Summary: Alternate Universe fluff story—after breaking Carey‘s nose, B‘Elanna didn‘t achieve the rank of Chief Engineer. Tom and B‘Elanna‘s romance blossoms thanks to a little hike on the holodeck and a little intervention from Joe Carey.

Disclaimer: Paramount owns Voyager and its characters. I‘ve only borrowed the characters to satisfy my own creative urges. Archiving is okay, just e-mail me. Please keep disclaimer and my name attached.

Special thanks to my beta readers: Jan M. Isabelle S., Amanda B., Lesa, and Chris R.

PG-13 6/98
by PJ in NH (

Prologue - A few days after entering the Delta Quadrant

"You‘re sure you‘re alright with this Joe?" the Captain asked him as he sat across the table from her in the ready room.

"I guess I‘ll have to be won‘t I?" he responded obviously not at all alright with the situation.

Chakotay spoke up trying to smooth several ruffled feathers. "I‘m sure once you see what a good engineer she is, you too will agree that she will be the best one for the job."

"But, you will consult with me before this happens," Carey confirmed looking at the Captain, purposefully ignoring the tattooed man that sat next to her.

"You can be sure of it. I‘ll talk to you first, but remember I‘m Captain and I make the final decision. Dismissed." she said firmly to which Carey nodded in agreement as he got up to leave.

After he had exited the door, the First Officer turned to Janeway. "He‘ll come around, you‘ll see. B‘Elanna may have a few rough edges <that‘s an understatement, but she is one hell of an engineer—she gets things done."

"I don‘t question that she can get things done, Chakotay. I have to question if she can get things done without the rest of the engineering crew jumping ship."

Chapter 1- The Repast

One year later.

It was happening again and she hated it every time. All it took was one look and she could feel her skin start to flush and heat up and before long she was blushing from her collar line to her hairline. Her mother had always told her it was a weak human trait inherited from her father‘s side of the family. She thought about the disgust expressed on her mother‘s face every time her emotions betrayed her as she crawled under the console near the communications station on the bridge to perform a needed repair. Maybe under here he wouldn‘t see her and he would forget that she had come to the bridge today, she reasoned. But an hour and a half later after the repair had been made and she crawled out from beneath the console those same penetrating blue eyes locked onto her and she could feel the heat rise across her face again.

"Damn, him," she muttered in Klingon to herself as she stormed into the turbolift and the doors slid shut. With relief, she leaned against the far wall as it descended toward Engineering. Why him? She couldn‘t figure it out. She had never been attracted to his kind before. She had always preferred dark-haired men with dark eyes, so she couldn‘t understand why her heart tap danced whenever she was around him. Stop it, B‘Elanna, she reminded herself. The last time you were interested in someone, make that every time you were interested in someone, it always turned out that all they wanted was one thing, to use you, discard you, and brag. They were all a bunch of petaQs, so why would Tom Paris be any different. After all hadn‘t Chakotay and others warned her against him and told her he was a spoiled rich boy, murderer, traitor . . . the list just went on and on and none of it was any good. So why was she interested? She didn‘t have an answer for that. Considering everything, weighing everything in balance, she should hate the man, a man apparently without honor. But one item weighed more than all the others combined, it was the way he had talked to her in that Vidiian prison and since then when they had occasionally met, he was so sweet, seemed so sincere, that maybe, maybe she thought—maybe she hoped, things could be different.

"What was that all about?" Harry asked his friend with the blue eyes as the turbolift doors closed taking its precious passenger with it.

Casting a well-practiced innocent expression his way, Tom replied, "who knows, Harry, women they‘re all the same."

They may be all the same, Harry thought, but ever since that away mission when B‘Elanna Torres had been split into two -- one human and one Klingon, Tom couldn‘t keep his eyes off the young engineer.

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B‘Elanna finally reached Engineering and reported back in with Lieutenant Carey, that was one thing she had to credit to her Klingon heritage. She was doing well after they came on board Voyager—well at least for a little while—but then in one split second and one broken nose later she had thrown all hopes of becoming Chief Engineer out the porthole and had been lucky to be granted the rank of Lieutenant J.G. Not only did she disappoint herself but she had disappointed the First Officer, her former Maquis captain, who had spoke on her behalf to the Captain, and that hurt her worse of all.

"All done, Lt. Torres?" Lt. Carey, Chief Engineer, asked as she entered his office.

"Yes, sir. All set."

"Great, I‘m sure you did a good job. That‘s all for today.

You‘re dismissed. I‘ll see you tomorrow morning."

"Are you sure? Don‘t we have power couplings that need to be realigned?" she asked.

"Yes, but they can wait . . ."

"I‘ll do it," she said quickly as she grabbed her tool kit and exited the office.

Carey just sat back in his chair and shook his head like a parent would do when confronted with a child that tried too hard to please. "Poor B‘Elanna, she‘s got more energy and talent than she knows what to do with, I wonder if she could lend me some," he said out loud running this fingers over the bridge of his nose. The same nose that she had broken months ago—the same nose that Samantha Wildman swore now possessed a roughish charm that she couldn‘t resist, break and all. Women, go figure! And B‘Elanna Torres, who would have thought that his feelings toward her would have changed so much over the last year. Sure she had saved the ship countless times with her skill and ingenuity in engineering, but it was more than that he now generally liked the half-Klingon.

B‘Elanna though wasn‘t thinking that she needed something to do just to expel excess energy, she was thinking that if she was busy she would avoid the rush hour at the mess hall and thus avoid those beautiful blue eyes again. One episode, no make that two episodes of blushing were two too many for one day and one half-Klingon.

So Lt. Torres took her time and realigned the power couplings and double and triple checked them to make sure they were working properly before she called it a day. She then headed to the mess hall two hours past the normal dinner rush hour just as she had planned. When she arrived, the dining area was empty, even Neelix had left for the evening leaving a couple of items warming on the side table for late arrivers. So B‘Elanna picked up her tray and walked over to select from what remained from the evening meal.

"If I were you, I‘d avoid the Talaxian Casserole today," a voice piped up behind her and she could feel those same penetrating blue eyes looking at her as they had on the bridge and she could feel herself blushing all over again. Betrayed again my some stupid human gene. Some plan, she thought and now I don‘t even have a crowded mess hall to hide in.

"Ah . . . ah th—thanks," she stammered as she opted for the other choice the standby leola root stew.

"That‘s not much better, in fact it‘s worse, how about letting me treat you to a replicated meal, Lieutenant?" Tom Paris offered.

"No that‘s okay, I‘ll just . . ." she started to say as she once again reached for the ladle that was in the pot of stew but was prevented from raising it when Paris‘ hand came down on top of hers to stop her.

"Really I insist, I could use some company and I don‘t think I could bear seeing you eat those ah-hem culinary creations," he said as he graciously took her by the arm and steered her toward the replicators. "So what will it be, lasagne or some Klingon speciality?"

"La . . . lasagne will be fine, actually I never developed a taste for food that moved," she reluctantly admitted. "Thanks."

"My pleasure. Why don‘t you get us something to drink and find us a seat and I‘ll collect our meal. Okay?"

How had this happened, she wondered as she filled two glasses with fruit juice and chose a table in the corner of the room for their meal. Despite her plans, she was alone in the mess hall with the man of her dreams. <Just take it easy B‘Elanna, she cautioned herself,<you can get through this.

Tom joined her shortly. "For you mi‘lady," he said and with a flourish deposited her meal, complete with a green salad and a slice of garlic bread, in front of her with the aplomb of an experienced waiter and placed his own plate down on the table across from her. Then, just when she thought that he would sit down and join her, he plunked a vase containing a single apricot rose in the middle of the table.

This was too much B‘Elanna thought. Even though she hadn‘t been prepared to share a meal with the handsome lieutenant, she knew if she tried hard she could get through it, but the flowers on the table was a little too much, a little too much like a date.

"Flowers?" she questioned.

"Actually flower, my replicator credit balance didn‘t stretch to flower-s," he explained stressing the ‚s‘ in the word.

"But, Paris, this is the mess hall. What if someone were to come in, what would they think?"

"I imagine they would think what a lucky man I am to be dining with such a lovely lady," he replied smoothly. Her only response to that statement was to roll her eyes up toward the ceiling which was accompanied by a slight growl of disgust. "What? You don‘t think so?" he asked but got no response. "So you tell me if someone were to come in here and see us, what would they think?"

"They‘d think . . . think that . . ."

"They‘d think what B‘Elanna?" he prompted.

"They‘d think that Paris must be hard up eating with someone as ug . . ." she started to say but was stopped when he placed two fingers over her luscious lips.

"Don‘t say that B‘Elanna, it‘s not true, you‘re not ugly. In fact, I‘d say you‘re the most stunning, exotic, beautiful woman on the ship, and I‘m very grateful that you‘re willing to share a table with little ol‘ me," he said before he removed his fingers.

"You‘re doing it again," she snarled as she started again to blush, the touch of those long fingers of his to her lips had been incredible. It took all her control not to kiss them, to nibble them.

"Doing what?" he said with complete innocence.

"Making me blush," the young engineer blurted out.


"Klingons, even half-Klingons, don‘t blush!" she told him and grabbed her fork as if she were planning to use it as a weapon and dropped her head down so he couldn‘t see her reddening face.

"Says who?" he asked and when she didn‘t answer he reached across the table and removed the fork from her clenched fist and placed it on the table. He then cupped her chin in the palm of his hand in an effort to tilt her head up so he could look into her eyes, but she shook her head out of his hand and dropped her gaze down even further to the floor.

