An Ensign To Die For
by Judy email@example.com
Summary: A new take on the episode Non Sequitur where Harry Kim finds himself back on Earth. There's one problem: it's the wrong Earth. The story addresses the problem of why Harry was so desperate to return to his reality. This story is told from the POV of the 'wrong' Earth's Tom Paris. It differs in other ways from the episode. This is a P/K, C/P story.
Disclaimer: They're Paramount's, sigh. No copyright infringement intended. Certain words should have accents, but they don't translate well to email, so the accents were deleted. Thanks to those who know they are for feedback on an earlier version. And thanks to Britta!
Copyright, 2000. Public or private feedback is welcome.
Warning: Rating: R. Angst. Tom angst. Some bad words here and there. Sexual tension between two guys. No depicted sex. If that's not your thing, please take a pass on this story.
Archive/Post: CPSG, ATPS, Allslash, CKOS, PacKage, PKSP, BLTS, ASC/EM, others please ask
Other Voyager slash stories may be found on my web page with stories on that page rated R or PG-13.
Oct. 28, 2000
An Ensign To Die For
A sunny afternoon in Marseilles, me at my favorite bar, a pool cue in my hand. I had it made. Right? So, maybe I was a little buzzed. Letting the alcohol level fall too low was not in my plans. That kind of negligence of my body's needs always ended up in trouble. It was best to maintain a steady state just this side of inebriation. At least that's what I thought I was achieving.
Harry Kim, *Ensign* Harry Kim had to go and spoil it all. He came into Sandrine's looking for me and called me by name. I couldn't be more surprised. He said he knew me. I didn't think I knew him, but he was pretty sure of it.
Then he spun this crazy story about Voyager -- the Voyager I never went on -- and how we were friends. *Friends*? I didn't have any friends. I told him I was getting annoyed and turned back to my pool game for one. Then he zinged me with the accusation that I was nothing but a loser and a drunk.
Even through my alcoholic haze his statement hurt and I took a swing at him. Guess I was a little more out of shape than I thought because the next thing I knew he had me bent over the pool table. He held my arm twisted up my back. Buffed by green felt, my face settled on the pool table. Damn. As I helplessly lay there I could hear his heavy breathing. I felt something distinctive hardening against my backside. But the ensign pulled away before his intimate weapon fully deployed.
After what seemed like a semester in my father's academy survival course, the kid made his exit and I went to the bar thinking I would top up my glass and just go ahead and begin my new goal of becoming falling down drunk.
But something about the way he'd told me we were friends tripped me up. What the hell *had* happened when I lay forced against the pool table? Funny thing, the ensign actually thought I had expertise to offer him. Damn. It was a no brainer, even if my brain was a little slow these days. Stumbling a bit, I ran -- all right, if anyone was watching, I staggered -- out of the bar after him.
I figured he was going back to Starfleet HQ and I'd reach him before he made it to the transport site. Of course, if he had a personal transport device like the one I had once *borrowed* and had since hocked, I never would have caught him. But, no, there he was, striding along the quay. Ignoring the dead fish smell of low tide that almost made me gag, I yelled, "Hey!"
He was about 50 meters ahead of me. I'm not sure he heard me and I wondered if I was in any kind of shape to catch him. Nauseous, but determined to screw up my life one more time, I called again. "Hey! Ensign!"
Raven hair atop that gold uniform swung around as if its owner was not sure he was the one being hailed. Then he recognized me and completed his turn to watch me finish my pathetic little sprint to his side. "It's Harry Kim," he informed me. Dark eyes narrowed as he clearly wondered what the hell I wanted.
"Look, I'm sorry about...I don't know...the shit I pulled back there."
"I'm sorry I had to pin you." His voice was cool, his eyes appraising.
"You were right." I tried to say the words lightly, as if it didn't really matter one way or the other. "About my current life's ambition. And until now I had no reason to change."
