"Sex, Lies and Holoprograms"
By Heather Lynne
Rating : PG-13
Disclaimer : This story is entirely for my own pleasure, and that of those who choose to read it. Paramount owns all things “Star Trek”, from “Voyager” and Harry Kim down to little tiny tribbles. I am but a small speck of cosmic dust in comparison, and I intend no infringement whatsoever. Also, they can afford better lawyers than I can…
Summary : Harry falls for the wrong woman - again!”
Setting : This story takes place in the fifth season, before the episode “Disease.
Harry Kim looked up from his station at ops as Seven of Nine walked onto the bridge and took her usual stance at the secondary science panel behind the Captain's chair. He admired how she walked with such confidence, how beautiful she was and how she managed to move so smoothly while wearing heels that no ordinary human should have had to wear for more than one evening out. Seven, however, was no ordinary human. She was Borg, as much Borg as one could be and still have individuality and a life separate from the Hive. Harry smiled and shook his heard a little, thinking about how he had had such a big crush on her at one time. He wondered what on Earth he had been thinking? Of course she was beautiful, and tall and damned near perfect, but maybe a little too perfect in some ways. Not quite believable as someone to really spend time with and get to know. There was no warmth there, no real caring, at least it seemed that way to him. He knew he wasn't the only person on Voyager to have feelings for Seven - half the male crew admitted to having erections when she walked into the room, the other half tried desperately to hide theirs. Quite a few of the women spent time looking her over as well. Seven never seemed to notice. She acted aloof, and quite beyond such superficial matters as sexual attraction. In fact, Harry decided, she seemed quite incapable of expressing feelings for anyone at all. And she was always searching for perfection, from herself and others. Wow -- talk about performance anxiety, Harry thought. No, the woman for him would be warmer, not as perfect as Seven, but beautiful, with a warm smile and an open heart. She'd care about the people around her, understand that people made mistakes and always willing to help them learn or grow. In fact, such a woman would enable them to grow together, to learn together, to explore this amazing galaxy of wonders with mutual excitement and joy. That would have to be both the galaxy of the outer world, the universe, and the galaxy of pleasures that two people could bring to each other. ***********************************
Tom poked at the grayish, lumpy mass in front of him with his spoon. He seemed determined to transmute it into anything other than what it was: Neelix's leola root tapioca rice pudding. Neelix had thought that the name would have more appeal than just "rice pudding" or "tapioca pudding." Tom had no idea where the Talaxian had come up with that idea. The pudding didn't have any real or replicated tapioca in it, but there were things that looked a bit like rice... or maggots. Tom just couldn't get his mind to convince his stomach that the stuff was edible. He shoved his tray aside and looked at Harry, who was sitting across from him. ***********************************
Tom was surprised the next morning to arrive on the bridge and find that Harry wasn't at his station yet. Harry was always there before Tom. Well, almost always. It has seemed that lately it was becoming harder for him to be on time. Tom was disappointed. He wanted to know how the holodeck program had played out for his friend, and if it had helped at all. Since Harry wasn't even there yet, and there was only about a minute and a half to go before the shift actually started, Tom began to wonder if he had done the right thing. He walked down to his seat, nodding at the Captain and the Commander on the way. They acknowledged his greeting in a similar way. He sat in the pilot's chair and began his check of the systems he knew so well. ************************************
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Harry looked away from Seven, still amazed that he had once considered her someone he wanted to get involved with. Of course, she wasn't the first nor the last. He'd been with Libby at home, in San Francisco. She was the ideal woman for him in many ways: warm, upbeat, loving, generous - but she was also 70 thousand light years away. As much as Harry wanted to get home, he had to face the reality that it may not happen. Libby may have moved on by now, may even have married and had kids. Such thoughts made him miserable, but he needed to be realistic if he was ever going to have a workable relationship while in the Delta Quadrant. Perhaps he had chosen virtually impossible women from the start, somewhere in his mind knowing that he really only wanted to be with Libby. That seemed reasonable, and quite fruitless. He had fallen for a hologram, Seven of Nine, and the wrong twin with the Delany sisters. Now he had no one special in mind, and knew that he had matured, and if someone came along who could be an appropriate partner for him, he was much more ready to handle such a relationship, much more able to deal with interpersonal -
"Harry, are you available or not?" Tom's question interrupted Harry's train of thought. When things were slow on the Bridge, Harry could usually keep focus quite well on his routine work. Today had been different for some reason. He looked up to see Tom Paris turned in his pilot's chair at the front of the bridge, looking both somewhat frustrated and amused.
"Sorry, Tom. I missed that. What did you want?"
Tom heaved a far too theatrical sigh, cocked his head, and looked Harry in the eye.
"I said, more than once I might add, are you coming to lunch with me or not? You did promise to keep me company today. So are we going for lunch together or not?"
"Yeah, sure. My shift ends in time to join you. You want to go see what Neelix has prepared for lunch today?"
"We discussed this earlier. You already agreed to go to the mess hall, AND we're both on Alpha shift, as always, so we're off at the same time! Harry, where's your mind today? What could possibly have you so distracted?" Tom asked, as he knowingly shifted in his seat to focus on Seven standing at her console. Tom lifted one eyebrow, smiled, and gave Harry a look that made his friend blush.
