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The Date

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        "Hey, Harry!"

        Harry, relaxing on the holodeck, looked up from the book he was reading. The click of a camera greeted him. "Tom?"

        "Smile, Harry," Tom said. He took another holo.

        "What are you doing?" Harry asked.

        Tom reached over and unbuttoned a couple of buttons on Harry's shirt. "I'm selling your body, and I need a picture to show the prospective buyers."

        "Selling my body?" Harry laughed. "What, for parts?"

        The camera clicked again. "Perfect!" Tom lowered the camera. "It's for a good cause, Harry. I knew you wouldn't mind if I signed you up."

        Uh-oh. "Signed me up for what, Tom?"

        Tom plopped down on the edge of Harry's deckchair. "The bachelor auction."

        "What?!"

        "Well, you know Ensign Wildman is going to need a lot of replicator credits, what with the new kid and all. Babies need a lot of stuff. Clothes and furniture and toys and...stuff. So Jenny Delaney had an idea—"

        "I hate it already."

        "C'mon, Har! It's a great idea, really. They're auctioning off dates to the Christmas party."

        Harry groaned. "Sell your own body, Tom. If you're half as good as you think you are, the Wildmans will be set for life."

        Tom looked uncomfortable. "I can't. I...already have plans for the Christmas party."

        So that was the way it was. They'd probably asked Tom; he already had a date, so he volunteered Harry. Who of course didn't have a date. No need to even ask.

        Tom put a hand on Harry's knee. "Please, Har? It's for Naomi."

        "What makes you think anyone would give up their hard-won replicator credits for a date with me?" Harry grumbled.

        "Is that what you're worried about? Well, don't fret, Harry, you'll be a very hot commodity, believe me. Come on, it'll be fun."

        Well, he didn't have a date. Maybe this would get him one. "Oh, all right. If you want to sell my body to keep Naomi in clean diapers, go ahead."

        "Thanks, Har! I knew I could count on you! You won't regret this, I promise!"

        "You always say that, and I always regret it," Harry said, then laughed at Tom's look of mock affront.


        "Harry, come on. Let's check out the ship's bulletin board." They'd come to Harry's quarters straight from their shifts on the bridge, and the first thing Tom did was make a beeline for Harry's computer.

        "Why?"

        "The auction's up!"

        "What?"

        "Your body's for sale, remember?"

        "Oh, yeah." He joined Tom at the computer, curious.

        There were a dozen dates on offer, with pictures and short descriptions. "Hey, the Delaney twins are going as a package deal. Look, they already have a bid."

        "Brave soul," Tom replied, scrolling down.

        Well, whoever Tom's date for the Christmas party was, it obviously wasn't one of the Delaney sisters.

        "I...J...K... Here we are."

        Harry looked at the screen, then punched Tom's shoulder.

        "Ow! What'd you do that for?"

        "Did you have to use that shot?"

        Tom looked at the holo in question. "It's a great picture of you, Harry."

        It was one of the ones Tom had taken on the holodeck. Harry was laughing, his shirt open, his hair blowing in the simulated sea breeze. It wasn't unflattering, but... "It makes me look like I'm twelve years old."

        "It does not. You look at least, oh, thirteen. OW!"

        Harry leaned closer, reading the text. "Beowulf, classical music...Tom!!! You made me sound like a hopeless geek."

        "What? It's all true!"

        "Tom, you do not tell the truth if you want to get a date. You of all people should know that."

        "Were you always this cynical, or have you been hanging around me too long?"

        Harry shrugged. "All I know is that if I don't get any offers, I'm going to put in a bid on the Delaney sisters. Using your rations. Come on, turn that off and let's go get dinner."


        It was a busy week, but Harry did find time to check on the auction now and again. Only when Tom wasn't around, of course, so he wouldn't think Harry was anxious or anything. A modest bid did appear after a few days, which was a relief. At least Harry wouldn't be totally humiliated. He stopped tracking the auction after that. He was curious to see what the final price for the Delaney twins would be, but he figured that news would get around the ship at warp speed once the auction ended.