Kim's wariness made me rethink my actions. The stench of rotten fish was getting to me. "Yeah. You're right. I'll -- uh -- just go now."
I waited, swayed a little, thought for a moment that maybe I should cut back on the booze. Mercifully, the moment passed quickly. Maybe it was just the offshore breeze gusting at us. "You've got my attention. And I've got a place...." Even as I thought about my little room and the fact that I brought 'friends' there for a little recreational sex, I realized that taking him there wasn't going to be a good idea. He might still harbor a few nice illusions about Tom Paris that a visit to my room would shatter. "Or maybe we could go back to the bar?"
"How about a coffee shop?"
"Oh. Sure." I guess he didn't want to see me drink. I told myself that I didn't need alcohol right now. An hour or so wait would be all right. Then I could get back to my favorite pastime.
In silence we walked a block over from the quay and sat inside a small cafe. Pungent coffee aromas replaced the raw odors of waterfront Marseilles. In the nearly deserted shop, our waiter turned out to be a snooty Alien who spoke perfect French. I spoke it back to him and he pretended to misunderstand. Kim's translator barely had time to register my French version of, "Look, asshole...."
"Cafe au lait," Harry interrupted holding up two fingers. "S'il vous plait."
That's what I'd said. Guess my unshaven appearance had affronted the Alien. At Harry's poorly enunciated request, the waiter retreated behind the coffee bar. Since when did badly spoken French win out? I guess when the patron speaking the language perfectly reeked of alcohol. Damn. I'd have to remember that if I ever wanted another cup of coffee at a cafe. Perhaps this information would come in handy in thirty or forty years -- if I lived that long.
We sat in uncomfortable quiet while waiting for our drinks. Harry squirmed a little, then broke the ice. "How long have you been in France?"
"Since I got out of prison. A month, no, two months ago." I couldn't keep the defensiveness out of my voice. Time to deflect attention back to the ensign. "And you were supposed to be on Voyager."
He'd told me some of this back in Sandrine's but it had been a little too incredible to absorb. He corrected me, "No. I was *on* Voyager. So were you."
"Voyager disappeared in the badlands just about the time I was sent back to Auckland."
"It ended up 70,000 light years away in the Delta Quadrant."
"I always wanted to break warp 10."
"It wasn't warp that got us there. More like a very powerful alien life force. And once we lost the means to return home, Captain Janeway merged the two crews and...."
"Whoa. Two crews?"
The waiter placed our cups down on the wire table, precisely, but not exactly gently. Mine sloshed over into the saucer. Oh, well. French waiters. Alien, human, it didn't matter. I poured the liquid back where it belonged and met Harry's eyes over the rim of the cup. Something flickered as if he had second thoughts about mentioning the crew make-up of Voyager. "Give, Ensign."
"Harry", he corrected. "Well. Janeway's mission was to go after the Maquis."
I nodded. I knew that. "Chakotay." Something in my voice or look must have betrayed me.
"Yeah. I don't know what he was to you in this universe, but he didn't like you very much when he first came aboard. I think it was mutual."
"He thought I'd betrayed him, right?"
"Right. But you saved his life and he kept the Maquis on board more or less in line when it came to you."
Before he could follow-up on my past relationship with Chakotay, sarcastically, I asked, "And who kept the Fleeters off my back?"
"Captain Janeway. She made you a lieutenant. Put you in charge of the conn."
I shook my head in disbelief. "And how soon did I get busted back down to crewman?"
"You didn't. You won't."
Leaning back in my chair, arms crossed over my chest, my tone mocked him. "You seem awfully sure of that, Harry."
"Don't taunt me."
Harry's dark eyes narrowed in anger. So just who the hell was Tom Paris to this guy? I wanted to challenge his anger with a little of my own. Apparently, his Tom Paris had gotten all the breaks. Shit. Maybe I should just get the hell out of there. When I started to rise, his face lost its angry resolve. He looked utterly lost. "Don't?"
