Paris Nocturne <paris at night> : A Star Trek : Voyager story, with subtitles. copyright 1995, Brenda S. Antrim. Paramount has the rights to the characters and the universe, but the story is mine. No copyright infringement intended against anyone. Special thanks to the late Paul Verlaine for his artistry and to my French tutor, Wendi Arant. Warning : Contains adult themes, including sex, violence and passionate poetry set to music. Use your imagination.
Sandrine's didn't look quite the same tonight. Maybe it was because it was late, past two in the morning. The Captain shook her head and wondered at herself - it wasn't like her to evade sleep this way. But after another bizarre run-in with the Vidians and even stranger bacterial difficulties with cheese, she found herself unable to settle down. A quiet drink in a Paris bar might just do the trick.
There was no pool table. *That* was the problem. She was so used to coming in here and seeing the hustlers gathered 'round the game, it was odd to see couples on the floor dancing slowly instead. The program had been running when she came to the holodeck, so she hadn't had to activate it. Apparently someone else was an insomniac. She scanned the room for crewmembers, but didn't recognize anyone. Stepping along the shadows by the door, she spotted a dark-haired woman leaning against the bar, swirling a drink and staring off into the far corner. What was her name? Rickie. That's right. Ensign Kim had pointed the holographic woman out to her one evening. She was some sort of "special friend" to Lieutenant Paris. Maybe he was-- Her thought stopped mid-stream. She'd followed Rickie's gaze into the dimly lit corner, and finally realized that she knew the man sitting at the burnished old piano. He was oblivious to the crowd on the floor, his eyes unfocused as his fingers drifted over the keys. A soft, light tenor made heavy with sadness flowed over the dancers, and although she didn't understand the words, the emotion made her breath catch in her throat.
Revons, c'est l'heure.
Un vaste et tendre
Que l'astre irise ...
C'est l'heure exquise.
"Let us dream, it is the hour.Vast and tender
An appeasementSeems to lower
From the firmament Star-bedecked ...
The soft whisper of a woman's voice translating the lyrics caused her to start and turn away from the sight of Tom Paris singing in a smoky bar, and looking completely at home. She looked askance at Sandrine, the blonde bar owner, who smiled sadly at her and inclined her head toward the young man.
"He does this often, you know." Her voice was barely a whisper. "He does not sleep so well at night."
Janeway shook her head slightly. "I had no idea." She kept her own voice low, not wishing to interrupt the mood in the bar.
"It is not the unusual, for him to relax in such a manner." She was looking at Tom, not the Captain, and Janeway followed her eyes. Paris had his eyes closed, his hands seeming to float over the keyboard, and his voice, still soft, carried through the crowd with no difficulty.
"I would never have expected him to be such an accomplished singer, I must admit."
Sandrine looked at her briefly, and lost her smile. "You may not know him as well as you believe, madame."
Janeway nodded once. "Apparently not." As the song came to a close, she made a quick decision. Obviously, Tom wasn't ready to share this part of his life yet, and everyone deserved whatever private moments they could get, all stuck together on this ship for who knew how long. "I'll leave him to it, then. Good night." With a polite smile at the Frenchwoman, Janeway ducked out of the bar. Standing on the sidewalk outside, she heard a husky voice call out, "Donnes-moi un chanson, mon coeur," and wondered which of the memories brought to life in the bar would consider Tom her "heart."
The doctor was not happy. Of course, a certain amount of testiness was not unusual, but he *was* trying to work on his bedside manner. He just had no patience with people interrupting every time he was in the middle of running a test. Even is it *was* the Captain.
"No, Captain. Mr. Paris has NOT come to me regarding any difficulties with insomnia. Some members of the crew have been having episodes of sleeplessness caused by stress and homesickness. This does not appear to be the case with Mr. Paris. At least to MY knowledge."
She didn't look satisfied, but he didn't know what else to tell her. After she cut the channel, he tried to salvage what was left of the spore samples, only to discover that the delay had irreversibly damaged the outer cell structure, and he'd have to begin again. "I don't *believe* this. Even when he's not actually *in* sickbay he manages to mess things up."
"Did you say something, Doctor?" Kes' gentle voice calmed him somewhat, and he managed a strained smile for his ... what exactly was she? Well, the nearest he had to a friend, that's what. The strain lessened and the smile became more natural.
"No, Kes. Just ruined another batch of Tripleain spores, and I'll have to re-set the monitors, but that's all right. At least there are no emergencies at the-" His words were interrupted by a crewman carrying another man into the room, blood pouring freely from several deep cuts along his arms and torso. With an almost silent sigh, he turned away from the spores. "It seems I spoke too soon."
Kes shared an understanding look with him and they got to work.
Janeway stared for a moment longer at the now empty screen, then shook her head slightly and sighed. She had a soft spot for the young Lieutenant, one she seldom acknowledged, but it existed nevertheless. She'd known his father professionally for too long and much too well to easily accept that young Tom could be so very different. Or perhaps it was too many long days spent trying to find a faster way home, and too few puzzles to distract her from how very much she missed her own home. She'd never been the type to pry, and with a decisive little nod she determined that boredom and probably misplaced concern would not cause her to change her ways. Although she had to admit, ever since the unfortunate incident when Paris had had false memories of murder implanted into his brain in order for aliens to use him as an unwitting courier of stolen military secrets, she had been watching him for signs of neurological damage. So far, he seemed all right. The door chime interrupted her wandering thoughts.
Commander Chakotay peered into the brightly lit ready room, then stepped forward confidently and crossed to the Captain's desk.
"Shift's all quiet, Captain. Care to take a break from the paper work and get a bite to eat?"
"Is it shift change already?" She hadn't realized how quickly the time had gone. Perhaps a little distraction wasn't as bad as she'd thought, if it relieved some of the boredom. She rose and gave her first officer a quick smile. "Let's brave Neelix's culinary efforts, then."
"As long as it doesn't move too fast, I'll be willing to try it tonight. Missed lunch due to the recalibration of the secondary navigational systems."
Her answering look was wryly sympathetic. "You didn't miss much, Commander. It was ... light purple. And it smelled odd."
"Doesn't it always?" Their light laughter echoed slightly in the hall as they made their way to the common mess hall Neelix had set up. After perusing a strange combination of glop that the Talaxian asserted was nutritious, tasty food, none of which actually looked edible, they made hesitant choices and settled at a small table by the port windows. Looking out over the broad sweep of black space encrusted with specks of light, Janeway forced herself to relax. Chakotay smiled slightly at her, recognizing the almost imperceptible easing in her shoulders and back. The Captain didn't do that often enough.
"I should do this more often." Her voice echoing his thoughts startled him for a moment, then he grinned at her.
"Yes, you should." The grin disappeared and his voice softened. He had a lot of respect for this woman, but she was taking too much on herself, and they had a long way to go before they got home. Perhaps another visit with her spirit guide was in order. "Have you given any consideration to revisiting your Guide?"
She smiled at him again, more with her eyes than her mouth. "I'd like that," she responded quietly. He returned her smile, and they talked companionably for the rest of the meal, joking about the possible chemical properties of the mess on their plates and keeping a watch on the crew eating around them. Janeway was the first to notice Paris' arrival, and wondered at herself for her preoccupation.
Tom sat alone, not all that unusual when Harry had other things to do. Right about now young Ensign Kim was showing B'Elanna Torres the difference between a clarinet and a saxophone, in a holo suite program designed to let him show off for dates. Tom smiled to himself at the thought of his buddy's socializing. If he thought he had the chance of a snowball in hell with the lovely engineer, he'd try to catch her attention himself. But he knew better than that. B'Elanna thought he was a pig, recent comforting in a Vidian prison not withstanding. And he couldn't really find it in himself to disagree with her. He looked around at the clumps of people gathered throughout the messhall, then dropped his eyes to his plate and kept them there. One more little trick he'd learned in prison, along with picking locks and keeping his ass covered. Don't draw their attention and you won't have to deal with their attacks. Usually. A slight shadow fell over his table and he sighed silently. Usually, but not always. He raised his eyes to meet a belligerent Human face. It was going to be a long night.
"Paris." Not a friendly tone. Who was this idiot? Oh, yeah. LaCross, or something like that. Tom tried to think what he'd done to piss him off, then decided to hell with it, he'd find out sooner or later. Given the splitting headache he was fighting he hoped it would be later.
"What?" If his luck ran true to form it would be sooner.
"Heard you were in stir for fighting with the Maquis." The sneer in the man's voice confirmed his guess. His luck was out. "Weird thing for an *officer* in *Star Fleet* to be doing."
Paris looked at the bulky figure standing, glaring at him, and gritted his teeth. He really, really wanted to plant a fist in the guy's face and be done with it, because he just knew where this was leading, but he couldn't do it just yet. Even if the idiot hadn't noticed both the Captain and Chakotay over in the corner, *he* had, and he wasn't going on report if he could help it. He smiled coldly up at the Neanderthal in front of him. "I wasn't a Star Fleet officer at the time." Instinctively, his muscles tightened in anticipation of what was coming. He wasn't disappointed.
"So I heard. No wonder. Guess they didn't want a screw-up at the controls anymore, people get *killed* when you're the pilo-"
He really didn't remember standing, and he certainly didn't remember swinging. He'd been certain he was in control, that he could just shrug off the bastard's ranting like he usually did, but the man's voice had been getting louder and louder as he went on, and now here he was with split knuckles bleeding on the nice clean floor, an unconscious fool at his feet, and a total blanket of silence over the room. He didn't even need to turn to acknowledge Chakotay and Janeway coming up behind him, he just shook the sting out of his fingers and called sickbay. Two of the lout's friends came up and carried him off for treatment, and Paris silently followed the Captain to her ready room. It was going to be a very long night.
Chakotay watched the tense figures leave the room and shook his head. So much for a relaxing dinner. Leave it to Paris to mess things up.
Janeway eyed the man standing stiffly at attention before her desk and swallowed drily. This interview was *not* going the way she had planned.
"Mr. Paris, I don't intend to deal you until I know precisely what happened in there. By accepting all the blame for the incident and refusing to explain, all you do is open yourself to disciplinary action. We're not dealing with the cause of the problem. And if we don't bring it out into the open and take care of it, this sort of thing will merely continue to occur. It's not good for ship discipline and crew morale to have officers getting into fistfight over their dinners." Her tone became whimsical for a moment. "Neelix's concoctions have a bad enough effect as it is." Not getting the answering smile she expected, her voice hardened again. "If you won't talk to me, Mr. Paris, then you need to find someone you can talk to. I *will not* have this sort of behavior among the crew." She stared at him, willing him to explain, to give her some sort of clue to why he was acting this way. Meeting his narrowed blue eyes, she saw the pain he was not successfully hiding, and lowered herself into her seat. She cupped her chin in her hand, and continued to stare silently at him. Unable to maintain complete composure under her intense regard, he fidgeted, and she nodded, coming to a decision.
"At ease, Mr. Paris." He relaxed fractionally, still unsure of her actions. "Sit down." He stared at her for a second, one brow quirked in query, then slid into the seat opposite her desk. "We need to talk."
He tapped idly on his crossed legs, ankle bumping lightly against the opposite knee, his foot bouncing almost imperceptibly. She noticed the little nervous movements, and responded more gently than she otherwise might.
"Tom, I'm worried about you." Startled sapphire eyes met concerned gray, and he was the first to look away.
"I'm okay, Captain."