        So he was puzzled when he entered the mess one morning to find himself the center of attention. He didn't notice it at first, but as he filled his tray and searched for a table, it slowly dawned on him that an awful lot of people were staring at him. Reflexively, he looked down at himself. He was wearing all his uniform parts, nothing stained or torn, nothing stuck to his shoe...what was with these people?

        Then Ensign Wildman came up to him. "Thank you, Harry."

        "For what?"

        "For participating in the bachelor auction. Don't you know? You got the highest bid."

        "What?!"

        "Seven weeks' rations."

        Harry was speechless. A month and a half of rations? For a date? With him?

        Wildman giggled. "Close your mouth, Harry."

        "Who—?"

        "I don't know. The bidding was anonymous. But I can't wait to see who you show up with at the Christmas party!" She patted his arm, then turned and hurriedly left the mess, obviously late to be somewhere.

        Harry looked after her for a long moment, then someone grabbed his elbow. "Come on, Starfleet, are you going to stand there all day?" B'Elanna steered him to an empty table, grinning wickedly.

        Obviously, she'd heard. "What, does everyone know except me?"

        "It was only on the shipwide bulletin board last night. Pay attention, Harry, or you'll never get anywhere with this organization." She poked at her food, then ate a bite.

        "We're only required to check it once a week," Harry reminded her.

        "But the auction ended last night!"

        "I forgot," Harry admitted.

        A hand thumped his shoulder, and a tray clattered onto the table. "Well, if it isn't the hottest date in the Delta Quadrant," Tom said, dropping into the seat between Harry and B'Elanna.

        "It's got to be a mistake," Harry protested. "Seven weeks? That's ridiculous. Somebody meant to bid on the Delaneys and accidentally got me instead."

        "No mistake," B'Elanna said. "The high bid for the Delaney twins was only four weeks. I don't think they're happy about that." Her smile then was positively evil.

        Harry still couldn't quite believe it. He took an experimental bite of breakfast. Very oddly spiced, but he'd had worse. "So, when do I find out who my date is?"

        "It's up to the winning bidders," B'Elanna said. "They can reveal themselves as soon as the auction ends, or not until the night of the party."

        "I just remembered I hate blind dates," Harry said, glaring at Tom.

        "Hey, this is the biggest favor I ever did for you," Tom replied.

        "Hah," Harry said. Now that the shock was wearing off, he was looking forward to his date with a mixture of nervousness and pleasure. What kind of person would be crazy enough to bid that high? What would be expected of him, for that many rations? And yet...it was awfully flattering. He found himself smiling to himself a lot that day.


        The day of the Christmas party, Harry still didn't know anything about his date except that she would pick him up at his quarters at 2000 hours. He had a feeling Tom and B'Elanna knew something, but they refused to breathe a word to him. In a way, it was reassuring. His friends weren't above embarrassing him a little, but he trusted that they'd at least warn him if he was headed for any real trouble.

        So by 1955, he was dressed in his nicest formal wear, neatening up his already neat quarters, and wondering if he should replicate some flowers or something. No, better to wait until his date showed, then he could match them to her dress. Or to his suit, not to make any assumptions—

        The door chime sounded, and Harry gulped, suddenly as nervous as he'd ever been. He ran to the door, then stopped, took a deep breath, and opened it.

        But it was only Tom. "Oh...it's you. Hey, you look nice." His friend was wearing clothes Harry had never seen before, a really elegant dark blue tunic with striking white and silver trim. Boy, Tom was breaking out the big guns for tonight.

        "So do you," Tom said.

        "Come to make sure I'm presentable before my date gets here?" Harry asked. Or just hoping to be around when she arrives, he thought to himself with mingled fondness and exasperation.

        Tom gave him a really strange look. "Harry...don't you get it?" He held out something Harry hadn't noticed he was holding — a red rosebud surrounded by other small flowers.