As an unsettling sense of shame came over me, I had to drop my eyes. No one had ever looked at me as if I was their bleak savior. And I hadn't had a real conversation with anyone in so long, I was out of practice. "I'm sorry."
He gave me a nod of acceptance as he drank from his cup. Meanwhile I concentrated on a memory fragment. I recalled the woman who had flown me to DS9, Janeway's chief conn officer. "What happened to Stadi?"
Shit. So that's how I got the promotion. Someone had to die first. Stadi had been all right. Turned down my proposition, but she was nice about it. This talk about an alternate reality was having an unexpected effect on me. My carefully maintained buzz began to dissipate as my blood alcohol level dropped.
As if he read my mind, Harry said, "Captain Janeway would have given you that field commission no matter what. Maybe you wouldn't have been head of flight operations if Stadi had lived. But, Tom, listen to me, you earned it."
I gave him a bittersweet smile, "No. He did. If it were up to me...." I waved my hand in a vague gesture meant to show the ensign what I'd done with my life.
"What do you have against Starfleet Headquarters?" he asked out of the blue.
After a moment, I realized that maybe his Tom Paris had had a different path to prison than I had. "After I was cashiered out of Starfleet -- ah, I see you know about that -- my father disowned me. However, as a concerned parent, he had the bright idea of having a transmitter placed under my skin. The thing is, no one told me. So, after an unpleasantly drunken interlude when I couldn't get a job, I joined the Maquis and I led Starfleet right to Chakotay's group. They gave me enough time to travel to all the key bases, then they arrested all of us. Except Seska -- she was off on a mission elsewhere."
"What happened back then between you and Chakotay?"
"You mean when we were arrested?" At his nod, I continued, "Chakotay looked at me as if he wished he had a phaser in his hand." The scene of our capture couldn't have been more humiliating. "Of course, he didn't have immediate access to one."
"Why was that?"
"Because we were in bed together, Harry."
Given the youthful appearance of the ensign, I expected him to blink. Instead, a look of something --jealousy maybe -- flashed across his face. Whatever he might have thought about my revelation, his voice was flat when he asked, "And he thought you used sex to betray him?"
"Got it in one."
"Were you able to explain?"
"When? We were separated, different trials, different prisons. I never saw him again face to face after our arrests. I heard Seska broke him out and that's when Janeway approached me. According to the captain, the mission was to recapture Chakotay and bring him back to prison after his escape."
With my head ducked down, eyes more or less on my nearly empty cup, I was interested in Harry's reaction. As he went back to one of my earlier statements, he sounded like a kid who'd been told that Vulcans lied. "Starfleet Headquarters, your father, did that to you? The transmitter thing?"
"Yeah. The admiral was even proud of it. At least he wasn't in on my arrest in Chakotay's cabin." After all this time, it still stung. Hell, it hurt so badly I wanted to go back to Sandrine's to try for a universe record in getting drunk. The transmitter had been removed when I went to prison. Lot of fucking good that did me.
Harry must have realized something because he said, "You cared about Chakotay."
Two years since Starfleet security pulled us apart, both naked, in his cabin. I wasn't there unwillingly. It was where I had lived the three months I was on his ship. Yeah. You could say I cared. And they got us both with one little unknown Starfleet transmitter. Ah, shit.
A film covered my eyes and I blinked a few times. At last, I could see Harry clearly. He didn't look too happy. Subdued, he began, "It's hard to believe, but...."
"It's true, Harry. Sorry to burst your Starfleet bubble."
He shrugged. "So-o."
All over again, I remembered how it felt to discover the way in which Starfleet and my dear father had used me. And it hurt that I'd never had a chance to tell Chakotay what had happened. After I'd ended up in Auckland and before I heard he'd escaped, I'd tried contacting him in his prison light years away. When I finally saved up enough credits to use the prison's public subspace communicator, he called me all kinds of names, traitor, whore, and a few in a language I didn't understand. He made it clear he didn't want me to contact him again and that he didn't give a flying fuck what I had to say.
