Signal to Noise Ratio
a dream of the minotaur - Chapter 3 of "Signals"
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, Paramount does. I don't own this universe, Paramount does. I'm just taking them out to play for a little while. No copyright infringement is intended. If anyone wanted to sue me, they'd get my collection of Matchbox cars and that's about all.
Distribution: PKSP, BLTs, ASCEM, any archive (so long as you tell me where), print the thing out and use it for wallpaper for all I care, just leave my byline and the disclaimers. This work of fiction may not be published or distributed in any fanzine, electronic forum or other medium for which money is charged.
Rating: This fanfic contains implications of male/male sex. If that bothers you, go away. If it doesn't, read on McDuff.
Acknowledgments: The Party-goers for allowing me to subject them to these little fancies, and the creator of Jagermeister, whoever you are, for the hallucinogenic hangover.
Personal Note: Bad date = good writing. Oh well, at least someone will get something for the money I wasted.
The events in this story take place after those in "Crossed Signals" and "Mixed Signals", which were posted to PKSP and ASCEM the last week of November and the first week of December, 1997. They're both archived on R'rain's fiction page (a fact which amazes me), or if you can't find them, e-mail me and I'll send you a copy.
Feedback: Welcomed, appreciated, treasured and gloated over in fact.
==> firstname.lastname@example.org <==
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Signal to Noise Ratio
a dream of the minotaur - Chapter Three of "Signals"
"Ensign Kim! Watch where you are going!"
Harry Kim's attention was jerked from the tricorder in his hand. He'd been so caught up in the odd readings that he hadn't noticed he was about to run into a wall. He reached out and brushed his fingers over it, trying to make out the faint shapes carved into it's surface. He checked his tricorder again.
"Lt. Tuvok," he called out. "I think you'd better take a look at this."
Ever since Voyager had gone into orbit around this strange planet and the landing party had set down, Harry had been attempting to reconcile what his senses reported with what their sensor gear had described. Everything around them looked perfectly natural, from the sprawling forests and complex caverns to the snow capped mountains and mighty rivers. But unless each and every sensor they had was malfunctioning, the entire planet and everything on it was an artificial construct. Even the life forms showed evidence of being manufactured. It was a puzzle that was almost enough to distract Harry from what awaited him back aboard the ship.
When Captain Janeway had confined both Tom Paris and Gregor Ayala to their respective quarters for a month as punishment for fighting, Harry had actually been relieved. This enforced distance from the two men would give him time to sort out his feelings. What had been so clear a short time earlier had become muddied and confused. His feeble, and in retrospect foolhardy, scheme to make Tom jealous by dating Gregor had had unforseen consequences. Consequences that took the form of a pair of cobalt-blue eyes, of lips that tasted like fire and hope, of two strong arms that encircled and enfolded him.
His relief had proved short lived. His waking hours had quickly become a maelstrom of conflicting emotions. He swung from elation (Tom had kissed him!), to despair (how could he go with Tom now that he had discovered Gregor?), to elation (Gregor loved him!) and back to despair (how could he abandon Tom to be with Gregor?). Talking about it didn't help, and he realized that even B'Elanna soon tired of the constant, compulsive repetition of his dilemma. So when this away mission had come up he had begged the Captain to include him, in the hope that the intellectual challenge would restore his equilibrium. But as the mystery deepened, the mission became more and more extended. Now Tom and Gregor were due to be released from their durance vile in just a few hours, and Harry was stuck on planet for at least another week.
'Oh well,' he sighed to himself. 'Maybe they've both forgotten about me by now anyway.'
+++ +++ +++ +++ +++
Tom Paris stood in the middle of his quarters watching the time display. In just a few more minutes his month of confinement would be over. He'd been dreaming about this moment for weeks, anticipating it, playing it over and over in his mind until his senses were almost convinced it was actually happening by his imagination. His fingers twitched, eager to make his fantasy real. He forced himself to breath slowly, calming his racing heart. The display ticked over, one more minute.
He strode purposefully toward his goal.
"Soup. Plain, hot, tomato soup. With crackers." The first spoonful burned his mouth, but he didn't care. The flavor was ambrosial, especially after an entire month of Neelix's cooking.
