~~~~Brandy wears a braided chain
~~~~Made of finest silver from the north of Spain
~~~~A locket that bears the name
~~~~Of a man that Brandy loves.


It had been a wild ride, in enough time it would take to close a door, they
had been pulled from the Alpha Quadrant and into the Delta Quadrant...70,000
light-years from home. It just didn't seem possible, yet it was. The
Liberty was in shambles, and the people that had survived were busy trying
to repair the ship or they were in the infirmary seeking medical attention.

Surveying the ship's mess hall, Chakotay looked around to see that cylinders
now occupied the area, and some of the people that used to constitute his
crew lay inside. Silently, Chakotay passed by the cylinders and laid a hand
upon each of them. Sarma, Rick, Nella...all had paid the ultimate price.
And for what? To be whisked across the galaxy with little hope of ever
returning home?

The Liberty's captain sadly shook his dark head. Since he had assumed
command of the ship, this was the worst crisis he had to face. Offering up
a quiet prayer to whatever deity or deities watched over this corner of
space he finished his private ceremony of mourning and remembrance. Looking
up he saw Gerron who was preparing the cylindrical coffins for deployment
into space.

"You're doing a fine job, Gerron. Your fallen crewmembers would be proud."

"Thank you, Captain," the usually cheerful Bajoran looked extremely sullen
and finished sealing the last cylinder. "They wouldn't blame you sir. All
of them," he motioned to the cylinders, "respected you a great deal."

Chakotay nodded, not trusting himself to speak. He almost missed the
Cardassians. At least they were a known quantity.

* * * * * *


"So, Mr. Paris, where do you think we can find the Maquis?" Janeway asked.
Cavit, her first officer, reluctantly stepped back from the console so Tom
could look at the screen. There was no doubt that the first officer didn't
care for the Captain's "Observer."

Stepping closer, Tom made note of various course trajectories and the
fluctuating eddies of the turbulent plasma storms that made up this area of
space that was called "The Badlands."

"Knowing Chakotay, I'd expect him to seek refuge in the "Tarikoff Belt," he
noted and pointed to an area on the display.

"Stadi," Janeway spoke up, addressing her chief pilot, a beautiful female
Betazoid. "I'm transferring this information to the helm controls. Set in
a course."

"Aye, Captain." With ease, Stadi entered the commands into the navigational
database, while Tom Paris looked upon her with envy. He had already fallen
in love with this sleek ship, and he itched to take the controls. Tom hoped
Stadi wasn't reading his mind, but from the twitch of her lip, he knew she
had *heard* every word.

"Captain!" Harry Kim called out from his position at Ops interrupting Tom's
thoughts. "We're being scanned by a coherent tetryon beam. There's also a
large displacement wave rapidly approaching our location.

"Rollins, try and ..."

Janeway's command was cut short, when the ship was rocked to her core.
Sparks flew, fires broke out, and people were thrown around Voyager like
they were rag dolls.

When Voyager finally stopped shaking, Harry alarmed everyone on the bridge
with his statement that they were no longer in the Alpha Quadrant, but were
now over 70,000 light-years away in the Delta Quadrant. Everyone that is
that was still alive to hear his words...Stadi and Cavit lay dead. On the
bridge's view screen, the remaining crew could see a large floating space

* * * * * *

Everyone on Voyager and the Liberty were busy taking care of the wounded,
and mending the ships. Tom was helping Harry Kim in Sickbay with the
wounded; and B'Elanna and Chakotay were repairing the warp engine when
suddenly both crews were transported away from the ships and to the space

Just as suddenly, a few days later, after they had been prodded with needles
and examined, they were returned...that is all except for two.

* * * * * *
Waking up in a stark white environment for a second time, B'Elanna's hand
insinctively reached up to her neck to touch her locket, hoping it would
bring her comfort, like it had in the past, but she found to her surprise
that it was gone.

"Morning," Harry Kim called out. He had been sitting on the edge of his bed
waiting for the Maquis woman, laying in an identical bed beside him to wake

"Morning?" B'Elanna questioned.

"Actually it's just a guess. I have no way of telling in here," the young
Asian male replied. "How are you feeling?" Harry noted the look of
confusion that passed over the woman's exotic features. He couldn't figure
out what alien race she belonged to, but he knew from reconnaissance that
she was the Maquis engineer on the Liberty.

B'Elanna paused briefly to consider his question. "Um... groggy... and a
bit weak, I guess." Carefully, B'Elanna swung her legs over the edge of the
bed and faced Harry.

Harry nodded, he wasn't feeling his usual robust self either. "Not
surprising, the Ocampa, they are the people who live here," he explained,
"injected you with something to quiet you. They thought you were going to
tear this place apart--not that I blame them."

The half-Klingon rubbed her temples. It was coming back to her now. She
remembered waking up and wanting desperately to get out. She also recalled
the panic she felt just before they injected her, when she noticed those
ugly growths on her body. {Oh Kahless, the baby! How did all this affect my

"I'm starting to remember," she said, her right hand rubbed her abdomen in a
circular motion. Lately she could get her baby to move if she massaged her
stomach just right. B'Elanna smiled softly when the baby responded with a
strong kick. It didn't prove that the child wasn't affected, but she took
it to be a good sign.

"The Ocampa think that your baby is okay," Harry told her. He had noted the
look of concern on her face.

B'Elanna sighed. "That's a relief, I was worried."

"Yeah, I could tell."

