Part Two

"Neelix, see if you can give Sam a hand with Ensign Peters, while I take care of Crewman O'Hara."

Neelix nodded crisply and went to help Sam Wildman while Tom activated the medical arch over O'Hara.

"Don't you need any help, Tom?" Sam called out. "I could get Wilkenson to come down."

"Thanks, but I don't think this will take that long." Tom smiled confidently down at Talli O'Hara and injected a sedative into the pretty redhead's neck. "I've assisted the Doc with a ruptured spleen before. You just have to know what you're doing. Talli should be dancing jigs again by this time tomorrow."

"Tom seems to be doing very well," Neelix remarked quietly to Sam. "I didn't know he was so capable."

"You wouldn't with how the Doctor ribs him all the time," Samantha remarked, "but I happen to know that our EMH also respects Tom's talents. Before he was deactivated, he was preparing to instruct our blue-eyed pilot on the intricacies of repairing brain injuries."

Neelix let out a low whistle.

"He's very good...though I'm not sure how good Tom knows he is, but rest assured the EMH does."

"Chief pilot and skilled medical provider all rolled into one," Neelix pronounced.

"Yeah, and don't forget to add 'Defender of the Universe and Scourge of Evil'," Sam added referring to Paris' Captain Proton holodeck character.

Neelix smiled at the blonde woman recognizing the reference. "It was Tom trying to act like Captain Proton that got him into trouble," he reminded her.

"Yeah, I know that Janeway had to punish him for what happened with the Moneans, but I would have thought that he would have got his lieutenant's pip back by now."

"But who would have thought back then that Captain Janeway herself would be spending time in the brig?" he asked. News had spread fast through the ranks of Janeway's predicament. Sam shook her head sadly.

"You two going to talk or take care of our patients?" Tom called out.

Neelix and Sam smiled and got back to work.

* * * * *

"How's it going, Joe?" B'Elanna asked her second in command. She had come down to Deck 5 to join Joe Carey and see for herself how the repairs were coming along.

"Slow, Chief. We're making progress, but due to the nature of the damage if we don't proceed carefully, we could have--"


B'Elanna spun around to see one of her junior engineers, Ensign Matthew Nycot, approach at a trot.

"Ensign, what's wrong?"

"We just reached Deck 5 Section 10. We have found more injured and..."

"And what," she prompted noting the worried look on the young man's face.

"It's Megan Delaney, Chief. She's trapped--pinned under a fallen strut."

"Did you contact Sickbay?"

"Yes. With communications down in this area, we sent someone down to Sickbay. Ensign Paris should be on his way down, but it may take a while to extract Megan."

"Show me, Matt. Perhaps I can help."

Nycot doubled back the way he had come, this time with B'Elanna Torres following him. "I was hoping you would say that, we could use your expertise. Follow me, this way's the quickest due to other damage to this area of the ship.

"I'm right behind you," she reassured him.

Carefully picking their way around other fallen beams and sparking cables, the pair neared Megan Delaney's position. When they arrived, B'Elanna found that Tom was already there, his medkit laid open beside him on the deck. He was kneeling down beside Megan and brushing her wavy chestnut hair from her heart- shaped face. B'Elanna could also see that the metal strut did indeed have the woman trapped against the deck, effectively pressing against Megan's right knee. Blood had pooled all around the woman and she looked very pale. As B'Elanna neared, she could also hear Tom's soothing words and see the tears that stained the woman's face.

Hearing the sound of footsteps, Tom turned around. "Glad you showed up, B'Elanna." He motioned for Nycot to attend to Megan for a moment and joined B'Elanna just out of earshot of his patient.

"Looks like you need some engineering assistance," B'Elanna noted, looking up at the fallen strut.

"Yeah, you can say that again," Tom replied softly.

"What is her condition?"

"Well basically her knee is smashed. I've been able to put a tourniquet on her leg to stop the bleeding, and I've injected her with a compound to help replenish the blood she lost. So essentially she's stable for the time being, but..."

"But what?" she prompted.

He turned back to look at Megan Delaney. Matt Nycot was talking to her softly, trying his best to keep her mind off her situation, but Megan couldn't help but notice the concerned look on the medic's face.

"It's okay, Tom, tell her," Megan urged.

"I keep on forgetting that you have excellent hearing, Megs," Tom chastised her lightly with a soft smile on his face. Megan tried to return the smile but failed.

"Well it's like this, B'Elanna. You have to be very careful removing that strut--careful and fast. I've got her stable but for how long I don't know. From what I can tell that is--the medical tricorder isn't working very well down here. Whatever those purple creatures hit Voyager with seems to be disrupting not only the transporters, but the tricorder..."

"What he's trying to say, Lieutenant, is that if you don't get me out of here soon, he might have to amputate."

B'Elanna looked first at Megan and then up to Tom and mouthed the word 'amputate?'

Tom solemnly nodded.

"We'll get you out, Megan. You believe me don't you?"

"Yes, Lt. Torres," she said then grimaced in pain.

Tom knelt down beside Megan and grasped one of her hands in both of his. "I'm sorry I can't give you anything more for the pain, Megan. But when we move you, you're going to have to help us and let us know if we hurt you. I promise we'll be as quick as possible and as soon as you are out, I'll sedate you."

"I know you'll do your best. I can handle anything, Tom. Just promise me you won't take my leg. Promise me, Tom," she pleaded.

Tom hesitated.

Megan clasped her free hand over his own and squeezed hard.

"Promise me," she reiterated.

Paris pursed his lips and nodded once. "I promise, Megan."

B'Elanna finally released a breath she didn't know she had been holding. Could she have made the same promise Tom had? She didn't know and she sure as hell hoped that she'd never find herself in the same position.

"Go ahead, B'Elanna. I'm going to stay here with Meg. For some reason she can't get enough of looking at my blue eyes--I don't have the heart to tell her they aren't natural," he jested.

It was just like him to garnish any stressful situation with a liberal dose of humor. This time though she could tell it didn't come easy for him.

"Okay, hold on to her, Tom. We'll do our best." She nodded to Nycot and called for Carey and another junior engineer for assistance. The four of them positioned a large electromagnetic jack under the strut close to Megan's knee. B'Elanna instructed the crew on the exact placement, then she called for two lateral spatial supports to be positioned so the strut wouldn't fall back onto any of them after it was raised from the deck.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the strut began to move. Tom and Nycot placed themselves on either side of Megan. The trapped twin clenched her teeth together trying hard not to give in to the pain. Despite the painkillers Paris had administered, her knee was so mangled that the agony couldn't be totally contained.

Tom could see that Megan was trying hard to be brave. He could also see the perspiration, from the effort required not to scream out, pour down her face.

