Empty Spaces PG-13

Author: Annie M
Series: Voyager
Rating: PG-13
Codes: T, P, Doc, P/T

Archiving:  PTFArchive and ASC. Anyone else please ask for permission first.

Summary:  Now that I have seen the episodes 'Nothing Human' and '30 Days' I wondered what made B'Elanna forgive Tom so quickly for going against her wishes regarding treatment from the Cardassian hologram.  I struggled with the answers and my muse refused to co-operate for a long time but eventually they did and I started to make sense out of their whispered advice.
So here it is my coda to 'Nothing Human'.  Late I know, but I hope you will enjoy non-the less.

Warning: There are definite spoilers included for the episodes Nothing Human, Blood Fever (yes, that old chestnut), Real Life, Worst Case Scenario, Day of Honor - among others and a tiny spoiler which foreshadows Latent Image.

Acknowledgements: To Jerry Taylor as I've used the final segment of her script to start this story and Elaine (Raven) for keeping me up to date by sending me videos of the 5th season - I owe you big time!

I also think it's about time that I came out - Thank you Robbie and Roxann for your continued portrayals of my favourite 'night time' couple.  Without them there would be no muse.

Special thanks goes out to D'Alaire who patiently Beta'd this story.  She put up with my whining, offered ideas and to put it bluntly got my head out of the sand on more than one issue and occasion.
Thank you D, for your honesty and perseverance.

Disclaimer: Viacom/Paramount owns the ship and all characters, but this particular scenario belongs to me.
 
 

Empty Spaces by Annie M
 

B'Elanna scrolled through the data on her PADDs blindly.  She took a deep breath and let the pungent fragrance of the incense work its way into her slowly recovering nervous system.

The EMH had not so much released B'Elanna from sick bay because she was fit for duty but because he could no longer stand her tirade of abuse for the method by which he had helped to save her life.  At one point, she had become hysterical in her fury and he had thought about sedating her.  Under the circumstances, the Doctor felt inclined to recommend several days convalescence in her quarters.

She was tired and still angry sitting in her armchair, dressed only in her issue tank top and trousers, brooding over the lack of control she seemed to have in her life of late.

Why couldn't everyone just leave her alone?  I am sick of people who say they care about me.  If they cared so damn much why don't they respect me?

Her mind railed around in turmoil.  She had never wanted to die but she certainly did not want to live because of the research of one Cardassian butcher!  Why the hell couldn't they have found some other way?

Her door chime interrupted her disjointed reverie.

"Come in." B'Elanna responded without enthusiasm.

Captain Kathryn Janeway entered and waved off B'Elanna's attempt to rise in the presence of her superior officer.

"Interesting fragrance," Janeway commented as she noticed the incense candle burning at a small table next to B'Elanna's chair.  The captain came to a stop two feet inside the engineer's quarters.  "I'm surprised it hasn't set off the environmental alarms."

"It's a combination of mental relaxant and expeller of demons. It's an ancient Klingon remedy," B'Elanna explained ignoring the insult.

Janeway studied her engineer, noting the ice in her voice and the chill in her gaze, not realising that her own demeanour was equally frigid.

"Feeling any better?"

"I'm alive," B'Elanna stated ungratefully, sending the captain a mutinous look.

"I hope you can understand why I went against your wishes, B'Elanna. Losing you was unacceptable."

B'Elanna shot the captain another icy glare but said nothing.

"I know you're angry, but we need to put this behind us. Understood?"

Yeah right, thought B'Elanna.  "Is that an order?" She asked quietly but not without venom.

"Yes," Janeway replied simply.

"You can't order someone to get rid of an emotion, captain!" B'Elanna yelled.

"And what emotion is that?"  Janeway asked, refusing to raise her own voice.

"You had no right to make that decision for me!"

The captain saw that debating the medical and personal ethics with B'Elanna would get them nowhere.  B'Elanna would see that in time, Janeway thought, but not now.

"I'm the Captain. You're my crewman. I did what I thought best."  She turned to leave the engineer but just as quickly turned back, gesturing to the incense.

"And I get the feeling there are still a few demons in the air.  Let's hope this does the trick, hmm?"  And then she was gone.