Kind of weird to hear that in Kim's reality, Chakotay was my XO. He'd never been captured or imprisoned by Starfleet. In Harry's reality, Janeway's security officer was undercover on Chakotay's ship and overdue to report in. So, some small changes here and there and I could have been living a different life.
The ensign across the table gave me an interested look. Damn, he had dark, deep eyes. Compelling eyes.
"Are you all right?" Harry asked.
He must have seen the way my hand shook as I lifted up the coffee cup or maybe he noticed my sudden embarrassment at being caught looking at him. It had been a long time since someone had asked about my well being and actually sounded as if the sentiment was meant. "Yeah. Sure."
"Go home, Harry, I can't help you."
"Yes. You can, I *know* you can."
Sadly, I told him the truth. "You know someone else. Not me."
"I need your help, Tom." When I snorted, he protested, "No. It's true."
"Why would you want to go back to Voyager? I don't get it. The ship is lost. It isn't getting home in my life time or yours. So -- why?"
"It's where I belong," he defended, sounding sure, but I figured there was more to the story.
"You have family, friends here, right? A good life at Starfleet HQ? Why would you want to throw it all away to go back to some doomed ship in the Delta Quadrant?"
Black eyes flashed defiant sparks, hot enough to ignite the alcohol still on my breath. "Because you're there."
Oh, fucking hell. I didn't expect that. Couldn't believe his words. He'd give up all he had here to go back to *me*? "Harry," I warned.
"Look. I know. I have a girlfriend, a fiance actually, in both realities. Only thing is -- I met her before I met Tom Paris."
I sat back and really looked at him. He seemed embarrassed, and yet certain about what he felt. He was resolute that he had to go back to Voyager and to his version of me.
This squeaky, clean-looking ensign wasn't talking to me about friendship. I remembered the hopeful and open way he'd looked at me in Sandrine's, his friendliness, his passion. And I remembered his weight on my back, the change in his breathing and other areas, as he pinned me to the pool table. "You're lovers?"
He turned his face away from my incredulous expression. "All right. Yes."
Finding it really hard to believe, I wanted to laugh out loud. But his face stopped me. Raw, naked emotion, anguish, was there for all to see. Even me. I wished I knew what to say. When I finally found my voice I told him, "He's lucky. Your Tom."
His face showed so much pain. "Here's what so hard to deal with. When I woke up in San Francisco I was in bed with Libby, my fiance, and later we made love, and I...I felt as if I was cheating on Tom."
"Oh, shit." I couldn't believe it. No fucking way. "Tell me you aren't in love with him."
"I am. He is, too. In love with me, I mean."
"Tom Paris doesn't love people, Harry. He uses them."
There was nothing to say in the face of his loyalty. I finished my coffee.
"You said...you said you have a place near here? Could we go there?"
I wasn't sure what I was hearing. Did he just want a more private place to talk? Hell, the waiter wasn't coming back to see if we wanted a refill, there was plenty of privacy at this cafe. But maybe Harry wanted to.... No way. "Sure."
I put some of my last credits down on the table and, at his look of confused surprise, I asked, "What?"
"Are those credits? I mean...do you use credits here?" He seemed horrified.
"Yeah. Don't you?"
"Only on Voyager because we have limited energy supplies."
Interesting. His genuine shock at the use of credits just gave more credibility to his story.
Considerably more sober than when I'd arrived, I led the ensign to my dump. I could feel a headache beginning and knew I needed either another drink to keep the hangover at bay or, going in the opposite direction, a little hypospray to complete the sobriety process. Shoving shaking hands into my pockets, I tried not to look directly at this guy. He *loved* Tom Paris. It was too fucking unreal.