Looking around to make sure they were still alone so he wouldn‘t embarrass her even more, he rose from his chair and walked around to the other side of the table and knelt in front of her so he could look up into her face. What he saw surprised him, as two tears spilled out of her lovely brown eyes and coursed their way down her cheeks. "B‘Elanna, says who?" he asked ever so softly, ever so tenderly.

"My mother," she replied simply as she brushed away the wetness roughly with the back of her hand.

Damn her mother. "B‘Elanna there is nothing wrong with blushing, it‘s something you can‘t control. In fact, I think it is quite endearing—particularly on you. Now me, that‘s another story."

"You?" she asked in disbelief.

"Yeah, me. Can‘t help it. The same complexion that won‘t allow me to get a sun tan is the same one that makes me blush so well. And, I bet I can blush better than you can, I‘ve been known to work my way right up to a true scarlet red in a matter of mere seconds on occasion," he challenged puffing out his chest in mock pride. To which B‘Elanna responded with a half-smile.

"My cousin Beatrice . . ."


"That‘s another story. Anyway, Beatrice was about five years older than me. When I was young she and her parents visited out house quite a bit. All she had to do was talk to me about my blushing and that would be enough to get me red from head to toe. She always knew what buttons to push."

"You‘re kidding?"

"Nope," he replied, "I swear it‘s true."

"That‘s something I‘d like to see."

"Not if I can help it. So do you feel better?" She nodded.

"Good, now let‘s eat before it gets cold. Okay?"

After the meal, which was eaten with a liberal dose of humorous jokes and stories by the pilot, the two finally left the mess hall.

"Would you mind if I walked you back to your cabin, B‘Elanna?"

"That‘s probably not a good idea. What if Megan saw us?"

"So, what if she did see us?"

"Well she might think something was going on, and you wouldn‘t want that."

"I wouldn‘t?"

"No. She‘d probably get mad. After all, aren‘t you two still seeing each other."

"Actually no, she‘s seeing Ted Winouski."

"Since when?"

"Since I fixed her up with him about three months ago."

Three months ago, she thought, that was about the time they returned from . . . Stop it B‘Elanna, he couldn‘t possibly care for you. It‘s just a coincidence. He‘s just feeling sorry for you. Either that or maybe he thinks if he‘s smooth enough that you‘ll let him . . .

"I forgot, ah . . . I left something unfinished back in engineering," she lied.

"I‘ll go with you then."

"It will probably take a while. Thanks anyway and thanks for dinner," she said as she turned and sprinted down the corridor toward the nearest turbolift.

"Ah, B‘Elanna, Engineering is down that corridor," Tom called after her indicating the left corridor with a nod of his head.

B‘Elanna relented and with a grumble on her lips, turned to retrace her steps. As she walked past Tom, an old habit reared its ugly head, and he quickly reached his arm out and drew her toward him and into a quick kiss. And just as quickly, B‘Elanna‘s fist connected with an upper cut to his jaw and Mr. Paris was lying flat on his back staring up at the ceiling. He could hear her stomping away mumbling something about ‚all men being the same‘ and a few choice words and phrases he didn‘t understanding, obviously Klingon. She was definitely a challenge, but worth it, he mused lying there. He wasn‘t sure what it was about B‘Elanna Torres that intrigued him so, but he was determined to find out. He was going to find out what she was really like beyond the walls that she erected around herself. Of course, Tom forgot that for him to breach her walls that he might have to knock down a few of his own.

Chapter 2 - The Matchmaker

A long two weeks had passed, and the jaw had long since healed. It was amazing how a pilot could injure himself exiting a shuttlecraft, which was the excuse he provided the Holodoc when he had inquired about the injury. He had only seen B‘Elanna briefly, at least during the day, a glimpse or two in the mess hall, occasionally he would pass her in the hallway, once they even shared a silent two-minute ride in the turbolift, but at night in his dreams he saw her every night. In those dreams, she was confident, sure of herself and her combined heritage—a warrior woman and a sensitive soul combined in one which equaled one powerful, irresistible combination to one pilot.

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"Tom? Tom! HEY, TOM! It‘s your turn."

"Ah sorry, Harry," the pilot replied as he grabbed the pool stick and approached the table. With a sure and accurate shot, Paris sank the remaining three balls that were left. "Another game?" he asked as he pocketed a couple of replicator rations he had just won.

Damn even when his friend wasn‘t paying attention he could still beat him, Kim thought shaking his head in dismay. "Nope, sorry you wiped me out. How about we just have a couple of cold ones and some talk?"

"Sounds good, my treat."

The two friends ordered their drinks and found a table along the back wall.

"So who is she?" Harry asked knowing full well that since their return from the Vidiian prison Tom couldn‘t keep his eyes off Lt. Torres but Harry opted to play ignorant.

"Who‘s who?"

"Who are you seeing?" he asked his friend knowing that it had been a few months since he had broken off with Megan and also knowing that the pilot never remained unattached for very long.

"No one," he replied, which was the truth even though if the pilot had his way it would be different.

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<Something needs to be done, Joe Carey thought as he reviewed all he had witnessed over the last couple of weeks, he had been patient long enough. Unbeknownst to a certain pilot and engineer, he had been watching and noticing the looks that both of them gave the other. While the pilot expressed his interest more blatantly, B‘Elanna opted for the subtle approach steeling glances at him from under her thick, dark eyelashes. But, the familiar romantic tension was there and Carey could see it, and being a matchmaker by heart felt that the two needed a little nudge to get things going.

B‘Elanna was just finishing up in Engineering when Joe Carey approached her.

"Lt. Torres, I have a couple of things to do, will you please see that Lt. Paris gets this padd this evening?"

B‘Elanna looked around hoping that someone else would volunteer for the assignment. "Ah . . . sure," she said, noticing that it was apparently her or no one, as she hesitantly took the padd.

"It‘s information on the repairs to the helm control we made late this afternoon, he should review the material before his shift starts tomorrow morning," he explained. "I believe you‘ll find Lt. Paris in Holodeck Two. Thanks, I appreciate it."

<Great, she thought, <Holodeck Two, that pool/bar program of

Paris‘. I‘ll just pop in and give him the padd and leave. I can

do that, after all it‘s just business.

They continued to sip their drinks and talk drifted into other areas, when the door to Sandrine‘s slid open and shut again.

B‘Elanna looked around the room and finally located Tom at a back table he was sharing with Harry Kim. She was about to start to walk to the table when Jenny Delaney, Megan‘s sister, beat her to it.

"Tommy, there you are," Jenny gushed as she ran her fingers though his hair. "Come teach me to play pool, pleeeasse."

Tom turned his head to address her when he noticed that B‘Elanna was in the room and looking at them. "Ah, not now Jenny, maybe later."

"How much later?" Jenny whined with a well-practiced pout.

"How about . . . hey, look isn‘t that Max Johnson over there, I think he‘s looking for you," Tom fibbed.

"Oh not, not him. You didn‘t see me, I‘m invisible and I‘m out of here," she sputtered and quickly left trying not to be noticed though she almost knocked B‘Elanna down in the process.

B‘Elanna, padd in hand, hesitantly approached Tom and Harry‘s table not noticing the lecherous looks she was receiving by a couple of men at the bar.

"Lt. Paris, Lt. Carey asked me to give you this padd so you can review it before your shift tomorrow morning," she explained.

"Thanks. B‘Elanna why don‘t you join us?" Tom offered as he took the padd with one hand and patted the seat next to him with his other.

"Ah, no, that‘s alright."

"Come on," Harry said. "Sit down, Maquis."

"Well maybe, but just for a minute," she said resigned to having to spend at least a little time with the pair so she wouldn‘t create a scene and have any unnecessary attention called to her presence.

"Watch it Paris, you‘ll get frostbite!" warned one of the men at the bar.

Upon hearing them B‘Elanna face took on a wooden appearance, but she was determined that she wouldn‘t say anything, she would control the Klingon side of her emotions. She‘d just pretend not to hear them. The last time her emotions got the better of her she broke Joe‘s nose.

But Paris heard and didn‘t like what was said. "Wilkins who let you out of your cage tonight?" the pilot asked as he rose from his seat and approached the bar. "Didn‘t anyone ever tell you it‘s not nice to speak to a lady that way, let alone one who could rip off both of your arms?"

"Get out of my face Paris, just who do you think you are to order me around, you‘re nothing but the Captain‘s pet."

That was all it took. Paris grabbed the taller, bigger man by the front of his uniform with one hand and landed an upper cut to the side of his face. But Wilkins had the advantage being three inches taller and forty pounds heavier all of which was muscle. With three well-placed punches to Tom‘s jaw, chest, and abdomen Tom ended up on the floor. He was trying to shake off the ringing in his head when he heard a few Klingon curses, a couple of thumps, and the rest of the crowd in the bar cheer. B‘Elanna and her Klingon heritage made quick work of the jerk, he was proud of her. Wilkins would probably think twice before he insulted her again.

The next thing Tom knew Harry was behind him pulling him to his feet and muttering something about Sickbay and that Wilkins got what was coming to him. Then he noticed B‘Elanna looking down at Wilkins and then turning her head to look at him and when she noticed the attention she was receiving from the bar patrons and she turned and fled Sandrine‘s.

"I‘ve got to go Harry, I‘ve got to talk to her," Tom said as he tried to pull away from Harry‘s hold on him.

"Yeah, you‘ve got to go to Sickbay and let the Doc look at those ribs . . ."

"No, I‘ve got to . . ."

"Ensign Kim to Sickbay, three to beam in."

A half-an-hour later, Tom had convinced the EMH that he would take it easy and gratefully left Sickbay to find B‘Elanna.

"Computer, location of Lt. Torres."

"Lt. Torres is in Jeffries Tube No. 93," came the response.

