Home Trials-Part Five
by Rose Kira

Disclaimer: All characters herein owned by Paramount Studios and other entities. No profit made, no copyright infringement intended.

* In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life...it goes on.-Robert Frost *

I felt ugly as I left you back there, in a winter storm. Really, unofficerly ugly. Really, unHarry ugly.

It only went to prove how much power you still held over me, even after seven years and a quick down-slide into flagrant disallusionment and slothfulness. Oh, you saw that too. It was in your eyes, on your face, in the perplexed little furrowing of your brow as you faced off against me on your home ground. 

What on Earth had made your Ensign go mad as a bat out of hell? The words were probably poised to break free, but you pursed your lips instead, head angling upward in that obliviously puzzled, half-wan way you have. There were tears in your eyes, tears I know you didn't notice, or they wouldn't have been there long enough to have been noticed by a second party. The snow flurries were sifting through your hair, the wind whipping your face into a stark, dead whiteness, but your gaze...somehow, those tears failed to freeze. When did I start analyzing things like that about you? A day ago, a month ago, a year ago?

I don't know. I've tried to figure it out, naturally, seven years of your driving command put that unhealthy level of obsession for answers in me. It hasn't worked. That can be frustrating, puts my patience out the window. I don't feel very efficient anymore, not very bright. Fleet uses my designs, with modifications, and offers assignments, with assistants, but I know my focus is off. None of them are really tactless enough to say as much. I'm the kid, the whiz Ensign who lived and died in hell, and made it back, probably less scarred than any of you. Give him time, I bet they say, he's adjusting. His old shine will come back. 

Not if I keep rubbing it in your ashes.

My words may seem harsh, but I really didn't want to hurt you. Not then, and not now. 

Hurt you, never. Touch you...

I asked Tom once, watching him rock Miral to the tune of an old 20th century lullaby, how your hand felt when it had caressed his shoulder so often at conn, and if it had felt any different in some other, more private place. Was there a captain's touch, then a Janeway touch, or were both the same? Did the attraction stem from the rank or the woman to him?

Paris met my gaze momentarily, shocked at my perception...best fuck on the ship, Tom Paris, and almost totally discreet in the captain's case. But I knew him, too well. He finally nodded slowly. "You're bound to find out the hard way, aren't you, Harry?" Then, turning, he motioned to Miral, now on the floor, gripping his feet with tiny, baby hands. "I never would've had this with her. You won't. She'll sell heaven to you for the night, but its only fragmentary. Not her fault, of course, she's an Admiral's brat, Starfleet to the soles of her tenacious feet. She doesn't know any other way, doesn't have enough of my stupidity to go find it. I'm telling you, leave her alone. She's no worse for it, and you'll be the better."

I told him then how I had known, about the ridiculously trite midnight errand from the Doctor on Voyager, how I had paused in the corridor, hidden from view by the dim lighting and shadowy corner. My intention was to com you first, give you time to awaken, put on your robe, your captain's mask, for I knew how important such details were to you. My fingers rested on the com badge, but didn't press. As I glanced up, he came out of your quarters, wearing his typical night attire-compliments of B'Elanna-and a robe, hair scraped into the neatly mandated Fleet style. Too neat, and his movements, too clipped. He was at a dead run, pacing in snails time. There was a haunted look, too, warring with the pleasure on his face. You appeared in the doorway briefly, believing the corridor empty. I won't call the look on your face self-satisfied, though it was. I don't know if you felt guilt or not, I'm not sure I want you to tell me. You did put on a good show as I stepped from the shadows, advancing instead of retreating. It wasn't stupidity, it was fury. I was seeing B'Elanna and her unborn child when I met you eye to eye. You flinched when your gaze finally caught me, paled, grasped the neck of your gown with white-knuckled fingers. I could see your mind racing...how much had I seen, had I seen Tom, was I still naive enough to dismiss it...what had you done?

I never did give you an answer to those questions, merely handing you the padd, walking away. I didn't trust myself to speak, to linger. I had wanted to fuck you for a good long while, but then I wanted to strangle you. Neither was acceptable when it came to the captain, but the first was Paris' territory. He never did like acceptability.

Even after all the time and distance we've put between that night and this one, Tom is still suffering for it. His clenched fists were as white-knuckled as yours had been by the time I finished my story, his face drawn, eyes focused on some distant hell. He finally shook off the abyss, lifting Miral and gently cupping her tiny head in his palm, an innocent touch, unspoiled by past sins. His voice was still raw. "I'm not going to excuse it, or try to explain it. I wasn't drunk. I wasn't angry. I shouldn't even have been lonely, not with B'Elanna and my child in that bed beside me. I was just...drawn, Harry. Just like you."

"You had a hell of a lot to lose." I pointed out.

"You don't have a hell of a lot to gain."