by torch, 1996
flambeau@strangeplaces.net

Disclaimer: Paramount owns all of them except for Ensign Lee, who's mine. This story is a sequel to Catch me I'm falling and Don't fall on me. People kept saying I couldn't leave them like that. Well... Do not archive this story without permission.

After the fall

"Wouldn't you be more comfortable if you sat down?"

"No."

"Are you sure you don't remember anything?"

He was walking around the airponics bay, slowing down now and then to look at something, some pretty little flower or odd root poking its head above the earth, but he never came to a complete stop. Off duty now, he wore jeans and a plain sweater, green. "I'm sure," he said.

"It's just that you keep touching your wrists," Kes said gently. "And the marks were gone before you woke up." She walked up to him and put an arm around his waist. "Harry, are you sure?"

He looked down into her eyes for a long moment, then pulled her into a hug, leaning his cheek against the top of her head. Kes hugged him back fiercely, overjoyed. It was the first time he'd touched anyone of his own accord since he'd left sickbay. "I don't think I remember," he said. "It's more like the stories people tell you about when you were a child, that become so real you make up your own pictures to them, but they're not really memories, they're memories after the fact or something. I mean, I know I wore handcuffs."

"They told you that?"

"Tuvok apologized about it. I didn't understand what he was talking about at first. I guess it would've been different if I'd woken up with scars or something. Then I would have wondered if I'd tried to kill myself or s—"

He broke away from her, turned around, took a step away. She watched him just stand there, watched the rise and fall of his chest. "Harry." He didn't move. "Harry, you know that wasn't really you. It was a physical problem, like a disease, an injury."

"I don't remember," he said. When he walked down the row she thought she'd lost him, and resigned herself to tracking him down later, resuming the talk then. But then he turned back again and came towards her. "Kes. The last thing I remember clearly is being in my quarters. After that..." Harry's eyes met hers. "There are just brief flashes, and some of it is things that people told me, and other things I wish I didn't remember, and..."

"The captain said I should ask you today," Kes said.

"What?" Harry looked blank. "About my memories? You always ask about my memories."

"No, not that." She sighed. She'd asked about his memories often enough, and she still thought he was hiding something from her. "About whether you want to charge Tom with sexual assault."

Harry stared at her for a moment and then he shook his head slowly. "I thought that was a joke." Kes kept looking at him and after a moment he looked away. "I don't remember it." She put a hand on his arm, willing the contact between them to show him how much she cared, show him he could trust her completely. "I don't."

"Strictly speaking, it doesn't matter if you do," Kes said, watching him closely for a reaction. "There were witnesses. And the captain had to talk quite fast to prevent Tom from putting himself on report for it."

Harry still wasn't looking at her. "She told me," he said. And Kes thought that the old Harry Kim would have been severely embarrassed, knowing what the captain had told him, what the captain had seen. The way Harry looked now, she couldn't really tell, and she wished her empathic gift was stronger.

"Harry." Kes fastened her hand around his elbow and dragged him into a corner of the airponics bay and pushed him firmly down on a chair. "Let's take this from the beginning. What do you remember, exactly?"

"Starting when?" he asked her tiredly. "When I was in my mother's womb?"

"Starting when you got out of prison, Harry." She pulled up a tall stool and sat down in front of him. "Talk."

"But..." Harry shrugged. "I remember the things I did, I just don't remember the things I felt all that well. I used to lie awake at night, I know that much. And it was painful. I kept thinking about Tom."

"And then, do you remember what happened when you..."

"No." He shook his head slowly. "I remember being in my quarters, I told you. And I have this one image of Tom, of his face, but I can't tell if it's from that time, or it could be from when we were in prison. Tom with blood on his face." He was speaking almost through clenched teeth. "And then—"

Abruptly, Harry stopped speaking. Kes frowned. "Have you talked to Tom since you woke up again?"

"No." The word sounded as though it had been forcibly ripped out of him. He looked at her with sudden aggression, but Kes did not shy back. She was pleased that he was showing a bit of emotion at last. "I don't know what I'd say to him."

"You could start by apologizing," Kes offered calmly. "You did try to kill him. And then you could say thank you."

"Thanks for the blow job?" Harry leaned back, away from her.