"Computer state exact location of Jeffries Tube No. 93," he asked in exasperation, to which the computer supplied him with the correct level and deck location.

"Here it is," he murmured to himself and he turned the handle to open the door to JT93. After crawling in a ways and grumbling to himself that the tubes had to be designed by a masochist, he could hear the sounds of metal on metal up ahead. As he got closer, he could tell that it wasn‘t the sounds of someone working as much was the sound of someone working who was upset. When he finally found B‘Elanna, she was sitting with her back facing him hitting a metal object into submission with an electronic spanner and he could hear certain Klingon words amongst the clamor.

"B‘Elanna? . . . .B‘Elanna!?" he said announcing his presence but with the noise of her hammering he couldn‘t be heard. Finally, he was right behind her and placed his hands on her shoulders. It was a good thing his reflexes were quick because upon feeling his touch she spun around spanner in hand and if he hadn‘t ducked he would have been back paying the Doctor another visit.

"How DARE you sneak up on me!" she roared and dropped her raised hand holding spanner to her side.

"I didn‘t mean to sneak up on you, B‘Elanna, you just couldn‘t hear me with all this racket. What the hell did that . . . ah . . . what-ever-it-is ever do to you anyway?"

"It‘s a manifold coupling that won‘t loosen, if you must know!" Her Klingon half at that moment was overwhelming the human half which at that moment would have opted to dissolve in tears of frustration.

"Come on, I know it wasn‘t much of a joke, but I‘m under pressure."


"Yeah, I desperately trying to think of anything to say to get you to calm down and maybe get you to smile."

"Well, that‘s going to take a lot of effort," she replied through clenched teeth.

"B‘Elanna I came down here to say ‚thank you‘ for taking care of Wilkins."

"You‘re not upset?" she asked in amazement.

"Upset about what, that he didn‘t have a chance to punch me a few more times or that I was stupid enough to punch him first?"

"No, upset that I . . ."

"That you thought enough of me to protect me? How could I ever be upset about that?"

B‘Elanna didn‘t know what to say. The men she had known in the past would have been ashamed if a woman, even a half-Klingon woman, had fought their battles. This Tom Paris was certainly an enigma she mused, as she turned to her task once more raising the in the air for another volley.

"Ah, B‘Elanna, I just had an idea." The spanner stopped at the top of the arc. "I‘ve been working on a holodeck program and I thought maybe you‘d like to see it. It‘s not done yet, but it‘s not bad. In fact maybe you could help me finish it."

"Holodeck program? Isn‘t that something like asking a girl to your cabin to show her your etchings?"

"Ouch, that hurt, you wound me," he said as he brought his hand up to his chest in a mock expression of pain, "and besides I‘d never show anyone my etchings, my flight maneuvers maybe, but not etchings," he concluded with a guilty grin which caused the corners of her mouth to involuntarily rise. "Trust me, B‘Elanna, you‘ll like it and I promise to be a perfect gentleman. Here," he said as he offered her his hand, "come with me and see for yourself."

She wanted to touch his hand so much and to go with him. But should she? Hadn‘t Chakotay and the rest of the Maquis and even some Starfleeters warned her about him and told her to stay away?

"Come on B‘Elanna, did I let you down with the Vidiians? Trust me," he pleaded as he extended his hand to hers. "What‘s the matter, is your Klingon half afraid?"

"Hardly," she responded and seized his hand her hers and followed him out of the Jeffries tube.

Chapter 3 - The Hike

Now remember, I‘m still working on this one. It still needs a little tweak here than there. Computer activate program Paris Outdoors Beta Three."

The door of the holodeck slid opened to reveal a lovely grassy green hillside edged with tall conifer trees and punctuated with wild flowers under a brilliant blue sky.

"It‘s this way," he explained as he took her by her hand and led her up the hillside and headed for an opening among the trees.

She followed him through the path in the woods walking on a well-trod path. Gradually the terrain changed becoming more steep and rocky. When they finally reached the first rest stop in their hike he noticed that B‘Elanna Torres was actually smiling, which made him return the smile as this was exactly what he had hoped to accomplish.

"I take it you like it, you approve?" he asked.

She nodded her head. "How did you know? I don‘t think I ever told anyone."

"How did I know what?" he asked confused by her response.

"Who told you that I used to go here on weekends when I was at the Academy to get away. I can‘t tell you how many times I‘ve hiked this trail. It is the Crestwood Trail isn‘t it?"

"Well yes it is. But no one ever told me you knew this place. I thought it was only something I knew about. You see I spent a lot of time here as well."

"It must have been before I entered the Academy," she surmised.

"Probably, about the time you started I had graduated."

"Let‘s go I‘ve got to see if you included my favorite view," she said excitedly as she made the effort for the first time to grab him by the hand which he took willingly and followed her further up the trail.

They walked a little ways when B‘Elanna came to a sudden stop. "Tom, you didn‘t include the patch of wild flowers. Don‘t you remember they were right here," she said pulling him along so he could see. "They were right here next to his rock."

‚Tom,‘ she had called him ‚Tom‘ not ‚Paris‘ though she probably hadn‘t even realized it, he thought. "Well tell the computer to fix it, B‘Elanna."

She looked up at him for confirmation of his request.

"Go ahead, I‘ve programmed the computer to accept your alterations," he reassured her.

She grinned with glee, like a child who had been given just what she wanted for Christmas, and nodded. "Computer, create a patch of alpine wild flowers approximately three meters wide by two meters long in an irregular shape," she ordered and in a flash a patch of multicolored wild flowers were created next to the rock which she looked upon with satisfaction. She looked up into Paris‘ bright blue eyes. "Thanks."

"Anytime, B‘Elanna. Anything for you," he replied with complete sincerity noting the confused but happy look on her bronze face.

Their hike continued, he reminded her of certain rocks and trees and she complimented him on the program noting occasional inconsistencies and remarking on items that he had included that she hadn‘t remembered.

After about another hour of walking they walked around a boulder and B‘Elanna squealed with delight sounding more like a ten-year-old than a Lieutenant. "Oh, you didn‘t forget!" she said excitedly as she let go of his hand and crawled up on top of the boulder and from there pulled herself up upon a nearby ledge. He followed her glowing on the inside by the change in her since they entered the holodeck. "Oh, Tom, this is probably my most favorite place of all," she said as she reached a point on the ledge on the other side of the boulder and sat down with a sigh.

"I‘m glad I remembered it," he said, but how could he have forgotten it, he had spent countless hours on the very same ledge reading, sleeping, thinking of his future, thinking of ways to avoid having to go home.

"Oh, but you forgot something," she said with a twinge of disappointment in her voice.

"What?" he asked he was sure that he had included every little detail in this part of the hike.

"The view. The view isn‘t the same. See you remembered that far away mountain range." she said pointing over to her right. "And you included the view of the ocean," she added pointing to her left. "And you even remembered the orchards and the view of the horse ranch. But you didn‘t include that white building with the red roof over on that far hillside," she concluded pointing that direction.

"What‘s one building?" he asked.

Should she tell him, would it be revealing too much? Be brave B‘Elanna, she admonished herself. "It‘s silly, really. It is beautiful even without the building, but . . . "

"But what B‘Elanna?"

"Well you see I used to bring my homework from the Academy up here with me and study on the weekends. And when I needed to take a break, I used to look out at the view and daydream. I used to imagine climbing those mountains—how it would be to sail on the ocean. I used to wonder how the people lived that had horses and how they took care of them. And then I used to . . . oh, I‘m sorry it‘s really stupid, You don‘t want to . . ."

"I do want to know B‘Elanna, tell me. I promise, I won‘t tell anyone, promise."

"Alright, but I warned you, and if you laugh I could forget what a good mood I‘m in." She was in a good mood she realized, maybe the best mood she had been in for a long time all courtesy of one Tom Paris, God‘s Gift to Women and Best Pilot in the Delta Quadrant. She grinned a little at that thought and continued. "I used to look out at that large white house with the red roof, and four outbuildings . . ." He raised his eye brows at that comment. "Four outbuildings, I know I counted them more than once," she replied firmly defending her statement before continuing. "Oh, this really is silly, but remember you‘ve been warned, I used to imagine what it was like living in such a lovely house. I thought that any family that lived in such a place had to be ideal, they had to be happy. I imagined that the mother was a teacher, the father was a doctor, and their children liked to play outside and climb trees and go exploring in the fields." She paused to see if he would respond, but as she looked into his face she was surprised by his reaction. His eyes appeared to have clouded over and it looked like he was a thousand lightyears away. "Tom? Are you okay?"

"I‘m fine." he finally replied.

"I‘m sorry, did I say something?" she asked concerned that she had ruined something special.

"No, B‘Elanna, it‘s not you, it‘s me. I‘m just remembering things."

"You were fine until I brought up that white house. Is it something to do with that? Did you know who lived there."

He turned his back to her. This excursion had started out wonderful, but it had all of a sudden come to a crashing halt. "Let‘s go," he suggested and started to push away from her towards the boulder, but was prevented when she leaned forward and her hand clasped down upon his shoulder.

"Tell me, Tom," she said simply as she crawled around and placed herself in front of him. His eyes met hers, their faces mere centimeters apart, and he knew in an instant that she would not take ‚no‘ for an answer.

"Yes, I knew who lived there. The mother wasn‘t a teacher, before she died was an historian specializing in the early 20th Century, the father wasn‘t a doctor he was an admiral in Starfleet, and . . ."

"And what?"

"And they had a son, a son who liked to go exploring, hiking, and wanted to fly <to fly away, but could never live up to his father‘s expectations."

