TACNA'S TURN - SEQUEL TO CAVIT'S CONSPIRACY by PJ in NH
Summary: Sequel to Cavit's Consipracy. Tom has finally been made Chief Pilot, but someone isn't happy about the promotion.
DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns Voyager and its characters. I've only borrowed the characters to satisfy my own creative urges. Chet Tacna and a few assorted other minor characters though are mine and mine alone (that is unless someone else wants to borrow them and give me credit). Archiving is okay, just e-mail me. Please keep disclaimer and my name attached.
RECOGNITION OF APPRECIATION: A very special thanks goes out to my beta readers Marleena and Jan F.
Tacna's Turn - Sequel to Cavit's Conspiracy 10/98 (P/T) Rated R
Reflecting over the last three months, I am pleased to note that the decision to make Tom Paris the Chief Pilot appears to have been a wise one indeed. He is probably, strike that, he IS the best pilot I have ever seen. Chakotay was right, he was born to sit at the conn. It is like the ship becomes an extension of his body when he is at the helm.
I will admit that I was worried at first about how Tom would handle this responsibility. In the beginning, he was a little intimidated. It was quite a change before he was nothing but a servant, now he is one of my senior officers My former First Officer, Mr. Cavit, manipulated Tuvok and me to such an extent, that he was able to control the ship and the crew. And because of hatred he had developed for Tom's father, Admiral Paris, years ago, he transferred that animosity to his son. I never realized how devious or malicious Cavit had been until after I recovered from the influence of all the drugs he had given me.
I try to reflect back upon those days, and wonder how many cups of coffee he gave me that were laced with that narcotic. Then I have to shake my head in dismay as I find it difficult to recall that time of my life, it seems to have passed in a blur. During that time, Cavit treated Tom Paris no better than a slave, perhaps even worse. He even denied him adequate medical care. And if that wasn't bad enough he even tried to rape my Chief Engineer which fortunately Mr. Paris prevented. Eventually he would have succeeded in taking over the ship, in fact he came very close to doing just that. Only through actions by Chakotay, Harry Kim, B'Elanna, and Tom Paris was his evil plan prevented from succeeding.
Those were dark days indeed, but things are better now. It's as if a dark cloud had passed by leaving a bright blue sky in its place. Yes, we still come upon aliens who threaten to destroy us, but through the actions of my gallant crew we have successfully thwarted them.
Tom is developing more confidence all the time, not so much in regards to his piloting skills, when it comes to piloting, he has utmost confidence. His life beyond the helm has been another matter. He has developed a holoprogram that many of members of the crew have been using recently, something called 'Sandrines,' which has enabled him to make more friends. But there are still many members of the crew that try to avoid him at all costs or go out of their way to attempt to provoke him, though he tries his best to ignore them and avoid them.
Even at 60,000 light years from home, we can't escape prejudice and persecution. But life away from the helm is not all bad for our Chief Pilot. Harry and he have become even better friends then they were before and then there is B'Elanna Torres. Tom and she have developed a relationship? Well maybe not a relationship but it appears to be more than a simple friendship. I see them together all the time and both seem so happy and so right for each other. I've got to stop this, I tell myself. I must force myself not to play matchmaker and whatever let happens between the two to develop on its own and in its own time. But I hope they don't wait too long, I don't think I have the patience.
End Captain's Log
Harry and B'Elanna entered the mess hall, got their meals and, noticing that Tom Paris was sitting by himself just beginning to eat his own meal, they joined him.
"Hi, Harry, B'Elanna. How are things?"
"Same as usual, at least for the past three weeks. Boring," complained the young ensign as he sat down at the table wearing a disgusted look on his face.
"Yeah, it's been weeks without communication from anyone except our own crew. I upgraded the communications systems' programs two weeks ago, performed four unnecessary diagnostics, and I've done all the 'busy work' I can think of, in other words I'm bored."
"Well I have some plasma conduits that need to be cleaned if you get the urge, or you could sonic sweep the Jeffries Tubes, they haven't been done in almost three months," B'Elanna offered remembering that Tom had been the last one to clean them. Apparently Tom did too as they both exchanged knowing looks.
"Well perhaps I'm not as bored as I originally thought," Harry remarked thinking of how bored he really would be sweeping out the tubes.
"What did you say?" Tom murmured his blue eyes still focused on the chocolate depths of the half-Klingon sitting across from him.
*I can take a hint as well as the next man*, Harry thought. "I said I forgot to do something on the bridge, I'll see you two later."
"Yeah, Harry, later," B'Elanna responded as Harry Kim left their table and exited the Mess Hall.
"I thought that he would never leave," Tom drawled.
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Several tables away from Tom and B'Elanna, Ensign Chester Tacna and two of his friends, George and Juan were noticing the exchange between the two lieutenants.
"Will you look at that,' George said to the other two as he swung his blond head in the direction of the pair. "It looks like love is in the air on board Voyager."
Tacna just grumbled and tried to return his attention to the food on his plate.
"What's the matter with you Chet? Can't stand to see two people in love?" chided Juan, the tallest of the three men--who seemed to wear a permanent grin on his face.
"Let's just say that I'm still not convinced that he should be at the helm, let alone CHIEF pilot," Tacna responded sullenly running his hand through his progressively thinning scalp of dull brown hair.
"Oh come on, buddy, everyone is saying that he's the best pilot they ever saw . . . present company excluded I'm sure," George quickly added trying to smooth the feathers of Chet who now served as a junior pilot under Tom Paris.
"Yeah, they say that they could have sold tickets on the bridge to watch his last performance against the Kazon. Moulton at communications said it was like it was choreographed, Paris' movements were so smooth and effortless," Juan Corando added enthusiastically unaware that Ensign Tacna was becoming more and more irate. "I also heard that he's quite the pool player. I'd like to see that for myself sometime, I didn't used to be so bad myself back in college."
"Look, I've heard enough about the hotshot," Chet spat quickly quelling the mood at the table. "And I'm sick of hearing everyone sing his praises!" With this final statement he abruptly got up from the table and stormed out of the mess hall.
"What's the matter with him?" an unusually somber Juan asked George.
"Jealousy. He thinks the Chief Pilot's job should have gone to him," the toe head said.
"You're kidding?" Juan responded.
"Nope, he's been bitten by the green-eyed monster."
"You know, George, it's not that Chet is a bad pilot, it just that Tom Paris has a natural gift for it. Have you ever seen him in action?"
"Yeah, I was on the bridge about a month and a half ago when we ran into the Vidiians again. I've never seen a better pilot in all my years with Starfleet, and let me tell you there have been many and none could work the controls like Paris. His fingers were a blur of activity, and such a light touch, it's like my grandmother used to say "a virtuoso extraordinaire."
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Chester Tacna left the mess hall and headed for his cabin grumbling all the way. When he finally entered his cabin, he locked the door and called for illumination. All the while, the rage was building in his body desperately seeking an outlet -- the outlet ended up being the potted palm in his living area. Within a few minutes, all that was left of the plant were shards of pottery, bits and pieces of leaves, and soil strewn all over the floor. "I'll get you Paris," Tacna threatened. "I'll make sure you'll regret ever sitting at the helm of Voyager!"
Several years ago while still at the Academy, Chet Tacna had become friends with a fellow cadet by the name of Dispe from Varin Prime, a little-know alien world near the border of the Romulan Empire. During one of the summer breaks from classes, Tacna had accompanied Dispe home to spend summer vacation with him. They had a lot of good times. Dispe had shown him a myriad of bars on the planet and introduced him to a number of willing women from all over the galaxy.
It had been fun for a few weeks to strut their stuff and boast about being Starfleet's finest. But then during one night, long after they had both turned in for the night with their respective lady friends, Tacna had been awakened by sounds coming from another part of the house. Upon investigation, he found Dispe in a room in the top part of the house. His friend's face was streaked with blood-red stripes and he was kneeling before some type of orange glowing icon which resembled an inverted triangle. His hands were raised above him, and he was chanting strange words. As the door behind Chet closed, Dispe's head snapped around at the sound, and he was surprised to see his friend there in the room with him.
It took some intensive interrogating before Dispe would admit to Chet what he had been doing. Ultimately though, Chet found out that he was involved in some type of Varin dark religious ceremony. Dispe had been calling upon the Varin God of the Shadows, or V'tine as was the deity's name, to assist him in obtaining justice over a former foe they had meet the night before at a local tavern. The more that Dispe told Chet, the more intrigued the human became and besieged his friend with a number of questions. He found out that through V'tine, and with the assistance of certain herbs and elixirs, a follower could see into the minds and dreams of a person. By doing so, with practice, they could stimulate and manipulate those thoughts to either the follower or the victim's benefit or detriment. Last night, Tacna thought back to the two women still lying in their beds downstairs, it had been to their benefit.
Dispe spent a great deal of time during the rest of their vacation training Chet. At first keeping things simple and harmless, the victims never even knew what was happening that summer, but by the time had come for the cadets to return to Earth, darker paths had been followed to a point where Tacna could actually enter a person's mind and control the thoughts with a minimum of effort but with tremendous results. Before they were scheduled to return to Starfleet Academy, he was almost as proficient as the native Varin and now had his own icon and his own supply of herbs and potions.
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"Oh, damn," Tom Paris muttered to himself as he threw off the blankets from his body and launched himself out of his bed. "If I don't hurry I'll be late for sure." Taking a quick sonic shower and pulling on his uniform, the Lieutenant was out of his cabin and on the way to the mess hall in record time. Making his way through the line of other crewmen, he finally reached the end and grabbed a cup of coffee and a bowl of what was suppose to pass for breakfast. Finding a seat next to Harry Kim, he sat down to eat.
"Little late this morning?" Harry asked.
"You could say that, in fifteen minutes I have to be at the conn," Tom explained. He dug into the slop in the bowl and then tried to wash it down with his coffee. "This breakfast is awful," he complained
"Not very good is it?" Tacna asked as he purposefully walked past Harry and Tom's table.
"No, not very, but I don't get any more replicator rations until tomorrow." he explained. "Hey, Chet, you're up early. Didn't you have the beta shift last night?"
"Yeah, well I've got a date on the holodeck this morning," Chet lied as he *accidently* knocked Paris' coffee cup with the edge of his tray sending the remaining contents streaming across the table and on to the deck below. "Ooops, sorry, Lieutenant, let me get you another."
