Those Words

     Tom liked to sleep with the lights at 5% - just enough so
that he wouldn't have to stumble to the bathroom or wake up in
the dark.  Even if I could have slept without my eyeshades, there
was no way I'd find rest that night.  So, I used the dim light to
watch my lover sleep.  I used it to watch my soon-to-be ex-lover
     Tom was always beautiful, but he was unearthly when he was
asleep.  All of the hardness disappeared when he was asleep.  At
times he seemed younger than I was.  At times he seemed the young
and innocent kid he thought I was.  So, I lay there watching my
best friend sleep and wondered how I could stand to hurt him as
much as I did.  I'd heard of hearts breaking because of love gone
wrong.  My heart was breaking because of a love I never had.
     We'd become lovers right after the Akritarian prison.  He'd
been my lifeline during that horrible time, and I'd tried to kill
him.  He forgave me for that.  He knew what I had been through -
he felt the clamp close down on his own brain, on his own soul. 
We shared a dinner of steak and pudding, which progressed to a
night of touching and holding.
     I remembered that first night in Tom's cabin.  We'd both
been with men before.  Strike that.  We'd both been with men
willingly before.  Tom told me that there had been a time he'd
been raped, but he didn't tell me when.  I thought it had been in
prison.  A man as beautiful as Tom would be a target.  But he
said it wasn't.  I was glad I wasn't the first to be gentle with
     It was a wonderful, perfect night.  We kissed for what
seemed like hours after dinner and then explored each other's
bodies as if we'd never seen each other before.  In a way, we
hadn't.  I kissed every inch of that graceful, slender body as he
writhed in my arms.  He felt right in my arms, but not the way
Libby did.  I put Libby out of my mind.  If I saw her again, it
would be with her husband and children.  Maybe even grand-
     I tasted him that night as he filled my mouth, filled it
with silk and velvet and the hardness of his desire.  He stroked
my hair, telling me how soft it was as I grasped his hips and
then he couldn't speak for a long time.
     And then I filled him, and again we fit as I stared into his
blue, blue eyes and kissed his lips and let him taste himself, as
we moved together as if we were dancing, as if it were
choreographed.  He cried out again, but I was silent.  I'm always
silent at the end.  It's as if my vocal cords freeze.  Instead, I
cried in his arms.  He thought it was because it was too intense
after the prison.  I knew better.  I knew this night would come,
even as I prayed it wouldn't.  I buried my face in his chest and
slept in his arms.
     We couldn't hide the relationship, so we didn't try.  The
whole ship knew by lunchtime. I was surprised at how many people
approved - and at how many people thought it was about time. 
There had even been a betting pool.  The captain won.
     There were others, though.  People who still didn't trust
Tom, people who told him that if he hurt me, he'd pay, or who
told me that I'd better not get too involved.  I just smiled. 
I'm good at hiding things like that.  Everyone thought that the
affair would last forever or would end with Tom dumping me.  How
could I disappoint all our friends?  I hoped that it wouldn't be
necessary.  I hoped that it would be able to last forever.  Tom
was my best friend and I did love him.
     It was fun for a long time.  Tom was an incredible lover,
and I wasn't so bad, either.  Sometimes we tried out innovations,
sometimes we had plain old-fashioned sex.  We laughed and tickled
each other and spent long nights just holding each other close. 
Sometimes Tom had bad dreams - not often, but sometimes, and if I
were there I could gentle him through them.  I never really slept
in his cabin.  There was too much light and he hated my
eyeshades.  I was able to get into a sort of doze and that would
be enough to carry me through the next day and I'd sleep alone in
the dark, with the darkness, the next night, or I would leave in
the night and go back to my own.  Tom understood, and that was
why we never slept in my bed.
     So long as we kept it friendship, it would be fine, and I
didn't want to end it.  Or, if all went well, we'd both go beyond
