The following story was originally posted to the USENET news group alt.startrek.creative.erotica on Oct22/96 by R'rain Prior as message-IDs <54hoia$6gv@canopus.cc.umanitoba.ca>, <54hokc$6gv@canopus.cc.umanitoba.ca>, <54homi$6gv@canopus.cc.umanitoba.ca>, <54hoog$6gv@canopus.cc.umanitoba.ca>, <54hoqa$6gv@canopus.cc.umanitoba.ca>, and <54hosg$6gv@canopus.cc.umanitoba.ca>.

DISCLAIMER: I own very little of this and pay homage to the gods at Paramount for the rest.

'My parents gave this to me,' he said, running his hand along the edge of the old wooden chest, 'When I left for the academy. It had been passed down in our family for many generations.' He knelt in front, almost reverently, and opened it, only to reveal the emptiness inside. His hand encountered a chip in the edge, which he caressed absently. 'I never really knew what to do with it...I used to keep some of my things in it, but when I came aboard Voyager I didn't need to bring them with me. This chest, though--even empty I couldn't bear to leave it behind.'

Harry took a deep breath, 'This, this is the beginning of our...life...together, right? I mean, I...' he looked up at Tom, who smiled and nodded his head slightly, 'And I thought...'

Tom took Harry hand into his own, 'Speeches be damned, Harry,' he said with a smile, 'Just tell me what you thought, in your own words.'

Harry smiled back, a mild look of relief flashing across his face, 'I wanted this moment to be memorable, Tom...I have this picture in my head--of us, grown old together, looking back on this time and trying to remember this part of our life. I wanted to have things to look back on, material things, to remind us of everything. Because there's not one moment that I've spend with you, Tom, not one moment that I'd choose to forget.'

A look of understanding dawned on Tom's face and he reached into his pocket to pull out the two implants that they had retreived from the Doctor, the ones they received while in prison. The clamps. 'The chest is like me,' Tom said, hardly realizing that he had spoken aloud. It's like me because I, too, was empty before I met you. He knelt down next to Harry, putting one arm around his waist and handing the implants to him with the other.

'And so began our life,' said Harry, putting them inside and closing the lid of the chest. They stood up and Tom embraced him from behind, his arms wrapped around Harry's waist holding him close to his own body. Close enough for Harry to feel Tom's heartbeat, pounding at regular intervals on his back. 'I guess that's not the best memory we have,' Harry admitted, 'But we haven't had much time to make many memories.'

'We will,' said Tom, nuzzling his neck.

Harry smiled, even though Tom couldn't see him, 'Those were a part of what brought us together, though. If we hadn't been there...'

'..then it would've taken longer,' finished Tom, 'But it still would have happened, Harry.' He kissed the line of his jaw, then let his arms hang loosely around Harry's neck. 'That was beautiful, you know,' said Tom, 'And I know that we will fill it with beautiful things.'

Harry turned around and kissed Tom's lips, once lightly and again with more feeling. 'I hope we do,' he said sincerely, 'We've hardly been together and yet I can't imagine life without you.'

'You don't have to,' said Tom reassuringly, 'You'll never have to, Harry. If there's just one thing in this universe that I can promise you, that's it.'

It was early the next morning that Voyager picked up some odd energy signatures while gathering supplies. Too early, thought an exhausted Tom Paris, but when the Captain suggested that he and Torres take a shuttlecraft out to investigate them, he jumped at the chance. Serving on the bridge with Harry less than an hour after they had last made love was straining his nerves just a bit too much, not to mention his self-control. The ensign was positively radiating sexual energy; he was surprised that no one else had noticed. Or perhaps they had and were just too professional to mention it.

Five hours later, they were still out there with no sign of the energy signatures. The first couple of hours had passed quickly, catching up with B'Elanna and letting her satisfy her curiosity about how his relationship with Harry was progressing. And curious she was. She was no gossip, but she did want to hear every last detail--not that Tom ever did give her them all. After that, though, she began to grow restless and kept asking Tom if it was time to head back.

Tom almost laughed at her, but quickly thought better of laughing at anyone with Klingon blood in a space he could not escape from. She sounded just as he had as a child on interstellar voyages with his family. 'Are we there yet? Huh? Huh?' Of course, he had no intention of smacking her upside the head and telling her to shut up. That might even be a worse idea than laughing, if that was possible.

After three hours of her coming up with more and more creative excuses, he decided that a little teasing was in order. Though he had to admit that the one about forgetting to turn off the replicator in her quarters was mildly entertaining, especially considering that replicators were part of the ship's systems and therefore did not need to be turned off. He had not suspected, though, that bringing up the apparently sensitive topic of Freddie Bristo would provoke such a vehement reaction. 'I was just curious,' he commented, 'how someone with Klingon blood seems to live the life of a Monk.'

'Lieutenant,' she said, and Paris wondered if he had gone too far this time, but one look at her face and he knew that the harshness in her voice covered up an internal amusement to match his own. That was when he thought up the offer of a holodeck program, to which he received the rather amused and deprecating reply of 'I'd rather take my chances with Freddie Bristo.'

It was all Tom could do not to burst out laughing. Even so, a smile did escape from his lips. His holodeck creations did have a certain reputation. She was probably under the impression that the sailing boat would be assaulted by pirates with a fetish for Klingon women. Aw hell, he thought, I'll have to take her with Harry and I some time so she'll see that it is a rather relaxing program after all.

He couldn't follow that line of thought long, though, because the energy signatures came back, and he barely got half a line out to the aliens who boarded them before he felt an excruciating pain through his body and everything went black.

Harry was one of the last to hear the report, mostly because Captain Janeway was reluctant to tell him his lover had been injured. Eventually, though, he had to be told. Janeway had served on ships before where relationships between the senior officers had caused problems with their ability to serve together, and situations like this were the prime catalyst. In short, she didn't know how well Harry could handle it and she needed him able to serve to the best of his ability.

His face had gone ashen and he had clutched his console, but said nothing. 'Commander,' she said, 'you have the bridge. I'm on my way to sickbay.'

'Captain,' Harry had said. She knew what he was going to ask and shook her head apologetically.

'I'm sorry, Mr. Kim, I need you on the bridge right now. But you have my assurance that I will keep you updated as often as possible.' He nodded and turned back to his console, trying to keep the fear out of his eyes and out of his work.

Janeway breathed a sigh of relief as she left the bridge. Harry was a fine officer. No, more than that. She had seen him handle things that many officers with twice his experience could not have, and this was no exception. She knew how she would feel in his position, and didn't know if she would have reacted as professionally as he had. It was one of the things that made her reluctant to enter any relationships. As Captain, she could not afford that kind of emotional attachment. But at the same time could she afford this much detachment? She stopped that line of thought almost as soon as it had begun and quickened her pace to sickbay.

Harry stood at his console and barely heard the orders that Chakotay was giving, although he began performing them almost immediately. Tom was hurt. Tom was hurt. But how badly? Why didn't they know already? Dear gods, what if he died? Harry felt the tears begin to form and when he cut those off he felt the anger built inside him. He'd kill them. He'd kill the ones who'd hurt his lover, as painfully as he could. Another part of him, appalled at those thoughts, cut them off as well, leaving him feeling virtually nothing.

It was about ten minutes before he heard 'Janeway to Ensign Kim.'

'Kim here,' he said anxiously.

'The doctor says that the injuries are treatable. It won't be long.'

'Thank you Captain.'

'Janeway out.'

Harry closed his eyes and exhaled the breath he just then realized he had been holding. Tom was fine, now he could concentrate on his duties again. He worried for a fleeting moment how he would have performed if Tom hadn't been fine, but that wasn't the case and now was hardly the time to worry about it anyway. He completed the scans that Chakotay had demanded of him with ease, then prepared for the briefing that the Captain was sure to order.

He was not disappointed, and was glad that he had had some information to give her. The briefing went smoothly, until the Doctor had contacted the captain with more information about Tom's condition. Harry's breath caught in his throat as the Doctor described the procedure that would have to be performed. Who cares if it was routine, this was Tom he would be operating on! He found he had to look down to compose himself, wanting nothing more than to sprint to sickbay and hold his lover in his arms. And a moment later the Captain, when she dismissed the meeting, gave him that opportunity. Composing himself enough to walk out of the room, the moment he was through the door he was off like a shot.

Kes stopped him at the door to sickbay. 'Harry,' she said, 'I'm sorry, we're about to start.' She saw the devastated look on his face and went on, 'Harry, this really is a very simple procedure. Tom is going to be fine, and I know that the Captain needs you now to ensure that this won't happen to anyone else.' Harry still looked a bit unconvinced, but more placated than he had when he had arrived. 'Would you like me to contact you when the procedure is complete?' she asked gently.

'Please, Kes. I need to know.'

'Go on, Harry, you're needed on the bridge. You have my word that you'll be the first to know when he awakens.' He gave her a small but encouraging smile, then turned around and headed back for the bridge. His duty shift was over, but he had the feeling his work had only begun.