"No problem, Chet, accidents happen, I'll just. . ." Tom started to say as he and Harry tried to take care of most of the spill with their napkins.
"No, I insist. Be right back. Cream and sugar?"
"Thanks, that would be fine." Chet hurriedly left in search of a refill.
"I thought that you always drank yours black?" Harry asked after Tacna left.
"Oh, I do, but I've been trying to get along with Chet ever since I've been at the helm and this is the first time he's even tried to be friendly, so I'll live with cream and sugar."
A couple of minutes later Chet Tacna returned with a fresh cup of coffee, complete with cream, sugar, and dollop of his special herbal mixture. "Here you go, Lieutenant," Chet said as he handed him the cup.
"Thanks, I appreciate it," Tom replied and seeing that Chet wasn't going anywhere until the coffee had been tasted and been given approval, Tom took a sip. *Strange*, he thought *it had been a while since I had had coffee prepared this way, but I dont remember it tasting quite like this*. Not wanting to dampen Chet's spirits he took another longer sip of the beverage and pronounced it delicious. "Best I've had in a long time. Thanks again, Chet," Tom reiterated as he arose from the table. "If I don't get going I'm going to be late. I'll see you at shift change this afternoon, Ensign."
"Okay, I'll see you then," Chet replied with a small wave of his hand. *And I'll see you in your dreams*, the ensign thought to himself.
Tom took the coffee mug with him, waved goodbye to Harry and headed for the door.
Later that morning while trying to delicately negotiate a path through a pair of nebulas, pain wove its way up the back of Paris' neck, around the sides of his skull. It finally found its way to his forehead before beginning the trek all over again. All thanks to the herbal mixture Tacna had placed in the pilot's coffee. Paris tried to keep his mind focused on the task before him, avoiding the tendrils of both nebulas, but the stress only served to make the pain more unbearable. The rest of the bridge crew were oblivious as to the pilot's condition considering his location at the front of the bridge. Finally, after what seemed like eons, the nebulas were left behind and all that remained was to steer a straight path to their destination -- the Alpha Quadrant.
Finally Tom turned around in his seat to face command center. "Captain, permission to go to Sickbay and get something for a headach," Tom asked in a strained voice.
Janeway noted the pilot's pale face and obvious discomfort. She chastised herself for not noticing earlier and immediately provided the necessary permission and Chakotay rose to take over at the helm.
Tom entered the turbolift and directed the computer to stop on Level 5. It was the last thing he remembered before he experienced another even more powerful jolt of pain, fell to the floor, and darkness descended all around him. The turbolift stopped at the requested level, opened, closed again, and proceeded to its next destination -- Engineering.
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"Well that's about all, Joe, everything seems to be under control. If you could just make sure that the dielectric converters are still functioning properly, then you should have a quiet shift. See you tomorrow," B'Elanna said with a wave of her hand. She picked up her gym bag from her office and exited Engineering, and made her way to the turbolift and back to her cabin. It had been a long day and all she wanted to do was to replicate a simple edible meal, curl up with a good Klingon romance novel, and go to bed early. When she reached the turbolift entrance point, she summoned the lift and waited. When the door opened, she stepped in, and was surprised to find Tom Paris lying on the floor, apparently unconscious.
B'Elanna tapped her commbage. "Torres to Transporter Room Two, two to beam directly to Sickbay." In a glimmer of light, Tom and B'Elanna were transported to Sickbay just as the Doctor reactivated himself upon hearing their hail.
"What happened Lieutenant?" the EMH asked with concern, as he and B'Elanna lifted the pilot onto the nearest biobed.
"I'm not sure, I found him in the turbolift like this. Perhaps they might know on the bridge?"
"Emergency Medical Hologram to the Bridge, come in please."
"Chakotay here, Doctor, what can I do for you?"
"Lieutenant Torres found Mr. Paris unconscious in the turbolift."
"I said. . ."
"I heard what you said Doctor. All I can tell you is that Mr. Paris was apparently suffering from a severe headache when he requested to be relieved from duty to go to Sickbay about fifteen minutes ago. Obviously, the headache was much more severe than he led us to believe."
"I see, well at least now I have some idea as to what happened. I'll notify you after I complete my examination. Emergency Medical Hologram out."
"Is he going to be all right Doctor?" B'Elanna asked. She hovered near Paris' side and was obviously very worried.
"How should I know, I'm an EMH not a clairvoyant," replied the Doctor irritably as he reached for his instruments.
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In his cabin, Ensign Chet Tanca prepared himself for the first journey into the shadows. As this was the first entry into a new victim's mind, it would only be a short excursion to find out what made his victim tick and what fears and anxieties he possessed. Then in later visits, possibly even later tonight, he would stimulate and accentuate these past experiences and memories. As he had done in the past, within a short period of time, Tom Paris would be firmly convinced that he was losing his mind. If he played his cards right, he could lead the pilot right to the edge where he would rather end his life than live.
Tacna deliberately sliced the palm of his hand and collected the blood that flowed out into a small, brightly painted, ornamental bowl. After he had a sufficient supply, he used his dermal- regenerator to heal the wound before applying the blood to his face in the traditional striped pattern. Then he lit several candles and placed them in a semi-circle in front of him. Finally, he reverently opened a carved wooden box which contained the V'trine icon and began chanting a familiar mantra before it. As the chanting became more intense the icon began to glow with an orange light and Chet Tanca had achieved his goal. He had entered the mind of Tom Paris.
The specter of Chet Tacna entered Tom Paris' mind, and was first confronted with vague images. A flight simulation, hoverball on the holodeck, B'Elanna Torres, but this was only the fringe of the memories. The ones that he was looking for were behind these recent memories and buried deeper, ingrained deeper in the recesses of his mind.
He delved deeper and encountered more memories, memories of the first year in the Delta Quadrant where Paris had performed menial tasks; before he had saved the Captain's life and helped uncover the plans of their former First Officer, Cavit. But, even these were not what Tacna was seeking--so even further back be probed past more shadows, intangible images and shapes, flashes of color and light until he finally found what he was looking for, true fears, horrors, and anxieties that had been with Paris for a long time, and some much longer than others.
Tacna found a treasure trove of memories to twist and use against his adversary, and use them he would. But where to start? There were just so many memories. Ahh... he found it, just what he was looking for. It would be a good beginning and from there he would explore other avenues if it was necessary and he was pleased that there were so many to choose from.
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"So he'll be all right?" B'Elanna asked. She stood beside the pilot with an obviously worried expression on her face.
"The hypospray seems to be working. Are you experiencing any more discomfort?" the EMH asked.
Tom rubbed his temples with his long fingers. "Well most of the headache has gone away. I am feeling a whole lot better than I was," Paris replied.
The EMH put away the hypospray but was still concerned over the severity of the pilot's headache. "Mr. Paris, I'm going to relieve you of duty for the rest of the day. You don't have to go to your cabin, but I would suggest you relax."
"Thanks, Doc. I'm sure before long the headache will be completely gone," Tom replied. Without hesitation, he eased himself off the biobed and headed for the door, before the EMH could change his mind.
"I hope so, but if you're still experiencing discomfort by 2000 hours come back and I'll try something else."
Tom nodded. "Okay, and thanks again."
As they entered the corridor Tom turned to B'Elanna noting that she still wore a concerned look on her face. "B'Elanna, I'm all right really, come on smile. Just for me?"
B'Elanna graced him with a slight grin. "Sorry, it's just that I was worried, it's not everyday you walk onto the turbolift and find some one <someone you care deeply about collapsed on the floor."
"Gee, Lieutenant, I didn't know you cared," Tom drawled. "So, I'm free for the rest of the day and you just got off work, so how about accompanying me to the holodecks? I'm working on a new program."
B'Elanna could feel the color rise to her cheeks and she hoped that Tom hadn't noticed. Yes, she cared, hell she more than cared. She was really starting to fall in love with the blue-eyed pilot, but she wasn't ready to tell him how she felt, yet. Sure they were having a good time, but they hadn't progressed past kissing and hugging and she wasn't sure if she was ready for the next step. She wasn't confident enough to express her feelings--after all, she mused, what if they weren't reciprocated?
Tom waggled his fingers in front of her face. "Yoo, hoo, B'Elanna, you in there?" he asked.
She slapped his hand away. "Of course I'm in here, where else would I be?"
"Well, you're obviously not on Voyager. I've asked you three times, do you want to go to the holodeck with me?"
"Sure, that'd be fun, but I have to go to the gym first."
"Sounds good, I'll go too."
"The Doctor said that you were supposed to take it easy," she warned.
"I will, I'll rest and watch you workout, maybe I'll even supervise."
"Ah, pet names," he sighed dramatically in response placing his hand over his heart, and the two headed off for the gym.
B'Elanna worked out on the treadmill for forty-five minutes while Tom gladly watched. And he liked what he saw. She effortlessly ran the treadmill. She never seemed to tire for which he attributed to her Klingon half. When she was through, he tossed her gym bag and she headed off to the locker area to shower. She joined him again shortly, dressed in blue shorts and a while pullover top with a scoop neck. Tom threw his arm around her shoulders, she looked up at him and smiled, and they headed to the holodecks. As soon as they had left, the people that they left behind at the gym started whispering and talking to each other.
"Did you see that?"
"I've never seen B'Elanna Torres look so happy while she was working out."
"Or any other time."
"You don't suppose there is something going on with the two of them do you?"
"Torres? You've got to be kidding. Her insides are made of arctic ice."
Pausing briefly in front of the holodeck, Tom hoped that she would like his new program. He keyed in his access code to Holodeck One and they entered. As soon as the door to the holodeck opened they could hear sounds of animals, holopeople, and music emanating from a variety of booths and tents all surrounded large pine trees. Flags fluttered in the breeze bringing with it the delectable aroma of many different foods, as well as the occasionally whiff of a more earthy nature.
B'Elanna smiled up at Tom and he took her by the hand and led her in the direction of the ticket booth.
"How many young man," the old wrinkled man behind the ticket booth asked.
"Two please," Tom replied handing over some holo-money. He was given two tickes and he and B'Elanna walked through a gate and handed the tickets to another man. He ripped them in two and handed half of the stubs back to the pilot.
"What is this place?" B'Elanna asked looking around, the smile still on her face.