"But what are these things?" B'Elanna pointed to a ugly growth that was on
her forearm. It was lumpy, red, and sore to the touch.

"They aren't saying, I'm not even sure they know. When they come back, we
can ask them. They seem very friendly."

"Okay, so where are we?" B'Elanna asked turning his attention away from

"The Caretaker sent us here, according to the medical personnel. Far as I
can make out, he is some type of godlike being that lives on that space

"Yeah, I remember that space station, Where are you from? You didn't serve
on the Liberty."

No, I was on the U.S.S. Voyager."


"Yeah, we were assigned to capture the Liberty, but got pulled into the
Delta Quadrant just like you did."

B'Elanna moved warily from her bed, away from Harry Kim.

"Relax, Maquis, I don't even have a phaser on me." Harry made a show of
padding his hospital attire. "Besides, it looks like we are in this
together. It only makes sense that we should cooperate."

B'Elanna snorted derisively .

The next instant, the door to the room swished open and a fairly tall man
and two females came in, all were dressed in white. All of them looked
human with the exception of their ears that reminded Harry Kim of a Vulcan's

"Are you well rested?" the man politely asked. Harry and B'Elanna nodded.
"Good, we brought some clothes with us. We thought you might like to
stretch your legs and get something to eat."

"Sounds good," Harry replied. "I am a little hungry."

"Speak for yourself, Starfleet," B'Elanna snapped. "I'm eating for
two...I'm starving! And if I don't get something to eat pretty soon, I'm
bound to be nauseous." {Oh the joys of being pregnant!}

"Very well, we have some excellent nutritional foods that should be not only
good for you, but also your baby."

"That's good to know," B'Elanna admitted. "Look, I'm sorry I was earlier. It's my Klingon temper, it can be very hard to

Klingon? That explains a lot," Harry thought.

"It certainly must be disconcerting to wake up in a strange environment. We
can understand that," the Ocampan male admitted.

"Before we go anywhere, we'd like to know what these things are," B'Elanna
asked pointing once again to the growth on her arm.

"I'm sorry, I'm afraid we just don't know. We wish we did, but we'll try
our best to make you as comfortable as possible."

"What do you mean, you don't know?" Kim demanded.

The man shrugged. "All the people that are sent to us by the Caretaker have
been afflicted to one degree of another with these terrible growths," he
explained. "We have been able to determine that the child you are
carrying," he turned to face B'Elanna, "doesn't seem to be affected." He
hoped this information would be of comfort to the woman.

"If you can't tell us what they are, then can you at least tell us when will
these things go away?" Kim asked. "When will we get better?"

The Ocampa male folded his hands in front of him and his eyes expressed
great sadness. "I'm afraid they won't go away, and we have yet to find a
cure for your infliction. You can be asssured that if the child is born

"Before we die?" B'Elanna interrupted. Harry swallowed down a lump in his
throat, but tried to present a brave front.

The alien nodded. "If your child is born before you die, you can be assured
that we'll raise her as if she was one of our own. She'll be treasured."

B'Elanna placed her hand on her stomach again. She no longer felt very

"Voyager and the Liberty will find us, Maquis," Harry assured her. "We have
very sophisticated instruments on our ship, it's the latest technology that
Starfleet has. And when they do find us, the doctor will make us well
again." He hoped he sounded convincing--he also hoped that was saying was

B'Elanna hoped he was right.

* * * * * *

Waking up on Voyager, Tom found that he was back in Sickbay once again with
that holographic doctor that Harry Kim had called up when it was discovered
that both Voyager's doctor and nurse hadn't survived the trip to the Delta

What had Harry call him? Tom tried to remember. Oh yeah, an Emergency
Medical Hologram--or EMH for short. Far as Tom was concerned from what he
had already witnessed, EMH stood for Extremely Moody Hardass.

Looking around, Tom noted that Harry was not to be found. Tapping his comm
badge, he asked the computer to locate his new friend, but was informed
Harry was not on Voyager. Immediately, he contacted Captain Janeway to
inform her of the news and then, seeing that the EMH had things well under
control, he left for the bridge. Maybe he could be of use there.

Tom Paris arrived on the bridge just as Chakotay, Tuvok, and Ayala were
beaming aboard.

As soon as they materialized, Captain Janeway personally greeted the Vulcan,
taking Chakotay by surprise. Finding out that Tuvok had been working
undercover for the Federation for several weeks, Chakotay was shocked. But
what stunned the Maquis captain even more was when he turned and saw Tom
Paris standing on the bridge of Voyager.

"The Vulcan was doing his duty as a Starfleet officer, but what are you
doing here?" Chakotay demanded of his former pilot. "You betrayed us for
what? Freedom from prison? Latinum? What was your price this time,

Chakotay took a step toward Paris, but Janeway put up a hand to stop him.
"Mr. Paris is a member of my crew, I expect you to treat him with the same
respect as I would treat a member of yours." He appraised her silently, his
dark eyes, looked into her grey ones. Starfleet had trained her well, he
concluded. She wasn't about to relinquish any ground.


Both Janeway and Chakotay turned to look at the Vulcan.

"I've been analyzing our situation. It is my opinion that we are dealing
with a solitary individual on the array."

"Only one person on that whole space station?" Janeway asked. It didn't
seem possible during our time away from the ship, that there had only been
one person responsible.

Tuvok nodded. "It is also my opinion, that during our time on the array, we
were being biologically examined."

"Examined?" Chakotay questioned. His attention was now diverted from Paris.