He couldn't help the niggling doubts in the back of his mind, but he was able to work to the satisfaction of the rest of the bridge crew, including Tuvok, who was the only one with no visible sympathy to his situation. He and Chakotay gained more information about the aliens' space and possible ways into it, and the work he was doing on the universal translator seemed to be progressing, though he really had no way of testing it. Of course, everything went much more smoothly once Kes contacted him to tell him that the procedure had been a success and that he'd be able to see Tom once he was relieved on the bridge. That certainly put some of the bounce back into his step and the brightness into his eyes.

As soon as Janeway had been briefed as to their progress he was relieved with the warning that once they were ready and had reached the border, all senior staff would be recalled regardless of time or shift. He acknowledged that and rushed to spend what time he could with Tom.

He arrived at sickbay just as the Doctor was releasing Tom. He took one look at the eager ensign and gave Tom the additional instruction, 'Take it easy, lieutenant, no strenuous exercise.'

'Whatever you say, Doc,' he said, hopping off the biobed. Everyone in the room knew he had no intention of following the advice, but nothing was said as he and Harry left sickbay together.

'Oh!' exclaimed Harry as Tom's last thrust sent a shudder through his body. He was so sensitized right now that almost anything could arouse him. He had wanted to hold Tom and convince himself that everything really was okay, but Tom had had other ideas. With only a couple of hours at most at their disposal, he wasn't wasting any time. Not that Harry had many complaints about the way the time was being spent.

Withdrawing himself from Harry's body, Tom's lips were everywhere at once, touching every part of Harry's skin. Incoherent noises erupted from his mouth as he became charged to the point where he didn't think he could take it any more. 'Tom,' he mumbled, 'Oh, Tom.'

Tom seemed to be in complete control of his body. Yeah, thought Harry, well you already came. You don't feel this...this... 'Oh,' he exclaimed again as Tom began wetting his hard shaft with his tongue. Harry began to feel a now-familiar sensation, 'Tom, I'm...'

Tom stopped what he was doing for a moment and looked up at Harry's flushed face, 'Well, I certainly hope so.' He smiled teasingly and licked Harry while still looking up into his eyes. That was all it took to send Harry over the edge. A moment later, when Harry finally reopened his eyes, Tom was still looking up at him, and began licking Harry's abdomen clean.

'Oh, Tom,' he said again, and wondered if that was the only thing he could say anymore. Proving himself wrong, he added, 'I hope that the last hour hasn't been too...strenuous...'

'Ohhh,' said Tom, moving up the bed and curling his body around Harry's, 'I don't think so. Wait till we clear the swarm's space, then I'll show you strenuous.' He gave Harry's earlobe a tender nibble, then rested his head on Harry's cheek.

It was then that their com badges, resting safely next to the bed, beeped in unison.

'Computer,' said Captain Janeway from her ready room, 'Locate Lieutenant Paris.'

'Lieutenant Paris is in his quarters.'

Good, he wasn't still in sick bay. 'And locate Ensign Kim as well.'

'Ensign Kim is in the quarters of Lieutenant Paris.'

She sighed. Any other time she would have let them have a few more moments--especially Tom, having just recovered from some nasty injuries--but this wasn't any other time. Well, she told herself, in an effort to appease her conscience, if he's well enough to enjoy Harry's company...

She tapped her com badge, 'Janeway to Paris and Kim.'

Back on the bridge, Tom piloted the Voyager closer and closer to the border, until they were 500,000 kilometers away where he held position, awaiting orders from the Captain. As lovely as it had been to be in bed with Harry, he was glad to be back piloting Voyager. It was one of the few things that made him truly happy, even when his uniform was clinging suspiciously to his sweaty skin as it was now. Harry had noticed right away, but had stopped laughing when Tom retorted that the ensign looked even more disheveled than he himself did. He hoped that no one noticed, but it was more reasonable to believe that they noticed but had more important things on their minds.

The bridge was quiet once they'd slipped past the sensor net. Tom had almost lost his composure when Harry had mentioned the snake slipping through the tube, his mind jumping back to just an hour ago when that metaphor meant something a whole lot different. That little...he did it on purpose! Tom realized. So much for innocent little Ensign Kim. Everyone seemed to feel like too much noise and they would be noticed by the swarm, and their voices became hushed. Even the captain's amusing little high school anecdote was told in a subdued voice, although they were beginning to relax.

Tom relived that exchange in his mind. He and the captain understood one another surprisingly well, and the boundaries between them were beginning to degrade. One night, a bottle of wine and a little privacy--he might be able to get the whole story out of her. But the look on Harry's face! He knew damn well what Tom's imagination could come up with, and at the rate he was loosening up he might not be hesitant to share that information. Tom let his mind wander for a few moments, thinking up ways he might be able to convince Harry not to...

That was when they came across the other ship, the one already ravaged. From then until they escaped the swarm, Tom didn't have time to think of anything else.

Harry collapsed, exhausted, onto Tom's bed. He was still in uniform and doubted he had the energy to strip before falling asleep. Tom came in shortly after him and walked up to the edge of the bed, concerned.

'Harry, are you okay?' he asked.

Harry nodded slightly, his eyes closed and his breathing slowing as he began to slip off into sleep. 'Tired,' he mumbled, 'Been on duty for 20 hours, you took up my only break.'

Tom looked at him apologetically, 'I'm sorry Harry, though you didn't seem to have any complaints at the time.'

Harry smiled slowly, but didn't say anything. He curled up into a fetal position and let his head sink into Tom's pillows.

'Oh no you don't,' said Tom, pulling on Harry's arm to get him into a sitting position.


'First of all, my friend, we have to get you out of that uniform, and then I would recommend that you take a bath.'

Harry was about to protest that he was too tired, then what Tom had said sunk in and he opened one eye. 'A real bath?' He asked.

'Of course,' said Tom, and pulled Harry to his feet. 'A real bath with real hot water...and bubbles if you ask nice.' Harry still shook his head.

'Tom, that sounds great, but I'm exhausted. And besides, you can't spare the replicator credits and you know it.'

'Relax Harry,' Tom whispered in his ear, 'I'll do all the work. Just sit back and enjoy.' It wasn't too hard to convince Harry to do something he already wanted to do. Slowly Tom pulled off Harry's uniform and put it through the 'fresher, then pulled off his own clothing, save his regulation Starfleet white cotton boxer shorts.

'Mmmm,' said Harry sleepily, 'I like the view already.' Tom smiled and propelled Harry towards his washroom, ordering the tub filled with water slightly above body temperature. 'Oh, and don't forget the bubbles,' he added. Harry lowered himself leisurely into the water, letting out a small moan of contentment. He closed his eyes and leaned back, his arms resting on the edges of the tub.

Tom knelt down beside him and just looked at him for a moment, caressing the side of Harry's face with gentle fingertips. He dipped a sponge into the foamy water and squeezed it out over Harry's shoulders, letting the water run down in rivulets over his chest. Then he did it again, this time running the sponge over Harry arm. And over his legs. And over every part of his body that Tom could reach until all the evidence of a long day's work had vanished into the water.

'Mmmm,' he repeated, 'That feels nice.'

'Good,' said Tom, 'Then I'll keep doing it.' And he did, stroking Harry's body all over, first with the sponge and then with his hands. He poured water over Harry's head and slicked his hair back, running his hands through it. 'Are you asleep yet?' he teased. When Harry didn't answer, Tom thought that maybe he had fallen asleep, but then Harry shifted his body and smiled.

'Ready for bed?'

Harry nodded after a moment. The water was cooling quickly and he wanted nothing more than to curl up under the covers with Tom and fall fast asleep. Tom helped him stand and wrapped him in a warm towel, holding him in his arms for a moment before letting him go and leading him into the bedroom.

Harry slipped into the bed and curled up again, feeling clean and warm and sleepy. 'I hope you don't mind,' he murmured. He felt Tom slip into the bed beside him, curling his body around Harry's and resting one arm over top of him.

'Not at all,' he whispered and that was how they spent the rest of the night.

Tom awoke Harry with a kiss, not on the lips but on the ankle, working his way up past his hips until he kissed the corner of Harry's mouth. 'What a wonderful way to start a day,' he said and they began to kiss in earnest. 'What time is it?'

'1300 hours last time I checked,' said Tom. He was about to ask why, but then Harry's stomach made a very rude noise and Tom knew the answer to his question. 'When's the last time you ate?' he asked.

Harry looked a bit sheepish, 'I don't remember, sometime before everything happened yesterday.' His stomach gurgled again and Tom hauled him to his feet. 'I'm sorry.'

'Don't be,' said Tom, 'I'm starving. But I think a little clothing might be in order before we make our entrance into the mess hall.'

'Agreed,' said Harry with a grin.

'Though I must say,' said Tom with an appreciative look up and down Harry's body, 'that I like you without.' Harry blushed for what must have been the thousandth time since meeting Tom and pulled his now-clean uniform on.

'Save it for later, fly boy,' he said absently.

'What did you call me?'