        Harry stared at the beautiful boutonniere, finally understanding. Tom was his date. Which had to mean no one else wanted to bid. That must be why he paid seven weeks worth of replicator rations: not for a date, but to uphold Harry's honor on the ship. He should have known. Who else but Tom Paris, the holodeck pool shark, had that many rations to throw around?

        The disappointment was crushing for a moment, then Harry thought about how lucky he was to have a friend willing to do that much for him. Heck, he'd probably even ditched his real date. Harry surged forward to give Tom a brief but heartfelt embrace.

        "Thanks," he whispered.

        Tom seemed oddly flustered, but he smiled and fastened the boutonniere over Harry's combadge. Harry replicated one to match for Tom, so they'd really look like a couple. "I feel like I'm going to a school dance," he said.

        "Oh? Does that mean we get to park by the beach and make out afterwards?" Tom asked innocently.

        Harry looked back at him with equal innocence. "I always stayed to help clean up the gym after my school dances."

        Tom chortled. "Why am I not surprised?"


        It was a nice evening, and a really nice party. Some people were surprised to find out who Harry's date was. Others didn't seem surprised at all. There was the obligatory mistletoe at the entrance; Harry gave Tom a brief peck on the cheek, and that seemed to satisfy the crowd. And Harry had to admit, it was a lot more relaxing with his best friend as a date than would have been with some relative stranger.

        Harry was dancing with Samantha Wildman when Tom cut in. "Pardon me, madam, I'm claiming my date for this dance." She smiled indulgently at them and slipped away. Harry stared after her as Tom's arms went around his waist. She really thought he and Tom—

        "Hey, look at B'Elanna and Chakotay," Tom whispered, swaying slowly to the music.

        "Where?"

        Tom casually swung him around so he was facing in the proper direction. Sure enough, there were the Chief Engineer and the First Officer...practically making out on the dance floor. Harry laughed with delight. It would be great to tease B'Elanna about this...if he dared.

        "Harry, don't stare," Tom said. "At least not that blatantly."

        "Hmmm? Oh, right." Harry turned his attention back to his partner. It was uncomfortably intimate, looking at Tom from only a few inches away, so Harry moved closer. He laid his cheek on Tom's shoulder, so he wouldn't have to gaze into Tom's eyes. And he could watch the crowd without being too obvious about it. Besides, it was late, and it felt good to rest against Tom, who never seemed to get tired as long as there was a party going on.

        Tom smelled nice. Harry had never noticed before. He sighed. Even if this was only a pity-date, he was the envy of the room tonight, and he couldn't complain.

        "Harry, you look so good," Tom said. "That suit is to die for."

        "Yeah?" It was one of Harry's favorites. The stripe down the side of the trousers and the cropped jacket made him look taller, and the grey color was different from the black and gold of his uniform without being too wild. His mother had bought it for him, as a graduation present. Yikes, he wasn't going to tell Tom that. "Well, if it fits you, you can borrow it if you want," he said instead. It would probably look even better on tall, slender Paris than on him.

        Tom ignored the offer. "You should wear short jackets more often. I like the southern exposure."

        "The what?"

        Tom's hands left Harry's waist, wandering lower, making his meaning clear.

        "Tom!" Harry backed away to a safe distance, forcing Tom's hands to return to his waist. He looked around to see if anyone was watching. "You're incorrigible!"

        "I can't even spell that, how can I be it?" Tom protested.

        "Can you spell 'Admiral Tomaneng'"? Harry asked, grinning.

        Tom winced. "Oh, no. Who told you that story?"

        "Who hasn't?"

        "I was only eighteen, Har, give me a break."

        "And she was, what, 53?"

        "She was a very young-looking 53, I'll have you know. Everyone at the Academy Christmas party was in civvies. I thought she was another cadet."

        Harry looked at him skeptically.

        "Okay, and I was a little drunk."

        Harry laughed. The song ended then, and he headed off the dance floor, dragging Tom behind him. He was tired, and wanted to sit down, at least.