The first two weeks of his confinement, before Harry had left on an away mission, they had only been able to exchange a few words, passing in the corridors. They had stolen a kiss or two, on the turbolift between decks. During his duty shifts, sitting at the conn, he could feel Harry behind him, watching him. He'd done his best to show his feelings, but he knew that the back of the head wasn't the most expressive part of his body. Alone in his quarters, denied visitors, he had spent his hours looking deeper into his own psyche than he had in a long time. He vacillated between hope (Harry will chose ME!) and despair (I'm not good enough, Harry will go with Ayala). His anger at Gregor had cooled, but he was glad their duties rarely brought them into contact.
When Harry had been assigned to the team exploring the enigmatic planet below them, Tom had actually been relieved. It had taken matters out of his hands, and he had settled down. Compared to the Auckland Penal Colony, a month confined to quarters aboard Voyager was a vacation.
He had finished the bowl and was thinking about ordering another when the door chime sounded. "Come," he called out. The doors slid open to reveal Gregor Ayala.
+++ +++ +++ +++ +++
Until Captain Janeway had pointed out that his actions reflected on Chakotay, Gregor hadn't felt the least bit remorseful for trying to beat the shit out of Tom Paris. And if Harry hadn't interrupted them, he would have succeeded. Tom may have had the standard Starfleet training in hand to hand combat, and maybe he'd learned a few things in that Federation prison, but Gregor knew Tom was no real match for himself. Gregor was the one who'd grown up on a still untamed colony planet, who had survived, and escaped, a Cardassian POW camp, and since taken Tuvok's advanced combat course for Security officers. When the dark haze of rage had overtaken him in the Mess Hall that night, he had fully intended to show Tom the folly of insulting Gregor Ayala.
But Captain Janeway's words had put a stop to that. They had shocked him into the awareness of what he had done. Trapped in his quarters between duty shifts, he endlessly went over the details, trying to figure out who had attacked first, who had landed the first blow. He worried constantly about what damage he'd done to Harry's opinion of him, caught between mortification (how could he have lost control like that?) and rage (it wasn't his fault, Tom had started it!). The few words he'd been able to exchange with Harry hadn't offered him any surcease, but the occasional kiss stolen on the fly had seemed to hold out the hope that whatever the damage done, it wasn't irreparable.
He found that with Harry away exploring his feelings began to settle. Not every moment was consumed with thoughts of the beautiful Ensign. Even his anger at Paris faded. Now, with his freedom about to be restored, he realized that since he would have to face the pilot sooner or later, he might as well get it over with.
+++ +++ +++ +++ +++
"Lt. Ayala." Tom's voice was defensive, hostile.
" Lt. Paris." Gregor held up the jug of ale that had been his first request from the replicator. "I come in peace. I even brought an offering."
Tom's stance relaxed and his eyes widened as he read the label on the bottle. "Is that real?"
"Sorry, replicated. Will it do?"
"I guess it'll have to." Tom paused, uncertain, the stepped out of the doorway. "Come in."
Gregor moved into the room cautiously, he hadn't know what to expect. What he saw was a fairly standard set of junior officer's quarters, liberally scattered with the detritus of a man more concerned with living than cleaning. Clothes were draped across the back of the couch and tables, padds littered the desk, and a dirty soup bowl sat on the table. The walls were covered with reproductions of 20th century Earth art, some advertising visual or musical entertainment programs, others ground transportation. The exceptions were a pair of flat images directly over the desk. One was of Captain Janeway, an informal shot of her in Neelix's holoresort. Her hair was long and loose, her eyes alight, and she was laughing. The other Gregor didn't recognize at first. He looked more closely at it. It was a formal Starfleet portrait of a tall, middle-aged man, with hard eyes and an Admiral's uniform. Gregor knew immediately who it had to be.
"Your father?" he gestured to the picture.
"The old man himself," Tom replied from across the room where he was searching for glasses.
"I thought you didn't get along? Why keep his picture around?"
Tom snorted. "To remind me of the kind of officer I *don't* want to become. A martinet, sticking to the rules no matter what. A man who never forgets a mistake, or a slight, and never forgives either one." Tom stood in front of the picture, glasses forgotten in his hand, eyes on the past. "I never got to call him 'Father'. Even when I was little, I had to call him 'Captain', then 'Admiral'. He had my life planned out from the day I was conceived. What classes I would take, what friends I would have, what hobbies I would indulge in. He entered my name on the Academy list before I was born. And nothing I ever did was good enough for him. It was always 'A real Paris could do better...' He hated that I was such a good pilot, it's not the most direct path to command. When I got my first-class licence, younger than anyone had ever qualified for it before, I took it to him. I was so proud. I thought I'd found something that would finally win his approval. He didn't even look at it, just said that flying was beneath a Paris, that a Paris commanded pilots. A Paris would decide the course, not follow it. I felt..." Tom turned to Gregor and froze, remembering who he was talking to.
