"... and what's this thing?" Harry held up a shiny metal disc and stared at the rainbow refractions as he tilted it in the cabin light.
"It was used for certain kinds of data storage," Tom replied absently.
Harry turned it over and read aloud: "'Elvis Presley's Greatest Hits'. Hey, Tom, let's watch this! I'd love to see what old-fashioned combat sports were like."
Tom turned around to stare at him disdainfully, and Harry blushed. "Oh, he played a ballsport then? I'd still like to see it." Tom snatched the disc out of his hand, pointedly put it aside, and went back to rustling in the closet. Harry glared at his back. This *wasn't* how he wanted to spend his precious day off.
"You know, you're never going to find that ridiculous souvenir. The ship's been nearly destroyed twice since we left the system. And B'Elanna probably wouldn't like it anyway. So can we just go eat?"
Tom grunted and threw a few more strange objects over his shoulder. One was a datapadd filled with images of ruined buildings in an icy wasteland. Harry grabbed it and scanned through.
"Oh, are you serious?" Ignoring his best friend's irritated scowl, Harry continued. "Your fascination with these people is beginning to scare me, Paris. I can't believe they powered their society with nuclear fission, and without knowing how to decontaminate the waste product. And containing the reaction with *magnetic* *coils*?!? No wonder this disaster happened."
"Harry, for the last time, you're not helping here..." Tom emerged fully and ran his hand through his hair in frustration. "Okay, you win. I've lost the damn vase. Lets put all this stuff back and grab lunch."
The twentieth-century relics and replicas were tossed back into the closet with far more enthusiasm than they had been taken out of it. Nearly at the bottom of the pile, a rectangular box decorated with flat coloured images caught Harry's attention.
"Hey, that man looks like Jean-Luc Picard!"
Tom smirked, and Harry sighed, knowing he was in for another wonders-of-the-twentieth-century lecture and should have kept his mouth shut.
"That, my friend, is called a 'videocassette'. A late form of non-participatory dramatic entertainment. This one is an absolute treasure. One of the participants in this narrative bore an incredible resemblence to the afore-mentioned distinguished starfleet captain, and what's more..."
"Yeeeesss?" Harry tried to hurry this story along by pretending he cared.
"The participant kisses another man during the story."
Harry gasped. "WHY?"
"I don't know, I couldn't watch it all. The two-dimensional motion is too strange, and it was so jarred and blurry it hurt my eyes. But anyway, it was kind of acceptable in those days for some people to do that." Tom tossed the object onto a shelf and stood up. Let's go."
"Wait a second. 'It was acceptable'. That's it? That's all you're going to tell me?" Harry trailed after his friend into the corrider. "No lectures of the glory arising from that particular piece of stupidity? The serenditpitous discoveries arising from their attempts to correct their mistake..."
"There *was* no glory, Harry. They discovered how to remove the gene causing it, but the technique didn't work as effectively for obesity, or inheritable criminality, or, worse luck, baldness." Tom raised his eyes towards his own expanding forehead as they stepped into the messall. "Some of the twentieth century's strangeness was just that, Har."
Harry smirked. "So he *finally* admits it. Hi, Neelix, what's on today's menu?"
"Why did they erase the gene?"
Harry pulled at the loose fabric on his once-immaculate couch as he tried not to give into the strange need to move further away from where Tom was sprawled, half-asleep. "The gene which made men kiss other men. Why did they get rid of it?"
"Don't know, why?"
Struggling to articulate his sudden confusion, Harry stood up and started pacing. "It's been worrying me all day, Paris. What harm did it do? And *how* did they get rid of it? People didn't even want to be immunised against the plague back then! And there were riots when the government decided to engineer against all inheritable mental retardation."
"Not the plague, *measles*. And as far as I know, they did it surreptitiously, and it wasn't made public until it was erased from the gene pool. There was naturally some controversy, but it got swamped by the other outcries leading to the Eugenics Wars."