"Let it go, Megs," Tom coached. "You get no points for trying to be brave. Yell, scream, cry. Do whatever it takes."

Megan let out a pitiful wail and buried her face in Tom's chest. Hot tears and beads of sweat moistened his uniform. The pilot/nurse stroked her head tenderly and Nycot patted her back, both trying to offer what little comfort they could.

"Get ready, Tom," B'Elanna warned.

Tom nodded. "On the count of three, Nycot," he instructed. Nycot and Tom gripped Megan by her shoulders. "As soon as she's free, I'm going to prep her then we are heading right to Sickbay."

"Aye, sir."

B'Elanna positioned herself by Megan's feet and held the twin's ankles firmly. "Just a little bit more, Joe," she instructed.

The strut groaned in protest as it was raised. Suddenly it shifted and one of the lateral supports thankfully stopped it from falling and inflicting any more damage.

"Now!" B'Elanna yelled.

Tom and Nycot didn't need to be told twice. Swiftly, the two men pulled the astrometrics officer out and B'Elanna carefully guided her legs along after them. When they were safely out of danger, Tom instructed the other two to put her back down on the deck.

Quickly Tom snapped open his med-kit and extracted a hypospray. Selecting an appropriate dosage he pressed it against Megan's neck.

Just before his patient slipped into merciful unconsciousness she whispered: "Remember, Tom, you promised."

Tom swallowed hard upon hearing her words and began to prepare her for transport to Sickbay.

* * * * * *

"Commander, most of the injuries have been treated and released from Sickbay with the exception of Megan Delaney," Harry reported. He paused for a moment having just heard the news himself he was still trying to come to grips with what Tom was about to face.

Hearing the hesitation in the young man's voice, Chakotay looked up. "What's her condition, Harry?"

"Not good. According to what information B'Elanna is providing, Tom says that Megan may lose her leg. Ensign Paris has also contacted the bridge to see if there is any remote chance that there has been any change in the Captain's condition. He needs to know if it is at all possible that the EMH may be activated before he has to perform the operation."

Chakotay closed his eyes for a moment and said a silent prayer of hope. He didn't relish Tom's position right now. The EMH should be the one to make these decisions and perform any operation required, not a medic with only a couple years of any actual hands-on experience.

"How much time does Paris have?"

"Not much, sir--mere minutes."

Chakotay looked over towards tactical. "Tuvok, what is Janeway's condition?"

"Still unconscious, and probably will be for a few more hours, sir," Tuvok answered promptly.

"Harry, inform Tom that I'm sorry but he's on his own. Also tell him I have every confidence in him, and keep me informed on Lt. Delaney's status."

"Yes, sir."

"Any more news on the repairs?"

"According to Lt. Torres, they're coming along slowly, Commander."

"And the crew relocations?"

"Just about all relocations have been taken care of," Harry remarked. "Unfortunately a lot of personal articles have been lost or destroyed."

"Fortunately, everyone was at their duty stations and we didn't lose them," Chakotay added. Harry nodded.

"Tuvok, I want to be notified as soon as Janeway awakens. There are several things I need to discuss with her."

* * * * * *

"How is she?" Samantha Wildman asked. Tom had pulled the sheet up from the foot of the bed to Megan's mid-thigh and was carefully removing the compression bandage he had earlier placed around her knee.

"See for yourself, Sam."

After the knee was laid bare, Sam could see the terrible damage that the strut had caused. The leg was horrifically discolored where the strut had been pressed up against the knee. The swollen flesh that surrounded the knee was various shades of blues and purples.

"It looks nasty," Sam remarked clucking her tongue at the gruesome sight.

"Actually, that's not even my major concern. Look at this." Paris pointed to the twin's right foot. "See the coloring here, it's kinda of a dusky blue."

Sam nodded. "What does that indicate?"

"It means that I may have lied to Megan earlier."

"What do you mean?"

"I promised her I wouldn't amputate her leg, Sam."

Samantha paled not only from Tom's words but from the look of betrayal that marked his fair face.

"When I straightened out her knee after she was brought to Sickbay, I was able to relieve the pressure from the popliteal artery. Which means the blood flow to her foot has been restored."

"That's good...,isn't it?"

"It should be, providing I don't uncover or cause any more damage during the operation. Her knee is like a picture puzzle, it'll take some time to put it together. She's not out of the woods yet. She could still lose her leg."

"I'm sure you'll do fine," Sam said reassuringly. "Come on then, Tom, let's prep--"

"My sister's in there, I want to see her. I DEMAND to see her!!!"

Tom and Samantha looked up at the source of the interruption.

"Jenny, I'm sure they are doing all they can for her," Neelix assured the distraught young woman.

From her position, just inside the doors to Sickbay, Jennifer Delaney looked up at Tom and then down to the still form of her sister.

"I deserve to be with her. I'm her sister. Let me through, Neelix!"

During their exchange, Tom let Samantha remove his uniform top and replace it with a surgical gown and proceeded to the ultrasonic hand sanitizer.

"It's okay, Neelix," Tom finally said to the Talaxian. "Let her come in."

"What is wrong with Megs, Tom?" she asked approaching the tall man.

Tom signed. "Sam, activate the medical arch over Megan and prepare yourself to assist." Then he turned towards the patient's twin.

"I'll have to make this quick, Jen," he started to explain. "Megan was trapped under a fallen strut on Deck 5."

Jenny gasped.

"Her knee has been severely damaged. "I'm going to try and fix it, but I don't have to remind you that I'm far from a fully trained physician."

"I know you'll do your best," Jenny said trying to sound encouraging.

"I will do my best, I can promise you that, but I won't lie to you, Jen. We've been friends far too long for that."

Tom paused and turned his hands over so the sanitizer could properly clean his palms.

"What is it you're not telling me?" Jen demanded.

Tom's blue eyes captured her vivid green ones intently. The twin couldn't remember ever seeing the pilot look so serious.

"What I'm trying to tell you, is that if I'm not able to fix the damage. I...I...may have to amputate her leg."

Jen's mouth fell open and she would have collapsed if it hadn't been for Neelix's quick reflexes.

"Stay with her, Neelix," Tom said. "She'll need to be with someone during the operation."

"Don't worry, Tom, I will...and I want you to know I have every confidence in your abilities."

The words were good to hear, Tom just wished he had as much confidence in himself as Neelix did.

* * * * * *

"Harry, wait up!"

Harry spun around to see B'Elanna Torres trotting up towards him. "What's up, Maquis? Looks like you are in a hurry."

"Have you heard from Tom?" she asked. "Is the operation over?"