Several blocks from the cafe, in an area that had been rundown centuries ago and had never found a reason to change, I lived in the basement of an apartment building. It had its own entrance, just steps down from the sidewalk. There was one tiny window, just below street level, to the left of the front door. I kept the window coverings closed at all times. Wouldn't do for innocent bystanders to see Tom Paris drunk and passed out or drunk and fucking or being fucked by whomever had bought him a round of drinks.
It was almost dark by the time we walked down the short flight of stairs to the door, an old fashioned kind that unlocked with a keypad. I managed to get my fingers to hit the right numbers and then pushed open the door. The air handlers had never worked very well and I could smell the odors of alcoholic binges and sexual encounters past. I took a quick look at Harry as the lights came up.
"Sorry," I told him once more. He was obviously trying hard to reconcile this room with what must be Tom's quarters on Voyager. Maybe his look around would convince him that I had nothing much to offer him.
My place was a mess. A warp core could have exploded in there without making it worse. Sporting an unmade double bed with the covers half on the bed and half on the floor, a table with science experiments growing on the leftover food that hadn't quite made it to the ancient recycler, it looked just like the neglected hell that it was. I pointed him to a chair, swept the garbage into a trash can, and set it near the recycler.
"Can I get you anything?" I asked and waved vaguely at the replicator.
"What about you?" He asked instead of answering my question. His eyes had gone to the last century replicator, noting its seemingly unused condition.
"I could use something," I said evasively.
"Would a hypospray help?"
"Do you have enough credits?"
I had a few. I think. Somewhere. He was on his feet and gave the replicator his own identity codes. Turning to me, he apologized, "I don't know if this will work...."
I was pretty sure that antique's access to the world of credit was up-to-date. Since he didn't seem to mind spending the credits of this reality's Harry Kim, I grinned and said, "What the hell? Go ahead. Treat us."
For the first time, he gave me a smile. "It's early lunch time for me. And a late dinner time for you? How about some food? Tomato soup, plain?"
Geez, I couldn't remember the last time I'd had one of my favorite comfort foods. "How did --" the answer was obvious "-- never mind."
The wonderous old antique accepted Harry's credits without a complaint. After I pressed the newly replicated hypospray against my neck, I experienced unaccustomed sobriety. Damn. With new eyes I looked around and realized my place should be condemned. Even that Ferengi at DS9 couldn't barter this dump away. Well, too late. The ensign was here and he was ignoring the disarray.
When the replicated food appeared, we carried the plates and utensils back to the none-too-clean table top, but Harry didn't comment on the state of my housekeeping. Maybe he'd believe the cleaning bot was out of commission. Out of credits was more like it.
Finished with the food, which, along with the hypospray, had cleared up my headache, we sat back in our chairs. I asked myself if there was something about me and guys with dark hair. Harry's had a silky, shining quality that drew my gaze. And then there were those smoothly dark eyes that sent out a heat my way that I hadn't seen in...well, since Chakotay.
"Look, I know you're not my Tom. But...."
"You wanna fuck?" He blushed and I realized my mistake. He was in love with Tom Paris. To cover up my mistake, I sneered at him, "Oh, but you don't fuck, you make love."
Harry had stood up while I skewered his relationship. He leaned over me and roughly took my face in his hands. "Shut up."
"What about what's her name?"
"Libby is my past," he breathed into my ear. "I gave her up months ago, half a galaxy ago."
I started to rise but his hands kept my shoulders in place and I sat awaiting his next move. What he initiated shouldn't have surprised me as much as it did. In a swift move he lifted me up and bent my head down to the table, my arm pressed into my back. "Hey!"
"You like this, don't you?" Harry guessed, his voice like a geyser spewing rocks.
I let my passive response lull him for a moment. Then I used my newly acquired sobriety to slip quickly away from his grasp. Standing toe to toe with Harry, I found myself taking a deep, shuddering breath. "Don't."
Waves of emotion, lust, anger, confusion, rolled over his flushed face. "Paris."