"People who are 'okay' do not punch out other people without provocation, Mr. Paris." He flared at her dry words.
"I was provoked, Captain!" He leaned forward, ready to defend himself, and she moved forward as well, glad to finally get him to talk. He froze, then slumped back into the seat, and she bit the inside of her cheek to keep herself from losing her temper and yelling at him. Steepling her fingers in front of her lips, she refused to say anything else. Let him be the one to say something. She wasn't going to make it any easier on him. Finally, with a little sigh, he looked down at the floor. Whatever he saw there must have fascinated him, because he wouldn't look anywhere else, even when he began to speak.
"I was out of line, Captain. He wasn't saying anything I haven't already heard from any number of people. There are a lot of guys on this ship who don't think I should be flying it. They've heard about the reason why I was cashiered, and they don't like the idea that I'm in the pilot's chair, because they think I can't be trusted, that I'm going to make some damn fool error and end up getting people killed again. I knew what he was going to say before he even opened his mouth, so I should have been able to control it, I guess." His voice trailed off, and she leaned forward to hear him more easily. "I don't remember..."
"What? You don't remember what, Mr. Paris?"
Her peremptory question brought him back to the present, and he finally met her eyes again. The confusion she saw there mirrored her own.
"I don't remember hitting him, Captain."
Two days quarters wasn't really all that bad, considering. Tom sighed and sank into a comfortable sprawl on the bed. So he couldn't go on duty, and wasn't allowed to interact with the rest of the crew for a couple of days. At least he wasn't in the brig. And for the most part refraining from hanging around with the crew was no big loss. He did rather miss the holodeck, though. *Nothin' like getting sent to my room. Tommy's been a bad boy.* For some reason the usual cocky grin wouldn't stay in place, and he leaned his head back against the pillows. Maybe the Captain was right and some reflection would be a good idea. Not something he was used to, but maybe a place to start. He had to admit the way he lost his temper back there was unusual even for him, and he wasn't the most stable personality around. He linked his hands behind his head and settled back, intent on rationalizing his actions to himself. Before he could get very far, his breathing evened out and he relaxed into sleep.
The images didn't take as long to form as they usually did. Shadowy forms, surrounding him, always coming closer, with nowhere to go to escape them. Sometimes he could count them, three, maybe four at the most, but other times it seemed like there was a whole army there, that he couldn't see the sunlight between their bodies. Never any noise. Not from them, and not from him. More afraid than he'd ever remembered being, but he didn't really remember this. Only in his dreams, in his nightmares, when he couldn't keep them away any longer. Couldn't run. Couldn't fight. Couldn't scream. Could only wait. And cry. And hurt.
Harry paused outside his friend's door, wondering if it would be okay for him to enter. He felt a little responsible, in a funny way. The more combatative members of the crew usually left Tom alone when he was with him, for some reason. Maybe it was because Tom reacted less violently to their attitudes, or because they were bullies and wouldn't attack when Tom had friends around him. As he stood, irresolute, at the threshold, he heard a strangled whimper, loud enough to hear through the door. Reacting instinctively, he requested entry, and the unlocked door slid silently open. Following the sounds of distress, Harry ran into Tom's sleeping room, and stopped at the side of the bed. Tom was curled into a protective ball, one arm raised to shield his face from unseen blows, the other outstretched to push away whatever was attacking him in his nightmare. Harry gently laid his hand on Paris' tensed shoulder, speaking quietly in an attempt to waken him without startling him.
"Hey, Tom, wake up. It's okay, man, it's just a dream. You're okay, Tom. Tom, c'mon now, wake up now-"
Paris shook the restraining hand off and scrabbled backward on the bed, still not fully wakening. He curled up even tighter, if that was possible, and whimpered softly. Harry didn't try to touch him again, just called his name gently, over and over, until Tom gradually calmed down and drifted into a more natural slumber without ever waking up. Harry looked at him for a long moment, then quietly pulled the cover up to his shoulders and smoothed his hair back from his sweat-slicked forehead. Whatever demons were chasing Tom, right now wasn't the time to face them. He needed rest more than anything else.
Harry stepped softly from the room and engaged the privacy lock behind him. He'd talk to Tom later, and hope he could get his friend to confide in him.
Anger. A temporary loss of continuous memory due to over- powering rage. Tommy had a tantrum. Paris grinned sarcas- tically to himself, careful not to let the other bridge crew catch sight of his expression. At least the doc had cleared him for duty. If he'd had to spend another hour in his quarters, then they would *really* have seen one of Tommy's tantrums.
The duty rotation passed swiftly, with no further odd incidents, temper shortages, or memory lapses. Paris counted himself lucky to escape Captain Janeway's unwavering gaze and finally escape off duty. Waving off an invitation from Harry to join him and some of the others in a late poker game, he wended his way to the holodeck. Pausing outside the doors, he wondered at himself. It was a sad change when Partier Paris preferred the company of holoimages to real people. But the music was calling him. Any more, it seemed to be the only other place he could relax and forget the headaches, either at the piano in the bar, or in the pilot's seat. There were a lot of similarities, in his mind at least. The feeling of control, of solitude and creation, whether plotting an intricate course through a minefield of space anomalies or coaxing a melody from the reluctant keys, losing himself in the complexities and beauty of the mathematics of his art. He snorted softly, laughing at his flights of fancy, then slipped into the bar.
Checking the floor for any crewmates, he saw no one other than holoimages and breathed a sigh of relief. It was late enough that others were probably in their own quarters, or in private card parties like the one Harry was hosting. He smiled at the thought of his young friend, whom everyone seemed to like, and sat down at the piano. His fingers rippled over the keys, and the soft tones of "Solitude" floated over the simulated crowd. Bending his fair head over the keys, the young man gave himself up to the music, and forgot his demons for awhile.
Harry was watching him a lot. So was Tuvok. Janeway was easing up a little bit, but he could really do without all the concerned glances. Shit. You'd think they cared about him. He knew better. The only thing they really cared about was making sure he didn't drive 'em into a planetoid. Paris swore under his breath when the replicator asked him for the third time what type of tomato soup he wanted. Hadn't they settled this already?
"PLAIN." A few people glanced over at the harsh tone, but his expression plainly did not invite enquiries. His better nature, what was left of it after weeks of barely remembered nightmares and the strain of not allowing them to affect his performance on duty, reminded him that he was being unfair, at least to Harry. The kid really did like him, for whatever strange reason, and he couldn't fault him for wanting to help. The problem was, Tom wasn't quite sure what the problem was, so how could Harry help? Ever since those bastards had messed with his memories, the nightmares had grown stronger, and he wasn't sure how much longer he'd be able to handle it before he had to go to the doc and ask for something to help him sleep. And as soon as he did, the hologram would be on the horn to the Captain, and he'd find himself out of the pilot's chair again. He did NOT want that to happen. Sometimes he thought that his duties, and the nights at Sandrine's, were all that was keeping him sane. As sane as he got, at least.
Settling into a vacant chair in the corner, out of the traffic flow, he let his mind wander, ignoring the rapidly cooling dill and pepper (not plain) tomato soup.
He hadn't known why it happened at the time. Still didn't. He'd been walking to the lift, Chakotay on his heels, when time had shifted.
The scent was different, yet the same. Sweat, and aftershave, and normal male spiciness. Sunshine on skin. He was frozen in place, his feet not willing to move, his heart racing in his throat, a vague warning klaxon sounding in his mind. Get outta here, Tommy lad. Now. While you can. Hurry! HURRY! Ohdamnohdamnohnoohgods then the feel of Chakotay brushing the side of his arm as he pushed past him, casting an irritated look over his shoulder at the pilot standing so still, not noticing the quiver running up and down the slender frame, the blank look in the sapphire eyes, the faint trail of perspiration running over one pale cheek, the trapped almost panicked look on his set features... then he shook it off, still unsure of the cause of the feelings freezing him to the deck. Shook it off and entered the lift after Chakotay, not knowing why he stepped to the far side, not knowing why he never looked at the older man. Not seeing Tuvok, dark eyes intent, missing nothing.
He came back to the present with s little gasp, feeling as if he'd been running, a silly feeling really, when all he was doing was sitting here trying to eat some ... soup. He looked with some disgust at the small bits of green herb floating in the red liquid and gave it up as a bad deal. Maybe Sandrine would give him some dinner. Funny how a holoprogram could turn out to be such a haven. Paris pushed himself up from the table and walked swiftly to the recyclers, dumping his tray and striding from the room. He didn't see Harry raise a hand to greet him, and didn't break his stride all the way to the holosuites.
<<Revons ... c'est l'heure...>>
The dream came swiftly this time, no welcome respite from the care of the day before slipping into the haunting night. The bodies pressing into him, nowhere to turn, no place to run, no one to help.
It was not one scene, but two, or maybe more. The faces changed, blended and swirled before his unbelieving, unaccepting eyes. Sometimes three men, sometimes four, sometimes only one. A tall man, big but not bulky, fair hair blending into white, stern face set in lines like stone, no love there, no forgiveness, God only knew no tolerance for anything less than the best, anything substandard, anything like him.
Sometimes it was only fists, he could deal with that. Shut off his thoughts, freeze his feelings, ignore the tears and the broken pleas he couldn't quite suppress. Those were the oldest hurts, the fuzziest recollections. Those dreams didn't have the strength of the others, the clearer ones. Bloody damned starfleet sonsof bitches how could they ever do something likethisgodithurt and then there were the other memories. He remembered them a little better. They were concrete, individual. They beat him, yeah, not like he wasn't used to it. Damned Maquis. Always thought they were so much better just because they had their fucking cause well he had a cause too didn't he and it was survival goddamned star fleet bastards how could they -- please, doc, help me. Somebody. Help me. Please. please please oh please
<Lasse de vivre>
please don't hurt me not like that please
<ayant peur de mourir>
how many? don't know how many why do i care please no
<pareille au brick perdu jouet du flux et du reflux>
how can they why do they what did i do please make them stop
<Mon ame pour d'affreux naufrages appareille>
The music drowning out the pain, putting such a dense, welcome mist between them and himself, hands fading away, hurts drifting, nothing but the music in his head...
Weary of living,
Fearing to die,
Like a lost barque a plaything of the tides,
A soul to dread disaster seems to ride.
<<C'est l'heure exquise>>
He tried to ignore the way his hands shook as he leaned against the doorcasing. Long night. Bad night. Too damned bad a night. He didn't really remember the nightmares, just the music, itching in his fingertips and at the back of his throat, driving him back to the bar, back to the piano. The music and the hands, and the pain ... his mind shied away from the last remnant of memory, and he decided it was enough. Time to seek out the Doc. Yet another holoperson who was closer to him than most of the other so-called real people stuck here with him, for who knows how long until the-
he didn't hear her voice.
"Mr. Paris? Are you al-"
Just felt her hand. A hand. A strong touch, fingers pressing in. On his back. Firm, low, too close to the thin barrier between the night- mare still lingering too fresh in his mind and the hands, the strong and painful ... His instinctive backhanded blow caught her on the right side of the face, all the force of his back behind it, and she rolled with the unexpected punch. Her shoulder impacted the wall with a sickening crunch, and she slid bonelessly down in an ungraceful heap. Tuvok, fresh from an early morning meeting with his latest crew of Maquis "recruits" and looking for his Captain, was unable to prevent the first blow, but with Vulcan speed he was able to stop the second. One dark arm rasped painfully around the enraged lieutenant's throat, holding him securely, the other arm snaking around to thrust Paris' clenched fist between the two men's bodies, high enough to strain the muscles, barely slowing down the slighter man. One longer leg thrust between two strong thighs, striving to keep him off balance, trying to stop the full frontal assault he seemed determined to make on the Captain. The Captain, of all people. Deep cobalt, his eyes didn't seem quite Human, blazing with so much hate, unseeing, unfocused. Janeway looked on as her Security chief forcibly restrained her pilot, somewhat dazed from the force of Tom's fist and not quite able to believe what had just happened.