"Last I heard he was still operating. Doesn't seem right does it?"

"It certainly doesn't, the whole ship doesn't seem right. Captain Janeway is in the brig. The EMH can't be activated. And Tom's performing major surgery."

"I'm sure that Tom will do his best," Harry assured her.

"Oh, I know he will do his best. But will it be good enough?" she asked him.

Harry didn't know what to say.

"If I know one thing, I know that if he has to resort to amputation he'll never forgive himself."

"He's not a trained surgeon, let alone a doctor," Harry reminded her. "He has nothing to forgive. It's not his fault that he's not fully qualified and he had this situation thrust upon him."

"It won't matter to him, Harry. Even if I hadn't seen his face when he was with Megan on Deck 5, I know him. I sometimes feel that I know him better than I do myself, and other times he's still an enigma. But I do know that regardless of how much training he's received from the Doctor, he will consider it a failing of his own if he has to resort to amputation. He will blame himself for not taking his medical training anymore seriously than he has. He'll kick himself for not studying longer, not listening to the Doctor more intently. Tom will find some way to place the blame on himself. I've seen him do it before, Harry. This time won't be any different."

Harry didn't know what to say, he knew B'Elanna spoke the truth.

* * * * * *

"I'm the Captain of this vessel. I demand that you release me immediately!"

The two hapless security officers assigned to brig detail looked up at each other and shook their heads. They never thought that they'd ever see Kathryn Janeway in the ship's brig.

"Konlat, I know you," Janeway threatened pointing her finger at the tall man, "and you too, Jack Long. If I ever get out of here, I'll make both of your lives miserable. You'll both regret the day you ever saw me in here!"

"I already regret it," Jack admitted to the other guard.

"Me too," Konlat agreed.

With a single push of a button welcomed silence greeted them as the force field separating Janeway's cell from the brig command post adjusted frequency to cancel out any sound coming from her cell.

"We may have to look at her, but there's nothing saying we have to listen to her," Jack concluded with a self-satisfied grin.

Konlat chuckled. "I'll worry about facing her wrath later. Computer record any sound from cell 3b, if any reference is made to Chakotay or the EMH, inform me."


From behind the force field on the brig's cell the pair could see Janeway pace back and forth still yelling at them. Eventually she sat down on the bunk. Her eyes never left the two guards. If looks could kill, then both Konlat and Long would have dropped dead.

* * * * * *

Tuvok looked up from his console. "Commander, I've just been informed that Captain Janeway has regained consciousness."

"How's Lt. Delaney doing?"

"According to Mr. Neelix, who is in Sickbay, they are almost finished."

"No time to extract the information from the Captain and reactivate the EMH then?"

"I do not believe so, Commander."

Chakotay sighed. The moment he had been dreading had arrived. "Will you accompany me to the brig, Tuvok? There are several questions I have for the Captain."

"Of course."

* * * * * *

Chakotay stood just outside the force field to Janeway's cell, arms on his hips with Tuvok flanking him. Janeway made note of her two visitors.

"Lower the force field," Chakotay ordered his eyes never leaving the Captain.

"Jack Long positioned himself, phaser drawn, just outside Janeway's cell. Konlat activated the controls, the force field dropped, and Chakotay and Tuvok entered the cell.

"Morning, Kathryn," he greeted her.

Janeway who was seated on the bunk, her knees drawn up to her chin looked first at the tattooed man and then the Vulcan. Her gray eyes flashed with rage.

"Morning?" she spat. "Is that all you can say to me, Chakotay?"

"I'm sorry it had to come to this," he offered. He *was* sorry and still couldn't believe that Kathryn was occupying a cell in the brig--it was a strange turn of events--very strange.

Janeway noted his look of internal conflict. "But not sorry enough to release me?" she asked. Her voice had taken on a sultry tone, much lower than usual. Kathryn Janeway then lowered her legs, stood up and casually tucked a lock of her auburn hair behind her left ear, never once taking her eyes off Chakotay.

He swallowed hard, she certainly wasn't going to make this easy for him. Regretfully he shook his head. "No, I can't release you. Not yet. Believe me, I wish..."

"You have no right to imprison me!" she roared. Gone was the seductress, the shrew had returned. "This is mutiny!"

"Actually, Captain, under General Order 28, we have the right to relieve you from duty."

"But you forgot, without the Doctor you..."

"I've made Tom Paris acting Chief Medical Officer until we can find a way to reactivate the EMH."

"Tom Paris as an acting Chief Medical Officer? What a laugh! It'll never work. The Federation won't buy it!" she spat. "When or *if* you get back to the Alpha Quadrant they'll imprison you on charges of mutiny!"

"We'll see," Chakotay said slowly and what he hoped sounded confidently.

Janeway disgustedly turned her attention away from the First Officer and instead focused on the Vulcan. "Tuvok, I might have expected this from a former Maquis officer, but you? We've known each other for years!"

"I believed I knew you, Captain-- but I appear to have been mistaken," the Vulcan remarked.

"But surely you know that what's happening here is preposterous!" Janeway continued hoping to persuade Tuvok to trust her again. "Voyager is *my* ship. If Voyager is ever to make it home, back to the Alpha Quadrant, her captain can't be confined to the brig for the remainder of the journey!"

"That would be illogical. Taking into account your latest personality alterations, it is logical to conclude that if you had not been removed from duty, Voyager would never have made it home."

Tuvok's eyebrow rose and Chakotay's eyes widened at the string of epithets that sprung from Janeway's lips. She was still spouting obscenities when they left and the force field was reactivated.

* * * * * * *

"He's right over here, B'Elanna." Neelix pointed to where Tom Paris was asleep at one of the tables in the deserted mess hall.

"How long?"

"He came in right after the surgery was finished. Sam insisted that he get something to eat before he went to sleep. I guess that sleep came before he found the bed."

B'Elanna's lips curled upward slightly, as she and the Talaxian moved closer to the table.

"Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?" she asked motioning to the half-eaten sandwich that had almost become her mate's pillow. A glass of milk, almost empty, sat beside the plate.

"Comfort food," he explained. "I thought he needed it."

"He did."

B'Elanna turned to see that Samantha Wildman had joined them.

B'Elanna's smile faded at the implication. " she?"

Sam patted the half-Klingon's arm. "Megan's fine, B'Elanna. She came through the operation wonderfully."

"And the leg?"

"He saved the leg. It was touch and go for a while, but he did it."

"It certainly seemed to take a lot out of him. He looks exhausted."

"Tom did a fine job, B'Elanna. You'd have been proud of him," Neelix smiled down at the sleeping man.