"It sounds like you knew them very well," she said instinctively knowing what he would tell her next.

"You could say that, I was that son, B‘Elanna. That‘s why I spent so much time up here and why I excluded the house from the program," he explained softly, his voice almost a whisper. A large chunk of his wall fell down.

"I had no idea," she offered her eyes focused on the crystal blue eyes opposite her as she moved a little closer to him. Please kiss me she thought. Please let me be brave enough to kiss him, to comfort him.

"I know . . . " he started to say when he was gently kissed on his mouth by the full sensual lips of the half-Klingon engineer.

"Oh, B‘Elanna," he breathed and pulled her toward him. <I should stop he thought. <If this goes too far . . . but I want it so much, it‘s all I‘ve dreamed about since the Vidiian mines. For a change though the head ruled the heart and he pulled away from her. "B‘Elanna, you have no idea how much I want this to continue, but we shouldn‘t."

"It‘s okay, Paris, I understand, I should have known better," she said brusquely as she snapped her head around. She should have known better she thought, why would someone as handsome as him want to kiss her.

"B‘Elanna, please don‘t turn away from me," he said as he pulled her around to face him once again and he could see the disappointment and humiliation in her chocolate brown eyes. "I want to kiss you. Hell, I want to do more than kiss you, but I don‘t want to rush into it. I care about you too much to not consider your feelings. I‘ve done this before, acted on impulse and went too far, too fast, and it never worked out. I think we could have something special and I don‘t want to spoil it. Can you understand?"

B‘Elanna nodded her head. "Oh, I understand perfectly." She understood, he didn‘t want her, he regretted kissing her.

Noticing the solemn look on her face. He tried to explain once again. "What I‘d like to do, if you‘d let me, is to properly court you and date you. Would you let me?"

The half-Klingon looked into his face trying to see if she could tell if he was lying to her like Chakotay had always warned her about, but all she saw was an honest man.

"Will you B‘Elanna Torres, will you let me date you?"

"If you‘re sure you really want to."

"I‘ve never been so sure about anything else in my whole life."

"Then okay, I suppose . . ."

"Okay? You mean it I can see you?!" he shouted.

"I mean okay, we‘ll give it a try, but no one is to know. The last thing I need is for my friends to tell me they told me so. Can you understand?"

"I understand perfectly. We‘ll keep it quiet. I promise. And B‘Elanna I do really want to be with you."

Chapter 4 - The Witnesses

Three weeks later things were going well very well. While they hadn‘t progressed past the kissing and hugging stage they were very happy and their walls were becoming lower all the time. They‘d meet ‚by chance‘ in the mess hall or on the holodeck and no one seemed the wiser, or so they thought.

Harry Kim though was very observant, particularly when it came to his two friends. He had noticed that the two just happened to be in each other‘s company a lot more than usual. He had also noticed the way the two of them glowed whenever in the other‘s company. Harry couldn‘t have been happier for the pair.

It was too bad that the same couldn‘t be said for the First Officer. From the first day B‘Elanna Torres had joined his Maquis cell, Chakotay had always kept an eye on her, he considered her his little sister. Just the week before, as the
pair had exited the holodeck, he had noticed them kiss one another when they thought no one was looking, which did not make him happy at all. It was time he spoke with B‘Elanna before this got totally out of control and she regretted it. <What was it she could possibly see in Paris? he wondered. <Could I be jealous of Tom Paris? No, not jealous—just protective of my little sister.


"Come in," she responded to the door alarm.

"Good evening B‘Elanna, do you have time to talk?" he asked as he entered her quarters.

"Of course, have a seat" she replied half-heartedly as in fifteen minutes she was due to meet Tom on the holodeck and go hiking up the Crestwood Trail, their favorite program.

Chakotay took the offered seat on the sofa and patted a place next to him inviting her to join him. "Sit down B‘Elanna."

She said down with trepidation, she had a feeling that she was not going to like what he had to say.

"B‘Elanna, I am aware that you and Paris have been seeing each other. Don‘t deny it, I saw it myself."

The half-Klingon didn‘t know what to say. They had been so careful, how had this happened?

"I thought I told you all about Paris, I warned you to stay away from him. Didn‘t I?"

"Yes, but . . ."

"But you didn‘t listen to me. Didn‘t I tell you he was a drunk, a womanizer, a murderer, a traitor? Doesn‘t any of that matter?"

"But, he‘s not like that, he‘s been good to me," she said defending Tom.

Chakotay rose from the sofa and paced in frustration running her hands through his short black hair. "B‘Elanna, can‘t you see a come-on. I‘m telling you his kind only wants one thing. The only reason he‘s been good to you is that he sees you as a challenge. Damn it, didn‘t you learn anything from Carlos or Tanado?" he asked, his voice rising with anger. "I thought you trusted me, B‘Elanna. Have I ever lied to you?"

"No, you haven‘t," she answered sadly.

"Then please stop this before it gets out of control. I‘m telling you, he‘ll just use you and when he gets what he wants, he‘ll dump you, and you‘ll come crying to me just like before."

Was he telling her the truth? Was Tom just playing her for a fool? Then she remembered Carlos and Tanado, both had courted her and pretended to be interested only to drop her after they achieved their desired goal. Klingon sex. Which both had said was sadly lacking. But then she thought of Tom, his blue eyes that could just as effectively express happiness or sadness, thought of all the hours that they had spent together, all the things they had talked about, and through it all he had been the perfect gentleman.

"I‘m sorry Chakotay. You know I respect you, but this time I know you‘re wrong," she said firmly.

"I‘m not wrong B‘Elanna. You‘ll see. I‘ve seen his kind before, they‘re nothing but trouble, they could never love anyone but themselves. They are raised with money and position and they think they can have it all, all the time and it doesn‘t matter who they hurt as long as they get what they want. You deserve someone better than Tom Paris."

"You wrong this time and, Chakotay, I think it is time for you to go."

"Okay, I‘ll leave, but you‘ll see I‘m right."

*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***

Another day and another date with Tom. She was bound and determined not to let her conversation with Chakotay dampen her spirits today. Today, she and Tom had planned on exercising together in the gym—very nonchalantly. It wasn‘t much of a date, but as long as Tom was there she didn‘t care what they did.

B‘Elanna was almost singing to herself as she stepped into the ship‘s gym clad in a two-piece red workout outfit and she had replicated for just the occasion. She greeted one of the ensigns from engineering who was just leaving and stowed her gym bag on the shelves near the entry door. She then walked around the corner where the treadmills were located. There before her she could see the blue-eyed pilot and God‘s Gift to Women half bent over with a pair of feminine arms entwined around his neck and his right arm encircled around her back. As the woman turned her head she could see that it was one of the Delaney sisters—the sexy blonde one who had been in the bar—Jenny wasn‘t it? Oh Kahless, Chakotay was right and there was the evidence right there in front of her eyes. Tom and Jenny, it certainly hadn‘t taken him long, not that she blamed him really when you could have Jenny Delaney why would he want her? Before they could see her and cause her further embarrassment, she retreated, grabbed her bag, and left the gym, headed for the sanctuary of her cabin.

"Jenny, come on let me . . . breathe," he choked trying to release the blonde‘s death grip around his neck. "I‘m sure it isn‘t broken."

"But it hurts so much Tommy!" she wailed.

"Let me call the Doc and he‘ll beam you down to Sickbay and check your ankle out?"

"Will you come with me? Please?"

"But Jenny . . ." Tom started to say . . . but what was he going to tell her ‚Sorry Jenny but I‘ve got a date with B‘Elanna?‘ If B‘Elanna ever found out he told anyone about their ‚dates‘ he‘d lose her for sure.‘

"Okay Jenny just until you get to Sickbay and then I‘m coming right back.

"Take good care of her Doc." Tom instructed the EMH.

"Don‘t I always?"

"Tommy, please stay . . ." Jenny begged as she sat on the biobed.

"I‘m sure the Doctor will fix you up as good as new, won‘t you Doc?" Tom said as he distanced himself from her until he reached the door to the Sickbay and stepped through it.

Woosh -- the Sickbay door slid shut with a relieved Tom Paris on the other side who finally got rid of the clinging vine.

Jogging through the corridor toward the gym, he tapped his commbadge. "Computer, location of Lt. Torres."

"Lt. Torres is in her cabin," came the reply.

<Her cabin? Why wasn‘t she in the gym? Tom mused as he took a turn which led him to the nearest turbolift.

"Deck Four," she ordered.

Tom reached Lt. Torres‘ quarters and looking around to make sure he was alone, requested admission.

"B‘Elanna let me in."

"Go away!"

"B‘Elanna let me in or I‘ll make sure everyone on Voyager hears me!"

That‘s all it took. The door slid open and he stepped in just before it slid shut behind him.

He knew she was in her cabin, but couldn‘t see her as the cabin was dark.

"B‘Elanna why didn‘t you show up at the gym like we planned?"

"Tom, I made a mistake. I never should have agreed to see you— to date you," she said in a small voice so unlike the half-Klingon but the voice indicated that she was over by the viewport.

"What are you talking about?" he asked incredulously.

"They were right Tom, that‘s what I‘m talking about. I just had to see it for myself. How do you think I feel being played for a fool? Now get out of here before I really get mad.

"But B‘Elanna tell me . . ."

"OUT—NOW!!!!" she roared throwing some heavy figurine toward the sound of his voice barely missing his head.

"IF THAT‘S WHAT YOU WANT FINE! I‘M OUT OF HERE!" he yelled in retaliation and left her cabin, just before B‘Elanna sank to the floor in tears.

