by torch 1996
flambeau@strangeplaces.net

Disclaimer: Paramount owns the characters and the setting; Ensign Lee and the story are mine. Ensign Tau was borrowed with permission from Ruth Anne's story Future Perfect. Don't try to sell this and don't take my name or this disclaimer off if you archive it or send it to a friend or print it out to use when you run out of Charmin. This story takes place after the Voyager episode Deadlock.

Well, here's some more P/K teen angst. *grin* I just thought Robin's description was so perfect... of course, I happen to like P/K angst. The following should probably carry a minor angst warning, a major mush warning, and a general Delaney sisters warning. Do not archive this story without permission.

Unlocked

"Stop looking at me that way." Harry had been staring down into his glass; now he lifted his head just in time to catch a look of guilty surprise on B'Elanna's face. "And don't say 'what way', either. You know."

Because she'd been looking at him like that all night, and all of the day before, and it was driving him crazy. "I'm just trying to get used to you," she said lamely.

Harry looked angrily at her. He'd been trying not to give way to his frustration, but this was just too much. "Get used to me? I'm the same person you always knew!"

"Yes, but..." For once his temper didn't spark hers.

"But nothing. I am the same person. Except for, what, a few hours?" If he kept telling himself that, it would be true. He was the same person, wasn't he? The same person he'd always been. It was just that he wasn't the same person she'd always known him to be. Well, I've known myself longer than she has, Harry thought defiantly.

B'Elanna looked down and pushed her glass this way and that on the table. It was dark inside Sandrine's, and her hair fell forward, shading her eyes. He couldn't read what she felt, but the things he suspected were unsettling enough. Since what had happened yesterday, she looked at him differently; not as one would look at a stranger, but not as one would look at a familiar friend, either. "It feels strange," she said.

"Yes," Harry agreed, defeated. "It does." He wanted to point out that Wildman wasn't looking at her baby the funny way that B'Elanna looked at him, but she would probably say that it wasn't the same. It would have been good to talk to someone who'd had the same experience, but a two-day-old infant might not really grasp the philosophical implications of changing universes. Cute kid, though, he thought and felt a small smile work its way out, relieving the gloom.

"Harry, you up for a game?" Tom came to lean against their table, chalking a pool cue as he spoke. He at least sounded casual, sounded just the same, asked the same questions as always.

So why didn't that feel more comforting, Harry wondered even as he shook his head. "No." Reacting to the quickly masked hurt in Tom's eyes he added, "No, thanks. I just don't feel..." he trailed off. He didn't know what the hell he felt. That was the problem. No wonder B'Elanna treated him as though he were a different person. Harry was starting to wonder if he was a different person.

"I'm sorry, Harry," B'Elanna said, getting to her feet. "I didn't mean to. I need to think about a few things." She abandoned her half-finished drink and, with a nod at Tom, walked out of the bar.

Tom watched her go with a remote expression on his face and then sat down on the chair she'd vacated, resting the pool cue against the table. He gave Harry a sharp look. Where B'Elanna's dark eyes had been lost in the shadows, Tom's were clearly visible, blue as an Earth sky and totally unreadable. "So what's wrong? She breaking your heart again?"

"Again? You must know something I don't know." Harry found himself on the verge of total paranoia, wondering if there was more to the split than just a few hours, if his other self — himself, he insisted — had confessed a love for B'Elanna to Tom, how much else there might be he didn't know.

Tom smiled, a curiously twisted half-smile. "C'mon."

Harry shook his head again, as much from resignation as in denial. "That's not it. She's been acting strange around me ever since I came across with the baby. Acting like I'm not me."

He held his breath, waiting for what Tom would say. Tom picked up B'Elanna's drink and downed half of it casually. "Who else would you be?" The other half of the drink made him choke and he coughed, eyes tearing. "All of us existed twice back there. You're not the only one."

"I'm the only one who switched reality," Harry said glumly. "The Harry you knew is dead."

"Just don't make a habit of it," Tom said.

Harry sighed. What a typical Tom comment. "You're just not interested in this, are you?"

Tom put the glass down a little too hard. "Listen," he said, his eyes suddenly bright with genuine emotion. "By that reckoning the Tom you knew is dead too, blown up with the Voyager you knew. The whole crew you knew. Is that how you feel about us?"

"No," Harry said slowly. He hadn't really thought about it from that perspective before. "You feel the same. I'm the only one who's different."

"We're the same," Tom said. "And don't you go and die again, dammit, or I'll kill you."

Harry managed a smile. "You're not very philosophical, Paris."

"I have a practical attitude to life," Tom declared. Then he looked at the glass in front of him. "This was real liquor, wasn't it."

"Don't ask me. I don't know anything about B'Elanna's drinking habits." There was a lot he didn't know about B'Elanna, but that didn't worry him so much — it had been the same before, too. Every little detail that confirmed that the reality switch had caused minimal change reassured him, made him feel a bit more secure.

"You might have found out if you hadn't been sitting there feeling sorry for yourself wondering who you are."

"Thanks for giving me a sense of proportion," Harry said sharply. "Of course the contents of B'Elanna's glass are more important than what I happen to be feeling."

There was a pause as they both seemed to wonder whether this was the start of a fight or not. The shadows seemed to hang more heavily around their corner. Sandrine's could be such an unexpectedly gloomy place; it was meant to be dark and cosy but sometimes it was just dark and depressing.

Harry wondered if he shouldn't go back to his quarters. He didn't want to argue with Tom, he was grateful to Tom for treating him the same way he always had, but at the same time everyone's unwillingness to discuss what had happened, for one reason or another, annoyed him. It wasn't enough for him to know that weird was part of the job. He needed to think about this a while longer, and if no one else was interested, he'd do it alone.

"Do you know what the worst part was?" Tom said unexpectedly, breaking the silence. "I wanted to cry and there was no time. And then you were back and I could never tell you."

"Tell me what?" Harry said, bewildered. This wasn't at all the way he'd expected the conversation to go, but at least Tom was acknowledging what had happened. He met Tom's eyes.

"How I felt when I thought you were dead," Tom said.

"You can tell me."

Tom shook his head. "No."

"Damn it, Tom!" As soon as he had raised his voice Harry regretted it. But as he looked around Sandrine's he realized they were the last two there anyway; only the holographic characters were left. He spoke more quietly anyway. "I'd like to know."

"Don't be so sure." Tom's smile was hard and bright. "It'll mess things up for you, Harry. It will get you all confused. And then you'll make up your mind and not all the demons in hell could get you to change it again."

Harry felt completely bewildered. He'd felt pretty sure that Tom was glad to have him back and alive, and that being so, why should it bother him to hear it? "Tom, I don't know what you're talking about."

Tom twisted sideways in the chair, leaned back against the wall and stretched his legs out. "Good." He ran a hand through his hair. "You wouldn't really want to know anyway."

Harry sighed. This was Tom Paris at his most difficult. "Have it your way. But then stop talking about it. Don't be such a tease."

"I love you."

"What?" Not the most intelligent thing to say, Harry realized a scant heartbeat later, or the most polite for that matter, but... what?

Tom got to his feet. "Well, now you know." He walked away from the table, walked out of Sandrine's without a backwards glance. Harry sat staring after him until he disappeared. Then he slumped forward over the table and leaned his head against his forearms. Oh, God.

Well, that was certainly unexpected. And — and— For the first few moments his mind couldn't come up with much more than various different ways of saying, what? Then it slowly shifted over into giving him a review of everything Tom had said and done since Harry had crossed over from the lost Voyager. No, he still didn't get it.

But he's my friend, Harry said silently to himself. Maybe even my best friend. Maybe even the best friend I've ever had. Now that was a strange thought in itself, one that was as new to him as Tom's sudden revelation. But it felt true. Before becoming assigned to Voyager and getting lost in the Delta Quadrant, he'd had many friends, dear friends, with whom he'd had a lot in common. And they'd had a lot of fun, pursuing their mutual interests. But that felt so very far away now, and strangely enough, he didn't even miss it.

Here on Voyager there was B'Elanna, with her temper and her almost uncanny knack for making Starfleet systems do things they'd never been designed to do, and Tom, who flirted with anything that moved and only seemed to come truly alive when he was piloting the ship or shooting pool. And they both treated him like a kid brother most of the time.

That was probably what had made him feel so comfortable with them, so fast, Harry thought. He was the youngest child of his family, after all, although Tom and B'Elanna were nothing like his sisters. As different as they were from him and from his old friends, though, he felt very close to them. Particularly to Tom. Or he had, anyway, until about five minutes ago.

Now he just didn't know. If Tom had been hiding this from him, what else might there be that he didn't know about? For a moment Harry seriously considered the possibility that he had crossed over into an alternate universe where everything was subtly different and he was going to be thrown off balance by things like this all the time.

Things like this? Oh hell. He sincerely doubted anyone else would tell him the same thing. He hoped not. It was confusing enough as it was. And he had to think about it. This was Tom, the same Tom he'd always known. And even if it wasn't, it was the only Tom he'd ever know now, because he'd be damned if he let anything like this happen to him again.

That being so, he was Harry Kim, this was Voyager, the one and only Delta Quadrant, Sandrine's was empty and Tom Paris loved him. Harry had never been afraid of words like that. He'd told his parents that he loved them, he'd told his sisters, he'd told his best friend back in high school. He had meant it, too. It hadn't been difficult. Telling Libby, on the other hand, had been very difficult, because he'd suddenly meant it in a whole new way. And he rather thought that that was the way Tom had meant it, too.

"You are brooding," a husky, accented voice said in his ear, and Harry jumped. He hadn't heard anyone come in... oh. It was Sandrine herself, giving him a friendly smile and touching one finger to his cheek. She sat down across from him with such an air of 'I really want to kick these high-heeled shoes off' that Harry had to marvel at Tom's programming skills. "Why the sad face, p'tit?"

"I'm just thinking," Harry said, and wondered at the easy interaction with holograms that had come to be the norm aboard Voyager. He'd been raised to think of them as no more real than characters in a book, but the doctor was changing his view of the world. Sandrine was hardly that complex, but still, he couldn't bring himself to be rude to her, or treat her as though she wasn't there.

"Brooding," she corrected. "I know brooding when I see it, it has been too many times that I have seen Thomas in such a state." She leaned back with a comfortable sigh. "I like all his friends, of course, but I like you very much. What did you say to make him go away with that look on his face?"

"Nothing," Harry said and then couldn't help adding, "It was more something I didn't say."