B'Elanna whispered a Klingon curse as her door closed behind the captain's retreating form.

She held the data PADDs in her hands for a long time after the captain had gone.  B'Elanna had glanced at them briefly but was unable to concentrate, so she had tried to find the schematics she had assumed would be included on the Engineering logs for the past few days.  There was nothing there but a jumble of letters.  She put the PADDs down and tried to release the tension from her shoulders and neck.  They cracked a little with the effort but she still felt agitated.

B'Elanna got out of the chair and wandered over to her replicator, she thought about ordering some Raktajino but changed her mind.  Instead she went into her bathroom and took a long shower.

Credits be damned! B'Elanna decided, knowing that if she were going to be able to relax at all, it would not be from the sonic setting.  She let the hot water beat at her aching shoulders and neck.  She tried to shut out the past few days and revelled instead in the spray of the water as it rejuvenated her skin.

"Maybe I should book some holodeck time," B'Elanna thought bitterly.
 

**********
 

"Why Mr. Paris, what are you doing back here?"  The EMH asked as Tom walked into sickbay.

"I thought I'd finish my shift," the helmsman responded.

"Did Miss. Torres get a little hysterical with you too?"  The Doctor quipped sardonically.

"I haven't seen her yet, Doc," Tom admitted quietly as he started to tidy up the diagnostic trays, attempting to avoid eye contact with the EMH by turning his back as he worked.

Tom had arrived in sickbay upset with the knowledge that B'Elanna had refused to speak to him, when the Doctor had first released her.  She had been angry and accusatory of him when he had confessed to going against her wishes of not receiving treatment from Crell Moset.

B'Elanna had demanded that he "Leave her the hell alone" while she thought things through.  That exchange had occurred more than 24 hours ago, and he was letting his own insecurities, about their relationship and his fear that he could lose her both physically and emotionally, control him.

He needed B'Elanna to understand what she meant to him; what life was like for him before they had become seriously involved - That loosing her love would devastate him.

Tom understood loneliness and he knew how to spot it in others the way he just knew how to pilot Voyager during an attack.  It was an instinct born of years of having to endure his father's disapproval, which in turn led to his own inability to believe, really believe in himself - causing him to make so many mistakes with his own life in the vain pursuits of instant glory or gratification.

The Doctor noticed the slump in his assistant's shoulders.  "We did the right thing, Mr. Paris, in treating B'Elanna and in deleting Crell Moset."

"You deleted the Doctor?"  Tom asked a little surprised.

"The captain left that decision to me and I thought it best not to utilise Doctor Moset's knowledge in light of his morally questionable techniques."

Tom let out a large breath and turned to give the EMH a sympathetic shake of his head.   "I guess that was hard for you, Doc.  Deleting such a knowledgeable colleague."

"Mr. Paris?"  Looking a little confused the Doctor joined the medic at the diagnostic tray.

"What I guess I mean," Tom continued, "is that you're alone again, what with Kes gone - and I know you don't run your family program any more either."

The EMH watched him closely but said nothing.  Tom brought his sombre gaze to meet the Doctor's.  "Do you get lonely Doc?" He asked.

"I'm a holographic program, Mr Paris - surely you realise that I'm no more than a projection of light and photonic energy?"  The EMH answered brusquely.

"You're not serious are you, Doc?"  Tom asked incredulous at the EMH's response.

The Doctor picked up a vial of liquid from the diagnostic tray and held it up to the light.  "Deleting Doctor Moset taught me a lesson, Mr. Paris," he answered slowly.  "I'm just a program.  A highly sophisticated medical hologram, I might add but a program non-the less.  Allowed to remain among this crew because my programmer, Dr. Zimmerman had the good sense to incorporate moral and ethical etiquette into my design."  The EMH stared directly into Paris' eyes and concluded, "I am simply a hologram, Mr. Paris, not unlike some of your more colourful holodeck creations."

Tom Paris could not believe what he was hearing.

"You're more than that, Doc and you know it." Tom shot back.  "Don't try and tell me you haven't been affected by certain situations or circumstances.  Don't tell me you don't think about your counterpart assaulting me in that 'Insurrection Alpha' program of Tuvok's that went screwy.  I know how you feel about that 'do no harm' code."

