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A Hard Time

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       Harry was lost.

       Tom knew it, and smiled around his lover's thick, rigid cock. Harry, always beautiful, was especially so at moments like this, when he was lost in sensual abandon. Eyes shut, the lids shaded violet with arousal. Lips and cheeks flushed dusky pink. Skin shining with a thin film of sweat. The sleek mop of ebony hair fanned across the pillows. Harry was close, very close. Tom could tell, by the quivering of the long, lean sinews of his lover's thighs, wrapped about him.

       So he backed off, removing his mouth from Harry's cock, instead licking at the tender crease between leg and torso. Letting him cool off...but not too much.

       "Tom!" Harry choked.

       He looked up at Harry, admiring the muscles of his abdomen, bunched with tension. He ran a finger over them. "Wow, Harry. Nice abs. How do you build up your lateral obliques like that?" he asked conversationally.

       The only answer Harry gave was a groan of frustration.

       "Patience," Tom chided. "All good things are worth waiting for."

       Harry whimpered something that might have been "Please."

       Laughing, Tom began sucking on Harry's cock again. Very softly and gently, not ready to let Harry come yet. Harry sighed with relief at first, but soon wanted stronger stimulation, groaning and bucking up towards Tom's mouth. Tom moved with him, not giving him what he demanded. Harry writhed, gasping and clutching at the sheets, unable to even beg.

       Sensing Harry was coming too close again, Tom once again backed off. As he had already done several times already. With an anguished cry, Harry tried to take matters into his own hands, letting go of the sheets and reaching for himself. Tom quickly intercepted him, grabbing both of Harry's slim wrists, keeping him from touching himself. "No," he said, affectionately but firmly.

       Harry jerked against his hold briefly, then subsided. Shivering with need, but not fighting him.

       "Shh, relax, Harry," Tom said. "Do some of your Vulcan meditation exercises."

       "You're killing me," Harry said, voice low and rough.

       "You love it."

       "You'll be sorry when I'm dead."

       Tom grinned. The usually reserved Harry tended to get dramatic in extremis. But the fact he could talk at all meant he was cool enough. Tom leaned down, using his tongue to tickle the sensitive area just beneath Harry's balls, which he knew his lover found both exciting and unbearable.

       Harry gave a strangled moan. "Tom, please, Tom," he babbled.

       Deciding it was time, Tom swallowed Harry deeply, moving up and down, urging him toward completion. At the last minute, he eased off, so that only the head was in his mouth. He wanted to watch Harry come. He swirled his tongue around the tip of Harry's cock, sucking strongly, and got his reward. With a cry, Harry came...magnificently. Arching and thrashing on the bed, keening softly, shuddering with the power of his climax...it was the loveliest sight Tom had ever seen.

       When it was over, Tom moved up to take Harry in his arms. "Tom, oh, Tom," Harry said. He was still panting, each breath almost a sob.

       "Well, you're still conscious," Tom joked. "Guess I didn't do it right."

       Harry's eyes opened, looking up into Tom's, dazed. "I've never come like that before," he said.

       "No?" Tom said, amused. He stroked a few stray strands of hair off Harry's damp forehead.

       "So long and slow and...incredible. I felt it with my whole body."

       "It was the prolonged period of stimulation," Tom explained. "I told you it would be worth waiting for."

       "Really?" Harry grinned. "Let's see." He reached for Tom, starting to move down.

       Tom stopped him. It was late, and they'd already gone a round previously. Unlike Harry, he didn't have the refractory period of a 23-year-old. All he wanted to do now was cuddle his lover in his arms. And surely Harry must be sleepy, after an orgasm that spectacular. "We have early shifts tomorrow. We should get some rest."

       "Okay," Harry agreed. But Tom didn't miss the disappointment that flashed briefly across the young face. Good grief. The kid was insatiable.

       Lying in his bed with Harry held snugly in his arms was usually the best part of the day for Tom. Tonight, though, his contentment was disturbed by a faint hint of unease. But he was tired, and soon fell asleep.


