"

Tom looked around, realizing for the first time that the crew was real. He hadn't programmed Harry in civilian clothes, and sure as hell hadn't programmed that hair, either. He looked at him in dazed astonishment, taking Harry's cheek in his hand.

"I had to know," he rasped, everyone moving closer so they could hear him. "It's not enough just to be able to fly Voyager. I need to know that I can keep flying, when things get rough, no matter how knocked around I get," he stopped, seeing the understanding on his lover's face. "But you, are you out of your mind?" He looked around at all of them, saying, "Are you all out of your minds? The damn safeties were off," and then he had to stop for coughing on the blood seeping into his lung.

Harry's arms came around him, gently, as he hit his comm badge, barking, "Two to beam directly to Sickbay."

As they shimmered out of sight, B'Elanna stepped forward, her eyes shining. "That was the most fun I've had in quite a while," she beamed into their bemused faces and turned to leave the holodeck, humming, heading for Sickbay to find their masochistic pilot and thank him for a lovely afternoon. Tuvok's voice stopped her, for a moment.

"I must confess, that I, too, found the simulation to be quite stimulating. It is a testament to Lieutenant Paris's ability, that he was able to achieve such a high degree of realism in this program." And with that, Tuvok headed for the door.

Janeway turned to her Commander and grinned. "I wonder how many levels to this 'KCVR' simulation there are."

Chakotay shuddered. "I really don't think I want to know, Captain."

Janeway watched as B'Elanna left after Tuvok and sighed. "I think Mr. Paris will be ready for duty stations, as soon as the Doctor heals his injuries and he makes a full recovery. I was keeping an eye on our Ensign, during all of that, as well. He certainly remembers his way around Ops. I'm looking forward to having them both back on the bridge, where they belong." She smiled at Chakotay, quietly delighted to see him nodding in agreement.

"As am I, Captain," he said, looking thoughtfully at Paris's chair. "As am I."

Harry looked on, worriedly, as the Doctor and Kes tended to Tom's injuries. Kes had assured him that all would be well, but he was still worried and somewhat angry. He understood Tom's reasons only too well, his love didn't like doing anything he wasn't the best he could be at, but still. He sighed as the Doctor finished and motioned him over to the biobed.

"I've taken care of Mr. Paris's injuries and he's going to be fine, Ensign," the Doctor said smugly, as Harry stepped forward to take Tom's hand in his. They simply waited, looking at him, until he cleared his throat and stepped aside, saying, "I'll leave you two alone, now. Lieutenant, you may leave for your quarters at your discretion."

Harry leaned down to kiss Tom on his recently healed eyebrow. "Don't you ever do this without me, again, do you hear me? Next time, I want to be there." Before Tom could reply, they heard B'Elanna's voice chime in.

"I want to be there, too. That was the most fun I've had in too long," she said cheerily, as she came over and kissed an astonished Tom right on the lips, not noticing Harry stiffen next to her. "Thank you, you did a hell of a great job, programming and piloting." As Tom stammered his thanks, she waved them aside. "Seriously, I want to be there, if you decide to run through it, again."

"You will be, both of you, I promise," Tom said, still stunned from her kiss, too stunned to see the look on Harry's face. "Next time, it'll be even better," he finished with a cocky tone in his voice, lacing his fingers behind his head. B'Elanna laughed merrily and leaned in close.

"You'll have to go to some lengths to top this, Paris," she whispered huskily, as he laughed. "I look forward to it. Take care of yourself, you're the best pilot we have," she finished with another kiss, this one on the cheek, as she swept out of Sickbay in a wonderful mood.

Harry felt like someone had socked him in the stomach. B'Elanna. He should've realized. And he knew Tom had feelings for her, too, he'd told him, ages ago. He knew Tom loved him, at least he thought he knew Tom loved him, but now, suddenly, there were all these choices around, choices that hadn't been there on the planet. He suddenly felt sick, but pasted a smile on his face as Tom's head came around from watching B'Elanna sail out the door.

"Amazing, isn't she? Only B'Elanna would consider a combat simulation to be a recreational program," he laughed, then stopped as he looked up at Harry. "Hey, you okay?"

Harry quickly nodded. "I'm still worried about you, you scared me to death," he covered quickly, then, as Tom looked contrite, let him off the hook. "Next time..." he started, only to have Tom cut him off.

"I know, next time you want to be there." Tom finished for him, not noticing, as he sat up, that his lover's attention was still on the door B'Elanna had left through.

Now, I definitely want to be there Harry thought, aware of how demonstrative B'Elanna got after giving the bad guys a good ass-kicking. Definitely.

He helped Tom off the biobed and the two of them made their way slowly to their quarters.

As soon as the doors closed behind them, Tom was all over Harry, who tried to hold him off, protesting.

"You have got to be kidding me," he began, glaring at Tom. "The Doctor said it would take you about three days to heal completely."

"I don't give a damn, I need to touch you, love you, be inside you. Combat always gets my body into overdrive," Tom growled, feeling Harry shudder.

Yeah, you and B'Elanna, both Harry thought, darkly, as Tom's arms came around him and his lips descended on his, hard and hot and furious. All thoughts of B'Elanna fled as he felt Tom's erection moving against his own. He pulled away, reluctantly.

"If we are going to do this, we're doing it carefully," he insisted, as Tom groaned. "I don't want to hear it, not until the ribs are totally healed, and the leg, and the arm..." Harry was abruptly cut off as Tom claimed his mouth, again, giving in to his lover's demands.

In a startlingly short amount of time, they were both naked and on the bed, Tom on top, smothering Harry in kisses, writhing against him. Harry kept having to remind himself to be careful, when all he really wanted was to throw Tom on his back and fuck him 'til breakfast. Slowly, he kept thinking, gently, as Tom slithered down his torso and engulfed his cock with his mouth. Harry screamed and bucked upward, feeling Tom holding onto his hips with both hands, driving him mad with that hot mouth and tongue. Harry was thrashing uncontrollably under the assault, groaning, his hands clenching into Tom's hair, crying out his need. His lover rode the storm out, waiting until Harry was nearly sobbing before really turning it on, hard and fast. Harry moaned, then finally screamed again, his face tight with the power of his orgasm as it tore through him, leaving him shaking in his lover's arms.

Tom was grinning at him, easily seen in the light of the room. They still had a hard time, after three years of perpetual daylight, seeing with the lights on low. Not that they really cared, they loved watching each other, still, after all this time.

Harry was panting so hard, he thought his chest would burst. "Oh, you," he groaned, as Tom laughed delightedly.

"One for you, now it's my turn," Tom snarled in Harry's ear, licking and nibbling his way down Harry's chest, sucking hard on the nipples, biting them with his teeth until Harry gasped. He moved his lover gently onto his stomach and began to ready him, caressing liberal amounts of lubricant into him and onto his own cock. He pulled Harry onto his hands and knees and in one swift thrust, entered him. They both gasped aloud, as Harry began moving back into Tom, hard, and Tom came forward, harder, into Harry. They quickly reached a frenzied pace, Tom paying no attention to the weight on his leg, or arm, or the way his own gasping hurt his ribs. He had to have Harry, hard, and now.

He leaned forward to bite his lover's shoulderblade, gnawing roughly on the back of his neck, his fingers playing with Harry's nipples, nails drawing down the man's chest, all of it, everything at once, until Harry was moving even harder back into him with mindless need. Tom reached forward and, finding his lover hard again, began jerking him off roughly and fast, in time to his own thrusts.