"Ah." Sandrine smiled. "What we do not say we do not have to regret, the cautious people claim." She leaned forward abruptly and patted his hand. "But are you such a timid child? What we do not say we often regret the most, in my experience. When Thomas asks me, I always say, tell the truth." Her smile turned rougish. "Of course, he never listens."

Harry couldn't help smiling back. "I think he may have listened, actually."

* * *

"Tom, we need to talk about this."

"It's two in the morning. I was asleep." That was a lie. He hadn't been able to sleep, he had lain awake for hours with the lights off, wondering what the hell had possessed him. Now Tom blinked against the light in the corridor, barely able to make out Harry standing there. "We don't need to talk, you need to talk. Some other time, okay?"

At this hour he had absolutely no defences, and he didn't know what he might be prompted to say to make things even worse than they were. He was about to turn away and let the door slide shut when Harry walked right in, pushing him aside. "You started this, Tom, you're going to have to live with the consequences."

"Damn fool that I am," Tom grumbled and went to look for his robe. "Computer, lights. Well, talk, then," he tossed over his shoulder as he rummaged around in the mess that passed for his closet. Harry was silent. "I knew it. Get out."

"How about you put some clothes on," Harry said in that tone of voice that meant he was trying not to smile. "What would you have done if it had been the captain knocking on your door?"

Tom rolled his eyes. "Asked her what she wanted." Then his mind processed the fact that he'd opened the door naked, and he started to grin. "Offered to relieve her frustration?"

"Tom!" Harry chuckled and Tom thought, good, maybe I can avert this potential angst session if I say the right things. "You don't know that she's frustrated." Nice and correct comment, but he could hear the underlying speculation.

"Well, she's not getting any," Tom said matter of factly. "I think everyone on the whole damn ship is frustrated. With the possible exception of the doctor."

"There's always Kes and Neelix."

"Don't remind me." He'd finally found the robe, on the floor under everything else. Of course it was warm enough in his quarters that he didn't really need it, but he had a feeling that Harry, despite the casual comments, might feel more comfortable if his host was wearing something. "Every ship has to have lovebirds, I suppose, but why one of them has to look like Neelix..."

Then he thought that that was unjust; he liked Neelix. Sometimes. Well, most of the time. And he hadn't meant to bring up the subject of love, either. Harry, damn him, pounced on it. "Do you really love me?"

Hell, the kid was about as subtle as a charging Klingon. Tom pulled the robe on and tied the belt before turning around. "No, I just said that to see how you'd react."

Harry straightened up from where he'd been leaning against the desk. Tom wondered why he'd ever thought that Harry's emotions were easy to read. Right now his friend's features were an impenetrable golden mask. "In that case I think I'll leave. With any luck the next person knocking on your door will be the captain."

"Wait." Tom crossed the room and stood between Harry and the door. Not until he'd done it did he start to wonder why. But he couldn't leave it at that. Harry was so truthful himself that it was impossible to lie to him. "Harry, do you really believe every word I say?"

"No. That's why I'm here." Harry looked seriously at him. "I thought I'd try to get the truth out of you for once, but it doesn't look like this is the night for it."

"I've already told you one truth tonight," Tom said. "That's about my limit." He looked down. What the hell, he'd already said it once. Maybe it would get easier with repetition. "Yes, damn it, I love you." Then he looked up with a sharp smile. "That bothers you, doesn't it."

"Yes," Harry said simply and Tom cursed the sweet honesty that made it impossible to get Harry off balance with harsh comments. Harry wouldn't pretend to anything, he'd consider what he felt and then say so.

That was the hell of it.

"Well," Tom said, stepping aside, "the door's right here." He'd told Harry how he felt, and Harry had told him how he felt, and tomorrow would be soon enough to deal with the fallout. He needed to get some sleep. As though that would be possible, he knew he'd lie awake for the rest of the night, but his over-rational mind seized on it as an excuse for his sudden wish to get Harry out of here. Sleep. Right.

"I wish you'd make up your mind," Harry said. "First you don't want me to come in, then you stop me from leaving, and now you're throwing me out. Do you want me here or don't you?"

Tom shook his head in disbelief and the words came tumbling out. "Oh, Harry. I want you. Here or anywhere else. Now will you please leave?"

He didn't think he could stand it any more. Bad enough that you had to tell your best friend that you loved him; it only made things worse when he came to spend time in your quarters at two in the morning, looking like seven degrees of heaven, looking like everything you'd ever wanted while telling you your love made him uncomfortable.

Harry took a step towards the door. "I suppose so. If I see the captain I'll send her along."

"Will you stop talking about the captain!" Tom took a step towards Harry, he just couldn't stop himself. "To hell with the captain."

One corner of Harry's mouth turned up. "I thought you were going to say, fuck the captain."

"Language, ensign. I've thought about it." Closing in on Harry, Tom laid the palm of his hand against Harry's neck and used his thumb to tilt Harry's chin up. Oh, he shouldn't even touch him, but how could he not touch Harry when the world kept tilting to send him stumbling that way? "Damn it," he whispered, "I thought you were dead. I thought I'd never see you again."

"Surprise," Harry said wryly. He drew breath to say something else, but at that moment Tom's precarious hold on his self-control gave way, and he kissed Harry. Slowly at first, just brushing his lips against Harry's in the lightest of caresses, and then Harry's mouth moved against his own and they were really kissing, with growing intensity. Their tongues met and began to talk in a universal language, and Tom felt a wave of heat flow through him, intoxicating and at the same time sobering; it brought him a new realization of what he was doing. He made no move to try to hold Harry and when a hand touched his arm tentatively, Tom broke the kiss, breathing hard.

Oh God, I didn't do that. And he didn't really kiss me back. Tom closed his eyes for a moment. He knew just where this might go, and he wanted it, he wanted it so badly he had to run his nails into his palms for a long moment before he found a voice that would let him speak. "Harry, I don't know what you think you're up to, but stop it before I do something you'll regret. Get out of here."

"Maybe I won't regret it." Harry was flushed, slightly dazed-looking, just about irresistible. Just about.

"Get out." Tom crossed his arms and stepped back, and waited patiently until Harry finally went to the door and walked outside with only one backwards glance. Then he sat down abruptly on his bed and wondered if he was the biggest idiot in the universe. To say no to what Harry had just offered him... but it had been the right thing to do, he told himself. The right thing to do.

So why did he feel so miserable?

* * *

Back in his quarters, Harry stripped out of his uniform and tossed it in a corner, then looked at it before picking it up and tossing it in the 'fresher instead. There was no need to get sloppy. He'd always been a tidy person. Only he had a hard time keeping his mind on what he was doing. His lips tingled. No, his whole body tingled. He walked into the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror.

"I don't know who I am any more," he told the person he saw there.

Was that why he'd thought about staying, about finding out for himself what it was Tom wanted? Not all that hard to figure out, although he had to admit that his imagination was hazy on the details. But then Tom had thrown him out. Harry wasn't sure what that meant. Did Tom want him, not want him, occasionally want him? If that kiss had been anything to go by, this had been one of those occasions.

He turned on the hot water and ran himself a bath. Stepping into the water, he took a deep breath, but couldn't relax. The moment for that hadn't come yet, but the warmth did make him feel better. Harry added some bath oil. It had an interesting smell, light and spicy.

Tom didn't say he wants me in bed, Harry reminded himself, he said he loves me. For all I know he meant just that, no more and no less. But the thought of Tom Paris striving for some Platonic ideal made him snort with sudden laughter. No, that idea wouldn't hold. Particularly not after that kiss. Harry leaned back and let the water wash over him, listened to what his body had to tell him.

He knew what he was going to do, but held it off a moment longer. It was so pleasant to lie here like this, breathing in and out, slow relaxing breaths. Reacquainting himself with himself, reaffirming the tie with his physical presence. His own degree of reality, Harry thought.

Then he finally touched himself, playing idly with his own nipples, pinching them lightly, then scraping his nails across them. Harry enjoyed shivering as though with cold in this hot water, liked the contradictory sensations. He closed his other hand around his cock and felt the familiar hardness, in itself a reminder that he was himself, knew himself, knew what he liked. Slow, even strokes.

Harry tried to empty his mind of all thought, concentrate on physical sensation. No fantasies, no confusion, just this, the slow buildup towards an expected result. Faster now; the comfort of touching yourself is that you know just how good it will feel. There are no surprises. And then he imagined that this was Tom's hand touching him.

"Oh, hell," Harry gasped, and came.

He shook his head as things returned to normal. The water was cooler now, and he raised a languid hand to add some more heat, not wanting to get out just yet. He couldn't deny that extremely vivid vision, or the effect it had had on him. Was that what he wanted? Well it hadn't exactly been a coincidence that he'd had a hard on since leaving Tom's quarters. The man could kiss.

"And he says he loves me." Harry reached out for the soap and started to wash himself. He still didn't know what to do, but he was coming to realize that his own feelings for Tom were a lot more complex than he'd ever suspected. Earlier this evening, if anyone had asked him what he would do if Tom Paris kissed him, he might have answered anything from 'scream and run away' to 'get out from under the mistletoe', but he'd never envisioned a scenario where it would actually happen, where he would kiss Tom right back, where he would actually want even more to happen, even though he had a hard time putting specific words to that 'more'.

Harry sighed. He had thought that he was going to spend the rest of his life with Libby and the question of whether he was attracted to men, or even to other women, wouldn't even come up. And it was one thing to say, casually, that it didn't really matter; another to discover that something you'd always regarded as a basic component of your personality was apparently wrong. Libby, his lost darling — for a moment he missed the simplicity and certainty of that relationship so badly. Then he realized he wasn't missing her, and that those thoughts weren't getting him anywhere.

"So," he told himself, "you're not straight. Big deal." He could deal with that particular revelation. It didn't really change much, did it? Except that it meant he would apparently like to have sex with Tom, except that Tom had refused, except that Tom said he loved him, except that Harry had been convinced for a while now that it was something else entirely life intended for him and he just did not see how this fit into who he was and what he'd thought, up until a few hours ago, that he wanted.

He pulled the plug, deciding that falling asleep in the tub would be a mistake he might never be around to repeat. Harry clambered out and dried himself briskly, and was on the verge of starting to comb his hair when he remembered it was something like three in the morning and he wasn't due on the bridge for another five hours, so he really ought to try to get some sleep. It wasn't like him to be so absent-minded.

"I don't know who I am any more," he repeated to himself, and went to bed.