"I'm always proud of him, Neelix," she took a step closer to the pilot and gently stroked his hair away from his face. Tom moaned in contentment and nestled his face further down in the crook of his arm. Neelix deftly removed the glass of milk and what remained of the sandwich before the pilot could knock them over.

"He was very patient, but I could tell he was tense as well," Sam explained. "Working inside Meg's knee was a challenge. It took a lot longer than he had originally anticipated. When he found out that the knee was posteriorly dislocated he was relieved, for as soon as he was able to straighten out the knee he was able to relieve pressure on the artery that was providing blood flow to her lower leg. He wasn't done then though, Tom had to extricate the tiniest bone fragments and piece the remaining kneecap back together with the osteogenic stimulator. I wish the Doctor had seen him. He would have been proud."

"We'll tell him went he get gets back," Neelix offered.

"You bet we will," Sam said, a smile of pride lit her tired face.

B'Elanna positioned herself on the pilot's left side. "First we have to get him to bed. Too bad the transporters still aren't working." Holding Tom by the shoulders she rocked him back and forth. "Come on, sleepy head time to get up." She shook him again.

Tom groaned.

"Come on, Tom, let's go."

"Doihafta?" he mumbled, his voice still heavily laden with sleep.

It would have been so easy to let him sleep, but she knew he would rest better back in bed. "Come on," she urged and nodded to Neelix to come closer. The engineer pulled up on the pilot's left arm and Neelix the right, until he finally hung over both of their shoulders. The pair then left the mess hall with the pilot between them his long legs dragging along the deck.

"This would be easier if the transporters were working," Neelix commented.

"It would be easier if he wasn't so tall and his feet weren't so big," B'Elanna countered trying avoid contact between the pilot's feet and the mess hall chair legs.

Samantha smiled. "Well you know what they say about tall men and big feet, Lieutenant?"

B'Elanna returned the grin and nodded. She knew full well what they said about tall men and big feet, and could personally testify that this one old wive's tale was correct.

Neelix looked back and forth between the two women who seemed to be sharing some inside joke. A joke that he didn't get. "What *do* they say about tall men and big feet?" he asked finally.

Soft female laughter was the only reply to his question.


"According to my analysis, it would be prudent to alter course toward the nearest Class M planet while we attempt to implement repairs to the ship."

"Agreed, Tuvok. I'll inform B'Elanna. Baytart, alter course."

"Aye, Commander. Altering course to vector 2.651." Baytart punched out the commands. A puzzled look crossed his face and he tried entering the command again. "Commander, I can't change the original course heading."

"Let me try from here." Chakotay activated the center console and entered in his security code followed by the flight change information. "It's no good, I can't change it from her either. Computer, alter course to vector 2.651 authorization Chakotay alpha rho one nine seven."

::::Unable to process request.::::


::::You do not possess authorization to change the assigned original course heading. Only Captain Janeway has the proper security clearance.:::::

*Damn her!* He turned toward the Vulcan. "Tuvok, where are we heading?"

"Unknown, Commander. It is safe to surmise that the only one that knows why we are on this particular course is the Captain."

"And she isn't talking."

"Not yet. According to security, she is still not cooperating."

"Contact Engineering, Tuvok. Maybe they can find a way to circumvent the Captain's command codes."

"Aye, sir."

"And inform me when Paris is available in the morning. It's past time the good Captain had her physical."


B'Elanna woke the next morning in her cabin still spooned against her lover. His arm was draped across her waist and his palm lay limply against her stomach. The smell of his body assaulted her senses and sent them reeling. His breath, still light and gentle from his slumber, delicately caressed her cheek. The half- Klingon smiled...she was content.

<Content and Klingon--wasn't that some sort of oxymoron? Silently she chuckled at the thought. Not too long ago it would have been almost unheard of to think of herself as being content. Since she and Tom had begun seeing each other, it was happening more regularly, especially when he was around. She was wise enough to know that any road they traveled together would never be smooth--but she also figured that smooth roads could be very boring.

Softly, happily, she turned within the crescent of his arm. As was his habit, he adjusted his position so he lay on his back and she pillowed her head against his shoulder.

It felt so right, so natural, so... so... good that she never wanted to think about not feeling like she was right now. To hell with what her mother had tried to drill into her skull all those years ago! To hell with all her self doubts! She wanted this man...wanted him not only in her bed but beside her for her life. She wanted not only his body but his soul! And heaven help any person that would stand in her way--including Tom Paris! She smiled and putting her arm around his chest hugged him.

Noting the chronometer that hung on her wall, she saw that shortly they would have to get up to begin a new day. She still had time though to savor the moment, time to let Tom sleep in a little bit longer (after all he deserved it), and to let her fingertips explore his chest. She ran her fingers across his taut stomach that she knew so well and up through his golden chest hairs. With practiced ease she traced a pattern in the chest hair with her fingertips. Lightly, ever so lightly, she touched his nipples, just teasing them with the very tip of her fingers until they stood at attention.

"Having fun?" he drawled, both eyes were still closed but there was a sly smile plastered on his lips.

B'Elanna smiled. "Ah, huh." She followed the trail of hair from his chest down his stomach until she found another patch of curly hair.

One blue eye opened, sparkling with mischief. "Want to have even more fun?"

"Do we have time? You have to report for duty in thirty minutes."

With lightning quick reflexes he swung his body over her own.

"I would prefer if we had thirty hours, but in emergency situations we'll just have to make do." He was enjoying himself immensely.

B'Elanna laughed seductively and licked her lips.

::::Chakotay to Tom Paris.::::

Paris let out a cry of despair and reluctantly rolled off B'Elanna. <The Indian, the spirits help him, will pay.

The half-Klingon sighed. <He'll need more than his animal guide to save him if that man comes between me and my mate!

"I'm up <in more ways than one what can I do for you, Commander?"

::::I need to speak to you about the Captain, can you be in my office in twenty minutes?::::

"I'd like check on Megan first, Commander."

::::Of course. Get something to eat, check on Lt. Delaney, and meet me in the ready room as soon as possible.:::: Any reference to the Captain right now grated on his nerves.

"Aye, sir." He noticed the Commander's change of words.

::::By the way, good morning, B'Elanna. Chakotay out.::::

"I think I can hear him laughing," B'Elanna remarked.

"I don't think, I know."


"You wanted to see me, Commander?" Tom Paris stood just inside the Ready Room door.

"Yes," Chakotay greeted the pilot and motioned to the sofa. "Please have a seat. Can I get you a cup of coffee?"

"That would be great, I'm still trying to wake up." Tom gratefully accepted the cup of java from the First Officer, position himself on the sofa, and tentatively sipped at the still too-hot liquid. He still wasn't completely comfortable being alone in the presence of the former Maquis.