"Stop that!" Harry tried to say under his breath, "you know that....that's not an issue anymore." Harry was praying that Seven wouldn't notice Tom's too obvious gestures in her direction. Things had been embarrassing enough, ages ago, when Seven had asked him to "perform the copulatory act" with her. He didn't need to have Tom (or anyone else for that matter) bring those memories back for Seven or for him. "We'll talk further at lunch," he stated desperately, in a stage whisper.
With a look of supreme resignation at having to deal with emotional and irrational beings yet again, Tuvok looked up from his station, first at Tom, then at Harry. "I suggest you both continue this conversation at lunch, Lieutenant, Ensign. This is not an efficient use of your time nor of interest to anyone else on the bridge."
"Don't bet on it", Tom muttered, as he turned back to face the console in front of him.
"Yes sir, thank you sir," Kim said, feeling very relieved that someone had come to his rescue before Seven noticed the conversation.
Harry was focused on his routine sweeps of nearby space when the Captain and Chakotay walked onto the bridge. They had come from the Captain's ready room, and were both laughing about something. Kim wished he'd been let in on the joke. It would be nice to have something to distract him from his rather dull work and his earlier embarrassment. Tom was a good, loyal friend. Hell, they had each saved each other's lives more than once, but Tom could also be full of mischief and quite impossible at times. It would have been nice if the Captain had shared what had made her laugh with them. It was hard not to feel a little left out when people came in like that. After all, they all worked together. It was hardly fair to keep amusing things from each other...
Ok, that was weird, Harry realized. He had never felt that way about people coming onto the bridge before. What they had talked about previously was none of his business, and probably not even of interest to him. He and Tom or B'Elanna had often ended conversations as they stepped off of the turbo lift onto the bridge. Some things just weren't appropriate in front of superior or junior officers. One might run the risk of looking childish or immature, and he certainly did not want to do that in front of Captain Janeway.
Harry watched the Captain take her usual command seat and lean in towards Chakotay as if to finish their conversation. She said something so quietly that he couldn't hear it at all. Chakotay grinned, gave a nod in a knowing way and both command officers sat back in their seats, still smiling about whatever they had shared. He really wished the Captain had shared her story with him. He enjoyed hearing her voice, watching her smile. She certainly was lovely to look at. She had that wonderful lop-sided smile that would appear when something was amusing to her, and she would laugh openly when she found something very funny. He wished he knew something he could say to bring on that wonderful, big smile of hers.
He watched as she moved her hands while still talking, motioning about something, graceful in her movements and charming in the way she communicated. She would often put her hand on someone's arm or her arm around their shoulders. She was only using her body language to communicate when she did that, but how lovely it was to be the recipient of such gestures. She could make you feel on top of the world with just a gesture, a look, half a smile. She could also make you feel like she had been personally let down by you when you didn't do what had to be done. Of course, Harry would never NOT get his work done. He worked meticulously to carry out all of her orders. Still, there was always the fear of letting her down. Sure, the ship and the lives of its crew may depend on his work, but somehow that paled in comparison to the fear as that of letting her down.
Wait a minute, Harry thought, since when did letting the Captain down become such a huge worry? Well, really - always. He had never wanted to disappoint any superior officer. It's just that disappointing Captain Janeway seemed a worse crime than screwing up for anyone else. After all, if she was unhappy, then there was no way that Harry could be happy. He wouldn't see that wonderful bright smile; she wouldn't complement him on his work. Besides, she seemed to spend more time on the bridge when she was happy, rather than in her ready room. Ok, he had no basis for believing that, but it seemed reasonable. Captain Janeway was not always happy. She'd had some hard times in her life, Harry knew. When they had entered that region of space where nothing happened, where there were no stars or planets or any stellar phenomena at all, no one had seen the Captain for weeks. Harry had felt at the time that she should have made appearances to address the crew on a regular basis. Now he realized that if she had needed the time, then she had every right to take it. Being the Captain was hard work: far too many life and death decisions were riding on her all the time. If he had thought of it at the time, he might have tried to visit her, or send her flowers. Anything to let her know he cared. It seemed a shame for that beautiful, determined, intelligent woman to feel she was alone, when she just had to ask to have someone who would do anything for her...
And "Kathryn" was really such a beautiful name. Her parents had picked a name that had a melody to it and yet was as strong as she was. How could they have known how perfect it would turn out to be for her? Her Irish background made the name a natural. It also made the red hair and -
"For heaven's sake Harry, are you going to stay at your post through the next shift, or can we go for lunch now?" Tom was standing at Harry's console, looking right at him, as if he could read his friend's mind. For one brief moment, Harry hoped like crazy that Tom couldn't read his mind. Silly idea - if Tom could, then he'd already be teasing Harry about his thoughts. Of course, Tom always teased him when he was ...
A realization slowly rose up from the back of his mind. He didn't want to admit it to himself, but it came to the surface of its own accord.
"Oh crap," Harry thought to himself, "I'm in love with... the Captain."
"You actually ate that stuff?" Tom asked. Harry had seemed distracted all through lunch, only mechanically eating his food, even the pudding.
"Yeah. Sure. Why not? It tastes ok. Or at least somewhat like food should taste. I'm hungry, ok?" Harry looked at Tom, as if challenging him to some game that Tom wasn't aware of.