       "Ready?"

       It was the next morning, and they were preparing to go on duty. Tom turned away from the mirror, to where Harry was pulling on his jacket.

       "Almost," Tom answered. He was still getting his rank insignia fastened.

       Harry came over and took the small metal pips from him, easily snapping them in place. "Thanks," Tom said, giving a Harry a kiss.

       Harry responded instantly and passionately, deepening the kiss, forcing Tom back against the wall. Surprised, Tom allowed it for a moment, then gently pushed Harry away. "Save it for later, loverboy," he said. "We've got to go to work, remember?"

       "Yeah," Harry said. Again that brief, quickly hidden flash of disappointment. "Yeah, you're right. Come on, let's go."

       Tom followed, the uneasiness of the night before back in full force.


       Two weeks later, Tom's unease had grown tenfold. He and Harry had always shared an easy physicality, even before they'd gotten together. A hand on the shoulder, an arm across the back — Tom had never thought twice about it. But now, Harry reacted as if the smallest sign of physical affection was an invitation to seduction. You'd think he hadn't had sex in years. It had gotten to the point where Tom was almost afraid to touch him. They had sex every night, but it didn't seem to be enough. He was starting to worry he would lose Harry.

       The whir of a medical scanner in his face brought him back to the present. Absorbed in his thoughts, he'd almost forgotten he was in Sickbay, doing his shift as ship's medic.

       "Calibrating that thing?" Tom asked, eyeing the scanner.

       "No," the Doctor replied. "Just wondering if there's a reason you've been so uncharacteristically quiet and unannoying the past few days."

       "I'm fine," Tom said.

       "So I see," the Doctor replied, studying his tricorder. "Aside from a certain amount of stress, you're in perfect health."

       Tom was saved from having to answer by the arrival of a patient, Crewman Boylan, for his scheduled monthly examination. Tom busied himself settling Boylan on a biobed, calling up his records, and running the routine scans.

       "How is he?" the Doctor asked, coming over.

       Boylan had a slight, chronic metabolic irregularity, probably congenital, for which he was receiving medication. It seemed to be working; all his readings were normal. Tom told the Doctor as much.

       The Doctor turned to Boylan. "How do you feel?"

       "Great," Boylan replied.

       "Have there been any side effects?"

       Boylan flushed. "Well, yeah."

       "Describe them."

       "Umm....it's, uh, really improved my love life."

       The Doctor nodded. "If you mean increased frequency and intensity of erections, that is a very common side effect with inapovaline. If it becomes troublesome, let me know and we'll try another medication."

       "Troublesome? It's great! Loretta is thrilled." Boylan's grin was wolfish.

       "Very well. We'll keep you on it for now. Mr. Paris, point three ccs of inaprovaline."

       Tom replicated the medication, and handed it over to the Doc. He listened with half an ear as the Doc wielded his hypo and sent Boylan on his way.

       "Well, that should be it for the rest of the day," the Doctor announced. "You're in charge until 1600. Just clean this place up and get started on that paperwork. If there's an emergency, I'll be on Holodeck One."

       "Okay, Doc," Tom replied, and watched as the EMH blinked out.

       He picked up the tray of instruments left for him to clean and sterilize. There was still point two ccs of inaprovaline left in the hypo. It was standard operating procedure to replicate more than required, just in case, then recycle the unused portion.

       Boylan's words echoed in his mind. It's great! Loretta is thrilled. Tom hesitated, then impulsively injected the rest of the inaprovaline into himself.

       He worried a bit after he did it. Inaprovaline was a widely used, safe drug, but still... A check of the ship's medical database reassured him. It was a safe drug. Heck, point two ccs probably wouldn't have any effect at all. Oh, well. He shrugged, and started on the paperwork.


       He was wrong. It worked — beautifully. He kept Harry up late that night, and woke him up early the next morning. It was great.