The older man poured one for himself and settled back against the seat before he took a sip. "Were they able to salvage anything from your cabin?"

"Not much," Tom shrugged. "But I didn't have much anyway. I will have to replicate a couple more uniforms."

"Go ahead, but I'm sorry about your cabin."

"It's nothing that can't be repaired, Commander. It just means I'll have to bunk with B'Elanna for longer than planned."

Chakotay smirked. "And how long have you planned to stay with her?"

Tom grinned. "Well that all depends on B'Elanna. If I had my way...well let's just say for a very long time."

The Commander chuckled at the pilot's reply, and stirred his cup of coffee thoughtfully. "So how's Megan?"

Tom took another taste of the beverage and cradled the warm mug in his hands. "She's doing well. I suspect if she doesn't drive Samantha crazy soon, she'll be released in a day or two. Then Jenny can look after her."

"You should be proud of yourself, Paris. I understand that you did a remarkable job."

Tom didn't know what to say for a moment, it wasn't every day that he received a compliment from the First Officer--in fact it was more like never. "Ah, thanks Commander. I couldn't have done it without Sam Wildman and Neelix though."

"I somehow doubt that, but I'll make note of that in my report. Who knows you play your cards, right, you may get that pip back after all."

He didn't know whether to thank him or tell him he was crazy so he opted for a third choice--he laughed.

Chakotay made note of the pilot's reaction, his smile, the gleam in his eyes and the tone of his laugh. He came to a realization. "Do you really care?"

"Care about what?"

"Getting it back? Becoming a lieutenant again?"

"Oh that. Look I...I'd really rather not talk about it if you don't mind."

The older man noticed the look of discomfort on the younger one's face. "No problem, Paris. I understand if you don't want to talk about it, but..."

Tom looked up at him.

"...but have you spoken to anyone about it since the Captain sentenced you to thirty days in the brig?"

Paris placed his coffee cup on the table in front of him and the First Officer, and rose from his seat. With hands on his hips he walked away from the Commander, with arms crossed before him he returned. He looked out of the view screen into the void of space. "I talked to B'Elanna...kinda."


"Well we did talk about it after I was released. Look, Chakotay, this wasn't easy when I talked to her."

"Perhaps you do need to talk about it. Maybe to someone who can look at this more objectively than your...lover."

The last word spoken made Tom look at the First Officer again. It was the first time he could remember that Chakotay had ever referred to B'Elanna as his lover. It caught his attention. Chakotay noticed.

"Perhaps you're right," Tom relented. "It's just that..."

"It wouldn't go any further than this room," Chakotay reassured him.

Tom nodded. He knew that without Chakotay having to tell him. Despite their past, he respected the man. The pilot returned to his seat and rubbed his face vigorously with his hands before he finally lowered them and looked again at the First Officer. Tom thought for a moment before he responded. "I used to care about the pip...granted I certainly wouldn't refuse it if it was offered...but do I think about getting it back? Not really. What would it mean if I did get it back? I've given up trying to impress my father. I've finally realized the only one I have to impress is myself."

Chakotay was surprised at the depth of introspection that the pilot was exhibiting. "All the same, it must have hurt when she removed your lieutenant's pip."

"What really hurt was disappointing her. She is the reason I'm on board Voyager. She's the reason I got this second chance. The pip itself means nothing. I'd rather go through life as an ensign or a crewman and still be able to look myself in the mirror than have a collar full of pips. And look at B'Elanna, she couldn't care what my rank was. She loves me regardless of my status on the ship. I can't tell you how much that means to much she...means to me," his gaze locked onto Chakotay silently daring him to contradict him. He didn't. The First Officer knew that Tom spoke the truth. Not hearing any opposition, Tom continued. "I guess I can say that I've finally come to peace with myself, and all it took was almost dying in space with B'Elanna, and putting my life on the line for the Moneans," he paused for a moment toying with the rim of his coffee cup, noting the lights of the room reflect off the coffee's dark surface. "It's almost ironic. I had to almost die to learn how to enjoy being alive. Despite that I will tell you that I'm still angry. Not with the Captain taking away my rank, but how it was done."

"The thirty days."

"Yep. I'm not one to bellyache, but others on board have gone against her orders and didn't have to spend time in solitary."

Chakotay nodded. "Myself included."

"Well, I wasn't going to say that--but yeah."

"Despite that you've learned more than some of us do in a lifetime," Chakotay offered. He was surprised and thankful that the pilot finally felt comfortable enough with him after all these years to open up to him.

"So what's this about, Commander?" Tom was anxious to change the subject. "You didn't call me to the ready room just to talk about my pip. What's up?"

"You're right. Actually I need you to finish what the Doctor had started. I need you to examine the Captain and ascertain her medical condition."

"I'm not a diagnostician, let alone a doctor, Commander. I can't guarantee that whatever I come up with would be correct. Besides it appears that the Captain, as well as deleting the Doctor, also damaged the MDED and it will take a while before it can be fixed. Perhaps as much as four days according to B'Elanna."

"She did?"

Tom nodded.

"I'm not happy to hear that, but I'm not surprised either. It was obvious that she didn't want the Doctor to examine her. With you being the only one on Voyager with even a remote possibility to determining whether what is troubling the Captain is due to some medical reason, I'm going to have to ask you to evaluate her condition."

Paris looked uncomfortable at the prospect. He wasn't properly trained to take over full-time for the EMH. It was a heavy load to bear knowing that the ship might have to rely on him for their medical care.

"Tom, I wouldn't ask you if it wasn't absolutely necessary."

Tom took the cup he had been clutching in his hand and placed it on the table in front him. "I know you wouldn't. I just hope that I know enough to find some answers."

"Good. Where do you want to begin? Do you want to come to the brig?"

Tom thought for a moment, considering his possibilities. "Sure, I'll bring a tricorder and something to take some tissue and blood samples, but first I want to check on Megan again. I can meet you in the brig in forty-five minutes."

"Sounds good."

"Good wasn't the word I'd use," Tom quipped. Chakotay had to agree with him.


Walking down the corridor, just before entering the brig, Tom was transported back in time to the last time he traveled this particular corridor. Until now, without thought, he had done all he could to avoid this particular part of the ship. Until now he really did think that losing that pip didn't really matter. Memories of that fateful day flooded his mind. He felt ripped apart again. Tom felt guilty for betraying his Captain while at the same time proud to have attempted to help the Moneans.

/Lieutenant Thomas Eugene Paris. You are guilty of insubordination, unauthorized use of a spacecraft, reckless endangerment, and conduct unbecoming an officer. Do you have anything to say?/

<Yeah, despite everything I'd do it again. Footsteps echoed down the deserted corridor.