"Oh." Harry walked to the window and gazed at the whirling stars, trying to find a pattern for his similarly whirling thoughts. "Tom?"
"Why do I feel the need to run every time I try to imagine kissing you?"
Tom sat up and stared at him. "Why would you imagine something like *that*?"
Shrugging, Harry traced the suddenly-fascinating scratchmarks on the viewscreen with his finger. "I don't know. It occured to me that it had never, *ever* occured to me to even consider it, and that seemed strange, so I thought I'd try." He looked at Tom's faint reflection, and struggled to get the words out. "I mean," abruptly Harry turned to face his friend, "why wouldn't I consider it? I think about kissing holocharacters. I can think about kissing strange-looking alien women. But not a p-per, a p-perfectly normal h... human male." Beads of sweat appeared on Harry's forehead. "And why does... why d-does saying this aloud make me want to run as far and as fast as I can from you?" His breath was coming unsteadily now; his hands were shaking. Tom was backing toward the door and shaking his head numbly. "You feel it too! Admit it!"
"It must be really dangerous," Tom mumbled, reaching for the boots which he'd left by the door.
"But it's *not*! People used to do it. You said so!" Harry lunged at his friend, but missed, and Tom was striding out the door. "*Tom*! What's making us run away from this idea? What genes have we been inheriting all these years?"
Tom stopped short in the corridor, still in bare feet, still facing away. His body was rigid with ruthless control, and his voice was chilling in it's determination. "Harry, go into your bedroom and wait for me. I'll be back soon."
Perch on corner of the bed, jump up, walk to the door, forcibly stop, turn around, approach bed, quell rising panic, take another step, turn around, sob aloud, turn around again, throw self on the bed, immediately scramble off, rush out the door, slowly get control. Sit down unsteadily just outside the room, grip the doorjamb as if his life depended on it, until his knuckles were white and his wrists ached.
Unable to move back inside, knowing that Tom was returning to him and was thinking about kissing him.
Refusing to run, some small part of his frantic brain knowing the tremendous impulse to run, the trembling, the ragged breathing and gut-wrenching fear were terribly, horribly, deeply wrong.
Then the swish of the door, and Harry leapt to his feet in absolute terror and surrendered his reason to the all-consuming panic which overwhelmed him. "I'm sorry, don't come near me Tom, I won't ever think about it again, *never*, pleasestayawaypleaseI'msorryGOAWAY..."
Tom just smiled at him. Calmly. Contently. "It's a good thing you've lived through three years of hell on this ship, Har, because I doubt standard Starfleet endurance training would have helped you even stay in your quarters."
Harry screamed and tried to run but he was trapped. He couldn't go into the bedroom couldn't wouldn't mustn't won't but Tom was blocking his escape in the other direction and he couldn't go past him, mustn't get near him had to get away from here from these horrible terrible awful hideous things.
He looked around for a weapon.
Tom beat him to it, leaping forward and pressing a hypospray to his neck. Harry screeched as the touch of another man seemed to burn his skin away. Then stopped.
The pain stopped. The fear was gone. The need to run away was as if it had never been. Harry slumped to the ground with Tom laughing on top of him and wondered absently if he was dreaming this whole bizarre incident.
"I've sedated us, Har," Tom whispered in his ear. His lips tickled. It was nice. "We're going to be in *lots* of trouble tomorrow. Only Starfleet command are supposed to know about this chemical. They can neutralise DNA tags which prevent spies from giving up information. I found out about it in one of the doctor's subroutines. What I've given us collapses all genetically programmed behavioural blocks. But it only lasts a few hours and we won't remember after."
"Oh." Harry stared past Tom's head, at the ceiling. "Okay." He smiled dreamily.
"So you wanna kiss?"
Tom's lips were brushing across his neck now, and wandering up his face. It really felt good. It had been so long. He liked Tom so much. Harry laughed softly.