Well, here's my first P/K attempt. Thanks to my slashsibs for encouraging me in this dementia. 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 andKim belong to each other, and also to Paramount. This is, of course, a slash story with a bit of angst. Nobody dies. Inspired by the recent failure of canon to let the boys appear in the same scene together.

Distance Between Decks (P/K) NC-17
by Miriam Heddy

He hadn't seen Harry in weeks. No, that wasn't entirely true. They were on bridge together, when Harry wasn't working on the new astrometric charting. And they attended some of the same social events, the Prixia party, the Christmas party, the Chanukah party (although it had taken some time for Tuvok to explain to Neelix how to calculate the correct date on Earth's lunar-based Hebrew calendar). Neelix, in an understandable reaction to his near-death experience, was going a bit manic with the party season, but everyone was over-indulging with him, each for his own reasons. And for Tom, the reason was sitting across the room in deep conversation with Ensign Wildman. So, really, he'd seen nothing but Harry in weeks and even months, maybe, but he'd just seen him, not talked to him, not touched him, just watched him from across the room. And as he nursed what had to be his sixth drink of the evening, Tom began to wonder how it had happened that such a distance had come between them. There was no fight that he could remember. They had just drifted, uncomfortably, away from each other.

Maybe it was his ridiculous attempt to romance B'Elanna. Well, it seemed silly now, but at the time he'd been in earnest. Frantic even. And that was strange, now that he thought about it, with the sudden clarity of highly distilled alcohol. It's not that he wasn't attracted to B'Elanna. They had been gradually becoming friends, sort of, and could talk to each other about things that were important. Hell, they had a good time together, even when they were fighting about something. But the whole lover thing just didn't happen and it seemed like he had known it was doomed, even when he was pushing, begging, and undressing B'Elanna. His body had been involved, but he held something back, not really sure what. B'Elanna finally called him on it and it hadn't taken much before he gave up trying to convince her that she was wrong. They might have continued arguing and occasionally sleeping together if he hadn't finally realized that he would end up hurting her, either by finally saying "I love you" and not meaning it, or by being honest and never saying it at all. And now they were back to being friends, better friends even than they were before, so it turned out alright. He was glad that he hadn't screwed that up too badly. But he was thinking about Harry, wasn't that right? Trying to figure out why they weren't really friends anymore, just acquaintances, and sometimes not even that? He'd never been much for analysing his own life, but it seemed important to figure this all out.

It was like those twentieth-century puzzles that looked like star charts, with tiles and one empty space and the goal was to push the tiles around until you got the picture to form. So he was friends with Harry, in the beginning, but a tile slipped out of place and Harry was now on the other side of the room from him and he couldn't possibly just get up and walk over to him and say hello. There were too many pieces in the way. So, what happened next? He'd moved toward B'Elanna, and that had made sense at the time, but the picture didn't happen. And Harry was in the corner now, looking quietly into his drink, his shiny black hair falling into his face in that way that made him look ten years old and in need of a friend. Now B'Elanna was where she belonged, chatting with Chakotay, just a friend, or maybe more than that, but certainly not a lover or a partner. And there was still this empty space that was currently making it impossible to relax into oblivion, insisting that he make some other move, to fill it even though he knew it was impossible. The rules said there had to be one space empty or the whole thing would fall apart. It all hung together by tension. Drinking games were like that--a sort of repetitive obsession that didn't really get you anywhere but drunker.

The old Tom, the one who went to prison and never would have volunteered for anything, would have thrown the puzzle on the floor and smashed it. Or maybe pried all the pieces out and forced them into a pattern. But the new, improved Tom, and it was only because of the high quality vodka that he could say that without smirking, but the new improved Tom would finish the damn puzzle if it killed him. There had to be a trick involved, something he just hadn't thought of. But he'd never been good at this kind of game. It wasn't like a flight simulation, where you could just trust your reflexes, your concentration, and if all else failed you could just shoot through the crap. All just a matter of geometry. The shortest distance between two friends was a straight line. No, that wasn't right at all. He shook his head but the vodka had settled in and he wasn't getting sober for a few hours, not after drinking the real thing. It had been a stupid thing to do, especially if there was an emergency. Definitely an old-Tom thing to do. He used to drink a lot, too much, really. And he'd forgotten that it never made him hurt any less, and worse, it kept him from flying.

Harry wasn't where he was before. Tom scanned the room and couldn't see him, but didn't really worry about that. Harry was still on the ship, that was the important thing. The comforting thing, knowing that even if they were't friends, the distance between them was fixed, calculatable. Only the distance of the ship's farthest points, not the space between a New Zealand prison and the stars, no not that. Not yet, and maybe never, so it wasn't worth worrying about. Not when there was still three fingers of vodka in the glass.


"Tom? Hey, Paris, wake up here. I'm talking to you."