* * *

Harry woke up in a sunnier mood and whistled to himself all the way through the morning shower. Getting into his uniform he wondered a bit at the word 'morning' as applied to any moment in time on a travelling starship, and was on the verge of losing himself in idle speculation about mankind's relationship with the twenty-four hour clock when he realized he was deliberately trying not to think about last night.

He could at least get breakfast before trying to solve his personal problems. Harry headed for the mess hall; he might as well see what Neelix had to offer before he decided whether to waste any replicator rations on tea and blueberry muffins. On the way there he found himself looking this way and that for Tom, but unable to tell how he would react if he did see his friend.

When he got to the mess hall he discovered B'Elanna eating alone instead, and grabbed up a bowl of the most palatable-looking stuff he could find before joining her at her table. "Good morning. Are you going to look at me funny again?" he asked with mock cautiousness, trying to see what kind of mood she was in.

"I'll try not to." B'Elanna smiled at him and moved her plate and mug out of the way, making room for his tray. "Look, Harry, I'm sorry. I just got a bit weirded out. I saw you die. And then you were back again." She pushed his bowl aside, too, and took his hand. "Doesn't that warrant at least a funny look?"

Harry nodded with no more than one longing glance at his breakfast. What she said was more than reasonable, really, and he was glad that she was finally acknowledging her doubts and seemed prepared to talk about what had happened. "I suppose so. It's even more bewildering from this end. I keep thinking about it."

"I can understand that. Maybe, if you tell the captain..." B'Elanna trailed off, but her meaning was clear.

"No." He shook his head. Harry had a feeling that no matter how he phrased it, Captain Janeway would be concerned that he was starting to crumble under the pressure, that he couldn't handle whatever the universe threw at him; this was the kind of thing that happened in Starfleet, even if they didn't warn you about it at the Academy. "She already gave me a couple of days off for dying once. I don't expect her to do it again."

B'Elanna laughed, as he'd hoped. "The things that happen on this ship."

"Yeah." At least they were rarely bored, although Harry would be just as pleased if he didn't have to die again any time in the near future. Then he noticed that B'Elanna was still holding his hand. And her thumb was rubbing gently across the palm of his hand in a way that was, well, far from unpleasant, and very suggestive. Harry wondered if death had made him sexy. He wasn't sure what to say. "I have a problem, B'Elanna."

"What?" she said with a hint of a smile. Harry wondered if she knew what kind of effect that smile had—if she was doing it on purpose, or just experimenting. He could feel his ears growing warm.

But he went on valiantly, "Someone's made a pass at me and I don't know what to do."

She looked at him for a long moment. "You're lucky I'm not a full Klingon. Then you wouldn't even have five minutes to think about what to do." The smile hadn't completely vanished, but there was a hint of a growl in her voice. Harry found that that had an even more interesting effect on him, but all the same he made himself continue.

"I didn't mean you," he said and wondered if he'd ever manage to lie in his life or if he was doomed to be the Cassandra of Voyager. He looked down at their linked hands. Unbelievable, really, that this was happening now of all the mornings in his life. "Don't get me wrong. If you'd done this yesterday I would have been so happy. I used to think you were all I wanted."

"Then what happened?" she asked, or rather demanded. At least she looked startled rather than insulted. "Harry, we're having breakfast now, and I last saw you late at night alone in Sandrine's except for Tom Paris. How much trouble could you get in..." Her voice trailed off and she looked at him again with a new gleam in her eyes. "Harry? Was it Tom?"

"Yeah." No point in denying it, he thought, when she could probably read the truth in the way he was blushing anyway.

"Well, that's certainly a surprise." B'Elanna tucked her hair back behind her ears. She looked more thoughtful than anything else. "Tom made a pass at you and you don't know what to tell him." Harry nodded. It wasn't exactly the way things stood, but it was close enough. "So, tell me what the real problem is."

"The real problem?" Harry ignored his rumbling stomach; breakfast could wait a little. He didn't understand what she meant. He didn't need more of a problem than this.

B'Elanna's smile was more than a little wicked. She squeezed his hand and Harry hoped the popping sound wasn't his knuckles giving way. "It's not that you don't know what to say. Come on. More likely to be that you want to say no but you don't know how, or you want to say yes but you don't know how."

Harry sighed. "I'm serious. I don't know what to say."

"Do you find the idea revolting?" she snapped out, in a voice that demanded an immediate answer.

"No!" He knew that much, anyway; last night had certainly proved it to him.

"Intriguing?" Harry nodded. It was a good thing he was blushing already, she might not notice that he was blushing more now. "Well, then. You want to, you just don't know if you can let yourself do it." B'Elanna grinned. "Want a piece of advice? Do it. Hell, I wouldn't say no to Tom Paris myself. Don't tell him that," she added quickly.

Harry shook his head, as much to clear it as to indicate that of course he wouldn't. The revelations were flying a bit too fast for him this morning. "But I thought you were, um, propositioning me."

She smiled again. "I was. Am. I don't see that there's a problem with that. I mean, you want to sleep with both me and Tom, right?" It didn't feel quite so strange to nod agreement to that now. He did, of course; that wasn't exactly the problem.. "So what's so odd about the fact that I want both you and him?"

"Nothing, I suppose," Harry admitted. He might be dazed, but his mind was still working. Then he slowly smiled, unable not to say it. "You know, there could be a really easy solution to this."

B'Elanna looked at him for a moment, then let out a crack of astonished and delighted laughter. "Okay, Harry, you've finally done it. You've surprised me." Then she paused. "I suspect it isn't that simple, though."

And Harry was remembering that, too. "No," he agreed. "It's not. And I just don't know. For one thing," he suddenly admitted, "I've never slept with a man before."

"So?" she said immediately, but then she softened into a kinder smile. "Okay, I can see how that might make you hesitate. Though I'm sure Tom would just be delighted to help you gain some new experiences." She had to do it on purpose; no one could smile like that regularly and not notice the effect it had on people. "How come you never tried that, anyway?"

Harry shrugged. "I was never really attracted to a man before," he said. Then he started to wonder about that. Maybe it was more correct to say that he'd never thought about it before; it was Tom's unexpected revelation that had brought the whole issue to the forefront of his mind. "Or if I was, I never noticed," he amended. "Now, though..."

"What's different now?" she probed.

"Well, it's — it's Tom," Harry said. It wasn't just a question of who was going to put what body parts where. It was a question of feelings. He said he loves me, Harry reminded himself. And he's my friend and I, I don't know what I feel.

He definitely did not think the captain would give him time off to consider either the nature of his sexuality or his personal relationships. Harry sighed. Looking up, he saw Tom coming into the mess hall and catching sight of them, and noticing the fact that they were holding hands.

Tom didn't even look surprised. He just turned away.

"Well, this just got interesting," B'Elanna said. "Too bad I have to go. Remember you two have a bridge shift to get through together — don't upset each other too much."

She got to her feet and Harry admired the supple strength of her as she walked out. Then he looked around for Tom and found him over by the counter, trying to choose something for breakfast. Harry rose and walked over. "Hi, Tom."

"I take it she's stopped wondering if you're you," Tom said without looking at him. There was nothing but calm statement of fact in his voice, but that itself was worrying.

Harry resigned himself to the fact that no one seemed to want to bother with commonplace courtesies like 'good morning' any more. "Yes," he said and decided if everyone was being brutally honest, he would be as well. Besides, he wanted to know. "Tom, why did you let me leave your quarters last night? If you'd kissed me like that again, I would have done anything you wanted."

"I know," Tom said. He raised his head and pinned Harry in place with his gaze. God, he had such blue eyes. "The thing is," he said patiently, as though explaining to an idiot, "that I want you to do anything you want. Preferrably involving me, but that's up to you. I don't want to seduce you, Harry." Tom scowled. "That's such a cheap game."

"And you're not cheap?" It just slipped out before he could help it, the kind of joke he might have made before all this started. Besides, he had to say something to break the spell or he'd stand here staring at Tom forever.

Tom grinned. If he was offended, he hid it well. "I might be, but you're not. Hell, Harry, stick with B'Elanna. She's not, either." He picked up something that looked like a biscuit, sniffed it suspiciously, and finally bit into it. "Now come on. Duty calls."

It did, at that. They made it to the bridge on time, barely. Harry spent several of the next hours staring at the back of Tom's head, wishing he knew what was going on inside. For that matter, he wished he knew what was going on inside his own.

* * *

Tom felt like an idiot. For hours now he had been trying to will himself invisible, keeping his eyes fixed on his console despite the fact that there was no tricky flying to demand his attention. Everything was going oh so smoothly, but whenever he felt tempted to turn around, to make a comment, to act the way he always did, he wondered if Harry was looking at him, and then he just couldn't do it.

Maybe the back of his neck was blushing. Hell, he hoped not. He had put everything he had into a semblance of normality, and he hated to think that his fair complexion might betray him. There was no way he was going to let anyone know what it had meant to him to see Harry and B'Elanna so sweetly united over the breakfast table.

Come to think of it, they were perfect for each other. A match made in heaven, or at least in the Delta quadrant. Whatever. He should be pleased that it was due to him that they'd finally realized that. Tom did have a romantic streak, which he'd never admit to out loud, and he liked to see people pair up, get romantic, hold hands and start smooching. He just preferred it if they didn't do it over the scattered remains of his broken heart.

I must have been drunk last night, he thought. Nothing else would explain the way he'd suddenly broken out into truth like the hero of a musical breaking into song. That drink of B'Elanna's, or just the sheerly intoxicating presence of Harry Kim, alive and smiling and so damnably gorgeous.

It had been something about the way Harry looked at him as though expecting only certain words and certain reactions, what appeared to be some very set ideas on Harry's part of what Tom was like. Tom had started to wonder how Harry saw him and what Harry really knew about him. And that had led to an insidious desire to startle Harry out of whatever incomplete picture of Tom he might have, and what better to shock him with than the truth?

Nice going, Paris. You didn't just give him the surprise of the year, he got a girlfriend out of it as well. Please, no applause, you're embarrassing me. Who could he try his matchmaking skills on next? The captain and Chakotay, maybe, they were being insufferably dense. Tom wondered what kind of effect a confession of love might have on either of them. The captain would probably ask him if he was feeling all right. And Chakotay? Tom suddenly gurgled with laughter as he wondered whether the first officer might even be conceited enough to believe in it.

Then he shook his head resolutely. Oh, it helped a little to joke about it, but that didn't change facts. He'd just blurted it out, still overwhelmed by the realization of his own feelings. Tom had been stunned at the discovery. The depth and strength of the love he felt had shocked him at least as much as the confession of that love had shocked Harry. That he could have been so blind, that it took Harry's death to make him understand...