Chapter 5 - The Admission

A despondent Tom sat at the conn piloting Voyager through a mass of asteroids of all shapes and sizes. Normally, he loved this type of challenge, it always put him in a good mood, but not today. In fact, ever since B‘Elanna told him they were through two weeks ago he had been totally miserable. At first, he tried to figure out what he had done. Had he said something or done something to her? For the life of him, he couldn‘t figure it out. That is until he caught the first officer‘s eye about three days after the breakup. The look seemed to say ‚you wanted her Paris, but you can‘t have her.‘ It was all he could do not to plant his fist up along side that blasted tattooed forehead for he assumed that the former Maquis captain had something to do with it.

Harry looked on with concern as he had ever since that fateful day a couple of weeks ago. Something had happened, that was certain. He was sure they weren‘t seeing each other anymore. But why and who had broken it off?

*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***

Engineering was fairing quite when Joe Carey entered his domain about 0130 early the next morning. Gamma shift had begun about an hour and a half ago, which consisted of only a few engineers who all were scheduled to work on the upper level. Seeing that everything was going along smoothly, Joe decided to review some reports on a certain lieutenant in the quiet of his office when he noticed that same lieutenant‘s legs sticking out from under the warp core command console.

Kneeling down beside her Joe asked, "B‘Elanna, are you working double shifts again? I know you‘re in charge of the delta shift and you feel responsible, but you need your rest. Even miracle workers need to sleep," he told her thinking back to the week before when they had been attacked by an unnamed alien starship. If it hadn‘t been for B‘Elanna‘s ingenuity and resourcefulness, they might all have been killed. He was Chief Engineer, her superior officer, but it wouldn‘t be long before she would deserve that title more than him. While Carey was a matchmaker, he was also a realist, he knew it was only a matter of time. In the past, it would have bothered him, but no longer—now he just considered it inevitable. He was just considering this time she spent under his command as training until the time came when he would be proud to address her as ‚Chief.‘

"I‘m okay," she responded shortly and proceeded to crawl under another of the consoles to make another unnecessary repair.

"B‘Elanna come to my office, we need to talk," he requested. B‘Elanna slowly pulled her body out from under the console and reluctantly joined him.

"Coffee?" he asked as he motioned for her to take a seat.

"No, thank you. What do you want?"

"What do I want? There are a lot of things I want and some things I can‘t have <Samantha Wildman for one, God he wanted her but he was still married, but so lonely," he responded cryptically. "B‘Elanna, I have a feeling I know why you have been avoiding everyone and working all sorts of hours lately. But I want you to tell me."

B‘Elanna looked at him as if he had three heads. The Chief Engineer was asking her about her personal life? He had never done that before. "I‘m sorry Chief, I just can‘t . . ."

"This is off the record B‘Elanna. I would like to consider us more than officers on Voyager but friends as well. Now I‘m going to be blunt, but remember I don‘t want to hurt you, I want to help you." She nodded her head signifying it was okay for him to proceed. "You and Tom broke up didn‘t you?"

"How did you know?" she asked. "No one knew we were together, except . . ."

"Except who? Should I guess? Would he happen to be a Maquis officer with a certain facial decoration on his forehead?"

She gazed at him with her mouth agape. Was this man psychic?

"So you thought no one knew? Well, let me tell you something Lt. Torres, not much escapes my attention. I pride myself with being a people watcher, and I happen to be pretty good at it. If I had to take a guess I‘d say that this Maquis officer didn‘t think too much of you and Tom being together and suggested that you break it off with him? Am I right?"

He received no response, but the silence alone confirmed that he had been correct.

"That Maquis officer is an idiot!"

At that remark, B‘Elanna‘s head snapped up. "He‘s not an idiot, he‘s just making sure I don‘t make a mistake," she said defending Chakotay. "And besides he was right."

"He was right? Do you mean to tell me that you no longer have feelings for our blue-eyed pilot?"

B‘Elanna couldn‘t meet his eyes but instead looked at the sonic wrench she still held.

"No? I thought not. And do you mean to tell me that from the way he‘s been moping around Voyager for the last two weeks that he doesn‘t care about you."

B‘Elanna snapped her head up. "Care about me? If he cared about me he wouldn‘t have . . ."

"Wouldn‘t have what Lieutenant?"

"He wouldn‘t have been hugging Jenny Delaney, that‘s what!"

"And what does Tom have to say about this so-called embrace?"

"Ummm . . . ah . . . he . . ." she stammered and once again focused on the tool she clutched tightly in her hands.

"You didn‘t ask him did you?"

"But . . . but Chakotay told me that this would happen," she said trying desperately to defend her actions and Chakotay‘s involvement.

"Oh the Commander may mean well B‘Elanna, but he wouldn‘t know if something was predestined if he hit him in the face <for instance look at Chakotay and the Captain. Look you need to go and talk to Tom and get this out in the open. Things sometimes look different than they actually are. And if you need anyone to talk to and not pass judgement, then please come and see me. I‘ll do my best to not be biased and give you my honest opinion—and if all else fails I may even let you slug me again," he finished with a grin on his face.

B‘Elanna couldn‘t help but mirror that grin on her own face.

"Thanks Chief, I appreciate that."

"It‘s Joe, B‘Elanna, at least while we‘re off duty. Now, please get out of here and go get some sleep!"

Lt. Torres left the Chief‘s office, and returned to her cabin, she had a lot of thinking to do.

B‘Elanna had no sooner left Engineering when Joe Carey was instructed to send someone from Engineering to accompany Tom Paris on an away mission the next day to a nearby planet in hopes of collecting some much needed aurithium. Joe knew just who he would send.

*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***

If anyone were to have witnessed the two officers prepare and load the shuttle for the away mission the following morning they would have been impressed by the intricate choreography entailed in their dance of avoidance. If one was inside stowing away gear or assembling the decontamination arch just inside the exit hatch, the other was sure to be outside checking on the condition of the craft making sure that it could withstand the conditions on the planet. Eventually though both knew they had to both be in the shuttle when it took off.

"All strapped in Lieutenant?" Paris asked her just before launch.

"Yes," was her sole clipped response.

Eight hours later with hardly a handful of words exchanged between the pair, Paris made preparations to land on the barren planet.

"Well, B‘Elanna this looks like the garden planet of the Delta Quadrant," he stated as the shuttle touched down in a cloud of the red acidic dust.


"Look, B‘Elanna, we could at least be civil to one another, we are going to be together for several more hours until Voyager rendezvous with us and I‘m getting pretty tired of holding a one-way conversation. So let‘s clear the air."

She raised guarded eyes toward him, remembering all the things that Chakotay and Carey had said and what she had seen in the gym.

"I know you told me you didn‘t want to see me any more but could you at least take the time to tell me why? I really want to know," he asked casting beautiful blue puppy-dog eyes in her direction.

She hesitated for a long while trying several times to voice her feelings until in exasperation she blurted out her thoughts. "Okay, I‘ll try to explain. You see Chakotay talked with me and . . ."

"I should have known it!" he yelled interrupting her and launched himself out of his seat to pace the shuttlecraft in frustration with his hands on his hips.

"Are you going to let me finish?" she asked.

He replied with a nod.

"He said that you . . . oh Kahless this is hard."

"Let me guess," he said as he spun around to face her. "He told you I was the just about as low a man as they come, told you that I would use you and discard you without a second thought, that I‘d never be able to love you like you deserve. Is that about right?"

She just starred at him with her mouth agape for a moment before she found her voice. "Yes, that is just about what he said. But I defended you. I told him that he was wrong. But the next day I went to the gym and saw you and Jenny together. And don‘t tell me you weren‘t with her I saw it. You two were hugging each other."

"Well let me tell you something Torres, I may have done some things in the past that I‘m not proud of, I‘ll admit that, but I‘ve paid my dues. I won‘t lie to you, B‘Elanna, I was with Jenny. But if you had bothered to investigate a little further, you would have found out that Jenny twisted her ankle in the gym and she was hanging all over me while I was trying to get her to go to Sickbay. That woman is a leech at times."

B‘Elanna‘s only response was a low growl that seemed to say ‚tell me another one helmboy.‘

Anyway, how can you possibly think I‘d even look at another woman after I‘ve been with you? Hell, B‘Elanna don‘t you know that I‘m head over heals in love with you? When you told me you didn‘t want to see me anymore, I damn near went insane! . . . But Chakotay was right about one thing, you do deserve someone better than me!" He paused and looked at her to see if she had understood what he had just said . . . did he even understand what he said—he said he loved her. Where the hell had that come from? From his heart, that‘s where—from his heart that had finally found another one that beat in time with his.

He waited a short while but when she didn‘t respond, he tried to bury those feeling deep inside and concentrated on their mission. "Damn it, let‘s get this show on the road!" Paris finally exclaimed in frustration as he grabbed for their environmental suits, tossed one to her, and began to pull his on.

B‘Elanna silently pulled on her own. She wasn‘t prepared for his outburst and his declaration of love. Even if it were true, she reasoned, had they been together long enough or knew each other well enough for him to know?

"Remember Torres, to allow yourself sufficient time upon entering the craft to decontaminate, the last thing we need is acidic dust in the shuttle. And be careful handling those rocks, those crystals embedded into the rocks are very sharp."

She nodded her understanding. So that was it, one minute he was passionately defending his feelings and the next cold-hearted detachment. Just as well, she thought, before she could reply to what he had revealed, she had a lot of thinking to do.

*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***

"You sent Paris and Torres out on a mission together?" he asked incredulously raising his voice as he sat down at the table across from the Captain in her office holding the duty roster in his hand.

"I selected Paris and Carey assigned B‘Elanna to the away mission. Why? Do you have a problem with that?" Janeway asked confused by the reaction on her First Officer‘s face.