Harry had to think about it for a moment, 'Fly boy? It's just a nickname that people use for you. I can stop if you want.'

'No, no, I like it from you,' he said, 'I just wasn't expecting it. It was my nickname in the academy, long before you went.'

Harry laughed, 'You aren't that much older. I bet you were a hellraiser while you were there,' he mused.

Tom gave him a twisted grin as he pulled on his own clothing and combed his hair with his fingers, 'Remind me to tell you all about it some time.'

'I'm going to hold you to that,' warned Harry, 'Ready to go?'

Things were tense on the ship for the next two days. There was little chatter on duty, save the occasional joke to relieve the tension, and even on their off hours the crew was subdued. Even though they had defeated the swarm, they were still in their territory and no one would be truly at ease until they had crossed the opposite border.

Most of the senior staff was on the bridge when they did. 'We're picking up their sensor net again, Captain,' reported Harry Kim.

'Mr. Paris, pilot us right on through it,' she said, 'They already knew we're here, let's let them know we're leaving.'

'Aye, Captain.' Only thirty minutes and it was all over. Janeway let out an audible sigh of relief. 'To the Alpha Quadrant?' asked Paris.

Janeway shook her head. 'I have a promise to carry out first. We're looking for a yellow dwarf system, it shouldn't be far from here.'

'That's a pretty vague description, Captain,' said Tom.

'Well, Mr. Paris, it's all we've got. I have a message to deliver to the people we'll find there. Let me know when you come up with something. Commander Chakotay, you have the bridge.' She left immediately for her ready room, preparing the statement that she had to deliver.

The system was actually relatively easy to locate...there were few systems in the area with M-class planets, and only two with yellow dwarf suns. Still, it was two days out of their way to travel to it and 2 more days to get back on course.

The people that Janeway had been asked to contact were not quite as friendly as she had expected, given the pains that she had taken to find them. In fact, they all but accused her of attacking the vessel herself and after only a brief stay in orbit of the planet, she made the decision to leave...at warp 9.

'They're still in pursuit, Captain,' said Paris.

'Increase speed,' she ordered. She stared at the view screen as the ships began to recede.

'They're falling behind, Captain,' said Paris, 'They can't keep up.' He couldn't disguise the note of pride in his voice at Voyager's capabilities.

'Maintain speed and course,' she ordered, 'Let's get some distance between us and them before we sit down and try to figure out what just happened.' She turned away from the viewscreen and returned to her seat next to Chakotay.

He leaned over towards her. 'I see our reputation preceded us...'

'I can't imagine how. The swarm separates this area of space from the area we were in before.'

'That wouldn't affect subspace communications.'

'Agreed, Commander. We're going to have to do something to remedy the situation.' He nodded and leaned back into a more comfortable position for the remainder of the shift.

Tom was recapping the day's events with Harry and B'Elanna in the mess hall, as they had become accustomed to doing. 'Did you hear what that guy was saying to the captain?' asked Harry, 'I'm surprised she didn't attack right then and there.'

'C'mon Harry,' said Tom, 'She has more class than that. Mind you, if they'd actually fired a shot..'

'Then we'd be in a lot more trouble than we already are,' finished B'Elanna, 'It seems we can hardly go anywhere without being suspected of something.'

'But we never did anything wrong,' protested Harry.

'That doesn't matter,' said Tom, 'It's what they think we did that's important. People who don't understand our technology are more likely to spread rumors about the 'ship of death' than those that do.'

'And we've encountered maybe three civilizations with technology at our level or higher. People fear what they don't understand, Harry. They fear us.'

'Well, the captain seems to think that we're going to do something about it,' he said, 'and I can't imagine what she has in mind. I mean, isn't any demonstration of our capabilities, even for humanitarian reasons, just going to cause more damage.'

'I have to agree with you there, Harry,' said Tom, 'I don't know how she's going to do it. But you know that when the Captain puts her mind to something..'

'We know,' said B'Elanna, 'we know. Can't we eat in peace for once without bringing up the engineering miracle that Captain Janeway is going to expect me to perform next?'

'Eating this,' said Tom, lifting a forkful of the gray sludge in the air and letting it fall back to the tray, 'is hardly a peaceful experience no matter what the conversation. I think I saw something move in there.'

'C'mon Tom, give Neelix a break. This isn't half bad,' said Harry, putting another forkful in his mouth.

'Hell, Harry, you can eat anything.'

'And you,' said Harry, pointing a fork at him, 'are far too picky.'

'Boys, boys,' said B'Elanna, amused, 'Save the lovers' quarrels for the bedroom. I'm trying to eat here.'

'Good luck,' said Tom.

'Hey,' retorted Harry, 'This isn't a lo...oh, I guess it is,' he finished sheepishly, looking at Tom.

B'Elanna actually laughed and ruffled Harry's hair, 'Poor kid. Still getting used to it, eh?'

'Gee, Harry, considering how good you're getting, I though you were pretty used to it by now.' Harry turned a deep red and looked down at his plate.

'Tom!' he hissed.

'Relax, Harry,' said Tom, 'It's just B'Elanna, it's not like I'm broadcasting over the ship's com system or anything.' Harry's shade deepened a notch.

'Just B'Elanna,' she huffed, 'Thanks a lot, Tom.'

'Aw c'mon you guys, you know what I meant.'

She gave him half a smile, 'Yeah, I do. And I guess I should be flattered, in away.' Just B'Elanna, she thought wistfully, I guess that's all I'll ever be now.

'You don't...give out details, do you Tom?' Harry asked shyly.

'Harry,' Tom gave up his jester's pose and put an arm protectively around Harry's shoulders, 'You know I wouldn't do that to you. I wouldn't do anything you weren't comfortable with, didn't I tell you that before?'

'But would you, Harry, if I asked?' challenged B'Elanna with a twinkle in her eye.

'Uhhhhhh...' Harry definitely didn't know what to say.

'Give him a day or to to think about it,' joked Tom, 'then ask him again.'

B'Elanna just smiled enigmatically and returned to picking at her dinner, 'You know Tom, I think you were right about this. Is there anything else to eat?'

'I think I can sweet talk Kes into sneaking us something if you're as desperate as I am,' he said.

'Would you?' said B'Elanna ingratiatingly.

'You just want time alone with my man,' teased Tom, 'Sure I'll go scrounge us up something.' Over his shoulder, as he left, he added, 'Don't do anything I wouldn't do.'

'Well that shouldn't be too hard,' said B'Elanna with a smile.

Harry laughed, 'Don't I know it!' Then he again realized what he had said and looked down, playing with his food.

'Harry,' she said, 'why does it matter so much what you say in front of me. Do you think I don't know anything about sex or something? I mean, I know it's been a long time, but I think I remember the logistics.'

'No, but...it's me who doesn't know much. I guess it makes me a little uncomfortable. You and Tom, you're so open. Me...I may make a few jokes, but only when no one knows what I'm talking about, except maybe Tom.' He grinned at the memory of his little comments on the bridge. He had almost gotten Tom to crack up. Almost. 'I kinda liked being the little innocent one.'

B'Elanna had to laugh, 'Is that all? Well, I guess we're going to have to desensitize you a bit...if you don't mind that is.'

Harry blushed again, but he was smiling at her, 'That might not be so bad,' he admitted.

B'Elanna thought for a moment, 'Harry, do you mind if I tell you something?'

'No, of course not.'

'You're a lucky guy,' she said, 'I know I bug Tom a lot but...I don't know...I always thought maybe...'

'I'm sorry...' began Harry.

'Sorry? Don't be ridiculous!' B'Elanna smiled at him sincerely, 'You guys are great together. I wouldn't want it any other way.'

'Thanks,' he said shyly, 'That means a lot to me.'

In truth she wouldn't have minded ending up with either one of them, but they had all become such good friends that she truly did want them to be happy above anything else. And finally it seemed that they were.

'Harry,' she said carefully, 'How are you doing now?' Harry had finally told her the whole story of what happened a few days after they returned. Well, Harry and Tom had, one night in her quarters after a bottle of Tom's bootleg liquor (she hadn't asked where it had come from, she had just taken it as the gift from the gods it was). The memories hadn't come out easily, but they had wanted her to know.

'I'm doing okay,' he said, 'Me and Tom, we talk. And getting back on regular duty helped. You know, gave me structure.'

'That's good,' she said warmly, catching his eyes with hers to let him know how sincerely she meant it. For the most part the old Harry Kim had returned, but there were moments, just moments, when she saw a darkness beneath the surface that hadn't been there before. It made her a bit sad, but she knew that if he was to survive here, away from everything he ever knew, it had to happen sooner or later. At least this way, he had gained something very special at the same time to make up for it.

'Guess who,' said Tom Paris, coming up to the table again, 'And....I come bearing food.' He placed a platter of fruit on the table that he had coaxed out of Kes. He looked at Harry, 'What? No reward?'

'I'm not the one who complained about the food,' said Harry. 'But,' he added when Tom gave him a puppy-dog face, 'I might be convinced to reward you anyway.' He gave Tom a seductive smile that only he and B'Elanna saw.

