by Miriam Heddy
Well, here's my second P/K attempt, written and posted to PKSP on 1/30/98 and newly revised and posted to my web page on 4/25/98. This one is not a sequel to anything and stands alone. Thanks to Temaris for her insightful beta-criticism and dedication to/obsession with The King's English and to Anne in Chicago for her constructive criticism after I first posted this to PKSP. Any remaining errors are my own. Feedback welcome and solicited (flames, not so much). Permission to archive. Permission to share, with my name and headers attached.
No money was made, natch. Paris and Kim belong to each other, and also to Paramount.
This story contains adult themes and creative cookery. Do not try this at home.
The engines made a sound that Harry was pretty sure meant something bad, then the sound stopped and the shuttle's forward momentum, never fully covered by the inertial dampeners, came to a sudden, jolting halt.
"Tom, what's happening?"
There was no answer for a minute, just the light tapping sounds as Tom's hands moved over the controls. Tom played the piano with the same delicate, sure touch, the same glide and press as those long, thin fingers caressed the controls. The days on bridge were sometimes long and boring, nothing but an endless stream of numbers that the computer catalogued as Harry watched, and sometimes he would let his mind drift and watch the other crewmembers work. Tom was directly in his line of sight, and he found that, too often for his comfort, his eyes settled on his ex-best friend. But Tom never turned around, so his gaze was obviously not as intense as it felt, not really potent enough to bore holes in Tom's back, although he had been focused enough to count each freckle on that pale, pink neck.
Tom let out a deep, disgusted sigh. "Well, Ensign. That's it. We are *not* going anywhere."
"What's wrong?" Harry stepped forward and peered over Tom's shoulders. "Oh."
"Yeah. Oh. Or, in other words, who the hell was responsible for creating these damn shuttlecraft? Sometimes I think we could put Naomi in a room with her toys and she could put together something more stable. Now that's a project we should suggest to the Captain. Give Seven something to do, anyway. I think we humans have reached our limits with these things. Did you know that the basic shuttle design has been exactly the same for the last fifty years? Fifty years of this crap and no innovations to speak of?"
"Well, there was transwarp..."
"Yeah. And *that* turned out real well. No, I think we should leave any further experiments in Seven's capable hands." Tom shuddered dramatically and Harry smiled.
"And let the Borg think they're superior? Not a chance. You give them a shuttle and they take the whole ship."
"So I guess that leaves Naomi. Maybe in a few years she'll decide to take up engineering. But until then, we're stuck."
Harry sat down in the second chair and looked at the panel of lights, all indicating that they were not going anywhere without Voyager's help. He checked to see that the comm system was still working and then sent out a coded message to Voyager, explaining the current problem.
"Stupid shuttles. How's a pilot supposed to fly these buckets of--"
"Tom, stop whining."
"I never whine except when there are no other options." Tom crossed his arms over his chest and put his feet up on the controls, tipping his chair back to give himself some more room.
Harry was tempted to swat his legs off the panel, or at least point out that it was against regulation, but Tom was pouting and Harry could feel his body start to react to the thought of kissing the frown from Tom's face and so he had to look away before the image started to distract him from the problem of being stranded.
"Look. If you need something to do, put your whining in writing and make me a list of complaints about the current shuttle design and I'll see what I can do about it in the next sixty-five years."
It came out sounding more bitter than he'd meant it to, but the prospect of seventy uninterrupted years in space didn't sound any better four years into the trip than it did when they were first stranded in the Delta Quadrant. On the other hand, whenever he was in a situation like this, where they were away from Voyager and pretty vulnerable, he liked to think optimistically. Even if that meant assuming the rest of his life would be occupied with shuttle-craft engineering. Before he could stop it, he sighed again. He hated feeling this impotent, but at least he wasn't whining about it.
"Oh, *that* sounds like fun."
"So *don't* make the list. I really don't care." The only upside to being in love with him was that Tom was damned annoying sometimes. Well, it wasn't really an upside. But at least it kept him from being uncritically ridiculous about it. Tom wasn't perfect. Tom was far from perfect. But he was so beautifuly imperfect that, right now, Harry felt torn between wanting to hit him and wanting to touch him, knowing he couldn't do either. If anyone had a right to whine, it was him. But he didn't. He just suffered quietly. Good old optimistic, always patient Harry. Right.
"Oh, all right. I'll make the list. Maybe Chakotay'll assign Seven to work with you again. You two worked together well on the astrometric charting, I heard."
"Very funny." Harry didn't know how it was possible, since *he* hadn't said anything to anyone, and Seven certainly wasn't about to gossip, but it seemed like everyone on board was whispering about him and Seven. Or maybe he was just paranoid. Suddenly he wanted to change the subject, but he couldn't think of anything to say to Tom. Work was safe, but anything else... When had it become this awkward? What did they used to talk about, before? His eyes roamed the small cabin and inspiration finally hit. They wouldn't have to talk with their mouths full. "Hey, Tom, you hungry?"
"Well, I suppose so. What do we have?"
Harry headed to the back of the shuttle and pulled out the container Neelix had packed them. There were a few perks to being a commissioned officer and a favorite of the head chef. He opened the box, found leola root sandwiches, and decided it was a marginal perk, at best. "Sandwiches. Tea. Some sort of fruit-thing we found on that last M-class. Ooh. I think this might be dessert!"
"Pull out the dessert. We'll start with that and work backward to the really awful stuff."
"If we're still hungry."