"Okay, okay. I only asked. It's just that the dessert looks ...unhealthy. Kind of like it was eaten already. Or like it was made of maggots." Tom smiled as Harry stopped in mid-chew, looking down at the pudding that was slowly crusting over. Tom knew he could put Harry off of his food if he tried hard enough. Actually, it wasn't that hard. But Harry made such faces of disgust that it was always worth it. This time it didn't work at all.
"You're right, it doesn't look that good. But it tastes ok." Harry began chewing and swallowing and shoveling what was left of the paste-like pudding into his mouth again.
"I didn't know you were into insects for lunch. Or maybe it's Naomi Wildman's plaster-of-Paris paste for her latest school project. Maybe Neelix accidentally mixed it up with our lunch rations and fed it to us." Ok, Tom thought, not as disgusting as maggots, but still not something Harry would appreciate.
No response. Harry just kept plodding along until the last of the goop was gone. He had spent the entire meal like that: just scooping, chewing and swallowing at a steady rate, not saying a lot, just eating.
Tom took away the dish Harry had just finished the pudding out of and replaced it with his own left-over mess, hoping to get at least a smile. Harry didn't seem to notice. He just kept staring off into the space in front of his face, not seeing Tom nor the fresh dish of pudding. Tom had to get Harry to talk. What if Harry was worried about something or wasn't well? As his best friend, it was Tom's job to help Harry out. Or at least find some good stuff to tease him about. You never knew with Harry. Sometimes it was serious and sometimes it was a crush on a hologram.
"Harry, what's up? You've hardly said two words since we sat down, and I know that the main course was worth commenting on, even if you liked the dessert."
"Huh? Oh, I don't know. Nothing. I'm fine. I guess I was just hungry. You know how it gets when you're hungry. Sometimes you can't do anything but eat, and pay attention to the food. Why would anything else be on my mind? What does it matter to you anyway?" this from the normally placid Harry.
"Whoa, okay, I was just concerned. So you were hungry. I get it. In fact, you were so hungry that you ate two deserts without even noticing; makes perfect sense to me." Tom's tone was caustic, but his expression was that of concern. "Come on, Harry - talk to me. We don't keep secrets from each other. That's one of the things that helps to keep us sane. Well, me anyway. After the way you managed to eat both those puddings I'm not so sure about your sanity."
Harry ignored the barb. He ignored the comment about his sanity. As a matter of fact, he ignored absolutely everything except for the entrance of the Captain into the mess hall. He watched intently as she ordered a cup of coffee from Neelix and then sat down in a seat at the far end of the hall.
"Harry, back here. Come on, look at me. That's better. I haven't seen you so distracted in ages. What's going on? It can't be just that you were hungry. I've heard entire Klingon war sagas from you over a meal that you wolfed down. Something's up. Spill it." Tom was not giving up on his friend.
"I told you. Nothing."
"Then say something. Anything. Let's talk. I'll start: did I tell you about the idea I have for a new Captain Proton episode? It involves Satan's Robot becoming magnetized to -"
Tom didn't get a chance to finish his thought. It seemed that this was now the time that Harry felt like talking.
"I wonder if she ever feels lonely. Of course she does, but does she ever try to do anything about it? She always seems so alone. We really should ask her to sit with us again. How come we haven't done that lately?" Harry's wistful expression had returned, replacing the defensive one he'd had on only a moment earlier.
"Who? Who's lonely?" Tom followed Harry's gaze, seeing only the Captain at the far end of the hall. "The Captain? Harry, we've been through this before. She'll join us if she wants to. Leave the poor woman alone. Maybe she's run out of replicator rations and needs some mess hall coffee. On second thought, maybe we should offer her medical help: that coffee of Neelix's can be deadly."
Harry didn't react to Tom's jest. He just sat there, looking towards the far end of the mess hall.
Tom squinted, thinking hard. Harry just wasn't himself at all today. Something must be wrong. Tom hadn't seen him like this since that time on the holodeck. And when Seven had joined the crew. Then there was the Delaney sisters...
"Oh. My. God! You've got a crush on the Captain!"
"No I don't."
"Yes, you do. You have a crush on the Captain."
"No, I don't."
"Yes, you do."
"YES. Harry, it explains everything: your being distracted, not hearing what I'm saying, staring into space, even finishing that hideous dessert. You haven't been like this since your last crush. Oh man, wait until I tell B'Elana about this one. Harry, you are a great friend; no one could provide more entertainment than this." Tom hadn't spoken loudly enough for the few people left around the mess hall to hear, but Harry blushed strongly anyway.
"Listen: I do NOT have a crush on the Captain. It's not reasonable. She's the Captain for heaven's sake. She'd not even look at an ensign like me, even if she wasn't my commanding officer. Besides that, there's too big a gap in our ages. So just drop it. I can't and do not have a crush on Kathryn - I mean, Captain Janeway."
"Harry, you're a good crewman, a good officer at ops, and a great friend. But you are a really lousy liar. You always have been." Tom smiled in a way that showed he was sympathetic to Harry's plight, but not so sympathetic that he couldn't throw in a few jokes here and there. "You even took the time to think about the difference between her age and yours. The whole thing is pretty clear."