"Harry!" There were moments when she honestly wanted to smack him. But he did hurt, she could feel it. And she wanted to help. "He figured out what was wrong and got the doctor to do something about it. You're healthy and sane again, you're not in the brig any more, isn't that something to be grateful for?"

"Yeah." Kes waited, and in a little while he closed his eyes and took her hand, and went on, "I'm being stupid. I know I should apologize. I guess I just feel resentful because I went out of my head, I did all the stupid things, and even after I tried to strangle Tom he helped me. I feel like such an idiot, you know?"

"It was just pure chance," Kes reminded him. "That you reacted the way you did and he reacted the way he did, it was all just the way your neural pathways were reflecting the influence of the implant. So it's not your fault. But an apology would be nice anyway," she tried a smile.

Harry smiled back, not looking completely happy. "Just the implant," he said. "That's right. Oh, I will apologize. I will." Then he rose to his feet and started to walk along the row again, stopping to poke at a plant with an absentminded air. "And no, I don't want to charge him with anything."

"You're sure?" she said just to check.

"I'm sure. What I did was a lot worse and he's willing to let that go. Things we did when we were out of our heads probably shouldn't end up on our records." Harry shrugged and broke a leaf off; Kes forbore to protest. "It was all the implant, wasn't it?"

"Yes," Kes said, making her voice as warmly reassuring as she could. "It was." Then she wondered why that suddenly made him look so distressed.

* * *

Tom finished stretching, slung a towel around his neck and headed for the door. He'd rather get back to his own quarters and take a shower there. During the workout his mind had blanked out nicely but now it was starting up again and he wanted to be alone; if he was going to sit around wondering what was going on inside him, he preferred to do it on his own.

On the way to the turbo lift he caught sight of Jenny Delaney ahead in the corridor and stopped, waiting for her to disappear. Everyone had been trying to worm the 'real story' out of him about what had happened to bring him and Harry to sickbay. Tom wasn't about to oblige. He'd always seen the Voyager passion for gossip as a rather harmless result of the fact that they only had each other for amusement, but now he was starting to realize how hard it was to hide something in this small, closed environment.

When he thought enough time had passed he got himself moving again and arrived at the turbo lift only to find Jenny standing there after all. She smiled at him and he smiled back, determined to head off any enquiries before they could be made. "Hi, beautiful. I didn't see you in the gym, have you been infesting yourself on someone who lives here?"

"I was looking for you," she said as the lift doors opened and they stepped inside and asked for deck four. "You have to stop taking your comm badge off. Megan and I are arranging a picnic in holosuite two tonight, consider yourself invited. Take a shower first though." Jenny looked him up and down. "And uniforms are absolutely banned. You know, it's been so long since any of us had any shore leave—" She broke off. "Oops."

"It's been a while, hasn't it?" Tom agreed, refusing to acknowledge that the last time anyone went anywhere on shore leave he and Harry had ended up being thrown down the chute. "A picnic sounds like a great idea. I'm just not sure I can make it."

"Oh, but you have to!" she said. "We'll stop by and pick you up. 2000 hours." Tom nodded, giving in to the inevitable. He could always get B'Elanna to give him something to do if he really wanted to escape, like scrubbing out the Jeffries tubes or gathering up all the coffee mugs she'd scattered over Voyager. "It's bring your own, so replicate yourself whatever you want to eat."

"Sure." Tom plastered a smile on his face and kept it there until he could get out of the lift again. Then he went straight to his quarters, and straight into the bathroom, dropping the towel on the floor and stripping out of his sweatsuit. Out of the corner of his eye he could see himself in the mirror, this blond guy who looked a bit stupid, a bit annoyed.

Cool water and lots of soap made him feel better, and once he was clean he ran a hot bath and settled down to think. Well, okay, not think exactly. Think back, rather. Sometimes he tried to stop these sessions, sometimes he courted them. His damnably good memory was always willing to replay the past.

Tom slid deeper down into the tub, thinking he could just pull the hot water around himself like a blanket and drown here, peacefully. Then he wouldn't have to care about it any more. He'd solved the problem, hadn't he, and the doctor had fixed everything and things were back to normal. So why was it that every time he closed his eyes he could see Harry Kim, struggling against his bonds in the brig, could hear Harry's strained voice saying, 'I love you.'