Harry watched Tom's face brighten into a smile. It was funny that they weren't really friends anymore but, forced together like this, Harry could almost pretend that they were. They knew each other too well, were nearly always on the same wavelength, at least about the little things, like lunch. It was more comfortable than it should be to spend time with Tom, and Harry found himself wondering if Tom thought so too, and why that didn't matter--didn't make them friends again. But that was a problem he could probably spend the next sixty-five years on and never solve. And he wasn't sure he wanted to make figuring out Tom Paris a life-long hobby. He wasn't a masochist, after all. Just... He let that thought trail off, deciding it wasn't in his best interest to think about what he was to Tom, with the man sitting several feet away. These were thoughts best left to lonely nights at Sandrine's.
He brought the food and sat down in the other chair, unwrapping his pudding. It was sort-of butterscotch, the way all of Neelix's food was sort-of this and sort-of that. Not that the comparison was very convincing, but at least it suggested a familiarity that made even the strange roots Neelix dug up almost palatable.
For a few minutes they ate in silence. Again, Harry was disturbed by the comfortableness and was just about to say something that would probably have caused tension, when Tom spoke. "We haven't done this in a while."
"Been stranded in a shuttlecraft? I think we have, actually." Shuttle disasters, although sometimes life-threatening, had become a ship-wide joke. Harry had even heard that there was a running total on the wall of the shuttle hangar, listing how many had been damaged and by who. There were even rumors of a pool running. Tom probably had a hand in that, if they let him join in. Tom got along well with the noncoms, but then the odds were likely riding on him, so maybe they wouldn't let him in for fear of skewing the results.
"No, had lunch. Together. Alone."
"I guess we haven't. I guess you've... we've both been... busy."
Tom raised the spoon to his mouth and licked the pudding off. Harry had to look away again because it was too distracting. If he didn't know better, he might think that Tom was flirting with him. But he knew that he wasn't. It wasn't Tom's fault if everything he did with his mouth was sexy. Even watching him eat pudding was just impossible. Harry looked out at the viewscreen and tried not to think about the taste of Tom's mouth, near-butterscotch.
"Don't you think?"
"Think what?" Had he missed something? Had Tom said something?
"Have lunch, Har. Gee, where are you today?"
"I'm right here. Stuck in this shuttle having lunch with you. And it's a lot of trouble."
"Sabotaging the shuttle craft. Just to have lunch with you." Harry felt a perverse sense of pride, saying that with so little concern in his voice, not even tasting the pudding on his own spoon as he tried not to think about Tom's mouth. Near-butterscotch. Gods. He could no longer describe the atmosphere in the shuttle as comfortable. And it wasn't even his fault. Tom brought it up. Harry felt no real sense of mercy about it.
"Kidding, Tom. But you see my point."
Tom nodded, a small grin touching his mouth, as he finally finished with his pudding and focused on finding entry into the fruit-thing. Harry didn't bother to tell him that you had to start at the bottom and work the peel up. It was always more fun to figure these things out yourself. And it was fun to watch Tom fidget, helplessly.
"Okay, I give. So how do you open this thing?"
Harry took the globe from Tom's outstretched hand and their fingers brushed. Tom pulled his hand back and Harry sighed again. He made a big show of turning the fruit upside down and snapping back the stem-scar. Then he put the bared fruit down directly on the control panel.
"Harry, you're getting juice on the controls."
"So, they're broken. And I was being considerate."
"Considerate?" Tom made a little hmph, wiping the juice up with his napkin and getting some of it on his sleeve.
"You don't like to be touched."
"I-- don't? Where'd you get that idea?" Tom's voice was so soft, nervous.
Harry slid to the edge of his seat and reached over, letting his hand quickly trace the outline of Tom's smooth jaw, barely touching him, then pulled away. Strangely, Tom didn't flinch. But he didn't move at all, either, for several seconds afterward. He looked paralyzed, actually, and Harry felt a little tug of guilt that he'd stepped over the line. He hadn't meant to do it. It was just too much. "Tom, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have... "
"'s okay. Really." But Harry could see that it wasn't. Tom was coloring, the blush starting at his ears and filling his pale cheeks.
The comm beeped and they both started at the sound. Tom and Harry both reached for the panel at the same time and it wasn't clear whose finger actually hit the button, but Tom acknowledged and suddenly the Captain's voice filled the room.
"Mr. Paris, we've got a bit of a problem here. Nothing serious, but the negotiations are taking longer than expected. We've got to beam down. Are you in any immediate need?"
Harry kept silent. Even when they had been friends, it was only at moments like these when their ranks made a difference.
"Captain, we seem to be fine right here. The shuttle's not going anywhere, but we're still powered up for weapons. And we have supplies and rations for at least two days."
"Good. I don't think it'll be that long, but I don't want to make any promises. I'll check in with you at 1900 hours. Until we can pick you up, hang tight and don't hesitate to call if the situation changes."
"Right, Captain. Thanks."
Harry looked out at the stars in the viewscreen. From this far away, they couldn't see Voyager pull out, but he could feel it, somehow. An emptiness. "Well, it looks like I should have brought my clarinet."
"I haven't heard you play in..."
"I learned a new piece I think you'd like. It's 20th Century."
"When we get back..."
Tom's blush had faded while he talked to the Captain, but his face was still flushed. "Really. I mean it. Just because... I mean, we can still... "
"If you say so." Harry could feel another sigh coming on and refused to indulge. There just wasn't any point.
"Still hungry? We've got some sandwiches..."
"Let's save those for when we start to get desperate. After the fifth day of dried rations, Neelix's sandwiches always look better."
"Funny, that they always keep so well. Does he use preservatives, you think?"
"Nah. Just the natural durability of leola root." Harry laughed at his own joke harder than was necessary. Food was just about all they could talk about, and they had almost exhausted that topic. He remembered the days in Akritiria and how they'd planned out their feast, finally bingeing on all manner of chocolate and steak in Harry's cabin until they could barely move. He used to think they could talk about anything back then. Tom's voice broke into his thoughts.