"It‘s just that, well you know," he said realizing that he had already said more than he had intended.

Janeway poured herself her second cup of coffee of the morning and sat down next to her First Officer at the ready room table. "No, I don‘t know. Spill it Chakotay. What‘s going on that you don‘t want those two together on an away mission."

"I‘ve really said more than I should have," he remarked making a futile attempt at backpedaling.

Janeway carefully sipped her still too hot coffee and returned the cup to the saucer. "Too late, you slipped up. Now tell me what is going on, or do I have to make it an order."

"It‘s just that well Paris and B‘Elanna have been seeing each other . . . "

"That‘s great!" she said enthusiastically but noticed that the handsome man across from her didn‘t appear to share her sentiments, "Isn‘t it?"

"They broke up two weeks ago."

"So how come I hadn‘t heard about this before?"

He hemmed and hawed a bit. "They were trying to keep it a secret."

"How did you find out?"

She had him cornered, "I‘ve been noticing . . . I happened . .


"Have you been spying?" she asked point blank.

"Ah . . . ah . . . that‘s not the point . . ."

"You were." she accused as her eyes narrowed. She respected this man, but also knew that he still hadn‘t forgotten the animosity that he shared with the pilot and had yet to get over the habit of protecting the former Maquis engineer. "So do you want to tell me why they broke up, or would you like me to take a wild guess?"

Chapter 6 - The Red Dust

<<Decontamination procedure is complete. The computer announced just before B‘Elanna stepped through the arch to join Paris in stowing the mineral-rich rocks in the cargo hold of the shuttlecraft.

"Why don‘t you finish stowing these rocks away, and I‘ll go outside and make one more trip. I won‘t be long," he proposed.

"Fine." She was going to do it, she decided, as soon as he came back she‘d tell him that she had been wrong. If she was lucky, maybe he‘d forgive her. Maybe he‘d take her back. He was the best thing that ever happened to her, she didn‘t want to lose him.

He reached down to pick up a couple more rocks in the midst of the swirling, mesmerizing red dust, it had gotten so thick during the last few minutes he could hardly see his hands in front of his face. Just one more rock and . . . "Damn!" The crystal protruding from the rock sliced a neat three-inch long gash in the palm of his hand. Immediately, he could feel the burning of the dust as it made contact with his skin. He could feel the searing pain as he inadvertently inhaled the dust into his lungs. As he collapsed to the ground, he could feel the minerals that were strewn on the ground puncture and cut his suit and uniform allowing more of the deadly dust inside. Tom desperately tapped his commbadge underneath his protective suit. "B‘Elanna, I need hel . . ." were the last words uttered as darkness overtook him.

"Tom, what‘s wrong!" she yelled into her own commbadge. She received no answer. "Computer transport Lt. Paris back to the shuttle."

"Unable to comply with that request."


"The integrity of the transporter energy system has been affected due to . . ."

"End transmission. Due to the acidic dust," B‘Elanna finished the computer‘s reply as she hurriedly stepped back into her suit and pulled it up over her head. Apparently the dust was a lot more caustic than Voyager‘s initial scans had indicated.

<It‘s up to you, B‘Elanna, you have to go get him. Damn! where were those rocks that he went back for? Where is he? Those thoughts, among others, screamed in her mind as she exited the craft. Over to the left? Yes that‘s where he was last, she determined as she switched on her wrist light which barely made a dent in the thick cloud of dust. After several agonizing minutes, she finally came upon his still form lying on the ground.

"Tom!" she yelled as she turned him over and was mortified by the red blistering lesions that were already developing on his face, but she could also see the condensation that was developing on the inside of the face shield which indicated that he was still breathing. He was still alive and where there was life there was hope. Blessing the strength her Klingon half possessed, she grabbed the pilot under the arms and pulled him back toward the shuttle as quickly as she could.

"Why does this have to take so long!" she yelled as she held him in front of her under the decontamination arch waiting for the ‚all-clear‘ signal from the computer.

<<Decontamination procedure is complete.

"It‘s about time," she muttered as she pulled him out of the arch and placed him on the cot and pulled off his face mask.

"Computer, prepare Voyager for launch."

"Unable to comply with that request."

"Let me guess, the red dust," she spat at the computer.

"Unable . . . "

"Never mind!"

"Computer, notify me when Voyager is within communication range."

"Affirmative," came the reply.

<Thank Kahless, communications were still operational, she thought. B‘Elanna briefly looked at Tom and was worried at how difficult it seemed to be for him to breathe, she then turned to find the medkit. She opened the box and grabbed the tri-ox compound hypospray and delivered a full dose into his neck and followed that with a dose of a pain reliever. B‘Elanna then located a pair of scissors in the kit and gently began cutting and peeling away the environmental suit and his uniform from his body. She discovered much to her regret that there was hardly an area on his body that hadn‘t been affected by that damn red dust, with the areas of his body where the clothing had been cut and punctured being the worst. The dust seemed to have found its way into every little crevice which resulted in blisters and oozing painful sores all over his body. All she could think of as she covered him with a clean blanket was if his skin looked like this what did his lungs look like and how long could he keep on breathing?

"Voyager is now within communications range," the computer announced.

"Computer contact Voyager," B‘Elanna ordered as she rummaged through the medkit looking for the dermal regenerator. Unfortunately there was only one, so she concentrated on the areas that were more severely affected.

<<Acknowledged. Shuttlecraft Portsmouth contacting Voyager. Shuttlecraft Portsmouth contacting Voyager. Come in Voyager.

"Voyager here," Harry Kim‘s voice chirped over the link.

"Harry, it‘s B‘Elanna, Tom‘s been exposed to the dust and needs immediate medical attention, what‘s your ETA?"

"It‘s . . . ah . . . thirty-two minutes," he responded as Janeway, seated in the Captain‘s chair with Chakotay beside her, looked up with concern etched on her face.

"B‘Elanna, we‘re going to patch in a link with the Doctor, please tell us what Tom‘s injuries are," the Captain said. Harry nodded to her a few seconds later indicating that the EMH was listening.

B‘Elanna relayed the information about Tom‘s injuries. "I‘ve administered a tri-ox compound, a pain reliever, and have begun using the dermal regenerator on him, but already the regenerator is losing power."

"What are his symptoms?" the Doctor asked from Sickbay obviously concerned by what Torres had told him.

"Well he feels cold and clammy and his heart is beating rapidly."

"Lt. Torres, it is very likely from what you told me that he is in shock. It is essential that you keep him warm and as comfortable as possible until we can beam you on board."

"I understand Doctor."

"We‘ll be there as soon as possible B‘Elanna," the Captain informed her.

"Please hurry, Captain, I can‘t lose him—not now!" she pleaded not caring who was listening on Voyager.

"Take care of him and we‘ll be there as soon as we can. Captain out."

*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***

The minutes of waiting for Voyager crawled by. B‘Elanna had long since discarded the powerless regenerator and had crawled in next to the pilot on the narrow cot to try to keep him warm while at the same time trying not to hurt him. "Just a few more minutes Tom, and they‘ll be here," she said as she tenderly placed her hand over his chest to feel that he was still breathing. She knew that he couldn‘t hear her or feel her but she felt better trying to offer some degree of comfort. Oh, why couldn‘t she have swallowed her pride and told him how she felt right away? Why did she have to listen to Chakotay, when she should have listened to her heart?

"Voyager to Lieutenant Torres, prepare for beam out," the transporter officer announced.

"We‘re ready."

The shimmering, tingling, blue light deposited B‘Elanna and Tom in Sickbay. The Captain and Chakotay were already there waiting for the pair‘s arrival.

"Let me help you get him on one of the biobeds" the First Officer offered as he walked over to the pilot not bothering to hide the concern he felt for the man he had distrusted as both a Maquis and a Starfleet officer.

"Be careful, don‘t hurt him," B‘Elanna warned, "he has those lesions over his entire body."

"I‘m sure they will be gentle with him Lieutenant. Why don‘t you join me in the hall while the Doctor examines him?" the Captain suggested.

Chapter 7 - The Battle

The two women had barely entered the hall when all hell broke loose. Explosions could be heard and felt and the ship tilted severely beneath their feet sending them sprawling to the deck.

"Bridge to the Captain!" Harry Kim‘s voice desperately rang out from Janeway‘s commbadge.

"I‘m on my way, Harry. What the hell is going on?" Janeway asked as she pulled herself off the floor and she ran to the nearest turbolift with B‘Elanna in close pursuit.

"That ship that attacked us two weeks ago is back and this time with reinforcements—two smaller but faster ships."

"It is too bad that Tom is injured," she said to B‘Elanna, who nodded in agreement. "We could really use him right now."

"Carey to Lieutenant Torres, come in."

"This is Torres," B‘Elanna replied.

"B‘Elanna, I need you down in Engineering as soon as possible. The warp core appears to be destabilizing and you‘re the only one who can fix it. Hurry!" Carey yelled above the sound of the engines.

B‘Elanna fled down the corridor and into the nearest turbolift. Then after it reached the Engineering level she dashed out and ran down that corridor until she burst through the doors to Engineering. Seeing the commotion all around her, she instinctively took charge.

"Chief, lock down the turbo thrusters and have Nicoletti route all auxiliary power to the starboard generators!" B‘Elanna shouted as she headed to the warp core controls pushing a young Bajoran ensign out of the way. Her fingers flew over the controls and she took note at the progress which was minimal.

Carey was impressed by her efficiency and motivation, he knew that even though she wasn‘t Chief yet, she considered Voyager‘s engines hers.

"Vorik, go up to the second level and recalibrate the warp regulators and prepare to dump the excess energy out of the aft exhaust manifold! NOW!" she yelled exerting the authority that was technically Carey‘s.