Well, that was frightening. More than just frightening: horrifying. The time he had spent believing Harry to be dead and gone forever had shown him a self and a future he almost couldn't bear to look at, a hollow mockery of the person he had thought himself to be. Impossible that he would have to live with that emptiness forever. And when Harry returned Tom had known that he would have to say something. There might be another incident, another accident, another way for the universe to take away what he had just discovered he could not live without, and he had to say something.

Things hadn't quite turned out the way he'd hoped, though. He was an idiot, Tom told himself, nodding for emphasis. A complete idiot.

A hand on his shoulder almost made him jump before he remembered where he was and who this had to be. "Lieutenant, is your neck hurting you? You keep nodding and shaking your head."

Tom concentrated hard on not blushing. He really had to give up on these inner monologues when he was at the conn. "A little," he admitted, because that much was certainly true. The captain was smiling at him. Well, it was a slow day, not much for her to do either except worry about people's health. Too much to hope for that she would just sit back in her chair and flirt with the first officer, Tom thought.

"You should ask someone to give you a backrub later," she advised, then continued her tour of the bridge. Probably just as well, as Tom had been about to ask her if she'd volunteer for the job. He couldn't think of anyone he knew well enough to ask that of. His neck did hurt, and so did his shoulders, because he'd been unable to sleep for the longest time and then he'd nodded off in his chair. Only a long hot shower this morning had persuaded his muscles to cooperate with each other and with his wishes.

Well, his shift would be over soon and then he could go and dig around in his holoprograms and see if one of them by any chance featured a massage — a real one, he qualified, remembering the various trashy Let Her Get Her Hands On You programs that always seemed to accumulate among his possessions. It wasn't as though he bought them, or even asked people to give them to him. Had to be something about the way he looked.

Cheap, his thoughts echoed Harry's comment easier. Cheap and trashy, Tom Paris. Or should that be cheap and easy? He sighed, and barely managed to stop himself from shaking his head again, worried that it might bring the captain back. He wasn't fooling anyone, was he. It wasn't that he didn't try. He had tried, he had tried so damn hard ever since he'd realized that this ship was now a world unto itself, his new world, his new chance. But there were some things he just couldn't change. Some people were solid gold, lifetime quality guaranteed, intrinsically and beautifully forever themselves. Others were drifters, lightweights, cut with some less precious metal to produce a cheaper alloy. Tom harbored no illusions about which category he fell into himself.

And now Harry and B'Elanna had found each other. Quality attracts quality, wasn't that what his father used to say? Not quite in this context, but it seemed appropriate. Well, Tom was happy for them. Really. He'd just stay out of the way for a while. Too much to hope for that Harry would forget it all, of course, but if Tom removed himself from the scene Harry would at least understand that there would be no more trouble.

When Tau came to relieve him, Tom took care to exchange a few words with her beyond the usual duty transfer protocols. He knew she appreciated it, since she was still new to bridge duty and a little nervous. And it gave him time to collect himself and let the rest of the day shift leave before he did. When Tom finally straightened up to leave, though, he found that Harry was deep in a discussion with Ayala. He wondered if there was anything interesting in the sensor readings or if Harry was employing the same tactic Tom himself had.

It was kind of funny, he thought with a smile that wasn't entirely forced, and went to the turbo lift. Maybe they were both going to politely avoid each other and make up weak excuses to the rest of the crew. Then again, Harry didn't need an excuse; he had B'Elanna. Tom turned around and found that Harry was stepping into the turbo lift next to him. Okay, scrap that theory. "Deck four," he said and then realized he should have asked Harry where he wanted to go.

Harry grinned at him. "I'm so relieved." Tom only got as far as raising an eyebrow before Harry went on, "I thought you'd lost your voice — it's never been that quiet on the bridge before."

"Yeah, well, I thought if I shut up for once, the captain and Chakotay might start exchanging life stories and discuss what their favorite colors are." What the hell, he might as well make that his new project. He was going to need something to occupy his time. "Maybe we should lock 'em in the ready room and play romantic music."

Harry looked genuinely startled at this idea. "You're not serious, are you, Tom?" Tom wondered if Harry had really managed to miss the undercurrents on the bridge, when Harry added, "I really don't think either of them would appreciate that. It would be better if, if..." Harry's face lit up with a mischievous smile. "If they were stranded alone on a beautiful planet, or something."

"In scanty clothing," Tom elaborated. "It would have to be a hot climate, of course." He chuckled. The thought of the captain lounging around in an improvised bikini did a lot to cheer him up. "All right, we'll both keep an eye out in the future, but I'm not sure we can accidentally forget the captain and the first officer somewhere."

"Tuvok would never let us," Harry agreed. The lift stopped and the doors opened again. "Are you coming to Sandrine's later?"

"I might," Tom said non-committally. "I'll see you." He flashed a smile and walked out. That had gone pretty well, he thought. He'd been standing right next to Harry for several minutes without either saying something stupid or trying to kiss him. It had been a close thing, though.

But how would Harry react if Tom said what he was really thinking? If he said, look, I can't go on like this any more, I want to be as close to you as I can possibly get, I want to touch you everywhere, make love to your body, listen to your thoughts. I want you to love me, Harry.

Yeah, right. Don't call us, we'll call you.

Walking into his quarters he didn't really register that the door had been unlocked, but he did notice that the lights were on. Before he could do more than start to look around, two merry voices yelled, "Surprise!" and he had the breath knocked from his lungs as two strong pairs of arms went around him and squeezed.

"Oof!" Tom hugged them back to the best of his ability, it was only polite, and then vainly tried to step back. He found himself entangled in arms, smiles and flyaway red-gold hair. "Hi. Um, it's not my birthday today or anything."

"No, but we don't know when your birthday is," Megan pointed out. She ruffled his hair affectionately and went on, "And do give up on the rabbit caught in the headlights look, it doesn't suit you at all. We just stopped by to see how you were doing."

"Fine," he said and added an incautious "Ow!" when Jenny's hand squeezed his neck. "I just have a bit of a muscle ache, I can't really stay, I was going to go ask the doctor to — ouch!"

Jenny went on probing his neck with fingers that had suddenly turned to steel. "Jeez, Paris, what did you do, sit in a chair and sleep? I'll fix this. Lie down on the bed." He dug his heels in as she started to tow him away, and she gave him an exasperated look. "I have a friend who's a masseur, okay? Trust me. I'm not going to try anything with you unless you shave. Now, lie down."

"Besides," Megan added wickedly, "wouldn't you rather have her hands on you than the doc's?" Tom conceded the point and allowed himself to be stripped to the waist and laid flat on the bed. Megan pulled up a chair while Jenny went to talk to the replicator about massage oil. "Just relax, she's good at this."

It wasn't until Jenny's full weight settled across his hips that Tom started to worry. "Not that I'm paranoid, but you guys haven't been reading The Joy of Bondage in your spare time or anything?" Jenny dug her thumbs in on either side of his spine and started to rotate them, and he couldn't hold back a long sigh of pure pleasure. "Ohh. I take that back, I don't care what you read, it's obviously good."

"Of course it is!" Megan said with a grin. "We have refined tastes, Paris. It's only on rare occasions that we hang out with low-lifes like you." She'd found his hairbrush somewhere and was untangling her own long, red-gold strands, spreading them all over his carpet, Tom noticed, but the things Jenny was doing to his back felt so good that he decided not to care.

"Only when we want something from you," Jenny added and poured more oil on his skin. "Which reminds me, is it true that Kim and Torres are an item now?" She slapped his shoulder. "Lie still, brat, or this won't work."

"I'm not sure if it's a settled thing yet," Tom said, speaking half into his bed covers. "Did you see them this morning in the mess hall?" Not for the first time he marvelled at the amazing speed of Voyager gossip. Made him wonder if there was a secret broadcast, something like A Briefing With Neelix only with interesting news instead, that everyone except him managed to tune in.

"No, but Farrell did and he told us." Megan started to braid her hair. "They make a cute couple, aren't you going to get in on the act as well? I always pictured you guys ending up as a threesome." What was visible of Tom's face must have shown something of what he thought, as she went on, "And don't give me that look, little Mr. Holier Than Thou, because I'm not buying it."

"I just don't think that would be such a hot idea," Tom said.

Jenny wriggled on his rump, and flicked an oily finger across the lobe of his left ear. "Oh, I think it's a really hot idea," she said with laughter in her voice. "I'd pay for a ringside seat, honey."

"Pervert," Megan said with a loving smile at her sister. "Tom, when did you ever object to a threesome? I never heard you complain when you were with us. And what about what you got up to with Geron and that redhead from—"

"What?" Tom managed to lift his head an inch and promptly had it pushed back down again by Jenny. He figured that if they went on like this, any therapeutic effect of the backrub would be undone by the things they said. "I never did anything with Geron and a redhead." He thought about it. "At least, not unless you think Valreis is a redhead."

"Valreis?" Jenny said delightedly. "Tom, you shouldn't tell me things like this. I'll never be able to look Valreis in the face again. God, your back's a real mess, you know that?" She shifted down to straddle his legs and started in on the small of the back. Tom couldn't hold back a wail. "You can make as much noise as you like, but if it really hurts, tell me to stop."

"Why is it that everything you say sounds like a double entendre even when it isn't?" Tom asked.

Jenny chuckled. "Everything I say is a double entendre. You just don't get it half the time." He was starting to feel genuinely relaxed now. The things she did to his muscles were sometimes painful, but it was a good kind of painful and he was starting to drift off — not to fall asleep, that wasn't possible, but he was floating pleasantly.

"Well, you'll do as you please, of course," Megan conceded. "I just thought it was a neat idea. Sooner or later you're going to have to fall in love, Paris. You're nice to play with, I'm not denying that, but I'd like to see what you're like when your heart's in it."

Tom sighed. He wished she would confine herself to just playing with him, as when she and Jenny had said goodbye the night before he'd supposedly left Voyager for good, and not try to delve into his emotions. That wasn't a subject he was prepared to discuss with her.

"I'm not going to get mushy just to oblige you, Megan. Go play matchmaker with someone else." A wicked thought ran through his mind. "Here's a worthwhile cause for you: try to figure out how to get the captain and Chakotay together."

Megan chuckled, but then she shook her head. "Sweetie, I don't meddle with captains. Especially not this captain." She looked thoughtful. "Maybe if we stuck them alone on a planet somewhere."

"In a cave system," Jenny suggested, getting into the spirit of the thing. "Everyone knows you can't go wrong with a good cave system." She gently rotated Tom's shoulder this way and that, then dug the heel of her hand in again.