For the briefest moment Gregor was confronted with a Tom Paris he'd never imagined existed. He saw the man who lived beneath the mask of cynical self-absorption and flippant remarks. Looking out through those crystal-blue eyes was that little boy, still trying to win his father's love. The Tom that didn't understand what he'd done wrong but wanted desperately to make up for it. Gregor's heart skipped a beat and he began to understand what Harry saw in this man. Then the mask was back, slamming into place with an almost audible crash.
"Hey, you gonna just hold onto that stuff, or you gonna pour it?" Tom asked, holding out the glasses.
Gregor blinked in confusion. The moment of connection between them had passed so quickly he wasn't quite sure he hadn't imagined it. He shook it off and opened the bottle, filling the proffered glasses. Tom took his and sprawled on the couch, ignoring the laundry draping it.
"So, Lt. To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?" His voice was cool and amused.
"Look, Tom," Gregor started. He was no longer quite so sure what he wanted to say. "I just...I just want to get things clear between us."
"Things?" Tom challenged. If he was taken aback at the use of his first name, he didn't show it. "And what might those things be?"
Gregor closed his eyes for a second. 'I will not let him bait me,' he thought. "Harry," he said. He looked Tom directly in the eye, daring him to deny it. Tom waved his glass in leisurely acceptance, but his eyes hardened. "I want to talk about you and Harry, and about me and Harry," Gregor finished.
Tom jumped to his feet and started moving around the room. "So talk, Gregor," he said, putting the slightest sneer on the name. "But unless you're here to say you've realized you're not good enough for him, and plan on telling him so as soon as he gets back, I'm not sure I want to hear it." Tom could feel the anger beginning to build again.
"Tom." Gregor said seriously. He pinned the other man with his gaze. "This isn't about you or about me. It's about Harry. Now, do you love Harry enough to let him make his own decisions, or will you map out his future for him, like your father mapped yours?" That brought Tom to a halt, and drained the anger from him. He rubbed his eyes and sighed.
"You're right. Harry has to make his own choices. Fine. So what do you want?"
"I want to make a deal with you, a promise between us," Gregor said.
"What kind of deal? A deal for who gets him?" Tom asked suspiciously.
"No. Nothing like that. Just a deal between us that we'll let Harry come to his own conclusions. No backbiting, no emotional blackmail, no cutting the other down. No head games, no drama. In other words, we'll both act like adults. Harry's too important to both of us to screw him over with our history."
Tom stared at the other man, trying to gauge his sincerity. Finally he nodded. "Fine. Agreed. We let Harry take the lead. No games, no bullshit. And whatever Harry decides, we both accept with no reservations." He held out his hand. Gregor took it, and the two shook solemnly.
"And no gloating when it's over," Gregor added.
Tom raised his glass to toast. "May the best man win."
"May the best man win."
+++ +++ +++ +++ +++
Some unspoken codicil to their bargain allowed them to relax. They refilled their glasses and sat quietly side by side on the couch. Tom had swept the laundry onto the floor to make room for Gregor.
"You know, Tom," Gregor said after a few minutes. "He'll probably choose you anyway."
Tom looked at him in surprise. It wasn't like Gregor to give up so easily. "What do you mean?"
"He's loved you for a long time. This whole thing started because we wanted to make you and Chakotay notice us. It just got out of hand..."
"You mean you and he didn't?"
"Oh, yes we did. We didn't start out to, but we did." Gregor sighed.
Tom thought about this for a minute. "Then what's the problem? If you want Chakotay?"
"I don't anymore. When he didn't even blink over this I realized he'd never look at me that way. Besides..." he trailed off, unsure how deep this new truce extended.
"Harry got to me..."
"Yeah, he does that, doesn't he." Unexpectedly they found themselves sharing a sympathetic look.
"Gregor?" Tom said a few minutes later.
"It's ok, Tom. Go ahead and ask."
"What does he like?"
Gregor looked at him, momentarily speechless from the sheer audacity. "You're asking me for tips?" Tom nodded sheepishly. "No way," Gregor said. "No way am I giving you any hints. You'll just have to figure it out for yourself. If you get the chance." Silence fell again, but it was a comfortable silence.
"Bite him," Gregor said.
"He likes to be bitten. Hard. Especially on the neck."
"Oh. Thanks." Another pause. "What about.." Tom gestured with his hands.