Not a sound. He hadn't made a sound.
"Tuvok to security-" as Paris suddenly sagged in his arms, offering no further resistance, apparently unconscious. Janeway pushed herself painfully to her feet.
One hand raised shakily to her commbadge. "Belay that." Tuvok raised a brow, consternation in a less controlled being, mere query from a Vulcan. She smiled reassuringly, grimaced as she tasted the blood from her split lip. "Activate emergency medical program." She tried to take a step, felt her knees give. "Three to transpo..." Had to stop as her head swam and the wall began to waver in front of her eyes.
"Three to transport to sickbay," Tuvok finished dispassionately.
"-aftereffects of the neurological damage caused by the alien implants. Those false memories apparently did more severe damage than my original testing indicated." The Doctor's tone slipped subtly from merely aggrieved to faintly defensive, and Janeway shifted on the hard diagnostic bed. Sighing, she waved for him to continue. "There were no prior cases of such a manipulation of neuropathways prior to this-"
"Yes, Doctor. I know, you were dealing with an unknown." She consciously tried to keep an even tone, not willing to get her holodoctor into another counterproductive snit. "I just need to know what happened."
"Well," he continued in a mollified voice, "the neurological damage from the false memory implants and the attendant trauma may be causing some sort of flashback memories to a time when Mr. Paris was personally attacked, so he might have been reacting to a remembered threat instead of the current situation in which he found himself. These remembrances may also be caused by the breakdown of mental barriers Mr. Paris may have erected to keep himself from remembering difficult, dangerous or abusive incidents in his past."
Janeway's eyes widened and she shot an incredulous glance at Tuvok. He returned it with typical composure, and she turned back to the doctor.
"Are you saying that Mr. Paris was ... abused in some way, Doctor?"
He nodded sharply, eyes resting approvingly on her. This one was quick. "Yes, Captain. Complete physical examination yields indications of physical trauma, internal and external scarification, indicating one or more severe beatings within a time frame of eighteen to twenty four months prior to this date. There are no indications whatsoever in Mr. Paris' records of any counseling during his incarceration, beyond that required in his sentencing, although prison infirmary records do indicate two episodes of extensive rehabilitation. There are no records giving any indications of the cause of the injuries requiring the rehabilitation, merely a recitation of the extent of the injuries and the physical therapy required to restore Mr. Paris to health."
"Extensive beatings..." Janeway's voice was hushed, although whether with anger or disgust it was impossible to determine. "That sort of behavior went out with the advent of the new penal colonies, or at least ... it was supposed to ..."
"It is an unfortunate fact, Captain, that prison officials may at times turn a 'blind eye' to incidents in which unpopular inmates are injured. The nature of Mr. Paris' involvement with the Maquis would not serve to make him popular with many of his fellow prisoners."
A slight moan from the other diagnostic bed drew their attention, and Janeway stepped from her bed over to Paris' side. Tuvok made a move as if to intercede, and she glanced meaningfully at the restraints holding Paris firmly to the bed.
"I don't think he's going anywhere, Tuvok."
The Vulcan conceded the point, and she continued to the side of the bed.
Pain-glazed eyes met hers in confusion, and she was relieved to see that they were their normal clear blue, not the frightening cobalt she'd seen when he attacked her. Confusion twisted his aristocratic features, and he looked very young. She was unable to stop herself from lifting a hand to smooth the sweaty locks of hair back from his brow, and she unconsciously sighed with relief when he didn't flinch from her touch. His arms and legs tensed against the cuffs holding him restrained, and the confusion in his face deepened, although he didn't fight the bonds. His eyes traced the slight swelling still apparent in her cheek and lower lip, and his eyes widened with concern.
"Captain! What happened to your face?"
Dead silence met his question, three pairs of eyes looking at him with varying degrees of incredulity. He didn't understand, and didn't much like the situation.
"What's going on here? Tuvok? Captain?" His voice weakened, unsure of what was going on but somehow a little frightened. "Doc?"
Tuvok opened his mouth to speak, but a quick glance from Janeway forestalled him. He subsided and she leaned forward again.
"Mr. Paris. Tom. What do you remember about this morning?"
He looked at her like she'd lost her mind, then evidently decided to humor her. "Well, I got up, took a shower, got dressed..." His voice faded as he tried to think harder. For some reason, there seemed to be a sort of mist around his memory. Events got fuzzier, right about the time he ... "I went out into the corridor. Felt a little light headed, didn't really get much sleep last night." His voice was softer now, almost as if he was talking to himself, unaware of his audience. "I remember leaning against the wall, then ... then I ... I don't remember." The final words were a whisper. He searched her eyes, hoping for a clue, some sort of reassurance that he wasn't losing his mind.
"This is not the first time that you have 'failed to remember', Mr. Paris." Tuvok's cold voice broke the connection between the Captain and Paris, and they both shivered for an instant. Janeway believed him. He really didn't remember. No one could fake the kind of torment she'd seen in his eyes.
"Doctor." She gestured toward the file the Doctor still held in his hand, and inclined her head toward Tom. He tore his eyes away from the accusatory Tuvok, and stared at the Doctor as if he was his lifeline. The Doctor cleared his throat uncomfortably, and decided it was time to try out his newly acquired bedside manner. He couldn't help but wish for a moment that Kes was there, however, since she always seemed to know just how to say things so that people would respond. Not an unusual talent in an empath, but one he could have used at the moment.
Janeway huffed a little impatiently, and the Doctor sighed. Might as well get it over with.
"Mr. Paris," he tried to keep his tone gentle. "What can you tell us about the attacks that were made on you while you were at the penal colony?"
Tom looked at him now like it was the *Doctor* who had lost his mind.
"Attacks? What the hell are you talking about, Doc?"
So much for bedside manner. "Records indicate that you were the victim of severe physical attacks on at least two occasions after being incarcerated at the Auckland Federation Penal Settlement. Are you attempting to tell us that you have no recollection of these events?"
Paris was now staring at the Doctor with something close to horror. "No." His normally pleasant tenor sounded more like a rusty croak, and he swallowed heavily, trying to free up his voice. "No," he tried again, his words stronger this time. "I don't remember any sort of beating."
"Beatings, Mr. Paris. Plural."
Tom's wide-eyed glance slewed wildly around to the Vulcan standing so quietly at his shoulder.
"I don't remember. I really don't." Tuvok read the sincerity in those eyes, and found himself believing him. Since they had shared their thoughts in the mind meld, he found it easier to 'read' Tom Paris than he had ever expected. Tom didn't know what had happened, and he didn't remember the beatings.
"Selective amnesia," the Doctor pronounced, a slight scowl marring the satisfaction in his tone. "Mr. Paris, do you ever have nightmares?"
All three noticed the sudden stiffness in Tom's body, but his voice still retained a little life. "Nightmares? Sure. Doesn't everyone?"
None of them would let him get away with his flippancy.
"No," returned Tuvok, deadpan.
"Not usually," Janeway chimed in.
"Of course not!" the Doctor stated.
He looked silently from one to the other, finally resting his glance on Janeway. She pinned him to the bed with her best "serious" look and he sighed.
"Well, yeah. I guess I have."
"You guess?" She hardened her voice, and he responded as she intended, with more unwilling details.
"Yeah. I have nightmares. I don't really know what they are, 'cause I don't remember them very clearly. Just, well, people. Sort of, like, surrounding me, pressing in. Hands. Lots of hands. And then it hurts. But then there's music and the pain ... goes away. The hands go away."
His face had relaxed as he spoke, his eyes distracted as he tried to piece together the vague memories of the nightmares. At his mention of the pain, Tuvok leaned slightly closer. When he talked of hands, Kathryn straightened and her eyes widened. Tuvok noticed her reaction and cocked his head at her.
"Tom, do you remember me coming up to you this morning?" Her soft question cut into his determined recollection, and he refocused on her face.
"I ... came up behind you ... and put my hand on your back."
His eyes grew huge as he worked out the implications, her swollen face, his nightmares, the restraints holding him in place. A sound not unlike a whimper escaped his clenched lips.
"Oh damn." His eyes begged forgiveness even as he accepted what he had to have done. "I'm so ... sorry, Captain. I can't believe..." He couldn't finish the sentence.
She reacted to the pain in his voice, patting his hand and leaning forward to reassure him. "It's going to be all right, Tom. We just have to help you deal with this, so that it won't happen again."
Paris nodded weakly, then looked away, feeling oddly ashamed over something he couldn't even remember doing. But then, he seemed to not be remembering a lot of important things lately.
"Your recommendation, Doctor?"
"A combination of extensive counseling, drug therapy to halt and hopefully repair the damage to the neuropathways, and regressive hypnotherapy to attempt to restore the blocked memories. Oh, and he should be relieved of piloting duties until such time as his condition is stabilized."
Janeway felt Tom's fist clench under her fingers as the Doctor's sentence was passed, and she squeezed his hand reassuringly. Still keeping her gaze on his face, she gave her orders to the Doctor standing behind her.
"Very well, Doctor. Then begin immediately. We can't afford to be without Mr. Paris' talents for very long, and we want to get to the bottom of this as soon as we can. The sooner the causes for these episodes are uncovered, the sooner the damage can be healed."
With one final pat, she turned from the bed and addressed the doctor directly. "Keep me apprised of his progress, Doctor. Mr. Tuvok?"
"I believe the restraints may be removed, Doctor. If Mr. Paris loses control of himself, notify Security."
The Doctor nodded, and Tuvok exited sickbay without a backward glance. Cerulean eyes followed his progress with some bitterness.
"Thanks a helluva lot, Tuvok." The muttered phrase was very quiet, but not too quiet for the hologram's sensitive hearing.
"He *did* have to restrain you from attacking the Captain *again*, Mr. Paris." Seeing the stricken expression on the young man's face, the doctor relented. "Time to get to work on those memories."
It was like walking through a dream, only, more so. The colors were more vivid, he could smell the grass, fresh cut, taste the breeze in his face. Summer time. Baseball season. No need to make excuses for the cap covering his just-about-bald head, his father's annual chop job at it's finest. Game ran late, didn't get a chance to do the extra bookwork he'd had to do to make up for less than stellar marks in the last school term. Why couldn't Dad accept that he just wasn't very good at physics? All he really wanted to do right now was play second base and escape to the piano at Jake's house. Dad didn't understand that either, called it a timewaster. Called him a slacker.
The scene shifted. God, he hated grade time. Never quite good enough, so he stopped trying. He was gonna get the belt anyway, and for some reason it seemed to hurt more when he had really tried to do well and hadn't done well enough than when he'd just blown it off. At least then he could feel like there was some reason for the punishment. If it was his fault anyway he might as well have *been* at fault.