"I hate waiting to be rescued. Last time, B'Elanna and I barely made it out. We were sharing oxygen, by the end, 'cause my suit was leaking."
"I was, um, worried. We all were."
"Yeah. So were we."
Harry didn't know what to say. He couldn't really talk about being on board the ship, knowing that Tom was out there and not being able to get to them fast enough. Imagining Tom dying out in space. With B'Elanna. "So, what did you talk about? While you waited for rescue."
"Well, we couldn't talk much. We didn't want to use up the air."
"She told me she loved me."
Harry quietly choked on his tea, and tried not to be obvious about coughing the liquid out of his air passages.
"So, don't you want to know what I said?" Tom was watching him out from under those long blond lashes and Harry suddenly felt like he had been set up.
"What did you say?" Harry's eyes were tearing up and he didn't really want to know, but Tom seemed intent on telling him.
"I didn't say it back."
"You didn't? But I thought--"
"I knew she was expecting it. But I couldn't."
"Why not?" It seemed the logical next question, and again he wondered why they were talking about this. Tom did seem to have formed some mental connection between food and sex, but still...
"I didn't want to lie before I died, isn't that stupid? But I didn't want to hurt her, and if it had ended right there, I would have."
"Like a friend, I do. B'Elanna knows that. But not like... that."
"But you were, are, um--"
"Sleeping with her."
"I know. Pretty shitty of me, right? To get her in bed and then not love her."
Was Tom looking for judgment? Did he care what Harry thought? Harry wasn't sure, actually, what he thought about it. It was sad, and he felt bad for B'Elanna, who didn't give her heart easily. And Tom seemed regretful. But still, to be honest, he didn't really want Tom to love her. There, he was honest, at least with himself. One-up on Tom, anyway. Tom was quiet, and Harry realized he was waiting for Harry to say something.
"If, you don't love her... so you did the right thing. Being honest about it."
"I would have lied, Harry. That's the worst part. But I've been thinking, lately, about Karma. Like, have you ever wondered if people end up with what they deserve?"
"I don't think there's any justice, Tom."
Tom's eyes widened and Harry knew he had shattered another one of Tom's Harry-myths.
"Well, *I've* been wondering, how many times can one person screw things up, before--"
"They pay? I don't know. I wish I did."
"I think I'm hitting the limit, Har. Something bad is gonna happen if I don't turn it around, you know? I screwed up and ended up in prison. And I screwed up with Chakotay, and I'm still trying to earn his trust. And I screwed up with B'Elanna, really badly, I think. I don't know if she'll forgive me."
"She will. Give her time."
"Does time help?"
Tom was looking at him so intently, he didn't know what to say. "Yes. I guess it does."
"Harry, do *you* forgive me?"
The laugh burst out of him before he could stop it, and it sounded humorless, bitter. Not a side of himself he ever let out of his cabin. "I *said* it takes time, Tom. I didn't say how much."
"Would it help if I said I'm sorry?"
"I'm so sorry, Harry."
Harry waited a few seconds to let the apology sink in. No, it didn't make him feel much better. "Can we talk about something else now?"
"No. I think we should talk about this."
"I don't think there's anything left to say."
"Well, I do. So just sit there and listen, okay? It's not like you have anything better to do."
Tom's eyebrows were drawn together and he seemed deep in thought. Harry almost got up and walked, but there was nowhere to go on a little shuttlecraft, and it was pretty undignified to turn your back on someone in the next chair. Tom really picked his moments.
"Fine. I'm not going anywhere, apparently. So talk if-- it makes you feel better."
"It doesn't. But I have to."
And yet, he didn't. Harry watched as Tom shifted in his seat, stared out at the stars ahead, scanned the instrument panel which read no changes, examined the cabin ceiling with interest, and finally settled back on Harry. But still, Tom didn't seem ready to say anything, and Harry felt almost disappointed. He wouldn't admit to it, but he was a little curious about what Tom might come up with. Harry leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes, thinking about a short nap. If Tom changed his mind about talking, he'd give him a graceful way out.
At first he was sure he had imagined it, but then the touch came back. Fingers brushed against Harry's jaw, running from his earlobe to his chin, then there were two hands, cupping the back of his head, thumbs resting lightly on his cheekbones. Harry didn't open his eyes, knowing that Tom was only inches from him, feeling Tom's unsteady breath against his lips, scented sweet with fruit juice. It was too vivid to be a dream, but opening his eyes might still end it, so he forced himself to relax against the touch. Then he was being kissed, the pressure against his lips gentle and exploratory, the mouth parted slightly, and he opened his own mouth to respond. Then there was nothing. No lips, no hands, and he closed his mouth, shocked by the sudden absence. But still, he couldn't bring himself to open his eyes.
The comm beeped and Harry's eyes opened, reflexively, the sudden bright light temporarily blinding him.
"Mr. Paris, it looks like we have to stay the night. I won't be calling again at 1900, after all. Are you two still all right out there?"
"Yes, ma'am. I think we are. The sky is peaceful tonight. Should we expect you tomorrow, then?"
"Well, unless you two have a problem, I think that is the plan. Contact me if anything comes up, and we'll arrange for a ship from planetside to bring you here."
"That shouldn't be necessary, Captain. Good luck."
"To you too, Tom. Janeway out."
Harry's eyes were adjusting again, and he stared out at the stars, trying to focus on the Captain's message, glad he wasn't expected to speak.
Next to him, Tom cleared his throat. "So, Harry. *Do* we have a problem?"
"I--I'm not sure. Were you going to tell me something?"
"I thought I did."
"I don't think... I understood. Maybe you could clarify..." Tom leaned closer and Harry quickly added, "...with words?"
"Okay, Harry. Words. I guess that's what this is about. Let's see. Um. Okay. That day you told me... you told me... I can't quite remember exactly how you put it, actually. I think I was kind of in shock or something. But you remember, right Har?"