"Finish your sandwich," I ordered with as much gentleness as I could.
"Maybe I should leave."
"Tell me what you think it is that I could do."
"You'll help me?"
"Talk first." I nodded to his chair as I took my own place. As I did I noticed that my cooling soup had filmed over.
"What's so funny?" Harry demanded suspiciously.
"My soup. I was wondering when I'd gotten so fastidious."
Harry gave my soup the brief glance it deserved and laughed when I lifted up the red film with my spoon. We both watched it slide back into the bowl. His laugh was catching and the tension between us lifted.
Over the next several hours, Harry told me his problem and how he thought I could help him. Before too long, it was time for him to return to San Francisco and I walked him over to the transport site. The incoming tide covered up the odors of fish, the onshore breeze tasted salty but also fresh and bracing. Funny, I hadn't noticed the sea air very much lately and I took in a huge lung full.
I figured he called me that to remind himself that I wasn't his Tom. "Yeah?"
"You going to be all right?"
I knew what he was asking. "I'll still be sober, Harry."
We were only a few yards away from the transport. "Okay, then."
"You're going back to Libby?"
"It's where this Harry lives." He shook his head, the mass of dark hair shimmering in the street light. "No. I'm not going to sleep with her again."
"When you get back to your Tom...." I let my question trail off.
An older couple brushed past us and I took him aside for greater privacy. "Try that arm lock thing on Tom."
"I think he'll like it," I smirked.
Maybe it was the street lights, but I thought I saw a little dance in his eyes. "And what else would he like?" Harry wondered.
I leaned into his space and whispered my secrets into his ear. Once I delivered my parting advice, I stepped back and watched Harry's reaction. At first, his smile was tentative, but the grin lurking there broke free and dazzled the night. Strong fingers kneaded the back of my neck. "He'll like it?"
I nodded. Having given Harry something else to think about other than his current situation, I gave his shoulder a pat. "Go, Harry. I'll catch up to you later."
If Harry had doubts about me he hid them. With a wave, he stepped into the transporter station. I knew I'd find him in a few hours. In the meantime, I'd use Harry's loan to get my personal transporter out of hock when the shop opened in the morning. I had a feeling we were going to need it.
Confronted by the fact that I had a pocketful of credits and half an evening ahead of me, I faced a choice. Walking back to my apartment, the pull of Sandrine's was strong. It would be so easy to use those credits from Harry for some liquid relief. Memories of what it felt like to be buzzed to the eyebrows began to overwhelm my promise to Harry.
So, I'd promised to show up sober, but hell, wasn't sobriety just a hypospray away? I could have a few drinks, get rid of the painful images that reminded me of how much I hated this Tom Paris.
An angry voice interrupted the seduction of the voice that loved alcohol. It reminded me that I'd promised Harry that I'd show up and that I'd be sober. Since when had I ever stopped at a few drinks, the voice scolded. Especially not when I had enough credits to deliver me into oblivion.
Kicking my feet, I sat on the stone wall that had held back the ocean for centuries. Its cold, rough surface irritated my butt while I tried to think things over. The tension inside me made me feel as if my body parts would begin to fly away. I wrapped my arms around my chest hoping to keep myself together that way.
In my reality, Harry had not been at that bar on DS9. Because he hadn't shown up when I did, there was no one for me to rescue and I sure wasn't good at rescuing myself. Instead, I had gotten into enough trouble so that I had never boarded Voyager. Now, here was that same Harry who'd saved his Tom by the simple fact that Harry had needed him.
So why was I sitting on this damp rock wall thinking of pissing away a chance to help him by drinking more booze? I knew the answer to my semi-rhetorical question because, in spite all the advances of modern medicine, I had become addicted. The blunt truth was that I needed alcohol to feel normal. The hyposprays took the effects out of my system but nothing could erase my memories of how much I liked to feel numb. After all, numb was my version of normal.