"I don't - ah, hell. Yes, I do. What am I going to do? This is insane." Harry slouched down in his seat.
"Do? You're not going to do anything. You're going to do your work, be with your friends, talk to me, and that's it. I won't tell anyone, not even B'Elanna. Unless I have a good reason to blackmail you, of course."
"Thanks. I think. You're right. I'll pay attention to my work. I'll get over this in no time. I can focus on something, or even someone, else. I can do this."
"You sure can pick them, buddy."
Harry's eyes suddenly went out of focus as he looked to the far end of the mess hall. Captain Janeway had her coffee mug in hand, and was heading straight for their table. Harry just watched her move, admiring her confidence, her regal beauty, how utterly sexy she could be at times... And he tried not to look like he was thinking such things.
He looked away and tried to make his mind change its topic. He tried thinking about baseball. Too bad he didn't really care about baseball. He tried thinking about stellar phenomenon, but all the stars seemed to form into constellations that looked like Kathryn's smiling face. He tried to think about Seven, naked. Nope: that became Kathryn too. Then he tried very hard not to think about the bulge in his trousers. He told himself that under no circumstances was he getting up from the table while she was anywhere near it.
"Hi Captain, care to join us?" Tom's simple question earned him a desperate glare and half a head shake from Harry.
"No, no thank you. Not right now. I have to get back to work. I just wanted to ask how everything is. I noticed that you seemed distracted during your shift today, Harry. Is everything ok?" Her grey-blue eyes seemed to pierce Harry's brown ones.
Harry opened his mouth and tried to make some calm, relaxed, everyday words come out. Nothing happened. Not a sound. Not even a squeak. Harry shot a panicked look at Tom.
"Everything's fine, Captain. Harry was just hungry." Harry heaved an internal sigh at Tom's quick cover.
"Hungry? Ensign, you should have a snack at your break or eat a bigger breakfast. I don't want any of my officers to be less than 100% on the job because of something with such a simple solution. See you later, gentlemen." With that, Kathryn turned and headed for the mess hall door.
Harry watched as she left.
"Harry - breathe! You're turning a really unhealthy colour."
"Huh? Yeah, breathe, right." Harry's voice was ragged, "This isn't going to be easy."
Tom smiled his best bedside manner smile, looked at his friend, and in all sincerity stated, "Don't worry Harry, I think I have an idea that might help. I'm here for you, I really am."
"No problem. What are friends for? No point staring at the carnage on the table. Let's go."
"No thanks. I think I'll sit here. For a while." Maybe a long while, he thought to himself.
"You sure? There's nothing for you to do now that you've finished your lunch."
"I'm sure. I'm really very sure." Harry said, blushing brightly yet again.
Harry had spent a rather restless night before coming to the bridge for his shift. He had been thinking about Kathryn, trying to figure out how NOT to think about her. Nothing seemed to work. He had to stop thinking about her.
That thought was at the forefront of his mind when he came on duty. He tried to focus on his work, and managed for some time. Unfortunately, Kathryn came on to the bridge just when his concentration was at its best.
"Good morning, Mr. Kim. How are you feeling today? A bit more focused?" She asked as she walked on from the turbo lift.
It took Harry a moment, but he found his voice this time.
"Yes ma'am, everything's good. Really good. I'm fine. The ship is fine. Nearby space is fine. Tom's fine...." He realized that he was starting to sound like an idiot.
The Captain looked at him and gave that amazing half smile of hers as she spoke, "That's all good to know, Ensign. I would imagine it could all be summed up by saying 'systems normal.' I'm glad you're 'fine' today." She leaned against Harry's console and turned to look at Tom, "I'm also glad, Mr. Paris, that you are fine as well?"
"Yes Captain, I'm perfectly fine. So is Mr. Tuvok." Tom had to run with the humour of the situation.
"I am fine. I also find this line of inquiry rather tedious and illogical. With your permission, Captain, perhaps we could end the quiz on each others' welfare for now, assuming that all are, indeed, 'fine.'"
"Agreed." The Captain took her seat, still smiling, and picked up a PADD.
Harry watched the back of her head, wondering what her hair would feel like if he were to run his hand over it. His thoughts continued on like this for some time before he could mentally control himself enough to work again. Regardless of how hard he concentrated, his mind always drifted back to thinking about her. He found this an uncomfortable feeling, to be sure.
*Suddenly Kathryn yelled for red alert and the calm of the bridge was torn to shreds as an alien materialized on the deck, right near Harry's station. It was large, looking somewhat like an octopus, with long tentacles reaching out and touching people. It touched Tuvok, and he froze in mid-stride and fell to the floor. It reached an impossibly long tentacle out to Tom, and paralyzed him as it had Tuvok. It touched everyone on the bridge except Harry. It began to move toward Kathryn's chair. She had a phaser in her hand, but it was useless. The creature must have had some sort of shielding, like the Borg. It reached out and grabbed Kathryn, not stunning her, but lifting her in the air. It opened what appeared to be a mouth and prepared to drop her in! Just at that moment, Harry knew he was the only one on the bridge who wasn't stunned or about to be eaten. He leaped over his console, pushed himself up with a great surge of strength from his legs, and landed on the alien's back and thrust his knife-which he always kept handy at his work station, just in case of these very moments - deep into the oozing flesh. The creature fell to the floor, folding in on itself and disappearing, as if transported away. Kathryn let out a shriek as she began to fall from the height the creature had held her at. But Harry was on the job! He was able to leap, once again, to the exact spot needed in order to catch her as she fell. She landed beautifully in his arms, ending up with her fingers laced around his neck. She looked at him with a gaze full of wonder, awe and gratitude. Harry knew that this was the ice-breaker; that Kathryn would never again see him as just 'the young ensign', but as a true hero. He had saved the ship, and he had saved her. And she was trying to say something to him, something about his bravery, his heroism. Her voice sounded even deeper than usual, and far less emotional- *
"Mr. Kim, do I have to come over and do it for you?" Tuvok was looking at Harry from his post.