"Too uncomfortable," Megan objected. "Not that Chakotay wouldn't be improved by sitting on something sharp, but..."

Tom was laughing so hard he almost choked into the bedclothes. "Hey," he managed to say. "Megan, Jenny. It's a romance we're trying to plan, not a mutiny. And never mind whether Chakotay needs something up his — I mean, never mind the cave systems. That kind of thing only works in stories."

"But that's the problem," Megan said. "In real life, love just happens. There isn't really much you can do about it." Tom closed his eyes as all laughter fled. She was right, of course. But it would be nice if you could help love along from time to time. "We can try, though," she added briskly. "Hang up a mistletoe in Sandrine's or something."

"That ought to be interesting even if the captain never sets foot there," Jenny said wickedly. She moved to one side of Tom and grabbed his shoulder. "Flip over, I'm going to fix your neck." Tom rolled over and she cupped her hands under his neck, digging her fingertips into the taut muscles from underneath. "A few more days and you would have needed medical attention, Paris," she said. "It's a good thing we happened to come along."

On the whole, he was inclined to agree.

* * *

Harry wasn't really surprised when Tom did not show up at Sandrine's that night. There had been enough of a maybe in Tom's voice that he had been prepared for it. Nevertheless he was somehow disappointed. He'd known that the recent events would change things between them, but he hadn't really wanted to imagine that it would mean they wouldn't meet.

I never asked for anything to change, he thought, and then was shocked to discover a shade of resentment in his mind. He couldn't be angry at Tom for loving him, could he? It was just that he had been so thrown, so bewildered by what had happened to him and Tom had just added to the confusion.

Then again, Harry thought, if he does love me and he thought I was dead, it's no wonder. He knew that he would have been very upset if he had believed Tom to be dead; in fact, thinking about it produced a remarkably strong sense of disorientation. Harry knew he had to be prepared for that kind of thing. People did die; Starfleet officers earlier than most, a lot of the time. It wasn't a career for the timid. And he'd known that when he got into it. Only he'd always thought that it meant he had to be prepared to risk his own life, not that he would have to watch other people risk theirs, and worry about them again and again.

Because he did, every time they went on an away mission without him. Leaning back against the bar, Harry felt a lump in his throat. He felt so protective of Voyager and everyone on board. They were isolated, they only had each other, and to imagine them dying one after another in accidents and illnesses and attacks here in the Delta Quadrant...

If it happens, it happens, he told himself. And all he could do was to do his job as well as possible, and try to enjoy the company of his friends while he had them. Only that sounded so depressing, and besides, it was hard to enjoy the company of your friends when they weren't there. B'Elanna was working late in engineering, and he had no idea where Tom was. Harry considered asking the computer, but then he thought it might be better to give Tom some privacy.

He could use some privacy himself to think things over. At least that was what he had been telling himself all day. Now, though, he didn't know where to start. Harry sighed and let his attention drift, watching the pool players — Henley, and that redhead from Security whose name he could never remember. Harry knew he ought to know everyone's name by now. But at the same time he held off learning everything about Voyager and its crew. He had a feeling that seventy years would teach them all more about each other than they would ever want to know.

Then he chastised himself immediately for that thought. No, it's not like that. We'll get home. I'll get back to Libby. He remembered seeing her again, being with her again. Harry frowned. Had that been the real Libby? Had she been as real as he was? As either of him had been. Now he was starting to get a headache. Perhaps the captain was right, perhaps you had to accept that weird was part of the job and not think too much about the paradoxes. But when they started to be a part of his personal relationships, as with Libby, and with Tom...

Besides, he wasn't at all sure that he wanted to get back to Libby. He did want to get back, and he still missed her, had missed her for so long. But Harry didn't think that they would ever resume their relationship if Voyager — no, when Voyager returned to the Alpha quadrant. She would believe him to be dead; by now she had hopefully mourned for him, and gone on to deal with life on her own. When he had first come back from the alternate timeline and realized that, it had disturbed him. Now it comforted him. Libby wasn't the kind of person who would let grief slow her down. And accepting that had meant that he'd been able to slowly let go of her, too.

"Harry," a soft voice said, and he turned his head to see Kes standing by his side. Harry smiled. It wasn't too often that she put in an appearance at Sandrine's. "You look thoughtful." And so did she, he noticed.

"I'm thinking about things," Harry admitted. "A lot of things." Then he smiled and shrugged. "I don't seem to be doing a very good job, though. It's all been so confusing lately." The last sentence came out sounding a lot more plaintive than he would have wished.

Kes put her hand on his arm. "Would you like to talk about it?" she asked seriously. "It's easier sometimes to get your thoughts straight when you tell someone what's troubling you. Besides—"

She did not look embarrassed; Harry didn't think he'd ever seen Kes look embarrassed. But he could tell that there was something she thought he ought to know. "Besides, what?" he asked.

"I accidentally overheard a few things that you and Tom said this morning," she admitted. "I didn't mean to, but I happened to be preparing some food, and I couldn't make enough noise with the cutlery."

Harry thought back to the conversations in the mess hall and found himself blushing. "Then you know part of the problem," he said. "Let's sit down somewhere." They found a table against the wall, where Harry hoped they wouldn't be overheard.

Not that he minded that Kes had heard what he had to say this morning. Or rather, if anyone had to have heard it, he was glad it had been Kes. She was leaning forward across the table with her usual eager air. "Harry, tell me, are you and B'Elanna really — have you found each other, now?"

"No," Harry admitted. "That was just, well. I think maybe I'd better start from the beginning." He caught her glinting smile and threw it back at her. "When there were two Voyagers, and I, I mean, when one of me died..." He made a face. "There's no sensible way to say that, is there."

Kes shook her head. "It was very confusing to see yourself," she said. "It was difficult to believe that she, I, was as real as the I that was seeing her."

"Maybe that was B'Elanna's problem," Harry said with sudden illumination. "I mean, I have no choice but to believe that both were equally real, because I am the other Harry." She put a concerned hand on his, and Harry smiled at her. "No, I know I am me, I am myself, I don't think I'm confused that way any more, but that means the Harry who died was just as much myself as I am, if you see what I mean."

"Yes," she agreed softly. "But B'Elanna saw you die. It must have been difficult for her."

Harry had to agree. He wasn't sure how he'd react if he'd seen someone fall into space and then met them again hours later. "That's where it started," he said. "I was confused and I wanted to talk about it, but all she did was look at me funny." Kes smiled at the phrase and Harry had to smile back. "And Tom and I started to talk about that and he told me..." Harry suddenly faltered. "He told me that he loves me."

"Of course he loves you," Kes said composedly. "I think very likely you and the captain are the two people who mean most to him aboard this ship."

"You do? But — anyway, that's different. What he said was, I didn't realize he loved me that way," Harry said. "I mean, he's my best friend, of course I care a lot about him. And then the next morning, B'Elanna said she was sorry she'd acted strangely, and tried to initiate something." Harry leaned his head in his hands. "Honestly, Kes, I don't know what to do."

"You left out the bit where Tom kissed you in the middle of the night," she said and he peeked up from between his fingers to find a decided twinkle in her eyes. "Harry, I always thought there was a certain attraction between you and B'Elanna."

"I thought so, too," Harry said frankly. "And under any other circumstances I would have been really happy that she asked me. I'm just so confused by this business with Tom. Kes, I, well, I never thought of him this way before."

"And now you do?" She looked at him thoughtfully, and Harry rested his arms on the table instead and looked back. Slowly, she began, "I'm not sure you started at the beginning. Do you remember when Tom left us on that undercover mission, pretending to take a job on a freighter? Only you and I and Neelix were there to say goodbye to him."

"Yes," Harry said, thinking he was hardly likely to have forgotten, it hadn't been very long since that plot had been played out and Tom had returned. "That made me so angry, that there was no one else, that we were his only friends. B'Elanna was working, but I can't believe no one else cared enough to come and say goodbye, even if he'd been acting like a jerk recently." He frowned, lost in the memory. "He looked so lost, and to think that no one else cared — I had to hold on to him a little and make him understand how much I'd miss him."

Kes smiled. "Because you were losing him forever."

"I never really believed it, though," Harry said, eyes unfocused as he watched the past. "I didn't know anything about the plot, of course, but I never really believed that I wouldn't see him again." He smiled. "Maybe I was just in denial all that time, but then it turned out that I was right."

She nodded. "Tell me, Harry, if Neelix and I hadn't been there when you were saying goodbye, would you have talked to him, told him how much you'd miss him, how much you care for him?"

"Probably," Harry said. "I've always believed in telling my friends how I feel about them. There just wasn't enough time." He thought back to it, Tom in those grungy civilian clothes and with quiet resolution in his eyes. The memory, visual and emotional, was so strong it almost made him dizzy. He tried to put words to it. "If I could have held him there, if there had been any power in my hands to make him stay..."

"Tell me about B'Elanna," Kes said.

Harry blinked. "B'Elanna?" Then he smiled and looked around the room to see if by any chance she'd made her way here. He didn't want to be in the middle of a discussion about her only to have her leaning over his shoulder. "I always admired her," he said. "From the start. All the strength and determination she has, and she's one hell of an engineer," he added with a grin.

Kes nodded enthusiastically. "Yes, it's wonderful to see someone so completely immersed in a subject, knowing so much and still always willing to learn more. No, it's more than that. She's not just willing to learn more, it's as though she has to; it's her overriding passion." In speaking Kes had leaned forward across the table again, but now she straightened up with a small apologetic gesture. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you."

"You just gave me time to think," Harry said. "I've always been attracted to her. I think I had a crush on her for the longest time. And then those feelings changed into something different, more complex. I wasn't sure if I was ready to speak to her about it, or what I wanted to say." He heaved another deep sigh and swore it had to be his last for tonight. Maybe this kind of behavior was addictive. "I guess I'm just going to have to figure it out."

"I'm sure you will," Kes said with that smile of hers that was like a blessing. It could probably light up a whole starship. It made Harry feel more relaxed, anyway. If Kes smiled like that, nothing could be too badly wrong with the universe.

"I just don't understand why they both want me," he said. He'd always figured that B'Elanna's taste would run to the slightly older and more experienced, someone like Commander Chakotay, maybe, and as for Tom, well, Harry was hardly the Delaney sisters, was he? He'd seen enough of the kind of people Tom was attracted to to know he wasn't anything like that.

"I'm not going to tell you."