He also said he wanted to kill me, Tom reminded himself. It was that whole emotional imbalance thing, remember? The same kind of weird effect that had driven Tom, in the presence of poor Lee — and the captain, his mind reminded him, don't forget the captain — to kneel between Harry's legs and—

Oh christ, he sighed, and I thought I could go the rest of my life without performing sexual acts in public. But it's over now. It had to be over; all that remained to be seen was whether Harry would decide to press charges or not. Tom tried to make himself consider that idea. It was only what he deserved, going after his best friend when he was tied up. But it had been what they both desperately needed right then, and a better way of releasing tension than letting Harry try to kill him again.

Waking up in sickbay, he had believed that everything was going to be as it always had been again. Maybe it was for Harry, who apparently didn't remember all that much of what had happened. Tom remembered, though. He didn't burn with the same wild fever, he could think clearly about Harry without spiralling into a frenzy of sexual and emotional obsession. But he remembered. And he didn't know how he was ever going to look Harry in the face again.

He'd been back on duty for two days now, and Harry was still on sick leave. It would happen soon enough, Tom knew, and he could come up with no strategy to avoid it so he pulled the plug, got out of the tub and started to rummage around in his closet for something to wear to a picnic.

Jenny hadn't specified what kind of program it was going to be, but knowing her and Megan, Tom figured somewhere warm and comfortable was a safe bet. He picked out a pair of brown pants and an ancient, tight grey t-shirt that anyone else would have thrown out by now. No dressing up. Dressing for security, he thought with a quirky smile. He liked these clothes.

When it came to food he found himself at a complete loss. All that came to mind was comfort food of a kind that didn't lend itself to a picnic atmosphere. He was still hovering in front of the replicator when the door chime interrupted him. "Come in," he suggested.

Megan walked in, all white ruffles and picnic basket. "Are you ready? Jenny went ahead to set things up. What kind of food are you bringing?"

"I've no idea," Tom admitted.

"Well, I have enough cheese sandwiches and chocolate cake for five people, you can have some of that. Come on." He returned her smile and proffered his arm like a gentleman. They strolled out of his quarters and chatted idly along the corridor and in the turbo lift. Megan was easy to get along with, a socially accomplished person who always found something to say in every situation. Tom was grateful for the conversation.

When the holodeck door opened he was met by a pastoral idyll that looked somehow familiar. They stepped inside. It was definitely warm. Very warm. They stood on a grassy slope dotted with olive trees, and similar hills rolled in front of them, waves of stubborn earth, fading into misty greenish blue in the distance. Late afternoon, cicadas chirping by the side of the dusty path. "It's Tuscany, isn't it," Tom said.

Megan nodded. "Pretty," she said approvingly and followed the path. Tom went with her and soon enough they came across the rest of the party. It was a small gathering, around fifteen people who sat on the grass or on blankets and unpacked their picnic food. Tom settled down with Megan and Jenny and accepted the cheese sandwich he was given, nodding a hello to everyone else. Then he caught sight of Harry at the edge of the group, talking intently to ensign Lee from Security.

Tom froze. He hadn't even considered that Harry might be here. And Lee of all people, Lee who had been on duty in the brig that night, Lee who couldn't even look at Tom without starting to blush... oh, hell. Turning away, Tom bit into his cheese sandwich and nearly took the top of his finger off. Megan and Jenny were talking about something but he could not for his life have said what it was. Slowly he craned his head around again.

Now Harry was looking at him. So was Lee, and Lee was, of course, blushing. Desperate to seem normal, Tom attempted a smile. Lee did smile back. Harry didn't, quite, but he waved for Tom to come over and join them. Tom took his courage in his hands, put the cheese sandwich down, and went.

* * *

It had to be done, and this seemed as good a place as any. "I hope you'll excuse us," Harry said, getting to his feet. "Tom and I have a few things to talk about." Lee nodded, still pink-cheeked. She would certainly understand that there were a few issues between them, Harry thought. He nodded at Tom. "Want to walk this way?"

"Sure." Tom fell into step beside him and they took another path along the hill, walking towards the rows of vines that sloped off into the distance. There was something tense about the lines in Tom's face, the set of his shoulders.

"It's over now, you know," Harry said. "I'm not dragging you off to kill you and bury you in some far-off spot, even if the holodeck would let me." He studied Tom for a reaction, any reaction.