He saw Harry throw his head back, heard him howl, as he came again, shooting over Tom's hand and onto the bed. The clenching muscles around his cock were all Tom needed to bring him off, and he came with a moaning roar, emptying himself into Harry. He collapsed next to him, on his side, gasping as he fell onto the throbbing ribs. He felt Harry's arms come around him, felt his lover's breath in his ear.

"You okay?" Harry whispered, out of breath, seeing Tom's grimace of pain, next to him.

"Yeah," Tom groaned, moving onto his back with another groan, trying to get his wind back. "I'll be fine, quit worrying," he finished gently, seeing Harry's eyes filled with concern, before he leaned down to kiss Tom gently on the lips.

"I'm not going to touch you for the next three days, I swear to God I'm not," Harry vowed, angry that it had gotten so out of hand.

"Don't you think that's a little extreme?" Tom asked, smiling softly.

"No, you're still injured, for crying out loud," Harry said loudly, not knowing how he was going to keep him hands off Tom for three days, but determined to let the man heal before they attempted this again.

Tom laughed. "Oh, I love you for being worried about me, really I do, thank you," he said, still smiling. "You'll never last that long," he ended with a knowing grin, as Harry thumped him gently in the shoulder, then pulled him in for another kiss.

"Bet me, Cougar," Harry replied fondly, yet crossly, pulling the blankets over the two of them, as they settled into each other's arms. "Bet me."

Tom snuggled into him, mindful, belatedly, of his injuries, as they dimmed the lights slightly and fell asleep.

Tom was, frankly, amazed at Harry's self-control. The three day imposed abstinence was over tonight and he had something a little different planned to welcome his lover back.

The last three days had been great, though. They had all spent as much time as possible as the holodeck, going through simulations and, even though B'Elanna and Harry had insisted on leaving the safeties on, it had been time well spent. Tom was once again confident in his ability to fly Voyager and Harry was perfectly at ease at Ops, as well.

Harry was not perfectly at ease with Tom and B'Elanna's newfound camaraderie. They seemed to have their heads together every time he turned around and it was starting to drive him nuts. The comments he overheard from some of the crew didn't help matters any. Some people had apparently been willing to try to get Tom away from him, but backed off immediately now that B'Elanna was around. Harry didn't realize they were suddenly 'hands-off' for his sake, because B'Elanna had threatened to throw anyone who messed with their relationship into the warp core. He felt they thought she had staked her claim, when nothing could be further from the truth.

He and Tom had been sharing a passionate kiss, one evening, in Sandrine's, when he noticed B'Elanna on the other side of the table. His sharp comment about the line forming to the left had been laughed at gaily, by both B'Elanna and Tom. Neither seemed to notice he wasn't entirely kidding. He didn't get it; Tom was still as affectionate as always, still as hungry as ever, but Harry was waiting for the ax to fall, anyway. He couldn't help it.

Now he was heading back to their quarters, for some quality time with Tom, if he was up to it; it was early in the evening, yet. He entered to find all the lights off, the place in total darkness. Even the windows were blacked out. His barked command for lights accomplished nothing. The door had closed behind him and he suddenly got the feeling he wasn't alone. A soft snarl from over his shoulder, right behind his ear, made him yelp and he spun around.

"Tom?" he asked softly, feeling like an idiot. Of course, it had to be Tom, who the hell else could it be? Another snarl from his opposite side had him spinning in that direction, only to encounter nothing again. He had the feeling he was being stalked, no, he was being stalked, there was no doubt about it. He heard another growl as a tongue swiped at his ear. Harry couldn't hear a sound, couldn't hear Tom moving around him, couldn't even be sure which direction the next noise would come from.

He shivered. A set of teeth sank into his throat, dropping him to his knees, another growl, low and soft, making his skin crawl, as he tried to reach out to put his arms around his lover. Nothing. Reaching out blindly, he found the sofa and knew, sort of, where the bed was, so he headed in that direction after climbing shakily to his feet.

He didn't know how the man could see in the total darkness, as he made his way slowly to the bed, only to have something grab him from the front and swiftly shred his shirt off of him, then retreat. He kicked his shoes off, with enough force to hear them hit the wall, as he heard another soft growl in his ear. He groaned at the sound and froze, feeling what had to be his lover's hands come around him to undo his slacks and pull them down. He stepped out of them, catching them with his foot, and sent them sailing in the general direction his shoes had taken.

Now he was totally naked, still blind, and unbelievably turned on. He moved around slowly, feeling the bed beneath his hands. He heard another snarl, from below him, as teeth bit not too softly into his thigh and he was forced back onto the bed. He reached up to try to grab hold of Tom and once again encountered only air. Damn the man. He felt a tongue give his hard cock a long lick, from the head to the root, as he heard another growl vibrate between his legs. He moaned uncontrollably, shuddering with arousal, as he felt his lover's body slowly crawl up his own, licking roughly as he went, before teeth came together in his neck again, making him cry out.

He finally got a hold of Tom, partly surprised to encounter bare skin where he had almost expected to find fur. He felt Tom's mouth nipping him around his neck, felt the hardness between his lover's legs, as hands tangled roughly in his hair and he found himself being devoured alive. Tom had just taken his cock into his mouth when the comm chirped.

"Torres to Paris..."

B'Elanna was somewhat startled to hear what sounded like Tom growl back an impatient, "What?"

"Are either or both of you up for some pool?" she asked hesitantly, wondering what the hell was wrong with Tom's voice.

"Not a good time, B'Elanna," Tom snarled softly, licking Harry all along his cock, nipping at the head. "I have something I have to finish with Harry first."

B'Elanna heard what sounded like a groan come over the comm in Sandrine's, loud enough to make Janeway and Chakotay glance up from their game.

"Where is Harry?" B'Elanna asked with an evil grin, betting she knew full well what the answer was.

"Right where I want him," Tom growled back. "Naked, shivering, and under me."

B'Elanna crowed delightedly as she heard Harry's moan come over the comm with an "Oh, God, yes," coming from him.

"Can Harry come out and play, later?" she asked impishly.

"If there's anything left of him," Tom replied in a soft growl, as Harry groaned again.

"Go get him, Tiger," she said only to have Harry correct her as he moaned, "Cougar".

"Whatever!" she laughed as the comm went dead about the same time she heard Harry moan again, louder than before, and an answering soft roar from Tom.

B'Elanna looked into Janeway and Chakotay's stunned faces and howled with laughter. "Ain't love grand?" she inquired, as soon as she could control her mirth, only to explode into laughter again at the look on Chakotay's face.

Tom went back to what he was doing with a single-mindedness Harry couldn't help but admire. He was being stroked everywhere, licked everywhere, bitten everywhere, and his sounds of pleasure were continuous. Tom's growling hadn't stopped and the sensations careening up and down his body were only intensified by the fact that he couldn't see anything.

Tom wasn't being gentle and he loved it. Gods, he needed this, had needed this for days. He felt Tom's teeth again, sinking into his shoulder, as rough hands moved over his chest, felt his lover fasten onto a nipple and bite down. Harry cried out, only to have Tom's mouth on his, his hot tongue caressing his own, swallowing the sounds he made. He felt Tom move back up to his neck, again, felt himself being bitten and clenched his hands in Tom's hair, holding him there.

"Harder," he moaned, feeling Tom's mouth instantly latch on again, biting through the skin, drawing blood. Harry arched up sharply into Tom, then fastened his own teeth into that wonderful long neck in front of him, hard. He raked his nails down Tom's back, hearing him hiss as they traveled lower, digging into the back of one thigh.