Tom was staring off at some point in space with the most faraway look on his face. If Harry didn't know better he would have assumed Tom was sleeping with his eyes open, an old trick that Tom said he learned back in the Academy. At the time Harry hadn't been sure whether he should laugh or be worried that Tom had mastered that technique. The gods only knew what parts of class Tom must have missed that way. Probably the lectures on decorum, ettiquete, and respecting the command line. That conversation had been a long time ago, before Akritiria, before things got complicated--back when B'Elanna used to joke that it would be a more efficient use of ship's energy if he and Tom just shared one cabin. Harry appreciated her sense of humor, her unique way of looking at things. Engineers, even Klingon, Maqui engineers with bad tempers made a certain amount of sense. For the most part, they looked at the world as so much energy and matter. Not at all like pilots, who were unpredictable, at least in his limited experience. He had no idea how pilots looked at the world. Tom seemed to see it as some sort of obstacle course, a series of things he either hit or missed, just barely. Harry sometimes wondered whether he was just someone Tom's attention had mistakenly landed on back on DS9 and whether it could have been anyone, really, who Tom latched onto that day. But other times, he was just as sure that he had chosen Tom. Either way, he and Tom had been friends, at first, and now they weren't, all without explanation. Maybe it was all a matter of energy. He knew that it had been the way that Tom nearly glowed on DS9 that first drew Harry to him. But lately, Tom was burning even brighter--threatening to burn out. Everyone noticed it, even if they were afraid to comment, as if that alone might make it worse. Harry even suspected Tom's recent reassignment as back-up nurse had something to do with the Captain thinking Tom needed some time away from the con. But if that were the case, it didn't seem to be working. If it had been a problem with the ship, Harry would have run a diagnostic, found a leak somewhere, a crossed circuit or a programming error, and fixed it. People, especially people like Tom, were more complicated than engines. Everyone thought Harry was naive (to put it nicely, and he'd heard it put less nicely more than once) but he understood enough to know that persistance paid off and the best approach was always to just keep plugging away at a problem, like Seven, until they pushed back. At least then you'd find out where you stood, even if it was embarrassing and you ended up cowering behind a desk. But Tom didn't push back. He walked away. Or worse, just shut down.

He tried again. "Tom?" This time he touched his arm, just letting his fingers ride the crease of Starfleet issue fabric at Tom's elbow. Harry wished Tom was wearing his off-duty clothes, the ones with the deep v-necks. Casual clothes always transformed Tom, making him seem less coldly beautiful, easier to talk to. In his uniform, he seemed taller, physically a little threatening, even hunched over a drink. Plus, he out-ranked him. But it was a long time since he had been in Tom's quarters while he got dressed and had any say in things.

"Um. Oh. Hi Harry. Didn't notice you there. How are you doing? Merry Prixia, or whatever the hell we're celebrating these days. Did the Captain let you out to play? Are all your tools put neatly away?"

Harry didn't bother responding to the taunt. When Tom drank, he tended to get sarcastic, even a little mean, but it was just another defense mechanism. It was best not to indulge him with a reaction. The Tom on Earth, the one who'd stayed in France, looked a little like this, unshaven and hard, and it was disturbing to think that maybe he'd been wrong about saving Tom from himself. Maybe the only difference between the universes was that, in this one, Tom was self-destructing in a simulated Sandrine's. For a second he thought of just going back to his cabin, but Wildman was watching him and he'd end up looking silly if he let Tom off so easily.

"Tom, I've been thinking-"

"You're always thinking Harry. Dangerous thing to do, thinking too much" Tom was slurring his words, but the biting edge, the harsh tone, was still clear in them.

"As I was saying, I was thinking that we haven't seen much of each other--"

"Yeah, Har. We should definitely do lunch. I'll have my guy call your guy and set something up."

"Damnit, Tom, Look. Would you just stop it a minute."

Harry actually found himself getting angry and began to wish he could just let Tom go the way B'Elanna had. He'd tried, but found that Tom's resistance just made the need stronger. Something in his voice, maybe the thinly veiled desperation, finally reached Tom, because his smooth mask showed a small crack in the corner, and Harry realized it had been too long since he'd studied that pale face and he couldn't tell anymore if Tom was about to smile or frown. But at least it would be an expression, a real one and not that plastered-on smirk that Tom thought fooled everyone, even Harry. Tom didn't say anything, and Harry realized that he was waiting, with forced politeness, for Harry to continue. And having gotten Tom's attention, finally, he didn't know what to say. The things he wanted to say were impossible. He'd waited too long and the right moment for them, when they might have mattered, had past.

"I miss you. That's... all I was trying to say, Tom. I miss... the way it was."

For just a second, he thought he saw an unfamiliar look in Tom's eye. Not the cocky leer he gave every woman that walked by but the other look that was a hurt, inarticulate wanting. Then it was gone, replaced by the flat ice-blue of Tom's eyes. If it had been there it was gone now, as was the Tom that could be reached. Before Tom could make another smart-ass comment, Harry walked out the door and headed for his quarters. He wasn't even sure what had driven him to come over and try to talk to Tom. Maybe it was that Tom and B'Elanna had finally cooled off. Or that Wildman had told him that sulking in the corner was something Naomi always did, and it bad enough that he was still considered the baby on board without actually acting like it. But now that he had done it, even though it was nothing, really, he felt better. It didn't matter if he and Tom were friends. Well, fine, it did matter. But the really important thing was not letting Tom think he was alone, hurting only himself. Tom might kill himself in the end, and Harry knew he was being conceited to think he could rescue him, but Tom Paris was worth the effort, even if he didn't know it yet.


The words echoed in his head for a long time. "I miss you." And Tom heard, or felt, a click, as a piece moved into place. "I miss you." It was such a strange thing to say when he was still here. And that was a problem that wasn't solved with the next drink or the one after that, although the problem itself started sounding like a really bad country song--"Why do I still miss you when you haven't had the decency to leave?" As quietly as possible he stood up and walked out of the room. No one stopped him to say goodnight, which was a very good thing, because he was pretty unbalanced and the hallway was tipping. And he knew that if he didn't get to his quarters quickly, he was going to start crying, and Lieutenant Tom Paris, even drunk, did not cry in public.