Tom raised an eyebrow and sat back down next to Harry, 'What? I leave you two alone for five minutes and this is what I come back to?'

Harry looked crestfallen, 'If you don't want...'

'Harry, Harry,' Tom kissed him on the spot, not caring who was looking. They were off duty, it didn't matter. 'Of course I don't mind.' Hell, he thought, this little friend waking up in my lap is a testament to that.

B'Elanna read the situation easily enough, 'Well, I have some things to take care of in Engineering,' she said, grabbing a large handful of the fruit 'I'll see you two later.' They had no protests, not that she had expected any.

'Finished eating?' asked Harry.

'I am now.'

Janeway sighed and looked at the console on her desk wearily. She had known for a long while that this would have to be done, and finally she had decided that the time had come. Tuvok had taken over for her on the bridge, but her real work was just beginning. She heard the door to her ready room chime. 'Come in,' she said.

'Well, Captain,' said Chakotay, 'Are you ready to get started on those crew evaluations?'

'No,' she admitted, resting her face on one hand, 'I always dreaded these, even back in the alpha quadrant when the protocols were a little clearer. I hardly even know what standards to evaluate everyone by.'

'Then we'll just have to wing it, Captain,' said Chakotay almost cheerfully, 'and do the best we can.'

'You sound almost like you're looking forward to this, Commander,' she said.

'Not precisely,' he said, 'but it passes the time.' And I get to spend time with you. 'And I can't wait to see the look on Harry Kim's face when we give him his field promotion.'

'Oh,' she said, slightly amused, 'You've already decided that, have you?'

'Haven't you?' he challenged.

She paused and then nodded slightly. And smiled. It was moments like those that made this grueling task worthwhile.

'So how do you want to do this Captain,' asked Chakotay, 'By department? Alphabetically?'

'Department,' she said decisively, hitting a key on her console, 'Top down, starting with engineering. You have all of the service records?'

He tapped a finger on his PADD, 'Yes, Captain. And I even managed to look at some of them.' She had asked him to look them all over, but considering that she had barely glanced at the records herself she had hardly expected it of him.

'That puts you one up on me, Commander,' she admitted, looking at him respectfully, 'Where do you find the time?'

Alone, in bed, trying not to think about you. 'Here and there,' he said.

'I wish my here's and there's were as organized as yours,' she said, 'So shall we?'

'Top down starting with Engineering. I guess that means we start with B'Elanna Torres then.'

B'Elanna first heard the rumors while on duty in Engineering. 'Nicoletti, are you sure?' she said.

'As sure as I can be,' she responded in an imitation of B'Elanna's harsh whisper, 'They were holed up in that office of hers for hours last night, so Megan went down and convinced the Doctor to check up on them. She and Jenny were sure that they were doing the wild thing, but it turns out they were working after all.'

'Evaluations,' breathed B'Elanna, 'shit.'

'No kidding,' said Nicoletti, 'You can be sure that all the Starfleet types are going to be getting the promotions and we'll still be stuck with the grunt work.'

'Shh, Susan, you know that's not true,' said B'Elanna, supressing the doubts that arose in the back of her mind. 'The Captain and Chakotay are doing them. They'll be fair.'

Nicoletti didn't argue, but didn't look convinced, and that worried B'Elanna more than she let on.

Tom heard the rumurs in Sandrine's, once they had spread over most of the ship. Once, he would have been one of the first to know, but now he had other things to occupy his time. He smiled fondly at Harry, who was leaning against the bar talking to one of the Delaneys. He felt a pang of jealousy, but it passed quickly. The Delaneys weren't in the picture any more, though from the way she was looking at Harry, Tom figured they wanted to be.

Powell had been the one to tell him, an ensign formerly of the Maquis who worked ops. They had known one another briefly, and had never gotten along, so Tom had no idea at first why Powell had come up to him.

'Hey, Paris,' he said, walking up to the table where Tom was sitting alone, 'You know, right?'

'Know what?' said Tom cautiously.

'The crew reviews that Chakotay and the Captain are doing. You know, right?'

'I do now,' said Tom, sipping his beer in an effort to look composed, 'What about them?'

'Well I just thought you should know, a lot of us don't like it all that much.'


'So we think that your precious Captain is going to favour her Starfleet crew over us Maquis. Especially your little boyfriend. Watch his back, Tom, because if I get ahold of him...'

'Wait a second, Powell. Harry didn't do anything.'

'Yet,' said Powell as he walked away.

Tom nervously took another sip of his beer. Janeway wasn't 'his precious Captain', first of all, although she did go out of her way for him. And Harry wasn't about to do anything wrong...whatever the captain decided wouldn't be his fault. But he and Powell did the same job, and Harry was a senior officer, not him. Was Tom going to run into the same problems with the other conning officers?

But it was the Maquis versus Starfleet comments that had him the most nervous. He had thought that conflict was mostly in the past; these crew reviews were just going to bring it to the forefront again.

That was when he looked up at the bar, and smiled at his lover who was being accosted by a Delaney who, now that Tom thought about it, was probably giving Harry the same information that he himself had just gotten. They would have to compare notes later on in the evening.

Chakotay was the one to bring the news to the Captain, having gotten it straight from B'Elanna as soon as she had gotten the chance. Janeway was, to say the least, not pleased.

'These are crew reviews, for God's sake,' she said furiously, 'not some sort of competition. What are they getting themselves so riled up over?'

'Captain,' said Chakotay, 'remember when you were a junior officer, when crew reviews came up. Wasn't it a competition then? And you were just competing against your peers. Our crew don't feel much like peers a lot of the time. There's still hurt and anger on both sides. The former Maquis crewmembers feel as though we are going to favour the Starfleet crew.'

'Even with the two of us doing it? You doing it?'

Chakotay nodded, 'There are those who were formerly under my command who feel...feel as though I've sold out to Starfleet. And their suspicions seem to be infecting the whole crew right now.'

'Damn,' she swore unexpectedly, 'That's the last thing we need. What are we supposed to do about this? They're your people, can't you talk to them?'

'They're our people,' he reminded her calmly. Gods, your passion makes you come alive.

Janeway regained control of herself quickly; she hadn't become a starship captain by making rash decisions or depending on the opinions of others. 'You're right,' she said, 'but we do have to admit that this could become a problem.'

'I agree, Captain, but I don't think there's anything we can do. I don't think there's anything we can do, except our jobs.'

She nodded and sat back down, suddenly realizing she had stood up in her anger. 'Where were we?' she asked him, turning to her console.

'Halfway through engineering,' he said with a half- resigned half-contented sigh. This was going to take a while.

Tom crawled under the covers with Harry later on in the night. Damn, he thought, I'm getting domestic. There was a time when I wouldn't just crawl into bed with someone, I would rip the covers off and screw them silly first. He seriously contemplated that for about five seconds before realizing that he wanted to feel Harry's warm skin lying against his own more than anything. Harry had come back to Tom's quarters early, while Tom had stayed to catch up on the latest ship's gossip.

'Har,' he said, shaking his shoulder gently.

'Mmm,' Harry's voice emerged from somewhere inside the pillow, 'I'm awake.' He rolled himself over and took Tom into his arms, resting his head on his lover's chest, 'Did you have a good evening?'

'Yeah, I did,' said Tom, a little bit surprised himself. He and Harry had spent so much time together for the last while, almost their every moment of free time, that Tom wasn't sure how he would like socializing again. 'It would have been better with you there, but it was nice getting out again.'

'Good,' said Harry, holding Tom a little closer, 'Sorry I didn't stick around.'

'No you're not,' said Tom with a grin, 'You just wanted to finish those diagnostics before we went to bed.'

'Busted,' said Harry, and Tom could feel him smile. But he could also feel as the smile faded, 'I just didn't feel like being around a lot of people tonight, especially not with what was going on.'

'You mean about the evaluations.'

'Yeah,' said Harry, 'Everyone was just so...tense. It felt like someone was going to explode, and I didn't want to be there when they did.'

'I understand,' said Tom, pressing his lips against Harry's soft, black hair, 'There's something I should tell you,' he added reluctantly.


'Ensign Powell, he's got it in for you. He's sure you're going to be favoured over him or something. I'd watch out for him if I were you.'

'I can take care of myself,' said Harry, and there was an edge to his voice that Tom didn't like.

'I know you can, but you shouldn't have to,' said Tom, stroking his lover's hair in an effort to calm him, 'This shouldn't be a big deal. It feels like the Maquis are just using this as an excuse to stir things up again, and I don't like it.'

'They aren't the Maquis anymore, Tom.'

'Yeah, well try telling them that.'

Hary sighed, 'I don't want to think about this right now,' he said and loosened his grip on Tom.

'You're not going to sleep are you?' Tom teased him.

All at once, Harry had pushed Tom back down against the bed, leapt on top of him, and thrown the covers off, 'Sleep?' he said, suddenly very much awake, 'Who said anything about sleep? You have a promise to keep, fly boy.'