"It's an old-time country fair from the . . . "
"Let me guess," B'Elanna interrupted. "The Twentieth Century?"
Tom blushed and nodded. *She starting to know me too well. Well maybe not too well*, he thought. *Maybe it was just that she is starting to know me like no one else had ever knew me*.
"So where do you want to start first, Lanna? Something to eat? Or look at the booths. Or maybe something else?"
"Gee, I don't know. I guess I'm kind a hungry after working out and all. Is that okay?"
"Of course it's okay. Come on I know something that I bet you've never had before."
Tom encircled his arm around her waist and led her off in the direction of one of the many food stands. He passed several, each one B'Elanna would have been happy stopping at. The french fries made her mouth water, and the onion rings smelled wonderful--not to mention the apple crisp with ice cream. She stopped and eyed a huge sandwich made with Italian sausage and red and green peppers.
"That's for later." Tom pulled gently on her trim waist and maneuvered her towards another booth.
"How many?" the red head chewing gum asked on the other side of the counter.
"We'll have one," Tom told her.
"Harold, one fried dough!" she yelled to the grizzly man who worked beside her.
"Gee Ethel, you don't have to yell, I'm not deaf you know!" he grumbled. He picked up a large piece of fried dough with a pair tongs, placed it on a paper plate, brushed butter over it, and handed it back to the red head.
"That'd be two dollars," she said. "Powered sugar, apple perserves and the like are over on your left."
Tom passed her the holo-money and passed the plate containing the fried dough to B'Elanna who eyed it dubiously.
"You'll love it B'Elanna promise. Here let me have it," Tom took it from her and liberally shook on some of the powered sugar. Being careful not to burn himself, he tore off a piece and offered it to her. She took it from his fingers and blew on it to try and cool it down, and following his example popped it into her mouth. Her eyes grew wide, she grinned, and swallowed.
"It is good."
He laughed. Not only at her delightful expression, but she had gotten powdered sugar all over her pert nose.
B'Elanna smile faded and was replaced with a sligh scowl. "What's so funny, flyboy?"
"You. You have sugar on your nose," he explained.
She reached up with her hand to brush it away but he stopped her. "Please, let me." He bent his head down to hers and kissed the tip of her nose and with the tip of his tongue licked off the sugar. "Better?"
"Mmmmm, much." The smile returned.
Her smile was captivating and he couldn't resist. Tom pulled her into his arms and captured her mouth with his, tasting the lingering sweetness of the powdered sugar on her equally delicious lips. Finally, releasing her, he gently ran his fingertips over her bronze cheek.
The universe stopped for a moment. All that existed were Tom and B'Elanna and their love that they hadn't declared to each other yet. Anybody that would have seen them at that moment though couldn't help but notice the love that flowed between the two. It was almost tangible it was so intense.
Tom smiled down at her and remembered that there was still a lot more of the program that he wanted to share with her before their time on the holodeck expired. *And besides* he thought, *the moment had been special*. He didn't want to rush her and regret it later. "B'Elanna, come on, there are other things I want to show you." He grabbed her hand and led her off past the food stands and toward the vendor booths.
Many different things were for sale. Shirts, blankets, farm equipment, seeds, and jewelry. It was at a special booth that sold silver and gold jewelry that he stopped. He carefully looked over the tray of silver necklaces before choosing a delicate necklace that was constructed of silver bars and tiny gold beads. Tom picked it up and examined it. The sunlight reflected brilliantly off the shiny metal, and he held it up towards B'Elanna.
"Here, 'Lanna, try this on."
"Oh, Tom, I don't. . ."
"Yes you do," he interrupted. "This is my holoprogram so just humor me. Please?"
She relented, after all it was the holodeck and the necklace would disappear along with everything else when they were through. "Oh okay," she said and turned and moved her hair out of the way so Tom could fasten the necklace around her neck.
For a man with such long, strong fingers, he easily fastened it and turned her around so that he could look. The chain fell just as he thought it would, along her collar bone. "It's perfect, B'Elanna. Look." He picked up the mirror that sat on the counter so that she could see.
"It is beautiful," she acknowledged fingering the chain. And she had to admit that indeed it was. <It's too bad that it's all an illusion.
"For a beautiful woman. The most beautiful one I've ever known."
"Tom, I've told you I'm not . . . ."
He placed two fingers across her lips. "Hush, not another word. And, B'Elanna, yes you are. You are very beautiful."
Paying the vendor with more holo-money, he grabbed B'Elanna's hand and they left the booth.
This time they left behind all the booths and walked down a slight grade towards some fairly large wooden buildings. They passed an outdoor arena on the way where several large horses where lined up, harnessed in pairs, waiting to pull heavy blocks of stone that had been placed on wooden skids.
They kept on walking. B'Elanna was laughing and talking with Tom when suddenly he pulled her towards him. "Watch it!"
"Why?" she asked.
"Well, I tried to make this program as authentic as possible, so I fed in all the information I could find about country fairs into the databank. But apparently, I neglected to delete the ah...more earthy aspects of the fair.
"Earthy?" B'Elanna didn't understand.
"Um...let's just say that were there are animals, manure is sure to follow. You almost stepped in a large cow pile."
"Oh, then thanks for rescuing me."
"Anytime my lady. Ahh, here we are," he said as he stopped in front of one of the buildings. Inside they could hear squealing and other animal-type noises."
"What is this place?" B'Elanna asked stepping into the building. Looking around she could see empty pens set up to hold animals.
Tom led her forward down the hay-strewn, center aisle toward the squealing sounds. "Well at country fairs, the farmers liked to bring their animals. There they would be judged to see who had the strongest horses, the finest cows, and of course," he gestured to the pen on their right, "the best looking . . . pigs."
She turned from the pig in the pen that was surrounded by eight squealing piglets and looked incredulously at the tall man beside her, and found that he was trying hard not to laugh. "Tom!" Pigs? Why you . . ."
"What, Lieutenant? What were you going to call me?" he asked innocently.
"I was going to call you . . . a pig," she admitted, her own favorite insult for the pilot. She laughed at his joke and knelt down in hay and reached her hand out between the slats of the pen and stroked the tiniest pink piglet with her index finger. "They are pretty cute."
He knelt down beside her and a jolt of pain wove a familiar path around his temples and toward the back of his head. He shook his head to try and ward off the discomfort. "So you don't mind that I brought you to see the pigs?" he asked.
"Not at all. In fact I'm glad you did. But you know I think the best looking pig is right here beside me," she said and turned her head and kissed him on the mouth. It wasn't long ago, she mused that if someone took her to see a bunch of pigs they wouldn't have seen the light of day for weeks.
As their lips parted, Tom reached up and rubbed his temples and couldn't help but wince at the jolt of pain that had increased.
"Tom, you've got that headache back again, don't you?" she asked concerned for his health.
He nodded his head.
"Then let's go see the Doctor. We can save this program and come back again some day."
For a change he wasn't about to argue. "Okay. Computer save program, and display arch."
The fair disappeared and was replaced with the holodeck grid. B'Elanna accompanied Tom to Sickbay and then back to his cabin. Before he went inside, she looked around to see if they were alone. Then she reached up and kissed him tenderly on both temples.
"Take your medicine and get some sleep," she recommended.
"I will, but I think I like your medicine better. One more kiss?"
She nodded and he drew her into his arms. Finally, both of them out of breath, he released her, and he bade her goodnight.
B'Elanna reluctantly left and returned to her cabin and undressed to get ready for bed. She slipped out of her shorts and top. As she drew her top over he head her fingers caught on the necklace that Tom had 'bought' for her at the fair. "That devil," she whispered as she walked over to the mirror that hung on the wall. "He really did give me a necklace."
"Good morning, Commander," Harry piped as he entered the bridge just in time for the alpha shift.
"Morning Ensign," Chakotay replied.
Harry relieved the ensign assigned to the gamma shift, took his seat, and reviewed the current activity on his console. Shortly after Harry arrived, Tuvok, and the Captain made their appearance, but at fifteen minutes past the start of the shift, Tom still had not shown up.
"Seems like we're missing a certain lieutenant, Janeway remarked to her First Officer knowing that the one thing that he despised above all else was tardiness.
"I've noticed," he replied drily as he tapped his commbadge. "Chakotay to Lieutenant Paris."
No answer was received. So he tried again with the same result.
"Computer, location of Lieutenant Paris?" Chakotay requested.
The familiar female voice answered, "Lieutenant Paris is in his quarters." At hearing the reply, Chakotay rose to his feet.
"Looks like I'm going to have to wake up our missing pilot, care to join me?" he asked the Captain.
"Sure, why not. Tuvok, you have the bridge," she ordered and the two officers headed for the turbolift.
They arrived outside of Paris' cabin and pressed the annunciator button but received no answer. Chakotay was about ready to try again when Janeway placed one hand on his arm signifying him to stop.
"Listen," she said softly placing her ear up against the door.
From inside the cabin, they could hear muffled noises. "It sounds like he's having a dream, a bad dream." Chakotay concluded as he joined her, putting his head close to hers against the cabin door.
"More like a nightmare," Janeway determined. "Computer, open Lieutenant Paris' quarters per my voice authorization."
"Affirmative," came the reply and the door slid soundlessly open.
There on his bed Tom lay tossing and turning with beads of sweat running down his face. "NO, NO, STOP. Please stop! Oh God, please stop, I'll be good." he whimpered to himself . "Don't hit me, Daddy. Please not again!"
Chakotay and the Captain briefly looked at each other, each expressing their shock and concern over the pilot's condition. The First Officer then gently shook Tom by the shoulder and bade him to awaken. Instead of awakening though, the pilot threw his right arm up in front of his face a protective gesture and scurried to the far side of the bed still asleep, pulling his knees up to his chest and still pleading desperately for his father to stop the abuse.
"Chakotay, get a glass of water."
Doing as ordered, Chakotay retreated to Tom's bathroom and procured a glass of cold water which he offered to the Captain.
Janeway took the glass, and with a quick flip of the wrist, deposited the contents in the pilot's face.
The icy water hit the Paris' face, which immediately caused him to open his eyes even though they weren't awake enough to properly focus. "Wha--what's going on?" Tom sputtered as he tried to wipe the water out of his sleep-blurred, tear-swollen eyes.
"Good morning, Lieutenant," Janeway said.
Tom, confused, looked at both officers trying to figure out why the Captain and the Commander would both in his quarters and then the memories of the nightmare flooded back to him.