/You violated the protocols that govern this crew./

<Govern this crew, but not everyone pays the same price. Strong hands clutched the medical tricorder.

/You nearly caused an armed conflict with the Moneans. And frankly, you're lucky to be standing here right now. I would have destroyed your shuttle if necessary./

<Given your present state of mind, I'm sure you would have. Teeth clenched until his jaw hurt.

/Four years ago, I released you from prison and gave you a fresh start. Until now, you've been a fine officer. Your service on this ship has been exemplary. I really believed you were past this kind of conduct./

<Surprise, Captain! Don't ever assume you know me. Not many do. Hell, there were times I didn't even know myself! Eyes shut tightly, briefly, before continuing.

/I admire your principles, Tom, but I can't ignore what you've done./

<Didn't think you would or could--others maybe, but not me. It should have come as no surprise. But if you think I would have plead for forgiveness, you'd better think again. Resolutely he maintained his pace, head held proudly erect. His father had drummed it into him years ago how to maintain a perfect Starfleet parade march, head up, shoulders back . . . 'sound off, one, two; cadence count three, four; say it again, one, two, three four...'

/Lieutenant Thomas Eugene Paris...I hereby reduce you to the rank of ensign./

Cringe. <It was true what I told Chakotay earlier, I don't care about the damn pip, but it did bother me that I had disappointed you.

/And I sentence you to 30 days solitary confinement./ The door to the brig slid open, purposefully he walked through the door, and with just a hiss it slid shut behind him.


"The Commander sent me down to help you. What can I do?"

B'Elanna Torres looked up from her calculations to see her friend Harry Kim. "That's a loaded question, Starfleet. I have gel packs that have ruptured that need to be cleaned and replaced. I have repairs that need to be completed in Jefferies Tube 39. Or you can help me with these calculations. I just can't seem to think straight."

"Here, give me the padd, and let me give it a go," Harry offered. Normally, he knew B'Elanna could handle this and more besides, but with thinking about the position the ship, and of course Tom was in, even she was having problems coping.

A tired B'Elanna passed the offending padd over to him. Taking it from her, Harry noticed again the look of frustration and concern on the half-Klingon's face.

"What's the matter, Maquis?" Perhaps if she talked about it, it would help, he thought.

B'Elanna tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and sighed. "Other than the usual lately?"



"It's about Tom, isn't it?" Problems with the ship he knew she could handle, it was always the emotional entanglements that troubled her. Her Human and Klingon halves fought against each other and it wasn't uncommon that neither side won.

B'Elanna nodded.

"Tell me about it."

"It's just that I've finally come to a conclusion about our..." the half-Klingon grinned. "...our relationship."

Harry looked uneasy at her pronouncement. "That's good...isn't it?" He hoped it was good news this time.

B'Elanna smiled. "I think so. I hope so."

Kim returned the smile and looked a lot more comfortable. Happily he tapped away at the padd trying to make sense of the engineering calculations.


Tom approached the cell the Captain occupied. Ironically, the same cell he had served his thirty days not that long ago. Janeway sat in the middle of the cell on the deck, her back leaning up against what served as a bed. Nodding toward the two security guards they joined him, phasers in hand, just outside the force field. Tom took the medical tricorder in hand, nodded once more and the force field was lowered.

"I'll try not to be long, Captain. I'm just going to scan you, take some samples and I'll be on my way." He tried to avoid looking her in the face but instead concentrated on the far wall of the cell. Keep it professional, he told himself. Play it cool.

Janeway looked up. A smile spread slowly across her face and she began to giggle and finally fully laugh. "You've got to be kidding. They sent *you* in here to examine me?"

"Some people would be flattered. I actually get requests from some of the ladies on board," he quipped paying sole attention to the tricorder readout.

As she stood to face him, Tom looked up and Janeway captured his gaze with her gray eyes. "And how does B'Elanna feel about that?" she drawled deeply.

Tom determined that discretion was called for and opted not to say anything but resumed his scan of the Captain. First he walked around to her right side and then to her left. Approaching her cautiously, even though a pair of phasers were prepared to fire if necessary, he continued to scan.

"Wouldn't it be easier if I removed my top, Ensign?" she asked softly and sultry. Her deep voice purred. "I'll let you in on a secret," she licked her lips and blew him a kiss. "I'm not wearing anything underneath. You get rid of these two space brains and I could make you *very* happy."

"Captain, I thought you were interested in Chakotay?"

Light laughter tinged with gravel erupted from her lips. Tilting her head lazily to one side, she trailed one finger down Paris' chest ever so slowly. "Chakotay? You have to be kidding? I need a man that is exciting and daring, not someone who's idea of a fun time is sitting around talking to fuzzy animals. In short, Mr. Paris, I *need* you. I want to see your bright blue eyes light with desire when I touch you. I want to see your toes curl when I..."

"And you really think what you have can compare to what I have with B'Elanna? Frankly, Captain, you leave me cold--ice cold."

Janeway's eyes froze and her lips pressed together to form a fine line.

Tom, satisfied that he had the last word, returned to his task. "Nycot, would you please hold her arm while I draw some blood." With a slight smile of satisfaction on his face, Tom Paris drew the Captain's blood and left the brig.


Later that evening, Chakotay, entered Sickbay to find Tom Paris seated at the Doctor's desk examining information on the computer screen. He lightly knocked outside the office area to announce himself.

"How's it coming, Paris?"

Tired blue eyes looked up from the screen. "It's not."

"You can't find anything wrong?"

"Not really. She's not experiencing space sickness or menopause. I've ruled out viruses and infections. But something isn't right."

Chakotay seated himself opposite the desk from the pilot. "What do you mean?"

"Well you see this." He pointed to a wave like reading on the computer screen. "Sometimes it looks like it does now. Everything all perfectly normal. Then," he tapped a few keys, "it changes to look like this." The screen displayed a wave with greater peaks and valleys.

"What does the medical computer data base have to say?"

"It's not much help. It keeps on saying that the results are inconclusive. But..."

"But what?"

"I know something is wrong, I just can't figure out what it is. I've been at this for hours, Chakotay! Damn this is frustrating!" In a flash he was out of his seat. He walked briskly around the end of the desk, around Chakotay, and paced back and forth behind the First Officer. A couple of times he stopped walking and it seemed that he was about to speak, but would instead resume his almost frantic pacing. Chakotay felt it was only a matter of time before Paris would speak, he just had to be patient. Finally, energy having been expended, Tom returned to his former position in front of the computer screen. "If only I had paid more attention to the Doctor, read more medical texts, participated in more training holoprograms, then maybe I'd know what this all means." With a flip of his hand he motioned to the display on the screen.