He heard Tom's groan change into a snarl and felt one hand tear out of his hair, clawing slowly down his back, as Tom bit into him again, on the chest, just below the collarbone. Tom moved slowly down Harry's body and, after one fierce thrust against him, continued down until he could take his lover into his mouth again. This time, though, he used his teeth lightly around the head, until Harry was thrashing under him, fingers gripping his hair, crying out in desperate need. Harry had about all he could stand of this and, hauling his lover back up to him, wrapped his strong legs around Tom, flipped him over, and buried his teeth in his shoulder, hearing him roar.

Harry proceeded to nuzzle his way down Tom's chest, biting both nipples, feeling his lover's hands come to tangle themselves into his long hair, again. He moved quickly down the long, hard body beneath his own, tracing the other man's ribs with his tongue, slithering down until he could take Tom into his mouth. He gave the hard cock in front of him a lick, swirling over the head, then devoured the man beneath him, sucking hard. He heard Tom's snarl and felt his body buck up under him, as he continued to make love to the man with his mouth.

Tom curled up around him, his entire being focused on the incredible things Harry was doing to him, feeling that wonderful long hair draped over his chest like a curtain of silk. He knew he was too close to coming and decided enough was enough. He grabbed Harry roughly by the arm, tearing him away from what he had been doing, and threw him down next to him, on his back, kneeling between his lover's legs. He quickly moved Harry's legs further apart and positioned himself just outside the opening there.

He tried to ease slowly into his lover, but Harry was having none of it, as he wrapped his legs around Tom's waist and pulled him inside, hard and fast. Tom growled and pulled back only to have Harry's legs tighten around him again, pulling him back inside, all the way. The tempo quickened, as Tom sped up, thrusting into the body quivering under his ferociously, as his hand worked Harry's cock. Harry knocked his hand away, roughly, and dug into Tom's legs with his nails, hearing the man hiss and growl. Harry felt nails come down his chest and moaned loudly, thrusting up hard against Tom, feeling the man's body shaking, picturing his head thrown back right before his orgasm claimed him as fiercely as he was claiming Harry.

Harry heard that low howling just as Tom's fingers tightened on his hips, felt the harsh shudder as the climax went through him, heard him roar in triumph and fulfillment, and knew that his lover was coming and hard.

Tom collapsed onto Harry's chest, feeling as though he were on fire, as Harry pulled back and Tom's spent cock slipped gently out of his lover's body. He felt hands on his arms, moving him bonelessly onto his stomach, then felt the shock of teeth biting into the back of his neck, felt nails being drawn down his backbone, felt his legs being separated, then felt an arm under his waist, pulling him back onto his knees. He leaned forward on his elbows, feeling Harry right behind him, as a hand clenched into his shoulder and he felt himself being slowly penetrated. He reared back into Harry, hearing him gasp, felt hands tightening on his hips as a fast, steady rhythm began, making toes he no longer felt curl in anticipation.

He felt that long hair caressing his back, tickling his sides as Harry sped up, making him groan, making his back arch, making his hands dig into the sheets below him. He could hear his lover moaning behind him, could feel his quivering body, as the speed increased, and he could hear his own growling, gasping moans, as well. Harry was biting him all over his back, hard, making him flinch, setting his skin on fire again, as he felt his lover shuddering with the impending climax.

Harry's thrusts came faster, rougher, as his body jerked, as he heard Tom groaning in pleasure, feeling the man tighten around him, as the pleasure coursing through him slammed into him full force, taking him down, and he came, screaming, loud and long, the harsh sound echoing in the still room. He waited a few seconds, resting, then slid off of Tom, pulling out of him, his body trembling with aftershocks, and he felt his lover's arms come around him, felt that gorgeous body wrap itself around him, holding him until the quaking eased.

"Damn, I've missed you, Cougar," Harry breathed, nestling into the warm body surrounding his own, kissing the chest beneath his cheek.

"Oh, Sweetheart, I've missed you, too," Tom said softly, that familiar rumbling starting again, as he brought his lips to the head beneath his chin.

"I've wanted to do this for so long," he continued, kissing Harry softly, running his lips over the soft hair.

"What?" Harry murmured, listening to the purr under his ear, that only paused when his lover spoke.

"Take you in total darkness, when I couldn't see you," he replied.

"You couldn't see me?" Harry asked in disbelief. "Then how in the hell did you know where I was, when you were stalking me around the room?"

"I knew where you were," Tom answered, puzzled. "I always know where you are, you set off my proximity sensors anytime you get within a few feet of me."

"What?" Harry asked again, not knowing what his lover what talking about.

"Harry, can't you sense me, even when you can't see me?" Tom asked, moving gently away from the man in his arms.

"No," Harry answered thoughtfully, not understanding how Tom could. His lover wasn't touching him now, just next to him, on the bed; he could feel the heat coming off of him, but nothing else.

"Picture me, Love, in your mind, where I am. Just concentrate on me, don't try to touch me, just be aware of where I am," Tom was saying softly. Harry had to know how to do this, didn't everyone?

Harry shut his eyes, not knowing what difference it made, and waited. He didn't feel movement, but he felt something, having the odd feeling that something was right in front of his face. He reached out for it, quickly, and found himself grasping Tom's hand. He gasped and heard Tom laugh.

"You felt my hand in front of you, didn't you?" he confirmed. "Because it was setting off your personal proximity alert; you just knew it was there. That's how it is for me, Harry, with you, all the time. It's not magic, it's just... awareness."

"Wow," Harry said softly, awed, as Tom laughed again, delighted to have shown his lover something new and different.

"That's how you do it, isn't it?" Harry said with growing excitement, feeling like he'd just solved one of the mysteries of the universe. "That's why you're such a damn good pilot, why you're so aware of where Voyager is, why you flinch every time she gets hit. You extend this... awareness beyond you, don't you? Feeling the moves before you make them, feeling the turns the ship takes, feeling the enemy ships around you. That's how you know, isn't it?" he finished, softly, feeling Tom nodding, slowly, next to him. "Computer, lights, ten percent," he called out quietly, needing to see Tom, though nothing happened until Tom released the security lock-out on the lights.

Tom looked slightly surprised in the dim light. "I guess I just took it for granted," he said wonderingly. "I never really thought about it, how I do anything, I just did it. You're right, I can feel Voyager around me, like an extension of me. I can see around the ship, sort of, when we're in combat. Like a simulation running through my head, I can tell what the next move needs to be. Hmm," he finished, deep in thought until Harry's lips on his distracted him.

"That is so cool," Harry said, making Tom chuckle again. He burrowed back into those warm, strong arms, listening to Tom rumble, feeling gentle fingers combing through his hair, as exhaustion slowly caught up with them and they drifted off to sleep.

Tom surfaced after a couple of hours, looking at the beautiful man in his arms with delight and love. How could something so incredible exist in this universe? he wondered, softly moving the long black hair out of the way, so he wouldn't wake Harry. This was still one of his favorite things and he knew his internal clock had set itself to wake him, on purpose, just so he could watch his lover sleeping. How he loved this man, needed him, couldn't be complete or happy without him.

He sighed in contentment, thinking about the next logical step in this relationship. It might come as a shock to some people; many were just getting used to the fact that they were involved. It may have been years for them, but for everyone else on the ship, they had gone from being best friends to passionate lovers in about two days. Tom didn't care; he wanted to make it permanent, official, forever, in front of the Gods and the crew; he wanted to announce his intention to spend the rest of his life with this man, his perfect mate, the other half of him, the best half.

He didn't want to think about his life without Harry Kim in it; it depressed the hell out of him, made him feel empty inside. He thought about growing old with him, the years they could have together, and sighed. However long it was, it wouldn't be enough, even if they spent a lifetime together. And he was getting increasingly impatient for it to begin immediately.