friendship and we'd last forever.  
     Weeks passed.  The ship met other races and sometimes things
went well and sometimes we fought.  B'Elanna kept it going and I
kept it living and Tom kept it moving, and the captain was the
soul and Chakotay was the heart.
     And then this night happened.
     There was dinner and candles and real wine purchased on some
planet.  It wasn't grape wine, but it wasn't synthehol either. 
It was light and dry and Tom drank hardly any of it.  After
dinner, we sat on his couch with coffee and more wine.
     Tom was glowing.  I was scared.
     "Harry, I have to tell you something."
     "No, no.  You don't have to say anything.  Please, don't. 
Let's just go to bed."
     "What's wrong?  It's something good."  I couldn't breathe,
but I nodded.
     He took my hands.  "Harry Kim, these have been the best
weeks of my life.  I've never been happier.  I love you, and I
     He said the words I'd been dreading.  I couldn't help myself
- I began to cry.  He would never finish the sentence.
     "What's wrong?  Why are you crying?"
     In my efforts to stop, I began to hyperventilate.  Tom just
held me until I calmed.  I wanted to collapse in his arms, but I
held myself away.
     "Harry?  Are you all right?"
     I took a deep, ragged breath.  "No.  Tom, you are my best
friend ever.  I'd give my life for you."  Tom smiled.  "But...I
loved these weeks.  I don't want them to end.  I don't want to
hurt you.  Oh, God.  Tom, my friend, my wonderful, passionate,
beautiful lover - I'm not in love with you."  There.  I finally
said it.  It hurt even more than I'd expected.
     Tom sat back on the couch in shock.
     "Were you lying all these weeks, Harry?  Just letting me
believe that you loved me?"
     "We never said the words.  So long as we never said the
words, I wasn't lying.  And I *do* love you.  Just not that way. 
I was hoping I would learn to.  I was happy - am happy - in your
arms.  But I've been in love and even if I'm not in love with
Libby any more, I remember how it feels."
     "Like you can't live without the other person?  Like every
moment apart is torture?  Like the idea of a future without the
other person is a nightmare?"  I hated myself at that moment.  If
I could have lost myself in darkness at that point, I would have.
     "Yeah.  And I don't want to think of a future without you,
but it isn't the same thing.  You are a part of my life that I
would not do without, but you need someone in love with you."
     "Where would I find that?  There are 130 people on this
ship, and we lose someone ever other month sometimes.  People are
already pairing up.  Can't you stay with me anyway?  The sex is
still great."
     "No.  We don't feel the same way.  I could share my life
with a friend.  Libby was a friend - but we were in love with
each other."  I was crying again.  So was he, but he was
accepting this.  "If we felt the same way...but we don't.  I wish
we did.  I wish I was in love you.  I don't know why I'm not. 
You are everything I could wish for."
     "I'm not a woman."  His voice was so bitter.
     "That doesn't matter.  That has never mattered.  Oh, God,
Tom.  I'm so sorry.  I'll go back to my cabin tonight, and
tomorrow we'll try to rebuild the friendship.  If you still want
to be friends with me."
     He surprised me.  "No.  Please, Harry.  One more night. 
Maybe you'll change your mind, and even if you don't, we should
have this...closure.  Don't say goodbye until the morning."  I
nodded and kissed his cheek.
     If the first night was wonderful and perfect, the last night
was sweet and gentle and awkward.  His body was familiar to me
now.  Instead, I held him for the longest time, remembering how
he used to fit so well.  He was still beautiful, though.  We used
our hands and mouths to give the other pleasure and then, weeping
a little, he fell asleep in my arms.
     Slowly, I disentangled myself from him, and watched him
sleep.  He looked so young and innocent and I'd hurt him so much. 
I lay there for a long time, dozing once in a while in the dim
light.  I needed darkness so much I could taste it, but it was
too late.  I'd sleep tomorrow night.  When it came time to for
Tom to wake, I kissed him softly on the cheek and left for my own
cabin.  He watched me go silently.

copyright 1997

Debra Fran Baker