"Why else were we returned undamaged?" Tuvok replied.

"Not all of us returned," Paris noted.

Janeway turned to Chakotay. "That's true, Ensign Harry Kim, my ops officer
didn't return."

"Neither did my engineer." Chakotay wasn't about to tell Paris specifically
that B'Elanna Torres was the one missing. He'd do anything he could to
protect her from this mercenary.

"I think we need to go back to the array, and this time under our own terms.
I want to find these missing people," Janeway remarked. "Captain, will you
accompany me?"

Chakotay cooly appraised Voyager's captain.

The only chance we have of returning home is if we work together," she told

"That is a logical course of action," Tuvok agreed.

Chakotay nodded.

"Good, Tuvok break out the compression rifles, this time we are going back
armed." Chakotay and Ayala followed Janeway toward the turbolift.

"Captain," Paris called out, "I'd like to go with you."

Janeway looked perturbed at being interrupted, but paused. "If this has
anything to do with Chakotay--."

Tom shook his head. "It doesn't, I just want to do anything I can to help

"Very well. Tuvok, see that Mr. Paris is armed."

Tom fought back a look of surprise at the apparent trust the Captain was
placing in him and followed her.

* * * * * *

Walking back through the farm yard, like they had when they were first
beamed to the array, the four went in search of the Caretaker.

Janeway scanned the area with her tricorder.

"I"m not getting any conclusive readings," she informed the others. "I
suppose since we are here, we should search the farrmhouse."

The others nodded and walked up the farmhouse's wooden steps and went
inside. They checked out every room, but found the usual
accouterments--worn country furniture, a basket for the farm dog to sleep
in, and even a bowl full of fruit had been placed on the table, but not the
old man.

Exiting out the backdoor, they turned their attention to the barn--the last
place they remembered seeing the farm folk. Janeway and Ayala took to the
loft, while Chakotay and Paris searched the main floor.

"I'll look over here," Chakotay decided pointing to his left.

Paris nodded. "I'll take this area." The pilot pointed to the other side
of the barn, as far away from Chakotay as was possible. Making a thorough
search Tom looked behind the bales of hay.

"There doesn't seem to be anything up here," Janeway called out. Just a lot
of hay, we're coming down."

"Seems to be the same down here, Captain," Chakotay remarked. "A lot of hay

Janeway chuckled despite the seriousness of the situation. "Mr. Paris, did
you find anything?"

Tom looked out from behind four bales of hay that had been stacked
vertically. A few pieces of hay stuck out from behind his ear. "Nothing,
Captain..." A glint of something shiny to his left near another bale of hay
caught his eye. "Wait," he amended reaching out. His fingers closed upon
the item, but even before he could examine it with his eyes, he knew what it
was. It was something he'd never forget.

"What did you find?" Janeway earnestly asked, she had climbed down the
ladder that had led to the loft, and was now standing beside Tom Paris.

"A locket." Blue eyes looked up at the Captain, he still couldn't believe
that it was that he had found. What would the odds be that the Caretaker
would create a locket that looked exactly...and then he knew...the Caretaker
hadn't created this.

"Where is she?" Tom demanded, striding past Janeway and toward Chakotay.

"She?" The Maquis captain questioned.

"*Don't* play ignorant with me, Chakotay!" Tom spat. "This," he held up the
silver locket, "belongs to B'Elanna. I should know I gave it to her...Where
is she?" he repeated.

Janeway looked from Tom to Chakotay and then back again. "What are you
talking about, Mr. Paris?"

Tom opened the locket, and the hologram of himself played for all to see.
Chakotay who had known about Tom, but had never seen the inner workings of
the locket looked dumbfounded.

"Who's this B'Elanna?" Janeway demanded, this time addressing Chakotay.

"She's my engineer," he replied, but his gaze remained fixed on Paris.

The thought was enough to make Tom's world spin.

"Your *missing* engineer?" Janeway asked.

Chakotay nodded. "She's the one who's missing, along with your Ensign Kim."

"You had no right to keep this information from me!" Tom bit out, his face
hard with fury.

"I'm her captain. It's my job to protect her from *all* threats," Chakotay
told him coldly, "including you."

"Don't you think this should be B'Elanna's choice? You had no right to

Janeway stepped between the two irate men, placing her hands their chests to
keep them apart. "Now is not the time, gentlemen. We have more important
matters at stake. First we have to find B'Elanna and Harry. We have to
remain composed and work as a team if we expect to find our missing people,"
she added. If you to can't put differences aside, I'll call for Voyager to
beam you back to the ship. Do I make myself clear?" Tom and Chakotay
hesitated at first, their anger still ripe, and then both nodded, knowing
that she was right.

Tom forced himself to relax, if there was one thing he had learned in that
New Zealand prison was patience. The important thing right now was that
B'Elanna was here with them in the Delta Quadrant. So near but yet so far
away. He had to find them...find them both!

In the stunned silence that followed, the sound of a familiar banjo drifted
through the air.

They found the Caretaker outside, strumming nonchalantly on a well-used
banjo, just like they had first seen him. Unfortunately, the meeting with
him proved useless. He told them that Harry and B'Elanna were no longer on
the array but didn't say where they were. He also spoke of not having
enough time, and honoring a debt could never be repaid. When Janeway
pressed for more answers, the Caretaker with a slight wave of his hand had
sent them all back to Voyager.