Disappointment. Keen, strong, not at all unusual. Pretty typical, in fact. Here it comes again. Wished he could be stronger. Could pretend it didn't matter, nothing mattered, why should it, couldn't let it matter. That just made it worse. Could only clench his fists and clench his jaw and try not to cry 'cause that was not what a man did but it really really hurt and he couldn't let him know it seemed to get some sort of weird kick out of - Hurting. Me. He. Won't. Stop. Hurting. Me.
<lasse de vivre, ayant peur de mourir>
what did i do please don't do this please stop hitting me
<Il vaux mieux rire que pleurer>
how can he why does he what did i do please make him stop
<quel dommage ... quel dommage ...>
So damned tired.
"Hm. 'Weary of living, fearing to die' ... hmm ... 'It's better to laugh than cry' ... interesting, especially in this context ... 'what a shame'? Yes. 'What a shame.' A shame indeed." The Doctor looked over the top of his screen to glance at his now peacefully sedated patient, then shook his head at the results of the first three regressive hypnotherapy sessions. The Captain was not going to like what he'd found, but he believed he was on the right track. The newly configured drug therapy was making progress on restoring normalcy to Paris' brain functions, and the neural path- ways were showing decided improvement. But this older series of memories were the basis for many of the defensive coping mechanisms Mr. Paris employed on an almost instinctual level, and in order to access and treat his underlying psychological problems they were going to have to deal with this first. Then perhaps Mr. Paris would allow himself to remember what happened to him in prison. So far he was having no luck trying to get his patient to access those particular memories.
"Captain Janeway to sickbay." He sighed and turned to face her image.
"Have you analyzed the results of Mr. Paris' latest regression, Doctor?" Her voice was even, but he could hear the real concern so carefully hidden in her words.
"Yes, Captain. Perhaps it would be best if you came to sickbay."
She nodded and cut the channel with a brisk, "I'll be right there."
"Did you know Lieutenant Paris spoke French?"
That wasn't the question Janeway was expecting as she strode into the room, but she accepted it at face value.
"Yes, Doctor." Sings in it, too, she thought, but didn't say it aloud. "What did you find?"
"Mr. Paris has watched the recorded sessions, and agreed to share the results with you, Captain, as required in regulation 53-9, section 21, subsection 9 bet-"
"Right," she cut in, impatient to hear what he'd discovered. "Duly noted, results are being shared with the patient's permission. Now, is he all right?"
The Doctor stiffened slightly. "That would depend upon your definition of 'all right', Captain." She took a deep breath and he hurried on. "Memories uncovered in our regressive hypnotherapy sessions over the past five days have confirmed a pattern of physical and mental abuse dating from early childhood, consistent with the healed fractures and other scarring, as well as evidence in his medical records. Mr. Paris was beaten on a regular basis from approximately the age of three until adolescence, approximately the age of sixteen."
"Good god." Janeway's face had paled as the Doctor continued. No wonder Paris had so many self-defense mechanisms. He'd been using them most of his life. "Who could have done such a thing to a child?"
The Doctor's matter-of-fact voice nearly covered Tom's softer words, but the impact was just as great on Captain Janeway. For a moment she almost said she didn't believe it, and from the set, deliberately uncaring look on Tom's face, and the way his body seemed braced to accept another blow, he must have expected her reaction. She held herself still for a moment, knowing that it would take some time to reconcile her image of Admiral Paris with the evidence she'd just been presented. Right now the important thing wasn't her mental image, though, but Tom Paris' mental health. She forced herself to cross the room to where he sat, perched on the edge of the cot. She lowered herself to sit beside him, and he watched her warily, waiting for her to call him a liar, accuse him of tarnishing his father's reputation for some self-pitying reason of his own. To his intense astonishment, she very carefully took his left hand between both of hers, and patted it gently.
"I am so sorry, Tom."
He stared at her in disbelief. She wasn't calling him a liar. She actually was listening to him. His throat tightened, and his eyes misted. He knew how close Janeway had been to his father, and he found it almost impossible to believe that she was on his side in this. No one else ever had been. In that moment, Tom Paris would have done anything within his power for his Captain. The loyalty she had inspired by trusting him to pilot the Voyager, allowing him to be part of the team again, was nothing to the fierce allegiance he felt now, knowing that she of all people believed him when he told her truths that he had not been able to trust anyone with before. He smiled at her suddenly, and she was warmed by the brilliance of that smile, such a contrast to the sadness in his eyes.
"It's okay, Captain. Happened a long time ago." His attempt to comfort her, when she was the one who should be comforting him, moved her more than she wanted to admit. She raised a hand to pat his shoulder, and he smiled again, a wry twist of the lips.
"It doesn't address the reason for the most recent difficulties, however." The Doctor's dry voice cut into their small circle of comfort, and Janeway dropped her hand from his shoulder.
"Well, at least I can touch him now without him instinctively lashing out."
Paris flinched, and she patted his hand again. "It's alright, Tom. It wasn't your fault."
He nodded slightly, still not reassured, and the Doctor continued.
"He has not been able to access the more recent memories of assault, however, and it is these memories that are triggering the worst of the nightmares and the waking flashbacks."
"What do you suggest?" Janeway's voice was steady.
"If the Voyager was equipped with a ship's counselor, I would recommend regular, intensive counseling sessions combined with a continuation of the drug therapy I have instituted. The damage to the neuropathways has been greatly minimized and is nearly healed. Once the underlying cause of the nightmares, the assaults upon Mr. Paris while incarcerated, have been excised, he should be able to return to duty. Not to mention sleeping much better."
Paris grinned at the Doctor's final words. A good night's sleep would be a nice change. Then his brows lowered.
"But we don't have a counselor."
"Yes, we do." *That* voice wasn't one he'd expected to hear. Janeway slipped off the edge of the cot and walked across sick- bay to stand in front of Commander Chakotay.
"Commander. This was supposed to be a confidential consulta- tion between myself, Lieutenant Paris, and the Doctor. Why are you here?"
She sounded more curious than angry, and Chakotay relaxed a bit. Paris, on the other hand, couldn't decide whether to be really pissed off or listen to what the big Maquis had to say. If Chakotay had some way to get him back in the pilot's seat...
"To volunteer my services, Captain."
Her head swung up and she looked at him strangely. Volunteer his services doing *what*?
He could almost read her thoughts. Ignoring the muttering from the holographic Doctor and the slightly choked noises coming from Paris, he concentrated on the Captain.
"In my previous postings I acted as ship's counselor when that position was not on the roster, due to crew allotment. Once I joined the Maquis, I spent a great deal of time helping people adjust to changes in life circumstances, battle stress and the loss of loved ones." His gaze shifted to Paris, who was watching him now with an odd mixture of distrust and hope. "If Lieutenant Paris is willing, I would volunteer to act in that capacity now."
"Why?" Tom's soft question underscored the lack of faith in his eyes.
"Several reasons." Chakotay stepped toward Paris, and Janeway moved back to allow the men room to confront one another. "First, you're the best pilot on the ship, and we need you if we're ever going to get home." Paris nodded, conceding the point. "Second, it's a job that I can do, and I may be the best qualified one to do it, if you'll let me." He paused, finding it hard to say the last reason but feeling compelled to be honest. "Third ... I owe you."
Paris met his eyes, startled at the difficult admission. "You don't owe me anything, Chakotay. If this is about that stupid life debt thing, I never really meant that-"
"No." Chakotay raised a hand to stem Tom's words. "Whether *you* meant it or not, *I* feel I have a debt to you. Helping you get to the truth about your past and dealing with it will alleviate that feeling of debt."
Paris looked at him for a long moment, sizing him up, trying to see through the stoic face into the man beneath, gauging his sincerity. With a short nod, he accepted Chakotay's offer, turning to the Captain and the Doctor standing silently by.
"Works for me if it works for you!"
The Doctor nodded, and Janeway, after a moment eyeing both her officers, gave her own agreement. "All right. Keep me updated and let me know if there is anything I can do."
She turned on her heel and exited the room, and Paris and Chakotay watched her go. With a sigh, Paris returned his gaze to his new shrink.
"So. Where do we go from here?"
Spirit guides. Who'd have thought he had a spirit guide. When Chakotay showed him the stone, the feather, the small piece of hide, the hand held hi-tech version of the peyote button, he had almost laughed. *Almost*, but not quite. Some part of him was so anxious to find out where these nightmares were coming from, he was willing to do just about anything to find out. So he took a little walk on the bizarre side, and talked to the animals. Maybe *they'd* have an idea what the hell was going on, and why he'd take a swing at the Captain.
"-someplace where you feel safe."
Chakotay's softly spoken instructions reached through his mis- givings, and he concentrated on his "journey." Safe. That was a joke. When was the last time he'd really felt safe? He couldn't even remember ... oh. Yeah. The rainforest. He'd gone hiking there, on his own, a graduation present when he got out of the academy, before his first posting. Three weeks of him and the trees. It had been great.
"I remember this place! It's-"
"Just look. This is your journey. Concentrate on what you see, how you feel. The first animal that you see will be your guide."
Animal? That was funny. When he'd been here before there had been animals everywhere. Now, there didn't seem to be any at all. Hmph. Maybe his spirit guide decided it would rather not meet him after all. Then he saw it, a small blurry movement on the lowest tree branch. In the next instant the song trilled out, and he smiled with pure delight. A nightingale. A beautiful little nightingale. She was ... just perfect.
Chakotay was startled at the radiant joy on Paris' face. Maybe this was going to work out after all.
"Don't tell me what your form your spirit guide takes. Talk to your guide, Tom. Ask it what you need to know."
He heard the soft words almost in the back of his mind, so caught up was he in the bird song. He felt peaceful, more at rest and safe than he had ever felt in his life. Walking softly toward the tree, trying not to frighten the little bird away, he sank to a seat on a fallen log at the base of the tree. He didn't feel the dampness from the moss work it's way through his pant legs, he was so intent on the bird. She cocked her head at him, interrupting her song for an instant, and he felt bereft. Then with a sudden movement, she flew off the branch and did a perfect aileron roll, pulling into a smooth glide that led into a wide 360 above his head, then landing delicately on his shoulder. He laughed in pure delight at the little bird's aeronautical antics, and inclined his face for her to rub the top of her velvety head against his cheek.
The laughter took Chakotay by surprise. It was unusual for such a very strong connection to be forged almost instantly, and he was not used to such a happy, boyish look on Paris' face. For once all the defenses were stripped away, and the glowing expression on the younger man's face nearly stopped his breath.
She was singing in his ear, now, glorious music that told him so many things, none of which he could ever put into words. Then she grew somber, and he couldn't put it off any longer. He had to ask her, and he did, but not in words. In music. In thought. And she returned the communication to him in the same manner, giving him images, explaining in melodies, counter harmonies of pain and comfort, grooming his hair with her beak as if he were her chick as he finally broke through the barriers and relived the pain. She was there, with him, her thin thread of sound filling the holes, weaving a net to catch him when he fell, running from the truth.
He didn't remember telling her goodbye. He was so tired. Vague shadow images of her flying above the head of another being, some sort of ... wolf? Her trilling still softly with him. His throat hurt, and his face felt hot. He wasn't seated on the chair anymore, but seemed to be on the floor. Only it wasn't hard, like he expected it to be. Then he blinked, hard, and realized that he sat on a pillow, tucked into the bench under a window full of stars, and he was being cradled in strong arms, as a hand brushed gently, rhythmically over his hair, calming his sobbing. No wonder his throat hurt. From the ragged sound of his breathing, this had been going on for awhile.