"The Akritirians wore brown; you wore red."
"And a lot of chocolate sauce, I think. Not quite worthy of Casablanca. You know, Har, you were the only person who ever wanted to watch films with me."
"It was a fair trade. You listened to me practice those Klingon pieces you really didn't like."
"They weren't that bad, when you played them."
"Yes they were. I could see the earplugs you wore, you know."
"Ouch. I guess they were pretty bad. Even B'Elanna thinks they're horrible."
"She was responsible, you know, for me figuring things out."
"Really." Something to thank her for?
"I thought I was going to die and she told me--"
"I love you." Harry supplied, and Tom smiled.
"What you said. That night. And I didn't react very well. I was just--"
"Horrified." He remembered the look on Tom's face. The only time he'd ever seen Tom look that scared.
"No. I wasn't that. Confused, maybe. A little shocked."
"More than a little, Tom. You left my cabin so fast--"
"I've never claimed to be brave, Harry. And you didn't give me any warning."
Harry laughed at this. "Tom, I think I gave you plenty of warning. You were just too dense to pay any attention."
"Too busy chasing down those Delaney sisters." And Tom smiled again, that smile that was usually charming enough to catch the Delaneys.
"Um. Well, anyway. Since then... that night. I've had a lot of time to think."
"And, Har. And. I was wrong. I reacted... badly. I should have... It should have been different."
"It was what it was." Gods, was he ever the philosopher. He blushed, wondering why he was pretending that it was okay. It wasn't. It should have been different. It *was* different every time he ran through that night in his own head. He'd replayed the scene over and over, trying to figure out how he might have made it come out the way he had thought it would. But that was the problem. He *hadn't* thought about it first. That was his mistake, then. He hadn't planned on any of it. It had just happened, but only to him. There probably wasn't anything he could have done to make Tom feel it too.
"I love you." For a second, he thought he'd misheard, but then Tom repeated it. "I love you."
"You--you do." He meant for it to be a question, but the words got stuck somewhere in his throat and came out as a gasp. There wasn't enough air in the shuttle, suddenly. His head was light and when he glanced outside the stars were blurred, as if they were moving, or the shuttle was moving. But nothing was really moving. They were dead in space. He shuddered at the thought, reminding himself that it was just a mechanical error.
"Um, yeah. I do. Is that okay?"
"And we're not even in mortal danger." Harry cleared his throat and looked down at the con and made a show of reading the lit panels, blinking back the tears that surprised him, still. "No, it looks like we're not. Good." Maybe it was shock, but Harry didn't know if he was happy or angry, or much of anything at all. Tom was sitting very still, his head cocked to the side, his blue eyes unusually open. Harry knew that Tom, at that moment, could be hurt, and part of him wanted to. But he wasn't a sadist, either. And he still loved Tom. That, unfortunately, hadn't changed.
"Harry, I need a little help, here."
"With... this. You. I, um, well. I don't really know what comes next. I mean, that night, if it had happened differently, if I hadn't freaked out, what would have happened next?"
He wondered what it was about nearly dying that made people make confessions like this. Why did people wait? And why was Tom doing this now? It made him feel the bite of panic and he ran his eyes over the con again, just to be sure. There was nothing suspicious. Nothing dangerous. At least not outside the cabin. "I don't know, Tom. I don't think it matters. We were under a lot of stress. Maybe that was why I said what I said. Maybe it was the clamp talking. Things are different, now."
"How are things different? It doesn't *feel* different. It wasn't the clamp talking. It was you. The clamp maybe made you hurt me, but it didn't make you want me, did it?"
"Maybe you're right. Maybe it's just too late now. I don't know. B'Elanna and... I'm sorry about that. I-- Gods, is it different? Have you already sworn your undying love to some other hapless Lieutenant? Or is it Seven? I'm not sure I can compete with her. Maybe I should just cede victory now, before someone gets hurt. That woman can throw a mean punch."
The words *were* hurtful, but Tom's voice was too quiet, and he sounded almost as if he meant them. As if he was really afraid that he was too late.
"Tom, you're ruining the moment with your witty sarcasm."
"You think I'm witty?"
"Not very." It was a lie. Tom was witty, beautiful, everything that Harry had ever wanted. And he was also a bastard, a menace to the ordered way Harry tried to live his life. Tom *was* everything he'd been warned about. He was disruptive, and now that Harry had finally gotten used to thinking that it was okay, that he could live without Tom, Tom was ruining it.
"Leola root sandwiches?"
"You're hungry?" Unbelievable. No, actually, perfectly in character. Harry's own stomach felt incapable of keeping anything down right now. But at least eating would give them something to do.
"Well, yeah. Actually, Har, I think I am. Now that it's settled."
"Settled?" Harry felt, not for the first time, as if he'd just entered the room during the middle of an on-going conversation. Like always, he felt a suspicion that they, that Tom, as this time he was the only one in the room, was talking about him and not to him. Mocking him.
"Isn't it? I love you. You love me. Happily ever after. Or something like that."
Funny, but Tom didn't actually sound happy. But sometimes it was hard to tell. Tom covered things so well, Harry wasn't always sure Tom knew what he felt. He was like those people who colored their hair too many times and didn't know what it really looked like.
"Tom, this isn't--" He almost said it wasn't settled, but he wasn't sure just what would make it settled. He tried again. "This isn't a Hollywood movie."
"Okay. Maybe it isn't..."