* * * * * *

Arriving back on the ship, Janeway debriefed the landing party, making a
computer record of everything that transpired back on the Array. It had
been decided that their best course of action would be to follow the bursts
of white energy that were being sent from the Array to a small planet.
Hopefully, the two missing crewmen would be found there.

The Liberty followed Voyager. Being that the Maquis ship was still having
problems with its warp core, it would take some time to reach the planet.
Janeway put the crew to work, taking advantage of the time they had before
they reached their destination.

Helping out repairing fallen struts and clearing away debris, Tom Paris
crawled into bed late that night. He was exhausted. Normally it would have
been easy to fall asleep, but ever since he had returned earlier that day
from the Array, he'd been thinking about the locket...and of course
B'Elanna... He slept restlessly that night, and dreamed of being back on
Palmat, of when they first met, and of their short time together before he
had to leave.

The next day when Voyager arrived at the planet, Tom accompanied the
Captain, Chakotay, Tuvok, and a strange man that they had come across en
route to the planet. His name was Neelix, from a race called Talaxians. He
told them they might find their missing friends with a people called the

At Neelix's suggestion they tried to barter water for information from a
race called the Kazon-Ogla. With good timing and a lot
of luck, they returned to Voyager, this time with a blonde pixy woman called
Kes. From her, they had learned that Kes' people were Ocampa, and that
they lived beneath the surface of the planet. It was there, Kes told them,
that they might locate Harry and B'Elanna. Early tomorrow morning, they
would transport down through a crack in the crust, and Kes would help them

* * * * * *

Later that evening...


Janeway looked up to see Tom Paris standing in the doorway of the Ready

Taking a cautious sip from her coffee cup she motioned for him to come in.

Seating himself across from the Captain, he ran his sweaty palms of his
hands over his pant legs. He couldn't believe how on edge he was feeling.

Janeway blew across the surface of the coffee, before she placed the cup on
her desk. "When we put this behind us, I'll have to get someone up here to
adjust the replicator. Every time I order coffee, it comes out as hot as a
warp core." She raised her eyes to observe her guest. Janeway noted that
the cocky young man she'd already grown accustomed to was looking very ill
at ease. "What can I do for you, Mr. Paris?"

Paris laughed nervously. "I know you are taking a landing party down the planet in the morning."

"Yes, that's true."

"Captain, I'd like to request permission to join the away team."

"I've already selected the landing party. "Tuvok, Chakotay..."

"And Neelix and Kes are going to accompany you. I know," Tom said
interrupting her.

"Well then, you know that I've already assigned a significant number of
people for this mission."

Tom nodded. "That's not the point, Captain." His voice had hardened.
Janeway leaned forward in her seat. "I need to go. I need to help find
Harry and B'Elanna."

"I assure you that we'll have things under control," she assured him.

"You don't understand, I have to go. It's for your benefit that I'm made
part of this away mission."

"I've already let you accompany me on the last two away missions, Mr. Paris.
Technically, according to regulations, an individual, such as yourself..."

"A convict."

Janeway nodded.

Tom looked away, exasperated, before he returned to focus on Janeway.
"B'Elanna is my mate, Captain. I care about her more than you can
imagine--more than even I would ever had thought possible. And Harry's my
friend--my only friend. There is no one else you could take with you who
would go to such extremes to find them, but me."


"And," he continued, cutting her off, "I'm in the best physical condition in
my life. I've spent a lot of time while I was in Auckland working out.
You'd have to admit, even considering what Kes has been able to tell you,
you don't know what conditions you'll encounter down there tomorrow." Tom
leaned forward half- way out of his seat. "I'm begging you, Captain--and I
don't mind telling you that I don't beg often. I'm begging you to let me
go, Captain."

Janeway picked up a spoon and lazily stirred her beverage, dispersing the
steam. It wasn't often one of the crew begged her. And if someone had told
her that Tom Paris would resort to begging when she first met him in
Auckland, she certainly wouldn't have believed it. Gray eyes looked up
through the rising steam and focused on the earnest blue eyes of Tom Paris.

"Meet us in Transporter Room 2 at 0800."

* * * * * *

Entering the cabin that had been assigned to him, Tom dropped into the
nearest chair and tried to rub the tiredness out of his face and eyes.

"Computer begin recording." He cleared his throat.

The computer beeped an acknowledgment.

"It's been a long day...seems like it must have lasted more than twenty-four
hours. Too many things have happened.

"Here we are 70,000 light-years from home, in the Delta Quadrant. It seems
so unreal. And then out of the blue, I find out that B'Elanna is here
somewhere. It's so bizarre! If I didn't have her locket to prove it, I'd
swear I was living some fantasy.

"I can't wait to see her, but I don't know what Chakotay has said to her.
What has he been telling B'Elanna about me? I can only hope that she
remembers what we had together, and what we shared if but for a brief time.
How I long to see her again, to touch her. I even miss hearing her bitch.
She has no idea how sexy she is when she's mad. But I do. It's been so
long since we've been together, a lot longer than I had ever intended.
She'll never know how difficult it was for me to say goodbye on Palmat that
day. I wanted to hold her in my arms and never let her go. If only I'd
been able to leave her behind something more than that locket--it seems so
inconsequential. I hope we can find her, and she's all right.