Being numb meant I didn't hear the voices of the friends I'd killed and lied about. Being numb meant I didn't see my mother's shattered face at my court-martial. As I thought about it, I realized that I had a galaxy full of reasons to welcome numbness.
I needed help and I had no friends to turn to. But I also had the images in my mind of Harry Kim. 'You're a loser and a drunk', he'd told me.
I pulled my jacket tighter around me. If I had to walk the streets of Marseilles all night putting off that first drink minute by minute then that's what I'd do. For this minute I'd walk these damp streets. Later, when I'd fulfilled my promise to Harry and he was safely back in his own reality, then I'd get drunk.
Leaving my stone wall, I began to walk aimlessly. I didn't dare go back to my apartment, it'd be too easy to use Harry's credits for a bottle. I couldn't go to Sandrine's, the temptations there were so great that no amount of good intentions would help me once I entered the bar. So, I put one foot in front of the other. Walking another block wouldn't hurt me.
To keep my mind occupied, I reviewed every minute of my encounter with Ensign Harry Kim. A passerby gave me a strange look and hurried away from me along the ancient, cobblestone streets. I'd been smiling and must have looked a little sinister. But I had been remembering Harry's thank you to me for facing him down after he'd pinned me on my dining table. He'd told me he was glad he hadn't taken me. According to Harry, if sleeping with Libby had felt like cheating, then he worried what sleeping with me would have felt like. He said he probably would have felt creepy -- a Tom Paris word.
As for me? Slipping out of Harry's grip and turning to face him had reminded me of a long forgotten concept. I winced at the idea that self-respect and I were so distantly acquainted and my smile turned to a grimace.
By morning my feet ached, I was cold through and through. But I was still sober. I stopped for a predawn cup of coffee and waited outside the pawnshop until it opened.
The owner arrived, unlocked and lifted the grate, and I went inside. With little fanfare, I retrieved my personal transporter in exchange for most of Harry's credits. However, it needed charging before I could use it. The pawnshop owner regarded my unshaven face and the desperation that must have announced me as just another loser, but extended a kindness anyway.
"I will charge it for you," he offered in French. "Go get breakfast and come back. It should be ready then."
"I'll wait," I replied with a weak grin. I didn't dare go out, I had a few credits left. I was so close now to helping Harry that I couldn't blow it on a liquid breakfast.
Hands in my pockets, I surveyed the entire contents of the small shop. I don't think I was looking for something so much as I was terrified of going outside before I could transport away from Marseilles.
With a flourish the owner handed me my fully charged transporter. I thanked him profusely and he waved an expansive hand of dismissal. It had been nothing, he assured me, and indicated that I could indeed transport from his shop. He assumed I had authorities after me. It didn't matter, I accepted his offer.
Thanks to the time difference, I arrived in San Francisco only to find myself with another night to get through. But then I realized I was hearing the sounds of someone running and, when I looked, I saw that it was Harry.
With a well-aimed but bone crunching fist to the face of one of Harry's pursuers, we eluded the fallen man and the rest of the security team. For the time being. I transported us to Harry's office in Starfleet HQ. We retrieved the launch codes for the runabout he'd been working on. Wasting no time, we transported out of there and into the runabout just ahead of Starfleet.
I flew us out of there with a Starfleet ship on our ass. Harry's explanation of how he got the coordinates for what he called the time stream was a little hard to follow, but the coordinates themselves made sense. I could fly us there.
As soon as we cleared the solar system, I jumped to warp speed. The larger ship had to go a little further before it could go to warp, but I knew its faster speed might let it catch up to us before we reached this time stream of Harry's. Sure enough the ship pursued at warp speed and began firing on us. To be fair its captain hailed us first to stand down but we ignored the hail and sped on to the time stream.