He eased slowly out of Harry's embrace, wanting to let him sleep, and moved quietly off the bed. He began searching for the clothes he'd shed earlier, found them in a heap on the sofa, and quietly got dressed. He needed to go tell B'Elanna, get her reaction, use her as a sounding board for his ideas. He also wanted to ask her if she would stand up for them, during the ceremony. Tom could feel his breath tighten in his chest, as his mind took off at warp speed, making plan after plan.

He took one last look at himself in the mirror, in the still mostly dark room. Even in the near-darkness, he could see the damage Harry had inflicted on him and smiled. Let B'Elanna make of it whatever she wanted to, he loved the thought that his lover had made him so visibly his, as he checked out the bruises, and scratches, and bite marks on his chest and throat. He briefly debated putting on a turtleneck, then discarded the notion. He wanted people to know, needed people to know, that he was Harry's. The warmth of that thought suffused through his skin, making him glow, as he affixed his comm badge to his shirt and headed out the door.

B'Elanna stared as Tom came into Sandrine's and headed right for her, completely oblivious to the shocked looks he was getting at his appearance.

She whistled softly as she took in the damage, moving a slow hand to the 'V' of his shirt to see even more marks on his chest.

"Damn," she said with a grin. "I would hate to see the other guy."

Tom roared with laughter as he took B'Elanna's hands in his and leaned in to speak to her.

"I'm going to ask Harry to marry me," he started, grinning at her smile of surprise and delight. "And I would love it if you would stand up or us."

Harry had awoken to find himself alone, betting that his new-found awareness of Tom had signaled the fact that his lover had gone. He threw on some clothes and checked with the computer to determine Tom's location on the holodeck. Stopping in front of the mirror, he grinned at the marks his Cougar had left him with this time. He headed out of their quarters with a spring in his step and went to the holodeck... entering just in time to see B'Elanna throw her arms around the man he loved and reply, "Oh, I'd love to," to whatever Tom had asked her, right before she kissed him.

Harry felt like someone had dumped ice water down his back, as he inhaled sharply, wondering how in the hell Tom could have gone from him to B'Elanna, so quickly. He turned to leave, in shock, but he felt a familiar hand on his arm, gently tugging him back around.

"Harry, we need to talk, about something serious," Tom said, with a very somber look on his face. Harry felt his heart drop down to his knees, as he numbly followed Tom to a nearby table, closest to the pool table. He fell into the chair, not noticing the crowd forming in front of the door, or along the walls, as tables filled up rapidly, thanks to B'Elanna's quiet announcement to half a dozen different departments of the impending wonderful news.

Harry wasn't about to let Tom just dump this on him, not without trying to salvage some of his dignity. He couldn't believe this was the end. Had that latest romp been just a goodbye, or was it only sex, now?

"Before you say a word," he started painfully, "I already know."

Tom groaned. "Damn, I wanted you to hear it from me, Harry. I'm so sorry, I should've known better, the grapevine on this ship tops out at warp ten."

"It's B'Elanna, isn't it?" Harry said slowly, feeling like every word was being torn from his heart, not noticing Tom's slightly confused look.

"What's B'Elanna, Harry?" he asked softly, suddenly not liking the look on his lover's face one damn bit.

"The reason you're leaving me," Harry answered in a ghost of a whisper, his eyes filling with tears.

Tom just sat there, stunned, not noticing the Captain and Commander come in and join B'Elanna, not noticing them asking her if they had missed it, not noticing both their heads snap up when he roared, "The reason I'm what?!?" as he looked at Harry with something akin to horror.

"Leaving me," Harry whispered, not understanding the look on Tom's face.

Tom ran shaking fingers through his hair, feeling like he'd just been poleaxed. "Why in the hell would I leave you?" his voice a little quieter, yet completely unaware of the total silence in the room as more than half the crew watched, not knowing what was going on. He threw himself out of the chair, stepping backwards, looking at Harry in shock, then stopped and came slowly back to the table, resting his hands on it, right in front of where he'd just been sitting.

"I love you, Harry," he ground out, not knowing or caring how his anguished voice carried in the deathly silent room. "What the hell do you think I've been doing for the LAST THREE YEARS?" he finished, shouting, seeing Harry flinch in front of him.

"It wasn't like you had any other options, at the time," Harry grated bitterly, feeling some small satisfaction at watching Tom double over, wanting for this all to end.

"You honestly think that I only loved you because you were CONVENIENT?!?" Tom yelled again, not believing what he was hearing, not believing he was actually seeing Harry nod in agreement. "Oh, you son of a BITCH, how could you?" he all but screamed, heading for Harry, looking like he had murder on his mind.

Chakotay was half out of his seat, when B'Elanna's hiss stopped him. "Don't. Look at Harry, he's not afraid of him," feeling her nails dig into his arm as he realized she was right. Harry was looking at Tom with pain and grief, but there was no fear in his eyes at all; he knew Tom would never hurt him. Chakotay slowly sank back into his chair.

Tom stopped before he ever reached Harry, whirled away and stalked to the other side of the pool table, pacing in agitation and anger.

"How can you doubt how much I love you?" he cried out, running his fingers roughly through his hair, again, not believing any of this.

"Because you never told me," Harry answered him, loudly, seeing that golden, bowed head shoot up in disbelief.

"I never... " Tom started stunned, before anger rocked him, again. "I told you every damn day we were down there, how much I loved you, how much I needed you..."

"You never told me!!" Harry yelled back at him, jumping to his feet, kicking the chair away from him. "All you ever said was how much there was to tell me, but you never said a GODDAMNED thing!"

Tom looked at him, shocked to the core. Had he really never told Harry, never had that talk? As he realized the truth of it, he groaned, bringing both fists down onto the pool table, hard, the cracking sound echoing in the still room.

"And you wouldn't believe me now, if I did, would you?" he asked in an anguished whisper, leaning forward on his elbows to drop his head into his hands as Harry shook his head no.

"What can I do, Love?" Tom asked painfully, raising wounded eyes to Harry. Anything, name it, what do you need me to do?"

Harry looked at him with agony in his own eyes. "Prove it," he challenged, deadly serious in spite of using the words they usually played with. "Convince me," he concluded, hoping that Tom could, feeling that hope die when a look of total helplessness crossed Tom's face.

"Did you ever tell anyone?" he offered, giving him a chance, only to see Tom shaking his head.

"How in the hell could I?" he asked, softly. "You were my best friend, if I had told anyone it would've been you, and I couldn't tell you because you were the one I had fallen in love with!" he finished with an agonized wail, spinning away from the pool table to resume his pacing, knowing there was something he was forgetting, something important, that would make Harry see.

"Then, I guess that's it," Harry whispered, clearly heard by everyone in the room, feeling like his heart was being ripped from his chest, as he turned to go.

A softly accented voice stopped him. "Harry, one moment, if you please." Sandrine was leaning on the bar, looking upset and sympathetic at the pain of these two men who loved each other so much.

"Thomas, you told me, in a manner of speaking," she said to him, softly, watching his head come up, as she reminded him of that which he had forgotten.

His fists came back onto the table, with a loud crack, this time in victory. Gods, yes, the logs.

"Harry, get back here," he stated, then, as his lover didn't turn, said, "Come or be carried, Love, I am not screwing around."

Harry sighed, then headed back to Tom, standing next to the table they had originally been sitting at. He got on top of the table at Tom's instruction, sitting crosslegged, and felt Tom slide in behind him, his legs on either side of Harry's.

"Whenever you want, Sandrine," Tom said, as to Harry's astonishment, Sandrine ordered the computer to, "Begin playback, Kim Omega Paris One."