"We also have to find Harry. Damn, I'd only known him a short while, but he
seems like such a nice kid. Still green mind you, but you can tell he's the
type of person that's honest to a fault. What the hell does he see in me?
I gave him an out when I first came on board. He'd been talking to the
doctor and the first officer. They'd been telling him about me, about my
past, about Caldik Prime. I told him that he should listen to them, and
what does he do? He tells me that he can pick his own friends. I hope he's

"B'Elanna and Harry, both missing--my mate and my only friend. Could my
luck get any better? Probably not. Oh, well I suppose it could. If we
can't get them back and Janeway can't find a way to get us back to the Alpha
Quadrant, I could be stuck being an 'observer' for about seventy years! Or
maybe she could put me to work with that holographic doctor? That would be
a barrel of laughs! Mr. Personality to work with, a doctor who has no idea
what the words "bedside manner" mean!

"Tomorrow we'll be at the planet. I haven't prayed in a long time, but
that's all I've been doing since I found that necklace. If someone's
listening, and fate is on my side, maybe we'll find both B'Elanna and

* * * * * *

Tom, Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok, Neelix, and Kes beamed down through a tiny
crack in the protective barrier. Janeway, Chakotay, and Tuvok consulted
with the Ocampa leaders, about the Caretaker and trying to find out about
the pulses of energy he was sending to the planet. Tom, Neelix, and Kes
were given the task of trying to locate Harry and B'Elanna. All the while,
they could hear and feel the pulses as they made contact with the planet.
They could also tell that they were hitting at a faster tempo.

Kes led Tom and Neelix to an secluded area of the city where a number of
tunnels lined with staircases led to the surface. Only a few people knew
about this, and Kes being that this was how she had reached the surface, was
one of them.

Tom, tricorder in hand, scanned the area, carefully aiming the device up
each stairway. He'd almost given up when the tricorder began to beep.

"They're up this one," he informed the others and tapped his comm badge.
"Captain, we've determined their locations."

::::Good work, Mr. Paris.::::

"I'm sending you the coordinates."

::::We'll meet you on the surface. Janeway out.::::

Tom took the stairs two at a time, and Neelix and Kes followed on his heels
trying to keep up with him.

"B'Elanna!!! Harry!!!" Tom's voice echoed through the chamber, but it was
greeted with silence.

* * * * * * *

"I imagine your husband is worried about both of you?" Harry asked. They
had paused in their climb to the surface to catch their breath. Both were
still feeling the effects from the illness. Sitting on the steps to rest,
Harry had grown tired of the silence and tried to strike up a conversation.

B'Elanna pursed her lips before responding. The steam fairly poured out her
ears. "My *husband* doesn't know whether I'm dead or alive," she snapped.
"He doesn't even known Im' pregnant!"

"I--I'm sorry," Harry stammered. He immediately regretted his choice of

Steam having been vented, B'Elanna sighed. "Don't be. I'm the one who
should be sorry. Sorry I ever got messed up with one Tom Paris."

"Tom P--P--Paris?" Harry questioned.

"Yeah. Why? do you know him?" She appraised him with a cold eye.

Harry sputtered, unable to form a reply, so he opted for a shrug. He wasn't
going to be the one to tell her Paris was on Voyager. She really might get

"Oh, come on, I would have thought everyone in Starfleet had heard of Tom
Paris. The disgrace of the famous Paris family!

Harry could see she was beginning to get angry again. "Perhaps, there was a
good reason he didn't come back to you," he suggested.

"Oh, *I* know what happened. They told me on the ship. Paris went out on a
mission and left the Maquis, who he had promised to help, high and dry. He
didn't even bother trying to look for me. He found a bunch of space bimbos,
changed his name, and headed for parts unknown."

"And you know they're telling you the truth?"

B'Elanna nodded once. "They've been good to me--took me in when I had
nowhere to go. Why would they lie to me?"

Harry shrugged. "I don't known, but I do know things aren't always as they

The half-Klingon sighed and pulled herself up to a standing position.
"Enough talk, Starfleet. Let's get--"


B'Elanna stopped talking and breathing. It couldn't be. It sounded just

"WE'RE HERE!!!" Harry called out. For safety, he retreated up the stairs a
few steps. He could see that the Maquis woman was all but paralyzed, with
one hand in a white-knuckle grip on the handrail and with the other hand
rubbing circles on her abdomen. But he had also seen how irate she was
earlier, so he wasn't about to get in between her and his friend.

Hearing Harry's shout, Tom followed by Neelix and Kes, flew up the last few
flights of stairs to their position.

Turning on the landing below Harry and B'Elanna, Tom saw them. Harry,
looking unsteady on his feet, clung to the handrail a few steps above
B'Elanna. His mate stood still, only her hand against her stomach moved.
Her dark eyes seemed to bore a hole through him. Tom didn't know exactly
why, but something other than the situation they were in, was terribly
wrong. She looked troubled.

Paris moved cautiously closer to her until only a few steps separated the

"B'Elanna," he whispered huskily, and held out a hand to her. Unexpectedly,
she took a step back, forcing Harry to move further up the stairs.

"Don't you come near me," she warned him when she finally spoke.

Tom couldn't believe his ears. "B'Elanna, what are you saying?"

"I-I'm saying that I know about you. I know what you did--and didn't do."

Neelix and Kes paused on the landing. When Kes tried to move forward,
Neelix pulled her back. The pixy looked up quizzically at the Talaxian, who
merely shook his head.

This wasn't the same B'Elanna he'd left behind on Palmat. Something had
changed, Tom thought. "B'Elanna, I told you all about my past--even about
Caldik Prime. Don't even think I'm not glad to see you--I am. But why are
you here? Why did you leave Palmat?"