Only Tom could say "maybe it isn't" and manage to cast doubt on the question. If Tom said it was possible, maybe this *was* a Hollywood movie. And Tom was always the leading man. Yes, Tom had that effect. He had so much charisma that Harry sometimes thought of it as a kind of magic. Warp technology was magic, at first. But once you understood how it worked, you could use it to get places. But Harry was almost sure that he'd never understand this, or master it. It was this magic that allowed Tom to manipulate him. To pretend that they were just two guys trapped on a shuttlecraft or trapped in a prison. Just two guys and nothing more. Just two friends with no desire between them. But it was this same magic that made Harry *want* to be manipulated. It was this magic that fired his desire in the first place. It was dangerous, and exciting. And Tom *was* beautiful. Certainly more beautiful than that movie star from Casablanca.
Tom continued, a smile that seemed startlingly close to a smirk forming on his face. "...but if it *were* a movie, would it be pre-code or post-code?"
Harry thought a moment, trying to remember the reference. Then it came to him. Tom had evinced a strange fascination with 20th Century film history. There was something about the Hayes code. He remembered. It was that first year and Tom had made Harry sit through some really boring pre-Hayes code films while they tried to figure out what conventions were being flouted. In the end, the references were too obscure and they'd had to have the computer explain most of them. It was a game Tom enjoyed. He seemed to like games. But was this another game? Harry still wasn't sure he wanted to play anymore. But there was that kiss, and it had been almost perfect. But was it pre-code or post-code? What was the difference? He made a sudden decision and stilled the voice that warned him that he was doing it again, possibly doing something he would regret, later, when he was alone.
Pre-code. Anything could happen. He cleared his throat and whispered, and even the whisper sounded loudly in the small space of the shuttle. "Pre-code."
"Really. You, Ensign Harry Kim, are still full of surprises."
Tom stood up and Harry thought, for just a second, that he was reaching for the sandwiches. Or maybe going to kiss him again. But then Tom walked past him and Harry swivelled his chair and watched as Tom pulled down a silver blanket from the shelf at the back of the cabin. With a dramatic flourish, Tom snapped it in the air and spread it on the cabin floor, then walked back to the nose of the craft and held out his hand. Part of Harry knew what this was about and part of him was blocking it, trying to come up with an alternate explanation. Tom was just preparing for the night. Tom was tired. Just a nap before dinner. Damn.
"Am I wrong? This is what comes next, isn't it?"
"Tom, I've never--"
"Neither have I. But I want to. I want you, Harry Kim."
"Please, Harry. Look, I will make it up to you. You tell me how, and I'll make it up to you. Give me time. Give me sixty-five years."
Sixty-five years... would that be enough? Too much? Harry didn't know and, just then, couldn't bring himself to care. That's why it had to be life and death. Tomorrow was just too much to count on. So he told himself, trying to mean it, that it didn't matter what happened after this. There was just this second and Tom was offering his hand and something else. Everything else.
He took Tom's still outstretched hand, so very pale next to his own. Together, they walked the two paces to the blanket and Harry knelt down on its quilted surface. Tom joined him and they were facing each other, only inches apart. Tom's curls were unruly, slightly dampened with sweat, despite the too cool air of the shuttle. And his eyes were very blue right now. Sometimes they were almost grey, when Tom was upset or angry. But right now they were bright, clear like the most perfect sky Harry could remember seeing on Earth. Entirely unclouded. Tom licked his lips, the gesture nervous but seductive, and Harry thought again of Tom's mouth on his own. Near-butterscotch.
Harry felt the desire fill him up again. If anything, it was stronger than it had been that night after Akritiria, when he'd watched Tom lying on his bed, chocolate sauce making a dark stain across his pink lips. They had been lying side by side that night, drinking real alcohol that Tom had made from stolen fruit. And Harry had been too happy, too relieved to be alive to protest. Tom had, sometime during the evening, unfastened his shirt front and, before Harry could talk himself out of it, he had reached out and touched Tom's bare chest, laying his hand flat against it, letting his fingers run through the soft red-blond hair and over the warm, pale skin. And Tom had looked up at him, his clear blue eyes very wide. Harry definitely read desire in them, and fear, and Harry had said it, knowing that it was a mistake, but also knowing that they had nearly died.
Harry had almost been sure that Tom was going to say it back. It was there, he had been so sure of it. In Tom's eyes. It had been in his eyes that first day, on DS9. Maybe not love, but desire. Something like it, anyway. Interest. He had been so sure, had risked everything and turned out to have been wrong. Tom didn't say anything. He'd just left the cabin without a word and the next day he'd pretended that nothing had happened. And Harry couldn't argue. Nothing *had* happened. Even the words that seemed to echo back at him for weeks afterwards, taunting him, seemed empty.
Since then, they had silently drifted apart, and Harry had marveled at Tom's self-control. Tom had never once, in all the time since they'd fallen down that damned chute, mentioned that night. And in those moments since, when he'd caught Tom's eyes, he'd been sure that he still saw desire in them. And fear.
This time, Harry had the forethought to be afraid as he put his hand out, letting it skim across the front of Tom's uniform until it crested on Tom's hip. He let it rest there, waiting and not breathing, thinking that Tom would move away. When Tom didn't move, he drew up his other hand and touched Tom's face. He expected Tom to flinch, but instead, he leaned forward, pushing Harry onto the blanket then climbing on top of him. After a second of adjusting their limbs, Tom began to move above him, kissing his forehead, his cheeks, his chin, his lips. Tom moved too quickly for him to respond; His mouth was always just out of reach, moving on to some other part of Harry's body, touching against his neck, biting the little metal pins on his collar, kissing his chest through the layers of cloth. He could feel his nipples stiffening as Tom rubbed his fingers against them. Then Harry felt the cool touch of recycled air as Tom unfastened his shirt. He had to sit up to remove it, and Tom nearly strangled him trying to pull the fabric over his head. Harry tried to help, but Tom's hands were already working the fastening at Harry's waist, tugging the pants and underwear down his legs, pulling off his shoes and sweeping his pants past his ankles.