        "Shall we go?" Tom asked him.

        Harry hesitated. It was late, and the crowd was definitely thinning. But he knew Tom was one of those diehards who liked to stay until the bitter end. Then again, maybe Tom would rather be rid of him now, so he could come back alone.

        "You're tired," Tom said. "Let's go."


        They walked back to Harry's quarters the way they had so many times before, talking probably too loudly about what had gone on that night, Tom's arm casually around his shoulders.

        "No, both B'Elanna and Chakotay went stag. They weren't planning to end up together, they just did," Tom said.

        "Did they ever."

        "And pity poor Dalby and Gerron. Megan and Jenny will eat them alive. Especially that Bajoran kid." Tom shook his head.

        "Well, at least he got Megan instead of Jenny," Harry said. "Megan isn't quite the maneater her sister is."

        "How could you tell?" Tom looked at him in honest puzzlement.

        "Tell what?"

        "Which twin was with which Maquis," Tom said. "Which twin is which. Whatever."

        Harry rolled his eyes. "Paris, they may be identical twins, but they aren't identical people. Anyone could see that Gerron was with Megan all evening, and Dalby was with Jenny." Tom had known the Delaneys longer than he had, and still couldn't tell them apart. But then, Tom was probably not focusing on the attributes that made them individuals....

        They were at Harry's door now. It felt strangely awkward. Tom had come in with him countless nights before this, with neither of them giving it a thought. But Tom had never felt him up on the dance floor before, either.

        He was just teasing, Harry reminded himself, and opened the door, gesturing Tom in. Tom seemed awkward, too. He stood just inside the door, rather than sprawling on the couch as he usually did.

        Harry loosened his collar and ran a hand through his hair. "Can I get you anything?" he asked.

        Tom shook his head silently.

        "Tom," Harry said. "Thanks...."

        Tom put his hands on Harry's shoulders. Nothing he hadn't done before, but suddenly it was hard for Harry to breathe. Slowly, Tom leaned close, to brush his lips softly against Harry's. He's giving me a good night kiss, Harry thought in surprise. He was partly amused, partly alarmed, partly — oh, man, was Paris a good kisser. Harry didn't even notice that Tom was backing him across the room until something hit him in the back of the knees and he fell backwards onto the couch. He lay there stunned, looking up at Tom — who suddenly threw himself on top of Harry.

        Suddenly the funny side of it hit him, and Harry started to laugh. This was Tom Paris on the prowl, whom Harry never expected to see...at least, not with himself as the victim. Damn, he should be taking notes.

        "What?" Tom said, clearly annoyed.

        Harry sobered as best he could. Poor Tom probably didn't have many people laughing at him at this point in the seduction. "Tom," he said. "Enough, already."

        "Huh?"

        Harry mustered all his dignity...well, all the dignity he could muster while he was sprawled on his couch with Tom Paris sitting on him. "Tom, you're my best friend, and I'll always remember tonight. But a pity-date is one thing. A pity-screw is a bit much, don't you think?"

        Tom recoiled as if slapped. He stared at Harry for a moment. Then he got up and moved toward the door without a word.

        Harry lay there in shock, feeling like his brain had slipped a gear. He had no idea what was wrong, but something was. "Wait, Tom!" he finally called, but Tom was gone.

        "Damn it!" Harry rushed down the corridor to Tom's quarters. He didn't bother with any niceties, just barged right in. Tom turned from the replicator to glare at him.

        "Get out of here, Harry Kim. I don't want your pity."

        "What?!" Harry blinked in astonishment. "Tom, I didn't mean you, I meant me. You're the one who had to bid on a date with his best friend because no one else would."

        "What?!" Tom stared at him blankly. "Harry, you think I shelled out a month and a half of rations out of pity?"

        "Well...why else would you...?"

        "I don't pity anybody that much!" Tom put down the drink he'd gotten from the replicator. "Harry, you know I love you, but sometimes you are just so damned clueless."