"Why not?" Harry was completely mystified by the way Kes looked, mischievous and amused. Did she really know, or was she just teasing him? He opened his mouth to ask, but she shook her head.

"Because I like you fine just the way you are." She patted his hand. "I don't want to spoil you by making you vain."

* * *

"I didn't ask you to come in, did I?" Tom hadn't moved from his chair when he'd heard the door chime. Once Megan and Jenny had left, he'd felt relaxed enough to get some reading done, listen to some music, enjoy the fact that his neck and shoulders weren't hurting. He didn't want any more company. Not that that helped, when people kept coming into his quarters without leave. He'd have to upgrade the privacy codes.

She stood where she was, just inside the door, and crossed her arms with a determined air. "I'll leave again." He looked at her expectantly. "In a minute, Tom."

Resigned to his fate, Tom got to his feet and walked away from his desk, towards B'Elanna. He knew why she was here, and he figured he might as well make it easy for her. The sooner this was over, the better. "You can have him," he said, trying to sound off-hand.

"Oh, thanks," she said sarcastically. "Does Harry know you're talking about him like the last piece of cake at a picnic?" Then something glinted at the back of her eyes. "You're trying to get me angry, aren't you."

"No." Tom saw no point in lying. Nobody deliberately provoked B'Elanna, any more than they would stand at the top of a mountain in a thunderstorm, waving a piece of iron.

"No, disgusted." B'Elanna walked up to him and tapped his shoulder with one finger. He felt grateful once again for Jenny's ministrations; if it hadn't been for her, that firm jab would have been agony. "Trying to pretend that it doesn't really matter and you're the kind of person who doesn't care."

"Yeah, so? Maybe I don't care." Tom looked down at her, keeping his eyes cool. He saw another flash, and started to feel like a lightning-rod. What was it with people tonight that they all tried to get at his emotions? He wasn't going to hand his soul round on a plate for everyone to poke at. "Mad at me?"

"No reason why I should be," she said with annoying calm. "Are you mad at me?"

He didn't pretend not to understand. "Hell, no. No point in arguing about it. Harry's not the only pretty face on Voyager."

B'Elanna didn't even call him on it this time, and Tom started to worry. "No, but he's Harry." Worry that she was seeing right through him. "And that's what's important. Don't try to tell me there's tons of people you feel the same way about."

"Not tons exactly," Tom drawled. And something was screaming inside him, no one, there is no one like him and I don't want to live without him, but I'm going to have to, so will you please just shut up and go away?

B'Elanna tilted her head and tucked her hair back behind her ears, the way she did when she was prepared to do combat over some pet theory of hers. "Face it, Paris, there isn't anyone—"

"Well—" Then he smiled his most infuriating smile, the one he knew made people want to slap him. He hoped B'Elanna wouldn't slap him, though, at least not clear through the wall. "You're beautiful when you're angry, B'Elanna, you know that?"

That made her growl, and that made him smile even more widely. She reined her temper in with a visible effort. "What I'm trying to say is that I want us to be civilized about this."

Tom toyed with the thought of making a crack about Klingons and civilized behavior, but decided he liked all his body parts just fine where they were. There was no point in pushing too far. After all, he liked B'Elanna, liked her a lot. If she'd just stop triggering all his defense mechanisms...

Instead he said, "What's to be civilized about? Or uncivilized, for that matter. You want him, he wants you, I'm hardly going to throw a jealous tantrum in the mess hall. Case closed."

"It's not quite that simple," B'Elanna said. She looked at him for a long moment, and her eyes were so serious that it was hard to resist the urge to confess. "I don't want to hurt you and neither does Harry, I know that."

"Hurt?" Tom flashed a smile at her to cover up the cracks in his heart. He was starting to wish that he had never opened up to anyone in the first place. Telling Harry the truth had been an overriding urge, but now he started to wish he could undo it. Because he was coming undone. "Several points for sensitivity, B'Elanna, but your concern is completely unnecessary."

"Tom, whenever you start using words with more than two syllables I know you're lying." He wanted to close his eyes and ignore the anger and friendship he could see in her face. It was none of her business. And love was none of his business; he should have realized that a long time ago.

He should have stuck with sex and ignored his emotions. But it hadn't been possible. Once he'd found out how he felt, it had been inevitable that he would tell Harry. He'd just have to live with the consequences, but he didn't want anyone else touching that still-bleeding wound. Now Tom shrugged. "Far be it from me to contradict a lady. What would make you happy? Do you want me to throw a jealous tantrum in the mess hall?"

She forged on with such relentless singlemindedness that he had to admire her even as it made him want to scream. "I want you to tell me how you really feel about Harry."

"Oh, I worship the ground he walks on," Tom said flippantly.

He expected another verbal smack, another request to be civilized, to be serious, to stop being such a pain in the ass. The sudden silence was totally unsettling. B'Elanna smiled gently at him, and walked out of the room. Tom stood for a moment and stared after her, then threw himself face down on his bed and clutched at the covers with white-knuckled fingers.

Damn, damn, damn.

* * *

"Tom, are you mad at me?"

Tom jumped, sending his plate crashing to the mess hall floor. "I'm not going to do it," he said, looking up at Harry and thinking he was lucky not to have fallen out of his chair. "Whatever B'Elanna told you, I absolutely refuse to make a spectacle of myself in public."

Harry looked at the food on the floor and then back at Tom with an expression of carefully preserved neutrality. "I see." Then one corner of his mouth started to twitch, and Tom mock-scowled.

Neelix came bustling out with a rag. "Had a little accident?" he clucked and bent down to retrieve the plate. "And you'd barely touched your stuffed jalartas! I'll get you some more — ensign, if you would just move your foot—" Harry wasn't budging, and Neelix soon gave up trying to mop the floor around him and beat a strategic retreat with rag and plate, promising to return.

Finally Tom said, "Do I look mad?" Then he grinned. "I mean, angry." He wasn't about to enquire into what Harry might think of his mental state; he wasn't sure what he thought himself.

Harry just stood there, looking down at him consideringly. Then he said, "You haven't talked to me for two days."

"You haven't been around to be talked to," Tom pointed out.

"That's never stopped you before." Harry finally sat down and pushed his own plate companionably at Tom, offering to share. Tom felt an irrational rush of happiness. "I mean, you never go anywhere you might meet me, apart from the bridge. Between you and B'Elanna, I'm starting to feel like a one-man leper colony."

"She's not talking to you?" Tom picked delicately at Harry's food. He wondered what that might mean. Maybe Harry had said something stupid. But it wasn't really any of his business. "Harry, I absolutely refuse to advise you on your love life. Counselors should be impartial."

"She said I had to figure things out on my own," Harry said glumly. "So far it's not working."

Tom looked down, as much to regain his composure as to see what, exactly, it was he was eating. His mind raced. What the hell was B'Elanna up to? "Did she tell you about the conversation she and I had?"

"No." A thought seemed to strike Harry, but before he could say anything Neelix returned and set another plate down between them. He didn't wave his arms and say 'ta-da!' but Tom had a feeling it had been a close thing.

"Here you are, some fresh jalartas! And I added some pepper sauce for you, Tom," Neelix added. Tom bit his tongue and wondered if there was anything he could do to persuade Neelix that the inside of his mouth wasn't made of asbestos. A few polite lies he'd told about leola root au gratin with pepper sauce months ago were still haunting him. "Enjoy!"

"We'll certainly try to, Neelix," Tom said with a bland smile. "Thank you." He waited until Neelix had wiped the last stains off the floor and shuffled off again before turning to Harry. "You were saying?"

"I didn't know you and B'Elanna had talked about this. You mean you two set me up?" Harry looked bothered by that thought, and that wasn't really surprising, Tom thought. Realistically, he could see how having both your closest friends trying to get in your pants within twelve hours could be a bit of a strain, and if you thought they'd planned the whole maneuver...

Maybe if we had planned it it wouldn't have been such a mess. Tom shook his head quickly. "No. No, we didn't, I promise. I don't know what she's doing but I'm just trying not to interfere."

"Well, right now there's nothing to interfere in," Harry said with a quirky smile.

The smile and the words hit Tom right in the chest and nearly knocked the breath out of him. He tried to fight his predominant desire by giving words to it. "Meaning what, exactly? Harry, you have to give up on the provocative remarks. What do you want me to do, kiss you right here?"

Harry started to laugh. "I h-have to admit," he managed to get out, "that I would love to see Neelix' face if you did."

"Well, I wouldn't like to see B'Elanna's face if I did." Tom picked up a hapless little vegetable and bit into it with a vindictive crunch. He wasn't really sure what she meant by being civilized; he had a sneaking suspicion it meant he was supposed to restrain himself and she could do any damn thing she pleased.

Then he regretted that thought. He liked B'Elanna, he reminded himself, and before this business started he would never even have dreamed of calling her underhanded. You get so cute when you're jealous, Paris.

Harry sobered up. He pushed the food around on his plate, then said shyly, "I feel stupid. I mean, I never thought either you or B'Elanna would — and then when you did—"

"At the same time." Tom managed a wry smile. It was probably some kind of cosmic irony that he would look back on with a sense of distant amusement when he was a hundred and two. "That should teach you not to die so often, Harry. Makes people emotional."

"I wonder what I thought about," Harry said, staring into the air.

Tom took the opportunity to look closely at Harry, studying every line of his face, everything he had thought so familiar for so long. Then he thought perhaps he should say something as well. "What? When?"

"When I died." Harry returned his attention to Tom, who quickly dropped his gaze and tried to pretend he was absorbed in the stuffed jalartas. They looked like a cross between oranges and tomatoes that had suffered a close encounter with some quick-mutating blue virus.

"Harry, that is so morbid." Although perhaps no more morbid than trying to eat this, Tom thought. You have to have a death wish to even try.

"No, it isn't," Harry protested. "Or maybe it is, but wouldn't you wonder?"

Tom nodded slowly. He just wanted to put the whole thing behind him, because it had frightened him so badly. But he could see the fascination it would hold for Harry, who had quite conceivably had an even more frightening experience. "I suppose I would." Then he smiled. "But I still think it's morbid."

Harry smiled, too, put down his fork and started to get to his feet. "If you're not going to kiss me, I'm outta here. Tuvok's asked me to go over a batch of sensor readings with him; there's a glitch somewhere."

"Knowing this ship, that probably means we're heading for new and unparalleled levels of weirdness," Tom grumbled. At least being on the brink of disaster might take his mind off things.

Harry still looked cheerful, and shook his head. "I don't think so. Sometimes a small problem is just a small problem."