"Let's just say you'll be pleased....." Gregor gestured with his hands, illustrating. Tom's eyes widened in disbelief. Suddenly they were both laughing, struck by the absurdity of the moment. Tom got up to refill their glasses, and stood over his guest for a moment, staring at him intently.
"You're wrong, you know," he said.
"About what?" Gregor asked.
"It'll probably be you."
"Yeah. I had my chance, lots of chances, and I wasted them. You're new and exciting, and you've shown him how you feel right away."
Gregor contemplated this for a time. "And would you be able to accept that?" he asked.
"I'd have to," Tom shrugged. "Just..."
"He's my friend, Gregor. Maybe the best friend I've ever had, and certainly the best one on Voyager. If you and he..." Tom trailed off, he couldn't finish the thought. Gregor reached out and put a hand on his arm.
"I promise you, Tom, if he and I end up together, I will never stand in the way of your friendship. There's a part of him you'll always have."
Tom just nodded, for a moment he didn't trust his voice.
"I still don't think you're good enough for him," Tom said a little later.
"Frankly Tom, neither of us is. Harry deserves someone as special as he is." Gregor shrugged. "But look around, who else would you like to see him with?"
"Yeah. Just as a what-if, if not for Harry, who would you pick? Chakotay still?"
"Nah. I'm over the hopeless-love thing. Probably Gerron."
"Gerron? He's only a kid!"
"And how old were you when you had your first lover?"
"Younger than him. Fine."
"Who would you choose?"
"Wildman," Tom said without pause.
"Wildman? But she's married with a baby."
"You ever see her with that kid? She's got so much love in her...Besides, this is purely hypothetical, right?"
"How about B'Elanna?"
"Are you kidding? I like my internal organs right where they are, thank you very much. How about the Delaney sisters?"
"They'd eat you alive."
"Yeah," Gregor grinned. "But what a way to go..."
They sat for a while longer, watching the planet turn beneath them, sharing the ale and waiting for Harry.
+++ +++ +++ +++ +++
When the away team, including Harry Kim, finally returned to the ship, it was well into Gamma shift. Their explorations had lasted weeks longer than even the most pessimistic estimate, and yielded virtually nothing. They had found not one thing that shed any light on the methods used to create the artificial planet, no hint of it's purpose, not even any clue indicating whether it's maker's were still around or long extinct. Finally the Captain had called them back. Whatever the technology was, it was so far ahead of their own that no use could have been made of it, had they been able to find it. Nor had they brought back any food supplies, because they couldn't be sure that any plant they chose didn't have some other purpose built into it. All in all, Harry was thoroughly frustrated and fed up.
He wanted some peace and quiet, and a nice little problem that he could actually solve. Instead what he was coming back to was a situation every bit as complex, resistant to logic and artificially created as the one he had left behind on the planet. Most crew were sound asleep, and neither Tom nor Gregor was there to greet Harry.
'It's just as well,' Harry told himself. 'I'm tired, my feet hurt, I haven't had a proper shower in weeks, and I really don't want to deal with the two of them right now, anyway.' He had longed to get off that planet, but at the same time dreaded coming back to face Tom and Gregor. Now that he was here, and they hadn't even bothered to meet him, he was both relieved and disappointed in them. Most of the other away team headed straight for their quarters, desiring nothing more than to get clean and sleep in real beds again. Harry was feeling just put out enough that he made for the Mess Hall instead, intending to get himself something hot to drink before his making his own ablutions. At least he could expect to have the Mess all to himself at this time of night.
His dark mood deepened when he heard voices coming from the Mess. He would have to face people, and he didn't really feel up to it. As he came closer he suddenly recognized one voice, Tom's. It rose and fell, paused, then laughed. Harry felt a wave of irritation, if Tom was still awake this late, the least he could have done was greet Harry on his return. Gregor wouldn't have sat there having fun while Harry had to come home to a cold empty arrival, he thought, conveniently if irrationally forgetting his earlier relief. Then the answering voice came clear, and it was Gregor's. It joined the laughter, then began to speak rapidly, excitedly. Harry was suddenly afraid, what if they were about to get into another fight?
He stormed into the Mess Hall, ready to break up a repeat of their last encounter. The sight that greeted him froze him in his tracks. Tom and Gregor were seated at one of the tables, a perilous tower of wooden blocks between them. Gregor was holding one up in triumph, apparently having just removed it from the stack without disaster. He was laughing at Tom's obviously mock horrified expression. He watched as Tom gingerly eased one more of the blocks out of the tower, concentrating fiercely. The tower shook, but held. Harry must have made some sound, something that caused Tom to spin around to face him. In the process he bumped the tower, and it came tumbling down, blocks scattering across the floor. Tom spun back, real horror on his face, then both he and Gregor burst into greater peals of laughter.