'Harry?' Tom certainly didn't mind the change of mood, but it was unexpected.

'Something about strenuous exercise? I'm sure you remember....'

Tom grabbed Harry's shoulders and flipped him over, so that he was on top. Instead of answering, he kissed him over and over again--on the face, the neck, the lips. His fingers twined in Harry's hair, he held his lover's body down with his own and covered it with his kisses, the marks of his love.

Harry was whispering Tom's name over and over again, his breathing becoming more rapid. 'Gods, I love you,' he whispered, his lips meeting Tom's in an expression of his own love, at this moment so pure he thought it would burn itself into his lover.

'I love you too,' whispered Tom back when they parted, 'You do know that don't you? No matter what happens now...'

'Shhhh,' said Harry, 'I know.' He silenced his lover with another kiss. Harry's hands roamed Tom's back, stroking every inch of it, then moved further down, lightly stroking Tom's ass with his nails. Tom moaned softly into Harry's mouth which was still latched onto his own.

Tom ground his hips against Harry, rubbing their erections together. It was Harry's turn to moan, pulling away from the kiss and throwing his head back in pleasure. Tom rolled off of him and moved down the bed, taking Harry into his mouth with no warning, no teasing. He swallowed him as far as he could and sucked hard. Harry gasped and cried out, shocked by the sudden rush of pleasure up his body. He thrust himself against Tom, his mind devoid of anything except the need for release. But Tom wasn't ready to let him have it. He let go and moved up the bed again, stopping Harry's whimper with a bruising kiss.

'How do you do this to me,' gasped Harry, 'every damn time.' His tongue was ravaging Tom's mouth, his carnal needs overriding everything else. Tom was probably the only person to ever see Harry this passionate, this utterly dependent.

Tom managed to grin, 'Probably the same way you do it to me, love,' he replied, then lost his powers of speech and Harry grabbed his erection and stroked it viciously.

'Wouldn't want you to think you have that kind of power over me,' said Harry, continuing his erotic assault.

'I do outrank you,' Tom managed to get out, but that was the last of their verbal communication. Harry let go and took hold of Tom's head, kissing him wildly. Tom pulled away and groped around on his bedside table, grabbing the tube of lubricant they kept there. Harry grabbed it away from him and with a triumphant grin his began to spread it on Tom's anus, inserting a finger to lubricate him inside.

No matter how turned on they were, and no matter how needful he felt, Harry took his time to stretch Tom out and make him ready to be entered. Pain, significant pain, had no place in their lovemaking. Tom's urgent moan told Harry when he was ready, and he turned his lover over, grasping his hips and entering him quickly, more quickly that usual. They both cried out softly as new sensations infused their bodies. Harry began thrusting slowly, but it was impossible to keep it that way, especially when Tom began pushing back against him.

Moments later they were bucking against one another furiously, trying to make it last as long as possible. But that too was a losing battle. As Harry felt himself about to explode, he grabbed Tom's erection and jerked it in time with his thrusts. When they came they cried out in unison and collapsed in a heap on the bed.

When Tom caught his breath he said, 'Was that strenuous enough for you?' Harry barely had the energy to nod. Tom suddenly felt a rush of emotion for the Ensign he was sharing his bed with. Sharing his life with. As Harry moved from on top of him, he took him into his arms and held him tightly.

Harry laughed in delight, 'What was that?'

'Nothing. Everything. I don't know,' answered Tom, still holding him close, 'I don't know what I ever did without you.'

Harry murmured something unintelligible and lay one hand along the side of Tom's face, 'I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't been there.'

Tom had a thought that wasn't very pillow talkish, but he decided that there would be no better time, 'Harry,' he said, 'Is sex...good for you?'

Harry laughed, but it sounded a little forced, 'What do you mean? Of course it is...when it's with you, that is.'

Tom smiled at the amendment, but it didn't alleviate his concern, 'Maybe this isn't the best time after all,' he said.

'Wait, Tom, you brought it up. Tell me what you mean...'

'It's just that...I love making love to you...'

'And I love making love to you...' interrupted Harry, but Tom wouldn't let himself be diverted once he had started.

'But the way you react sometimes, the way you do things...it's like,' Tom didn't know if he could say it, 'it's like me, the first times I had sex after I got out of prison.'

'Tom, we don't just have sex...what are you trying to say?'

'Harry,' said Tom, 'did anything...happen...to you there? Anything you didn't tell me?'

Harry rolled over so that his back was against Tom, 'No,' he said, and closed his eyes.

'Harry,' said Tom, shaking his shoulder. There was no response, which in itself was an answer. 'Good night,' he whispered, kissing Harry's cheek and closing his own eyes, drifting off to sleep.

Janeway rubbed the back of her neck, 'How long have we been at this?' she asked her first officer.

'About five hours now,' he told her, 'Ready to call it a night?'

'Not just yet,' she said reluctantly, 'I want to finish Engineering before I turn in so we can start on Tactical tomorrow.' Chakotay stood up and walked around behind his Captain, placing his hands tentatively on her shoulders. 'If that's a question, Commander,' she said, 'the answer is yes.' He began to gently knead her shoulders. 'It's been a long time.'

'Yes, it has,' he agreed, not ceasing his movements, 'So who are we up to?'

Janeway sighed, 'Kino Jorell,' she said, 'How old is he now?'

Chakotay thought about it, 'He must be nineteen now, because he was seventeen when we came aboard. Why, are you thinking about assigning him rank?'

Janeway nodded, 'He's earned it. And he's old enough now, I think...I didn't want to have any officers on my ship under the age of majority.'

'Well, you don't have that problem now,' said Chakotay, 'He was the youngest of all of us...unless you count Ensign Wildman's child.'

Janeway smiled, half at the relief of the tension in her neck and half at the comment, 'I'm hoping it will be some time before we have to worry about assigning her rank, Commander, though I suppose her education is something we should start thinking about.'

'Not for a couple of years yet,' Chakotay reminded her, 'And if we don't stay on the topic of these reviews, they will take a couple of years themselves.'

Janeway acknowledged the gentle reprimand from her second. 'Only two more to go tonight,' she said.

'Well then,' Chakotay left her and sat back down in his seat, 'Let's get to it.' Is it just me or is that disappointment in her eyes?

Harry first encountered Ray Powell in a deserted corridor two days later shortly after his shift in ops. 'Kim,' he heard his name said with derision, 'I hear you were talking to the Captain today.'

'And so what if I was?'

'Doing a little ass-kissing during crew eval's, Ensign?'

'Ray, all I did was brief her on the corrections I made to the sensor diagnostics. What's the big deal?'

'The big deal,' he said, standing only inches from Harry's face. 'Is that you think you're better than us, Starfleet, and we don't like it. You'd better watch yourself.'

That was all Harry could take in his current mood. 'No, Maquis, I think it's you who'd better watch yourself if you know what's good for you. I don't want to have to deal with you, but I will if I have to.' And with that he turned on his heel and headed in the opposite direction.

He heard Powell's voice call after him, 'You'll be sorry you ever said that, Kim. Just wait and see.' Harry's blood was boiling, and the comment didn't concern him so much as make him even angrier than he already was. Goddammit, did everything have to be this way? For the next seventy years? He pounded his fist againt the wall and continued on his course for holodeck two.

Tom met Harry at the bar in Sandrine's. 'Hey,' he said congenially, putting his arms around Harry from behind, 'How was your day?' Harry shrugged and took a sip of the drink in front of him, 'Everything okay?'

Of course everything isn't okay, Tom told himself, stupid stupid stupid. Ever since you brought that stuff up he's withdrawn into himself again. You know it's the worst it's been since you came back.

'I ran into Powell today,' Harry said, matter-of- factly.


'Pleasant sort of fellow. Do you know how long until the eval's are done?'

'Another couple of days, according to Megan,' said Tom, 'You think it's going to get better or worse?'

'Can't get much worse,' said Harry, cupping the drink in both hands and staring at it. 'Two fights yesterday and the tension today is incredible. Who would've thought...Tom, this is ridiculous! What is everyone trying to prove?'

'I don't know.' Tom took the seat next to him and looked around the room. 'Everyone's just gone stir crazy maybe. You think I should suggest shore leave to the captain?'

Harry shrugged, 'If you think it'll help.'

'You don't?'

'I don't know what will help anymore.' And suddenly Tom didn't think he was talking about the crew at all. But he said nothing.

'Well we need to do something. Together. So that we'll have one crew again.

Harry smiled, much to Tom's surprise, 'Listen to you,' he said, 'Tom Paris, bringing the crew together. Who would've thought.'

Yeah, thought Tom, who would've thought that one event could have such a profound effect on a person's life. Who would've thought that coming aboard Voyager could change me so much. And who would've thought that prison could change you so much. Oh Harry, I thought I could make it all better, just by being with you. It looks like I was wrong.

'Listen, Har,' he said, kissing him on the top of his head, 'I'm gonna go talk to Megan, see how things are progressing, okay? I'll be back.' Harry just nodded.