Tom nodded, then winked at Harry. "Exactly. Keep that in mind, Harry Kim."

* * *

Sandrine's was crowded tonight, and Harry dodged a few outflung arms as he carried his mug of tea across the room. It didn't quite fit with the scenario, but hot tea with milk was exactly what he wanted. He just didn't want to accidentally spill it down the captain's neck or something.

"Sit down," B'Elanna said when he reached her table, nodding at the chair across from her. "This is quite a party."

"Yeah." Harry scanned the crowd. It looked as though the whole world was here, from Captain Janeway herself to that Security redhead whose name he still couldn't remember. "Oh look, Dalby's hitting on Jenny Delaney." Trying to, anyway, Harry amended as he got a closer look.

"Isn't that sweet." B'Elanna smiled. Privately, Harry thought that to judge from the expression on Jenny's face, Dalby didn't stand a chance. But it would be fun to see him try. "How's your love life, Starfleet?"

"Non-existent, as you well know." Harry turned back to face B'Elanna; she made a 'poor you' face at him that looked about as genuine as a certificate of authenticity for a piece of Ferengi merchandise. "You sound as if you don't really care."

"I want to go to bed with you, Harry. I don't want to marry you." Then she grinned at him. "What do you want?" Harry couldn't answer. He'd spent every waking moment lately trying to figure out the answer to that question. The more he thought about it, the more confused he got. "Harry, are you in love with me?"

He was startled by the question and even more startled to realize that he wasn't sure of the answer, except that it wasn't what he'd have thought it would be. "I don't know."

"Are you in love with Tom?" B'Elanna continued without missing a beat.

"I don't know!" That was the whole problem, he wanted to say. Harry cradled the tea mug in his hands, relishing the heat, then took a sip.

"Which one of us do you think about when you jerk off?"

The tea wasn't quite so good going down the wrong way. Harry coughed, then put the mug down and gave B'Elanna an annoyed look. He told the truth. "Both." At least B'Elanna's methods were different from Kes'. Kes hadn't left him snorting tea through his nose. She was too nice for that. B'Elanna, on the other hand, seemed amused.

"Kinky," she said sunnily. "Both at the same time, or one after the other, as it were?" Harry glared at her and received a blithe smile in return. "I'm just curious. But okay." She leaned back in her chair and tapped her fingers together thoughtfully for a moment, then resumed, "How about this. When you're going to sleep, then, when you're lying there alone in your bed and it's dark, and you're tired and on the verge of drifting away, who would you like to have there with you, to hold, to be held by?"

It was the last thing Harry had expected her to ask. He wanted to come up with something easy and unrevealing to say but the way she described it suddenly made it feel so real. Because he did curl up in his bed at night and wish for someone, for closeness, warmth. And then he knew. Harry shook his head slowly. No wonder it had all felt so strange.

* * *

Tom came into Sandrine's with what he thought was a fair show of unconcern. It was time that he showed his face around here again or people would start wondering what was wrong. And he didn't want one more person wondering about him or coming to ask him how he felt. He went to the bar and exchanged a few words with Sandrine and with Chakotay before leaning back and looking around the room. Yes, there they were. Laughing together over some private joke.

He didn't have time to look away when B'Elanna turned her head and caught his eye. She waved at him to come over and a moment later, so did Harry. They looked just the way they always had, it could have been a scene from any previous casual evening. Tom smiled at them but shook his head. All three of them at the same table? He didn't think so. Not right now.

"See, I was right," a cheery voice said in his ear and he looked around to find Megan there, smiling, with Jenny right behind her. "They want you to be with them."

Tom sighed. "Did you bring any mistletoe?" Both Chakotay and the captain were here, after all. At opposite ends of the room. Maybe the mistletoe could hang over the pool table.

"No way," Jenny said, "no way am I carrying around a sprig of mistletoe when I've got Dalby breathing down my neck. Another time, Paris. Now go play with your friends."

"I don't play with my friends."

Megan tilted her head to one side and looked thoughtfully at him. "No, you don't, do you? I think that's your problem, Tom." She smiled again and stroked his cheek with unexpected gentleness. "I'm sure you can learn." Then she hooked her arm through Jenny's. "Don't want to cramp your style, sweetie. We'll keep an eye on you."

They walked off, and Tom turned around and ordered a drink. Never mind that it wouldn't really be Glenfiddich; when he was standing at the bar like this, he wanted a glass in his hand,and besides, it would give him something to do. Something to pretend to do, he amended, deciding not to lie to himself. He needed something to hang on to while he was standing here feeling foolish.

He didn't want to even try to interfere in a relationship between Harry and B'Elanna. It would be wrong. He didn't want to be the fifth wheel, the plaything of an idle hour. Despite the gloomy trend of his thoughts, that almost made him giggle. Yeah, I'd make a nice plaything, wouldn't I? Tom Paris, sex slave of the Delta quadrant. Dear Dad, you wouldn't believe what an interesting new career I have.

Tom was looking down into his drink when someone walked up to him. He lifted his head with some reluctance, expecting Jenny and Megan again, and found Harry on one side and B'Elanna on the other. "Don't play hard to get, Paris," B'Elanna said.

"I'm not," he said, all wide-eyed innocence, and smiled when she burst out laughing. So they were friends again. Good. Tom hated to think that she was angry at him; he liked her far too much for that, even though he never found the right words to tell her.

"That sounds promising," Harry said and Tom turned to look at him, thinking he must have misunderstood Harry's tone of voice. And the look in Harry's eyes. And something happened inside him, some switch had been thrown and now his whole body was humming with nervous energy.

"I'm going to play pool with Chakotay," B'Elanna said, still smiling in a way that made Tom look for cream on her whiskers. "But you know where to find me." She winked at Harry and walked away again.

"What the hell's going on?" Tom asked plaintively. He put the glass down with care and watched as B'Elanna made her way to the commander's side and started talking.

"Oh..." Harry considered this, looking very much like the Serious Young Ensign. "The ship is proceeding through the Delta Quadrant at warp five, the commander's chalking a pool cue, and there's music in the air. And you and I are going to my quarters."

Tom found himself completely thrown by that. "Why?"

"I love it when you're naive." Harry's smile was both sweet and teasing. "It happens so rarely."

"About as often as you play the smart-ass," Tom said, deciding it was time for him to assert himself. "C'mon, Harry. I want to know what's going on. After all, I don't think you're about to drag me off by the hair to have your wicked way with me."

"Of course not," Harry said. "Your hair's not long enough." He turned and took a few steps towards the door, then stopped and looked at Tom over his shoulder. "Come on."

And Tom, unable to resist that look, went. He slipped through the crowd with only one backwards glance, which was enough to show him B'Elanna grinning on one side of the pool table and Megan and Jenny grinning on the other side. God, he wouldn't put it past those two to start feeding B'Elanna their pet theory. Tom hoped there wouldn't be a fight.

Ensign Lee joined them in the turbo lift and made random small talk, to which neither Tom nor Harry returned any sensible reply. Once Lee walked off, they remained silent until they were inside Harry's quarters; then Tom stopped just inside the door. "Now tell me."

Harry took a few more steps into the room, then turned around and ran a hand through his hair, messing it up slightly as though shrugging off the Serious Young Ensign persona. "Actually, you tell me. What do you want?"

Tom considered and discarded several answers, settling for the simplest truth he could find. "You," he said quietly. "But you knew that already. I don't know why you brought me here, Harry. There's nothing new I can say. That's just the way it is."

"Oh, but I have a few things to say." Harry was, to Tom's surprise, smiling. He looked unexpectedly relaxed now. "I thought you were my best friend and I was in love with B'Elanna." Turning to walk into the room, Harry gestured for Tom to follow. "I've had to revise my opinion a bit."

Tom sighed. He didn't want to sit down, but he moved towards a chair, putting his hands on the backrest. It gave him something to hold on to, anyway. "And what does that mean? I'm not your best friend any more?"

Harry was still smiling. He kept talking calmly, as though thinking out loud. "Then I thought I was attracted to you and in love with B'Elanna."

"Oh, stop it." Tom rolled his eyes. There was no way he was going to admit how much hearing this hurt him. "Keep this up and you'll wake up one morning and think you're a bowl of porridge."

"Tom, you're not the easiest person to have a serious conversation with. I'm trying to tell you something important about how I feel." But Harry didn't look too disturbed. He didn't sit down either, though, he'd walked to one side of the room and now he was moving back again.

"Sorry," Tom said anyway, just to be on the safe side. "Go on. Tell me again about how you're in love with B'Elanna. Mind if I scream quietly while you do it?" No way, right? Jesus, Paris, that was subtle.

"As long as you can still hear what I'm saying." It was hard to understand how Harry could look so peaceful standing there, saying all this. The smile was still there, in Harry's eyes. "You see, I finally figured out that I'm attracted to B'Elanna, but I'm in love with you."

"What?" Tom had to admit that wasn't the most intelligent thing he'd ever said. But considering his heart was about to explode, he supposed he was lucky he could talk at all.

"I said, I'm in love with you. I always knew you meant a lot to me, and that B'Elanna meant a lot to me, and that I loved you both and you were my friends. And," Harry shrugged, "I guess I'm just not too good at sorting out what I really feel from what I think I feel. Or what I expect myself to be feeling. So I got it mixed up."

Tom wasn't sure he was up to figuring out the complexities of that. It hinted at some serious soul searching. But it was quite possible to get things wrong when you were delving into your emotions, he knew that much. "Harry, are you sure, have you thought about this?"

"Tom, what else have I been thinking about for the past few days?" Harry smiled and walked closer, stopping only a few inches away. "I'm just sorry it took me so long to figure it out."

The words were out before he could stop them. "Hey, you can make it up to me."

Then he discovered he was lucky he had a chair back to lean against when Harry looked into his eyes and said, "I will." A warm hand covered his own. "This is serious, Tom. Last chance to run."

"Run?" Tom closed his eyes and reached out. "Oh God, Harry." They moved slowly into each other's arms and just stood there in a silent embrace. Tom discovered that he was shaking. He couldn't hold Harry close enough. He had a vague feeling there was something else he might consider doing, like maybe kissing Harry, but right now it was enough to be standing here like this, sharing warmth and closeness.

"There's something else I have to tell you, though," Harry said against his shoulder. "I've never been with a guy before. Is it going to bother you if, well, if I want to take things pretty slowly?"

