The Borg And The Beautiful, Part 3
by Suz

Disclaimer - Mighty Paramount (double cough) own the names, and the ship. That is all.


There had to be some universal plan to piss him off. He was sure of it. Sure, Tom knew that on the whole life was just 'okay'. There were moments of sadness, and if you were lucky, more than a few moments of absolute happiness, but mostly it was just 'life'. Someone like Chakotay probably would have appreciated that; the very fact that he was alive at all.

Right now, Tom Paris didn't.

He was in Astrometrics, which was a puzzle in itself. He almost never worked in Astrometrics. He would sometimes transfer conn reports or deliver them in person in the form of a PADD, but he didn't *work* there. It wasn't his job. Being at the conn and helping in sickbay were his jobs, even if he didn't particularly appreciate the second one.

Yet here he was. In Astrometrics. Alone, thankfully. But he knew that in the worst Universe of all bad Universes, at any moment Seven was going to come strolling - or, stampeding - in and he'd have to face her all over again. He'd had enough of that this morning.

He didn't think that he'd been ordered to work here under any particularly malicious intent. He wasn't really needed on the bridge because all Voyager was doing was flying in a straight line and - apparently - they needed his piloting expertise to help anticipate possible obstacles and their outcomes on the ship. Frankly, Tom couldn't see why he couldn't do that from the bridge. But there was no way he was going to argue with the woman he still imagined himself with in front of the rest of the bridge crew. No way at all.

Tom sighed, and again considered himself lucky that Seven wasn't there.

The doors to the room hissed open. In less than a second the muscles in his neck tensed, his back stiffened, his eyes squeezed shut, and a headache with the force of a photon torpedo hit his brain. He spoke through clenched teeth, trying to relax but failing, knowing with an utter certainty who was in the doorway, staring at his hunched body with curious eyes. "He-llo, Seven." There. That sounded almost human.

"Did I have a sex change in the middle of the night and no one told me?"

At the voice, at the words, Tom spun round and never had he been so happy to see the face of his best friend. "Harry!" In that same instant, everything - the stress, the headache, the building sense of inevitability - vanished.

Grinning, Kim stepped into the room and the door hissed shut behind him. Approaching his friend, he spoke. "You okay, Tom? You've looked better."

Rolling his eyes dramatically, Tom turned back towards the console he had been working on. "Thanks, Harry. I knew I could count on you for some tender mercies."

Harry's smile grew bigger as he stood next to him. "If you were the type of person who wanted tender mercies, you never would have had a relationship with B'Elanna."

Tom found himself grinning, and shrugged. "True enough. What are you doing here?"

"We're getting some power fluctuation readings on the bridge. Seven's doing something in the cargo bay, so the Captain asked me to have a look. "

Well, that seemed to make enough sense.

They worked side-by-side - or, more specifically side-by-lying-under-console. Whatever positions they happened to be in, they worked for the most part in a comfortable silence, talking occasionally.

After about thirty minutes, Harry stuck his head out from under a console, trying not to get his friends foot right in his face. "Can you pass me a hyper spanner?"

Finding one, Tom handed it to him. "Here you go."

"Thanks," Harry answered. "I think I'm finally seeing what the problem is..." He muttered then swore as something fizzled. A few moments later, he spoke. "So...had a good day?"

Forcing a shrug, Tom spoke deliberately easily. "Been okay. Nothing special. Work, you know?"

It was obviously a rhetorical question. "Yeah." He hesitated. "I...saw you in the mess hall this morning."

Tom's back began to stiffen again. "Really? I didn't notice you."

"I'm not surprised..." Harry retorted, grunting as he pulled at something.

This time Tom halted his work completely, and turned to look at what he could see of Harry. "What are you implying?"

Hearing the slight objection in his voice, Kim peered out from under the console. "You wouldn't make a bad couple, you know."

Growling - a habit long ago picked up from B'Elanna - Tom swung away. "What *is* it with this crew? Why is everyone trying to set someone up with someone else?!"

Stopping his own work, Harry pulled himself up from the floor. "It's a long journey home, Tom. I guess people don't want anyone to be alone."

Swinging back around, Tom continued ranting. "But *everyone* does it! You, Chakotay, me - me! - and I'm sure the Captain and Seven have done it as well. Why is everyone so selfless?! What is so wrong with going after something you want?"

A little shocked by Tom's anger, Harry rose his eyebrows. "Human nature? Guilt?" But he switched topics immediately then, wanting to pursue his own line of questioning. "And you didn't respond to what I said; you two wouldn't make a bad couple."

"Don't be ridiculous."

Harry crossed his arms over his chest. "Why is it ridiculous?"

Tom's arms started gesturing wildly. "Number one; a certain close friend of mine used to have a thing for her-"

"'Used to' being the operative words there. In case you hadn't noticed, I'm with Sam now."

In case he hadn't noticed. Tom almost laughed. He couldn't help but notice; every time he saw Harry his friend always made her the topic of conversation. In fact, he was kind of surprised that he hadn't mentioned her until now.

Harry continued. "Besides, who's being selfless now?"

"I'm not being selfless," Tom retorted. "Just watching my own hide. I figured it would just add...complications."

Not fully accepting that as a reason, Harry nodded. "Okay. That's one excuse. Got any more?"

"Yes," Tom stated firmly. "She's not my type."

A look of utter disbelief passed over Harry's features before he snorted, loudly. "Yeah, right."

Frowning, Tom studied him. "What?"

Shaking his head, Harry chuckled. "Not your type? Tom! She's blonde. She has breasts. Can you say 'Constance Goodheart'?"

Harry had a damn good point and Tom knew it. That didn't mean he was going to acknowledge it. "Now that's just being silly."

"Oh really?" Kim asked sarcastically. "When she participated in the Captain Proton programme, which character did she play?"

Tom held up a finger. "That doesn't mean a thing. That was just acting."

Shaking his head, Harry grinned. "I suppose it could have been worse. You could have had her screaming." He waited for a few seconds for the implication to set in, and rose his eyebrows meaningfully.

Tom sighed. "Oh for Gods sake..."


Part Four

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The Borg And The Beautiful