Maybe I should tell the Captain about the threats, thought Tom briefly, then dismissed it. Besides the fact that she was already swamped with work, there were probably threats like that all over the ship. One more or less wasn't really going to concern her.

The Captain and Chakotay were working madly on the reviews. Their leisurely conversations had long since disappeared and all they wanted to do was complete them and get things on their ship back to normal. They tried not to let ship's politics influence the decisions that they were making, but it wasn't easy.

'How many more?' asked Chakotay.

Janeway looked at her console, 'Only six, Commander. We'll be done tonight. Soon in fact.' It was the first cause they had to smile in 3 days. Their intentions of doing the reviews in their off hours over 3 weeks had long been scrapped, and every moment they could spare was spent finishing the task. It was either that, or not do them altogether, and not doing them would cause a whole load of other problems that they would just as soon not deal with.

Harry felt a hand on his shoulder and, thinking it was Tom, turned around to face him. Powell was standing there, a scowl on his face. He reached for Harry and pulled him to his feet, 'I told you you'd be sorry,' he said.

'Ray are you nuts? There are tons of people in here...'

Instead of a reply, he got a fist flying at his face. Harry did the only thing he could think of to do. He fought back, and fought hard.

Tom heard the commotion from the other side of the holodeck and went to check it out. When he finally saw who was causing it, he pushed his way through the crowd and pulled his lover off of the other man. 'Don't stop me, Tom,' he hissed, 'He asked for it.'

'Harry, don't do this. It's not worth it,' Tom tried to convince him, but Harry broke free of his grasp and went for Powell's throat again. 'Harry. Harry!'

A few moments later security took both men into custody and headed for the brig. Tom followed them all the way.

'Tuvok to Captain Janeway.' Janeway threw down her PADD in disgust and tapped her com badge.

'What is it, Lieutenant?'

'We've had another incident and I've taken two crewmembers into custody,' he reported, 'I would advise you to come to the brig as soon as possible.'

'I don't have time for this, Lieutenant,' she protested, 'Who was it this time?'

'The two crewmembers I have taken into custody are Ensign Ray Powell and Ensign Harry Kim.'

'Harry!' she exclaimed with a gasp. She looked at Chakotay, 'I'm on my way,' she said. 'Commander...stay here. I'll be back as soon as I can.' He nodded at her as she fled her ready room.

Tom was at the door of the brig when she arrived. When she saw him she stopped, 'Tom,' she said, 'What happened?'

'I'm not sure myself,' he confessed, 'All I know is that Powell took a swing at Harry and they ended up pounding one another.'

'Harry fought him?' she said, incredulously.

'Captain,' said Tom, 'I should have said something before, but you were so busy....'

'What is it, Mr. Paris?'

'Powell, he had been making threats, to both me and Harry. And Harry, he hasn't been himself lately, and I can't....well, just don't be too hard on him.' He looked up at the Captain pleadingly. All pretense of cockiness had vanished, not that she was surprized. This was serious.

'I'll do what I can,' she promised before going through the doors.

'Captain,' said Tuvok, going over to her, 'I have taken statements from both of them and compiled a report for you.' He handed her a PADD.

'Thank you Mr. Tuvok,' she said, 'but I'd like to speak to these gentlemen alone.'

'As you wish, Captain,' he said, nodding to her before leaving the room.

'Well,' she said coldly to the two men standing behind the forcefield, 'I must thank you for making a difficult job even harder. What do you have to say for yourselves?' Of the two cut and bloodied men, only Harry looked remorseful. She was a bit shocked at the sight of them--the other fights had been stopped before much injury had been done; these two looked like they might have to report to sick bay.

'Captain,' began Harry, but she waved her hand at him in dismissal.

'Never mind, Mr. Kim, I don't even want to hear it right now,' she said, her fury manifesting itself in her coldest businesslike voice, 'I'll be back in an hour to talk about it, but for right now listen to this carefully because I'm only going to say it once. I am your Captain, and for the last week the Commander and I have been working at all hours to give each and every one of you a fair shot here. Not just the original Starfleet crew, the whole crew. We have been doing this for you, do you understand that? And when I see this, these petty squabbles, I wonder if it is all worth it. I'll have you know that of the seven promotions that the Commander and I have decided to hand out, four of them are going to crewmembers formerly of the Maquis...not that that fact influenced our decision in any way. Those decisions have been made now, and I hope I find no cause to regret them. Think about that, gentlemen, I'll deal with you later.' With that she turned and left the brig.

'Captain,' Tom stopped her outside the door, 'Can I talk with you for a moment?'

'Walk with me then, Mr. Paris. I have a lot to do and not a lot of time.'

'Do you know what's going to happen?'

She sighed, 'I'm going to finish those reviews, then I'm going to go back and listen to their explanations, and then I am going to order them to report to sickbay to get themselves cleaned up. Is that precise enough for you?'

'You're not going to keep them in the brig overnight?'

'I doubt it very much, Mr. Paris. By all rights I should, mind you, but given the climate on this ship right now, that would cause more trouble that I just don't need right now.'

Tom breathed a sigh of relief.

'Is there anything I should know, Mr. Paris'

'What's going on with Harry,' said Tom, 'I'm pretty sure it has something to do with what happened in prison on Aquiteri. If you made him stay in there, I'm not sure what it would do to him...'

Janeway swore softly to herself, wishing for the thousandth time that she had a counsellor aboard. On her previous assignments, they had always seemed superfluous, but now she realized how valuable they really could be. 'Understood, Mr. Paris,' she said.

'Thank you, Captain,' he said as they reached the bridge. She nodded to him as she walked back into her ready room. He turned around and headed back for the brig and Harry.

'Lieutenant Paris,' Tuvok acknowledged him as he entered the room, 'What can I do for you?'

'I need to...I need to speak with Ensign Kim,' he said.

'You know that I cannot let down the forcefield,' he responded.

'I know,' said Tom.

'Very well then, go ahead.' He looked down at his console and resumed what he had been doing.

Tom walked over to the chamber separated from the rest of the room by a shimmering forcefield. When Harry saw him he lept to his feet and hurried over. Ray glared at them and remained where he was sitting.

'Tom,' he said, the relief clear in his voice, 'I thought I wasn't going to see you.'

'Harry,' said Tom, trying not to become angry, 'What the hell were you thinking?'

'I...I don't know,' he confessed, 'I don't think I was thinking. There's so much...rage...inside me and I don't know what to do with it. Please...Tom...I need you to help me.' Tom could see Harry's eyes begin to shimmer with tears.

'Harry,' he said, 'remember what I asked you before...?'

Harry reluctantly nodded, 'You were right, of course, something did happen. I...I needed to do something...so you would have a safe place to stay. I didn't...I had nothing else left to give him, Tom.' His voice was breaking and he could barely go on, 'I never wanted you to know.'

'Harry.' Tom had never needed to touch his lover more than right at that moment, but the forcefield still separated them. 'Harry, you didn't...you did what you had to. Gods, I wish it hadn't happened...but it did. Oh Harry, I love you so much.' Harry was crying openly now. 'Harry, will you be able to talk to me--or someone--about it now?' Harry nodded slowly, 'Okay, I think that will help,' said Tom.

And he stayed there with him, not even speaking, just being there, until the Captain returned. She looked at him and gestured towards the door. With a last look at Harry, Tom left the room.

'Well, gentlemen,' she said, her voice much calmer than it had been, 'Have you thought about what I said?'

To her surprise, it was Powell who spoke first, 'Captain, I thought about it and you were right, you did give us a fair shake on your ship. I don't know, maybe we've been fighting too long, some of us. Maybe we don't know how to accept peace any more,' He paused, but she was still looking at him expectantly, 'It's not easy, serving in this...command structure...after so long in the Maquis. And being stuck on this ship. We're all on edge, Captain.'

She nodded her head, 'It has been recommended to me that perhaps I should consider an extended shore leave shortly to alleviate the tension. But I cannot cater to these...tantrums...all the time. I don't suggest that any of you try this again. If you have any other suggestions about how to diffuse this situation, now would be the time.'

'To be honest, Captain,' said Powell, 'I think things will settle down once the crew evaluation results come out. Wait a couple of days and see.' Janeway was briefly amused at the casual tone he was using with her, but it was a welcome change from some of the rigid Starfleet protocols she got from some of her other officers.

'I certainly hope so,' she said, 'Ensign Kim, do you have anything to say?'

He shook his head, 'I have nothing to add to that, Captain, except an apology for my behaviour.'

'Apology accepted,' she said curtly, 'Now if you two have resolved your differences, I see no reason why you can't be released to sick bay.' Once the had both nodded their heads, she gestured to Tuvok to let down the forcefield and she followed them out of the brig.

Tom was waiting just outside the door for his lover, 'Harry,' he said when they emerged and quickly embraced him. Harry held him hard for a few moments the released him.

'Sickbay, gentlemen,' she said to them, 'and then might I suggest a quiet evening...away from Sandrine's?'

'Yes, Captain,' said Harry, and they made their way to sickbay while she returned once again to the bridge.