"That's not what I thought," Tom said. "But we have a few things to talk about."

"Yes," Harry agreed and they walked on, surrounded by the scents and sounds of a sunny afternoon in northern Italy. It was such a perfect setting, Harry almost found himself missing the sticky heat and white dust the original would have provided. "Kes told me you're willing to let it go."

Tom nodded. "It only makes sense," he said. "I can't hold it against you. And..." His voice trailed off and Harry waited. "What about you? Are you going to..."

Harry swallowed. "No." It came out sounding a bit more gritty than he would have preferred. "No, I'm not. If you can forgive me for trying to kill you." He stole a sideways glance at Tom, who looked grim. "It was all the implants, apparently."

"Yeah, those things should've carried a warning from the Surgeon General." Tom still wasn't looking at him, and Harry figured Tom had to be at least as embarrassed as he was himself. "At least now everything's back to normal."

"Mm hm." They walked a bit farther in complete silence. Harry couldn't think of anything to say; all the words that sprang into his mind unbidden were of a kind to open a Pandora's box he wasn't sure he wanted to peek into. He admired the flowers that grew in the scraggly grass, compared the sky unfavorably with Tom's eyes, and kicked at a pebble. "Tom. You haven't felt any other after-effects, have you?"

"I don't think so," Tom said after a moment's pause. He tilted his face back against the sun and ran a hand through his hair. "I'm pretty sure that everything I'm feeling now is me, if you see what I mean. And what about you?"

Harry, trying not to think about the way Tom's t-shirt clung to his body, turned his head away again. "I'm not sure," he said honestly.

"Hey," Tom said, concern in his voice. "Maybe you should ask the doc to check you over again."

"I have." Harry found another pebble to kick. He dug his hands into the pockets of his jeans. "He's going to do it tomorrow. I don't really think it's, well, it could just be me reacting to the things that happened, my mind trying to deal with it."

"I suppose so." There was another long silence as they continued through the vineyard, finally coming to a stop by a low stone wall. The slope continued down to their right, but in front of them was a shallow drop, and a stunning view. "Harry," Tom said quietly, "are you mad at me?"

He couldn't help it, he had to laugh a little. "Shouldn't I be the one asking that?" Harry leaned forward against the wall. The stone was sun-warm underneath his hands, rough, real enough in the way it felt. And yet it wasn't really there. That was the problem, deciding when to trust your perceptions. "I'm not, Tom." He let his head fall forward, stretching the tense muscles in his neck. "I'd like it if we could just forgive and..."

"Forgive and forget?" The strain in Tom's voice was barely audible, and then it seemed to be wiped away altogether. "Sure, Harry." A brief touch, a hand squeezing his shoulder, gone before he could really feel it. "Hell, enough strange things happen in this quadrant."

Yes, and we have the hardest time finishing our sentences around each other, Harry thought as they eventually turned around again and made their way back, talking desultorily of this and that. Forgive and forget? I can't forget. But now it was settled, this was what Tom wanted. It had all been the implants. Fine. It had all been the implants, hadn't it?

So what was he feeling now?

Harry shook his head slowly. At the picnic, everything was going just fine; Lee was sharing the Delaney sisters' cheese sandwiches, and Harry offered Tom the last of his samosas, and then someone started a game of rounders. They all ran around and laughed and stumbled and got hot and flushed and sweaty, and eventually left the holodeck with grass stains on their clothes, smiling.

It was fine. Everything was settled. Everything would go back to the way it had been before. The word was almost taking on a mythical quality in Harry's mind. What I felt Before. He could hardly remember what he'd felt before, he just couldn't seem to slip his mind back into neutral. After the daze of nothingness that had followed waking up in sickbay, he had carefully tried to go through what he could find inside himself.

The obsession was gone, the pain was gone, his mind was no longer twisting itself into weird little spirals. It was such a relief. And at the same time, when breathlessness took him now at the sight of Tom's smile, what was the explanation? Harry knew for a fact the doctor would not find anything wrong with him tomorrow; the examination would just be a way to confirm the reality of his feelings.

Nothing was going to go back to the way it had been before. His horizons had been expanded and refused to narrow down again. At least, Harry thought, striding into his own quarters, he and Tom had not been completely alienated by this. It remained to be seen whether they could really be friends in the future.