The surface of the pool table shimmered as Tom's figure came into focus, sitting there, looking somewhat younger than he did currently, hair shorter, idly rolling the cue ball around on the felt surface.

"Harry, the reason you're watching this is because I'm dead and I needed to tell you something I never got around to when I was alive," he paused, smiling slightly, then continued.

"I've gone and done something possibly unforgivable. I've fallen in love with my best friend," he sighed, then went on. "I'm sorry you have to hear about it like this, but I am the biggest fucking coward in the universe," Tom laughed, slightly, running his hands over his face.

"You are probably wondering when the hell it all started, what the moment was. I can tell you... exactly."

"I was sitting in a bar, on DS9, trying to convince a Ferengi that I wasn't interested in what he was selling. I was quickly losing patience with the little troll and was just about to pound him into the floor, when you walked in," Tom paused, dreamily staring off into space as he went on.

"I thought you were the most ridiculously beautiful thing I'd ever seen in my life," Tom chuckled, continuing wryly. "I still think so. I remember thinking 'My God, that man deserves to wear the bloody uniform.' You made me feel like the fraud I was, the fraud I knew myself to be. Anyway... you came into Quark's and the room lit up. So did Quark's eyes, when he realized he'd found himself another target. I kept waiting for you to let him have it. Any minute, now, I remember thinking, he's going to let the troll have it. But you didn't, you bought into his line of bull; I couldn't believe it. I thought you were too damned good to be true. I got you out of his clutches and found I'd made myself a friend. It amazes the hell out of me, even now," he said, shaking his head, wonderingly.

"When I saw you talking to the Doctor and the first officer, on board Voyager, I thought it was over, I knew they'd told you what I'd done on Caldik Prime, what they knew or thought they knew. When I joined you, it was just to give you the chance to tell me to go to hell, but you didn't. You asked me why, you wanted to know what happened, you wanted answers. You didn't want to put my head on a post, you didn't play judge, jury, and executioner; you just needed to know. You sat there, looking at me with such compassion and sympathy... Gods, it damn near killed me, Harry. You told me that that was your worst nightmare, being responsible for someone else's death, knowing that they died because of you. I told you it was also my worst nightmare, as we were walking the deck."

"You were so supportive and you didn't even know me. I'd lost people, supposedly friends, over that incident, and there you were, still," Tom heaved a sigh like the weight of the world was resting his shoulders and Harry found himself moving toward him, to comfort him, before realizing that the real Tom was sitting right behind him. He leaned back and felt Tom's arms come around him, gently, not wanting to cling too tightly, nuzzling the back of his head with those soft lips, just once, before his attention returned to the image in front of them. Neither of them noticed how riveted the rest of the crew was, watching Tom pour out his heart, how full the room was, nearly everyone there, listening with rapt attention as Tom's younger image went on.

"I found myself looking at you, realizing I loved you, then, and having a hell of a time remembering a time when I didn't love you. I was afraid to let you out of my sight. Then, we got caught up in that whole business with the Caretaker and you were gone. I remember thinking that the Paris luck had once again reached out a hand to someone I cared about, threatening to destroy him. I went down to look for you on the Ocampan homeworld, saying something to the Captain about how it would be a shame if anything happened to you. It wouldn't have just been a shame, it would've fucking killed me. I remember getting you and B'Elanna to the planet's surface and seeing the look on your face when you realized that Chakotay wasn't with us," he halted again, running his hands over his face, as Chakotay leaned forward, knowing this was important, though nothing prepared him for what was to come.

"I knew you, Harry, even though he was there to help find one of his own crew, you'd still find a way to feel responsible," he paused again, a brittle grin on his face, shaking his head before he went on. "Your worst nightmare, remember? I couldn't let that happen to you. I couldn't end mine, but I could at least try to keep yours from becoming a reality. I had to go back, Neelix came along, ended up saving Chakotay's life. He doesn't owe me a damn thing, he owes you, Harry," he chuckled, as Chakotay fell back into his chair, stunned, not really feeling the Captain and B'Elanna's concerned hands on his forearms, as Tom went on. "He still doesn't know why I did it, why the hell I went back for him. Many's the time I would've loved to have told him, just to see the look on his face. Even, then... my love for you was stronger than the animosity I felt for him, beat the crap out of it, in fact," Tom said, laughing. "He can't figure it out, still, and it makes him nuts. Maybe, one of these days, I'll put him out of his misery." He paused, again, then grinned from ear to ear as he said, "Nah," and laughed again.

Harry found himself chuckling and felt Tom's arms tighten around him, slightly, as Tom moved his left leg up, bending the knee, wrapping his arm around it to support himself, as his other leg bent back, his heel in his groin, Harry leaning back against his right shin, feeling the beat of his lover's heart against his back.

The Tom on the pool table finally quit laughing enough to go on with the story. "Anyway, things got so strange after that, me being accused of murder, for one. I knew you didn't want to believe it, it didn't look good, that's for sure, but you were with me. It made it bearable, until Tuvok cleared me, thank whatever deity was responsible for that, and we left the whole disaster behind," he stopped, biting his lip, Harry startled to see tears in his eyes, as he cleared his throat, and continued.

"Then we lost you, on that planet with all the bodies. I remember being so angry at Chakotay, I went out of my way to avoid him, if at all possible, just to keep from mopping the deck with him. I understood that we had intruded upon a burial site, but he was so damned hot to leave, to just go and abandon you, to God only knew what. I almost told him, about him owing you his life, thinking he might feel that he owed you some... I don't know, more time, maybe? Gods, I can't remember ever being that mad at anyone. Fortunately, you managed to beat death, yet again, and made it back to us. You knew something was up between me and the Commander, when you got back, you didn't know what, but you knew it wasn't good. There's no love lost between me and that man, that's for sure. Anyway, it meant a lot to me to have you come to me, to talk about what had happened to you, what you were thinking, how you were feeling. I really loved those talks, you'll never know how much," he stopped and sighed.

"Now, after all that mess, comes this warp ten experiment. That's really why I'm here, now, why I'm doing this, Harry. I have a seriously bad feeling about this flight tomorrow. Janeway said there was some physical reason why I shouldn't make it, but when she told me you'd be going in my place, I thought 'over my dead body'. I don't know what's going to happen," Tom said, shaking his head, "but I'll be willing to bet it's not good. I had this same feeling when I got caught flying for the Maquis. I couldn't let you do this. Fuck, would you listen to me? I know you're a grown man, shoot me, I love you, I don't want anything to happen to you... I'm leaving this program in Sandrine's capable hands; she's the only one who can access it. I don't dare just leave it for you to find, in case, by some miracle, I do make it back. But, I don't believe in miracles, Harry... I just believe in you. Take care of yourself, okay?" Tom stopped, dropped his head, looked up again. "Just know that you were loved, by me, if it matters to you at all. Cease recording," and with that Tom faded from sight.

Harry turned into Tom's shoulder, putting his arms around his lover, tears streaming from his eyes. He wasn't the only one, not by a long shot, as a few sniffles were heard around the room. Tom pulled back, to look at the face of the man he loved. "What, you don't think we're done yet, do you? Not on your life, my Love."

"Good gods, there's more?" Harry gaped at Tom, seeing that beautiful smile break across his face.

"Oh, hell, yes, Sweetheart. Come back here," he said pulling Harry against him once more, kissing him softly on the neck. "Fire when ready, Sandrine."

At Sandrine's spoken command, Kim Omega Paris Two shimmered into being. Tom was sitting on the pool table again, rolling the black '8' ball around the felt and wearing civilian clothes. Harry recognized them as being the ones he wore when... oh, no. Tom spoke.