"Uh... No sir. I'll run the diagnostic right away. Just a moment." It took Harry a few breaths to get himself back to reality, and on to the diagnostic.
Captain Janeway swiveled in her seat and looked up at Harry, "Harry, I thought you said that you were fine. This isn't like you at all. Are you sure you shouldn't report to the Doctor for a check-up? Or is there a problem we can discuss that I can help you with?" Kathryn looked concerned, but was sounding like she was becoming somewhat frustrated. "What's that, Mr. Paris? Did you just laugh at something I said?"
"No, Captain. Just a tickle in my throat. I'm fine."
"Good. One of my officers acting out of sorts is more than enough. Harry?"
"Uh...like I said before, I'm fine. Honestly. I was just...hungry. Again. I guess it caused me to lose track of things. I'm working now. The diagnostic will be done shortly." Harry bowed his head to the console, not daring to make eye contact with his Captain.
Kathryn. No. Captain. Captain, Captain, Captain. Keep it that way, he chastised himself.
"Good. And if you do have a problem, either talk to me, the doctor, or deal with it. I don't want you at anything but your best when you're on duty. Understand?" The authority in her voice was unmistakable.
"No ma'am. I mean, 'yes, ma'am.' I'm fine. I was just hungry." Harry decided to stop talking before Tom split his sides trying not to laugh. This was all going so badly...
"Alright. And Harry, will you please eat something?"
Tom put his arm around Harry's shoulders as they walked toward the holodeck together.
"The way I see it, you have an obsession that needs to be dealt with. Listen, when I was back in the penal colony, there was this one guy who drove me nuts. He didn't really do anything, but he was irritating as hell. Maybe it was because he chewed with his mouth open, or the way he was always clearing his throat and sounding like a sick targ. Whatever it was, I couldn't stand the guy. I was almost ready to have it out with him when I had a great dream: I told the guy what I thought of him, what everyone thought of him and I actually felt better. I never really talked to him, but I felt better. He didn't get to me after that."
"So, I figured you should talk to the Captain. Maybe tell her how you feel. You know, get it off your chest."
Harry shot Tom a look of sheer terror.
"Yeah, I know, you could never do that in person. So I came up with a solution."
Harry began to feel decidedly nervous when they arrived at Holodeck One.
Tom looked at him and said, "Now remember, I didn't have a lot of time to come up with this. However, I did create a program that will be more than adequate for the job at hand. Ready? Computer, run holo-simulation: Paris, Secret One, Plenty."
The door opened as the computer acknowledged the request, and Harry's jaw dropped. He was looking at what appeared to be a sitting room with a very low level of lighting. As a matter of fact, all of the light was simulated candle light. Heavy tapestries hung on the walls, some with images that Harry was decidedly shocked to see. The chairs and small tables that were placed around the room looked like something from one of Tom's early 20th century files. Everything was covered in red crushed velvet, or burgundy velvet, or black velvet, or just far too much velvet for anything but the tackiest of rooms. Upon closer inspection, Harry could see that the candle holders were all shaped like naked women; naked women who appeared to be painted green. Harry felt an icy chill crawl up his back.
"Uh, Tom, I'm not sure what you were planning, but this really isn't to my taste. It's a little too...velvety." Harry didn't want to hurt Tom's feelings but couldn't believe that his best friend wanted him to go through with what this appeared to be.
Tom shook his head and smiled.
"Relax. I know what it looks like. Do you think I had time to create an entire program with new settings and everything in one day? This was in the memory files for the holodeck. Someone -and I'd love to know who- bought an old Orion slave-girl program from a Ferengi before we left Deep Space 9. There was a note with the program saying that anyone who wanted it could have it. Apparently he thought the slave girl would do more than she did. For some reason, all she offered was ear massages. I crossed this program with one from an 1890's French..." Tom tried to find an appropriate word, "...place of business. I just changed the parameters a bit, added the new character over top of the slave girl and voila, here it is!" Tom could not have been prouder.
Harry was still in shock. He looked around the room again, and didn't see anything that convinced him that the room would help him with his problem.
"Tom, I know you're trying to help, but I don't know how this can be of any use to me."
"Weren't you listening? I told you that dreaming about having it out with the guy on Earth took care of my problem with him. Now all you have to do is talk to Captain Janeway."