"Aye, aye!"

"On my mark, Vorik. Five, four, three, two, one, NOW!" she yelled above the roar of the engines.

"Excess energy dumped Lieutenant."

"Lt. Torres," Carey yelled from across the room five minutes later. "The core appears to be stabilizing! B‘Elanna, we couldn‘t have done it without you!"

"The aliens have retreated," Janeway‘s voice announced over the intercom. "Congratulations everyone. Fine job."

The rest of the engineering crew cheered for Voyager, its crew, but mostly for B‘Elanna Torres. The half-Klingon actually beamed with pride, but then her thoughts flew to the man she had left in Sickbay.

Joe approached B‘Elanna and noticed her abrupt change in attitude. "Nicoletti, you and Vorik continue to stabilize the warp core. B‘Elanna, my office please."

B‘Elanna followed Chief Carey into his office and sat in the guest chair as he leaned up against the edge of his cluttered desk. "Lieutenant I just wanted to let you know that you really demonstrated leadership out there. I‘m very impressed and the Captain will be too!"


"What‘s wrong B‘Elanna? You should be happy."

"I am at least about what you said, but Tom was injured on the away mission. He‘s in Sickbay right now and the Doctor is working on him," she replied tears starting to well up in her beautiful, soulful, brown eyes.

"B‘Elanna," Joe said as he held out his arms to her and she didn‘t even hesitate at the offer of comfort and went to him and he folded his arms around her to comfort her.

"Oh, Joe, he‘s hurt. You should see him, his body is covered with blisters and lesions from that acidic dust, he can barely breathe," she cried her heart breaking, "and he . . . he . . told me, told me. . ."

"Take a deep breath. What did he tell you?"

"He . . . he . . . said he loves me. But I couldn‘t . . . couldn‘t . . ."

"But you couldn‘t say the words back to him?" he concluded.

B‘Elanna nodded her head as heavy sobs wreaked her body causing her shoulders to heave as she tried to catch her breath. "And now he may die and never know . . ."

"You‘ll tell him B‘Elanna. You will." he said soothingly, comforting her as he would have one of his younger sisters. Several minutes passed before B‘Elanna regained her composure and embarrassingly pulled herself away from Carey arms.

"I‘m sorry, Joe. Klingons aren‘t supposed to cry."

"There is nothing to be sorry about. You go get yourself cleaned up and then report to Sickbay. Unless an emergency occurs, I don‘t want you to step a foot back in Engineering until Tom‘s better. Do you hear me?"

"I hear you."

"Just because you‘re half-Klingon doesn‘t mean you can‘t cry every once in a while after all you‘re half-human as well and there is nothing wrong with that. It is part of you. Now B‘Elanna get out of here and report to Sickbay until you receive further orders <before I start crying too."

"Yes, Chief. Right away."

*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***

B‘Elanna cautiously entered Sickbay not wanting to disturb the Doctor if he was busy treating Tom. Seeing that the Doctor was stripping off his operating coverall, she approached him.

"You had to operate?" she asked speaking to the EMH, but looking at the still figure on the biobed.

"Yes, Lieutenant. He wasn‘t responding to the typical procedures so I had to operate to clear the acid out of his respiratory tract and to repair the damage it caused. It was a delicate procedure, and if I do say so myself, I did a stupendous job!"

"Ah, I‘m sure you did, Doctor. So is he going to be okay?"

"He should be. All that I‘m waiting for now is for him to wake up."

"Do you mind if I sit with him?"

"Not at all," he replied as he pulled a chair over beside the pilot‘s bed. "Here have a seat, but it could be a while."

"I‘ve got time. Thanks."

Four and a half hours later she was still sitting in that chair holding the pilot‘s hand between her own, waiting for Tom to awaken, thinking of all the things she wanted to say to him. Finally, he tentatively opened his eyes and was somewhat surprised but nonetheless thrilled to see two beautiful chocolate brown eyes looking down at him.

"B‘Elanna," he breathed, his voice not even a whisper.

"Ssssh, don‘t talk too much the Doctor operated on you and one of the things he worked on your throat," she explained. "Do you understand?"

The patient nodded his blond head and swallowed painfully.

"You have to be quiet, I know that will be hard for you, but you‘ll heal faster if you don‘t speak. Plus it will give me a chance to talk for a change. Okay?" she explained as she reached for the glass of water beside his bed and helped him take a sip.

Tom nodded his head again after he drank a little and gave her a tired little smile.

"Tom, you know, I thought that this was going to be easy. All the while you‘ve been lying there I‘ve been rehearsing what I was going to say over and over again in my mind. I guess the only way to get it out of my mind is to share it with you. So here it goes." she drew a deep breath and clutched his hand tightly in both of her‘s almost afraid that he would leave before she could tell him everything. "I‘ve thought what Chakotay said to me about staying away from you—about what I thought I saw in the gym. And I‘ve thought about what Carey said that I should trust my heart and that we are destined to be together."

Tom mouthed the words "Carey?"

"Yes, Carey. He really is a sweet man, I don‘t know why I ever punched him in the nose. Tom, what I‘m trying to say is this. I‘m sorry. I‘m sorry I ever listened and took Chakotay‘s advice. If I hadn‘t listened to him I don‘t think I would have been so quick to judge. I know he thinks he means well, but sometimes he still thinks I‘m still twenty years old and wet behind the ears. Tom, I would like us to start over again if you‘ll have me. Do you think we can do that?" she asked as she raised his hand to her mouth and turned it over and placed a kiss on his palm.

He looked at the half-Klingon still beside him in amazement. He was getting his wish, she was willing to let him in again, so he nodded his head, pulled his hand away from her grip and ran his fingers lovingly down her forehead ridges and down the side of her soft cheek. "Yes, B‘Elanna," he whispered. "Oh, yes."

She rested her cheek against his chest relieved that they could be together again, she had missed him so much. "Thank Kahless, Tom. I thought you‘d say no."

Tom kept on stroking her face and her silken hair as silent tears of relief coursed their way down his pale cheeks. He wouldn‘t rush her he vowed. While he had admitted his love to her, he knew that she wasn‘t ready to make that much of an admission yet. But in time, if he was lucky for a change, maybe she would.

They stayed in that position for quite a while until B‘Elanna noticed that his hand had stilled and he was just about asleep again—but this time with a slight smile to his lips.

"I‘m going to let you rest now. I have to get some sleep myself before my shift tomorrow," she explained as she rose from her chair. "When you‘re better how about we try that Crestwood Trail holoprogram again? Okay?"

"Okay," he whispered his voice raspy and sore.

"Now sssh, and I‘ll see you tomorrow," she admonished and bent down and blessed him with a tender, promising kiss on his lips.

Tom Paris drifted off to sleep again and dreamed sweet dreams of one half-Klingon engineer.

Chapter 8 - The Chief

"Lt. Carey, please come in," the Captain said as she heard the familiar ‚breep‘ of her Ready Room announcer.

"Thank you, Captain."

"Please sit down," she offered. "What‘s the matter Joe? Something wrong down in Engineering?" she asked noticing the looked of trepidation on his face.

"Well no, nothing is wrong per se Captain. It‘s just that it‘s time."

"Time?" she asked not immediately catching on.

"Yes, I believe you remember the discussion we had when I was named Chief Engineer of the two crews back at the beginning of our voyage?"

"I do. So you‘re telling me it is time for B‘Elanna to assume the duties you have been fulfilling?"

Carey nodded.

"But Joe you‘re doing so well, are you sure you want to relinquish the title so quickly?"

"If it were just me Captain, I‘d probably tell you ‚no,‘ but I have the ship to think about. I have to think what is best for everyone on this ship if we are ever going to get back home."

"And what is best for Voyager is B‘Elanna Torres to become Chief Engineer?" she asked wanting him to be sure that he was ready to step down.

"It is Captain," he replied firmly with not a hint of doubt in his voice. "She is not only a better engineer than I am, but she is also very resourceful and motivated. Voyager‘s engines have long since stopped being my engines, they have been adopted by Lt. Torres. She makes them sing."

"You‘re sure? What about her temper?"

"I believe you‘ll find that she‘s changed, especially lately. Oh, she‘ll still have her temper, but I believe she has learned to channel that anger to work for her to drive her and the motivate the engineering crew. You should see her Captain, she doesn‘t know it, not yet, but she already is in command down there. During the battle yesterday, she even ordered me around," he laughed and willingly explained to his Captain all that had transpired the other day.

"You seem proud of her?"

"I believe I am. In the beginning," he said rubbing his nose for effect, "I never would have thought that I‘d be singing her praises, but here I am. I not only respect her Captain, but I‘ve come to think of her as my Delta Quadrant sister. I consider her part of my family."

"And the rest of the crew? How do you think they‘ll take it?"

"I‘ll speak with them, but I don‘t think that they will have any problems calling her ‚Chief.‘ They all respect her."

"I‘m glad to see that, Joe. How about we schedule a meeting with the senior staff and B‘Elanna for 0700 in two days—that should allow ample time for Tom to be released from Sickbay. We wouldn‘t want him to miss it."

"No, we wouldn‘t," Carey agreed with a smile on his face.

"Good. Then I‘ll see you there, you can invite B‘Elanna but don‘t tell her why, I‘d like to surprise her."

"Aye, aye, Captain."

*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***

<What did I do now? B‘Elanna wondered as she rode the turbolift up the bridge level. <Maybe they were finally getting around to demote her for punching Wilkins in the bar a few weeks ago? No that didn‘t seem right, they wouldn‘t have waited so long. So what could it be?