His eyes were already blurry and hot as he hit his door frame when the door didn't open right away at his touch. Stupid broken door. He'd have to call and have it repaired. He tried the code again a few more times with the persistance of the drunk, but this time the door slid open and Harry was standing in the doorway to his quarters looking annoyed.

"Wha' you doing here?" Tom sniffled and wiped at his eyes, ineffectually.

"This is my cabin, Tom. The computer said someone was trying to break in. Yours is down the hall."

"Oh. Um. Sorry."

He turned to go. D42, D27, he wasn't sure which one was his. Obviously not the one in front of him. It was just habit, coming to Harry's quarters. So what if he hadn't made that mistake in months. It was still habit, and drunks always reverted to habit. Harry would understand that, knowing that was really all Tom was.

"Well, do you want to come in?"

Harry was always so fucking polite. For a moment he wavered, shook his head, about to say no. He could have made it to his cabin, but Harry put his hand out and grabbed his arm, just hard enough to throw him off balance, make him take a step back, and then he was inside Harry's room in one swift motion that proved that alcohol compressed time and space more effectively than any wormhole. He giggled to himself, softly, thinking that maybe that was all they needed. Get everyone drunk enough and they'd get home. Another round for the gel-packs, on me.

He headed for the sofa, practically falling into it and sighing as he tipped his head back. Gods it felt so fucking right to be here, on this sofa which was exactly like his own, except that it was Harry's and that made the difference. It even smelled like Harry, like his hair, the lavender scent clinging to the pillows, getting stronger as he felt the heavy compression as Harry sat down beside him and put a cool hand on his forehead.

"Tom, are you alright? Are you going to be sick?"

Poor Harry. Always so concerned. He worked his eyes until they could open again without making him dizzy, noticing the tears that were sliding into his hairline, wetting his ears. He shook his head, then made himself talk. "Nah, Har. I'm fine. Totally fucking fine. Can't you tell?" He wiped the tears again, knowing that his face was probably flushed and freckled and wet. Not his best look, certainly, but what's a little ugliness among friends. That was always the great thing about Harry. You could let it all hang out. Well, almost all. His breath hitched again and he let the sob out, not quite ready to let himself cry, but apparently his body was already there, another sob wrenching out of him, despite his best efforts to hold his breath as if they might, like hiccups, stop.

Harry didn't say anything, but he didn't have to. He was still so young, still in his twenties, and not very good at controlling what other people saw of him. His baby face was transparent, actually. Gullible. But he always seemed to understand that Tom wasn't like that and never got on him for keeping it together, never making him open up as if it was some precondition for his friendship. He gave as much as he could and Harry had always accepted that. So why was it all so wrong now? He was back to that question and still had no answers. Except that he wanted to give more, finally, than even Harry could accept.

Harry's hand left his forehead and then both arms were wrapping around him until Harry was hugging him close, one arm around his back, stroking his neck and the other hand at the small of his back making little reassuring circles. And Harry was murmuring something about it being okay, which was just another proof of how naive he was, because it obviously was not okay, not even close. He'd been alright, one minute, going into the party, then everything had just snapped and he had taken that first non-synth drink and made a decision then to drink as much as he could tolerate before going home and sleeping it off. This was definitely not part of the plan.

After a while Harry let go of him and he guessed it was because he wasn't crying anymore. And now he felt sick, not from the vodka, but from crying so hard his stomache ached.

"Can you tell me what happened?"

Harry my therapist. Probably a horrible idea, but then the other option was Chakotay or the Doc. The rock and the hard place, definitely. He took a deep breath and let it out, the short answer, anyway. The long answer, that he was climbing into his mid-thirties without a parachute just wouldn't have made any sense. "The Captain called me into her office to talk about our flight plan and then asked me if I felt I was able to consult with Mr. Kim. I said sure, why not, and she seemed kind of confused and said that she'd assumed we'd had a disagreement because she hadn't seen us together in so long and she didn't want to add to any tension on the bridge by assigning us to work together before we'd worked it out. So I said there was nothing to work out, that everything was fine, and then she gave me this look, you know, the one that says she doesn't believe anything you've just said but she isn't going to call you on it. Thank the gods for that look, or I'd have gotten in so much trouble over the years..."

"The Captain's a smart woman, Tom. But she should have called you on it."


"Then at least one other person would know why you've been avoiding me like I'm some contagion and you're obviously not ready to tell me." Harry's voice was almost a whisper.

"Harry. I want to. I really do."

"So tell me."

Harry had no capacity for subtleties. No understanding that there were some things that were best left unsaid. Through the diminishing haze of the booze, he really wished he hadn't come here, hadn't begun this conversation that now he was sure would end up precisely where it should never go.

But he was so tired, and the sofa was so comfortable. He tipped his head back again, letting his eyes close and hoping that maybe Harry would let him doze off and then he could just slip out during the night and pretend this had never happened. "Har, just gonna sleep fer a few, 'kay?"

"Fine, Tom. Maybe we can talk about this in the morning."

"Sure, Har. In the morning. 'syoureallymssme?" The words were out of his mouth before he could swallow them.

"Yes, Tom. Of course I do. I don't have another best friend. And no one else wants to play pool with me and protect all my credits in his own account... "

Harry spoke so softly he had to strain to listen, and the effort woke him up a bit. He hadn't really thought he could sleep with Harry in the next room anyway. It was too much and not enough like a fantasy.