"Hi, Harry, guess who? Okay, so I survived evolving into a different lifeform, and procreating with the Captain, with my sanity only slightly the worse for wear. This time, though, it's even worse," he sighed, running his hands over his face. "There is a traitor on board and guess who gets to go undercover to find the rat bastard? Yeah, me. Guess it takes one to know one," he paused, chuckling bitterly, as Harry stiffened in Tom's arms, oblivious to the Captain and Chakotay having similar reactions, looking at one another with apology and acceptance, after some stiffening of their own.

"I've had to play the general malcontent, lately, for weeks, the snide comments, showing up late for duty, getting into it with Chakotay, publicly, on any and all excuses. The worst thing is that I can't even tell you and I know you're horrified by it, puzzled by it... Gods, you're trying to be there for me, talk to me, comfort me, trying so damn hard to help me. Oh, fuck," he groaned, putting his head in his hands, digging in with his fingertips. At last, he looked up. "At least, you'll know now that I didn't mean it, any of it. I have to leave the ship, pretending to be delighted with my career choice aboard a Talaxian freighter, knowing that the Kazon, who are so fucking predictable, will come after me. Oh, joy. One thing they are not known for, though, is their hospitality. So, odds are I won't be coming back, which really sucks, but hey, why not me, right? I've managed to piss off damn near everyone on board; there won't be a throng of people to see me off." He paused, smiling sadly, then went on, "I know you'll be there, though, and probably Kes and Neelix. Kes is empathic, that little lady knows something's going on and she's worried about me, bless her Ocampan heart."

"Harry, I know I don't have the right to ask you for anything, but if you could just tell her," he had to pause, his voice breaking, before he'd collected himself enough to go on. "Just tell her, it wasn't really me, the bastard I've been for these last few weeks, okay? It's important to me that she know," he stopped, turned his head as if to hide the look of pain crossing over his features, and took a deep breath.

"I don't really expect to make it back, Harry. Know this, though, okay? That my last thoughts were of you... and that I died with a smile on my face. I love you, Harry, I'll go to my grave loving you," Tom stopped and Harry got the feeling Tom was looking right through him, through eyes filled with tears. "Goodbye, Harry. Cease recording," he finished softly before fading out of sight again.

Harry turned his face into Tom's shoulder and cried quietly, not even hearing numerous other people in the room doing the same thing. He felt Tom's arms come around him, holding him, kissing his neck softly, nuzzling him with that gorgeous golden hair.

"Still not done, yet, Sweetheart, sorry," he said to Harry, smiling through tears.

Harry nodded firmly. "I want to see all of it, every last bit."

Tom nodded to Sandrine, who started Kim Omega Paris Three. Harry noticed, first off, the black '8' ball again, and knew this wasn't going to be a good one. He took a close look at Tom, sitting there, shoulders shaking, arms wrapped tightly around his knees, which were drawn up as if to protect him from a body blow. Finally Tom looked up and Harry gasped to see the tears streaming down his face. He looked to the side, sniffed, and started in with a ragged voice.

"It never occurred to me, not really, that you'd go first," he began, brokenly. "B'Elanna said there was nothing she could do, you were just blown out the hull breach," he paused, as Harry gasped, knowing this was history he didn't share with Tom, coming from the other ship onto this one, never dying.

"I know that if I had been there, I'd be gone, too. That I would've gone after you, there's no doubt in my mind. I have to believe that there is a reason, that this isn't the end. Or else, I'm sitting here in a holographic bar, talking to a dead man, who's never coming back," he stopped, bringing his hands over his face, before angrily brushing the scalding tears away, and beginning again. "Goddammit, Harry, you can't leave me like this, you just can't," he cried out in anguish, before hurling the '8' ball behind him, at the bar. Harry could hear holographic glass shattering, out of view, as Tom's arms tightened around him and he reached up to hold onto them, lacing his fingers through his lover's.

"Computer, cease this fucking recording," Tom snarled before hopping off the table, and disappearing.

Tom looked down at Harry, who nodded, so he nodded to Sandrine, who ordered Kim Omega Paris Four. Tom looked better, his smiling face causing the other people there in the room to smile, too, oddly relieved. Harry noticed the cue ball being rolled from hand to hand and sighed, knowing this was going to be a more cheerful entry.

"Well, guess who came over from the duplicate ship, saving me from a lifetime of misery, albeit a short one, and from my own worst enemy, me? Harry, I don't know how you manage to keep doing this, cheating the Reaper, the way you do. But, I couldn't be any happier," he paused, looking thoughtful.

"I know the other Tom is dead, either at the hands of the Vidiians, or from the ship self-destructing, along with the other Harry. I know he felt the same way about you as I do. I'd be willing to bet that they're watching out for each other, now, wherever they are, the same way we do. I almost envy them," he said, with quiet intensity. "They have forever together, the rest of eternity. That sounds like a pretty damn good way to spend it, with you."

"Gods, I know it's selfish, but I am so damned glad you're back, or here, or whatever the hell you want to call it. You're the only good thing about this whole damn trip, Harry. I'm stuck in Purgatory, flying this ship right back to the last place I want to be, just so I can look forward to finishing out my damned prison sentence. I was wrong, before, about my worst nightmare. New Zealand is my worst fucking nightmare. You know, I was almost looking forward to being on the ship set to destruct. You were gone, I just didn't care anymore. I think if you hadn't come back, I probably would've eaten my phaser," Tom paused.

Harry shuddered, then heard his lover's voice whispering, "It's okay, Love, I'm right here, it's okay." His horror was felt by Janeway, knowing now that Tom had made the decision to end his life, rather than live it without Harry, rather than going home. Chakotay, too, felt shock at Tom's admission, remembering how quiet Paris was after they'd lost Harry, how pale, how sad. It hit him, hard, to know that they had come so close to losing both of them. B'Elanna was trying to remember that Klingons don't cry, without much luck at all. She'd never realized, before, how hellish this trip home was for Tom, who didn't want to go back. It made her wonder at his strength to return to Voyager, when he and Harry could have spent the rest of their lives together, in perfect happiness, on a planet now far behind them.

"But you're here, thank the gods for that, and I am no longer alone in the universe. I know I have other friends aboard, Harry, but none of them speaks to my heart the way you do, shining the light into the dark corners, making everything bearable for me. I know it's not fair, to bury you under all this, when you do everything you can to lighten the burden I carry. I just love you, so much. I've made up my mind to tell you; I'm waiting for a good time. I don't know how the hell you'll react, but this whole experience has made me see that we may not have a lot of time, here. Anything can, and does, happen to anybody. I'm going to treat this like the second chance I know it to be. So, I'll find the time soon, and let you know how I've felt pretty much since the instant I laid eyes on you. Then, we'll just have to see what happens next," he ended, smiling with delight and hope. "Computer, cease recording."

Harry whispered, "Go ahead," feeling Tom's lips on his cheek as he signaled again to Sandrine, who started Kim Omega Paris Five. Harry smiled, noticing the white cue ball, again, as Tom began to speak.

"Okay, this is it," he started, laughing breathlessly. "And I am so damn nervous, I'm going to hyperventilate. We've got shore leave coming up, you and I, so we'll be away from the ship, and everyone else, and finally I can tell you. Gods, it feels like I've been waiting my whole life for this moment, Harry. I keep telling myself not to get my hopes up, that this could absolutely horrify you, but damned if I can help it. I love you and I can't keep it inside me anymore, I'll explode, or go crazy, or do something stupid. I can't wait, though," he paused, positively beaming, while Harry wondered why it had never happened. He looked back at Tom, who just stared straight ahead with such cold eyes that it scared the hell out of Harry and he pulled his attention back to the holographic Tom sitting on the pool table.