With a stifled gasp, he sat up abruptly. Chakotay's arms fell away, and the bigger man straightened slowly. He met Tom's wide blue eyes with calm reassurance, then reached behind him to lift a hot cup of honeyed tea from the small side table.
"Here. Drink this. It'll make your throat feel better."
Paris took the cup, dropping his gaze from Chakotay, suddenly embarrassed. Chakotay let him sip in silence for awhile, then continued their session as if they had just stopped talking moments ago.
"Now. I gather from your reaction you remembered what had happened to you in prison. For the sake of understanding your reactions to recent events, are you willing to discuss your memories?"
In other words, thought Tom, if you ever wanna get back in the pilot's seat, *talk*. "Yes," he replied to the Commander's question, "I can talk about it." His voice still sounded a little rusty, but at least he could use it.
"There were four of them. It was shortly after I was assigned to Auckland. I'd been in solitary before then, I thought because they didn't want me mixing with the other prisoners, turns out it was 'cause they thought something like this might happen.
"The Maquis weren't real happy with me." Chakotay raised a brow, but kept silent. Paris didn't notice, caught up in his own mental battle. "They considered me a turncoat, a no-account mercenary who'd go wherever the money was. They knew it'd been my first Maquis mission when I got caught, and some of the Maquis that were taken along with me were there at the colony. They were the real thing, committed to the cause." Chakotay listened hard, but didn't hear any sarcasm. Paris' voice was almost flat, emotionless, as if he were narrating a story that had nothing to do with himself.
"The other Maquis there blamed me for the failure of the mission. Figured I was Star Fleet, should have been able to anticipate their movements, could have gotten them away if I'd tried harder. Helluva lot they knew. We were outgunned and outmaneuvered, in that tub we were trying to fly. But they blamed me for the others getting caught." Paris paused, swallowed heavily. Chakotay refilled the tea mug and replaced it in Paris' hands, noticed his fingers were trembling slightly. This was harder on the young pilot than he was willing to admit.
"They cornered me one night after last call. We were supposed to be in quarters, but it wasn't all that strictly enforced. Where the hell ya gonna go? Got alarm anklets on, perimeter barriers that'd fry you if you tried to run, a damned ocean all the way around you. Prob'ly my fault, should've known better, but I had to get out of that room for a little while. Going stir-crazy.
"I took down the first one, but the second one caught me alongside the head with something, felt like metal, really knocked me sideways. Before I could shake it off, they started to hit me, I don't know what they were using, felt like baseball bats. They were kicking at me, hitting me, I tried to get away, rolled over into a ball so they wouldn't have as much to hit, but it didn't work, they just kept hitting me..."
His voice trailed off, wide eyes washed to pale gray with the memories, fixed on something only he could see. Chakotay let him rest for a moment, then pressed him for more.
"Did they use their hands, Tom?"
Paris looked at him uncomprehendingly, and Chakotay explained.
"In your nightmares, you talked of hands. It was when Captain Janeway put her hand on your back that you reacted so violently."
Paris stared at him for a moment, and Chakotay could see when the barriers dropped back into place.
"Yeah. Fists, too. Not as much. I probably got that confused with when my Dad used to beat the crap out of me. Got the two mixed up."
He was lying. Chakotay could sense it, practically smell it, but he didn't know how to prove it, or how to move Paris past it.
"What about the other beating, Paris? There were two."
Now Tom wouldn't meet his eyes. He stared into the teacup, inhaling deeply. Buying time. Finally, he regained what was left of his composure, and addressed Chakotay directly.
"More of the same."
He knew he wasn't going to get anything more from Paris, not now, and he felt relatively satisfied with the session. With a nod, he arranged for Tom to meet with the Doctor and describe what had transpired in their session.
"Your spirit guide is a private matter, Mr. Paris. Share the memories you have recovered with the Doctor, and I will submit a complete report to both the Captain and the Doctor." He paused, then reached over to clasp Tom's shoulder briefly. "When you want to talk with your spirit guide, let yourself relax and it will come to you. If you need help finding it-"
Chakotay smiled. "If you need help finding *her*, come back to me. Okay?"
"Okay." Paris looked at him for a moment, then smiled, genuinely for once. "I'll do that."
"So, in your professional opinion-"
"I don't have any other kind, Captain."
Janeway glared briefly at the Doctor, but it made no impression. Kes turned quickly to her datapadd, before Janeway could see her struggling to contain her laughter. Why didn't any of the other crew see his dry sense of humor? Sometimes she thought she was the only person who understood him at all.
"*In* your professional opinion, *Doctor*, Lieutenant Paris is fit for returning to duty."
"Yes, Captain. The combination of regression, medication, and Commander Chakotay's rather unorthodox but quite useful counseling techniques have stabilized Mr. Paris' condition to the point where he can be trusted to resume his duties. He's as stable as he ever has been, probably more so than usual." He paused, but she didn't trust herself to comment. He almost smirked, and finished his report. "Continued counseling to deal with the underlying feelings of helplessness and rage are highly recommended."
"Very well, Doctor. I will meet with Commander Chakotay and Mr. Paris and ensure that it is done. How much longer will he need to stay on medication?"
"Oh, he doesn't need any more drug therapy, Captain. The physiological damage has been healed. It's the emotional turmoil that needs to dealt with at this point."
She nodded agreement, then left him with Kes. He looked at her and sighed.
"I'm afraid Mr. Paris will never be the model of stability."
She smiled gently. "Probably not, Doctor, but it isn't any wonder he turned out the way that he did. He suffered. A lot. And brilliant, sensitive people have a hard enough time without having to carry the kinds of burdens he has, and for so long, too."
The Doctor looked hard at his friend, seeing the sympathy in her mobile features, and was forced to admit she was right. He didn't suppose "brilliant" was the first adjective he would apply to Tom Paris, but then, the young man had depths he hadn't expected to find. And the care-for-naught facade had proven to be an effective shield against an enormous amount of mental and emotional anguish. He clucked his tongue once in shared sympathy, then moved on to make his log recordings. Kes watched him silently for a moment, then smiled to herself. He really was making great strides in trying to understand the beings around him.
It had been a hell of a day. Warp core problems, reactor problems, damned power levels were far below what they should have been (again) and she could've sworn the stupid gelpacks were getting the sniffles. It was the only explanation she could come up with. After fruitlessly trying to sleep, waking Harry up for a late night hand or eight of poker (he even beat her when he was half asleep -- she really couldn't bluff worth a shit), fighting Klingon warriors in the holosuites until her arms ached ... she still didn't feel sleepy. She knew she was going to pay for this in the morning, but she stopped by the last holosuite before she left anyway. Her luck was finally on. Sandrine's was up and running. Maybe she could shanghai one of Tom's holopigs into teaching her about this "pool" game without making an ass of herself in front of her crewmates.
Weird noise. Not what she expected to hear as she drew near the doors. She paused, cocked her head. The normal clicking of hard balls against felt and wood weren't there tonight. Instead it sounded like ... piano music? Yeah. And well played. Her mother used to watch classical musicvids with her when she was a kid. This sounded like one of those, only sadder, somehow. Almost, like the piano was crying. Shaking off the oddly fanciful thought, she stepped into the darkened interior, pausing once again to allow her eyes to adjust to the unusual dimness. Couples moved slowly about the floor, dancing to the haunting piano music, partners completely wrapped up in one another. She heard him before she saw him, and she had to look twice to believe her ears.
"Can you hear me crying?
Can you turn away?
Do you even know what we lost along the way?
Do you ever hear me?
Won't you ever pay?
Can't you whisper softly all the words I'll never say?"
His voice sounded hard and gentle at the same time, crying hard tears and not showing any of them. She moved closer, almost mesmerized by the pain and the beauty of his voice, and his complete absorption in the music flowing from his hands and his throat.
"Sorcier, sorcier, j'ai du revenir.
Had to return to the source of my pain.
Donnes-moi un chanson, mon amour,
Sing it away with the dawning of day."
The unfamiliar words seemed to fill her head, and she couldn't help but wonder what they meant. Trying to get closer to that sound, she stepped softly up to the side of the piano, into the pool of light spilling over the burnished wood and the glistening fair head bent over the keys. Her shadow disturbed his concentration, and his head jerked up. For an instant she saw a strange emotion there -- betrayal? Where did *that* come from? Then his hands came down with a discordant crash on the keys. The sudden, loud cry of protest from the instrument shattered the mood. Paris quickly drew his hands back, and stepped back from the stool so fast it fell over on its back. B'Elanna jerked away at his sudden movements, looking around wildly for the source of the threat.
"Computer. End program." His harsh voice, so at odds with the beguiling tenor she had been enjoying, sent her head swivelling back to meet his gaze. His face was completely expressionless, and she was utterly confused.
"Wha-um, what happened?" Her voice sounded jumpy, a reaction to the suddenness of recent events.
"Oh, nothing." His words were light and charming, normal Paris. She looked hard at him and he smiled sweetly, spreading his hands in a classic "no problem" gesture. "I was just tired of singing."
"Just like that, huh?" Nope, she didn't think so.
"Yup. Just like that. So, Torres, what brings you out so late at night?" He walked past her as he spoke, gesturing for her to precede him as he left the holosuite. She walked carefully by him, not taking her eyes off of him for a moment. His smile widened a bit at her caution, but he didn't remark on it.
"Couldn't sleep. Figured I'd check out the bar and see if anyone else had the same problem." She checked her step for a moment, willing him to stop and look at her, but he just kept walking slowly toward the crew quarters. She huffed slightly and hurried to catch up. Even meandering, his long legs ate up the deck. "Seems like I did. So, tell me, Paris. How come you never let anybody know you were a musician?"
He smiled self-deprecatingly. "Oh, that. I don't consider myself a musician. Just a little piano-playing. Now, Harry, have you ever heard him-"
"Yes. But I'm not talking about Harry right now. I'm talking about you. That sounded like a helluva lot more than just 'playing around' on the piano back there. And your voice -- it's really good. Sounds trained."
He laughed slightly. "Well, it's not. My father certainly wouldn't have paid good money for something as ... superfluous as music lessons. What good would they be? No. Music wasn't 'strong' or 'tough' enough for my Dad."
She heard the undertone of bitterness. "You know, I'm really not sleepy. You want to, I don't know, go somewhere and get a drink?"
He finally stopped and looked at her. Seeming to weigh his options, he offered hesitantly, "Is that an invitation?"
"To talk, Paris." She grinned at him and strode confidently to her door. "I have some bootleg Andorian ale you just might find ... stimulating."
He chuckled in some surprise and followed her through the door. In the background of his thoughts, he could swear he heard a nightingale sing.
It was a good ale. Sweet, and faintly spicy, and very relaxing, like the conversation they shared. Childhood stories, funny little vignettes, not as funny little memories. He might have been surprised at the ease between them, but he remembered how easy it had been to talk to her when they had been in that Vidian prison. Relying on each other for their lives and their sanity, they'd established a relationship, whether they recognized it as such or not. The stories of her abandonment opened him up and he told her how his father had tried to shape him into someone in his own image, most of the shaping done with the back of his hand or his clenched fist. She remembered the times she'd been too little to fight back, and the times, later, when all she had wanted was to be part of something, anything, to not be a freak. Her aching loss when her father left, the hole left in his life when his mother died. She *was* surprised at how easily they connected, their backgrounds so different, the results so incredibly alike.