"I'm... I'm sorry," he said when he realized that he was late for his shift and got out of bed wrapping a blanket around him and headed toward the bathroom. "I'll be right there, tell Ensign Hamilton I'll be up there to relieve him shortly."
"Tom?" the Captain questioned.
"It seems like you were having a very disturbing dream. Do you want to talk about it?"
"Dream?" he fibbed. "I don't remember a dream."
"But it seemed so vivid," she argued.
"I--I tell you, I don't re--remember."
Not knowing what else to say and not wanting to call Paris a liar, Janeway and Chakotay headed for the door and told the pilot to take his time and that they would see him up on the bridge.
After the door slid closed, Tom dropped to his haunches by the bathroom door and buried his face in his hands. *Damn*, he thought, *where the hell had that dream--scratch that, nightmare--come from?* He hadn't had that one in a long time, not since he took the helm on Voyager, and this one was more vivid than any of the others had been, he could have sworn that he was a child again facing his father's wrath. *What had brought it back* he wondered. *Thank God, B'Elanna wasn't here* he thought. Noticing the looks on the Captain and Chakotay's faces he would hate to think how B'Elanna would react. It was a good thing that their relationship--relationship?--no more like a friendship at this stage, hadn't progressed any further. Maybe this was a sign, a sign to stop seeing her, and go back to the holo-babes. As he told Harry a while back, holo-babes can't hurt you and likewise you can't hurt them.
"He lied." Chakotay said simply to his Captain as Tom's cabin door slid shut behind them. "I'm sure he remembered his dream. How could anyone forget a dream like that?"
"I know," she replied. Both of them were obviously worried about the pilot.
Chet Tacna finished his ritual and closed the door on the box containing the icon. *That had gone very well*, he thought, *especially considering he hadn't done anything like that for a long time, but with Paris' memories it had been easy*. *The memories were just lying there waiting to be used--or misused*, he thought with satisfaction. So the first stage in his plan went well, one nightmare down and several more to go. How many nights could the Chief Pilot handle seeing the Admiral pummel him until he broke? But if that wasn't enough, he had stage two already in the works.
After Tom reported to the bridge, the shift went surprisingly smoothly. Even the Captain and the Commander had apparently let the subject drop. Finally, at 1600, he handed the helm over to Tacna, who was once again trying to be friendly.
"Good afternoon, Lieutenant," Tacna replied as he approached the conn.
"Good afternoon, to you too, I'm almost done. There," Tom replied as he struck one last button on his console and relinquished his seat to the ensign, "it's all yours, Chet. Just watch out for the secondary impulse drives they are a little sluggish today. I've put in a work order so Engineering will look into it, but they may not get to it until tomorrow."
"Okay, thanks," the younger man replied trying to sound concerned. "Are you okay, Lieutenant? You look tired."
Tom covered his mouth with his hand and yawned. "I'm fine, but thanks for asking. I just need a good night's sleep. I'll see you tomorrow."
Tacna nodded once and sat down. *You need more than a good night's sleep*, Chet mused.
Several days passed with each night containing a variation of the same disturbing dream. Each night his sleep was cut short as he awoke sweating and shaking remembering things from his past that he had long since forgotten -- countless episodes of being hit and belittled by his father all in an effort to mold the son to carry on the family name.
After yet another restless sleep and another nocturnal visit from the "ol' man," Tom Paris hurried to the mess hall for a bite of breakfast and a extra large cup of coffee before he reported to Shuttlebay 3 for an away mission to the planet they were now orbiting to collect deuterium and herbs. As had happened the previous nights, Tacna made the trek into Tom's memories and influence the dreams, but last night he had attempted something more involved. Tacna made the necessary preparations that would affect not only Paris' sleep, but his waking moments as well. Step two was initiated.
Tom clutched his second cup of coffee for the morning in his hands, and headed down to the shuttlebay to prep the Chamberlain for a trip down to the planet to collect deuterium and medicinal herbs. Little did he know, that Tacna had managed to doctor another cup of coffee. The contents of that present cup were already in the Lieutenant's system integrating themselves into the pilot's biochemistry, lying in wait until Chet needed to manipulate Paris' memories.
"Damn it," he complained as he rubbed his temples with the palms of his hands. Just one more check of the shuttle systems and he should have time to get a pain reliever from the Doctor to help arrest the headache that was starting to come on. So he finished his meticulous checklist, reported to the Doctor for the analgesic, and was back at the shuttlebay just as the rest of the away team joined him.
" . . . what's in the basket B'Elanna?" Chakotay asked trying to get a peek at the contents."
B'Elanna quickly pulled it out of his reach. "It's a surprise."
"A surprise? For me, or for our blue-eyed pilot?"
"Do you really want to know?" she laughed as they reached the door of the shuttle.
*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***
The shuttle launched flawlessly and proceeded on course to the planet below. A couple of hours into the flight, Tom's headache returned abruptly with a vengeance, causing beads of sweat to appear on his forehead and run down his pale face.
B'Elanna fingered the necklace that lay hidden under her uniform. She remembered after their trip to the fair how she had tried to give the gift back, but how he refused. So she had kept it and in fact not taken it off except to shower. She picked up her data pad and started reading to prepare for the mission. "It says here that they're more than fifty different kinds of herbs on the planet," B'Elanna said. She looked over at Chakotay and Tom.
"We should be able to find some uses for them, both medicinally and culinarily. What do you think Tom?" Chakotay asked the pilot knowing how much he disliked the Talaxian spices that Neelix used on almost every dish he created.
"Mr. Paris, did you hear me?" the First Officer asked.
Paris dragged his eyes reluctantly from the forward view screen and looked at his commanding officer. "Huh?"
"I said . . ." Chakotay began but stopped when he noticed the pilot's sweaty forehead and pallid complexion. "Tom, are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," he lied figuring if the First Officer found out about his sleepless nights he'd relieve him of the position at the helm that he had worked so hard to achieve. "Just a headache," he admitted which wasn't exactly a lie.
"Let me get you an analgesic from the medkit," B'Elanna offered as she got up from her seat to retrieve the kit.
"Do you want me to take over?" Chakotay asked.
"No, I'll be okay. I'm sure once the medicine starts working I'll feel much better."
"Well, just let me know if it gets to be too much and I'll take over."
"I will, Commander, and thanks."
Taking the medicine from B'Elanna, Tom tried to relax as much as possible while still piloting the craft. After several moments, the headache had not gone away but it did seem to be diminishing somewhat. The quietness of the shuttle seemed to help. His companions studiously reviewed information that had been downloaded to their datapadds in preparation for the away mission.
Tom tried to concentrate on flying, keeping their destination in view, the green, golden planet below. Suddenly a sharp pain wove its way up the back of his head, making the pilot wince and shut his eyes, waiting for the agony to pass. When he finally was able to open his eyes, the green golden planet had been replaced with a vivid orange sphere peppered with tiny white clouds.
"Oh, no," Paris murmured in a soft incredulous voice his eyes clouded over and wide with fear. "Not again. Not again. It can't be." And another wave of pain crashed down upon him.
"Tom, what's the matter?" Chakotay half-listening asked from his position beside the pilot not talking his eyes away from the datapadd he had been reading.
Tom's eyes, though were riveted on the planet in front of him. He gripped the shuttle's controls even tighter in his hands, his knuckles becoming white from the exertion.
"Tom?" Chakotay asked again, but this time he turned his attention toward the helm. What he saw surprised him. The young pilot was gripping the helm controls for all he was worth. His face was pale and his breathing was becoming very rapid, but he still received no response.
"B'Elanna?" Chakotay called to her.
"Yes," she replied bringing her head up from a similar datapadd. Seeing Tom's facial expression and noting the First Officer's concern, she dropped the padd and quickly joined the pilot. She knelt down beside him, gripping his upper arm with her hand. "Tom, are you all right?" she asked as she gently shook his arm at the same time.
Tom swung his head to his right and left seemingly looking at both Chakotay and B'Elanna. Seeing Chakotay reach for the auxiliary helm controls, Tom reached his hand out to his superior officer. "Don't Brian! Don't touch the controls or we'll crash for sure!!"
"Brian?" B'Elanna questioned. <What's was he talking about? A question that was mirrored in Chakotay's mind as well.
"Ah, okay, I won't." Chakotay replied deciding to play along for a little while, looked at B'Elanna, and then nodded in the direction of the medkit that was located behind him.
B'Elanna understood his intent and shook Tom's arm again to divert his attention toward her while Chakotay retrieved the hypospray. "Tom, it's me B'Elanna, snap out of this, please!"
Tom's glazed-over blue eyes shifted from Chakotay to B'Elanna. "Oh, no not you too!" he exclaimed and gripped her shoulders in his hands. "Ricki, I'm so sorry, we're going to crash. I'm so sorry. . ."
*Oh, you're going to be *sorry* all right Tom, you're going to get us killed!* the voice of a third passenger interrupted him from the depths of his mind.
Tom snapped his head around to the rear of the shuttle. "Shut up Jenkins! I'm already sorry, you don't know how sorry, you'll never know!" he pleaded to no one at all except to the freckle- faced, red-haired young cadet from the past.
A worried B'Elanna grabbed the pilot by his shoulders and pulled him around to face her again. "Tom, listen I'm not Ricki, I'm B'Elanna, B'Elanna Torres. Don't you remember? And there's no one here by the name of Jenkins. It's just me and Chakotay," she said but Tom seemed to be oblivious to all she was trying to tell him.
"It's *my* fault, Ricki, I shouldn't have let someone else prep the shuttle and now you're going to die. I'm so sorry, please forgive . . ." Tom pleaded. Tears of desperation tricked down his face to intermingle with the beads of perspiration. Taking the opportunity presented to him, Chakotay quickly pressed the hypospray against the pilot's neck and administered the sedative. Almost immediately, Tom slumped into the bliss of unconsciousness.
"Help me, B'Elanna. Help me move him into the back of the shuttle and strap him in. Then we're going right back to Voyager."
Between the two of them, they transferred Tom to a cot in the rear of the shuttle and strapped him safely in for the return journey.
While Chakotay took over at the helm and contacted Voyager to try and explain what had happened on the shuttle, B'Elanna remained in the back next to Tom trying to make him comfortable.