        At least Tom didn't seem as angry. Harry edged closer. Suspicions were forming in his mind. He couldn't believe them. He was afraid to believe them. But he had to know. "So clue me in," he said softly.

        And suddenly Tom was kissing him again, passionately rather than gently this time. It was liquid fire that melted his misgivings away. When it ended, he was dazed and panting, only Tom's strong grip keeping him upright.

        "Harry, do you understand yet?" Tom asked breathlessly.

        "Probably not. I don't think any blood is getting to my brain." He was immediately sorry he said that, because it made Tom step back and push him away.

        "Harry. Talk. Tell me why you think I spent seven weeks of rations on a date with you."

        "I...I thought they wanted to auction off a date with you. I mean, people line up and take numbers to date you." Tom snorted, but didn't interrupt. "But you already had a date, so you suggested me instead. And when no one wanted to bid on me, you did, so I wouldn't be embarrassed. Even though it meant dumping your real date. Because I'm your friend and it was sort of your fault I was in that situation to begin with."

        "I see," Tom said. "Uh, Harry, great theory, but didn't you notice that several different bidders put bids on you?"

        "I stopped checking after the first one. And I wouldn't put it past you to use different IDs to bid several times anyway, just to make it look good. You're devious that way."

        Tom grinned. "Why, thanks, Har. But why would I drop that many rations on you if no one else was interested?"

        "Because you're a nice guy," Harry replied promptly. "You'd want Samantha to have those rations for her baby. You'd want to give me the thrill of getting the high bid. And anyway you're such a good pool player you could replace the rations if you needed to."

        Tom stared at him, a look of utter disbelief on his face. Then he started laughing.

        "What?" Harry said, feeling defensive.

        "Harrrryyyy...." Tom shook his head. "I'm not that nice a guy, which everyone else in the universe realizes except you. I wasn't thinking about Wildman or her baby. I wasn't thinking about your self-esteem. And I'm not that good a pool player. I'm paying for this date on the installment plan."

        Then Tom was pulling him close. "Aren't you going to ask me why I did do it, Har?"

        "Why?" Harry whispered. Tom's lips were brushing his again.

        "Purely selfish reasons. To get into your pants." Tom kissed him deeply, then pulled back. Despite his frivolous words, his expression was dead serious.

        Why me? Harry marveled. He was so ordinary. No one looked twice at him, while Tom turned heads everywhere he went. Tom dated people like the stunning Delaneys, not people like Harry. "I...I didn't think I was your type," he said.

        "Like I said, clueless," Tom replied, stroking his hand along Harry's face. "I wanted you the minute I set eyes on you on in that crummy bar."

        That long?! "But Tom, why go through all that? If you really... You could have just asked me on a date any time."

        "No. I couldn't. You didn't see me that way. No, Harry, I know you didn't. And...and every time you looked at me with those beautiful, trusting eyes, I couldn't bring myself to tell you I wanted to jump your bones. But I couldn't not tell you any more, either. This way...I could ask you without having to look you in the eye."

        Harry smiled slowly. Never in a million years would he have imagined Tom Paris being so shy about asking for a date. But it was awfully endearing. "I admit it," Harry said. "I didn't see you 'that way.' You're right, I'm damned clueless. But I think...you've convinced me."

        "Good. Bedroom." Tom grabbed his arm.

        "On our first date?!"

        Tom stopped. "Oh, yeah...right. I'm sorry, Har. We'll take it slow. I'll leave."

        Oh, man. Tom really did think he was a geek. Harry took Tom's hand. "Kidding, Paris. And this is your cabin, remember? If anyone's leaving, it's me."

        Tom stared at him. "You're not leaving." Suddenly Harry found himself slung over Tom's shoulder, being carried to the bedroom.

        "Hey!" Harry laughed. "Put me down! You'll hurt your back." He'd forgotten how strong Tom was; his wiry build was deceptive.

        "Prepare to be ravished, Ensign," was Tom's reply.