       Well, maybe not quite great. It was kind of exhausting. And though it increased his stamina, it didn't increase his pleasure. The last couple of times, in fact, it was hardly any fun at all. Except, of course, that it was great to be able to keep up with Harry.

       It wasn't until later that morning, when he was on duty on the bridge, that the real drawbacks became apparent. Very apparent. The damned inaprovaline was a little too effective. Every time the ventilation system kicked on and created a breeze across his lap, he got a hard-on. It was horribly embarrassing. He was afraid to stand up, and scooted as close to his console as he could.

       At least Harry was down in Engineering today. No way would he have missed it. But as it was, Tom was reasonably sure no one had noticed...until his lunch break came. There was no avoiding standing up then. Holding his head high, he left the bridge, hoping no one would look at him — in vain, a muffled giggle told him. He flushed bright red; he couldn't help it. Thankfully, no one else got on the turbolift with him.

       He headed to his quarters as quickly as possible, cursing the revealing uniform every step of the way. Engineering had a different lunch shift, so Harry wouldn't be waiting for him in the Mess Hall today. Tom ate a quick meal in his quarters, then jerked off, rather unsatisfyingly. Twice, for good measure.

       It didn't help. The rest of his shift was sheer hell. The others on the bridge were watching him now, he was sure of it. It was getting worse and worse. The breeze from the ventilation system, the pull of his uniform when he shifted position — the slightest of sensations increased his problem. He had a perpetual erection, and it kept getting harder and harder. He didn't really feel horny, though, just tired and uncomfortable. Miserably, he realized that he'd have to go see the Doc.

       The titters were blatant as he left the bridge at the end of his shift.


       Luckily, no one was in Sickbay. "Computer, activate EMH!"

       The Doctor shimmered into view. "Please state the nature of the — Mr. Paris, you're not on duty today."

       "Doc, you've got to help me." Tom had hurried to Sickbay as soon as he'd changed into clothing more concealing than the blasted uniform. He'd also decided that full disclosure was the only way to go. If he tried to claim it was a hypo accident, the Doc would want to know why he hadn't filed an accident report. Accidents were unlikely anyway, modern hypos being designed with several fail-safes.

       "Are you ill?" the Doctor asked, concerned.

       "Not exactly."

       "I'm not giving you any more of my holodeck time."

       "No, that's not it. Doc...I...I think I overdosed on inaprovaline."

       "I haven't prescribed inaprovaline for you."

       "I know," Tom confessed. "I...kind of prescribed it for myself."

       "You aren't authorized to do that!"

       "I know! I'm sorry. I'll never do it again, I promise. But Doc, please, you've got to help me." He pulled open his loose jacket, revealing the problem.

       "I see." The Doctor picked up his medical tricorder and started scanning. "Well, nothing amputation won't fix."

       "Doc!"

       "There's no permanent damage done, Mr. Paris. It will get better in three or four days."

       "Three or four days! Doc, I can't go on like this for three or four days!"

       "Then maybe next time you should think twice before you inject yourself with drugs just to inflate your...masculine ego."

       "It's not like that. Doc, please. I know it was stupid. It's just...well...I just wanted to be able to keep up with Harry."

       "Another of your juvenile competitions?"

       "No!" Tom protested. "I just...I just didn't want to disappoint him."

       The Doctor looked at him for a long moment, then his severe expression softened. "Very well, Mr. Paris. I think I understand. I can give you something to counteract the effects of the inaprovaline, but I'm warning you, it will likely leave you impotent for the next 24 to 36 hours."

       Tom didn't hesitate a second. "I don't care! Do it."

       The hypo hissed against his neck, and almost immediately, the uncomfortable pressure in his nether regions eased. "Thank you," he sighed.

       "You're welcome. There was no harm done. I see no need to report this." He gave Tom a stern look. "However — in the future, remember that a medic who practices on himself has a fool for a patient. If you insist, I can prescribe something that will give you the effect you want, without the...undesirable side effects. Better yet, I'll be happy to explain to Mr. Kim the natural variances in sex drive among individuals, and certain expected differences between a 23-year-old human male and a 34-year-old one."