Tom propped himself up against the back of the bed and let Harry stretch out, with his head in Tom's lap. 'This is it,' he said quietly, 'It's time.' They had changed out of their uniforms and put on some loose fitting bedclothes. Tom didn't want any sexual tension interrupting this particular discussion.

'I know,' said Harry, 'I just don't know where to start.'

'Well,' said Tom, 'I remember everything up to the point where I got stabbed. Then it all gets kinda fuzzy. You could start there.'

But that wasn't where Harry needed to start, 'The brutality,' he said, 'that hit me pretty hard. Not that they did it, but to see that I could do that to someone else. To you. But that was an experience that I shared with you, that we could get through together. When I was...with him...I was alone. I thought I could forget. I thought I could get over it, but it was no different in the end. It was something else I discovered I was capable of that I was repulsed by.'

'Harry,' said Tom, and held him. He was awash in his own memories now too.

'The nightmares started right after we got back. I...I told you about some of them, but...not the ones about him. And not the strange ones, the ones where I am a child again and he still...' Harry shuddered. Tom recalled nights when he would awaken to find Harry already up, reading or having a snack. Nights when it took some coaxing to get him back to bed.

'Can you...can you tell me what happened?'

'I don't know,' said Harry honestly, 'When I brought you to him, when I offered to trade my boots for supplies and a place to stay...it wasn't enough. He got you settled in...and then the real bargaining began.'

After Harry was silent for a long space, Tom said bluntly, 'He raped you.'

Harry let out something between a laugh and a choke, 'I wish he had raped me. I could at least deal with that, I could place the blame on someone else. No, Tom, I sold myself to him and that's the bottom line. I sold my body, oh gods, I feel so...' Harry burst into tears.

Tom held him for a long time without saying anything. 'It's like that in prison,' he said finally. Harry had been expecting revulsion, disillusionment, rejection--not Tom's matter-of-fact acceptance. 'I don't know what to tell you, Harry. Would it make you feel better or worse to know that I had to do the same thing?'

'You? Why?'

Tom sighed, reluctant to delve into those memories. It had taken him a long time to file them away, and he still didn't want to have to deal with them, 'It was the way things were done...it was all I had to sell. Harry, you did it to save my life, it wasn't your choice and it wasn't your fault.'

'The why doesn't it feel that way?'

'Because it's still fresh in your mind, maybe. Because you're running on instinct and not thinking about it? I don't know; I wish I did. Harry,' he said, 'all I know is that you shouldn't be ashamed, you shouldn't be hard on yourself. And I love you.'

'I love you too, Tom,' he said, 'And thank you...for not hating me.'

'Hating you? Harry, I would never, ever hate you. You've got to believe that.'

'Just...I don't want to think about it any more. Not tonight. I've...I never wanted to tell you. But, I'm glad you know. No more secrets.'

'No secrets,' said Tom, making a vow to Harry that he had never made to anyone ever before, 'Anything you want to ask me, Harry--anything--I'll answer. That's a promise.'

Harry smiled and moved over so that Tom could lie down on the bed with him, 'Let's get some sleep,' he said.

'Harry,' said Tom, 'I'm not sure...'

'I'm tired, Tom. Even that much, it took a lot out of me. But I know I love you and I know now you love me no matter what--and I think that's enough for one night. We'll...we'll talk again tomorrow.'

'Okay,' said Tom, snuggling up close to him, 'I'm holding you to that.'

'I'm counting on it,' whispered Harry, so softly that Tom didn't even hear him.

Harry rolled over and kissed his sleeping lover's lips. Tom murmured in his sleep and smiled, but didn't awaken. Harry kissed him again, then once more for good measure before dragging himself out of bed and getting ready for his duty shift.

Feeling the empty space now beside him, Tom sprawled face down across the bed, filling it. It was a tempting sight, Tom's prone form only half covered with the blanket, but Harry's sense of duty overrode his sense of lust, and he hopped into the shower before he could hop back into bed. Emerging a few minutes later, he only allowed himself a short look at Tom before pulling on his uniform and leaving their quarters for the bridge.

That day, despite it's promising beginnings, was the one that went down in Voyager history as the Day of the Ferengi. There were other things it might have been called, but the memories of that were too painful for anyone to deal with yet. They had been so close...

Tom held a weeping Harry Kim in his arms, 'It's okay,' he said, 'It's all right Harry, we'll have other chances.'

'How do you know that? How do you know?' He clung to Tom like he was the only thing he had left in the universe.

'I just know,' he said confidently, stroking Harry's hair as he gradually calmed down.

'How do you do it? How do you stay so calm?'

Tom sighed, 'Harry, everything I have to live for is right here on Voyager. To be absolutely honest, I don't have much to go home for. If we get there any time soon, I might have to go back to prison,' he shuddered involuntarily, 'so I'm not in any hurry.'

'I am,' said Harry softly, 'Everything is there for me. Except you. You're right here.' He held his lover even tighter.

'No matter what happens, I'll always be here for you. Even if we spend the rest of our lives on this ship, it'll always be you and me.' He managed to coax a small smile out of Harry.

'I thought we were supposed to be getting home. 'You just know' it.'

'We are. I was just proving a point. Harry, what's done is done. I know how much it hurts you, but there's nothing we can do now. Except go on.'

'I know,' said Harry, 'It's just so damn hard sometimes. Everything's so damn hard now.'

'I know, I know.'

'So,' said Harry, sitting up so that Tom's arm was around his shoulders, 'why don't you tell me about what it was like on the planet. It sounded like you and Chakotay had a pretty interesting time.'

'Interesting is hardly the word that I'd use for it,' retorted Tom, 'Why don't you get comfortable? This may take a while.'

Tom leaned against the back of the bed and Harry sat in front of him, leaning against his lover's chest. Tom put his arms around him. 'Let's see...there was this guy there- -you would have gotten a kick out of this Harry--he was trying to sell us these ornaments. Our ears,' he laughed, 'and you know what it reminded me of? Remember on Deep Space Nine...that Ferengi who tried to sell you those jewels?'

'Of course,' laughed Harry, despite the fact that Tom had once again brought up home, 'How could I forget? Besides, that was where we met.'

Tom gave him a quick squeeze and went on, 'Well, it was just like that. I almost blew it by laughing at him.'

'So,' said Harry slowly, 'What's this about the half- naked women that Chakotay told me about?'

'What?' exploded Tom.

Harry grinned at him, 'The half-naked women. I'm sure you remember.'

'Well, remind me to kill Chakotay the next time I see him,' Tom muttered, 'There's nothing to tell, Harry, you know how Ferengi are. I'm surprised they were wearing clothing at all...and speaking of clothing these are rather comfortable. I'm thinking of keeping them.'

Harry decided to let Tom off the hook...for now, 'As long as you don't wear them on the bridge any more. When you reported for duty still wearing them...I was having trouble keeping my eyes on my console.' He reached over his shoulder and twirled a finger in Tom's golden chest hair, 'when all I wanted to do was this.'

He sighed, 'I didn't know it would be this hard.'

'Hard? What's hard?' Tom was perplexed by the change of mood.

'Watching you go off on away missions, knowing that anything could happen, and usually does. The aliens from the swarm almost killed you, and then it was a close call getting you off that planet when we couldn't use the transporters. It's hell on the nerves you know.'

'I know it is,' said Tom, 'I know that you would never refuse a mission because of me. And I would never want you to.' Bar fights, on the other hand, I would prefer you steer clear of.

'Neither would I. But it is hard, to stay on duty wondering what's happening to you.'

'You know what, Harry? Others have been through this before us. And plenty will after us. There's nothing we can do about it, except to make sure that the time we do spend with one another is always special.'

'Every moment we spend together is special,' said Harry, resting a hand lightly on Tom's thigh, and turning himself slightly to the side so he could see his lover's face, 'I think...' he said, and then stopped.

'You think what, Harry?'

'I think that I may have been in love with you for a long time. Before we ever went to prison, maybe a long time before that, because all these emotions feel so comfortable, so right. Being with you is so right.'

Tom kissed him gently, 'I started falling in love with you the moment we met, Harry, and I never stopped. And I never will stop. It can only get better from here.' He smiled and kissed him again.

Harry had no doubt as to Tom's absolute sincerity. There were two Tom Paris' aboard Voyager, the cocky young pilot that every one knew and the real one, the one with feelings and vulnerabilities that Harry saw when they were alone. There was a very specific moment when they finally confessed their feeling to when another, but he couldn't remember when he had started feeling them. They were just so much a part of him...the covert glances, the petty jealousies that he felt about the Delaneys and even B'Elanna. He had lived with them a lot longer than he had ever suspected.