The EMH stared intently at his assistant.

"Don't tell me you don't think about Lon Suder and the sacrifice he made for us because of your encouragement."

Tom noticed the Doctor blanche at this, realising that the hologram's sub-routines were obviously engaging his memory circuits.

"Don't tell me you don't think about Kes or what damn opera would be worth singing.  Christ, Doc, don't tell me you don't think about Denara Pell, that Vidiian scientist or Ensign Jet..." Tom paused briefly, trying desperately to control his outburst.  "Don't tell me you don't think about Belle, Doc.  Don't you dare try and tell me those people meant nothing to you," he finished in a harsh whisper.

The holographic doctor was speechless.  He was shocked by the force of the lieutenant's tirade and overwhelmed with disturbing memories of his own love and loss.

"I ..." The EMH managed before turning away from his friend.  The room was suddenly charged with an atmosphere of extreme tension and regret.

"Doctor, I'm sorry," Tom began, realising that his own fears of rejection had prompted his unusual oral assault. "I didn't mean to -."  The Doctor cut him off by raising a hand as he leaned against the frame of his office for support.

"No, Lieutenant.  You were right," he continued deliberately, "I have surpassed my original programming, I'm adaptive, have sentience," here the doctor faltered.  "I remember everything since the day you and Mr. Kim first activated me on Stardate 48315."

Tom's eyes studied the floor as he inwardly cursed himself for being so selfish and thoughtless with the hologram.

"I do remember them, lieutenant and as long as I'm here I always will," the doctor concluded.

The silence between them now was palpable.  Tom Paris' hands shook as he tried to resume his duties.  The EMH retreated into his office and sat down at his desk.  He sat for a long time as he let his past wash over him in a chaotic rush of electrons and algorithms.

Eventually he activated his desk monitor.  He scrolled through his medical database and stopped at the file for Kes.  He stared at the image of the elf-like Ocampan for a long time then brought up another file to sit aside Kes' image; Lon Suder, the long dead Maquis sociopath, who after mind-melding with commander Tuvok had undergone a startling but brief character transformation.

The doctor stared intently at both their images, remembering them both and so much more.  He accessed his holographic program files and searched for the image of his daughter, Belle.  As her image was presented the EMH smiled warmly in recollection.  It had been so long since he had admitted to anyone that he, a hologram, was lonely.

His thoughts drifted to Tom Paris and he looked up to see him waving a medical tricorder over a bio bed; checking the tricorder's base levels; to ensure accuracy of readings.
The EMH checked his internal chronometer and realised that it was long past the lieutenant's duty shift.

He knew that Tom Paris identified with him on some level, his isolation from many members of the crew at the beginning of their voyage was common knowledge.  Apart from Kes, Tom Paris was the only other crew member who had really tried to reach out to him; showing a concern and sensitivity towards him that was at times as surprising as it was unexpected.

"Lieutenant Paris?" The Doctor called.  Tom approached the doctor's office cautiously.

"Yeah, Doc?"

"Your duty shift in sickbay ended twenty minutes ago.  I think I can manage without you until Thursday, unless of course there is an emergency."  The EMH's tone held no trace of bitterness or disapproval, just the usual amounts of photonic sarcasm.

Tom hesitated at the doctor's offer of freedom, something he had never done before - unless a certain engineer was in the room at the same time, the EMH noted.

"Mr Paris," the EMH dryly observed "I'm sure that whatever infraction Lieutenant Torres feels you have committed this time will be forgiven in due course."

In spite of himself, Tom couldn't hide the small smile at the mention of her name.

The Doctor beamed as he realised he had hit the target.  "For what it's worth, Lieutenant," the EMH went on "I think she cares for you a great deal and I'm sure you two will work this out - without the use of bat'leths I hope," he couldn't resist adding.

Tom gave a short laugh, "Thanks Doc.  See you Thursday."

As Tom left sickbay his comm badge beeped.

"Nicoletti to Paris."

"Paris here."

"I just wanted you to know that I dropped off those PADDs like you asked."

"Thanks, Sue.   I owe you one."

"No problem, Tom.  Besides you'll only owe me if this works."