        Soon they were twined naked on Tom's bed, Tom's long, lean body was lying over his, their mouths clinging together in long, slow kisses. Harry didn't know if it was for two minutes or two hours, only that he wished it would go on forever.

        Eventually, Tom spoke. "Harry," he said, voice ragged. "Oh, gods, how did you learn to kiss like that?"

        "I got a lot of practice because I never got any further than kissing?" Harry suggested.

        "What? Really?" Tom pulled away slightly, concern on his beautiful, flushed face.

        "Kidding, Paris." Through a sensual haze, Harry realized that Tom was genuinely nervous about this. Could it be that his best friend's Casanova image was just that, only an image? Or was he nervous just because it was Harry?

        They melted together again. "You're furry," Harry marvelled. He knew Tom had chest hair, of course, but he'd never thought about how exciting it would feel, pressed up against him. Tom was perfect, just perfect. Pale skin and golden hair and long, long legs. And a butt that seemed made to fit in Harry's hands. Harry felt like the luckiest person in the universe.

        "Harry, ummm....have you ever been with a man before?"

        "No," Harry said. "Does it matter?"

        "No, no, Har, just that we'll take it easy at first."

        "All right," Harry agreed. "Plenty of time later for the cock weights and nipple rings."

        "What?!"

        "Kidding, Paris." Yes, Tom was nervous, no doubt about it. Harry grabbed Tom and rolled on top of him, kissing him thoroughly, trying to show him just how much he wanted him.

        "Harry, ahh, Harry," Tom groaned.

        The dreamy, pleasurable haze was an urgent need for completion now, and he thrust against Tom, feeling Tom thrust back against him. The man was so beautiful, gold hair tousled, blue eyes dark with arousal. Harry could die just to look at him. And then Tom moaned, and he clutched Harry closer than ever, shuddering hard. Harry immediately followed Tom over the edge, crying out from the intensity of it.


        He felt Tom push him gently off to the side, and opened his eyes. Tom was using his undershirt to wipe himself off. He wiped Harry off, too, then said, "Har, you look so gorgeous. If I took a holo right now, people would pay years of rations."

        "Don't you dare, Paris!"

        Tom laughed, tossing the shirt away. His smile was so sweet and genuine that Harry was entranced, not even realizing he was staring until Tom asked him if something was wrong.

        No, nothing was wrong. Harry felt like he'd been given the best gift in the universe, a lovely, extravagant thing he'd done nothing to deserve, even more wondrous because it was a complete surprise. He couldn't find the words to explain it, though, so he just wrapped his arms around Tom and hugged him with all his strength.

        "Ooof," Tom grunted as the fierce embrace forced the air from his lungs. "Hey, Har, take it easy. These are the only ribs I've got." But he was hugging Harry back, and when Harry relaxed his grip, Tom didn't move away.

        They lay curled together for while in contented silence. Harry sighed, so happy he couldn't possibly be any happier. But...he still had questions. Eventually, he voiced one. "So...who else bid on me?"

        Tom bridled. "Harry, wondering aloud about your other prospects kinda ruins the afterglow."

        Harry poked Tom sharply in the stomach. "I'm not interested in any other prospects. But you never did explain why you ended up paying so many rations. Don't tell me that I'm more popular than the Delaney twins, 'cause I won't believe you."

        "Oh, that. It's B'Elanna's fault. She kept bidding against me."

        "B'Elanna wanted a date with me?"

        "'Fraid not, buddy. She knew I was determined to win at any price, and she just wanted to drive the bidding up. I'm lucky she stopped where she did. That woman is ruthless."

        "You told her?"

        "No! She says she guessed, just from the way I look at you, but I think she hacked the codes and figured out who all the bidders were."

        "But why would B'Elanna want to drive the bidding up?"

        "Well, maybe to help Wildman and the kid. But I think mostly because she doesn't think I'm good enough for you. It was her way of making me run the gauntlet." Tom chuckled. "That, and she wanted to piss off the Delaney sisters."