As the night wore on, the comfort grew familiar, then warmer. Slowly transforming into something more urgent, something unexpected and undeniable. She reached out to him first, running a fingertip lightly down his face, from the bridge of his nose to his sculpted upper lip, interrupting his train of thought. Her skin looked so dark next to his. It was an exciting contrast.
He held his breath, not quite willing to believe she meant what she seemed to be saying. Stumbling through the last of his sentence, neither one paying any attention, he reached up to capture her hand in his, placing butterfly kisses in her palm. Her eyes sparkled, and she moved closer, running her free hand into the opening of his uniform, slowly sliding the fastener down, opening him up to her exploring hand. His pent-up breath escaped in a gasp, and she giggled, an enchanting sound he never would have thought she would make. He grinned in response, and carefully set his glass on the floor by the couch. Moving slowly, giving her time to change her mind, pull back before it was too late and they were too far gone to call a halt, he lifted his other hand to her face, tracing the dramatic cheekbones, the smooth lips. Lowering his face to hers, he gently traced the ridge above her brow with his tongue. She stiffened, then relaxed into his embrace.
"I don't think you have anything to hide, B'Elanna. No, it's not smooth, it's you. You're unique." She shuddered briefly at that word, and he lay a feather light trail of kisses to the edge of her ear, whispering softly, "and so beautiful."
Hearing it said that way, so close to her, she actually believed him. It was hard for her. She had thought of herself as being some sort of freak for so long, believing that men would be interested in her strong body but never, never find her beautiful, that his words didn't quite convince her. But for tonight, she was willing to believe he meant them. She freed her hand from his grasp, and ran both hands up his arms, cupping his jaw and turning his face to give her access to his mouth.
"Lovely," she breathed, as she parted his lips with hers. She pushed him back into the hard cushion of the couch, reading his arousal in the tense muscles of his body, matching it with hers. With a sudden growl, she stroked her hands along his arms, grasping his wrists firmly and pulling them, with Klingon strength, above his head to pin him underneath her. Plundering his mouth, she missed the sudden stiffness of his legs, the abortive attempt to wriggle free of her grasp. His hips bucked underneath her, and she growled again with pleasure, not recognizing his increasingly frenzied attempts to escape. With a jerk that tumbled them both to the floor, and took her completely by surprise, he managed to break her hold. Looking at him, amazed and growing angry at the abrupt change in mood, she completely missed the almost dazed look in his eyes, the paleness of his skin in the half light.
He stood there, frozen for an instant, then his instincts kicked in and he turned from her, nearly stumbling in his haste to get out of the room, to escape from the memories that were breaking through again. She sat on the floor in shock, wondering what in the hell had just happened. Why had she ever listened to him? What was his *game*? Grumbling to herself, she jerked her uniform the rest of the way off and flung it viciously in the 'fresher. Fine. He wanted to be a tease? He could go play with himself, 'cause she was taking herself out of the game. Perfect end to a perfect day. She growled softly, once more, in the darkness, and tried to will herself to sleep.
"I can't believe I let myself get sucked into that one, Chakotay. Where was my head? No-" one imperious hand checking any reply he might have thought to give, B'Elanna swept on, "don't answer that. My own fault for trading some of my rations on that Andorian Ale. Last time I make *that* mistake, that's for sure. Boy, do *I* feel like an idiot."
She pushed the unappetizing glop around her plate and scowled. Her complaining gradually wound down into sour grumbling, and Chakotay allowed the smile that had been growing on his lips free rein. He was having a hard time bringing the mental image of Tom Paris warbling away at the keyboard into focus, and an even harder time picturing B'Elanna Torres, of all people, inviting him back into her quarters for a nightcap. Or whatever. And she was pissed because he turned her down? Wait a minute. Paris? Turned B'Elanna down? He lost his smile, and tuned back in to the conversation.
"Um, B'Elanna, did anything, well, *unusual* happen right before Paris suddenly decided the answer was 'no' after all?"
She was about to answer him with a smart remark when she saw the seriousness of his dark eyes. Obviously, this was not an idle question. She thought about it for a moment, then blushed slightly.
"Well. Not really 'unusual' I don't suppose. I'd, uh, pinned him to the couch, and he seemed to be liking it." She couldn't quite keep the defensive tone from creeping into her voice. "Then he kind of, I don't know, flipped and tossed me on the floor. He stood there for a second, looking sort of, well, *shivery* I guess is the right way to describe it. Then he ran out of my quarters like there were flesh eating dragons on his ass. Why?" She peered at him suspiciously.
"I don't think this has anything to do with you, B'Elanna. I think it has to do with ... his own personal demons." With a slight, reassuring smile, he excused himself and walked from the messhall.
She watched him leave, confusion warring with doubt in her mind, then shrugged and forced another mouthful of ... what, egg-soup? ... or *something* ... down her throat, and decided to let them thrash it out among themselves. She was going to go babysit her engines. Ignoring the little corner of her mind that really, *really* wanted to hear Tom Paris sing again, she made her way to the lower decks and back to the reality of work.
Paris had the day off, and it was just as well. The nightmares had returned full force the previous night. No welcome mist to cover the facts, no wall between himself and the hands reaching out to him, pulling him down and under and -- the nightingale's song was so quiet he almost couldn't hear it last night. Buried under the pain.
The door chime interrupted his concentration and he jerked, splashing hot soapy water along his clean uniform blouse. Cursing under his breath, he yelled, "Come!" through clenched teeth and grabbed a towel to clean up the mess.
Chakotay stood just inside his door, leaning negligently against the wall, watching him expressionlessly. Great. Just what he needed, the Mystic Warrior too damned early in the morning. Tom sighed raggedly and glared at his visitor.
Chakotay raised a brow at the surly greeting, taking in the circles under Tom's eyes, the haggard look of his face. His shoulders were slumped, and he looked as if he hadn't slept in months.
"Uniform? Thought today was your day off?"
Paris looked down at himself uncertainly, then shrugged, a barely perceptible roll of a shoulder. "Forgot. Dressed on autopilot. Why? Whatcha want?"
Chakotay levered himself away from the wall and walked further into the room. His voice was gentle as he approached the younger man, but his eyes remained watchful.
"Nightmares back again, Paris?"
Tom shuddered briefly, but had himself under control almost immediately.
"Not enough to affect my performance, Commander." There was the slightest thread of panic under his determinedly calm words.
"No, I don't think it is ... although your judgement may be off."
Paris looked at Chakotay in puzzlement, trying to figure out what the big man was talking about. Finally giving it up as beyond his pounding head that morning, he growled, "How so?"
"Turning down an offer from B'Elanna Torres is not something most men would be able to do!"
Tom jerked back from Chakotay as if the half-humorous words had scalded him, then turned his back on the other man and stared out the small port hole at the field of stars.
"That's none of your business."
Chakotay moved forward to hear the softly-spoken mumble, than laid a hand reassuringly on Tom's shoulder.
"I'm not trying to pry-"
Tom twisted suddenly out from under Chakotay's hand, stumbling away from him, coming to a halt only when his back slammed against the far corner of the wall. Chakotay followed him with concern, not quite understanding what was happening, not quite believing what Tom was doing. He had crossed his arms in front of his body in a classic defensive posture, fear and abhorrence clear in every line of his body. Trembling so hard he had to lean against the wall to keep from falling, he shook his head over and over, literally cowering in front of Chakotay. The commander leaned as close to Paris as he dared, trying to make out the nearly incoherent plea falling from his shaking lips.
"Please don't hurt me please not like that please how can you why do you what did i do please make them stop please don't hurt me not like that please-"
Unsure of what he should do, Chakotay reached out to comfort Paris, and he snapped, the words blurring into an animal-like whimper, his body curling into itself, a fetal ball in the corner of the room. Chakotay drew in a harsh breath and backed quickly away, knowing there was much more going on here than a simple beating, no matter how vicious, but uncertain about what he could do to help. As he stood there, fists clenched at his sides and an unfamiliar helplessness holding him in place, the whimpers gradually died away, and all he could hear was their ragged breathing in the quiet room.
Tom's head raised slowly, and Chakotay was surprised to see silvery trails of tears running across his lean cheeks. He hadn't sounded like he was crying. Tom raised a shaking hand to dash away the worst of the wetness, seemingly himself again. Chakotay watched a blush creep across the pale cheeks, and sighed with relief. Whatever it was, it had passed, at least for now. Paris pulled himself painfully to his feet, and Chakotay instinctively reached out to lend a hand before Paris' equally instinctive flinch caused him to hastily retract it.
"Are you ... all right, Paris?"
Tom looked at him with bloodshot eyes, then gave him a typically rakish grin.
"Sure, commander. Just great. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to ... clean up. You know the way out." Without another word, he turned into the bathroom and closed the door. Chakotay stood indecisively for a moment before turning and leaving.
Behind the locked door, Paris stared in the mirror at his distraught face. "Tommy boy, you have *got* to get a grip."
"I realize the Doctor has cleared Lieutenant Paris for duty, Captain, but recent indications are that the initial trauma from whatever happened to him in prison is beginning to affect him more deeply than we at first realized."
Janeway heard the concern in her first officer's voice, and taking into account the report he'd just given her, decided he was right to be worried. She glanced quickly at Tuvok, inviting his opinion on the situation.
"There have been indications, Captain, that Lieutenant Paris might not be comfortable in accessing the memories of the second attack at the penal colony with Commander Chakotay." Both officers looked at him in some surprise, and Tuvok continued in his usual precise manner.
"When the memories pertained strictly to the beating Mr. Paris sustained at the hands of his fellow inmates, he was open to sharing those recollections with Mr. Chakotay. However, on a previous occasion, Mr. Chakotay accidentally brushed against Mr. Paris on the way off the bridge. Mr. Paris froze momentarily, then, when he followed Mr. Chakotay onto the lift, stood as far away from Mr. Chakotay as possible." Chakotay's eyebrows rose at this. He didn't remember any of it. "Mr. Paris was apparently unaware of his actions, and I take it from your reaction, Commander, that it did not make an impression on you at the time." Chakotay nodded his agreement, and Tuvok continued. "It would appear, given Mr. Paris' reaction to being immobilized by Lieutenant Torres, and his actions this morning with Commander Chakotay, that the second incident at the penal colony was *not* a simple beating."
Janeway paced in front of her desk for a moment, absorbing the implications of Tuvok's analysis. Turning to the other officers, she nodded briefly.
"Very well, gentlemen. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I will ... follow up on it with Lieutenant Paris." Her nod and reassuring smile dismissed them, but the smile faded after the doors closed behind them. This would *not* be easy.
Tom was at the piano again when Janeway stepped through the doors of Sandrine's. His fingers froze over the keys for an instant, but she merely gave him a friendly nod and ordered a drink from the blonde bartender. Recovering adroitly from his accidental stumble, he added a slight flourish to the chord and segued into the next verse.
Je fais souvent ce reve etrange et penetrant
<fais l'amour avec moi!>
D'une femme inconnue, et que j'aime, et que m'aime
Et qui n'est, chaque fois, ni tout a fait la meme
Ni tout a fait une autre, et m'aime et me comprende.
<Je vous prie, mon coeur ... fais l'amour a mois.>
Janeway felt Sandrine settle next to her at the table, but didn't pull her eyes from the man pouring his heart out at the piano. Her whispered translation interwove with his voice, complimenting it perfectly.
"Often I have this strange and penetrating dream
(make love with me!)