"So, this is it. I hope the setting is perfect, it should be. I've heard Akritiri is a beautiful planet." His order to cease recording went unnoticed by Harry, who had gasped in horror, along with several other people in the room, B'Elanna's head dropping down to her arms, Janeway groaning aloud, leaning forward on her elbows, and taking her face in her hands.

"Oh, gods, no..." Harry moaned, turning his head into Tom's shoulder, the tears starting again. "No, oh goddammit, no," he whispered in agony as Tom nodded once to Sandrine, who called for Kim Omega Paris Six.

Harry looked as Tom formed in front of him, noticing the hard set to his jaw, the dead look in his eyes, as he aimlessly rolled the black '8' ball on the table's surface.

"Call me crazy, but I am beginning to see a pattern here," he grated through teeth clenched so hard, Harry wondered how they didn't shatter in his mouth. Tom laughed harshly, through hatred and bitterness, as he went on. "My worst fucking nightmare and I drag you right into the middle of it, Harry. You should hate my guts; I don't know how you can stand the sight of me. Shit," he paused, dropping his head into his hands, running savage fingers through his hair.

"Goddammit," he roared, clenching his fists at his sides, "I have never been so murderously angry in my life, as I was when you came down that chute and that fucking animal touched you. Shit, I wanted to tear his fucking arm off and beat him to death with it," he paused, chuckling bitterly, a hard, angry sound. "I know the Doc would say that these raging, overprotective, homicidal feelings were due to the implant, but I happen to know better. When I said you were mine, Harry, I meant it, every fucking word," he spat out. "I would've cheerfully killed the next man who laid a hand on you. Then what happens? I get stabbed and you've got to protect me while trying to keep body, mind, and spirit intact."

"Oh, Harry," he groaned, with heartfelt regret and pain. "I am so damned sorry. Gods, I could never be sorry enough, for what you went through because of me. You may forgive me, shit, that is so like you, Harry, but I will never forgive myself. I should've known, really, I should've known," Tom shook his head with bitter amusement. "The Paris luck is still going strong, hurting the people I love most. At least, I'm consistent, you've got to say that for me. Oh, Harry, I don't remember a lot of what happened, but I remember you, at my side, again, defending me, protecting me from them. Gods, I loved you so damn much in that moment, I nearly said the words out loud."

"Now, I don't think I'll ever be able to say them," Tom halted, shaking, as Harry watched in empathic agony for this man, the man he loved, feeling his lover's strong arms around him, feeling his body shaking, knowing he was crying.

B'Elanna couldn't take her eyes off Tom, as he held onto Harry like a lifeline, his head buried in the back of Harry's neck, tears streaming down his face. Chakotay was having problems swallowing past the lump in his throat, as well. Damn, so much pain and torment for these two men, it just wasn't fair. He felt B'Elanna's nails digging into one arm and Kathryn's, not much gentler, in the other, and wondered if he was going to have to have them surgically removed. He glanced at his Captain, as she surreptitiously wiped away tears, then took a look around them, to see others doing the same. Kes wasn't even bothering to wipe hers away, anymore, as she sat there, looking so sad, with Neelix's arms around her. His eyes weren't dry, either. In fact, this whole log of Tom's had resulted in Tuvok having the only clear eyes in the house.

Tom's image spoke again, brokenly, "I don't know what to do, now, Harry. And I can't ask the best friend I've ever had for advice, either. I didn't think anything could hurt this much, nothing has hurt this badly since you died. In some ways, this is even worse, because I did this to you, my need to tell you I loved you brought this to be. And I don't know what to do to make it better, for you. I just don't know how..." His whispered command to the computer to cease recording again went unnoticed by Harry, who had turned around, wrapped his arms about his lover, holding him tight. Tom brought his head up, to see Harry's eyes filled with nothing but love and sympathy for him, as he kissed him softly.

"It was never your fault, you have to know that. Even if you hadn't loved me, we still would have been on shore leave, the explosion still would have happened, we still would have been blamed, and we still would have ended up in prison. Your love for me didn't cause this, Cougar, it just happened, by accident, the way a lot of things just happen in this universe. It was not your fault." Harry felt relieved when Tom nodded, wiping his eyes, and jerked his head to the pool table, again. "There's one more, just one," he whispered raggedly, though it still carried throughout the silent room. Harry nodded, and Tom looked at Sandrine, who ordered Kim Omega Paris Seven.

Harry looked up to see Tom flicker into view in front of him, the cue ball on one side and the '8' ball on the other. Tom looked worried, confirming it as he opened his mouth to speak.

"Watson and Likett just beamed back aboard, without you. You're stuck down there, on a planet where time has gone crazy, and we can't get you back. I can't leave you there, Harry, I just can't," he said softly, sorrowfully, before clearing his throat.

"I don't have much time, or, rather, you don't have much time. I'll be asking the Captain for permission to go after you, and she'll say no for numerous logical, sensible, thoughtful reasons, but I have to give her the chance. I don't want to come back to find her angry with me for not even giving her the opportunity to grant my request. And, after she says no, I will get together whatever I think we'll need, and then I'll come after you," he paused, shaking his head in wry amusement. "There, now it's official, 'premeditated insubordination with deliberate intent'. Guilty. Maybe I'll get a field court-martial to go with my field commission. I don't care, I can't care. I cannot make myself abandon you, Harry, not without losing the best part of me in the process. I love you, more than anything, and I cannot just leave you..." Tom halted, again, trying to stem the tears forming in his eyes.

"I have to be with you, I don't care if we're stuck down there for the rest of our lives, I have to be with you. Because I can't live without you, Harry. I love you so damn much, I have to go and hope that the Captain will understand, if we ever make it back." Tom took a deep breath and went on. "If, for some reason, I don't make it back, and you do, do not blame yourself, okay? I have no choice, none, this is something I have to do, it's my decision, got that? The last thing I want is to be the cause of your worst nightmare, I mean it, Harry. If you start blaming yourself, I swear I will come back and haunt you 'til you beg me to leave you the hell alone," he stated emphatically, grinning all the while, making Harry smile.

"So, there you have it, Harry. I love you and I am coming after you. Computer, cease recording." Tom winked out of existence, as Harry sighed, reveling in the feel of his lover's arms around him, knowing he was loved, Gods, how he was loved, by the wonderful, caring, passionate man behind him. The tears started again as he felt his face, held in Tom's gentle hands, raised for his kiss.

"Convinced?" Tom asked softly, though it was clearly heard throughout the room, as more than one person waited anxiously for the answer.

Harry nodded and Tom threw back his head, laughing in relief. "Thank the gods," he said with feeling. "I am all out of aces, Love, if this hadn't done it..." Harry shivered at the thought, looking into his Cougar's beautiful blue eyes. "I love you, so damn much, Harry," Tom said clearly, despite the tears filling his eyes. "I don't care what you doubt about me in the future, but don't ever doubt how much I love you, you hear me? Anything else, but never that. You are the next beat of my heart, the next breath I take; I cannot live without you, Har. You are everything to me, every good thing in the universe and I cannot be without you. You are the star I set my compass by and I need you, so much it scares me, sometimes. I love you, Harry, with everything I am, I love you," Tom ended softly, kissing Harry gently on the lips, feeling his lover's body shaking with sobs as he gasped for breath.