It was strange, too much like a fantasy, and he watched, still a little stunned, as Tom pulled off his own shirt, his arms crossed above his head, with only a few blond curls peaking out where his head should be. Harry's gaze was fixed on the naked swatch of skin at Tom's belly revealed by the motion. The red-blond line of hair ran down Tom's chest, dipping past his pants, and Harry reached up to pull them off, suddenly desperate to follow the trail of hair downward. Tom finished with his shirt and pushed Harry's hands out of the way, kicking off his shoes and quickly pulling off his own pants, letting his underwear slide off with them.
"Harry?" Tom was breathless as he laughed, softly. "You are so fucking beautiful. I can't believe how-- I want you. But... you'll have to let me know when we start to do anything risque. Just--tell me what you want."
Harry pulled Tom down on top of him. Tom's cock was damp velvet pressed hard against his skin and Harry knew what he wanted. He wanted Tom inside him, claiming him, so that he could be sure, absolutely sure, that Tom wanted him, wanted a man.
"Fuck me, Tom. Please." He'd meant to say that he loved Tom, and was surprised to hear himself say that, instead, out loud. But somehow the words were a smaller risk.
"Ohgods, Har. I don't--"
Still, it was a risk, and again he had made a mistake. Tom didn't want that. It was too soon. They were moving too fast, but he couldn't slow down. Harry didn't know why, either. But it was like this was life or death and these were the last minutes they had. The panic hit him again, the sense that he was missing something and they were in some mortal danger. Tom's cheeks were flushed and Harry could see that Tom was breathing faster now. It was strange, watching him, knowing that he knew Tom better than he knew anybody, anywhere. Better than he'd ever known Libby. And yet he'd never seen Tom look like this before. Wild. Free. Without a trace of that mask that Tom seemed so comfortable wearing.
Tom had run away at the prospect of another man, of Harry loving him. And this...
"Harry, no. I do want that. I just haven't the slightest idea... what I'm doing? Gods, what am I doing?" Tom's cheeks actually flushed darker and it made his hair seem more golden by contrast. Tom was even more beautiful when he was nervous.
"You-- You do? I mean, you don't?" He wasn't sure, anymore, *what* he meant.
"I do--want you, Harry. This is... ridiculous. I just don't know how. Um. Exactly. I..."
Harry frowned. He didn't know much more than Tom, but that it didn't matter. For some reason he'd expected that Tom would know. That he had some experience.
He stilled his movements against Tom, trying to lessen the friction that was making it very hard to remember the positions he'd only read about. He knew it was going to be uncomfortable, maybe even painful. And they didn't have any lubrication. Then he remembered something he'd seen earlier.
Tom saw him reaching for the packed lunches. "You're still hungry?"
"For you, Tom."
"Harry, um, these are... these are *condiments*, Har-- Ogods. Oh--That's..."
But Harry was already rubbing the white slippery stuff over Tom's cock, awkwardly trying to kiss him and lubricate him without watching what he was doing. He could tell that he was getting the slippery stuff all over Tom's belly and his own arm, but didn't really care. Tom's mouth was open under his and Harry could tell that Tom *did* want this, at least as much as he did. He finally gave up on the idea of taking care of himself and held the container out to Tom, who tentatively reached inside, scooping some onto his fingers, touching one finger to his lips and tasting it.
"Um, so, what do I do with this? I mean, I have very little experience in the kitchen..." Tom laughed, nervously, rubbing his slick fingers together.
Gods, he had to explain this? Harry closed his eyes and tried to concentrate. He'd never been very comfortable saying things like this out loud. But this was Tom, and if he was really going to do this, he should be able to say it. He took a deep breath and tried to find some sort of calm center, then opened his eyes again, feeling all the calm rush out of him at the sight of Tom Paris, sprawled out, naked and still aroused, before him. Damn. "Okay. Right. Uh, you need to use it to make it easier for you to... um, well, you know..."
"If I knew, Har, I wouldn't have asked."
Part of Harry really doubted that. It would be just like Tom to torture him just to watch him squirm. "Fine. Okay, then. Put in on me, like this, and use your finger, like this..."
As Harry demonstrated, he saw that Tom was breathing faster and was glad at least one of them was aroused. He was starting to regret the suggestion, but at the same time, he knew this was what he wanted.
Tom nodded and Harry leaned back, letting Tom position himself above him so that Harry's legs rested on Tom's shoulders. Harry felt Tom's finger slide against his perineum, then settle with a firm pressure against his center. He breathed out, wanting to close his eyes against the touch but wanting to see Tom's face. Tom looked surprised, his pupils dilated so that his eyes were dark with just a faint ring of blue. Harry did close his eyes as a second finger slipped into him, stretching him with firm, gentle movements. He heard himself moan and the sound of his own voice revived his wilting cock. A third finger further stiffened it, as the pressure turned to a painful pleasure when Tom's finger-tip scraped across his tender skin, catching against what had to be his prostate and he felt the overwhelming need to come, without the necessary stimulation to make it happen.
"Damn. Okay. Damn, you're-- Tell me if--just tell me. Ogods."
Harry opened his eyes and watched Tom's face, tense with strain, the skin of his upper body flushed and damp with sweat. He was so involved with the sight of Tom, the pain of Tom's cock pushing into him caught him by surprise and he gasped.
"'s fine. Tom. More than-- More."
And then Tom was moving into him, so slowly that Harry got impatient and jerked his hips forward until he felt Tom's balls against his cheeks.
Tom made some little sound that was almost a squeak and it was the most erotic sound Harry'd ever heard. Tom squeaked again, this time the sound pitched lower, becoming a moan as Tom began to move again, taking hold of Harry's cock in such a firm grip Harry knew it would be only moments before he came. He didn't even last that long, as Tom began to time his thrusts to his pulls on Harry's cock. Harry was coming hard, then, watching as his come dampened the hair on Tom's chest as the contractions shook his whole body. He could feel the sympathetic pulses of Tom's cock as he came inside Harry.