*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***
"What's the prognosis Doctor?" a concerned Captain Janeway asked as the EMH reviewed the data he had collected on the Lieutenant's condition.
"All I'm showing are remnants of pressure in the skeletal region--in other words a simple headache."
"A headache--that's all?"
"Obviously not, considering what Lt. Torres and the Commander had to say," he said, nodding in the Lieutenant's and Commander's direction where they sat beside the pilot. "This is more than a just simple headache. Maybe when Lt. Paris awakens he'll be able to enlighten us." The EMH resumed his ministrations to his most frequent patient.
"Any news?" the half-Klingon asked hopefully as the EMH approached the biobed.
"As I told the Captain, all I'm registering is that he is suffering from a headache," he explained.
"Now wait a minute, Doctor, that was more than a headache he was experiencing in the shuttle. He was terrified. Like I told you before, he was sweating profusely, breathing rapidly, and he thought that Chakotay's name was Brian, mine was Ricki, and he thought that someone named Jenkins was with us as well," B'Elanna recalled remembering how worried she had been when Tom started talking to someone who wasn't even there.
"Wait a minute, B'Elanna, did you say Ricki?" the Captain said walking over next to the bed.
"Yes. Does that mean something to you?"
"It may. It sounds familiar. Let me consult the personnel records and the Starfleet database and I'll get back to you." The Captain prepared to leave but not before she patted the still unconscious man on the shoulder and brushed an errant stand of hair away from his forehead. "We'll get to the bottom of this Tom. We're going to help you, I promise."
Janeway returned to the Sickbay a while later with a datapadd clutched in her hand.
Chakotay, seeing her enter the Sickbay, arose from a chair by the patient's bedside. "Did you find out something, Captain?" he asked.
Janeway nodded her head and bade that Chakotay, B'Elanna, and the Doctor join her in the Doctor's office, so that if Tom were to awaken he wouldn't hear.
"It took a little digging and cross referencing the data banks. But I found out who this Brian, Ricki, and Jenkins were. They were the three passengers that died in the shuttle Tom was flying when the accident occurred at Caldik Prime. Brian and Jenkins were Starfleet cadets, part of Tom's class, and Ricki . . .umm, it appears that Ricki was not only another cadet but also Tom's fiancee," she explained.
"Fiancee?" B'Elanna and Chakotay said simultaneously.
"Yes," Janeway said her mouth pulled into a grim fine line as she looked down at the padd in her hand and then up to the other three in the room. "I can't imagine what hell he went through afterwards. I never knew. Oh, I knew about the accident, everyone did." Chakotay nodded remembering how he had heard of the incident involving Admiral Paris's only son. "But, I never knew that he was engaged to Ricki Stakis. To have to go through the stress of a court marshal while at the same time experiencing the loss of the one you had planned to marry, whom you loved, must have been unbearable."
B'Elanna just sat there silent as a statue, but inside her mind was reeling with the news. Tom was engaged? She had no idea, he had never said anything not in all the time they had been together since just before he was awarded the position at the helm. Actually, he never said too much at all about the past. Any time his past was brought up, he always tried to keep it light--tried to make a joke out of it before changing the subject. Maybe the reason was that those memories were just too painful to remember--Caldik Prime, the prison, the first year in the Delta Quadrant, and Kahless knew what else that she didn't know about. Was she upset about the engagement? It didn't take long to answer. No. The answer rather surprised her, as she was becoming to feel very protective of the pilot. She actually cared deeply for the man. A man whom she still didn't really know, if she ever would, but she knew enough to know that what they had together was very special.
Chakotay arose from the chair he had been sitting in and began to pace obviously in deep thought. "That actually might explain why he was court marshaled. From what I remember, after he finally admitted that he was the one that caused the crash, he maintained a silence. The defense tried to point out that someone else had prepped the shuttle that day before the launch in an attempt to obtain a reduced sentence, but Tom stuck with his original statement that he had been at fault. It was like . . ."
"Like he had nothing to live for, his love was dead so why should he care what happened to him?" B'Elanna finished feeling sympathy Tom. The other three in the room didn't need to say anything more on the subject, they just nodded their heads in agreement.
"But there is still one thing I don't understand," Janeway said "why after all this time are these memories being recalled and apparently so vividly?"
"Maybe because before he wasn't flying?" B'Elanna offered. "Maybe there was something about the planet and the shuttle that brought back memories?"
Chakotay shook his head. "I suppose it's a possibility, B'Elanna, regarding flying, but not the planet. I've been to Caldik Prime and it bears no resemblance to the planet we saw today. It's a different color, and the land masses and atmosphere are not at all alike."
"Then obviously something else brought this on." the Doctor concluded. "I'll run some more tests on Mr. Paris. Maybe I can uncover something."
"Very good Doctor, keep me informed, and let me know when he awakens," the Captain ordered. "And you two," she said turning to Chakotay and B'Elanna, "I know you're concerned about Mr. Paris, but you've been here for hours, the ship needs you. I think it's time for you to retire for the evening. Let the Doctor take care of him."
"But Captain . . ." B'Elanna began.
"Do I have to make this an order, Lieutenant?" the Captain questioned but not too harshly.
"No, Captain, I'll go. Just give me a few minutes to say goodnight."
"All right, but then go back to your cabin and try and get some sleep. When the away team finally brings back that deuterium, your staff is going to need you in Engineering."
"I won't be long," B'Elanna assured her, smiling a little on the inside at the way Janeway treated her like her as if she were her own daughter at times. How she wished her mother could have been a little like her.
Janeway and Chakotay left Sickbay and B'Elanna returned to Tom's side while the Doctor prepared to administer another set of tests.
B'Elanna leaned down and whispered softly in Paris' ear. "I've got to go now Tom, but I'll be back tomorrow. Now you get better, you hear me. I already miss . . . you . . ." she told him surprised that her voice cracked with emotion. "Damn you Paris, I care about you, you've got to get better." As B'Elanna straightened up she placed a kiss on his forehead, one on his silent lips, and gave his hand a squeeze. Turning to leave she noticed that the EMH had been watching the entire exchange. "If you tell anyone . . ." she threatened.
"Don't worry Lieutenant you're secret is safe with me, and I'll let you know if there is any change," the Doctor assured her.
"Thank you, I appreciate it. You see I . . ."
"You care about him. Yes, even to a hologram like myself that is obvious. I'll call you as soon as I know anything. Don't worry."
"Mr. Paris, can you tell me what happened yesterday on the shuttle?" Janeway asked her helmsman who was seated on the edge of the biobed, still clad in his hospital gown that only came down to mid-thigh on the tall man.
"I'll try, but I really don't remember much," Paris explained with a look of desperation on his face.
"Just try your best," she told him as she glanced at the Doctor at her side. "What you say will be kept in confidence. As far as any of the crew know, you were just experiencing a bout of the flu."
"I know you're just trying to help. I'll tell you what I can," he offered as he reached for the glass of water beside the bed and with shaky hands drank from the glass, which did not go unnoticed by either the Captain or the Doctor. "Actually, it didn't just happen yesterday," he began.
"You mean you've been troubled by the accident for longer than just yesterday?" she asked, her voice filled with concern.
"No, only yesterday. I've always been 'troubled' by what happened at Caldik Prime. But it was a lot more than just being troubled by it Captain, it was like I was reliving it. Everything was so clear, like it was being replayed in my mind. And for the past couple of weeks I've been having very vivid nightmares, you remember . . .." *Damn it Tom why did you let that slip?*
The Captain immediately understood the reference. "Oh yes, when the Commander and I came down to your cabin to wake you." How could she forget, he was obviously distraught and very involved with the nightmare before they had awakened him. "But that the dream wasn't about Caldik Prime." she asked.
"No, not about Caldik Prime."
"Then what, Tom? What was it about?" she asked as she stood beside him and laid her hand on his shoulder in an expression of support.
"I can't Captain, I can't . . .you don't know," he blue eyes pleaded with her not to ask anymore.
Janeway squeezed his shoulder. She sympathized with him, but they had to know. She couldn't trust Voyager in his hands until this crisis was resolved. "I hate to ask this of you, Tom, but I have Voyager to think of and the crew. You're a highly important member of my senior staff, I can't afford to have you away from the helm. Lieutenant, I need to know what is going on and the Doctor needs to know what is going on if we're going to help you. And we do want to help you. You can't do this on your own."
"I don't know Captain, I've never . . . oh God," he replied as he wrapped his arms around his chest, and stared at a spot on the wall behind his two guests, not being able to look at either one of them. "I can't t . . . tell you how diff.--difficult this is," he stammered.
"Tom, until we get to the bottom of this, and find some way to help you, I'll be forced to remove you from the helm," Janeway said. "So you have to tell us. You have to trust us and let us help you. Take your time Tom, I promise you it'll be okay," Janeway said as she again returned to her seat.
*Here it goes*, Tom thought, *they're going to think you've really lost all your marbles. Then again maybe you have. Maybe you should be locked away so you can't hurt anything or anybody--so you can't hurt B'Elanna.* He took a deep breath, said a quick prayer before he continued.
"Those nightmares, it's not like I've never had them before, Captain. I've always had those nightmares *yeah 'those' nightmares don't tell them about all the others you've had over the years*, but it's been a long time--months since I've had one. These were so vivid, I could reach right out and touch . . .touch . . ." he said, his voice fading as he recalled part of the dream and his eyes lost focus on the present reality. Suddenly he was back home in his bedroom cowering on his knees in front of the Admiral. He could see his father in front of him again raising his arm with a belt clutched tightly in his hand preparing to strike the boy before him.
"Tom? Tom! Touch who Tom?" she asked verbally shaking the stricken young man out of his dark memories and back to the present.
"Who?" he asked raising his troubled blue eyes up to meet hers, he suddenly realized what their topic of conversation had been. "Umm, ohh, I could reach right out and touch my father, Captain, I could feel him touch me," he said very softly.
"Your father? Why would your father touching you evoke nightmares?" the Doctor asked.
"It wasn't his fault really, it was mine. I know it was, I deserved it. He told me so, but I never learned," Tom confessed in a small voice diverting his eyes away from Janeway's <don't look at them Tommy boy, don't look at the disappointment that will be in their eyes. You can do it, just say the words, it's the only way you even have a hope at staying at the helm. But whatever you do just don't look at them. He took a deep breath in preparation "No matter how many times he . . . he'd . . ." He clutched his chest tighter wishing that it was B'Elanna's arms around him, wishing that he had the strength to share this with her, wishing that she was here to comfort him. He needed her so much, but he knew that she didn't deserve him and all the baggage that he possessed. "He'd yell at me Captain."