"...And no one else wants to listen to me practice my clarinet and you know it's lonely playing by yourself"

He felt himself smile and would have laughed except that it was certainly not funny. Poor, innocent Harry didn't mean that. Oh no, Harry probably didn't play with himself, ever. Well, maybe some of the time, since he never slept with anyone on board, not that Tom heard about, and he listened to the ship gossip pretty carefully.

"Did Libby listen?"

Harry got this look, like he didn't know where the question had come from. Tom he was a pretty poor replacement for Libby, which hadn't bothered him until he started wishing he could replace her. Tom knew it was a testament to something, he wasn't sure if it was skill or his own selfish ego, that he could still deflect the conversation, even when drunk, even if it meant hearing Harry talk about the love of his life.

"Libby... knew the technical side of music. She would watch me play and keep her finger on the page, letting me know when I missed a note or was off in my timing. She would have made a good conductor, I think. She was certainly always telling me where to go." Harry smiled and Tom wondered how he could smile when he knew he probably would never see Libby again. But then, Harry was an optimist and probably believed he would see her and marry her and his life would be normal again. Picture perfect. Tom had almost forgotten what he'd asked Harry, and then remembered that he hadn't meant the music, but just in general, but the words to clarify that were just out of reach, too complicated.

"I miss her--"

Tom felt himself flinch at that and Harry must have noticed because he looked suddenly very sad and Tom felt guilty because he hadn't meant to make Harry talk about Libby. But if they were talking about Harry and Libby, and Harry could do that for hours, they were not going be talking about Harry and Tom.

"But I can live... without her. Missing her is like... like a reflex. I've gotten used to it, which maybe I shouldn't but it's not bad now. She's probably happy, started a new life on Earth, you know? It's weird," Harry was nodding to himself, as if he'd never thought about it till now, and maybe he hadn't. "You can miss someone who you're never going to see again, probably, and you can miss someone who's right here."

Harry was sometimes profound, in spite of himself. And annoyingly persistent.

"I just don't get why you're doing this to yourself again. I thought..."

Harry still thought it was enough to be his friend. But it was way too late to stop the downward slide of his life and Harry just didn't get it. Maybe he could have stopped things if they had never gone down that chute, before he'd claimed something he had no real right to. But probably not even then. It was just a matter of time before Harry figured out what in the world had made the other Tom leave Sandrine's and sacrifice himself for Harry's future. From Harry's perspective, the whole thing probably made no sense at all. Harry must've scratched it all up to his own good judgement--In all universes, Tom Paris was a good man at heart. Well, it was a nice thought, but innaccurate. In all universes Harry was the better man, and all Tom Parises, even the really fucked-up drunk ones, could see who was worth saving. Tom pretended he hadn't heard Harry's question, too preoccupied with a sudden, horribly macabre idea that had popped into his head. It was a bad idea, maybe worse than the one that landed him in jail, worse than the one about joining the Macqui. Worse than transwarp, because even then he had some small sense of self-preservation, and now he was past that. And pilots with nothing to lose made bad flight decisions.

"We're really not friends anymore, are we Harry? I mean, it's over, right, been over for months?"

Harry shook his head and looked sad, resigned, and Tom knew that he had misunderstood the question, taken it as a statement, which maybe it was. If it wasn't really dead, over, already, it would be. So maybe the trick was to just smash the puzzle once and for all. He envisioned himself doing it and then, before he could reconsider, he did it. In one smooth move that bespoke years of Academy training, legitimate and extra-curricular, he rolled over on the sofa and straddled Harry, pushing his shoulders back against the sofa-back with his hands, pinning him there and resting his weight on his knees as he leaned over Harry and just, for one interminable second, watched him, waiting for the room to stop its sympathetic spinning. Harry's normally hooded, nearly black eyes were wide and startled, like they always got when the red-alert klaxon sounded. And his hair was falling forward onto his forehead again. The man was perfect, beautiful, and so very young.

Tom watched as Harry's tongue slipped out from between his mouth and quickly wet his lips, a nervous gesture that signalled Tom that he had gone past the point of no return. There would be no way to explain this away, and tomorrow he would tell the Captain that someone else should be assigned to work with Harry and then he'd spend the next seventy years trying to not look over his shoulder at the past, which was irrecoverable, and try to move forward into that empty space ahead, unless he turned out to be less of a coward than he guessed he was and managed to beam himself into space, or maybe just arrange a convenient shuttle-craft accident. He was always wrecking those damn fragile things anyway. He leaned forward, just enough to feel Harry's breath against his lips, then pressed so that they touched, Harry's soft, wet lips brushing against his own dry ones. Then he leaned forward, for one second letting his forehead rest against Harry's, wishing that they were telepathic and he could convey his regrets, his apologies.

It was just a whisper, but because they were so close Harry's shocked voice was magnified, filling the room. "How dare you."

Tom tried to pull away, but Harry's hands had already slipped around his neck and it might have felt nice if Harry's nails weren't so close to drawing blood.

"You were going to kiss me and leave, right? And then do what, Tom. Pretend it never happened? Pretend you don't know me? How far are you going to take it? Far enough to kill yourself?"

Maybe Harry was telepathic, because he was going out the door as soon as Harry let go. Tom felt a blush rise to his cheeks, feeling angry that Harry was probably going to try to save him from himself even if he now hated him, because that was the kind of man Harry was. And he was ashamed because now that he kissed Harry, he realized that he didn't really want to die, at least not before kissing Harry again, and since that wasn't going to happen, maybe it would be better to just check out right away, before Harry killed him. Harry was looking really, really angry. Angrier than Tom had thought possible. Violently angry, and, if he wasn't so sure Harry was about to hit him, he'd have been pretty aroused by the whole thing.