As Tom said the name, one of the tapestries was pushed aside, and a figure emerged from one side of the room. The figure was clearly that of the Captain. Well - mostly. This version of Kathryn seemed a bit taller than she was, even taking the stiletto heals into account, and was draped in a black dress that hugged every curve of her body. The parts that it covered, anyway; Harry didn't know that someone could be dressed and still showing off so much creamy white skin. There wasn't really a lot left to the imagination. Her hair was looser than usual and fell just to her shoulders in deep, rich, red waves. Harry also noted that her breasts were larger than the Captain's. He stared in mixed awe and horror. When she started to walk toward him, the hologram slunk across the floor, moving in a way that Harry had never seen any woman move, let alone Captain Janeway. Every step, every gesture, every movement was calculated to make him (or anyone else) think of nothing but her sensuality. She moved to a nearby chair, leaned forward on it and smiled at him.
Tom managed to catch Harry before he could bolt from the holodeck.
"I'm not doing this, Tom. This is wrong. A crush is one thing, but I can't play a program like this, not of the Captain. Not of Kathryn Janeway. This just isn't right." Harry sounded almost on the verge of hysteria.
"Didn't I tell you to relax? I told you, I programmed the character over top of the original. She has some of the characteristics of an Orion slave girl, but all of Captain Janeway's responses. Just pay attention to the words-hell, close your eyes if it helps. The words will be all hers, I promise. All you need to do is TALK with her. That's it. Tell her how you feel. She'll respond appropriately, and you should be able to cope with this whole thing much more easily. Give it a try, ok? No one will know what happened here, not even me. What can it hurt? You sit at a table across from her and talk. Okay?"
"I don't know. I'm really not comfortable with any of this." Harry was relieved beyond words to know that all the hologram wanted to do was talk, but it was still too much of a shock. It's not that he hadn't thought of Kathryn that way, but she was so much more than a woman in a bordello. Kathryn had class, she would never be caught dead in a place like this, and she certainly wouldn't dress or behave like this version of her behaved.
"Harry, you have about forty minutes. Not more. The Doctor has reserved this holodeck for his golf game at the end of this program. You can't get into much trouble in that amount of time. It's just a program to help you get some of this off your chest, without the Captain or anyone else knowing what's going on. What can it hurt? Give it a try, if it doesn't work for you, just leave. You don't even have to stay for the full forty minutes. What do you say, buddy?" Tom was sincere in his desire to help. Harry wasn't sure which would be worse: going through with the program, or hurting Tom's feelings by turning around and leaving. He took a deep breath, looked at Tom, and summoned up his courage.
"Right. Only forty minutes or less. Just talking. No one to know but me. Can't hurt to try."
"That's the spirit! I'll leave you two alone. I'll be in the mess hall at nineteen hundred hours tonight. Come and find me, and let me know how it goes, ok? I want to know if it helps, and I also want to know how it plays out. I didn't get a chance to run it before this. Plus, I really should delete pretty much all of it when you're done." With that, Tom turned and left through the exit. The arch immediately disappeared, becoming yet another wall covered with, as far as Harry was concerned, inappropriate tapestries. He briefly wondered if even Orion slave girls could get into the position on the largest hanging.
A hand came up and stroked Harry's right ear with the tip of one finger. Harry nearly jumped out of his skin. The image of the Captain merely smiled, and moved in closer. Her voice sounded like Kathryn's, "Well Harry, are we going to talk? I thought that's why we were here."
He knew it wasn't really Kathryn leaning into him. He knew it was only a hologram that was breathing into his ear and beginning to stroke it again, but it was damned disconcerting all the same. He gently untangled himself from her increasingly tight embrace and pushed her hands away from him.
"That's not how we talk. Let's sit down." He didn't know what else to say. The image of Kathryn, heavily made up eyes half open, took his arm and walked him to a small marble-topped table. She poured herself into the chair opposite Harry and began to run her index finger up and down the candle holder.
"What did you want to talk about? I'm here to listen. If I can help in any way, you know that I will. Harry, you're a valued member of this team. Voyager wouldn't be the same without you. And she won't be the same if you can't concentrate on your work," she said, as she batted her eyelashes at him.
The words were those of the Captain, but the unbelievably sultry posture and hand gestures sure weren't. Harry watched the index finger slide down the naked figure of the candle stick, moving along to slowly circle one breast, then the other.
He couldn't talk. He had to look away. The problem was that looking away meant staring at those damned tapestries. There was no where to look. He tried to just look at the hologram's other hand, but that began to finger its way along the table towards him. He stared as she stood up and moved over to Harry's side of the table. She stood behind him and gently took his earlobes, one in each hand, and began the most sensual ear massage Harry had ever known.
"At ease, Ensign. You're far too tense. Just take a moment and relax. You know that anything you say will be confidential, and that I'm only interested in helping. And we can drop the protocol and speak openly here." The words could have been spoken by Kathryn in her ready room. The ear massage, heavy perfume, and the uncomfortable closeness of her body couldn't have been Kathryn in ANY setting, not for Harry.
He started to speak. He wanted to say something that he could tell Tom about later, something that at least showed he had put some thought into this. He needed to say something for closure, to help himself out of this jam. He really tried to come up with the words appropriate to the situation. It took a short time to find the words he so desperately needed to say:
It took only a mere few seconds for Harry to be very far away from the holodeck.