Of an unknown woman I love and who loves me,
And each time she is neither quite the same
(kiss me, please love me!)
Not quite another, but she loves and understands.
(if you please, my heart ... make love to me.)"
Kathryn sighed. So much passion, and even without understanding a word of it, it swept her up. He was talented, there was no doubt about that. It was too bad there was so much pain tied up in all that passion. She smiled at Sandrine, but the holographic woman didn't return the smile.
"Be careful with my Thomas, mon capitan. He is more fragile than he would have you to believe."
Janeway nodded her agreement, then realized the music had stopped. Sandrine rose in a waft of expensive perfume and kissed Paris' cheek, caressing the back of his neck lightly before turning back to her bar with a significant look at Janeway. Tom looked from one woman to the other, not quite sure what was going on.
"Please, Tom, have a seat." She waited while he complied, hesitantly, then smiled at him. "That was really lovely. I'm glad you didn't stop on my account."
He grimaced slightly, lifted a hand for the glass of wine one of the waitresses was quick to deliver. "I take it you talked to B'Elanna, then."
"No," she replied with complete honesty, since it had been Chakotay who'd told her of the previous night's incidents. She ignored his narrowed eyes and continued. "I wandered in here last week, and you were playing something different. Something about dreaming, and exquisite hours. I'm afraid my French is practically nonexistent, but it was beautiful." His eyes widened again, and she smiled a little wider. "I was half afraid if you saw me you'd stop, so I stayed in the shadows. It's not often I get to hear such talent, and you don't seem eager to share."
He had stiffened as she talked, and now made a conscious effort to relax. "Oh, well, you know." She gave him an inquiring look, one corner of her mouth quirking up slightly, and he flushed self- consciously. "I'm ... shy about it, I guess. It's just ... it's something I do to relax, sort of, well, private."
She nodded understandingly, and he flushed again. "Not that you're intruding or anything, I mean." A raven-haired woman in a tailored suit came to stand at his shoulder, running her fingers along his neck and distracting him. He gave her a thankful look, and Janeway looked more closely at the woman.
"Captain Janeway, this is Rickie. She's ... a friend from home." The slightly bitter curl to his mouth belied his light words and she wondered at it. Rickie nodded distantly to Janeway and smiled at Paris.
"I'll be at the bar, when you're through, Thomas. I don't wish to intrude." With a polite nod, she gave the side of Paris' face a slight caress then turned away from the table. He watched her go, then turned back to the Captain, who was watching him curiously.
"A bit more than a friend, I'd say." Her expression invited confidences.
He looked at her for a moment, took a long swallow of wine, and loosed that bitter little smile again. "You could say that, I guess. Rickie was ... my fiancee. 'Was' being the operative word." He stared deeply into his glass, swirling the crimson liquid before raising it to his mouth for another long swallow. "After the ... mess at Caldik Prime, she was noticeably less enthused about marrying me. When it all came out and I got cashiered, she left. Took off with another admiral's son, one that *wasn't* in disgrace, nothing to cast a shadow on her own illustrious name." He laughed drily, very little humor in the sound. "At least when you program them yourself, they don't take off on you. 'Course, doesn't say much about the man when he can't handle a real woman, but needs to have a holocrutch around to make himself feel whole."
She regarded him sympathetically, watching him down the rest of the wine. He smiled sarcastically at her, making fun of himself, but she wouldn't let him get away with it. Reaching across the table, she laid her hand across his, squeezing briefly in an attempt to establish a real link between the two of them before she asked him what she had to ask him. Taking a deep breath, she met his eyes as honestly as she could.
"Will you tell me about the rape, Tom?"
He froze, caught in her eyes like a mouse before a snake. Emotions leapt into his eyes, fear, denial, pain, acceptance followed by an even fiercer denial. Ripping his hand out from under hers, he shoved his chair back with such force the leg buckled. Kicking it out from under his feet, he stood to confront her. The bar fell silent.
"I don't know what the hell you're talking about, *Captain*."
Not waiting for a reply, he stormed toward the door, patrons hurrying to get out of his way. Sandrine stared at her from behind the bar, her backbone stiff with disdain and anger. Rickie practically snarled at her from the bar. Trying to salvage a bad situation, Janeway followed Paris out into the foggy simulated Parisian street, but Paris was nowhere to be seen. Her shoulders slumped, wondering how in the world she was going to work *both* of them through this one, she continued out the doors into the ship corridor. If he was still in the holosuite, he *didn't* want to talk to her, so ending the program would only leave him feeling more exposed than ever. And if he had already left, he would be in his quarters, and she didn't feel up to bearding the lion in his den. With a sigh, she decided to sleep on it, and see if there were any answers to be found in the morning.
Paris watched her go from the deep shadows along the corner of the building. How the hell had she known? He hadn't really realized it himself, not until this morning, not until Chakotay -- in his quarters -- the dream so fresh in his mind, the vulnerable feeling from the night before, unable to free his hands, and then the larger man, so close behind him ... hidden from anyone's sight by the dense fog, protected by the shadows, Paris stuffed his fist as far between his jaws as possible to stifle the screams tearing at his throat, slid down the wall to huddle in the dark, rocked his head in his arms as the memories overwhelmed him.
No one would know, looking at the composed faces of the bridge crew, that the Captain and the pilot weren't speaking to each other, that the first officer was watching both with equal concern, and that the security officer was poised to avert any possible violent occurrence just on the off-chance that one of them snapped.
No out of the ordinary situations came up, other than a slight gravitational field problem that Harry handled easily and a rather larger than normal asteroid belt that Paris negotiated with practiced ease. The command crew was relieved that all of the emotional turmoil wasn't affecting Paris' flying, but Janeway, at least, still wanted to resolve matters. By the end of the shift, she decided to make the first move. Tuvok leaned forward fractionally, but there were no other signs that things weren't completely normal.
"Nice flying back there, Mr. Paris."
He acknowledged the compliment with a brisk "Thank you, Captain," but couldn't quite disguise his stiffness when she laid her hand lightly on his shoulder. She felt his discomfort under her fingers, and swiftly removed her hand, content at the beginning of communication between them. Eventually, she thought, he'll come to me of his own accord. Until then, business as usual. Well, as usual as it gets around here. She unconsciously patted him once again, and he looked at her from the corner of his eye. Seeing her distraction, he consciously relaxed. She wasn't *trying* to make him uncomfortable. Just good ol' touchy- feely Janeway.
Shift change couldn't come too soon for him tonight. Back to Sandrine's, but a different program this time. Harry had noticed that things were -- tense -- between him and B'Elanna, so of *course* this was the perfect time to teach B'Elanna how to play pool. At least, according to Harry it was. Tom wasn't so sure.
The scene was reassuringly normal. Tuvok, serious look on his face as always, watched from the side as Harry positioned B'Elanna's fingers on the cue stick. The crowd was raucous, full of life. Just what he needed tonight.
"No, no, B'Elanna, not like it's a *mace* -- you want to have a *light* grip on the stick-"
Harry looked up and smiled brightly, B'Elanna slightly guarded, and Tuvok nodded. Paris smiled at the three of them, hiding his hesitancy behind his usual charming mask. As he went to the rack to pick out a cue, a large shadow stepped in his way. Shit. Just what he didn't need. No-neck LaCross and his gang of living lobotomies.
"We didn't getta finish our disgudshun, Pa-ris."
Great. Not only was he belligerent, he was drunk. And he'd brought backup. He *really* wasn't in the mood for this.
"Heard wha' happen at Caldik Prime, Parish. How'dwe know you won't fuc-"
Before he could finish the sentence, Tom's fists caught him in the gut in a hammering blow that made the most of an alcohol-queasy stomach. Tom ducked out in time to escape the resulting mess, but the other two were waiting for him, each grabbing an arm and slamming him into the opposite wall. Before it could get any uglier than it already was, a long arm placed a Vulcan neck pinch against one behemoth and a Klingon-style uppercut laid the second one out. Paris looked on, slightly dazed from impact with the wall, as Harry helped him into an upright position.
"Perhaps it would be best if this program were ended at this point. Mr. Kim, Ms. Torres, please take Mr. Paris to his quarters and ... clean him up. As to these crewmembers, I believe a short sojourn in the brig will serve to sober them up." Waving to security personnel who had replied to his previous summons, he hefted one unconscious form lightly over his shoulder and left the holosuite without another word.
"Computer, end program." The command was a little shaky, but then so at the moment was Tom Paris. B'Elanna slipped an arm around him and walked him to the door, Harry bringing up the rear. Other crewmembers quietly scattered, seeking other fun, gossiping about the bar fight. Another two-shift wonder, fun to talk about until another petty scandal took their attention.
The scrapes weren't deep, and the bruises to his shoulder and side weren't severe enough to warrant a trip to the doctor. Harry hovered in the background while B'Elanna tended to Tom's small hurts. She'd taken care of much worse out in the field with the Maquis. At least he didn't whine. In fact, he never made a sound, even when she cleaned out a couple of the deeper cuts. You just never knew with Paris. This was the same guy who bitched for a week about a blister on his index finger.
Harry stood back and watched his friends. B'Elanna worked efficiently, but took care not to cause any more pain than she had to in order to patch Tom up. He kept his eyes fixed on her face, an almost mesmerized look of fascination in his eyes, not paying the slightest attention to her first aid efforts. Harry watched, considered, then slipped out the door without a word. These two had some ... talking to do.
"Could you hand me that -- Harry?" B'Elanna looked around for her helper, but he was nowhere in sight. "Where'd he go?"
Tom couldn't keep in the small chuckle. "He's being discreet, B'Elanna."
"Why?" she shot back nastily. "You've made it perfectly clear *you're* not interested."
He watched her wordlessly as she gathered up the bandages and ointments, bundling them up roughly and tossing them in the kit before shoving the small box back into the cabinet by the bed. As she slammed her way to the side of the of the door, she almost missed his soft plea.
"B'Elanna. Please. Don't go. Listen to me."
She stopped, but refused to turn and look at him.
"Talk fast. Or I'm out of here."
"It wasn't you. It was just ... when you held me down, I couldn't..."
At first she didn't understand the small sounds he was making, then she turned, to verify her suspicions. He had pulled his knees up to his chest and sat there, resting his face on his crossed arms, trying to explain, ignoring or perhaps unaware of the tears streaking silently down his face, dripping off his chin to soak his uniform. His eyes were wide, fixed on something else, somewhere else, and she recognized the look in them. Had seen it before, in herself, half a lifetime away from here. Not wanting to believe what she was seeing in his face, she started to leave. Something stopped her. Turning painfully around, she saw that he was no longer talking, just sobbing soundlessly, with no change in his expression to indicate he even knew she was still there. She turned back to him then, slid down the wall to curl up at his side. Slipping a gentle arm around his shaking shoulders, she urged his face into the softness of her chest. Holding him there, one hand cradling his head, the other making small comforting circles across his back, she stared into the darkness and wondered why she could recognize her pain in his eyes.
The one person Captain Janeway had *not* expected to see in her ready room was Tom Paris. He looked at her a little shyly, and she smiled reassuringly as she gestured for him to enter. Standing somewhat stiffly in front of her desk, he forced himself to meet her open gaze.
"Um, Captain, would you ... join me at Sandrine's tonight?"
Her surprised "of course!" was interrupted by his hurried, "After hours, I mean."
She looked at him for a moment, understanding exactly what he meant, and recognizing the courage it took for him to issue the invitation.