"I had no choice," she told him. "After the you left, the Cardies targeted
Palmat. They thought it was a major refuge for the Maquis. They bombed us
for weeks. So during one of the lulls, I split. I went looking for you and
found the Liberty...only thing was, you weren't there!""

"I didn't know about Palmat, B'Elanna. If I'd known..." {Even if I had
known, what could I have done....nothing...not being in a Federation Penal

"You'd have done what? Whisked into Palmat with your space girls and
rescued me?" she sneered.

::::Janeway to Paris::::

The fire still present in B'Elanna's eyes. This wasn't going to be a
subject she let drop...nor did he want her too. There was a lot to be said
and a lot to straighten out. First priority though was to get out of here
alive. When they were back on Voyager, then there would be time to talk.

"Paris here, Captain."

::::The blasts from the array have irradiated the planet's crust, making it
impossible for Voyager to beam us out. We're heading to the tunnels. You
are going to have to find a breach or create a breach in the security
barrier when you get to the top. We should only be a few minutes behind

"Understood, Captain, Paris out." Tom passed by B'Elanna and pulled Harry's
arm over his shoulder for support, letting Neelix and Kes who had joined him
help B'Elanna. "We'll have to talk this over later, we have to..." A blast
rocked the tunnel, raining pieces of rock and debris down upon the four.
"First we have to get the hell out of here."

The quartet scrambled up the remaining flights of stairs, pausing only when
one of the blasts struck again. Reaching the top they could see the
sparkling evidence of a disintegrating type of force field. Kes stepped

"This is how I got out," she explained. There's a gap between the energy
field and the tunnel wall." Kes moved toward the gap, and carefully slipped
through, keeping her back to the tunnel wall. The light created by the
force field illuminated her angelic face. "Come on," she urged. "It's the
only way to the surface, but be careful. We've been told that the light
will burn your skin off."

"And a whole lot more," Tom murmured as he stepped closer, he could already
feel the energy charge wash over his body. He could feel goosebumps forming
on his flesh.

Gingerly, the other three followed Kes, each easing through between the
force field and the tunnel wall.

On the other side of the barrier, they found that the tunnel ended,
signifying they had reached their destination.

Using their phasers, Tom and Neelix fired overhead. Rock and dirt showered
down upon them, and then the welcomed sunlight poured through. Paris, being
the tallest pulled himself up through the tunnel opening first. Then
reaching down, one by one, he pulled up the rest. First Kes, Harry, and
then B'Elanna and lastly Neelix. B'Elanna glared at Tom when he chose to
help her by putting his arm around her waist, but she was too weak from the
illness and the climb to the surface to argue, so she let him help her move
away from the tunnel opening.

The energy blasts that were being fired from the array at the planet to seal
the energy conduits screamed over their heads before they impacted with the
surface of the planet. Twice, they had to dive to the ground to avoid being
hit. On the last hit, Tom turned to see dust and smoke billowing out of the
hole that had recently crawled out of. He slapped his comm badge.

"Paris to Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok! Can you hear me?"

No answer.

"I'm going back for them," he informed the rest. "Voyager, on my mark
transport everyone in my group but me."

B'Elanna gripped Neelix's shirt sleeve. "Go with him." she whispered
huskily so only the Talaxian could hear. Neelix nodded and took a step
toward the tall blue-eyed man. "You aren't going alone. You'll need help,
I'm going with you."

There was no time to argue. Paris removed the comm badge Tuvok had given
Neelix earlier and clipped it to Harry's uniform shirt. "Voyager, make that
three to beam up. Lock onto the other comm badge and transport."

Neelix followed Tom to the opening and the pair crawled back down. Coughing
from the dust, they walked back toward the flights of stairs. This time,
they noticed that the protective barrier was wider than before, making it
much easier to pass through.

"Captain!" he called out.

"We're here!" came the reply.

Reaching the top landing, Tom and Neelix saw the Captain and an injured
Tuvok on that same landing. Chakotay was about three meters below them on a
section of steps that had separated from the rest of the flight of stairs
and was in danger of crashing into the void below.

"Neelix, please help me with Lt. Tuvok," Janeway asked. The chubby little
man nodded and did as bade.

"You'll have to help, Chakotay. Janeway told Paris.

Tom nodded. "I'll get him, Captain. You get to the surface and help Neelix
with Tuvok."

Janeway hesitated.

"I promise, I'll make sure he's all right."

"Very well."

Tom turned to his ex-captain. The anger and pain were reflected in the
man's dark eyes. "Hold on, I'll get you out of here," Tom promised,
stepping gingerly on one of the steps. It shifted under his weight and
almost brought his side of the flight of stairs down.

"Get out of here, Paris!" the Maquis snarled.

"Not without you," Tom replied. He moved nearer Chakotay. With one hand he
gripped the stair rail while he outstretched the other toward the older man.

"I don't need any help from *you*. I'll get across myself."

Tom could see he was badly hurt from the awkward position of his left leg.
"And how do you think you are going to do that with a broken leg? Fly?"

"I told you to get the hell out of here, Paris!"

Tom reached toward Chakotay, thankful that he was tall enough to span the
gap. "Think of it this way, chief. If you don't let me rescue you, who's
going to be there to protect B'Elanna from a lecherous person like me?"