"Just what are you two idiots doing now?" Harry demanded. They scrambled out of their chairs, still laughing and talking over one another.
"It's a game.." Tom said.
"Neelix found it in those broadcasts we recorded over 20th century Earth..." Gregor could barely talk he was laughing so hard.
"Everyone's been playing it..."
"What are you doing here?"
"We would have met you..."
"..but we didn't expect you till tomorrow..."
"...and we wanted to finish the game..."
"...but you're back!" they finished in unison. They had rushed toward him, then stopped, each making 'you first' gestures. Some complex, subtle and silent communication passed between them, before Tom stepped up and took Harry in his arms.
"Welcome home," he whispered. "I've missed you." Then their lips met, and Harry could feel the tension begin to drain out of his body. Tom's kiss was long and slow and sweet, and ended much too soon for Harry's taste. Tom moved back, and Gregor took his place. Strong arms encircled him, and his feet left the ground as Gregor lifted him up.
"Me too," Gregor said. His kiss was deep and hot, and not nearly long enough. Gregor set him back on his feet and stepped away. Harry staggered and almost fell, his muscles had lost all the tension that had accumulated on the mission, and that tension was all that had been keeping him going.
"Why did you come back early?" Tom asked him.
"Was there an emergency?" Gregor added.
"Was anyone hurt?"
"And why didn't you go straight to your quarters? You must be wiped out."
Harry held up his hand to stem the flow of questions. "Because we didn't find anything, no, no, and because I wanted to get something to drink and be alone for a while..." he answered.
"Oh." Tom and Gregor looked at each other and again Harry had the feeling that something passed between them, some communication he couldn't quite read.
"Then we'll leave you be," said Gregor.
"Yeah. Get some rest. You deserve it." Tom leaned in to placed a gentle kiss on one cheek as Gregor laid an identical one on the other.
"Call us when you're ready for some company."
Harry followed them out the doors and watched in befuddlement as they walked out of sight down the corridor, arguing good-naturedly about whether his interruption had altered the outcome of the game.
+++ +++ +++ +++ +++
Harry cornered B'Elanna just after lunch the next day. She was half- way up a Jeffries tube, head and shoulders deep in a plasma conduit, trying to locate a faulty regulator matrix. Harry tugged at her boot, and winced at the thump and yelp he elicited.
"Whoever that is better have a damned good reason for bothering me," she yelled. Even muffled her annoyance was clear enough to raise the hackles on Harry's neck.
"It's Harry," he yelled back.
She squirmed and pulled her head into view. "What are you doing here, Starfleet? Can't get enough work? What are you doing out of bed, for that matter? I heard you didn't get back on board till well after 0300 this morning, and I know you've got the next two days off."
"B'Elanna." He fixed her with his firmest glare, not that any human glare would intimidate her. "I want to know what happened around here while I was gone. And I want to know NOW."
"I'm trying to keep this ship together with harsh words and dirty socks, and you interrupted me for GOSSIP!? Harry Kim, the most closed- mouthed Ensign in the history of spaceflight, interrupted the Chief Engineer for GOSSIP!?" She was trying to snarl, but what came out sounded suspiciously like a giggle.
"B'Elanna..." he used the tone his mother had always used on him when she wanted the truth. "When I left, Tom and Gregor were in trouble for trying to kill one another, and the rest of you were acting normal, well as normal as you ever did. I get back, and Tom and Gregor are buddied up and everyone's playing some stupid game with blocks! What's gotten into you people!?"
"Why Harry Kim, are you jealous? You are!" That sound was definitely a giggle. Harry stared in shock. "I was due for a break anyway," she said, sliding down the tube. She leaned up against the wall and regarded Harry, the giggle breaking out of her control occasionally.
"Well?" he demanded impatiently.
"Well. Neelix was going through those broadcasts we recorded from the 20th century and found this game, and..."
"B'Elanna..." Intimidation didn't seem to be working, so he switched to whining. "You know what I meant...."
"Oh? Oh! You want to know about Tom and Gregor..." Her face turned serious and the giggle fled. "Ever since they got off restriction, they've been thick as thieves. On the holodeck, at meals, where one is the other isn't far behind. Bateheart thinks they've gone further, but I don't believe it."