"Yell at you?" she asked incredulously not believing all he was telling her. "Just yell at you?"
"No, sometimes . . . sometimes if I had really screwed up, he'd hit me," he finished continuing to stare at the wall behind the Captain in an almost zombie-like trance focusing on memories of long ago and millions of miles away.
"With his fists?" the Doctor questioned remembering the microscopic medical exam he had completed of the pilot yesterday that had indicated very old, healed fractures.
"Yeah, sometimes with his fists, and sometimes other . . . " Realizing what he almost admitted he rubbed his eyes and shook his head, he couldn't believe what he had almost revealed. "Listen, I've already told you more than I ever intended, like I said I haven't had that dream in a long time. I just want to stop having them and go on with my life."
"Well, this is a step in the right direction, Tom," the Captain admitted, proud of the fact that Paris had been able to tell her as much as he had about an obvious painful experience in his life. "When can he be released, Doctor?"
"Well, there really isn't much more I can do for him here right now. I'm going to prescribe something to help him sleep and see if a few days off duty may help bring things into perspective. In the meantime, I'm going to review the tests, keeping in mind our discussion and see if I can maybe come up with something I've missed."
"You mean I can go?" Tom said incredulously as the Doctor handed him his medicine.
"Yes, but if you experience any more dreams, either waking or sleeping, please call me immediately."
*** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ *** ^^^ ***
Chet sat in his cabin after having communed with V'trine again quite content with himself. He had driven Paris nearly insane from what he had been able to learn after he had returned from the aborted away mission. It was now time to play it cool for a little while, let Tom have a few days of relative peace before he struck again, and the next time, if he planned it right, could be the last. It wouldn't be long before Lt. Thomas Eugene Paris was no longer at the helm, no longer alive.
Two days passed. Two relatively quiet days. Tom had slept well and seemed to be back to being his old self again. Even B'Elanna had stopped being so concerned and had written off the experience as a one-time thing brought on by increased stress.
The third day, his scheduled day off, he visited Sandrines. Several members of the crew talked with him and, wished him well and told him they hoped that he was feeling better. Chet Tacna and his friends George and Juan even stopped by to see how he was doing. Tacna told Tom that Juan had been interested in challenging the pilot to a game of pool. Tom eagerly accepted always seeking a new opponent and a new friend. As Paris racked up the balls, Chet bought all four a round of dark ale making sure that Tom's glass also contained a double dose of his evil potion.
"Eight ball, side pocket," Juan announced, and with a precise stroke, sank the ball and won the game.
Tom reached over and shook the man's hand. "Good game, Juan. You want to rack them up again?"
"Thanks, but we've got to report for alpha shift in the morning. But definitely some other time. Promise."
"You're a real fine player. A real pool shark," Tom complimented and he took another sip of the ale.
"Well, I learned from the best -- Hank's Place . . . "
"On Crescent Street? You too?"
"Don't tell me you've been there?" Juan asked.
"Been there, I practically lived there when I wasn't in classes at the Academy," Tom said with a grin of remembrance on his face. "Maybe we ran into each oth . . .er . . . Hey, wait you're not the 'Don Juan of the Midnight Brigade' are you?"
"The Midnight Brigade?" George asked as he slapped the blushing Juan on the back.
"Yeah, the Midnight Brigade was the name that was given to me and few of my friends one year. We'd bring our school work over to Hank's with the good intentions of studying, but invariably we'd end up playing pool until the wee hours of the morning. I still don't know how I ever passed my second year.
"And the Don Juan part?" George prompted.
"Well you know, the ladies love a man that can wield a large pool cue," he explained waggling his eyebrows at the implied double meaning. "Don't they Paris."
"Paris? Are you all right? You don't look so well."
"I'm fine, just another headache. Why don't you three go on ahead. You all have to be up early in the morning. I'll just sit down for a while, and then if it doesn't lighten up, I'll stop by Sickbay."
"Okay, if you're sure?" Chet questioned, knowing full well what had brought on the headache.
Tom rubbed the back of his neck with his left hand. "I'll be fine and thanks. I just need to sit a spell."
"Well then okay, we'll be off." Chet said as the three of them exited the holodeck leaving the pilot who was obviously in a great deal of discomfort behind alone with the bartender and a few other holocharacters.
As soon the three friends exited the holodeck Tacna turned to George and Juan. "Well guys you know I'm not feeling all that well myself. Maybe it was the ale. I think I'll head back to my quarters and hit the sack."
"Well okay but you don't know what you're missing. George and I are headed down to the mess hall, the Delaney sisters are working beta shift this week," Juan explained.
"Just don't forget to bring your pool stick with you," Chet remarked.
"I never leave home with out it," Juan quipped as he and George left Chet, and they headed for the turbolift.
"I thought they'd never leave," Tacna mumbled to himself as he fled down the hall to his cabin.
As soon as he arrived and the door slid shut behind him, he called for a security lock and proceeded to his closet. It was time for the next stage of his plan. Calling upon the mighty powers of V'trine, the ensign once again wandered the corridors of Paris' mind and in a nook and cranny unearthed a very powerful and disturbing memory -- one that Paris' had buried away hoping it would never be unearthed again. That, accompanied by some ingenious holodeck programming, would certainly make the pilot feel like he was going insane.
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Paris still sat at the bar obviously still very much in pain. "Well enough of this," Paris mumbled as he rubbed the back of his head.
"Where are you going, mon cher?" Sandrine, the holographic bartender, asked from behind the bar, "you're not feeling well, no?"
"No, actually I'm not . . . I'm . . . I'm . . . ARGGH!" he yelled clutching his temples between both of his hands as he brought his head down to the top of the bar.
"Thomas, you must get some help!" the bartender urged, patting him on the back.
"Yeah, I think you're right" he mumbled, but just as he brought his hand up to tap the communicator, two pairs of hands grabbed him, pulled him roughly away from the bar, and slammed him up against the nearby wall. "What's going on!" he screamed at the two men that held him and a third burly man that towered before him rubbing one hand over his fist.
"What's the matta, Tommy boy, don't you remember you're ol' friend Frank?" the tall man asked. "How could you forget the games we used to play?"
Tom looked frantic, first he looked at the man before him then he pivoted his head to look at the two that held him. <No this can't be, I left these goons behind in New Zealand. What are they doing here?
"Yeah," the swarthy dark-haired man who held his left arm spat,"it's not very nice not to remember your buddies."
"Seems like, Blue Eyes needs to be taught a lesson, Frank." the Bolian suggested who clutched his right arm in a vice grip.
"My thoughts exactly, Bollie," Frank agreed as he approached the pilot. As the other two held him down, the biggest of the three extracted his revenge with his fists against Paris' body while Sandrine screamed for help from behind the bar.
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"Computer location of Lt. Tom Paris?" the Captain asked knowing that it was time that she spoke with him about the incident in the shuttle.
"Tom Paris is presently in Holodeck One."
*Ahh, Sandrines*, she thought as she headed out of her cabin, *that would be a good place to talk to him providing that we could get a table alone. It would be casual and it wouldn't make him feel cornered.*
As the Captain entered the holodeck she could hear the French barmaid's wails.
"Get off him you brutes! Stop it! Arrąt! Arrąt! You'll kill him!"
"What do you think we're planning to do Frenchie?" Bollie spat.
The Captain was shocked to see the three men beating on the figure that lay on the floor beneath their feet.
"Computer cancel holoprogram authorization Janeway Omega Four."
Upon hearing the command, Sandrines and its holopeople winked out of existence, leaving behind a bloody, bruised Tom Paris huddled on the floor amongst the yellow hologrids.
"Computer, emergency medical beamout -- Tom Paris to Sickbay."
"Acknowledged." And a familiar blue light engulfed the injured man and whisked him away to Sickbay with the Captain following on foot, summoning en route her First Office and Chief of Security.
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Several hours later the Doctor was still working on the Lieutenant fixing broken bones, a concussion, a ruptured spleen, and assorted cuts and bruises. All under the watchful eye of B'Elanna Torres, who as soon as she had heard that Tom had been beamed to Sickbay had joined the pilot and had not left his side.
The Captain, Tuvok and Chakotay had all convened in the EMH's office and were awaiting for the Doctor to join them.
". . . and you're saying that the holographic safeties were not on?" Chakotay asked. "It's Tom's program. Do you think he overlooked something?"
"I think a more appropriate question would be, 'Why would the Lieutenant program three brutes that would beat him up?'" the Captain countered.
"There's is always a third option," Tuvok said as he steepled his fingers in front of him. "Someone else programmed those holocharacters, with the express purpose of harming Lt. Paris."
"Well I know he is still not liked by a few people on the ship, Tuvok, but do you really think anyone on board is capable of not only having Tom viciously beaten, but have the ability to bypass passwords to alter someone else's program?" the Captain asked.
Chakotay rose from the chair he was sitting in and rubbing his hand up and down the nape of his neck in thought and paced. "Actually, Captain, there are still more than a few on the ship that don't like him, it is probably more like half, and to track down someone out of that many would be quite an undertaking."
"It's possible that when Mr. Paris wakes up he can provide us with an explanation," Tuvok said as the Doctor entered his office.
"That might be a while, Captain," the EMH inform them.
"Explain, Doctor," the Captain ordered.
Due to all the injuries that the Lieutenant received, I've heavily sedated him in order to allow him to properly heal. I would expect that he wouldn't regain consciousness for two to three days. The less movement he makes, the quicker he will recover."
"A wise precaution," Tuvok stated.
"So how do we proceed from here, gentlemen? I don't want to wait three days for the person who did this to cover his or her tracks."
"I would suggest a Vulcan mindmeld Captain," Tuvok offered. "I could institute a Level 1 mindmeld. It is very innocuous but should produce the results that we require. I could probably even achieve a Level 3 without any complications, but I don't anticipate that it will be necessary."
"Doctor?" the Captain questioned.
"From what I understand of Vulcan mindmelds, it shouldn't harm the patient, but I would suggest that the Lieutenant tread softly. With the bouts of nightmares and waking dreams that Mr. Paris has experienced over the last few weeks, he is very vulnerable right now. I would recommend trying to limit the level of the mindmeld and its duration as much as it possible," the Doctor suggested.