       "Thanks, Doc. I don't think I'll be needing your services in this case. I won't be taking any more drugs. And I'll explain it to Harry myself." Hopefully, he would understand.


       Harry was sitting on the couch when Tom got back to his quarters. And he looked terrible — rumpled, miserable, and exhausted.

       "Harry! What's wrong?" Tom asked, forgetting about everything else.

       "Nothing," Harry said. "I'm just tired."

       "B'Elanna was in slavedriver mode today?"

       "Yeah," Harry said softly, not looking at Tom.

       Tom eyed him critically. There was definitely something wrong. "Come on, Harry. What's bothering you? It's more than eight hours crawling through Jefferies Tubes."

       Finally, Harry looked up. "Tom...is there something you want to tell me?"

       Tom frowned slightly. Had the Doc spoken to him already? He'd promised not to report it to the captain, but perhaps he'd decided to go ahead and talk to Harry. "Actually, yes. I guess we do need to talk." He took a deep breath. "It's not easy for me to say this. Just try to understand. I'm...well, I'm more than ten years older than you...."

       "Don't say it," Harry said. "I don't want to hear it after all." He jumped to his feet. "I know. I understand. I just..." His voice broke, and he pushed past Tom heading for the door.

       "Harry!"

       "Not right now, Tom." And he was gone.

       Tom stared after him, puzzled. He expected Harry to be upset, but not that upset. He thought about going after him, but Harry obviously didn't want to talk about it now. Perhaps it would be better to wait until he was calmer.

       Sitting alone in his quarters, which had become their quarters over the last few months, was just too depressing. Tom decided to go to the holodeck. Maybe Harry would go there, too. Or be back by the time Tom returned.

       Tom spent a couple of hours at Sandrine's, enjoying the casual camaraderie of his crewmates. He felt a lot better by the time he headed back to his quarters. Until he got in the door, turned on the lights — and saw that all of Harry's possessions were gone.


       "Harry, let me in!" Tom yelled at the closed door. There was no answer, though he knew Harry was in there.

       "I have to talk to you. Come on! You owe me that, at least. Harry!" Tom was making quite a commotion, and Harry's neighbors were starting to peer out their doors.

       "I'm not going away until we talk!" Tom began pounding on the door with his fist.

       Suddenly the door slid open. Harry leaned out, grabbed Tom's arm, and dragged him roughly into his cabin. "Thanks a lot, Tom," he hissed. His cheeks were pink with embarrassment. "The clarinet practice is bad enough. All I need is ex-lovers banging on my door in the middle of the night."

       "Ex-lovers?" Tom said, feeling as if someone had punched him in the gut. He gaped wordlessly in shock, then managed a choked, "Harry, why???"

       Harry looked at him doubtfully. "You dumped me...didn't you?"

       "No!" Tom protested. "Of course not!"

       "Oh," Harry said. "When you said you had to tell me something, and it was hard for you to say, I just assumed...."

       "What??" Tom heaved an exasperated sigh. "Why would you make an assumption like that?" Did Harry really think so little of him?

       "Tom, it was all over the ship."

       "What was all over the ship?"

       "That you had such a hard-on on the bridge this morning it was a wonder you didn't bust right out of your uniform. Everyone kept teasing me, asking me what was wrong, why I'd cut you off. Only we both know I never cut you off. So who did?"

       "I don't believe this! You think I was cheating on you?"

       "Well, it wasn't me you were almost busting out of your uniform for."

       "Yes, it was!" He hesitated. "Kind of. Harry, the reason I was the talk of the ship today is because of a drug. Inaprovaline. It has...interesting side effects, shall we say."

       Harry's anger vanished abruptly. "Tom, why didn't you tell me? Are you sick?"

       "No, no, I'm fine. I...well, I took it for the side effects. Without the Doc's permission. Unfortunately, it was more effective than I thought it would be."

       "Tom, you could get in a lot of trouble for that. Why'd you do it?"