It was all the implant, he sighed to himself, sprawling across the couch. I wasn't the person who tried to kill him. And he wasn't the person who... He'd lied to Kes. He did remember. He remembered far too much, far too clearly. Harry closed his eyes and leaned his head back. I want us to forgive and go on, but he wants us to forgive and forget.

Forget. Ha.

After a moment he got up again and went to get his clarinet. It felt comforting under his fingers. At first, music would not come and he played scale after scale, arguing with the notes separately and collectively until suddenly melody flowed as he found his mood. These were old songs, carried down through the centuries, their simple melancholy beauty enough to assure they would never be forgotten. Harry played on and on, letting the music work things out for him.

If this is how it is going to be, he thought, one note at a time, then I will have to make the best of it.

* * *

"Wouldn't you be more comfortable if you sat down?"

"No."

Kes sighed as Tom stalked through the galley, looking at this, poking at that, stirring the pots and rattling the crockery. She didn't know whether to look at him or the vegetables she was cutting, worried she might lose a fingertip to making the wrong decision. "Tom, please, if you're so restless, put on an apron and help me instead of overturning Neelix's spice jars."

"I'm sorry," he said unconvincingly, going back the way he'd come and righting everything neatly before stopping next to her. "All right, what do I do?" He accepted the knife and the roots she gave him with only a small frown. "I should warn you that home ec was never my best subject."

Kes shrugged. "There isn't much you can do to ruin leola root. Just cut it up, slices about this thick," she measured between her thumb and index finger, "and put them in that bowl there." He tested the edge of the knife and promptly cut himself. Kes couldn't help smiling, but she was starting to feel concerned. "Tom, if we were in sickbay I'd give you a sedative. What's wrong?"

"Nothing," he said airily, "nothing. Everything's fine. I've talked to Harry."

"Oh." She paused in her work, scooping up a handful of leola root pieces. "I hope it went well, Tom. You didn't argue, did you, or..."

"No, I tell you, everything's fine." Tom wasn't looking at her, he was studying the leola root with deep concentration and bleeding all over it. Kes dug into a drawer for a small roll of bandage and handed it to him. "Thanks. No, we decided we'd just forgive and forget, and take it from here. So there's nothing to worry about."

He tied a strip of bandage around his finger and went at the roots again, cutting with slow precision. Kes nodded. "I'm glad to hear that. I was a little worried that you would hold the attack against him, even though he does not remember much."

"Yeah, well, I was worried he'd hold a few things against me." Tom was about to dump the slices into the bowl and Kes stopped him. "What? Didn't you say—"

"Blood isn't on the menu tonight, Tom. Rinse off the cutting board and start over. Are you sure you're all right now? It must be very difficult to deal with this, waking up to find that you've done things that you would normally never dream of doing."

Tom had his back to her, and his voice was muffled by the sound of running water. "That's what you think."

"What?"

"I said," he turned back again and grabbed another leola root, "you might think that, but I guess I've got the hang of it now. Once you've woken up to hear that you've had little baby lizards with the captain, life doesn't get much weirder."

Kes laughed. "I'm sure they were very cute lizards." Then she looked more closely at him. "But Tom. I know Harry doesn't remember much, but what do you remember?"

She almost regretted the question as, for the first time since he'd come into the galley, he looked straight into her eyes. "Everything," he said quietly. "I remember every moment of it."

"Oh." There wasn't much she could do except touch his hand, and a whisper of unquiet emotion floated past her, too brief and volatile to grasp. "So forgiving and forgetting might be easier for Harry than for you."

"To be honest," he said in a good imitation of his most casual tone of voice, "the forgetting part could get to be a problem." Tom went back to cutting up vegetables and she had to take her hand away. "But it'll be fine, Kes, as long as I don't have to think about it too much."

"I'm sorry that this had to happen to you and Harry," she said. "You were such good friends, it would be sad if everything changed between you."

The knife clattered to the floor and Tom bent down quickly to retrieve it. "See, I told you I wasn't very good at this kind of work."

"You're good with your hands, Tom," Kes said reprovingly. "You're just not trying hard enough."

"No," he said, straightening up with a sigh. "I guess I'm not." He leaned back against the counter and looked at her. "I'm going to have to learn, though." She read both sorrow and a plea for silence in his eyes, and they went back to work.

* * *

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