That afternoon Tuvok entered Sickbay and prepared for the mindmeld. He seated himself beside the biobed where Tom lay and placed his fingers on the pilot's face.
"My mind to your mind," Tuvok intoned the ancient Vulcan chant. "Your thoughts to my thoughts."
"Do you think this will work, Kathryn?" Chakotay whispered where they stood at the end of the bed, the Doctor by the patient's side to monitor his condition.
"Right now it's the only avenue open to us. It has to work." she said. She noticed B'Elanna slip in through the Sickbay doors and take a seat against the far wall to observe the procedure. When they told B'Elanna that they were going to attempt a mindmeld, she had been somewhat recalcitrant, not wanting anyone to invade Tom's mind. But when Janeway explained what Tuvok was trying to accomplish and that it was an attempt to help the pilot, B'Elanna had to agree that at present it was the only course of action available to them. Her only request was that she would be allowed to witness the meld herself. While the Captain had suspected that pilot and engineer had become closer, her discussion with the half-Klingon and B'Elanna's display of protection for Tom only confirmed it.
It took over two hours before Tuvok removed his hands from Paris' face and stood up.
"Captain, if I could speak with you and the Doctor in private?" Tuvok asked.
"Of course. The Doctor's office?" she suggested and Tuvok and the EMH followed her in and B'Elanna moved in closer to sit next to the pilot.
Kathryn Janeway bade all in the room to sit down before they began. "What is it, Tuvok? What have you found out?"
Tuvok related to his Captain and the Doctor his trip through the mind of the pilot.
"On my journey, Captain, I encountered memories some of which were very near the surface that were new and vibrant still full of color and life and there were others further back nearly obscured by shadows that were dark and near death," Tuvok explained.
"I'm not a Vulcan, but that doesn't sound that unusual to me," she said. "I would imagine that everyone has old memories and new memories."
"It isn't that unusual. But back in the shadows where the oldest of memories reside, were other memories, just as old but they were robust and active."
"But we all have memories that are old that we can recall with great clarity." she countered.
"That's true and I found those as well, but these were different, the intensity of the colors and the brightness of the light that flowed from them were even more intense than the most recent memories."
"But what could cause that?" she asked looking from Tuvok to the Doctor and back again.
"At first I was puzzled as well," the Vulcan explained keeping his voice as emotionless as usual. "Then I encountered an intruder."
"An intruder in Mr. Paris mind?" the EMH asked not believing what he had just been told.
Tuvok nodded. "Yes, just before I was ready to break the mind meld I caught a glimpse, a shadow if you will, of someone else who was there."
"But you don't know who?" Janeway asked.
"No. I have heard of instances on other worlds where people will invade the mind. A young man I knew on Vulcan was called to assist with a victim when I was still at the Vulcan Academy. When he returned he told us that he performed several mind melds on the victim and was able finally to determine who the assailant was. Ultimately they were able to apprehend that person and prevent him from doing it again."
"And do you think this is what is happening to Tom?" she asked.
"I find it highly unlikely. This incident occurred on Varin Prime, and there are no Varins that serve aboard Voyager, but it could be something similar. Maybe there is an alien presence involved that we have yet to detect."
"Maybe it's something we can look into, but until then, Tuvok, Doctor, what do you recommend?"
"Well, at present Mr. Paris seems to be recovering and I expect him to be back to work in a couple of days. I will continue to run tests on him concentrating on brain wave activity, but that is about all I can do."
"I could try and go in again, Captain, but it wouldn't be advisable to try it again so soon. I would recommend that before Mr. Paris reports back to duty, we attempt another mindmeld. Of course, this time with the Lieutenant's permission."
"There is something else I could do, though I don't know if it will help. The Varins that worship V'trine when they are in a trance are said to emit a faint unique energy pulse. In the unlikely event that one of the crewmembers is practicing this dark art, it would help to identify the person."
"We have nothing to lose. Do it. And gentlemen keep me informed, I want to know the minute anything new comes up."
"Aye, aye, Captain," the pair said in unison.
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Back in his quarters, Ensign Tacna was just coming out of his trance. In all his years of practicing this dark art this was the first time, other than when he was training with Dispe, that he had encountered anyone else in the mind of his target. With trembling hands he closed the box containing the icon. Fate had forced his hand. It was time to resort to something more definitive, something more deliberate. The time had come to resolve this situation once and for all. Tom Paris would have to die.
Tacna planned his next move. He would have to do this very carefully. He could only afford one more trip into the recesses of Paris' mind, so he would have to make it count. But it would have to be soon. But what to do? What could push him over the edge and make him take his life? It would have to be something that he cared about beyond all else. Then he knew. He knew what string to pull to accomplish the dark deed. It would take a little bit of planning, but he could do it. With a little help from V'trine and his own skills it should be rather easy.
For two days Tom was confined to Sickbay and he was not very happy. He tried every excuse he could think of to get the Doctor to let him leave. Finally on the morning of the third day, the Doctor threw his hands up into the air and ordered him to leave. Without giving the Doctor a moment to change his mind, Tom fled Sickbay and headed back to his cabin.
Entering his cabin he asked the computer to play a variety of his favorite songs from the 20th Century and proceeded to review his accumulated mail.
Ensign Johnson sent him one--no two messages--reminding him about a volleyball game that he was scheduled to play next week. Lt. Fitzgerald of the gamma shift wondered if they could change the time of the advanced flight class. And the last note was from B'Elanna saying that she had something important to discuss with him, and asked him to meet her in holodeck one at 2100 hours tonight.
*Great,* Tom thought, he'd have enough time to meet Harry after his shift was over, shower and still have plenty of time for B'Elanna. He wondered though what it was that she wanted to talk to him about.
At the agreed upon time, Tom dressed in his best civies entered holodeck one at exactly 2100. The program was unfamiliar to him. The scene depicted a restaurant, Italian, by the looks of it, overlooking a moon-dappled river. There were several tables scattered around the restaurant with white tablecloths and candles lit on each one--a very romantic setting. He sensed that he was going to like this program.
"Are you expecting someone, sir?" a waiter ask him.
"Yes, apparently she hasn't arrived yet."
"Then let me show you to a table where you can wait for her."
The waiter showed him to one of the nicest tables in the restaurant overlooking the river and poured him a glass of red wine. The moonlight glimmered on the surface. It was a beautiful program.
Tom was intently involved watching the scene of two swans swimming in the moonlight and halfway through his glass of wine, when B'Elanna Torres pulled out the chair on the other side of the table.
"B'Elanna," he said as he politely stood up to acknowledge her presence and sat back down as she did. "B'Elanna you look lovely," Tom said. She was dressed in an ivory pants suit that fit her perfectly.
"Thanks, Tom. I'm glad you could come."
"I wouldn't miss it."
The waiter came over and poured B'Elanna a glass of wine and filled Tom's glass.
"You said that you wanted to talk to me about something. It sounded important."
"It is," she replied briefly looking at him and then diverting her gaze to a table along the back wall that was not visible to the pilot.
"There is something that I've been meaning to tell you," B'Elanna took a deep drink of the wine. She swallowed and looked at him for a moment before continuing. "Something that I've been putting off but I've got to tell you. It's been so difficult lately."
"Just tell me B'Elanna, maybe I can help." Tom was worried by the expression of dread on her face.
"It . . it's just that I can't live a lie any longer Tom."
"What lie? What are you talking about?"
"I just can't see you any more. It is too difficult."
Tom felt like the blood had drained from his face and he wondered if he was still breathing. "What do you mean that you can't see me any more?"
"You are too unpredictable Tom. You have too many problems. I can't put up with them any longer. I need someone in my life that is stable, that . . . that isn't destined for an insane asylum. I'm not the only one who thinks so."
"You have to be kidding! B'Elanna, you can't mean that. Don't you know how much I love you?"
"It's over, Tom. Face it!" B'Elanna got up and walked away from the table, and toward the table near the back wall. Tom rose to follow her, and found her in a passionate embrace with another man. When she pulled back from the man's arms, Tom could see who the other man was. It was Commander Chakotay.
Feeling like he had been hit in the stomach by a photon torpedo, he turned around. He couldn't bear looking at them, listening to them laugh was difficult enough. When he turned back to see if maybe his mind had been playing tricks on him again, they were gone.
"Waiter, another glass of wine!" he roared. "Hell, just bring the bottle."
Two hours later Tom was still drinking wine and on his second bottle. He was the only one left in the restaurant save for the waiters. Images of B'Elanna and Chakotay intimately together flooded his mind. Images that were intermingled with their laughter. *I've been a fool,* he thought. *Why did I ever think that I could fit in on the ship. Why did I ever think that B'Elanna Torres could love me as I love her? I would have been better off, if I'd stayed in the penal colony. At least I would be among my own kind.*
"If I can't go back . . . I at least don't have to go on," he mumbled and picked up the empty bottle of wine. He smashed the bottle against the edge of the table. The bottom of the bottle broke off leaving a sharp, jagged edge.
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"Hey, Nicholson are you as bored as I am?" Ensign Lawrence asked the young blond ensign before passing her a cup of coffee.
"I'm probably more bored, if it is at all possible," she replied carefully sipping the hot, steaming beverage. "Tuvok has me scanning the entire ship for some weird energy fluctuation. And so far--not that I'm surprised--zilch."
"Why is he looking for energy fluctuations?" her friend asked.
"I have no idea. All he did was issue orders, not explanations. I'd bet the farm, if I still had a farm to bet, that I don't find . . . wait there is something."
"Right here," Nicholson replied pointing to one of the crew's quarters on the diagram of the ship. "Nicholson to Commander Tuvok, come in please."
"Commander Tuvok here. Please report."
"Commander, I found your energy fluctuation."
"Deck 5, Cabin 122. Ensign Tacna's quarters."
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Blood flowed across the floor. A broken wine bottle rested on its side. And Tom Paris, barely alive, lay on the floor. His wrists neatly sliced. His life hanging by a thread.
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Tuvok rushed to Tacna's cabin. En route he called the Captain and the Commander to meet him.
All three reached Tacna's quarters almost simultaneously. Tuvok used his security overrides and the three stormed into the cabin. There with candles lit all around him, a knife and phaser lay before him along side the bowl of blood, and the glowing icon sat Chet Tacna his hands raised to the ceiling.