Chakotay noticed the unkempt blond hair caused by Paris running his fingers through it and he noticed the dark circles around his blue eyes. "Perhaps, after you've had a rest you'd make some more progress," he suggested.

Tom shook his head sadly. He couldn't imagine ever making any progress with the readouts no matter how much sleep he got. "I don't know if sleep is going to help, Commander. If I know anything, I know there is something wrong with the Captain. I've seen her in all kinds of moods over the years, particularly of late, but until today she never..." Realizing what he had almost told the older man he quickly stopped talking.

"Never what?"

Tom look up at the First Officer. Evaluating the stern expression on the Indian's face, he knew that he wouldn't accept or believe anything but the truth. "Until today she never tried to make a pass at me."

"She what?" Chakotay's eyes widened with shock.

"While I was in the brig examining her, she propositioned me. The Captain was trying to distract me from my duties and using the only *weapon* at her disposal--sex. And with two guards present! So I know something is amiss, I just can't find it. I feel that it is staring me right in the face, I just can't see it."

"She what?"

Tom stared solemnly at him, not flinching.

"Perhaps if you..."

::::Commander Chakotay to the bridge::::

"I'm on my way, what's up?"

::::Those alien vessels are back, this time they are about twice as many.::::

"Take the ship to red alert. Tom, I think I might need you more on the bridge than in Sickbay."

"Aye, sir. I'm right behind you."


Chakotay, followed by Tom Paris, quickly exited the turbolift and stepped out onto an bridge that was already humming with activity.

Chakotay slipped into his seat. "Status!"

"We are being approached by forty-four vessels, Commander," Tuvok answered. "All appear to be heavily armed."

"What is our weapon status?"

"Our phaser energy reserves are fifty-eight percent of normal and the shields are at sixty-seven percent. Also, Engineering has finally been able to override the Captain's original course heading."

"That's good to hear. Harry, have you hailed them?" Chakotay asked though he already had a good idea what the answer would be.

"Yes, sir, on all frequencies. There has been no response," the young Asian replied.

<Of course not.

"Harry keep trying to raise them. Do you're best, Tuvok. Unfortunately, I think we'll have to fight to stay alive, but try your best to stun not kill. Tom, looks like you'll have to impress us with your piloting skills. Think you're up for it?"

"Of course." Tom tapped Rollins on his shoulder and took his place at the helm. His previous weariness was now forgotten. He was back at the helm where he knew he didn't have to question his abilities.

A game of cat and mouse, or cats and mouse with Voyager being the mouse, ensued over the passing hours. Turning Voyager on a dime, using the shields to their best possible advantage, and taking the opportunity to disable ships with phaser power was keeping the crew alive. It wouldn't last forever though. Already the ship was suffering from trying to stay ahead of their adversaries. Shields were losing their integrity, energy supplies were dwindling. It would have been difficult as it was to accomplish such a task, but to do it without causing serious harm to the aliens was almost impossible. If something didn't happen soon, Voyager's journey might end right here.

"How many left functioning?" Chakotay asked referring to the alien ships.

Tuvok punched away at his console. "The count now stands at thirty-one, Commander."

Looking around the bridge he saw that everyone was fighting to stay alert and responsive, but despite their best efforts their reflexes weren't what they had been at the beginning of the battle eight hours earlier. He knew it was only a matter of time before surrender would be their only option.

"They are regrouping again!" Harry called out. Sure enough, just like they had many times before, several of the ships were assembling to try their combined fire attack on Voyager. Voyager's crew was now prepared for the aliens attack strategy.

"I'm on it!" Tom called out. "Hang on!" He deftly banked Voyager to starboard and then turned the ship abruptly to port.

"Tom!" Kim called out. "Another group is forming 1200 kilometers off Voyager's port bow!"

"Damn it!" the pilot called out and in desperation having not anticipated this new version of the alien's attack, he pushed Voyager into a downward swoop hoping to miss the little vessels, but luck wasn't with him.

A great explosion suddenly struck Voyager sending sparks flying from various components on the bridge. Damage reports were being called in from various parts of the ship faster than the bridge could handle them.

::::Torres to Bridge:

"Go ahead, B'Elanna," Chakotay called out.

::::Warp drive has suffered major damage, Commander, :::: B'Elanna informed him sadly. ::::I can't give you more than impulse drive. And it may not be long before we don't even have that available to us.::::

Even though he knew the answer he asked both B'Elanna and the Bridge crew. "Options?"

::::None that I know of::::

Tom sadly shook his head as he continued to pilot the ship with what little power remained.

"Hail them again, Harry."

"Aye, sir." Harry resolutely adjusted the controls and was about to hail the circling alien ships when something caught his attention. "Commander, another alien ship is approaching. It''s of Federation design."

Chakotay launched himself out of his seat and joined Harry at the ops station. "Federation? Are you sure?"

Harry analyzed the information again. "The design is Federation, but the warp signature is...well..." Harry hesitated for a moment. "Well it's close to being a Federation warp signature."

"Close?" the First Officer asked. "Could your sensors be incorrect?"

"With all the damage the rest of the ship has received, I wouldn't rule it out." Not wanting to get his hopes up, Harry kept his mind on his task. He punched away at various buttons, read various readouts, until something caught his eye.

"Commander, I'm detecting that the Federation ship is in communications with the other vessels," Harry noted.

"They're backing off," Tom pointed out. "In fact, the smaller ships are retreating." He sounded relieved.

"Harry, hail our..."

"Incoming transmission, Commander," Harry piped up.

"Seems they beat us to it. Put it through."

What the crew saw next on the view screen left them speechless. Jaws dropped, hands stilled over their controls.

::::Commander Chakotay, this is Kathryn Janeway. Permission to beam aboard?::::

Chakotay merely nodded.


"It's her," the EMH pronounced proudly.

Janeway smiled up at the physician from her position on the biobed. As she tried to pull herself up, Chakotay reached down and offered her his hand. She gratefully took it. It was good to be back on Voyager again--very good.

"I still can't believe it, Kathryn. We've had an imposter running this ship for months--all the time thinking that it was you." Not only couldn't he believe it, but the entire bridge crew that had seen her image appear on the main view screen were in a state of shock. The last person they had expected to see was her.

Janeway sat on the edge of the bed, surrounded by her First Officer and Chief of Security. It was hard to imagine that someone had been masquerading as her all this time. She was anxious to see what changes her mirror image had done to her ship.