The turbolift finally stopped at the bridge and the doors slid opened. B‘Elanna stepped out and noticed from the personnel on the bridge that the senior staff were apparently already in the Ready Room waiting for her. <Great, I‘m probably already in hot water and now I‘m running late she mused as the entered the room and found a seat conveniently located next to Tom and Harry on the far side of the table.

Noticing the look of anxiety on her face, Tom reached under the table and grabbed her hand and gave it a comforting squeeze that said ‚it‘s alright, I‘m here for you.‘ B‘Elanna smiled at him grateful for his presence just as Janeway started to speak.

"Good morning everyone. B‘Elanna, I‘m glad you could make it. I wanted everyone present this morning. First of all I wanted to congratulate everyone again for their efforts during the battle a couple of days ago. It was touch and go for a while, but through inspired leadership," she explained looking at B‘Elanna, "Voyager triumphed again."

<So that is it, she‘s mad at me for usurping Carey‘s command in Engineering during the battle. But then why is the entire senior staff here, Janeway wouldn‘t yell at me or demote me in front of everyone. Would she? B‘Elanna thought, now thoroughly confused.

"I had a meeting with Chief Carey yesterday," Janeway related, "regarding a meeting we had along with the Commander at the beginning of our voyage. If you recall when the two crews, Maquis and Starfleet, were joined I decided against certain recommendations," she said glancing at her First Officer, "and I decided that Lt. Carey should retain his position of Chief Engineer. What you do not know is that after that meeting when the decision was made, the three of us had a follow-up meeting which we determined that if, and when, Lt. Torres was ready that she would be considered for the Chief Engineer‘s position. Chief Carey informed me as of yesterday that she is more than qualified and ready and he is more than willing to relinquish his position to Lt. Torres. In fact he told me that Voyager‘s engine‘s are no longer his they are her‘s. Congratulations Lieutenant Torres."

"Chief? You want me to be chief?" she asked still not sure she had heard the Captain correctly.

"Yes, B‘Elanna. Do you think you can do the job?" the Captain asked.

"Yes, Captain. I can do the job," she replied and thinking of Carey turned to face him. "Of course, I may need a little guidance from my big brother Joe occasionally."

*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***

"You‘re one cruel woman, you know that B‘Elanna," Tom grumbled as he followed her brisk pace up the trail. It had been a little over two weeks since he had been operated on and he was finally feeling more like himself, but he still wasn‘t ready for an almost-jog up the trail. "Come on, Bea, slow down just a little so I can catch up!"

"What can‘t keep up with me Helmboy?" B‘Elanna asked as she turned around on the trail and paused to wait for him and was rewarded with a passionate kiss for her troubles.

"Why are you so much in a hurry today, B‘Elanna?"

"Oh, no particular reason," she replied coyly.

"Re—al—ly?" he questioned with a look that said ‚you‘re hiding something from me aren‘t you?‘ but she only responded with delightful laughter which intrigued him even more.

*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***

The last couple of weeks had been divine. B‘Elanna and he had gotten much closer. They had spent hours hiking the Crestwood Trail adding more trails and more detail while at the same time getting to know each other better—talking and touching— taking it slow and savoring every precious moment they were together. Every day the protective walls that they had built around them over the years became lower and lower, at least when they were together. B‘Elanna not only related stories to Tom about her childhood, her father‘s abandonment, her mother‘s disgust at her human side, but also of how men had treated her in the past. Likewise Tom did the same, sharing difficult memories of his domineering father, his mother‘s death, Caldik Prime, and prison. Each found it easier than they could have imagined to share their past and pain with the other. But still B‘Elanna hadn‘t told Tom the three little words he was longing to hear.

*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***

He was even more sure that something was up when they passed her ‚favorite spot‘ and continued to climb and when they finally reached the top and started to descend down the other side, B‘Elanna led him down a new path, and he was sure that she had something special planned.

"Where are you taking me, Bea?" he asked as they entered into a wooded area where the trail snaked in and out of the trees.

"You‘ll find out. You wouldn‘t want me to spoil the surprise would you?"

"I wouldn‘t?"

"No trust me, you wouldn‘t. Come on, it‘s not much further."

They walked another ten minutes or so when in a distance Tom could make out the sound of running water, as they got closer the sounds became louder until B‘Elanna and he walked around a boulder in the path and stepped into an opening. There before them was a lovely waterfall which spilled into a sparkling blue pool of water which was trimmed with B‘Elanna‘s favorite wild flowers. On the ground beside the pool, a tablecloth was spread out with a picnic basket resting on top of it.

"Wow! You‘ve got to holo-program more often, Bea. You did a fantastic job!" Tom said as the swung her around in his arms and embraced her.

"Thanks, I‘m glad you like it. So do you want to eat first, there is bread, fruit, cheese, and a Merlot that Carey recommended, or would you like to go for a swim?"

"A swim? I didn‘t even bring my swim trunks?"

"Who says that that has got to stop us?" she purred and began unbuttoning his shirt.

"B‘Elanna, I‘m shocked what kind of guy do you think I am?" he replied with mock disgust.

"Oh, I don‘t know," she said as she slowly unbuttoned the rest of the shirt, slipped the shirt off his shoulders and brought her hands up to cup both sides of his face as she gazed into his blue eyes. "I think you‘re the man I love."

Tom did a double take, if this had been a holo-vid he would have requested a re-cue just to make sure he had heard her correctly.

Noticing his questioning look, B‘Elanna pulled his head down to hers to give him a long wet kiss before she pulled away from his lips and nibbled his ear lobe. "I said, Tom Paris, that I love you. Now what are you going to do about it?" she whispered with a slight purr in her throat.

"Well let‘s see, I could stop the program and broadcast that statement over the ship‘s intercom?"

B‘Elanna pinched him on the arm.

"Owww! No? Okay, I could go see Joe Carey and thank him for playing matchmaker?"

She pulled his exposed chest hair.

"Ouchh! No? Not that then. Well, how about I strip you naked and we both go swimming and check out what might be behind that waterfall?

"That‘s what I was hoping for," she replied crinkling her nose at him and slightly baring her teeth.

"I love you, B‘Elanna. I love you."

"I love you too, Tom."

Epilogue - Four years later.

"Do it again, do it again, Daddy!!" little K‘Elli Paris squealed as Tom threw her up in the air and caught her again around the waist just before her petite toes touched the cool sparkling water.

"Alright but just one more time."

"Higher, higher!" the little girl pleaded has her proud father tossed her up in the air one last time.

"Come on pun-kin let‘s go join Mommy on the beach." he suggested as he caught his bundle of joy again and kissed her little pert nose. Little K‘Elli at three years old was the spitting image of her mother, except that her forehead ridges were less pronounced and she had her father‘s bright blue eyes.

"Do we have to?" she playfully pouted, a facial expression inherited from her Dad.

"Yep short-stuff, I understand Mommy‘s got your favorite lunch waiting for you."

"Peanee butter and fuff?"


"Oh, boy, let‘s go! I‘m hungry!"

Do you want to try and swim back?"

"Uh, huh. You hold me Daddy and I‘ll kick real hard."

Tom placed his hands around her little waist while K‘Elli kicked and wailed her arms in the water as he waded to shore supporting his precious little girl between his hands.

"Just look at them Kathryn," Chakotay said pointing Tom and K‘Elli out to his new bride.

"Hard to believe that is the same Tom Paris that first came aboard Voyager five years ago isn‘t it?" she remarked.

"I could say the same for B‘Elanna. She‘s a wife and proud mother of one energetic three-year-old and another one on the way."

"Sssh," his new wife said as she tilted her head closer to him.

"Did you know that there are rumors that she is carrying twins?"

"Twins?" Chakotay‘s eyes opened wide in amazement. "That‘ll keep them hopping!"

"Hopping and happy."

"That‘s just fine with me. I can‘t believe I ever thought that he wasn‘t worthy of B‘Elanna. I must have been . . ."

"Jealous?" she finished.

"Jealous? . . . No. Not jealous, maybe envious though. Four years ago they were just finding and expressing their happiness, and while I knew you were the one for me, I didn‘t know what to say or what to do.

"But you do now?"

"I‘ve had some good teachers." he explained looking at Tom and B‘Elanna.

The End of Story (not end of text)

Don‘t you love fluff? Particularly with a little peanut butter on top!


"Captain, there‘s a message coming through from the Alpha Quadrant!" Kim shouted anxiously from his comm station.

"Well, put it through Mr. Kim, before you have a heart attack!" Janeway ordered.

"Yes, ma‘am (wasn‘t it crunch time?). It‘s a message from the year 1998 with attached text. The text is too long to read out loud so I‘ll download it. Here is the message though," Harry replied as his fingers flew over the controls.
<<To anyone who reads this text. Hope you liked my story.

Please send e-mail to and let the author know if you liked it—she loves e-mail!! Also, please let
me know where you are writing from as I‘m keeping a log.

"Apparently this message is from a person who is suffering from an inferiority complex, with a desperate desire to travel and learn more about the universe," Tuvok determined.

Paris turned around to address the Vulcan. "You make the author sound like a nut case," he concluded with an expression of disgust on his face. "All she is asking for is that someone take the time to send her a little note, not a Pulitzer Prize."

"I agree with my Tommy boy," B‘Elanna piped up from the engineering station fluttering her long dark eyelashes at the pilot, to which he responded to by blowing her a kiss.

Janeway and Chakotay looked at each other laughed and nodded their concurrence to Paris‘ statement.
"Ensign Kim. Please distribute the downloaded text to all rewmembers and request that they all respond at their earliest opportunity," the Captain ordered.

"Aye, aye, Captain."

Really the End—Really.