"How. Dare. You. You coward. You...you...selfish bastard!" Harry's warm breath fanned his face as the insults were hissed and Tom tried to pull back but couldn't move away. "Tell me this isn't some sort of game."

He tried to shake his head, to say no, but Harry's hands tightened and he knew he had underestimated Harry, who was stronger than he looked and far less fragile. He gave up moving and tried to speak, his throat closing over the words. "I'm sorry. I-"

"Shut up, Tom. Just--." And then he did, because Harry was pulling him closer and kissing him, hard, biting, but holding back. For a brief second he felt Harry's tongue and then it was over. He didn't have time to respond before Harry shoved him backwards and he hit the floor, landing on his tailbone hard enough to send a shooting pain up his back. But he didn't yell, the vodka cushioning him, insulating him so this seemed to be just some simulation with the safeties turned off and he could hit reset if he didn't like how it turned out.

Harry leaned forward and brought his hands to his face, leaning his head on his elbows, propping himself up as if he was exhausted. "Tom, I just need to know what you thought would happen when you did this. What did you want to happen? I'm guessing, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, but it wasn't this." Something like a smile touched Harry's mouth and Tom could only watch and wonder at the man's beauty, now so far away and out of reach.

"I didn't think that far ahead." He hoped it sounded like the apology it was. And it was the truth, he usually only planned one or two steps ahead, if that. He was a horrible chess player, and a good pool player as long as he didn't think about it and let it just come naturally.

"Of course you didn't. Flying by the seat of your pants, right Paris? You haven't learned anything in... how many years has it been? I mean, I thought you were trying to be more like me. Well, that means you have to plan everything. Over-think everything. Weigh all your options. Wait until it's too late." Tom couldn't tell if Harry was angry at himself or at Tom. "Either way, it's still up to me to decide what to do with you."

Tom had sudden visions of being brought up on charges of sexual assault.

"I think I need a drink." Tom didn't realize he'd said it aloud until Harry got up, walked to the replicator and pulled open the panel to the right of the controls. Inside was a tray holding a bottle and two glasses. Harry was full of surprises tonight. He held his hand out to take the drink, but Harry offered his other hand and pulled him up off the floor and pushed him toward the sofa. With a hiss at the pain of sitting, he lowered himself down again. With just a little effort he could almost convince himself that he'd just arrived at the cabin for a friendly chat. Harry put the drink in his hand and Tom drained the glass in one long gulp. It was something unidentifiable, sweet but with a sharp burn to it that brought new tears to his eyes.

Harry was slowly pacing in front of him, one hand holding his drink while the other ran up through his hair, pulling it back. But his eyes stayed fixed on Tom and he knew that Harry was expecting some explanation and Tom hoped something intelligent would come out. But then Harry seemed to change his mind.

"Is it just about sex?"

Sex. Fuck, he hadn't even let himself think about that, not since he'd first realized it had all gotten out of control. Now an image flashed into his head again, Harry naked with his head tipped back and his mouth open and his eyes closed, and he felt the heat hit his face almost before it touched his cock. "No." His voice was too low, too strained, and made it sound like a lie. He tried again, forcing himself to look Harry in the eye, clearing his throat and reaching for the bottle to pour himself another drink. Harry didn't react, but Tom sensed that when this was all over he'd be hearing a lecture about his need to face emotions while sober. And he would sit patiently until it was over and then tell Harry a little story about Admiral Paris and then Harry would pour him another drink and they'd move on. All assuming that he lived through this.

Tom cleared his throat again, finding the harsh drink went down better the second time. "No. If it was just about sex I could, um, I would deal with it. Better than this, I mean." He tried to smile but it was weak, unsteady, and he felt his stomach roll over as the drink interacted with the vodka.

"So, you don't want to have sex--with me?" Harry's voice was matter of fact and Tom wondered if Chakotay's story about Seven's botched seduction was just a story. But no, there was a trace of a blush under that bronze skin, lending it a glow that seemed to add to the room temperature.

There was a right answer to that question. If he could just figure out where Harry was going with this. Not that it mattered. One way or another, his life was pretty much over at this point, or at least not getting any worse. He tried for levity. "Now, Ensign, you don't want to jump to conclusions. I said it wasn't just sex."

"Ah. So you do still want to have sex with me." Harry looked almost...smug. Still want? Had Harry known? For how long? His face was still unsmiling, but there was the faintest hint of a turn to his lips, making Harry look almost cruel, and Tom wondered what made him think Harry wouldn't eventually guess and if he hadn't at some point subconsciously left clues.

"Maybe another time, Har. Tonight I think I've had enough excitement." Even to his own ears the words came out strained and sad. He tried to look indifferent, surprised that his cock didn't respond to this offer that should have fulfilled every fantasy he'd had, but now was so wrong, so far from the normal run of wet-dreams that he couldn't bring himself to enjoy it.

Harry walked toward him, putting his untouched drink on the side table. He casually straddled Tom's legs, which were fully extended, and Tom reflexively drew them up into a lap before he could think about it. It just wasn't possible to ignore that Harry's bottom was resting on his thighs, but he still felt more scared shitless than turned on. He almost wanted to ask "What the hell are you doing" but had the surreal fear that Harry would say something like "Just need a lift to reach this conduit over your head," so he said nothing. Before he could take another drink, Harry pulled the glass from his hand and placed it on the table then began to unbutton his own shirt before giving up and pulling the whole thing off, over his head.