"I am so sorry, Gods, I was such an idiot. I can't believe what I almost did to us. Can you ever forgive me?" he asked with such misery, Tom thought he half-expected the answer to be 'no'. "This wasn't entirely your fault, no," he continued firmly, as Harry tried to protest. "No, it wasn't; I should have told you, so many times, I should have told you. I'm just sorry I damn near had to lose you for it to happen." He held Harry's face in his hands firmly, looking him square in the eye. "I love you; I have always loved you; I will die loving you."

Harry trembled with the intensity of the words, the fierceness in Tom's eyes, there was no longer any doubt of it, never again would there be. "I know and I love you, too," he answered, firmly, wondering at the mischievous look that suddenly appeared in his lover's eyes.

"Prove it," Tom challenged, looking at Harry's startled face with delight. "Marry me."

Half the room gasped out loud. B'Elanna felt like cheering and had to put her fist to her mouth to keep from making a sound louder than an excited squeak. Chakotay felt like he was holding his breath and one look at Kathryn Janeway showed him he was not alone. Even Tuvok was leaning forward, raptly observing the two men, awaiting Harry's response.

Harry's tears wouldn't stop and he put his hands softly against his lover's cheeks, holding him there as he kissed him, gently. "Yes," he stated firmly and kept repeating it, kissing his joyously laughing lover, oblivious to the clapping and cheering all around them, the wiping of eyes, the smiles, the laughter.

He pulled back and looked at Tom, not noticing the room again grow quiet, people watching them. Harry gently took Tom's hand, and kissing the palm, placed it over his rapidly beating heart. "Yours," he said simply, firmly. "Always and forever."

Tom took Harry's hand, kissed the palm reverently, and placed it over his own thudding heart. "Yours," he replied in a strong, tender voice. "Always and forever." He leaned forward to kiss Harry again, growling, "Mine," as Harry laughed out loud in delight, kissing him passionately. He pulled away briefly and Tom saw his eyes shining. "Mine," Harry said softly, tangling his hands through the golden hair and pulling him in close for another searing kiss. Only when they came up for air, did they notice that the room was packed, and everyone was looking at them.

Harry cleared his throat, scooting off the table and grabbing Tom's hand in his, as he pulled him gently toward the door. "If you all will, uh, excuse us," he paused to meet B'Elanna's happy eyes, smiling as she winked at him. "We, um, have a wedding to plan," he finished, with a wicked grin at Tom, who burst out laughing, pulling Harry next to his side, putting his arm around him, as he kissed him on the temple. He paused to blow Sandrine a kiss, as the crowd near the door parted to let them through.

The two of them walked casually until they were out of sight of those peeking out the doors to Sandrine's, then rapidly exited the holodeck, nearly running back to their quarters.

The exhaustion of the emotional rollercoaster they'd been on had left them both too drained to do more than get out of their clothes and fall into bed, wrapping themselves around each other, as they spent quiet hours talking, making plans. Harry loved the idea that B'Elanna had agreed to stand up for them, now that his jealousy and insecurities had been firmly and lovingly dealt with. Tom loved the idea that Harry had agreed to marry him in front of about eighty witnesses, so he couldn't back out, now. They agreed to schedule the wedding in a couple of weeks, after they had been back at their posts for a while. They finally fell asleep, looking forward to their future together with hope and joy.

The next morning, they decided it was time to get their hair cut, as they were starting back on bridge duty the following day. Harry was sitting in front of Tom on the floor, waiting for his lover to get on with it. Tom had been spending the last fifteen minutes brushing it out, one of his favorite pastimes, stalling the inevitable. His eyes met Harry's in the mirror and he sighed.

"Okay, okay, quit looking at me like that," Tom said in resignation, before picking up the trimmer and flicking it on. He looked at the back of Harry's head, groaned, and shut the thing off.

"I can't do it, Love; I just can't make myself do it."

Harry sighed, moved behind Tom, and took the trimmer, turning it on, again. Tom closed his eyes, as Harry ran his fingers through the golden waves, before he sighed in exasperation, and turned the device off, tossing it to the floor.

"I can't do it, either. This is ridiculous, it's only hair, for heaven's sake."

They looked at one another in the mirror, grinning, shaking their heads, when the door chimed. As they both called 'enter', the Captain came in, taking stock of the situation at a glance. As they attempted to stand, she waved them back and sat on the sofa, looking at them both with compassion and amusement.

"Not having any luck, are you?" she asked seriously, although her eyes were shining.

They both sighed, shaking their heads, as they answered together, "No, Captain."

Janeway looked at them thoughtfully, cocking her head to one side. "I suppose you could keep it, as long as it's out of the way, and it doesn't interfere with your performing your duties on the bridge," she said, noting the delight and relief on their faces at her words.

"Thank you, Captain," Tom stated as Harry echoed his thanks, grinning at her.

She moved to get to her feet and paused. "By the way, have you set a date, yet?"

They informed of their wish to have the wedding in a couple of weeks and she nodded.

"Come to me later, as you work out the details. Just don't be surprised if this wedding grows to mammoth proportions. Everyone on this ship is fond of the two of you and they couldn't be happier for you." She paused, for a moment, then finished, "As am I." She smiled and took her leave, noting behind her how Tom leaned into Harry, who wrapped his arms around the shoulders of the man he loved. No, she couldn't be any happier, for either of them, she thought, as she walked out the door and down the hall.

The next morning saw the two of them, back in uniforms that fit, making their way to the bridge.

Harry saw that familiar gleam in Tom's eyes and sighed, smiling.

"I can't help it," Tom said, softly, caressing Harry's cheek. "I always thought you looked incredibly hot in uniform," he breathed before leaning in to kiss his lover, moving him back against the wall of the turbolift, feeling Harry's arms come around him.

As the lift chimed its arrival to the bridge, heads turned expectantly, wondering when they saw no one, until they noticed Tom step back into view, followed closely by Harry, both looking slightly breathless.

"Funny how my uniform doesn't quite fit so comfortably, now," Tom murmured, for Harry's ears only, as he saw Harry scowl, playfully, before passing him on the way to Ops.

"Muzzle it, Cougar," he said softly, trying not to burst into laughter at Tom's look of surprise. As he made his way to Ops, watching Tom watch him, his lover grinned, and headed for the Conn.

Things went smoothly, the day quiet, before Janeway called a meeting of the senior staff, for progress reports and updates on ship's business. Harry and Tom had, unbeknownst to the rest of them, decided to see who could work the words 'yours', 'mine', and 'ours' into the conversation the most. Harry's attempts were so blatant, that he had nearly everyone looking at him in bewilderment, save for Tom, who was valiantly trying not to break up, laughing, at some of the stretches Harry had to come up with.

As they left, the two of them were out the door first, but didn't leave quickly enough to prevent the others from overhearing their discussion.

"Twenty-two to seventeen, I win," Harry tried not to crow.

"Yes, and you were so subtle about it, too," Tom teased in good humor.

"Oh, bite me, Cougar," Harry said, with fond crossness.

"Later, Lover," Tom growled in his ear loud enough for everyone behind them to hear. "After all, you won." With that and a snarled, "Mrrrrowwwww," purred loudly in Harry's ear, he sauntered back to his post, noting, and loving, the way Harry's face flushed behind him. His lover sighed, rubbed shaking hands over his face, and tried to walk nonchalantly to his post, as though he didn't have the mother of all erections to contend with.

B'Elanna looked at the dawning realization on the faces of the staff behind her, and grinned, saying, "Ain't love grand?" The Captain and Commander sighed, shaking their heads as they wondered what those two would come up with next, and shared B'Elanna's smile, returning to their places on the bridge, secretly glad to be along for the ride.