What He's Not
by jenn

Harry found Tom alone in the holodeck.

It shouldn't have been unusual, especially with B'Elanna. Harry shouldn't have been surprised, in fact; he knew that B'Elanna was attending the memorial service Chakotay had organized to honor the Maquis murdered in the DMZ. He knew because he'd just come from there. Most of the Starfleet contingent had visited for a few moments before leaving the former Maquis to their private grieving.

Well, Janeway hadn't. Nor, Harry thought, would she had been very welcome.

Somehow, though, he'd expected Tom to be there. But B'Elanna's short reply to his query had led him here.

Distance. Harry could no longer pretend Tom wasn't doing it deliberately--he knew Tom better than that. He'd been avoiding everyone, since before the letters had gotten through--Harry had watched it happen, but there hadn't been any time to do anything about it. Well, he had time now.

He was damn well *making* time.

"Hey," he said, leaning against the wall as the doors closed behind him. Tom glanced up from the floor, a grin turning his mouth, surrounded with a truly dizzying array of PADDs and a tricorder in his lap. Harry glanced at the tricorder and saw that Tom had rigged it into the computer, so he could program in comfort, as well as access existing holodeck records. The holodeck was otherwise dark, zigzagged stripes of yellow and holodeck emitters bare on the unlighted walls. Stripped and unadorned. Rather disturbing, truth be told.

Even from here, he could feel the tension radiating from the older man. A definite 'Go Away', maybe an 'Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,' tossed in for kicks. There might as well have been a sign.

But no privacy lock. That had to mean something.

"Hey." Tom picked up a PADD, barely glancing at it before tapping in a few commands. "How was dinner?"

"I noticed you missed it--again," Harry answered patiently, coming to stand over the him, glancing idly at the PADD. "What do you eat, anyway? Air?"

Tom chuckled but didn't look up from his work.

"I replicated something earlier," he answered, and gestured vaguely to his left. A plate lay abandoned on the floor, with a few crumbs evident on its surface.

"Peanut butter and jelly?" Harry guessed. He smiled, relaxing against the bulkhead. "So what's so important that you couldn't take time to eat, hmm?"

Tom shrugged, and Harry noted the cup of coffee just beyond the farthest PADD. Empty. Tom had been here for awhile.

Harry didn't pretend he understood Tom completely, but he knew him pretty well. Recognized the moods that might be invisible to others, the reflexive defense system Tom had developed years before his feet touched Voyager's decks. While not nearly as impenetrable as once they had been, a circumstance Harry couldn't help but with some pride attribute to his own influence, some habits couldn't be broken overnight. Or over years.

He was looking at Tom in full-out lock-in, and here was Harry, searching for his siege equipment.

"B'Elanna asked me to program some things for her," Tom answered, putting the PADD aside and reaching for another. "I wanted to have the first one done before she gets back, so I started early."

Real early. Close to ten hours before, actually, if Harry had counted the time Tom had reserved correctly. Though why he had come here was anyone's guess--Tom could just as easily done everything from the comfort of his quarters. Somehow, the holodeck didn't seem as friendly when you were staring at bared metal and wiring. Downright spooky, actually.

Harry glanced at the piles of PADDs surrounding Tom for a moment, then squatted down, picking up the closest one and barely getting the chance to glance at the contents before Tom neatly plucked it from his fingers. He blinked, hand hovering midair, the motion so smooth that Harry couldn't even be sure it was deliberate.

"Thanks. I was looking for that." Harry watched Tom look over it, tapping something into the tricorder, before dropping it back down.

On his other side. Away from Harry.

Harry noticed this. Debated whether to comment.

"You need any help?" he asked, lowering himself to sit on the floor, folding his legs up to get comfortable. Making a statement of patience without saying a word. He knew Tom would understand.

"Thanks, Harry, but--I--think--I've got it under control." Each pause was accentuated by tapping. "B'Elanna hasn't ever asked me to program for her before--I just want to make sure this is perfect."

Harry watched him enter a few more commands. B'Elanna wasn't a huge fan of holodeck programs, especially any Tom suggested openly. Part of her charm, Harry supposed. He could see why Tom was working so hard on it.

"She actually has several she wants me to do." The sudden burst of congeniality was not unexpected--when Tom wanted to avoid a previously mentioned topic, he would hyperfocus on another. Harry was used to that. He even let it go this time. "A new exercise program, a couple of other scenarios--remember when I told you about the time I went orbital skydiving at the Academy?" Harry nodded, and Tom leaned back on one arm, grinning slightly. "I've been trying to convince B'Elanna to try it with me. It's great, Harry--freefall with an adrenaline rush like you wouldn't believe. Anyway, she asked this afternoon if I still had the program. I'm re-writing it for her to use, since she wants her own copy. Set on Kessick, of all places, her homeworld." He shrugged, then returned his attention to his work.