Harry shot past the doctor as he ran down the corridor. The Doctor jumped back, clutching his golf bag to the sweater he wore for his holodeck time.
"Watch it Ensign, you nearly ran into my favourite wedgie!"
Harry didn't look back as he ran towards the nearest turbo lift.
"And they call me rude," the Doctor muttered under his breath.
He arrived at the entrance to the holodeck that Harry had so recently bolted from.
"Computer, run program 'Doctor Golf four, Mars course."
"Unable to comply. There is already a program running."
The Doctor could have shut down the active program and started his golf game, but somehow this piqued his curiosity. The locks weren't on, so anyone could walk in. Apparently it wasn't a very private program. No harm in looking. And, he reasoned, it would be good for him to know what else others in the crew did for entertainment. He wouldn't miss any of his time on the golf course as he was a bit early anyway.
The doors slid open and the Doctor stepped into a program he could not have imagined in a hundred years. In the middle of the decadent, dark and far too velvet- covered room stood the Captain. She was looking right at him, and had one long, painted index fingernail held gently between her teeth.
"Captain, I am so sorry to intrude. I didn't realize..." He paused in mid-sentence. It didn't take him long to realize that the person in front of him was another photonic. He was greatly relieved - and also outraged - that this program even existed. To think that someone wanted the Captain of this ship, his Captain, in a program such as this! He was about to shut it down when the image of the Captain slithered her way up to him and asked,
"Good afternoon. What did you need to see me for?"
As she spoke, she reached out and began to gently massage both the Doctor's earlobes. To his great surprise, the Doctor found that the touch of photonic hands on photonic ears felt very nice. Very nice indeed....
He was worrying about Harry when a hail came from Engineering. He smiled as B'Elanna's voice came over his COM badge.
"Tom, have you been to Holodeck One lately? Or programmed anything new into it?"
"Uh...maybe. I'm not sure. Why?"
"I just got a call from the Doctor. Apparently some new holodeck character managed to damage the force fields of his ears. He won't tell me what the program was, and he won't say how his ears got damaged. Honestly, they look like some sort of Bolean fungus. I've never seen anything like this." Tom saw Harry walk in before he could reply with any suitable cover story.
"I'll talk to you later B'Elanna. Or maybe it would be even better if you let me look through the programs and find the one that caused the trouble. I may be able to fix it right away. I know the holodeck files better than you do."
"Fine. Just keep me informed. It's going to take a while to get the Doctor's ears back into the parameters he used to have. Torres out."
Tom looked up at Harry, and realized that something was dreadfully wrong. His friend was usually very ready for work and cheerful when he arrived for the first shift of the day. Obviously, things were different today. Harry looked hassled, his hair not quite as neat as usual, the circles under his eyes darker than they should be, and he just didn't look at all like himself.
Tom took the chance of drawing attention to himself and Harry by crossing up to Harry's station.
"Harry, what gives? I didn't see you last night at dinner, and you look a little...tired. Are you ok?"
Harry looked at Tom, and shook his head, "No, I'm not ok. I'm most decidedly NOT ok. I had nightmares all night from your damned program. I hardly slept at all, waking up every half hour or so. No wonder I overslept when I finally drifted off and didn't dream about...you know what. Don't look so hurt, I know you had good intentions, but you know what they say about good intentions."
"So what happened?"
Harry shot a glance toward Kathryn and the Commander, not wanting to mention any of this out loud. He shook his head and looked down at his console. He was just so embarrassed, and he looked so lost. Tom began to feel guilty about his attempt to help.
"Hey, I'm sorry about the program. I really thought it was a good idea. I guess I should have tested it first, before letting you have a go. What happened to you? Did the safeties go off? What am I saying - they weren't even needed. You should have been able to just talk."
"Yeah, well... I couldn't. The actions of Kath- I mean, the program, were just too distracting. I wanted to talk with her, I really did. But I just couldn't. Not with the hologram looking that way, and acting that way."
"Didn't you try closing your eyes?"
"Didn't help. She began to massage my ears!"
"So? If you'd asked her to stop, she would have. Harry, you needed to approach the whole thing far more rationally. It was just a program. It would do what you told it to. I know the setting and the look of the whole thing was odd, under the circumstances, but it was the best I could do in one day. It's just that those types of programs are the most common and easiest to pick apart and re-program in small pieces. You'd be surprised how many versions there are of this one program I found. It involves a young guy with an old-type job, something called "delivering pizzas", and a hotel room with several nubile - "
At that point, Captain Janeway turned to look at her two young officers. "Something wrong, gentlemen? Is there something I should know about?"
"Uh, no Captain. I was just going back to my post." Tom left and Harry just stood there, inadvertently looking directly at the Captain. She knew Harry was one of the most reliable of her officers, so she had chosen to ignore his slight tardiness this morning. She couldn't ignore his haggard look.
"Harry, you look like someone who hasn't slept in a month. What's wrong?"
"Nothing, Captain. I'm fine."
"You don't look fine. And, I might add, you and Tom seemed to be having quite an intense conversation up there. The contents of which may or may not be my business, but the welfare of my officers certainly is. I want to know why you look so tired."
"Uh... I guess I'm....hungry?" Harry knew it was overused and weak, but he really couldn't think of anything else to say.