"No. They wouldn't. Not with their history. Bateheart's just bitter. He and Ayala had a thing going for a while, till Gregor got tired of his drama."
"What happened? I mean, how did they..."
She shrugged. "Nobody knows, or at least nobody's telling."
"Now I'm really confused." Harry sat down and leaned against the wall. B'Elanna crouched down to look him in the eye.
"Getting away from them for a while didn't help?" she asked.
"Yeah, it did actually. I'd pretty much decided on Tom. Now..." he shook his head in resignation.
"Tom. Why Tom?"
"I've loved him for so long, B'Elanna. I know him so well. Now that I know he..wants more with me, I have to at least try. I can't just give up on him now because I've found Gregor."
"Look, Harry. I didn't say anything earlier because I didn't think I should interfere. But you know how I feel about Gregor. He's a wonderful man, strong and loyal. He's got a head on his shoulders and know when to use it and when to listen to his heart. He was a good comrade in the Maquis. You could go a lot further and fare a lot worse than Gregor Ayala."
"Well, I don't think he's as much of a pig as he used to be...OK, he's got his good points. But..." she paused, unable to articulate her feelings.
"You don't know him like I do." Harry said. "You don't see his real face. He's been hurt so many times by so many people, but he keeps on caring." B'Elanna snorted in disbelief. "Really, B'Elanna, he just doesn't let you see how much he cares. He's the most amazing mix of strength and fragility I've met. And he needs me so much. Gregor...Gregor is big and strong and the sex was incredible, but he...he doesn't need me the way Tom does."
"What about what Harry needs?" she asked softly.
"I...I need...to be needed."
"Fine. Then what are you doing here talking to me? If you're so sure, go to him, tell him."
"I am sure, B'Elanna." He stood, relieved. "Thanks. Thanks for listening."
+++ +++ +++ +++ +++
Gregor stood outside Harry's quarters that evening. The message inviting him to visit had arrived in the middle of his duty shift. It had been strangely terse, unlike the few others he had received from Harry. He shifted nervously from foot to foot. For all his fine words to Tom, for all their burgeoning and totally unexpected friendship, he wanted desperately to have a romantic relationship with Harry. If he had been called here only to be brushed off, he didn't want to hear it. Giving himself a mental kick in the pants, he touched the buzzer. The door opened immediately, as if Harry had been standing there waiting for him. From the moment he saw Harry's face, Gregor knew. Harry wouldn't quite meet his eyes. That said it all.
"Gregor. Come in..."
As Gregor moved into the room the first thing he noticed was that Harry's painting was gone, replaced by some anonymous seascape. They stood awkwardly in the middle of the space. Harry didn't seem to know how to begin, and Gregor wasn't about to give him any help.
"Do you want something to drink?" Harry asked. Gregor just shook his head, no. Harry took a deep breath. "Gregor...I..." he was having trouble speaking. His voice didn't want to cooperate with his brain. He tried again. "We started this, together, to get Tom and Chakotay to notice us...and it's worked, at least part way. We knew..we knew that was why we were together? Right?" He looked to Gregor for some response, some sign of understanding. Nothing. "I have to go to him...he's my other half. We've been through so much together, Tom and I, we belong with each other. Now that we both know that the other feels the same way....I can't...I can't *not* follow through...." Still no response. Gregor stood as a statue. The stillness which had so briefly fallen from his face was back. "It wasn't bad...don't think I didn't enjoy it. You kiss like a whirlwind...and in your arms I feel so.. so..." Harry was babbling now, and he knew it, but he was powerless to stop. "But I love Tom, and I d...."
Gregor had finally moved. So quickly Harry didn't see the movement begin he had reached out to place a finger over Harry's lips, stilling them.
"Don't say it, Harry. I know. I knew all along. But don't say it." They held this pose for a moment, until Harry could feel Gregor's pulse on his lips, taste faintly his skin. Gregor moved his hands to gently cup Harry's face, looking down into his eyes with the slightest of smiles. His arms came around the smaller man, his mouth descended gently to place the lightest of kisses.
'The last time,' Harry thought. 'This is the last time I will feel this way, feel his arms, his lips...' Then Gregor was gone, the door cutting off sight of him. Harry stood a long while. He was looking into that place under his heart where Gregor's gift had lain. All that remained were shards. It's bright points had gone dark, it's delicate perfection shattered. He didn't even realize he was crying.
+++ +++ +++ +++ +++
Most definitely *not* The End