Harry nodded, watching the pilot patiently program in another set of parameters before speaking again.

"Did--did B'Elanna get that letter from your Dad, Tom?" Harry hadn't had the opportunity to ask about that yet, and wished suddenly he hadn't taken it now. Before his eyes, Tom closed down completely, the smile not vanishing but rather freezing for an instant so short that if Harry hadn't known him so well he never would have seen it at all. Damn.

"No. She tried again but--it was so scrambled, she couldn't get it out." Tom shrugged with extreme disinterest. "My father wasn't exactly the loquacious type anyway. Probably a 'heard your alive, try not to kill anyone while you're out there' kind of thing."

Harry, not for the first time, tried to imagine having a father like Tom's. Not that he'd heard much, but the little he'd picked up had been enough. His own parents had been so supportive of him, so encouraging--everything that good parents should be. Whereas Tom's father--and why did Tom never talk about his mother?--seemed to have been the exact opposite; no, that wasn't right. More like the extremes of parenthood--not encouraging but demanding, not supportive but smothering or distant.

"I'm sorry it didn't get through." Remembering his own frantic worry over his family's letter, he sympathized with Tom.

"No big deal." Tom couldn't have known how transparent he was. Harry lowered himself onto his stomach, supporting himself on his elbows, keeping brown eyes carefully fixed on his friend's face.

"Your father is probably very proud of you," Harry said quietly.

"The funny thing is, Harry, that is very possibly true." Tom dropped the PADD abruptly, meeting Harry's eyes with an oddly bitter expression, a trace of a smile turning his mouth.

Harry blinked, thinking about that statement, turning it over carefully in his mind, searching for the multiple meanings. The connection between Tom not attending the memorial and that lost letter.

"Why wouldn't he be?" Harry asked, watching the jump of muscle in Tom's jaw, the sudden clenching of teeth that meant he'd just bit back something he didn't want to deal with. All Tom, not a big fan of dealing with his problems. Always of the 'let them go off on their own' persuasion.

"A lot of reasons, Harry. Son a failed officer, failed Maquis--though that must have delighted him on some level, that if I failed, I had to do it in a big way, a nice public humiliation to prove that he had nothing to do with whatever went wrong with me." Tom's jaw clenched again, and Harry wondered what else he would have said there. Suddenly, he knew it was important to find out.

Failed Maquis. Failed officer.

The connection.

"Everyone makes mistakes, Tom."

"Not the way I do. If I have to screw up, I like to do it nice and big." There was no mistaking the bitterness in his voice now. "Either kill some people because I wasn't doing my job as brilliantly as I always flatter myself I do, or get caught on a simple mission that a child could have managed. Nice, public trial for the Admiral's wayward son. He never attended either the Caldik Prime hearing or the treason trial, did you know that?" Tom stared down at the tricorder for a moment, obviously struggling for control.

"No, I didn't," Harry answered honestly. Waited, knowing a part of Tom wanted to talk, to someone, to anyone, and B'Elanna wasn't available right now. Would he have talked to her if she was, though? Harry didn't know.

"But now--I'm finally living up to my birthright. That's the part that gets to me, I think. I'm right back where I was when I was discharged. Lieutenant, head of department--well, I was second on my last assignment, but there it is." He shook his head. "I'm exactly what he wanted me to be--of course he feels proud now." His voice dropped slightly, almost gentle.

Harry tried to decipher that statement, looking for what made Tom's mouth smile like that, when the cool blue eyes reflected nothing.

"But I ask you this, Harry--would he have been proud of me if I'd chosen not to wear this uniform? If I'd suddenly decided to become a colonist on some quiet planet a few years ago, if I'd returned to the university and got a master's degree in--I don't know, organic farming? Or if all I'd done is just survive? Hell, he must be jumping for joy--he was right, I was wrong, and if I'd only followed the plan he made for me, my life would have turned out all right in the end. He must be fucking thrilled."

There it was. Harry sometimes wondered if Tom was the only dense person in their friendship. He shook his head.

"You're not wearing that uniform because of your father this time, Tom. You're wearing it--"

"Because of my father's pet student," Tom answered harshly. The blue eyes were a little distant, seeing something Harry could not. Perhaps remembering something, Harry wasn't sure. Maybe a long ago day in the Captain's ready room, where he'd received his pips back. "She would never have handed over a department to any ex-con, Harry, no matter what he did. She didn't give the commission to me. She gave it to Owen Paris' wayward son, after he grew up and started acting like a good obedient little boy, the stuff officers are made of. Her sacred duty to reform him into something his father would approve of."

"That's not true." He could barely believe Tom thought that himself.

"Really?" Tom shook his head. "I thought so for awhile, thought maybe, just maybe, she promoted me because of me--" He stopped, again the clenched jaw, and Harry waited, aware Tom had forgotten he was there. Whatever had begun this, it had been building a long time. "Most people who graduate the Academy don't later serve under their mentor, like she did. She worships my father--he's everything she thinks Starfleet is and should be. Think about that. She didn't give that commission to Tom Paris, she gave it to Owen Paris' son."