Janeway said nothing. She simply stood up and looked first at Harry, who looked down, then at Tom, who gave a weak smile and a shrug. She had had enough of this. Her expression made that more than clear. She then headed towards her ready room. No one said anything. Probably that was a good thing, Harry decided.
Some time went by. Harry kept looking at his console. More time passed. Harry began to have trouble even thinking about work. He didn't know what the Captain was going to do to him, and he also kept seeing that damned hologram image. It wasn't her, not his Kathryn, but it was really hard not to think about it. Once one has seen something, it can't be unseen, he admitted to himself.
The door to the ready room slid open to admit the Captain back onto the bridge. She walked directly over to Harry's station and placed something down in front of him with a mild thud. Harry looked up and saw, to his surprise, what appeared to be a cheese sandwich and a glass of milk on a tray.
The Captain glared daggers at him.
"EAT! That's an order, mister."
"Yes ma'am." Harry picked up the sandwich and began to eat. To his surprise, he could actually taste it, and it didn't taste like leola roots. He could do this, he decided. He definitely needed the milk, as his mouth was too dry to swallow otherwise.
She watched him for a few moments, ensuring that he was eating the sandwich, then she returned to her chair and leaned in to say something to Chakotay. Harry noticed that her irritation - ok, anger - became less and less as she talked to the Commander. As a matter of fact, she was looking deeply into his eyes. At least that's how it appeared to Harry. She also touched him, first on the shoulder, then on the hand. She even left her hand resting on his far longer than seemed necessary.
Harry continued to chew, but he could no longer taste the food. Instead, he noticed how Kathryn's eyes lit up when the Commander said something that Harry couldn't quite hear. He noticed how they both seemed to understand things at once with each other, communicating in a way that was far more than just how two colleagues would communicate. He also noticed that she was smiling, then laughing as the Commander talked.
Harry was not happy. He had always liked Commander Chakotay, but his senior officer had never done anything like this before. Or had he? On reflection, Harry had noticed that the two command officers had seemed to spend more and more time together lately. It seemed Kathryn only smiled like that when talking to the Commander. She only communicated with Chakotay that way. She looked at him in a way that Harry wanted to be looked at. He felt himself start to gag on the sandwich.
For one instant, he felt the anger of jealousy well up inside. He wanted to be mad at the Commander. He wanted to hate him for "moving in" on Kathryn. It was just that, rationally, he couldn't hate Chakotay for something that hadn't really happened. He knew the man was good person. He knew there was no malice towards him there. He wanted to feel that "that bastard took her away from me", but it just couldn't happen.
And then Harry's world changed. In one instant he knew he no longer was in love with the Captain. It had taken the realization that someone he liked and trusted had "stolen" her away from him for things to settle into place. For some reason, at that point, Harry's interest in the Captain just went away. He couldn't be interested in someone who was already taken; that just wouldn't be honorable. The whole thing dissolved into nothing but a ridiculous and silly memory for Harry.
He would have laughed as he felt the burden of the crush lift from his shoulders, except that he started choking on the bread and milk that was in his mouth.
Chakotay turned toward the Ensign, "Harry, are you alright?"
Harry got his breath back.
"Yes, sir! I am more than alright. I feel much better now. I'm not even hungry at all."
Captain Janeway looked at him. "That's good, Ensign. Keep it that way. It's not my job to see that you eat. If I ever have to serve you food again, it had better be because I've been kidnapped and turned into a slave or some such thing." She didn't get the chance to say anything more. Tom had been trying to stifle his laughter for far too long during this entire event. He couldn't take it any more and allowed his full laugh to burst out into the open.
"Mr. Paris, did I say something funny?"
"No ma'am," Tom said, still laughing. Harry began to laugh too. It was the best laugh he'd had in a long time.
The Captain turned to Chakotay.
"You know, sometimes I feel like I'm being left out of the loop."
Chakotay smiled that gorgeous smile of his and said, "Kathryn, that's probably a good thing. Sometimes I think we're all better off not knowing what's going on in other people's heads."
She shook her head and admitted to herself that, as usual, Chakotay was right. And damn those dimples...
Tom poked at the grayish, lumpy mass in front of him with his spoon. He seemed determined to transmute it into anything other than what it was: Neelix's leola root tapioca rice pudding. Neelix had thought that the name would have more appeal than just "rice pudding" or "tapioca pudding." Tom had no idea where the Talaxian had come up with that idea. The pudding didn't have any real or replicated tapioca in it, but there were things that looked a bit like rice... or maggots. Tom just couldn't get his mind to convince his stomach that the stuff was edible. He shoved his tray aside and looked at Harry, who was sitting across from him.
Tom was surprised the next morning to arrive on the bridge and find that Harry wasn't at his station yet. Harry was always there before Tom. Well, almost always. It has seemed that lately it was becoming harder for him to be on time. Tom was disappointed. He wanted to know how the holodeck program had played out for his friend, and if it had helped at all. Since Harry wasn't even there yet, and there was only about a minute and a half to go before the shift actually started, Tom began to wonder if he had done the right thing. He walked down to his seat, nodding at the Captain and the Commander on the way. They acknowledged his greeting in a similar way. He sat in the pilot's chair and began his check of the systems he knew so well.
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