Title: Leaving Home
Author: Dusk (dusk@goldserve.net)
Pairing: P/K
Rating: PG, angst
Archive: VSPS, CKOS
Website: https://www.angelfire.com/falcon/dusk/
Disclaimer: These boys are unlawfully borrowed from their true masters, TPTB at Paramount. I make no profit off of this minor infraction.
Summary: Episode Related - 'Investigations'. Helps if you've seen it :) Why Harry was so odd during the leaving scene.
Comments: Feedback always appreciated. Beta'd by the ever-wonderful Jena {hugs} If she gets her way, there will be a sequel to follow.

Original bunny/scene written: 30/8/00

***

He offers me a handshake, but I can't help pulling him into a hug. I realise my mistake as soon as I make it, and the hug comes off as stiff and impersonal. He looks as though he'd have preferred the handshake.

I can't bring myself to say anything. My best friend, and he can't wait to get as far away from me as possible. The other side of the room, the sector, and eventually the galaxy.

What happened? How could I not have noticed?

He was never completely happy on Voyager, I've known that all along. There are too many people he'd prefer not to see, who'd prefer not to see him. But it's been getting better, or at least, it had looked that way to me. He was starting to be himself, letting the mask slip, not very often, but occasionally.

I wasn't his only friend aboard. I know that. Now? Kes was always fond of him, and it looks like Neelix will miss him. But how did it happen that we're the only three here to see him go?

Something must have happened to him. That's all I can think of. In the last few weeks. Suddenly my friend is hiding behind a belligerent and uncaring stranger. So different that I couldn't even ask what was wrong, just pretend I didn't notice and hope like hell he didn't self-destruct.

Well, he has.

He came very close to telling me what it was last night. Every previous attempt to talk had gotten me a snide remark or a warning to back off, but last night he came to my quarters of his own violition. I still don't know exactly what he was trying to say. The glib comment he made at the door fell short. I watched the mask dissolve in front of me, and then he was in my quarters, just crying. *Crying,* Tom-Paris-whom-nothing-touches, or more recently Tom-Paris-get-the-hell-out-of-my-face.

I put my arms around him. Let him cry. We must have stood there for nearly three-quarters of an hour. He tried to tell me what the matter was, but all I could make out was something about talking to Neelix, and it set him off again.

// He held on to me like a life preserver as his almost endless stream of tears finally ran dry. He pulled back, wiped his reddened eyes on his sleeve and smiled just a little, self-consciously.

"I can't do this, Har. Oh, God, I'm sorry...." he whispered. Then the mask reappeared, his eyes hardened, his mouth tightened to a thin line. He pushed me away forcefully, shaking off my hand on his arm.

"Don't touch me, Harry. I have to do this. I have to go." His voice was flat, cold, uncaring. He left without another word.//

He barely even sounded like Tom. It was as though all of a sudden he didn't want to look at me, be in the same room as me. What did I do? What suddenly changed? *He* came to *me*. *He* let me try to comfort him. *He* cried on my shoulder. But somehow I was the one he didn't want to be around anymore.

I tried to comm him, but he wouldn't answer me. I thought he meant he had to leave my quarters, until Neelix announced that Tom was leaving Voyager.

The next time I see him, it's in the transporter room, and it's the last time I'll ever see him. He didn't even tell me when he was going. Neelix commed me and asked if I'd be there to see him off. It was halfway through my shift, but I made arrangements for someone to switch with me.

The Captain made no objections when I asked, just looked at me with something akin to sympathy. I wonder if she knows what made the difference with Tom, what prompted him to leave, or if she's just sad to see one of the flock stray.

I wonder why I bothered, since he obviously would rather I wasn't here. I've seen him more animated flying on autopilot, or listening to a lecture from the Doctor.

But I had to see him leave, or I wouldn't have believed it. And he is leaving, handing me his commbadge as though it was unimportant. It's a tie to his past he wants to forget; where he's going, he won't need Starfleet, or Voyager. Or me.

He steps onto the transporter pad. For a moment it looks like it's me he's looking at as he transports out, but it could just as well have been Neelix, Kes, or the wall opposite.

I look at the commbadge in my hand and close my eyes, trying to hold back the tears that threaten to fall.

I thought I'd have the next seventy years with him.

I guess I don't mean as much to him as he does to me.

***

I can hardly look at Harry as I enter the transporter room. Who told him when I was leaving? I wanted to get away without having to face him. Him being here just makes this all the more difficult to go through with.

I nearly blew the whole thing last night, and I'm still cursing myself over it. There's too much riding on this. It was *stupid* of me. Thank God I managed to tear myself out of his arms before I did something dangerous, like tell him what was going on. I've tried not to see how much I'm hurting him, but I nearly broke down in his quarters. I just couldn't keep up the act any longer. I had to go back to being me, just for a few minutes, even if it did jeopardise our whole set-up.

I can handle letting the whole ship believe I just don't have the strength to stay. I can handle pushing around Chakotay, even though I'd much rather just be his friend, if it's possible; his trusted colleague if it's not. Part of me is even enjoying playing the part to the max. But I came too close to being this person I'm pretending to be, a few years ago, for comfort.

I just have to keep reminding myself that Captain Janeway finally trusts me enough to give me this mission, and that makes it worth it. Almost. Does she trust me? Or am I just the most believable sacrifice? This is no pleasure cruise. I think she'll be as surprised as I will if I make it back alive.

What I don't think I can handle is what this is doing to Harry, what *I'm* doing. I never wanted to hurt him, but the ship's safety has to come before any personal feelings, Janeway told me. That's how she has to think, every single day. I never thought about how lonely the position of Captain must be. Do the benefits of rank outweigh the countless personal sacrifices? I never wanted to be in command. I'm too selfish.

Harry. My best friend; for a long time, my only friend. It was wrong of me to put him through last night. I at least can tell myself there is a higher purpose to all this, while Harry just has to assume that the person he cares most about can leave him without a second thought.

Yes, I know how he feels about me. He thinks I don't. He barely knows himself. But it was easier not to say anything about it. I've found I value his friendship too much to risk, either by returning his feelings or refusing them. I haven't had many friends, not ones that I truly care about. My track record with lovers is even worse. Quantity, yes. The quality leaves something to be desired.

Once we got stuck out here, we had a lifetime together - if our friendship evolved into something more, then so be it. Say something too soon and risk everything. Leave it to time and keep what I have, with the possibility of getting more. As I said, selfish.

I thought I had regrets about the things I've done in the past. But I guess it's true what they say, it's the things you didn't do that you regret the most. I thought having Harry as my friend was enough.

It was more than I ever expected to have. Not until last night, falling apart with your arms around me holding me together, did I realise that my home, my anchor, isn't Voyager, the Delta quadrant, or even Captain Janeway. It's you.

Oh, God, Harry, don't touch me. Don't look at me....

If I ever come back, I hope I have the courage to change things. Maybe I'm being too optimistic, though. Maybe I should be hoping you'll forgive me, that we can somehow find our way back to where we were a few weeks ago.

Maybe I should just be praying I survive.

[end]





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