For a moment, Tom tried to suppress the fight or flight that was thrumming through his system. The adrenaline made his head light and he tried not to think about anything as he put his hands out and touched Harry's smooth chest. He held them there, thrust out to steady himself, keeping Harry at arm's length while he tried to remember what was supposed to happen next and what, if anything, he wanted to happen next. His whole body was shaking, his skin felt clammy and cold, and he could smell his own sweat and something else, something almost like arousal, coming off Harry's heated skin. He pulled his hands away from Harry's chest to pick up his drink again and Harry fell forward a little.

"Tom, calm down. It's going to be alright."

He realized he was holding his drink so hard the glass was very close to shattering and tried to relax, as if he could recapture some semblance of normalcy by an act of will. But Harry was half-naked on his lap, apparently offering up his body. And Tom knew his only option was to turn it down. "Look, Harry. Not that I don't, um, appreciate this, because I do. And don't take this the wrong way, but I don't want your pity. I'm fine, really. You don't have to stay...to do...this...whatever. It's not what I meant. I...oh gods...I promise not to, um, kill myself." Way to sound in control, Tom. But he felt like the mask that used to slip so easily over his insecurity had been left at the bar, sometime around his third drink.

"Um, Tom? This is my cabin, so if one of us leaves, it'll have to be you. And if you leave now, you aren't ever coming back."

Tom couldn't tell if it was a statement or a threat, but he didn't want to find out, so he stopped his movements to get away until he felt Harry's grip on his arms ease up.

"You think this is going to be a pity-fuck? Trust me, you may be pitiful, but even I don't feel that sorry for you."

The words were mild. Harry never felt sorry for him, never indulged him in his poor-Tom moments, and he smiled because when Harry had said "pity-fuck," a bright spot of color hit his cheeks. The man was amazing, definitely one-day command material, even if no one else on board had recognized it yet.

He heard another click, this time the sound coming from his throat as he tried to say something. They were just words, but they might as well have been in another language he had never learned to speak, the words coming out hoarse and he didn't even recognize the sound of his own voice. "Oh gods, Har... I need... I'm so sorry I love..."

They came out wrong. Tom wasn't really sorry to have loved Harry, but it was an imposition that brought with it an expectation that had ended their friendship, a horrible chain reaction whose end seemed far removed from the good intentions that began their acquaintance. Strangely, after holding off and never before telling anyone he loved them, the confession brought with it no sought after revelation and nothing about being lost in space made any more sense.

If he was asked to recount it later Tom would have to say that he couldn't remember how Harry had responded or how they had ended up in the bedroom, so he would have to skip that part. Time and space seemed to contract again in a haze of desire and denial. He couldn't remember getting undressed, and although he had a vague memory of doing an awkward striptease, he was sure he was too drunk to have undone the clasps on his uniform, and not drunk enough to attempt anything that ridiculous. But somehow, they were both naked. It was awkward, their limbs joining together as one continous tangle and at least once he somehow trapped them both so that neither could move, but eventually he found a rhythm and the fear was replaced by something far sweeter and more dangerous, and then he was coming hard against Harry's warm body, pressing them both into the bed.

He must have passed out then, because seconds later the alarm went off and Harry was already up and wearing his workout pants, puttering aroung the cabin as if it was any other day. And, if the alarm was right, it was an hour until his duty shift. Tom was afraid to speak, the headache that loomed behind his temples paling in comparison to the fear the Harry had changed his mind. Harry had been pretty sober, but still, one of them had been drunk and not thinking clearly, and Harry might blame him for that. People did stupid things when drunk, and he'd dealt with enough mornings after, but this was Harry, who only brought him coffee as if it was just another post-binge day. Harry perched on the edge of the bed, looking strangely relaxed, not drinking his own coffee but just sitting behind a cloud of steam that made his face fuzzy and unreal.

"Tom, I called us both in. The Captain gave us the day, barring an emergency. We need to talk."

The gods only knew what Janeway thought was happening. If he had been as sloppy as he now guessed he had, not only had Harry figured him out, but probably the Captain, B'Elanna, and hell, maybe even Chakotay had spent the last few months watching him not seduce Harry. That meant it was going to be that much harder to pretend bumping into Harry in the night was the result of too much drink and casual curiosity.

"Harry, I really don't feel up to any big discussions right now." In fact, he was seriously considering a trip to the bathroom. "Um, Har--I'm gonna be--" and he ran to the bathroom, Harry's calm "Later, then," a whisper next to the loud churning of his own stomach.

When he came back, weak, and willing to join the temperance union and pledge his undying support of synthehol, Harry was drinking his coffee, looking amused at his illness. Tom felt a blush rise up his body, suddenly realizing that he was stark naked and Harry's eyes were on him, examining him as if he was some strange creature, just beamed directly into his cabin.

He climbed back into Harry's bed when a quick look around the room didn't turn up his clothes. He wasn't particularly modest, but the memory of friction and the hard heat of Harry's body were having a painful effect that would soon become embarrassing on his now weak but sober body. Harry stood beside the bed and it occured to Tom that it was pretty presumptuous to get back in Harry's bed when he should have just gone home.

"Feeling better?"


"Good, because we have to talk."

"About what?" Not that he had any hopes of obfuscating. He was naked in Harry's bed. But maybe he could delay talking until he figured some way out of this.