"Harry, oh." Tom's voice was a hoarse whisper and Harry let his legs slip off Tom's shoulders and wrapped them around Tom's hips as Tom sank down on top of him.
Tom's body curled around his, their limbs tangled together. Harry felt somehow cut adrift. Tom was so close but he didn't know what Tom was thinking. Was Tom already regretting this?
Tom rolled over onto his side, taking Harry with him, so they were facing each other, Harry had to remove his legs or be crushed.
"I don't know. Are you okay?"
"Harry, love." Tom groaned and drew him closer, wrapping his long arms around Harry and kissing the top of his head before blinking his eyes open. "Love, I'm *this* close to falling asleep, an' I know you want t'talk, an' I *do* want t'talk t'you. But later, love. When I've recover'd. 'kay?"
But Harry didn't have a chance to answer, as Tom's eyes had closed again, his breathing deepening, and he was asleep.
Harry reached for the second blanket and brought it down to the floor, spreading it over them. For a while he watched Tom sleep. Then he let the peaceful constancy of Tom's breathing lull him, moving himself closer so he could feel Tom's legs brush against his own, and let himself drift into sleep.
"Mr. Paris. Mr. Kim. Captain Janeway to Mr. Paris. Come in, please."
"Paris here, Captain."
"We're ready to tractor you in."
"Captain, sorry. You said you were ready to tractor us in?"
"Yes, Mr. Paris. Is there a problem with that?"
"Um, no. Wait. Computer, time?"
"The time is 0741."
"Captain, if you could give us fifteen minutes? The shuttle alarm didn't go off."
"All right Mr. Paris. Fifteen minutes it is. And I'd like to see you both at 1300 for a debriefing."
"Harry, wake up."
"'m awake. Fifteen minutes?"
"Yeah. And I bet the fools don't give us that much time before they snag us. So get up and dressed, Ensign."
"'s that an order, sir?"
"Yes. That's an order. Wait. Ensign, I want a kiss, first."
Harry sat up, rubbed the sleep from his eyes, and put his arms around Tom's neck.
"Now get dressed."
"Tom, Harry. Good to see you both. Did you enjoy your trip?"
"Um." Harry realized he should have assumed it was a rhetorical question. The Captain's questions frequently were.
"Work all your problems out, gentlemen? Good. I'm glad. I like to see my crew work together well, and I've always thought you two were a good team. I was sorry to see you two drift apart."
"Yes, ma'am. But the shuttle--"
"Yes. The shuttle. Were you able to figure out what went wrong with it?"
They'd had just enough time to run to their rooms after boarding Voyager and Harry had showered and dressed quickly. Tom had resumed his post on the bridge, but Harry had asked for permission to go over the shuttle and had spent half a day already buried in the minutia of diagnostic subroutines and physical examinations of every mechanical part that could have malfunctioned. He'd had no success at all. The shuttle, in fact, seemed fine, although he had, during his examination, found a few slight fluctuations that he noted in his log with the intent to study them in the hopes of improving the shuttlecraft design in his free time. Mostly, he had been grateful for the time away from Tom and, despite his desire to lose himself in the shuttlecraft problem, his attention remained divided between the ship and Tom, and he had found himself, more than once, running his hands over the interlocking surfaces of the shuttle's exterior while remembering the soft curves of Tom's body, the smooth flow of muscle moving with grace and ease under the damp, flushed skin. And now that body was standing next to his, so close that the heat of it seemed to warm the air between them, Harry had to force himself to keep his eyes facing forward and on the Captain.
"Actually, Captain, I wanted to talk to you about that. I've spent all morning on it, and I haven't found--"
"There's nothing wrong with it, Mr. Kim."
The Captain was almost smiling and Harry found it difficult to see what was funny about the shuttlecraft inexplicably malfunctioning.
Harry let himself look over at Tom, who shrugged minimally.
"Well, yes, Mr. Paris. What led you to that conclusion?"
Harry looked over at Tom again and saw Tom trying not to smile.
"Ahem. Well, I wasn't sure, actually. At first, I assumed that there was a problem. But then I started to wonder why you didn't send someone to get us. You weren't that far away, and there was some danger to a shuttle adrift, even if we still had weapons online, which was convenient, since it lent us some security. But evasive maneuvers were out of the question without thruster power. And so I started conducting long range scans at one-hour intervals, just in case. About the time you called us, I noticed that the ship was, um, well..."
Tom suddenly looked uncomfortable.
"It's all right, Mr. Paris. Continue."
"I noticed that the ship wasn't where you said it was."
"And Mr. Kim, what conclusion did you reach from the scans?"
Harry had been, per orders, standing at-ease since they entered the ready-room, but now Tom reached behind him, unclasping his hands and taking one of them in his own. It was a breach of protocol to hold hands in front of your commanding officer and he almost pulled away, but Tom's grip tightened to squeeze his hand, as if to reassure him, or maybe just to keep him from letting go. "Um, Captain. I, uh, I didn't know we were scanning. I mean, um, I guess I was a bit preoccupied."
The Captain's eyes stayed locked with his, and, if she noticed their clasped hands, she kept her thoughts from her expression and her voice, which remained matter-of-fact and all business. "Yes, Mr. Kim. I imagine you were."
The Captain's expression slipped, then, and Harry caught just the faintest hint of a smile. The small almost-grin the Captain often flashed at Chakotay, when she thought that no one was looking. Tom returned the smile. Something definitely passed between them, then, and Harry knew that he was only one in the room who didn't get the joke. And he was starting to suspect that was because he *was* the joke. He felt the blush creep up the back of his neck and decided he'd never, ever, live this down.