"Yeah, thanks anyway."

"Anytime.  Nicoletti out."
 

**********

Freshly bathed and dressed in her maroon pyjamas, B'Elanna returned to her comfy armchair and the relaxing scent of the Klingon incense.  She picked up her PADDs again and finally started to read.  After a couple of lines, B'Elanna blinked and picked up the second PADD to scrutinise.

That idiot, B'Elanna thought with affection.  Tom Paris had somehow managed to transfer data from his personal database to her engineering logs.
B'Elanna had to admire his ingenuity and she found herself smiling despite her recent mood.  Idiot or not, she made her self comfortable and began to read.

~~~

To Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres, Chief of Engineering.

The following entries are taken from the personal database of one Thomas Eugene Paris, Chief Conn officer, USS Voyager.

B'Elanna, I know you're mad at me and you have every right to be but I thought it was important that you see this.  Please don't turn off the PADD!

Give me a chance tell you something; I've started with an entry that goes back to our first year on this ship.  Do you remember the Vidiians?  Stupid question, I know you do.  What I mean is that after that whole experience I started to realise some things - or rather they became harder to ignore.

Entry Date: 48585.4

I was lonely.  I'd always been a lonely guy.  I hated it but it was a fact of life that I had become accustomed to.  I remember crying all night about it once; B'Elanna had held my hand for a little bit, after she had slipped on a rock during an away mission and her touch had started a fire in my soul.  When she had let go of me I had been stunned by the force of my own desire and by a sense of hopelessness and isolation.
B'Elanna confuses me.  She is independent and forthright, technically brilliant and absurdly beautiful; but she won't give me the time of day.  I watch her with Harry - all that easy banter and teasing, her girlish yet warm laugh.  She makes my skin tingle.

I keep asking myself why her?  I don't know.  There is something about her that I know; recognise.  I can't name it but it's there and it keeps drawing me in. ...

~~~

I needed her touch, craved it like nothing else.  Her softness, her warmth, her fire.  I wanted to feel the fluttering of her eyelashes against my skin, her nipples against my chest.  My hands on her body and hers on mine, possessing me, guiding me, wanting me.

The way I wanted her.

"I don't want to be lonely, B'Elanna," I had admitted.  "I hate going home to an empty bed with no one to talk to, really talk to, you know?
I want more than sex from you, B'Elanna.  I want to know all of you.  I want to know your soul, I want you to know mine."

This is no good!

My daily ritual of talking to B'Elanna in my fantasies is bordering on the obsessive.  She is getting to me and there is not a damn thing I can do about it.  I want her so much my gut hurts.

What am I going to do?  She won't even look at me.

B'Elanna continued to read, noticing that her heart was beating a little faster than it was before. She had never taken him seriously back then and all that time he had hidden his feelings from her.
The next entry nearly stopped her heart completely.

~~~

I could kill Vorik!  That Vulcan son of a ...  God, he tried to rape B'Elanna!

I know he was infected with some Vulcan Pon Farr mating urge, but he had no right to try and force himself on B'Elanna like that.
I had only heard second hand, after we'd returned from Sakari, about what had happened between them in engineering.

That whole situation was surreal.  A simple 'away mission' to mine some Galacite had turned into the most difficult 12 hours of my life.

I still can't talk about this, even with my self.  Her behaviour had been erratic all day but then she bit me.   I remember the bite stung and how surprised and aroused it made me feel.  Here I was standing at the bottom of a deep shaft with a hard-on, clutching at my cheek while Neelix was a few feet away rolling around in agony.  When B'Elanna stormed off into the mines, the only reason I didn't follow was because of Neelix's injured leg and I couldn't even move towards him immediately because of the state I was in!

~~~

Oh God, those kisses!  I tried not kiss her, she was sick and she needed my help but her lips tasted like fine wine - we were both covered in dust and dirt from the caves but all I saw, smelt, tasted was the sweetness of B'Elanna.

~~~

"Just let it happen."

I still hear those words in my head at night in my bed.  When those words come to me I know I won't be able to sleep for a while.  All I can do to fight the ache in my heart is turn over on my stomach, hold my pillow tight, pretend I'm with her again in the caves and grind my erection into the mattress.

I'm so lonely but I think B'Elanna is too.  I think she likes to put up a front of being the 'tough ass' engineer but I see her get this look in her eyes sometimes; at Sandrines or in the Mess hall, when she joins Harry and I for meals.  I know that look; I see it in my mirror every morning.