"Ensign, stop this!" the Captain ordered. Tacna was shaken from his trance, he looked around wildly and saw the three senior officers. Instinctively, he quickly grabbed the phaser.
"Don't come near me," he warned.
"Ensign, put the weapon down. We've come to ask you some questions."
"It's too late! Stay away from me!!" he again warned them.
Tuvok took a step forward wielding his phaser.
"Ensign, I'm ordering you to put down that weapon. Now!!" the Captain roared.
"You'll have to do better than that!" he threatened and started to point the phaser at Janeway but before he would activate the weapon, Tuvok stunned him with his phaser.
"He said that it was too late," Chakotay said. "What did he mean?"
Janeway looked at her First Officer and they both said at the same time. "Tom." She tried her commbadge to call the pilot, but received no answer.
The Captain tapped her commbadge. "Janeway to Ensign Kim."
"Locate Lt. Paris."
Harry quickly found his friend's location--Holodeck One. He requested an emergency medical beamout to Sickbay, and notified the Captain. Then he notified B'Elanna Torres about what had just occurred.
Tuvok and a security contingent carried Tacna out of his quarters and to the brig. The Captain and Chakotay raced through the corridors of the starship towards Sickbay, while B'Elanna headed for the same destination.
The Doctor informed the Captain and the First Officer of the Lieutenant's condition and told him that it would be a while before he could complete his work. Janeway told him that they would be in the holodeck with Tuvok and to notify them when he was finished. The EMH nodded and began to treate Tom for his injuries to his neck and replenish his massive blood loss. He then sedated him so that he could sleep quietly. All during this time, B'Elanna stood quietly off to one side to let the Doctor work.
When he was finished, he called for the Captain and the Commander to come back to Sickbay so that he could appraise them of the pilot's condition. He told them how Tom had sliced open his carotid artery and even showed them the broken bottle that the Lieutenant had used. Janeway and Chakotay then told the Doctor and B'Elanna what Tuvok found when he investigated the holodeck. Tuvok theorized that Ensign Tacna, who was a Class III Programmer had coerced Tom into entering the holodeck to unwittingly participate in one of his programs. In combination with his foray into Tom's mind, Tacna had been able to convince the pilot that his life was no longer worth living.
The Captain and Chakotay finally left, leaving behind the EMH and the half-Klingon.
"Lt. Torres, there is really no need for you to stay, I assure you that Mr. Paris will be just fine, and it will be quite some time before he awakes," the EMH informed her.
"I'm staying Doctor."
Seeing the defiant look on her face, he knew it was best not to argue with her and went about his duties.
Hours later, Tom started to stir. B'Elanna, who had pulled a chair up beside his bed, and had been resting her head on the edge of the mattress, sat up. Tom moved his head to one side and then the other a couple of times, moaned, and eventually opened his eyes. The first thing he saw was B'Elanna's beautiful face.
"What's the matter, come to gloat?" he mumbled and he turned his head away from her. "Go away. Go find Chakotay."
"Tom, what's the matter with you?" B'Elanna asked. Confused by his remark. "I've been here all night waiting for you to wake up."
Tom, his head still turned away, replied, "A guilty conscious will do that. Just go away, I don't want to see you. Please leave me what little dignity I have left and leave."
B'Elanna pulled his face over to look at him. "Thomas Eugene Paris, tell me what's going on. What do you think I did?"
"Damn it, B'Elanna, I saw you after you left the table at the restaurant. After you told me you didn't want to see me any more; I saw you and Chakotay kissing, and then I heard you laughing."
"You're wrong Tom. It was all a set up. Chet Tacna duped you," B'Elanna explained.
Tom turned over to face B'Elanna. B'Elanna explained how Chet had manipulated his thoughts to cause him to think that certain things were happening. She told him how the Captain, Chakotay, and Tuvok caught the ensign in the act and had confined him to the brig.
"He'll never be able to bother you again, Tom."
"I'm sorry, B'Elanna."
B'Elanna brought her hand up and caressed his still pale face. "It's not your fault Tom, Chet is the one to blame."
He turned his face into her palm and kissed it lovingly. "It's not that. It's that you don't deserve to be with someone like me. You deserve someone . . ."
B'Elanna place her hand against his mouth. "Shhh. Don't you dare tell me who I deserve. The fact is, Tom Paris. I want to be with you. Do you understand?"
Tom nodded his head and she removed her hand. "And I want to be with you too."
"Now I'm going to leave you here to rest, before the Doctor throws me out. I'll see you tomorrow. The Captain has given both of us that day off."
"I'll look forward to it," he murmured. He was starting to get sleepy again.
"Good. Neelix has come up with a new program on the holodeck something to do with a beach resort he's fashioned after a earth Caribbean beach resort that he read about. And I can guarantee that it's Tacna-proof."
Tom smiled slightly, he wouldn't have cared if they went to the messhall as long as they were together. "Sounds like fun."
B'Elanna bent over and kissed him on his lips. "Tomorrow then. Goodnight."
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Tom was released from Sickbay later that evening and went back to his cabin. The next morning he received a message on his computer requesting that he meet her in Holodeck One at 1300 hours.
B'Elanna showed up at the Holodeck slightly ahead of schedule. She had dressed in a two-piece bathing suit that sported a brown and black animal print design and covered it with a short sleeved top of that same print that tied loosely at the neck line just below her necklace and it fell to just above her knees. She hoped that Tom would like what she had chosen to wear. Finding that everything in the Resort was to her liking she walked down by the water's edge and waited.
On time, for a change, Tom arrived at the Resort. He was surprised when he stepped through the arch to hear the computer reply. "Thank you for coming Mr. Paris, the Holodeck is now under security lock Level 4. You may proceed."
"Ah, thanks," he mumbled and looked around the Resort. He saw the blue ocean which reflected the purples and pinks of the setting sun. He noticed the sandy beach, the beach house, multi-colored beach umbrellas, and a myriad of different shaped chairs scattered around. *Wow, Neelix sure did his homework,* he mused. *But where's B'Elanna?*
He walked further in and looking around he finally saw B'Elanna walking along the sand, stopping every so often to bend down to examine a shell. Approaching her, she heard his footsteps as they padded along the sand. She turned to greet him. His heart just about stopped she looked so beautiful kneeling in the sand.
"Just beautiful," Tom said expressing his thoughts as he neared the half-Klingon.
B'Elanna turned around to examine the holodeck program. "Yes, didn't Neelix do a wonderful job?"
"I'm not talking about the Resort, B'Elanna, I'm talking about you." He took her hands and pulled her up to her feet.
"But, Tom, I told you I'm not beautiful."
"You are absolutely exquisite and don't let anybody ever tell you otherwise. You're the most beautiful woman I have ever known or will ever know." He pulled her to him and kissed her deeply. Their tongues tangled and his hands traveled down her back.
"Oh, Tom," she breathed when they finally broke away. "I was so worried about you."
"And I thought that I was going insane. Gods B'Elanna, I'd be lost without you." He assaulted her mouth again and she acquiesced. Finally they broke away again to find that during the kiss they had dropped to their knees and the water of the holographic ocean was lapping at their legs.
Tom looked at her for a long time until finally she had to ask. "What's the matter Tom?"
"Nothing's the matter. It's just that there is something that I want to tell you. I've been wanting to tell you for a very long time."
"So tell me."
"But..." Tom looked around at the holographic beach boys and girls that had started to come out of the beach house.
B'Elanna saw the reason for the interruption. "Computer, delete all holocharacters. And increase the level of security from 4 to 6. Now no one will disturb us, is that better?"
"Much," he murmured, and kissed the side of her neck. He reached up and untied her top and pushed it off her shoulders. B'Elanna, anxious to run her fingers through his chest hair, reached up herself and pulled his top over his head.
"Tom, I want you so badly," B'Elanna purred. "I need you."
"Are you sure?" he asked knowing that it was a big step for the two of them to take.
"I've never been more sure of anything," she said and to prove to him that she meant what she said, she tugged playfully at swim trunks.
"What's wrong?" she asked. Had she been too forward, too bold?
"Absolutely nothing is wrong, B'Elanna. I've been waiting to hold you and touch you like this for a very long time. But before we do this, I've got to tell you something."
Tom gathered her hands in his and brought them to his mouth and kissed them, before he continued, carefully comtemplating what he needed to say.
"Ever since I met you, I knew that you were a special woman. I've never known anybody like you, B'Elanna. You make me feel blessed just to be in your presence." He kissed her hands again and took a deep breath. "What I'm trying to say B'Elanna is that I've fallen hopelessly in love with you. I truly love you." He looked at her face and was surprised to see her beautiful deep chocolate eyes become wet with tears. One tear escaped and started to trickle down her cheek. Tom reached up and captured it with his thumb and licked off the salty wetness with his tongue. "Don't cry, B'Elanna. I don't want to make you sad."
B'Elanna smiled and pulled his hands to her lips and kissed them the same way as he had hers. "Tom, my heart beats for you and only for you. These are happy tears. You see, I've fallen in love with you too." It felt so good to finally admit her feelings. She longed to mark him with a bite, but she determined that would have to wait for another time. She wanted to savor each aspect of their relationship and not rush into anything. Now, just their admission of love for each other would be more than enough.
Tom gathered her up in his arms and kissed her again. His dreams had come true. She loved him. He couldn't remember ever feeling so happy.
B'Elanna kissed him back passionately, first on his mouth. The lips parted and their tongues tangled together. Each tasting the other. Then she moved her open lips along his jaw line, brushing her teeth lightly along his cheek. It was so difficult for her not to give into temptation and sink her teeth into his flesh.
No one else existed at that moment, time had stopped, and they where their own little universe. Nothing else and no one matter but each other and their love--a blessed eternal love. Each lover was intent on pleasing the other to express their love physically and verbally as they never had before.
Sometime later, B'Elanna and Tom pulled apart from each other, their clothes long since discarded. The waves from the ocean caressed their bare flesh blessing their union.
"Tom that was incredible," B'Elanna said finally.
"I was thinking the same thing, B'Elanna. I was thinking that you are just incredible."
"So I guess you could say that we are going together?" he asked.
"I guess I could."
"Do we have to keep it a secret any longer?" he whispered in her ear.
"No, Tom. Not any longer."
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