       He told the truth. "So I wouldn't lose you."

       "What?"

       "Harry...I'm ten years older than you. As you get older, well, you slow down a little." Harry didn't seem to get it, so Tom spelled it out for him. "Harry, I love you dearly, but you're a little too much man for me. I know I haven't been satisfying you, and...."

       "What?!"

       "Harry, the spirit is very willing, but the flesh can't quite keep up. I know you need more than I was...." Tom broke off, startled. Harry was laughing. Downright hysterically.

       "You'll be old one day yourself, then you'll be sorry," Tom muttered, stung.

       "No, no," Harry gasped. "It's just that...you thought you weren't satisfying me? I thought it was the other way around!"

       "What?!"

       Harry nodded, still laughing a little. "We used to do it four times a day. Morning, noon, and twice at night. Then it got down to only three times, then two. I was afraid you were losing interest in me. I kept trying harder and harder to get you interested again, but the harder I tried, the more you pushed me away."

       Tom blinked in surprise, slowly beginning to understand. Harry wasn't insatiable. It was reassurance he had been seeking, rather than sex. "Harry....no matter how much two people love each other...and I couldn't love you more...after awhile the intensity dies down a little. It can't keep up the way it is during the 'honeymoon' forever. It doesn't mean I'm losing interest, or that I love you any less. It's just part of the natural evolution of a relationship."

       "So I've heard," Harry said, and Tom remembered that Harry had never been in a truly long-term relationship before. Libby was his first serious romance, and he hadn't known her that long. "I guess I should have known better," Harry continued. "I'm sorry for not trusting you. It's just that...Tom, I know I must be kind of boring for you. I'm so inexperienced, compared to what you're used to...."

       "What I'm used to? What do you mean by that?"

       "You know. Everyone's heard the stories of your....adventures."

       Now Tom was really mad. Harry had doubted him, based on ship's gossip??? He knew he had reputation on the ship. Whether it was true or not would mean nothing to gossip-mongers on a ship like Voyager, with little else to provide entertainment. He didn't mind other people thinking he was a pig, but damn it, it hurt to have Harry believe that. "What stories?" he asked quietly.

       "The ones you told me," Harry replied.

       Tom shut his mouth with an audible snap. Suddenly he remembered the colorful tales he used to regale Harry and others with, back when they'd first met. He wasn't even sure why he did it. Just habit, maybe. And the fact that Harry was so easy to shock.

       "Aw, Harry, they're just stories. Everyone exaggerates their....." He trailed off. Harry didn't. Even when Tom tried to exaggerate for him, the ruthlessly honest Harry didn't allow it. He buried his face in his hands with a groan. "I'm sorry, Harry. I'm an idiot."

       "You are?"

       "None of those stories were true, Harry. I made them all up. Oh, god, I'm a fool."

       Harry enfolded him in a gentle embrace. "No more than me," he whispered.


       A little while later, they were back in Tom's room, curled on the bed together. Tom decided he'd never been happier in his life than he was at this moment. He nuzzled Harry's soft, dark hair, inhaling his clean, freshly-showered scent, wishing he could bottle it.

       "So you never really did it with three Dabo girls, a green Orion slave woman, and a Vulcan temple boy?" Harry was saying.

       "No," Tom replied. "My sex life hasn't been nearly as exciting as I wanted people to think. And even if it was...I wouldn't trade the most adventurous sex life in the universe for what I have with you: someone to come home to every night."

       Harry met his gaze uncertainly, a shy smile slowly curving his lips. Tom smiled back, so full of love he thought his heart would burst. Then the moment passed, and Harry's sweet smile turned impish. "Well, I might."

       "You might what?"

       "Trade," Harry said.

       "You'd trade me for three Dabo girls, a green Orion slave woman, and a Vulcan temple boy?"

       "Well, maybe not. You are awfully cute. But if they threw in one of those Rigellian zero-gee dancers — oof!" Harry broke off, laughing, as Tom pinned him onto the bed.