"Have it your way, if I fall I can at least take you with me and spare
B'Elanna any more pain!" Chakotay gripped Paris' arm with one hand and with
the other he latched onto the tall man's shoulder. Just before the next
blast hit, Tom pulled his ex- captain across the gap. Turning, he
positioned Chakotay on his back and crawled back up the stairs so they could
be beamed up to Voyager.

* * * * * *

The transporter beam deposited the two men in Sickbay. Paris tried not to
jar the older man's leg as he helped him up on one of the biobeds.

Turning and facing the EMH, Tom noticed that Harry and B'Elanna were already
laying on two of the other beds. "Doc, I think Chakotay has a broken leg."

The EMH turned from his task. "I'll be with him in a moment, first I have
to attend to these two."

"If you tell me where the osteo regenerator is I can take care of it for
you. I've had a little medical training on the side {Pay attention to
B'Elanna, Doc, I can handle this.}

The doctor nodded. "Second drawer down to your left."

"Easy there, Chakotay, I'll have you fixed up in a jiffy," Tom promised.
Chakotay glared. Paris retrieved the osteo regenerator and turning it on,
he expertly adjusted the frequency and began to wave it in a steady motion
over the broken limb. Looking up from his task, he observed his mate.
B'Elanna was laying quietly on the biobed, letting the doctor examine her,
but her eyes were focused on him. From the clench of her jaw, Tom knew that
she was still very angry.

"I've given both you and Ensign Kim an antidote for the sickness you were
inflicted with. You should know it would have taken any other doctor months
to develop such a complex compound," the Doctor bragged to B'Elanna.

"Well thank you. I am feeling much better."

The EMH beamed with pride over his accomplishment.

"You did good works, Doc," Tom offered, still maintaining a steady wave of
the regenerator.

"Thank you."

"So when can I get out of here?" the half-Klingon snapped pushing herself up
into a sitting position.

"Yeah," Harry chimed in. "I'm feeling much better, I'd like to get out of
here. I'm sure they can use me up on the bridge."

"You can go," the doctor said to the young Asian. Harry grinned and jumped
off the biobed, waving to Tom as he exited sickbay. B'Elanna moved to join

"You," he pointed to the half-Klingon, "aren't going anywhere yet. There
are still a few more scans I need to run. Just to be sure that everything
is okay with you and your baby."

The osteo regenerator dropped to the floor with a clang.

"Baby?" Tom whispered, he moved closer to his mate.

B'Elanna rolled her eyes to the overhead before she focused on the tall man.
"Yeah, baby," B'Elanna concurred.

"I had no idea, B'Elanna." Tom grinned. "Why didn't you tell me you were
pregnant. It''s...wonderful!"

"What makes you think that it's *your* baby, flyboy?!"

Tom faced paled. He hadn't given it a thought that anyone else could be the
father but him.

"Someone else is the father?" he asked. "Who?"

B'Elanna smiled, her gaze focused on Chakotay.

"Are you saying that it's Chakotay?" he asked. Focused on B'Elanna he
failed to see the look of surprise that washed over Chakotay's face.

"I'm not saying anything, Tom," B'Elanna replied. "Or maybe I should call
you Nick?"


"Admit it, it's an alias you use," she accused.

Tom laughed. B'Elanna looked shocked by the sound. The doctor not knowing
what to say, was silent for a changel.

"Nick?" he asked. "As in Nick Locarno?"

B'Elanna nodded.

"Actually it's Nicholas Paris Locarno. He's a cousin on my father's side...
my Aunt Louise's son. Nick got one of Admiral Picard's favorites, Wesley
Crusher, into trouble once when they were in the Academy together. No great
loss though, with a name like Wesley, that kid was bound to get into
trouble. Let me guess, Nick is running around the Alpha Quadrant with a
woman on each arm, and a scheme around every corner."

B'Elanna looked at her mate numbly.

Tom stepped forward again. Either they were going to get this behind them,
he thought, or she'd be in range to knock him into the next dimension. One
way or another, something was going to happen before either one of them left
this room.

"B'Elanna, where do you think I've been the last few months? What have they
told you?" He jerked his head in Chakotay's direction.

"I just told her the truth, Paris."

Tom faced the older man, his eyes were cold and he spoke with determination.
"I wasn't talking to you. I was talking to my mate. If you have something
to say to me, we can *discuss* it later."

Chakotay chose to follow the Doctor's lead and remained quiet.

Tom turned to look at B'Elanna again. "Tell me, B'Elanna. Where did you
think I was?"

"I--I don't know," she admitted. "I was told you had gone out looking for
some help for the Maquis, but that you didn't come back. They looked for
you but couldn't find you. The Maquis told me you left them. That you took
the opportunity and abandoned them."

"Yeah, I abandoned them all right. Doctor, can you access the ship's
records and tell B'Elanna and the good captain, where I was before I came on
board Voyager a few days ago?"

"Certainly." The EMH nodded crisply and entered the required information
into the ship's computer. "According to ship's records, it seems that Mr.
Paris was serving time at the Federation Penal Settlement in Auckland, New
Zealand after having been captured in the Selkan sector."

"And the date of that capture?" Tom asked the Doctor, his eyes never leaving
B'Elanna's face.

The doctor queried the computer, and the computer replied with a date that
coincided with the same date that Tom had left the Maquis ship.

"You didn't leave them stranded?" B'Elanna asked.

"No. In fact I was one that let the Selkan's know that the ship needed
assistance." Tom turned back to Chakotay. "Didn't you ever question how
the Selkan's arrived to help you so quickly? Did you really think that two
Cardie ships would communicate between each other without scrambling the

Chakotay shrugged.