Tom curled his fingers into Harry's hair and stroked it slowly, amazed at the way it felt. "No, it's not going to bother me." He brushed his lips across Harry's temple. Bother him, when he was so happy he couldn't think? It wasn't as though he was in a hurry. Not now. Not when it seemed as though this was more than just a temporary miracle. "Whatever you're comfortable with, Harry," he said. Then he smiled. "Will it make you very uncomfortable if I kiss you?"

Harry laughed, gusts of warm breath against Tom's throat. "Well, if the last time is anything to go by, the uniform's going to feel too tight, but I think I can live with that." He turned his head up and their lips met. Slowly, Tom thought, slowly, and then Harry pressed more closely against him and the rest of the universe went away.

He didn't know how long they had been standing there, kissing each other with frantic, soul-consuming passion, before they leaned too heavily against the chair and it fell over. They crashed to the floor in a tangle of arms and legs, both trying to catch the other rather than support themselves. Tom banged his elbow on a chair leg. Harry, half sprawled on top of him and apparently completely unharmed, started to laugh.

Tom wrapped his arms around Harry again and kissed his chin. "We're not making out on the floor, Harry. That's where I draw the line. Get off me." He ran one hand up Harry's spine and folded his fingers into that silky black hair again, and Harry shifted and kissed the corner of Tom's mouth. They started nibbling on each other's lips, kissing gently, then Harry teased Tom's lips with the tip of his tongue and Tom moaned. "Yes, but not on the floor..."

Harry chuckled. "All right, not on the floor." He wriggled free of Tom's arms and sat up, and Tom propped himself up as well. They looked at each other and laughter bubbled up again. It wasn't just because of this, Tom thought, not just because they couldn't kiss without overturning furniture. A fierce and unaccustomed joy was ripping through him, tearing open parts of himself that had been shut away for years. "Come on, then."

On his feet now, Harry reached out a hand to Tom and pulled him up, and tugged him towards the bed. And Tom went, wondering why he was the hesitant and insecure one, suddenly shy as a virgin and twice as awkward. There was no sign of fear in Harry as he drew Tom into a tight embrace, drew him down among pillows and bedcovers. Tom felt a kiss on his throat, a gentle bite, another kiss, and he shivered. Then he sighed as Harry licked at his ear and sucked his earlobe.

They managed to get each other undressed, slowly because they had to stop so often to kiss each other, touch each other, and Tom couldn't shake that slight awkwardness; it grew worse as his boots landed on the floor, as the shirt was pulled over his head, as the uniform slid off so easily under Harry's clever hands. And oh God, skin against skin, the heat of it, and his whole body so sensitive he wanted to hold still like this and let Harry's touch burn him and see if that would make him come.

"Harry," he whispered, words hushed and spoken into a smooth throat where the pulse beats counted the rhythm of his kisses, "are you sure, is this what you want?" Because it's easy to think one thing and feel another, and your mind and your body might have different opinions; you're here with me now but you may find yourself wishing for another.

Harry caught one of Tom's hands in his own and drew it down his body, across chest and stomach, to fold it around his cock, the hard heat and silky skin. Tom gasped as though he was the one being caressed, and moved his fingers to trace the veins and learn the shape of the thick blunt head. "What do you think?" Harry asked, his voice gentle and teasing and only shaking a little. "Is this what I want?"

Tom kissed him, and Harry kissed him back, and they lost themselves in that a while, kisses that could obliterate the world. When Harry's fingertips stroked his nipples Tom had to break the kiss to gasp out loud, and then Harry moved his hand down to take Tom's cock in a firm grip and start to stroke it. "Oh God," Tom whispered breathlessly, a prayer to whatever deity had made this possible.

He returned the caresses, or tried to, but there was just one thought running wildly through his head, this is Harry, do you understand that, this is Harry, and God, it felt so good, and then Harry kissed him, Harry's mouth caught the short, ecstatic cry as he came.

They were still kissing when Tom opened his eyes again, and Harry was looking at him with smiling desire. That felt so good, too. Tom kissed Harry's throat, and his chest, and sucked gently at one nipple. Harry started to squirm, so Tom licked at the other one as well, holding out for a moan, a smothered "Yes." He kissed Harry's belly, tasting his own come there. And then he ran his tongue along the shaft of Harry's cock and heard Harry say something, a strangled word in the language of lust.

Tom cupped a hand around the shaft and licked slowly at the head, enjoying the smoothness, the texture, the taste. And really, this was a lot more fun when you were doing it to someone you loved; it became more than just an exercise in physical reactions. He felt aware of every breath Harry took, every beat of his lover's heart. Tom was smiling as he started to suck, going down on Harry as far as he could, using his hand to stroke Harry's balls.

Harry didn't grip his head, and Tom was grateful for that; he knew without looking that Harry's hands were clenched into the bedclothes. He pictured the eyes squeezed shut, mouth open, gasping for air.

Oh, how I love you.

"Love you," Harry's ragged voice echoed his thoughts, "oh God, I — Tom—" Before the words were out Harry was bucking and shaking, thrusting up into Tom's mouth, and then he came in a hot, sweet rush. Tom savored it, tasting before swallowing, and a few drops trickled down his chin. A little later, Harry's hands tugged him upwards and they folded into each other, wrapped in an embrace as complex as the Gordian knot, and fell asleep.

* * *

Harry knew exactly where he was when he woke up, and whose shoulder his head was resting on. He felt good, dreamy and a little tired, and something else as well. The lights were on, of course. Tom breathed so evenly, he had to be asleep still. Smiling, Harry shifted to press his lips against Tom's throat. And again. "Wake up, beautiful."

"Why?" Tom asked sleepily, bringing his arm up to lie across Harry's shoulder. He turned his head and Harry felt a kiss feather across his forehead. "Don't tell me you're one of those compulsive people who always have to wash straight away."

"I'm hungry." Harry stretched slowly, then propped himself up on one elbow. "I didn't have any dinner. And yes, my replicator rations will stretch to red beans and rice for you too, if you want." He ran a fingertip along one of Tom's eyebrows, then smoothed the other one as well, feeling tidy-minded.

Tom tilted his head back and tried to capture the finger with his mouth. Failing that, he said, "I do, actually. Thanks." Then he smiled. "Did you know or are you guessing that I don't have any credits?"

Laughing, Harry swung his legs over the side of the bed and got up. "I was there when you lost them to Nicoletti, remember?" He went off and spoke nicely to the replicator. When he came back, carrying two steaming bowls, Tom was still lying sprawled across the bed, and Harry, looking at him, nearly forgot about food. He didn't understand how he could have been oblivious to Tom's beauty for so long.

Tom sat up and accepted a bowl. "Thanks." He sniffed the contents thoughtfully and nodded. "You know there's a bar in New Orleans called Harry's Corner? Been there for centuries. They make really good—"

"—red beans and rice," Harry finished the sentence, settling down next to Tom on the bed. "Yeah, I know." They grinned at each other, and ate. Harry had to admit that the replicator's spiced andouilles weren't quite up to the original, but hell, New Orleans was a long way away. And he was really hungry.

Halfway through the food, Harry looked up to find Tom watching him intently. He raised an eyebrow. "I just love you," Tom said, looking almost embarrassed. "And..." He smiled. "I guess if anyone had told me earlier today that I'd be sitting naked in your bed tonight I wouldn't have believed them. Especially not if they'd told me you'd be there and naked too. And especially not if they'd told me I'd be thinking about food."

"Shut up and eat," Harry said lovingly. He fished a piece of sausage out of Tom's bowl with his fingers and stuffed it into his lover's mouth. Tom licked at his fingertips and Harry grinned. "Oh, no. I'm not having red beans and rice all over the sheets. Let's eat first, okay?"

Tom pouted, then smiled and picked his spoon up again. When Harry finished his food he put the bowl down next to the bed and asked the computer to dim the lights. Not that he really had anything against this brisk, businesslike illumination; he liked watching Tom, seeing him clearly, tracing every reaction. Between that fair skin and those transparent eyes Tom had a hard time hiding anything. Harry was amazed that he managed to be such an accomplished social liar.

"I've eaten now," Tom said, a picture of innocence. "So now can we—" Harry laughed, and pounced on him. They rolled over and over, almost falling over the side of the bed before Tom rolled them back again. More hot kisses, tasting of red beans and rice first, and then of nothing but love.

Harry felt he should have known it would be so easy. Because how could he feel the way Tom's body moved under his hands and not love it, not know what to do? His fingertips sought out pleasure, teased it carefully from every place he could think of until Tom was panting, sobbing, wild-eyed with joy. Then Tom's arms were around him and they fused against each other, chest to chest, groin to groin, thrusting in friction and heat. Kissing. "Slowly," Harry breathed, but he did not have the self-control to follow his own request.

"I love you," a heated whisper, "love you, love you, love you..." Harry closed his eyes and felt a hand run down his spine, curve around his ass, fingers dipping in to touch him, oh God no, oh God yes, and he wailed into Tom's neck and then Tom bit his shoulder and shuddered, warm wetness spurting between them and that soft moan of helpless surrender, and Harry felt it run through him and gather him up gold and fire, pull tight all through his body and launch him into space. Oh. God. Yes.

The next thing he knew was that he really shouldn't fall asleep again because if he did, they were going to wake up glued together, and he could just imagine how awkward that would be. Harry chuckled. Tom stirred against him and made a lazy sound of interrogation. "Shower," he said. "I don't want to explain to the captain tomorrow that we can't pry ourselves apart."

"In a minute," Tom said and threaded a hand through his hair. "I'd like to just lie here and hold you for a while." Harry sighed contentedly and snuggled closer. No objections.

Then he remembered something else, and was grateful Tom couldn't see the smile Harry smothered into his neck. He asked, "Do you think B'Elanna's attractive?"

The hand caressing his hair ceased to move. "Is that a trick question?"

Harry laughed. "I just want to know, Tom." He tucked his free hand under Tom's shoulder. They really were going to be glued together tomorrow. Oh, what the hell.

"Well, yeah." Tom sounded reluctant to say it, but Harry was pleased to hear that he had apparently decided to tell the truth.

"Good."

"What?"

The smile came back again, he couldn't stop it. "She says if we're ever up for a threesome, she's interested."

Tom's head lifted a couple of inches off the pillow, then fell back again. "Oh, my," he said, but there was amusement and anticipation in his voice. Then he went on, "I think I'd like some time alone with you first, though."

"Hmmmm." Harry brushed his lips against Tom's throat. No objections, again. Playing with B'Elanna would probably be a lot of fun. But this, this was important. "It's still pretty new to me, you know. I think I need some time to get used to it."

Tom's arms tightened around him. "I'll help you," he promised sweetly.

* * *

Unlocked part five

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