~~~

"A beautiful woman should never have to eat alone."

I actually said those words to her and to my amazement she blushed!  I was just as amazed that I could actually cause a reaction in her that didn't result in an insult with such a ... cheesy line.

B'Elanna does that to me though, causes me to forget what I was going to say, and makes me feel like a first year cadet with a crush on a tutor.  I'm in awe of her intelligence and beauty.

Harry says I've got it bad.  What ever 'it' is I know it's not going away, these feelings for B'Elanna just get stronger and harder to fight.  Damn it! I don't want to fight them.  A piece of me keeps telling me I'm wasting my time but the rest of me can't help but reach out to her.  There's a vulnerability to B'Elanna that just makes me want to take care of her - Klingon temper and all.

~~~

So much has happened in the last few months that it's hard to believe.  Species 8472, the Borg, loosing Kes - boy would she have laughed if she knew what was going to happen!

She was always teasing me about B'Elanna.  She told me, a few months back I think, that we'd be good for each other.  I tried to laugh it off but Kes held my arm, looked straight into my eyes and held me in her stare for a good long minute.  She said, "I know B'Elanna feels the same way too."  That comment left me stunned for days.
 

B'Elanna stared down at the PADD in her hand.  Kes knew?  The slight Ocampan had been an enigma to B'Elanna at the best of times but she had never had an inkling that Kes was aware of the growing closeness between her and the helmsman.  Could Kes have seen the future? B'Elanna wondered.  Did she see with her telepathic abilities the ejection the warp core, being stranded in space in an environmental suit with Tom?  Telling him she had been afraid, a coward? Telling Tom she loved him?

B'Elanna read on.

~~~

She loves me.

B'Elanna loves me.

I didn't know what to feel.  I'd been pushing her so hard and I wanted it so much and here it was but now it was too late and I hated that we were both so damn lonely and about to die.

~~~

Her kiss was sweeter than I remembered.  I opened my mouth on hers and she devoured me, paying me back I guess for being so chaste on Sakari.

And later, when we had the chance to do it again, she touched me everywhere, possessed me, licked me, stroked me, guided me, bit me.  As I ground myself into B'Elanna instead of my mattress we both laughed, not because this was funny but because it felt so right and we both knew it.

The knot in my stomach loosened and the ache in my heart receded.

I don't know loneliness when she's with me and I don't want her to go away. B'Elanna completes me.  She makes feel like a whole person, with her the past isn't an issue.  There are no accusations in her eyes.
 

B'Elanna turned off the data PADD and smiled inwardly remembering so well her own reactions to Tom over the years, so similar to his and yet so different.

How she had fought against her own attraction to him for so long and used her brusqueness to try and hide her scars of loneliness and abandonment.

She picked up the PADD again and scrolled through to an entry; Tom's pick up line.  B'Elanna smiled warmly as she remembered the tingle that ran down her spine as Tom had covered his hand over her own, while she had tried to hide the trashy romance novel she had been reading.

B'Elanna's sudden laughter filled her cabin and her eyes strayed to the nightstand in her bedroom.  She caught sight of the PADD that was often on display there whenever Tom spent the night; how he would read her a favourite chapter or scene from "Women Worriors at the River of Blood".

She forgot her anger and indignation at having what small control she did have in her life being taken away from her; it wasn't an issue anymore. Not right now anyway.
Tom needed her and that concept, as frightening and reassuring as it was, became a comfort to her just then. The issue of control in her life would be a puzzle she would attempt to solve at a later date.

She considered the object of her most recent thoughts; Tom was a good man - as lonely as she had been and certainly at times as isolated and desolate.

For the first time since she had been told the details of her recovery B'Elanna felt glad she was alive.  She didn't have to be alone anymore.

"Torres to Paris."

And neither did he.

End.

Constructive feedback would be greatly appreciated.  E-mail Annie