Where the hell had this come from?

"When--when did you start to think like that?" Harry asked, and Tom's face turned away. "Did--"

"It's nothing, Harry," Tom answered quickly, going back to his programming. "Nothing important. I haven't been sleeping well, that's all--makes me irritable."

Harry was pretty sure that was true, too. Tom didn't sleep well under stress. But he didn't plan to let Tom get away with that excuse, either.

"Yeah, and Voyager is the good ship Lollipop. Come on, Tom, talk to me." No response, and he leaned a little forward on his elbows, trying to get Tom to look at him. "You're a good officer, Tom. Your father had nothing to do with what happened out here. You have to know that."

Tom lifted his head, meeting Harry's eyes with an unreadable expression.

"I'm a failed Starfleet officer, Harry, a failed Maquis, and now I sit at the helm of the most advanced Starfleet vessel to date--at least to date when we disappeared, in any case. Would you have put me there, if you had been in her place?"

Failed officer. Failed Maquis. The theme of this little conversation was unmistakable.

"Your a damned good pilot."

"Probably the best Starfleet has ever produced, but that isn't the point. I know I'm a good pilot. So does she. So do the Maquis, even if I got caught, and I would love to have seen what Chakotay would have done in that particular situation." Tom grinned then, a break in melancholy to enjoy the thought. Harry felt an unwilling grin pull his mouth at the same time. "But not an officer." Tom shook his head abruptly, smile disappearing. "I can't explain it, when it happened, when I started to wonder why--" he stopped, and as visible as a plasma fire, Tom shut down.

Harry knew Tom well enough to guess he wasn't getting any more information from his friend. He switched the subject.

"When did B'Elanna say she'd be back?"

Wrong question, if the brief, sudden stiffening was anything to go by.

"We're supposed to meet tomorrow for dinner, if she has time," Tom answered neutrally, and his full attention was back on those damned PADDs, rapidly entering commands, correlating data--it was interesting to watch.

"Are you two having problems? Is that why you didn't go to the memorial service?" Harry asked suddenly; there was a pattern here, he just knew it.

"No, I didn't stay away because we're arguing, I'm staying away because she doesn't want me there," Tom shot, then the blue eyes widened, and he sighed, one hand going up to rub his forehead lightly. "Sorry. No, it's that she needs to be alone right now, with the other Maquis, talk over what happened--and I'm not Maquis, Harry. I can't understand how they feel. And I'm not exactly on the closest of terms with the Chief Maquis First Officer, after all." He gave Harry another grin. "They'll get drunk on synthale and talk about the good old days of raiding Cardassian freighters and hiding out on burned planets. Boring as hell."

Tom, trying to turn it into a joke. Harry reached forward, grabbing Tom's wrist when his hand dipped down for another PADD.

"Why wouldn't she want you there? Did she actually say that?"

Tom's eyes narrowed, but he didn't try to pull away.

"That's none of your business, Harry."

"Since when?" Harry shook his head, keeping the blue eyes locked with his. "Give it up, we're friends, right? They're known to talk to each other from time to time, you know. Just as a formality."

"Harry--" Tom sighed, letting go of the PADD, and Harry freed his wrist and settled himself. "Harry, it's not a big deal. We had an argument, we both said some things we didn't mean. I decided to come here and cool off, that's all." He looked straight into the brown eyes with his most sincere expression.

{He wanted to go with her. He wanted to support her, and she didn't let him.} Harry watched his friend, replaying B'Elanna's abruptness at the memorial, the way the brown eyes didn't meet his--her discomfort.

"Megan and Sue are meeting me at Sandrine's tonight to play some pool--feel like fleecing them of rep rations?" Harry tried to keep his voice light, though it took effort.

"Maybe when I finish, Harry," Tom answered with another grin, and nodded as his friend turned to leave. "Maybe."

Harry paused at the door.

"You know she needs you, right?" he asked softly, not turning around, hand paused by the panel that opened the door.

A long pause, then Tom's voice again, this time without anything but tiredness.

"I know exactly what I mean to her, Harry." Harry couldn't interpret that statement. "She just doesn't want to advertise her relationship with me to the other Maquis today. I understand. It's not anything serious, it's just--Harry, I wasn't there for her when she needed me, when she got the news. This is something she needs to work out on her own." Another pause, and Harry almost thought he was done speaking. "I might have gone to prison for flying for them, but I was never one of them, and they know that. I had no reason to go."

"You trying to convince me or yourself?" Harry answered, turning around.

"Maybe both?" Tom smiled, then went back to that endless tapping. "Good night Harry."

A dismissal as classic as it was unanswerable.

"Night, Tom."

The End