Ahead of the pursuit ship, we released some warp plasma to stop their engines. When we managed to reach the coordinates, we went right through them with nothing happening. Harry realized he had to recreate everything about the earlier incident including the fact that he had to be in the process of transporting off the runabout. I argued, but he was certain. In the meantime, we were fast losing our antimatter containment and faced a core breach. The Starfleet ship was closing fast but wouldn't reach us before the core breached.
Over Harry's protests, I pushed him onto the transporter pad and engaged the controls, all the while telling him that if he was right he would find me back on Voyager.
"And if I'm wrong, if this doesn't work, you'll be blown up right here."
"Go!" I shouted and sent him on his way. He shimmered out of sight.
I tried not to think about the fact that I was seconds away from total destruction when the runabout blew. But I was at peace with myself. The hell of it was, I was about to die sober.
I'd saved Harry. I was sure of it. And maybe the books had balanced on Tom Paris.
Damn! I was alive on that Starfleet ship. I could make out the contours of a biobed beneath me, the lights of a sickbay vaguely overhead. My eyes tingled as if an ocular regenerator had just finished working on them. After blinking a few times I could make out a doctor and her helper working over my painfully burned skin.
In the background, striding towards me, was a man I thought I'd never see again.
"Thomas," he said. He looked stunned.
"Why did you do it!" I tried to shout but my throat was too sore to sound as angry as I felt.
"We came out to investigate a temporal anomaly," he answered, his voice puzzled.
"They sent an admiral?"
This was damned confusing. Since when had my father been demoted? Had it happened because of my imprisonment? "Captain?"
He came closer to stand over me and I could see that he was, indeed, a captain. And this captain was pissed. "Why the hell were you on that runabout? It was exploding!"
"I was there because someone thought I was worth something," I told him, hurt and sad. After all, the only person who gave a damn about me wasn't even in my universe anymore. I was sure that transport had taken Harry home.
"Why didn't you call for help?"
"You were firing on us!" At his frown, I began to put it together. "You weren't firing on us, were you?"
"And you're not my father."
"I know," he told me frankly.
"My Tom --" his stern face softened with despair "-- my Tom was killed in Auckland just before he was to be paroled into Janeway's custody."
Dear gods, I had jumped time lines.
Crossing time lines meant that I was stuck here. Unlike Harry, there would be no going back for me. Another few seconds in 'my' time line and I'd have been scattered like dandelion seeds across the universe.
I looked at the uncertain man hovering above me and I remembered my painful night in Marseilles walking the streets so that I wouldn't drink. "I need help," I told him.
Something in my tone must have alerted him that we could use a little privacy. After he waved off the medical personnel it was just the two of us. There was nothing sentimental in his appraisal of me, just a quiet assessment that took in my appearance and the desperation in my eyes. "What do you need?"
"I'm a loser and a drunk," I repeated Harry's words out loud and winced inwardly at how much it hurt to say them. And if I'd had no friends in my timeline, then I sure as hell had no one to turn to in this one.
My own father would have turned his back on me, literally. This man had lost his son and maybe that made the difference. "If you want my help, you have it. We'll do whatever it takes -- together."
According to Harry, the Tom in his time line had found redemption in the Delta Quadrant. I didn't want to aspire that high. Redemption? For Tom Paris? But the idea had lodged in my mind and for the first time in a long time I felt something very strange. I think most people would call it hope. And it kind of choked me up. I could hardly say what I wanted to say due to a big, clogging lump in my throat. "Thanks," was all I could manage.
He seemed to have something in his throat, too. "Yeah."
And thank you, Harry. I hope you made it home.
In another time line....
Tom Paris sat at the helm of Voyager and swivelled in his chair to look at Harry Kim as he walked by.
"I owe you one," Harry said enigmatically.
Confused, Tom looked up, but Harry was already heading away from Tom toward his station at ops. Tom had overheard the bridge communications during the touch and go procedures of trying to transport Harry off that shuttle. But Tom hadn't been operating the transporter. So what in the hell did Harry mean? And why would someone Tom barely knew say that?