"You made it look like it was a Cardie transmission?" B'Elanna asked.

Tom looked back at his mate and nodded. "The Bradbury had already contacted
me. I didn't want them intercepting my message and finding the Liberty. So
I made it look like it was a Cardie message that I sent to Selka. The
Bradbury picked me up, I went to trial, and was sentenced to serve time in
Auckland. Not a bad prison as prisons go, but I would have given anything
to be with you, B'Elanna." He reached up with one hand and caressed her
cheek. Instinctively, B'Elanna leaned into his touch.

"I know what you mean. I--I--I missed you too," she admitted. His scent
wafted toward her, it made her head spin. It was like they'd never been

"I'd like to go somewhere and talk when you're better, B'Elanna. Maybe we
can work this out. If Chakotay really is the father, then it'll be hard,
but I'll support..."

B'Elanna placed two fingers over his mouth. "You talk too much." Blue eyes
appraised her. "I--I'm not carrying Chakotay's child. I'm carrying your
baby. Your baby girl, in fact."

Blue eyes widened, and B'Elanna removed her fingers from his lips. "A girl?

"Going to be a father!" the EMH finished with a wide grin.

Tom's arms encircled his mate and drew her into a loving embrace forgetting
that he had an audience. "B'Elanna he whispered. I think you've lost


Reaching into pocket, he pulled out the silver locket. "I found this on the
Caretaker's array. I thought you might want it back."

B'Elanna smiled and let her mate slip her beloved locket over her head.

"Looks like you're missing something as well," she remarked.

Quizzically, Tom raised an eyebrow high enough to make a Vulcan proud.
B'Elanna gripped him by his neck and pulled her mate down toward her.
Quickly and decisively she bit him on the cheek. The action surprised both
the doctor and Chakotay. But they were even more amazed when Tom returned
the gesture.

"I'll get the dermal regenerator and heal both of those up in a second," the
EMH remarked.

"Don't you dare," they snarled in unison.

* * * * * *

Tom sat in the dining area of the cabin, the lights over his bed were dim.

"Computer, begin log," he began in a soft voice. "I just can't sleep, so
much has changed in such a short period of time. Who'd have thought I'd
find all I was ever looking for here in the Delta Quadrant? Certainly not
me. I found my B'Elanna again and a good friend. Captain Janeway has given
me a field commission...and to top all of that off, I'm going to be a dad.

"Lieutenant Tom Paris sounds pretty good--Dad would be surprised- -but then
again so am I. What's even better is that Janeway's also made me Voyager's
Chief Pilot. I'll be flying one of Starfleet's most advanced starships.
I've only sat at the helm for a short while, but she's a quick and nimble
lady. I'm told that it is due to her bioneural circuitry. It's either
that, or maybe I've fallen in love with the ship. I'm really looking
forward to putting her through her paces.

"Then there's Harry. He's one of those true blue friends you read about in
stories. He's like Tonto is to the Lone Ranger. Damn, I don't feel like a
Lone Ranger--at least not any more. Not since I have B'Elanna back. Maybe,
Harry is more like Buster is to Captain Proton. Yeah, that's more like I feel like some kinda hero.

"Crawling up those stairs to the surface on the planet, I wasn't sure we'd
make it. Every time one of those energy pulses hit the planet the stairway
structure shook hard. But we made it, even if Chakotay fought me
the entire way. I didn't know that man could swear so much! It might take
a while for him and I to overcome our differences, but I hope he'll come to
realize that despite everything I respect him. Not only as a leader, but
for the fact that he took care of B'Elanna for me when I couldn't. Seeing
as how Janeway has decided to integrate both crews on board Voyager, and
since she made Chakotay her First Officer, it should at least make life

"And last, but by no means least, there's B'Elanna."

Tom paused in his recording and looked over to the bed. B'Elanna had fallen
asleep in his arms hours ago. She now lay curled up with the bedclothes
wrapped around her. He chuckled thinking of the hard time she'd give him
when he came back to bed and tried to untangle her.

"I still feel I should be pinching myself. I can hardly believe we're
together again. It seems like ages ago I told B'Elanna to trust in fate--it
looks like fate has played a part in my life again. This time for the
better. Tomorrow, we're going to go see Captain Janeway and have her say
our vows. Though we've already said them privately to ourselves, but we want
to make it official. We decided on a small combination Klingon and Human
ceremony, with just senior staff in attendance. Still don't know if
Chakotay will attend, but if B'Elanna has anything to say he will.

"B'Elanna and I won't be alone for long. In a few months--the Doctor isn't
exactly sure how long due to the fact of the combination of Klingon and
Human genes--our little girl will be born. I talked to my little princess
today. Actually I think B'Elanna thought I was a little nuts holding a
conversation with her belly, she hasn't even begun to show that much. But I
told little Bella Anna--my pet name for her--that I would be the best of
fathers. I told her that I was bound and determined to do one thing--spoil
her rotten.

"So much has changed. Looking back on what's happened the last twenty-four
hours, I shudder to think what might have happened if I hadn't found the
locket. Would I have been so driven to find B'Elanna and Harry? Would I
have been so adamant about insisting to Janeway that I accompany her on that
away mission? I don't know. But I do know this. This is where I belong.
This is where I'm meant to be..."


"Coming, love."

"And right now I need to be with B'Elanna."

"Computer, end log."