"I'd be honored, Mr. Paris."
He nodded, and stepped quickly from the room. She looked at the closed doors for a long moment before she shook her head and returned to her reports.
He was nursing a drink when she walked in the swinging door. Scotch, from the look of it, and not synthetic. His eyes were downcast, and he looked older than his years. Sandrine made a move from behind the bar, drawing his attention, and he stood and gestured for her to take a seat. Waiting politely until she had settled herself, he forced a smile. Sandrine subsided with a single warning look at Kathryn.
"Would you like a drink?"
She smiled in return, trying to retain a sense of normalcy and not push him into anything he wasn't ready for yet. "Yes, please. Red wine sounds good."
He relaxed a little at her response, and neither said anything more until she had been served. Smiling her thanks at the waitress, she ran her fingertip around the edge of the glass.
"Not singing tonight?"
"No." Another quick, almost shy glance. She forgot how incredibly blue his eyes were sometimes, and how thick his eyelashes were. Shaking herself a little, she almost laughed, bringing herself back to the purpose of this "date." He wanted to talk, and wild thoughts from out of the blue (as it were) of seducing him were *not* going to get them anywhere closer to their goal.
"Would you like to dance?" He sounded hesitant, and she found herself agreeing without conscious thought. As they moved together on the dance floor, stray thoughts about playing with fire mingled with his scent and the feel of his strong body pressed lightly against hers. The floor was crowded, so they were closer than they otherwise might have been. She hadn't realized their comparative heights before. He was just right, her cheek rested in the hollow of his shoulder with no effort, feeling natural. A dangerous feeling. When the song ended, they moved apart, and she smiled up at him.
"That was lovely, but to tell you the truth, I'm a much better drinker than dancer." Her eyes twinkled at him, inviting him to share the joke. He finally relaxed, laughing along with her, and joining her at their table. The relaxed mood continued as they made small talk, staying away from professional concerns, touching on her dog, his racquetball, Harry's poker games, the replicator's inability to create simple dishes. Gradually her heightened awareness of his body diminished and he became completely at ease in her company. Nearly a full bottle of good red wine later, the real stuff, not some synth, he reached a tentative hand toward hers, lying on the table between them.
She turned her hand so that it was clasping his firmly, knowing that if he was ever going to open up it would be now. Looking steadily into her clear blue eyes, his own slowly darkening with pain, he tossed down the last of his wine and cleared his suddenly dry throat.
"It wasn't the Maquis, you know." She leaned forward a little, and squeezed his hand lightly. "I think I could have handled it better if it had been. I mean, yeah, they beat the sh-... they beat me up pretty badly just after I got there. But I could take that. Even understand it, really. I mean it wasn't as if it was anything unusual. Well, yeah, unusual in that there was more than one of 'em, but the beating itself, no."
He fell silent for a moment, gathering his thoughts, and she waited for him to continue. When he did, his voice was softer, as if the words were ground glass and he had trouble forcing them through his throat.
"They were Star Fleet." She jumped a little, but he didn't notice, caught up in his own private hell. "One at least was a guard. Don't know who the other two were. Probably prisoners, but they all knew about Caldik Prime. Hell, everybody did. They hated the Maquis, too, hated me for being a traitor to Star Fleet and going over to them. Ha. Like the Maquis didn't hate me too." His grating laugh hurt her ears, and it sounded like it hurt his vocal cords. "I ... don't remember much about the attack. It was dark. I was asleep, when I woke up to find myself pinned to the bunk. The guard must have let 'em in. Hands up above my head, I couldn't move. Tried to get them off of me, but I couldn't do it."
<please don't hurt me not like that please>
"Called me the little fair haired admiral's son. Told me I was lucky they didn't just kill me. Lucky?" Wide blue eyes met hers incredulously. "They called that lucky?
"I tried to scream, but one of them stuck a rag in my mouth. Couldn't make any noise. Not that anyone would have helped me even if I'd managed to scream the joint down. The doctor made that pretty obvious when they found me the next afternoon." Her hand tightened convulsively around his, and he grimaced in response.
"- don't really remember much after the first one. I ... couldn't quite believe what was happening to me. Like when I was a little kid, you know? Only worse. So much worse. 'Cause I knew what they were doing. Knew exactly what they were doing. I've never hurt so bad my whole life. Not even when he'd beat me 'til I couldn't move. Different kind of pain. Felt like they were ripping me apart, and they were laughing, saying things to me the whole time they wouldn't shut up and they wouldn't stop-"
<how can they why do they what did i do please make them stop>
He blinked, realized that the tears weren't just coming from his eyes, saw a world of sympathy in her face. Both of her hands were holding his now, and he concentrated on them, his lifeline.
"My group supervisor found me the next afternoon when I didn't show up for detail. They'd left me -- tied there, in the mess. I couldn't move. Couldn't go unconscious. You ever pray to pass out? I kept wanting to pass out, and I couldn't." He stopped, stared into the distance for a moment, then continued with a stronger voice. "No official incident report. As far as the doc and the guards figured, I got what I had coming to me, and that was the end of it. I wasn't exactly anxious for it to all come out in the open anyway, so I let it lie. Couldn't do a damned thing about it anyway. And if I opened my mouth, who's to say it wouldn't happen again? Only more permanent the next time. And as much as I may have wished for it then, I discovered I'm a coward at heart. I really didn't want to die yet."
He smiled at her, a crooked attempt, but genuine. "Not that the coward part was any great revelation. You know what else? I have a reputation. As a flirt." She smiled back at him uncertainly, and he shook his head at her. "It's 'cause I am. A flirt, I mean. Y'know why?" She shook her head this time, and he leaned back, meeting her eyes steadily. "Protective coloration. It's a ritual. Nobody takes a flirt seriously. Just call him a pest, have a little fun, and go home with somebody else. Much better that way. To go home with some- body else. Won't get a damned thing goin' home with me. Haven't for some time ... almost two years, I'd say." She was shaken by the implication. "Bastards took more than they thought they did. Complete revenge, really. I'm scared to death of getting close to somebody. Feel 'shamed. Filthy." He was looking back into his empty wine glass now, unable to look her in the eye.
"Didn't really care before. I mean, I'm in prison, who'd I want to get *close* to? But now. Here. It's different. I don't know how long it'll last, I mean I want to get home too, like everybody else ... well, maybe not quite like everybody else. What the hell have I got to go home to?" He didn't wait for an answer, which was a good thing, since she didn't have the faintest idea how to respond. "But for the time we have, you know, I'd like to ... have a little happiness. There's a woman. She doesn't know I feel like this. Just as well, really, 'cause there's another guy who's a helluva lot better for her, and he's my friend, but still."
Janeway tried to follow the convoluted logic and eventually did. Oh. My. No wonder he was having confidence problems. If the lady in question was who she thought it was, his lingering reaction to the rape would only be one stumbling block to a relationship. A major block, but not the only one, by far. His words drew her back into the present, hard as they were to follow, and she forced herself to concentrate.
"She doesn't even know how beautiful she is. She *sure* as hell deserves better than me." He stopped abruptly and looked at the intent woman opposite him. What was he spewing all this onto her for? Didn't she have enough problems without his drunken rambling? Suddenly embarrassed, he tried to draw his hand away, but she tightened her grip and refused to let him go.
"Tom." He wavered, but finally held her gaze. "I think it's time for another dance." His jaw dropped slightly at this completely unexpected request, but he was willing to let the conversation drop if she was. Pulling himself upright, he guided her onto the floor. There were fewer couples now, but he held her just as close. Perhaps it was the wine, or her unspoken understanding, but he felt as if a yoke had been removed from his shoulders. Not quite free of the shame and the fear, but with a little less guilt and a bit of hope that gradually, with some time and distance, it would lighten even more. He unconsciously hugged her tighter, and she offered no resistance. Tilting her head back, she whispered softly in his ear.
"Everything that you have told me is in complete confidence, Tom. You know that." She waited for his confirming nod before finishing her thought. "But I strongly encourage you to speak to someone else that you trust about this. The Doctor will not betray your confidence." He nodded again. "Neither will Chakotay." He stiffened slightly, rejecting the possibility. "And your spirit guide certainly won't." She felt the corners of his mouth turn up against her hair, and knew that he would take her words under consideration.
As the dance ended, he quietly commanded the program to end, and walked her to her quarters. This late, or perhaps better termed early, there was no one out in the corridors, and they were unobserved as they paused briefly outside her door. They hadn't spoken a word on the short walk. She stopped to search his eyes once more, satisfied that there had at least been some progress made.
"A gentleman always sees a lady to her door. See. He managed to teach me something."
She cocked her head and smiled sweetly at him, happy that he was able to joke again. "When you see Sandrine again, tell her I was nice, okay?"
He grinned at her, a slash of white teeth in the quiet corridor, and nodded a reply. She reached up and patted his shoulder, squeezing gently.
"Now, go get some sleep."
"Yes, Ma'am!" He sketched a salute and she shook her head at his silliness. Watching the door close behind her, he stood in the corridor for an irresolute moment. What the hell. Not enough time to get any real sleep anyway. Walking slowly, all the time in the world, he headed back to the holodeck.
"Computer, begin program, Paris 7." Sandrine's, special configu- ration. As he approached the softly gleaming piano, Rickie stepped up to his side and ran an inviting hand along his bicep to his shoulder.
"You want to play?" She gestured toward the piano with her chin. "Or ... play." There was no mistaking the invitation in her eyes.
"Play." He sat on the bench, and she sighed. Turned down again. He laughed silently, too intent on the sound of the nightingale whistling in his mind to pay any further attention to her. As the world narrowed down to include just himself and the keyboard under his fingers, the melody in his mind grew, and all the confusion and tension disappeared. Rickie leaned against the bar and watched him weave his magic. Sandrine looked on, and smiled. Her Thomas was still hurting, but not as deeply. Hopefully, not for so much longer.
"Donnes-moi un chanson, mon coeur. Mon rossignol."
****** Included poetry ****************************** **********************************************************
<from Mon Reve Familier, by Paul Verlaine>
Je fais souvent ce reve etrange et penetrant
D'une femme inconnue, et que j'aime, et que m'aime,
Et qui n'est, chaque fois, ni tout a fait la meme
Ni tout a fait une autre, et m'aime et me comprende.
Often I have this strange and penetrating dream
Of an unknown woman I love and who loves me,
And each time she is neither quite the same
Nor quite another, but she loves and understands.
<from La Lune Blanche, by Paul Verlaine>
Revons, c'est l'heure.
Un vaste et tendre Apaisement Semble descendre Du firmament Que l'astre irise ...
C'est l'heure exquise.
Let us dream, it is the hour.
Vast and tender An appeasement Seems to lower From the firmament Star-bedecked ...
<from L'Angoisse, by Paul Verlaine>
Lasse de vivre, ayant peur de mourir, pareille
Au brick perdu jouet du flux et du reflux,
Mon ame pour d'affreux naufrages appareille.
Weary of living, fearing to die, like
A lost barque a plaything of the tides,
My soul to dread disaster seems to ride.
other lyrics are original, by Brenda Antrim
Translation of French phrases --
Sorcier = Wizard
J'ai du revenir = I had to come back
Donnes-moi un chanson, mon amour = Give me a song, my love
mon rossignol = my nightingale
All mistakes in the usage of the lovely French language are strictly mine :) -- I am afraid I don't speak it.