Harry sighed and climbed in beside him, adjusting and tucking in the covers that Tom had kicked off during the night. His movements revealed flashes of skin and Tom had to look away, trying not to enjoy the oddly domestic sight of Harry making the bed around them. Even HarryÕs nakedness wasn't new. In fact, he'd seen him enough times over the years to provide ample fuel for fantasy, but this was different because it was clear that Harry was watching him watch him. Tom had been used to denying the attraction, because he had to. Now, Harry was painfully bright, golden, all harsh edges, radiant and hot, the body the same but the context of that body forcing a battle between his mind which said close your damn eyes before they rupture, and his body that insisted that there was nothing more lovely in the world than the pull of muscles rippling across Harry Kim's broad back. He tried moving away, but Harry followed him, forcing Tom to balance on the edge of the bed like a virgin, which he was definitely not.

Finally, it was just that unavoidable proximity that hardened his cock again, and any pretense of restraint was lost as he let himself react to the nearness of Harry's body, the flat brown nipples standing nakedly against such smooth, perfect skin. He carefully rubbed the long muscles in Harry's arms, enjoying the springy tensile feel of him, the warm elasticity of life and a pulse. No freckles at all, and no chest hair, but the faint hint of hair that peeked out as Harry loosened the tie of his pants and they slid down past his belly. He tentatively tasted Harry's skin, running his tongue across the sharp collarbone, laving one nipple, then the other, listening to Harry's shallow breathing almost stop as he moved lower. Harry must have already showered because he smelled like lavendar again, and new arousal.

Even if this was a pity-fuck, Tom knew he would accept that, as he took Harry in his mouth and tried to convince Harry of his sincerity without words. He would beg with his mouth, with his cock, with any part of him that Harry would take. And Harry did seem convinced, moaning softly and grabbing Tom's hair hard enough to hurt. Then Harry pulled himself away, sitting up, and Tom knew his argument had not been good enough to convince Harry to stay. Whatever had been about to happen, Harry had obviously changed his mind. Tom turned to face the wall, hoping that he could keep from letting Harry see how much he'd allowed himself to hope Harry would want him.

"No. Not yet. Tom, look at me... "

Harry said it with so much authority that he had to look up. He was shaking his head at him, looking exasperated and kind. Of course he would look kind. Harry was kind, and his rejection would be the worse for that. Harry was already talking, but Tom couldn't bring himself to hear the words, only watching Harry's mouth move, remembering the taste of him and the way his breath caught when he said "Not yet," as if he wanted to prolong everything and not end it. Then Harry grabbed his chin and forced his attention.

"...Okay, one more time, in Standard. I want you."

"I--You what?"

"I, Harry Kim, want you, Tom Paris. You are going to get over this nobody loves me routine, right now before I decide you're hopeless. Then you're going to fuck me until I can't sit down. Then we're going to have a long, boring conversation during which I'm going to tell you exactly how stupid you've been and how you've underestimated me for the last fucking time, and then maybe, if I think you're over yourself, I'll let you fuck me again."

Again, bright spots of color marked Harry's face as he said "fuck," which was reassuring, because without that evidence, Tom would have assumed he was hallucinating the entire speech. He closed his mouth because he couldn't begin to think of a response. In fact, he wasn't sure if he wanted to laugh or salute and say "Yes sir." But the giggles, probably hysterical, won out, and he was suddenly holding his sides, feeling very hung-over and nauseous, but so giddy that it didn't matter. He was so far gone he didn't even care if Harry thought it was funny, but finally managed to stop laughing after taking several deep breaths and gasping out, "I love you, too." Then he could see that Harry was smiling, looking relieved, and he moved close enough to put his arms around Harry and just hold him tight as the giggles came back.


Harry evaluated his progress. Really, the whole situation was not going well. It certainly wasn't the first time someone had reacted to his sexual advances by laughing. And if it were anyone but Tom, he would have kicked him out. But it was Tom, radiant, flushed with laughter, skin so soft and pale-pink, like cream and peaches and sunlight, and summer, looking, in fact, extrememly edible. Tom's lips were still wet, ripe, and Harry wished he hadn't pulled Tom's mouth off of him. But Tom had been so desperate, so intense, that it had scared him. He couldn't last that way and it shouldn't be like last night. Now, all he needed was to somehow convince Tom that he wanted him, again and slowly. He should have guessed it would be difficult. There was nothing easy about being Tom's friend. But somehow, given Tom's reputation, for being easy, he'd imagined that once he'd decided what he wanted, it would be simple to become Tom's lover. Just tell Tom you want him and Tom would be yours. That seemed to be the way it worked. The Delaney sisters, B'Elanna, and a too-long list of other crewmembers seemed to have figured Tom out. Ah, but that was different. Because Tom walked around assuming that all the women and some of the men on-board wanted his body, which was true, at least potentially. And he'd spent just as long assuming that Harry did not. So Harry was forced to be crude about it when his admittedly awkward, subtle seduction failed. Now Tom finally heard the words and was having some sort of nervous giggle fit and Harry was trying very hard to see where it was that funny. Once he'd finally decided he did want Tom, right about the same time Tom seemed to have decided he wanted nothing to do with Harry, he'd spent hours practicing telling Tom what he wanted in front of a mirror, all the while feeling incredibly stupid and not at all sexy. But he persisted because Tom was experienced and he was, if you didn't count Libby, a well-read virgin. If he'd been less secure, he'd assume that Tom wasn't really attracted to him at all. He'd never really understood why Tom wanted him and, in the long months spent debating whether it was worth the risk, he'd concluded that the attraction might lie solely with his own inaccessiblity.

