How Do They Do That?

Tom Paris walked into the mess hall late in the afternoon. After taking a tray from Neelix, he looked around for a seat. Spying the commander, he headed over.

"May I join you?" Tom felt a bit odd, he and Chakotay -- this Chakotay -- had never socialised much despite their becoming better friends in the last three years. Usually the socialising that did happen was a group thing, and in those groups they seemed to enjoy each other's company. They hadn't gone for each other's throats since the rugby game at least, and Tom figured that had to count for something.

"Of course," Chakotay indicated a chair. Tom noticed that the other man seemed glad to see him and wondered at its cause. Wondered if it was similar to the reason which had brought him over here.

Tom sat down, and said without preamble what had been on his mind since the other Voyager had successfully made its cross into this universe, "I spent a lot of time with the Chakotay on the other Voyager. It was very interesting -- he's really in love with Tom."

"Yes, I noticed." Chakotay amended, "It was mutual." The commander shook his head, "Paris could barely stand to be near me; I reminded him too much of whom he'd lost. Unlike the other Chakotay, Tom had no reason to think they'd ever see each other again. He was grieving..."

Tom saw the look in the Commander's eyes, and tried to imagine the kind of horror his counterpart must have gone through to elicit such an expression. He shivered and decided he really didn't want to know. It felt weird to be discussing their other selves as if they were utterly different people. Technically of course they were, Tom knew, but in some eerie sense, as he'd come to know the other Chakotay, he'd discovered that those two men were not so utterly different. He'd been surprised at first to learn of their counterparts' relationship but after it had been explained to him, after seeing Chakotay describe his lover, their lives together, it had seemed perfectly sensible.

He said, remembering, "Chakotay could barely stop talking about Tom; when he did it was usually to ask me questions. I guess... I was one of the few links he had left to his lover. He couldn't bear to let his Tom Paris go." Tom glanced up and found Chakotay watching him, an oddly familiar look on his face.

"I guess I should ask," Chakotay started with a hint of a grin. "Have you ever considered it?"

Tom laughed. "Seriously? No. I haven't. I never thought you'd like me well enough that I could." Tom shrugged. "It's pretty astounding that we've become friends the last couple of years."

Chakotay returned the smile. "Yes, it is, isn't it."

"Have *you* ever considered it?" Tom asked with a sudden interest.

Chakotay shook his head. "Not that way. I'll freely admit you're attractive, and from what I hear you're fun in bed. But I never thought I could be in love with you."

"You heard that? From who?" Tom scooted forward, previous thoughts sidetracked. At Chakotay's expression, Tom held up his hands. "OK, OK, never mind I asked." He thought for a moment. "Do you think we're that much different from them?"

"I don't really know, Tom. I don't know how they fell in love." He gave Tom a mischievous smile. "Maybe it's inevitable, and all we need is the right push."

"Hard wired for it, you mean?" Tom teased back. "Wonder why we haven't done it, then."

"Because you've been more interested in B'Elanna," Chakotay responded. "Do you think I want my arm broken by trying to interfere?"

Tom leaned forward, tone coaxing, "Ah, but if it were for true love, you'd gladly risk life and limb for me."

"How about I risk choking on my breakfast when you say things like that?"

"I always knew I'd get to you sooner or later." Tom smiled.

"Tom, you're ridiculous."

"That's why you love me!" Tom concluded triumphantly. The other man laughed, and Tom joined in. Finally Chakotay, wiping at his eyes, shook his head.

"Do you want to start with dinner or just meet at my place?"

Tom blinked, the only outward sign of shock. He kept grinning, never one to pass up a pass. "Why not both? I'll bring the wine, we can have some wonderful Italian food--"

"If we're eating at my place, I think I should pick the menu." Chakotay interrupted.

"Like I said, good Italian food, maybe some dancing..."

With a smile, Chakotay scooted away from the table. "If I'm going to be goofing off this evening, I'd better get my work done this afternoon. I'll see you at 1900."

"It's a date!" Tom grinned. Chakotay returned it, only a bit more subdued, and then took his tray to the replicator for recycling. Tom began counting credits in his head, and realised he had plenty for a bottle of wine and a few odds and ends besides. He whistled happily as he left the messhall, heading for the holodeck to amuse himself for a few hours before his date.

"So now what?" Tom looked at Chakotay. He'd just walked into the Commander's quarters to find Chakotay ready and waiting for him. The other man didn't look the least bit nervous -- Tom felt like bouncing but restrained himself to an enthusiastic grin.

Chakotay shrugged. "Dinner." The look on the his face was easy to read. He thought Tom was being a smart ass, trying to make more of this date than there really was.

To be more precise, making a bigger deal out of what it really was. Might be. Was planned to be. Tom told himself to calm down. If nothing else, it'd be a heck of a story to reminisce about during the long journey home. He flashed on an image of himself, sitting with Harry, B'Elanna, Janeway, Chakotay, and who knew who else -- all of them greying and ancient, telling each other stories while their grandkids flew the ship. He'd ask in a cracking voice, "Remember the time we kissed?"

Chakotay would furl his brow, then finally shake his head. "No, but I remember the time you crashed Voyager into a sun."

Tom found himself still grinning, as the image faded to show Chakotay, young and not a little confused, staring at him. "What the hell." Tom stepped over and placed his hands behind the other man's head, pulled himself in and kissed him.

When the kiss finally ended, Tom leaned back, breathless, to ask, "Can we skip dinner?"

"I think we'd better." Chakotay was holding him tightly. Tom looked at him, faces barely two inches apart, the entire length of their bodies pressed against each other. Tom could feel an erection growing harder against his hip; his own right next to it answering. One more moment, he told himself, then I'm dragging us to Chakotay's bed and fuck him senseless. One more moment to enjoy this... He looked again to Chakotay's eyes, and felt himself spin out of control.

"I think I know how..."

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