"She or he, or whatever, was quite devious," Janeway remarked. "During our visit to the Earth training planet of Species 8472, just before I was ready to beam back to Voyager, one of their scientific masterminds lured me into a room, locked me in, and switched places with me."

'Boothby' who had been conferring off to the side with the Doctor stepped forward. "She was in there almost three days before we found her--quite by accident. It was a good thing we did too, any longer and she might not have survived."

Chakotay still was finding this whole story of Janeway's abduction to be amazing, but he was also very glad to have *his* Kathryn back on Voyager. "I would have thought we would have detected the imposter."

"Normally you would have." The old man placed his wrinkled hand on his chest. "For instance, you'd have no problem detecting me. But the imposter is a superb scientist, one of our best, and had been working on an advanced method for our species to maintain human form. The method he was experimenting with would allow one of our kind to maintain your form for an extended period of time, and also to avoid easy detection. Apparently it was successful."

The Doctor taking note of the conversation moved towards them. "According to the records that Mr. Paris left me, they were very successful. While Mr. Paris instinctively knew that something was wrong, the results of his test were inconclusive, he couldn't prove anything."

That being the case, where was the imposter planning on taking Voyager?" Tuvok queried.

"We surmise that he was planning on rendezvousing with our High Echelon. There he would surrender Voyager to them, the crew would either be killed and/or studied, and he would inform them of our cooperation with you."

"He had it all planned out," Chakotay concluded.

Boothby shook his head. "He underestimated that you would suspect that something was wrong with your captain. He was very overconfident, it had always been one of his weaknesses."

"I don't know how we can ever thank you, Boothby," Janeway responded. A grateful smile graced her face. "Without your assistance I never would have made it back to Voyager." Even after spending so much time with him recently, she still had to remind herself that he was one of Species 8472. In the time she had spent with Boothby and some of the other 8472s she had come to think of them as friends

A kindly smile lit Boothby's face. "It was our pleasure. If you'll let us, we'd like to be of further assistance."

Janeway looked quizzically at her friend.

"I've been talking with your Chief Engineer," he explained. "She informed me of your ship's desperate need for certain minerals and repair materials. We'll supply you with those items from our ship, after your Ms. Torres inspects these items of course." He smiled knowingly.

The Captain grinned back. "That sounds like B'Elanna. She's very careful with the ship, much more so than she is with herself."

"And so it should be. She's a fine officer."

"She is, and you're a fine friend." Janeway remarked. Boothby smiled his thanks.

"What will you do now?" Tuvok asked.

Boothby turned toward the Vulcan. "We will take the imposter and head back to the planet to prepare to meet with our superiors. It will take a little longer than it did to get here after we help your Chief Engineer," he smiled broadly, "but we don't have as far to travel as you do."

"We wish you all the best," Janeway told him.

"We know you do," he replied with a smile.


"It won't be long, your cabin will be repaired and you can return," B'Elanna reminded her lover. Tom, who was seated across the table from her, finishing the last of his evening meal looked up at her.

"Sounds like you can't wait to get rid of me, woman," he jested.

"Now why would I want to get rid of you, Mr. Paris?" B'Elanna teased. "You've been a very good guest. You pick up after yourself. You don't leave the toothpaste dispenser in the activation mode. I couldn't ask for better company."

Tom wiped his mouth with his napkin and rose from his seat and walked slowly around the table, never taking his eyes off of the half-Klingon.

"Company, Ms. Torres?" Reaching down he pulled her up from her seat and into his strong arms. "You consider me 'good company'? I'm touched." A faux look of pain creased his brow.

"Yeah, company. You never leave your boots around for me to trip over. You always make the bed. And you never ask me any silly questions."

"Silly questions, huh? Like what kind of silly questions?" His left eyebrow rose as he evaluated B'Elanna and her words.

B'Elanna smiled seductively. Looking up at her man she saw that now familiar lovable glint of mischief in Tom's blue eyes. She wrapped her arms around his neck, licked her lips once, and pulled his head down to her own and kissed him passionately and thoroughly. Finally she pulled away and answered. "You know that silly question you always like to ask me."

"Oh, that *one."


"Well I guess I finally figured out how much you hate..."

Another kiss this time to shut him up. "So ask me."


B'Elanna smiled. "Ask me again."

"Are you serious?"

"Try me."

Tom cleared his throat, and looked deeply into her dark brown eyes. "B'Elanna, I think the world of you and can't imagine being apart from you. I would appreciate it if you would consider either moving in with me or letting me move in with you. What do you say?" Anxiously he awaited her answer.

Looking him over B'Elanna grinned broadly and then abruptly stopped smiling. "No."

"B'Elanna?" Tom was flabbergasted. Hadn't she just ask him to ask *the* question?

"I mean it. No."


"But, Mr. Paris," she poked him in the chest with her index finger. "I have a question for you."

He looked puzzled.

"Thomas Eugene Paris, will you move in with me . . . "

His jaw dropped. Hadn't he already asked that same question?

"...after we get married?"


"Tom Paris, I'm asking you to marry me?"

"You're serious?"

"I am. I've given it a lot of thought."

"But I...I thought..."

"Is that a 'yes' or a 'no'?" she demanded hands now placed on her hips.

"Oh, B'Elanna, a yes...definitely a yes!" His eyes sparkled with delight.

B'Elanna smiled back and motioned for him to follow her back to the bedroom area. She reached down to grab the edge of her tunic and Tom brushed her hands away and pulled her top up over her head himself. Turning towards him she did the same and removed his outer shirt. The grey turtlenecks followed, and finally their slacks and undergarments until both stood unashamedly naked in front of the other.

<Beautiful, he thought <and she's mine. He smiled, this was one relationship he knew he could never feel claustrophobic about. <What do you think about that, Kathleen? Moira? Happily laughing, he pulled B'Elanna up into his arms and spun her around three times before he stopped and still holding her in his arms kissed her hard. B'Elanna smiled back at her future husband.

<I'm getting married she thought. <Getting married to a fine man who loves me, even though he can't say the words. She giggled. <It doesn't matter, I know how he feels...I have no doubt. I have no doubt that we belong together...forever.

"Take me, Lieutenant, I'm yours," she breathed huskily.

Blue eyes widened. "Lieutenant?"

B'Elanna grinned broadly. "Seems to me with the real Captain back, and since it was the imposter that took away your pip, you're rank is as good a restored."

"So you don't mind that I still might outrank you by a couple of days?"

"Not at all. Just as long as you remember when we step through the door into our cabin who wears the pants," she teased, pulling on his waist band.

"Yeah, but for how long?" he asked.

B'Elanna giggled. "I suppose until you can take them off."

The End.

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Footnote 1: As, you have probably guess. The MDED is a device I invented for use in this story.