"Tom." He would have whispered, but it was pointless with the Captain two feet away.
"Sorry, Harry. I guess the Captain thought we needed a little help. And thank you Captain. Is that all?"
"If you mean are you dismissed, then yes, gentlemen. You have the rest of the day off. Dismissed."
"Tom, did you put her up to this?" Harry was walking down the corridor so quickly that Tom was taking little skip-steps to keep hold of his hand.
"Harry, I'm just a lieutenant and I do not have the power to put Kathryn up to anything."
Kathryn? Since when did Tom call her by her first name? The suspicion lingered that Tom had something to do with the shuttlecraft problem. Something beyond bringing on-board whatever shuttle jinx he seemed to carry with him on every away mission. There was just the hint of intent, the slightly guilty look in Tom's eyes that was tempered with the mock-defiance as he faced the Captain. Harry wanted to ask, thought about asking, then decided that he really didn't want to know.
"We're here. Gods, it's good to be home."
Tom's arm pulled him to a stop in front of Tom's quarters. He must have been moving too fast, because they'd walked right past his own quarters.
"Tom, wait. I--"
"C'mon, love. We've got the rest of the day off. Let's celebrate."
"Um. I don't know. Getting home in one piece?"
Was there ever really any danger? "I--"
"Look. I'll order us some lunch. What do you say to steak and chocolate ice cream?" The offer whispered in his ear and it was clear, from the sound of Tom's voice, that the only possible answer was yes.
It really was magic. Maybe Tom could erase the past. Make it not matter anymore. But so much had happened. And there was still B'Elanna. So many unanswered questions and no promises. Nothing but the promise of Tom's hands stroking his back, encouraging him to lean into that sure touch. It felt so good that he couldn't think, didn't really want to think. But one of them had to. One of them had to keep their head. "I--" The hand moved down to cup his ass and squeezed. "Oh--With hot fudge sauce?"
"Yeah. The works. Everything. Let's do this right."
"Tom, are you sure about this?" He turned around to face Tom, the sudden urgent need to stop this, now, overwhelming him. It was almost as if this *was* the past and Tom had brought them back to relive it. But the memory of Tom pulling away from him was too vivid, a premonition now instead of a memory. If Tom changed his mind, Harry knew he could not survive it. Not again. His head hurt and he shuddered as the pain of the clamp came back to him, the pain and the desire and the fear of losing control. Losing Tom.
No, he couldn't do it again. He stepped back, away from Tom, thinking he would leave before it was too late. Just go back to his own cabin and let life resume its course again. Let time pass again. But Tom stepped forward, putting his hands up to rest on the doorframe, trapping him there.
"So, are you going to open the door?"
"Tom, I can't."
"You have to. You *do* still remember the code?""
For a moment, Tom looked unsure, and Harry was reminded of just how long they'd been apart, not friends, not even comfortable acquaintances. Tom's quarters might have changed in all that time. So much had changed. But Tom's code had not. He realized that Tom had left it, against security recommendations that it be changed monthly, and that he could have come in anytime he wanted to, and that maybe Tom had hoped he would. But he had been too stubborn and too hurt to push Tom into something he was afraid of. They'd both been too afraid.
"Harry? Please. Please."
Harry's hand hovered over the keypad and he hesitated.
Then he closed his eyes and keyed in the numbers. He might not have been able to recite them anymore. But his hand knew the pattern, his fingers brushing over the pad quickly and without doubt. If only the rest of his body felt so certain. His stomach was full of fluttery creatures and his face was going hot with the thought that he was home and that Tom was making him open the door, leaving the decision in his hands.
The door slid open, and, although the room was dark, Harry could see that the bed was in exactly the same place he remembered it.
He stepped across the doorway and into the cabin, turning again so that Tom was trapped in the open doorway, silhouetted against the bright light of the corridor. Harry let his fingers trace over Tom's body without doubt, without hesitation, finding the openings to slide past the layered fabric to the warm skin below. The door beeped and Tom started, opening his eyes and looking over his shoulder as if he was just noticing that anyone passing by could see them.
"Let me in, Harry."
Harry ignored him, wanting to claim Tom, here, where anyone could see. He leaned in to brush his lips over Tom's face, kissing his eyes closed, letting his own desire overwhelm common-sense. He rested one hand on Tom's hip and ran the other down the back of Tom's uniform, pausing just above the curve of Tom's ass, his fingers catching in the gathers of the shirt, then lifting it up to slide his hand under to press against the small of Tom's back, letting his fingers skim down bare skin until Tom couldn't help but press against him, thrusting his whole pelvis forward and nearly tipping them both off balance. Harry laughed and finally stepped back, and the door shushed closed behind them so that they both fell into full darkness.
Tom continued to press against him, their bodies now so close that Harry felt them both swaying together, almost dancing, balancing each other's movements so that neither one would fall. Tom was making small, almost musical sounds of satisfaction, singing half-words that Harry couldn't understand but still felt as vibrating kisses against his throat, his face, until they finally became audible nonsense, disjointed promises. "We have time, Harry. We'll go slow, this time. I'm so sorry. I love you. We have forever. I promise. Chocolate sauce, later. I promise. I promise."
And Tom wrapped his arms around him and dragged him across the room, shedding both their uniforms along the way, his clever hands moving so fast that Harry knew Tom didn't believe they had forever, or maybe he did and it was just the press of their bodies urging them forward, onto each other, into each other, at warp speed.
Harry gasped for air between kisses, enjoying the lack of it, the lack of breathing room, because this time they were safe. They were home. And, when Tom finally threw him onto the bed with gentle force and that slightly wicked Paris laugh, Harry decided that his body knew the pattern well enough to play along.