His mind inevitably wandered to their missed chance to get home, but this time without the overwhelming grief. He realized that to a large extent he had already dealt with it. When they came so close to going home he would always feel a great disappointment, but it no longer had the ability to emotionally destroy him. Especially with Tom around. Was he really resigned to life in the Delta quadrant? Was 'resigned' even the right word? Things were good here. They were good. He was serving with the best crew he could have imagined, he had friends in every area of the ship, they were living comfortably. It wasn't home, but it wasn't bad either. And--here was the biggie--on Voyager he had Tom. Back home, he might not. Emotionally, it was an impossible decision to make. Luckily, it would never be on that he had to.

'Do you want to go out? Do something?' asked Tom suddenly, 'I doubt that many people feel much like celebrating tonight, but there may be a few people at Sandrine's, drowning their sorrows or the like. How does dinner sound? On me.'

'A date?'

'A date,' confirmed Tom.

'Sounds great,' said Harry, 'Let's get changed, though. I need to get out of this uniform. Sometimes I feel like I live in it.' He eyes Tom's clothing enviously, 'How come I never get missions like that?'

'Sure, Harry,' joked Tom, 'Next time you get to deal with the Ferengi.'

Harry laughed as he stripped, 'Point taken.' He pulled on a pair of jeans, the ones he had 'borrowed' from Tom those--what, only two?--weeks ago. Despite the multitude of fabrics and clothing styles available, jeans made him feel like home, and right now he really needed that.

'Nice,' commented Tom, noting how they clung to Harry's ass, 'Very nice.' Harry blushed. Again. Then he found a nice striped shirt and put it on as well. Couldn't hurt to be just a little bit formal for their date. No T-shirts for him tonight. He turned and looked at Tom, who was still wearing the exact same thing that he had been when he and Chakotay had reboarded Voyager. He walked up to him and held Tom's pendant in his hand, examining is closely, then slipping it over Tom's head.

'I know what to do with this,' he said, and right then Tom knew exactly what he meant.

'Let me this time,' he said. Harry nodded and handed the pendant back to him. Together, they walked over to the chest and knelt down in front of it of it. Tom opened it, almost reverently. 'This pendant is two things,' he said, 'It is the day we met, so long ago, and it is the day we realized our lives are here. We almost went home today, but instead we remained...more in love than ever. This pendant is those things.' He placed it inside the chest and closed the lid.

Harry rose first, 'C'mon and get dressed,' he said, 'I'm hungry.'

'You're always hungry,' protested Tom, but he was quick to comply.

Despite Tom's predictions, Sandrine's was packed. Harry thought he knew why...when people faced disaster--and in many ways today was a disaster--they tended to congregate. They were already alone out here as a ship, but they didn't want to be alone as individuals. That was what had brought the crew back together again--the sudden evidence that all they had was each other. Harry clung to Tom's hand as they wove their way through the people towards the pool table, where they tended to spend most of their time.

'A raincheck on that dinner, Harry?' suggested Tom.

'Good idea,' he admitted, sounding just a little disappointed.

'Tom. Harry.' It was the Captain's voice, coming from the bar. Paris had expected that she would still be on the bridge so soon after the incident, but once he thought about it he realized that there was no more reason for her to be there than usual. And she needed to unwind as much as any of them. In the aftermath of both this and the Maquis/Starfleet conflict, the Captain actually had more reason than ever to take a much-deserved break.

'Captain,' Tom greeted her, walking over with Harry in tow.

'How are you two doing?' The tone of her voice was sincerely concerned, and Tom had the feeling she'd been asking all of her crew the same question.

'We're doing...okay, Captain,' said Tom, then looked to Harry for affirmation. He nodded his head slowly and attempted a smile, but it was half-hearted at best. Janeway looked at Harry with understanding and sympathy.

'I know what you're going through, Mr. Kim,' she said softly, so that only the three of them heard, 'Hang in there, we're going to be okay.' And then she smiled for him. 'Are you boys up for a game?'

'Against you, Captain?' said Tom, 'Not a chance, it's safer to watch.'


Harry shook his head, 'I'm a poor loser, Captain,' he admitted, 'Wouldn't want you to see me throw a tantrum, now, would I?' The smile he gave her this time was more genuine.

'Well then, I guess it's just me and the Commander again,' she said, but didn't look displeased. Then she looked back at the two men, 'By the way, not that it would change anything, but I do approve. I wanted you to know that.'

'Thank you,' they said in unison, then laughed. Tom leaned over and ruffled Harry's hair, giving him a brief kiss on the cheek in the process. Janeway winked at him, then turned away to find Chakotay.

'She and the Commander do play a lot of pool together, don't they,' commented Harry innocently.

'I bet that's not all they do together,' put in Tom wryly.

'Tom! That's the Captain you're talking about,' Harry warned him.

'Oh, and who's going to tell her what I said? You?'


'I know you're not blind, Har. Look at them together and tell me there's not something going on.'

Harry looked at them. 'There's not something going on,' he said and at Tom's scathing look went on, 'I'm serious...the Captain worries too much about protocol to carry on a relationship right now. Although, if she were to end up with anyone, it would be him.'

Tom thought about that, 'Maybe, just maybe, you're right,' he admitted, 'but I think my way is far more interesting.'

Harry had to laugh, 'Don't you go starting any rumors! Remember last time? Ensign Wildman was almost at your throat over that.'

'Yeah, but that one wasn't my fault,' protested Tom, 'Megan came up with that, I was just her...pawn.'

'Speaking of whom, have you seen her around lately?' asked Harry, 'And more importantly, does she know about us yet?'

'We weren't really seeing one another,' said Tom without answering, 'it was just casual.'

'Apparently she thought differently,' said Harry, but didn't pursue the subject any further. It was making Tom uncomfortable, and they had enough of that right now.

They stayed in Sandrine's for about two hours, just chatting with various crew members, finally taking up the Captain on her challenge--and losing miserably. Going back to Tom's quarters in the wake of their defeat, they fell into an exhausted sleep and didn't awaken for hours, just prior to their duty shift. They didn't even consider sleeping apart any more, but still maintained separate quarters. It was always important to have someplace of one's own to go back to, even if you never used it.

'Mr. Kim,' said Janeway from her ready room door, 'Can I see you for a moment?'

Harry walked over to her a little anxiously and even Tom looked up concerned. Only Chakotay knew what was about to transpire, and he wasn't about to let his expression give anything away.

'Mr. Kim,' she said as the door slid shut and she sat back down at her desk, 'How well do you feel you are contributing to the functioning of this ship?'

Harry was at a loss as for what to say. He knew that they had been doing evaluations, but....oh shit, he thought, the fight. What a lousy time to have had it---that must be what she wants to bring up again. 'Um, Captain...' he began.

'No, don't answer that, Mr. Kim,' she interrupted him, 'that question was a little direct.' She didn't seem angry... 'Have you resolved everything with Ensign Powell?'

'Yes, Captain,' he said meekly. It was actually the truth. Two beer and a game of pool and most of their differences had been resolved.

'That's good,' she said, 'I'd hate to see you thown in the brig again. You're a good officer...Lieutenant.'

Harry was confused for a moment, until he saw the single black pip in her hand. A broad grin spread across his face, 'Captain?'

She finally allowed herself a smile as she attached it to his collar, 'Congratulations, Lieutenant Kim,' she said shaking his hand.

'Captain,' he sputtered, 'I don't know what to say.'

'You don't need to say anything, Mr. Kim,' she said, 'Just go back out there and keep up the good work.'

'Yes, ma'am,' he said and tried to keep his composure as he walked out of her ready room. Chakotay gave him a knowing grin but didn't say anything. This must have been decided a while ago, thought Kim to himself, and they never let it slip. Tom looked at him as he emerged but his expression didn't change.

Harry returned to his post and tried to resume his sensor sweeps of the nearby system, but his heart was still pounding wildly and he could hardly keep the smile off his face.

'Have you finished those sensor readings for me, ' said Tom, 'Lieutenant Kim?' It was only then that he turned around and smiled at his lover. That did it for Harry, and his smile burst forth again. Gods, the love that sparked between them, thought Janeway, watching from her ready room door, there's going to be some celebration tonight.

The atmosphere on the ship remained morose for the next few days, as people tried to once again come to terms with the fact that they were stuck in the Delta Quadrant, but at least it was the powder keg ready to explode that it had been. Gradually, things were back to normal, or as normal as anything ever got aboard Voyager.

'Captain,' said Lieutenant Kim, 'I'm picking up an M- class planet on long-range sensors. It appears the civilization there may have technology at a similar level to our own.'

'Plot a course, Lieutenant Paris,' she said immediately. It had been rare, on this journey, to find anyone with technology even close to that of the Federation. The Kazon had been one of the closest, and even they had seemed barbaric in comparison. A lot of their encounters so far had been hostile; hopefully this time it would be different. She looked forward to the possibility of shore leave on a planet that wasn't just wilderness. Or a planet that wouldn't regard the Voyager and her crew as invaders.

Yes, the Captain, as well as the rest of the crew, were more than ready for a people like the Enarans.

DISCORD is Copyright © 1996 by its author R'rain Prior and was posted to the Usenet news group alt.startrek.creative.erotica on Oct22/96 All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction; any resemblance to persons living or dead or events past or future is purely coincidental.