       "Laugh, will you? I'll give you something to laugh about," Tom growled, and began tickling Harry unmercifully. They rolled across the bed, shrieking and giggling like a couple of kids. Finally, they came to a rest, Harry on top, his hands firmly holding Tom's wrists down against the bed.

       "Now I've got you," Harry said. He looked down at Tom, his eyes bright with mischief, ebony hair tangled around his face, cheeks flushed with laughter. Tom didn't have any mind to struggle any more.

       "Yeah, you've got me," Tom said. "Now what are you doing to do with me?"

       "Whatever you want."

       "Uh, well...I'm afraid I'm not going to be good for anything except cuddling for the next day or so. Side effect of the antidote to the inaprovaline."

       "Cuddling is perfect," Harry said, nestling closer and dropping a soft, chaste kiss on Tom's cheek.

       Tom sighed happily. This was his favorite position: lying on his back, with Harry lying on top of him. Not terribly exotic, but, to his mind, the most comfortable and intimate. He liked being face-to-face with Harry, touching head to toe. Being able to put his arms around him, and kiss that irresistible mouth. And he loved having Harry's full weight on him, pressing him into the bed. It made him feel safe and secure, and like he was protecting Harry at the same time.

       They kissed slowly, deeply, leisurely. It had, Tom soon noticed, a predictable effect on Harry.

       "Something's come between us," he teased.

       Harry shut his eyes, laying his head on Tom's shoulder. "Ignore it. It'll go away."

       Tom continued kissing his lover, caressing the smooth, hard muscles of his back, combing his fingers through the tousled black hair. Soon Harry was thrusting slightly, unconsciously, against him. Tom placed a soft kiss on Harry's ear, then licked it, delicately tracing the whorls.

       Harry shivered, bucking hard against Tom, then opened his eyes. "Don't start anything you can't finish," he warned.

       "I can always finish you," Tom replied smugly. He gave Harry's ass a provocative squeeze.

       Harry rolled his eyes. "Tom. Believe it or not, I was celibate for years before we got together, and I didn't explode, sprout hair on my palms, or die of hormone poisoning. You don't have to do this."

       "I'm not doing anything," Tom said innocently, running his fingers oh-so-softly over the sweet curves of Harry's buttocks.

       "Go to sleep," Harry said, and shut his eyes again. But his hips continued to move rhythmically, involuntarily, against Tom.

       As the Doctor had predicted, Tom felt no answering response. But he found himself reveling in the sensuality of the situation. The comforting warmth and solidity of Harry's body, the feel of his sleek muscles flexing under Tom's hands, the gentle caress of Harry's increasingly ragged breath against his neck.

       The buildup was slow and gentle. Tom wasn't sure exactly when his teasing became determination to make Harry come, or when Harry gave up trying to pretend he was going to sleep. But eventually, Harry was thrusting hard against him, flushed and panting and trembling with the mounting tension.

       "Tom," Harry gasped between kisses. "You're going to make me come in my pants."

       "I'm not making you do anything," Tom pointed out.

       "It's going to get all over your shirt," Harry pleaded, as if he expected Tom to stop him.

       Tom wasn't inclined to do that. "Looks like it," he said agreeably, and kissed Harry again.

       Harry was starting to moan softly, like he always did when he was close to coming. Tom slipped his hands beneath the waistband of Harry's shorts and underwear, cupping his small, perfect ass. Parting the firm cheeks, he slid a finger between, to rub at the sensitive opening there.

       Harry jerked and cried out, shuddering hard as his climax tore through him. Tom held him until he quieted, smiling to himself. Harry was almost inhumanly beautiful right after he came. Flushed and glowing and so sweetly vulnerable. Tom felt honored to be able to witness the sight.

       And yes, Harry had come on both their shirts. And their pants. Tom undressed them both, and pulled the blanket over them.

       Harry enfolded Tom in his arms. "I love you," he said drowsily.

       "I know," Tom replied contentedly, truly believing it at last.