Now, he was anything but reluctant and had made himself totally accessible. The small taste of Tom last night was enough to erase any doubts about his interest in Tom. Not that he was ever really unsure about that. But it was one thing to want to touch Tom, another man. That was desire, a fantasy. Touching Tom, finally having Tom's body wrapped around his, the impossibly blond man moving against him, was proof that he wanted Tom and that they could be amazing together. If only he could convince Tom of that.

Tom's breathing was slowing down, the gasps of laughter becoming softer, and finally he was quiet. Harry reached out and wiped at the tears running down those fine cheeks, covered by the beginnings of a soft blond beard. He was threatening to love this man and to want him and Tom didn't react well to kindness. He was like some injured animal, biting the hand that petted him, choosing starvation if the meal looked too appetizing.

Calm again, Tom started in with his endless rebuttals, but this time there was self-mockery in Tom's voice. "If you're not sure--"

"I'm sure. Absolutely. You are my friend. Without doubt. I love you." He knew he sounded exasperated, but he'd been saying the same things for so long he was starting to lose patience, which, contrary to Tom's skewed view of things, he did not have in endless supply.

Tom shook his head. "Friends, if that's what we are, isn't enough. It should be, Harry. For a while I thought being your friend was going to be enough. But it isn't."

"It doesn't have to be. I love you. I'm in love with you. I'd like to be inside you. I want you to be inside me. How much more graphic do I have to be before you'll take me seriously. Take a look around, Tom. You're in my cabin, in my bed... Are you so absolutely convinced you know what I want that you're willing to deny this?"

Harry pressed his erection into Tom's belly. Tom looked unsure and Harry knew Tom was still afraid. After Tom got out of prison, he'd confessed to being terrified of being happy. For the whole first year, Harry knew Tom woke up every day thinking they'd find a way home and it would all be taken away. Even that first year out, when Harry felt lost and ill-prepared to deal with his new job and his new role and the daily demands of sharing the Captain's shift, on the bridge every day, even when he missed Libby and the effortless relationship they'd established, he knew that everything had irrevocably changed. It started the moment he decided to be Tom's friend. Suddenly, his social life revolved around the man who went from social pariah to life of the party in just a few months, and Harry felt himself go along for the ride, going from Tom's protector to Tom's little buddy without protesting. How could he resent Tom when, more and more, he'd catch Tom looking at him speculatively, and see that Tom's cheeks would pink when he was caught staring, and how he would run a nervous, long-fingered hand through his pale hair, unsmoothing it into so many little golden curls. At first, Harry had been confused, trying to understand what it all might mean. But he wasn't so inexperienced, even then, that he didn't know how that look made him feel. It was flattering, embarrassing, arousing, and somehow safe, because he was sure that Tom would never make a move on him. So Harry did his best to project an air of safety, knowing that as long as he didn't confront Tom about it, they would be friends. Friendship was what he was looking for. And Libby was still waiting for him to come home.

And for that whole second year in space, their unspoken agreement seemed to be working. But then he'd somehow, without trying, fallen in love with Tom, someone who thought that being happy might set some sort of dangerous precedent. Still not sure that he wanted something other than friendship, even when he'd already given up on Libby, and now not even really being able to imagine what that other thing with Tom might be like, he changed the rules. As subtly as he could, he'd begun a vague campaign to tempt Tom with that happiness. He went along with Tom on his sometimes marginally insubordinate schemes. He took up Tom's arguments for the transwarp drive, even when he was scared that Tom would kill himself trying. He let Tom win at pool just so he could insist that Tom buy him dinner.

Without any warning, Tom reached some sort of limit and Tom started pushing Harry away. He was suddenly too busy for dinner. He had work to do and couldn't come to Sandrine's. On a small ship, it was difficult to avoid someone working your duty shift, but Tom knew him too well, and kept narrowly missing him until Harry had to let himself give up. There was never a fight. Tom tried to start a few, but Harry ignored him, refusing to give Tom a concrete reason to end their friendship. It was the only way to punish Tom, to make it his decision to stay away. When the tension became too much, Tom put whole decks between them and Harry guessed it was only a matter of time before Tom asked for a new cabin on the other side of the ship. Then Tom started to pursue B'Elanna and he'd offered his blessing. If Tom thought he would be happy with B'Elanna he vowed to let it happen. But it hadn't happened, and Tom reacted to that as if it confirmed his world view. Tom Paris wouldn't be happy, even if it killed him, even if he had to kill himself to avoid it.

Now, Harry was out of ideas. After last night, he doubted they could return to just friends. Too much time had been lost. Tom might continue to avoid him, until maybe, eventually, they could both become comfortable again and start over. He sighed, depressed and very, very tired, and pulled Tom's tense body closer to him, his own erection forgotten as the pointlessness of the situation washed over him. He closed his eyes, for one brief moment letting himself pretend that Tom was his and he was startled as Tom's voice woke him from the beginnings of a doze.

"Um, Harry? Just how far would you be willing to go to convince me of that?"

Harry didn't answer, but moved from his place beside Tom, stretching his long body on top of Tom's, relishing the welcome certainty of Tom's cock and the teasing tone of Tom's challenge. It didn't matter, right now, what finally changed Tom's mind. Before he could think of any more reasons to doubt the sincerity of Harry's interest, Harry slipped inside him, holding Tom so close that the distance between them first contracted, then grew to be negligable, becoming, finally, immeasurable, impossible to maintain beyond the brief seconds of two orgasms, but representing a place where they could both believe that it was possible to share one desire.